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Deeper Commentary

8:1 God remembered Noah- Read literally, this would be implying that He has the capacity to forget or be oblivious; in which case, this ‘language of limitation’ may refer to the Angels rather than God personally. It would be worth speculating whether every time God is said to 'remember' something, this language of limitation refers to Angels, who have the capacity to have their memories limited, and to need to remember things. After God remembers, He often does an action which necessitates other Angelic action, as if one Angel- the one which 'remembers'- commands other Angels.  One  wonders  whether this is the case when God "remembered" Noah in the ark and sent a "wind" to drive back the waters. He "Who makes His Angels Spirits (winds)" was therefore sending an Angel in control of a wind to execute His work. The idea of the Angels being in control of the winds and all elements of the natural world  is  a  common  one, seen most clearly in the book of Job. In support of this Angelic approah, it could be noted that this is an elohim statement, rather than of Yahweh Himself. The Hebrew for ‘remembered’ is elsewhere used in the sense of making mention of (Gen.  40:14; Ex. 23:13 etc.). Did the Angels make mention of Noah before the Council of Heaven, and God responded by sending out an Angel / wind to pass over the earth and drive back the waters? God makes His Angels spirits / winds (Ps. 104:4).

 

Or it could be that from Noah's perspective- and Genesis is at times written from the standpoint of human beings on earth, e.g. the creation record- God had forgotten him, but now God remembered him. In this case we would have another indication of Noah's imperfect faith. Moses uses the same figure in Gen. 30:22 to describe how God ‘remembered’ Rachel in responding to her prayer. Likewise God ‘remembered’ the righteous in Sodom in response to Abraham’s prayer (Gen. 19:29). Could this not imply that whilst Noah was spared from the world’s judgment, he was earnestly praying for the days to be shortened, and to be allowed to emerge from the ark into the new world? This would point forward to the urgent prayer of the faithful in the last days.

But God's "remembering" of people doesn't have to imply He forgot before remembering. The language can mean simply that He was aware of them, and acted upon that awareness. Moses uses the same figure in Gen. 30:22 to describe how God ‘remembered’ Rachel in responding to her prayer. Likewise God ‘remembered’ the righteous in Sodom in response to Abraham’s prayer (Gen. 19:29). Could this not imply that whilst Noah was spared from the world’s judgment, he was earnestly praying for the days to be shortened, and to be allowed to emerge from the ark into the new world? This would point forward to the urgent prayer of the faithful in the last days- a theme which we will often have cause to underline in these studies.

All the animals, and all the livestock that were with him in the ship- Again the emphasis is upon salvation associated with Noah personally. The animals were "with him".


And God made a wind to pass over the earth. The waters subsided- The flood makes a good case study of Angelic control of the natural world; see on :3. Jude 14 quotes Enoch's prophecy of the flood as saying that it would be associated with the Lord coming with "ten thousands of His saints" (Angels- cp. Dan. 7). The fact that Angels were used to cause the flood is found written between the lines of the Genesis account. The "windows of Heaven" being opened must refer to Angelic activity, as Job describes God calling for the wind and lightening to obey Him, and they come to Him and obey. This language must be about animate beings- i. e. the Angels responsible for these elements of nature. Gen. 8:1 says God remembered Noah- the language of limitation, as God Himself cannot forget or need to bring things to memory. We have suggested that this language of limitation be  always applied to the Angels; thus it would seem they were in charge of the flood. "God (the Angel co-ordinating the flood?) made a wind (an Angel- "Who makes His Angels spirits"- 'spirit' is the same word as 'winds') to pass over the earth... and the waters returned from off the earth, in going and returning (A.V.mg.)". This last phrase is used elsewhere about the Angels as God's eyes roaming around the earth on His missions, and also there is the connection with the ideas already discussed of the Angels constantly going to and fro between God and the earth and around the earth.


8:2 The deep’s fountains and the sky’s windows were also stopped, and the rain from the sky was restrained- Gen. 6:4 stresses that the giants were mere men; and that it was God and not the giants who opened and closed the windows of Heaven and sent the rain of the flood. This would fit in with wider evidence that the flood record, like that of the sons of God and daughters of men, is also purposefully deconstructing pagan myths about the flood. Here, Gen. 8:2 states clearly that it was God who caused the flood rains to cease and the waters to subside – whereas the pagan myths claim that it was the sun god who appeared and caused the waters to evaporate. The Biblical record says nothing about the waters disappearing by solar evaporation, but claims they subsided as a result of the work of Israel’s God. The restraint or opening of the heavens to provide rain is language used later of the drought or blessing of rain which God can bring on the eretz (Hag. 1:10 s.w.).

 
8:3 The waters receded from the earth in going and returning. After the end of one hundred and fifty days the waters decreased- "In going and returning" is the language of the surges of huge tidal waves, caused by the underwater eruptions of the "fountains of the deep" being broken up (Gen. 7:11; 8:2). Being in the ark must've been a very rocky ride; the boat would've been tossed and thrown most of the time. And so it is with our ride in Christ. But "going and returning" is also the language of the cherubum (Ez. 1:14), forging another hint that the whole flood experience was in the hands of Angels. See on :1 And God made a wind to pass over the earth.

The 150 days, or five months, are a significant period in the series of latter day judgments which are to come upon the eretz (see on Rev. 9:5,10).


8:4 The ship rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month- For "rested" see on Gen. 5:29. This is the meaning of "Noah"; the ark and Noah are connected, just as the ark was a type of the Lord Jesus, according to Peter. Israel left Egypt on the 14th day of Abib, the seventh month which became the first month in their new calendar; they likely crossed the Red Sea on the 17th day of that month. So perhaps it was on the very same day that the ark rested. Israel's passage through the Red Sea typified baptism (1 Cor. 10:1,2), just as Noah's passing through the floopd waters did (1 Pet. 3:19-21). Note that this was the same day that the Lord Jesus was resurrected- He died at Passover, 14th Abib, and resurrected three days later, 17th Abib.

On Ararat’s mountains- This could be an intensive plural, implying the one great mountain of Ararat. The word could mean "holy hill", and the great mountain of the eretz was mount Zion, not some arguable spot in present day Armenia. It would of course be so appropriate in the typology of the whole event, speaking of final salvation upon Mount Zion and the redeemed going forth into a new world.

8:5 The waters receded continually until the tenth month. In the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen- This could imply that from their position on Ararat, or mount Zion, Noah and his family witnessed this receding of the waters and the emergence of mountain tops. For by whom were they "seen" if not by them? And whilst the record is Divinely inspired, we wonder if Noah kept some kind of diary which Moses is now presenting, under inspiration. For the references to dates and what was seen from the ark are very precise and specific.


8:6 It happened at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ship- This is not the same Hebrew word which some versions translate ‘window’ in Gen. 6:16 [see note there]. There had been no command to make this window. Does this suggest a lack of faith within Noah, wanting to see what was going on outside, when God had designed the ark as a structure which didn’t give those within it the opportunity to see where they were going? The humanity and weakness of Noah is what makes him accessible to us as an example. It could be argued that the sending forth of the raven and dove were in themselves a lack of faith- for he had been commanded to preserve the animals, and letting one go like that was hardly responsible. But God conceded to Noah’s humanity and worked with him in this. The window was perhaps more of a spy hole- Gen. 8:9 speaks of Noah putting his hand out of it and pulling in the dove. It’s worth reflecting whether obsessions with prophecy are some kind of building a futile spy hole, when we are to trust our ultimate salvation to the Lord, in His good time. We have remarked elsewhere that events in early Genesis are to be connected with similar things later in the Pentateuch. The sending out of the two animals to know the state of the land perhaps connects with Moses’ sending out of the spies to know the state of the land- and this too wasn’t an act of great faith, for Moses surely should’ve believed the Divine / Angelic information about the state of the land rather than having to rely upon human investigation.

Which he had made- Time and again, we read of how Noah made the ark, and of how the animals and his family were with him. The whole salvation project was clearly based around this one man, and as such it so clearly points forward to the Lord's work.

8:7 And he sent out a raven. It went back and forth, until the waters were dried up from the earth- The use of an unclean and then a clean bird indicates again that God's salvation plan has use for both. The same lesson was taught to Elijah, when ravens were used to feed him- in another situation typical of the latter day experiences of the remnant (1 Kings 17:4). The Lord singled out unclean ravens as an example of animals with whom the Father has some level of caring fellowship (Lk. 12:24). The waters were not dried up for some time; so we imagine the unclean bird coming back and forth to the ark. The coursing back and forth of the raven parallels how the waters went and returned (:5 Heb.) as they receded, with the unclean raven perhaps representing the wings of God's Spirit over the whole process.

