Genesis 8:1 – 9:17
But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen. [i]
The rise of the Genesis flood was a divine act of de-creation. At creation, God had made an expanse that he called “sky” to separate the watery chaos into waters above the sky and under the sky (cf. 1: 6, 8). But the flood was a reversal of creation when “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (7: 11). The earth again became the wild watery chaos it was before God spoke earthly order into existence. The flood, however, is not the main point of Moses’ story. Sin and judgment are not the main point of the story. The main point of the story is the salvation God graciously gives to those who trust into the Promised Seed.[ii] So St Author of Hebrews explained when he wrote that Noah became an heir of righteousness that comes by faith (Heb. 11:7b).
Noah believed God, and righteousness was imputed to him. He is the first man in the Bible to be described as righteous: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless . . .” (6: 9; cf. 7: 1). And his faith and righteousness produced obedience in him. Four times the account gives variations of the declaration that “Noah . . . did all that God commanded him” (6: 22; cf. 7: 5, 9, 16). So, we saw that the person God saves is the one who believes the bare word of God. And that trust changes a person’s affections. “Whenever we read this story, we must see above the churning drama the arching faith and obedience of one man. Noah was the only figure of his time to experience the grace of God.”[iii]
As we saw last week, the flood story divides into perfect halves of de-creation and then re-creation, with the second half providing a mirror image of the first half, but in reverse order. The symmetries in this re-creation half of the account not only mirrors the events of the first half but also presents a mirror-image repetition in the use of the numbers of days. Moses’ attention to detail is amazingly artful. Also, this re-creation half of the account not only mirrors the de-creation of the flood’s rise but parallels the events of creation in Genesis 1— the re-creation parallels the original creation! The implication for us readers is that Moses’ artistry means that bedrock theology and primary directives for living are here for us, if we will pay attention.[iv]
Last week, we left the Family Noah safely adrift in a giant floating coffin rolling and bobbing over the churning waters of God’s judgment upon the demonized earth. Every human outside Noah’s ark-kingdom drowned shaking their fists and cursing God as the waters rose above even the highest peaks in God’s divine act of de-creation. How many of Noah’s neighbors were pounding on the ark’s door and begging for help? How long did the Family Noah hear the terrified screams of humans and animals alike? Certainly, they heard the thunder booming and the water rushing as the earth’s deep springs split open and gushed out.
FAITHFULNESS AND SILENCE (8:1-20)
But Moses tells us there was one thing Noah did not hear during his 300 days in the ark: the voice of God. He had been a man of faith, “blameless among the people of his time” (Gen. 6:9). But he was also human, and adrift on the sea. Imagine the emotional toll of drifting in a large ship—not merely overnight, but night after night, month after month, for five months—with no destination in sight. Noah must have wondered whether God had forgotten him, his family, and the animals as they floated like insignificant bits of refuse on the great tide.[v] Imagine the spiritual struggle of having heard the screams of the damned while knowing that he himself, and all his family, were sinners just like the rest of his generation. Why should they be spared? Would not a man who walked so closely with God not believe himself to be the “chief of sinners”?[vi] Wouldn’t the entire family struggle with survivors’ guilt? And yet, God was silent.
Maybe you have been in situations where you felt God has forgotten you. You believe you’re alone in your struggles against dire situations. Are you feeling abandoned this morning? Does God seem to have forgotten you? The turning point of the flood story comes right up front for us this morning: God remembers. But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. [vii]
God’s “remembering” is more than mere recollection that there was some guy named Noah floating around the world with his family and a lot of smelly animals in need of constant care and feeding. When God “remembers,” he acts. From Noah’s viewpoint, God is “remembering” his promises to Noah. From God’s perspective, he has never forgotten his plan or slipped up on his timing. When God is said to “remember” in Moses’ writings, it means God takes a direct action on someone’s behalf. When God remembered Abraham, he saved Lot (19: 29). When he remembered Rachel, she conceived. For God to “remember” means he moves toward someone to fulfill his previous promises.
Now, God acts to begin the process of re-creating earth. “And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated….”[viii] The Hebrew word for “wind” is the same word used for “spirit.” So, the wind blowing over the waters to begin the restoration of order to the earth is an echo of the Spirit of God that hovered over the waters of chaos in Genesis 1. Moses tells us the waters began to recede after 150 days.
When God remembered Noah, the earth had been flooded for five months. Noah had been locked in with his wife, his three sons and their wives, and a complete collection of birds, bugs, and animals. Five months of mucking out stables. Five months of bilge water. Five months of daughters-in-law stuck with their mother-in-law. Five months of seasickness. Five months of unrelenting humidity. And, five months of God’s silence. But the wait was not over simply because God sent the wind.
