The story of the Flood covers Genesis 6-9. The earth is filled with God’s image-bearers but instead of reflecting his glory they have filled the earth with wickedness and violence. This is caused by what is said in 6:6: “Every inclination of the thoughts of man’s heart only evil all the time.” God’s response is to blot out, wipe out, wipe clean the earth in the Flood.
There is hope though in the person of Noah. God’s decree of judgment is followed by “but Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Noah is a righteous man, blameless in his generation and walks with God. One is reminded of Adam and Enoch who had also walked with God.
Noah is given very detailed instructions as to how to construct the ark – how many cubits long, wide etc. In fact, the instructions sound like those given to Moses as to how to construct the tabernacle – both God-ordained means of salvation.
The Flood returns the earth to its original state. The separation of waters below and above is undone – returning the earth to formlessness. All living creatures on the land and in the sky are destroyed – returning to emptiness. Once again, the earth if formless, empty and there is darkness (no life). Sin de-constructs (e.g., marriages, when the body returns to dust). In Noah’s story, we see humanity’s moral and spiritual chaos met by the physical chaos of God’s judgement.
The turning point is the words “But God remembered Noah.” What occurs next God is re-creating the earth in a similar way to the way he created in Genesis 1. First, God employs a wind to blow over the earth just as his Spirit had in Genesis 1 (in fact same word is used). Next God separates the waters above the sky (rain) from the waters below (the sea). The God creates land and the tops of the mountains become visible. This is followed by the land starting to produce vegetation – the dove brings a freshly plucked olive branch. And finally, animals and mankind once again walk on the ground. Noah offers a burnt offering propitiating God’s wrath and the original commission of filling the earth, exercising dominion and being God’s image-bearers is reaffirmed. The rainbow is given new significance as a sign of God’s grace amid human wickedness.
One recalls the words of Noah’s father, Lamech: “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” The new creation relieves something of the post-Fall curse. The earth has been cleansed of wickedness, God’s wrath is propitiated through a burnt offering offered by Noah as a representative head of a new beginning for humanity, and Noah plants a garden (a vineyard). While the Adamic curse on the ground continues it seems it has been alleviated by the Flood as a flood does for an alluvial plain.
However, the new Adam (Noah as a representative head of a new beginning for humanity) experiences a Post-Flood Fall. In the garden, Noah eats the fruit of the vine, in a state of drunkenness he is unable to distinguish between good and evil, resulting in nakedness and a curse being pronounced (on Canaan). There are echoes of Adam’s Fall in this discretion.
At the end of the account of Noah we conclude that Noah, despite his righteousness and walking with God, is not the promised seed who will restore the earth to Eden. Nevertheless, Noah’s Flood foreshadows the future – one day God will act through a ‘new Adam’ to bring relief from the curse, this new Adam will be a righteous man who walks with God, through him God will judge and cleanse the earth by means of fire (rather than water but with the same effect) and bring about a new creation. For believers this new Adam will make propitiation for God’s wrath through the offering of himself and they will see the rainbow colors of God’s glory in the new creation.