corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Genesis 7

 

 

Verse 1

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

And the Lord said unto Noah, Come ... The ark was finished; and Noah now, in the spirit of implicit faith, which had influenced his whole conduct, waited for directions from God. This address was not an order or call for him to enter immediately, but only, as appears (Genesis 7:7-9), to make preparations for entering on a specified day.

For thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. The universal wickedness of the antediluvians is here implied, in opposition to the piety of Noah, which was fervent as well as habitual (Ezekiel 14:14); and the punitive character of the impending dispensation is distinctly marked as contrasted with the display, at the same time, of remunerative justice to the holy patriarch-not that he was entitled to exemption from the general destruction by any intrinsic merits of his own; but he "found grace in the eyes of the Lord," only as trusting to "a better righteousness," in which he placed confidence; and in that view his salvation may be regarded as a reward. The marvelous preservation of this patriarch and his family showed in the clearest manner that the destruction of all the world besides was not the effect of blind chance, or the work of a supreme agent who made no distinction between the righteous and the wicked, but the reward of the Judge of all the earth, who did what was right.


Verse 2-3

Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens the male and his female: and of beasts that are not Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.

Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens. The distinction of beasts as clean and unclean subsisted at a very early period, having originated at first from the circumstance that certain classes of animals only were suitable for sacrifice, the regulations pertaining to which, made in the patriarchal age, were, as is probable, republished in the Levitical law (cf. Genesis 15:9 with Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 1:10; Leviticus 1:14), and having been afterward extended to those which were fit to be used as the food of man (Leviticus 11:3-4). Whether it sprang from divine authority, or was dictated by the innate feelings of men in the first ages, who discerned in certain animals types of sin and corruption, which were on that account avoided, the distinction was sanctioned by divine approbation. The various species of "clean" beasts were to be taken into the ark by sevens. The old commentators, such as Calvin, with Gesenius, Tuch, and Delitzsch in later times, maintain that seven individuals were meant; the general rule of admission with regard to those animals which are called "clean" being that three pairs, whether of beasts or birds, were to be taken for preservation and for perpetuating the species, while the seventh was reserved for sacrifice.

But modern scholars generally reject this view, and founding, as Knobel does, on the repetition of the word "sevens" [Hebrew, shib`aah (Hebrew #7651) shib`aah (Hebrew #7651) - the distributive number in Hebrew being expressed by a repetition of the cardinals; while sh


Verse 4

For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. For yet seven days. This was said on the tenth day (cf. Genesis 7:11). All the special communications which man held with his Creator in the first ages of the world were probably made upon the Sabbath, or weekly day of holiness, and therefore this command to Noah was given on the Sabbath day. During the six days following the Sabbath, then, he enters the ark, and takes in with him his seven human companions, and the beasts and fowls, with provisions for the whole society (Bedford's 'Scriptural Chronology'). Some, indeed, consider that the incidents recorded between Genesis 7:5 and Genesis 7:16 had taken place previously, and that all that remained to be done in the last seven days was for Noah with his family to enter, an additional respite of seven days being given to the world. What a solemn interval this was! Only a week remaining as the last term of grace for the world to repent! How did they use it? Did they laugh and ridicule Noah as a fool still, as they had done at an earlier period? Some, upon witnessing the extraordinary spectacle of the various animals marching in pairs to the ark, might have been brought to serious thought, and might have been converted at the eleventh hour. But in regard to the vast majority of the antediluvian people who were living at the time, He whose eyes saw, and whose heart felt the full amount of human iniquity and perverseness, has told us of their reckless disregard (Luke 17:27).


Verses 5-8

And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 9

There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

There went in two and two. The animals were not searched for, hunted out, and driven by Noah into the ark; they filed into it spontaneously: and perhaps their movements may be explained in part by some sensible impression and uneasiness on their bodies, like what is supposed to be the monitor of birds of passage, or by that natural instinct which prompts animals, under a secret pre-sentiment of danger, to seek refuge with man; but, over and above any such physical impulse, they must have been prompted by an overruling divine direction, as it is impossible, on any other principle, to account for their going in pairs.


Verse 10

And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 11

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

In the six hundredth year of Noah's age. The year, as has been already stated (see the note at Genesis 5:1-32), is reckoned in this history as comprising a period of twelve months, or 360 days.

