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Genesis 8:4. Ararat] “A region nearly in the middle of Armenia, between the Araxes and the lakes Van and Urumia (2 Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38 : [‘land of Armenia,’ lit. ‘of Ararat’], even now called by the Armenians Ararat, on the mountains of which the Ark of Noah rested; sometimes used in a wider sense of the whole of Armenia (Jeremiah 51:27) itself.” (Gesenius.) “It is especially the present Aghri Dagh or the great Ararat (Pers. Kuhi Nuch, i.e. Noah’s mountain, in the classics ὁ Ἄβος, Armen. massis) and Kutshuk Dagh or little Ararat.” (Furst.) “As the drying wind most probably came from the east or north, it is likely that the ark was drifted towards 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.” (Murphy.)—
Genesis 8:5. And the waters decreased] In the Heb. the construction here so changes as to impart a dramatic life and variety to the composition. Following the idiom of the original, we may render Genesis 8:4-1.8.5 thus: “Then does the ark rest, in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat. But the WATERS have come to be going on and decreasing as far as the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, have appeared the tops of the mountains.” Note the emphasis thrown on “THE WATERS,” and the contrast thereby implied: as much as to say, “The ark becomes stationary; not so THE WATERS—THEY go on decreasing for more than two months more.” As nature abhors a vacuum, so does the sacred story abhor monotony. As it progresses, the feeling changes, the lights and shades are altered; under-tones are heard, glimpses of new views are caught. The ever-varying manner of the original should delight the student and admonish the public reader and the preacher.—
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 8:1-1.8.5
THE GRADUAL CESSATION OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION
I. That it is marked by a rich manifestation of Divine mercy to those who have survived the terrible retribution. “And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark.” We are not to imagine from this verse, that God, had at any time during the flood, been unmindful of the ark and its privileged inhabitants, but simply that now He has them in especial remembrance, being about to deliver them from their temporary confinement. The Divine mercy is always rich toward man, but especially toward the good, in critical junctures of their history. Noah was indeed in a position to appreciate the loving attentions of heaven. Nor was the Divine remembrance limited to Noah and his relatives, but it extended to the animals under his care; thus extensive and all including is the providence of God in its beneficent design toward the wide universe.
1. God’s remembrance of his creatures during the cessation of retribution is merciful. True, Noah was a good man, and, in entering the ark, was obeying a Divine command, but what intrinsic right had he to such distinguished protection, and to the special remembrance of heaven? He could only receive it as the unmerited gift of God. God remembers the good in their afflictions, and that he does so is the outcome of His own merciful disposition toward them. Men would only get their desert if they were left to perish in the ark, on the wide waste of water on which it sails. Anything short of this is of God’s abundant compassion.
2. God’s remembrance of his creatures during the cessation of retribution is welcome. We can readily imagine that the ark would not be the most comfortable abode for Noah and his comrades, it would be confined in its space, and certainly not over choice in its companionships or select in its cargo. And while it was admirably adapted to the immediate use for which it was constructed, yet we doubt not that its occupants would be glad to escape from its imprisonment. The Divine remembrance of them at this time was the herald of their freedom; now they will soon tread the solid but silent earth again. God’s remembrance of His creatures after times of judgment, is generally the signal of good concerning them, the token of greater liberty, and of enhanced joy, even in the secular realm of life.
3. God’s remembrance of his creatures during the cessation of retribution is condescending. That the Divine King of heaven should give even a transient thought to a few individuals and animals, sailing on a wide sea, in an ark of rude construction, is indeed as great a mystery as condescension, and is evidence of the care which He extends to all His works. And thus it is that God adapts Himself to the moral character of man, and to the condition of all human creatures, in that he drowns the wicked in judgment, but remembers his servants in love. Thus He makes known His attributes to the race.
II. That it is marked by the outgoing and operation of appropriate physical agencies. “And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged.” There have been many conjectures in reference to the nature and operation of this wind; some writers say that it was the Divine Spirit moving upon the waters, and others, that it was the heat of the sun whereby the waters were dried up. We think controversy on this matter quite unnecessary, as there can be little doubt that the wind was miraculous, sent by God to the purpose it accomplished. He controls the winds. Jonah in the storm. The disciples in the tempest. And He would thus send out a great wind to agitate the waters that they might cease from covering the earth. God often sends his ordinary messengers on extraordinary errands. He has not to create or originate new forces to achieve new tasks, He can adapt the existing condition of nature to all the exigencies of life. And thus it happens that the cold bitter winds that blight our hopes, are sometimes commissioned to assuage our sorrows; one agency may be employed in manifold service. Hence we cannot antecedently estimate results by the agencies employed. The Divine Being generally works by instrumentality.
3. Natural. And in this way is the cessation of divine retribution brought about.
III. That it is marked by a staying and removal of the destructive agencies which have hitherto prevailed. “The fountains also of the great deep, and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; and the waters returned from off the earth continually; and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.” And thus when the destructive elements have done their work, they are restrained by the authority which gave them their commission to go forth. There are perhaps few nations on the face of the globe but have experienced times of famine and pestilence, and how glad have been the indications that these destructive agencies have stayed their raging. These fierce agencies of the material universe, when let loose upon man, make terrible havoc; are almost irresistible; will neither yield to entreaty or to skill. They have their time, and when their mission is accomplished they return to their original tranquillity. Here we see:—
1. That the destructive agencies of the universe are awakened by sin.
2. That the destructive agencies of the universe are subdued by the power and grace of God.
3. That the destructive agencies of the universe are occasional and not habitual in their rule. The deluge of waters was not the frequent phenomenon of nature. but was a miracle wrought for the purposes of the degenerate age. The fierce agencies of the universe are under Divine control, they are not supreme, but are the emissaries of holy justice. The most awful retributions of God come to an end, and break again into the clear shining of His mercy.
