The Literary Structure of the Flood Account

On Sunday, January 9, 2011 CHBC will be returning to the Book of Genesis. Our text will be Genesis 6:9 – 9:17. Why have I chosen to preach such a long section of Scripture this coming Sunday? Specifically because this is how Moses intended this literary section to be read.

Genesis 6:9 opens with a new toledot, “These are the generations of Noah” (ESV). The narrative takes us through the rising flood, the receding flood, and ends with God maintaining His covenant with “all the flesh that is on the earth.” This conclusion of the narrative is confirmed because Genesis 9:18 begins a new narrative. It is also confirmed by the chiastic structure of this narrative unit.

Transitional introduction (6:9 – 10)

A Violence in God’s creation (6:9 – 10)

B First divine address: resolution to destroy (6:11 – 12)

C Second divine address: command to enter ark (6:13 – 22)

D Beginning of the flood (7:11 – 16)

E The rising flood waters (7:17 – 24)


E’ The receding flood water (8:1 – 5)

D’ The drying of the earth (8:6 – 14)

C’ Third divine address: command to leave the ark (8:15 – 19)

B’ God’s resolution to preserve order (8:20 – 22)

A’ Fourth divine address: covenant blessing and peace (9:1 – 17)

Transitional conclusion (9:18 – 19)

The value of this chiastic structure,” states Sidney Greidanus, “is not only that it confirms the narrative unit, but it also shows that this narrative is carefully crafted, it gives us an overall view showing parallels between various parts, and it clearly exposes the central point of the narrative: ‘God remembered Noah.‘”

Lastly, as Allen Ross points out, this chiastic structure “demonstrates the reversal that characterizes the uncreation/recreation theme, the entire reversal centering on the divine remembrance of Noah. Here is the balance between the judgment on sinners and the deliverance of the recipients of grace.

I will not be addressing the chiastic structure in detail on Sunday morning. However, I thought that these thoughts might help set a foundation for the central theme of this passage: “God remembered Noah!


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