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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Genesis 7

 

 

Introduction

It is a quality of both the O.T. and the N.T. in descriptions of an event, whether of the creation of Adam and Eve or of the conversion of the apostle Paul, that they are described more than once, the total picture always including supplemental information from the multiple texts. Allis describes no less than eleven instances of this phenomenon, concluding from his extensive studies in this field that the critical fad of finding multiple sources for Genesis, "is not based upon careful examination,"[1] of the variations, but upon random choices of only those variations that can be pressed into service to maintain their theories. There is hardly anything that makes less sense than the documentary postulations regarding the alleged sources of Genesis. There has never been such a theory that has ever commended itself outside the particular theological circles of those advocating it.

Particularly, the finding of alleged contradictions in the so-called sources is most illogical and unreasonable. If there are contradictions, which we confidently deny, why are they there? Should we suppose that the ever-available "redactor" purposely included contradictions? The record as it comes to us might just as easily be attributed to Moses as to some anonymous "redactor." Besides that, uncounted generations of men have not been disturbed by any of these so-called "contradictions." Evidently, the author of Genesis, no matter how the question is viewed, did not think there were any contradictions in the record produced. And we freely confess that we ourselves are also powerless to see any contradictions! Could it possibly be that there are NOT ANY? In the notes below we shall look at a couple of these cases and shall find that the "contradiction" is non-existent. It really rests upon misreading or misunderstanding what is written, or upon failure to observe the usual Scriptural method.

CHAPTER SUMMARY

Noah enters the ark (Genesis 7:1-5); precise dating of the flood (Genesis 7:6-12); the prevailing of the waters in three degrees of intensity (Genesis 7:13-18); and the result and duration of the flood (Genesis 7:19-24).


Verse 1

"And Jehovah! said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation."

It is stated in Genesis 7:4 that this event occurred a full week prior to the beginning of the Deluge; and it must be reckoned as a stupendous act of faith that Noah obeyed this injunction implicitly. It was one thing to build the ark, and quite another to enter it and live there a week without any sign whatever of the necessity for it. We are not told how his fellow mortals reacted to this, but human nature being what it is, it is a foregone certainty that such an action was met with all kinds of scornful mockery.

"Thee have I seen righteous before me ..." Noah's righteousness before God consisted of two things - his faith and his obedience. Noah had already been obeying God for a full 120 years while the ark was in preparation, his obedience consisting of his construction of the ark according to the pattern that God gave him, and his continual preaching to the wicked generation who were his contemporaries. Any effort to view Noah's "righteousness" as merely the existence of a subjective faith within himself should be resisted.


Verse 2-3

"Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, the male and his female; and of the beasts that are not clean two, the male and his female: of the birds also of the heavens, seven and seven, male and female, to keep seed alive upon the face of the earth."

Right here is where the critics start screaming contradiction! They assert that this is from a different source, and that another source to which they ascribe Genesis 6:20 mentions only "two of every sort." The very next verse (Genesis 6:21), however, stressed that "food of every sort" was also to be taken into the ark; and, if as seems likely (though disputed by some) that animal flesh had been a source of food long prior to the flood, then the multiple pairs of clean beasts and fowl were inherently included previously in God's revelation that ample food supplies were to be taken aboard. So where is the contradiction? Even if their use as food is denied, this verse cannot logically be viewed otherwise than as supplemental instruction. It is altogether reasonable to view this passage as merely a detail "not mentioned,"[2] earlier.


Verse 4

"For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the ground."

Two things of special interest here are the use of the number "forty," and the destruction of animals, which may not be considered sinful, along with the punishment of human wickedness. Regarding the first of these, Unger pointed out that "forty" appears in both O.T. and N.T. as "the sacred number of trial and patience,"[3] there being many examples of it: Jesus' fasting for forty days, the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years, etc.

Regarding the second, Jamieson pointed out that such was necessary in order to preserve the ecological balance on the earth.[4] At a time when the human family was being reduced so drastically in numbers, the unlimited proliferation of the lower creation would have become a threat to the lives of men. In addition to this, God's punishment usually extended beyond the strict boundaries of the offense. Thus, Achan was not only destroyed, but his house also (Joshua 7:24f).


Verse 5

"And Noah did according unto all that God commanded him."

This is a reference to Noah's fulfilling the terms of God's covenant with him regarding the preservation of him and his house through the disaster about to come upon the world.

