The Land Promise To Noah

This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).

In the previous post in this series we took a look at Creation, the Cultural Mandate, and the land promise contained within. God blessed Adam, charging him with multiplying and filling the earth, subduing it, and having dominion over it and all of creation. Therefore, the land promise to Adam was that he would be an heir of the whole world. That was his inheritance. We also saw that there was a spiritual aspect to this promise. Adam was the high priest of Eden and the purpose of his calling was to fill the earth with God's glory. The promise was inaugurated as spiritual but would be fulfilled in the physical. However, we saw that Adam failed in his calling. When Adam sinned he could no longer effectively complete the Cultural Mandate. That left us with some questions. Did God then withdraw the land promises? Does the mandate even exist anymore? Let's continue with history to see what happened, looking next to Noah.


In God's interaction with Noah, we find out that the Cultural Mandate does indeed still exist. The flood story is a story of un-creation and re-creation - a restart, or “reboot”, if you will (Reed Dunn briefly describes it here). Once the flood waters recede, God makes a covenant with Noah, reiterating to Noah the same desire he expressed to Adam and using some of the exact same language.

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth....And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.” (Gen. 9:1,7)

In this sense, Noah is another Adam. Like Adam, Noah was commanded to be fruitful and multiply throughout the whole earth. God was confirming that Noah and his descendants' inheritance would be all of the earth. What is interesting here is that even though the perfect and final physical fulfillment of expanding Eden's borders, and God's presence, to every square inch of the whole earth was not possible for Noah, God still gave Noah the spiritual promises and direction of the Cultural Mandate. Unlike pre-fall Adam, Noah and his family were now sinful, so how could this be accomplished? If Noah couldn't ultimately fulfill it, then why would God still call him to do it? There are likely several reasons, but I think the primary one is faith that glorifies God. God called Noah to have faith in him, that one day God would not only provide a way to fulfill this commission, but that God would actually accomplish it as well. Through God's sovereign purposes, Noah would reflect God and be an actor in the process of God's redemptive and restorative plan. God used Noah as his means to work toward his end and Noah responded to God's call by faith (Hebrews 11:7). In other words, even though Noah couldn't be in the actual presence of God, Noah could still reflect and propagate God's glory, but he could only do so because of the faith that God gave him. It was because of faith in God and his promises that Noah could continue in the fulfillment of God's commission.


Unfortunately, Noah was still a sinner and we see that Noah's faith did not carry on to all his descendants, leading to another great failure of man. In Genesis 11, people came together to build a tower at Babel declaring a two-fold intent: to make a name for themselves and to keep from being dispersed over the earth (Gen. 11:4). Both of these purposes are in direct contradiction to the commission given to Noah. First, in desiring to make a name for themselves, they became idolaters just like Adam. Their desire was for their own glory and not God's. Second, instead of filling the whole earth as God desired, they rebelled and wanted to stay together. Some commentators believe that the people of Babel didn't want to be spread over the earth out of a fear for their physical safety. At that time, there was great safety in grouping together and living within large city walls, outside of which there is chaos, danger, and death. Whether this is the case or not, the people of Babel clearly did not have faith in God or desire to obey his commands. Because of this, God forced them to spread over the earth, confusing their language so they could not gather back together against his will.

God promised Noah and his descendants the whole earth, but instead the self-centered people of Babel desired only a small portion of the earth that they could safely hole up in and call their very own. They limited themselves by building a city (likely with large city walls), declaring borders around the land, and confining themselves to those borders. They had no desire to fulfill God's commission and spread God's glory.

Pattern of Judgment

We can start to see a pattern emerging. In Beale's A New Testament Biblical Theology, he identifies this pattern as “(1) cosmic chaos followed by (2) new creation, (3) commission of kingship for divine glory, (4) sinful fall, and (5) exile.”

Adam fits the pattern:

  1. the chaos of earth and water,
  2. creation,
  3. God gives Adam the Cultural Mandate,
  4. Adam sins, and
  5. judgment and Adam's exile from Eden.

And for Noah:

  1. the chaos of earth and water in the flood,
  2. another creation,
  3. God's covenant with Noah reiterating Adam's commission,
  4. the sin of Noah and his descendants, and
  5. judgment and exile throughout the earth at Babel.

The land promise is tied up in this pattern as well. The land promise is given in the commission of kingship for divine glory, but then sin occurs and an exile from the land is required. We will continue to follow this pattern through the next few series posts covering the passing on of God's commission in creation to the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and to the nation of Israel. We will see plenty of similarities to Adam and Noah's calling, but we will also investigate some differences.

This post is part of the the biblical promise of land series (click to view the other posts in this series).