Noah – Builder or Preacher

Recently I was reading a post on a friend’s Facebook; and one of their friends wrote the following:

And just as Noah tried to warn people of the end and people laughed, we try to warn people and they laugh or worse.

In his sermon, this preacher affirmed that “Noah had been preaching to the people of the villages around to come to the Lord and be saved from the destruction to come. He had preached that message for years and no one at all outside his own family had come…”

Another preacher, in the beginning of his sermon, affirmed that “God was going to wipe out all human life, except those eight.” Yet in a subsequent sermon, he insisted that “whosoever would but heed the call of Noah and his renown fathers, Enoch, Methuselah and Lamech, could yet be saved.”

One of the staff members of Verse by Verses Ministry International, responding to a question concerning Noah giving warning, writes:

Knowing that Noah was a preacher proclaiming God’s truth in some form to the people of his day and given his godly character, we can assume Noah preached about the approaching flood and the need to repent. Furthermore, offering the world such a warning would be in keeping with God’s character, since God typically gives opportunity for repentance prior to His judgments.

The question to be asked of the above is this: where in the Scripture do they find any suggestion of Noah preaching/warning the people of the coming destruction?

The story of God’s mercy to Noah begins in Genesis 6. We find that God intends to “blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land” (v.7), because He “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (v.5). Noah was the only one that “found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (v.8).

God spoke to Noah, commanding him to build an ark, and giving him specific instructions on its building – type of wood to use, dimensions, exterior coating, number of decks, etc (v.14-16). God also told Noah, that “I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you” (v.18). God gives some additional instruction about the animals and the collection of food to feed both man and animals (v.19-21). But noticeably missing from these instructions is anything related to warning/preaching to the people.

What we see in the text is a particularity regarding those who will be saved from the destruction that is coming – God intends to save only eight persons and destroy the rest of mankind. When we read about Noah in Hebrews 11, we note that he “constructed an ark for the saving of his household” (v.7) – again a particularity regarding those who would be saved.

In light of such limitation on who would be spared, it is obvious that the ark had accommodations for only eight people, the animals, and food for both. There would have been no purpose for additional accommodations, and thus, no reason to “warn people of the end.” There was no opportunity provided for repentance as God had already purposed to “blot out man.” Judgment had already been decided before God gave building instructions to Noah!

I have always assumed (like most people) that a building project of that magnitude (and I hope to visit The Ark some day), would have created no small stir, and that visitors to the site would have questioned Noah as to its purpose. In light of Matthew 24:39, which states that mankind was “unaware until the flood came and swept them all away,” I have to rethink my assumptions. Were they unaware of the Ark being built, and thus unaware of its purpose? Their ignorance is further proof that Noah was not providing any warning.

Yet in 2 Peter 3:5, Noah is referred to as “a herald [preacher] of righteousness,” and that may be why it is generally accepted that he issued a warning to his contemporaries. But that poses a conflict with the rest of Scripture that references Noah. In Genesis 6, we read that “God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth’” (v.13). Since the time for repentance had passed, whatever the phrase “herald of righteousness” refers to, it cannot refer to preaching the need to repent.

The story of Noah is very different from the story of Jonah preaching in the city of Nineveh. The latter’s instructions are to “call out against it” (1:2), and to “call out against it the message that I tell you” (3:2), which Jonah eventually obeys. The result of Jonah’s warning/preaching is that repentance came to the city, and God “relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” (3:10).

Noah was given a command to build, Jonah a command to preach. Judgment had already been pronounced on the people living in Noah’s day, judgment was stayed for the city of Nineveh, because of their response to the preaching. As believers we should not assume that God is required to provide the opportunity for repentance to the people in Noah’s time, since the Scripture specifies His intent to only spare eight.

Further Reading:

Did Noah Warn People About the Flood?

All scripture quotations are English Standard Version
unless otherwise noted.

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