The supposed distinction between the “Old Testament God of Wrath” and the “New Testament God of Love” remains far too common in both religious and irreligious circles. According to this bifurcation, the God of ancient Israel was angry and capricious, but underwent a positive personality shift by the time of Jesus. In order to test such a theory, a good place to begin is the flood story—the first and most wide-reaching instance of corporate divine judgment. While God would have had good reason to be upset before the flood, the narrative contains no references to anger; instead, God is sorrowful about the state of human beings who have already destroyed the earth before the flood. Rather than a disgruntled deity, Genesis presents a grieving God who longs for righteousness.

In the days of Noah, “the Lord saw that the evil of humanity was abounding on the earth, and that every inclination of thought in its heart was only evil every day” (Gen 6:5). If ever there were a time for heavenly ire, this would be it. However, God is not angry at the sight of human corruption; rather, God is sad: “The Lord regretted that he had made humanity on the earth, and he was grieved (יתעצב; yitatsev) to his heart” (6:6). The Hebrew for “grieve” (עצב; atsav) is grammatically reflexive, which shows that God’s grief is a sorrow that penetrates to the core of the divine being. Genesis presents a God who is deeply saddened by human behavior, not a deity who is filled with anger or contempt.

Ultimately, the Lord sends a flood to wipe out humanity, saying, “The end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with violence…. I will destroy (שׁחת; shachat) them with the earth’” (6:13). Yet, this declaration of divine destruction comes after humans have already destroyed the earth through their sins. Before God resolves to send the flood, the text states, “The earth was destroyed (שׁחת; shachat) before God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked upon the earth and, behold, it was destroyed (שׁחת) because all flesh had destroyed (שׁחת) its way upon the earth” (6:11-12). In sending the destructive flood, God only underscores what humans have already done to themselves; God grieves the violent “destruction” of our own making. The flood is a time of heavenly weeping, rather than wrath, and God’s blessing after the deluge (Gen 9:1) is a reminder of divine love and reconciliation.       

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30 COMMENTS

  1. What an awesome observation/lesson Dr. Nicholas. I confess to being one of those people who used to think of God as growing throughout the Bible, becoming more gentle and loving. It seemed to make sense to me when I read Scriptures on my own. It makes even more sense now when I realize, with a lot of help from people wiser than I was in the reality of the Bible, that God was always love. We were the ones messed up. It seemed no prophets or prayers could turn the world around for long. We might not be much better but there’s a good reason he wanted people to fill the world and multiply. There is so much more good now. It is much more likely he will find more than 10 people in every city doing good than there was in Abraham’s day. Praise be God!

    • Poetically it could suggest that the Flood represents the tears of G d weeping for a sinful humanity.
      It also suggests an ecological interpretation where the sin of neglecting creation again leaves humanity open to self destruction.

  2. Excellent! It lines up with the Scripture in Timothy:. “But she who gives herself to self indulgence is dead while living.”

    • Yes, 1 Tim 5:6 expresses an idea similar to the one in the flood story with humanity destroying the earth before it’s destroyed physically. Thanks for reading, Susan.

  3. Thank you Dr Schaser,
    I mostly agree. Yet is was still a time of judgment. 2 Peter 3 warns of a similar, but not a flood, coming judgment. The scriptures, Revelation and Isaiah/Joel etc, describe a coming tribulation. Unable to discuss further due to word limit.

  4. Great article.Very relevant to today’s world of global climate change.Makes you wonder….is it our sin that is causing these changes.Going from a mist watering the earth to a torrential flood is quite a climate change!!

  5. Yes God was angry. The disobedience and sin of his creation. He had every right to be angry, any parent would be. Disobedience and sin separates any parent from their children. Rebellious children are hard to handle but as a parent we still love them. God still loves his children..

    • David, the text itself never refers to God’s anger. Thus, to assume that God was angry necessitates “adding to” or “going beyond” what is written — a practice that Bible interpreters should avoid (cf. Deut 4:2; 12:32; 1 Cor 4:6; Rev 22:18).