In the second month. Previous to the Exodus the Hebrew people commenced their year with Tisri, which was in the autumnal equinox, corresponding to the middle of our September, and formed the commencement of the seedtime. Josephus (Book 1: 3, 3) states that this was the season of Noah's entrance into the ark; and his declaration, which has been adopted as the opinion of Keil, Baumgarten, Ewald, Knobel, Delitzsch, is further recommended by the circumstance that the flood would have happened shortly after the fruits of the earth had been reaped, when abundant store of provisions would be secured for the ark, and also that the waters would be pouring upon the earth during the winter months; because if the first month began on September 21st, the 17th of the second month (March-esvan) would be November 7th. But others are of opinion that Moses, writing for the immediate benefit of his countrymen, reckoned according to the Hebrew calendar, with which they were familiar. The sacred or ecclesiastical year of the Israelites began in Nisan (the middle of March), and therefore the second month, called Jar, corresponded to the latter half of April and the former half of May-a fair and dry season, when the serene atmosphere and unclouded sky would make a flood of water the least of all probable events. This is the mode of computing the year which the sacred historian usually observes throughout the Pentateuch (see, further, the note at Genesis 8:4).

The fountains of the great deep broken up , [ t


Verse 12

And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

And the rain was upon the earth. [ geshem (Hebrew #1653), differing from maaTaar (Hebrew #4306), rain in general, denotes unusual and continuous torrents of rain; cf. Job 37:6; Zechariah 10:1].

Forty days and forty nights. In all ages and countries there have been idiomatic customs in the use of what may be called representative numbers, where a definite is put for an indefinite quantity. A Greek who wished to express the notion of a great but undetermined number said, a 'myriad,' or ten thousand; a Roman, 'six hundred;' and in like manner an Oriental, 'forty.' The 'forty thieves,' the 'forty martyred monks of the convent of El Arbaim,' not to speak of a similar use of this numeral in various passages of Scripture are examples of a known and definite number being used to express only the idea of many. It is evident, however, that, although the word may occur in a very general sense elsewhere, it is not so employed in this narrative; because the progress and duration of the deluge are marked with extraordinary precision, and that it must be interpreted here as denoting literally forty days.


Verse 13

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;

In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth. According to Oriental usage, the men are mentioned first in all passages relating to the persons saved in the ark (cf. Genesis 6:18; Genesis 8:18), except in Genesis 8:16. "Entered" [ baa' (Hebrew #935)], pluperfect, 'had come,' not came into the ark. The idea is not that Noah, with his family, and all the animals, entered the ark on the very day on which the rain began, but that on that day he had entered-had completed the entering, which occupied the seven days between the giving of the command (Genesis 7:4) and the commencement of the flood (Genesis 7:10) (Delitzsch).


Verse 14

They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort.

Every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind. The Hebrew [ chayaah (Hebrew #2416), with or without haa'aarets (Hebrew #776), the earth, signifies a beast of the field, a wild beast (Genesis 1:24). b


Verse 15

And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 16

And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.

As God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in. Attempts have been made to account for the use of two divine names here, by alleging that, in His commands to Noah respecting the ark, God as the Creator was providing for His creatures, whereas "the Lord," who shut in Noah and his family, was providing for the preservation of His Church. But this is an over-refinement, and the interchange of the divine names does not seem to bear any occult meaning. "Shut him in" - literally, shut the door after (around) him; intimating that, although a destructive calamity was about to fall upon the world, he was the special object of divine care and protection; while to those without, the season of grace was all but over (cf. Matthew 25:10).


Verse 17-18

And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.

The flood was forty days upon the earth This refers to the descent of rain and the eruption of water from The flood was forty days upon the earth. This refers to the descent of rain and the eruption of water from subterranean channels, previously mentioned (Genesis 7:12). It is common to say that the words "and forty nights" have been dropped out in this passage from the Hebrew text, as they are found in the Septuagint, as well as in many manuscripts and versions of the Latin Vulgate; and it is very probable that the insertion of the words in those versions was made from the Hebrew text of Hebrews 7:12, where the statement is more circumstantial and complete. 'It is not a good solution of this apparent disagreement to say, that in the former case natural days and nights are meant, consisting of twelve hours each; and in the latter civil days are intended, which consisted of twenty-four hours. The same word, day, is thus made to assume very different significations in the same chapter, which is at least superfluous' (Davidson's 'Hermeneutics'). The simplest and most obvious mode of reconciling the two passages is by considering the words to have been inadvertently omitted by a copyist, and by restoring them to the text, which will read thus, in accordance with Genesis 7:12 - "And the flood was forty days and forty nights upon the earth."

