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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Genesis 8

 

 

Verse 1

And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged;

God remembered Noah. The word remember, besides describing an act of memory, is frequently used in Scripture to convey the accessory ideas of care and kindness in cases where, after a delay or suspension, there was a manifestation or a renewal of the divine favour (cf. Genesis 19:29; Genesis 30:22; Luke 1:72). In the anthropomorphic style of this narrative God is represented as wholly occupied with the 'strange work of judgment;' but at length, when the inundation had accomplished its mission, as taking a careful interest in Noah and his companions in the ark, by providing, according to His promise, for their deliverance from the deluge.

Every living thing ... in the ark - a beautiful illustration of Matthew 10:29.

Made a wind to pass over. Though the Divine Will could have dried up the liquid mass in an instant, the agency of a wind was employed (Psalms 104:4) probably a hot wind-the Samiel, which, by a process of evaporation, would again absorb one portion of the waters into the atmosphere, while the other would be gradually drained off by outlets beneath, as seems to be intimated by the words in Genesis 8:3. "The rain from heaven" is not to be considered as an additional cause of the flood, hitherto omitted. It is merely stated in the style of the Hebrew Scriptures, as exegetical of "the windows of heaven."


Verse 2

The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 3

And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.

Returned ... continually - literally, going and returning. The clause should be rendered, 'the waters continually subsided from off the earth; and at the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were much abated.' This translation removes the alleged contradiction between the present passage and Gen. of the preceding chapter. The geological explanation given by Hugh Miller, and considered by him coincident with the statement, "the waters returned from off the earth continually," is, that by the upheaval of the land again, which would produce slopes and channels, at the end of 150 days the waters which had flowed from the seas toward the central sunken region began to flow outward, leaving the whole district in the state in which it has ever since remained.


Verse 4

And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.

Seventh month - of the year (cf. Genesis 7:11) - not of the flood, which lasted only five months, thirty days in a month. This computation, which seems to have prevailed in Noah's time, since the sacred narrative was probably derived from some Noachic document, is the same as the unintercalated solar year of the Egyptians; and its adoption here by Moses is remarkable, as the lunar year, consisting of twelve months, which began with the appearance of the new moon, and varied in length, was the mode of reckoning used by the early Hebrews.

Rested - evidently indicating a calm and gentle motion.

On the seventeenth day of the month. Dr. Harold Brown (Norrisian Lectures) lays stress on the remarkable coincidence, that the ark rested on the seventeenth day of the seventh month, being the very time on which Christ rose from the dead.

Upon the mountains of Ararat - or Armenia, as the word is rendered, 2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:38. The mountain which tradition points to as the one upon which the ark rested is now called Ara Dagh-the finger mountain, which rises like an immense isolated cone out of the valley of the Apexes; and though connected with a chain of mountains which extend in a north-westerly direction, these are not of an elevation sufficient to detract from the sublimity of this stupendous rock. It consists of two peaks, the one of which is considerably higher than the other. The height of the greater Ararat has been variously estimated at 17,750 or 17,323 feet above sea level, and 14,300 feet above the plain. The lesser Ararat is 13,420, or, as it has been recently measured, 13,093 feet above the level of the sea. The summit of the highest peak is nearly level, and of a triangular shape, the base being about 200 yards in length, and the perpendicular height from the base of the cone to the top is about 6,000 feet, covered with perpetual snow, which is as dry as powder.

How a family of eight persons, with a motley group of the inferior animals, could safely descend from such an Alpine mountain, the scaling of which, though often attempted, has been successfully performed only by a very few adventurous persons in modern times, is a problem of no easy solution, if the mountain was as lofty and precipitous in Noah's time. The traditional Mount Ararat is supported neither by evidence nor probability. But the narrative mentions, not the mountain, but the mountains of Ararat (Jer. ) - i:e., the highland districts of Armenia, lying north of Mesopotamia and Assyria, and east of Asia-Minor-namely, the Gordyaeau or Kurdish chain of hills, which are of low elevation, and known in the present day by the name of Jebel Giodi or Judi. The Jewish Targumist, Jonathan, in his gloss on this passage, says that the ark rested on the mountains of Kurdon or Gordon, thus almost identifying Judi as the resting-place. Most of the pagan writers quoted by Bochart ('Geogr. Sacr.') fix upon the same site. An ancient tradition bore that on its summit were to be seen the remains of the ark, which the pious Emperor Heraclius, in the third century, went to see.

