"For just as the days of Noah were, in the same way will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away.... Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot - they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all - so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed" (Matt. 24:38-9; Luke 17:28-30).
What were these "days of Noah" like? What can we say about dor Ha-Mabul, the "Generation of the Flood"? Yeshua told us that this generation was asleep, blind, unaware (ἔγνωσαν, "agnostic"). For ten consecutive generations -- from the creation of Adam until the generation of Noah -- people progressively became more and more ignorant of spiritual reality and truth. Eating and drinking, romantic intrigue and marriage, buying and selling, and other worldly affairs were the preoccupations of the day. People lived lives in abysmal ignorance of the spiritual reality around them. They "forgot" who God was, who they were, why they existed, and where they were going. In short, they were "unaware."
Spiritual blindness eventually leads to corruption and outright violence. Of Noah's generation it was written that "the whole earth was corrupt before God, and filled with violence" (Gen. 6:11). Rashi understood the word "corruption" (shachat) to mean sexual immorality (i.e., idolatry) and "violence" (chamas) to mean robbery. In general, however, the sages regarded the word chamas to refer to lawlessness, that is the denial of Torah, and consequently the benighted condition of living without yirat ha-shamayim (awe of heaven). When people are spiritually dead, they are unconscious of the wonder of God; oblivious to what is real; and they are consequently debased into animals...
One rabbinic tradition says that chamas (lawlessness) was revealed in the theft of trivial amounts. A Midrash (Genesis Rabbah) says that a person would walk into the market with a basket full of beans and leave with none. Each passerby would take just a few, knowing that the owner couldn't prosecute for such a small amount. It was not the "big sins" committed against heaven that brought down God's wrath (as it was later in the destruction of the Tower of Babel), but in the seemingly trivial lawless acts committed bein Adam L'chavero ("between man and his fellow man"). In Tractate Sanhedrin (108) it is written, "during the era of the flood, they transgressed every sin in the world but their fate was not sealed until they stretched out their hands in thievery."
Some of the sages think that God's judgment came in stages. The Great Flood was preceded by four successive generations of prophets that warned of the coming cataclysmic judgment: Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and finally Noah. It is fascinating to understand that Adam himself was alive when Noah's grandfather Methuselah was born, so the original message of teshuvah (repentance) was an echo that came from Eden itself; moreover, consider that Abraham personally knew Noah (Abraham was 58 years old when he died), and undoubtedly Noah told him of his father Lamech, who had seen and spoken with Adam who was created by God alone. Later, Abraham's son Isaac personally knew Shem, Noah's firstborn son, and the legacy of the "gospel of the garden" was thereby passed on...
The first stage was the abandonment of the inherent dignity of others as people created in the image and likeness of God. This negation of the divine characteristics of people led to sexual promiscuity that became rampant upon the earth: "The sons of God saw the daughters of man that they were fair, and they took for themselves wives, whomsoever they chose" (one midrash claims that the Dor HaMabul, the generation of the flood, would regularly exchange marital partners). God then gave mankind 120 years to repent from his sexual corruption or be faced with apocalyptic destruction (Gen. 6:3). Despite Noah's 120 year public building project and the preaching of his grandfather Methuselah, God's patience finally ran out (1 Pet. 3:20). God then "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" (Gen. 6:5). Mankind refused to repent and turn to God....
There is a tragic progression at work here. The practice of "casual" acts of lawlessness eventually led to the acceptance and practice of sexual promiscuity. This, in turn, resulted in the loss of mankind's sanctity (kedushah), since this comes from man's ability to subordinate his instinctual/emotional desires to his intellectual/spiritual life. Genuine sanctity refuses to exploit others as means to an end. Disregarding this truth cheapens and impairs the sense of self, causing disintegration of the spiritual life. As humanity became more and more fractured and stupefied, God's "like for like" judgment resulted in "giving them over" (paradidomi) to the lusts of their hearts (Rom. 1:26). (In our culture of unbridled pornographic expression and sexual immorality, we mirror such an antediluvian world view. Indeed, it is a mark of our age to be enamored with "degrading passions," with gender confusion and regularly practiced idolatry (i.e., fornication, adultery, homosexual relationships, and so on)). The final verdict of this practiced chamas (lawlessness) was the bestowal of a "depraved mind" (αδοκιμον νουν), a condition of being unable to reason properly at all. Since truth is essentially grounded in a sense of value, and value is a function of conscience, a depraved mind is literally insane from a spiritual perspective... People who are devoid of conscience are unable to reason along the lines of ethical truth at all. This promoted a cultural collusion to suppress the truth, to silence the truth-tellers, to kill the prophets, and to gag advocates for justice. Lawlessness squelches the inward voice of right and wrong within the human heart.
Our culture today is surely as "the days of Noah." It is a culture rife with violence, madness, and untold depravity. And yet it is perhaps best exemplified by chamas -- the theft of trivial amounts. As we pilfer and filch, making compromises with the duty to pursue justice and practice the truth, we become progressively deadened, insensate, and devoid of conscience. We deny that each of us is created be'tzelem Elohim and thereby degrade our own humanity.
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." - Yeshua (Matthew. 7:24-27)
May the LORD Yeshua help us to take refuge in Him.