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Exposition of Genesis: Volumes 1 and 2
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CHAPTER VII

Entrance of Noah Into the Ark; The Coming of the Flood

Even though we set a caption for this chapter, we are still considering the History of Noah (6:9), and more particularly the second part of it which treats of his preservation. In point of time this chapter sets in seven days before the Flood. The building of the ark is finished. The supplies are stored. The living cargo alone remains to be housed.

1. And Yahweh said unto Noah: Enter into the ark, thou and all thy house, for thee have I seen to be righteous before me in this generation.

Of God’s mode of speaking to Noah we know nothing. Noah knew that God spoke.

In a way the reader might argue that all that was needed at this point of the narrative was the direct command to enter the ark because the Flood was about to come. Yet such cold logical reasoning overlooks the human factor, namely, how a detailed statement with personal reassurance was an imperative necessity for a man who had to stand practically alone over against the generation of his day. What reassurance for Noah to know that he was not acting on his own initiative or on the strength of some supposition that now the time had come actually to enter the ark. Since 6:18 had definitely listed those who were to be permitted by God to share this haven of refuge, it is sufficient here to use the summary expression for them, "all thy house." A check-up on chapter five will show that none of the Sethite line outlived the Flood year. Consequently, we need not assume that a single one who was a true Sethite perished in the Flood. Nor can we in any way prove that this last communication made to Noah concerning the coming of the Flood in seven days, made sufficient of an impression on his contemporaries to induce at least some to turn to repentance, even though entrance into the ark was denied them. Matt. 24:38 seems to eliminate such a possibility.

When Noah’s righteousness (see on 6:9) is referred to as a reason for the sparing both of himself and of his house, the case is hardly covered by the reflection that the "members (of the family) are saved for the righteousness of its head." There is an element of that in it all. The blessing that may grow out of the godly conduct of a consecrated individual may, indeed, redound to the good of others who are associated with him and be much greater than what these persons would have received apart from their associations with such an individual. See how Israel is blessed both for Abraham’s and for David’s sake. However, prominent as such blessings are, we have every reason to assume that the father’s influence affected the personal attitude of the members of his household to Yahweh, so that of their own volition they chose to walk in the godly patriarch’s footsteps. Yet had Noah not stood firm, they themselves might soon have wavered. Therefore Yahweh ascribes righteousness to Noah alone in this his generation. Note how the forensic idea definitely appears in the word tsaddiq in this connection. Nor is the conclusion right that the sole approval of Noah involved the positive disapproval of all others (Lange).

A double accusative follows the verb "see" (K. S. 327 s).

2, 3. Of all clean animals take to thyself seven of each, a male and his mate; but of all animals which are not clean, two each, a male and his mate; also of the birds of the heavens, seven each, male and female, to preserve seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

In 6:19 a general direction had been given to Noah to the effect that two of every kind of beasts were to be taken into the ark. There was then no occasion for giving all details. Now that the entrance into the ark is imminent, these last details are added. In spite of the simple naturalness of this explanation which meets all needs and adequately solves the problem, critics, for the most part not even mentioning this obvious solution, keep referring to the two accounts J and P and the discrepancies between them. No doubt, from the earliest days the natural explanation advanced above has readily occurred to the simplest Bible reader, and for him no difficulty existed. Here we are suddenly confronted with the notion of unclean and clean animals. There is no indication in Scripture as to how this distinction arose. The Mosaic law sanctions and defines it. But we are left to our own devices for an explanation as to how it originated. Since the Mosaic law under this head sanctioned what apparently had long been in existence, there is no ground for tracing the origin of the distinction to a divine ordinance. The more satisfactory explanation is that which claims that in an earlier age, when man’s insight was less blurred by being absorbed in purely worldly matters, it became quite apparent to man that certain forms of animal life were in reality rather striking pictures of sin and its uncleanness. So a natural abhorrence against such creatures arose, and it was thought to be good pedagogic training for a man to remember such a distinction and to draw practical conclusions from it in the use of beasts particularly for food. Whether this practical application of the idea in reference to foods was made already in the days before the Flood cannot be determined. But the distinction as such is referred to as current and well known.

The Hebrew expression "take seven seven" means "seven each" (K. S. 85; 316 b; G. K. 134 q). Hebrew parallels support this explanation. In any case, it would be a most clumsy method of trying to say "fourteen." Three pairs and one supernumerary make the "seven." As has often been suggested, the supernumerary beast was the one Noah could conveniently offer for sacrifice after the termination of the Flood. In v. 3 the idea of "the birds of the heavens" must, of course, be supplemented by the adjective "clean," according to the principle laid down in v. 2. The birds are separately mentioned so that Noah might not be left to his own devices in fixing the limits of what v. 2 included.

The expression found twice in v. 2, "a male and his mate," is rather unusual from our point of view in that a literal translation would read in reference to these clean beasts, "a man and his wife." The expression is the same as that used in Gen. 2:25 in reference to Adam and Eve. However, the strangeness of the expression disappears as soon as we notice that both terms "man" and "wife" have a greater latitude of meaning by far in Hebrew. So "wife" may be used in reference to all manner of beasts to express the distributive and reciprocal idea, "each" (B D B 61, a). If, then, here the expression takes the place of "male and female," which is actually used of the clean birds in v. 3, no particular significance is to be attached to it. Of two available expressions the one involving the greater dignity ("man and wife") is twice used in reference to clean beasts.

The object of gathering all these clean beasts together in the ark is said to be "to preserve seed alive." The expression "seed" (zéra’) is here used quite appropriately, because these creatures naturally come under the point of view of such from which all others are again to spring. At the same time the thought is expressed that these apparently few creatures will under divine providence be adequate again to cover "the face of all the earth." There is a promise latent in this expression of purpose.

The criticism that calls this distinction of clean and unclean on the part of the writer "a proof of the naïvité of his religious conceptions" is proof that the author of the criticism has not apprehended the deeper scriptural truth involved.

4. For yet seven days and I am going to make it rain upon the earth for forty days and forty nights and I will blot out all existence which I have made from upon the face of the earth.

There is nothing vague about this last direction which is imparted to Noah. God speaks with authority as one who has absolute and perfect control of all issues involved. Noah will have seven days in which to complete his preparations. Then there will break forth a rain whose exact duration divine providence has fixed and foreknows, a rain of forty days and nights. The number "forty" cannot be merely accidental. According to the scriptural use of numbers forty regularly describes a period of trial terminating in the victory of good and the overthrow of evil; see Num. 14:33; Exod. 24:18; 1 Kings 19:8; John 3:4; Matt. 4:2; Acts 1:3. Since the rule of evil has in this case become well-nigh universal, God determines to "wipe out all existence" (kol yeyûm), that is, everything that stands up (allen Bestand). In the adjective clause "which I have made" lies both a sorrow at the thought that His own creatures should have degenerated thus, as well as the assertion of His right to destroy thus. What He has made, He may destroy. Again the descriptive word "wipe out" is met. The participle mamtïr expresses duration: I am going to cause rain for a long time. The le before "days" is the le temporal (K. S. 331 f).

5. And Noah did just as the Lord commanded him.

One of the remarkable features of this Flood story is its entirely objective character. Noah’s subjective feelings or reactions are not even indicated by a single word. It is as though human emotions were but trivial things in the face of the vastness of the disaster that befalls the earth. Enough to know the implicit obedience of this man of God. He received orders. He obeyed them to the letter. Kekhol, "according to all" must equal "just as." The sum of what he did is reported in v. 7-9, But before that is reported, it is thought essential to stress his complete obedience.

6. And Noah was six hundred years old when the Flood came, waters upon the earth.

The entrance into the ark is about to be reported. This certainly constitutes an important juncture in Noah’s life. This was practically the moment when the rest of mankind ceased to be, and when Noah virtually became the sole head of the race. At important junctures such as these authors love to pause for reflections. One common reflection of biographers in particular is to mention the age of the hero at the time of an outstanding event. Moses here quite naturally does the same thing in reference to Noah. This fact, which is so simple that it lies on the very surface, is not observed by criticism. For a simple obvious fact a devious and complicated theory is substituted. Because P is supposed to supply exact data, this verse is assigned to him, and this is supported by the claim that v. 5 is really continued by v. 7 (Dillmann, etc.). However, v. 5 in a summary way reported Noah’s obedience and so closed the paragraph. Now v. 6 marks the beginning, as above shown, of a new era, as it were, and offers an exact date for this era.

As in 6:17, the word mabbûl, "catastrophe," is modified by the apposition "water" to show what kind of a catastrophe this was. Hayah does not here mean "to be" but goes back to the original meaning "to come to pass." The Hebrew idiom expressing age is covered by the very flexible ben ("son"), "a son of six hundred years." The number 600 has nothing whatever to do with the Babylonian ner, or period of that length. The correspondence is purely accidental. The two coordinated clauses, "Noah was six hundred years old" and "and the Flood came, etc.," are to be combined as in our translation: "and" is the equivalent of "when." K. S. 362 n makes an artificial separation of the two clauses in the interest of the source theory.

7-9. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him came into the ark from the face of the waters of the Flood. Of all clean beasts and of all beasts which were not clean and of the birds and of everything that creepeth upon the ground, two by two came unto Noah to the ark, male and female, just as God had commanded Noah.

The enumeration of those who entered the ark is not a purely formal repetition of 6:18. A summary like 7:1 might have been in order ("all thy house"), but this simple repetition makes the fact very prominent that the original provision (6:18) had been meant literally and that no additional features were to be added, as actually, however, was the case in reference to the beasts, where first all are mentioned and the fact that they shall enter two by two (6:19), and then the modification of this order in reference to the clean beasts appears (7:2, 3). Strange to say, there actually was not one single person outside of the family of Noah whom divine grace could save. The expression "from the face of the waters of the Flood" is the equivalent of our statement "to escape the waters," etc. (Meek).

In this instance the readiness of the beasts, to come in is stressed; ba’û—"they came" v. 9. Again, since by far the majority of the beasts naturally belonged in the category of the unclean, the provisions just reported in reference to the clean may be taken for granted. The report, therefore, merely contains what held true in regard to all: they came in "two by two." Such a statement is said to be made a parte potiori, i. e., according to the portion that predominates. Besides, this cannot be said to clash with v. 2 and 3 because two of all clean beasts certainly did go in. The "creepers" (romes) are added at this point in order to show how broad Noah conceived the term "all beasts" to be. This is quite logical, because creepers certainly could not keep alive in a Flood such as this.

One outstanding instance of the lengths to which criticism ventures to go is supplied by the reconstruction of original documents which, it is claimed, can be restored by the skill of the critic. J’s narrative is said originally to have run thus in sequence of verses: 10, 7, 16b, 12, 17b, 22, 23. Even aside from all the flaws that we have pointed out as inherent in the critical assumption, it requires a faith far greater than the faith in verbal inspiration to accept contentions such as these.

In v. 10 the Creator’s authority is the dominant viewpoint; therefore Elohîm is used.

10, 11. And it came to pass after the seven days that the waters of the Flood came upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of the life of Noah, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that very day all the fountains of the great deep were broken open, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

Since "seven days" were mentioned in v. 4, these must elapse before the Flood can come. So, apparently, the expression "at the seven of the days," with le temporal, is best taken in the sense: "after the seven days," than "on the seventh day." Luther and A. V. also agree to this. The Hebrew with its preference for co-ordination of clauses says: "and the waters came" after "it came to pass." We naturally would say after such a beginning: "that the waters came." See K. S. 370a; G. K. 164 a. Besides, the second clause is not introduced by the verb because the noun "waters" is the emphatic thing.

11. Now the date is fixed more exactly as befits the importance of the event. In the memory of the survivors it was a day never to be forgotten. As above indicated, it was the six hundredth year of Noah’s life. The saints of the Lord, whom He hides before the storm breaks (Isa. 26:20), are so important in His eyes that time is reckoned according to their life. But as far as the year itself is concerned, it was the seventeenth day of the second month. But does the author mean the ordinary civil or agricultural year, which takes its beginning with fall when the agricultural tasks begin anew; or has he the ecclesiatical year in mind which began with April? From Exod. 12:2; 13:4 it appears that this ecclesiastical year first came into being with the Exodus. Besides, the heavy rain mentioned v. 12 as géshem applies primarily to the autumn rains. All this makes the month corresponding roughly to our October the more likely.

The source of the waters was twofold. Though it was indicated above (v. 4) that the source of the waters of the Flood would be what would normally be expected, namely the rain from above, which was in reality the chief source, now the auxiliary source is mentioned and put first in order, because it was the thing that attracted notice first because of its unusual character. This auxiliary source is "the fountains of the great deep." The "great deep" must be subterranean water of which there is still much and of which there may have been more in early days. It seems to be an established fact that "outbursts of subterranean water are a frequent accompaniment of seismic disturbances in the alluvial districts of great rivers." Tehôm is similarly used for subterranean waters in Gen. 49:25 and Deut. 33:13. Consequently there must have been vast upheavals on every hand, for these fountains of the great deep "were broken open" (nibhqe’û —from baqa’, "to cleave"). To make plain the fact that the heavens poured down torrential rains, the figurative expression is used: "the windows of the heavens were opened," an expression still employed because of its aptness. As little as we go on record by the use of this expression as believing that there are actual windows in the heaven, so little need such a conception, pressed out of the literal understanding of figurative language, be attributed to Biblical writers. As in connection with 1:7 the idea of a kind of sidereal ocean had to be rejected as a purely fanciful notion of commentators, so here.

However, at this point note should be taken of the tremendous geological possibilities that lie behind the breaking open of the fountains of the great deep. The vastness of these eruptions must be in proportion to the actual depth of the Flood. For as the Flood was of astounding power and magnitude, so must have been each of the causes mentioned, the upper and the lower waters. Such eruptions from subterranean sources must have caused a rush of waters upon the earth comparable to the highest tidal wave. Such waves in turn must have been capable of producing effects of almost incalculable magnitude. So, then, the effects caused by the waters of the great deep (1:2), as they surged about on the earth in process of formation, together with the effects brought about by this great Flood, seem to us an entirely adequate explanation for geological formations of every kind, as they are now to be observed.

On the peculiar repetition of shanah ("year") in v. 11 see K. S. 337i and G. K. 134o. K. S. renders the phrase literally: "In the year (which coincides with) the six hundredth year," making it an appositional genitive. To prevent too long an accumulation of construct relationships the substitute of the dative with le is used before "the life of Noah" (K. S. 281 f).

12. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

To remind at once of the tremendous rainfall that resulted the duration of the fall is added to the idea of the torrential downpour. This verse, therefore, does not break the thought-connection, except for critics, who are operating with the double source idea and so fail to see the legitimate value of a repetition. In fact, in point of thought v. 12 may be considered as so closely attached to v. 11 as to be separated from it only by a comma. After v. 4 had promised that a forty days’ rain would come, the writer is under obligation to report the fulfilment, a thing which may be done as readily here as anywhere. Besides, the author for the present uses the expression in this connection only to impress us with the amount of the resultant water. In v. 17 the similar statement aims to lead us to the end of this period.

13-16. On this very day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, together with the wife of Noah and the wives of his sons with them came into the ark. They and every sort of wild beast according to its kind, and every sort of domestic animal according to its kind, and every sort of creeper creeping upon the earth according to its kind, and every sort of bird according to its kind, everything with feathers and wings; of every sort of flesh which had in it the breath of life two by two came unto Noah into the ark. And those that came—male and female of all sorts of flesh came, just as God had commanded him. And Yahweh closed the door after him.

With a solemn repetition, characteristic of all epic poetry of days of old, this solemn epic aims to produce upon the reader’s imagination the effect of the tremendous numbers that had to be housed in the ark and what a scene it presented as they were being brought in during the course of that last fateful week. The attentive reader catches all this, and the effect is well-nigh overpowering, but the critic sees only idle repetition and two original sources, assigning this portion to P. The solemnity of the event calls for such a solemn rehearsal of names as we find in v. 13. Incidentally, the phrase "on this very day" indicates the fearlessness of faith manifest in these godly men. There was no timid fleeing to the refuge of the ark before the Flood actually set in. The word we have rendered "very" is the Hebrew ’étsem ("bone"); by a natural idiom in the bone of a thing is in the very thing itself. "Three" is feminine by attraction with a feminine noun; the masculine would be the normal form (K. S. 312 a; 349 a; G. K. 97 c). Ba’, the perfect "came," points to the moment when their entering was an accomplished fact: "had come" is a permissible rendering.

14. Kol, in this and the next two verses, regularly signifies not "all," for not "all beasts," etc., entered, but rather "of every sort." Chayyah (collective) "wild beasts" are here mentioned for the first time as entering the ark. Previously the generic word "animals" (behemah) included them. Here now behemah must mean the "domestic animals," as in chapter one. We have rendered rémes "creeper," as in v. 8. In 1:24 we had rendered the same word "reptiles," pointing out the relative inadequacy of either translation. In any case, land-creepers or reptiles only are meant here, because no provision needed to be made for the various forms of aquatic creatures.