And the waters increased. The lapse of forty days before the ark floated indicates, not a sudden and impetuous irruption, but a gradual and gentle rise of water, which, while it was a pledge to Noah of the accomplishment of the divine pre-intimation respecting the flood, would give a final but still fearful warning to the unbelieving world. The language of the sacred writer in its numerous repetitions is singularly impressive and graphic, giving not so much a record as a historical word-the scene, when "the waters prevailed, upon the face of the waters:

`It floated on its fated track, Borne upwards till th' o'erwhelming rains had ceased, And the wild winds were sleeping; and around No noise was heard, save from the bleating beasts And frequent ripple of the endless seas.'


Verse 19

And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.

All the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered. This is the testimony of a spectator recording his impressions of what he witnessed, and therefore all the hills were those within the range of his visible horizon - i:e., the highlands of Armenia. It is evident, from the imperfect knowledge which the ancients possessed of geography, as well as the structure of the earth, that the phrase "under the whole heaven," cannot be taken in its literal sense, but must be understood with limitation; and there are various other passages of Scripture in which the same universal term is used with a restricted signification. See instances in Deuteronomy 2:25, where a promise is made that the fear of the Jews would be put "upon the nations that are under the whole heaven;" but upon comparing this with Genesis 11:25, which lays their "fear" and "dread" "upon all the land" that they should "tread upon," it will be seen-what, indeed, requires no proof-that the statement applied only to the people of Canaan and the neighbouring nations: in Acts 2:5, where it is said that, on the day of Pentecost, "there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven;" but the subsequent enumeration of the names (Acts 2:9-11) does certainly not include all people: and in Colossians 1:23, where the Gospel is declared to have been "preached to every creature under heaven," though it appears that the chief countries composing the Roman empire are meant.


Verse 20

Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

Fifteen cubits upward. Estimating the cubit at eighteen inches, then the waters were twenty-three feet above the peaks of the highest mountain, and this accurate measurement of the depth by sounding the plummet would show, that not only careful observations were made, but a faithful record was kept by Noah or some of his family. But according to Delitzsch, 'this statement, that the water rose fifteen cubits above the mountains, is probably founded upon the fact that the ark drew fifteen feet of water, and that, when the waters subsided, it rested on the mountains of Ararat, from which the conclusion would very naturally be drawn as to the greatest height attained' (see the note at Genesis 8:4).


Verse 21

And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:

All flesh died that moved upon the earth. The Hebrew word that is commonly rendered "earth" is very frequently used also to denote 'land,' 'country,' or 'regions' and the expressions 'the whole earth,' or 'all the earth,' is in many instances translated in our version, "the land," "the whole land," "all the land," sometimes describing several countries collectively as one extensive region, and at other times pointing to one couutry. In several instances, such as 1 Kings 10:24; Jeremiah 51:7; Jeremiah 51:25; Jeremiah 51:40; Daniel 2:39, where it is rendered "all the earth," there is an obvious and undeniable reference only to portions of the earth. In conformity with this Scripture usage of the terms, we, for reasons which will be stated in the sequel, restrict their application in this passage, and understand the phrases, "all flesh," "all in whose nostrils was the breath of life," and "every living substance," to be universal only with respect to the objects comprehended in the divine denunciation-namely, the godless race of antediluvian men, whose enormous wickedness was the moral cause of the judgment, together with the inferior animals enlisted in their service or residing in their neighhourhood; which, according to the usual course of Providence, would suffer in the general calamity.


Verse 22

All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 23

And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. God might have saved Noah and his family by miracles, but He chose to accomplish that object by the instrumentality of an ark, sufficiently large and strong to contain the living cargo which was to be rescued in it from a watery grave; and further, regardful of the laws established for the preservation as well as transmission of animal life, He took care not only to provide proper food for the sustenance of all the creatures, but to introduce them into it male and female, for the multiplication of their respective kinds. Thus, He showed, by such arrangements, that He never resorts to miracles, except when purposes of importance in His moral government can be promoted in no other way; and He never departs from the use of natural or ordinary means when these are suited as well as sufficient for the occasion.


Verse 24

And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.

