The Genesis narrative is sketchy from the time of Cain up to Noah. What information is given is bizarre by our standards. Things like the “sons of God” married the “daughters of men” in Genesis 6:1-2 are written. Then there is a reference to the Nephilim, who “were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown,” according to verse 4. I am convinced that there is a SciFi Channel movie in this mix somewhere. No one really knows what these verses are about but in the midst of these X-Files like passages are some important pieces to the narrative we have been following.
At the end of Chapter 4, we learn that Adam and Eve have another son named Seth, who in turn had a son named Enosh. It says that in his day people began to “call upon the name of the Lord.” What exactly would this mean? Some scholars suggest that up to this time it had been God who always initiated the conversation. This passage indicated that humanity had now matured to a point that they were capable of initiating contact conversation with God. Whatever the case, something about the nature of the relationship changed and apparently for the better among Seths descendants
The flip side of this story is increasing violence. This catchy little ditty by Lamech is in Chapter 4:
"Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold."
Gen 4:23-24 NRSV
There appears to be an escalating level of violence and destruction. Not only are the people not “filling the earth” as God commanded but they are murdering each other with such cavalier indifference that it would make Al Qaeda blush. It seems certain that this unchecked violence would eventually kill off or engulf the godliest folks. Genesis 6:11 says about Noah’s time, “Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” Apparently Noah and his family, descendants of Seth, were the only godly people left. Righteous humanity was at the verge of extinction.
Another key verse is 6:3 where it is recorded that God will limit the life span of people to 120 years. The centuries long life spans apparently had the effect of allowing those who were evil to get really good at being evil. Shorten their days and you limit the damage they can do and how evil they can become. The point is that the impending flood was not so much the act of a wrathful God as it was radical intervention to prevent his precious creation from self-destructive extinction. God had not given up on his plan for humanity.
Two side notes. I know some of the thoughts reading this right now. “People living hundreds of years? Global flood? Come on!” Okay. But let us rewind 100 years to describe any of a number of our present quantum physics discoveries and see how many of those would have generated the same response. The evidence for how people might have lived for centuries is not conclusive but it is scientifically plausible. Check out the work of Hugh Ross for some interesting reflection. As to the flood, the Bible says it covered the “earth.” Only Moderns would read back into the passage the idea of a globe covered in water. For the ancients, the idea of earth simply connoted “the place where humanity lives.” If the Bible is true about humanity refusing to spread, they would still be concentrated in the area of Mesopotamia. The entire region is believed to have completely flooded more than once in past eons.
I am an old earth creationist. If you want to learn more about such a perspective I highly recommend the Reasons to Believe website and Hugh Ross’s book The Genesis Question. My concern here is not to get bogged down in debate about the accurate historicity of these events. I am reviewing these events as elements of a story being told in Scripture to point us to God’s character and plan. And the story is about to take a familiar turn.