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Notebook: The Ages (4)

J Grant

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HUMAN GOVERNMENT (Genesis 9.1-11.9)

With the Flood there ended the "world that then was" (2 Pet 3.6), and Noah and his descendants entered a different world altogether. The environment was less friendly and, as a result, the age span of man gradually decreased. This was the era when human government was introduced, as we shall see, and in it the nations were scattered because of their attempts to build the Tower of Babel.

Human government is the attempt to control the world by men who are raised up to govern other men. Some of these men elevated themselves (Nimrod is the first example of this), but God is behind all of this and "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom 13.1).

Prospects after the Flood

The Noahaic Covenant (Gen 9.1-17)

The Lord now establishes a further covenant with man which will form the basis of His dealings with them up until the time of Abraham. Despite the Flood and the behaviour which caused it, the Lord still wishes to have a relationship with man. The principles in the covenant are:

Man’s dominion. Man would have dominion over the animal creation and beasts would feel fear for mankind.

Man’s diet. As there would be insufficient vegetation for mankind he would be able to eat meat, with the restriction that blood was not to be consumed.

Man’s government. This was now to be in the hands of man. "Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Gen 9.6).

Man’s fruitfulness. Man was now to be fruitful again and replenish the earth.

Problems after the flood

The Problem of Restraint - Separation (Gen 9.18-27)

The first problem is brought to our attention, sad to say, by Noah. His sorry behaviour at this time is a warning to all that, no matter how we have overcome in the past, we can fall in an unexpected and sudden way. This emphasises to us that the problem of restraining human behaviour has not gone with the Flood. It is still a difficulty.

Noah’s collapse

Note, first, that Noah was engaged in legitimate activity. He was a husbandman and planted a vineyard. Conditions for any form of activity of this nature would be very different from those which had been known by him in the past. His husbandry was legitimate work. Becoming drunken, however, was abuse of the legitimate. This is an indication of how man will now live. There will be abuse of what the Lord provides for the well-being of men and women. Note, now, that he was humiliated through abuse. To picture the preacher who had warned the world of impending disaster, now lying drunk, is almost impossible. The lesson for today is that the consumption of alcohol is to be avoided.

Ham’s contempt. Ham saw the sorry state of Noah and he told his two brethren. He reported Noah’s shame when he should have remained quiet about what he had seen. In doing so he revealed that he actually delighted in Noah’s humiliation. He should have covered Noah. His actions on that occasion would bring serious repercussions.

Shem and Japheth’s concern. The behaviour of Shem and Japheth was very different from that of their brother. They covered the shame of their father. Again their actions in that crisis would have repercussions far beyond anything that they could possibly imagine.

Noah’s curse

An understanding of this is vital in order to understand human history. Let us look briefly at how it affected those involved.

Canaan. We may ask why it was that it was not Ham who was cursed. We see here the law of retribution in operation. As it was the son of Noah who had dishonoured him, so it would be the son of Ham who would dishonour him. The geographic area covered by the sons of Canaan was Canaan, south and east of Canaan, Babel, Arabia, Egypt, and Africa. The prophecy did not mean that spiritual blessing would be withheld from them. It refers to their national circumstances on earth. We can see it fulfilled in Scripture. For instance the Canaanites succumbed to Israel, Tyre, Carthage and the Phoenicians fell.

Japheth. Geographic expansion was to mark them. They spread along the coasts of the Mediterranean and north of the Caspian Sea. They would enjoy the blessing of Shem because of Japheth’s association with Shem in covering their father.

Shem. The Lord is called the "Lord God of Shem" indicating the close links with God which would be the portion of Shem From this son came the children of Israel. It is noteworthy that in covering the shame of Noah, Shem is mentioned first. It is "Shem and Japheth" who carried out this righteous act indicating that Shem took the initiative.

The Problem of Rule - Sovereignty (Gen 10.1-11.9)

We are now introduced to the way in which man set up the government with which he was charged in the covenant. We will see that it was not according to principles which would find acceptance with the Lord. Nimrod rose up to be the first colonizing emperor and the founder of Babel. It was not only a place but also a system.

Background

Babel was not just a tower but also a city and a tower. It was built for the protection of the inhabitants and to satisfy their religious cravings. It was also erected to magnify the achievements of men.

The Commencement of the System

It began under Nimrod. Up until this time the "clan" system had provided the head and the source of rule. Nimrod rises above this and establishes rule over the land of Shinar. Note what is said of this infamous figure in Genesis 10.8-10.

The Problem of Religion - Security (Gen 11.1-9)

The Construction of the System

It was to be pleasant. The plain was a suitable and pleasant place to build. As with Cain, there was to be an attempt to make this world pleasant.

It was to be well constructed. "Burn them thoroughly", was the command that went out. The work was to be done with all the skills which man had at his disposal.

It was constructed only with man’s materials. Brick was the material used, not stone. The materials were all the product of man. It bore the stamp of human skill in every area.

It was based on human dreams and ambitions. "What they imagined to do", was the plan. Man will always have his dreams, and here for the first time he speaks of "heaven".

It was to establish man’s dominion and reputation. "Let us make us a name", was the cry. The aspiration to reach to heaven (or for the top to be heaven) is linked with the desire of men to make their names immortal.

It was done without God. "Let us", is said on two occasions. Needless to say there was no attempt to bring God into this work in any way. It was godless from the very beginning. Because of this it was doomed.

It was to establish commerce and religion. The city and the tower symbolise both of these. Here we have worldly religion and commerce linked together, and these will remain linked right through the Scriptures until the book of Revelation.

The Confusion of the System

Man was given time to develop his system but there was also time for him to repent. The tower had not reached heaven, nor was it heaven, for the Lord God came down to see it. He was far above the human construction.

Confusion was the result. The language of man is confused so that he cannot unite fully in any enterprise of such a nature. Today the differences in language are being overcome. Note, for instance, the dominance of the English language, and that man is uniting again in preparation for one final great enterprise of supreme folly. The result of the confounding of languages is confusion of understanding, of purpose, of government, and of "religion".

Dreams were unfulfilled. This is true of all man’s ambitions. The city and the tower lay unfinished, a testimony to the madness of human ambition.

The Lessons to Learn

This Babylon system, although overwhelmed at Babel, re-emerged and has still to blossom fully. This will be considered in future studies. Note, however, what the Scriptures have to say of it.

Historically, it is seen in the time of Daniel and the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah. Prophetically, it is seen that it will be re-established in Shinar (Zech 5.11). Finally, it will be judged as foretold in Revelation 17-18.

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