Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Genesis 7

Verses 1-16

Another section of Genesis starts with Genesis 5:1-32, the preface to it being found in verses Genesis 5:1-2. Herein the unity of the human race is again stressed, for though Adam called his wife's name Isha (Genesis 2:23) and then Eve (Genesis 3:20) God blessed them and called their name Adam from the outset. So Eve too was Adam jointly with her husband. This is not surprising, when we remember that the relationship of husband and wife was designed of God as a type of Christ and the church. So in 1 Corinthians 12:12 we have "Christ," or, more accurately, "the Christ," used in a way that covers both Christ personally and His body, the church.

Until we reach Enoch the antediluvian patriarchs are mentioned without comment, save their age when the son was born in whom the line of faith and promise was continued, and the total years of their long lives.. Enoch was the seventh from Adam, as we are reminded in the epistle of Jude, and he was an outstanding character, as outstanding for good as Lamech, the seventh from Adam in the line of Cain, had been for evil. If in the one we see the world in its rebellion and sinfulness beginning to take shape, in the other we see the believer's separate pathway through the world.

Enoch walked with God, and as God and the world walk on wholly different planes, the walk of Enoch was of necessity apart from the men of his age. He was no recluse for he begat sons and daughters, and moreover he boldly prophesied, as Jude tells us, predicting the coming of the Lord in judgment upon the ungodly men of his own age, and indeed of all the ages. When he had completed 365 years, "he was not; for God took him." The significance of this is made quite plain in Hebrews 11:5. He "was translated that he should not see death." This indicates plainly that he was removed because death threatened him.

Seeing that he had barely reached half the average age of the antediluvians, we may feel inclined to enquire how it came to pass that death threatened him, and the more so when we read that, "he was not found, because God had translated him." Why use the word "found" if he had not been sought? Moreover Lamech's murderous act, recorded in the previous chapter, must have taken place some centuries earlier. We judge this was so because Lamech came of the line of Cain which had a start of 130 years over the line of Seth. It apparently started the orgy of violence which filled the earth, according to the next chapter, and helped to provoke the flood. We judge therefore that Enoch's bold denunciation of the outrageous ungodliness which in his time began to fill the earth, would have moved the ungodly to slay him. But when they determined to strike and sought him, he was not there, for God had translated him.

The flood was God's governmental wrath falling upon the ungodly world, and the case of Noah shows us that God knows how to carry saints safely through such a period. But the case of Enoch furnishes us with an example of how God may be pleased to remove a saint to heaven without dying, before His wrath falls. In this Enoch foreshadows the removal of the church before the vials of Divine wrath are poured upon the earth in the great tribulation. It is thank God, definitely stated that "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9). A simple summary of Enoch's life would be: He walked with God; he witnessed for God; he went to God, without seeing death.

When we reach Noah, the tenth from Adam, the history again expands. To begin with, his father Lamech at his birth named him with prophetic insight. He acknowledged that the earth was under the curse of God and anticipated that his son would bring rest or comfort. This he did by building the ark at the command of God, thus carrying a few, that is, eight souls, into a new world. He lived apparently to the great age of 500 years before begetting his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Shem is mentioned first, not because he was the oldest but because his was the line in which faith was preserved. He was apparently the second son, for Ham is called the "younger son" (Genesis 9:24), and Japheth is called "the elder" (Genesis 10:21).

We get a further example of this kind of thing when we come to Abraham, at the end of Genesis 11:1-32 and this leads us to remark that it is not safe to lay too much stress on chronologies deduced from the details given in our chapter as to the ages of these patriarchs. It is easy to do this, and to make the years from the creation of Adam to the flood to be 1,656. But then the version of the Old Testament in Greek, known as the Septuagint, made about a couple of centuries before the time of our Lord, and, we are told, often quoted by Him, differs from the Hebrew. Adam's age when Seth was born is given as 230, and his subsequent years as 700. The same feature marks the next four patriarchs and also Enoch, so this at once adds 600 years to the calculation. There is also a difference of six years in the case of Lamech the father of Noah, which brings up the total years according to the Septuagint, to 2,262.

