Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch As Narrative Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Chapter 1, “Genesis” pp. 81-240.
Part 1C, “The Story of Noah (5:1-9:29)” pp. 116-130.
Genesis 5 begins a new segment, marked by the genealogy. In chapters 5-9 we focus on men from Adam to Noah. “Scholars often take the genealogical lists to be mere interludes in the course of events being described in the narratives. A close reading of the text, however, suggests that the author has something more specific in mind” (Sailhamer 1992, 116). Sailhamer explores some of these possible purposes. First, we see that there is a clear relationship of father to son, with God being the father of all (Sailhamer 1992, 117). God’s blessing is passed through successive generations. There is a great promise, according to Sailhamer. “In Enoch the author is able to show that the pronouncement of death is not the last word that need be said about a person’s life. One can find life if one ‘walks with God.’ For the author, then, a door is left open for a return to the Tree of Life in the Garden” (Sailhamer 1992, 118). “To ‘walk with God’ is to fulfill one’s covenant obligations” (Sailhamer 1992, 119).
Sailhamer points out that the Flood narrative is almost a parenthetical interruption in the genealogy, though it is quite long. We see at the end of the flood narrative that although Noah walked with God he also died.
No commentary on Genesis is complete without a note on 6:1-4. Who are the “sons of God”? Sailhamer cites commentaries suggesting angels, royalty, and people from the line of Seth. All those understand these relationships as causing the flood. If the passage is read “as a summary of the preceding chapter, this little patch of narrative is a reminder that the sons and daughters of Adam had greatly increased in number, had married, and had continued to have children” (Sailhamer 1992, 121). It is then a picture of normalcy.
As regards the statement of man’s years being 120, Sailhamer considers this a show that God is the one who defines human limits. By the end of the Pentateuch we do see men living only about 120 years.
The Flood narrative has its own internal structure. At the outset the perspective is divine. During the time of the flood we almost lose sight of God. Afterward, God becomes visible again (Sailhamer 1992, 123). Sailhamer again sees the theme of God taking the land away from disobedient people. “It seems clear from the way the author begins the account that the main purpose of the story of the Flood is not to show why God sent a flood but rather to show why God saved Noah . . . he ‘walked with God’” (Sailhamer 1992, 124). In the building of the ark, as in creation and building the tabernacle, God makes a command, the work is done according to his pattern, and it is good (Sailhamer 1992, 125). The clean animals are available for offerings and foreshadow Levitical laws. Sailhamer does suggest (Sailhamer 1992, 126) that Noah ate “clean” meat on the ark. We see during the flood itself that the perspective looks only at those on the ark, never at those who died in the flood.
After the flood Sailhamer observes (Sailhamer 1992, 126-127) that there are often periods of waiting for God’s deliverance in the Pentateuch. The deliverance is accompanied with a covenant (Sailhamer 1992, 128). Noah’s reception of the covenant is shown in presentation of an offering on the altar. The covenant with Noah and the covenant at Sinai are similar. Gd ties his blessing to his original promises. Again, in the narrative of Noah’s drunkenness we see a relation to earlier patterns with fruit, nakedness, guilt, and punishment.