When bad things happen in this world, God often takes the responsibility for them because He is the one who created a universe where such evil things are possible.
When God created the world, He did not plan for sin to enter the world and for things to get so bad that eventually He would have to send a flood to wipe out every living thing on earth. No, what happened to creation was due to human activity; not divine.
Nevertheless, “God bears some responsibility for setting up the creation in such a way that it could go wrong and have such devastating effects” (Fretheim, God and World, 82).
The Flood Happened on God’s Watch
When the flood came, it is not something that God sent, but is something that happened under His rule, or “on His watch.”
When the flood came, the text only has the waters as the subject of the verbs; not God. It says the “waters of the flood came upon the earth” (Genesis 7:10, NAS) and “the fountains of the great deep burst open” (Genesis 7:11, NAS). The only verbs ascribed to God in the actual flood event are when He moves to restore, save, and deliver. It is God who shut Noah and his family into the ark (Genesis 7:16), and sent the wind over the earth (Genesis 8:1). “The flood is described in natural terms as the effects of sins (of violence in particular) with no divine act of intervention; only with the subsiding of the waters is God’s activity stated explicitly” (Fretheim, God and World, 80).
Why then did God state that He would send the flood?
God said He would send the flood because He was taking the blame for the way the world had gone.
God inspired the Biblical author to record that He sent the flood, not because He did send it, but because it was such a terrible thing that happened in His creation and as a good God who watches over His creation, He takes responsibility for things that happen in His world, even though He Himself did not “do” it.
Over and over in Genesis 7, the account says that the “water” killed every living thing (Genesis 7:17, 18, 19, 20, 24). The author of Genesis 7 is using the cosmic warfare motif to show that the waters are responsible for the death of everything that breaths; not God.
But what about Genesis 7:23?
Here is one place where alternative translations from the Hebrew are justified, as found in various English translations. Most English translations provide the word “He” (some even blatantly put in “God”) as the subject of the opening statement in Genesis 7:23. The New King James Version is one example (cf. also ESV, NAS, NET, NLT, RSV):
So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.
But the Hebrew is vague about God’s involvement in sending the flood and destroying everything on earth that breathes. The King James Version shows the lack of clarity in the verse (cf. also NIV, NJB):
And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.
This translation more closely resembles the surrounding context. The agent of the destruction is left unclear, though the immediately surrounding context indicates that the waters of the flood were responsible for taking the breath from every living thing.
In the end, the Genesis flood paints the portrait both ways. In some instances, God takes the blame for the death and destruction of all that breathes upon the earth, but in other verses, the guilty party is not so clear. It is my belief that the vagueness of the text is intentional. It is to show the reader—especially those who are aware of the cosmic warfare elements of this passage—that something might be going on behind the scenes which a quick surface-level reading of the text does not initially reveal.
Reading about the Flood through Christological Eyes
We now know, however, as we read about the flood through the lens of Jesus Christ, that God did not send the flood. The flood came as a result of humanity’s great evil upon the earth.
When we consider the various elements of the Chaos Theory, it seems that this particular event may have been a mixture of nature being out of control and the destroyer seeking to destroy God’s good creation. God, of course, since He has a policy of non-intervention, let nature run its course but used His wisdom and mercy to raise up Noah to build an ark and proclaim the coming flood to any and all who would listen, repent, and be saved. In the end, however, only eight were rescued through the flood. All the rest of mankind kept themselves cut off and separated from the protective hand of God.
This way of reading the text allows God to look more like Jesus Christ and less like the gods of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (and even most gods of our own day) who hurl fire, lighting, drought, and flood upon those who displease them. Jesus is not like that.
He blesses His enemies and forgives those who persecute Him. He represents a God who is love, who sends rain the righteous and the unrighteous, and the sun on the evil and the good. God did not send the flood. It came as a natural consequence of the great evil that was upon the earth, and specifically in response to the evil of the sons of God having children with the daughters of men. Since there is a bond between mankind and creation, when humanity falls into evil, creation falls into chaos along with it.How can a God who says "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) be the same God who instructs His people in the Old Testament to kill their enemies?
These are the sorts of questions we discuss and (try to) answer in my online discipleship group. Members of the group can also take ALL of my online courses (Valued at over $1000) at no charge. Learn more here: Join the RedeemingGod.com Discipleship Group I can't wait to hear what you have to say, and how we can help you better understand God and learn to live like Him in this world!
Emilio Gomez says
Can you explain what you mean by: God has a policy of non-intervention and let nature run its course?
Juan C. Torres says
He linked an article on that. I would click on that.
Emilio Gomez says
Thanks,I read right over that!
Jeremy Myers says
There is a whole article on this in the series. Click the link near the bottom of this post to see the link list.
I appreciate at least some of this line of thinking – particularly that God allows the natural consequences of sin to be the just rewards of those who refuse to trust his love for them.
But, speaking of Jesus, what do you think about what he said in Matthew 24:37-38 (parallel Luke 17:26-27). Also, Peter said some curious things in 2nd Peter chapter 2.
Regarding the things Jesus said in Matthew 24, I think he is referring to the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in AD70, but he speaks of his own coming in judgement. He’s predicting what the Romans will do (not telling them what to do) and saying ‘I will use this action to bring about the ends I desire’. Much like God did in Joseph’s circumstances. ‘What you meant for evil God meant for good.’ But here, as in the Babylonian and Assyrian conquests of Israel, God’s “good” is not super enjoyable for all parties.
A small light-bulb for me: we are both saying that God is raising his hand when the question is asked ‘who signed off on this?’ You call it guilt, as if something wrong was done. I see it as responsibility without transgression. I see God having a right to rule that makes it OK for him to “turn the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes” (2Pet2:6). He’s still not bloodthirsty, or vengeful, or perpetually angry. He’s still long-suffering, and love. It’s OK for me to give my children consequences for their negative behaviors. It’s not OK for them to give each other the same sorts of consequences. So it is with God, because he is the Creator.
It seems that whatever tack you are taking, if part of the argument is that Jesus defines God’s character with respect to using force against some, you have to consider the things he said in places like Matthew 24 are part of who Jesus is.
How do you work that out?
Jeremy Myers says
I did write several posts on those New Testament passages you reference. Check the link at the bottom of this post to go to a link list for all the posts in this series.
Gregory Anderson says
I am one who confidently believes that, in a sense, there is wisdom to be found banging our heads against the walls that create the boundaries of the ectypal knowledge which God has set aside for us to attain a grasp of. This is one of the reasons why I appreciate your (Jeremy) site, posts, resources; and most of the comments that we readers supply.
As a fellow “head-banger”, I confess that seeking to know God as the primary focus allows us to submit to His process of transforming us by the renewing of our minds. It is we who must come to grips with God’s self-revelation to us. Thankfully, we do not have to put all the ducks in a row.
The vocabulary we use to describe our processing of God’s revelation to us is important, just as well as allowing ourselves to consider we may misunderstand His vocabulary. The processing of our information is an area I often am comfortable with lumping in as Doctrine. Our attempts to see the natural revelation God has installed in the Creation act includes what “Science” discovers, but knowing we need to filter worldly bias in the presentation of such “scientific” evidences since the ideas of the world are driven by another mindset. Such even includes my own biases and assumptions, since I am a work of God’s in process.
If God knows everything, and I believe this is true, then God knew what would happen after He created, including all natural and supernatural events. I am convinced we cannot grasp all the ways in which God has intervened on our behalf either personally or as members of the collective creation. God knew Adam and Eve were going to sin, but made them anyway according to His plan which is in fact being worked out to the conclusion God designed. Such conviction is driven by His Person according to His revelation to us in Scripture and by our communion with God by the indwelling Holy Spirit. If anything can thwart God’s will, natural or supernatural, than the basics of what He has revealed about Himself are misunderstood or misrepresented in Scripture. Such a conclusion is illogical and without Biblical grounds.
Thanks for stirring the pot Jeremy, and fellow commentors! Let us press against the boundaries to find out whether they are established by God or falsely erected by human ingenuity, pride, and all the other barriers we allow to interfere with our reception and submission to the mind of Christ Jesus which belongs to those who are members of His Body.
I am grateful for the opportunity to see things from varying perspectives as challenged by fellow disciples, and think this is most helpful.
your fellow-suffeirng servant,
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, sometimes I feel a great inability to express in words what I “feel” in my heart regarding the character of God. I can sense it, but I cannot express it. When I try to write about it, it does feel like head-banging. Ha!
Thanks for your thoughtful article. Your point – “Since there is a bond between mankind and creation, when humanity falls into evil, creation falls into chaos along with it.” – appears to be a good summary of the problems of living in a fallen world.
There is one question, though. The end of Genesis 6 seems to make it clear that God did ‘do’ the flood, or is that another translation issue:
6:7 So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’
6:13 And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth.
