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The Abatement of the Flood; Noah’s Exit from the Ark
The Flood story proceeds with a simple narration utterly devoid of all extraneous matter and of all ornamentation—a type of epic simplicity which in itself is a guarantee of absolute veracity and historical fidelity.
1-3a. And God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and domestic animals which were with him in the ark, and God caused a wind to pass over the earth and the waters abated. Also the fountains of the deep were stopped and the windows of the heavens; and the pouring rain from heaven was restrained. And the waters subsided from upon the earth more and more.
Behind the working of nature, according to the Scriptures, stands God. In perfect harmony with this principle the subsiding of the Flood is attributed to God’s remembering Noah. In this expressive sense "remember" (zakhar) is often used (Gen. 9:15, 16; Exod. 2:24; 6:15; Gen. 30:22; 1 Sam. 1:11), implying a "remembering with kindness, granting requests, protecting, delivering" (B D B). It would never occur to one familiar with Hebrew to draw the conclusion from this statement that for a time God had forgotten Noah. Nor is the expression so distinctly a characteristic of the portions assigned to P, as Strack intimates, for its use is also attributed to E (Gen. 30:22) to JE (Exod. 32:13) or to H (Lev. 26:42). This activity, though often ascribed to Yahweh, is here attributed to Elohim, for, as the sequel goes on to show, "wild and domestic animals" are also remembered, and God’s work under this head is in reality analogous to His creative work, for it involves the preservation and the 1.309multiplying of all manner of life upon the earth. "Elohim" more appropriately describes God in His creative and sustaining capacity. So, again, we have here not a stereotyped use of divine names but rather a discriminating use according to their basic meaning. Incidentally, there is a tender touch in the account that describes the Almighty God as having concern for all His creatures (cf. Ps. 147:9 and Jonah 4:11).
As God employed natural agencies, operating with unusual potency, to bring about the Flood, so similar agencies are brought into use to remove the Flood waters. However, since it was necessary on the one hand to have the power of these agencies increased or accentuated to produce results as vast as those here recorded, it follows without further specific statement that the causes at work to remove the waters will have been more highly potentialized. Procksch, therefore, has no need of making the criticism: "that the wind should have made the whole earth dry in about five months is a very childlike conception." The least bit of readiness to interpret the verse in harmony with all the facts recorded would have checked his uncalled-for criticism. Besides, as we are at once told, other agencies co-operated to secure the desired result. But, we are sure, as an element of the miraculous entered into the matter of the coming of the Flood, so a similar element contributed to its abatement. So eager is the writer to draw the result achieved to our attention that he at once begins to speak of the fact that "the waters abated."
2. Then he proceeds to fit into place the other auxiliary agencies: (a) "the fountains of the deep were stopped" and (b) "the windows of the heavens."Since 7:11 had told us of the opening of these sources of water, the author owes us a statement as to whether these continued open. But since the closing of these two cannot subtract from the waters but merely prevents further increase, the mention of these two 1.310is brought in as an afterthought, even as is the third contributory agency, the "pouring rain" (géshem) mentioned previously 7:12. These three together, then, may be regarded as causes contributing only negatively to the abatement of the waters. The critics, bent on discerning various documents and a measure of conflict between these documents, fail to discern the simple analysis of the relation of v. 1 and 2 and claim to have a clear indication of various sources that were not sufficiently harmonized at this point. In fact, the critical analysis assigns to J (1b?) 2b, 3a, (4b?) 6-12, 13b. To P: 1, 2a, 3b-5, 13a. 14. Criticism claims the possible original sequence in J to have been: 6a, 2b, 1b, 3a, 4.
The opening verb yissakherû, "were stopped," is quite naturally masculine since the first subject "fountains" is masculine, even though a feminine follows ("windows"). See K. S. 349 m.