8:8 He sent out a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from the surface of the ground- The exact program of events wasn't clear to Noah, just as it will never be to us in the last days, within the ark of Christ. Therefore he tried these experiments with the birds "to see if" the time had come, and how the program was going. How long things shall continue for in our last days is open ended, or at least, we don't know any precise program. But at the end of the experience, Noah would have realized that he had been within the ark for exactly a year, and that every stage had been carefully planned and allowed by God. We too shall see the same, and only then will all Biblical prophecies, types and shadows fall perfectly into place in our understanding.


8:9 But the dove found no place to rest her foot- She found no Noah. It was Israel who were to later find no rest for the sole of their feet as they tramped the Gentile world [same Hebrew words in Lam. 1:3]. Their returning to the Lord was prefigured by the dove’s return to Noah. There seems some kind of allusion to all this in Is. 57:20,21, bearing in mind that the flood waters would have been troubled and dirty: "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked".

And she returned to him into the ship; for the waters were on the surface of the whole earth. He put out his hand, and took her, and brought her to him into the ship- There’s a definite allusion to this in Ps. 116:6,7 [the surrounding verses there have several allusions to Noah and the flood]: “The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.  Return, O my soul, to your rest [Heb. Noakh- Noah]; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you”. The Psalmist felt himself as that simple dove, flying over this shattered world looking for a place to land, and finding none, only to return to the Lord- symbolized by Noah. Note how in Ps. 55:6 the Psalmist also wishes to be as a dove. This is surely the way to read and use Scripture- to take an image and see the relevance to ourselves. This is why the Bible writers make such allusions which may appear out of context when analyzed in literary, philological terms of exposition. But the Hebrew way of interpreting Scripture isn’t always like this; the emphasis upon “context” can be taken too far, and it’s more of a Western than an Eastern way of using literature.

Put forth his hand and pulled her- These are the very same Hebrew words as in Gen. 19:10, where the Angels put forth their hand and pull Lot into the house and shut the door, just as Noah had been Angelically ‘shut in’ the ark. The connection of thought may simply be to show that Noah rescued / saved the dove from endlessly flying over the wastage of the Gentile world, which connects with our thoughts above about how the dove represents God’s wayward people returning to Him.

8:10 He stayed yet another seven days; and again he sent the dove out of the ship- The Hebrew word translated "grieved" (see on Jud. 10:15) occurs about Noah in Gen. 8:10: "And he stayed [s.w. to be grieved, hurt] yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark". This word is found translated in other places like this: "Be in anguish" (Dt. 2:25); "wounded" (1 Sam. 31:3); "exceedingly grieved" (Es. 4:4); "travaileth" (Job 15:20); "wounded" (1 Chron. 10:3); "sore pained within me" (Ps. 55:4); "I am pained at my heart" (Jer. 4:19); it is several times used of a woman "in pain" , "travailing" in expectancy of the birth (Is. 26:17,18; 54:1; 66:7; Mic. 4:10). Why was Noah grieved and distressed, as he waited seven days before sending the dove out again? Surely for the plight of his world. He was hoping the dove would return with some sign of civilization, some hint of human survival. His grief was for the corpses floating, for the animals lost… for the world that once was. He had preached to them for 120 years, and they hadn’t listened. Yet he didn’t think Well that’s their problem, they didn’t want to hear when they could, it serves them right. And neither does it seem he was looking out of the ark window thinking My, I’m sure glad we were obedient. As the rain came down, it seems to me that the practical reality of the tragedy would have dawned upon Noah; as the waters rose, he would have pictured the folk he knew running to ever higher hills he would have seen the faces of local children, maybe those of the guys he bought wood from, faces of the women his wife had bartered with, memories of his own brothers and sisters, perhaps his other children. It seems to me that he spent all that time in the ark grieving, grieving, grieving for the tragedy of it all. He surely wasn’t smugly thinking Ha, serves them right, and praise God, I’m saved, and there’s a great future Kingdom for me in store!. I also muse- and no more than this- that perhaps he went on a bender on coming out of the ark because he just couldn’t handle the tragedy of it all. Walking around an empty earth knowing he was saved and the others hadn’t made it…

 

This all has vital, biting relevance to us. For Peter takes Noah in the ark as a symbol of us all in Christ. Yes, he was there thanking God for His gracious salvation, looking forward to the new world to come, but distraught at the tragedy of those masses who hadn’t responded, and who had died the slow, desperate, struggling death of drowning. He sent out the dove to see if the waters were "abated" - but the Hebrew word is usually translated "curse"; he wanted to know if the curse was still evident; if the waters were cursed in the presence of the ground / earth. The same word is found in Gen. 8:21 "I will not again curse the ground". If our concern for this world is genuine, if our preaching is not just seeking to gain members, or prove ourselves right and others wrong, then we will grieve for this world; even though the exclusion of some from Gods salvation is in some way their fault. Those who reject our message we will grieve and bleed for; not just shrug our shoulders over. Lack of response should concern us, worry us, drive us to think of how we could be the more persuasive of men.


8:11 The dove came back to him at evening, and, behold, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from the earth- Noah was a "herald of righteousness" (2 Pet. 2:5 Gk.). In the ancient world, heralds were associated with an olive branch or wand, e.g. Mercury the herald-god had an olive branch in his hand. Noah may therefore have understood from this that now he was indeed the herald of the new age of righteousness. But a herald worked to take messages between opposing parties and to reconcile them- the olive branch was thought to have power over warring snakes. Perhaps Noah was being reminded that his work wasn't over- it was for him to go forth from the ark and reconcile people to God. Instead he got drunk...
Israel being the land of olives (Dt. 8:8), this would be another indication that the flood was a local affair over the ‘land’ promised to Abraham. As olive trees don’t grow near the present Ararat in Armenia, this lends support to the Jewish tradition that the olive came from the mount of Olives, and the ‘ararat’ / ‘holy mount’ upon which the ark landed was Mount Zion.

"Leaf" is also translated branch. A broken off olive branch is exactly the figure Paul uses to describe Israel in Rom. 11:17-24. The whole story is a very detailed prefigurement of Israel’s return from Gentile dispersion and Divine judgment, not simply to God, but into the Christ ark. Is. 54:9 encourages us to see things this way too, for the waters of the flood are there interpreted as God’s wrath with Israel, and their cessation speaks of His eternal acceptance of them at their return to Him.

8:12 He stayed yet another seven days, and sent out the dove; and she didn’t return to him any more- "Stayed" is s.w. to be patient, wait, trust. It’s a different Hebrew word from that in Gen. 8:10, although there many versions also read “stayed”. There in 8:10 the Hebrew means to writhe, wriggle, twist in pain- rather indicating Noah’s impatience and dented faith. But now his patient waiting returns. This patient waiting for Christ’s Kingdom is of the essence (2 Thess. 3:5). Saul also tarried [s.w. Gen. 8:12] seven days, but he offered his sacrifice then rather than wait longer as Noah did to offer sacrifice (1 Sam. 13:8). Potentially encouragement had been set up for Saul, but he failed to take it. He was supposed to perceive the similarity in position between himself and Noah; but he failed to see it nor think himself into the situation.

8:13 It happened in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth. Noah removed the covering of the ship, and looked- If the "covering" refers to our covering in Christ, for the ark represents Him, then this may suggest that the whole idea of covering or atonement will be removed when we emerge from the ark into our full salvation. Then like Adam we shall walk in Eden in the presence of God, see His face and be unashamed.

He saw that the surface of the ground was dried- "Dry" is s.w. waste, destroyed, desolate. It was this which maybe made Noah depressed and turn to alcohol- for he loved people and so cared for them, and had sought their salvation in vain for 120 years.

8:14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry- The exact time references suggest Noah kept some kind of diary, or at least memorialized the exact sequence of events to be passed down the generations, until they came to Moses, who under inspiration turned them into inspired scripture. The period between Noah realizing the earth was "dry" and then God telling him to exit the ark (:15) may point forward to some time period required for the establishment of the Kingdom. And there are plenty of other scriptures which hint at such a period between the end of the latter day judgments, and our walking forth into paradise restored.

8:15 God spoke to Noah, saying- We are presented with God speaking to Noah, and his direct obedience to the word received (Gen. 6:3,13; 7:2). This theme continues here. He is presented as obedient, just as Moses is.

8:16 Go out of the ship, you, and your wife, and your sons, and your sons’ wives with you- Obedience to such a command might seem obvious. Surely Noah wanted to leave the ark. But he had been there for a year; was there some reticence in going forth into what might have appeared a somewhat spooky new world? Maybe he didn't have the bravery for that new world, and typical of all humans, preferred to just stay where he was, where he felt safe. We see here a window onto the inertia which is a stronger part of human nature than we might wish to accept. We think of Joseph's brothers, nervous to accept his grace; and the language of the faithful being made to sit down and be served at the Messianic banquet, and those who really couldn't remember their good deeds being told "Come, enter the Kingdom!".

8:17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh, including birds, livestock, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply on the earth- "Bring out with you" is you singular. Again, Noah is seen as the Saviour, with all the others saved due to being with him. We can in a sense save others by our witness, even though the Lord is their Saviour in the ultimate sense.

