Question: 
How can a local flood make sense of God’s prohibition of murder? If the flood only impacted a portion of planet Earth, physically, how could the terms of the covenant regarding murder be applied universally for all men? Genesis 9:6 says “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” A local flood interpretation implies a local covenant with local laws against murder that wouldn’t apply beyond Noah’s “earth.” If the spiritual lessons are universal, then the flood must have been universal, too.
 
Answer: 
 

The first thing to point out is that murder was wrong before the flood took place. Genesis 6:11 connects the wickedness of the people with violence by saying, “Now the earth [erets] was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.” The violence of the land implies murder. We suggest that the people of the account (the covenant line of Seth) were aware of the record of Cain and Abel, a story which explicitly condemns violent murder. Cain’s fear and Lamech’s boast earlier in Genesis implies that the people referenced in Genesis knew those who committed murder deserved death at the hand of man. The prohibition against murder was a reiteration of God’s righteous standard of which they were aware since the days of Cain and Abel.

If the law against murder was given “new” in the Noahic covenant, then how could God judge that world by a flood? Would God destroy these people if they were completely ignorant of God’s standard of righteousness? How could they be guilty without law?

This objection misses the biblical pattern of how God works in redemptive history. The pattern we see throughout Scripture is that God introduces his universal righteous standard to his covenant people within their historical setting and context. Though the physical events are local they involve spiritual implications which have universal application.

Consider another time of covenant transition: the exodus. The time of the exodus was filled with physical events from the plagues on Egypt, to the giving of the law at Sinai, to the miracles of the wilderness journey. While these physical events were limited in scope, the spiritual dimensions were universal. From the giving of the law at Sinai until the “last days” of that age, all men everywhere who wished to live in covenant with Jehovah did so in terms of the Mosaic system. Though the events of the exodus were physically limited, the form of that covenant applied universally. God even promised Israel that the wisdom and righteousness of his law would be evident to all the nations who heard about them (Deut. 4:5-8). The spiritual influence of the Law went far beyond the physical locality of events during the exodus.

The same pattern applies to the covenant transition witnessed in the New Testament. The ministry of Christ, death, burial, resurrection, and coming to destroy Judea and Jerusalem in ad 70 all involved local physical events. At the same time, the covenant change from old to new led to universal spiritual application. After the transition from old to new the only way to relate to Jehovah God in covenant union and communion is through Jesus Christ. The local physical events lead to universal spiritual application. This is a well-established pattern in covenant eschatology:

This judgment would have its physical foci at Jerusalem, but its spiritual scope would be universal. (Don K. Preston, Who is this Babylon?, p. 266.)

 

God always deals with man and accomplishes his plan of salvation within the local historical context of his people. This objection to a local flood is neutralized by a close look at the biblical pattern of all other covenant transitions recorded in Scripture. They ushered in a fuller manifestation of God’s covenant within the context of local events. Why would the flood be any different?


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