Noah, Pulling Weeds, and the
“One Who Shall Bring Us Relief”

When I was a kid, my dad used to make my sister and I pull weeds.

We didn’t live in the country, and the combined size of our yard plus garden couldn’t have been more than 500 square feet, but…

I hated it. 

Contrary to popular wisdom, there are actually a number of wrong ways to pull a weed. My sister and I were disabused of all of them.

You see...

Some families use chemicals, but you can’t always count on science doing its job, so (for us) that was out.

Some families use their hands, but grabbing a weed by the base and just yanking means you risk leaving behind the root, so again… no luck.

Some families get those hip-height tools that you step on releasing a claw into the ground and pulling up a chunk of soil. I never understood the flaw in that method, except that maybe this disturbed the surrounding greenery more than was desired.

Not us.

We were surgeons. 

The only right way to pull a weed is to take the intruder by the base, carefully dig out the infected area with a 6” hand-held weeder (see above), and then exhume the malignancy in its totality: bloom, leaf, stem, and root.

(On a side note, the laziest way is to scour the yard for yellow blooms and just pluck the heads. To this day, I still get an uneasy feeling when I see a dandelion going to seed unattended.)

All this to say…

“I feel you, Noah’s dad… I feel you.” 

In the wake of the fall, fratricide, and the mounting, cosmic fall out, Genesis 5:28-29 introduces the first hint of hope… a son named Noah:
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 
This “one” who “shall bring us relief” is a reference to Genesis 3:15—sometimes called the protoevangelium (that is, the “first gospel”)—where God curses the serpent and promises:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,  
and between your offspring and her offspring;  
he shall bruise your head, 
and you shall bruise his heel. 
Two families are thereafter created: the family of the serpent (recorded in Genesis 4) and the family of the woman (recorded in Genesis 5). Noah and his father’s declaration are the first culmination of this promised deliverer.

So, what’s the connection between the ground, the curse, and the relief?

The ESV’s rendering “out of the ground” make it possible to interpret the phrase as referring to Noah’s own origin: as in, Noah is the one “out of” the cursed ground who will bring relief.

A quick comparison of other translations, however, clears up this misunderstanding. The point is not that Noah himself is “out of” the ground, but rather that Noah will bring relief from the ground—the “work” and “toil”—“caused by” (NIV) and “arising from” (NASB) God’s curse.

As John Goldingay explains,
Noah is a sign of hope … . 
Noah is the first person since Seth on whose name there is a comment. It resembles the word for “rest,” though oddly the comment refers to a different word that is less similar, the word for
“relief.” … 
If we have forgotten what God said life would be like east of Eden, Lamech reminds us. 
Work is hard … . Work is painful … . [And Lamech] longs for relief. (Genesis for Everyone: Part One, 89) 
How does Noah bring “relief”?

That is a good question.

For anyone familiar with the story, you know that things are about to get worse—“cataclysmically worse”—before they get better.

Building from this seed of hope, Noah’s own story is one of rescue from wrath; salvation through judgment.

The story makes plain that there are consequences to sin—drastic, world-wide consequences whose scope and intensity often seem disproportionate.

And yet for Noah, who finds “favor” (or “grace”) in the “eyes of the Lord,” there is deliverance.

Moreover, as we’ll see in the following chapters, there is also rebirth and renewal: the creational promises from Genesis 1 and 2 are reinitiated in Genesis 8.

In the end, however, drunk and naked, Noah was not the “one.”

To whom, then, does Noah point?

Noah points to another “one,” a coming “one.” One who took upon himself not only “our work” and “the painful toil of our hands,” but the full measure of the Lord’s curse.

One who invites:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30) 
(Of course, I’m still gonna make my daughters pull weeds.)

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