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The Wickedness of Humankind

 6

When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. 3Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.” 4The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.

Noah Pleases God

9 These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. 10And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. 13And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. 21Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

The Great Flood

 7

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. 2Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; 3and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. 4For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” 5And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.

6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came on the earth. 7And Noah with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth.

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. 13On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark, 14they and every wild animal of every kind, and all domestic animals of every kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every bird of every kind—every bird, every winged creature. 15They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.

17 The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; 20the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; 22everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. 24And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.

The Flood Subsides

 8

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; 2the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated; 4and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.

6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; 9but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. 10He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; 11and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more.

13 In the six hundred first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15Then God said to Noah, 16“Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

God’s Promise to Noah

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.

22

As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,

summer and winter, day and night,

shall not cease.”


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1. And it came to pass , when men began to multiply. Moses, having enumerated in order, ten patriarchs, with whom the worship of God remained pure, now relates, that their families also were corrupted. But this narration must be traced to an earlier period than the five hundredth year of Noah. For, in order to make a transition to the history of the deluge, he prefaces it by declaring the whole world to have been so corrupt, that scarcely anything was left to God, out of the widely spread defection. That this may be the more apparent, the principle is to be kept in memory, that the world was then as if divided into two parts; because the family of Seth cherished the pure and lawful worship of Good, from which the rest had fallen. Now, although all mankind had been formed for the worship of God, and therefore sincere religion ought everywhere to have reigned; yet since the greater part had prostituted itself, either to an entire contempt of God, or to depraved superstitions; it was fitting that the small portion which God had adopted, by special privilege, to himself, should remain separate from others. It was, therefore, base ingratitude in the posterity of Seth, to mingle themselves with the children of Cain, and with other profane races; because they voluntarily deprived themselves of the inestimable grace of God. For it was an intolerable profanation, to pervert, and to confound, the order appointed by God. It seems at first sight frivolous, that the sons of God should be so severely condemned, for having chosen for themselves beautiful wives from the daughters of men. But we must know first, that it is not a light crime to violate a distinction established by the Lord; secondly, that for the worshippers of God to be separated from profane nations, was a sacred appointment which ought reverently to have been observed, in order that a Church of God might exist upon earth; thirdly, that the disease was desperate, seeing that men rejected the remedy divinely prescribed for them. In short, Moses points it out as the most extreme disorder; when the sons of the pious, whom God had separated to himself from others, as a peculiar and hidden treasure, became degenerate.

That ancient figment, concerning the intercourse of angels with women, is abundantly refuted by its own absurdity; and it is surprising that learned men should formerly have been fascinated by ravings so gross and prodigious. The opinion also of the Chaldean paraphrase is frigid; namely, that promiscuous marriages between the sons of nobles, and the daughters of plebeians, is condemned. Moses, then, does not distinguish the sons of God from the daughters of men, because they were of dissimilar nature, or of different origin; but because they were the sons of God by adoption, whom he had set apart for himself; while the rest remained in their original condition. Should any one object, that they who had shamefully departed from the faith, and the obedience which God required, were unworthy to be accounted the sons of God; the answer is easy, that the honor is not ascribed to them, but to the grace of God, which had hitherto been conspicuous in their families. For when Scripture speaks of the sons of God, sometimes it has respect to eternal election, which extends only to the lawful heirs; sometimes to external vocations according to which many wolves are within the fold; and thought in fact, they are strangers, yet they obtain the name of sons, until the Lord shall disown them. Yea, even by giving them a title so honorable, Moses reproves their ingratitude, because, leaving their heavenly Father, they prostituted themselves as deserters.

2. That they were fair. Moses does not deem it worthy of condemnation that regard was had to beauty, in the choice of wives; but that mere lust reigned. For marriage is a thing too sacred to allow that men should be induced to it by the lust of the eyes.259259     “Est autem res sanctior conjugium quam ut oculis ferri homines debeant ad vluptatem coitus.” For this union is inseparable comprising all the parts of life; as we have before seen, that the woman was created to be a helper of the man. Therefore our appetite becomes brutal, when we are so ravished with the charms of beauty, that those things which are chief are not taken into the account. Moses more clearly describes the violent impetuosity of their lust, when he says, that they took wives of all that they chose; by which he signifies, that the sons of God did not make their choice from those possessed of necessary endowments, but wandered without discrimination, rushing onward according to their lust. We are taught, however, in these words, that temperance is to be used in holy wedlock, and that its profanation is no light crime before God. For it is not fornication which is here condemned in the sons of the saints, but the too great indulgence of license in choosing themselves wives. And truly, it is impossible but that, in the succession of time, the sons of God should degenerate when they thus bound themselves in the same yoke with unbelievers. And this was the extreme policy of Balaam; that, when the power of cursing was taken from him, he commanded women to be privily sent by the Midianites, who might seduce the people of God to impious defection. Thus, as in the sons of the patriarchs, of whom Moses now treats, the forgetfulness of that grace which had been divinely imparted to them was, in itself, a grievous evil, inasmuch as they formed illicit marriages after their own host; a still worse addition was made, when, by mingling themselves with the wicked, they profaned the worship of God, and fell away from the faith; a corruption which is almost always wont to follow the former.

3. My Spirit shall not always strive. Although Moses had before shown that the world had proceeded to such a degree of wickedness and impiety, as ought not any longer to be borne; yet in order to prove more certainly, that the vengeance by which the whole world was drowned, was not less just than severe, he introduces God himself as the speaker. For there is greater weight in the declaration when pronounced by God’s own mouth, that the wickedness of men was too deplorable to leave any apparent hope of remedy, and that therefore there was no reason why he should spare them. Moreover, since this would be a terrible example of divine anger, at the bare hearing of which we are even now afraid, it was necessary to be declared, that God had not been impelled by the heat of his anger into precipitation, nor had been more severe than was right; but was almost compelled, by necessity, utterly to destroy the whole world, except one single family. For men commonly do not refrain from accusing God of excessive haste; nay, they will even deem him cruel for taking vengeance of the sins of men. Therefore, that no man may murmur, Moses here, in the person of God, pronounces the depravity of the world to have been intolerable, and obstinately incurable by any remedy. This passage, however, is variously expounded. In the first place, some of the Hebrews derive the word which Moses uses from the root260260     “גדן Vagina, in qua gladius est reconditus. Per metaphorum corpus, cui anima, tanquam gladius vaginae, inest.” “A scabbard in which the sword is concealed. Metaphorically, the body in which the soul is, as a sword in its scabbard.” — Schindler. — Ed נדן(nadan) which signifies a scabbard. And hence they elicit the meaning that God was unwilling for his Spirit to be any longer held captive in a human body, as if enclosed like a sword in the scabbard. But because the exposition is distorted, and savours of the delirium of the Manichees, as if the soul of man were a portion of the Divine Spirit, it is by us to be rejected. Even among the Jews, it is a more commonly received opinion, that the word in question is from the root דון (doon.) But since it often means to judge, and sometimes to litigate, hence also arise different interpretations. For some explain the passage to mean, that God will no longer deign to govern men by his Spirit; because the Spirit of God acts the part of a judge within us, when he so enlightens us with reason that we pursue what is right. Luther, according to his custom, applies the term to the external jurisdiction which God exercises by the ministry of the prophets, as if some one of the patriarchs had said in an assembly, ‘We must cease from crying aloud; because it is an unbecoming thing that the Spirit of God, who speaks through us, should any longer weary himself in reproving the world.’ This is indeed ingeniously spoken; but because we must not seek the sense of Scripture in uncertain conjectures, I interpret the words simply to mean, that the Lord, as if wearied with the obstinate perverseness of the world, denounces that vengeance as present, which he had hitherto deferred. For as long as the Lord suspends punishment, he, in a certain sense, strives with men, especially if either by threats or by examples of gentle chastisement, he invites them to repentance. In this way he had striven already, some centuries, with the world, which, nevertheless, was perpetually becoming worse. And now, as if wearied out, he declares that he has no mind to contend any longer.261261     “Acsi Gallice quis diceret, c’est trop plaider,” as if any one should say in French, “This is to plead too much.” For when God, by inviting the unbelievers to repentance, had long striven with them; the deluge put an end to the controversy. However, I do not entirely reject the opinion of Luther that God, having seen the deplorable wickedness of men, would not allow his prophets to spend their labor in vain. But the general declaration is not to be restricted to that particular case. When the Lord says, ‘I will not contend for ever,’ he utters his censure on an excessive and incurable obstinacy; and, at the same time, gives proof of the divine longsuffering: as if he would say, There will never be an end of contentions unless some unprecedented act of vengeance cuts off the occasion of it. The Greek interpreters, deceived by the similitude of one letter to another have improperly read, ‘shall not remain:’262262     “Non permanebit.” — Vulgate. “Οὐ μὴ καταμείνη τὸ πνε̑υμά μου.” — Sept. See on the word דון, Poole’s Synopsis in loco, and Professor Lee’s Lexicon. which has commonly been explained, as if men were then deprived of a sound and correct judgment; but this has nothing to do with the present passage.

For that he also is flesh. The reason is added why there is no advantage to be expected from further contention. The Lord here seems to place his Spirit in opposition to the carnal nature of men. In which method, Paul declares that the

‘natural man does not receive those things which belong to the Spirit, and that they are foolishness unto him,’
(1 Corinthians 2:14.)

