A very important principle of our faith is the fact that when one is born, he is in need of redemption. In other words, one is born lost. We rest assured that our G-d is a gracious and fair judge and it is not the purpose here to enter into the dialogue “where to babies go to when they die?” Many people struggle with this concept commonly referred to as the “depravity of man”. This week’s Torah portion addresses this issue.
First, one needs to remember that sin is related to many factors: culture, environment, etc., but the primary reason one sins is because he has a sinful nature. Man has this sinful nature because he is a descendant of Adam and Chavvah (Eve). The Bible makes it very clear that sin is genetically related. Some have asked the question is it fair that man is born with a sinful nature when it was Adam and Chavvah who sinned and not them? The truth of Scripture is that if you or I were in the garden instead of Adam and Chavvah we would have acted in the same way.
Last week in Parashat Bereishit near the end of the portion one reads,
“And HaShem saw that great is the evilness of man in the land and every inclination of his heart is only evil all the day.”
In order to demonstrate this to us this week’s parashah contains an experiment. G-d took the best man at that time on the face of the earth, Noach. One reads at the beginning of the parashah,
“These are the generations of Noach, Noach a righteous and blameless man who was in his generation one who walked with G-d.”
Hence G-d took the best man and his immediate family and started the human race over. What was the result? This will be addressed in the next paragraph. First, one needs to pay close attention to how Noach is described. The text says that he was a righteous and blameless man. This phrase does not mean that Noach was without sin. The term righteous, when it is applied to a man, simply means one who strives to do G-d’s will and when he fails he seeks forgiveness and divine instruction on how to make restitution. Often times this restitution consists of a sacrifice. Only Yeshua, when He walked upon the earth, was absolute righteous and never sinned. The second term, a blameless man, comes from the Hebrew word which can also relate to a foolish person. The question which needs to be asked is, how can this same Hebrew word sometimes mean a blameless man and at other times a foolish man? The answer is found in the root meaning of this word. The Hebrew word is referring to one who does not know the proper thing to do. If this person acts with a lack of knowledge, his behavior will be one of foolishness. However, if one depends upon G-d, and seeks His knowledge, and acts in accordance with divine knowledge, depending upon G-d for all things, in the end this one will be successful and be thought of as a blameless man.
Returning to the question at hand, what was the result of G-d’s experiment with Noach? One finds in Genesis 9 that Noach became drunk and exposed his nakedness. This is included in the word of G-d to show that the best of humanity still behaves in a shameful manner before G-d. In the next chapter, the text deals with the descendants of Noach. It is very important to see the command that G-d gave to Noach and his children.
“And G-d blessed Noach and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’.”
In chapter 10 of Genesis this commandment began to be fulfilled, as the descendants of Noach multiplied and began to build cities. One may begin well with G-d, but the important thing is to continue and end well. In Genesis 11, we see the great potential that G-d had given man; man was unified and had a common language (Genesis 11:1). The next verse shows the descendants of Noach continuing to move and fill the earth until they came to the valley in the land of Shinnar. It is there that we read that the people settled. In verse 3 instead of consulting with G-d, man began to behave based upon his own decision making ability and he decided to make a great city, not for the glory of G-d, but for man. They decided not to exalt their Creator, but to try to make a name for themselves. The main structure they built was a great tower. In Hebrew, the word tower is “migdal.” Rabbis have pointed out that the word can be understood in this context as “mi” “gadol”, meaning who is great? The point is that man’s sinful nature is always expressed with a desire to exalt self instead of G-d.
This behavior is something we all struggle with. It reveals the depravity of every human being and each of our need for redemption; for through the redemption process G-d creates in us a new nature that if we rely upon the anointing of His Spirit we can walk with G-d in obedience.
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