The waters prevailed. In this calculation, which exhibits the length of time that elapsed ere the waters reached their utmost height, the forty days' rain is most probably included. This very gradual increase of the diluvial waters encourages the hope that many, roused at length to a sense of their perilous condition, would, by repentance and faith in the righteousness which Noah had zealously preached to them, turn to God. No doubt, prompted by the instinctive love of life, they might, in the first instance, as is too common still, betake themselves to other refuges, endeavour with breathless haste and laborious perseverance to reach some place of fancied security, and for a while indulge in dreams of safety. But when each branch of the tallest trees, and each ridge of the adjoining mountain were threatened with being successively dipped in the rising surge, despair of earthly deliverance would drive many to look to Him who is the only "refuge from the storm and covert from the tempest; and we cannot doubt that, as in the later history of the Church, many memorable instances have occurred of genuine repentance at the eleventh hour, so many of the antediluvians might be saved from eternal death (see Dr. Horsley on 1 Peter 3:18-20) on the very eve of the deluge.

The awful character of this deluge as a divine judgment is apparent from the copious details which the sacred historian has given of the catastrophe. His narrative of this dispensation is more minute and circumstantial than that of any other event which occurred during the sixteen previous centuries; in fact, it occupies as much space as he has allotted to the whole history of man after his creation. So tremendous an exhibition of divine justice was it, that in the providential government of God it never was, and, we are assured, never will be parallelled while time endures (Genesis 8:22). As described in this inspired history, it was subservient to moral purposes alone. Whether purely natural causes were sufficient to produce the flood, or the effusion of waters, as well as their subsequent disappearance, is to be considered miraculous-the direct agency of God in this act of punitive justice is attested by the terms in which it was announced (Genesis 6:17; cf. Psalms 29:10 - Hebrew, the Lord sat at the flood), as well as by the long premonition given of its threatened infliction; while, on the other hand, the mercy and forbearance of God were manifested by the protracted opportunity afforded for repentance during the active and earnest ministry of Noah. The destructive agent employed swept away, in its wide overwhelming range, people of all characters and in all conditions-the professedly religious as well as the worldly and profane;-the posterity of Seth, that "other seed whom God appointed instead of Abel," perished in the same watery grave with the descendants of the apostate Cain.

The judgment stopped short only of the entire annihilation of the human race; for both the purpose and the promise of God prevented such a dreadful result. A solitary family was preserved; but this small exception served only to display the severity of the divine vengeance on "the world of the ungodly" in more striking contrast with the exercise of divine grace. It was a terrible remedy for a terrible disease. 'This dispensation, dreadful as it was, seems to have been absolutely necessary.' So low was the Church reduced before the deluge that, according to human apprehension, she could not have existed for another generation. Had she not been 'saved by water,' she must have been swept away by the flood of iniquity. Thus, the circumstances vindicate the judgment, and show that God could not have acted otherwise, mankind continuing in such a state, without virtually renouncing His claim to the moral government of the world (Jamieson's 'Sacred History').

The character of this narrative of the flood has been impugned as unhistorical. Some have endeavoured to trace an analogy between the flood of Noah and a destructive inundation of the Nile, both as to the season of the year, the vernal equinox, when the deluge occurred, and to the manner in which the waters rose, as well as to the height they attained. Others have maintained that it was nothing more than an unusual fall of rain, followed by the necessary melting of the snows on the Armenian mountains, which, overspreading the adjacent country to a wide extent, occasioned an immense destruction to life and property; and that this overflow of waters, exaggerated by the excited imaginations of the inhabitants, who fled in terror from the overwhelming torrent, was afterward magnified in the popular traditions into a flood, which destroyed all mankind, except a small remnant who saved themselves in a boat. A very little consideration will suffice to show the futility of this allegation, that the narrative of the flood is a fable or legendary tale.

The distance of time from the flood to Moses was more than it is from the Norman Conquest until the present age; but half of this time Noah himself was living; and therefore, allowing for the greater length of men's lives in those ages than in ours, the time when Moses wrote cannot be computed at so great a distance from the flood as we are from the Reformation. But is it possible to make any man of tolerable sense among us believe that Henry VIII, who introduced the Reformation, was the first king of England? that there was a deluge in his time, which swept away all the inhabitants of this island, and of the whole world besides, but some seven or eight persons, and that all whom we now see were born of them? And yet this, ridiculous as it seems, is not more absurd than Moses' account of the flood must have been to those of his own time, if it were false. Besides, the multitude of minute specifications contained in this narrative relating to the form and dimensions of the ark, the position of the door and the window, the number of beasts clean and unclean, that were to be admitted, the storing of victuals, the height of the waters, and not only the year, but the month and day when the waters were brought upon the earth, and when they ceased-these are recorded with a minuteness and a precision altogether inconsistent with the hypothesis of its being a fabulous account. Writing, according to Josephus, was in use before the flood; and the accurate observations made by the inmates of the ark on the course of every day's transactions seem to have been faithfully recorded in a log book, from which (or from copies of that ancient document) the relation of Moses was probably derived.

