Genesis 6: 5 The Lord 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.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.
This is all we are told in Genesis of the pre-flood corruption on earth. Yes, there is mention of the sons of God and the daughters of man, but nothing condemning this. Then we get this:
7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
13 And 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
Now, there was no “law” yet, no Ten Commandments. We are told nothing of specifics, nor – at least in Genesis – on what basis such corruption could be identified.
In the Book of Enoch, there are further details. This book, apocryphal for all Christian traditions and denominations except for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, begins by describing the judgment coming on all the earth, except for the elect who will be saved.
In chapter 6, we are told that the act of angels taking the daughters of men was known to be a sin…a sin by the angels!
And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.'
The angels swore an oath to each other, removing Semjaza’s concern, and then did the deed. But why did this sin by the angels require a punishment of men, wiping them off from the face of the earth? It wasn’t this sin, but another, described in the earlier chapters, 2 – 5. First, the purpose of each aspect of creation is described:
· Observe ye everything that takes place in the heaven, how they do not change their orbits, and the luminaries which are in the heaven, how they all rise and set in order each in its season, and transgress not against their appointed order.
· Behold ye the earth, and give heed to the things which take place upon it from first to last, how steadfast they are, how none of the things upon earth change, but all the works of God appear to you.
· Behold the summer and the winter, how the whole earth is filled with water, and clouds and dew and rain lie upon it.
· Observe and see how (in the winter) all the trees seem as though they had withered and shed all their leaves, except fourteen trees, which do not lose their foliage but retain the old foliage from two to three years till the new comes.
· And again, observe ye the days of summer how the sun is above the earth over against it.
· And you seek shade and shelter by reason of the heat of the sun, and the earth also burns with growing heat, and so you cannot tread on the earth, or on a rock by reason of its heat.
· Observe ye how the trees cover themselves with green leaves and bear fruit:
· And behold how the sea and the rivers in like manner accomplish and change not their tasks from His commandments'.
Every being in creation has a purpose, an order for which these were created. Chapter 5 explains this:
[W]herefore give ye heed and know with regard to all His works, and recognize how He that liveth for ever hath made them so.
And all His works go on thus from year to year for ever, and all the tasks which they accomplish for Him, and their tasks change not, but according as God hath ordained so is it done.
But Enoch has not yet come to man. What is this sin of man, so evil that he had to be destroyed from the face of the earth? Verse 4 of chapter 5 sums it up:
But ye -ye have not been steadfast, nor done the commandments of the Lord
A few specifics are added, but given the comparison made for the purpose of distinction (identifying all of the created order’s obedience to live according to the purpose for which it was created as compared to man who has not been “steadfast), it is clear: man, like all of creation, was made with and for a purpose, and man, unlike the rest of creation, was not living in accordance with that purpose.
It is by properly identifying that purpose that one can derive natural law. Man clearly was not living in accord with natural law, and for this he was taken by flood from the earth.
But still, how did man know this natural law ethic, for the violation of which he was condemned? I have written on this before, so will only touch on it here. Man earlier ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By this act, he discovered the natural law.
Now, what’s wrong with that? If man was made for the purpose of living in accord with the natural law, shouldn’t he know the natural law? Why would God forbid them from discovering that which He would also hold them accountable? St. Gregory of Nazianzus offers an answer:
He gave him a Law, as a material for his Free Will to act upon. This Law was a Commandment as to what plants he might partake of, and which one he might not touch.
One law was given, one prohibition. Just one.
This latter was the Tree of Knowledge; not, however, because it was evil from the beginning when planted; nor was it forbidden because God grudged it to us...Let not the enemies of God wag their tongues in that direction, or imitate the Serpent...But it would have been good if partaken of at the proper time, for the tree was, according to my theory, Contemplation, upon which it is only safe for those who have reached maturity of habit to enter; but which is not good for those who are still somewhat simple and greedy in their habit; just as solid food is not good for those who are yet tender, and have need of milk.
Consider the statement: “…it is only safe for those who have reached maturity of habit to enter….” Does a baby know the natural law? Does a child? Are they ready for it? No. In an immature state, we offer rules – don’t touch that, don’t go there, don’t hit your brother. We instruct them to say thank you, be courteous, share things.
We develop, we train, we show by example. Further, as maturity is reached, the inherent truth of natural law is discoverable and discovered. But leave a child to this – without any explicit training – and chaos will ensue.
Man was to have access to this knowledge when he was mature enough to understand it. As man could not even obey the milk of the simplest command to obey God regarding one tree, he certainly was not yet mature enough to handle the solid food of the natural law.
Now, one need not take the flood account as a historic fact in its entirety to recognize a reality: a society that lives in violation of the natural law ethic will not long survive. It will be destroyed.
This lesson was not learned the first time, and like many passages and prophecies in the Bible, the lessons taught are not merely for the one time and the one place. Violating natural law results in consequences every time, not just the first time. Yes, even in our time.
No, there won’t be a flood – God promised that. In reality, God need not do anything. He created a self-enforcing natural law. It is powerful enough to defend itself and dole out punishment as necessary.
Hence, the flood.