After the flood, and beginning with Noah and his family, the Lord establishes the third dispensation. This dispensation is commonly referred to as Human Government, for in it God establishes societal structures. In the previous dispensation of Conscience, a man governed himself. In this new dispensation, mankind works together in society to ensure righteousness and to mete out punishment for sin.
The dispensation begins in Genesis 9 after the flood. God gives to Noah and his family the revelation of the new order of the world. Until this time, Noah has been functioning under the responsibilities given to him under the dispensation of conscience.
The revelation that God gives to Noah includes three changes for the new dispensation. The first change is the relationship between man and the animals. Until this point in history, one of man’s responsibilities was to manage the animal world. Now animals will be afraid of man, so that man can no longer be responsible for them. Moreover, the food laws are changed. Man is now allowed to eat meat as long as the meat is cooked well done.
The primary change pertains to how murderers are dealt with. Cain murdered Abel, and God allowed him to live. In Genesis 9, God changes this rule, “From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (9:5-6). In this dispensation, society is responsible for the capital punishment of a murderer. The reason that murder is a sin is based on the fact that man is created in his image. That means murder is a sin in any dispensation. The way a murderer must be treated is what has changed from the second to the third dispensation.
On the basis of this change, most dispensationalists view God’s managing principle as human governement. God is managing the affairs of mankind by organizing societies as a means of establishing nations. When mankind rebels against this thought at the Tower of Babel, then God manages mankind by confusing human language. Two things happen at the same time when he confuses the languages. First, some men cannot understand other men so that they cannot work together. Secondly, those who can understand one another band together. They move to other regions and settle into communities.
The end of the third dispensation is debated. Some dispensationalists who look for a judgment at the end of each dispensation view the episode at the Tower of Babel as the end. If it is the end, then there is a long period of time between the third and fourth dispensation—a period basically consisting of silence. It may be better then to propose that the end of the dispensation is really when God reveals the change in Genesis 12.