The violence in the Old Testament is a problem for many people. They find it hard to respect a god who commands the destruction of woman and children. Many reject the Old Testament, because they cannot reconcile it with the God of love and grace they find in the New Testament, especially in Jesus death on the cross.

I believe this problem arises, because we have misunderstood the message of the Old Testament. This is not helped by misleading translation of some parts of the Hebrew text. We tend to assume that the Old Testament is full of violence, because we have failed to understand what was really happening.

The key to understanding violence in the Old Testament is to understand the nature of authority on earth. God created the earth, so he has authority over it. However, God created humans and gave them authority over the earth. That authority was given without recourse. When Adam and Eve rejected God and obeyed Satan, they surrendered their authority to him by default. This was disastrous for the world, as God could only intervene in the world he had created, if humans gave him permission, and the spiritual powers of evil worked hard to make sure that they never did.

Cross Behaviour

When God created the world, he gave dominion over the earth to humans.

Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion (Gen 1:26).

God gave humans authority over every living thing upon the earth. This was an amazing gift. Creating something wonderful and beautiful and giving authority over it to someone weaker was a risky decision, but this bold act transferred authority over the earth from God to man. The earth became our domain and sphere of control. This is confirmed in Psalm 115:16:

The highest heavens belong to the LORD,
but the earth he has given to man.

God has full control over the spiritual realms. The angels do his bidding without resistance. However, he has given authority over the earth to us.

Giving humans dominion over the earth was a big call, because once dominion and authority are given, they cannot be taken back. God understood the risk, because he said that if they rebelled, "they would be as gods" (Gen 2:5). They would not just have the power to decide good and evil, but would be "gods" controlling a world that had previously been created by God.

The tempter told Adam and Eve that they would be "like gods". This was a lie. They were already like gods. God had made them in his image, which is as much like a god as is possible. By giving them authority over the earth, he made them like gods with the ability to choose whether the world would be good or evil. They were effectively gods of the earth.

Maybe they had not fully understood the freedom and authority that God had given them, so they believed the tempter's lie. They surrendered to this lie, to obtain something that they already had.

God gave humans authority over the earth without recourse, so he could not take it back, if they abused their authority. He could not demand his authority back, even if it was handed to the devil. One reason that Jesus had to come as a man was that authority on earth belongs to humans in perpetuity. Only a human could hold that authority, so if it was lost, only a human could take it back.

God's Cross

Jesus surrendered to the Jewish and Roman authorities and died on the cross. Yahweh did something similar when he created the earth. He gave humans authority over the earth, even though he knew they might abuse it, and then lose it. This was a costly decision, because he could lose control of his earth. He could only intervene if someone with authority invited him. The powers of evil would not, and humans might not.

When God created surrendered authority to humans, he was doing what Jesus would do when he went to the cross. He made himself helpless in the hands of men who had the power to harm him. Giving dominion and authority over the earth to humans made him extremely vulnerable, because they had the freedom to rebel against him. He was committing himself to sustaining the creation, even if his creatures shut him out of it. He gave them freedom to be atheists, while living the life that he created. This was cross behaviour. The Father made himself powerless with the people he had created.

When Jesus died on the cross, he put himself in a powerless situation. He refused to use military or spiritual force to rescue himself but allowed humans to do what they wanted to do with his life. God was doing the same when he gave authority over the earth to humans. He put himself in an extremely powerless situation.

God was so confident in the rescue that Jesus and the Holy Spirit could deliver that he was willing to take this huge risk.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Cor 1:25).

God was confident that he would achieve his purposes, even with one hand tied behind his back.

Although humans were very quickly tricked and surrendered their authority to the spiritual powers of evil, God did not break his agreement. He did not use force to win authority over the earth back. He left it where he had given it. This severely limited his authority to deal with the problems in the world. His choice allowed the powers of evil to wreak terrible evil, not against him, but against his beautiful earth.

God was put in a situation where he did not hold the initiative. The initiative was with the spiritual powers of evil, so God had to react and respond to what they did, and to what humans did. For almost a million years, he was shut out of the earth he had created and remained powerless to intervene.

Authority Lost

When God gave Adam and Eve authority over the earth, he provided an amazing opportunity. He wanted them to work with him to establish something wonderful and beautiful in the world that he had created. Unfortunately, they succumbed to the temptation to be independent of God, before they had even begun to fulfil their calling.


At some point, a third of the angels rebelled against God's authority. Satan led the rebellion and established an alternative kingdom in the spiritual realms under his control. I presume these angels grew tired of serving God and chose to be independent. When Satan made his move, they submitted to his authority and rejected the authority of God.

The Bible does not say whether this rebellion occurred before or after humans were created, but I assume that it happened just before the temptation of Adam and Eve. The rebellion could not have continued long without getting a foothold on earth. The rebelling angels were outnumbered two-to-one in the spiritual realms by angels loyal to God. These good angels could have quickly rounded them up and shut them away from harm for good. That did not happen, because they found a place to operate that was beyond the authority of God. They moved their operations into the world where humans held authority.

The rebel angels were safe on earth, because it was under human authority, and humans were not strong enough to resist them without God's help. God could not get at them without obtaining human permission. Before he could get human consent, the rebels got at Adam and Eve and stole their authority.

The rebellion of the angels destroyed the unity of the spiritual realms. God still controlled them, because two-thirds of the angels stayed loyal to him. However, Satan drew together the angels that had rebelled and squeezed them into an alternative power structure in a corner of the spiritual world.

Authority Lost

Soon after these angels had rebelled against God, the devil came to tempt Adam and Eve. They could still see into the spiritual world, so they saw him when he came. He spoke from the spiritual realms, but he appeared like a snake from a physical perspective.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say... (Gen 3:1).

