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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 8

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verses 1-14

- The Land Was Dried

1. שׁכך shākak “stoop, assuage.”

3. חסר chāsar “want, fail, be abated.”

4. אררט 'ărārāṭ, “Ararat,” a land forming part of Armenia. It is mentioned in 2 Kings 19:37, and Isaiah 37:38, as the retreat of Adrammelek and Sharezer after the murder of their father; and in Jeremiah 51:27 as a kingdom.

8. קלל qālal, “be light, lightened, lightly esteemed, swift.”

10. חוּל chûl, “twist, turn, dance, writhe, tremble, be strong, wait.” יהל yāchal “remain, wait, hope.”

13. חרב chāreb, “be drained, desolated, amazed.”

Genesis 8:1-3

The waters commence their retreat. “And God remembered Noah.” He is said to remember him when he takes any step to deliver him from the waters. The several steps to this end are enumerated.

A wind. - This would promote evaporation, and otherwise aid the retreat of the waters. “The fountains of the deep and the windows of the skies were shut.” The incessant and violent showers had continued for six weeks. It is probable the weather remained turbid and moist for some time longer. In the sixth month, however, the rain probably ceased altogether. Some time before this, the depressing of the ground had reached its lowest point, and the upheaving had set in. This is the main cause of the reflux of the waters. All this is described, as we perceive, according to appearance. It is probable that the former configuration of the surface was not exactly restored. At all events it is not necessary, as the ark may have drifted a considerable space in a hundred and fifty days. Some of the old ground on which primeval man had trodden may have become a permanent water bed, and a like amount of new land may have risen to the light in another place. Hence, it is vain to seek for a spot retaining the precise conditions of the primitive Eden. The Euphrates and Tigris may substantially remain, but the Pishon and Gihon may have considerably changed. The Black Sea, the Caspian, the lakes Van and Urumiah may cover portions of the Adamic land. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the prevalence of the waters begins to turn into a positive retreat.

Genesis 8:4-5

The ark rested. - It is stranded on some hill in Ararat. This country forms part of Armenia. As the drying wind most probably came from the east or north, it is likely that the ark was drifted toward Asia Minor, and caught land on some hill in the reaches of the Euphrates. It cannot be supposed that it rested on either of the peaks now called Ararat, as Ararat was a country, not a mountain, and these peaks do not seem suitable for the purpose. The seventh month began usually with the new moon nearest the vernal equinox, or the 21st of March. “The tenth month.” The waters ceased to prevail on the first of the ninth month. The ark, though grounded six weeks before, was still deep in the waters. The tops of the hills began to appear a month after. The subsiding of the waters seems to have been very slow.

Genesis 8:6-12

The raven and the dove are sent out to bring tidings of the external world. “Forty days.” Before Noah made any experiment he seems to have allowed the lapse of forty days to undo the remaining effect of the forty days’ rain. “The window.” He seems to have been unable to take any definite observations through the aperture here called a window. The raven found carrion in abundance, floated probably on the waters, and did not need to return. This was such a token of the state of things as Noah might expect from such a messenger. He next sends the dove, who returns to him. “Yet other seven days.” This intimates that he stayed seven days also after the raven was sent out. The olive leaf plucked off was a sign of returning safety to the land. It is said by Theophrastus (Hist. Plant. 4, 7) and Pliny (H. N. 13, 50) that the olive strikes leaves even under water. From this event, the olive branch became the symbol of peace, and the dove the emblem of the Comforter, the messenger of peace. After seven other days, the dove being despatched, returns no more. The number seven figures very conspicuously in this narrative. Seven days before the showers commence the command to enter the ark is given; and at intervals of seven days the winged messengers are sent out. These intervals point evidently to the period of seven days, determined by the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest. The clean beasts also and the birds are admitted into the ark by seven pairs. This points to the sacredness associated with the number arising from the hallowed character of the seventh day. The number forty also, the product of four, the number of the world or universe, and ten the number of completeness, begins here to be employed for a complete period in which a process will have run its course.

Genesis 8:13-14

Noah delays apparently another month, and, on the first day of the new year, ventures to remove the covering of the ark and look around. The date of the complete drying of the land is then given. The interval from the entrance to the exit consists of the following periods:

Rain continued 40 days
Waters prevailed 150 days
Waters subside 99 days
Noah delays 40 days
Sending of the raven and the dove 20 days
Another month 29 days
Interval until the 27th of the 2nd month 57 days
Sum-total of days 365 days

Hence, it appears that the interval was a lunar year of three hundred and fifty-six days nearly, and ten days; that is, as nearly as possible, a solar year. This passage is important on account of the divisions of time which it brings out at this early epoch. The week of seven days is plainly intimated. The lunar month and year are evidently known. It is remarkable that the ten additional days bring up the lunar year in whole numbers to the solar. It seems a tacit agreement with the real order of nature. According to the Hebrew text, the deluge commenced in the 1656th year of the race of man. According to all texts it occurred in the time of Noah, the ninth in descent from Adam.

Verses 15-22

- XXVII. The Ark Was Evacuated

19. משׁפחה mı̂shpāchah, “kind, clan, family.” שׁפחה shı̂pchâh, “maid-servant; related: spread.”

20. מזבח mı̂zbēach, “altar; related: slay animals, sacrifice.”

21. עלה 'olâh, “whole burnt-offering.” That which goes up. “Step; related: go up.”

Genesis 8:15-19

The command to leave the ark is given and obeyed. As Noah did not enter, so neither does he leave the ark, without divine direction. “The fowl, the cattle, and the creeper.” Here, again, these three classes are specified under the general head of every living tiring. They are again to multiply on the earth. “Every living thing.” This evidently takes the place of the cattle mentioned before. “After their families.” This word denotes their tribes. It is usually applied to families or clans.

Genesis 8:20-22

The offering of Noah accepted. The return to the dry land, through the special mercy of God to Noah and his house, is celebrated by an offering of thanksgiving and faith. “Builded an altar.” This is the first mention of the altar, or structure for the purpose of sacrifice. The Lord is now on high, having swept away the garden, and withdrawn his visible presence at the same time from the earth. The altar is therefore erected to point toward his dwelling-place on high. “Unto the Lord.” The personal name of God is especially appropriate here, as he has proved himself a covenant keeper and a deliverer to Noah. “Of all clean cattle, and every clean fowl.” The mention of clean birds renders it probable that these only were taken into the ark by seven pairs Genesis 7:3. Every fit animal is included in this sacrifice, as it is expressive of thanksgiving for a complete deliverance. We have also here the first mention of the burnt-offering עלה 'olâh; the whole victim, except the skin, being burned on the altar. Sacrifice is an act in which the transgressor slays an animal and offers it in whole, or in part as representative of the whole, to God. In this act he acknowledges his guilt, the claim of the offended law upon his life, and the mercy of the Lord in accepting a substitute to satisfy this claim for the returning penitent. He at the same time actually accepts the mercy of the Most High, and comes forward to plead it in the appointed way of reconciliation. The burnt-offering is the most perfect symbol of this substitution, and most befitting the present occasion, when life has been granted to the inmates of the ark amidst the universal death.

Genesis 8:21

The effect of this plea is here described. The Lord smelled the sweet savor. He accepted the typical substitute, and, on account of the sacrifice, the offerers, the surviving ancestors of the post-diluvian race. Thus, the re-entrance of the remnant of mankind upon the joys and tasks of life is inaugurated by an articulate confession of sin, a well-understood foreshadowing of the coming victim for human guilt, and a gracious acceptance of this act of faith. “The Lord said in his heart.” It is the inward resolve of his will. The purpose of mercy is then expressed in a definite form, suited to the present circumstances of the delivered family. “I will not again curse the soil any more on account of man.” This seems at first sight to imply a mitigation of the hardship and toil which man was to experience in cultivating the ground Genesis 3:17. At all events, this very toil is turned into a blessing to him who returns from his sin and guilt, to accept the mercy, and live to the glory of his Maker and Saviour. But the main reference of the passage is doubtless to the curse of a deluge such as what was now past. This will not be renewed. “Because the imagination of his heart is evil from his youth.” This is the reason for the past judgment, the curse upon the soil: not for the present promise of a respite for the future. Accordingly, it is to be taken in close connection with the cursing of the soil, of which it assigns the judicial cause. It is explanatory of the preceding phrase, on account of man. The reason for the promise of escape from the fear of a deluge for the future is the sacrifice of Noah, the priest and representative of the race, with which the Lord is well pleased. The closing sentence of this verse is a reiteration in a more explicit form of the same promise. “Neither will I again smite all living as I have done.” There will be no repetition of the deluge that had just overswept the land and destroyed the inhabitants.

Genesis 8:22

Henceforth all the days of the earth. - After these negative assurances come the positive blessings to be permanently enjoyed while the present constitution of the earth continues. These are summed up in the following terms:

HEAT Sowing, beginning in October

Reaping, ending in June
COLD Early fruit, in July

Fruit harvest, ending in September

The cold properly occupies the interval between sowing and reaping, or the months of January and February. From July to September is the period of heat. In Palestine, the seedtime began in October or November, when the wheat was sown. Barley was not generally sown until January. The grain harvest began early in May, and continued in June. The early fruits, such as grapes and figs, made their appearance in July and August; the full ingathering, in September and October. But the passage before us is not limited to the seasons of any particular country. Besides the seasons, it guarantees the continuance of the agreeable vicissitudes of day and night. It is probable that even these could not be distinguished during part of the deluge of waters. At all events, they did not present any sensible change when darkness reigned over the primeval abyss.

The term of this continuance is here defined. It is to last as long as the order of things introduced by the six days’ creation endures. This order is not to be sempiternal. When the race of man has been filled up, it is here hinted that the present system of nature on the earth may be expected to give place to another and a higher order of things.

Here it is proper to observe the mode of Scripture in the promise of blessing. In the infancy of mankind, when the eye gazed on the present, and did not penetrate into the future, the Lord promised the immediate and the sensible blessings of life, because these alone are as yet intelligible to the childlike race, and they are, at the same time, the immediate earnest of endless blessings. As the mind developes, and the observable universe becomes more fully comprehended, these present and sensible sources of creature happiness correspondingly expand, and higher and more ethereal blessings begin to dawn upon the mind. When the prospect of death opens to the believer a new and hitherto unknown world of reality, then the temporal and corporeal give way to the eternal and spiritual. And as with the individual, so is it with the race. The present boon is the earnest in hand, fully satisfying the existing aspirations of the infantile desire. But it is soon found that the present is always the bud of the future; and as the volume of promise is unrolled, piece by piece, before the eye of the growing race, while the present and the sensible lose nothing of their intrinsic value, the opening glories of intellectual and spiritual enjoyment add an indescribable zest to the blessedness of a perpetuated life. Let not us, then, who flow in the full tide of the latter day, despise the rudiment of blessing in the first form in which it was conferred on Noah and his descendants; but rather remember that is not the whole content of the divine good-will, but only the present shape of an ever-expanding felicity, which is limited neither by time nor sense.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Genesis 8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/genesis-8.html. 1870.
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