In the Bible, God often uses cosmic re-creation imagery when describing the forming of covenants. In this article I will explore the link between Noah’s flood and the description of cosmic creation.
COSMIC CREATION AND THE FLOOD, SUMMARIZED
On the second day of (actual) creation, God separated the waters from the waters. He stirred them up, placed an expanse between them, and divided them into the oceans of the earth below and the heavens of the skies above. (Gen. 1:6-7) On the third day, he gathered the oceans of the earth together in one place and made dry land appear.
After the Fall, as the wickedness of unbridled, sinful man multiplied, God was overcome with regret for having created mankind. (Gen. 6:6) He planned to flood the world at the height of humanity’s sin, and he called Noah to build an ark so that he would survive this tribulation and carry forth righteousness into the post-flood world.
Noah, by faith and out of reverent fear, built the ark to survive the global flood. The flood lasted 40 days, during which time God brought “a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven.” [Gen. 6:17]
COMPARISON OF CREATION IMAGERY TO NOAH’S FLOOD
Note the order of tasks during the six days of creation: God first parted the waters into the cosmos above and the earth below. Then he made the dry land appear within the waters below, which he called seas. Then he created the birds, animals, and men.
During the global flood, he reversed this creation process. He “un-gathered”, in a sense, the waters in the earthly oceans when “the fountains of the great deep burst forth,” and he dissolved the expanse that separated earth from sky when “the windows of the heavens were opened.” [Gen. 7:11] Consequently, “the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.” [Gen. 7:19]
Or, in other words, he made dry land disappear.
Notice the careful order in which Moses listed those living things that were “blotted out” by the waters of judgment: man; then animals; then creeping things; and finally the birds of the heavens. (vs. 23) Compare this to the order of creation listed in verses 22-27 of the first chapter of Genesis: it’s exactly reversed. In other words, God undid that which he had done by “backing out” the creation process.
NEW COVENANT, NEW CREATION
After the heavenly expanse was re-established by the closing of the windows of the heavens [Gen. 8:2], the flood waters subsided. Dry land reappeared, the ground dried, and then the animals and birds, along with eight surviving people (Noah and his wife, his three sons, and their wives) exited the ark.
God then recapitulated the dominion covenant he made with Adam and Eve, telling Noah’s family to “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” in order to re-populate it and subdue this new creation. [Gen. 8:17, 9:1] Noah then built an altar and made sacrifices to the Lord, and afterward God entered a covenant with him and his descendents.
He also expanded upon the original dominion covenant; he put the dread of man into every beast of the earth and every bird of the heavens and allowed mankind to now eat animal flesh.
God made a sign of the covenant, his rainbow that he set in the clouds, so that he would always remember “the everlasting covenant” between him and “every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” [Gen. 9:16]
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
So, to summarize the high points of Noah’s adventures: he lived in a tumultuous time in which sin abounded throughout the world, “when the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” [Gen. 6:5]
This was a world of chaos, “for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” [Matt. 15:19] In a world ruled by such people, there is no stable government, no order by rule of law because “sin is lawlessness.” [1 John 3:4]
Essentially, the pre-flood world declined into one which was “without form and void” of almost all righteousness.
Noah found favor in God’s eyes, and because of this he chose to extract him and his family from this world of sin and chaos while he brought judgment upon the unrighteous. This judgment was twofold: judgment unto death for the unrighteous; and judgment unto life for the righteous.
God then flooded the earth for 40 days. God brought Noah and his family out of the sin-filled world and through this turmoil in an ark. The ark, which was carrying the righteous to safety, was sandwiched between two realms of judgment water. It floated upon the deep, dark waters that swallowed up and were drowning the unrighteous below, and it was sprinkled on the top by rain water pouring forth from the heavens above.
God brought Noah and his family “safely through water” [1 Pet. 3:20] onto dry land. Here they re-established humanity and re-introduced creatures onto the earth. God set up a new creation, marked by the establishment of a new covenant, by de-creating the old heavens and earth and then re-creating them in a new, glorified form.