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Book of Genesis

Book of Genesis

Book of Genesis Chapters 6:5 - 9:17 Summary

Surfs Up, Noah

  • It's not long before God recognizes that human beings are always bent on doing evil.
  • He's sorry he started this whole human thing, and he feels grief. Here are some more anthropomorphic ideas about God (rewind to 3:8).
  • What else can the deity do but wipe our humanity and every other created creature? Uh oh.
  • But Noah stands out for being a stand-up guy, and the Lord is favorable toward him. 
  • The earth itself is saturated with violence (remember Abel's blood?), and what better way to cleanse the earth than by a flood? 
  • The deity explains this logic to Noah in 6:13. Earth is dirtied by violence, and must be wiped out along with those who did the dirtying. 
  • God issues detailed instructions to Noah about how to build an ark—a.k.a. a really big boat. Think Ikea instructions times a zillion.
  • Basically, God makes a "covenant" (i.e., deal) with Noah. 
  • ALARM! Sorry, just wanted to make sure we had your attention. Pay attention, because this will be the first of several "covenants" between God and mortals in Genesis.
  • Here's the deal: Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives will enter the ark together with a male and female of every other living creature. Two dogs, two cats, two worms, two werewolves, two roaches, two alligators… okay, we made some of those up, but you get the gist.
  • They also better store up a bunch of food. Good call.
  • Now, starting in 7:1, the deity tells Noah that he's righteous again and gives him similar-ish but different instructions. This time, Noah's supposed to take seven pairs of ritually pure animals and one pair of the ritually impure. Hmmm, that's different from 6:20.
  • The deity's name has also switched from God ('elohim) to the nickname Lord (YHWH).
  • Explanation, please? Just as there are two creation stories (1:1-2:4 and 2:4-25), so there are two flood stories. But the two flood stories are interwoven rather than juxtaposed. Good luck trying to untangle them.
  • The deity tells Noah that the flood's going to start in seven days. And that, folks, will do every living thing in for good.
  • Noah obeys.
  • Noah's only six hundred years old when the flood comes.
  • Everyone gets into the boat, and just as predicted, the waters of the flood come after seven days.
  • The whole of creation sort of implodes. The cosmic damn breaks, and creation is deconstructed, Top Chef style. 
  • Rain falls for forty days and nights.
  • Don't worry, everyone who's supposed to be on the boat is on the boat, including the animals. The Lord shuts them in safe and secure. (Note again the repetitions that are the result of combining two accounts.)
  • The waters deepen, and the boat floats along. Everything is submerged—mountains and all. Every living creature perishes.
  • The language of 7:21 actually reminds us of the sixth day of creation (1:24-27). Creation is reversing on itself, like a slow-motion rewind.
  • The narrator emphasizes again that all of life is extinguished, all of it, except Noah and those who are with him.
  • Got it?
  • The waters consume the earth for 150 days.
  • Finally, God remembers Noah and everyone in the boat.
  • The deity sends a "wind" (Hebrew: ruah) over the waters, and they start to subside. 8:1 recalls 1:2, where there's only God's "wind" before anything else. In other words, we're back to where we started. Creation sort of needs to be rebuilt.
  • God fixes the broken dam to hold the water back, just like the deity did on the second day of creation (rewind to 1:7).
  • Slowly but surely, the waters recede.
  • After 150 days, the ark is docked on a peak of the mountains of Ararat.
  • The waters recede still further, and so the mountains "appear" (8:5), just like the dry earth "appeared" at the creation in 1:9. Yep, that's some re-creation for you. 
  • After 40 more days, Noah opens a window in the boat, and lets out a raven. Next up, he lets out a dove, but it returns because it couldn't find any land.
  • Seven more days pass, and Noah lets the dove out again.
  • Third time's a charm! If you pay attention, the Hebrew narrator loves triplets like this one (sometimes it's the fourth time that's a charm).
  • Now the dove returns with a leaf in its beak. Noah's a smart guy. He knows that this means the waters are receding.
  • After seven more days, Noah lets the dove go forth again. This time, the dove doesn't come back. They're back in business.
  • Finally, Noah opens the boat's roof, and, check it out, all of the earth is dry.
  • After a while, the ground gets even dryer—no mud or anything.
  • The deity orders Noah and everyone else out of the boat.
  • He tells them to "be fruitful and multiply" (8:17). Yeah, that's another echo of the creation story (recall this order in 1:28) and another sign of re-creation after destruction.
  • The first thing Noah does is build an altar and offer one each of the pure animals that had been on the ark.
  • The Lord smells the barbie, and is pleased. It turns out he missed the mortals sacrificing to him during the flood.
  • The deity decides never to destroy humankind again. Huzzah!
  • It's not that anything has changed. The deity knows humans are still evil. But he's still not going to do any more universal destruction stuff.
  • But there are going to be some rules.
  • First, they're supposed to "be fruitful and multiply" again (9:1), just as in 1:28. Having lots of babies is the only way to repopulate the earth.
  • God reminds Noah and company of their dominion over all of the animals. Translation: they're allowed to eat them.
  • Oh, but don't eat the blood. That's not allowed.
  • Second, the deity has had enough of this violence stuff. 
  • Pay attention to the logic and mechanics of this. Remember, it was violence that led to the need for the flood in the first place (rewind to 6:11-13). The blood soaked into the earth like a sponge and cried out to God, who had to wash it clean (see 4:10-12).
  • So the deity lays down the law with regard to this violence business. Essentially, life is required for life. That's fair, right? It's tit for tat, or what goes around comes around.
  • If an animal kills a human being, then the animal will be killed.
  • If a human kills another human, then the human will be killed. Or, as the narrator of Genesis famously puts it, "Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person's blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind." (9:6 NRSV)
  • Take a second to notice the proportion: life for life, no more and no less. Then contrast the ill-proportion of Lamech, who earlier killed a man and boy for one little wound or bruise (4:23-24). It seems like God's trying to put a stop to that kind of thing.
  • After laying out these basic ground rules, it's covenant time.
  • Here's how it goes down: humankind is to avoid violence and have babies; and in return, God promises never to destroy the earth again (at least not by flood). This sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
  • Here's a sign of this deal: God will put his own "bow" (as in bow and arrow) in the clouds. Yep, this deity has weapons. God's ready for a fight.
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