The meaning of the passage therefore is, that it is in vain for the Spirit of God to dispute with the flesh, which is incapable of reason. God gives the name of flesh as a mark of ignominy to men, whom he, nevertheless, had formed in his own image. And this is a mode of speaking familiar to Scripture. They who restrict this appellation to the inferior part of the soul are greatly deceived. For since the soul of man is vitiated in every part, and the reason of man is not less blind than his affections are perverse, the whole is properly called carnal. Therefore, let us know, that the whole man is naturally flesh, until by the grace of regeneration he begins to be spiritual. Now, as it regards the words of Moses, there is no doubt that they contain a grievous complaint together with a reproof on the part of God. Man ought to have excelled all other creatures, on account of the mind with which he was endued; but now, alienated from right reason, he is almost like the cattle of the field. Therefore God inveighs against the degenerate and corrupt nature of men; because, by their own fault, they are fallen to that degree of fatuity, that now they approach more nearly to beasts than to true men, such as they ought to be, in consequence of their creation. He intimates, however, this to be an adventitious fault, that man has a relish only for the earth, and that, the light of intelligence being extinct, he follows his own desires. I wonder that the emphasis contained in the particle בשגם (beshagam,) has been overlooked by commentators; for the words mean, ‘on this account, because he also is flesh.’ In which language God complains, that the order appointed by him has been so greatly disturbed, that his own image has been transformed into flesh.

Yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years. Certain writers of antiquity, such as Lactantius, and others, have too grossly blundered in thinking that the term of human life was limited within this space of time; whereas, it is evident, that the language used in this place refers not to the private life of any one, but to a time of repentance to be granted to the whole world. Moreover, here also the admirable benignity of God is apparent, in that he, though wearied with the wickedness of men, yet postpones the execution of extreme vengeance for more than a century. But here arises an apparent discrepancy. For Noah departed this life when he had completed nine hundred and fifty years. It is however said that he lived from the time of the deluge three hundred and fifty years. Therefore, on the day he entered the ark he was six hundred years old. Where then will the twenty years be found? The Jews answer, that these years were cut off in consequence of the increasing wickedness of men. But there is no need of that subterfuge; when the Scripture speaks of the five hundredth year of his age, it does not affirm, that he had actually reached that point. And this mode of speaking, which takes into account the beginning of a period, as well as its end, is very common. Therefore, inasmuch as the greater part of the fifth century of his life was passed, so that he was nearly five hundred years old, he is said to have been of that age.263263     The whole of this passage might have been more clearly expressed. At the close of chapter 5, it is said, “Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japeth.” In the verse on which Calvin here comments, it is stated, that man’s days on earth “shall be one hundred and twenty years”; but in Genesis 7:11, we are told, that the deluge came “in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life.” This would pare down the one hundred and twenty years to one hundred; and therefore Calvin asks, “Where are the remaining twenty to be found?” To answer this question, he shows that there was something indefinite in the statement of Noah’s age in the first of these passages, and Moses does not say that the flood began precisely in that year. He therefore concludes that, according to a common mode of speaking among the Hebrews, he was in the fifth century of his life; and therefore he would infer, that Noah was about four hundred and eighty years of age at the time referred to: if one hundred and twenty years be added, it will make him six hundred years old at the time of his entering the ark. — Ed.

4. There were giants in the earth. Among the innumerable kinds of corruptions with which the earth was filled, Moses especially records one in this place; namely that giants practiced great violence and tyranny. I do not, however, suppose, that he speaks of all the men of this age; but of certain individuals, who, being stronger than the rest, and relying on their own might and power, exalted themselves unlawfully, and without measure. As to the Hebrew noun, נפלים (nefilim,) its origin is known to be from the verb נפל (naphal,) which is to fall ; but grammarians do not agree concerning its etymology. Some think that they were so called because they exceeded the common stature;264264     “Quia excidissent a communi statura;” a misprint, undoubtedly, for excedissent. — Ed. others, because the countenance of men fell at the sight of them, on account of the enormous size of their body; or, because all fell prostrate through terror of their magnitude. To me there seems more truth in the opinion of those who say, that a similitude is taken from a torrent, or an impetuous tempest; for as a storm and torrent, violently falling, lays waste and destroys the fields, so these robbers brought destruction and desolation into the world.265265     “Vatablus in Poli Synopsi.” — Ed. Moses does not indeed say, that they were of extraordinary stature, but only that they were robust. Elsewhere, I acknowledge, the same word denotes vastness of stature, which was formidable to those who explored the land of Canaan, (Joshua 13:33.) But Moses does not distinguish those of whom he speaks in this place, from other men, so much by the size of their bodies, as by their robberies and their lust of dominion. In the context, the particle וגם (vegam,) which is interposed, is emphatical. Jerome, after whom certain other interpreters have blundered, has rendered this passage in the worst possible manner.266266     “Gigantes autem erant super terram in diebus illis. Postquam enim ingressi sunt,” etc. There were giants on the earth in those days. For after the sons of God, etc. — Vulgate. The words which the Vulgate translates, ‘for after,’ — plainly accounting for the birth of the giants from the intercourse alluded to in the next clause, — are translated in the Septuagint, καὶ μετ ἐκεῖνο, “and after this;” which favors the interpretation of Calvin, with which also the English version corresponds. — Ed For it is literally rendered thus, ‘And even after the sons of God had gone in to the daughters of men;’ as if he had said, Moreover, or, ‘And at this time.’ For in the first place, Moses relates that there were giants; then he subjoins, that there were also others from among that promiscuous offspring, which was produced when the sons of God mingled themselves with the daughters of men. It would not have been wonderful if such outrage had prevailed among the posterity of Cain; but the universal pollution is more clearly evident from this, that the holy seed was defiled by the same corruption. That a contagion so great should have spread through the few families which ought to have constituted the sanctuary of God, is no slight aggravation of the evil. The giants, then, had a prior origin; but afterwards those who were born of promiscuous marriages imitated their example.

The same became mighty men which were of old267267     “Ipsi potentes a saeculo.” ‘They were mighty men from the age’; or, from the old time. — Ed. The word ‘age’ is commonly understood to mean antiquity : as if Moses had said, that they who first exercised tyranny or power in the world, together with an excessive licentiousness and an unbridled lust of dominion, had begun from this race. Yet there are those who expound the expression, ‘from the age,’ to mean, in the presence of the world : for the Hebrew word עולם (olam,) has also this signification.268268     Vide Schindler’s Lexicon, sub voce עלם Some think that this was spoken proverbially; because the age immediately posterior to the deluge had produced none like them. The first exposition is the more simple; the sum of the whole, however, is, that they were ferocious tyrants, who separated themselves from the common rank. Their first fault was pride; because, relying on their own strength, they arrogated to themselves more than was due. Pride produced contempt of God, because, being inflated by arrogance, they began to shake off every yoke. At the same time, they were also disdainful and cruel towards men; because it is not possible that they, who would not bear to yield obedience to God, should have acted with moderation towards men. Moses adds they were “men of renown;” by which he intimates that they boasted of their wickedness, and were what are called, honorable robbers. Nor is it to be doubted, that they had something more excellent than the common people, which procured for them favor and glory in the world. Nevertheless, under the magnificent title of heroes, they cruelly exercised dominion, and acquired power and fame for themselves, by injuring and oppressing their brethren. And this was the first nobility of the world. Lest any one should too greatly delight himself in a long and dingy line of ancestry; this, I repeat, was the nobility, which raised itself on high, by pouring contempt and disgrace on others. Celebrity of name is not in itself condemned; since it is necessary that they whom the Lord has adorned with peculiar gifts should be preeminent among others; and it is advantageous that there should be distinction of ranks in the world. But as ambition is always vicious and more especially so when joined with a tyrannical ferocity, which causes the more powerful to insult the weak, the evil becomes intolerable. It is, however, much worse, when wicked men gain honor by their crimes; and when, the more audacious any one is in doing injury, the more insolently he boasts of the empty smoke of titles. Moreover, as Satan is an ingenious contriver of falsehoods, by which he would corrupt the truth of God, and in this manner render it suspected, the poets have invented many fables concerning the giants; who are called by them the sons of the Earth, for this reason, as it appears to me, because they rushed forward to acquire dominions without any example of their ancestors.

5. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great. Moses prosecutes the subject to which he had just alluded, that God was neither too harsh, nor precipitate in exacting punishment from the wicked men of the world. And he introduces God as speaking after the manner of men, by a figure which ascribes human affections to God;269269     Per ἀνθρωποπάθειαν because he could not otherwise express what was very important to be known; namely, that God was not induced hastily, or for a slight cause, to destroy the world. For by the word saw, he indicates long continued patience; as if he would say, that God had not proclaimed his sentence to destroy men, until after having well observed, and long considered, their case, he saw them to be past recovery. Also, what follows has not a little emphasis, that ‘their wickedness was great in the earth.’ He might have pardoned sins of a less aggravated character: if in one part only of the world impiety had reigned, other regions might have remained free from punishment. But now, when iniquity has reached its highest point, and so pervaded the whole earth, that integrity possesses no longer a single corner; it follows, that the time for punishment is more than fully arrived. A prodigious wickedness, then, everywhere reigned, so that the whole earth was covered with it. Whence we perceive that it was not overwhelmed with a deluge of waters till it had first been immersed in the pollution of wickedness.

Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart. Moses has traced the cause of the deluge to external acts of iniquity, he now ascends higher, and declares that men were not only perverse by habit, and by the custom of evil living; but that wickedness was too deeply seated in their hearts, to leave any hope of repentance. He certainly could not have more forcibly asserted that the depravity was such as no moderate remedy might cure. It may indeed happen, that men will sometimes plunge themselves into sin, while yet something of a sound mind will remain; but Moses teaches us, that the mind of those, concerning whom he speaks, was so thoroughly imbued with iniquity, that the whole presented nothing but what was to be condemned. For the language he employs is very emphatical: it seemed enough to have said, that their heart was corrupt: but not content with this word, he expressly asserts, “every imagination of the thoughts of the heart;” and adds the word “only,” as if he would deny that there was a drop of good mixed with it.