The fact of Genesis 7:4, mentioning only the forty days of rain with no reference to the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep is another alleged support of the multiple sources theories regarding Genesis. Regarding this, we are glad to note, as Hobbs said, that there is an increasing dissatisfaction with these theories, and that many today "distrust such scissors and paste methods" imposed upon the Bible.[5] It should always be remembered in connection with such mishandling of Scripture that there is no textual basis for it. It is founded solely in the imaginations of Biblical enemies. This verse is only more supplemental information.


Verse 6

"And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth."

The exact beginning of the flood is pinpointed more definitely in Genesis 7:11, where it is placed in the second month on the seventeenth day of the month of the year when Noah was 600 years old. Unfortunately, no one knows just how the years mentioned here were reckoned.[6] Of course, his sons would have been about a hundred years of age, as they were born in Noah's 500th year.


Verses 7-9

"And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creepeth upon the ground, there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, male and female, as God commanded Noah."

We find full agreement with Unger that the animals "were taken in by God... by implanted instinct."[7] Noah did not have to round up the animals and corral them and drive them into the ark; they "went in unto Noah."

"Because of the waters of the flood ..." This does not mean that they waited until it started raining, and then went in, but their knowledge, through faith, of what was to occur was the cause of their entry. This is clear enough from the statement in the very next verse. The supernatural nature of this whole narrative should not be overlooked. This is not the record, merely, of God's warning of a great natural disaster, which Noah heeded, but it is an account of divine punishment sent upon mankind for willful wickedness, a punishment nevertheless tempered with mercy in that God did preserve the seed, both of men and of the lower creations, for a new beginning.

The source of this record should not be sought in some local flood, as some have attempted. Evidence of great floods have been pointed out as occurring in the lower Mesopotamian valley,[8] but none of those findings are of sufficient dimensions to warrant mistaking them for what is in evidence here. Furthermore, the geological evidences of great floods here and there in the earth have in all likelihood, themselves been disturbed, rearranged, and scrambled by the countless geological disturbances that succeeded them. The theory that the present status of the continents would necessarily preserve any readable record of the events in this chapter is unfounded. The local flood idea cannot be harmonized with the epic dimensions so dramatically displayed here. Here is the record of a cosmological disturbance unlike any ever occurring on earth, either before or since.


Verses 10-12

"And it came to pass after the seven days that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights."

Genesis 7:11 here, is for the purpose of precisely dating the coming of the Flood. Of course, the exact manner of counting years referred to is unknowable in the light of what information we have; and, therefore, we do not know if it began in the Fall or the Spring. Even the duration of it is ambiguous. Willis' chart placing the duration at a period of one year and ten days is as good as any.[9]

"Were all the fountains of the great deep broken up ..." Some strange ideas surface with reference to this, for example, the understanding of these "fountains of the great deep" as being under the rivers and the earth generally. It appears, to the contrary, that "the great deep" could hardly refer to anything other than the ocean. Unger read this as "the primeval ocean"[10], and what is suggested seems to be that the waters of the great seas themselves were instrumental in such a super-colossal deluge. Such a thing might have been due to the sudden swelling and lifting of the ocean floor; which, if it returned later, would also have expedited the draining off of the flood waters. It is, of course, explicit that men cannot know HOW it happened.

"The windows of heaven were opened ..." The meaning of this is adequately explained in the very next line, "The rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights!" The expression is a metaphor for the rain.


Verses 13-16

"In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; they, and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark; two and two of all flesh wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God commanded him; and Jehovah shut him in."

There is repetition here, of course, but much more; there is important supplemental information. Note the following:

"And they went in unto Noah ..." This emphasizes and makes definite the truth that Noah did not seek out and drive all of those creatures into the ark; they went in unto him. This is clearly an act of God, having nothing whatever to do with Noah's independent activity.

"And the three wives of his sons ..." This is restrictive regarding the number of people entering the ark. Genesis 7:7 revealed that his "sons' wives" entered, leaving out of sight how many wives his sons had. There were only three, one for each son.

"Every creeping thing that creepeth ..." This is also more definite and extended information about which creatures were included.

"And Jehovah shut him in ..." Schaeffer described this as a "hard verse,"[11] and so it is. There may have been some of those souls to whom he preached so long and so faithfully for whom Noah still had hope that they would enter and be spared; and he would have found it difficult indeed to close the door of hope; but God spared him that act of sorrow by himself sealing the gate of life. The day of grace was then over. The long deserved destruction of rebellious mankind would appear at once. So it is today. Man can neither open nor close the way of salvation, either for themselves or for others. "Behold, I have set before thee a door opened, which no man can shut" (Revelation 3:24). Our Lord Jesus Christ is described as, "He that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and none shall shut, and shutteth and none openeth" (Revelation 3:7b).