The suggestion that God had lied shook Adam and Eve and they chose to disobey him and do what they had been forbidden to do.

Adam and Eve rejected God's authority and chose to act independently of God. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents human ability to decide good and evil. They thought they were gaining freedom, but they were really just replacing the authority of God with the authority of the tempter. Sin destroyed their relationship with God, but that was not the only consequence. Their mistake caused a huge shift in authority.

When Adam and Eve submitted to the devil, all the authority that God had given to them passed into his hands (Rom 6:20). To understand why, we need to understand an important principle.

By agreeing with the devil's lies about God, Adam and Eve gave him influence (Gen 3:6). When they submitted to his advice, they gave him authority over their lives. This authority shift placed them under the authority of the powers of evil, which changed everything. They moved from the Kingdom of God to the kingdom of darkness (Col 1:13).

This big shift dramatically altered the authority situation on the earth. God had given authority to humans. The representatives of humanity gave control of their lives to the devil. This gave the forces of evil authority over the earth. From that day forward, humans have only had limited authority on earth, because the spiritual powers of wickedness stole the authority that God had given to them. Satan could boast when he was tempting Jesus.

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to (Luke 4:4-6).

Although he is a liar, especially when boasting, he was close to the truth. He had authority over the kingdoms of the world, because it was given to him by the people he deceived.

This loss of authority explains why sin and evil have been rampant on earth. When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost their spiritual protection. All their descendants were left open to spiritual attack and temptation, so they were unable to resist sin.

Sin entered the world through one man... and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned (Rom 5:12).

Shut Out

Losing authority to the powers of evil created a huge dilemma for God. He had the power to put things right, but he did not have authority to act, because he had given authority on earth to humans. God is trustworthy and faithful, so he does not change his mind or go back on his decisions. He does not say one thing and do another. His promises are irrevocable, so despite humans making a mess of the earth, God could not take authority back and intervene.

After God had sent Adam and Eve out of the garden, a cherubim with a fiery sword began to guard the tree of life.

He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen 3:24).

We assume that God put a guard by the tree of life, but the meaning of this verse is not certain. The word translated "flashing back and forth" is "haphak". The primary meaning of this word is "overturn" or "pervert". Genesis may be saying that "perverted cherubim" had seized control of the tree of life, because God no longer had authority on earth.

The common view is that when Adam and Eve were sent out into the world, God expected them to do what they had failed to do in the Garden of Eden. That was impossible, as they were still on a path leading away from God. Adam lived for nearly a thousand years, but there is no indication in the scriptures that he ever did anything to help God get authority back on earth. God continued to be shut out of the earth.

Place in Heaven

When Adam and Eve sinned, they handed their authority to the forces of evil on the earth, but that is just one side of what happened. The shift in the spiritual realms was more serious, because it gave the devil and his powers a place in heaven. The book of Revelation explains how they lost this place when Jesus ascended into heaven.

He was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven (Rev 12:8).

We sometimes miss the importance of this verse. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, Satan had a place in the spiritual realms. The Greek word translated "place" is topos. It refers to a geographic place. John is saying that Satan had a place in the spiritual realms where he had authority to operate.

Once Satan had persuaded Adam and Eve to disobey God, he played a dirty trick on them. He went into the presence of God, accused them of sinning, and demanded that God punish them. This accusation gave him a place to stand in the spiritual realms. Although he had rebelled against God and persuaded humans to sin, he stepped up to be their accuser before God. He became,

the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night (Rev 12:10).

He would have been kept away from God, but because he could accuse people on earth of sinning, he was able to come into God's presence. Human sin gave him a legal right to be there. Taking the role of accuser gave the devil a place of authority in the spiritual realms where he and his evil angels could operate.

We can see this happening in the life of Job. Satan was able to come into the presence of God

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them (Job 1:6).

He immediately accused Job of selfishness (Job 1:7-11).

Satan and his angels had a place in the spiritual realms, as long as they could accuse humans of sinning. Humans kept on sinning, so their place was secure.

Authority Struggle

The forces of evil are fallen angels with an ability to move between the spiritual and physical dimensions of life. They belong in the spiritual realms, but they can cross over into the physical realm to work evil. Giving them authority on earth was a disaster for the world and everything in it. When they gained control, the curse spread and darkness prevailed.

The spiritual forces of wickedness are always looking for opportunities to promote their own power and position. They are committed to producing chaos and disorder in our world, because they hate the peace and blessing of God.

Unlike the Holy Spirit, the powers of evil can only touch our physical world in one place at one time. This limits what they can achieve, but given enough time, they can do a great deal of harm. Given a thousand years, they can wreak havoc.

Job's life illustrates the way that the powers of evil work on earth. Innocent people often suffer on earth, when the powers of evil have a go at them to prove a point in heaven. When Satan left the presence of God to work his evil on earth, he initiated five events to harm Job.

These events seemed to be natural disasters, so insurance companies would call them "acts of God". However, we know from Job 1 that they were the works of Satan and his spiritual forces. When Job continued to honour God, Satan afflicted Job with boils. A doctor would say that Job had caught an infection, because he was run down with grief, but we know something different was going on. The sickness was a direct attack from the spiritual realms by an angry devil.

Seeing Changed

Before their downfall, Adam and Eve could see into the spiritual world. When they sinned, their sight was changed so that they could no longer see into the spiritual dimensions. Sin placed a dark barrier between them and God.

Losing the ability to see into the spiritual realms was a serious problem, because they could no longer see what God was doing. Worse still, they could not see what the spiritual forces of evil were doing. Fighting an enemy that you cannot see is difficult, so spiritual blindness gave the powers of evil a huge advantage.