Continually. Some expound this particle to mean, from commencing infancy; as if he would say, the depravity of men is very great from the time of their birth. But the more correct interpretation is, that the world had then become so hardened in its wickedness, and was so far from any amendment, or from entertaining any feeling of penitence, that it grew worse and worse as time advanced; and further, that it was not the folly of a few days, but the inveterate depravity which the children, having received, as by hereditary right, transmitted from their parents to their descendants. Nevertheless, though Moses here speaks of the wickedness which at that time prevailed in the world, the general doctrine270270     That is, the “general doctrine” of man’s total and universal depravity. — Ed. is properly and consistently hence elicited. Nor do they rashly distort the passage who extend it to the whole human race. So when David says,

‘That all have revolted, that they are become unprofitable, that is, none who does good, no not one; their throat is an open sepulcher; there is no fear of God before their eyes,’ (Psalm 5:10;14:3)

he deplores, truly, the impiety of his own age; yet Paul (Romans 3:12) does not scruple to extend it to all men of every age: and with justice; for it is not a mere complaint concerning a few men, but a description of the human mind when left to itself, destitute of the Spirit of God. It is therefore very proper that the obstinacy of the men, who had greatly abused the goodness of Gods should be condemned in these words; yet, at the same time, the true nature of man, when deprived of the grace of the Spirit, is clearly exhibited.

6. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth The repentance which is here ascribed to God does not properly belong to him, but has reference to our understanding of him. For since we cannot comprehend him as he is, it is necessary that, for our sakes he should, in a certain sense, transform himself. That repentance cannot take place in God, easily appears from this single considerations that nothing happens which is by him unexpected or unforeseen. The same reasoning, and remark, applies to what follows, that God was affected with grief. Certainly God is not sorrowful or sad; but remains forever like himself in his celestial and happy repose: yet, because it could not otherwise be known how great is God’s hatred and detestation of sin, therefore the Spirit accommodates himself to our capacity. Wherefore, there is no need for us to involve ourselves in thorny and difficult questions, when it is obvious to what end these words of repentance and grief are applied; namely, to teach us, that from the time when man was so greatly corrupted, God would not reckon him among his creatures; as if he would say, ‘This is not my workmanship; this is not that man who was formed in my image, and whom I had adorned with such excellent gifts: I do not deign now to acknowledge this degenerate and defiled creature as mine.’ Similar to this is what he says, in the second place, concerning grief; that God was so offended by the atrocious wickedness of men, as if they had wounded his heart with mortal grief: There is here, therefore, an unexpressed antithesis between that upright nature which had been created by God, and that corruption which sprung from sin. Meanwhile, unless we wish to provoke God, and to put him to grief, let us learn to abhor and to flee from sin. Moreover, this paternal goodness and tenderness ought, in no slight degree, to subdue in us the love of sin; since God, in order more effectually to pierce our hearts, clothes himself with our affections. This figure, which represents God as transferring to himself what is peculiar to human nature, is called ἀνθρωποπάθεια

7. And the Lord said , I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth , both man and beast , etc. He again introduces God as deliberating, in order that we may the better know that the world was not destroyed without mature counsel on the part of God. For the Spirit of the Lord designed that we should be diligently admonished on this point, in order that he might cut off occasion for those impious complaints, into which we should be otherwise too ready to break forth. The word said here means decreed ; because God utters no voice, without having inwardly determined what he would do. Besides, he had no need of new counsel, according to the manner of men, as if he were forming a judgment concerning something recently discovered. But all this is said in consideration of our infirmity; that we may cleverly think of the deluge, but it shall immediately occur to us that the vengeance of God was just. Moreover, God, not content with the punishment of man, proceeds even to beasts, and cattle, and fowls and every kind of living creatures. In which he seems to exceed the bounds of moderation: for although the impiety of men is hateful to him, yet to what purpose is it to be angry with unoffending animals? But it is not wonderful that those animals, which were created for man’s sake, and lived for his use, should participate in his ruin: neither asses, nor oxen, nor any other animals, had done evil; yet being in subjection to man when he fell, they were drawn with him into the same destruction. The earth was like a wealthy house, well supplied with every kind of provision in abundance and variety. Now, since man has defiled the earth itself with his crimes, and has vilely corrupted all the riches with which it was replenished, the Lord also designed that the monument of his punishment should there be placed: just as if a judge, about to punish a most wicked and nefarious criminal, should, for the sake of greater infamy, command his house to be razed to the foundation. And this all tends to inspire us with a dread of sin; for we may easily infer how great is its atrocity, when the punishment of it is extended even to the brute creation.

8. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. This is a Hebrew phrase, which signifies that God was propitious to him, and favored him. For so the Hebrews are accustomed to speak: — ‘If I have found grace in thy sight,’ instead of, ‘If I am acceptable to thee,’ or, ‘If thou wilt grant me thy benevolence or favor.’ Which phrase requires to be noticed, because certain unlearned men infer with futile subtlety, that if men find grace in God’s sight, it is because they seek it by their own industry and merits. I acknowledge, indeed, that here Noah is declared to have been acceptable to God, because, by living uprightly and homily, he kept himself pure from the common pollutions of the world; whence, however, did he attain this integrity, but from the preventing grace of God? The commencement, therefore, of this favor was gratuitous mercy. Afterwards, the Lord, having once embraced him, retained him under his own hand, lest he should perish with the rest of the world.

9. These are the generations of Noah. The Hebrew word תולדות (toledoth) properly means generation. It has, however, sometimes a more extended sense, and applies to the whole history of life; this indeed seems to be its meaning in the present place.271271     See Dathe, in loco. For when Moses had stated that one man was found whom God, — when he had determined to destroy the whole world, — would yet preserve, he briefly describes what kind of person he was. And, in the first place, asserts, that he was just and upright among the men of his age: for here is a different Hebrew noun, דור (dor,) which signifies an age, or the time of a life.272272     Though it also means generation. — See Gesenius, Schindler, etc, sub voce דור The word תמים (tamim) which the ancient interpreter is accustomed to translate perfect,273273     “Noe vir justus atque perfectus ferit.” — Vulgate. — “תמים refers chiefly to moral integrity, irreproachable, innocent, honest.” — Gesenius is of the same force as upright or sincere ; and is opposed to what is deceitful, pretended, and vain. And Moses does not rashly connect these two things together; for the world, being always influenced by external splendor, estimates justice, not by the affection of the heart, but by bare works. If, however, we desire to be approved by God, and accounted righteous before him, we must not only regulate our hands, and eyes, and feet, in obedience to his Law; but integrity of heart is above all things required, and holds the chief place in the true definition of righteousness. Let us, however, know that they are called just and upright, not who are in every respect perfect, and in whom there is no defect; but who cultivate righteousness purely, and from their heart. Because we are assured that God does not act towards his own people with the rigour of justice, as requiring of them a life according to the perfect rule of the Law; for, if only no hypocrisy reigns within them, but the pure love of rectitude flourishes, and fills their hearts, he pronounces them, according to his clemency, to be righteous.

The clause, “in his generations,” is emphatical. For he has already often said, and will soon repeat it, that nothing was more corrupt than that age. Therefore, it was a remarkable instance of constancy, that Noah being surrounded on every side with the filth of iniquity, should hence have contracted no contagion. We know how great is the force of custom, so that nothing is more difficult than to live homily among the wicked, and to avoid being led away by their evil examples. Scarcely is there one in a hundred who has not in his mouth that diabolical proverb, ‘We must howl when we are among the wolves;’ and the greater part, — framing a rule for themselves from the common practice, — judge everything to be lawful which is generally received. As, however, the singular virtue of Noah is here commended; so let us remember that we are instructed what we ought to do, though the whole world were rushing to its own destruction. If, at the present time, the morals of men are so vitiated, and the whole mode of life so confused, that probity has become most rare; still more vile and dreadful was the confusion in the time of Noah, when he had not even one associate in the worship of God, and in the pursuit of holiness. If he could bear up against the corruptions of the whole world, and against such constant and vehement assaults of iniquity; no excuse is left for us, unless, with equal fortitude of mind, we prosecute a right course through innumerable obstacles of vice. It is not improbable that Moses uses the word generations in the plural number, the more fully to declare what a strenuous and invincible combatant Noah was, who, through so many ages, had remained unaltered. Besides, the manner of cultivating righteousness, which he had adopted is explained in the context; namely that he had “walked with God,” which excellency he had also commended in the holy father Enoch, in the preceding chapter, where we have stated what the expression means. When the corruption of morals was so great in the earth, if Noah had had respect to man, he would have been cast into a profound labyrinth. He sees, therefore, this to be his only remedy; namely, to disregard men, that he may fix all his thoughts on God, and make Him the sole Arbiter of his life. Whence it appears, how foolishly the Papists clamor that we ought to follow the fathers; when the Spirit expressly recalls us from the imitation of men, except so far as they lead us to God. Moses again mentions his three sons, for the purpose of showing that, in the greatest sorrow by which he was almost consumed, he was yet able to have offspring, in order that God might have a small remnant of seed for himself.

11. The earth also was corrupt before God. In the former clause of this verse Moses describes that impious contempt of God, which had left no longer any religion in the world; but the light of equity being extinct, all men had plunged into sin. In the second clause he declares, that the love of oppression, that frauds, injuries, rapines, and all kinds of injustice, prevailed. And these are the fruits of impiety, that men, when they have revolted from God, — forgetful of mutual equity among themselves, — are carried forward to insane ferocity, to rapines, and to oppressions of all sorts. God again declares that he had seen this; in order that he may commend his longsuffering to us. The earth is here put for its inhabitants; and the explanation immediately follows, ‘that all flesh had corrupted its way.’ Yet the word flesh is not here understood as before, in a bad sense; but is meant for men, without any mark of censure: as in other places of Scripture,

‘All flesh shall see the glory of the Lord,’ (Isaiah 40:5.)

‘Let all flesh be silent before the Lord,’ (Zechariah 2:13.)

