Genesis 8 – Week 9
Genesis 7:17-23 MSG ”The flood continued forty days and the waters rose and lifted the ship high over the Earth. The waters kept rising, the flood deepened on the Earth, the ship floated on the surface. The flood got worse until all the highest mountains were covered—the high-water mark reached twenty feet above the crest of the mountains. Everything died. Anything that moved—dead. Birds, farm animals, wild animals, the entire teeming exuberance of life—dead. And all people—dead. Every living, breathing creature that lived on dry land died; he wiped out the whole works—people and animals, crawling creatures and flying birds, every last one of them, gone. Only Noah and his company on the ship lived.24 The floodwaters took over for 150 days.”
Imagine for a moment what Noah and his family were experiencing on a day-to-day basis during these months. In fact, think about the five senses.
What would they be seeing? Inside of the ark, same walls, same floors. The animals and their filth. If they walked up to the top level and peered out the windows, they would see the watery grave that surrounded them with more than likely horrific sights. They would be seeing each other; the same eight people. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it?
What would they be smelling? Obviously, the animals are the first thought. If you’ve ever been to a petting zoo, you know what I’m talking about. There’s a certain odor that fills the air even before you reach the animals. Normally, petting zoos are all outdoors so the smells, although strong, could not compare to the pungency of all of these animals contained on an enclosed boat. Secondly, Noah’s and his family members’ own hygiene would not have been pleasant, I imagine. They had no access to fresh water to bathe or wash themselves or their clothing. Likewise, the decay and rotting that death brings would have caused a stench in the air outside.
What about tasting? God had told Noah in chapter 6 of Genesis to gather up all the food that they would need and store it onboard. We don’t know what this would have entailed, but I can’t imagine that there was a great variety available to them. Noah would have had no idea how long to prepare for. How long you need to plan for makes a huge difference, doesn’t it? We assume that because Noah walked with God, he would have somehow known when his storage of goods was enough. But still, have you ever tried to enjoy tasting your food when there was a pungent and offensive odor in the air?
Touch. They would have had the different furs, hides, shells, feathers, etc. of the various animals on board. Maybe they marveled at God’s handiwork as they cared for the animals daily. Perhaps Noah and his family would brush their hands against the wooden walls of the ark, feeling the smoothness of the tar or pitch. Maybe they held hands as they prayed to God.
What about hearing? We can imagine that the sounds of the different animals filled the ark with noise on the inside. Outside, once the rain stopped, the waters would have been still. They would have heard the voices of each other as conversations took place. Can you imagine what they talked about during this long period? Maybe they sang praises to God. Maybe they cried out to God. We don’t know for sure. But for more than 150 days, Noah and his family remained in the ark and there is one thing that Scripture doesn’t mention. There is nothing to indicate that Noah heard from God at all during that time. Indulge me for just a moment on this. Noah heard from God 120 years ago to build a boat on dry land in order to prepare for a flood, a concept Noah wouldn’t have understood. But he obeyed. He followed each step. He carefully measured. He diligently listened for God’s instructions and carried them out even though Noah couldn’t visualize, comprehend, or explain any of them. His family went along with it. His daughters-in-law left behind their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and joined Noah, his wife, and his sons on the ark, somehow trusting that Noah had indeed heard from God. And sure enough, the rain begins to fall and waters from underneath the earth rise to create this deluge. Everything that God had said was being fulfilled. But put yourself in their place. After 5 months, when what you see, taste, feel, and smell doesn’t change for the better, aren’t you desperate to hear from God? And when you don’t, do you find yourself growing impatient and ready to act on your own? Because there are times in our lives when we can feel unheard, unseen, unnoticed, and simply forgotten by God.
Genesis 8:1 NKJV “Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark.”
This verse can cause concern to us if we don’t understand the original meaning. It can sound as if God was busy doing something else and then, “Whoopsie daisy! I forgot all about Noah and his family.” Have you ever felt this way in your own life? That somehow, God has forgotten all about you and your circumstances? I can’t help but wonder if Noah and his family were feeling this way. As they watched the grass and land and everything on it sink below the surface of the water. As they looked at their food supply and saw it dwindle day by day. As they watched for signs and listened for God to speak and heard nothing, did they feel abandoned by God? But then God remembered Noah. The original word used for “remembered” was “zakar”. “Zakar does mean “to remember,” but it also means “to bring someone to mind and then act upon that person’s behalf.”[i] So what did God do on Noah’s behalf?
Genesis 2:1a TLB “He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede. 2 The underground waters stopped flowing, and the torrential rains from the sky were stopped.”