IV. That it is marked by a gradual return to the ordinary things and method of life. “And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.” Thus the tops of the mountains were visible, though they would not be seen by the inmates of the ark, as the window was not in a convenient position to admit of this, and they would not be able to open the door. And so the retributive judgments of God return to the ordinary ways of life, they do not permanently set aside the original purpose of creation. This return to the ordinary condition of nature is:—
3. Minutely chronicled. The world is careful to note the day on which appeared the first indication of returning joy, when after a long period of sorrow the mountain tops of hope were again visible. It is fixed in the memory. It is written in the book. It is celebrated as a festival. LESSONS:
1. That the judgments of God, though long and severe, will come to an end.
2. That the cessation of Divine judgment is a time of hope for the good.
3. That the cessation of Divine judgment is the commencement of a new era in the life of man.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 8:1. God’s gracious ones may be regarded as forsaken by the Lord. (Psalms 13:1).
God’s free grace keepeth his saints in mind when they seem to be forgotten.
The manifestation of God’s care and help to his desolate ones is joined with his remembrance of them.
God careth for the lower creatures for the sake of his Church.
Grace can create means, and render them effectual to salvation.
At the call of God, that which would otherwise enrage the waters, shall appease them.
God repeals his judgment by means, as well as imposeth them.
“And God remembered Noah.” He might begin to think that God had forgotten him, having not heard from God for five months together, and not yet seeing how he could possibly escape. He had been a whole year in the ark; and now was ready to groan out that doleful Usquequo Domine: Hast thou forgotten to be merciful? etc. But forgetfulness befalls not the Almighty. The butler may forget Joseph, his father’s house; Ahasuerus may forget Mordecai; and the delivered city the poor man that by his wisdom preserved it (Ecclesiastes 9:15). The Sichemites may forget Gideon; but “God is not unfaithful to forget your work and labour of love,” saith the Apostle (Hebrews 6:10). And there is a “book of remembrance written before him,” saith the prophet, “for them that fear the Lord.” (Malachi 3:16.) A metaphor from kings that commonly keep a calendar or chronicle of such as have done them good service: as Ahasuerus (Esther 6:1), and Talmerlane, who had a catalogue of their names and good deserts, which he daily perused, oftentimes saying that day to be lost wherein he had not given them something. God also is said to have such a book of remembrance. Not that he hath so, or needeth to have; for all things, both past and future, are present with him: he hath the idea of them within himself, and every thought is before his eyes, so that he cannot be forgetful. But he is said to remember his people (so he is pleased to speak to our capacity) when he showed his care of us, and makes good his promise to us. We also are said to be his “remembrancers” (Isaiah 62:6) when we plead his promise, and press him to performance. Not that we persuade him thereby to do us good, but we persuade our own hearts to more faith, love, obedience, etc., whereby we become more capable of that good.—(Trapp).
Genesis 8:2-1.8.3. “And the rain from heaven was restrained.” These four keys, says the Rabbins, God keeps under his own girdle:
1. Of the womb;
2. Of the grave;
3. Of the rain;
4. Of the heart. “He openeth, and no man shutteth; he shutteth, and no man openeth.” (Revelation 3:7.)—(Trapp).
God’s method of healing is contrary to that of wounding. Wind, fountains of deep, and windows of heaven are at God’s disposal.
All creatures move with agility and constancy at God’s word for the deliverance of the Church.
God has his set time, and at that moment judgments must cease, and salvation appear to his saints.
Genesis 8:4-1.8.5. No hazards shall prevent the means appointed for the safety of the Church from perfecting it. The tossing of waters shall not endanger the ark, so long as God steers it.
God vouchsafes a partial rest unto his Church below, as an earnest of the full.
Time and place are appointed by God for performing mercy to his Church.
Waters must go and fall for the comfort of the Church, under the command of God.
Mercies are measured to months and days.
God gives His Church mercy, and to see it.
Now this mountain of Ararat is at least, according to the statements of the most recent visitors, 17,000 feet in height, that is to say, rather more than three times the height of the highest mountain in Scotland, Well, then, if the waters of the flood rose to such a height that they covered its summit, and by subsiding, enabled the ark to rest quietly on that summit, I cannot see how it is possible to escape the conclusion, which Hitchcock in his work on geology denies, however, that the waters did cover the whole habitable globe, round and round. The assertions of Scripture are so broad and so strong, that I cannot see how to escape their force. And then, the language is repeated: “abated from off the earth.”—“The waters prevailed upon the earth.” Now, let any honest, impartial reader of this chapter say what would be the impression upon his mind; and I am sure it would be, that the flood there described was universal. And, as I stated before, if the flood was not universal, if it was topical, why did Noah take into the ark creatures found in every climate of the earth? For instance, the raven, I believe, exists almost everywhere; the dove certainly is found in eastern, western, northern, and southern latitudes. What was the use of preserving a bird that must have lived everywhere? And, when the dove went out of the ark, why did she return to it? If you let out a dove between this and Boulogne, you will find that it will fly to the nearest dry land, probably to its own dovecote, as carrier-pigeons, it is well known, do. If this flood had not been universal, when the dove was let out, with its immense rapidity of wing, it would have soon reached that part of the globe that was not covered by the flood; but she “found no rest for the sole of her foot:” and the presumption, therefore, is, that the whole face of the earth was covered by this deluge.—(Dr. Cumming.)
1. The first difficulty in the way of supposing the flood to have been literally universal, is the great quantity of water that would have been requisite.
2. A second objection to such a universality is, the difficulty of providing for the animals in the ark.
3. The third and most important objection to this universality of the deluge is derived from the facts brought to light by modern science, respecting the distribution of animals and plants on the globe.—(Hitchcock.)
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Longings! Genesis 8:1. As prisoners in castles look out of their grated windows at the smiling landscape, where the sun comes and goes; as we, from this life, as from dungeon bars, look forth to the heavenly land, and are refreshed with sweet visions of the home that shall be ours when we are free. And no doubt the longings of Noah and his family were intensely deep for the hour when once more they could leave their floating prison to rest beneath sunny skies, and to ramble amid verdant fields. So does the new creature groan and travail in pain for the moment when it shall be freed from this body of death, and rest upon the sunny slopes of the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. But patience! and thine eyes shall see, not in a swift glance cast, but for eternity, the land that is far off:—
“Yes! though the land be very far away,
A step, a moment, ends the toil, for thee;
Then changing grief for gladness, night for day,
Thine eyes shall see.”—Havergal.