Many remarkable circumstances, too, in the names of places, concur in pointing to this region as the spot of Noah's landing from the ark, such as Baris or Barit, the Mountain of the Ship, and the city of Apamea, at the western extremity of the Gordyaean chain, where were found coins bearing a representation of the ark, with a raven and a dove, and on the reverse the name of Noe or No. Others, who extend the mountains of Ararat beyond the confines of Armenia, fix on the summit of Caucasus as the locale of Noah's landing, founding their opinion chiefly on the fact that the builders of Babel came to Shinar from the East (Genesis 11:2). But from the figure of the ark, which was not adapted for sailing, as well as from the tranquil character of the inundation, it is probable that that vessel had not drifted far from the original abode of the patriarch, the influx of waters from the Persian Gulf carrying it in a northerly direction, and therefore that the former opinion is the true one.


Verse 5

And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.

Tops of the mountains seen. Since the latter of these verses has been said to contradict the former, the following translation may serve to reconcile them:-The waters had abated so much that in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the mouth, the ark rested on (one of) the mountains of Ararat. And the waters were continually decreasing until the tenth month; and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains

(i:e., the Armenian highlands) were visible.' The entire duration of the deluge comprised, according to Lightfoot, a solar year. 'Forty-six days were occupied in storing the ark with provisions, and seven in receiving the inferior animals. The rains, which began to fall on the 17th of the Hebrew month Marchesvan, continued forty days, and the waters were on the increase for one hundred and fifty days. The decrease commenced on the first of Sivan, and continued one hundred and twenty days.

Thus, we trace the counsel of heaven, in allowing Noah time to reap the harvest before the rain, and in bringing him out of the ark at a season proper for following the waters with the seeds for the succeeding year' (see the note at Genesis 7:11). It is highly probable that it was a solar, not a lunar year (see Delitzsch, 'Commentary'). But there are difficulties that oppose this conclusion (see Kalisch).


Verse 6

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:

At the end of forty days. He waited forty days, after the decrease of the waters, corresponding to the forty days during which the waters had increased. It is easy to imagine the ardent longing Noah and his family must have felt to enjoy again the sight of land, as well as breathe the fresh air; and it was perfectly consistent with faith and patience to make enquiries whether the earth was yet ready.

Opened the window - [Hebrew, chalown (Hebrew #2474), a different word from that used in Genesis 6:16, and as it elsewhere denotes a narrow opening for the light (cf. Joshua 2:15; Joshua 2:18; Joshua 2:21; 1 Kings 6:14; Ezekiel 40:16; Ezekiel 41:16; Ezekiel 41:26), it was probably a small division or portion of the sky-light, that extended upon the roof along the whole length of the ark.]


Verse 7

And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.

Sent forth a raven - literally, the raven. The article has here the force of a certain, a particular raven (cf. Genesis 28:17; 1 Samuel 17:34; 1 Kings 20:36; Isaiah 7:14). It is a bold and adventurous bird, hardy, and unaffected by the coldest atmosphere, delighting to wade in mud and to feed on the carcasses of animals.

Which went forth to and fro - literally, went forth going and returning; i:e., roving on the heights that had emerged from the waters, or perched on the external covering of the ark, so that he was at no loss for a resting-place, and his voracious appetite would find plenty of carrion floating on the slimy hillsides on which, after so long an abstinence, he would greedily prey.


Verse 8

Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;

Also he sent forth a dove. Disappointed with the raven, Noah made choice of a bird on whose docile nature and characteristic habits he reasonably founded a strong hope of obtaining the longed-for intelligence; because the dove is not only capable of continuing long on the wing and flying far, but, however extensive its range of flight, it is naturally disposed to return to the place of its abode; it flies low, and it does not plant its foot except on clean and dry places. In looking for animals to serve his purpose, Noah would, naturally think of those which possessed the power of rapidly passing over an extensive country; and in the selection of the raven and the dove, he would be guided by his knowledge of the habits of each.

From him. The Septuagint renders this, 'after him' - i:e., the raven. But the Hebrew idiom requires that we should consider the dove as 'sent from Noah himself;' and although it is not expressly stated how long a time he allowed to elapse, it may be inferred (Genesis 8:10) that it was after an interval of seven days.

To see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground - i:e., the plains, the low country, which the instinct of the dove would lead her to seek.


Verse 9

But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.

Pulled her ... into the ark. It is not said that he did so to the raven.


Verse 10

And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;

Again he sent forth the dove. Her flight, judging by the time she continued abroad, was pursued to a great distance; because she returned "in the evening;" and if a number of trees had appeared above the water, it was natural for her to repair to the olive plantation, where, as travelers inform us, doves in the East prefer to perch and to feed, above all others. The olive is a pale evergreen, which, like other evergreens, changes and renews its foliage every season, the young leaves displacing the old. It attains a moderate height, seldom exceeding thirty feet, and will not grow on high latitudes. 'It seems,' says Perowne (Smith's 'Dictionary'), to have the power of living under water, according to Theophrastus and Pliny, who mention olive trees in the Red Sea. The olive grows in Armenia, but only in the valleys on the south side of Ararat, not on the slopes of the The olive grows in Armenia, but only in the valleys on the south side of Ararat, not on the slopes of the mountains.

It will not flourish at an elevation where even the mulberry, walnut, and apricot are found.' The tree, then, from which the dove plucked the leaf must have stood in the plains, or on some low declivity, and consequently been among the latest vegetation uncovered by the decreasing waters. Though immersed for a whole year, it must have flourished, shed its old leaves, and renewed its leafy growth; because the leaf plucked off by the dove was [ Taaraap (Hebrew #2965)] a sprout of fresh foliage (cf. Ezekiel 17:9). 'The olive tree, from the effect of its oil in supplying, relaxing, and preventing or mitigating pain, seems to have been adopted from the earliest period as an emblem of the benignity of the divine nature, and particularly after the fall, to have represented the goodness and placability of God through Christ, and of the blessed influences of the Holy Spirit in mollifying and healing our disordered nature, and in destroying or expelling from it the poison of the old (spiritual) serpent, even as olive oil does that of the natural serpent. Hence, we see a special propriety in the olive-leaf or branch being chosen by Divine Providence as a sign to Noah of the abatement of the deluge' (Carpenter's 'Scripture Natural History').


Verse 11

And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 12

And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.

He ... sent forth the dove; which returned not ... any more. In these results we perceive a wisdom and a prudence far superior to the inspiration of instinct-we discern the agency of God guiding all the movements of this bird for the instruction of Noah, and reviving the hopes of his household.

Other seven days - a strong presumptive proof that Noah observed the Sabbath during his residence in the ark.


Verse 13-14

And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.

Noah removed the covering - probably only as much of it as would afford him a prospect of the earth around. Yet for about two months he never stirred from his appointed abode until he had received the express permission of God. We should watch the leading of Providence to direct us in every step of the journey of life.


Verse 15

And God spake unto Noah, saying,

And God spake ... 16. Go forth. They went forth in the most orderly manner-the human inmates first, then each species "after their kinds;" literally, according to their families, implying that as they had gone into the ark in pairs, so they went out by couples also-an arrangement which evidently proceeded from miraculous influence.


Verses 16-19

Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 20

And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

Noah builded an altar - literally, 'a high place:' probably a mound of earth or of unhewn stones (Exodus 20:24-25; Joshua 8:31), on which a sacrifice was offered. This is the first notice of an altar in Scripture; and it is noticed particularly because the Paradisiacal place of worship (Genesis 4:3; Genesis 4:16) had probably been removed by the flood. There is something exceedingly beautiful and interesting to know that the first care of this devout patriarch was to return thanks for the signal instance of mercy and goodness which he and his family had experienced.

Took of every clean beast, and ... fowl - for so unparalleled a deliverance, a special acknowledgment was due. [ `olaah (Hebrew #5930), holocaust, the victim being wholly consumed.] The primitive meaning of the word is ascent, referring either to the sacrifices being carried up to the altar, or to the smoke ascending to heaven. In patriarchal times the head of a family acted as priest; and as this solemn act of devotion on the part of Noah for himself and his small household was designed to be a full expression of his religious feelings-an acknowledgment of demerit and profession of repentance, faith in the great propitiation, and thanksgiving for temporal as well as spiritual mercies-every kind of animal was included in the sacrificial offering that was required to give completeness to the ritual design. The sacrifice was both expiatory and a thank-offering. It is observable that the sacrifice was offered not to God ( 'Elohiym (Hebrew #430)), the Creator and Judge, but to the Lord ( Yahweh (Hebrew #3068)), the God of grace, who, by the instructions given to Noah, had Himself provided the materials (see the note at Genesis 7:1-5).


Verse 21

And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

The Lord smelled a sweet savour. The sacrifice offered by a righteous man like Noah, in faith, was acceptable as the most fragrant incense, (cf. Exodus 29:18; Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 1:17; Leviticus 2:9; Leviticus 3:5, etc.) Paul (Ephesians 5:2) has applied this strong Oriental figure to describe the acceptable nature of the sacrifice of Christ, and thereby led us to see in Noah and his preservation in the ark a type of Christ and the salvation which is only to be obtained in the Gospel Church.

Lord said in his heart - same as, "I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth" (Isaiah 54:9). The words express the divine determination or secret decree before it was revealed to Noah, as it was on this occasion.

For the imagination of man's heart is evil. The Hebrew term "for," is rendered 'though,' in the margin of our Bibles (Exodus 13:19; Joshua 17:18); and it is usually considered an improvement in the translation. But a very good sense is conveyed by the word as it stands in the King James Version, which intimates clearly that, considering man's proneness to corruption and sin 'from his youth up' - i:e. the hereditary and inherent evil of his nature-God would exercise forbearance toward him; and instead of destroying the world again on his account, place it under an established economy of grace, which would secure a continuance of fruitful seasons, filling all classes with food and gladness. "For" since the imagination of man is habitually evil, instead of inflicting another destructive flood, I shall spare them, to enjoy the blessings of grace through a Saviour.


Verse 22

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

While the earth remaineth. The year is here divided into six seasons, founded on an experience of the uniform course of nature in Eastern countries. The same arrangement, though not noticed in sacred Scripture, was afterward adopted by the Jews, as appears by a passage quoted from an old Rabbinical work by Lightfoot ('Horae Hebraicae'): 'Half of the month Tisri (September), all Marchesvan, and half of Kislef, are seed-time; half of Kislef, all Tebet, and half of Shebath are winter; the latter half of Shebath, all Adar, and half of Nisan are cold; the latter half of Nisan, all of Ijar, and half of Sivan are harvest; half of Sivan, all Tammuz, and half of Ab are summer; half of Ab, all of Elul, and half of Tisri are heat.' Other Oriental people also reckon six seasons, as the Hindus, the Arabians, and the inhabitants of the neighbouring regions. From this it appears, that although during the incessant rains of the deluge an almost total darkness prevailed, the distinction between "day and night" would be restored, and the character and succession of the seasons continue the same before as after that dispensation.

The ardent faith and devout feelings of Noah, which ascended to heaven with the smoke of his sacrifice, were highly acceptable to the divine object of his worship; and his typical offering, by which the earth was purified and consecrated as man's abode, was the occasion of the promise being made, that so long as the present economy of Providence subsists in the world, the course of nature shall not again be arrested, nor human life be universally destroyed. 'The old curse,' says Sherlock ('Use and Intent of Prophecy'), 'was fully executed and accomplished in the flood. In consequence of which discharge from the curse, a new blessing is immediately pronounced upon the earth.'

 


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

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