I taught my daughter her Bible lesson today. We have been teaching her out of the A Beka Book Bible series from Pensacola Christian College. The author listed for this lesson is Fannelle Shepperson. Today’s lesson was about Noah and the flood. The lesson was fine until I came to the part where Noah builds the ark, where it says, “You can be sure the crowds came to watch. ‘Hey, Noah,’ they cried, ‘are you building a new house, or store, or barn?’ Very calmly, Noah said, ‘No, I’m building a ship….I’m building it because God told me to…’” In their telling of the story, Noah then relates the reason for the boat. He then told the people, “He has commanded me to build this ship, called an Ark, to warn you and to try to make you realize that the judgment of the Flood is coming. But He also love you, oh, so much, and if you will turn from and be sorry for your sins, and come into the Ark when I get it finished, you will be safe and protected from His anger and punishment of the Flood. Please listen and pay attention to God’s message.”
The lesson then states the people made fun of Noah. Later on, when the animals were arriving, the lesson states that the people continued to mock. Then it says, “As the last pair of animals disappeared from view into the huge ship, Noah came to the door and again begged the people, ‘Please listen to the Lord’s message—the world is going to be covered over with water and everything will be destroyed…The only place of safety is in this Ark! I plead with you to come in before it is forever too late!’ The crowd only laughed and hurled more insults at Noah.” Then came the week of no rain, where the lesson states that the people kept coming back every day to mock Noah and beat on the sides of the Ark.
Now I know it is common belief that Noah preached to the people the entire time he built the ark about the coming judgment, pleading with people to be saved. But is this what the Bible really teaches? Let’s look at the Biblical account.
The flood account is told from Genesis 6:5-9:29. The part that discusses the events leading up to the flood is told from Genesis 6:5-7:24. From these passages, we can see the following:
1. God never told Noah the invite was for everybody. The Bible specifically states in Genesis 6:17-18, “Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” That seems to be pretty clear that God’s plan was to save eight people, and eight people only.
2. The Bible says nothing about Noah warning anybody about the flood. The only thing that even comes close is in II Peter 2:5 where the Bible calls Noah a “preacher of righteousness.” Noah was 500 years old before God said anything to him about a flood, so this isn’t proof that he warned anybody about the flood.
3. Matthew 24:37-39 (and the parallel passage in Luke 17:27) states that the people living on the earth at the time of the flood “did not understand until the flood came and took them all away…” It seems unlikely that they would not understand that God wanted to destroy them, if Noah had been warning them the entire time he was building the Ark. And there’s another thing: how long did it take to build the ark? The lesson for my daughter states that it took 120 years. Genesis 5:32 says Noah was 500 years old when his kids were born. Genesis 7:6 says Noah was 600 years old when the flood happened. So it would seem that 100 years would be the maximum amount of time.
4. Some would argue that God always allows for people to be saved from judgment. The biblical teaching on hell would indicate otherwise. A concrete biblical example would be the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The angels came to get Lot out of Sodom. Genesis 19:12 says that the invitation was for Lot and his family only. The people in these cities were never warned. In the same way, it is possible that the people in Noah’s day were not warned of the judgment to come.
5. When God wants people to be warned about judgment, He usually says so. Jonah was sent to warn the people of Nineveh of impending judgment. His message is found in Jonah 3:4. The people repented, and God stayed his judgment. It is possible that if enough people in Noah’s time had repented, God would not have sent the flood.
Were the people warned about the flood? Well, they were probably warned that something was up, given the fact that Noah was building this huge boat. Did Noah tell them about the flood? It’s possible, but the Bible doesn’t say. Was it God’s plan for more than eight people to be saved from the flood? According to the Bible: no.
Here’s a tip: if you are preparing lessons to teach people biblical truth, don’t add to the information given in the Bible and say that is what the Bible says. You can say, “Maybe this happened.” or “such-and-such is possible” but don’t say, “The Bible says X happened…” if the Bible doesn’t say it.