Faithful to his Word

When God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the earth, he meant what he said. He was not half-heartedly giving authority, thinking that he could take it back if things turned sour. That would have been dishonest and God does not work like that.

Most Christians do not believe that God has given dominion over the earth to humans. They assume he is sovereign and can intervene whenever he chooses, but this is wrong. God is sovereign, but that does not mean he can do what he likes whenever he chooses. A sovereign God can sovereignly restrain his authority. If he gives his authority to someone else, and chooses not to intervene when things go wrong, he is still sovereign, because that is what he decided to do.

The belief that God controls everything and can intervene whenever he chooses honours his power, but makes him a liar. It implies that when he gave dominion and authority to us, he was just playing games.

We need to adjust our thinking about sovereignty. God gave authority over the earth to humans. There has been some wheeling and dealing with the devil since then, but God has not changed his position. Humans have authority over the earth. That means that God can only act on earth, if we give him permission.

We find this strange, but this is how God has decided it should be. It makes us uneasy, because it gives us responsibility for what happens on the earth. We cannot blame him for the evil that occurs on earth. It also gives greater responsibility to the people who have chosen to serve him, because he is counting on us to give him authority to do what he needs to do.


God created humans and gave them authority over the world. Humans invited the powers of evil into the world, so we are legally responsible for the consequences. Humans love to point the finger and blame God for evil, but we are responsible for letting evil into the world, so we cannot shift the blame back to him. Humans are responsible for every evil that occurs on earth.

The Bible often describes God as a King reigning over the earth.

These passages are a description of the way things were, and the way they should be, not the way they are now. God created the entire creation, so he owns it all and is entitled to sovereignty over it. However, he gave authority over the earth to humans and many people now refuse to acknowledge his sovereignty. The scriptures also look forward to the time when his sovereignty will be restored, so they declare it prophetically as if it is already real.

Christians often speak about God's sovereignty as if he directs events on earth by remote control. That is a mistake, because it would be a breach of his gift of authority to humans and would turn us into puppets. God has the power to control people, but he limits himself to influencing people into freely choosing to do his will. He uses a variety of means to get people who do not want to obey him to do his will.

God never controls people. He accomplishes his purposes by superior wisdom, and the ability of the Holy Spirit to influence people, despite their hostility, and often without their knowledge.

Satan, Death and Wrath

The spiritual powers of evil are controlled by a powerful hierarchy of evil spirits, but they do not like each other. Throughout history, they have jockeyed for control of their hierarchies of power. A spirit called Satan was top dog after he deceived Adam and Eve and stole their authority on earth. During the millennium of evil, the powers of evil were controlled by a spirit called Destroyer (Rev 9:11).

For much of history, the spiritual powers of evil have been controlled by a spirit called Death (Rev 6:8; Psalm 49:14). Another of the more powerful spirits in the evil hierarchy is called Wrath. He is the leader of a band of destroying angels (Rev 12:12; Psalm 78:49). He often works with Death when he attacks the earth. Wrath is not a manifestation of God's character, but an evil spiritual being.

Millennium of Evil

When Adam and Eve sinned, they handed authority over the earth to the spiritual forces of evil. The consequence of this authority shift is that God was shut out of the wonderful world he had created. He could not act on earth, unless a human called out and gave him authority to help.

A big mess needs a big salvation. God had a plan to save the world through Jesus, but he had a lot of patient work to do, before he could bring it to pass. Jesus could not be sent into the world immediately after the fall, because God did not have authority to protect him. The forces of evil would have destroyed Jesus, before his ministry had begun. God had to begin rolling back evil and putting in place a long-term strategy to constrain evil and restore authority to good people.

God had a long-term strategy to restore his creation, but the first few thousand years were a hard struggle. He could not act on earth, unless humans asked for help. He can only act on earth, if humans give him authority, so he needed loyal people and a place to work. He needed humans to give him authority to act on earth God had a plan to restore his influence, but it would take time.

For nearly a thousand years, no one prayed and gave God authority to act on earth. He was shut out of the world that he had created it. From the death of Abel until the next prophet Enoch, no one called out to God. Eve called on God when Cain was born.

She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man (Gen 4:1).

We do not know how long she lived after Seth was born, but this was the last record of her praying to God. It seems that prayer stopped once Cain was born. This lack of prayer was a disaster, because it left God without permission to act on earth.

He still had authority in the spiritual realms, but no authority on earth. This was painful for God, as he was committed to sustaining his creation, but could not get involved on earth without permission from the people living on it. The spiritual powers of evil had a free hand on earth and they got to work to wreak evil.

For more than a millennium, God was shut out of the world that he had created. During this long season, he only received rare opportunities to gain an influence on earth. He used each of these very wisely, but could not make much progress. The season between the fall and the flood was the devil's greatest moment. He had a free hand on earth for more than a millennium.

Genesis does not provide a detailed record of what they did, because God does not want them to get any glory, but with a bit of imagination we can understand the extent of their harm. The Bible minimises this season to a single chapter, but this was the worst time ever for the people living on earth.


Christians try to use the genealogies of Genesis 5 to work out the age of the earth. This misses the point. The chapter is there to describe what life was like in the centuries after authority was lost. It records a long season with no spiritual activity on earth. For nearly a thousand years, God was ignored. No one called on him, because people were too busy doing their own thing. No one invited him to intervene, so he was shut out of his creation.

With no one praying, the Holy Spirit was unable to work on earth. God could not hold back the forces of evil, so he had to leave the people of the earth to their own devices. Under these conditions, evil advanced in a terrible way. This barren period of history begins with the final verse of the previous chapter.