3. The fact that the waters subsided with marked rapidity and not as an ordinary wind could make them do, is indicated by a strong form of expression in the Hebrew which our rendering ("more and more") reproduces very imperfectly. The double infinitive absolute (halôkh washôbh) appended to the finite verb would yield a connection which might be rendered: "they subsided going and returning," which amounts to: "they subsided with a very pronounced fall." See G. K. 113 r on these absolute infinitives. Strack misses the force of the double infinitive when he renders it allmaehlich —"gradually." Meek does better, but has too weak an expression in "steadily."
3b, 4. The waters declined after the expiration of one hundred and fifty days, so that the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month.
Comparing 7:24, we discern that the one hundred and fifty days here mentioned are the same here and 1.311there. The total length of time that the waters dominated the earth without suffering abatement is here, under consideration, About the first thing to happen when the abatement began must have been the grounding of the ark (wattánach—"and she came to rest"). It could well have been on the first day of the abatement because, according to 7:20 a drop of only fifteen cubits was necessary, and, surely, the waters must have fallen more rapidly than that. But if we assume that the first day of abatement brought with it the grounding of the ark, we must assume that the highest peak of the entire vicinity is the one under consideration, according to 7:20. The only difficulty encountered by this assumption is that this highest peak, Masis, commonly called Ararat, is the most inaccessible of all, and the problem of bringing all the animals down from this height must have been not inconsiderable, yet within the realm of the possible. Divine providence, of course, displays itself gloriously in all that befalls Noah and the ark—in the mere fact that the ark came to rest on terra firma; but primarily also in the fact that so huge a structure came to rest on an even keel, as it were, where a pronounced tilt in the course of its settling might have resulted in the perishing of all.
However, some confusion has grown out of the customary interpretation put upon the expression "the mountains of Ararat." This is usually interpreted as though it read "upon Mount Ararat." However, the Hebrew has "mountains" (harey), the plural of indefiniteness as in Judg. 12:7b, where naturally the translation runs: "in one of the cities of Gilead" but the original has "in the cities of Gilead," (cf. K. S. 265 c). Likewise, in Biblical usage Ararat is a country; see 2 Kings 19:37＝Isa. 37:38; Jer. 51:27. He that feels he cannot accept the idea that the ark landed on the magnificent peak Masis, may take the other traditional view, offered by the Targum, that it was 1.312the "Kardu mountains," i. e., the mountains in Kurdistan, southwest of Lake Van, "commanding a view of the Mesopotamian plain." The island of Ceylon, as some hold, cannot even be considered. But whichever of the two views offered above one may accept, in either case a providential factor can clearly be observed in this location. For it marks the spot from which the human race was to spread abroad. From several points of view this location is central. Access to the Mesopotamian plain is easy. Asia Minor presents itself on the other hand. Syria, Arabia and Africa lie conveniently to the south and southwest. Asia is accessible to the north and northeast. Europe is approachable through Asia Minor; India through Mesopotamia. Here is the scriptural centre from which the nations went abroad over the face of the earth.
On the short "a," in the Kal of yachserû (v. 3) see G. K. 63f. On the form wattánach (v. 4), G. K. 72t.
5, 6. And the waters remained, decreasing continually, until the tenth month, and in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the mountain tops came into view. And it came to pass after forty (more) days Noah opened the window that he had made in the ark.
Even as expressions were multiplied in chapter seven to give an impression of the marvellous increase of, the waters until the waters prevailed over all, so expressions are multiplied to help us grasp the magnitude and the rapidity of the decrease. The abatement of the waters may not be classed as merely normal, brought about by ordinary processes of evaporation. The expression here used is: "the waters remained, decreasing continually." The hayû cannot have the two following absolute infinitives joined with it and be treated as mere auxiliary, thus: "they were decreasing." Absolute infinitives are not used thus, nor is 1.313the verb hayah (cf. K. S. 402 b). Hayah must here have a meaning like "exist" or "remain." But as "the waters remained," the decrease went on rapidly: halôkh wechasôr literally: "going and decreasing"—an emphatic combination.
The chronology of the Flood is complete for all practical purposes. The major items discovered by the occupants of the ark are listed. So on the first day of the tenth month "the mountain tops came into view," literally: "the heads of the mountain were seen." We prefer not to render "were seen," for that might imply that they were visible before but just did not happen to be seen, which certainly was not what the writer meant.
6. Forty days after the appearance of the mountain peaks "Noah opened the window that he had made in the ark." We can conjecture little that is satisfactory about the nature, size, and location of this window. The name challôn must be from the root challal meaning "to pierce." It must have been cut in the side wall. It must have been of such a kind that it could be opened. We wonder chiefly at the fact that Noah did not remove it sooner. Our lack of knowledge of details makes it impossible to furnish an answer. We prefer to render as above, making the clause "which he had made" clearly modify the noun "window," as without doubt it is designed to, even though it follows the word ark in Hebrew. There would, however, be no point in asserting here that Noah had made the ark. A. V. is ambiguous.
7-12. And he sent forth a raven, which went flying back and forth until the waters were dried up from upon the earth. Then he sent forth a dove from him to see if the waters had abated from upon the face of the ground. But the dove found no resting-place, for the sole of her foot, and so she returned to him to the ark, for water was upon the surface of all the earth, and he put out his hand and 1.314took her and brought her to him into the ark. Then he waited again another seven days and again sent forth a dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him at evening, and, lo, there was a fresh olive leaf in her beak. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. Then he waited again another seven days and sent forth a dove, but she did not again return to him.
The open window must have been of a kind that did not afford a very wide view. In fact, Noah was unable to determine to what extent the waters had abated. The only solution for the difficulty occurring to us is the possibility of a window high under the eaves, but the eaves projecting rather far so that a bit of ground, perhaps a nearby ledge of the mountain, was all that could be seen, and this ledge prevented the view into the valley or out into the plain. So Noah, thoroughly conversant with the ways and habits of birds, uses them for securing additional information. First he sends forth a raven—the article ha’orebh is the generic article (K. S. 300 a); we say "a raven." Should the bird fail to return—for the impulse to get free from the ark may have stirred strongly in all occupants—Noah knows the bird can subsist; for, being a scavenger bird, it will find carcases here and there. Its failure to return tells him that at least there is no more a blank waste of water, and that the waters have subsided materially. One can hardly conceive how painful the suspense in the ark was growing at this time. The actions of the raven are described as: he "went flying back and forth," literally: "he went forth, going forth and coming back." This might mean that he occasionally perched on the ark, but how could Noah have known that? More likely it means, since yatsa’ is used with the absolute infinitive, that it merely flew back and forth. The occupants of the ark may have heard its cawing, now on one side, now on another. Since this bird is not particular as to where it 1.315perches, the slimy surface available here or there will not have repelled it.
8. Another bird is chosen for a similar purpose to convey further information. For the dove (yônah with generic article, as in v. 7) is a more cleanly bird, which will not alight in places that are not clean. That seven days had elapsed since the sending of the raven appears from the use of the words "again" and "another" in v. 10. That such comparatively long periods elapsed between successive sendings shows that, in the face of all natural desire to be informed as to how far the abatement had progressed, Noah had possessed his soul in patience, the patience of faith. When this cleanly bird "found no resting-place for the sole of her foot," she returned to Noah before evening, strong-winged bird though she was. This conveyed the information to Noah that water was still upon the surface of all the earth. With the insertion of details, for it was a memorable deed and indicative of the kindly relationship existing between this man of God and the lesser creature, the narrative tells us how "he put out his hand and took her and brought her to him into the ark." Above, the dove (v. 8) had been sent forth me’ittô, "from with him," a phrase not used in reference to the raven, apparently because the tame friendly dove stood closer to him than the raven. Now the dove is said to return "to him." These are niceties about the narrative which commentators scarcely seem to notice. The verb for "he put out his hand" is shalach in the Piel. It is the same verb in the Hebrew idiom "to send forth" (v. 7), where Meek renders, very appropriately, "release."
