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The flood (6:9-8:19)
Amid the corruption, there was one man, Noah, who remained faithful to God. Therefore, God promised to preserve Noah, along with his family, so that when the former evil race had been destroyed, he could use Noah and his family to build a new people (9-12; cf. Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:4-5; 2 Peter 2:4-5).
God’s means of destruction was a great flood. Besides preserving Noah and his family, God preserved a pair of each kind of animals in the region, thereby helping to maintain the balance between people and animals.
All the people and animals to be preserved were housed in a huge box-like structure called an ark, which was designed to float on the floodwaters. The ark was about 133 metres long, 22 metres wide and 13 metres high. It had a door in the side, and a light and ventilation opening, almost half a metre deep, running around the top of the wall just below the roof overhang. Horizontally it was divided into three decks and vertically it was divided into a number of rooms. These divisions helped to separate the animals and brace the whole structure (13-22). Noah took additional clean animals into the ark, possibly to use later for food and sacrifices (7:1-10; cf. 8:20; 9:2-3).
It seems that, in addition to the forty days’ constant downpour of heavy rain, there was a break in the earth’s crust that sent the waters from the sea pouring into the Mesopotamian valley (11-16). Even when the rain stopped and the earth’s crust and sea bed settled again, the floodwaters took many months to go down (17-24).
Almost four months after the rain stopped, the ark came to rest somewhere in the Ararat Range (8:1-4). Noah had difficulty seeing anything out of the ark, but he managed to notice a number of hilltops when they later became visible (5). By sending out firstly a raven and then a dove, he found out whether the land was drying out in the lower regions that he could not see (6-12). When at last he removed the ark’s covering, he saw clearly that the land had now dried out completely. Nevertheless, he had to wait further till grass and plants had grown sufficiently to support animal life. Finally, more than seven months after the ark had been grounded, Noah, his family and all the animals came out of the ark (13-19).
As we have come to expect, the Bible describes the flood from the viewpoint of an ordinary person who might have seen it (e.g. Noah). As far as Noah was concerned, the flood was universal, as it covered the whole area which he could see or about which he could get information. It probably concerned the area of the world that the Bible story has been concerned with in the previous chapters. It was a total judgment on that ungodly world.
Expressions of universality such as ‘all the earth’, ‘all people’, ‘every nation under heaven’, etc. are used frequently in the Bible with a purely local meaning. They do not necessarily refer to the whole world as we know it today (e.g. Genesis 41:57; Deuteronomy 2:25; 1 Kings 4:34; 1 Kings 4:34; 1 Kings 18:10; Daniel 4:22; Daniel 5:19; Acts 2:5; Acts 11:28; Colossians 1:23).
A new beginning (8:20-9:7)
On returning to the earth now cleansed from sin, Noah first offered sacrifices to God. God’s promise not to destroy the earth by a flood again was not because he expected people to improve. He knew they would be as sinful as ever. If God always dealt with people as they deserved, such floods would occur constantly. But in his mercy God would allow sinful people to continue to live on his earth (20-22).
With this new beginning, God gave Noah the same sorts of commands as he had given Adam. People were still God’s representatives over the earth, but they still did not have the right to act independently of God. Even in killing an animal for food, they had to realize that they had no independent right to take its life. By not using the animal’s blood (representing its life) for their own benefit, they acknowledged that God was the true owner of that life. Human life was even more precious to God than animal life, because human beings were made in God’s image. Therefore, any person who killed another without God’s approval was no longer worthy to enjoy God’s gift of life and had to be put to death (9:1-7).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Genesis 8". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany