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End of the World - Almost

Genesis 6-11

Things have become so bad that God now regrets ever having created human beings. There is nothing but evil in their hearts. The human experiment was a failure, and it is time to end it.

But one man, Noah, does not displease God. Noah was righteous “in his generation,” which may mean only that he was not as wicked as everyone else. Desperate for a reason to save humanity, God approaches Noah and warns him of the coming catastrophe. To Noah falls the task of enabling the preservation of all created life.

And so Noah builds a great ark of cypress wood, large enough to contain not just his family but also representatives of all living species.

And the rains came, for forty days and nights. All life perished, except for those creatures sheltered inside Noah’s ark.

And now for the first time in the Bible (chapters 6 and 9) we encounter the word “covenant.” This is one of the most important words in the Bible. The Hebrew word comes from a root meaning “to bind.” It signifies an agreement binding two parties together, a reciprocal relationship in which each party has a role to play and an obligation to uphold. The biblical understanding of covenant evolves and changes over the course of time, while remaining true to this original meaning. It is one of the key concepts for understanding the Bible’s message.

The covenant God makes with Noah is rudimentary. God promises never again to destroy the world by means of a flood. In this form the covenant is far from complete. God does not explicitly ask anything of Noah in return. The full meaning of covenant has not yet been revealed.

This covenant between God and Noah and through him all living things does not end the darkness that dwells within the human heart. We are not yet done with the process of separation. The next one comes on a larger scale: separation of nation from nation.

This separation is represented by the story of the Tower of Babel. The people of the earth, who still speak one language, come together to build a tower reaching to the heavens, to “make a name” for themselves. Seeing this as an act of arrogance, God confuses their languages and scatters them throughout the earth. The original human family has now taken the form of separate nations that cannot even communicate with each other.

This completes the series of separations described in Genesis: man from woman, man and woman from the garden, brother from brother, stranger from stranger, nation from nation. We have reached a low point in spiritual history. The search for God must now begin in earnest.

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