The Family Noah had another 150 days of receding waters to wait out – another 150 days of God’s silence even though his promise of re-creation was being fulfilled. “4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.” [ix] Somewhere in the mountains of modern-day Armenia, “now part of eastern Turkey, southern Russia, and northwestern Iran. The reference is too imprecise to specify the mountains,”[x] The ark came to rest (“rest” being a word play on Noah’s name) and the Family Noah had to wait another 60+ days for the land to dry out.
Versus 6 through 12 focus on Noah’s patience as he waited for God to deliver them from the increasing monotony. He sent out a Raven which did not return. The Raven was an unclean animal (Lev. 1:14; 12:6), able to remain aloft for long periods of time and to eat carrion. Then, Noah send out a dove (an animal fit for sacrifice) on 3 trips, waiting 7 days between each trip for a total of 54 days as the dove returned twice, the second time with an olive branch signaling that the ground was now producing vegetation. One its final voyage, the dove did not return, confirming that the earth was habitable for seed-eating birds.
Noah pressed on in his trust of God, waiting for the Lord to speak. But he Was not waiting for God to act. God acted in sending the wind. God acted in shutting up the Springs of the deep and causing the waters to recede. God acted in finding a home for the raven and the dove. God was not showing up dramatically, but he was acting faithfully toward the family Noah and his creation. The story continues in verses 13-14, “13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out.”[xi]
Now, the Lord broke his silence. He spoke in the epic style of repetition. “15 Then God said to Noah, 16 ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’ 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.”[xii] The repetition is Moses’ way of slowing down the action to portray a wide screen shot of Noah as a kind of second Adam, stepping out of the ark-kingdom into a fresh new world as the birds fly overhead and the animals lumber out and the creepy-crawlies skitter and slither away.[xiii]
Moses shows us Noah’s first thought was toward God. Exhausted as he must have been from spending a year in the ark, Noah gathered stones and built an altar. “20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”[xiv] The burnt offering is both an atonement sacrifice for sin and an act of thankful worship.[xv] Noah’s faithfulness after so many months of darkness is amazing. It reminds us of the prophet Habakkuk who, looking into the miserable judgment awaiting God’s people, sang this:
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, /nor fruit be on the vines, /the produce of the olive fail /and the fields yield no food, /the flock be cut off from the fold /and there be no herd in the stalls, /18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; /I will take joy in the God of my salvation. [xvi]
Many preachers would pause to make this “practical” point: “Noah was amazingly faithful. So, let’s all go out and be like Noah.” But less appealing as it may be to our human pride, the better point is the deeper one. God is faithful to his promises. God’s promise to bring the Seed to crush the serpent’s head is what kept Noah faithful through the darkness of the flood. Noah is faithful because God has kept Noah faithful. Meditate on Christ, the Promised Seed’s faithfulness in your own darkness. He allowed himself to be nailed to a cross. With all of hell coming down upon him, with all of humanity either betraying or mocking him, he accomplished his mission with all faithfulness so that you could be at peace with God. How then will God not give you all the faithfulness you need in your hours of deepest darkness? Noah had a glimpse of that as he burnt offerings upon an altar. As those animals were incinerated to ashes, Noah was saying, “All my life is yours— everything! I have no hope apart from you.”
GOD’S PROMISE (8:21-9:17)
At this point the story changes from God’s faithfulness through Noah to God’s faithfulness to all humanity. God makes a gracious promise (a covenant) to Noah as the second Adam – the representative head of all humanity to come. “21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” [xvii]
Noah’s offering turned aside God’s wrath against sin. Theologians call this propitiation. Noah was not under God’s wrath. He had already been saved through his God-given trust into the Promised Seed. So, Noah’s offering propitiated God’s wrath against sinful mankind generally. Why? Because the sacrifice was a type, a picture, that looked forward to the cross work of Christ the Promised Seed. This is what John meant when he preached to the church in Ephesus, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”[xviii]
Human beings, including the Family Noah, are all infected with the condition of sin. As long as the world, the flesh, and the devil remain, we will all gravitate toward ourselves and our own wants and demands. But for the sake of Jesus Christ the righteous, God chooses to postpone the full measure of his wrath against sin. He allows the weeds to grow freely among the wheat until his final harvest when the weeds will be gathered and burned. This is his covenant promise to Noah and the world: for the sake of the Righteous One he will not destroy humanity because he is creating a redeemed people for his glory.
To continue the line of the Promised Seed and all those blessed in Him, God pronounces the blessing of procreation upon Noah (1:22-25, 28-30) as he originally did upon Noah. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”[xix] Due to the sinful condition of humanity, God adds some qualifications. While perfect Adam enjoyed a perfect relationship with the animals, God will protect them by making them naturally fearful of sinful humans. But humans may again use them for food (something the Noah’s weren’t able to do while preserving species on the ark). But they must respect the fact that the animal realm’s life (blood) ultimately belongs to their Creator God. Disregard for created life is an affront to the Creator. Since man is God’s highest creation and image bearer, no sin is greater than destroying a human life.