I don’t really have a problem with God ‘doing’ a flood, since He made it all anyway, or it could just be the way of expressing things at the time. For example, no one ever really thinks that God forgot all about Noah and his family, then suddenly said ‘oops’ and ‘remembered’ them (like forgetting to turn the stove off before going out) – see Gen 8:1. We all accept that it’s an expression
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, I deal with some of these verses in other posts in this series. Click the link near the bottom of the post to be taken to the full link list of this series. There should be some posts in there which answer your question.
Harold Shuckhart says
You say: “When God created the world, He did not plan for sin to enter the world and for things to get so bad that eventually He would have to send a flood to wipe out every living thing on earth.” Isn’t God all-knowing? Doesn’t he know the past, present, and future? How could he not know what would happen? If he has the powers you ascribe to him, he must have known – it must have been his plan for people to act against his wishes. He knew that when he started the whole process. Could God be surprised? I think not. Not only did he know what people would do, he knew that he would kill almost every living thing on the planet because of what he knew people would do. On this basis, God is a sadistic monster who punished people for doing EXACTLY what he knew they would do.
There is a difference between compelling, and knowing.
If I bribe all the jockeys but one to throw a race, what happens when the one I did not bribe, does not run in the race?
Jeremy Myers says
Yes. That is a good point, and what I was attempting to say.
Jeremy Myers says
“did not plan for sin” might have been a poor choice of words.
What I meant was “did not plan that sin” would enter the world. That is, sin was not part of God’s plan, though He knew it might (or would) enter into His creation.
The issue here is bad stuff happening. Death is unpleasant. So is getting a spanking as a kid.
Is a parent a monster for having a child when the parent knows that the child will not be perfect and will have to be taught and disciplined (perhaps with the violence of a spanking). Does-what society would call-a good parent enjoy punishing their child, or is it more like a duty to them that they do not enjoy but feel obligated to do for the good of the child?
The way I see it, mankind is God’s child. If good parents are not evil for deliberately bringing children into this world and inevitably having to discipline them in some fashion or another then neither is God (who is better than any earthly parent could ever be) for creating man.
Four thumbs up for this one! Bless you (if you want), Mark!
Thank you Lutek. Its encouraging to know that others can see things from what I believe to be a good perspective of things.
I can picture someone saying that a parent can’t have a direct hand in creating their child and that is why they are not held accountable and that God is accountable because he controlled all aspects of creation.
Ok fine but we should then ask why God bothered to create us. Animals were used for sacrifice because they had no sin. Sin didn’t enter the world through animals, it entered through humans.
Humans sin but they are far more intelligent than any animal could ever be and are able to rule and cultivate the planet like no animal could but are peoples intelligence or ability the reason God created and values humans? Certainly not! Human intelligence and ability is infinitely pale in comparison to Gods and besides, angels are more powerful and smarter than us so he would have no need to create us if that is what he wanted.
What makes people so valuable that God would bother to create us if animals are not capable of sin and angels are smarter and more powerful than us? Why does he even love us? I guess that would be our free will and lack of the kind of spiritual knowledge that angels have. It seems that angels should know better than to sin against God so it cannot be tolerated if they do (and without the level of understanding that angels have we are in no position to understand God’s decision in that matter). Humans, on the other hand, don’t know so much so its possible for them to sin and for God to forgive them. Forgiveness creates love. Who loves more, one who is forgiven much or one who is forgiven little? The bible tells us that it is the one who is forgiven much. (but even if it didn’t that should be obvious) Therefore Gods groundwork for the spectacular future that God has in store for us is built upon love and the way to create that love is for God to forgive us and grant us eternal life which is made available to us by the grace of Jesus Christ and the death he took for us all on the cross. God makes it clear that he hates sin and desires for all men to be saved but what he wants most is to show his absolutely absurd levels of love. I think God waited until many thousands of years to send the good news of Jesus to us because we(mankind) first needed to realize how worthless we are on our own and how much we need Jesus in order to be able to truly appreciate what he did for us. That is why is why God himself was willing to take the form of flesh and purposely die a horrific death. Although many people of his time called him insane I call him wonderful and awe-inspiring.
Wesley Rostoll (@Beardedllama) says
Hi. I am enjoying these posts, I specifically like the idea of a more “Jesus looking ” God. The biggest obstacle for me thus far though is that if this is true then it would seem that God was deliberately misleading the Old Testament writers as well as the rest of us. Have you or do you intend to touch on this aspect still?
Jeremy Myers says
Thank you for the encouragement.
I have tried to deal with this some in previous posts, and will continue to attempt to answer this objection as we go through. To see what I have written previously, click the link near the bottom of the post to go to the page with the link list.
