Genesis 4-11

The Old World And The New World



1. Summary

God begins to redeem His world with a view to the formation and deliverance of Israel.

2. Structure

a The old world order (Gen. 4:1 – Gen. 6:8)

b The old world judged (Gen. 6:9 – Gen. 9:17)

a’ The new world order (Gen. 9:18 – Gen. 11:9)

I. The Old World Order (Gen. 4:1 – Gen. 6:8)

A. General Analysis

The prophesied hostility between the seed of the serpent and that of the woman (Gen. 3:15), took shape immediately.

a Conflict between ungodly Cain and godly Abel (Gen. 4:1-16)

b Conflict between Cain’s ungodly offspring and the godly line of Seth (Gen. 4:17 – Gen. 5:32)

c Corruption of almost all humanity (Gen. 6:1-8)

B. Detailed Analysis

1. From bad to worse

There is ever-deepening disobedience and ever-increasing punishment.

At first glance, chapters 3-11 appear to contain an assortment of unrelated and strange stories. But in reality this unit is a carefully orchestrated symphony with a single theme: the moral failure of humankind.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Baker Books, 1998), 82.[/footnote]

The bad to worse layout conveys the idea of humankind’s steadily deteriorating condition and worsening situation.[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Baker Books, 1999), 49.[/footnote]

In the first place, sin intensifies as time progresses. From Eden to Babel there is an ever growing ‘avalanche’ of sin, a movement from disobedience to murder, to reckless killing, to titanic lust, to total corruption and violence, to the full disruption of humanity. Second, the punishment for sin also increases. This intensification may be seen not only in the episodes themselves but also in the diminishing human life-span as attested by the genealogies (Gen. 5).[footnote]R Dillard & T Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 52.[/footnote]

The punishments for sin increase from Adam to Cain to Noah. Adam is driven out of Eden and into a new home, Cain is driven out to wander in the land, but Noah’s generation is driven out of the world. Adam is separated from the tree of life, Cain is to be pursued by those who would kill him, but Noah’s generation are all swept from life to death.

2. Cain v Abel

Moses contrasts Cain with Abel. Whereas Cain was a settled farmer, Abel was a nomadic shepherd. While Cain’s religion was unacceptable to God, Abel’s was approved. Cain killed, but Abel was murdered. Cain seems to have been given divine protection, whereas Abel was permitted to perish.
Moses narrates the Cain/Abel clash in a way that parallels Cain with Egypt and Abel with Israel.
For example, just as Cain hated the shepherd Abel, so the Egyptians hated the Israelites because they were shepherds (Gen.46:34). Just as Cain hated Abel’s true religion, so the Egyptians hated Israel’s true religion. Just as Cain murdered Abel (Gen.4:8), so the Egyptians murdered the Israelites. Just as wicked Cain prospered and righteous Abel suffered, so the wicked Egyptians seemed to prosper at the expense of righteous Israel.
Moses’ Message: Because Egypt is the place where the righteous suffer like Abel did, therefore go, leave all thought of it behind you and go to the Promised Land.

3. Cainites v Sethites

Just as Moses paralleled the Cain/Abel conflict with the Egypt/Israel conflict, so he parallels the Cainite/Sethite conflict in the same way.

a. Cainites and the Egyptians

Consider first the parallels between the line of Cain and the Egyptians. Professor Richard Pratt tabulates the parallels as follows.

Cainites Egypt
City Builder (Gen. 4:17) Egyptians were city builders
Desiring name (Gen. 4:17) Egyptians names cities after themselves
Arrogance and murderous words (Gen. 4:23-24) Egyptians arrogantly oppressed Israel
Increasing evil/sophistication Egyptians increased in evil
[footnote]R Pratt, Lectures on Genesis to Joshua (Orlando: RTS).[/footnote]  
Chapter 4 shows the rapid growth and increase of sin, from Abel’s murder to Lamech’s murderous and arrogant song of hate. There are advances in civilization (metallurgy and city building) together with an increase in violence.

The ambiguity of godless culture is portrayed by paralleling advances in civilization, including the first metallurgy and the first city, with an increase in violence. Cain’s lineage is symbolic of a human culture with great civilizations but no true God. The narrative silently polemicizes against pagan myths that attribute the advances of the cultural mandate to divine and semidivine figures.[footnote]The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 17.[/footnote]


b. Sethites and Israel

Consider, secondly, the parallels between the line of Seth and Israel. Again, Professor Richard Pratt tabulates the parallels as follows.