God sends a wind to move the waters. That would have been a lot of water to dry up! As I am out walking in my neighborhood, there are a few spots that I know to avoid after heavy rain because the puddle that forms in these lower areas takes longer to dry out than others. We’re talking about an inch or two, at the most, of standing water. I simply walk around the puddles for a couple of days until they’re dry again because I know that’s what happens once the sun comes out and dries it up. I can’t even fathom what Noah and his family were thinking. They’ve experienced rain for the first time and it’s not just a little rain shower, a sprinkle. This has been the greatest catastrophic event ever. And Noah and his family are completely surrounded by water with absolutely no land in sight. They wouldn’t have had the experience to know that water evaporates. They wouldn’t have been able to predict or presume how they would live a life on dry land ever again.
I don’t know if you can relate to this or not, but I can. There are moments in our life that may last a few days, a few weeks, or even a few years in which we may feel as if we are stranded with no rescue in sight. We may be looking at our situation(s) and we have no way of knowing how God is going to take care of things. It may be one major event, or it may be several all happening at the same time. We may be sickened by the foul odor of everything gone wrong. We may be overly discouraged because it’s taking way longer than we expected. We may be disheartened when we see our resources dwindling. We may feel positively abandoned and forgotten.
The first part of 2 Peter 2:9 GNT should offer reassurance. “And so the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials;” God is about to rescue Noah and his family, but not before it’s the right time.
From verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 8, we learn that the Earth was flooded, not only from rain falling down but also from underground waters rising up. In Genesis 7:19 ERV we are told “19 The water rose so much that even the highest mountains were covered by the water. 20 The water continued to rise above the mountains. The water was more than 20 feet above the highest mountain.”
Mt. Everest is often thought to be the highest mountain on Earth. It measures more than 29,000 feet high. To give you perspective on that, it’s about 5 ½ miles high. However, Mt. Everest is not the tallest mountain on Earth when measured from base to peak. There is a volcano located in Hawaii that is named Mauna Kea. Its base is found deep at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and rises more than 33,000 feet, which is nearly 6 ½ miles high.[ii] It’s mind-blowing to think of enough water that it would take to cover the highest mountain plus to go twenty feet above it. There’s a reason it seems incomprehensible.
“The key is to remember that the Flood didn’t have to cover the present Earth, but it did have to cover the pre-Flood Earth, and the Bible teaches that the Flood fully restructured the earth. “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (II Peter 3:6). It is gone forever. The earth of today was radically altered by that global event.”[iii]
Let’s talk scientifically for just a moment. Genesis 2:6 HCSB “But water would come out of the ground and water the entire surface of the land.” I don’t know about you, but I have to water my garden if it doesn’t rain. There is no water coming up out of the ground. There is a theory originated by Dr. Walter Brown in 1980 that some scientists and creationists use to explain the geographical changes that would have taken place because of the flood. It’s called the Hydroplate Theory. In simple terms, the theory is that when Earth was created, “the crust of the Earth was floating on a thick layer of water that existed above the mantle. To stay connected to the mantle, the crust of the planet would have needed walls, or “tendrils,” which have created pockets of water while also allowing the planet to continue rotating much as it does today.”[iv]
The theory is that at the time of the flood, God caused these walls or tendrils to collapse and, as a result, the crust of the Earth would have split into several places. The plates would have shifted, causing some to buckle under the pressure of the water. Some of the plates would have shifted downward while others would have shifted upward. This would have created the deep depths of the ocean and the high mountain ranges that we know today. It just so happens that the mid-oceanic ridge offers a physical bit of evidence for this theory. “The mid-ocean ridge is the most extensive chain of mountains on Earth, stretching nearly 65,000 kilometers (40,390 miles) and with more than 90 percent of the mountain range lying in the deep ocean.”[v] This ridge “wraps around the globe like seams on a baseball”.[vi]
As God begins the rescue process, the waters begin to recede. And as the waters begin to recede, what is revealed from beneath the ark would have been unrecognizable to Noah and his family. While Noah and his family would have been drifting, surrounded by water as far as the eye could see, they would have had no idea of the majestic and beautiful results that were taking place underneath. As the water dried and as the water began to fill these new deep basins that we call oceans, brand new sightings above sea level would have also been uncovered.
But as the rescue progress begins, it doesn’t happen quickly. It doesn’t happen immediately or even overnight. In fact, Genesis 8:3 ERV reads “The water that covered the earth began to go down. After 150 days the water was low enough that the boat touched land again. The boat stopped on one of the mountains of Ararat. This was the 17th day of the seventh month. 5 The water continued to go down, and by the first day of the tenth month, the tops of the mountains were above the water.”
“Creation geologists believe the flood would have produced exactly the kind of geological features that we see all over the earth, as, for example, are beautifully displayed in the walls of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. These Bible-believing geologists think that most (not all) of the fossil-bearing sedimentary rock layers are the result of the flood.”[vii]
What Noah and his family probably didn’t realize was that God was busy. Even though they may not have heard God, He was there. Even though they may have waited for instructions that didn’t come, God was there. Even though they may have felt forgotten and abandoned, God was there and God was acting on their behalf.
