Noah, Moses, Judgment, Mercy (Wenham)

 In Genesis 8:20ff we read of Noah’s sacrifice that he offered soon after he, his family, and the animals exited the ark.  Here’s how the story goes after Noah’s sacrifice: And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, even though the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on. I will never again destroy everything that lives, as I have just done (NET).  Gordon Wenham has a helpful commentary on this part of the story.  Although Wenham doesn’t mention it here, this is another place in the Noah story that points us to Jesus:

There can be no doubt that man’s nature has not changed since before the flood. The milder language simply reflects his creator’s more lenient attitude after the flood. R. W. L. Moberly…has noted a similar example in Exod 33:3; 34:9 of a reason for divine judgment, “for you are a stiff-necked people,” being subsequently cited as a justification of his mercy.

“The striking similarity between the flood and Sinai, between Noah and Moses, is of great theological significance for the interpretation of each story.… The world, while still in its infancy, has sinned and brought upon itself Yahweh’s wrath and judgment. Israel has only just been constituted a people, God’s chosen people, yet directly it has sinned and incurred Yahweh’s wrath and judgment. Each time the same question is raised. How, before God, can a sinful world (in general) or a sinful people, even God’s chosen people (in particular), exist without being destroyed? Each time the answer is given that if the sin is answered solely by the judgment it deserves, then there is no hope. But in addition to the judgment there is also mercy, a mercy which depends entirely on the character of God and is given to an unchangingly sinful people” (Moberly).

Furthermore, in both narratives the role of the mediator is vital, whether it be Noah or Moses. “This mercy is shown through a man who is chosen by God and whose right response to God, whether through sacrifice or prayer, constitutes the necessary medium through which this mercy is shown” (Moberly, 92).

Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, vol. 1, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1987), 190–191.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015