It has long been a subject of discussion whether the flood was partial or universal in its extent. Those who adopt the latter view naturally appeal to the language of the sacred historian, who, by speaking of 'the flood being on the earth,' of "all the high hills under the whole heaven," of 'every living substance being destroyed upon the face of the ground,' seems to intimate in the plainest manner that the waters of the deluge overspread the globe. They refer also to the multitude of birds which were taken into the ark-a species of animals which possessed advantages above all other terrestrial creatures for saving themselves by flight to more distant regions, had there been any, that were exempt from the desolating waters. And, lastly, they lay great stress on the fact that traditions of this flood, which was so destructive to the human race, are found in almost every quarter of the world.

In opposition to these arguments, it may be replied, in the first place, that the language of the sacred historian by no means necessarily implies that the flood overspread the whole earth. Universal terms are frequently used in a partial and restricted sense in Scripture. An example occurs in the course of this very narrative (cf. Genesis 6:12; Genesis 6:17, with Genesis 6:8). Various other instances occur of a limited region being described in the universal language, as "all the earth "denotes the empire of Chaldea (Jeremiah 51:7; Jeremiah 51:25; Jeremiah 51:49), of Alexander the Great (Daniel 2:39), or the land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 34:1; Isaiah 7:24; Isaiah 10:14; Jeremiah 1:18; Jeremiah 4:20; Jeremiah 8:16; Jeremiah 12:12; Jeremiah 40:4; Zephaniah 1:18; Zephaniah 3:8; Zephaniah 3:19; Zechariah 14:10; Romans 9:28); and instances of a great number or a large quantity only being expressed by universal terms are found (Genesis 41:56-57, "all countries," meaning the contiguous nations; Exodus 9:6; Exodus 9:9-10; Exodus 9:19; Exodus 9:22; Exodus 9:25, compared with Genesis 11:25; Genesis 10:5; Genesis 10:15; Genesis 32:3; Deuteronomy 2:25; Joshua 11:23; 1 Kings 4:34; 1 Kings 10:24; 1 Chronicles 14:17; 2 Chronicles 9:23; Luke 2:1; Colossians 1:23).

While the usus loquendi among the sacred historians shows that universal terms are used in a limited sense on many occasions, considerations suggested by various branches of science compel us to view the language of Moses as so restricted in this narrative, and to believe, although probably neither Noah nor Moses may have entertained any other thought than that the world was wholly submerged, that this destructive flood covered but a limited part of the world-did not, in fact, extend far beyond the region inhabited by man. The sacred narrative mentions two natural agents employed in the production of the flood-namely, incessant rain for nearly six weeks, and an extraordinary efflux of water from the ocean. These accumulating in any particular spot still frequently occasion disastrous inundations. But the whole waters of the great deep, together with all the rain that falls-which is only vapour raised into the atmosphere from the ocean, to descend again by rivers or in showers to the original reservoir-are of such limited extent as would not suffice, if diffused all over the earth, to cover it beyond the depth of a few inches. Whereas a deluge that should envelop the summits of the highest mountain range known in the world would require an aqueous mass to the height of five miles above the ordinary sea level - i:e., as Dr. Pye Smith calculates, a quantity of water eight times larger than the contents of the existing sea. Almighty power could doubtless have created such a destructive element, and annihilated it, when its fatal commission had been accomplished. But the sacred story says nothing of such a creation; and besides, so mighty a collection of waters, by increasing the equatorial diameter, must have immensely added to the earth's gravitation, causing such serious derangements throughout the whole solar system as could only be remedied by the multiplication of other stupendous miracles.