Judgments! Genesis 8:5. After the tossings cease the window is opened, and the tops of the mountains are seen. Its light shines in from the new world. What is at first seen appears isolated. The waters still only permit glimpses, unconnected glimpses of the coming new earth. Yet there it is; and the hill tops are pledges of untold and unknown scenes of future joy. For many a day Noah, the spiritual man, has been shut up; but now the floods of regenerating judgment assuage, and the light breaks in. Now the new man belongs to the new creation; for the old man and his monstrous progeny are destroyed, and—
Is now heard pleading in the ear of God.”
Safety! Genesis 8:1. A ship was sailing in the Northern Sea, with wind and tide and surface current all against her. She was unable to make way. In this emergency the captain observed a majestic iceberg moving slowly and steadily in the very direction he desired to take. Perceiving that there was an undercurrent far below the surface, and acting on the extended base of the iceberg, he fastened his vessel to the mass of ice, and was carried surely and safely on his course against the wind and wave. Noah anchored his ark to the Providence of God. No sails were unfurled to the breeze, no oars were unshipped to move the lumbering ark, no rudder was employed to steer. The Providence of God was deeper than the winds and wave and contrary current; and to that, he fastened his barque with the strong cable of faith. Hence the security of the ark with its living freight:—
“Let cold-mouthed Boreas, or the hot-mouthed East,
Blow till they burst with spite;
All this may well confront, all this shall ne’er confound me.”—Quarles.
Protection! Genesis 8:4. Years ago, one of our fleets was terribly shattered by a violent gale. It was found that one of the ships was unaffected by the fierce tumult and commotion. Why? Because it was in what mariners designate so forcibly “the eye of the storm.” Noah was so situated. While all was desolation, he was safe. The storm of wind and rain and watery floods might toss and roar and leap; Noah’s ark was at rest—safe in “the eye of the storm.” And just as the ship’s compass is so adjusted as to keep its level amidst all the heavings of the sea; so the heaven-built structure was calm amid encircling billows. Amid the fluctuations of the sea of life, the Christian soul remains undisturbed—calm amid tumultuous motion—in “the eye of the storm.”
“Leave then thy foolish ranges,
For none can thee secure
But One who never changes,
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.”
Genesis 8:6. Window.] Properly, “hole:” not the same word as in ch. Genesis 6:16.—
Genesis 8:7. Raven.] Probably so called from its blackness (Gesenius, Fürst): from its cry or croaking (Davies).—
Genesis 8:8. Dove.] A tender, mild bird; emblem of purity, Sol. Song of Solomon 1:15; Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 5:12; love, ibid Genesis 5:2, Genesis 6:9; simplicity, Hosea 7:11, Matthew 10:16; with melancholy note, Isaiah 38:14, Nahum 2:7, Ezekiel 7:16; and quick homeward, flight, Isaiah 60:8; Psalms 55:6; Hosea 11:11.
Genesis 8:21. For the imagination.]—The “For” is apparently an unhappy rendering. Better, with Leeser, “although,” or with Young, “though:” better still, with Murphy, “because.” God will not again make man’s wickedness a “cause” or reason for bringing in a flood of waters.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 8:6-1.8.12
THE JUDICIOUS CONDUCT OF A GOOD MAN IN SEEKING TO ASCERTAIN THE FACTS OF LIFE, AND HIS RELATION THERETO
I. That Noah did not exhibit an impetuous haste to get out of the circumstances in which God had placed him. Noah had now been shut up in the ark for a long time, and yet he does not give way to complaining language, but calmly waits the day of his deliverance. That day advanced in definite stages; the fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were closed, the waters returned from off the earth; then the ark rested on the mountain, and the waters gradually decreased until the tops of the mountains were seen, and Noah was permitted to step out on dry land. And this is the ordinary way of life; men are gradually released from their troubles, and given, step by step, to see the purpose of God concerning them. They do not see the dry land all at once, upon the first outlook from the ark; they have to wait for it many days. The waiting is a sacred discipline, and the effort to ascertain the facts of the case and the Divine providence in reference thereto, is strengthening to the soul. It is very important that our conduct should be wise and calm during the last days of trial, as indiscretion then may have a most calamitous effect upon our after life, and may mar the effect of former patience. Some men are very impetuous; they are always seeking a change of condition and circumstance; and consequently they often get out of the ark in which they are located before the waters have wholly subsided, and thus injury befals them. Men should never be in a hurry to betake themselves from positions in which God has placed them, even though they may be uncomfortable; the proper time of release will come, and then they will be safe in availing themselves of it.
1. We see that God does sometimes place men in unwelcome positions. The ark would not be a very welcome habitation to Noah. He would very likely, had he been consulted, have preferred another method of safety from the deluge. But there are times when God selects a man’s circumstances for him, often uncomfortable, but always full of rich mercy. There are multitudes of good men to-day living and toiling in unfavourable spheres, which they would fain leave, but which they retain under a consciousness of duty. They are remaining in the ark till God shall give them permission to leave it.
2. That when God does place men in unwelcome positions, it is that their own moral welfare may be enhanced. Noah was placed in the ark for his own safety, and also that he might be an instrument in the hand of Divine providence in the new condition of things after the flood. And so when good men are in circumstances somewhat unfavourable, it is that God’s love may be manifested to them, that they receive a holy discipline, and that they may accomplish a ministry of good to those by whom they are surrounded. Men who go into the ark are safe, but they have hard work awaiting them.
3. That when men are placed in unwelcome positions they should not remove from them without a Divine intimation. Had some men been in Noah’s position they would have got out of the ark when it struck upon the mountain, they would have made no effort to ascertain the Divine will in reference to their lot. God never intends good men to get out of their arks until there is something better for them to step into. They must wait for the dry land.
II. That Noah was thoughtful and judicious in endeavouring to ascertain the will of God in reference to his position in its relation to the changing condition of things.
1. Noah felt that the time was advancing for a change in his position, and that it would be necessitated by the new facts of life. Noah was not always to remain in the ark. Good men are not always to continue in their trying and unfavourable circumstances, they have presentiments of better things, and are justified in seeking to realize them in harmony with the Divine will. Some men never dream of bettering their circumstances, they are lethargic spirits, and are content to remain in the ark all their days; they care not to inherit the new world before them. Mere ambition or restlessness should not lead men to alter their method of life or station, but only the providence of God as shown in daily events. When the earth is dry it is folly for a man to remain in the ark. The dry earth is God’s call to Noah to come and possess it. Some men never have eyes to behold the opportunity of their lives.
2. Noah recognised the fact that the change in his position should be preceded by devout thought and precaution. Before he left the refuge of the ark he made every possible calculation as to the likelihood of the future; he did not irreverently trust himself to the care of a Providence whose blessing he had never sought. He moved in his more welcome sphere of life guided by the will of God. A worthy pattern for all who may be about to change their mode of life.
III. That Noah employed varied and continuous methods of ascertaining the facts of his position and his duty in relation thereto. “And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from the earth. And he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground.”
1. These methods were varied. First he sent forth a raven, “which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.” Now the raven, being a bird which feeds upon flesh and carrion, must have found plenty of food floating on the waters; and it could have sufficient rest on the bodies of the dead animals: for anyone may have seen a carrion crow standing on a dead animal carried down a mountain stream. Then Noah sent forth the dove, which feeds upon seeds and vegetable matter, it was obliged to return. But the second time it returned with the olive leaf in its mouth, which shewed that the waters had very materially subsided, and were within a few feet of the ground. And so men who are seeking a change in their condition of life should employ the best and most varied agencies to ascertain the propriety and opportunity of so doing. One effort may not be reliable. The raven may not return, even if the flood has not subsided. Then try the second, a dove. And if you are honest in the sending forth of these messengers, and in the interpretation of the olive leaf on their return, you need not miss your providential way in life.
2. These methods were continuous. “And he stayed yet another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark.” You will notice here the interesting fact that Noah waited seven days. This is perhaps an indirect indication of the observance of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a time when men may test the facts of daily life and circumstance.
3. These methods were appropriate. Noah employed agencies that were ready to his use, that would be impartial in the service, and whose natural instinct would be an infallible guide. And so when men are testing the important issues of life and circumstance, they should be careful to select the most fitting agencies for so doing. They should not risk so great a result upon an inappropriate or uncertain omen.
IV. That Noah yielded a patient obedience to the test of circumstances which he had employed.—He was patiently obedient to the tests he employed; he did not wantonly reject them or foolishly disobey them. Some men pretend to seek the Divine guidance in the transactions of their lives, and yet they never follow it when opposed to their own inclinations or foregone conclusions. They send out the raven and the dove, and yet get out of the ark upon the dictate of their own impulse. This conduct is profane and perilous.
V. That indications of duty are always given to those who seek them devoutly. The dove returned to Noah with the olive leaf. It is stated by some natural historians, that the olive grew under water in the Red Sea, and bore berries there. Whether this be so or not, it is probable that the olive may live more healthily under a flood than most other trees. It is eminently hardy, and will grow in a favourable soil without care or culture. It is generally a plant of the Mediterranean. Men who seek prayerfully to know their duty in the events of life, will surely have given to them the plain indications of Providence. LESSONS:—
1. That men should not trust their own reason alone to guide them in the events of life.
2. That men who wish to know the right path of life should employ the best talents God has given them.
3. That honest souls are Divinely led.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 8:6-1.8.7. God in wisdom sometimes lengthens trials to test the faith and patience of His saints.
Believing saints, though God appears not, will stay contentedly forty days, that is, the time for their salvation. Lawful means believers may use for their comfort, when there is no immediate appearance of God.
Visible experiments of the ceasing of God’s wrath may be desired, and used by His people, where the Lord sets no prohibition.
Unclean or the worst of creatures may be of use sometimes to comfort the Church.
Instinct of creatures from God teaches His people of His providence to them.
Genesis 8:8. The dove emblematical of the Holy Ghost.
1. As the dove rested not on the flooded ground so the Holy Spirit will not dwell in an impure heart.
2. As the dove returned in the evening into the ark, so the Spirit in the time of the gospel, which is the evening of the world.
3. As the dove brought an olive leaf whereby Noah knew that the waters were dried, so the Spirit brings comfort and peace to the soul, assuring it that God’s judgments are past, their sins being pardoned.
The raven sets forth the wicked in the church who go and come but never effectually dwell there.
Noah sent forth a raven and a dove to bring him intelligence; observe here, that though God had told Noah particularly when the flood would come, even to a day (Ch. Genesis 7:4), yet he did not give him a particular account by revelation at what times and by what steps it should go away. The knowledge of the former was necessary to his preparing the ark; but the knowledge of the latter would serve only to gratify his curiosity, and the concealing it from him would be the needful exercise of his faith and patience. He could not forsee the flood by revelation; but he might by ordinary means discover its decrease, and God was pleased to leave him to use them [Henry and Scott].
Believing souls, when means answer not, will wait a longer time.
God’s gracious ones in faith use other lawful means if one do fail.
Clean as well as unclean, that which is chosen by God may be used by His Church for its good.
Faith in God’s salvation may put souls upon a desire to see it, or to have evidence of it.
God’s gracious ones desire the abating of the tokens of the Divine displeasure.
Genesis 8:9. The best means that believers use may not always give them rest.
God’s providence in continual tokens of displeasure, may obstruct means of comfort.
It is in such case the work of the saints to take up the means again, in due time to use them.
The dove is an emblem of a gracious soul, that, finding no rest for its foot, no solid peace or satisfaction in this world—this deluged, defiling world—returns to Christ as to its ark, as to its Noah, its rest. The carnal heart, like the raven, takes up with the world, and feeds on the carrion it finds there; but return thou to thy rest, O my soul (Psalms 116:7). O that I had wings like a dove (Psalms 55:6). And as Noah put forth his hand and took the dove, and pulled her in to him, into the ark, so Christ will graciously preserve, and help, and welcome those that fly to Him for rest [Henry and Scott].
Genesis 8:10-1.8.11, God’s way of answer, and the waiting of His saints are fitly coupled.
God’s gracious ones are of a contented, waiting and hoping frame.
Faith will expect from seven to seven, from week to week, to receive answers of peace from God.
After waiting, faith will make trial of lawful means again and again. It will add messenger to messenger.
Waiting believers shall receive some sweet return by use of means in God’s time.
He that sends out for God is most likely to have return from him.
Visible tokens of God’s wrath ceasing He is pleased to vouchsafe to His own.
It concerns God’s saints to consider His signal discoveries of grace to know them, and gather hope and comfort from them.
The olive branch, which was an emblem of peace, was brought, not by the raven, a bird of prey, nor by a gay and proud peacock, but by a mild, patient, humble dove. It is a dove-like disposition that brings into the soul earnests of rest and joy [Henry and Scott].
This olive leaf in the mouth of the dove may set forth:—
1. The grace and peace by Jesus Christ which are brought in the mouth of His ministers.
2. The dove returned at first without her errand; but sent again she brought better tidings. The man of God must not only be “apt to teach,” but “patient, in meekness, instructing those that oppose themselves; proving, if at any time, God will give them repentance” [Trapp].
The fresh olive leaf was the first sign of the resurrection of the earth to new life after the flood, and the dove with the olive leaf a herald of salvation.
Genesis 8:12. The giving of one step of mercy makes God’s saints wait for more.
The saint’s disposition is to get mercy by trying means, as well as to wait for it.
In the withholding of return of means may be the return of mercy. Though the dove stay, yet mercy cometh.
Providence promotes the comforts of saints when he seems to stop them.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Security! Genesis 8:6. When Alexander the Great was asked how he could sleep so soundly and securely in the midst of surrounding danger, he replied that he might well repose when Parmenis watched. Noah might well be in peace, since God had him in charge. A gentleman, crossing a dreary moor, came upon a cottage. When about to leave, he said to its occupant, “Are you not afraid to live in this lonely place?” To this the man at once responded, “oh! no, for faith closes the door at night, and mercy opens it in the morning.” Thus was Noah kept during the long night of the deluge; and mercy opened the door for him.
“Heaven closed its windows, and the deep Restrained its fountains, while the arid winds Swept o’er the floods.”—Bickersteth.
Teachers! Genesis 8:6. Each of God’s saints, writes a model minister, is sent into the world to prove some part of the Divine character. One is sent to live in the valley of ease—having much rest, and hearing sweet birds of promise singing in his ears—to prove the love of God in sweet communings. Another is called to stand where the thunder clouds brew—where the lightnings play, and where the tempestuous winds are howling on the mountain tops—to prove the power and majesty of God to keep from all harm, and preserve amid all peril. Thus:—
“God sends His teachers into every age,
To every clime, and every race of men,
With revelations fitted to their growth.”—Lowell.
Raven! Genesis 8:7.
1. Some have likened this bird to the law, which can tell no tale of comfort—which leaves the soul in the deepest cells of uttermost despair, and which pays no soothing visit.
2. Others have compared this bird with the worldling, to whom the Gospel ark is not a welcome home—who is carried away by the wild desires and raging lusts—who wanders to and fro, and never settles, and who feed upon the putrid remnants of sin, the carrion of loathsome pleasures.
3. Others again have regarded this gloomy bird and its instincts as a type of the old nature in the Christian, for of the impure a remnant still exists in the saintly heart. Thus the raven, finding its food in carrion, figures those inclinations, writes Jukes, which feed of dead things. The ark does not change the raven; so the Cross may restrain, but does not alter impure desires.
Dove! Genesis 8:8. The Mandan Indians have an annual ceremony held round a “big canoe” which is of singular interest. The ceremony is called “the settling of the waters;” and it is held always on the day in which the willow trees of their country come into blossom. The reason why they select this tree is that the bird flew to their ancestors in the “big canoe” when the waters were settling, with a branch of it in its mouth. This bird is the dove, which is held so sacred among them that neither man, woman, nor child would injure it. Indeed, the Mandans declare that even their dogs instinctively respect the dove.
“Sweet dove! the softest, steadiest plume
In all the sunbright sky,
Bright’ning in ever-changeful bloom,
As breezes change on high.”
Olive Tree! Genesis 8:11. This may justly be considered one of the most valuable gifts which the beneficent Creator has bestowed upon the human family—and in its various and important uses, we may discover the true reason why the dove was directed by God to select the olive leaf from the countless variety which bestrewed the shiny tops and declivities of Ararat—as the chosen symbol of returning health and life, vigour and strength, fertility and fruitfulness.
“For in a kindly soil it strikes its root,
And flourisheth, and bringeth forth abundant fruit.”—Southey.
Ark-rest! Genesis 8:8. Noah’s dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, though the raven did. But his foothold—decay and death—would not suit her; so, whirling round and round, at last she returned to the ark. The needle in the compass never stands still, but quivers and trembles and flutters until it comes right against the north. The wise men of the East never found rest until they were right beneath where the star gleamed. So the soul can enjoy no true and fixed repose till it enters into Christ, the true ark; and all its tossings and agitations are but so many wings to carry it hither and thither, that it may find rest. As Augustine says: “Thou, O God, hast created us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Therefore the soul that seeks rest elsewhere,
“Oh! but it walks a weary round,
And follows a sad dance.”—Manson.
Dove-voices! Genesis 8:8. A young man who had been piously brought up, but who had given himself up to every kind of vice and folly, at last joined himself to a company of pirates. A voice—soft and gentle as a mother’s—seemed to be always pleading with him. It was the plaintive, appealing “coo-oo” of the dove. Wherever he went, there he heard the “home-call.” One night, when the crew had landed amid the lovely forest scenery of a West Indian island, he heard the “dove-voices” amid the tropical vegetation. The tender, reproachful murmer seemed to pierce him through his very heart. He fell on his knees in deep contrition of soul; and the same dove who had called him to penitence, called him to peace.
“For back He came from heaven’s gate,
And brought—that Dove so mild—
From the Father in heaven, who hears Him speak,
A blessing for His child.”—Bremer.
Olive Leaf! Genesis 8:11. There is one still for the family of God in the ark of His Church floating on the troublous waters of the world. For ages the weary cry of the people of God, waiting and watching for the final deliverance, has gone up: How long, O Lord? The Dove—the Holy Spirit—bears to us the olive-leaf: I will come again, and receive you to myself. The raven—i.e., human reason—does not bring this emblem of hope;but the Heavenly Comforter—
“Oh! who could bear life’s stormy doom,
Did not Thy Heavenly Dove
Come brightly bearing through the gloom,
A peace-branch from above!”—Moore.
Dove-lessons! Genesis 8:9. Doves have been trained to fly from place to place, carrying letters in a basket, fastened to their necks or feet. They are swift of flight; but our prayers and sighs are swifter, for they take but a moment to pass from earth to heaven, and bear the troubles of our heart to the heart of God. As Gotthold says, these messengers wing their way, and in defiance of all obstacles they report to the Omniscient the affliction of the victim, and bring back to him the Divine consolation. And yet not always at once; for Noah sent his messenger out more than once ere the message of peace and prosperity was brought back. The dove—
“A second time returning to her rest,
Brought in her mouth a tender olive-leaf—
Emblem of peace.”
Olive-Symbol! Genesis 8:11. The celebrated Captain Cook found that green branches—carried in the hands, or stuck in the ground—were the emblems of peace universally employed and understood by the numerous and untutored inhabitants of the South Sea Islands. Turner mentions that one day, when he and others were backing out into deep water to get clear of some shallow coral-patches, and to look for a better passage for their boat, the natives on the shore—thinking they were afraid—ran and broke off branches from the trees, and waved them above their heads in token of peace and friendship. The cruel natives of Melanesia used this as a means of decoying the missionary Bishop Pattison ashore to be murdered. And hence the people of Israel were commanded to construct their booths at the Feast of Tabernacles partly with branches of olive. All the civilized nations of the world were secretly directed by the overruling Providence of Heaven, writes Paxton to bear them in their hands as emblems of peace and amity.
Dove-Symbol! Genesis 8:11. Bishop Lake says that the early fathers observed the allegory which Peter makes in comparing Noah’s ark unto the Church. They considered that as the dove brought the olive branch into the ark, in token that the deluge had ceased, even so the dove, which lighted upon Christ, brought the glad tidings of the Gospel, that other ark—
“Like Noah’s, cast upon the stormy floods,
But sheltering One who gave His life for man.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 8:13-1.8.19
MAN’S GOING FORTH AFTER THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD
I. That he goes forth upon the Divine command. “And God spake unto Noah, saying, go forth of the ark, thou and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee.”
1. That Noah was councilled to go forth from the ark on a day ever to be remembered. “And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth.” Men should always keep the chronology of their moral life, the days of deliverance from unwelcome circumstances should be carefully remembered; this will aid the gratitude of the soul. Every great soul has its calendar of progress. There are some days men can never forget. The day on which Noah came out of the ark would be an immortal memory.
2. That Noah was commanded to go out from the ark when the earth was dry. God never commands a man to leave his refuge or his circumstances under conditions that would render it indiscreet to do so. He waits till all is ready, and at the most fitting moment tells the good man to go forth from his hiding place into the new sphere of activity. Men should not step out of the ark until the earth is dry enough to receive them, and then only at the call of God.
II. That he goes forth in reflective spirit. We can readily imagine that Noah would go forth from the ark in very reflective and somewhat pensive mood.
1. He would think of the multitudes who had been drowned in the great waters. As he stepped out of the ark and his eye only rested on his own little family as the occupants of the earth, his heart would be grieved to think of the multitudes who had been destroyed by the deluge. True he was glad to escape from the close confinement of the ark, but his own joy would be rendered pensive by the devastation everywhere apparent. And when the judgments of God upon the wicked are observed in the earth, it is fitting that men should be thoughtful.
2. He would think of his own immediate conduct of life, and of the future before him. When Noah came forth from the ark, he stood in a world destitute of inhabitants, and equally destitute of seed and harvest. He would have to engage in the work of cultivating the soil and in providing for the needs of the future. He is now entering upon an anxious and laborious life. How few men truly realize that the future of the world depends upon their industry. The once solitary husbandman is now forgotten in the crowd of those who culture the earth.
III. That he goes forth in company with those who have shared his safety.
1. He goes forth in company with the relatives of his own family. “Go forth of the ark, thou and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee.” God permitted the family of Noah to be with him in the ark, to relieve his solitude, to aid his efforts, to show the protective influence of true piety; and now they are to join him in the possession of the regenerated earth, that they may enjoy its safety, and aid its cultivation.
2. He goes forth in company with the life-giving agencies of the universe. “Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth; after their kinds went forth out of the ark.” And thus this motley and miscellaneous crowd came out of the ark to fill creation with its usual life.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
NOAH’S FIRST CONSCIOUSNESS OF SAFETY AFTER THE DELUGE
Genesis 8:13. Now, it is somewhat natural, and it may not be either uninteresting or unprofitable, to speculate concerning Noah’s impression on his first out-look upon “the face of the ground that was dry.”
I. He would, probably, be impressed with the Greatness of the Calamity he had Escaped. The roaring waters had subsided, but they had wrought a terrible desolation, they had reduced the earth to a vast charnel house; every living voice is hushed, and all is silent as the grave. The Patriarch perhaps would feel two things in relation to this calamity.
1. That it was the result of sin.
2. That it was only a faint type of the final judgment.
II. He would probably be impressed with the Efficacy of the Remedial Expedient. How would he admire the ark that had so nobly battled with the billows and so safely weathered the storm?
1. This expedient was Divine. Christianity, the great expedient for saving souls from the deluge of moral evil, is God’s plan. “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh.” Philosophy exhausted itself in the trial.
2. This expedient alone was effective. When the dreadful storm came we may rest assured that every one of that terror-stricken generation would seize some scheme to rescue him from the doom. There is no other name, &c.
3. The expedient was only effective to those who committed themselves to it.
III. He would probably be impressed with the wisdom of his faith in God. He felt now:
1. That it was wiser to believe in the word of God, than to trust to the conclusions of his own reason. He might have reasoned from the mercy of God, and the general experience of mankind, that such an event as the deluge would never have happened; but he trusted in God’s word.
2. That it was wiser to believe in the Word of God, than to trust to the uniformity of nature.
3. That it was wiser to believe in God’s Word, than to trust to the current opinion of his contemporaries. Now, will not the feeling of the good man when he first enters heaven, correspond in some measure with the feelings of Noah on the occasion when he first looked from his ark, saw the face of the “dry ground,” and felt that he was safe? Will there not be a similar impression of the tremendous calamity that has been escaped? Will not the sainted spirit, as it feels itself safe in the celestial state, reflect with ordinary gratitude upon that deluge of sin and suffering from which it has been for ever delivered. (Homilist.)
As the flood commenced on the 17th of the second month of the 600th year of Noah’s life, and ended on the 27th of the second month of the 601st year, it lasted a year and ten days; but whether a solar year of 360 or 365 days, or a lunar year of 352, is doubtful [Keil and Delitzsch].
As times of special mercy are recorded by God; so they should be remembered by the Church.
At His appointed periods God measures out mercy unto his Church.
The patient waiting of the saints would God have recorded as well as his own mercy.
As mercies move God’s Church, so He moveth His saints to remove the vail, and to meet them.
Several periods of time God takes to perfect salvation to His Church.
Genesis 8:14-1.8.17. After their patient waiting God will certainly speak to His saints.
God speaks not doubtfully but certainly to His people in His returns.
God Himself must speak unto the satisfying of His saints in reference to their conduct.
Upon the change of Providence, God speaks change of duty to His saints.
It is at God’s pleasure to ordain or lay aside external means of man’s salvation.
God’s promise is completely good unto His Church for saving.
Propagation, and increase of creatures on earth, is God’s blessing for His Church.
Genesis 8:18-1.8.19. God’s command and saint’s obedience must be found to bring about their comfort.
It becometh saints to make their outgoings and incomings only upon the Word of God.
Providence appoints and maintains order in the moving of His creatures; but especially in His Church.
Admirable is the work of Providence upon brutes to keep them in order.
The motion of the brute is at the Word of God to go in and out for safety.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Deluge! Genesis 8:13. This narrative has encountered countless and incisive criticism. The enemies of truth have gathered about it. They have marshalled all their forces. They have looked from a distance upon its palaces and towers. Sceptical scientists have said: “We will undermine these chapters with adverse criticism on the possibility of such a deluge. We will prove that its foundations are a mere shell—that within is but a bed of quicksand.” Thus have they toiled to shatter Noah’s ark for centuries; but it still remains intact; and though it is not true that the material fabric remains undecayed on the summit of inaccessible Ararat, yet it is gloriously true that the moral structure stands fixed and sure on the towering summit of Divine Truth:—
“Grounded on Ararat, whose lofty peaks,
Soon from the tide emerged.”
Freedom! Genesis 8:17. When the door of the ark was thrown open what a joyous bursting forth there was! The strong eagle spread his wings and soared upward from the place of his long captivity. The lordly tiger, who had crouched in tameness and quiet through those long months, bounded with a sudden roar into thickets among the hills. The beasts of the field and the birds of the air followed—each in its own way. They had entered by two and two—by seven and seven, in order and method; but doubtless they came out in a different manner—swift—eager—delighted.
“Till all the plume-dark air,
And rude resounding shore were one wild cry.”—Anonymous.
How will the bodies of the saints bound from the ark of the grave! How will their spirits spring with inconceivable gladness, when the door is opened, and they are bidden to “enter into the joy of their Lord!”
Spiritual Truth! Genesis 8:13. Gather off your beech-trees in the budding spring days a little brown shell in which lies tender green leafage, and if you will carefully strip it, you will find packed in a compass that might almost go through the eye of a needle the whole of that which afterwards in the sunshine is to spread and grow to the yellow green foliage which delights and freshens the eye. In this mysterious incident of the Deluge are folded up all the future purposes of Jehovah in the destiny of the world—all the fruitful lessons of grace and goodness to be taught to the future generations of the church, and all the figurative symbolism bearing upon the many-sidedness of the great salvation of the Son of God:—
“Ours by His eternal purpose ere the universe had place;
Ours by everlasting covenant, ours by free and royal grace.”
Liberty! Genesis 8:18. Up to this point, Noah was a prisoner of hope—secure, yet still a prisoner. When through grace the sinner has passed the judgment of the first creation, and has felt the tossings cease, and then has seen the hill-tops, and received the olive-leaf from the mouth of the gentle Dove, his freedom is near. Many a conscientious doubt as to rules or times or places is now resolved for us. Then Noah and his sons,
“With living tribes innumerous, beasts and birds,
Forth from the ark came flocking.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 8:20-1.8.22
THE DEVOUT CONDUCT OF A GOOD MAN AFTER A SPECIAL DELIVERANCE FROM EMINENT DANGER
I. That Noah gratefully acknowledged his deliverance as from God. True, Noah had built the ark, and might have taken much credit to himself for so doing. He might have considered this an important element in his preservation from the waters of the deluge. And in contemplation of his own effort he might have lost sight of the Divine providence over him. How many men after a period of especial deliverance from peril, magnify their own forethought, their own skill; they almost entirely forget the aid which heaven has rendered them, and without which they could not have escaped the common doom. Such conduct is most ungrateful, and those who are guilty of it show themselves unworthy of the help they have received. The truly grateful soul will always acknowledge the deliverances of life as from the loving care of God. He only can save men from the deluge occasioned by sin.
II. That Noah devoutly offered to God a Sacrifice in token of his deliverance. Noah built an altar for burnt sacrifice, to thank God for gracious protection and to pray for his mercy to come. This is the first altar mentioned in history. The sons of Adam had built no altar for their offerings, because God was still present on the earth in Paradise, so that they could turn their offerings and hearts toward that abode. But with the flood God had swept Paradise away, withdrawn the place of His presence, and set up His throne in heaven, from which he would henceforth reveal himself to man (Genesis 11:5-1.11.7). In future, therefore, the hearts of the pious had to be turned towards heaven, and their offerings and prayers needed to ascend on high if they were to reach the throne of God.”
1. This sacrifice was the natural outcome of Noah’s gratitude. Noah had been commanded to do everything else connected with his wondrous deliverance; he was commanded to build the ark, and was given the pattern after which he was to construct it; was told who were to occupy it, and when he was to leave it. But no command was issued in reference to the offering of this sacrifice; that was left to the judgment and moral inclination of the patriarch. A truly grateful soul has no need to be told to offer a suitable sacrifice to God upon deliverance from danger.
2. This sacrifice was not precluded by any excuse consequent upon the circumstances of Noah. Noah did not give way to excessive grief at the destruction wrought by the waters, and so delay his devotion till his sorrow was assuaged. He did not excuse himself upon the ground that his resources were scanty, and that therefore he would wait till his wealth was augmented before he would sacrifice to the Lord, and that then he would offer a sacrifice worthy the occasion. Noah offered according to his circumstances and did not allow any duty to take precedence of this. He did not indulge the joy of triumph so as to forget the claims of God upon him. He was a true man, alike in sorrow as in success. He showed himself worthy to be entrusted with the care of the new world.
III. That the sacrifice of Noah was acceptable to God and preventive of further evil to the world.
1. It was fragrant. “And the Lord smelled a sweet savour.” He was propitiated. He had respect to the offering. It was welcome to him as the outcome of a grateful soul, and as emblematical of a sacrifice in the days to come, which would come up before Him as a “sweet smelling savour.”
2. It was preventive of calamity. “And the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done.” The more we sacrifice to God the safer we become in our circumstances of life. Sacrifice is wisdom. If God were to destroy the world on account of the sin of man, it would never exhibit leaf or fruit, it would be seldom free from the angry waters of deluge.
3. It was preservative of the natural agencies of the universe. “While the earth remaineth seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” There is a close connection between the sacrifices of the good and the fruitful springs of the universe. Devotion of soul is allied to the constancy of nature more than we imagine. The world’s Noahs are allied to the world’s seed time and harvest. What sacrifice have we offered to God for our many deliverances through life?
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
NOAH’S OFFERING ON COMING FORTH FROM THE ARK, AND ITS RESULTS
I. The occasion on which this offering was made. It was no ordinary occasion. During the sixteen hundred and fifty years in which the world had existed, there had been no such manifestation of the Divine character as this family had seen.
1. On this occasion how impressively would Noah and his family be reminded of the Divine forbearance which had been displayed to the whole world. There had been since the Fall a gradual unfolding of the scheme of mercy in the institution of sacrifice, the preaching of the patriarchs, and the teaching of the Spirit.
2. With what solemn awe would Noah and his family now view the earth bearing on every part of its surface the marks of recent vengeance. When they entered the ark the earth was smiling with plenty and thickly populated; now all are gone. They are the sole remnant of the human population.
3. With what adoring and grateful feeling would Noah and his family view their own preservation on this occasion. Singled out by Divine mercy, preserved by Divine power, directed by Divine wisdom, they had built the ark in which they had been preserved, while all around was destroyed.
II. In its Nature.
1. An expression of gratitude. It was his first act. He stayed not to build a habitation for himself. His stock was small, yet he took the best of his flock.
2. An acknowledgment of dependence. Noah remembered his recent preservation, and in his offering expressed his confidence that He who had preserved him under such circumstances would still continue to provide for his safety.
3. The offering of Noah was a lively exhibition of his faith in the future atonement as well as an appropriate testimony that his recent preservation was owing to the efficacy of that atonement.
III. In its results.
1. The offering was accepted.
2. The promise which was given.
3. The covenant which was made [Sketches of Sermons by Wesleyan Ministers].
Obedience and sacrifice are sweetly set together by God, and kept together by saints.
The first work due to God’s salvation is the setting up of His worship in truth.
The saints in faith built altars and brought sacrifices to God upon His word.
God would have but one altar at a time in the place which he should choose.
Altar and sacrifice worship is most requisite for sinners to come to God. Therefore Christ is both for propitiation.
1. A believing priest.
2. A sanctified altar.
3. A clean sacrifice.
4. A type of Christ.
The sacrifice which God accepts must ascend and come up to Him, to be available.
The sacrifice which brings peace to man, giveth glory to God.
Genesis 8:22. God pleased in Christ is resolved in heart, and promises to do good unto His people.
The sons of Adam are from birth evil in their principles to high provocations.
Grace in God’s covenant glories over sin and will overcome it.
Sinners may be exempt from one kind of punishment, though not from all.
1. Secured by covenant.
2. While the earth remains.
3. Varied in fertility.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Acceptance! Genesis 8:21. As Abel came with the appointed lamb, and was accepted; so Noah came with his sacrifice, and his service was grateful incense. Both offerings teach that there is a virtue in the death of Christ so precious and so mighty that it has resistless power with God. To use the expressive language of Law, “the curtains of God’s pavilion are here thrown back, and each attribute appears rejoicing in redemption.” The Spirit says that the Lord smelled a sweet savour—that clouds of prevailing odours pierced the skies. Its flame was a light to pious pilgrims in patriarchal times, and after the lapse of centuries it contributes this diamond-radiance to us; when as of old—
“The smoke of sacrifice arose, and God
Smell’d a sweet savour of obedient faith.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent