After God had worked face to face with the first humans, Adam and Eve (the dispensation of Innocence, Genesis 1:28—3:19), they sinned, and all mankind became a fallen race living on a cursed planet. Conditions changed, and all subsequent families on earth were to do good based on what they knew to be right (the dispensation of Conscience, Genesis 3:23—8:19). Mankind again failed to fulfill their responsibility. So God brought a worldwide Flood to wipe out all but eight people. In the next dispensation, God works in a new way with His creation via Human Government.
Human Government is the third dispensation (Genesis 8:20 to 11:9).
Stewards: Noah and his descendants
The Period: From the Flood to the confusion of tongues at Babel, about 429 years
Responsibility: To scatter and multiply (Genesis 9)
Failure: Refusal to scatter and the building of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-4)
Judgment: Confusion of languages (Genesis 11:5-9)
Grace: Abraham is chosen—the start of the Jewish race (Genesis 12:1-3)
After the Flood God stepped back from directly judging the earth until the second coming; thus, a human agency known as civil government was divinely appointed to restrain evil and protect man from his own sinful nature. Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives began to repopulate the earth. Shem would become the father of the Mediterranean region dwellers and eventually the Jews (the word Semitic comes from the Latin word for “Shem”). Ham’s descendants spread into Africa, and Japheth’s into Eurasia.
Noah and his family had practical knowledge of the failure under the dispensation of Conscience, and God made them responsible to protect the sanctity of human life. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). In this way, God established the orderly rule of mankind for the good of society. Capital punishment is the most potent function of human government, and it presupposes all forms of legislation, organization, and enforcement. In the New Testament (Romans 13), man is still responsible to use this authority to enforce righteousness. In other words, God’s command in Genesis 9:6 has not been rescinded.
Sin (called “lawlessness” in 1 John 3:4) continued in the third dispensation. In fact, the time of Human Government was characterized by great idolatry and moral degradation. The height of disobedience was the rebellion against God at Babel—mankind built a tower to “make ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). Staying in one place was the one thing God told them not to do.
To enforce His command, God divided humanity into different language groups, and His sovereign will to populate the whole earth was accomplished. God also established a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by water. His grace continued to be shown through His chosen people, beginning with Abraham.