The story of the flood in Genesis 6-8—like so many scenes in Genesis—establishes principles that will be reaffirmed throughout the Bible. Here three ideas stand out. First, sin’s dominion over humanity knows no bounds. Genesis 6 records that, “Man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time” (Gen 6:5). Second, God is a God of destruction toward those walking contrary to His word. In Genesis 6, God was so angered with the choices of sinful humanity that He issued an indictment of destruction upon all of mankind—for none are innocent before Him (Gen 6:6-7). The theme of universal guilt may not be popular but cannot be ignored. Third, God is free to grant deliverance to whomever, whenever, and however He chooses. Genesis 6:8 records that the Lord looked graciously upon Noah. Noah deserved to drown but God is a God of destruction and deliverance. Yet the text does not portray deliverance as a passive activity. Noah toiled to build a gigantic structure precisely according to God’s instruction (Gen 6:22; see Psalm 1). As a result, Noah, his family, and representatives of the animal species were all spared (Gen 7:1-10). In sum, the flood narrative displays God’s faithfulness to His word. Even generations later the psalmist reflected on the truthfulness of God’s word: “The LORD sat enthroned at the flood; the LORD sits enthroned, King forever. The LORD gives His people strength; the LORD blesses His people with peace” (Ps 29:10-11).
Both Old and New Testament writers saw in the flood sequence of Genesis 6-8 themes appropriate for their audiences.
(1) In Ezekiel 14, God gave Ezekiel a word of judgement that emphasized God’s faithfulness to keep His word and destroy the earth via the flood. The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy that if He declared a famine or plague against a land for their unfaithfulness, that judgement would certainly happen. Even if righteous men like Noah, Daniel, and Job interceded for the people, they would only save themselves (Ezek 14:14, 20).
(2) When Jesus taught His disciples about the need to be watchful for His return, He told them that future generations would resemble the people of Noah’s day. At that time, the people went on with life despite Noah’s warnings; they ate and drank and married without reference to God. Jesus held up Noah as an example of alertness to God and His word. Noah escaped while the world was swept away. Jesus told His followers that they likewise needed to be alert for the hour that the Son of Man would return to rescue His own from the final day of destruction (Matt 24:37-39//Luke 17:26-27).
(3) The author of Hebrews also set Noah as an example for his audience writing, “By faith Noah, after being warned about what was not yet seen, in reverence built an ark to deliver his family. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Heb 11:7).
(4) In 1 and 2 Peter, Peter called his audiences to consider God’s character displayed in the flood recorded in Genesis 6-8. In 1 Pet 3:20, Peter described God’s patience as a means of encouragement for his audience. God waited on Noah to build the ark, delaying the cataclysm of the flood until it was finished. Peter encouraged his audience—those suffering for their faith—that though God is patient, He would rescue His faithful ones even if their remnant is small. Peter wrote the same to the audience of 2 Peter, pairing God’s deliverance of Noah with God’s rescue of Lot in Genesis 19. Peter wanted his audience to understand that God simultaneously acts to condemn the wicked and rescue those who are sensitive to His word (2 Pet 2:4-10).