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« Abraham | Main | The Redemptive Relationship »

Three Men 

Before God’s covenant with Abraham, three men quantify the relationship between God and man: Enoch, Noah and Nimrod.  Each relationship showcases an aspect of the human interaction with God that remains true to this day.  Enoch’s relationship with God illustrates the divine desire for companionship.  Noah reveals God’s capacity for grace, and Nimrod indicates that there are parameters placed around the grace of God.  The features of these relationships can be seen as principles that determine God’s dealings with mankind. 


One of the most enigmatic figures of the Bible, Enoch, escaped death.  Of this, the Genesis account mentions that “Enoch walked with God, and was not, because God took him.”  (Genesis 5:24).  Hebrews 11:5 records that Enoch did not die because he pleased God.  Theologically, the fact that this was an ascension, or some sort of rapture, poses questions that scholars have debated for millennia.  How did this happen?  Where did Enoch go?  Is he with Moses and Elijah?  (Matthew 17:3) Was there a rapture before the rapture?  But, speculation about this endgame is immaterial to Enoch’s journey to that point.  The greater and more practical issue concerns the close relationship between God and Enoch.  The Amplified Bible further defines the phrase “walked with God,” as “habitual fellowship.”  This reveals something fascinating about the nature of God.  Enoch must have found a chemistry with the divine essence, a precious connection that captured God’s sustained attention, an inroad into—can we use the term “psyche” of God?—that culminated in sparing Enoch the indignity of death.  Rather than splitting hairs over the physiology of Enoch’s translation, we would be better served to contemplate the propensity of God to even want human companionship on this level.   


Noah’s unique character stands in stark contrast from his evil generation.  Genesis 6:8 says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”  Moreover, the Bible specifically depicts him as a just and a perfect man.  Like Enoch, he also walked with God, but God did not translate him—He had other plans for Noah.  We know the ark builder as the legendary figure who became the means by which the human race and all species of animals survived the worldwide flood.  While this purpose undoubtedly factored into his special relationship with God, his designation as a recipient of the grace of God occurred before his commission to build the ark.  Not to be argumentative, but if we were to debate which came first, the grace or the commission, we would have to say that grace preempted the ark. 

While it would appear that Adam and Eve also were beneficiaries of God’s grace, the literal word “grace” did not appear in Scripture until Noah.  The phrase, “found grace” is commonly used throughout both the Old and New Testaments, but parsing it is still a worthwhile endeavor.  Another way to translate the verbal phrase in the Hebrew is “acquired grace.”  We may rightly deduce that grace was already an attribute of God’s character, but Noah acquired it where all others did not.  If we were to say that he acquired grace by means of his righteous life, however, it would invalidate the very definition of grace as “unmerited favor.”  Noah’s character, therefore, could not have obtained grace through his own merits. 

The question, then, is why did Noah find grace if he didn’t or couldn’t do anything to earn it?  Here is where we must read between the lines: grace is more a gift of God than it is a procurement of man.  Dispensing of grace remains the sole decision of a sovereign God who can give or withhold it at will.  Yet, we circle back to the question of Noah.  Why did Noah receive grace when it was apparently denied to everyone else on the planet?  The answer must be that there was something in the desire of Noah for God, the sensitivity he possessed for God and the insight into the nature of God that he must have demonstrated.  This desire, sensitivity and insight were not the merits of his behavior but the attitude of his heart.  Again, this tells us as much about the nature of God as it does the character of Noah.  This great God, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy and righteous though He was, possessed a very different side to His deity, attributes that seem incongruous to a divine personage.  Tough, but tender; great, but gracious; foreboding, but forgiving.  

In a practical sense, it is critical that we understand that the grace of God defines His character as much as any other attribute we may use to describe Him.  It is His grace alone that held Him back from unleashing raw and total destruction upon us all.  If we fail to understand this, then we fail to embrace the breadth, width and depth of salvation.  If we fail, we misunderstand Bethlehem, we disrespect Calvary and we show contempt for the resurrection Christ from the grave.  This is the narrow isthmus over which we pass to eternal life.


A shadowy figure briefly emerges from the blur of colonization and city-building between the global flood and the appearance of Abraham.  Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, merits only the mention of a “mighty hunter” and, possibly, the founder of several kingdoms, of which Babylon was most notable.  Historians treat him as more of a legend than a real person, and some believe that his character is the composite of rulers whose reputations exceeded their actual persons. 

We should be wary of marginalizing a man, however, for whom God carved out a place the scriptures.  Clues to his influence exist that help us understand the challenge of our relationship with God.  The first clue is not what was said about him, but what is omitted from his biographical sketch.  Nothing is said of his walk with the Lord.  There is no mention of grace.  Had Nimrod been shaped in the mold of Enoch or Noah, those features would have been pronounced.  This is highly significant.  I once attended a funeral for a great lady who was known for a number of accomplishments, but none of those feats were highlighted in her memorial.  Instead, the greatest emphasis was placed on her relationship with Jesus.  She exemplified Christianity.  Nimrod exemplified his present world.

It is clear, then, that Nimrod reveled in his reputation as an illustrious sportsman, a man who received his greatest gratification through the work of his own skillful hands.  This speaks to his hubris and his exalted opinion of his prowess in the fields, probably the first in the field of other hunters of the day.   With regard to his hunting expertise, Matthew Henry posits that Nimrod used that as a ploy to assemble other hunter/warrior types to exert power over rivals and thereby establish his own kingdom.  He may have rid the land of its wild beast infestation, but he was also driven by ambition and a desire to conquer territory.  Without a rightful claim to a kingdom, he resorted to cunning and raw power on his path to hegemony.  Babylon, with its reputation for paganism, sensuality and witchcraft was undoubtedly an extension of Nimrod’s wicked heart. 

Nimrod should be held up as the antithesis of righteousness.  He did not, nor could he have had a relationship with God because of the condition of his heart.  As David wrote years later, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  Psalm 66:18. God has standards, guidelines and expectations of anyone who intends to draw near to God.  If we dismiss Biblical morality as immaterial to a close relationship with God, we completely misunderstand the nature of God.  And, lest someone protest this contention by reminding us that we are not perfect, I refer him or her to a pithy statement made by a country preacher many years ago.  “We may not be perfect, but our standard is not imperfection!”

As to sin, the final barrier that separates God from man, it would appear that animal sacrifices provided atonement, although that purpose was not articulated in Genesis.  The purpose of the sacrificial offerings of that era were worship and thanksgiving.  In terms of typology, however, we can discern the shedding of blood for the remission of sins.  Without blood, there is no remission: without remission, there is no relationship.  (Hebrews 9:22). There were a few more folds that needed to come unwrapped before the fullness of the redemption plan would be complete. Before that happened, God dealt with sin in a reckoning dimension, clearing the way for Him to emphasize His desire for relationship.

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