At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD (Gen 4:26).

English translations put a positive spin on these words, but they are misleading. The word translated "began" is "chalal". "Begin" is a secondary meaning. The primary meaning is "pierce" or "profane". A more realistic translation of the verse follows:

Men called out the name of the Lord as a profanity.

The barren period began with men cursing God.

Damaged World

With God squeezed out of his universe, the powers of evil got to work and really messed it up. The fall was not a one-off moment of destruction, but the beginning of a long sequence of evil. The powers of evil had more than a thousand years rampaging through God's beautiful world.

When God had finished his creative activity, everything was good. There were no earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts, tornados, tsunamis, fatal diseases and floods. When humans sinned, the powers of evil were free to attack God's creation. They hate him, so they delighted in finding ways to harm his world. The powers of evil changed the way that the earth functions. Earthquakes, floods, droughts, tsunamis, tornados, volcanoes and other destructive forces appeared on earth for the first time.

Humans like to blame God for natural evil. When people are killed by an earthquake or famine, we like to play the blame game and say, "Why did God allow it". The truth is that God created a good world. He did not create a world where evil events kill people. These things came into the world after the fall. We should not be asking why God allowed them, but why humans allowed the devil to bring these things into his good world.

For the first couple of centuries, very few humans lived on earth, so the forces of evil were able to focus their attacks on plants and animals. They played with genetic material to manipulate species and destroy God's good creation. Animals, insects and plants changed into dangerous forms that had not existed when the world was good. Bacteria and viruses that cause sickness and disease emerged and spread.

Human sin tainted everything. Christians have not fully grasped the impact of this truth. While a few demonic powers were attacking humans, a vast army went to work in the universe creating evil species, wreaking havoc and spoiling the beautiful world that God created.

Evil People

The powers of evil had a free hand to do evil, and people everywhere joined in. They thought about nothing but evil.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time (Gen 6:5).

All human activities were distorted for evil purposes. Evil became so normal that no one thought about God. The possibility of getting him involved on earth did not occur to anyone. By the time of Noah, the entire world was an unmitigated disaster. It was full of corruption and violence.

Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways (Gen 6:11-12).

The Hebrew word for corrupt is "shachath". It is a strong word that means ruined or destroyed. God could see the earth being ruined and destroyed, but he was powerless to prevent it.

Human life was corrupted and full of terrible violence. The earth was being distorted and devastated, because the spiritual forces of evil had authority to do evil on earth. We do not know what they were planning, but if this had gone on for much longer, the earth would have been wrecked and uninhabitable.

Humans had also become morally corrupt.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time (Gen 6:4)

The good people and creatures that God had created were disappearing, but he was powerless to intervene, because no human gave him authority to get involved.

God was worried, because the people he had created to manage the earth were being outnumbered, by the humans modified by the spiritual powers of evil to do evil.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5).


The author of Genesis did not understand genetics, but recorded what happened using the language of the day. It seems that the spiritual powers of evil had learned how to genetically modify humans that came under their control.

The Nephilim were upon the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God went into the daughters of humankind, and they bore children to them (Gen 6:4).

The sons of God are spiritual beings who fell from grace by rebelling against God. They may have had sexual relations with women on earth, but that does not seem to be possible. It is more likely that they modified the DNA of their babies in some way, and the author of Genesis is trying to describe it with his limited vocabulary.

This did not happen just before the flood. It had been going on for a long time.

When humankind began to multiply on the face of the ground, daughters were born to them. Then the sons of God saw the daughters of humankind, that they were beautiful. And they took for themselves wives from all that they chose (Gen 6:1-2).

The spiritual powers of evil got involved with the woman of the earth, as soon as their number increased significantly. Their corruption of human DNA has been going on for several centuries. It affected many of the people living on earth.

The power of evil seems to have interfered with the genetics of some children so that some became giants. By putting a new species on earth that would be loyal to them, and more powerful than the humans, the powers of evil were putting a backup plan in place. If humans ever managed to take back their authority, they could use the giants to control them. This plan failed, because the giants were killed during the flood.

Animals and Plants

The spiritual powers of evil also used their skill to breed new and awful species. They were large, violent and dangerous. Most of the dinosaurs were the result of their creative activity. The Destroyer hoped that they would become so powerful, that they would destroy the people and animals that God had created.

Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence (Gen 6:11).

Nearly every living thing on the earth been corrupted, not just the humans. Every creature was corrupted.

God saw how corrupt the earth was, for every creature had corrupted its way on the earth (Gen 6:12).

The animals were corrupted. This was not moral corruption, because animals are not moral species, so the corruption must have been genetic.

Terrible Season

The millennium of darkness was a terrible season on the earth, but it proves that God is true to his word. He tolerated the evil, because he had given authority over the earth to humans and would not intervene without getting permission from them.

God had given humans authority over his world, but the powers of evil tricked them and stole their authority. They were wrecking his creation, but he was unable to do anything about it, because he did not have authority to intervene in the world.

Many Christians are expecting a time of great evil on earth in the future. They do not realise that the worst time ever has already occurred. God is not going to let things go back to that again. He has a strategy that is moving towards a goal: the restoration of all things.


He was shut out of his creation until some humans invited him to return. No doubt, the Holy Spirit spoke to many people trying to get them to understand, but he was ignored for nearly a thousand years. The first person on earth to respond to the Spirit and pray was Enoch. Towards the end of his life, Enoch began to walk with God. However, the situation on earth was so terrible that a man walking with God was not safe. The forces of evil would see the danger so they stirred up evil men to destroy him. God had to take Enoch out of the world to protect him from evil, but not before he had done what God needed him to do.