Sethites Israel
Walked with God (Gen. 5:22-24) Some Israelites remain righteous
Call on the name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26) Israelites cry out to the Lord (Ex. 3:7)
Looking to God for comfort (Gen. 5:28-29) Israelites look to God for rest (Ex. 3:7)
Noah born to bring deliverance and rest (Gen. 5:29) Moses born to bring deliverance and rest
[footnote]R Pratt, Lectures on Genesis to Joshua (Orlando: RTS).[/footnote]  
Whereas Cain’s line ends with a murderer begetting a murderer, Seth’s line links the founder of humanity (Adam), with its re-founder (Noah). God’s intention for creation would be realized through Seth.

Whereas the Cainite Lamech sought to redress wrong through unjust revenge (4:24), the Sethite Lamech looked to the Lord to provide the seed through whom would come deliverance from the curse.[footnote]The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 18.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: Follow the example of the Sethites in looking to God to give you rest through His chosen deliverer.

4. The sons of God and daughters of men

The sons of God have been identified as the Sethites, as angels, as royal tyrants. The first is the traditional evangelical understanding. It fits the previous context of comparing the cursed line of Cain (daughters of men) and the godly line of Seth (the sons of God). The second can be ruled out because the Bible tells us that angels do not marry (Mk. 12:25). The third interpretation means that powerful royal figures assaulted and raped women at will.
Taking the first interpretation, this means that the Sethites turned their backs on their godly heritage, intermarried with unbelieving women from the line of Cain, and produced offspring renowned for their wickedness.

With the spiritual collapse of the descendants of Seth, God pronounced judgment upon mankind in toto and sent a flood to wipe them off the face of the earth. This view has in its favor its agreement with the strong polemic in Genesis against intermarriage with unbelievers. Whether we look at Abraham’s instruction to his servant not to get a wife for Isaac “from the daughters of the Canaanites” (Gen. 24:3) or at Rebekah’s distress over Esau’s Hittite wives (Gen. 26:34-35; Gen. 27:46), the message is the same: Do not intermarry with pagan neighbors. Jacob had to flee for his life after he deceived Isaac, but his stay in Paddan-Aram resulted in his marriage to Leah and Rachel, relatives of Abraham. Thus, if the sin of Genesis 6:2 was intermarriage, it would fit in nicely with the overall teaching of the book.[footnote]H Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: Maintain godly separation from the Canaanites or suffer the consequences

5. Corruption of almost all humanity

When God saw the way His world was being corrupted, He said:

My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years…And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart (Gen. 6:3, Gen. 6:6).

The Spirit of God is the source of all life and when He withdraws life dies. “Strive” or “contend” may also mean “shield” or “protect.” God’s Spirit would not always give life to or protect the lives of those who misused God’s world.
The Hebrew for “grieved” can be translated “changed his mind.” This refers to a change in attitude and action, not a change to God’s immutable character, eternal plan, or covenant. It refers to God’s providential involvement in history as He responds to people’s sin or obedience.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. Hero and villain of faith

Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God because he offered it by faith:

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh (Heb. 11:4).

But the heart of Cain was evil and persecuting:

For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not my brethren, if the world hate you (1 John 3:11-13).


2. Call on the name of the Lord

The Sethites in the primeval world, and the Israelites in Egypt, called upon the name of the Lord and were saved.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21).


II. The Old World Judged (6:9-9:17)

A. General Analysis

a Noah is selected out of a corrupt world: covenantal language (Gen. 6:9-22)

b Noah enters the ark (Gen. 7:1-16)

c Noah is remembered in the threatening flood (Gen. 7:17 –  Gen. 8:5)

b’ Noah leaves the ark (Gen. 8:6-19)

a’ Noah begins in a new world: covenantal language (Gen. 8:20 – Gen. 9:19)[footnote]R Pratt, Lectures on Genesis to Joshua (Orlando: RTS).[/footnote]

B. Detailed Analysis

1. Extra-biblical flood narratives

There are many ancient stories of a cataclysmic flood in many different world cultures. This should not surprise us given the catastrophic nature of the flood, and should be considered as extra-biblical evidence for the biblical flood. The most similar to the biblical account are those from Mesopotamia.

In the Mesopotamian narratives, however, the petty gods brought the flood to control overpopulation and/or to rid the earth of the annoying noise of the people. Once it came, they were frightened by it, and afterward, when their worshippers presented sacrifices to them, they gathered around hungrily to eat the offerings. In Genesis, however, God sovereignly brought about the flood because of humanity’s wickedness. In response to Noah’s sacrifice, however, God pledged never again to destroy the earth.[footnote][1] The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 19.[/footnote]


2. The Ark

Although the dimensions of the ark are given the actual shape is not. It was 140 meters long, 13.5 meters high and 23 meters wide. Built with three floors, the ark had room for 432 double-decker buses or 125,000 sheep.

3. A Universal Flood

Judging from the language used in Genesis 6 and Genesis 7, the Flood was a global catastrophe. God destroyed all life under the heavens (Gen. 6:17). Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out, including men, animals, and birds (Gen. 7:23)

If the Flood were only local, why would it have been necessary to take aboard animals and birds? Surely Mesopotamia would have soon been replenished with creatures that had safely avoided the area during the Flood. The size of the ark also indicates how extensive this Flood was, for it measured approximately 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high…Also, when God made a covenant with Noah after the Flood, He promised that He would never again destroy the earth by means of a flood (Gen. 9:11). In view of the large numbers of devastating local floods that have ravaged our planet since then, it would seem that God has either broken His promise or the Noahic Flood was worldwide. In 2 Peter 3:3-7 the apostle addressed those who scoffed at the notion of a second coming and a day of reckoning. He reminded them that the world of Noah’s day “was deluged and destroyed” as a sign that “the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire” in a judgment that will destroy all the ungodly (2 Pet. 3:6-7). Why would Peter compare the final judgment with the Noahic Flood unless the whole world were involved in both events?[footnote]H Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]


4. Pre-flood/Post-flood parallels

a. Creation/Flood parallels

Wolf notes the parallels between the creation account and the Noahic flood account:

This description seems to reverse the work of creation, when God “separated the water under the expanse from the water above it” (Gen. 1:7) and when He distinguished between the dry ground and the seas (Gen.1:9-10). As the Flood continued, everything disappeared in the water, and the earth became formless and empty as it had once been. Ironically, the word for “the deep” in Genesis 1:2 (tehôm) appears in Genesis 7:11, when the springs of the great deep burst forth. It looks as if the whole earth is returning to a watery chaos.[footnote]Ibid.[/footnote]

The flood climaxes God’s judgment against the rebellious people of the world. The pattern moves from creation to un-creation and then finally to re-creation.

The flood, in essence, takes one giant step backwards in the creation process. The waters return the world to a state that may be described as “formless and empty.” In other words, there is a reversal of creation. The language of the Noahic covenant echoes the language of Genesis 1-2 in such a way as to show that Noah is, in effect, a new start. The similarities with the creation texts include the command to multiply, the talk about mankind made in the image of God, as well as God’s commands to re-establish the daily and seasonal cycles.[footnote]R Dillard & T Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 53.[/footnote]

b. Noah/Moses parallels

Just as there are parallels between the flood and previous history, so there are also parallels between the flood and subsequent history, especially between Noah and Moses. Both Moses and Noah deliver from violence and oppression through deep waters. Noah means “rest” and Moses aims to bring Israel to “rest” in the Promised Land. Both were given new mandates after their deliverances.
God re-establishes order in the universe and renews the creation mandate – be fruitful, multiply and subdue. Through the flood narrative, Moses was teaching the children of Israel that he, like Noah, would take them through the sea to a new land where things would be as they ought to be and where the cultural mandate can be fulfilled.
Moses’ Message: Just as God judged the violent primeval world but spared the line of Seth through Noah, so God judged Egyptian oppression, but spared Israel through Moses so that His people may fulfill the divine mandate in the world.

5. Capital punishment (Gen. 9:5ff)

God instituted capital punishment in order to reverse the downward spiral of violence which began with Cain’s murder of Abel. In order to protect God’s people, such murderers were not now to be spared but executed.

6. Rainbow

The Hebrew word rendered “rainbow” may be translated “bow,” the ordinary instrument of war. The only qualification in the original language is that God called it “my bow.” In other words, the rainbow is God’s heavenly bow, His instrument of war. God had just come in stormy judgment. He had destroyed humanity with His magnificent bow and arrows. Now, however, God assured Noah that He would no longer target the human race. He promised to hang His bow in the clouds, pointed away from the earth as a sign of peace and security. The relaxed bow stretches from earth to heaven and extends from horizon to horizon.
Covenants were usually certified by some visual symbols that were often already in existence: circumcision for Abraham’s covenant (Gen. 17:11); the Sabbath for Moses covenant (Ex. 31:13; Ex. 31:17); David’s offspring for the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:11-16); the cup for Christ’s covenant (Lk. 22:20).
Moses’ Message: God has promised a stable world order in Canaan in which to fulfill the divine mandate.

