God and the Waters of Creation
In the very first chapter of the Bible there is an awful lot of water. It does not come from the sky, nor does it run off the mountainous slopes Hermon. The waters (mayim) which are mentioned first in Genesis 1:2 are just there after the initial act of creation. They are there even before any land is present. Water is even prior to light. It is extraordinary in its properties. It is necessary for physical life, for breathable air, for rain and cloud cover, as a coolant, a solvent, and for cleansing.[1]

Perhaps the original presence of water at the beginning of things says something about the Divine good pleasure and delight in the physical? The primitive accounts which have come down to us from the ancient Near East sometimes depict clashing gods and the overcoming of chaos.[2] Biblical scholars of various stripes have interpreted the Genesis cosmology with reference to such ancient mythological accounts and have surmised scenarios which draw explicitly from them. These influences are then incorporated into their interpretations of the early chapters of the book of Genesis.[3] This is done in spite of the fact that the creation account in Genesis acts as an obvious polemic against these pagan reconstructions.[4]

The fact remains, however, that the world was in a real sense born “out of water” (2 Pet. 3:5). God created the deep (tehom). There is good reason to think that the tehom and the mayim refer to the same thing.[5]

God and the Waters of the Flood
It is only natural therefore that Moses should employ these same words, prominent in the creation account, in his description of the great flood of Noah. Even more is this the case when one considers the reason for God bringing the flood in the first place. It was not for the petty reason that the powerful god Enlil thought men were too noisy as recorded in the Atrahasis Epic.[6] We owe it to ourselves to ponder the words of Genesis 6:5-7:

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Paul Henebury-July 8, 2016Since God, who is revealed as being so concerned with the good, had taken such care to create a world for man and had endowed him with His own image (Gen 1:3-31), would be brought to think of decimating it is surely shocking. That such a thoughtful God, who had made a special paradise for Adam and Eve where He would consort with them (Gen. 2:7-15; 3:8a), could utter words of sad regret[7] over the scene should make us wonder at human sin.

We ought to shudder that—in such a comparatively short time—wickedness had engulfed the race, and righteous Noah was surrounded by it on all sides before Yahweh erased the picture using the same substance out of which it came. What we have recorded in Genesis 6:7 is God’s desire to repeal His creative actions; an un-creation oracle.[8] God was sick and tired of supporting that malicious prediluvial society. The waters would come again. But there is grace.[9]

(Read Part 2)

Dr. Paul Martin Henebury is the founder and president of Telos Theological Ministries and Telos Biblical Institute, where he serves as professor of Biblical and systematic theology. He is also lead teaching pastor at Agape Bible Church in Willits, Calif., and blogs voluminously as Dr. Reluctant. It is a joy and honor to include him as a contributing author for Dispensational Publishing House.

Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Paul Martin Henebury. Used by permission of the author.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] For the amazing dexterity and importance of water see G. Gonzalez and J. W. Richards, The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004).

[2] Although it is well to reflect upon the fact that behind many polytheisms there was a great God. This is hardly better brought out than in the fourth chapter of G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1925).

[3] See, for example, John H. Walton’s influential book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL, IVP Academic, 2009), pp. 55-56. Walton gives little attention to the polemical intent of Genesis 1. G. K. Beale, who admits to being influenced by Walton, refers to God achieving “heavenly rest after overcoming the creational chaos…” See A New Testament Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), p. 40. See also, p. 247 n.44; p. 630 n.36.

[4] See John D. Currid, Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013).

[5] Jonathan D. Sarfati, The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11 (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2015), pp. 105-107

[6] So Alexander Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949), pp. 225-226. “[T]hey became so noisy as to deprive Enlil of his sleep.”

[7] We must not philosophize too much about God’s impassibility and His imperviousness to emotion. Did not God incarnate express exasperation at His disciples (Mark 8:15-21), or anger at the hard-hearted Pharisees (Mark 3:5)? For a good treatment of the subject, see Rob Lister, God Is Impassible and Impassioned: Toward a Theology of Divine Emotion (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).

[8] A similar more extended un-creation oracle is found in Jeremiah 4:23-27.

[9] “In the Gilgamesh Epic there was no thought of granting mankind an opportunity to repent” (Heidel, p. 230). It was the god Ea who went behind the back of Enlil to protect his favorite Utnaphistim.

Photo within the article is by Paul J. Scharf