The same thing appears when we come to the ages of the patriarchs after the flood in Genesis 11:1-32. Here the Septuagint version would add 650 years to the chronology we should deduce. This is the explanation of the difference between Usher's chronology, following the Hebrew, and that of Hales, following the Greek. Some of the earliest "Christian Fathers," asserted that the years were curtailed by the Jews in the Hebrew, in order to oppose the argument of Christians using the Septuagint, that the Messiah appeared in the sixth millennium from Adam, as their tradition had led them to expect.

Be that as it may, the one thing that seems certain is that we cannot arrive at absolute certainty as to these matters, hence it would seem to be rather a waste of time to give much thought as to them. It is quite possible that when the Apostle Paul warned Timothy about "endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith," he had in mind such things as these. Had the exact number of years been of importance from a spiritual standpoint, it would have been made quite clear to us in the Scriptures.

As we open Genesis 6:1-22 we are carried on to the later centuries of the antediluvian age, when the population had considerably increased and human wickedness began to rise to a climax. Many have understood the term, "sons of God," to refer to men of Seth's line — the line of faith — who fell away and married daughters of Cain's line, but we agree with those who accept the term as meaning beings of an angelic order, as it clearly does in such scriptures as Job 1:6 and Job 2:1 and Job 38:7. How such connection can have been established, resulting in progeny superhuman in size and strength, we do not know, but we believe that Jude 1:6-7 confirm what we are saying. Sodom and Gomorrha went after "strange flesh," committing such enormous evil as is forbidden in Exodus 22:19, and these sons of God did the same thing in principle, by going after the daughters of men. Thereby they apostatized, leaving their first estate, and lest they should repeat the offence they are held in everlasting chains under darkness until eternal perdition falls upon them. They will be finally judged at the great day of the great white throne.

In Genesis however, we are only told about the terrible effect of this in the world of men. The monstrous men produced were monsters of iniquity, filling the earth with violence and corruption. Yet man in his fallen condition is such that these monsters instead of being considered men of infamy were treated as men of renown. They were the originals doubtless from whom sprang those tales of "gods" and "goddesses" and "Titans," etc., which have come down to us in the writings of antiquity. They are popularly dismissed as fables, but it looks as if they have a larger basis of fact than many care to admit.

How incisive is verse Genesis 5:5 ! Man's wickedness became great, or abundant, for he was wholly evil in the deepest springs of his being. His heart was evil; the thoughts of his heart were evil, and the imagination, which lay behind and prompted his thoughts, was evil. And all this was only evil - not one trace of good — and that continually. Thus before the flood we have exactly the same verdict as to man as is presented to us in Romans 3:10-18, by quotations extracted from scriptures, which describe the condition of men after the flood.

In verse Genesis 5:6 we are told how all this affected the Lord, and here for the first time we have human feelings attributed to God. Only thus could we have any understanding of such a matter, and there is nothing incongruous in it, inasmuch as man has been made in the image and likeness of God. Only there must be an intensity and elevation in the Divine thoughts and feelings altogether unknown by man. How great must have been His grief! All good at the outset, and now all so abominable, that nothing could meet the case but the total destruction of mankind, with but few exceptions, and also of the animate creation that had been committed to man's hand.

There was just one man that found grace in the eyes of the Lord. In this connection nothing is said of his wife nor of his three sons and their wives. Noah was a man of faith. Shem may have been the same. Ham, we know was not, and of the others we have no information, but as Hebrews 11:1-40 says, "Noah... moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house." Faith on his part accepted the Divine warning, which moved him to fear. Fear moved him to act.

How the men of that age viewed the state of things that had developed in their midst we are not told, but to God it had become absolutely intolerable, so that He had to say, "The end of all flesh is come before Me... behold, I will destroy them with the earth." His Spirit should not always strive with man, and so a limit of 120 years was set. God thus condemned the world, and by building the ark Noah "condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith."

