Science in Christian Perspective



The Unity of the Race: Genesis 1 - 11

Samuel J. Schultz
Wheaton College
Wheaton IL

From: JASA 7 (September 1955): 50-52.

Recent investigations and interpretations have focused anew attention to the proper exegesis of Genesis 1-11 as it affects the question of the unity of the race. This passage is the introduction to the written revelation which God has left to mankind and very briefly surveys for us the beginning of all things. As far as the human race and its beginnings is concerned we do well to re-evaluate the question whether or not the whole human race is included throughout this introduction.

In order to limit our discussion as we focus our interest on this question we suggest that we assume first that all mankind descended from Adam and Eve as Paul1 asserts that God "made of one blood all nations;" second, that a careful exegesis does not state whether or not the flood was universal; and third that the geneologies given in chapters 5 and 11 do not necessarily give us a complete chronological account so that we may not be able to estimate accurately the time included in this introductory passage. With this as a common ground for our investigation we suggest the following propositions, first, that God created men as a moral being, second, that all moral beings were involved in the flood, and third, that the whole human race was included in the covenant God made with Noah.

In the opening chapters of Genesis that describe the beginning of the universe and all related things the climactic act is the creation of man. All things up to that point were made for men; after that creation all things revolved around man and his descendants.

When God made man we are plainly informed that man was made a nephesh hayah or `living soul". This term is applied to land animals and marine life in this account.2 Theistic evolution suggests that in the process of creation God may have used animated dust or animals to make nian.3 It is significant to note that when God breathed into him the breath of life he became a nephesh hayah. This implies that man was not animal before God acted upon the dust used in creation of man. Additional statements however indicate clearly that man was also made in the image of God which is not the case in the creation of animal life. Within the limitations of this discussion we will not engage in a definition of "the image of God in man" but simply note that this distinguished man from the animal life existing at that time.

Man also appears as a fully developed being with intelligence and ability to marine and land animals about him, Genesis 2:19. Not only was he to name them but was given charge over them so that the animal world was to live in subjection to him. He was endowed with the ability to rule and use the animal as well as the vegetable kingdom for his own good. Man is set apart at creation as distinct and superior to all about him.

We also observe that man carefully examined all the animals about him but found no one his equal.4 Not one of the animals was capable of fellowship with Adam, When God observed man's loneliness He created Eve as an helper or mate. Here the institution of marriage is instituted. Jesus in Matthew 19:3-6 as well as Paul in I Corinthians 6:16 appeal to this passage in Genesis 1 :24 as the basis that man has a moral responsibility in marriage. It is important to observ that man had this moral obligation before the fall.

It has already been pointed out that man was entrusted with responsibility. In Genesis 3 the facts clearly indicate that Adam and Eve are morally responsible to God to obey Him. They are placed in the garden with the condition that they conform to the explicit commandment of God. This again distinguished man from the animals; none of the animal kingdom except man were held morally accountable to God. If the curse affected the animals it did so because of man's sin, since the ground was cursed for mail's sake.

Since man was a moral being he was punished for his disobedience in being expelled from the garden of Eden. As a moral being he was capable of redemption. God did not leave him without a hope but gave man the promise of redemption so that Adam and Eve with their descendants had a hope as they were subjected to the consequences of the judgment that resulted from their sin. God continues to deal with man as a moral being as the following developments clearly reveal.

Thus we observe that the creation account in its brevity distinctly sets man apart from the animals about him; created in the image of God man has a moral nature that makes him capable of being accountable to God as a moral being.

All Moral Creatures Were Involved In the Flood

Man created by God was the center of interest in the whole account of the flood as given to us in Genesis. An intelligent interpretation and exegesis of this passage should take this into account as it affects the unity of the human race as well as the details in this record.

As the destruction of man is announced in this narrative we read, "And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; . . 5 Man was God's creation that He had endowed with life. So far the Genesis account has indicated the creation of Adam and Eve and their descendants; here man is spoken of in the generic sense referring to to the race as a whole. In the opening statement of this flood record it is clearly indicated that man or the human race began to multiply. As the human race increased with that came the increase of sin and wickedness which precipitated God's displeasure. There is no indication here to warrant the possible conclusion that only part of mankind was involved. It was the human race that multiplied that became sinful. It was the human race that multiplied and became sinful with whom the spirit was striving. It was this sinful human race concerning whom God said that He would destroy them, The degeneration of sinful humanity caused God to grieve and repent that He had made man. No principle of exegesis allows for an exclusion of any part of the descendants of Adam and Eve except as is indicated in the context. Thus when God states that He will destroy man whom He has created it involves the whole human race.

By contrast the exceptions to the case are minutely stated. At first only Noah is mentioned in the text as being excluded from judgment.6 Further elaboration specifically enumerates Noah's family.7 New Testament confirmation agrees with this when Peter states that Noah was saved when God brought the "flood upon the world of the ungodly" 11 Peter 2:5. In his first epistle Peter has already made reference to the fact that eight souls were saved in the days of the flood I Peter 3:20, Thus Noah and his family are the only exceptions mentioned in either testament that were not included in the judgment that God sent upon the human race in the sending of the flood.