Here’s my take:
The last creative act of God was, “Let Us make man(kind) in Our own image.” After that, God rested. Now there was an ultimate physical body which would be the temple for the Christ, God’s own image. Mankind would be the hands of God in the world. However, the embodied Christ still had to contend with the natural mind with its self-serving desires and urges (Satan, the adversary). The embodied Christ still had to wake up, grow up and learn. That’s where free will came in. Freedom to make mistakes and bad choices, in order to learn from them.
There was no guilt on God’s part, because there was no other way. The process began with Adam and Eve, and culminated in Jesus of Nazareth (and perhaps others like him.) Now that the Christ has come in fullness, the last stage is for Christ to come into every human individual.
In the process of the maturing of the Christ from Adam to Jesus (and probably a few other fully enlightened humans since then), people envisioned and contemplated spiritual concepts and recorded their insights about God. Those concepts and insights were inspired by their intuitive awareness of God, but those people, being imperfect in their embodiment of the Christ, were subject to misunderstanding and misinterpretation of their mystical thoughts and experiences; not to mention the temptation to put a spin on them from personal and selfish motives. Part of that would have been blaming God, or claiming authorization by God for atrocities.
Some of the points you make in your series are unique and valid, but I think you’re making a fundamental mistake.
Having written over 140,000 words, I can understand how you would try to protect your vested interest in the work. However, I wonder whether you have any other good reason for so adamantly retaining inerrancy and verbatim divine inspiration in your theology? IMHO, if you get rid of those two flawed premises your work will be greatly simplified. It will proceed more smoothly and quickly – and your word-count will probably decrease dramatically!
It is too easy to become absorbed in fundamentalism. All it takes is faith, and there’s always a lot of emotional support available from your peers.
Theology is a somewhat more difficult endeavor. Christian theology in particular has taken on so many twists, turns, modifications and embellishments in trying to reconcile classic Judaic scriptures with “Paul’s religion” that one truly needs to devote years of study in a seminary in order to fit it all together into some semblance of logic, rather than just taking it all on faith. I explain that a bit more in a post on https://redeeminggod.com/paul-the-apostle-of-the-last-days/.
A seminary is an excellent place to learn about religion, but it’s a poor place to learn about God. This cartoon sums it up nicely:
Mysticism is the best, though perhaps at first the most difficult, path to knowing God, because it transcends both faith and reason, and is based on experience. However, as Aldous Huxley pointed out in his introduction to “The Perennial Philosophy”, before one can experience the divine in any way, one must first make oneself “poor in spirit.” Such humility is seen as a defect in our secular society, and too seldom seen. Consequently, mystical experiences and insights are more rare (per capita) than they ever were.
Jeremy, I’m certainly not saying you’re lacking humility or a mystical attitude. I’m just suggesting you accept that human nature and error have played at least some part not just in other religions, but in Christian theology and scripture as well. If you did, I don’t think all of those 140,000 words would be wasted. A lot of them might become the basis of a clearer and more valuable contribution to theology.
Emilio Gomez says
I have not seen it mentioned here,maybe I missed it ,but there is also the theory concerning the Nephilim. If the human race was genetically altered then God had no choice but to wipe out life leaving only Noah’s family which was still uncontaminated.
This theory-of which I am not 100% convinced but makes more sense than anything else I have heard-explains why God would later command that even infants be killed in the land of Caanan. A genetically altered child cannot be rehabilitated.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, I did not mention the Nephilim. I probably should have since it definitely plays a role in the flood event, and is probably the main reason for the flood.
Bob Singleton says
There was great evil in the world during the time of the flood, much worse than we see in the world now.
I have seen and can show pictures of tremendous power in that ancient world.
— Stones were cut and moved in ways that we could not duplicate today. Fifty ton stones and bigger were moved and very precisely cut across mountains and great valleys – in Peru among other places. Evidence of great power. These are even more magnificent than the pyramid in Egypt and unlike in Egypt they were not moved across flat ground. The idea that Hebrew slaves or other human labor force moved and cut these stones is preposterous.
— Bones… specifically skulls with twice the cranial capacity of any human being alive have been found in the area of those great stone works.
My point is this. Just as God was able to mix his DNA with that of a human, so did demons somehow alter or infiltrate human DNA. We… that is, our ancestors, invited the demonic into our world and they came. It was told in Gen 6 that the sons of God (original creations of God) came to the daughters of men and thus came demonic monsters… like Goliath.
The Israelite spies that went from Moses to spy out the Holy land said that they were as grasshoppers before this enemy, and so they were.
The human race had literally invited the demonic into our world and were then taken by force.
