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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Genesis 8

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. VIII.

The waters decrease: the ark resteth on Mount Ararat. Noah sends forth a raven; and afterwards a dove; and then departs himself from the ark. He builds an altar, and sacrifices to the Lord, who promises him not to destroy the earth any more in this manner for man's iniquity.


Verse 1

Genesis 8:1. God remembered Noah—and made a wind to pass, &c.— God had compassion upon Noah in his melancholy confinement: and this stupendous end of his providence being answered by the destruction of the iniquitous generation, which brought on this dissolution of the earth, he was pleased to make use of the same natural means for the separation of the waters again to their appointed places as he used at the beginning of the creation: he caused the wind or air to operate as at first in order to assuage the waters, or rather to cause them to subside, and retreat to their appointed places. See notes on Genesis 1:6, &c. In consequence of this, Genesis 1:3 the waters returned from off the earth continually, or, as the margin of our Bibles has it, in going and returning. The heathen poet Ovid, (First Book of Metamorph.) says, that Jove loosed the northern wind to restore the earth to its primitive state, &c.

REFLECTIONS.—Since the work of vengeance was finished, it was time to remember mercy to Noah, now so long a prisoner in the ark, and perhaps by this time looking with some solitude for release from his confinement. It is said,

1. God remembered Noah; not that he had ever been forgotten of him. The eyes of the Lord are ever upon his children to do them good; if he tarry therefore, wait for him: none ever trusted on him, and was ashamed.

2. He remembered the cattle also. His mercies are over all his works: he careth for beasts that perish, and shall he forget or forsake his people? that be far from him.

3. We have also the evidence of his remembrance. He stayed the waters from flowing. (1.) He sent a wind to dry up the floods. He hath winds in his treasures, as well as waters, to dry up, as well as to deluge. All things serve him. (2.) He stopped the windows of heaven, and the fountains of the deep. Note; When afflictive providences have accomplished their ends, they shall be removed. (3.) He caused the waters to return from off the earth continually; part shut up within its bowels, in the vast abyss, part exhaled by sun and wind, and re-ascending into the clouds. (4.) It was a work of time, a hundred and fifty days, before they were considerably abated. Note; When our trials are long, and our deliverance slow, we had need pray: hold out, faith and patience.


Verse 4

Genesis 8:4. The ark rested in the seventh month. Of the year; that is, not of the flood, as appears from Genesis 8:13-14. as well as from Genesis 8:11 of the former chapter: on the tenth month of the year the tops of the mountains were seen, Genesis 8:5.

After tossing on the billows, at last the ark rests on Ararat. Note; Though the church suffer long in this tempestuous world, it shall rest at last upon the mount of God. It was two months and upwards after they felt ground, before the mountains were seen. They looked out every day, there is no doubt, and wished for dry land; at last, with joy it appears. Life is a long voyage: in age or sickness the believer perceives he draws near the shore; and when death's shadows are stretching over him, he begins to discover the happy land of glory beyond the grave, as the morning spread upon the mountains.

Upon the mountains of Ararat The general opinion is, that the ark rested upon one of the mountains which separated Armenia from Mesopotamia, which Ptolemy calls the Gordiaean, and Q. Curtius the Cordaean Mountains. This opinion is supported by the authority of the Chaldee paraphrase and Arabic version, which render Ararat, the Cordae Mountains; as also by Berosus, quoted in Josephus, b. i. c. 4. of his Antiquities. Bochart has been at the pains to collect several testimonies from authors in favour of this opinion. Mr. Whiston remarks here "the care and wisdom of Providence for the preservation of Noah, and all the creatures, after their coming out of the ark, by so ordering it that the ark should rest on one of the highest mountains in the world; for though the earth must have been generally uninhabitable for a considerable time after the flood, by reason of the sediment which the water left upon its surface, and which would require no small space of time to settle, consolidate, and become fit for vegetation; yet on the high mountains, which would be covered by the waters but a little time, the quantity of sediment would be so inconsiderable, that the earth would not be much altered from what it was before, nor its vegetables much hurt by this universal deluge."


Verse 5

Genesis 8:5. Tops of the mountains seen This is no contradiction to the former verse, in which it is said, that the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat; for it is very easy to conceive, that a vessel of so heavy burden as the ark was, might rest upon the earth when there were several feet of water still prevailing.


Verse 6

Genesis 8:6. At the end of forty days i.e.. Forty days after the first day of the tenth month, when the tops of the mountains began to appear, then Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made; and he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro; which going forth and returning, as the Hebrew has it, often flew from and to the ark again, finding no place of rest till the waters were dried up.

REFLECTIONS.—Noah was told when the flood should come, but not when it should abate. He begins now, therefore, to open the window after forty days; perhaps he feared to expose himself sooner to the waters: he felt himself safe where he was. It is folly to expose ourselves to needless danger.


Verse 8

Genesis 8:8. Also he sent forth a dove, &c.— From Genesis 8:10 it appears, that there was seven days' interval between the sending forth the raven and the dove. The dove was sent forth, probably, because it is a bird of strong wing, flies long and far, and feeds upon the seeds which are cast or fall upon the ground; and returns to its nest or home from the most remote places. The dove found no place to rest upon, and returned; but being sent out a second time, she brought with her an olive-leaf, or branch, plucked off: "Folia olivae viridis," the leaves of a green olive-tree, says Houbigant, Who reads the word in the plural, עלי ali. She brought this, it is supposed, from Assyria, which abounded with olive-trees, the property whereof is to live and be green under water. Thus it first became a pledge of restored favour and peace with God, and it hath continued an emblem of peace from that time to the present. It may just be hinted, that these little circumstances testify the truth of the scripture-account of things, and ought to have their weight. Bochart justly observes, that two things might be collected from this by Noah: the one, that not only the mountains were dried, but also the plains, or at least the lower hills, in which the olive-trees principally flourish; the other, that the earth was not so corrupted by the waters of the deluge, but that trees remained upon it, which might shortly vegetate again by the heat of the sun, and afford him food. This writer may be consulted for a full account of this great event, the heathen traditions concerning it, and other things, which our compass will not allow us to admit.


Verse 13

Genesis 8:13. In the six hundredth and first year i.e.. Of Noah's life: in the first month and first day of the month of the year, the waters were dried up; so that, as the flood began on the seventeenth day of the second month of the former year, it lasted, upon the whole, a complete solar year.


Verse 16

Genesis 8:16. Go forth, &c.— "After he had been three hundred and sixty-five days in the ark," says Mr. Locke, "God commands him to go forth, that he might leave the ark by the same authority which ordered him to enter it:" and he testified his obedience, as well as thankfulness, by offering burnt-offerings to the Lord for his great deliverance.

Not a day is he confined more than is needful for him. When the ground is fit for his abode, God sends to deliver him from his confinement. They are sure always of being in the right who do nothing without the divine warrant. And now the earth is renewed, the blessing is renewed also. They that serve the Lord shall want no manner of thing which is good.


Verse 20

Genesis 8:20. Noah builded an altar, &c.— Offerings and sacrifices necessarily imply the whole apparatus required; Cain and Abel could not have sacrificed without an altar. But that original one being destroyed, Noah erected a new one, on which to offer his sacrifice of clean beasts and clean birds. This seems to prove, as plainly as possible, the use of sacrifice before the deluge; as we read of no new revelation respecting that matter to Noah, and as it is plain his offerings were acceptable to God from the following verse.


Verse 21

Genesis 8:21. The Lord smelled a sweet savour Heb. a savour of rest, or cessation from anger. This is a phrase accommodated to our conceptions, which implies not any actual smelling, but only that this sacrifice of Noah's arose as acceptable to God, as sweet odours are to us. See Leviticus 26:31. And how it can be possible that the sacrifice and death of animals could be pleasing to God upon any other consideration than as his own appointment, and as sacrificed with a view to the great atonement, I have no conception.

REFLECTIONS.—The first concern of a gracious soul is to praise God for his mercies. Noah's first building is an altar, and his employment a sacrifice of thanksgiving. His flock of clean beasts and fowl was small, and one out of seven might be thought much; but Noah knew they would never be diminished by such a use of them. No man was ever the poorer for what he employed in God's service, nor the richer by what he defrauded it of.

The Lord said in his heart Resolved within himself no more to curse the ground for man's sake; that is, as the last verse shews, no more to curse it in that manner, with a deluge. The sense of the passage, I conceive, runs thus: "I will no more destroy the ground (after this manner) on account of man [or, as a punishment for his iniquity]; I will not again punish the human race by a deluge, though the imagination of man's heart be (or should be hereafter) evil even from his youth: I will not smite every thing living as I have done. So long as the earth remains, its regular seasons shall not cease; or be interrupted, as they have been during this last melancholy year of darkness, rain, and desolation."

Observe here, a grateful heart is that sacrifice wherewith God is ever well pleased. The Lord accepts Noah's service, and blesses him abundantly in return.

1. The smell of the sacrifice is a sweet savour; it was the figure of that in which God hath since declared he is well pleased. It is for Christ's sake alone that any of our services are offerings of a sweet smell.

2. God's gracious promise, I will no more curse the ground, &c. Though man will be still a sinner, these floods shall not return.

Such is the history which the scripture gives us of this extraordinary event, "the general deluge, from which the family of Noah, and some of all living creatures, were preserved in a vessel, prepared by the immediate direction of God, to repeople and replenish the earth; when all that had breath beside perished."

REFLECTIONS on the Deluge.

The grand cause of the corruption which brought on the deluge, was the intermarriage of the children of God with the iniquitous and idolatrous children of men. For it happened, in that mixture, (what has always fallen out in following ages when a holy people mingled with a profane,) that the holy adopted the wicked manners of the profane, while the profane never imitated the manners of the holy. This remark, I am persuaded, will hold universally good in respect to communities, however a few instances may be produced to the contrary in respect to individuals. We learn hence the danger of an intercourse with the wicked and ungodly; and particularly in so close an union as the marriage-state.

Who can fail admiring the goodness and patience of God towards the inhabitants of the first world, in giving them such warning, and so long time to repent? Happy they, who, in every period, duly improve this long-suffering of God towards themselves! For God is ever bountiful to them that fear him: He will not suffer the just Noah to perish; He regards those who honour him: He will ever regard those who, after the example of the faith of that patriarch, walk in righteousness, and duly improve all the notices both of the judgments and mercies of the Lord.

His judgments have been abroad in the earth, and nothing affords a more signal example of them than this fearful deluge: for if God spared not the old world, how can presumptuous sinners of this expect to escape his vengeance? Learn hence, O man! that thy God is just, as well as merciful; that his threatenings are not in vain; that he will not always be provoked, and that no number or rank of sinners can defend thee or others from the punishment denounced against obstinate offenders. Follow not therefore a multitude to do evil. Consider only eight persons were saved from the general destruction by water!

The imagination cannot be struck with a more dreadful spectacle, than that of the whole earth, and all mankind, buried under the waters: a spectacle, which presents to the mind ideas still more affecting, when it stands before the tribunal of conscience and religion. In those ordinary corrections wherewith God visits man, the reflections upon our bodily toils and sufferings are softened by the spiritual advantages they procure us: but here there was no room for any hopes: the plague of the deluge was inflicted by a justly-incensed God: it was the effect of a general depravation. What then, did all the souls perish that were swept away by it? God forbid, that we should presume to think of determining a point like this! They are in the hands of their God. Let us only improve the solemn admonition; and take heed, lest by presumptuous guilt we draw down the just vengeance of a merciful God upon us.

Whatever was the fate of their souls, it is certain that the lives of all who were out of the ark were lost: and as certainly, those, to whom the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, who neglect to embrace that proffered salvation, and to enter by faith into that everlasting covenant, will perish. This is what Christ warns us of in the Gospel, when he tells us, that it will be at the day of his coming as in the days of Noah, when the inhabitants of the world lived in security, and thought nothing of the flood till it came upon them, and destroyed them all. And, alas! how many live in this sad state of inconsideration at present, utterly neglectful of God, utterly regardless of futurity. By these, every call to repentance is treated with as much scorn and ridicule, as Noah's preparation of the ark and preaching were treated by the unthinking of his day! Oh, that they were wise! Awaken them, Lord, from their sleep of death, that they may not be surprised, when the dreadful moment of thy coming approaches!

In the midst of judgment God remembers mercy: not only saving Noah and his family, but by that means renewing the race of mankind, as well as restoring the earth to its present beautiful state and order: the comforts of which while we daily enjoy, let us daily raise our hearts in gratitude to the Sovereign Benefactor. Noah sets us a pattern: his first care, after his deliverance, was to return thanks to his Deliverer. If ever the sense of gratitude and filial fear have produced a sincere homage, it was doubtless upon this occasion: for what other could he render to God, while he was in the midst of so many objects, so lively representing the divine vengeance and mercy? Here, the ruins of a world; there, his family preserved from the universal catastrophe, by a concurrence of many and continual miracles!—Thus too let us learn, for every deliverance, for every fresh mercy granted, to follow the amiable example of this great patriarch, and to present the best sacrifices of our hearts to the Sovereign Preserver! Attentive to his will, Noah comes not out of the ark, till he commands. He had, indeed, sent forth the raven and the dove from the ark to bring him intelligence of the state of the earth: the raven returned not,—emblem of those who forsake God's church, and embrace the present world; rather choosing to feed on foul and sensual pleasures, than to be confined within the bounds of holiness and obedience. The dove, like a true citizen of the ark, returns, and brings faithful notices with her: and oh! how worthy are those messengers to be welcomed, who, with dove-like innocence in their lives, bring glad tidings of peace and salvation in their mouths!

It is a gracious declaration, that the earth we inhabit shall no more be destroyed by a flood; a truth, which the experience of ages hath now attested. But reflect, O my soul! that a day is coming, in which this earth shall be destroyed by a more consummate destruction, when all its works shall be burnt up, and the final fate of all men be fixed! an event, which is sufficient to alarm all thy thoughts, and to withdraw thy affections from so transitory, so perishing a scene, and to fix them on that new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness; and where those, who have walked with God here below, shall ever live in bliss with Him, who is seated on the throne, round which the token of grace, the rainbow, shineth like an emerald; and before which they continually cry, (O may we too join the everlasting song!) "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created!" Revelation 4.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 8:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/genesis-8.html. 1801-1803.

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