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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Genesis 7



Verses 1-9

- The Ark Was Entered

2. טהור ṭâhôr “clean, fit for food or sacrifice.”

4. יקוּם yeqûm “standing thing; what grows up, whether animal or plant.” Compare קמה qāmâh “stalk, or standing corn.”

Genesis 7:1-4

Here is found the command to enter the ark. The general direction in the preceding chapter was given many years ago, before the ark was commenced. Now, when it is completed, a more specific command is issued. “For thee have I seen righteous before me.” Noah has accepted the mercy of God, is therefore set right in point of law, and walks aright in point of practice. The Lord recognizes this indication of an adopted and renewed son. “In this age” he and his were the solitary family so characterized.

Genesis 7:2-3

Of all clean cattle. - Here the distinction of clean and unclean animals meets us without any previous notice. How it became known to Noah we are not informed. From the former direction it appears that the animals were to enter by pairs. Now it is further arranged that there are to be seven pairs of the clean cattle and fowl, and only one pair of the unclean.

Genesis 7:4

Seven days after the issue of the command the rain is to commence, and continue for forty days and nights without ceasing. “Every standing thing” means every plant and animal on the land.

Genesis 7:5-9

The execution of the command is recorded and fully particularized with the additional circumstance of the age of Noah. “The son of six hundred years,” in his six hundredth year. “Went they unto Noah.” They seem to have come under the influence of a special instinct, so that Noah did not require to gather them. Seven days were employed in receiving them, and storing provisions for them.

Verses 10-16

- XXV. The Flood

The date is here given, at which the flood commenced and the entrance into the ark was completed. “In seven days.” On the seventh day from the command. “In the second month.” The primeval year commenced about the autumnal equinox; we may say, on the nearest new moon. The rains began about a month or six weeks after the equinox, and, consequently, not far from the seventeenth of the second month. “All the fountains of the great deep, and the windows of the skies.” It appears that the deluge was produced by a gradual commotion of nature on a grand scale. The gathering clouds were dissolved into incessant showers. But this was not sufficient of itself to effect the overwhelming desolation that followed. The beautiful figure of the windows of the skies being opened is preceded by the equally striking one of the fountains of the great deep being broken up. This was the chief source of the flood. A change in the level of the land was accomplished. That which had emerged from the waters on the third day of the last creation was now again submerged. The waters of the great deep now broke their bounds, flowed in on the sunken surface, and drowned the world of man, with all its inhabitants. The accompanying heavy rain of forty days and nights was, in reality, only a subsidiary instrument in the deluging of the land. We may imagine the sinking of the land to have been so gradual as to occupy the whole of these forty days of rain. There is an awful magnificence in this constant uplifting of the billows over the yielding land.

Genesis 7:13-16

There is a simple grandeur in the threefold description of the entrance of Noah and his retinue into the ark, first in the command, next in the actual process during the seven days, and, lastly, in the completed act on the seventh day. “Every living thing after its kind” is here unaccompanied with the epithet רעה rā‛âh evil, or the qualifying term of the land or of the field, and therefore may, we conceive, be taken in the extent of Genesis 6:20; Genesis 7:2-3, Genesis 7:6. At all events the whole of the wild animals did not need to be included in the ark, as their range was greater than that of antediluvian man or of the flood. “And the Lord shut him in.” This is a fitting close to the scene. The whole work was manifestly the Lord‘s doing, from first to last. The personal name of God is appropriately introduced here. For the Everlasting now shows himself to be the causer or effecter of the covenant blessing promised to Noah. In what way the Lord shut him in is an idle question, altogether unworthy of the grandeur of the occasion. We can tell nothing more than what is written. We are certain that it would be accomplished in a manner worthy of him.

Verses 17-24

The prevalence of the waters. The forty days are now completed. And at the end of this period the ark had been afloat for a long time. It was drifted on the waters in the direction in which they were flowing, and toward what was formerly the higher ground.

Genesis 7:19

Upon the land. - The land is to be understood of the portion of the earth‘s surface known to man. This, with an unknown margin beyond it, was covered with the waters. But this is all that Scripture warrants us to assert. Concerning the distant parts of Europe, the continents of Africa, America, or Australia, we can say nothing. “All the high hills were covered.” Not a hill was above water within the horizon of the spectator or of man. There were ten generations from Adam to Noah inclusive. We cannot tell what the rate of increase was. But, supposing each couple to have ten children, and therefore the common ratio to be five, the whole number of births would be about five million, and the population in the time of Noah less than four million. It is probable that they did not scatter further than the necessities and conveniences of life demanded. In a fertile region, an area equal to that of the British Isles would be amply sufficient for four million men, women, and children.

Let us suppose, then, a circle of five hundred miles in diameter inhabited by man. Let this occupy the central region of a concentric circle of eight hundred miles in diameter. With a center a little southwest of Mosul, this larger circle would reach fifty miles into the Mediterranean, the Euxine, and the Caspian, and would probably have touched the Persian Gulf at the time of the deluge. If this region were covered with water, it is obvious that no land or mountain would be visible to a spectator within the inner circle of five hundred miles in diameter. “Fifteen cubits upward.” This was half the depth of the ark. It may have taken this draught of water to float it. If so, its grounding on a hill under water would indicate the depth of water on its summit. The gradual rise of the waters was accomplished by the depression of the land, aided, possibly, by a simultaneous elevation of the bed of the ocean. The water, by the mere necessity of finding its level, overflowed the former dry land. The extent of this oscillation of the solid crust of the earth is paralleled by the changes of level which geology indicates, the last of which took place at the time of the six days‘ creation. It is possible that most of the land that was then raised was now again temporarily submerged in the returning waters; while distant continents may have all along existed, which never came within the ken of antediluvian man. The sobriety and historical veracity of the narrative are strikingly exhibited in the moderate height to which the waters are said to have risen above the ancient hills.

Genesis 7:21-23

There expired all flesh. - The resulting death of all by drowning is here recounted. “All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of live died.” This statement refers solely to man, whose higher life is exclusively expressed by the phrase חיים נשׁמת nı̂shmat chayı̂ym “breath of life” Genesis 2:7. It affirms the death of the whole of mankind. The sum total of animal and vegetable life, with the exception of those in the ark, is here declared to be extinguished.

Genesis 7:24

Fifty and a hundred days. - These, and the forty days of rain, make one hundred and ninety days: about six lunar months and thirteen days. If to this we add the month and seventeen days before the commencement of the rain, we have eight months completed, and are therefore brought to the first day of the ninth month. The waters may be said to prevail as long as the ark had its full draught of water. It is probable they were still rising during the first half of the hundred and fifty days, and then gradually sinking during the other half.


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Genesis 7:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

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