Sounds preposterous I know, but explain how they cut these great stones with copper or maybe iron tools and pulled them with hemp rope and wooden wagon wheels across 12,000 foot mountains and valleys. Explain that before you say I am wrong.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, it sounds a bit like science fiction, but I do think the Nephilim somehow played into the whole flood disaster. There is much about the ancient world that we just don’t know.
I have already explained in the introduce yourself post about how my faith is holding on by a tiny thread. Your blog is one of the big reasons for that. Your writings definitely give me hope that the bible is not just a huge book of fiction. BUT..I received another serious blow last night while watching Cosmos with my athetist husband. It mentioned the flow flood of Gilgamesh, which is basically the story of Noah with some variations and a different God, supposedly written 1000years before the account of Noah. Googling the flood myth, I found there are several stories like this. My husband says my God is nothing more than a plagiarist. I didn’t look too far into it because it was just making me angry. With the fact that I cannot understand the violence of a God that would flood the earth now I am struggling with the fact that the whole thing could be a stolen legend.
Have you ever heard of these other flood stories? What do you think about them and them being written before the flood account?
I’m not asking you to rescue my faith, but some thoughts from those more studious than me will definitely not hurt it!
(Typing from my phone so I apologize now for any wrong words and typos.)
Jeremy Myers says
Interestingly, I wrote a post about this sort of idea today: https://redeeminggod.com/inspiration-of-god-for-bible-other-religions/
I would say that Moses probably did plagiarize the flood account, but this doesn’t make it wrong, nor does it make it a myth. Why couldn’t God have inspired the author of the Gilgamesh epic to record the events of the flood as well? Yes, this messes a bit with our understanding of the inspiration of Scripture, but in the end (at least for me) it amplifies the grace of God for it shows that He was speaking His truth to lots of people at different times, not just to a select few Jews in a few hundred years of human history.
Anyway, the fact that there are flood myths all over the world is actually evidence for the historicity of the flood event, not proof against it. If jungle tribes who have had no contact with civilization for thousands of years have stories about a flood, doesn’t this indicate that some sort of flood event did actually happen? I think so…
Yes, there are other flood stories, but that really proves nothing. Perhaps there was a huge flood at some time in the distant past. Maybe there were also other floods. Would it not make sense that various peoples and their religions might each write the story (stories), and attribute the flood(s) to their god(s)?
Maybe all of the stories are myth. Maybe they do trace back to a common source. But it is almost certainly impossible to prove any of this.
We can place our trust in Jesus, not in how literal these stories might be. We demand scientific, literal, absolute proof. These stories are ancient, and the people for whom they were written undoubtedly did not see the world or these stories as we do. Trying to make them fit our criteria often does not work, television programs notwithstanding.
Dino Costanzo says
Jeremy, I have just began reading your research and information, so I am a while away from totally understanding all of your thinking or theology, but do think your perspective is very clear. I am 55, and was saved at the age of 29 thru the reading of scripture, starting from Genesis and recognized who Christ was by the time I reached Isaiah. I had no background in Christian theology or thinking. I was shown thru the Holy Spirit what real death was, thru a vision of Hell, a real experience and a horrifying eternal separation from the one I wanted to spend eternity with. I look forward to seeing what your perspective will be on this. All of this happened to me, in a close proximity of time and believe I am living proof of how the Old and New Testaments are all part of the same story, the revelation of Jesus and his biography as well. I am also an avid hunter and outdoorsman and do wonder where you are going with this as well, that is other life verses human existence. Maybe you deal with that somewhere and have missed it. Thanks for your efforts, DinoC.
Jeremy Myers says
I haven’t written anything about hell yet … well, not much anyway. I plan to though. I would be interested in your input when we get there.
I use to hunt as well, but no longer. Just don’t have the time any more. Still love to camp and fish when I can.
Thank you so much for this series! I have been struggling for some time with reconciling the God we see in Jesus with the God portrayed in the Old Testament. The flood was really messing with my head.
Chad Fisher says
I’m just confused about the scriptural accuracy of one particular part of this article that states that the flood was not something that God sent, but something that happened under his rule or under his watch when the scripture is CLEAR that God preemptively took complete responsibility for sending the rain in the first place in Genesis 7:4, which reads:
4 “For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.”
According to this scripture YAWHEH Himself decides for Himself uncoerced by anyone or anything outside of Himself that He and He alone will send the rain that floods the earth. Can you please rectify or explain by scriptural means, this part of the article by acknowledging and not intentionally omitting the concepts presented in Genesis 4:7. Thank you.
Chad Fisher says
Correction: this previous comment is supposed to say *Genesis 7:4 at the end.