13. And God said unto Noah. Here Moses begins to relate how Noah would be preserved. And first, he says, that the counsel of God respecting the destruction of the world was revealed to him. Secondly, that the command to build the ark was given. Thirdly, that safety was promised him, if, in obedience to God, he would take refuge in the ark. These chief points are to be distinctly noted; even as the Apostle, when he proclaims the faith of Noah, joins fear and obedience with confidence, (Hebrews 11:7.) And it is certain that Noah was admonished of the dreadful vengeance which was approaching; not only in order that he might be confirmed in his holy purpose, but that, being constrained by fear, he might the more ardently seek for the favor offered to him. We know that the impunity of the wicked is sometimes the occasion of alluring even the good to sin: the denunciation, therefore, of future punishment ought to be effectual in restraining the mind of a holy man; lest, by gradual declension, he should at length relax to the same lasciviousness. Yet God had special reference to the other point; namely, that by keeping continually in view the terrible destruction of the world, Noah might be more and more excited to fear and solicitude. For it was necessary, that in utter despair of help from any other quarter, he should seek his safety, by faith, in the ark. For so long as life was promised to him on earth, never would he have been so intent as he ought, in the building of the ark; but, being alarmed by the judgment of God, he earnestly embraces the promise of life given unto him. He no longer relies upon the natural causes or means of life; but rests exclusively on the covenant of God, by which he was to be miraculously preserved. No labor is now troublesome or difficult to him; nor is he broken down by long fatigue. For the spur of God’s anger pierces him too sharply to allow him to sleep in carnal delights, or to faint under temptations, or to be delayed in his course by vain hope: he rather stirs himself up, both to flee from sin, and to seek a remedy. And the Apostle teaches, that it was not the least part of his faith, that through the fear of those things which were not seen he prepared an ark. When faith is treated of simply, mercy and the gratuitous promise come into the account; but when we wish to express all its parts, and to canvass its entire force and nature, it is necessary that fear also should be joined with it. And, truly no one will ever seriously resort to the mercy of God, but he who, having been touched with the threatening of God, shall dread that judgment of eternal death which they denounce, shall abhor himself on account of his own sins, shall not carelessly indulge his vices, nor slumber in his pollution; but shall anxiously sigh for the remedy of his evils. This was, truly, a peculiar privilege of grace, that God warned Noah of the future deluge. Indeed, he frequently commands his threatening to be proposed to the elect, and reprobate, in common; that by inviting both to repentance, he may humble the former, and render the latter inexcusable. But while the greater part of mankind, with deaf ears, reject whatever is spoken, he especially turns his discourse to his own people, who are still curable, that by the fear of his judgment he may train them to piety. The condition of the wicked might at that time seem desirable, in comparison with the anxiety of holy Noah. They were securely flattering themselves in their own delights; for we know what Christ declares concerning the luxury of that period, (Luke 17:26.) Meanwhile, the holy man, as if the world were every moment going to ruin, groaned anxiously and sorrowfully. But if we consider the end; God granted an inestimable benefit to his servant, in denouncing to him a danger, of which he must beware.

The earth is filled with violence through them. 274274     “Repleta est terra iniquitae a facie corum.” God intimates that men were to be taken away, in order that the earth, which had been polluted by the presence of beings so wicked, might be purified. Moreover, in speaking only of the iniquity and violence, of the frauds and rapines, of which they were guilty towards each other; he does it, not as if he were intending to remit his own claims upon them, but because this was a more gross and palpable demonstration of their wickedness.

14. Make thee an ark of gopher wood. Here follows the command to build the ark, in which God wonderfully proved the faith and obedience of his servant. Concerning its structure, there is no reason why we should anxiously inquire, except so far as our own edification is concerned. First, the Jews are not agreed among themselves respecting the kind of wood of which it was made. Some explain the word gopher to be the cedar; others, the fir-tree; others, the pine. They differ also respecting the stories; because many think that the sink was in the fourth place, which might receive the refuse and other impurities. Others make five chambers in a triple floor, of which they assign the highest to the birds. There are those who suppose that it was only three stories in height; but that these were separated by intermediate divisions. Besides, they do not agree about the window: to some it appears that there was not one window only, but many. Some say they were open to receive air; but others contend that they were only made for the sake of light, and therefore were covered over with crystal, and lined with pitch. To me it seems more probable, that there was only one, not cut out for the sake of giving light; but to remain shut, unless occasion required it to be opened, as we shall see afterwards. Further, that there was a triple story, and rooms separated in a manner to us unknown. The question respecting its magnitude is more difficult. For, formerly, certain profane men ridiculed Moses, as having imagined that so vast a multitude of animals was shut up in so small a space; a third part of which would scarcely contain four elephants. Origin solves this question, by saying that a geometrical cubit was referred to by Moses, which is six times greater than the common one; to whose opinion Augustine assents in his fifteenth book on the ‘City of God,’ and his first book of ‘Questions on Genesis.’ I grant what they allege, that Moses, who had been educated in all the science of the Egyptians, was not ignorant of geometry; but since we know that Moses everywhere spoke in a homely style, to suit the capacity of the people, and that he purposely abstained from acute disputations, which might savor of the schools and of deeper learning; I can by no means persuade myself, that, in this place, contrary to his ordinary method, he employed geometrical subtlety. Certainly, in the first chapter, he did not treat scientifically of the stars, as a philosopher would do; but he called them, in a popular manner, according to their appearance to the uneducated, rather than according to truth, “two great lights.” Thus we may everywhere perceive that he designates things, of every kind by their accustomed names. But what was then the measure of the cubit I know not; it is, however, enough for me, that God (whom, without controversy, I acknowledge to be the chief builder of the ark) well knew what things the place which he described to his servant was capable of holding. If you exclude the extraordinary power of God from this history, you declare that mere fables are related. But, by us, who confess that the remains of the world were preserved by an incredible miracle, it ought not to be regarded as an absurdity, that many wonderful things are here related, in order that hence the secret and incomprehensible power of God, which far surpasses all our senses, may be the more clearly exhibited. Porphyry or some other caviller,275275     “Hoc Porphyrius, vel quispiam alius canis, fabulosum esse obganniet.” Throughout the above passage, Calvin takes for granted, that there was a miracle, when a close examination would have convinced him that there was none. It has only required the use of a little arithmetic, and common sense, to prove that the ark was more than sufficient to contain all the creatures which Noah was commanded to bring into it, as well as provision for the whole time of their residence in it. — See Wells’ Geography of the Old Test., chap. 11. — Ed. may object, that this is fabulous, because the reason of it does not appear; or because it is unusual; or because it is repugnant to the common order of nature. But I make the rejoinder; that this entire narration of Moses, unless it were replete with miracles would be colds and trifling, and ridiculous. He, however, who will reflect aright upon the profound abyss of Divine omnipotence in this history, will rather sink in reverential awe, than indulge in profane mockery. I purposely pass over the allegorical application which Augustine makes of the figure of the ark to the body of Christ, both in his fifteenth book of ‘The City of God,’ and his twelfth book against Faustus; because I find there scarcely anything solid. Origin still more boldly sports with allegories: but there is nothing more profitable, than to adhere strictly to the natural treatment of things. That the ark was an image of the Church is certain, from the testimony of Peter, (1 Peter 3:21;) but to accommodate its several parts to the Church, is by no means suitable, as I shall again show, in its proper place.

18. But with thee will I establish my covenant. Since the construction of the ark was very difficult, and innumerable obstacles might perpetually arise to break off the work when begun, God confirms his servant by a super added promise. Thus was Noah encouraged to obey God; seeing that he relied on the Divine promise, and was confident that his labor would not be in vain. For then do we freely embrace the commands of God, when a promise is attached to them, which teaches us that we shall not spend our strength for nought. Whence it appears how foolishly the Papists are deceived, who triflingly argue, that men are led away by the doctrine of faith from the desire of doing well. For what will be the degree of our alacrity in well-doing, unless faith enlighten us? Let us therefore know, that the promises of God alone, are they which quicken us, and inspire each of our members with vigor to yield obedience to God: but that without these promises, we not only lie torpid in indolence, but are almost lifeless, so that neither hands nor feet can do their duty. And hence, as often as we become languid, or more remiss than we ought to be, in good works, let the promises of God recur to us, to correct our tardiness. For thus, according to the testimony of Paul, (Colossians 1:5,) love flourishes in the saints, on account of the hope laid up for them in heaven. It is especially necessary that the faithful should be confirmed by the word of God, lest they faint in the midst of their course; to the end that they may certainly be assured that they are not beating the air, as they say; but that, acquiescing in the promise given them, and being sure of success, they follow God who calls them. This connection, then, is to be borne in mind, that when God was instructing his servant Moses what he would have him do, he declares, for the purpose of retaining him in obedience to himself, that he requires nothing of him in vain. Now, the sum of this covenant of which Moses speaks was, that Noah should be safe, although the whole world should perish in the deluge. For there is an understood antithesis, that the whole world being rejected, the Lord would establish a peculiar covenant with Noah alone. Wherefore, it was the duty of Noah to oppose this promise of God, like a wall of iron, against all the terrors of death; just as if it were the purpose of God, by this sole word, to discriminate between life and death. But the covenant with him is confirmed, with this condition annexed, that his family shall be preserved for his sake; and also the brute animals, for the replenishing of the new world; concerning which I shall say more in the ninth chapter. Genesis 9:1

19. And of every living thing of all flesh. “All flesh” is the name he gives to animals of whatsoever kind they may be. He says they went in two and two; not that a single pair of each kind was received into the ark, (for we shall soon see that there were three pairs of the clean kinds, and one animal over, which Noah afterwards offered in sacrifice;) but whereas here mention is made only of offspring, he does not expressly state the number, but simply couples males with females, that Noah might hence perceive how the world was to be replenished.

