In the beginning God brought the Universe into existence. One location in this massive expanse, the earth, was formless and void. There were waters above the earth and waters on the earth. The earth was completely covered with water. The earth was lifeless. The world was dark and barren and unlivable. Then God shapes it. He brought the waters together and dry land appeared where once there was only water. He made the earth livable. Plants and vegetation sprouted. Animals of all kinds were brought into existence on the land and in the seas. And then YHWH spirited into man and he was.
Fast forward a few generations. YHWH looked upon his image bearers, people who were containers of Godís very breath, and saw that they used the breath of God that brought them life to do evil. Indeed, all the thoughts of their hearts were only evil continually. In Godís good creation, men were forcefully taking multiple wives and existing in a violent selfishness that marred Godís creation. It was a gross distortion of His image and a violation of the image of others. Something needed to be done. And YHWH had not abandoned His creation. He was going to make things right. He was going to re-create.
The author of Genesis fills the Flood narrative with many textual indicators that make it very clear something very much like Creation is happening here. First though, there is a reversal of part of creation. In the creation story, God creates an expanse between the waters on the earth and the waters above the earth. It is between these two waters that humanity lives. In the flood narrative, the windows of the waters above open up and waters pour down. That expanse, Heaven (ESV), the one that humanity lived in, was closed. Waters rose up from beneath and waters came down from above. The expanse closed. And the earth was covered with water.
We have then the same image that we had at the beginning of Creation. The earth is lifeless. Everything is completely covered with water. There might be some sea creature and underwater vegetation, but there is no land for life to exist on. No visible life is present. Creation has been undone. But not completely. YHWH used water to get rid of the major corrupting forces that were ruining the earth. However, God hasnít abandoned Creation; He hasnít given up on humanity. Somewhere on a massive boat a man, his family, and a zoo still live, awaiting re-creation.
God begins the process. The waters on the earth recede and the mountaintops become visible. Land appears! The image of dividing the waters to reveal the land is a little bit different than the receding waters, but the effect is the same. Land is where once it was not. Re-creation. But, like Creation, the land isnít livable for humanity until there is life on it. Noah sends out a dove and it comes back with a fresh olive leaf. With land available and vegetation grown, like creation, man can exist on Earth. Noah gets out of the boat. Creation has started over.
Out of both the Creation and the Flood (Re-Creation) narratives come the people who are to carry out Godís work. Noah is charged with many of the same tasks as Adam and Eve were after YHWH first created. Although Noah can now eat the animals, he is still in charge of them and taking care of them and the plant life. Indeed, the covenant God makes with Noah is not just with Noah, it is also with all of the animals God saved in the Ark. Just like the first man, Noah is to be fruitful and multiply upon the earth, filling it up with people. Why is it good for the earth to be full of people? They carry Godís image. Noah is to bear Godís image, live displaying that image, and fill the earth with more of Godís image.*
These water stories are fantastic. The waters of the Creation and of the Flood are seminal moments in Scripture that set the stage for future H20 events. Many of the situations, descriptions, and images change, but the water stories connect to each other and the meaning of one story is expanded and clarified by the meaning of the previous one. These stories about water keep popping up at important points in the history of Godís covenant people. Believe it or not, these powerful stories, dating back to the beginning of time, culminate at one moment in my life.