Studies in Genesis I-XI: And the Lord Shut Him in (15) & Salvation Through the Waters (16)


Scripture: Genesis 7:1–16

In these verses we read the record of one of history’s most astounding and significant happenings It is the story of the flood in the days of Noah.

The record is brief, despite some occasional repetitions.

Because of this, perhaps, it has been frequently questioned and attacked. The spirit of unbelief has by no means died out even in the visible church. Not satisfied with the Word of the living God transmitted through men whose learning, intellectual acumen, and spiritual insight often exceeds ours, people today claim they want “proof.” The kind of “proof” they want may, indeed, be long in coming. Unbelief, after all, is a matter more of the unconverted heart than of the unconvinced mind. But this need not worry those who take Scripture seriously, also when it speaks about the deluge. The weight of evidence, gleaned from many fields other than direct Biblical studies, points overwhelmingly to the reliability and accuracy also of this passage.

In his fascinating little book, Out of the Earth, E. H. Blaiklock has some heartening things to say on the “corroboration” of the Biblical accounts:

“It was the mood of the nineteenth century to question and distrust tradition. It has been the experience of the twentieth century that tradition, even when embedded in myth and legend, must be handled with care and circumspection.

In more than one sphere it has been shown that what the past said about itself was in the main more likely to contain truth than falsehood. Schliemann’s discovery of Troy and Mycenae, and Sir Arthur Evan’s work in Crete, the ancient home of the Philistines, provided classical scholars with chastening illustrations of this fact. Similar, and more striking vindications of Biblical historiography have taught historians to respect the authority of both Old Testament and New, and to admire the accuracy, the deep concern for truth, and the inspired historical insight of the varied writers who gave the Bible its books of history.”

Faith, to be sure, does not rest on the testimony of geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, historians. and the like. But it can and should rejoice when, whether to a greater or less degree, their findings attest to the truth of God’s Word. Also in this way does God Himself work in strange and surprising ways to stop the mouth of unbelief and encourage His people to testify more freely and fully to the reliability of His inspired Self-revelation.

For a little while we now trace the simple yet startling account in Genesis 7.


The chapter opens with a direct and explicit command by God to Noah.

By this time all has been arranged for the coming cataclysm. Years before, the Almighty had announced his displeasure with the world of that time. He had chosen Noah as one who had found favor in His sight to be not only His confidant but also His coworker. God will destroy the world, yet not utterly. Out of the ruin which He will wreak upon the face of the earth He purposes to bring forth a new world. In this way He will perform all His good pleasure and thus insure the fulfilment of the gracious promise of salvation to our first parents. Since the ark is now ready, and likely the food-supply safely stowed away, the time has come for God to speak again to the man of His choice.

Indeed, from a formal point of view this is a command. Noah receives the mandate to enter into the ark with his family and with those animals who are to be spared. Seven days yet remain. Thereupon will come the flood from which nothing upon the face of the earth, outside of the ark, shall be spared.

Yet there is tenderness in the command. We hear in these words the inviting voice of the Lord. He is ready to welcome into His protection and care this mall and those who are with him. God doesn’t hesitate to append a “ground” for this invitation-command. Once again He speaks of the patriarch as righteous, and that in a generation of corrupt and violent men. Calvin in his commentary addresses himself forthrightly to the question of the relationship between faith and works, between God’s gratuitous acceptance and man’s responsibility to order his ways aright before the Lord. God loves not only the faithful, says he, but also their works. Thus the heavenly Sovereign “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.”

While Noah and his family can hear and obey the clear command of God, some other provision must be made for those other creatures which are to be spared. Here Noah is told to take some of them. Some questions at once press upon us.

First of all, there is the issue of how many of every clean beast he must accord a place within the ark. We need not pause long to weigh the objections of the higher critics, who urge that there is contradiction between this verse (7:2) and 6:19, 20, where only two of each kind are mentioned. While the ark was being built, God contented Himself with stating a general rule. Now, however, when the flood is imminent and the final preparations must be carried out, the details are in order. To find in this difference one of the weightier reasons for insisting on the multiple authorship of Genesis shows to what strange lengths the higher critics must go to find some support.

On the number of clean beasts admitted into the ark not even all conservative commentators are agreed. The Hebrew puzzles them, for we read: seven (and) seven, the male and his mate (female). Does this mean seven pairs or seven individuals, that is, three pairs and one in addition? Aalders, who has weighed the words with most scrupulous exegetical care, concludes that likely seven pairs of these beasts and birds entered the ark. Calvin, and with him most commentators, believe that the original conveys the idea that, while the unclean beasts were to come by twos, the clean entered as a company of seven each. Thus, so the argument runs, there would he an additional animal suitable for sacrifice without in any ways endangering the species in the days after the flood. The force of this argument is appealing. However, we may perhaps never be completely certain which of the two choices is correct.

Many have insisted that by the distinction between clean and unclean animals Moses is introducing an idea which was foreign to the days of Noah. This argument, then, is intended to bolster the notion that in its details the Bible is not really accurate. To he sure, we do not read in Scripture at this early date of the distinction. But we need not conclude that Moses was reading back his own situation into the days of Noah. There is every reason to believe that some distinctions, not identical with but somewhat similar to those declared by God in the days of Moses (Lev. 11 and Deut. 14:3–20), were made by those sacrificed in earlier days. Often God in making “ceremonial” regulations for the children of Israel attached himself to prevailing practices and gave them a new and deeper meaning. Even among the heathen deprived of “special” revelation not all animals arc deemed equally appropriate as offerings to the gods. And that animal sacrifice dates back to a very early time is clearly taught in the Scriptural account of Abel’s sacrifice. Thus there is no justi6cation for doubting that God spoke such words to Noah and that he understood precisely what God meant.

Here we are tempted to ask with what mixed emotions the man of God must have heard the words directed to him.

Long and trying was the time which he had spent among an increasingly corrupt and violent generation. How he must have vexed his righteous soul with the sinful conversation and conduct of his contemporaries. Thereupon his faith was tested, when the command came to build the ark according to the specifications given by God. Whether others than his sons helped with this we will never know. And this isn’t important. Recognizing how blatantly and blasphemously sin manifests itself in the life of mankind, we must conclude that the patriarch must have endured much ridicule and reproach. But now the day of deliverance “out of this sinful world” is about to dawn. This will, however, be accompanied by a fearful manifestation of God’s sovereign power. The whole environment wherein he lived so long will be “blotted out” (destroyed).

Perhaps we do well to apply to him the words of the psalmist, who speaks about “rejoicing with trembling.” And isn’t this the way the true believer looks ahead to the final and cataclysmic judgment with which Almighty God will envelop our present world? Of that impending end of the world as we know it Noah’s flood was a type and prophecy.

Our understanding of that great event in the days of the patriarch win be inadequate, unless we meditate also upon the several Scriptural references to it. We may not content ourselves with a “bare” recital and acceptance of an event which took place in the distant past. Noah’s flood is a pertinent and practical preachment to us today. It urges us to the obedience of faith. It commands us to be prepared, as those who are righteous before God in this generation, “for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24:44).


Once again we read of the faith-obedience of this man of God.

We notice how Scripture is never content with mere facts. It not only interprets them for us in a general way; it insists that we respond to them in the way prescribed by the Lord. Our deeds must be an “echo” of the will and Word of God.

Thus we are told that Noah did according to all that was required. Nothing was left undone by him. Here the writer makes use of the name Jehovah in the interest of reminding us that although God is the all-powerful ruler, He is at the same time the faithful friend to those who fear His name. This is the name so appropriate in designating the intimate relationship between God and one who walked with God (6:9b).

What may surprise us at first is the attention given here and elsewhere to the age of Noah. Careful reading of the chapters which treat the generations of Noah demonstrate a great concern with precise years and months and days. Calvin suggests that this is mentioned again because his faith “was the more conspicuous, because it did not fail him in that advanced period of life.” Perhaps sot But other commentators seem less speculative, when they suggest that Cod had Moses include all these time-references to convince all who would hear or read the account of its complete trustworthiness.

Some have also puzzled about the several repetitions found in this account. These concern details concerning Noah and his family and the ark, and in later passages the details concerning the way the waters came and remained for a season. Here the higher critics have had their field day. They insist that several strands of tradition have been skilfully woven together by one or more redactors. Yet such a conclusion is by no means necessary or even obvious. Commentators like Delitzsch, Leupold, and others urge that such repetitions are intended to impress the reader with the solemnity of the events. They may be considered “tautologies” but in no sense “idle, verbose repetitions.” We quote Leupold: “This (i.e., the repetitions) 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.”


And so came this catastrophic event upon the face of the earth.

Once again we are reminded of the precise day, when the Lord of heaven and earth fulfilled this word by which Noah and his family with some of all the animals were spared while all others were doomed to death. So important are the saints of God in His eyes, that He not only provides for their safety but also reckons time according to their life.