"In the selfsame day ..." The Hebrew text here is somewhat ambiguous, this expression being capable of two meanings. It might mean all of the beings in the ark entered on a single day, or it might just as well mean that the "day" here was that upon which their entry into the ark "was completed."[12] Keil understood the passage to mean that the rain began on the very day that final entry was achieved for all on board.[13] Whitelaw also pointed out this is not at all inconsistent with Genesis 7:4,5, which do not require the understanding that the total entry into the ark was achieved a full week ahead of the Deluge, but that seven days prior to the onset of it, "Noah then began to carry out the Divine instructions."[14]

Of special significance in this chapter is that the discriminatory use of the various names for God is evident. Thus, it is Jehovah who commanded Noah to enter the ark (Genesis 7:1), but Noah did as [~Elohiym] commanded him (Genesis 7:4). A similar use of both names occurs in Genesis 7:16, and the reason for this has nothing whatever to do with diverse documentary sources. Jehovah is the covenant name of God, and it is used in connection with actions and events that are particularly related to covenant. [~Elohiym] signifies the eternal power and authority of God; and it is used where such attributes of God appear. Many, many examples of this same selective use of God's titles are evident in Genesis, and we agree with Keil that the, "Variations in the name of God furnish no criterion by which to detect different documents."[15]


Verses 17-20

"And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lifted up above the earth; And the waters prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered."

"The waters increased, and bare up the ark..."

"The waters prevailed and increased..."

"The waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth..."

This threefold multiplication of the flood waters upon the earth is a most impressive superlative, culminating at last in the inundation of all the high mountains under heaven. Natural man has a rough time with this; it is totally beyond his capacity to believe or accept it, resulting in the response: "It has lost contact with history entirely!"[16] There are simply too many things in this that men cannot explain for some of them to believe it, but, we might add, such men are exactly like Noah's generation who also could not conceive of such a thing. Did it really happen? Of course it did! Every nation under the heaven, in all continents, testifies to the truth of this report by its myths and legends, which are nothing but distorted and perverted tales of the same event, but this account is different. It is accurately and precisely dated; it is embedded in the matrix of a moral theology that assigns plausible and accurate moral reasons for the catastrophe. Both the judgment and the mercy inherent in the event are fully in character with the nature of God, as revealed in both Testaments.

Geologists who seek in vain for the confirmation of the Flood in the present structure of the earth are overlooking the catastrophic changes which we know have occurred since the events recorded here. Human conceit being what it is, it is very difficult for unregenerated man to believe anything that he does not think he can explain! Well, there is no way to explain all of this Deluge. Just as that event was a moral test for Noah's generation, it is still a moral test for our own generation. Faith in what is written here cannot be produced by intellectual understanding of it. As always, faith in God is not an intellectual but a moral decision (John 3:19). A scientific community that has no explanation whatever of how marine fossils are found at elevations above the snowline in the Cordilleras and the Himalayas[17] are not at all convincing in their shouted denials that what is recorded here is a record of what really happened. However, it should be noted that faith in the Bible is confidently affirmed by some of the greatest scientists. It is only those who are drunk upon a little learning who brashly deny the Bible!


Verses 21-24

"And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both birds, and cattle, and beasts, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was on the dry land, died. And every living thing was destroyed that was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days."

These verses give the result of the Deluge, namely, the destruction of all life except that of Noah and his companions in the ark. Genesis 7:24 gives the duration of the flood as some five months when the waters reached their zenith. This also includes the forty days and forty nights of rain. At this point, the waters began to subside, or at least ceased rising. Some have objected that there is not enough water on earth to cover all the high mountains, but this is a mistake. A change in the level of the ocean floor could easily have done what is recorded here. As Whitelaw accurately discerned, what is indicated in this description is a "change in the land level."[18] And, speaking of the amount of water on earth, an unbelievable number of cubic miles of water is stacked upon the earth's polar caps in the form of ice.

Efforts to determine the exact time involved in the Deluge are frustrating, because of the uncertainty regarding whether or not some of the calculations are included in others. Following one scheme, the duration of the flood was one year and ten days, but Whitelaw's calculations gave the total time between the onset of the rains and the disembarkation from the ark as 417 days.[19] It is correct to say that it lasted somewhat over a year.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Genesis 7:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/genesis-7.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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