Moveover, a universal flood must have been destructive to the vegetation of the world. For, as the writer just quoted remarks, 'not only the most delicate flowers that flourish in valleys, but the larger number of land plants, and those the most important for size and utility (as timber and fruit trees, and the different kinds of corn and grasses), lose their vitality by a short submersion in water; so that, in a period equal to the duration of the deluge, they would have become putrescent, and in a great measure decomposed. Thus, upon the supposition of a strict universality, a new creation of the chief part of the vegetable tribes would have been necessary after the waters had subsided.' But there is no evidence of the seeds being again created in Asia, and distributed throughout the world; for America is still distinguished by her wondrous peculiarities of vegetable produce. Geology is against the hypothesis of a universal deluge; because it is now the established opinion that those shells which are found on high grounds were deposited there by previous floods of a violent character, very different from the comparatively tranquil inundation described in the sacred narrative; and besides, that the light pumice stones which lie on the volcanic summits of the Auvergne Mountains, and which must have been washed away by the action of the diluvial waters, have not, so far as the calculations of the most eminent geologists can determine, been disturbed within the historic period. In connection with zoology, difficulties far greater surround the theory of a universal deluge. No provision was made in the ark for the preservation of those myriads of animals which ply in the waters; and it was assumed that there could be no need for it, as they were safe enough in their native element. But a large portion of fish have been formed by the Creator to live in rivers and fresh-water lakes-all of which must have perished by the prevalence of a salt sea, or brackish water; and even those of the finny tribe which are naturally inhabitants of the ocean must have gradually languished and died, owing to the quality of the water being so much altered and diluted by the copious and long-continued descent of rain. All classes would have been seriously affected, not only by the loss of their usual food, aquatic plants or small fry, which would perish, but by the increased volume and pressure of water.

Then, in the department of land animals, formidable objections present themselves-creatures of the most opposite temper and habits would have been associated in the ark-the lion and the tiger with the cow and the sheep; the eagle, the vulture, and the hawk with the dove and the sparrow; the walrus and hippopotamus would have been placed in dry stalls, and the most deadly serpents with peaceful mammals.

Besides, the natural history of the present day comprises a vast accumulation of well-ascertained facts respecting the numbers as well as the geographical distribution of the various orders of the inferior animals, which were unknown to former ages, and by which the traditional calculations of the old commentators have been exploded as totally inadequate. For instead of the two, or at most the 300 species of living creatures which, according to their views, were all the inmates of the ark along with Noah and his family, modern science forms a very different estimate of the members of the animal kingdom. According to the latest and best authorities on the subject of zoology, the number and classification of the known species are reckoned as follows: 1,658 Mammalia, 6,266 Birds, 642 Reptiles, not including sea-serpents and turtles, which are amphibious, and 500,000 Insects; so that the gross amount of these different species (and accessions are ever and anon being made to our knowledge) must now be stated at 508,566. By multiplying this number-the unclean by two, and the clean by seven-the result will be found to exceed one million of living creatures, for which, if every species of terrestrial animals were represented in the ark, accommodation according to their various habits, with a sufficient stock of provisions, would have had to be provided in that gigantic vessel.

Moveover, as every region is distinguished by its own indigenous fauna and flora, all these different species have their native countries, their special habitats, where their proper food abounds, and their constitutions are adapted to the temperature. On the hypothesis, therefore, of a universal flood, we must imagine motley groups of beasts, birds, and reptiles, directing their way from the most distant and opposite quarters to the spot where Noah had prepared his ark-natives of the polar regions and the torrid zones repairing to sojourn in a temperate country, the climate of which was unsuited alike to arctic and equatorial animals. What time must have been consumed! What privations must have been undergone for lack of appropriate food! What difficulties must have been encountered! What extremes of climate must have been endured by the natives of Europe, America, Australia, Asia, Africa, and the numerous islands of the sea! They could not have performed their journeys unless they had been miraculously preserved. Nay, after the flood had subsided, and they were to be dispersed to their several homes, years would be spent in crossing seas and continents, in traversing mountains and plains; nor could they have reached, without a repetition of the miracle, the precise regions which each was destined to inhabit. 'Indeed,' says Hitchcock, 'the idea of their collection and dispersion in a natural way is altogether too absurd to be believed; and we must therefore either resort to a miracle, or suppose a new creation to have taken place after the deluge.' These and other difficulties which beset the theory of a universal flood, have led the generality of modern writers to advocate the notion that the deluge was partial-limited to the area inhabited by man.

The conditions of the sacred story are fully satisfied by the fact that all mankind perished in the awful visitation, except Noah and his family. The human race as yet occupied a small tract of western Asia, their numbers being comparatively few, as is evident from the single fact that the preaching of Noah was within the hearing of all that generation. But it has been confidently and repeatedly urged by a recent caviller at the unhistorical character of the Mosaic narrative, that the idea of a partial flood is opposed by mathematical and physical science, which teaches that, unless gravitation be miraculously suspended, waters must find their own level on the earth's surface. The objection is founded in ignorance of the geological doctrine, now firmly established, that the submergence of large portions of the earth beneath the deep has been a phenomenon of frequent occurrence.