After the general expression, "every sort of bird according to its kind," comes an apposition which in Hebrew reads: "every little bird of every wing," or even better: "every sort of little bird of every sort of wing." Meek has found a very happy rendering for the phrase by the expression: "everything with feathers and wings." That is practically what is meant. Insects are manifestly included under this head.

15. This verse generalizes very broadly: those that had "the breath of life" in them "came" to Noah. Again their voluntary approach, seeking refuge from an impending calamity whose nearness was sensed, is emphasized. Even their appearing in pairs seems to have been providentially arranged. When critics draw the phrase "on this very" day down through v. 14 and 15 and make the author say that Noah’s family as well as all beasts entered in one day, and then speak of the man J, supposedly the author of the section, as here "furnishing an example of his love of the marvellous," we may well dispose of the matter by calling it an example of critical captiousness.

16. This verse really presents an anacoluthon because of the absolute nominative which stands first: habba’îm, "those that came." Then "male and female" step in to become the regular subject of ba’û, "they came in." However, the anacoluthon makes very smooth reading and not only presents no difficulty but stresses with particular clearness the voluntary approach of those whom Noah was bidden to gather. So a solution presented itself in very simple fashion to what must at first have appeared to Noah as an insuperable difficulty.

God, the awe-inspiring Ruler of all, Elohîm, laid all these commandments upon Noah by virtue of His supreme authority. In the same breath, with skilful use of the proper divine name, the author asserts that it was Yahweh, the always gracious and faithful, who "closed the door after him," so guarding him against possible assaults of the wicked, as well as preventing him from attempting to show ill-timed mercy to last minute penitents.

17. And the Flood came upon the earth forty days, and the waters mounted and lifted up the ark and it went along high above the earth,

Since v. 24 is about to speak of the prevailing of the Flood for 150 days, it would place this verse needlessly at variance with this later statement to make it read: "the Flood was upon the earth forty days," (A. V.). Rather, the original meaning of hayah prevails here: "it became" or, as we rendered, it "came." This is the first statement in reference to the increase of the waters, and it asserts that forty days the waters were in process of rising—as, long as the rain continued its heavy downpour. Naturally "the waters mounted" (rabbah="grew great"). It was not long before sufficient water was displaced to "lift up" (nasa’) the ark. So it "went high" (rûm="be high") above the earth.

Now follows what rhetoric might call an account abounding in tautologies. But these are not idle, verbose repetitions. As Delitzsch well puts it: "These tautologies paint the dreadful monotony of the endless. and vast expanse of the waters which covered the earth." This must, therefore, be described as a very effective adaptation of style to subject matter, as the reverent Bible reader has always felt it to be, and as the child in its day already sensed when it listened to the telling narrative.

18-20. The waters grew mighty and mounted greatly over the earth and the ark floated along upon the face of the waters. But the waters grew extremely mighty upon the earth, and all the high mountains which are under all the heavens were covered. Fifteen cubits and upwards did the waters grow mighty so that the mountains were covered.

The first verb gabhar recurs in each of these three verses. Its root meaning is "to be strong." Here it could be rendered "prevail" (A. V.); Luther: ueberhand nehmen. Our own rendering "grew mighty" merely retains the basic meaning but is not to be preferred to "prevail." Our reason for rendering thus is that thus one shade of meaning is at least not lost sight of, namely that these mighty waters did actually prove themselves "mighty." What power behind raging, surging waters! On the one hand, how God’s power in keeping the ark amid such dangers stands out the more distinctly! On the other hand, what opportunity for working vast geologic changes lie dormant in these "mighty" waters! The native force of gabhar is enhanced by one me’odh, "exceedingly" in v. 18 and by the doubling of the same adverb—a Hebrew superlative—in v. 19. When will geologists begin to notice these basic facts? It will be noticed that we are letting me’odh of v. 18 modify two verbs; for in the light of v. 19 it may well be construed thus. Rabhah, the second verb, means "to become much." Of necessity, under the circumstances the ark could not remain stationary. Therefore, the next verb, halakh, it "went," that is to say, it "floated" upon the face of the waters.