Enoch began a line of prophets that culminated in the ministry of Noah (Gen 5:29).

Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him (Gen 5:24).
Before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God (Heb 11:5).

Enoch was the first human prophet on earth since Abel (Luke 11:50-51). Before leaving the earth, Enoch did something pivotal. He spoke to the people and warned them of coming judgment.

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones (Jude 1:14).

He prophesied that God would send thousands and thousands of angels to millions of angels to rescue the earth. This prophecy was crucial, because it gave God permission to intervene on earth, for the first time in a very long time.

Nearly a thousand years had gone by since Adam and Eve rebelled, shutting God out of the earth. The spiritual powers of evil did not want God breaking back in, so they were really annoyed by this prophecy. They would have attacked Enoch vigorously, because he was the first person to betray their cause and turn to God. God had to take him out for his own protection, but his work was done. A simple prophecy was all that God needed. Enoch's words gave God the authority to begin his work on earth to restore it to his original purpose. He still had a long way to go, but he was on the way.

Enoch's prophecy allowed his grandson Lamech to be prophetic too. He prophesied that deliverance would come through his son Noah (Gen 5:29). The prophecies of Enoch and Lamech released God's power and gave him authority to start implementing his strategy for restoring the earth.

The flood was the first serious action by God to restrain the evil rampant on earth. Noah's prayers gave God authority to send a flood and sweep away the evil that had spread through the earth. His prayers also released the holy angels to do God's bidding. They had been absent from the earth for more than a thousand years and the powers of evil had been having a great time without them.

When Enoch and Lamech prophesied, God gained some authority on earth. However, his ability to operate was constrained by the limited authority given to him. The spiritual powers of evil still held the upper hand.

The Flood

God's Dilemma

After a thousand years, Enoch and Lamech gave God permission to intervene on earth to begin cleaning up the mess. However, there were significant constraints limiting his scope for action.

Urgent Situation

God had very little authority on earth. The spiritual powers of evil held most authority on earth, and they were committed to violence and destruction. God hated violence, but in this situation, the only way he could prevent the spiritual powers of evil from totally wrecking his creation was to use violence against them. He did not want to use violence, but they put him in a situation where violence was the only option that he had. Sending the holy angels to use force was the only option that he had for pushing them back.

The situation on earth was so dire, that God had to act, before the earth was fully wrecked. Life on earth was terrible. The spiritual powers of evil had been in control for getting on to a thousand years. They had done terrible evil on earth. They had created many evil creatures. The earth was getting to a point where it would beyond repair, if something did not happen. If God had let it go on a bit longer, the earth would have been totally wrecked and beyond restoration. The powers of evil had been free to do evil for such a long time, so the pressure was on for God to do something.

God could not let it go on any longer, but he was very limited in what he could do. When he got an opportunity to act, he took the only action that he had been given to take. Enoch prophesied that the holy angels would destroy those who supposed God. This destruction was all that the prophecy authorised him to do.

This destruction resulted in many deaths, but they were not innocent. Genesis says that only Noah was innocent. The responsibility for the deaths lies with spiritual powers of evil who created the evil situation, and humans who gave their authority to the powers of evil. Unfortunately, it appears that God caused the destruction and so he gets the blame. That is a cross that he gets to bear.

God hates violence, but he had to use violence against the powers of evil, and the people and creatures they had corrupted on earth. He was so constrained that he had no other way to deal with the serious problem that humans had released on earth. God does not pass the blame. He takes responsibility for what happens on earth, even though he has no control over it.


Noah was born a few years after Enoch prophesied. This was perfect timing, as he was the first step in the fulfilment of Enoch's prophecy. Enoch's grandson Lamech was Noah's father. He carried on the influence of Enoch and prophesied at Noah's birth.

He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labour and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed" (Gen 5:29).

This prophecy seems trivial, but it released Noah into a prophetic ministry. A short prophecy set Noah on track to fulfil his calling.

Enoch's prophecy only authorised God to destroy people who had been "ungodly and defiant". It seems that this covered everyone except Noah and his family.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time (Gen 6:5).

By the time Noah was an adult, the situation on earth was abysmal (Gen 6:11-12). The world that God loved was being ruined by the evil in human hearts. Peter described Noah as a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet 2:5), which is another way of saying that he was a prophet.

Noah and his family were the only righteous people in their generation.

Noah did all that the Lord commanded him (Gen 7:5).
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God (Gen 6:9).

God asked Noah to create an ark. He took his family into the ark. They had been preserved from corruption by the powers of evil, because his family had been excluded from society since the time of Enoch.

Enter the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before Me in this generation (Gen 7:1).

The powers of evil hated Noah, but they would not have understood what was going on, because he was building a boat, miles from the water. People thought he was crazy, so they left him alone too. His family was with him for protection.

God brought two of all species and seven of the edible species into the ark. He selected animals that had not been corrupted by the spiritual powers of evil. They were in the form that God had originally created. When the ark was ready, the rain came.

Breaking up the Deep

The powers of evil did not let the angels back into the world without putting up a fight. A massive spiritual struggle took place before the waters were released. When the spiritual forces of evil realised that they were losing their freedom to control the earth, they struck out spitefully to do as much harm as possible. The earth was beaten around as they vented their anger in destruction.

On that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened (Gen 7:11).

The windows of the spiritual realms were opened up, allowing the angels access to the physical world. Evil angels broke up the fountains of the great deep.

When God sent his angels, the spiritual powers of evil were scared they would be defeated, so they took the opportunity to try and destroy the earth. They caused the flood to bring destruction.

