The good creation in Genesis 6

Another passage sometimes cited to support the idea of a fallen creation is the preamble to the flood narrative in Genesis 6. As the KJV puts it:

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold I will destroy them with the earth.

As in my previous blog, about the creation story, most Old Earth supporters, whether evolutionists or not, are likely to take this in some metaphorical way, and for the same reason: the evidence is that natural “violence”, in the form of animal aggression and, maybe, inanimate disaster, precedes the existence of man on the earth by some billions of years. Be that as it may, one could still envisage that the flood narrative still registers God’s disapproval of the natural order as we see it.

A brief consideration of the story shows this cannot be so. In the first place, the blame for the corruption is laid at the feet of “all flesh”, which immediately excludes the inanimate world. Volcanoes and asteroids are exempted! In the second place, if the “corruption” and “violence” refer to the proliferation of life-forms exhibiting adaptations for predation, parasitism and so on, then it is immediately apparent that bringing a breeding colony into the ark would have no remedial effect whatever. Predators and parasites would simply energe from the ark to breed true.

I don’t want to attempt a complete commentary on the significance of the flood story, but most of the problems regarding “fallen creation” are solved once one follows the modern translations in interpreting “all flesh” as “all Adam’s descendants”. It is human sin that leads to human violence, and although a major point of the story is to show that even Noah remains tainted with sin (witness his later drunkenness etc), it is a lot more plausible for the story to suggest purification of the race by preservation of a righteous man than purification of creation through breeding from carnivores.

The question does remain of why God should wipe out the animals, and indeed the whole landscape, for human sin, but it’s a question that the idea of a fallen natural world does not answer at all. The best explanation I have come across is the old Hebrew concept of the land’s being polluted by the human blood shed upon it. This echoes the blood of Abel crying from the ground in ch 4, and also makes sense of the covenant God makes inĀ  ch8, which is all about no longer destroying the earth, but demanding an individual accounting of both humans and animals that shed human blood and so defile the image of God. In other words, Noah’s covenant introduces the concept of personal judgement.

The flood itself, as virtually all commentators agree, is symbolic of an act of de-creation by God: he temporarily returns his world (or the polluted part of it if the flood is localised) to its original state of watery chaos before, as it were, re-creating it as the waters recede and the ark’s inhabitants “go forth and multiply upon the earth.”

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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