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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 7

 

 

Verses 1-5

Genesis 7:1-5. From J, but touched by the redactor in Genesis 7:3 a. J's account of the command to build the ark and its fulfilment has been omitted in favour of P's. J recognises the distinction between clean and unclean, which P regards as introduced by Moses; the same is true of the sacrificial system. A week is allowed for bringing in the animals. Whether seven or seven pairs of the clean animals were taken in is disputed; probably the latter. Unless Genesis 7:3 a is struck out as a gloss, we must follow the LXX, which gives the same directions for birds as Genesis 7:2 gives for animals.


Verses 1-24

Genesis 6:5 to Genesis 9:17. The Flood.—This section has been very skilfully composed from both J and P. There are numerous repetitions: Genesis 6:5-8 and Genesis 6:12 f.; Genesis 7:7-9 and Genesis 7:13-16; Genesis 7:11 and Genesis 7:12; Genesis 7:17 and Genesis 7:18 f.; Genesis 7:21 and Genesis 7:23; Genesis 8:2 a and Genesis 8:2 b. There are also differences of representation. According to Genesis 6:19 f., Genesis 7:15 f., the animals go in by pairs; according to Genesis 7:2 f. the clean go in by sevens (or seven pairs), the unclean by pairs. In Genesis 7:11 the Flood is caused by the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep and the opening of the windows of heaven, in Genesis 7:12 by a long-continued rain. According to Genesis 7:12 the rain continued forty days, according to Genesis 7:24 the waters prevailed 150 days. There are also phraseological and stylistic differences, those characteristic of P being specially prominent. The analysis into two sources has been effected with almost complete unanimity. To P belong Genesis 6:9-22, Genesis 7:6; Genesis 7:11, Genesis 7:13-16 a, Genesis 7:17 a (except "forty days"), Genesis 7:18-21, Genesis 7:24, Genesis 8:1-2 a, Genesis 8:3 b- Genesis 8:5, Genesis 8:13 a, Genesis 8:14-19, Genesis 9:1-17. To J belong Genesis 6:5-8, Genesis 7:1-5, Genesis 7:7-10; Genesis 7:12; Genesis 7:16 b, Genesis 7:22 f., Genesis 8:2 b - Genesis 8:3 a, Genesis 8:6-13 b, Genesis 8:20-22. In both cases some slight elements are due to the redactor. When the analysis has been effected, two all but complete stories appear, bearing the marks of P and J.

Difficult questions are raised as to the relation in which these stories stand to other Deluge narratives. A very large number exists, and of these many are independent. It is still debated whether the legends go back to the primitive period of history before the dispersion; this is not probable, for the date would be so early that oral tradition would hardly have preserved it. Presumably many were local in their origin, for such catastrophes on a small scale must have been numerous, and some of the stories may have been coloured and enriched by contamination with others. These parallels, however, must be neglected here, except the Babylonian accounts. Two of these are known to us, and fragments of a third have been recently discovered. The two former tell substantially the same story, though with considerable differences in detail. One is preserved in the extracts from Berossus given by Alexander Polyhistor. The other was discovered by George Smith in 1872. It comes in the eleventh canto of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It describes how the god Ea saved Utnapistim by commanding him to build a ship and take into it the seed of life of every kind. He built and stored it, and when the rain began to fall entered the ship and closed the door. A vivid description is given of the storm, and the terror it inspired in the gods. On the seventh day he opened the ship, which settled on Mount Nizir. After seven days he sent out a dove, and then a swallow, both of which returned; then a raven, which did not return. Then the ship was left and he offered sacrifice, to which the gods came hungrily. Bel's anger at the escape was appeased by Ea on the ground that the punishment had been indiscriminate, and the hero with his wife was granted immortality. The coincidences with the Biblical account are so close that they can be explained only by dependence of the Biblical on the Babylonian story, though not necessarily on the form known to us. Probably the Hebrews received it through the Canaanites, and it passed through a process of purification, in which the offensive elements were removed. The Hebrew story is immeasurably higher in tone than the Babylonian. In the latter Bel in his anger destroys good and evil alike, and is enraged to discover that any have escaped the Flood. The gods cower under the storm like dogs in a kennel; and when the sacrifice is offered, smell the sweet savour and gather like flies over the sacrificer. In the Biblical story the punishment is represented as strictly deserved by all who perish, and the only righteous man and his family are preserved, not by the friendly help of another deity, but by the direct action of Him who sends the Flood.

The question as to the historical character of the narrative still remains. The terms seem to require a universal deluge, for all flesh on the earth was destroyed (Genesis 6:17, Genesis 7:4, Genesis 7:21-23), and "all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered" (Genesis 7:19 f.). But this would involve a depth of water all over the world not far short of 30,000 ft., and that sufficient water was available at the time is most improbable. The ark could not have contained more than a very small proportion of the animal life on the globe, to say nothing of the food needed for them, nor could eight people have attended to their wants, nor apart from a constant miracle could the very different conditions they required in order to live at all have been supplied. Nor without such a miracle, could they have come from lands so remote. Moreover, the present distribution of animals would on this view be unaccountable. If all the species were present at a single centre at a time so comparatively near as less than five thousand years ago, we should have expected far greater uniformity between different parts of the world than now exists. The difficulty of coming applies equally to return. Nor if the human race took a new beginning from three brothers and their three wives (Genesis 7:13, Genesis 9:19) could we account for the origin, within the very brief period which is all that our knowledge of antiquity permits, of so many different races, for the development of languages with a long history behind them, or for the founding of states and rise of advanced civilisations. And this quite understates the difficulty, for archology shows a continuous development of such civilisations from a time far earlier than the earliest to which the Flood can be assigned. A partial Deluge is not consistent with the Biblical representation (see above). And an inundation which took seventy-three days to sink from the day when the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat till the tops of the mountains became visible (Genesis 8:4 f.) implies a depth of water which would involve a universal deluge. The story, therefore, cannot be accepted as historical; but it may and probably does rest on the recollection of an actual deluge, perhaps produced by a combination of the inundation normally caused by the overflow of the Tigris and Euphrates with earthquake and flooding from the Persian Gulf.


Verses 6-14

Genesis 7:6-24. In this paragraph the dating assigns Genesis 7:6; Genesis 7:11; Genesis 7:24 to P to the same document Genesis 7:13-16 a, Genesis 7:18-21 are assigned by stylistic considerations, Genesis 7:17 a is a link, but "forty days" has been borrowed from J by the editor. J's narrative has been dovetailed very skilfully into P's, and has been expanded by glosses. Its original order was probably Genesis 7:10; Genesis 7:7; Genesis 7:16 b, Genesis 7:12, Genesis 7:17 b, Genesis 7:22 f. But Genesis 7:7 and Genesis 7:23 have received editorial additions in the style of P. Genesis 7:8 f. is from P because his account of the entrance into the ark is found in Genesis 7:13-16, and because of the distinction between clean and unclean. But several features cannot come from J, accordingly the redactor's hand must be recognised. Since, however, he is not likely to have written a doublet to Genesis 7:13-16, he may be working on J's text. According to P all the animals went into the ark in one day, and that the day on which the Flood came. And whereas J finds a sufficient cause in a forty days' rain, P traces it to a bursting up of the waters from the subterranean abyss and a simultaneous opening of the windows of heaven so that the waters of the heavenly ocean streamed through. Thus the work of dividing the waters effected on the second day (Genesis 1:6-8 *) was partially undone, not completely, for it is clear from Genesis 8:2 that neither source was exhausted.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 7:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/genesis-7.html. 1919.

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