10. Each venture at sending forth a bird has yielded some definite information. The dove is still the most suitable messenger to send forth. Whether the article before the word now designates the same dove that was sent first or is still the generic article is somewhat difficult to determine. We incline to the 1.316opinion that it points to the same dove. But that the intervals of time are in each case seven days suggests, on the one hand, that in antediluvian days time was apparently reckoned by weeks. On the other, there seems great likelihood that so godly a man as Noah will on each occasion have accompanied the sending forth of the bird by prayer. But that does not yet warrant the conclusion of T. Lewis that this necessitates that the days involved were "days held sacred for prayers and religious rest," that is to say, antediluvian Sabbaths. But that Noah waits no longer than seven days in each instance indicates that he was also aware of the exceptionally rapid decline of the waters. He expected that seven days might materially alter the situation.
11. In this case he was correct in his anticipation. The dove stayed away all day. She had found rest for the sole of her foot, for she would hardly remain on the wing for an entire day. She might perhaps have stayed away but for the urge to return to those of her kind and for something she was driven to do by the guidance of God to give Noah a further token of life returning to the earth. Doves are not considerate birds who bring men tokens of the state of affairs upon the earth. That this dove brought a leaf in its beak is to be attributed alone to an impulse divinely directed. The "fresh olive leaf" may be used by synecdoche for a small twig, although that is not essential. A single leaf could be identified and would serve its purpose. "Fresh" (taraph) indicates that it had just been plucked, and was not an old one swimming in the waters. So, being fresh, it pointed to an olive tree then in foliage. Though these trees will grow in water, yet they are found only below certain levels. So Noah could conjecture about how far the water level must at least have gone down into the valleys. Whatever could lead Procksch to claim because of the olive leaf that "we again have a Palestinian landscape before us" is more than appears to our understanding. Olive 1.317trees are found in many oriental countries and also, according to the authority of ancient writers, in the land of Armenia. The touch added to the narrative by the phrase "at evening" is suggestive. Just as the hope for the return of the dove has about died down, the bird puts in its appearance.
12. Each time the experiment yielded, some result. It practically was a barometer for those immured in the ark; a barometer indicating the fall of the waters, It was therefore worthy to be repeated once more. The dove’s failure to return testifies eloquently to the practically complete subsidence of the waters.
On v. 7-12 note the following grammatical facts. Verse 7yebhosheth is an irregular segolate infinitive used as object of the preposition ’adh (K. S. 228). In v. 9 the negative lo’ creeping in between the "and" and the verb results in the abandoning of the use of the imperfect with waw conversive. "Another," ’acherîm, may refer to the idea of doubling as well as to the idea of "different." (K. S. 315 p).
13, 14. And it came to pass by the first day of the first month of the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life that the waters were dried up from off the earth; so Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked abroad and, lo, the face of the ground was dry. But by the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was dry.
As much as is needed of a Flood chronology, relatively complete, is given in this account. Here are the last items of it. By the time the first day of the year comes about, this being now the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life, it is quite in order to take stock again as to how things stand. It could practically be said that the earth was dry. This new juncture in the narrative is introduced, as so often in Hebrew, by a wayhi, "and it came to pass." Noah, who had been extremely cautious to do nothing that might in the 1.318least conflict with the divine purpose, now felt that circumstances permitted the removal of the roof of the ark, here called "covering," mikhseh from kasah, "to cover." The fact that the tabernacle had a covering of skin, which is also designated by this word, should not induce interpreters to conclude that the ark had a covering of skin—altogether too frail a substance to withstand the downpour of rain that this vast structure was exposed to. When the covering was removed, Noah discerned that at least the surface, i. e, "face," of the ground was dry—a fact so significant after its being long covered by waters as to warrant its being stressed by the emphatic "lo." But, of course, ordinary common sense told Noah that after a Flood that had continued so long and wrought such vast upheavals the ground could not yet be dry enough to allow the occupants of the ark to leave. Instead of an object clause after "he saw" we find a hinneh ("behold") clause (K. S. 361 g). On the Hifil form wayyásar see G. K. 72t.
14. Now the statement follows that the earth itself as a whole (ha’árets) actually was dry by the twenty-seventh day of the second month. A comparison with 7:11 nets the result that the total duration of the Flood was one year and ten days, at least that was the length of time that Noah was confined in the ark.
Among the various difficulties encountered by the critics after they have the account separated into parts according to the sources J and E, are some that can with difficulty be accounted for even by the explanation that they are the work of the so-called Redactor. So on v. 13 they confess to be puzzled as to why J should not in his account have had a statement to the effect that the ark grounded. Apparently, according to J Noah leaves the ark without its ever having settled on terra firma! The definite findings of criticism apparently are far from being as satisfactory and as unimpeachable as the critics would have us believe.
1.31915-17. And God spake to Noah saying: Go forth from the ark, thou and thy wife and thy sons and thy sons’ wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every animal of all flesh that is with thee including birds and cattle and all creeping things that move upon the earth, and let them spread abroad on the earth and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.
Throughout this whole account Noah appears as a man who walked with God. He did not venture to do things according to his own thinking. He entered the ark when he was bidden; he left it when God told him to. The future of the whole race was tied up with what he did, and he knew it. If now this speaking (v. 15) is ascribed to Elohîm＝God, and not to Yahweh, the point of view of the writer is very plain. The things that God ordains are like a new creation after the devastation of the Flood. As then the basic command went out, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (1:22), so now (v. 17). As God, the Almighty Creator, who is to be feared, is the one to whom such basic creative activity is ascribed, so now. We see no reason for the different order in which the persons in the ark are listed v. 15: Noah and his wife first, then the sons and their wives, where previously 6:18 and 7:7 the sequence was: Noah, sons, his wife, their wives—no reason, we say, except such natural variation in relating things as all authors employ. A weakness of the critical position: on this point 6:18 and 7:7 are identical; yet 6:18 is ascribed to P and 7:7 to J.
17. The opening word kol-ha(ch)chayyah, of course, is the broadest term, "every animal." The "beth of enumeration" that follows we have rendered "including." God gives specific and detailed orders so as to prevent misunderstanding. Besides, all creatures are not simply to be liberated to trot forth from the ark in wild confusion, which confusion might have 1.320resulted in the death of the weaker-creatures. They are to be "brought forth." (The suggestion of the Masoretes that the regular Hifil imperative hôtse’ we read haytse’ is not quite clear.) Then, as for the first creatures that God created, the basic ordinance is given: "Be fruitful and multiply upon the earth." Contrasting this word again with 1:22, we notice that "fill the earth" is not a part of it. This seems to point to the fact that creatures originally multiplied to the point where they were more numerous—schools of fish, droves of wild beasts—as also seems to be indicated by the vast quantities of fish and trilobites that are found imbedded as fossil remains in many such deposits, as well as by the huge number of mammoths and ivory tusks found in North Siberian deposits.
18, 19. And Noah went forth, also his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Also all the animals, every creeping thing and every bird, in fact, everything that moveth upon the earth went forth from the ark according to their species.
With great circumstantiality all details are faithfully recorded, because every step is of great importance to the future of the race and of all creatures. It must be admitted that such a mode of presentation sets forth the record of these events with fine dignity. Again, merely to speak of a different source, blurs this fine point. Cf. the remarks on v. 15.
19. In spite of the dignified precision, of his statements the writer is not coldly stereotyped in his expressions. The same ground is covered as in v. 17 but with expressions slightly different. Here the participle rômes bears the general meaning found already in 1:28 and in 7:21. The added phrase "according to their species," though modifying the verb "went forth," is not to be pressed too closely, as though in the narrower sense it described the very manner of going forth, as though they went forth strictly only by species. We 1.321rather believe that what is meant is to remind us that the great variety of species all went forth intact. None had been lost. God’s purpose to save them all by the ark had been successful. The le before "species" is the le normae (K. S. 332 q).
20. And Noah built an altar to Yahweh, and he took of all clean cattle and of all clean birds and offered a burnt offering upon the altar.
Taking only the expressions of v. 21, some regard the purpose of this sacrifice to be only propitiation. In view of the whole preceding situation and the natural feeling of gratitude that must have possessed the heart of any one, or any group, that find they alone have been spared in a universal catastrophe, we find the ruling out of the idea of thanksgiving in connection with this sacrifice to be preposterous. The purposes of thanksgiving and of propitiation blend in this sacrifice. It is, indeed, the first altar of which the Scriptures tell. That Gen. 4 does not mention an altar may signify nothing: the sons may have been using their father’s altar, and so none needed to be built. To deduce from this first mention of an altar that prior to the Flood altars to raise up offerings to heaven were not thought of because God’s presence was still manifest in the Garden, as the place of revelation, is building up too much conjecture on the mere silence of Scripture. We do not know whether the Garden continued to be God’s place of manifestation after the Fall. We do not know whether altars originated now or in Adam’s time. Mizbéach strictly means "the place of slaughter." This altar is raised to Yahweh, because Noah is mindful of the gracious fidelity which God in the person of Yahweh so mercifully displayed. This is in added argument for the fact that the offering was one of thanksgiving. The expression "he took of" could here very well be rendered: "he took one of"—as K. C. actually renders it; cf. 3:6. Under the circumstances 1.322the seventh one (7:8) of the original seven, the unmated one, could best serve the purpose. If the definition of what was clean or unclean corresponded roughly to what the Mosaic law defined later, as we have every reason to believe, cf. Lev. 11 and Deut. 14, this must have been a generous sacrifice and in proportion to the number of creatures extant the most liberal sacrifice ever offered. But, of a certainty, never was there a man who had greater occasion to render hearty thanks to God. Wayyá‘al (G. K. 72 t), "and he offered," from ’alah, "to go up," in the Hifil must mean, "to cause to go up." The object to be supplied in thought is not the beast which is brought up upon the altar but the smoke of the sacrifice, as the use of the verb ’alah in Judges 20:40; Jer. 48:15 and Amos 4:10 indicates. Consequently, the derived noun ’olah signifies "a burnt offering going up in smoke" (K. C.).
The true piety of the man Noah would be expected to give some true token as in this sacrifice. This sacrifice presents one of the most solemn scenes of all history: round about, the earth which is rapidly rejuvenating; the background, the most awful catastrophe in the annals of mankind; above, the true and faithful Yahweh, who is man’s only Hope.
21. When Yahweh smelled the tranquillizing odour, He said within His heart: Never again will I curse the ground for man’s sake, because the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; never again will I smite all living things as I have done.
The Hifil wayyárach is explained G. K. 72t. Nîchôach comes from the root nûach, "to rest." It, therefore, means "restful," "soothing." Though we have used the synonym "tranquillizing" above (B D B), it appears to us as a bit too strong. "Pleasant" should cover the case: angenehm (K. W.). He viewed the sentiments behind the sacrifice with satisfaction. For in addition to the thoughts expressed above, that 1.323namely the burnt offering set forth the idea of gratitude and of propitiation, it must be borne in mind that the chief thought behind an ’olah was to typify the idea of complete self-consecration, even as the offering in its entirety ascended to God in the fire. "Within his heart" is a more expressive way of stating the reflexive, "to himself," cf. 24:45. The substance of what He said is revealed more fully in the following chapter. For the present the Spirit of revelation makes it known that this resolve was made by God as an answer to the prayer embodied in the sacrifice. Here again in this sacrifice or prayer the word was fulfilled, where it is written: "The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much." Such blessings for the race were secured by the prayers of godly Noah.