7. Major Covenants in the Bible

Covenants Reference Participants Divine Benevolence
Human Loyalty
Covenant of Works Gen. 1:28-30; Gen. 2:15-17 Made with Adam as head of humanity Adam was created in God’s image and given the role of expanding human vice-regency from Eden to the entire earth by means of multiplication and dominion. Adam was required to pass the test of the forbidden fruit or he would bring the judgment of death to the entire human race.
Covenant of Grace Gen. 3:15;
Isa. 42:6
Made with Christ as head of redeemed humanity Christ received the promise of an elect people whom he redeemed from the Fall through the history of salvation culminating in His humiliation, exaltation, and glorious return. Christ fulfilled the obligations of human loyalty that Adam failed to keep and gives eternal life to the elect.
Noahic Covenant Gen. 6:18-22;
Gen. 9:8-17
Made with Noah as father of humanity Noah was redeemed from the flood and granted a stable creation within which human vice-regency could extend through multiplication and dominion over the entire earth. Noah and his descendants were required to observe God’s moral requirements or suffer the judgment of death.
Abrahamic Covenant Gen. 15:9-21;
Gen. 17:1-27
Made with Abraham as father of Israel Abraham was chosen to further the vice-regency of humanity first through the multiplication and dominion of his redeemed descendants in the land of Canaan and then through extending the blessing of redemption throughout the entire earth. Abraham and Israel were required to live righteously and to observe circumcision, which symbolized judgment against those who violated God’s moral requirements.
Mosaic Covenant Ex. 19-24 Made with Israel through Moses’ mediation Israel was redeemed from slavery in Egypt and granted holy laws to guide their vice-regency as redeemed humanity first through multiplication and dominion in the land of Canaan and then in the entire earth. Israel was required to observe the law of Moses or suffer the judgment from God which would culminate in defeat and exile from the land.
Davidic Covenant 2 Sam. 7:5-16;
Ps. 89;
Ps. 132
Made with David as head of Israel’s permanent royal dynasty David was promised a permanent dynasty to further the vice-regency of Israel as redeemed humanity first through multiplication and dominion in the land of Canaan and then in the entire earth. The descendants of David were required to observe the law of Moses or suffer judgment from God culminating in temporary defeat and the exile of the throne from Israel.
New Covenant Isa. 54:10;
Jer. 31:31-34;
Eze. 34:25;
Eze. 37:26
Made with Israel and Judah for the time of Christ after exile Israel was promised complete redemption from sin and unprecedented blessings in vice-regency through multiplication and dominion over the entire new creation. All of God’s people throughout the world will be fully redeemed from sin in Christ and will observe the law of God perfectly through the power of the spirit of Christ.
[footnote]The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 20.[/footnote]

C. New Testament Analysis

1. Types of Christ

Noah and Moses are types of Christ who will also lead us through the flood waters of death and judgment and into the Promised Land where we can fulfill God’s mandate perfectly.

2. Noah as a hero of faith (Heb. 11:7)

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Hebrews 11:7).


3. Flood and Second Coming

Peter compared Noah’s flood with the second coming (2 Pet. 3:5ff). Both are universal and catastrophic However the second coming will also pave the way for the new heavens and the new earth in which we can perfectly fulfill the divine mandate.

4. Rainbow

The covenant sign of peace is present in the new heavens and the new earth.

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald (Revelation 4:3).


III. The New World Order (9:18-11:9)

A. General Analysis

God distributes Noah’s sons (Gen. 9:18 – Gen. 10:32)

God destroys Babel’s tower (Gen. 11:1-9)

B. Detailed Analysis

1. Future of Noah’s Sons (Gen. 9:18-29)

Abraham was descended from the line of Shem and this is the beginning of blessing for the Abrahamic line. This story and genealogy outline the future godliness of the Shemites (the blessed seed of the woman) and the ungodliness of the Hamites (Egyptians, Babylonians and Canaanites [the cursed seed of the serpent]).

In the light of Moses’ immediate circumstances of facing conquest in Canaan, it is not strange that he focused on the curse of Canaan instead of on Ham individually….By this curse God excluded the Canaanites as a people from the covenant of grace and anticipated the conquest of the land of Canaan.[footnote]The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 27.[/footnote]

What an encouragement to the Israelites as they thought of the conflict with the Canaanites. Their enemy was already cursed by God and so would be defeated.
Moses’ Message: Holy war against the Canaanites by the descendants of the Shemites is warranted because God has cursed the Canaanites and blessed the Shemites.