19. A measure of the waters is now made by comparison with the only available standard for such waters—the mountains. They are said to have been "covered." Not a few merely but "all the high mountains under all the heavens." One of these expressions alone would almost necessitate the impression that the author intends to convey the idea of the absolute universality of the Flood, e. g., "all the high mountains." Yet since "all" is known to be used in a relative sense, the writer removes all possible ambiguity by adding the phrase "under all the heavens." A double "all" (kol) cannot allow for so relative a sense. It almost constitutes a Hebrew superlative. So we believe that the text disposes of the question of the universality of the Flood.

By way of objection to this interpretation those who believe in a limited flood, which extended perhaps as far as mankind may have penetrated at that time, urge the fact that kol is used in a relative sense, as is clearly the case in passages such as Gen. 41:57; Exod. 9:25; 10:15; Deut. 2:25; 1 Kings 10:24. However, we still insist that this fact could overthrow a single kol, never a double kol, as our verse has it.

If in this connection the fact be urged that the fifteen cubits—half the height of the ark—mentioned v. 20 as the distance which the waters rose above the mountains, must represent roughly the draught of the ark, or the depth to which it sank into the waters, and must have been calculated according to the height of Mt. Ararat upon which the ark finally rested, we can accept this interpretation as reasonable. But the objection continues: Mt. Ararat (or Mt. Masts) has an altitude of 16,916 feet, whereas peaks in the Himalayas rise about 29,000, and others, too, surpass Mt. Ararat; how can the fact that Mt. Ararat was submerged point to the submersion of these peaks.? We hold that the solution lies in this that those few peaks that rise above Mt. Ararat were unknown both to the people of the days of the Flood as well as to the contemporaries of Moses. All the mountains, they knew of were covered. In any case, as Keri indicates, such mountain peaks in relation to the whole earth would amount to no more than a few pinpoints on a globe, and are disregarded because of the limited horizon of the ancients.

For here is a consideration that weighs very strongly in this connection: a flood of more than 16,000 feet, that is to say, of more than three miles in depth could not be confined to any portion of the earth but must necessarily spread itself out over the entire earth’s surface. The counterclaim that such a mass of water would have wrought the complete destruction of the earth by its tremendous weight is offset by the fact that in proportion to the earth as a whole such a Flood would mean no more than a profuse sweat on the human body.

However, other considerations are urged against the universality of the Flood, such as the physical impossibility of transporting certain animals which are distinctive for the country of Australia, such as the kangaroo, and having them cross vast oceans and lands to find Noah and then to return by an equally difficult route to their remote habitation after the Flood. By way of answer we point to two difficulties which lie in the way of maintaining this argument consistently. The one, there is absolutely no way of telling how the various continents were formed and shaped in days of old and whether they were more intimately connected with one another prior to the Flood and immediately thereafter. To assume that Australia lay isolated in days of old as it does now is merely an assumption. The other consideration is that we cannot even tell how the fauna of Australia came to take foothold there in any case. The same argument that would not allow creatures to find their way to Australia after the Flood apparently would not allow creatures to find their way there in any case unless these creatures be autochthonous.

But still it is maintained that when the Scriptures refer to the Flood they speak only of the universal destruction of mankind and not of its universal extent. The passages employed are Isa. 54:9; Matt. 24:39; 2 Pet 2:5; 3:6 and the apocryphal passage Wisd. 10:4. However, if these passages be scanned closely, it will be seen that in none of them is there occasion to refer to other than the human beings as objects of destruction. But silence on the subject of the destruction of the rest of the physical world is by no means proof that the physical world was not included as a whole. Besides, no one actually knows to what extent men had spread abroad upon the face of the earth. The general assumption still seems to be that in seventeen centuries men had gotten but little beyond the region of the Tigris and the Euphrates, and this when the known longevity of at least some men gave the human race opportunity for more rapid expansion. Men may have colonized the Western Hemisphere before the Flood, for all we know.

21-23. All flesh that moved upon the earth expired, including birds and domestic animals and wild beasts and all swarms that swarmed upon the earth, as well as all mankind. Everything that had the breath of the spirit of life in its nostrils, of everything that was on the dry land died. And He blotted out everything that existed upon the face of the ground, from man to beast and creeping thing and to the bird of the heavens, and they were wiped out from the earth. And there was left only Noah and those that were with him in the ark.