First Yahweh promises in mercy, as His name indicates, that there is never to be a recurrence of the Flood. This is described in the words: "Never again will I curse." Spoken directly after the Flood, this statement must refer to the Flood as in a sense a divine curse. The fact that the account has not hitherto called the Flood a "curse" does not alter the situation. Nothing worse ever befell the earth. To think of the curse of 3:17 as removed at this point lies entirely outside of the connection. Besides, we should have difficulty in determining wherein the post-diluvian earth actually possesses an advantage over the ante-diluvian. The reason advanced for sparing the earth is much like that given in 6:5 for destroying the earth. The difference, that this verse says "from his youth," is little different from that of 6:5 "only evil continually." That can hardly be the point here (contra Keil). Rather, man’s iniquity may at one time be ample cause for destroying the earth. That catastrophic destruction may be done with such emphasis as to constitute a lesson for all times. From that point onward man’s total depravity, which is also his pitiable weakness, may also serve as good ground for not 1.324repeating the punishment. The seeming contradiction, which already puzzled the fathers, solves itself by the simple fact that one and the same truth may, according to varying circumstances, be regarded from different viewpoints. Of course, here again in its earliest pages the Bible gives indubitable proof of the natural depravity of the human heart. "Youth" (ne’urîm) is the Hebrew plural expressing a state or condition. We feel that the Hebrew expression, "I will not add again to curse," is covered quite adequately by our idiom: "Never again will I curse." The second statement substitutes "smite" (nakhah) or "strike" for curse. All such visitations are strokes from the hand of the Almighty. This blessed promise amply demonstrates the Yahweh character of God.
22. As long as the earth shall stand, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.
With the initial promise of v. 21 God ties up several more, all in the spirit of the first and displaying in generous measure the same grace that prompted the first. The first takes away the dread fear of a recurrence of the great tragedy. But for that promise man, seeing the evidences of the Flood round about, would long have lived in continual apprehension of a repetition of it. There are other regular features of life on this earth that man can also depend upon as recurring as long as the earth stands, the knowledge of which will impart a stability to life and make for peace of mind more than almost any other temporal gift can. The regular variation of times and seasons here promised is not to be regarded as merely natural, fixed by nature’s ordinance, but as an outgrowth of God’s specific promise. The first phrase runs thus, according to the Hebrew: "still all the days of the earth." Our rendering or A. V. makes idiomatic English. The basic guarantee covers the regular alternation 1.325of "Seedtime and harvest." Zéra’("seed") must hear mean "seedtime" as the contrast with "harvest" indicates. Then are mentioned those two elements which primarily contribute to the proper maturing of the grain, "cold and heat." These two, by their regular alternation, delightfully relieve one another and make life more bearable. Then are mentioned those two periods in which cold and heat specifically reign, namely "summer and winter." Over against these seasons again stand those smaller divisions of time, "day and night," which in the very nature of man’s constitution are essential to his well-being. So, then, everything between the wide limits of food and sleep and all that makes both possible is fixed by unalterable divine ordinance. However, the opening word implies, since these things continue all the days the earth stands, that the earth is not eternal. It would lead into fruitless speculation to attempt to determine whether this word indicates a radical change of seasons or climate upon the earth after the Flood. If it be argued that "cold and heat" implies something new, for before the Flood a tropical or semi-tropical climate prevailed upon the whole earth, we must admit that we cannot determine what is new and what not among the four pairs mentioned.
On wacham (long "a" with the conjunction) see G. K. 104g.
Attractive as some portions of this chapter are in themselves, like v. 6-12, and of perennial interest for children, yet we do not believe that they lend themselves to separate homiletical treatment. Perhaps it is best to take a larger portion like v. 1-19 and to treat it under a general heading like "God’s Faithfulness." They that concentrate on smaller sections may find themselves running into an unseemly trifling or an unwarranted allegorizing. Separate from this first section is the last part of the chapter, either v. 20-22 or 19b-22. Different viewpoints may prevail in the treatment of this last portion. 1.326Either we lay the emphasis on "Noah’s sacrifice" of gratitude and reconsecration and let the last two verses constitute the divine reaction to Noah’s attitude; or else we may stress such a thing as "God’s Promise that there shall never again be a Flood" and all the auxiliary promises that go with it. Then Noah’s sacrifice will still be a motivating cause of this promise.
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