In light of the wanton destruction of life under the demonized pre-flood heroes, God now institutes capital punishment because no sin shows a greater contempt for the Creator than willful homicide. In effect, God’s instruction is: “How much more so shall I require a reckoning for the blood of a man in this instance, seeing that the slain person is the brother of the slayer.” There is a double entendre here, because “from his brother” (fellow man, ESV) echoes the first human murder, when Cain murdered his brother.[xx]
To reinforce the severity of the crime, Moses turns it into a song: 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, /by man shall his blood be shed, /for God made man in his own image.” [xxi] Having given his commands about respecting life, the Lord closed this section of his speech to Noah with the same words with which he began: “And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it” (v. 7). Respect life and multiply! Repeating the same ideas at the beginning and the end is Moses’ way of sectioning off this portion of the story and emphasizing the importance of God’s commands.
Moses then repeats God’s promise of common goodness to all creation in greater detail. “9 Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” [xxii] God’s promise to preserve the fundamental ecological cycles of earth (8:21, 22; 9:11, 15), and to preserve man’s cultural order through judicial punishments (9:1–7), is now formalized as a covenant. God then put his seal to his contract with a sign (9:12–17).[xxiii]
God’s covenant is universal, unilateral, and unconditional. It’s universal because it pertains to all creation (animal, vegetable, and mineral). It’s unilateral because it is made by God alone, not Noah + God. Only God alone promises to remember (15). It is unconditional because no human can alter God’s promise in any way. “The covenant is the self-motivated promise of an unconditional mercy throughout human history.”[xxiv]
The only thing the Noahic Covenant lacks is redemption. God is not promising salvation from wrath, only preservation until such time as he is ready to deliver the full measure of his wrath in the great day of the Lord. Beautifully, God called the rainbow simply “my bow.” And twice Scripture associates a rainbow with God’s glory, once to speak of his brightness (Ezekiel 1: 28) and once to describe the light around his throne (Revelation 4: 3). There was no suggestion that the bow was a new phenomenon. Rather, it was divinely owned as a sign for future generations.[xxv]
“The rainbow in the clouds (v. 13) pictures God’s battle-bow, used in the flood-storm to shoot his shafts of wrath on the earth, now suspended in a condition of peace, a sign that the divine warrior is governing rebellious mankind with forbearance for a season.”[xxvi] God has hung up his war bow. And, it points upward to the heavens – not sideways into the emptiness of space; not downwards toward the earth he has promised not to destroy; but upwards at himself. It serves as a hint for his covenant of salvation he will make with Abraham and all the nations through him.
In that covenant, God confirms Abraham will continue the line of the promised seed by fathering Isaac. It too is a unilateral and unconditional covenant. God makes it. All Abram has to do is trust it. And that trust itself is a gift from God to Abram. But the Abrahamic covenant contains a covenant curse as well. God has Abraham carve sacrificial animals in half. Then, God alone walks in between the carcasses as his promise that he will endure death if the covenant is broken. This is a redemptive covenant pointing forward to the New Covenant, God’s promise to deal with sin by means of his Promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ who came to destroy the works of the devil.
God’s war bow was pointed toward Messiah Jesus who drank to the dregs the full measure of God’s wrath for all those who will trust into his perfectly lived life and sacrificial death. Jesus propitiated God’s wrath against sin. Christ, the Greater Noah, the Last Adam, saves his people from the waters of death by his perfect obedience and atoning sacrifice.
Finally, a note to you who feel alone and abandoned this morning. How can you know you’re not abandoned or alone as you struggle through your storms? Don’t meditate on your storm or your ideas for its remedy. Meditate on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. He proves the love of God:
In this is the love, not that we have been loving God but that he himself loved us and sent his Son as propitiation for our sins.[xxvii]
[i] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 8:1–5.
[ii] Hughes, 141. Crossway. Kindle Edition.
[iv] Id., 142. Kindle Edition.
[v] Boice, 368–369.
[vi] Robert S. Candlish, Studies in Genesis (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1979), 135–36. Original edition 1868.[vi]
[vii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 8:1.
[viii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 8:1–3.
[ix] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 8:4–5.
[x] Waltke and Fredricks, 141.
[xi] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 8:13–14.
[xii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 8:15–19.
[xiii] Hughes, 144. Kindle Edition.
[xiv] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 8:20.
[xv] Waltke and Fredricks, 142.
[xvi] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Hab 3:17–18.
[xvii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 8:21–22.
[xviii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 2:1–2.
[xix] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 9:1.
[xx] Hughes, 146.
[xxi] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 9:6.
[xxii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 9:9–11.
[xxiii] Kline, 42.
[xxiv] Hughes, 147. Kindle Edition
[xxv] Id., 147-148.
[xxvi] Kline, 42.
[xxvii] 1 Jn 4:10. Trans. mine.