No further back than the year 1819, two thousand square miles of country subsided in the delta of the Indus, and were changed into an inland sea. In fact, it is now the universal belief that partial deluges are produced by a subsidence of the land; and the opinion entertained is, that what has repeatedly taken place from natural causes happened in the days of Noah, but on that occasion miraculously; because divine premonition had been given of the coming event. The earth began, by slow and imperceptible degrees, to sink under the feet of that patriarch's heaven-defying contemporaries. As it gradually subsided, fissures were made in the sinking surface, some of which soon communicated with the ocean, 'broke up the fountains of the great deep,' and let in an inundation of waters. Atmospheric disturbances in the sky combined at the same time with the dislocated ground below, to increase the horrors of the scene, by discharging a heavy and continuous fall of rain, which, swelling every paltry rivulet into a mighty and resistless torrent, added to the rapidly accumulating deluge, although the catastrophe was effected in reality more by the influx of the ocean than by the aqueous contributions from the clouds.

One after another, the inferior eminences began to disappear, until at length the summit of the loftiest mountain was enveloped in the abyss; and with the exception of the ark, nothing appeared within the range of the visible horizon but a wide-spread dreary waste of waters. The narrative of the flood, as given by the sacred historian, describes things according to appearance, and in the language of common life; hence, it is said, "the waters stood above the mountains." But this, in the technical phraseology of science, means that the land having subsided, the waters of the ocean rushed in, filling up the sunken area; and after the punitive dispensation had been completed, there was an upheaval of the earth, when, the waters flowing back to their old channel, the land was restored to the level it formerly occupied.

Now, there is in Western Asia a remarkably depressed area, extending from the Sea of Aral to the Steppes of the Caucasus on the north, and sweeping round the southern shores of the Caspian, comprehending Ararat and the Great Salt Desert, which, as Ansted has remarked, 'forms no inconsiderable portion of the great recognized center of the human family, The Caspian Sea (83 1/2 feet below the level of the sea, and in some parts of it 600 feet deep) and the Sea of Aral occupy the lowest part of a vast space, whose whole extent is not less than 100,000 square miles, hollowed out, as it were, in the central region of the great continent, and no doubt formerly the bed of an ocean. Dr. Pye Smith and Hugh Miller conjectured that this immense district might have been partly the scene of the Noachian Deluge. The latter supposes that this depressed region subsided until "the fountains of the great deep were opened" by the influx of waters from the Gulf of Finland, the Black Sea, and the Persian Gulf, on opposite sides; and though the area included within these isolated seas was probably far larger than was occupied by the antediluvian population, the circle might be widened for the inlet of the waters.

The ideas of those two writers have been strongly corroborated by the testimonies of several scientific travelers who have carefully examined the whole of this region, Mr. Hamilton, President of the Geological Society, thus records the results of his observations:-`A little beyond Maurek I found a thin bed of pale yellow sand, filled with innumerable shells, resembling those near Khorasan, overlying a bed of concretionary calcareous marl. These beds all dip a little to the northwest under the black peperite with which the neighbouring hills are capped, and contain no traces of volcanic matter. I shall not enter into any discussion of the manner in which these geological events took place, nor attempt to explain the theory of their formation; but I cannot help observing that the whole geology of this district of Armenia seemed to me to coincide in a remarkable manner with the account of the sacred historian, from which it derives a charm to coincide in a remarkable manner with the account of the sacred historian, from which it derives a charm and interest which is most satisfactory to the lovers of geological investigations.

One of the most interesting features in the geology of this district is a remarkable bed of marl, containing a thin layer of tertiary shells, extending over a considerable space of ground. I particularly remarked it near Khorasan, and to the north of Anni: it appears to be identical with a similar formation observed on the banks of the Arpachai or Araxes, further south, but in the same plains of Armenia, by M. Dubois de Montpereux. They bear incontrovertible evidence of the existence of a large body of water containing animal life for a short period after the cessation of the igneous action; because the bed in which they occur overlies the great deposits of tuff and volcanic ashes. The probability is that they are fresh water, although the specimens of Mytilus which I brought home closely resemble both fresh water and marine species. I am disposed to look upon these marl beds as the deposit thrown down when the waters, accumulated on these spots by a great deluge, began to subside: the lakes and inland seas thus formed would, during a portion of their existence, soon teem again with animal life, the remains of which are, I think, preserved to us in the thin shell beds above described.

These considerations naturally lead to the investigation of the great events of which we read in sacred history, and which may have been brought about by secondary causes. The discoveries of modern science lay before us new arguments, and fresh links of evidence, which were concealed from the early generations of mankind. When we read of the Noachian Deluge, it does not seem necessary to inquire whether the whole circumference of the earth was submerged, or whether the water rose above the mountain tops from pole to pole. It is sufficient for the purpose that the deluge extended over all that portion of the earth which was inhabited by man; and it is not difficult to imagine physical agencies by which the waters of the earth may have been drawn on one side previously to, or simultaneously with, the occurrence of great volcanic outbursts, by which the sea was raised above its level, or rather the land subsided, and caused them, when the waters were again drawn off, to re-appear among the higher portions of the globe. Since, then, we have the evidence of Scripture that the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat (Armenia), and consequently that this portion of the globe was flooded by the deluge which occurred in the time of Noah; and as there is no reason to suppose that those plains have ever been subsequently flooded, it does not seem presumptuous to imagine that this shell bed was the result of the Noachian Deluge, and was deposited during the period when the accumulated waters remained in this portion of the world' ('Researches in Asia Minor, Pontus, and Armenia, 1842').

Dr. Ainsworth (Surgeon and Geologist to the Euphrates Expedition under Colonel Chesney) bears a similar testimony. After describing scientifically the character and appearances of this region as abounding with physical evidences of the Noachian deluge, he concludes by saying, that 'the alluvium of the Euphrates divides itself distinctly into that which was ante-Babylonian (being also ante-Noachian) and that which is post-Babylonian; and the comparatively large extent of ante-Babylonian alluvium contains whatever matters the great cataclysm which occurred when "all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened," deposited upon the surface of the earth' ('Researches in Assyria, Babylonia, and Chaldea'). On all these grounds we discard the idea of a geographical universality, and adopt the now prevalent opinion that the deluge was partial, and limited to the region of man's habitation, having been brought in upon the world of the ungodly-the only survivors of the judgment being Noah and his family, together with the animals of a small region preserved along with him in the ark, as 'having been those connected more or less with man by domestication, and by other modes of subserviency to his present and future welfare' (Pye Smith).

The era of the flood is the highest point in antiquity to which pagan chronology goes. Traditions of this awesome punishment are found among all ancient nations; nor does this acknowledged fact at all militate against the theory of its limited or local character, inasmuch as the subsequent generations of mankind, springing from Noah and his family as their common ancestors, would carry the memory of the overwhelming catastrophe along with them into all the countries of their dispersion. The Chaldeans, in the story of 'Xisuthrus;' the Asiatic Greeks, in that of 'Occyges;' the Greeks of Europe and the Romans, in that of 'Deucalion;' the Persians, the Egyptians (for the assertion of Bunsen and Lepsius, that the hieroglyphic monuments of Egypt contain no allusion to it, has been satisfactorily refuted by Osburn, 'Mon. Hist.,' pp. 239,

240); the Chinese and Hindus in the far East; the Mexicans, Peruvians, Chilians, Red Indians, and Cubans in the extreme west; the Scandinavians and British Druids of the north; as well as the aboriginal natives of Polynesia in the South Seas-preserved traditionary legends of the deluge, coloured according to their respective conceptions, either oral and incorporated with the sacred names and rites of their mythology, or inscribed on their monuments of brick and stone-all of these traditions proving, by their general resemblance, that they proceeded from a common source, and regarded it as a judgment from Heaven, inflicted for the unpardonable wickedness of men.

Some of those traditions, particularly the Babylonian or Chaldean narrative of Berosus, closely approximate, even in minutiae, to the Biblical account. But, as Hardwick remarks, 'the simplicity of the account in Genesis, the truthful and historic air of every part of it, its close coherence with all other facts of revelation, as well as, with the Scripture theory of man and of the universe; the absence from it of those manifest depravations, which are only capable of being rectified and made intelligible when brought into the light which it diffuses, give additional weight to the authority on which it is received by Christians (cf. Isaiah 54:9; Matthew 24:37; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5), and vindicate its claim to be regarded as a genuine copy of the old tradition, that descended, age by age, from Noah to all members of the sacred family.'

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 7:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/genesis-7.html. 1871-8.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology