Table of contents
Pre History - After the fall
Cain and Abel
After the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, they began to bear children, sons and daughters (cf. Gen. 5:4). They called their first son Cain and the second Abel. Cain was a worker of the soil and Abel shepherded flocks. Once, they brought offerings to God: Cain of the fruits of the earth, but Abel of the best beast of the flock.
Abel had a kind and meek nature; he brought his offering from a pure heart, with love and faith in the promised Saviour, with prayer for mercy and hope in the mercy of God; God accepted the sacrifice of Abel and its smoke rose into Heaven. Cain was cruel and evil. He offered his sacrifice only out of habit, without love and fear of God. The Lord did not accept his sacrifice, for the smoke from his sacrifice only spread along the earth.
After this, Cain became jealous of his brother. He called his brother out into the field and killed him. God spoke to Cain to make him repent, asking him, "Where is Abel, thy brother?"
Cain brazenly answered, "I know not; am I my brother’s keeper?"
Then God said to him, "What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground. And now thou art cursed from the earth...a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be."
Cain, tormented by his conscience, ran with his wife from his parents into another land.
Human life is the gift of God; therefore, man does not have the right to deprive himself of it or to take another man’s life. Taking the life of one’s neighbor is called murder, and the taking of one’s own life is called suicide which is the most terrible sin. Only in the case of the insane is the sin of suicide sometimes pardoned.
In place of the murdered Abel, God granted Adam and Eve a third son, the pious Seth, and then there were many other children. Adam and Eve lived for a long time on the earth. Adam lived 930 years. They endured many sufferings and anguish, and in their hearts they repented of their sin and firmly believed in the promised Saviour. This faith saved them and now they are numbered among the Holy Forefathers.
Note: See Genesis, chaps. 4:1-16, 25; 5:3-5.
The human race began to multiply very rapidly from the children of Adam and Eve. At that time people lived for a very long time, up to nine hundred years or more.
From Seth there came forth pious and good people, "sons of God," but from Cain, wicked and evil people, "sons of men," At first, the offspring of Seth lived separately from the offspring of Cain. They preserved faith in God and the coming Saviour. Later however, they began to take for themselves wives from the daughters of the offspring of Cain, and through them, began to adopt bad habits, to be corrupted, and to forget the true God.
After a considerable time, the wickedness of men was so great that, of all the people on earth, only one of the offspring of Seth remained faithful to God, the righteous Noah and his family.
Beholding the great corruption of mankind, the merciful Lord gave them 120 years for repentance and correction. But men not only did not correct themselves, they became even worse.
Then the Lord decided to cleanse the earth of the evil human race with water, but to preserve the righteous Noah and his family on the earth to continue the human race.
God said to Noah, "The end has come for all creatures, for the earth has been filled by them with evil works; and I shall obliterate them from the face of the earth. I shall bring upon the earth a flood of water to destroy all that is upon the earth" (Cf. Gen. 6:13-17). He commanded Noah to build an ark, a huge, rectangular vessel like a house, in which there would be room for his family and animals, and He gave him the precise measurements and directions for this. Noah accepted God’s commandment with faith and began to build the ark.
When the ark was ready, Noah, at the command of God, entered into it with his wife, his three sons and their wives, and at God’s direction, took with him all the animals and birds which could not live in the water: of the clean ones, that is, the ones which could be offered in sacrifice, seven pairs, and of the unclean ones, one pair, in order to preserve their kind upon the earth. He also took a reserve of food for them all for an entire year.
On that day when Noah entered into the ark, the waters of the flood gushed upon the earth, and "all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened" (Gen. 7:11). There came about a mighty flood from the seas and oceans and from heaven rain poured down upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. The water rose over the earth higher than the highest mountains; it prevailed for 150 days and drowned all men and animals except the ones that were on the ark.
After 150 days the water began slowly to recede. In the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (in present day Turkey). On the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains appeared. After one year came to an end, the water receded into its proper place.
Noah opened a window in the ark and released a raven, in order to learn whether or not the water had receded from the earth, but the raven flew out and returned to the protection of the ark.
Then Noah released a dove which, when it had flown away, could not find a place to live, because the water was still over the heights of the entire earth, and it returned to the ark. After seven days, Noah again released the dove from the ark. This time the dove returned in the evening and brought a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Noah understood that the water had receded from the earth and that plants had appeared upon it. After waiting another seven days, Noah again released the dove, and this time it did not return to him. He opened the roof of the ark and beheld that the earth had dried.
Then, at the command of God, Noah went forth from the ark with all his family, and released all the animals that were with him.
Noah erected an altar, a place for offering sacrifices, and he offered for his salvation a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God from all the clean animals and birds. God mercifully accepted the sacrifice of Noah, blessed him and his sons, and promised that there would never again be such a flood to destroy all life on earth for the sins of men, that is, there would never again be a world-wide flood. As a sign of this promise, the Lord showed a rainbow in the clouds, which from that time has served as a faithful reminder to men of this promise of God.
Note: See Genesis, chaps. 4:17-24; 5; 6:1-22; 7; 8; 9:1-17.
The Life of Noah and His Children After the Flood
The sons of Noah who emerged with him from the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Noah began to work the earth and planted a vineyard. When he had made wine of the juice of the vine and had drunk it, he became intoxicated because he did not know as yet the strength of wine, and taking his clothes off, he lay naked in his tent. His son Ham, the father of Canaan, saw this. He acted without proper respect for his father and told his brothers about this. Shem and Japheth, however, took clothing, and came up to their father in such a way as not to see his nakedness and covered him. When Noah woke up and learned about the action of the youngest son, Ham, he condemned and cursed him in the person of his son Canaan, and said that his offspring would be in slavery to the offspring of his brothers. But Shem and Japheth he blessed and prophesied that the true faith would be preserved in the offspring of Shem, and the offspring of Japheth would spread across the earth and accept the true faith from the offspring of Shem.
Noah lived for 950 years. He was the last to live to such an advanced age. After him, the strength of the human race began to decline, and people could live for only 400 years. But even with this length of life, the population increased.
All that Noah foretold his sons was fulfilled precisely. The offspring of Shem are called the Semites, to whom there belong firstly the Hebrew people, with whom faith in the true God was preserved. The offspring of Japheth are called Japhethites, to whom there belong the peoples that populated Europe and Asia, who accepted faith in the true God from the Hebrews. The offspring of Ham are called Hamites. The Canaanite tribes which originally inhabited Palestine, and were later subjugated by the offspring of Shem and Japheth, belong to them.
Note: See Genesis, chaps. 9:18-39; 10.
The Building of the Tower of Babel and the Scattering of Peoples
For a long time, the increasing offspring of Noah lived together in one land, not far from the Ararat mountains, and spoke one common language.
When the human race became numerous, evil deeds and conflicts between people began to multiply, and they saw that they would soon have to scatter across the entire earth. Before they separated, however, the offspring of Ham, together with others whom they attracted, decided to build a city and in the city a tower in the form of a pillar, reaching to Heaven, in order to be glorified, and not be in subjugation to the offspring of Shem and Japheth, as Noah had prophesied. They made bricks and set to work.
This proud project of the people was not pleasing to God. So that evil would not completely destroy them, since evil could be quickly spread due to a common language, the Lord changed the language of the builders so that they began to speak in different languages and could no longer understand one another. Then men were forced to abandon the work they had undertaken and scatter across the earth into various lands. The offspring of Japheth went to the west and settled in Europe. The offspring of Shem remained in Asia. The offspring of Ham went to Africa, but a part of them also remained in Asia.
The unfinished city was called Babylon, which means confusion. This whole land where this city was located was later to be called Babylonia, and also Chaldea.
Scattering across the earth, people began to forget their ancestry and began to make up separate, independent peoples and nations with their own customs and language.
The Lord saw that people learned more evil from one another than good, and for this reason He brought about the confusion of the languages and divided people into separate nations and gave each nation a separate goal and purpose in life.
Note: See Genesis, chap. 11.
The Appearance of Idolatry
When people were scattered across the entire earth, they began to forget the invisible true God, the Creator of the world. The principal reason for this was that the sins which separate people from God clouded their reason.
There were fewer and fewer righteous men, and there was no one to teach men true faith in God. There appeared among men false faith, superstition. People saw about them much that was marvelous and unintelligible, and in place of God they began to worship the sun, moon, stars, fire, water and various animals, to make images of them, to worship them, to offer sacrifice and build them temples or shrines. Such images of false gods are called idols, and the people who worship them are called idolaters or pagans. This is how idolatry began to appear on the earth.
Soon almost all men were pagans. Only in Asia, in the offspring of Shem was there a righteous man whose name was Abraham, who remained faithful to God.