With a few strokes of an artist’s brush the picture is painted for us. The flood of waters comes upon the earth. The word used here refers quite exclusively to this event in Scripture. We also preserve something of a sense of its uniqueness by calling it the “deluge.” The source of all these waters is two-fold. On the day when Noah entered the ark, all the fountains of the great deep were broken tip. This “great deep” is the subterranean water hidden deep within the earth and kept in bounds by the Lord Himself. But what God now does is lead back (“reduce”) the earth to that primal state wherein it existed at the very beginning of time (cf. Gen. 1:2). Such outbursts of waters have been known to occur from time to time in the alluvial parts of rivers when earthquakes disturb land and sea. Then, however, they are at best local manifestations. In this account the impression is given that they were not only vast but very widespread. Echoes of this are found also in some of the psalms. Moses speaks of the source of these waters as broken tip or “open,” from a word which means “to cleave.”

To this is added the opening of the windows of heaven. Of course, this is figurative language. There is no reason to insist that Moses, learned as he was in all the knowledge of the Egyptians, actually supposed that the sky had a great many windows in it. Yet the language is appropriate for creating in the minds and hearts of the readers an awareness of the astounding magnitude of the waters which were now released from above. Even we (supposedly living in a “scientific” age) speak quite frequently and casually about water coming down “in sheets” without making people think that there are “sheets” which hold the water back until they are turned over and emptied. For forty days and forty nights such rains poured down from above.

In all this time Noah and his family were in the ark. They knew what was coming. Yet nothing in their experiences could have prepared them for the fearfulness of that which came upon and around them. Only one source of comfort was theirs. They were in the ark by the assignment of Jehovah.

To this Moses calls attention in a brief comment.

And Jehovah shut him in. Likely he was the last one in the ark, since he had received the direct command from the Lord. His was the responsibility for carrying out every order. He was the “representative” man, the man of God’s own choice in and through whom the living God prepared for that new world to come. And his faith was sweetly strengthened by the shutting of the door. Here again the grace and faithfulness of our Cod are asserted. Aalders would translate: “And Jehovah shut (closed) the approach to him.” The emphasis would then fall upon a striking separation of Noah and those in the ark from all others, so that these could not enter. The day of God’s longsuffering was past. Yet this idea certainly is not excluded by the usual translation of the words, which stresses in a most appropriate manner the safety of all in the ark. This was a message which Noah might now receive for his consolation. No matter how long the deluge would compel him to remain in that vessel-surely frail when measured by the swelling waters—he and those with him were safe in the hand of the Lord God. He was the One who had shut them in.


1 – E. H. Blaiklock: Out of the Earth (Eerdmans, 1957) presents in brief and popular form what its sub-title indicates, viz., “The Witness of Archaeology to the New Testament.” The introduction, however, makes mention of some outstanding archaeological discoveries relevant for a study of the Old Testament. The value of this science, which has been greatly developed and expanded in recent decades, could be discussed with profit among us. Some indeed may in uncritical fashion place much too high a value on its “finds,” even to the point of depending on these to prove the reliability and accuracy of Scripture. However, the light shed by the “finds” on life lived so many centuries ago may well help us to understand various passages in the Bible more clearly and correctly. The danger of reading God’s Word through om own “twentieth century spectacles” is by no means imaginary.

2 – So much material has been written about the Genesis flood and its relationship to the various sciences, that we hardly know what should be inserted in these brief comments. Books with which the reader should have some acquaintance, besides various conservative commentaries on the Biblical text, include:

Morris and Whitcomb: The Genesis Flood

Donald W. Patten: The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch

Frederick A. Filby: The Flood Reconsidered

Although not agreed in many details, these authors insist on taking the Scriptural account seriously as providing us with historical facts.

3 – For anyone interested in how many a modern critic attempts to divide the flood-account into its supposedly component parts, cf. John Skinner: Genesis. While admitting that it presents a “unified” story which demonstrates the rare skill of the redactor, he believes he can sort out the two sources, called J. and P. From J. must come—7:1–5, 10, 12, 16b, 17b, 22, 23, also 8:2b, 3a, 6–12, 13b. From P. must come 7:6, 11, 13–17a, 18–21, 24; and 8:1, 2a, 3b–5, 13a, 14, 15–19. He finds the source of 8:1b and 4 questionable. Throughout it becomes increasingly apparent that he regards Scripture as a purely human document which can best be understood in the light of Israel’s religious development over a long period of centuries.

4 – Once again we call attention to the central message of God in this section which includes the Hood. It is the account of God’s faithfulness to those who fear and trust him, so that judgment is unto deliverance. De Graaf in his Verbondsgeschiedenis (J. H. Kok, 1952) underscores this succinctly:

“God turned away from all that lives on earth. And yet! God couldn’t and would not let go of the world and of man. Had he not established his covenant with man, and promised that sometime the Savior would come who would deliver the human race. That promise He would surely fulfil . . . .” Vol. I, p. 38.