22. Thus did Noah. In a few words, but with great sublimity, Moses here commends the faith of Noah. The unskilful wonder that the apostle (Hebrews 11:7) makes him “heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” As if, truly, all the virtues, and whatsoever else was worthy of praise in this holy man, had not sprung from this fountain. For we ought to consider the assaults of temptation to which his breast was continually exposed. First, the prodigious size of the ark might have overwhelmed all his senses, so as to prevent him from raising a finger to begin the work. Let the reader reflect on the multitude of trees to be felled, on the great labor of conveying them, and the difficulty of joining them together. The matter was also long deferred; for the holy man was required to be engaged more than a hundred years in most troublesome labor. Nor can we suppose him to have been so stupid, as not to reflect upon obstacles of this kind. Besides, it was scarcely to be hoped, that the men of his age would patiently bear with him, for promising himself an exclusive deliverance, attended with ignominy to themselves. Their unnatural ferocity has been before mentioned; there can therefore be no doubt that they would daily provoke modest and simpleminded men, even without cause. But here was a plausible occasion for insult; since Noah, by felling trees on all sides, was making the earth bare, and defrauding them of various advantages. It is a common proverb, that perverse and contentious men will dispute about an ass’s shadow. What, then, might Noah think, would those fierce Cyclops do for the shadow of so many trees; who, being practiced in every kind of violence, would seize with eagerness on all sides an occasion of exercising cruelty? But this was what chiefly tended to inflame their rage, that he, by building an asylum for himself, virtually doomed them all to destruction. Certainly, unless they had been restrained by the mighty hand of God, they would have stoned the holy man a hundred times; still it is probable, that their vehemence was not so far repressed, as to prevent them from frequently assailing him with scoffs and derision, from heaping upon him many reproaches, and pursuing him with grievous threats. I even think, that they did not restrain their hands from disturbing his work. Therefore, although he may have addressed himself with alacrity to the work committed to him; yet his constancy might have failed more than a thousand times, in so many years, unless it had been firmly rooted. Moreover, as the work itself appeared impracticable, it may be further asked, Whence were provisions for the year to be obtained? Whence food for so many animals? He is commanded to lay up what will suffice for food during ten months for his whole family for cattle, and wild beasts, and even for birds. Truly, it seems absurd, that after he has been disengaged from agriculture, in order to build the ark, he should be commanded to collect a two-years’ store of provision; but much more trouble attended the providing of food for animals. He might therefore have suspected that God was mocking him. His last work was to gather animals of all kinds together. As if, indeed, he had all the beasts of the forest at his command, or was able to tame them; so that, in his keeping, wolves might dwell with lambs, tigers with hares, lions with oxen — as sheep in his fold. But the most grievous temptation of all was, that he was commanded to descend, as into the grave, for the sake of preserving his life, and voluntarily to deprive himself of air and vital spirit; for the smell of dung alone pent up, as it was, in a closely filled place, might, at the expiration of three days, have stifled all the living creatures in the ark. Let us reflect on these conflicts of the holy man — so severe, and multiplied and long-continued — in order that we may know how heroic was his courage, in prosecuting, to the utmost, what God had commanded him to do. Moses, indeed, says in a single word that he did it; but we must consider how far beyond all human power was the doing of it: and that it would have been better to die a hundred deaths, than to undertake a work so labourious, unless he had looked to something higher than the present life. A remarkable example, therefore, of obedience is here described to us; because, Noah, committing himself entirely to God, rendered Him due honor. We know, in this corruption of our nature, how ready men are to seek subterfuges, and how ingenious in inventing pretexts for disobedience to God. Wherefore, let us also learn to break through every kind of impediment, and not to give place to evil thoughts, which oppose themselves to the word of God, and with which Satan attempts to entangle our minds, that they may not obey the command of God. For God especially demands this honor to be given to himself, that we should suffer him to judge for us. And this is the true proof of faith, that we, being content with one of his commands, gird ourselves to the work, so that we do not swerve in our course, whatever obstacle Satan may place in our way, but are borne on the wings of faith above the world. Moses also shows, that Noah obeyed God, not in one particular only, but in all. Which is diligently to be observed; because hence, chiefly, arises dreadful confusion in our life, that we are not able, unreservedly to submit ourselves to God; but when we have discharged some part of our duty, we often blend our own feelings with his word. But the obedience of Noah is celebrated on this, account, that it was entire, not partial; so that he omitted none of those things which God had commanded.

1. And the Lord said unto Noah. I have no doubt that Noah was confirmed, as he certainly needed to be, by oracles frequently repeated. He had already sustained, during one hundred years, the greatest and most furious assaults; and the invincible combatant had achieved memorable victories; but the most severe contest of all was, to bid farewell to the world, to renounce society and to bury himself in the ark. The face of the earth was, at that time, lovely; and Moses intimates that it was the season in which the herbs shoot forth and the trees begin to flourish. Winter, which binds the joy of sky and earth in sharp and rugged frost, has now passed away; and the Lord has chosen the moment for destroying the world, in the very season of spring. For Moses states that the commencement of the deluge was in the second month. I know, however, that different opinions prevail on this subject; for there are three who begin the year from the autumnal equinox; but that mode of reckoning the year is more approved, which makes it commence in the month of March. However this might be, it was no light trial for Noah to leave of his own accord, the life to which he had been accustomed during six hundred years, and to seek a new mode of life in the abyss of death. He is commanded to forsake the world, that he may live in a sepulcher which he had been labouriously digging for himself through more than a hundred years. Why was this? Because, in a little while, the earth was to be submerged in a deluge of waters. Yet nothing of the kind is apparent: all indulge in feasts, celebrate nuptials, build sumptuous houses; in short, everywhere, daintiness and luxury prevail; as Christ himself testifies, that that age was intoxicated with its own pleasures, (Luke 17:26.) Wherefore, it was not without reason, that the Lord encouraged and fortified the mind of his servant afresh, by the renewal of the promise, lest he should faint; as if he would says ‘Hitherto thou hast labored with fortitude amid so many causes of offense; but now the case especially demands that thou shouldst take courage, in order to reap the fruit of thy labor: do not, however, wait till the waters burst forth on every side from the opened veins of the earth, and till the higher waters of heaven, with opposing violence, rush from their opened cataracts; but while everything is yet tranquil, enter into the ark, and there remain till the seventh day, then suddenly shall the deluge arise.’ And although oracles are not now brought down from heaven, let us know that continual meditation on the word is not ineffectual; for as new difficulties perpetually arise before us, so God, by one and another promise, establishes our faith, so that our strength being renewed, we may at length arrive at the goal. Our duty, indeed, is, attentively to hear God speaking to us; and neither through depraved fastidiousness, to reject those exercises, by which He cherishes, or excites, or confirms our faith, according as he knows it to be still tender, or languishing, or weak; nor yet to reject them as superfluous. For thee have I seen righteous. When the Lord assigns as his reason for preserving Noah, that he knew him to be righteous, he seems to attribute the praise of salvation to the merit of works; for if Noah was saved because he was righteous, it follows, that we shall deserve life by good works. But here it behaves us cautiously to weigh the design of God; which was to place one man in contrast with the whole world, in order that, in his person, he might condemn the unrighteousness of all men. For he again testifies, that the punishment which he was about to inflict on the world was just, seeing that only one man was left who then cultivated righteousness, for whose sake he was propitious to his whole family. Should any one object, that from this passage, God is proved to have respect to works in saving men, the solution is ready; that this is not repugnant to gratuitous acceptance, since God accepts those gifts which he himself has conferred upon his servants. We must observe, in the first place, that he loves men freely, inasmuch as he finds nothing in them but what is worthy of hatred, since all men are born the children of wrath, and heirs of eternal malediction. In this respect he adopts them to himself in Christ, and justifies them by his mere mercy. After he has, in this manner, reconciled them unto himself, he also regenerates them, by his Spirit, to new life and righteousness. Hence flow good works, which must of necessity be pleasing to God himself. Thus he not only loves the faithful but also their works. We must again observe, that since some fault always adheres to our works, it is not possible that they can be approved, except as a matter of indulgence. The grace, therefore, of Christ, and not their own dignity or merit, is that which gives worth to our works. Nevertheless, we do not deny that they come into the account before God: as he here acknowledges and accepts the righteousness of Noah which had proceeded from his own grace; and in this manner (as Augustine speaks) he will crown his own gifts. We nay further notice the expression, “I have seen thee righteous before me;” by which words, he not only annihilates all that hypocritical righteousness which is destitute of interior sanctity of heart, but vindicates his own authority; as if he would declare, that he alone is a competent judge to estimate righteousness. The clause, in this generation, is added, as I have said, for the sake of amplification; for so desperate was the depravity of that age, that it was regarded as a prodigy, that Noah should be free from the common infection.

2. Of every clean beast. He again repeats what he had before said concerning animals, and not without occasion. For there was no little difficulty in collecting from woods, mountains, and caves, so great a multitude of wild beasts, many species of which were perhaps altogether unknown; and there was, in most of them, the same ferocity which we now perceive. Wherefore, God encourages the holy man, lest being alarmed with that difficulty, and having cast aside all hope of success, he should fail. Here, however, at first sight, appears some kind of contradiction, because whereas he before had spoken of pairs of animals, he now speaks of sevens. But the solution is at hand; because, previously, Moses does not state the number, but only says that females were added as companions to the males; as if he had said, Noah himself was commanded not to gather the animals promiscuously together, but to select pairs out of them for the propagation of offspring. Now, however, the discourse is concerning the actual number. Moreover, the expression, by sevens, is to be understood not of seven pairs of each kind, but of three pairs, to which one animal is added for the sake of sacrifice.276276     Le Clerc objects to this interpretation, and supposes that seven of each sex, of unclean animals, were admitted into the ark. Perhaps a skeptical objection to the use of the seventh animal, as a sacrifice, inclined him to adopt this interpretation. Commentators, however, have generally preferred the solution here given. — Ed. Besides, the Lord would have a threefold greater number of clean animals than of others preserved, because there would be a greater necessity of them for the use of man. In which appointment, we must consider the paternal goodness of God towards us, by which he is inclined to have regard to us in all things.

