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The Flood Subsides


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 L ord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21And when the L ord smelled the pleasing odor, the L ord 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.


As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,

summer and winter, day and night,

shall not cease.”

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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