And Noah is a son of five hundred years, and Noah begetteth Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32, YLT)
Noah sure did wait a long time to have children. Comparatively speaking, his ancestors became fathers at the average spring chicken age of 120 (based on the average age of the patriarchs in Genesis Chapter 5). The choice in wording is also interesting, as this verse specifically uses the word ben, which typically means “son”. The Hebrew ben isn’t used to describe how any of Noah’s patriarchs became fathers; it’s only attached to Noah to poetically describe the years of an older man’s life.
Is there anything to make of this? Could it be that there is something more beyond the poetry that gives us a clue as to why Noah remained childless for so long?
I believe the Scriptures DO offer us answers.
“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose. (Genesis 6:1-2, emphasis mine)
Here’s that word “ben” again (this time in plural form, b’nai). I’ll venture to say that the Word of God might be trying to teach us something about being a son, a son of the Most High God that is. Let’s forget all the gross speculation about these “sons of God” being aliens or fallen angels, and instead consider that the author is trying to show how Noah kept his status as a son… while the rest of mankind lost theirs. Perhaps the Word is showing that men substituted fellowship with the Holy One for the company of women. I believe my interpretation fits the context, especially after reading the very next revelation:
Yahweh said, “My Spirit will not strive among man forever, in whom only is flesh; and his days will be one hundred twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3, my translation).
In Noah’s 480th year (the Flood came when Noah was 600; cf. Gen. 7:11), God lined out how long mankind would remain on the Earth. While putting this mark on mankind, He certainly isn’t calling them “sons of God” anymore. He’s now seeing them as something much worse – specifically he calls them “flesh”. This is how God will hereafter describe humanity up to the flood, especially when He shows Noah His vision, i.e. “the end of all flesh has come before me…” (vs. 13).
This wasn’t intended of course. It’s perfectly clear that we were made to fellowship with His Spirit, even if He would strive for us for a time. However, In God’s view, men rejected following God’s spirit and instead chased flesh. Men lost sight of being “sons of God” to the point of just becoming your average bag of flesh:
“Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart.” (Genesis 6:5-6)
This is not an account of fallen angels, this is an account of fallen men! This was a time when Yahweh looked at the earth and no longer found any “sons”… except for one.
Interestingly enough, whereas the above Scripture says “Yahweh was sorry” that verb is actually yinachem – the same root bearing Noah’s real name “Noach”, who “was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time. Noah walked with God.” (vs. 9)
I believe the reason Noah abstained from bearing children was because he looked at the world in the same way Yahweh saw it – with much grief. I believe Noah walked with God so closely that he was also nachem (sorry) that God made man, and didn’t see any reason to bring a child into the world. In fact, I don’t think Noah even considered fatherhood until God’s Spirit marked out a remaining 120 years, and gave Noah a vision about entering the ark with sons of his own (cf. Gen. 6:18). When Noah saw these things, I believe Noah adjusted his life to the will of the Spirit – and is this not what every righteous man aspires to be? To be such a man who adjusts his life to the will of the One True God?
In short, Noah was being a son amidst a great deal of flesh.
If any man is not a son of God, he is just a walking bag of bones. Noah’s life exemplifies how we all must have our walk with the Almighty – even if the whole world falls away. ◊