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  6. Thank you Sir. I grew up believing that God was so angry at humanity and was actually speaking to that with a friend just yesterday and that it really must have been even more awful than what we are seeing today. You have single handedly changed my view forever.

  7. I totally disagree with the thinking that the flood is or was brought about by an act of God! God never ever harms mankind but mankind is always totally responsible in some way of precipitating catastrophes and “natural disasters” by ignoring natural law!

  8. I continue to read these explanations for the good or bad things that occur on our earth, not as much about what God may be doing or thinking, but more about what we see in a mirror reflecting ourselves to ourselves.

  9. Yes, the Scripture shows God’s joy and anger but since the Lord is also beyond us, of course, He is not surprised by anything we do; but God relates to us as we can comprehend — without doubt, He is impassible, though not to the point of Deism.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  10. What a beautiful revelation. It reinforces John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” Which is God’s desire to reclaim His creation and lost children, through Jesus.

  11. Was not the core of the evil that infuriated God & grieved His Heart, the first “transgenic” horror of the mixing of angelic beings with human women that resulted in the 1st transgenic race of being called Nephlium?

    • The “children of God” mating with the “daughters of humanity” earlier in Genesis 6 may have added to the issues prior to the flood, but God sends the flood because of human “violence” having filled the earth. And again, God is not “infuriated” before the flood — no words for anger appear in the text.

  12. There have been so many times that I have ministered to uninformed people who did not want The Father God because of the times He killed people seemingly without cause to non-spiritually minded people who know nothing about demon possession, but they only wanted The Jesus God. What the Greek language (transliterated by the English who at he time hated the Jews and the way of life God introduced them to) did not acknowledge was that in The Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned God could have wiped them off the face of the map, He showed them His love and His GRACE, even though it is not spelled out. For those of us who still recognize our past sins (in context) God’s grace is easy to see as we too are sinners whom God saved through the finished work of the Cross. Also see Matthew 22:34-40. Those who have sinned much easily recognize God’s grace and rejoice that He extends it to ALL who come to the Cross.

  13. That’s true, but it also doesn’t say God wasn’t angry. As a father sometimes gets angry and sorrowful at the same time while punishing his child so perhaps God could’ve been both angry and sorrowful at the punishment of his children before the flood.

    • David, in the absence of evidence we could say “perhaps God could have” felt or thought anything, but in doing so we offer conjecture not found in the biblical data. You’re right that God has the capacity to be both angry and sorrowful, but Genesis 6 only mentions God’s sorrow, so we have no basis for assuming that God was also angry before the flood. In other words, an “angry God” in Genesis 6 is a god of the reader’s own imagination, rather than the God described in the biblical text.

  14. We can look at what’s happening today with climate change. This is a sign that God is not happy with humans and their destruction of the planet. Furthermore, multitudes of people have lost their way and don’t love God anymore. They have abandoned their faith and don’t live by the Word of God anymore. As a result, many people are lost and have succumbed to human addictions of all sorts. We wonder why so many people contemplate suicide and ending their lives. They no longer observe Sabbath or Holy Sunday or going to synagogue or church regularly. In fact, internet statistics have informed us that in Canada, where I live, 70% of the population does not attend religious services weekly – once or twice a week. This is a sad state of affairs, to say the least, and not at all conducive to raising children properly.

  15. When you talk to it from that angle, it is if the floodwaters represented the tears of God. A manifestation of His sorrow.

    Compared to the Revelation prophecy being of a scorching, fiery, wrathful judgment.

    • Thanks for your comments, Marcel. It’s interesting to note the difference between Genesis and Revelation, since the usual assumption is that God is “wrathful” in the Old Testament, and God is “loving” in the New. Yet, the comparison between Genesis and Revelation–as you right note–unsettles this imprecise assumption about God’s character between the Testaments.

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