It is important that we understand the notion that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8), since that grace saved him and us. So what is it?

The word “grace” in the OT translates the Hebrew חֵן, chen, a word which is used in the phrase “find favor” and often followed by “in the sight of” or “in the eyes of.” This is not really the same as the doctrine of grace in the NT; but in the present case it certainly has similar effects, since the grace shown to Noah by God involved mercy, forgiveness, and the ultimate hope for mankind.

In the toledoth that begins at Gen 6:9, what does it mean to say Noah was “perfect in his generations”?

The sentence is: “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” This does not mean he was perfect, full stop, because of the drunkenness incident, and because he died. Besides, surely “walking with God” does not require absolute perfection. Surely too God would not require a standard of Abram, whom God instructed, “be thou perfect” (Gen 17:1). Let us look to the Hebrew: the word is תָּמִים or tamim, glossed as “complete, sound.” Applied to men, this often means something like “possessed of integrity.” But why “in his generations”? Does the word mean the same here as earlier in the same verse? The Hebrew word is different: דּוֹר, dor, glossed “period, generation, dwelling”; it was confusing and misleading for the KJV to use the same word “generation,” because whereas toledoth can refer to offspring, dor cannot. So we should not say that the meaning is that Shem, Ham, and Japheth were singled out as tamim. The same issue arises with Gen 7:1, where God tells Noah, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation [dor again].” An apparently better interpretation is supplied by, for example, NASB’s terse “blameless in his time” and the NIV’s more explicitly interpretive “blameless among the people of his time.”

Are Gen 6:11-13 a good example of repetition across toledoths?

Yes, because not only does it repeat themes brought out not long before—in a way that might well seem tiresome to a casual reader, or an indication of different sources, to a skeptical one—it is a highly germane elaboration. In other words, each “these are the generations of” sections marks a new beginning, and there is often blatant repetition across them. In Gen 6:11-13, the text reiterates the corruption of the earth (meaning mostly, but probably not only, the corruption of man), adding here that the earth was “filled with violence,” which was not specifically mentioned before, but it is certainly a natural consequence of “mighty men” (6:4) full of plans springing from “evil” thoughts (6:5). Verse 12 adds that God specifically took notice of this corruption, a repetition of 6:5, but adds that “all flesh had corrupted his [i.e., God’s] way upon the earth.”

How does God’s resolution to punish mankind (Gen 6:7, 13) prefigure later events in the Bible?

After a long period of patience—hundreds of years have passed since Cain went into the wilderness—God’s patience wears out. Finally, his cup of his wrath spills over. This is seen repeatedly in the case of Israel, e.g., in the 40 years’ wandering, in the punishment of Canaan at the hands of the Israelites, in the later subjugation of the same Israelites and their loss of land in the time of the judges, and in the loss of land and then exile in the time of the divided kingdom. It is prophesied to happen again in end times, as explained most forcefully in Revelation.

What is the significance of “with thee will I establish my covenant” (Gen 6:18)?

This is the first instance of this important word’s occurrence in the entire Bible. While one might say that God had a covenant with Adam and Eve—do not eat of that one tree, and you can continue to live in the Garden—it is not named by God as a covenant, which is a thing God does do later. But what is the covenant God refers to? Consider that, immediately after declaring that he would make a covenant, he says “thou shalt come into the ark.” So, is ordering Noah into the ark, or even promising to save Noah, the covenant? No. The word’s proper context is given by the previous verse: God just got done saying “every thing that is in the earth shall die,” except you, Noah, and why? Because it is with you that I will establish my covenant after the Flood. And indeed God does so when Moses sacrifices to God in gratitude, and God in turn sets the covenant rainbow in the sky, signifying the “common grace” under which all humanity would live (Gen 9:8-17), which seems to be closely associated the preceding, brief Noachian code of law (of Gen 9:1-7). For more, see questions on Gen 9.

Is it not implausible indeed that two of every species were preserved in the ark (Gen 6:19)? Is this not wholly inconsistent with science?

Notwithstanding the heroic efforts to defend the Noah’s ark story on scientific grounds, it certainly is implausible. But then all miracles are implausible by their very nature; they would hardly merit the epithet “miracle” if they were plausible. But that this is a miracle is obvious, since nothing else would explain the congregation of so many different species, appearing docile and ready to be led on board the ark. (Not “species,” however, but “kinds”: the modern concept of a species did not exist when Genesis was written). Now, is this inconsistent with science? A worldwide deluge might be inconsistent with science—a question we will take up later—but what about all the species being reborn from a single place in Turkey some mere thousands of years ago? They would have to all fit on the ark; a number of people have crunched some numbers and concluded that, yes, the kinds could all have fit on an ark that large. Very well, but then in a matter of some mere thousands of years, a single species of cat would have to give rise to all the cats, great and small; similarly with all the other many species and varieties. I am not a biologist but this also sounds extremely unlikely. Further, they would have to repopulate every continent and island, migrating throughout the world, in a matter of some thousands of years. As a scientific hypothesis, one of the consequences regarding the fossil record, but we seem to find nothing in the fossil record showing species fanning out from Turkey. We will have to consider this further later, in connection with the questions of science for the Flood.

So God obeyed by building an ark (Gen 6:22). How long would this enormous vessel require to build?

We are told (Gen 5:32) that Noah was five hundred years old when he began to father Shem, Ham, and Japheth. There is a short excursus about the descent of evil upon the world and God’s resolution to destroy it (6:1-7), and then the narrative returns to Noah, where a new toledoth begins (6:9) and we are told again that Noah has fathered his three sons. There is no further narrative until we are told God instructed Noah to build the ark. This seems to imply that Noah started the ark around the time of, or shortly after, the birth of his first son. The next marker of time has it that Noah is 600 years old (7:6), so up to 100 years would have passed—that seems like enough time.