For us, sometimes God is working underneath the surface of our hardships. We may not hear Him, we may grow impatient waiting for His direction, or we may even feel abandoned and forgotten, but rest assured, God is there. It may take some time, but as the difficulties in our life begin to dry up, we are finally able to see the beauty He had been working on without us even realizing it. And we must admit that without the weight and heaviness of whatever our trial was, the majestic result may have never been formed.
Romans 5:3-5 NLT “3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
As the water level continues to diminish, Noah sends out a raven. Ravens are considered to be unclean. Leviticus 11 tells us that any kind of raven is considered unclean. Ravens are thought to symbolize death, misfortune, and bad omen; some consider them to be evil. They feed on dead carcasses. Scripture only tells us that Noah sent out a raven. There is no reason given. Genesis 8:7 NKJV “7 Then he sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth.” The raven, will not find a resting place, but also will not return to the ark. Instead, the unclean, death-desiring raven will just continue to go “to and fro”. Interestingly, in Job 1:7 NRSV, we read, The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
Noah then releases a dove and verse 8 of Genesis 8 tells us the purpose in doing this. Genesis 8:8 NKJV “He also sent out from himself a dove, to see if the waters had receded from the face of the ground.” Doves, in contrast to ravens, are considered clean. Matthew 10:16 uses the words innocent, pure, harmless, and gentle to describe doves. Doves are thought to symbolize “peace, forgiveness, and harmony, as depicted in Christianity”.[viii] Noah uses the dove as a messenger to gather information because, although the waters are receding and things are changing, Noah still hasn’t heard God speak just yet. Just as the Holy Spirit used a dove to be present at the baptism of Jesus, Noah used a dove to seek out God’s presence in the vast unknown that surrounded him.
The dove returns, having found no place to set its feet. Noah gently welcomes the dove back into the ark. After seven days, Noah sends her out again, and this time, when she returns, she carries in her beak an olive leaf.
The olive tree or an olive branch is thought to represent peace, reconciliation, and a new beginning. We’ve all heard the term “extending an olive branch” which means to bring about harmony where there is discord, reuniting where there is separation, and, as a result, a new beginning to a relationship. This was God’s way of communicating with Noah that the relationship between Himself and mankind (which was comprised of Noah and his family) had been reconciled. A week later, Noah sends the dove out again, and this time, she doesn’t return. How long do you think Noah watched the sky waiting for her to come back?
Genesis 8:13 GNT “13 When Noah was 601 years old, on the first day of the first month, the water was gone. Noah removed the covering of the boat, looked around, and saw that the ground was getting dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.”
Warren W. Wiersbe points out, “Noah saw that the ground indeed was dry, but he didn’t make a move out of the ark until the Lord told him to leave. Twenty-six days later, that order came and he obeyed it.”[ix]
Genesis 8: 15 GNT “God said to Noah, 16 “Go out of the boat with your wife, your sons, and their wives. 17 Take all the birds and animals out with you, so that they may reproduce and spread over all the earth.” 18 So Noah went out of the boat with his wife, his sons, and their wives. 19 All the animals and birds went out of the boat in groups of their own kind.”
In verse 15, God speaks and Noah hears. How precious that sound must have been!
Psalm 119:103 ERV tells us “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Noah tasted. How sweet those words would have been to Noah!
Noah leaves the boat with his family and he sees the animals depart as well. Noah sees. How satisfied he must have felt!
Genesis 8:20 GNT “20 Noah built an altar to the Lord; he took one of each kind of ritually clean animal and bird, and burned them whole as a sacrifice on the altar.”
With no prompting, no instruction from God, Noah reaches out, and with his hands, he builds an altar to the Lord. Noah touches. How thankful Noah must have been!
Genesis 8:21 GNT “21 The odor of the sacrifice pleased the Lord,” Not only does Noah smell the sacrifice, but so does God and it pleases Him.
Now imagine, through the five senses, what Noah is now experiencing. What a difference! Because of the time Noah spent on the ark, tossed about in a literal sea of unknowns, uncertain of how things would end, all the while clinging to his faith in God that He would remember Noah and act on his behalf, Noah’s senses would have been heightened because of his worshipful thankfulness to God.
The ark is quite symbolic of our salvation. We are saved from certain death because we have been sealed by God. That doesn’t mean that the ride in the ark is easy. It doesn’t mean that we won’t face scary uncertainties. It certainly doesn’t guarantee that our surroundings and circumstances will be pleasant. It doesn’t guarantee that trials won’t be long and continue on far longer than we expect. But it also doesn’t eliminate the very real possibility that at the base of our ark, God is carving out, shifting walls, and removing barriers to create something so much more incredible than we can possibly imagine.
God did it for Noah. A man who worked for God, a man who worshipped God, a man who waited on God, and a man who walked with God. Do you work for God? Do you worship Him? Are you patient and wait on Him? If you do all of these things, then chances are, you also walk with God, and likewise, God walks with you!
[ix] Be Basic by Warren W. Wiersbe