3. To keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. That is, that hence offspring might be born. But this is referred to Noah; for although, properly speaking, God alone gives life, yet God here refers to those duties which he had enjoined upon his servant: and it is with respect to his appointed office, that God commands him to collect animals that he may keep seed alive. Nor is this extraordinary, seeing that the ministers of the gospel are said, in a sense, to confer spiritual life. In the clause which next follows, upon the face of all the earth, there is a twofold consolation: that the waters, after they had covered the earth for a time, would again cease, so that the dry surface of the earth should appear; and then, that not only should Noah himself survive, but, by the blessing of God, the number of animals should be so increased, as to spread far and wide through the whole world. Thus, in the midst of ruin, future restoration is promised to him. Moses is very earnest in showing that God took care, by every means, to retain Noah in obedience to his word, and that the holy man entirely acquiesced. This doctrine is very useful, especially when God either promises or threatens anything incredible, since men do not willingly receive what seems to them improbable. For nothing was less accordant with the judgment of the flesh, than that the world should be destroyed by its Creator; because this was to subvert the whole order of nature which he had established. Wherefore, unless Noah had been well admonished of this terrible judgment of God, he never would have ventured to believe it; lest he should conceive of God as acting in contradiction to himself. The word היקום (hayekom,) which Moses here uses has its origin from a word signifying to stand; but it properly means whatever lives and flourishes.

5. And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded. This is not a bare repetition of the former sentence; but Moses commends Noah’s uniform tenor of obedience in keeping all God’s commandments; as if he would say, that in whatever particular it pleased God to try his obedience, he always remained constant. And, certainly, it is not becoming to obey one or another commandment of God only, so that when we have performed a defective obedience, we should feel at liberty to withdraw; for we must keep in memory the declaration of James,

‘He who forbade thee to kill, forbade thee also to steal, and to commit adultery,’ (James 2:11.)

6. And Noah was six hundred years old. It is not without reason that he again mentions the age of Noah. For old age has this among other evils, that it renders men more indolent and morose; whence the faith of Noah was the more conspicuous, because it did not fail him in that advanced period of life. And as it was a great excellence, not to languish through successive centuries, so big promptitude deserves no little commendation; because, being commanded to enter the ark, he immediately obeyed. When Moses shortly afterwards subjoins, that he had entered on account of the waters of the deluge, the words ought not to be expounded, as if he were compelled, by the rushing of the waters, to flee into the ark; but that he, being moved with fear by the word, perceived by faith the approach of that deluge which all others ridiculed. Wherefore, his faith is again commended in this place, because, indeed, he raised his eyes above heaven and earth.

8. Of clean beasts. Moses now explains, — what had before been doubtful, — in which manner the animals were gathered together into the ark, and says that they came of their own accord. If this should seem to any one absurd, let him recall to mind what was said before, that in the beginning every kind of animals presented themselves to Adam, that he might give them names. And, truly, we dread the sight of wild beasts from no other cause than this, that seeing we have shaken off the yoke of God, we have lost that authority over them with which Adam was endued. Now, it was a kind of restoration of the former state of things when God brought to Noah those animals which he intended should be preserved through Noah’s labor and service. For Noah retained the untamed animals in his ark, in the very same way in which hens and geese are preserved in a coop. And it is not superfluously added, that the animals themselves came, as God had instructed Noah; for it shows that the blessing of God rested on the obedience of Noah, so that his labor should not be in vain. It was impossible, humanly speaking, that in a moment such an assemblage of all animals should take place; but because Noah, simply trusting the event with God, executed what was enjoined upon him; God, in return, gave power to his own precept, that it might not be without effect. Properly speaking, this was a promise of God annexed to his commands. And, therefore, we must conclude, that the faith of Noah availed more, than all snares and nets, for the capture of animals; and that, by the very same gate, lions, and wolves, and tigers, meekly entered, with oxen, and with lambs, into the ark. And this is the only method by which we may overcome all difficulties; while, — being persuaded, that what is impossible to us is easy to God, — we derive alacrity from hope. It has before been stated that the animals entered in by pairs. We have also related the different opinions of interpreters respecting the month in which the deluge took place. For since the Hebrews begin their year in sacred things from March, but in earthly affairs from September; or, — which is the same thing, — since the two equinoxes form with them a double commencement of the year, some think that the sacred year, and some the political, is here intended. But because the former method of reckoning the years was Divinely appointed, and is also more agreeable to nature, it seems probable that the deluge began about the time of spring.

11. The same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up. Moses recalls the period of the first creation to our memory; for the earth was originally covered with water; and by the singular kindness of God, they were made to recede, that some space should be left clear for living creatures. And this, philosophers are compelled to acknowledge, that it is contrary to the course of nature for the waters to subside, so that some portion of the earth might rise above them. And Scripture records this among the miracles of God, that he restrains the force of the sea, as with barriers, lest it should overwhelm that part of the earth which is granted for a habitation to men. Moses also says, in the first chapter, that some waters were suspended above in the heaven; and David, in like manner, declares, that they are held enclosed as in a bottle. Lastly, God raised for men a theater in the habitable region of the earth; and caused, by his secret power, that the subterraneous waters should not break forth to overwhelm us, and the celestial waters should not conspire with them for that purpose. Now, however, Moses states, that when God resolved to destroy the earth by a deluge, those barriers were torn up. And here we must consider the wonderful counsel of God; for he might have deposited, in certain channels or veins of the earth, as much water as would have sufficed for all the purposes of human life; but he has designedly placed us between two graves, lest, in fancied security, we should despise that kindness on which our life depends. For the element of water, which philosophers deem one of the principles of life, threatens us with death from above and from beneath, except so far as it is restrained by the hand of God. In saying that the fountains were broken up, and the cataracts opened, his language is metaphorical, and means, that neither did the waters flow in their accustomed manner, nor did the rain distil from heaven; but that the distinctions which we see had been established by God, being now removed, there were no longer any bars to restrain the violent irruption.

12. And the rain was upon the earth. Although the Lord burst open the floodgates of the waters, yet he does not allow them to break forth in a moment, so as immediately to overwhelm the earth, but causes the rain to continue forty days; partly, that Noah, by long meditation, might more deeply fix in his memory what he had previously learned, by instruction, through the word; partly, that the wicked, even before their death, might feel that those warnings which they had held in derision, were not empty threats. For they who had so long scorned the patience of God, deserved to feel that they were gradually perishing under that righteous judgment of his, which, during a hundred years, they had treated as a fable. And the Lord frequently so tempers his judgments, that men may have leisure to consider with more advantage those judgments which, by their sudden eruption, might overcome them with astonishment. But the wonderful depravity of our nature shows itself in this, that if the anger of God is suddenly poured forth, we become stupefied and senseless; but if it advances with measured pace, we become so accustomed to it as to despise it; because we do not willingly acknowledge the hand of God without miracles; and because we are easily hardened, by a kind of superinduced insensibility, at the sight of God’s works.

13. In the self-same day entered Noah , and Shem , etc. A repetition follows, sufficiently particular, considering the brevity with which Moses runs through the history of the deluge, yet by no means superfluous. For it was the design of the Spirit to retain our minds in the consideration of a vengeance too terrible to be adequately described by the utmost severity of language. Besides, nothing is here related but what is difficult to be believed; wherefore Moses the more frequently inculcates these things, that however remote they may be from our apprehension, they may still obtain credit with us. Thus the narration respecting the animals refers to this point; that by the faith of holy Noah they were drawn from their woods and caverns and were collected in one place from their wandering courses, as if they had been led by the hand of God. We see, therefore, that Moses does not insist upon this point without an object; but he does it to teach us that each species of animals was preserved, not by chance, nor by human industry, but because the Lord reached out and offered to Noah himself, from hand to hand, (as they say,) whatever animal he intended to keep alive.

16. And the Lord shut him in. This is not added in vain, nor ought it to be lightly passed over. That door must have been large, which could admit an elephant. And truly, no pitch would be sufficiently firm and tenacious, and no joining sufficiently solid, to prevent the immense force of the water from penetrating through its many seams, especially in an irruption so violent, and in a shock so severe. Therefore, Moses, to cut off occasion for the vain speculations which our own curiosity would suggest, declares in one word, that the ark was made secure from the deluge, not by human artifice, but by divine miracle. It is, indeed, not to be doubted that Noah had been endued with new ability and sagacity, that nothing might be defective in the structure of the ark. But lest even this favor should be without success, it was necessary for something greater to be added. Wherefore, that we might not measure the mode of preserving the ark by the capacity of our own judgment, Moses teaches use that the waters were not restrained from breaking in upon the ark, by pitch or bitumen only, but rather by the secret power of God, and by the interposition of his hand.

17. And the flood was forty days , etc. Moses copiously insists upon this fact, in order to show that the whole world was immersed in the waters. Moreover, it is to be regarded as the special design of this narrations that we should not ascribe to fortune, the flood by which the world perished; how ever customary it may be for men to cast some veil over the works of God, which may obscure either his goodness or his judgments manifested in them. But seeing it is plainly declared, that whatever was flourishing on the earth was destroyed, we hence infer, that it was an indisputable and signal judgment of God; especially since Noah alone remained secure, because he had embraced, by faith, the word in which salvation was contained. He then recalls to memory what we before have said; namely how desperate had been the impiety, and how enormous the crimes of men, by which God was induced to destroy the whole world; whereas, on account of his great clemency, he would have spared his own workmanship, had he seen that any milder remedy could have been effectually applied. These two things, directly opposed to each other, he connects together; that the whole human race was destroyed, but that Noah and his family safely escaped. Hence we learn how profitable it was for Noah, disregarding the world, to obey God alone: which Moses states not so much for the sake of praising the man, as for that of inviting us to imitate his example. Moreover, lest the multitude of sinners should draw us away from God; we must patiently bear that the ungodly should hold us up to ridicule, and should triumph over us, until the Lord shall show by the final issue, that our obedience has been approved by him. In this sense, Peter teaches that Noah’s deliverance from the universal deluge was a figure of baptism, (1 Peter 3:21;) as if he had said, the method of the salvation, which we receive through baptism, degrees with this deliverance of Noah. Since at this time also the world is full of unbelievers as it was then; therefore it is necessary for us to separate ourselves from the greater multitude, that the Lord may snatch us from destruction. In the same manner, the Church is fitly, and justly, compared to the ark. But we must keep in mind the similitude by which they mutually correspond with each other; for that is derived from the word of God alone; because as Noah believing the promise of God, gathered himself his wife and his children together, in order that under a certain appearance of death, he might emerge out of death; so it is fitting that we should renounce the world and die, in order that the Lord may quicken us by his word. For nowhere else is there any security of salvation. The Papists, however, act ridiculously who fabricate for us an ark without the word.

1. And God remembered Noah. Moses now descends more particularly to that other part of the subject, which shows, that Noah was not disappointed in his hope of the salvation divinely promised to him. The remembrance of which Moses speaks, ought to be referred not only to the external aspect of things, (so to speak,) but also to the inward feeling of the holy man. Indeed it is certain, that Gods from the time in which he had once received Noah into his protection, was never unmindful of him; for, truly, it was by as great a miracle, that he did not perish through suffocation in the ark, as if he had lived without breath, submerged in the waters. And Moses just before has said that by God’s secret closing up of the ark, the waters were restrained from penetrating it. But as the ark was floating, even to the fifth month, upon the waters, the delay by which the Lord suffered his servant to be anxiously and miserably tortured might seem to imply a kind of oblivion. And it is not to be questioned, that his heart was agitated by various feelings, when he found himself so long held in suspense; for he might infer, that his life had been prolonged, in order that he might be more miserable than any of the rest of mankind. For we know that we are accustomed to imagine God absent, except when we have some sensible experience of his presence. And although Noah tenaciously held fast the promise which he had embraced, even to the end, it is yet credible, that he was grievously assailed by various temptations; and God, without doubt, purposely thus exercised his faith and patience. For, why was not the world destroyed in three days? And for what purpose did the waters, after they had covered the highest mountains rise fifteen cubits higher, unless it was to accustom Noah, and his family, to meditate the more profitably on the judgments of Gods and when the danger was past, to acknowledge that they had been rescued from a thousand deaths? Let us therefore learn, by this example, to repose on the providence of God, even while he seems to be most forgetful of us; for at length, by affording us help, he will testify that he has been mindful of us. What, if the flesh persuade us to distrust, yet let us not yield to its restlessness; but as soon as this thought creeps in, that God has cast off all care concerning us, or is asleep, or far distant, let us immediately meet it with this shield, ‘The Lord, who has promised his help to the miserable will, in due time, be present with us, that we may indeed perceive the care he takes of us.’ Nor is there less weight in what is added that God also remembered the animals; for if, on account of the salvation promised to man, his favor is extended to brute cattle, and to wild beasts; what may we suppose will be his favor towards his own children, to whom he has so liberally, and so sacredly, pledged his faithfulness?

And God made a wind to pass over the earth. Here it appears more clearly, that Moses is speaking of the effect of God’s remembrance of Noah; namely, that in very deed, and by a sure proof, Noah might know that God cared for his life. For when God, by his secret power, might have dried the earth, he made use of the wind; which method he also employed in drying the Red Sea. And thus he would testify, that as he had the waters at his command, ready to execute his wrath, so now he held the winds in his hand, to afford relief. And although here a remarkable history is recorded by Moses, we are yet taught, that the winds do not arise fortuitously, but by the command of God; as it is said in Psalm 104:4, that ‘they are the swift messengers of God;’ and again, that God rides upon their wings. Finally, the variety, the contrary motions, and the mutual conflicts of the elements, conspire to yield obedience to God. Moses also adds other inferior means by which the waters were diminished and caused to return to their former position. The sum of the whole is, that God, for the purpose of restoring the order which he had before appointed, recalled the waters to their prescribed boundaries so that while the celestial waters, as if congealed, were suspended in the air; others might lie concealed in their gulfs; others flow in separate channels; and the sea also might remain within its barriers.

3. And after the end of the hundred and fifty days. Some think that the whole time, from the beginning of the deluge to the abatement of the waters, is here noted; and thus they include the forty days in which Moses relates that there was continued rain. But I make this distinction, that until the fortieth day, the waters rose gradually by fresh additions; then that they remained nearly in the same state for one hundred and fifty days; for both computations make the period a little more than six months and a half. And Moses says, that about the end of the seventh month, the diminution of the waters appeared to be such that the ark settled upon the highest summit of a mountain, or touched some ground. And by this lengthened space of time, the Lord would show the more plainly, that the dreadful desolation of the world had not fallen upon it accidentally, but was a remarkable proof of his judgment; while the deliverance of Noah was a magnificent work of his grace, and worthy of everlasting remembrance. If, however, we number the seventh month from the beginning of the year, (as some do,) and not from the time that Noah entered the ark, the subsidence of which Moses speaks, took place earlier, namely, as soon as the ark had floated five months. If this second opinion is received, there will be the same reckoning of ten months; for the sense will be, that in the eighth month after the commencement of the deluge, the tops of the mountains appeared. Concerning the name Ararat, I follow the opinion most received. And I do not see why some should deny it to be Armenian the mountains of which are declared, by ancient authors, almost with one consents to be the highest.277277     “As to the opinion, which takes the mountains of Ararat to be situated within the country of Armenia, the followers of it (some very few excepted) do agree, that the ark of Noah rested in that part of the mountains of Ararat, which in Greek and Latin writers is styled the Gordiaean mountains, (or, with some variation, the mountains of the Cordyaei, Cordueni, Carduchi, Curdi, etc.,) and which lies near the spring of the Tigris.” — Wells’ Geography, vol. 1 chap. 2. — Ed. The Chaldean paraphrase also points out the particular part, which he calls mountains of Cardu,278278     “על טורי קרדו. (Al toorai Kardoo,) Super montes Cardu. — Chaldee paraphrase.” — Walton which others call Cardueni. But whether that be true, which Josephus has handed down respecting the fragments of the ark found there in his time; remnants of which, Jerome says, remained to his own age, I leave undecided.

6. At the end of forty days. We may hence conjecture with what great anxiety the breast of the holy man was oppressed. After he had perceived the ark to be resting on solid ground, he yet did not dare to open the window till the fortieth day; not because he was stunned and torpid, but because an example, thus formidable, of the vengeance of God, had affected him with such fear and sorrow combined, that being deprived of all judgment, he silently remained in the chamber of his ark. At length he sends forth a raven, from which he might receive a more certain indication of the dryness of the earth. But the raven perceiving nothing but muddy marshes, hovers around, and immediately seeks to be readmitted. I have no doubt that Noah purposely selected the ravens which he knew might be allured by the odour of carcasses, to take a further flight, if the earth, with the animals upon it, were already exposed to view; but the raven, flying around did not depart far. I wonder whence a negation, which Moses has not in the Hebrew text, has crept into the Greek and Latin version, since it entirely changes the sense.279279     “ויצא יצוא ושוב, Vayesta yatso vashoob.” “And went out going and returning.” The Vulgate has it, ‘Qui egrediebatur, et non revertebatur.’ The Septuagint introduces the same negative, so does the Syriac; but the Chaldee paraphrase, the Samaritan text, and the Arabic version, all omit the negative. Our translators, in the text, seem to have followed the Vulgate, though hesitatingly, but in the margin, they give the rendering of the original. — See Walton’s Polyglott. — Ed Hence the fable has originated, that the raven, having found carcasses, was kept away from the arks and forsook its protector. Afterwards, futile allegories followed, just as the curiosity of men is ever desirous of trifling. But the dove, in its first egress, imitated the raven, because it flew back to the ark; afterwards it brought a branch of olive in its bill; and at the third time, as if emancipated, it enjoyed the free air, and the free earth. Some writers exercise their ingenuity on the olive branch;280280     “In ramo olivae quidam philosophantur.” because among the ancients it was the emblem of peace, as the laurel was of victory. But I rather think, that as the olive tree does not grow upon the mountains, and is not a very lofty tree, the Lord had given his servant some token whence he might infer, that pleasant regions, and productive of good fruits, were now freed from the waters. Because the version of Jerome says, that it was a branch with green leaves; they who have thought, that the deluge began in the month of September, take this as a confirmation of their opinion. But the words of Moses have no such meaning. And it might be that the Lord, willing to revive the spirit of Noah, offered some branch to the dove, which had not yet altogether withered under the waters.

15. And God spake unto Noah. Though Noah was not a little terrified at the judgment of God, yet his patience is commended in this respect, that having the earth, which offered him a home, before his eyes, he yet does not venture to go forth. Profane men may ascribe this to timidity, or even to indolence; but holy is that timidity which is produced by the obedience of faith. Let us therefore know, that Noah was restrained, by a hallowed modesty, from allowing himself to enjoy the bounty of nature, till he should hear the voice of God directing him to do so. Moses winds this up in a few words, but it is proper that we should attend to the thing itself. All ought indeed, spontaneously, to consider how great must have been the fortitude of the man, who, after the incredible weariness of a whole year, when the deluge has ceased, and new life has shone forth, does not yet move a foot out of his sepulcher, without the command of God. Thus we see, that, by a continual course of faith, the holy man was obedient to God; because at God’s command, he entered the ark, and there remained until God opened the way for his egress; and because he chose rather to lie in a tainted atmosphere than to breathe the free air, until he should feel assured that his removal would be pleasing to God. Even in minute affairs, Scripture commends to us this self-government, that we should attempt nothing but with an approving conscience. How much less is the rashness of men to be endured in religious matters, if, without taking counsel of God, they permit themselves to act as they please. It is not indeed to be expected that God will every moment pronounce, by special oracles, what is necessary to be done; yet it becomes us to hearken attentively to his voice, in order to be certainly persuaded that we undertake nothing but what is in accordance with his word. The spirit of prudence, and of counsel, is also to be sought; of which he never leaves those destitute, who are docile and obedient to his commands. In this sense, Moses relates that Noah went out of the ark as soon as he, relying on the oracle of God, was aware that a new habitation was given him in the earth.

17. That they may breed abundantly , etc. With these words the Lord would cheer the mind of Noah, and inspire him with confidence, that a seed had been preserved in the ark which should increase till it replenished the whole earth. In short, the renovation of the earth is promised to Noah; to the end that he may know that the world itself was inclosed in the ark, and that the solitude and devastation, at the sight of which his heart might faint, would not be perpetual.

20. And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord. As Noah had given many proofs of his obedience, so he now presents an example of gratitude. This passage teaches us that sacrifices were instituted from the beginning for this end, that men should habituate themselves, by such exercises, to celebrate the goodness of God, and to give him thanks. The bare confession of the tongue, yea, even the silent acknowledgment of the heart, might suffice for God; but we know how many stimulants our indolence requires. Therefore, when the holy fathers, formerly, professed their piety towards God by sacrifices, the use of them was by no means superfluous. Besides, it was right that they should always have before their eyes symbols, by which they would be admonished, that they could have no access to God but through a mediator. Now, however, the manifestation of Christ has taken away these ancient shadows. Wherefore, let us use those helps which the Lord has prescribed.281281     “Quare adminiculis utamur,” etc. The French translation has it, “Et pourtant usons,” etc. “And, nevertheless, let us use,” etc. The meaning of the sentence seems to be, that, as the fathers, in obedience to God, used sacrifices, which were afterwards abolished as being of no value, so ought we to avail ourselves of those aids (adminicula) which might seem to be of no importance, had not God enjoined them. — Ed. Moreover, when I say that sacrifices were made use of, by the holy fathers, to celebrate the benefits of God, I speak only of one kind: for this offering of Noah answers to the peace-offerings, and the first-fruits. But here it may be asked, by what impulse Noah offered a sacrifice to God, seeing he had no command to do so? I answer: although Moses does not expressly declare that God commanded him to do it, yet a certain judgment may be formed from what follows, and even from the whole context, that Noah had rested upon the word of Gods and that, in reliance on the divine command, he had rendered this worship, which he knew, indubitably, should be acceptable to God. We have before said, that one animal of every kind was preserved separately; and have stated for what end it was done. But it was useless to set apart animals for sacrifice, unless God had revealed this design to holy Noah, who was to be the priest to offer up the victims. Besides, Moses says that sacrifices were chosen from among clean animals. But it is certain that Noah did not invent this distinction for himself since it does not depend on human choice. Whence we conclude, that he undertook nothing without divine authority. Also immediately afterwards, Moses subjoins, that the smell of the sacrifice was acceptable to God. This general rule, therefore, is to be observed, that all religious services which are not perfumed with the odour of faith, are of an ill-savor before God. Let us therefore know, that the altar of Noah was founded in the word of God. And the same word was as salt to his sacrifices, that they might not be insipid.

21. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor282282     “Odorem quietis.” “A savor of rest.” — Margin of English Version. Moses calls that by which God was appeased, an odour of rest; as if he had said, the sacrifice had been rightly offered. Yet nothing can be more absurd than to suppose that God should have been appeased by the filthy smoke of entrails, and of flesh. But Moses here, according to his manner, invests God with a human character for the purpose of accommodating himself to the capacity of an ignorant people. For it is not even to be supposed, that the rite of sacrifice, in itself, was grateful to God as a meritorious act; but we must regard the end of the work, and not confine ourselves to the external form. For what else did Noah propose to himself than to acknowledge that he had received his own life, and that of the animals, as the gift of God’s mercy alone? This piety breathed a good and sweet odour before God; as it is said, (Psalm 116:12,)

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits? I will take the cup of salvation, and will call upon the name of the Lord.”

And the Lord said in his heart. The meaning of the passage is, God had decreed that he would not hereafter curse the earth. And this form of expression has great weight: for although God never retracts what he has openly spoken with his mouth, yet we are more deeply affected when we hear, that he has fixed upon something in his own mind; because an inward decree of this kind in no way depends upon creatures. To sum up the whole, God certainly determined that he would never more destroy the world by a deluge. Yet the expression, ‘I will not curse,’ is to be but generally understood; because we know how much the earth has lost of its fertility since it has been corrupted by man’s sin, and we daily feel that it is cursed in various ways. And he explains himself a little afterwards, saying, ‘I will not smite anymore every thing living.’ For in these words he does not allude to every kind of vengeance, but only to that which should destroy the world, and bring ruin both on mankind and the rest of animals: as if he would say, that he restored the earth with this stipulation, that it should not afterwards perish by a deluge. So when the Lord declares, (Isaiah 54:9,) that he will be contented with one captivity of his people, he compares it with the waters of Noah, by which he had resolved that the world should only once be overwhelmed.283283     “For this is as the waters of Noah unto me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.”

For the imagination of man’s heart. This reasoning seems incongruous: for if the wickedness of man is so great that it does not cease to provoke the anger of God, it must necessarily bring down destruction upon the world. Nay, God seems to contradict himself by having previously declared that the world must be destroyed, because its iniquity was desperate. But here it behaves us more deeply to consider his design; for it was the will of God that there should be some society of men to inhabit the earth. If, however, they were to be dealt with according to their deserts, there would be a necessity for a daily deluge. Wherefore, he declares, that in inflicting punishment upon the second world, he will so do it, as yet to preserve the external appearance of the earth, and not again to sweep away the creatures with which he has adorned it. Indeed, we ourselves may perceive such moderation to have been used, both in the public and special judgments of God, that the world yet stands in its completeness, and nature yet retains its course. Moreover, since God here declares what would be the character of men even to the end of the world, it is evident that the whole human race is under sentence of condemnation, on account of its depravity and wickedness. Nor does the sentence refer only to corrupt morals; but their iniquity is said to be an innate iniquity, from which nothing but evils can spring forth. I wonder, however, whence that false version of this passage has crept in, that the thought is prone to evil;284284     “Sensus enim, et cogitatio humani cordis in malum prona sunt.” — Vulgate. except, as is probable, that the place was thus corrupted, by those who dispute too philosophically concerning the corruption of human nature. It seemed to them hard, that man should be subjected, as a slave of the devil to sin. Therefore, by way of mitigation, they have said that he had a propensity to vices. But when the celestial Judge thunders from heaven, that his thoughts themselves are evil, what avails it to soften down that which, nevertheless, remains unalterable? Let men therefore acknowledge, that inasmuch as they are born of Adam, they are depraved creatures, and therefore can conceive only sinful thoughts, until they become the new workmanship of Christ, and are formed by his Spirit to a new life. And it is not to be doubted, that the Lord declares the very mind of man to be depraved, and altogether infected with sin; so that all the thoughts which proceed thence are evil. If such be the defect in the fountain itself, it follows, that all man’s affections are evil, and his works covered with the same pollution, since of necessity they must savor of their original. For God does not merely say that men sometimes think evil; but the language is unlimited, comprising the tree with its fruits. Nor is it any proof to the contrary, that carnal and profane men often excel in generosity of disposition, undertake designs apparently honorable, and put forth certain evidences of virtue. For since their mind is corrupted with contempt of God, with pride, self-love, ambitious hypocrisy, and fraud; it cannot be but that all their thoughts are contaminated with the same vices. Again, they cannot tend towards a right end: whence it happens that they are judged to be what they really are, crooked and perverse. For all things in such men, which release us under the color of virtue, are like wine spoiled by the odour of the cask. For, (as was before said,) the very affections of nature, which in themselves are laudable, are yet vitiated by original sin, and on account of their irregularity have degenerated from their proper nature; such are the mutual love of married persons, the love of parents towards their children, and the like. And the clause which is added, “from youth,” more fully declares that men are born evil; in order to show that, as soon as they are of an age to begin to form thoughts, they have radical corruption of mind. Philosophers, by transferring to habit, what God here ascribes to nature, betray their own ignorance. And to wonder; for we please and flatter ourselves to such an extent, that we do not perceive how fatal is the contagion of sin, and what depravity pervades all our senses. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the judgment of God, which pronounces man to be so enslaved by sin that he can bring forth nothing sound and sincere. Yet, at the same time, we must remember, that no blame is to be cast upon God for that which has its origin in the defection of the first man, whereby the order of the creation was subverted. And furthers it must be noted, that men are not exempted from guilt and condemnation, by the pretext of this bondage: because, although all rush to evil, yet they are not impelled by any extrinsic force, but by the direct inclination of their own hearts; and, lastly, they sin not otherwise than voluntarily.

22. While the earth remaineth285285     “Posthac omnibus diebus terrae.” By these words the world is again completely restored. For so great was the confusion and disorder which had overspread the earth, that there was a necessity for some renovation. On which account, Peter speaks of the old world as having perished in the deluge, (2 Peter 3:6.) Moreover, the deluge had been an interruption of the order of nature. For the revolutions of the sun and moon had ceased: there was no distinction of winter and summer. Wherefore, the Lord here declares it to be his pleasure, that all things should recover their vigor, and be restored to their functions. The Jews erroneously divide their year into six parts; whereas Moses, by placing the summer in opposition to the winter, thus divides the whole year in a popular manner into two parts. And it is not to be doubted, that by cold and heat he designates the periods already referred to. Under the words, “seed-time,” and “harvest,” he marks those advantages which flow to men from the moderated temperature of the atmosphere. If it is objected that this equable temperament is not every year perceived; the answer is ready, that the order of the world is indeed disturbed by our vices, so that many of its movements are irregular: often the sun withholds its proper heat, — snow or hail follow in the place of dew, — the air is agitated by various tempests; but although the world is not so regulated as to produce perpetual uniformity of seasons, yet we perceive the order of nature so far to prevail, that winter and summer annually recur, that there is a constant succession of days and nights, and that the earth brings forth its fruits in summer and autumn. Moreover, by the expression, ‘all the days of the earth,’ he means, ‘as long as the earth shall last.’




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