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7. The Flood

And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. 2Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. 3Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. 4For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. 5And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him. 6And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.

7And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. 8Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, 9There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. 10And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.

11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; 14They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. 15And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in. 17And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. 18And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. 19And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. 20Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. 21And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: 22All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. 23And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. 24And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.

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.


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