Here we are reminded that we cannot understand the Bible, except in the light of the coming Christ. All individuals and events are meaningful only in their relationship to the living God who shows Himself clearly and fully to us in the Son whom He sent into the world.

5 – When did the flood occur? On this question there seems to be little specific unanimity even among those who take the Biblical givens seriously. Filby, op. cit., discusses the matter at great length.

We find discrepancy between the Hebrew text and the Septuagint with respect to the ages of the antediluvian generations; the former leading to about 2400 B.C. on the basis of Ussher’s chronology, the latter to about 3050 B.C. But such reckoning assumes that the genealogies are complete.

However, turning to extra-biblical sources we find the problem still remains unsolved. Much attention has been given to the relatively complete record of Egyptian dynasties. But scholars according to Filby have interestingly enough reduced the date of the first dynasty. Here follows a list of suggested dates for the first rulers of that land in a period some time after the flood—

Petrie (1903) – at 4777 B.C.
British Museum Guide (1920) – at 3300 B.C.
Anati (1962) – at 2900 B.C.
Biblical Archaeologist ( 1967) – at 2850 B.C.

The date for Zet who ruled some time before Moses has been set about 2500 to 2200 B.C. Filby (p. 16) then warns against inflating the dates. Attempts have also been made to date, if possible, the earliest Chinese, Assyrian and Babylonian rulers. During the period between 3000 and 2500 B.C. we have the beginning of empires there. If these dates are somewhat correct, then the flood perhaps should be dated at about 4000 to 3500 B.C.

Aalders also devotes attention to the subject in his commentary (pg. 239 f.). He also is convinced that the date 2350 B.C. is much too late. This leaves less than 300 years between the flood and Abraham. Such a period seems much too short for 1) the development of Ur into a highly civilized city, for 2) the presence of distinct indigenous populations in various countries, and for 3) Egypt as a nation with a high level of political order and culture. Aalders thus suggests the date somewhere around 4000 B.C.

6 – The Bible leaves us in no doubt as to a recognition of the historicity of the flood. Here mention may be made of such passages as Isa. 54:9; Matt. 24:37–39; Luke 17:26, 27; Hebr. 11:7; I Peter 3:20; II Peter 2:5; 3:6; and possibly Job 22:15–18.

7 – Anthropologists are quite agreed that somehow there was a radical break in the life and development of the human race in the past. Seemingly no “bridges” can be built between the cultures of “Paleolithic” and “Neolithic” man. To this must be added the extinction of certain animals, e.g., the woolly mammoths whose carcasses have been fully intact and even with food in their stomachs in regions now arctic, such as Siberia. Radical changes in climate seem also to have taken place, attributable to the destruction of the “canopy” above the earth. All these “facts” suggest a cataclysm of universal proportions, which many Bible-believing scholars identify with the flood. To be sure, those who adhere to the evolutionary development of plants, animals and man will reject such an interpretation of the “facts” out of hand.

8 – C. F. Wright in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, in many respects by now quite outdated and yet containing valuable material, demonstrates how some have tried to harmonize the “finds” of the sciences with Scripture.

“Another theory, supported by much evidence, is that, in connection with the enormous physical changes in the earth’s surface during the closing scenes of the Glacial Epoch, man had perished from off the face of the earth except in the valley of the Euphrates, and that the Noachian deluge is the final catastrophe in that series of destructive events. The facts concerning the Glacial epoch naturally lead to this conclusion. For during the entire epoch, and especially at its close, the conditions affecting the level of the land surfaces of the northern hemisphere were extremely abnormal, and continued so until some time after man had appeared on earth” (vol. II, p. 824).

Such a series of destructive events on a massive scale seems radically different than the interpretation given by Morris and Whitcomb, which attribute nearly all the radical changes to the Noachian flood.

In an article in another volume in the same work Wright offers the following:

“The antediluvians are, with great probability, identified by some geologists (Sir William Dawson, e.g.) with glacial and paleolithic man, whose implements and remains are found buried beneath the deposits of glacial floods in northern France, southern England, southern Russia, and in the valleys of the Delaware, Ohio, and Missouri rivers in America. The remains of ‘palcolithic’ men reveal only conditions of extreme degradation and savagery, in which violence reigned. The sparse population which was spread over the northern hemisphere during the closing floods of the Glacial period lived in caves of the earth, and contended with a strange variety of gigantic animals which became extinct at the same time with their human contemporaries” (vol. I, p. 143).

But what about the southern hemisphere? Since the above was written, Lecky, among others, claims to have discovered such human remains (dated in the millions of years) in the southern hemisphere. With all the contradictory interpretations provided, it comes as no surprise that not a few Christians dismiss the work of such scientists out of hand. Yet there is a great challenge for Christian scholars who take Scripture as reliable and authoritative to work in these areas. The answers certainly are not nil in; in fact, it seems as if we have fewer today than ever before. But this gives no excuse for avoiding these fields of inquiry. Also here our witness in and to the world today needs development in depth and breadth.

9 – On the question of the waters in the days of Noah some comments of Filby, op. cit., p. 7, may he suggestive as we discuss the passage.

“The question as 10 where the water came from and where it went to will only trouble those who hold extreme views as to the fixity of oceanic and continental levels. If the sea-beds can rise and the continents sink there is no difficulty whatever in finding enough water even for a universal flood.”

He suggests that the oceanic beds could possibly rise in consequence of anyone or more of the following factors: 1) ice; 2) subterranean waters; 3) collapse of some vapor canopy or ring system like that of Saturn; 4) some huge tide that rose and then died away. He believes the first to be a secondary and incidental factor. About the second he is convinced that we don’t know enough about it. What gushes out of the earth in many places is “hot” water. He believes that Morris and Whitcomb have proved too little by attempting to prove too much. He suggests that the fourth option is the most likely, occasioned perhaps by the approach of a minor planet. To discuss such possibilities need not in any way invalidate our conviction that the Lord Himself sent the flood as His judgment upon the earth.


1 – Of what value can the “finds” or archaeology be for the believer? Do these “prove” the reliability and accuracy of Scripture? On what basis does our faith rest?

2 – Discuss the statement: “All God’s commands are invitations; all His invitations arc commands.” Does this say anything about man’s relationship to God and about the character of His coming (in self-revelation) to man?

3 – What does the Bible mean by a man being righteous before God’s face? Does the O.T. stress works, while the N.T. emphasizes faith? Discuss in the light of Psalm 26:1f; Rom. 3:21f; Gal. 3:6; James 2:24.

4 – Define the relationship between faith and works in the believer’s life.

5 – How do you suppose Noah took the animals? Did God by some miraculous act send them to him? Were they perhaps directed by an instinct which made them aware of coming doom? Did Noah possibly use snares and nets? What about the fierce beasts, of which surely there were some? Why do you suppose this question comes up repeatedly when the flood is considered?

6 – Can you find some reason for a distinction between clean and unclean animals? Does Scripture provide you with any clues?

7 – Discuss in some detail Hebrews 11:7. In what sense do verses 1, 6, 33 and 38a apply to Noah? Is there any sense in which today we are to imitate Noah in his faith? What does Paul mean by imitating him, even as he imitates Christ?

8 – How does the Bible link the flood with the end of the world? cf. Matt. 24, Luke 17 and II Peter 3. How can and should we prepare ourselves for this coming event?

9 – What do you think of Calvin’s opinion that faith often tends to weaken and waver in old age? Is this quite common? Do you think Noah at 600 years was an “old” man?

10 – Compare Noah’s flood with what we read in Genesis 1:2. What was the “primal” state of the earth? Do you think Psalm 29 and Psalm 93 refer to Genesis q or to Noah’s flood?

11 – Why does also the story of the flood contain appropriate material for our praising of God? Do you think we sing too much about God’s love and not enough about His sovereignty, majesty and justice in our day?

12 – Often throughout history the church has been compared to the ark. is this an appropriate comparison? Give reasons for your answer. Is there Biblical warrant for this comparison?


Scripture: Genesis 7:17–8:19

The great theme of God’s book is salvation.

On this, without doubt, all believers will agree. All the lines of Old Testament revelation as well as New converge in Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. Through His person and work alone can we come to the Father. Only in His light, because He is the Light of the world, can we attain to any true knowledge concerning God, man, and the world. And the purposes of the eternal God who has brought life and immortality to light in the Savior has purposes of peace with His people.

Too frequently, however, we narrow our conception of this salvation.

We sing a great deal about Jesus and His death on the cross. We fail to discern that this crowning act of God’s deliverances can be grasped in its length and breadth and height and depth only when we refuse to isolate it from all that God teaches in Scripture. No wonder the Bible remains such a strange book, when we concentrate attention almost exclusively on the death and resurrection of our Lord. In so far as we fall into this trap (and it is by no means imaginary in our day when so much of the historical material of Old and New Testament is called into question), we aren’t simply less than Biblical; we be· come actually un- and anti-biblical. Ours will soon become a warped conception of the living God, one which may prate loud and long about love but knows little of His wisdom, righteousness, and ineffable majesty. In consequence, salvation becomes a rather small thing.

Once again we are to see that God’s purposes of salvation were wrought since the dawn of man’s appearance on earth. Also the divine act of sending the deluge—fearsome and full of vengeance as it was belongs to the mighty works of deliverance. Here again God in such a conspicuous way prepares for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the “loins” of Noah and Shem is the promised Seed of Paradise, He, too, is prospectively and prophetically carried safely upon the raging waters to bring to us salvation. No wonder that these stories of the Old Testament are so precious to believers that they will tolerate no tampering with them.

The raging of the flood

Noah, his family and the animals are safe in the hands of the Lord. He has shut them in.

In a fairly lengthy and quite repetitious number of words the writer provides us with a description of what was taking place outside the ark.

We read again that this flood (note again the rather unique word) continued for forty days. This is explained as the time during which the rains came, to which were added all the waters which welled up from the great deep whose fountains had also been broken up. During all this time the waters increased. This picture is enhanced by inserting the idea that the waters prevailed. The root meaning of the word is “to be strong.” Luther translates that these waters took the upper hand; Leupold: that “grew mighty.” The stress falls on the surging of these waters throughout this entire period. Over and over again—almost monotonously—this is repeated. Adverbs such as greatly and exceedingly are supplied to impress us with the overwhelming power of these waters. All that God had created and maintained upon the face of the earth, even to all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven, was conquered by their mighty sweep.

It seems abundantly clear that the record engages in these repetitions for the sake of the readers. Two facts above all else must they remember here. First of all, despite all the surging and raging of the storms around him, Noah and those with him in the ark were safe, and that by the gracious hand of the Lord. These very waters, with all their power unto destruction, were used by the god who had chosen and commended Noah to bear up the ark. Note how this last section of chapter 7 (vss. 17–24) begins and ends with the safety of the man of God and those with him. But also, the record insists—and that with an incontrovertible emphasis—on the death of all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life. Clearly life which lived and moved in the waters as its habitat did not necessarily die in consequence of the deluge. Also the height to which the waters grew and prevailed is mentioned. This is done by the only available standard: all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven. Above them to the extent of fifteen cubits the waters prevailed.

Here we face the question of the extent of the flood. Was it actually “universal,” covering the whole earth and thus the highest mountains? Or was the flood restricted to an area comparable to that known to Moses and his contemporaries? At the outset, we do well to admit that the words all and whole as used from time to time in Scripture do not necessarily demand interpreting them in the absolute sense. Of course, we reject out of hand the notion, often propounded by those who do not accept the Bible as accurate, that the story of Noah’s flood sprang from early accounts of a flood of some great but local proportions, which was afterwards in its rehearsals embroidered to assume the form in which it is presented here. But this does not exclude the possibility that perhaps not every continent and not the high Himalayas and Andes were covered. The Bible itself does use the word all in a relative sense. The question, however, is whether the word is so used in this story. And then it should be clear to the unbiased reader. At the very least, the passage teaches that nothing with the breath of life in its nostrils upon the face of the earth was spared except those creatures in the ark. But more than that, over and over again the writer paints unmistakably in the direction of a universal good. Even if we should assume that the flood covered by fifteen cubits the mountains of Ararat, this would require a well-nigh universal catastrophe. Waters more than three miles above ordinary sea level could hardly be contained within a given geographical areal Keil suggests that mountains higher than Ararat, if these were not actually covered by the waters, would have amounted to no more than a few pinpoints and so would not necessarily contradict the meaning of the term all. We might add here that we really don’t know what thc heights of the various mountains were before the flood nor what changes could perhaps have occurred by the massive outbursts of subterranean waters at the time of the flood. When we note that verse 19, which speaks most directly to the issue, uses the term kol (all, whole) twice over, the conclusion seems quite inescapable that the flood covered the entire earth.

The section concludes with another indication of the time-sequence. For one hundred and fifty days, inclusive of the forty days wherein the rain fell, these swirling flood-waters prevailed.

The remembrance of the Lord

The story proceeds with a simple and straightforward narration. Here is no undue elaboration and ornamentation. Leupold suggests it as “a type of epic simplicity which in itself is a guarantee of absolute veracity and historical fidelity.” And surely, when compared with the flood-accounts which have been transmitted among many other peoples, that of the Bible is quite without parallel and peer. Similarities, to be sure, occur. But these are greatly overshadowed by the radical differences in form as well as content.

Now the somber notes of the preceding chapter begin to die away. Indeed, not for a moment were those in the ark alone upon those raging torrents. God had shut them in; God had preserved them throughout the hundred and fifty days.

Yet the writer adds for our instruction a comment on a “change” in God’s activity. This is preceded by the brief but telling explanation: And God remembered Noah . . . Not for a moment had the Almighty been unmindful of his servant, since it was no less than a miracle that he and those with him in the ark had received safe passage for so long. But the story takes a turn, because God now makes way for the coming of that new world which he had envisioned upon the destruction of the old. His wrath against the sinful race had been sufficiently assuaged; His justice and righteousness and holiness abundantly demonstrated in the penalty inflicted upon a world which had corrupted its way before His face. In the word remembered there is displayed a tenderness shown not only to the human survivors but also the rest of creation which He had spared. He does not want them to ride indefinitely in the ark which He had prepared for them.

Moses thereupon speaks clearly of the consequence of God’s remembrance. He made a wind to pass over the earth. In connection therewith the level of the waters began to drop. While the fountains of the deep were stopped, God also restrained the rain. There is no justification for supposing a conflict between this verse and 7:12. Throughout the hundred and fifty days rain may well have fallen to cause the waters to prevail so long and yd: not in that quantity as during the first forty days. Just what kind of a wind this was and from whence it came (other than by divine directive) cannot be answered.

In consequence of all this there was a decrease in the waters upon the face of the earth. At last the ark comes to rest.

In great detail and with much precision the time-element is revealed. This is precisely five months after the onset of the deluge. For another two months the decrease continues, until the tops of the mountains could be seen.

Clearly the writer in this section desires to create the impression of the lovingkindness of the Lord towards the survivors. In His wrath God has remembered mercy and faithfulness to His promised word. Those who trust His word, in this case Noah and his family, experience this. That He uses the wind. need not surprise us here. It also is His creature to do His bidding and according to His schedule. And if anyone would suggest that all this happened according to “the orderly processes of nature,” we would remind him that indeed God is the God of order but controls it completely rather than being in any sense controlled or bound by it.

The passage speaks of the mountains of Ararat, the highest peak of which exceeds some 16,000 feet above sea level. The text nowhere warrants the conclusion that the ark necessarily came to rest on the highest peak These heights are in the land of Armenia, from which descent to the Mesopotamian plain which becomes the center from which the descendants of Noah spread abroad is easy. In recent years we read again of expeditions searching for remains of Noah’s ark. This is nothing new. Already Josephus, that great historian, speaks of fragments which were found in his time. The church father, Jerome, insists that some of these could be seen in his day. Strange as it may seem to those who believe, men arc always much more concerned about such material fragments of the past than they are about the Word of the Lord which lives and abides forever.

The release from the ark

How carefully God prepares Noah and his family for taking their place in the new world is the theme of the next section.

First, after forty days pass, Noah opens the window of the ark. About its nature, size, and location we know nothing. Yet it was of such a kind that it could be opened. Why he didn’t open it sooner is not told us either. Enough for us to know that from it he sends forth a raven and later a dove.

The details are quite fascinating. No doubt, they are intended to teach us not merely something about Noah’s common sense but especially about his willingness to wait upon the Lord’s will. Yet in this waiting he is not inactive. The raven simply flies and soars above the waters, finding perhaps in the carcasses which still remained afloat sufficient food. The dove returns the first time to he let in again. It returns the second time with an olive-leaf in its beak, proof that with the abatement of the waters life was beginning to manifest itself again. Such trees, we are told, can survive for some time in water. Yet they grow only below certain levels, not on the top of mountains. Hence from this Noah receives an indication of the rather rapidly receding waters. When for a third time he sends forth the dove, likely the same bird, it does not return.

Still the earth is not yet ready to receive him and those with him in the ark. Now with great precision we are told when the waters were dried up from off the earth. Yet the ground was not sufficiently dry until nearly two months later. Only when this obtains does God speak to him with the command to leave the ark which had sheltered him for one year and ten days.

With this a new era begins in the history of the world and the human race. All around him, although the earth was sufficiently dry to receive him, there was a strange kind of emptiness. No other humans or animals were on hand to receive him. All that he and his family had known before the deluge had perished. God makes with him a new beginning. His command here is a kind of repetition of the word spoken to our first parents: and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.

Here, then, we have a man waiting upon the word of the living God. Even as he obeyed before the flood, so too he orders his way in accordance with the revealed will of God. This characterized his entire life. As “heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebr. 11:7) he stepped into a new and strange world with his God.


1 – Several of the Notes appended to the two previous lessons may shed some light on a few of the statements made in the passage under consideration here. These, then, need not be repeated here.

2 – The theme of this passage is, without doubt, the gracious and no less than miraculous deliverance of Noah and in him the creation of God. Although the gospel records stress the “judgment” present in that great event, Peter calls attention to the grace and salvation therein revealed. On this De Graaf comments in his Verbondsgeschiedenis (J. H. Kok, 1952):

“The judgment of the flood was unto deliverance, as is every judgment in the dispensation of the covenant of grace. Noah and his family were saved in the ark according to I Peter 3:20 by water. In the flood the unrighteous world was removed from tile earth, in order that Noah and his family and the animals with him and tile entire world might be spared. Thus the flood points to baptism. Even the judgment at the b st day is unto deliverance; by means thereof the world enters upon renewal. We must tell the children about this deliverance, about God’s grace in the deluge, about his saving of the world. “Noah is here a type of Christ . . .” (vol. I, p. 36).

3 – For those conversant with the Holland language there is a fine summary of the major questions and problems surrounding the flood account. Cf. his Het boek Genesis (J. H. Kok, 1933):

He treats first the duration of the flood, pp. 237–238, showing that while one year and ten days is dearly indicated, we have no certainty concerning the precise number of days. This would depend 011 whether the writer refers to the solar year (365 days) or the lunar (354 days).

With great exegetical care he deals with the scope of the flood, concluding that exegetically we cannot determine whether every last mountaintop was covered. To this he adds with emphasis: “But one thing is certain: the scope of the flood was sufficiently great to destroy all human and animal life (with the evident exception naturally of the creatures who live in water, cf.7:22).”

On pp. 239–241 he discusses the time (dating) of the flood. This, as well as his comments on its historicity, which follow, were considered in the previous lesson. He continues from p. 241 to p. 248 with a comparison between the Biblical account and other flood stories.

4 – Although we have dealt in these sections at considerable length with factual details, we would conclude on another and more important note. This does not imply that facts are in any sense insignificant or negligible. Yet a preoccupation with these may well cause us to remain blind to the message herein contained for us also today. Thielicke in his How the world began (Fortress Press, 1961) summarizes this appropriately:

“This story has only one theme; what happens to this man Noah at the hands of God. It is the story of a survival with God.

“If Noah had only looked at the elements and let his eyes gaze upon the vast and watery wastes, he would have perished of mortal dread. For there his eyes would have found no resting place and even the time would have seemed endless and immeasurable. He would have been like the sinking Peter, who lost sight of his Lord as he attempted to walk upon the water and, left all alone with the elements, saw nothing but the waves, and therefore sank like a rock.

“Noah, however, did not yield himself to the unnerving impression of flood and catastrophe, but simply held on to God’s promise that He still had something in mind for him. He also knew that no ark could ever help him once he had lost his hold on the hand that held him and his own above the flood, “ shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord”; it was by that kind of certainty that he really survived. The planks of the ark are nothing more than poor instrumentalities to effect that promise, and without its blessing they would be worthless lumber . . .” (pp. 247, 8).


1 – How can we in preaching and teaching our children keep both the grace and judgment of God in proper perspective? Why has this often seemed to be so difficult to do?

2 – Much modern theology, including that of neo-orthodox tinge, stresses Jesus as the Word of God Ht the expense of the inscripturated Word. How would you evaluate the preoccupation with Jesus at the expense often of the living by revivalists, some evangelicals, and the Jesus-people? Is there ground for the criticism that Reformed people emphasize God at the expense of his Self-revelation in Jesus Christ?

3 – Which arguments would you present against those who insist here on a purely local flood? Is this issue important?

4 – What do you think of Leupold’s argument that the “epic simplicity” of this story is a guarantee of its trustworthiness?

5 – Why and to what extent is God concerned with animals? How do you evaluate Schweitzer’s “reverence for life” and the Hindu refusal to kill any animal? To what extent do you think man may “use” animals?

6 – How come there weren’t any children in the ark? Do you think it possible some animals reproduced during the year of the flood-waters? If not, why not? ‘

7 – What do you understand by “the orderly process of nature?” ls it always so “orderly?” Why do Reformed people prefer to speak of creational ordinances rather than of natural law?

8 – Do you believe it wrong to search for fragments of the ark?

9 – How would you explain removing the covering of the ark (vs. 13)? What was this?

10 – Discuss the meaning of I Peter 3:20, 21. How does our Form for Baptism make use of this text?

11 – Is Noah ever called a “type” of Christ? Discuss the meaning of the word type as it applies to Biblical (O.T.) material.