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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 8

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Genesis 8:3. The waters returned from off the earth continually. The Hebrew, חלוךְ ושׁוב cha-loveck ve-shou. Montanus renders eundo et redeundo, the going and coming of the waters. The word is used, Genesis 8:7, for the going and coming of the raven; and Isaiah 60:8, for the flight and return of doves to their windows. Moses here in plain words designates the flux and reflux of the waters, which twice in little less than twenty five hours overflowed the mountains, desolating and stratifying anew the whole face of the earth. Hence we find a world of plants and trees, which once grew in the warmer climates, deposed in our coalfields, and countless plants of which botany is now ignorant.

The whole period of the deluge comprised a year, according to Dr. Lightfoot. Forty six days, after the harvest, were spent in victualling the ark. The rain, accompanied with great darkness, fell for forty days. The tides rose higher and higher for one hundred and fifty days, and gradually receded for one hundred and twenty days. Then the ark rested on Mount Ararat, whose highest summit is eight thousand feet above the level of the sea.

That the earth was destroyed by impetuous tides, we have the assertion of Manilius, a Roman poet, who seems to have studied geology on the Alps, and who dedicates his poem on Astronomy to Augustus. The reader will excuse my best efforts in the following translation.

Et vomit oceanus pontum, sitiensque resorbet,

Nec sese ipse capit, sic quondam merserat urbes,

Humani generis quum solus constitit hæres Deucalion.


* * * *

The ocean wide

Throws up the sea, and then resorbs the tide;

Nor could it thus forbear the angry play,

Till the Alps were bared, and cities washed away;

Deucalion only then obtained the grace

To be the Sire of all the human race.

Genesis 8:4. The seventeenth day. Noah was just one year in the ark, including seven weeks after harvest to collect provisions. The time is reckoned from the civil year, and not the ecclesiastical year of the Jews, which began when they left Egypt.

Genesis 8:10. Yet other seven days. It would seem, that Noah religiously kept the sabbath in the best manner he could during the flood; and from the exact chronology of time, that he kept a written journal of the Lord’s mercies. It should also be remarked, that he came out at the beginning of winter; this is another instance of the care of Providence; for the earth, after having been so long under salt water, would not be prepared for vegetation, till the frosts and rains had operated on its surface.

Genesis 8:20. Fifteen cubits; that is, the ark drew so many cubits of water. It floated exactly half in and half out of the water.


When the whole world was corrupted, did God in this extraordinary way preserve the one righteous family? Then the multitude of the wicked shall not contribute to their safety, nor shall the small number of the righteous expose them to the least danger; and if piety is so dear to God, let us value it above every other consideration.

Noah built an altar to the Lord; hence we should, after deliverance from afflictions and troubles, as a first duty, kneel down and give glory to God. Devotion on these occasions is warmed and animated by fresh tokens of providence, and becomes peculiarly acceptable to God.

The Lord renewed his covenant with this patriarch, and modified it according to the existing circumstances. He does not indeed repeat the promise of the Woman’s Seed to bruise the serpent’s head; that stood like a rock through all succeeding ages, and was implied in the sacrifices; but he enforced anew the moral precepts, because it was proper to secure his own glory, and to restrain the depravity of man by awarding death to crimes; these precepts, the Jews affirm, were seven in number.

God promised Noah seedtime and harvest to the end of the world; and what is better, these temporal promises were shadows of spiritual and eternal good to those who sincerely embraced the covenant. Hence we see the faithfulness of God. He has not destroyed us by water, nor has the harvest at any time failed, except in cases of temporary famine, which he sends to remind us of our sins: hence also we should look for a double portion, a little of earth and a little of heaven.

But did Noah after all plant a vineyard, and was he once overtaken with intoxication; though from his long life of nine hundred and fifty years, and from the high favours of God towards him, we may infer that he was a patriarch of the strictest temperance; then let aged christians and aged ministers learn to preserve in old age the glory of early piety. This one sin was complicated: it led to Ham’s sin, and brought the curse of servitude on his posterity. Dr. Jenkins, in his Reasonableness of the Christian religion, has brought sufficient evidence from the scriptures and from pagan authors to prove, that the Africans, whom all nations have afflicted with slavery, are the descendants of Ham, or of Cush, his eldest son. Whenever we have the calamity to hear of a defect in a father, or an elder, let us, animated with the filial piety of Shem and Japhet, take a mantle of love, and cover it for once, that a blessing may come upon us, and that the silent and secret tears of repentance may so far purge it that it shall never be repeated.

Was the bow fixed in the clouds from the beginning, though now adopted as the pledge of the covenant, just as circumcision, and as bread and wine in the Lord’s supper were afterwards adopted as signs of the same covenant; then objects of sense, when divinely appointed, may aid our faith. Yea all nature should remind us of the fidelity of God, and prompt us to constancy in religion, and unshaken confidence in the dark and cloudy day.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 8". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-8.html. 1835.
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