8:18 Noah went out, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him- As noted on :15, Noah is presented as obedient to words spoken from God. Perhaps we are to notice from the strict list of those who emerged that the sons and their wives produced no children during their year in the ark.


8:19 Every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, whatever moves on the earth, after their families, went out of the ship- The order in which the animals are listed is different from that in Gen. 6:20; 7:21. Perhaps because in the ark they mixed together; our experience in the Christ ark should lead to unity.


8:20 Noah built an altar to Yahweh, and took of every clean animal, and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar- This was on Noah’s initiative. There had been no altars stipulated previously. God had asked Noah to build an ark, and now Noah of his own volition builds an altar. As we mature in Christ, we no longer simply follow commands but take our own initiative in God’s service. Noah’s first reaction may have been to build a house for himself and his family; but he put God first and built an altar. If one of "every clean animal" was offered, this would've been a huge number of animals. The idea was perhaps that representatives of all flesh will be acceptable to God in the end.



8:21 Yahweh smelled the pleasant aroma- Or "sweet savour". 'Sweet' translates nychoah, related to the word 'Noah'. Noah was his sacrifice. Our lives are sacrifices being offered up. Just as the Lord Jesus was an offering of a sweet-smelling savour (Eph. 5:2). Noah was his sacrifice, as we are ours. We each have our unique smell to God. Again and again, Moses sought to refocus his people on the practical, the literal, the concrete, and away from the myths which surrounded them. And yet he does this by alluding to those myths, so as to alert Israel to the fact that the new, inspired record which he was writing was fully aware of the myths God's people were being assailed with. This would explain the similarity of expressions between some of the myths and the Genesis record- e.g. "The Lord smelled the pleasing odour" (Gen. 8:21) is very similar to the Gilgamesh Epic, 9.159-160: "The gods smelled the odour, the sweet odour". The Biblical record is one of hard human reality, undiluted with the fantastic or mythical: "The central figures of the Bible saga are not, as in so many hero-tales, merged in or amalgamated with persons belonging to mere mythology; the data regarding their lives have not been interwoven with stories of the gods. Here all the glorification is dedicated solely to the God who brings about the events. The human being... is portrayed in all his untransfigured humanity" (Martin Buber, Moses (Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1947) p. 17).

Yahweh said in His heart- We may never know in this life God’s feelings in response to our sacrifices. We can touch the heart of God, we tiny mortals on earth… And God's word opens up to us the very inner thoughts of God Himself.

I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake, because the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again strike everything living, as I have done- see on Gen. 8:10. "Not again curse" is alluded to in Rev. 21:1, there will be no more curse in God’s Kingdom. It seems Noah had the potential to enable the Kingdom there and then, as did so many- Solomon, the Jews returning from exile, Israel in the first century. Every time, human weakness and shortsightedness stopped it.

God saw that "the imagination of man's heart" was evil from his youth; not from his birth, showing that God is referring to the specific attitude of those times rather than to man's innate sinfulness. The implication is that God was especially saddened at the evil thinking of a reprobate, corrupted youth. And how much more today? God as it were reduced His expectations, cut us yet more slack, made even bigger concessions to humanity.

The essential struggle of God is brought out by the account of God’s ‘repenting’ that He had cursed the earth. According to one translation, Gen. 8:21 can read: “I will never again declare the earth to be cursed (as I have done hitherto) on account of humanity, because the imagination of the heart is evil from one’s youth”. The reference to cursing the earth surely alludes back to the curse of Gen. 3:17. Could it be that God is saying that He ‘repented’ not only of the flood, but of the cursing of the earth in response to Adam’s sin? The final outworking of that repenting of course was through the work of the Lord Jesus, and the ultimate enablement of Paradise restored on this earth. It’s as if God is as it were coming to terms with the evilness of man; although He perceives that man is bent on sinning from his youth, by grace, He promises never to destroy mankind. In wrath, He remembered mercy. God has emotion and it’s hard to read this any other way than that He regretted how far He had punished humanity. This tension within God, between being immutable and yet being emotional, is impossible to ultimately explain.

8:22 While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease- The reference to the seasons, planting etc. suggest this is relevant to the earth / land of Israel and not world-wide [there is no Summer and Winter on the equator]. There are six different seasons mentioned here. This would indicate a different climate at the time- although some cultures such as the Copts likewise split the year into six seasons rather than the four seasons common today in European countries.