Vast rains were released, but the damage done by the flood was made worse, because the forces of evil went on a destructive rampage. They disrupted the structures of the earth and disturbed the atmosphere to make natural evil far worse. Their changes to the atmosphere made tornadoes and hurricanes normal. Destructive changes to the physical earth made earthquakes and volcanoes common.

Despite this harm, the flood was a massive loss for spiritual powers of evil. Humans had surrendered authority over the face of the earth to them. The powers of evil had authority to be there, so provided they remained in contact with the earth, God could not touch them. If they had attacked the spiritual realms where God dwells, they would have been defeated in a minute. As long as they worked upon the earth, they were safe.

When some of the spiritual powers of evil attacked the "great deep" of the earth, they moved away from the place where they had authority upon the earth. God was able to send the host of angels that Enoch had prophesied, and take them captive and prevent them from working on earth. The angels were able to capture them, because they moved to a place beyond the scope of their authority.

These evil spirits were taken out of action. The New Testament confirms that God shut them away where they could not harm the earth (1 Peter 3:19; 2 Pet 2:4-5). This victory was a massive shift in the balance of power, as it dramatically reduced the number of evil spirits working on earth. The capture of these rebellious spirits was a huge advance for God's strategic plan.

The Abyss

A proportion of the spiritual powers of evil were locked up so they could no longer work on earth (2 Pet 4-5). Peter explained that,

Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison, who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah (1 Pet 3:19-20).

The number of evil spirits working on earth was substantially reduced, but there were still plenty of others with freedom to work on earth. They continued to do evil and oppress the people of the earth.

The legion of evil spirits that controlled the Gadarene man knew about the abyss and understood that spirits were trapped there.

They begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss (Luke 8:31).

They did not want to be trapped in powerlessness. Jesus sent them into the pigs, which ran into the sea. The pigs were drowned, because evil spirits love death. I presume that Jesus could have sent them to the abyss, but chose not to, so people would get a revelation of the power of evil.

When Peter was thinking about the flood, he wrote the following words.

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).

Peter explains two things about the flood.

God only had permission to send his angels. He did not have authority to destroy the earth or destroy evil spirits.

Rainbow Covenant

God used Noah to make put in place another important tool for dealing with evil. It was a promise to prevent evil from getting too strong. This covenant was the first crack in the wall of the defence that the powers of evil had placed around the world. They had shut God out of his creation, and stuffed it up. Noah opened the door a chink, and let God back in.

The covenant that God made with Noah allows him to bring protective judgments on earth, during times of serious evil, without getting permission from a prophet. This allows God to act against evil in a season when there are no prophets.

This rainbow covenant is different from other covenants, because it was not exclusive, but applies to all people and animals on the earth through all time.

Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth (Gen 9:16).

The rainbow reminds us of a covenant with all people forever. The rainbow covenant is unconditional. No conditions are specified for fulfilling the covenant. No consequences were specified for failure to keep the covenant. The covenant with Noah is an unconditional promise to all the people of the earth through all time.

The common understanding is that God was promising not to destroy the earth by another flood. This does not seem very likely anyway, so this view makes the covenant seem irrelevant. We do not see a rainbow and think, "Wow, I am glad that God is keeping his covenant".

Christians assume we have a better covenant and do not need this old one, but we have missed the significance of God's promise. God was not promising there would never be another flood. He was actually promising that he would not need to send another flood, because he would never let conditions get so bad on earth that it needed to be destroyed.

God promised to prevent evil from getting so strong that it has potential to destroy the entire earth. He was able to make this promise, because the covenant with Noah increased God's authority on earth. God had given authority over the earth to man, so he could not intervene on earth without getting permission. The Rainbow Covenant God gave him permission to intervene on earth when evil was getting out of hand.

This covenant was a serious crack in the wall of the defence that the powers of evil had placed around the world. They had shut God out of his creation, and stuffed it up. Noah opened the door a chink, and let God back in.

Noah was the father of all who would live on earth after him, so his covenant binds everyone on earth. Speaking on behalf of his descendants, Noah gave God permission to intervene when evil is rampant. The Covenant of the Rainbow gave God long-term permission to act on earth, if things got really bad. This was not much of a constraint on human authority on earth, because it does not apply most of the time, but it gave a God authority to act on earth, if becomes strong and destructive. This permission still applies several thousand years later.

This was a long-term covenant, because Noah agreed and gave God permission on behalf of his descendants. God still has permission to intervene in the world when evil gets out of hand. This is the promise of the rainbow. It was not much of a constraint on human authority on earth, because it did not apply most of the time, but it gave God authority to act on earth, when things got really bad.

The rainbow covenant was a huge step in the battle against evil. Until the time of Noah, God was shut out of the world and could do nothing to prevent evil from destroying the world. The rainbow covenant did not give God a free hand on earth. Most of the time, it does not apply, because the situation is not bad enough. However, it does give God permission to intervene on earth when evil gets really bad. This is a great improvement over the situation that existed before the Flood.

The Old Testament records a number of situations where God sent a protective judgment to prevent the advance of evil in fulfilment of the rainbow covenant. In each of these situations, a powerful forceful for evil was emerging in the world. If these had been left to grow, they could have produced tremendous evil. God cut them down before they got big enough to ruin the earth. God has been faithful to the promise of the rainbow. Evil has never been able to take control of earth as it did before the flood, because God's judgements have kept evil in check.

The Rainbow Covenant does not apply most of the time, because God's gift of authority on earth to Adam and Eve was still in place. Humans remained free and still had authority to shut God out of his earth. The powers of evil kept the authority they had stolen from Adam and Eve, but they could no longer use it to destroy the earth. This was a small authority shift, but it is a great improvement over the situation that existed before the flood. Evil has been prevented from destroying the earth, because God's judgements have kept evil in check.

The Rainbow Covenant was not cancelled by the new covenant. It still applies now, although thousands of years have passed by. If the powers of evil tried to destroy the earth with nuclear war, Noah's covenant still gives God authority to intervene to protect it.

Noah's Spiritual Defeat

The story of Noah is wonderful. He demonstrated great faith, and God completed an amazing work through him. However, his life had a very disappointing end. Noah got drunk and cursed one of his sons (Gen 9:21). This prevented him from more work against evil, but God had gained what he needed from him.

If we understood the nature of spiritual warfare, the reason for Noah's failure would be obvious. The spiritual powers of evil that were spread out across the world causing the people to sin and do evil joined together to attack Noah after the flood? Under such a staunch spiritual attack, he did not stand a chance, as he was totally outnumbered. We should not judge him for his failure.


The Tower of Babel was a terrible threat to the purposes of God. We think that building a tower to heaven was crazy, but something more serious was going on (Gen 11:4). The flood was the first big defeat for the powers of evil, so they wanted to strike back while they could. Some people on earth had got together with the spiritual forces of evil in an attempt to wrest control of the heavenly realms from God.

A gang of evil spirits that had been thrown down on earth, planned to use evil people on earth to regain their position in heaven. They inspired some people on earth to seize control of the heavenly realms from God. By working with evil people on earth, they hoped to gain more authority in the spiritual realms.

This was serious, so God sent a protective judgment that put them back in their place. The evil was constrained by sending confusion of language that made combining for a common purpose more difficult. No prophet existed to give God permission, but conditions had got so bad, that the permission of the Rainbow covenant applied.

People and a Land

God had a plan to restore his authority on earth as it is in heaven. To achieve this goal, he needed a place on earth to work and people to protect it. Human sin had given Satan a place in heaven, but God was shut out of the earth. God could not act on earth unless humans on earth invited him, so he needed a place where he could work and a loyal people to hand him authority over.

God waited for another opportunity. By the time of Abraham, the population of the world had massively increased, so the spiritual powers of evil had to spread themselves out across the world. God called Terah and Abraham his son. Because they were moving away from the centre of political power in Ur, they were not noticed by the powers of evil.

God worked with Abraham to call and establish a people that he could work among. He worked with Moses to establish a place on earth where he had authority.


Abraham was the first person to live by faith. He believed God's promise and obeyed his call to move to Palestine. God had authority to send Abraham to this land, because Noah had prophesied that Shem would have authority over Canaan.

Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Shem,
And may Canaan be his servant (Gen 9:26).

This prophecy gave God authority to speak to Abraham and call him to a new land. Once Abraham responded, the Spirit was able to work in his life and take him all the way. This was a strategic move because this small piece of land would become the playground of empires. Getting authority there gave God a place from where he could challenge them.

Abraham was the first military commander loyal to God. The resources of Abraham's family were sufficient that he could defend them from attack. When a coalition of kings kidnapped Lot and some other kings, Abraham was strong enough to rescue them (Gen 14:15-16). This military strength allowed Abraham and his family to serve God without being overcome by the evil around them. God now had a small group of people on earth that he could work through. This step in his strategy was confirmed by a promise.

I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen 12:2-3).

The fulfilment of this promise was a people loyal to God, who would give him authority to work on the earth. The prophecy would not be implemented immediately, but by recording the promise, Abraham gave God authority to fulfil it.

Abraham produced a people, but God also needed a land from which to work. The first minor step occurred when Sarah died and Abraham bought a burial cave at Hebron. It was a small piece of land, but it gave God a toehold on earth. As long as Abraham and his descendants continued to follow God, he would have authority in a piece of land on earth.

God promised Abraham that when the time was right, his descendants would receive the entire land of Canaan.

Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there... In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure... To your descendants I give this land (Gen 15:13,16,18).

God could not drive the people out of Canaan until their sins had filled up. That would take 400 years.


While God was advancing his cause by making a covenant with one faithful man, the devil was developing a much bolder strategy. Following the flood, there were only a few people on earth, so several spirits could attack each one. The forces of evil were sufficient to attack every person on earth, so they were usually successful.

As the population of the world grew, the powers of darkness were weakened, because there were less evil spirits to deal with each person (the flood had significantly reduced their numbers). When the population of the world multiplied, the powers of evil had to spread themselves out to keep the situation under control. Their capability declined, because their resources were spread too thin, which limited the effectiveness of their strategy.

To get around this problem, the powers of evil established a better way to use their power by working through kingdoms and empires. By establishing a hierarchy of political power with a king at the top, they expanded their influence and control. The forces of evil could concentrate their efforts on controlling the emperor and the entire empire would fall into their hands. This gave them huge control using a fraction of their resources. The bigger the empire, the more power they could exercise.

Many empires emerged. The first was Egypt. It was followed by Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and the ultimate empire Rome. The hierarchy of an empire allows a few demonic powers to control large numbers of people. This is why the Bible warns Christians about principalities and powers. They are evil spirits that control cities and empires through human hierarchies. The emergence of these large empires massively amplified the power of the enemy. By operating as principalities and powers, demonic powers could control all the people in a vast empire.

Empires needed armies to fight their battles. The best young men were conscripted to serve in the army and attractive women were taken to serve in the place, which undermined family life. Daniel and Ester are examples. The Emperor controlled all land, so most farmers were serfs and had to hand over at least half of what they produced for the support of the empire. Life was miserable for everyone except the elite friends of the emperor.

The powers of evil are drawn to hierarchy, because they can use it to amplify their authority. They love empires, because an emperor sits at the top of a massive hierarchy of power. They concentrate their attacks on the emperor, because if they can control him, they can use him to control all the people within the empire. A few principalities and powers can leverage their authority by controlling power structures.


When he split from Lot and allowed him to choose the best grazing land, God told Abraham that he would give the entire land of Canaan to his descents permanently (Gen 13:14-15). He told him to walk around it to claim it.

Get up and walk around the land, through its length and width, for I will give it to you (Gen 13:17).
By walking over the land, Abraham was claiming it for God, although he did not yet have authority over it.

A further step towards establishing God’s authority in the land occurred when Abraham met with Melchizedek, a priest of God who lived in Jerusalem. We are not told how this happened, but he must have established a relationship with God and begun offering sacrifices to him.

Five kings of southern Canaan were subordinate to Kedorlaomer of Elam. They would have had to pay tribute to him to retain their positions of power. While Abraham was living near Hebron, these five kings rebelled against Kedorlaomer, probably by refusing to pay the tribute that they owed (Gen 14:4). Kedorlaomer came down with three other loyal kings to put them back in their place, by defeating them in battle (Gen 14:10). The defeated kings fled and hid.

Lot had been living in Sodom, so Kedorlaomer captured him and all his property and took it back to their home further north. When Abraham heard what had happened to Lot, he gave chase with 318 men who were part of his household. When they caught up with the captives near Damascus, Abraham divided his forces and caught them off guard with a night attack. He rescued Lot, all the stolen property, and the women who had been captured from the defeated kingdoms.

When Abraham returned with Lot and the stolen property, several interesting things happened.

I do not fully understand the significance of these happenings, but they had a spiritual impact, that seems to have begun an authority shift in Abraham’s favour. These transactions were the early steps in shifting authority over Canaan back to God. The process would be fully completed under Moses and Joshua.

Sodom and Gomorrah

Abraham was a prophet (Deut 34:10). An angel told him that a "great outcry up to heaven about Sodom and Gomorrah.

Then the Lord said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know" (Gen 18:20-21).

Some of the spiritual powers of evil were demanding that God destroy it because it had become so evil. While other evil powers had stirred up the evil, the accusing ones were demanding justice from God. They wanted him to destroy these two cities. This shows how divided they were. Some were urging men to be evil and others were wanting to destroy them.

The Lord said that he would check out the situation. He sent two angels to check the situation. If they could find good people, God would have evidence to reject the demands of the evil powers.

Abrahams prayers gave God authority to check the situation in town.

Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it" (Gen 18:32).

God already wanted to save the cities if he could find good people but he needed authority from someone on earth to do it. Abraham's prayers gave him the permission he needed.

Unfortunately, Lot and his family were the only righteous people that the angels could find. God decided to take Lot and his family out of the city. Once they were gone, there was no one in the cities giving God authority to intervene. He had to withdraw, and when he did, the spiritual powers of evil destroyed the cities.

They had demanded the right to destroy the cities, because they were evil. God could not prevent them, because there were not enough righteous people there to give him authority to overrule them. With God squeezed out the spiritual powers of evil went to work and wreaked terrible destruction on these cities.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was a protective judgment. Abraham was the prophet who released God to achieve this result. It prevented a malicious evil from emerging in this important region. His prophetic prayers prevented innocent from being killed.


Jacob saw angels coming down to earth and going back up again.

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord (Ex 28:12-13).

The reason the angels had to return to heaven was that there was no place for them on earth, because God has lost authority there. God promised the land to Jacob's descendants, so that Jacob would prophesy it to give God authority to make it happen.

Despite his revelation of God, Jacob did many tricky things. This was sinful nature at work. Much of what he did was not God's will.

Jacobs sons tricked the Shechemites into getting circumcised. When they were suffering, they attacked these men and slaughtered them. This was not God's will.

When Jacob returned to meet Esau, he was afraid of him. When an angel came to him in the night, he thought it was Esau, so he fought against him. It was actually an angel. He wrestled with the angel all night, until he agreed to bless him (Is 32:22-32).

Slaves in Egypt

Joseph and his family were sent into the empire of Egypt. This was a sneaky move by God. When Satan saw Abraham's faith, he knew that God was up to something, so he wanted to nip it in the bud. He carried Jacob and his family into Egypt, so he could keep them under control and stamp them out if they got out of hand. God allowed this to happen, because he knew the people of Israel would eventually cry out to him when they became slaves and give him authority to rescue them. This authority gave him freedom to set his plan of redemption in place.

The bonus was that Moses learned the wisdom of Egypt and the children of Israel gained access to the latest agricultural and communications technology. Moses knew how to read and write, yet he was not corrupted by it (Acts 7:22).

God sent the children of Israel into slavery to cleanse them from evil. Evil spirits are not interested in slaves, because they have no authority. They always move towards the masters and rulers to gain more power. When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, they were evil-spirit free, because most of the evil spirits would have stayed with the Egyptians. They were not interested in slaves, because they had no influence. This could be why Moses had to spend forty years in the wilderness.

Living in the household of Pharaoh, he would have picked up some of the spirits that dwelt in that house (one was a spirit of anger). These spirits would have got of sick of watching sheep and wandered off to find someone more important to influence.

Making the Israelites slave in Egypt was a serious mistake for the forces of evil, because it brought the power of empire up against God's covenant with Abraham. When the people out the covenant cried out to God for mercy, this gave God authority to bring judgement against the Egyptian empires. He was able to cripple Pharaoh by destroying his army in the Red Sea. This was a serious setback for evil.

Go to Spiritual Warfare in Exodus