2. Distribution of Noah’s sons (Gen. 10)

This chapter is known as “The Table of the Nations” as it classified all the nations of the known world under the three sons of Noah. The three sons of Noah migrated to different areas. The Shemites occupied the Tigris–Euphrates valley and most of Arabia; the Japhethites moved north, around the Black Sea, and even west to Spain; the Hamites went south into lower Asia Minor, coastal Syria and Palestine, and the Red Sea coast of Arabia, but principally into Africa. Both the Table of nations and the tower of Babel develop the theme of dispersing Noah’s descendants throughout the earth. Both use the key term (pus) “to scatter.”
[footnote]Nelson’s complete book of Bible maps and charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]  

3. The Lord’s victory over Babel (Gen. 11:1-9)

Instead of spreading out and filling the earth, and subduing it, the people gathered together in cities, relying on one another for defense and provision rather than on God. They then attempted to build a tower (perhaps a Babylonian ziggurat) to heaven which would reach to God and give them fame. They got a name, but it was not the name they were looking for – “confused.”

Moses is saying that Babel was not the gate of god, as the name was understood, but the place of “balal,” the place of confusion.[footnote]Ibid.[/footnote]

Remember the original readers, the Israelites, on the border of Canaan. The Canaanite cities seemed invincible to them. They, like Babel “reach up to heaven” (Gen. 11:3; Deut. 1:28; Deut. 9:1). However, at Babel, God showed that no human defenses are invincible. God makes the punishment to fit the crime. As they sinfully had gathered together and united in the city, God justly “scattered them abroad.”

To Moses’ original hearers, the association of “scattering” with “punishment” was a sobering warning because of the curses connected with covenant disobedience. If Israel chose to disobey God, God would scatter them among the nations and fill them with terror and dread (Deut. 28:64-67).[footnote]H Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

Significantly, the very next story is about Abraham. God gave an everlasting name (Gen. 12:2) to Abraham, who magnified the Lord’s and looked for a city whose builder and maker was God.
Moses’ Message: If you obey the divine mandate to fill and rule the Promised Land then God will bring down your greatest enemies, but if you disobey God will scatter you abroad.

4. Summary of Genesis 1-11

David Dorsey summarizes what Moses was teaching his original audience in Genesis 1-1 as follows:

a. Yahweh’s desire to bless His people (creation; new plans after the flood) – a central theme of the Sinai treaty.
b. The danger of humankind’s forfeiture of Yahweh’s blessings through disobedience – a theme reiterated throughout the treaty, especially in Deuteronomy.
c. Yahweh’s mercy and grace, which he extends to humans despite their disobedience.
d. Yahweh’s use of particular individuals or people for the restoration of blessing – which will be the central theme of the Pentateuch.
e. Yahweh’s awesome power as the only God – whose power extends over all creation and humankind (creation, flood, Babel).[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 56.[/footnote]


5. Darkness and hope

These four major occurrences, creation, the Fall, the Flood and the Tower of Babel, form the backcloth for all subsequent history. Human rebellion, foolishness, spiritual blindness and religious incompetence find their first expression and explanation here in Genesis. These are the dominant issues in the first eleven chapters of this book. However, this first major section of the bible concludes on a hopeful note.

The genealogy at the end of chapter Genesis 11 (Gen. 11:10-32) brings the primeval history to a close on a subtle note of hope. The emphasis since chapter 3 has been on the tragic avalanche of sin that has ruined God’s perfect creation and humanity itself. The universal situation is nothing but despair. But here the line of Shem continues and narrows to a single family, that of Terah, father of Abram.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 86.[/footnote]

C. New Testament Analysis

1. Holy War

We are to wage holy war with holy weapons against unholy enemies (Eph. 6:13ff, 2 Cor. 10:4)

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).


2. Pentecost

God reverses the curse of languages multiplied to make it a remarkable blessing.

And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? (Acts 2:12).


IV. The Message

Original Message: Israel must leave Egypt because life there is like the fallen world which God judged, and having been delivered Israel should now wage holy war on God’s cursed enemies.
Present Message: The Church must leave the “world” because it is fallen, corrupt and destined for divine judgment, and having been delivered the Church should now wage holy war with holy weapons on God’s unholy enemies.