In his second epistle Peter tells us that Noah was "a preacher of righteousness." It was the period when "the longsuffering of God waited," as he said in his first epistle. Noah showed men what was morally and practically right in the sight of God, but it was without any fruit, for his hearers were disobedient and their spirits are now in prison. Only of Noah could God say, "Thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation" (Genesis 7:1). Righteousness for men was not fully accomplished until the death and resurrection of Christ, and of that righteousness Noah became an heir. The believer of today is not an heir of righteousness, for he possesses it. He is an heir of the great inheritance, which is vested in Christ.

Noah was the builder but God was the Designer of the ark. The door was in the side to allow easy access by men, but the window was above, to let in light from heaven and shut out any view of the watery waste presently to be. Its dimensions were large. The cubit is computed to have been from 18 to 22 inches in length, and as it was made simply to float and not shaped like a ship to travel, its cubic capacity must have been very great.

Instructions also were given as to all that the ark was to contain; seven of the clean creatures and two of the rest, male and female, with a sufficiency of food for all. Nothing was left to arrangement or imagination; all was ordered by God from first to last. This is worthy of note for here we have the first illustration of salvation that the Bible furnishes. At a later date Jonah declared, "Salvation is of the Lord," and how fully this is so we discover, when coming to the New Testament we find unfolded the "so great salvation" that the Gospel declares. Chapter 6 closes with the statement that Noah was obedient in all particulars, doing just as he was told.

The first verse of Genesis 7:1-24 furnishes us with the first instance of how God, in dealing with men on the earth, links a man's house with himself — "thou and all thy house" occurs for the first time. Salvation from judgment poured out on earth is before us here, but in Acts 16:31 the same principle holds good in regard to eternal salvation. How thankful we should be for that word!

If we read verses Genesis 5:1-16, we might be tempted to think that here was a good deal of repetition, but we believe the passage is so worded to impress us with two things: first, the exact and careful way in which Noah obeyed God's instructions; second, the exact ordering and timing of all God's actions in judgment; as also, that the great catastrophe was of a nature wholly transcending any ordinary convulsion of nature and altogether an act of God.

The term, "windows of heaven," is very expressive. It denotes an outpouring from God above; it may be in blessing, as Malachi 3:10 shows, but here it was in judgment. The devastating waters descended for forty days and forty nights, a period that we meet again in the Scripture several times, indicating a full period of testing. But also there was from beneath a breaking up of the established order. What exactly is signified, when we read that, "the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up," it is impossible to say. The tremendous event had never happened before, and it will never happen again, for we read, "neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth" (Genesis 9:11). So obviously we must be content to know that there were immense internal convulsions, that produced a mighty upsurge of earth's waters, to meet the waters descending from above.

Verse Genesis 5:13 makes it plain that Noah and his family entered the ark on the very day that the storm broke. Noah had been a preacher of righteousness, just as Enoch had been a prophet of the Advent. He is the first preacher of whom we have any record, and his theme was that which stands in the very forefront of the Gospel that is preached today, as Romans 1:17 declares. Only today, it is God's righteousness revealed in Christ and established in His death and resurrection, which is presented as the basis of blessing for men. Noah had to preach God's righteousness as outraged by man's violence and corruption, and demanding judgment. Still to the very last day the door of the ark stood open, and nothing would have prevented a repentant man from entering, had such an one been found.

The last day came however, and each of the four men and four women took the last decisive step which ensured their preservation from destruction. The decisive step for each was when they planted one foot on the ark, and removed the other from the earth that was under judgment. It was impossible to have one foot in and one foot out. It was either both feet in, or both feet out. Which thing is a useful parable for Gospel preachers today. Their action endorsed God's judgment against the world, and expressed their faith in the Divinely appointed way of salvation. Once inside the ark, "the Lord shut him in." When the Lord shuts, no man can open — not even Noah himself had he wished to do so. The shut door secured salvation for the eight souls, and ensured destruction for the world of the ungodly.

In our day the Gospel is too often preached as a way of escape from merited judgment, without any emphasis on the other side which is presented here. By building and entering the ark Noah "condemned the world" (Hebrews 11:7), and the reception in faith of Christ as Saviour and Lord today involves just the same thing. Let us not shirk the issue, as though it could be Christ and the world. It must be one or the other; and may God help all who preach the Gospel to declare this with boldness.

Verses 17-32

The flood waters, which brought destruction upon the world of the ungodly, had the effect of lifting the ark "up above the earth." This may serve to remind us that the salvation of God has an elevating effect at all times. Today, very specially, we are called to set our mind "on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2). When "the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth," no flesh was visible, and nothing but death was to be seen. God's word as to "the end of all flesh" coming before Him, was fulfilled, for now all were either covered in the waters of judgment, or in the ark, as it rode between the waters surging from beneath and descending from above. Noah and his family were out of sight in the ark a figure of the new place which is ours "in Christ Jesus," involving the non-recognition of our old status in the flesh.

How thankful we should be that judgment fell, not upon us but upon our gracious Saviour, just as the death-waters fell, not upon Noah but upon the ark. The whole episode is likened to baptism in 1 Peter 3:21, or rather, baptism is likened to it. The first mention of Christian baptism being administered is in Acts 2:1-47, where it is connected with the word, "Save yourselves from this untoward generation." The passing through death in a figure, and thus cutting all links with old associations is, we believe, the main thought in baptism. All Noah's links with the old world were cut by the baptism of the flood. Peter wrote to converted Jews, who had been severed by baptism from the mass of their nation, and thus saved from the governmental judgments about to fall on it. For us Gentiles baptism has the same significance, severing us — if we understand it and are practically true to it — from the world which is rushing on to judgment. Are we true to what baptism means?

As to the flood itself, the account given (Genesis 7:11Genesis 8:14) is quite explicit, both as to its duration and its dimensions. The tremendous rain lasted for 40 days and 40 nights. The waters prevailed from the 17th day of the 2nd month to the 17th day of the 7th month, when the ark grounded on the mountains of Ararat. On the 1st day of the 10th month the tops of the mountains were seen. On the 1st day of the 1st month of a new year the waters had vanished from the face of the earth. On the 27th day of the 2nd month the earth was sufficiently dry for the occupants of the ark to go forth from it — one year and 10 days having elapsed from the onset.

Its dimensions were such that "all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven were covered." This seems to indicate that it was universal, and it is certain that nothing of a local nature could possibly have lasted for so long. Moreover the breaking up of "the fountains of the great deep" very possibly involved great changes on the surface of the earth: in other words, the configuration of continents, mountains, seas, etc., may have been very different in the antediluvian age from their present form.

God remembered Noah and all that were alive with him in the ark, and He stopped the waters and sent the wind, which commenced the process of drying up the waters. The window of the ark being in the roof and not in the side of it, Noah must have had an imperfect knowledge of what was transpiring without, hence his action recorded in Genesis 8:6-12. A raven and a dove are birds of a different nature as to habits and food. The one feeding on carrion and other unclean things, the other a clean feeder. When first released there was plenty to attract the raven, but as yet nothing for the dove.

In the New Testament the dove becomes the emblem of the Spirit of God, and the expression used on the first occasion is worthy of note — "no rest for the sole of her foot." As yet the whole scene was a waste of death and corruption. On the second occasion the dove returned with, "an olive leaf pluckt off." Here was the first evidence of life appearing above the waters of death, for it was not a leaf that had been drifting among the debris but plucked off a living tree. Death entered by sin, and "so death passed upon all men" (Romans 5:12), as much after the flood as before it. The first evidence of real life rising up beyond the scene of death was when Christ. rose from the dead. Though the Spirit came at Pentecost as wind and fire, He came as a Witness to Christ risen and glorified.

When the dove was sent forth for the third time she returned no more, but it is not added that she did find rest for the sole of her foot. That she found somewhere to perch is obvious, but the statement is omitted, we believe, because there is a typical or allegorical significance, which comes to light when we reach Matthew 3:16. When the Lord Jesus came forth there was at last found One, on whom the Spirit of God could permanently rest, and not before.

So what is related here is intended to cast our minds on to the Gospels, which begin with the Lord Jesus entering a scene of death as the only One on whom the Spirit of God could rest, and they end with His coming forth in risen life — a life on the other side of death and beyond its reach — the necessary preparation to the coming of the Spirit When we read of the Apostles that, "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost... and with great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 4:31-33), we see what is indicated — though faintly perhaps — by the olive leaf in the mouth of the dove.

Let us remember also that fallen human nature feeds on what is unclean, as does the raven. Only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and therefore like the dove feeds on what is clean. If we recognize this we shall be very careful as to that on which we feed our minds. It has been well said that for spiritual growth we must "starve the raven and feed the dove."

Noah did not go forth from the ark until God told him to do so. He went out as he came in, under direct instruction from God. And now we discover why the clean animals were taken into the ark in sevens and the unclean only in twos. True, it is an unclean world still, alas! and hence unclean animals easily thrive, and one pair would suffice for such, as against three pairs of the clean. But why the odd one in the seven? Because they were to be offered in sacrifice as a burnt offering at the very start of the renewed earth. The Lord knew that the flood had effected no change in human nature. Even in Noah and his family it was the same after the flood as before it. Verse Genesis 7:21 emphasizes this; and hence from the outset the new world could only continue on the basis of sacrifice.

In Noah's sacrifice we have the third type of the death of Christ. The first type, in Genesis 3:1-24, set it forth as providing a covering for the guilty sinner. The second, Abel's offering in Genesis 4:1-26, as the basis of approach to God. Now we have it as presenting a "sweet savour," or, "a savour of rest," to God — that in which He finds His rest and delight, in the excellence of which the offerer finds the ground of his acceptance. The term, burnt offering, occurs here for the first time, the particular significance of which we discover when we come to the book of Leviticus.

It is not difficult to discern an orderly progression in these three types. When awakened to our sinful state, the first thing we were conscious of needing was a covering — the root meaning of atonement — before the eye of a holy God. That was good, but we could not endure to be permanently at a distance. We must have a basis of approach to God. And even more than this; we must be in full acceptance to be thoroughly at rest there. If God finds a savour of rest in the death of Christ, we find there our rest too.

The promise, which closes Genesis 8:1-22, was based upon the sacrifice, as also was the blessing which opens Genesis 9:1-29. God knew what man would again prove himself to be, but He guaranteed that there should be no further judgment of the sort just executed. The flood had been of such magnitude that for just over a year seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and even day and night, had been obliterated. This was never to occur again. Indeed Genesis 9:8-17 show that God established a definite covenant to this effect, the token of which is the rainbow.

This covenant made with Noah and all creation was unconditional. It was a covenant of promise, not depending on any faithfulness of the creature. It was something new. The words, "I do set My bow in the cloud," clearly infer that the phenomenon of a rainbow had never before been seen by mankind. This would appear strongly to support the thought we mentioned when considering Genesis 2:5, Genesis 2:6 that until the time of the flood no rain had fallen on the earth but it had been watered by mist.

Noah and his sons were blessed and made specially fruitful, so that mankind should multiply rapidly on the renewed earth, and their dominion over the beasts of the earth was emphasized. Moreover man was now given animal food for his sustenance as well as vegetable. And yet further, in the new regime established the sanctity of human life was clearly stated in connection with a primitive form of government. Murder had filled the earth before the flood, and from the time of Cain any human vengeance had been forbidden. But now God would require the blood of man's life at the hand of the slayer, and He would authorize mankind — Noah in particular, no doubt — to be the executor of His judgment. The penalty of death for murder was thus instituted by God Himself, and that from the very start of the post-diluvian age, and not merely as enacted in the law of Moses centuries later. It is of universal validity. Efforts recently made to overturn the Divine enactment are significant, especially if taken in connection with efforts to overturn other basic enactments as to marriage, parental responsibility, etc. The end of the age is marching upon us. It will arrive not with a flood of waters, but in the revelation of the King of kings and Lord of lords, when "He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

Verses Genesis 7:18-19 again emphasize the fact that the only males now left alive were Noah and his three sons. From the three sons all mankind on the earth have sprung Nations have become a good deal intermingled but the three strains — Semitic, Japhetic and Hamitic — can still be discerned.

We may say then, that after the flood mankind was given under Noah a fresh start; But, as under Adam so again, failure and sin rapidly supervened. We have had abundant testimony to the fact that Noah was a godly man who found grace in the sight of the Lord, and he lived for no less than 350 years after the flood, as we are told at the end of our chapter, yet the one and only thing on record concerning him in all those years is that he planted a vineyard made wine, was trapped into self-indulgence, and became unconscious in drunkenness. The man most responsible now to control others lost control of himself. The age of patriarchal government broke down at the outset, even in the hands of a godly man.

This sad episode became the occasion of revealing the character of Ham, and apparently also of Canaan the son of Ham. Shem and Japheth acted with due respect to Noah, both as their father and as the ruler in the new conditions, whereas it was absent with Ham. Disrespect of authority, whether parental or governmental, since both were originally instituted of God, is a very grave sin. It leads ultimately to the setting aside of the authority of God, who instituted it. It is only as we give these considerations due weight in our minds, that we see how justified was the solemn curse pronounced by Noah, when he knew what had happened.

In verse Genesis 7:22 Ham is mentioned, and Canaan only appears as his son. When we come, in verses 25-27, to the curse that came from Noah's lips, we find it fell upon Canaan without any mention of Ham. This, we think, indicates two things. First, that Noah's sad lapse occurred some time after the flood; sufficient years having elapsed for Canaan to have been born and come into activity. Second, that he was associated with his father in the matter, and on him rather than his father the weight of the curse fell.

We must also bear in mind that in uttering it Noah spoke as a prophet, and the subsequent history of Canaan and his descendants fully justified his solemn words The next chapter gives us the sons of Canaan, and from them came the nations that inhabited lands to the east of the Mediterranean and just north of Egypt, so that it became known as the land of Canaan. Centuries later these nations had become so abominable in their gross sinfulness that God issued an edict of extermination against them, and sent Israel in to inhabit their land. Only Israel's failure saved them from being completely wiped out.

But Noah's prophetic utterance contained a blessing as well as a curse. The blessing was to be specially the portion of Shem, and in a secondary way to come upon Japheth. The blessing, as ever, is connected with the name of the Lord, who was to be known as the God of Shem. Japheth was to be enlarged and "dwell in the tents of Shem." This, we gather, would signify that by reason of close identification with Shem, Japheth would also come into the knowledge of God. If the prophecy of Enoch was concerned with the coming of the Lord in His glory to judgment, that of Noah summarized in most concise fashion the future of the human family in its three branches until the Lord comes.

We can now see how it has been fulfilled. Out of Shem sprang Israel and Moses, and then in due time the Christ, "who is over all, God blessed for ever." Out of Japheth have come the nations who have been enlarged and assumed leadership in the earth, and amongst whom the light of the Gospel has mostly shone. Ham, whose name means "Black," or "Swarthy," produced the races that most have been degraded and reduced to servitude.

But on the other hand, as is so often the way, the Hamitic peoples on whom the curse rested, at first seemed to be the ones to prosper and assume leadership. Chapter 10 supplies us with evidence of this, filled as it is with lists of names and peoples who sprang from the three sons of Noah, lists which are important in connection with the early history of mankind. There is just one point where a short parenthesis occurs by reason of the great prominence of a grandson of Ham.

The forceful Nimrod, as a mighty hunter, acquired ascendancy and founded a "kingdom," the beginning of which was Babel This happened, we judge, before Noah's long life ended; and if any kingdom existed, it should have been his. The power that should have been vested in Noah was taken by Nimrod, and prostituted to the ends of serving himself and his own renown. With this there began the founding of cities to serve as centres of human influence Babel, Erech, Accad and Calneh are amongst the first of which there is any record.

Nimrod's action, in short, represented the setting aside of the primitive patriarchal government instituted of God, by brute-like, human force in self-aggrandisement. The results of this abide in the earth to this day.

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Bibliographical Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Genesis 7". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.