The words used in v. 21 and 22 are chosen as reminders of God’s threat spoken in 6:17. For there God spoke of "all flesh," of its "expiring," of "the spirit of life." So the phraseology aims to chronicle the literal fulfilment of what God had foretold. Besides, wherever terms of classification reminiscent of the Creation Story are used, the similarity of terms is designed and by no means accidental. As these broad class terms (domestic animals, wild animals, reptiles, birds) cover all that God created, except, of course, the fish, so the Flood is to be portrayed as a disaster equally broad in its scope, affecting all animal life that was created, with the exception of what was in the ark. "Flesh" (basar) here refers to all forms of life as perishable. Ramas, usually rendered "to creep," must here bear the broader meaning "to move," as in 1:21 and 8:19. Verse 21 comes to a climax in the assertion that "all mankind" also perished.

22. This verse dwells upon the fact that "all that had the breath of the spirit of life died," because the waters of the Flood naturally stifled the breath of all being. Still, the expression used, though it includes mankind is not the same as that used in 2:7 in reference to mankind only, where God is said to have breathed into man’s nostrils "the breath of life," nishmath chayyim. Here in v. 22 the expression used is "the breath of the spirit of life," not the distinctive breath that animates man but the breath by which the Spirit of life, God’s Holy Spirit, animated living beings. A fine distinction of terms is observed. At the same time it is clearly pointed out that all created life retains its life only by the animating, sustaining power of God’s Spirit. The frequent recurrence of the word "all" emphasizes the completeness of the destructive work of the Flood.

The be of v. 21 is called the Beth sphaerae, that is to say, the be that marks the sphere within which things were done, and it is the equivalent of a partitive genitive (K. S. 279 a). Our translation renders it: "including" (Meek). Criticism, unwilling often to penetrate into the meaning of unusual terms, renders the strange verdict on the expression "the breath of the spirit of life" that it "is an unexampled combination arising from a confusion of a phrase of J nishmath chayyîm with one of P rûach chayyîm" (Skinner). This amounts to the statement: if the author or redactor had known his Hebrew as the critic does, he would not have written thus.

23. As the Hebrew text stands, and it need not be corrected, it suddenly introduces the great Author of this catastrophe without specific mention of Him by any name, merely as "He." Therefore wayyímach may well be read as apopopated Kal imperfect, as the Masoretes intended it to be. Yeqûm (from qûm) signifies all that "has existence," or literally, "all that stands up" (Bestand, K. W.). With one more solemn, if not intentionally dreary, repetition of the classes that perished this part of the account closes, exempting specifically Noah and those with him in the ark from the universal destruction.

24. And the waters prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.

To impress the reader, in a measure at least, with the great length of time during which the waters maintained their maximum height, the writer lets the statement concerning the 150 days conclude this portion of the Flood story. What a dreary and monotonous, if not dreadful, sight to behold nothing other than the blank expanse of water for so great a length of time! From the idea of gabhar, "be mighty," "conquer," we derive the thought at this point that the conquering, dominating force over all the earth was the mighty mass of water. Since the verb gabhar is used (v. 18) of the time before the waters reached their maximum height and not only to mark this maximum, we feel sure that the 150 days must include the forty days of rain mentioned v. 12.

A flaw in the critical method is apparent in reference to v. 22 and 23. Formal statistical enumerations are a characteristic mark of P. Then according to all tokens especially v. 23, like v. 14 and v. 21, ought to be assigned to P. Instead it is given to J. Reason? Otherwise J would have no statement to the effect that all creatures were destroyed. All we can say in reference to such a mode of dealing with sources is that it is a clever manipulation; but it should not be called scientific procedure.

HOMILETICAL SUGGESTIONS

In connection with the preceding chapter we already pointed out that the first five verses of this chapter fit in best with the third section of chapter six. It seems to us that the rest of this chapter, namely v. 6-24, should again be used as a unit. Whatever treatment of these verses one may use, the thought of judgment must predominate, a judgment so solemn and awful that perhaps no other Scripture is quite as strong from this point of view. We suggest as themes: "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall be also reap," or still more pointed: "Be not deceived, God is not mocked." Then one may take as starting-point the thought of 2 Pet. 3:5-7 and treat the Flood as a type of the Final Judgment, a thought also suggested by the Saviour’s Word: "As were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man" (Matt. 24:37).

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