So far in Genesis we’ve read about the creation of the earth and humanity. Adam and Eve were given a mandate to spread God’s order across the earth, but they chose to do things their own way. This started the fall and led to a downward spiral of death and violence, and humanity continued to pollute itself with wickedness creating chaos where God intended order.
This reached its peak when some human women tried mating with spiritual beings to create immortal spirit-human children. At this God decides that things have gone too far and chooses to undo the work he’s done. Picking Noah to carry on the human race as it was meant to be, God sends a flood to wipe out the rest of humanity. We pick up today with Noah and his family in an arc on the flood waters.
The flood waters reside. Noah, his family, and the animals are once again on dry land. Noah offers to God a sacrifice and God gives Noah his blessing. The chaos that humanity had created had been washed away. God had restored it to good and it looks like humanity is once again working with God as it should. God encourages Noah and his family with the original mandate he gave Adam and Eve “And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:7, compare with Genesis 1:28).
We also get the first example of God making a covenant with his people. In church circles the word ‘covenant’ is often over spiritualised. In this ancient context, a covenant was simply a legally binding contract. But don’t let that undercut the importance of this moment. The create of heaven and earth is willing to commit himself to his people. In this example, he will never again wipe out all creation with a flood.
But the effects of the fall begin to show themselves again. Noah gets drunk and his son Ham takes advantage of this. From the text it’s clear that something worse than taking a look at his dad’s naked body, but it’s not clear what exactly he did.
Some point out that, later on in Leviticus, uncovering a man’s “nakedness” meant sleeping with his wife. They suggest that here Ham was making a play at being the leader of the family by sleeping with his father’s wife. Very different times indeed. If Canaan was the child that came from Ham’s betrayal then this is perhaps why the writer emphasises that Ham is the father of Canaan, and why Noah curses Canaan. Either way, what is clear is that the brokenness of humanity is still very much an issue.
We then speed forward as one family becomes many. The author begins listing the various descendants of Noah. But these aren’t random people. Each of these names represents a different tribe or nation. In this list we see all the different people groups that were known at the time.
One name that is given special mention is Nimrod. This guy is an incredible hunter, but he also begins to form the first empire. He starts his empire in Babel (which later will become Babylon) and builds many more cities. One important one is Nineveh in the land of Assyria. Anyone who is familiar with their Old Testament will know these two cities, Babylon and Nineveh, will become quite important as future enemies of God’s people.
The issue is when God told humanity to be fruitful and multiply, he expected them to spread out in their creativity. He wanted to see different tribes and cultures pop up, each looking slightly different but all united in their humanity. Empires tend to do away with this. They aim to spread one homogenised culture wherever they go, removing the individual identity.
This continues to the point where the people of earth are developing new technologies such as brick (someone had to develop it) and building great cities. They decide to build a giant tower. This may not seem significant, but during this time mountains were where heaven meets earth. These giant towers were like man-made mountains. In other words, they were building a tower to make their own way back heaven. God notes that at this rate humanity would spend the rest of eternity working together to take back their immortality at force. There was no chance for a relationship between humanity and God when they were like this.
So God divides up humanity into different groups of people with different languages. No longer able to communicate with one another easily, and now part of separate groups, humanity would now focus on dealing with one another rather than on openly challenging God, not that they were ever a threat.
It’s not made clear in this passage, but later on (Deuteronomy 32:8) we see that God actually disinherited the nations here. By this we mean that he decided that he would no longer be God to these people. Instead, he put angels in charge of the nations and these angels would deal with the nations so he didn’t have to.
The Fall is now complete. Not only did humanity reject God in Genesis 3, but they showed their willingness to pollute themselves in Genesis 6, and now they’ve brought God to the point where he would rather break up his own kingdom than let them continue as they were.
So what’s next? Well, we get a brief glimpse at the end of Genesis 11. When God wiped out humanity with the flood, he chose one family to carry on his purpose. Now that God has disinherited, or disowned, humanity, he turns to a new family to fulfill his purpose. A family that didn’t yet exist but would all start with one man named Abram.
This psalm is attributed to king David when he had to flee from his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15-19). This idea is that either David wrote this psalm, or someone else wrote it as they were meditating on this story. A poem, working through the emotions David must have been feeling at the time.
The psalm is categorised as a Lament Psalm, which make up over a third of all psalms (see Psalm 22, 44, 88, 90, 141 for examples of other Lament Psalms). Biblical lament is whenever a person takes their pains, hurts, and frustrations before God. It tends to include four steps; turning to God, bringing the complaint, making a request of God, and then declaring trust in God. We see this in the structure of Psalm 3.
Psalm 3:1-2 - The complaint
Psalm 3:3 - Declaring trust in God
Psalm 3:4-5 - Remembering what he has done before
Psalm 3:6 - Declaring trust in God
Psalm 3:7 - Asking God to rescue them and defeat their enemies
Psalm 3:8 - Declaring trust in God
This psalm was typically sung in the morning. It opens with a reminder that sometimes it seems like we are surrounded by opposition. Opposition that is declaring there is no hope for us. The response to this is to declare the truth of who God is. We can support this with reminding ourselves of his goodness to us in the past. We do not need to be afraid, because God has answered us and sustained us in the past and he will do it again.
The psalmist invites God into this pain and struggle. To rescue them and strike down this opposition. Finally the psalmist ends, challenging the declarations of their oppositions. In Psalm 3:2 the opponents declared there is no salvation for him, but in Psalm 3:8 he responds that ‘salvation belongs to the Lord’.
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God makes four key covenants with different people throughout the Old Testament; Noah, Abraham, the nation of Israel, King David. Understanding what these covenants means helps us to see how God partners with his creation to bring about his kingdom.
Tim and Jon talk through the story of Genesis 1-11, focusing on Genesis 10-11 and what the tower of Babel means for this family that God has been building for himself.
What is the meaning of the Genesis flood? Tremper Longman III and John H. Walton look at what this story would have meant in its original Ancient Near Eastern context, helping us see the flood as an Ancient Israelite would have.
Understanding the context of your passage is always important. BibleProject always do an incredible job of breaking down each book so you can see how your passage fits into the wider story.
For a slightly different overview of where we are so far, BibleProject have done an animated recap of Genesis 1-11 to help you fit today's passage into the overarching story of Genesis.
Spoken Gospel outlines the book of Genesis and point out some of the key themes, all in the medium of spoken word.
Now that the flood waters have subsided Spoken Gospel explore the promise of the rainbow and the events that follow.
Spoken Gospel look at the story of Babel and what it meant for the relationship between God and humanity.
In this class, over the course of 14.5 hours of content, BibleProject focus on Genesis 1-11, the Psalms, and the Wisdom literature to see how these texts portray the architecture of the heavens and the earth. You will need to login (accounts are free) to access.