Moral beings were primarily involved in the flood. Although animal life is destroyed reasonable and sound exegesis of this passage would not necessarily require that "all" animal life perished in the flood. Animal life was affected and undoubtedly was destroyed for man's sake as God's purpose was accomplished in bringing judgment upon the human race.

In this passage the word "flesh" or Hebrew word basar is frequently used. It has various meanings and uses according to the Hebrew lexicon in this account.8 Frequently in the flood story it refers to all living creatures that were destroyed. In Genesis 6:3 we read, "My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh." In the creation account it is specifically stated that God made man a nephesh havah even as the animals but the context uniquely set iiin-i apart from the animals as a moral being responsible to God. Here God declares that man fails to respond to the spirit and in that he is like the animals or flesh. Destruction of man's physical being is essential so that his moral privilege of resisting the spirit will be terminated. Again in Genesis 6:13 the word "flesh" has the same meaning referring to the human race where God says, "The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them." It was not animal life as such that filled the earth with violence but man who had a moral relationship with God. Nor could the earth itself be filled with violence for the preceding verse says, "And God looked upon the earth and behold it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." It is "flesh" or man who corrupted the earth by resisting the spirit. Man as a moral creature precipitated this judgment and for his sake this judgment came.

Frequently in this account the word "flesh" refers to man as well as beast. When God assures Noah that He will send a flood to destroy "all flesh" it is primarily directed against man since the animal life is not mentioned when the flood is announced; a moral issue was involved between man and God; since animals are not moral they are not mentioned in the introductory paragraph. However, as man is punished animal life perishes as well and so is frequently mentioned in this record with man being included in the term "all flesh."

The word "all" is used in many ways in the scriptures, Many examples could be given where it is limited in its meaning.9 This passage would justifiably be interpreted with a limited "all" so that not all animal life was destroyed in the flood. This can easily be illustrated in the context. In Genesis 6:7 we read that 14every living thing (all) that is in the earth shall die" but later in 7:22 we note that this is restricted to "all that was in the dry land." The inclusion of the whole human race is not dependent upon the word 4, all" as used in this account. A sound interpretation of this passage makes it very clear that all moral beings were included since Noah and his family are the only ones that were singled out as being acceptable to God. The rest of mankind has corrupted the earth. On this basis the flood needed to extend only as far as man had multiplied so that animal life was destroyed wherever man was living when the flood came. In view of this interpretation of the passage as a whole the term "all flesh" in Genesis 6:12-13 undoubtedly included all mankind created by God except Noah and his family.

The Entire Human Race Was Included In the Covenant With Noah

A careful consideration of the covenant made with Noah suggests and implies the unity of the race in Genesis 1-11. This covenant is already introduced as Noah enters the ark and actually realized after the flood. (Genesis 6:18; 8:20-9:17)

The covenant made with Noah has many similarities to the commitment and charge God gave to Adam. Both were commanded to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth, and to have dominion over the animal and vegetable world, Here however God assures Noah that no more will He destroy "all flesh" as He had done through the flood. This new beginning is not to be overshadowed by the possibility of utter destruction. As a constant reminder to Noah and his descend ants that God made this promise a bow was placed in the cloud as an assurance to "all flesh" that they would not be subjected to a destruction by a flood.

It should further be noted that this covenant was made with Noah and his seed. By contrast with "all flesh" that was to be destroyed (Genesis 6:17-18) God makes provision for the continuation of the human race through Noah and his descendants. Had any part of the human race survived the flood outside of Noah and his family they would not have been included in the covenant God made here. The implication seems to be that all mankind descended from Noah so that the covenant with its bow in the cloud as a reminder would be for all mankind.

As this covenant with Noah is compared with God's promise to Abraham it is apparent that either Noah and his family were the only survivors or that God completely ignored the rest of mankind. When God promises Abraham to make him a blessing God does this by selecting him and setting him apart from the rest of mankind. The race as a whole is not destroyed as was the case in Noah's day but is permitted to continue on in its sinful way. Here through Abraham, however, provision is made so that through him all the families of the earth will be blessed. In this way


lActs 17:26
2Cf. Genesis 2:7-man; Genesis I :24-land animals; Gen. 1 :21 -marine life; Gen, 1 :30 and 2:19 nephesh havah applies to both.
3Strong, Augustus Hopkins, Systematic Theology, Judson Press, 1907, pp. 465ff.
4Genesis 2:20.
5Genesis 6:7. Here note the use of the article with m meaning the whole race-not one man.
6Genesis 5:8
7 Genesis 6:18 and 7:13
8See Brown, Driver and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, p. 142.
9Cf. Genesis 41:57; Deuteronomy 2:25; T Kings 18:10.