Genesis 8 – The End of the Flood
The greatest catastrophe which ever struck the earth in the history of man is not revealed to us in all the detail which later generations might have wished. We do not read of the thoughts which filled the minds of those who perished, nor do we read concerning the activities of those spared in the ark.
But, we are given the fact of the total destruction and the fact of the safety of those in the ark. By this event all men are warned concerning the awful punishment of sin and the wonderful grace of God which has spared the righteous in the ark.
A Miraculous Ebbing of the Waters
For five months, 150 days, the waters stayed at the level they had attained after the forty days of the deluge. The judgments of God are severe and they are thorough. No flesh could stay alive in all the earth which did not enjoy the safe haven of the ark.
Now, after these five months, we read that God remembered Noah and all those with him in the ark. This, of course, does not mean that He had forgotten about them until this time, but, that He is now about to intervene for their welfare. The flood has attained its purpose. After the first forty days the waters have not increased but neither did they diminish. Now He sends a wind to cause the waters to decrease. No longer did the waters stream down from "the windows of heaven;" no longer did the waters bubble up from "the fountains of the deep."
How a wind blowing over these waters could cause the water to diminish so rapidly has baffled many. Evaporation surely would not make the water level descend so rapidly. However, the speed with which the waters rose at the beginning of the flood was miraculous, and the ebbing of the waters was no less miraculous. A "scientific" explanation of the flood runs stuck because man would then have to conclude that such a body of water would never dry up because the wind would be so laden with moisture that it would replenish the waters on the earth again!
The Raven and the Dove
When five months had passed, the waters began to recede. Seemingly the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat almost immediately because we read that it was exactly five months after the flood began that the ark came to rest. The ark grounded long before any dry land was seen. It came to rest in a region called the "mountains of Ararat." Evidently it came to rest not on a sharp peak but on fairly level ground. The waters decreased very rapidly because the tops of the mountains were visible by the first day of the tenth month.
After another forty days Noah opened the window of the ark. Nothing is mentioned about this window during the construction of the ark. Very likely this window was in the side of the ark near the roof. Now, because he is not able to see out of the ark despite the presence of a window, Noah seeks to find out how far the water has gone down. A raven is allowed to leave the ark. This bird does not return because it is able to feed on the things floating on the water. Although it does not return, it does give Noah a certain amount of information, be it indirect.
To receive more direct information, Noah next sends out a dove. This is not a scavenger like the raven and soon returns to the ark because the conditions it has found are still hostile. Noah puts out his hand and takes her back to him in the ark. Waiting another week he sends the dove out again and this time she is gone for some time and — she comes back with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her mouth! A week later she does not return.
Leaving the Ark
Noah now removes the covering from the ark. Some have thought this to be the roof because nothing is mentioned of another covering earlier. However, the word used denotes a covering of skins and it may well be that such a covering was placed over the roof to make it water proof. This is now removed because it is no longer needed and it only makes the quality of the air worse in the ark. The waters were dried up from the earth the first day of the first month in his 601st year, but it is not till almost two months later that the face of the ground was dried. When the waters were "dried up from off the earth" it was still one gigantic swamp. About two months later the ground was firm.
As Noah waited for the word of the Lord to inform him concerning the time to enter the ark, so he also waits for the divine word to tell him when to leave it. The family of Noah is again mentioned as well as all the classes of creatures which were with him in the ark. They leave the ark in orderly fashion and God bids them be fruitful and multiply on the earth. The words are similar to those spoken by God after He had made all things. Noah steps out of the ark, and his immediate family constitutes the whole population of the earth! The land animals with him in the ark are the only ones left in the world!
The first thing Noah does upon leaving the ark is to bring a sacrifice to his God. Here is this saint of God who has so little revelation but who has experienced such a dramatic salvation, bringing his thanks to his God.
Noah has seen the awful judgment of God which has slain all the people of his time — and only he and his family are saved alive! He has experienced that the word of God does not fail. He has also experienced the love of God. How can he give sufficient thanks to the God Who has spared him so miraculously? Provision had already been made for this expression of thanks by taking seven of all clean creatures into the ark. Noah now takes of these clean beasts and birds and makes a sacrifice. This is also the first time we read of an altar being used in bringing sacrifices. Before the flood the corruptness of man filled the earth and the earth was filled with violence. Now the only expression of man is one of gratitude! Noah is grateful and, no doubt, feels humble before the face of his God. He must also feel the tremendous responsibility which rests upon him as the second father of the human race. How Noah lives and his children will have a tremendous effect on the further history of man.
Jehovah smelled the sweet savor of the sacrifices which Noah brought. This is a typical human way of speaking ascribed to God. By this statement we are assured of the fact that the Lord was pleased with the sacrifices. He was grieved by the wickedness of man before the flood. Now He is greatly pleased by the one remaining man's thankoffering. Man had been created to bring honor and glory to his God. The sin of man had not only obscured his purpose, but had turned it about. Man, made in the divine image, had become a grief to the God in whose image he was made. This has been changed by the judgment of the flood. Now God is again pleased with the crown of His creation, communion is reestablished, and will now again become the recipient of the blessings of his God.
No Such Destruction Again
The sacrifices of Noah have not only pleased God, but He "said in his heart" that He would not again curse the ground anymore for man's sake. Neither will He again smite everything living, as He had done. This is the first promise after the flood and what a promise it is! The fact that He will not again curse the ground for man's sake does not take away the curse He had pronounced on the ground in Genesis 3:17, but refers to the curse as it was expressed in the flood. In the next chapter God speaks more particularly of this curse of the flood and vows that it will not occur again. This does not mean that there will not be catastrophes striking the earth in the time to come, but it will never again be a complete destruction as was found in the flood. This promise does not rule out the total destruction at the last day when Christ returns, but it assures man that such a destruction will not come again as long as time shall last.
Many divergent opinions are found concerning the interpretation of the words: "for that the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." Is this the reason for not visiting the earth with the curse again? Then the reason for not bringing a curse would be the same as the reason for bringing the curse of the flood. This would be a clear contradiction. What is the meaning? God has destroyed the earth because of man's sin. Although man remains a sinner, yet, He will not again destroy the world for that reason. With this interpretation justice is done to the words found in chapter six giving the reason for the flood as well as the words of promise given in this section.
The Seasons to Continue
The concluding words of this chapter are well-known and are quoted frequently. We must be careful with well-known words so that no more meaning is poured into them than the text allows. Fanciful interpretations have been given of these words. What is their intent? God has promised that He would not again destroy the world as He had done with the flood in the days of Noah. Instead, He will cause the earth to continue according to the laws which He had laid down for His creation. "Seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter and day and night shall not cease." The normal course of events will continue even though man, as the caretaker of the earth, is a sinner.
This normal course will continue "while the earth remaineth." Thus, it is, of course, restricted to time. The earth is not eternal! "When time shall be no more," God will call a halt to the normal course of events. In Noah's day the world was destroyed by water; the end of all things shall be by fire. (2 Peter 3:6-7). His mercy spares the world from the days of Noah until the end of time even though man continues to sin. The destruction by fire will be final — time shall be no more.
Questions for Discussion:
- Do you think the flood was over the whole world or only over the inhabited world? Give reasons for your answer.
- Why are we not given more details concerning the attitude of those who perished and the life within the ark?
- How is the ark a type of Christ? Or, isn't it a type?
- Do the various floods and other catastrophes which the world has experienced contradict the promise God made to man after the flood?
- Which are the differences between the flood and the final judgment at the end of time?
- What should the flood teach us concerning our manner of life?