The Days of Noah: The Eschatological Structure of Genesis
In a fascinating paragraph to his classic work, Schöpfung und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit,1 Hermann Gunkel observed the fundamental interdependence between the beginning and ending of biblical history, a relationship regarding which he noted implicit reference in 2 Pet 3:6-7 (where eschatological judgment is described after the dimensions of the Noahic catastrophe), and explicit formulation both in Matt 24:37, “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be;” and Barnabas 6:13, “Behold, I make the end like the beginning.”2 Gunkel admitted his inability to discover the nature of the relationship between the biblical beginning and ending, though he postulated major theological significance to this relationship, stating his view that the New Testament speculation regarding predestination was in large part founded upon the comparison of first and last things.3
Claus Westermann marvelled in Anfang und Ende in der Bibel4 that Gunkel could leave a question of such significance unresolved, for its answer is fundamental to the very thesis of his book. Westermann noted further that Gunkel’s question has not yet been satisfactorily answered, though he likewise concluded that it remains of utmost theological import.
Gunkel’s failure to investigate further the inter-relationship of the biblical beginning and ending is consistent with a broader neglect of foundational studies in biblical protology, an omission which has hindered the successful construction of an eschatological scheme comprehending the entire scope of Scripture. It seems only reasonable, however, that any accurate formulation of biblical eschatology should be squarely based upon biblical protology, that the ending of history could only be comprehensible within the categories by which the be-ginning of history is described. Furthermore, should Genesis provide us with an overarching structure of historical direction we might reasonably expect to discern the inter-relationship of the biblical beginning and ending, and in so doing derive the theological insight which, though anticipated by Gunkel, nevertheless eluded him.
At first glance perhaps it appears paradoxical to suggest a telic or futurist theology undergirding Genesis, the book of origins and first things. Nevertheless the possibility of deriving an eschatological structure from Genesis follows from the fact that a comprehension of universal time is clearly within the self-consciousness of the book. This awareness of diachronology is suggested by the introductory “in the beginning” (berešit) of Gen 1:1, an expression which sets forth the beginning of history while implying a historical eventuation in an eschatological “ending of days” (‘aharit hayyamim),5 and required by the promise of perpetual seasons in Gen 8:22, “While the earth remains” (‘ōd kol-yemê ha’ares), a statement wherein the prophetic oracle foresees an eschatological terminus.6Moreover, the possibility of projecting such an eschatological structure beyond Genesis is suggested by the divine teleology presupposed in the creation narrative7 and consistently reaffirmed throughout Scripture.8 Genesis is, after all, the beginning of the revelation of the One who writes history from the Alpha to the Omega, who is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Rev. 22:13).
While the chronicle of the origin of Israel is unquestionably primary to the design of Genesis, the beginnings of Israel’s national history are nevertheless embedded in a matrix of universal history, a broader context which affords a historiographical perspective to the author’s interpretation of Israel’s destiny.9 This introductory chronicle of universal history (Genesis 1-11), however, is constructed about a scheme by which the direction of the whole of history may be deduced and displayed.
The thesis of this paper is that the chronicle of prediluvian history (Genesis 1-7) is composed of five theologically fundamental narratives, each of which finds consecutive, synthetic parallel in the history (and prophecy) of the postdiluvian world. Consequently, by understanding the historical movement initiated in early Genesis, we may discern the relationship between the beginning and ending of biblical history.
The first of these theological narratives is the original creation of the world out of the waters of chaos, a story foundational to theology proper, and paralleled in postdiluvian history in the recreation of the world out of the waters of Noah. The second narrative is the commissioning of Adam, a record fundamental to anthropology, and paralleled in the new commission to Noah. The third narrative is the sin of Adam, a record finding hamartiological parallel in the sin of. Noah. The fourth parallel concerns the relationship between the descendents of Adam, namely, the Cainites of the wicked city of Enoch and the Yahweh worshipers in the family of Seth. This chronicle of redemptive import finds parallel in the postdiluvian juxtaposition of the descendents of Noah, namely, the inhabitants of the wicked city of Babel and the Yahweh worshipers in the family of Abraham. Finally, the fifth parallel narrative concerns the sons of God and the daughters of man whose miscegenation brings universal judgment upon the ancient world. This record has profound eschatological significance as it projects the expectations of apostasy and cosmic catastrophe upon the biblical understanding of postdiluvian history.10 The task of this study is to demonstrate that the record of postdiluvian history is stylized so as to be an essential reduplicative chronicle of antediluvian history.11 Accordingly, the five narrative models isolated and identified in the thesis statement will be examined in turn and appeal will be made to the consecutive structural and literary correspondence of the postdiluvian to the prediluvian models. The literary correspondences marshalled to defend the thesis are structurally presented for it is to be observed that the five parallel narratives sustain a logical as well as a chronological consecution (i.e., God, man, sin, redemption and judgment).
It should be recognized that the primary goal of this survey is to articulate the thesis directively and not exhaustively. It is freely acknowledged that individual correspondences may be challenged while other parallels may be suggested. Nevertheless it is hoped that the aggregate of the evidence herein presented is sufficient to sustain the broader profile of the thesis.
Genesis 8: The New Creation
The ordering of the present heavens and earth out of the chaotic overthrow of the ancient world recorded in Genesis 8 parallels the original creation account of Genesis 1.12 In both chapters the theological narrative moves from the display of divine work to the account of divine rest. In Genesis 8:1 God brings about a wind to pass over the waters of the flood which, like the waters of original chaos (Gen 1:2), cover the earth (Gen 7:18-19). The emergence of the dry land and the bringing forth of vegetation (Gen 1:12) find a mirror image in the olive leaf brought to Noah, which is taken as a token of the emergence of dry land (Gen 8:11). Noah’s sabbatical pattern in the sending of the dove13 suggests that God alone, who created the first world in six days, can deliver the earth from such a catastrophe. The sabbath rest of God at the conclusion of the original creation (“and He rested,” wayyišbot; Gen 2:2) finds correspondence in the sacrificial rest of God after the new creation is completed (“and the Lord smelled the aroma of rest,” reah hannihoah; Gen 8:21; cf. Exod 20:11 in which the rest of God on the seventh day of creation is described by the verb nuah). The literary correspondence between both accounts is readily evident through the extent and frequency of shared vocabulary: ruah, tehom, yom/laylah,yabeš/yabbašah, leminehu, šabat.14
Genesis 9: The New Adam
The divine commission and blessing bestowed upon Noah finds precise parallel in the record of Adam.15 The anthropologically fundamental doctrine of the divine image in man(selem) occurs in the Adam narrative as the basis of man’s identity and in the Noah narrative as the basis of man’s protection, being wholly unique in Genesis to the Adam and Noah stories (Gen 1:27; 5:1, 3; 9:6). Surely it also has anthoropological significance that man in his relationship to other animate life is a point central to both the Adam and Noah records.16 God brings the nepeš animals to Adam to be named. He brings them once again to Noah to be protected (cf. Gen 2:19; 7:15).17 Finally, the blessing of fruitfulness given to Adam and again to Noah virtually finds identical expression, signifying the fatherhood of Adam and Noah to the prediluvian and postdiluvian worlds respectively (cf. the isocolic parallels of Gen 9:2 and 1:28a: wayebarek ‘elohim ‘et-noah we’et-banayw wayyo’mer lahem peru urebu umil’u ‘et-ha’ares and wayebarek ‘otam ‘elohim wayyo’mer lahem ‘elohim peru urebu umil’u ‘et-ha’ares).
Genesis 9:20-27: The Fall Renewed
The structural and literary correspondence between the story of Noah’s sin and the record of Adam’s fall is striking.18 Noah’s transgression19 begins with a vineyard (Gen 9:20) while Adam’s sin is set in a garden (Gen 3:1). Noah drank of the fruit of the vine while Adam ate of the fruit of the tree (Gen 9:20; 3:2), both being acts of deliberate disobedience resulting in the sinner’s awareness of shameful nakedness (Gen 9:21; 3:7). While Noah’s nakedness was covered by his eldest sons (Gen 9:23), Adam’s nakedness was covered by God (Gen 3:32), and both the sin of Noah and the sin of Adam issued into a fearful curse and enduring division in their respective seed (Gen 9:25; 3:15). In both accounts the narrative moves from the sin of the father to the resulting blessing and cursing of the seed and finally to the genealogical development (Genesis 10 and 5). The authorial intention to relate the story of Noah’s sin to Adam’s fall is literarily evident in the word-play in Gen 9:20 (cf. ‘is ha’adamah with adam in Gen 2:7) and the parallel of Gen 9:24 (“Noah awoke,” i.e., by metonymy, his “eyes were opened,” cf. Gen 3:7a).
Genesis 11-12: Renewed Conflict of the Seed
The cursing and blessing of the Adamic seed in Gen 3:15 divide the ancient world into Cainites and Sethites, according to the thematic development of Genesis 4-5. Cain, condemned to wander in the earth, founds the wicked city of Enoch to the east of Eden (Gen 7:17), an antediluvian cosmopolis finding correspondence in postdiluvian history with the wicked city of Babel, on the east of the mountains of Ararat,20 which Noah’s sons found to avoid wandering in the earth (Gen 11:2, 4). The godly line of Adam is represented in the line of Seth in their collective capacity as “calling upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26). The structural correspondence in postdiluvian Genesis is unavoidably directed toward Abram, who with his family “calls upon the name of the Lord” (cf. the correspondence of Gen 12:8, wayyiqra’ besem YHWH with Genesis 4:26, ‘az huhal liqro’ besem YHWH). By this precise correspondence the conclusion is irresistible that the author would have us discern the identifying continuity of Israel’s patriarch with the godly Sethite comnunity of the ancient world.
This juxtaposition of Israel and the nations as reflective of the renewed conflict of the spiritual seed21 in postdiluvian history sets the broader context for understanding the Old Testament distinction between the elect nation and the heathen, later spiritualized as Zion and Babel. The character of the conflict between these seed had been the subject of the Cain and Abel story in Genesis 4, that is, the conflict is to the death (cf. again Gen 3:15), and it was the neglect of this principle in the intermarriage of the Sethites and the Cainites,22 thus bringing the entire race under the curse, that was the occasion of the overthrow of the antediluvian world.23
The conflict between Zion and Babel becomes a major unifying theme throughout the entire postdiluvian scriptural record. The building of an earthly Babel by the postdiluvian faithless brings to mind the wicked city of Cain.24 By contrast the hope of the heavenly city among the postdiluvian faithful brings to remembrance the heavenly expectation of Abel (cf. Heb 11:4, l3-l6).25
Eschatological Expectation: The New Judgment
The task of this study was to demonstrate that the Genesis record of postdiluvian history is so constructed as to be an essential reduplicative chronicle of antediluvian history. Now this reduplication in Genesis carries through historically only to the fourth narrative (creation, man, sin, and the beginnings of renewed conflict of the seed), the conflict between Babel and Zion constituting the rest of the scriptural drama. But the implication of the pattern of historical presentation in Genesis requires the projection of general apostasy and cosmic judgment into postdiluvian prophecy to satisfy the pattern of parallel narratives.26 Explicit confirmation of these expectations is found in the New Testament in Christ’s speaking specifically about the “days of Noah” reappearing upon the earth,27 and the Apostle Peter writing of the Noahic deluge as an adumbration of the eschatological fiery catastrophe.28 Just as the destruction of the ancient world ushered in the present heavens and earth, so the present world’will pass away before the new heavens and earth.29
Moses writes simple stories in this book of beginnings, but they contain profound teaching. They tell of light and darkness, good and evil, of gardens and graves, life and death. In Genesis we are told of the sons of the serpent and the sons of God, of the children of darkness and the children of light. The unifying feature of all these particular stories is a structural comprehension revealing God’s ordination of the historical process. The historical setting was created by the divine Word. History is created by the divine Prophecy. Consequently, the inevitability of historical direction presupposed by the eschatological structure of Genesis serves as the overarching signature of divine sovereignty in the affairs of men.
Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done; saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.” Isaiah 46:9-10
The History of the World: The Macrocosm
The World That Was
Genesis 1 – Genesis 7 The World That Now Is Genesis 8 – Revelation 22 Creation The New Creation Waters of chaos cover the earth. Gen 1:1-2 Waters of Noah cover the earth. Gen 7:18-19 Spirit hovers upon face of the waters. Gen 1:2 Dove “hovers” upon face of the waters. Gen 8:9 Dry land emerges, vegetation brought forth.Gen 1:12 Olive leaf betokens the emergence of dry land. Gen 8:11 Old world finished, God rests. Gen 2:2 Present world finished; God receives sacrifice of rest. Gen 8:21 Adam Noah, the New Adam Man commissioned in God’s image. Gen 1:26 Man, recommissioned in God’s image. Gen 9:6 Man commanded to fill the earth. Gen 1:28 Man commanded to fill the earth again. Gen 9:7 God brings animals to Adam for naming.Gen 2:19 God brings animals to Noah for delivering.Gen 7:15 Fall The Fall Renewed Adam sins in a garden. Gen 3:2Noah sins in a vineyard. Gen 9:20 Adam partakes in fruit of tree of knowledge.Gen 3:6 Noah partakes of the fruit of the vine. Gen 9:20 Adam shamefully naked. Gen 3:7 Noah shamefully naked. Gen 9:21 Adam’s nakedness covered by God. Gen 3:21 Noah’s nakedness covered by sons. Gen 9:23 Adam’s sin brings curse upon seed. Gen 3:15 Noah’s sin brings curse upon seed. Gen 9:25 Conflict of Seed
Seed Conflict Renewed
Cain, condemned to wander, founds wicked city of Enoch. Gen 4:17Noah’s sons, to avoid wandering, found the wicked city of Babel. Gen 11:4 Seth, with son Enosh, begins to call upon the name of the Lord. Gen 4:26 Shem’s decedent Abram begins to call upon the name of the Lord. Gen 12:8 Daughters of men taken to wife by sons of God. Gen 6:2 The harlot Babel seduces the sons of Zion throughout the ages. Cf. Dan 1:1; Isa 47:1-15; Rev 17-18 Judgment The New Judgment Days of Noah are upon the earth. Gen 6:13“Days of Noah” are again upon the earth. Mt 24:37-39 God brings cloud upon earth to destroy the wicked with a flood. Gen 7:23 God comes in clouds to destroy the wicked with fire. Mt 24:30; II Pet 3:7 Old heavens and earth pass away before the present heavens and earth. II Pet 3:5-7 Present heavens and earth pass away before the new heavens and earth. II Pet 3:13
1 H. Gunkel, Schöpfung und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1895), 369.
2 Matt. 24:37: hōsper gar hai hemerai tou Nōe, houtōs estai hē parousia tou huiou tou anthrōpou; Bar. 6:13: idou poiō ta eschata hōs ta prōta.
3 Gunkel, Schöpfung, 369.
4 C. Westerman, Anfang und Ende in der Bibel (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1969), 30.
5 W. Eichrodt, Theologie des Alten Testaments (2 vols.; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1935), 2:2-3, 53.
6 C. Westermann, Schöpfung (Stuttgart: Kreuz-Verlag, 1971), 37.
7 Cf. Gen 1:31.
8 Cf. the worship formulation of Rev 4:11. The reasoning regarding teleology is often associated with the Genesis cosmology, e.g., Ps 104:31; Isa 43:18; John 1:13.
9 Mosaic authorship of Genesis is implied by Christ in John 7:21-22.
10 Cf. Deut 31:14-32:43; Matt 24:37; 2 Pet 3:6-7.
11 The notion of Semitic parallelism as a literary form is a well-accepted point of Hebrew exegesis. The interrelationship of the creative Word and history in Hebrew theological thought is also generally acknowledged. If the creative Word, then, and history are so inextricably identified in ancient oriental thought, might we not be justified in distinguishing a parallelism of thought in Hebrew poetry? The scope of this question is relevant to the hermeneutic of Old Testament history as well as the understanding of New Testament typology; cf. the charts appended to this essay.
12 Compare the synthesis of original creation and the Noahic recreation in the theology of the wisdom school in Ps 104:9; 74:12-17; Job 38:4-11; cf. also 2 Pet 3:5-7.
13 The origin of the dove as a symbol of the Spirit (cf. Matt 3:16) may be traceable to a synthesis of these creation accounts. Gen 1:2 describes the original earth in darkness and deep (both to be taken as tokens of evil as indicated by their absence in the perfected heavens and earth vision of Rev 21:1, 25.), the Spirit of God hovering upon the face of the waters (cf. The rahaph of the eagle in Deut 32:11). Noah sends forth first the raven (black and unclean) and then the dove (white and clean), the dove finding no rest upon the waters of wickedness, therefore “hoving” upon them.
14 One exegetical implication of the correspondence between the folood and creation is the deduction of the universal dimension of the flood in the authorial conception, contrary to the local or Mesopotamian theory finding common acceptance.
15 Cf. U. Cassuto, From Noah to Abraham (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1959), 124-29; Westerman, Schöpfung, 39-43.
16 Cf. Gen 6:20 with 1:25; Gen 1:26 with 9:2 and also the divine appointment of food for man in Gen 1:29 and 9:3.
17 The source critical attempt to distinguish the creation of the animals in Genesis 1 (attributed to P) from the seond account of animal creation in Genesis 2 (attributed to J) must explain the tidy synthesis of elements of both accounts in the Noahic record within the one recreative model. Here as elsewhere the identification of form patterns calls into question the validity of the source critical method.
18 Cf. Cassuto, From Noah to Abraham, 158-70, and Henry M. Morris, The Beginning of the World (Denver: Accent Books, 1977), 125-26.
19 The confusion in conservative commentaries is unwarranted. Noah did not discover viniculture, drinking in ignorance, being insensible to the properties of wine. Christ assured the disciples that before the flood the antediluvians were “eating and drinking” (Matt 24:38, cf. 11:19), and we may be sure that Noah both knew of wine and that his sin was deliberate.
20 This interpretation assumes that the min of miqqedem has a directional force; cf. BDB, 578. Separating himself from Abraham, Lot also chose the wickedness of the east region(miqqedem) of the land (Gen 13:11).
21 The terms “Israel” and the “nations” are often used in Scripture in a spiritual sense apart from ethnic significance (cf. Ps 73:1; Matt 6:32; Rom 9:6-13; etc.). As such they represent the theological distinction between the sons of God and the sons of the serpent, a conception traceable to gen 3:15 (cf. Matt 3:7; 1 John 3:13).
22 The narratives in Genesis are rooted in th prophetic oracles, Gen 3:15 having establish the determinative enmity between these Adamic seed. The intermarriage of the sones of God wit the daughters of man is a further explication of the strategy of the serpent, revealed in the garden, to seduce the man (Adam) through the woman (Eve), a theologically fundamental principle in Genesis 1-7.
23 This history perhaps explains Abraham’s extreme care and explicit instruction regarding the choice of a bride for his son Isaac (cf. Genesis 24; also Jacob in Genesis 28), and sets he theological background to the understanding of the serousness of intermarriage with non-covenant nations (cf. Samson, Solomon, returned exiles; also an echo in 1 cor 7:9).
24 Cf. the cities of wickedness—Babel, Sodom, Pithom and Rameses, the cities of the Amorites, which like Babel, were “built up to heaven,” and the Jebusite city finally overcome by David. Cf. also the titanic struggle between Jerusalem and Babylon in the latter Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah 51; Isa 21:9; Dan 1:1; Zech 2:7; Mic 4:10; etc.) and in the New Testament (1 Pet 5:13; Rev 14:8; 17:5, 18).
25 Cf. Moses’ anticipation of the heavenly city in Exod 15:17, the city of God in the Zion hymns (Ps 46, 48). Cf. also the Zion of the latter prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Zepheniah, and Zechariah and the New Testament heavenly Jerusalem (Gal 4:26; Heb 12:22; Rev 21:2).
26 That the eschatological projection is derived from the structure of Genesis may be displayed thusly: the prediluvian models a, b, c, d, and e correspond to postdiluvian Gensis models a’, b’, c’, and d’. The particular identification of e’ is implicit from an inductive study of Gensis as necessitating the elements of apostasy and cosmic judgment, points finding explicit statement outside Genesis in Matt 24:37 and 2 Pet 3:6-7. The New Testament confirms the structure of narrative parallels derived from the Genesis material (cf. also 2 Tim 3:105 and 2 Pet 3:1-7).
27 It is interesting to note that the use of Enoch’s preaching of judgment to his generation is applied typologically to the wicked of this world by Jude (cf. also 1 Enoch 106 [fragment of the Book of Noah]).
28 The “Song of Moses” in Deuteronomy 32 represents Pentateuchal expectations of apostasy and cosmic judgment, containing the lament over the spiritual harlotry of Israel which will bring a fiery overthrow of the earth (cf. especially vv 19-22). Note the eschatological judgment finds God taking his bow of wrath once again, with which he had figuratively destroyed the world of Noah (cf. Gen 9:12-16) and with which figuratively he will finally destroy the present world.
29 It is the expectation of the everlasting eschaton of perfect righteousness (cf. 2 Pet 3:13, Revelation 21) wherein we find the fulfillment of the messianic blessings first aroused in Gen 3:15 (cf. Heb 11:16, that from Abel to Abraham the hope of the godly seed was ever in the heavenlies).