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Beginnings in Genesis – Noah Vs Abraham

April 12, 2008

noah walked with God
gen 6:9

But the Genesis record records that Abraham walked ‘before’ God (Gen 17:1; 24:40). Because of this Jewish tradition is curiously ambivalent about Noah – he doesn’t measure up at all to Abraham. The locus of the distinction is found in the different responses of the characters to impending judgment.

When Noah is told of what God is going to do, we are simply told that he obeyed:

God said to Noah, I am going to put an end to all people for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypruss wood…Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
Gen 613, 14, 22

Noah seems unperturbed by what God has in mind. In fact, throughout the whole story NOAH DOESN’T SAY A WORD! Not a single syllable in the face of the destruction of the planet. He doesn’t actually speak until the strange events of 9:18-28, and then it is to speak a curse.

This is a direct contrast to Abraham when God reveals his mind for Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen 18:23

‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?’

Noah obeys and acts to save himself, Abraham intervenes and seeks to transform the situation, even daring the challenge God himself. Noah is about disaster relief; Abraham about transformation and reconstruction. I find myself confused about Noah, but inspired by Abraham, yet I hesitate and wonder whether my culture and tradition would allow me to act like Abraham. Or am I more comfortable being Noah? Are Christians more attuned to the quiet, uninvolved pious obedience of Noah, or the feisty, argumentative and foolishly bold Abraham?

Of course there is another issue here which Jewish tradition isn’t afraid to tackle, but I’m not sure many Christians would allow, and its to do with the character of God. What happens between the bold and cold statement to Noah, which seems to permit no debate, and the invitation to Abraham to walk before God which ends up in a daring debate?

“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? For I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.
Gen 18:18, 19

Jewish tradition actually holds that God has matured since the time of Noah! As have human beings. That there has been a mutual interaction in the difficult stuff of life, making development and change possible. The powerful God does not fear the involvement of his creatures, nor do his creatures tremble at challenging him. And it appears that Abraham’s willingness to act, following God’s invitation, allows for transformation in the plight of human beings.

Whatever we may feel about that interpretation, it is clear here that God involves Abraham in His decision making in order, it seems, to lay down a pattern of righteous and just ACTION for the sake of future generations.

Oh for a faith that didn’t simply seek to save its adherents from coming destruction, but was actively prepared to challenge power for the sake of righteousness and justice.

Even if that power was God himself.

That’s the kind of faith I want to pass on to my children.

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From → Genesis

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