The flood subsides. — V.1. And God remembered Noah and every living thing and all the cattle that was with him in the ark; and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged. During those long days when the lowlands and finally even the uplands and the mountains sank from sight in the terrible and limitless waste of waters, Noah’s faith may often have been tried sorely as to whether he and his family would survive the general destruction. But God did not forget His servant, and in due time He gave him proof to this effect. He caused a wind to pass over the earth in order to take up the moisture of the universal ocean, and the waters no longer rose, but settled, began to subside. V.2. The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained. God shut up the wells of the great deep and closed the windows of the firmament, so that these sources no longer yielded the limitless masses of water. At the same time the rain was hindered from falling, as it may have done intermittently even after the first forty days of deluge. V.3. And the waters returned from off the earth continually; and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. The waters literally went back from off the earth going and returning, with a steady appreciable settling, becoming definitely less at the end of one hundred and fifty days, this number including both the beginning and the end of the Flood. V.4. And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. The Lord so arranged matters that the ark settled down, came to a rest, on the mountain range of Ararat, in the highlands of Armenia. This was just five months, or one hundred and fifty days, after the Deluge had commenced. In this mountain range the Great Ararat rises to a height of 16,254 feet, while the Lesser Ararat is about 12,000 feet high. This landing place of the ark is of the highest significance for the development of humanity, for Armenia lies in the middle of the old continent and approximately at an equal distance from the extremities of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Just as the first cradle of the human race had been somewhere in this neighborhood, thus this country was once more chosen by God as the starting point for the new human family. V.5. 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. The subsiding of the waters was slow, but steady, until, seventy-three days after the landing of the ark, the summits of the Armenian highlands were visible from Ararat. This was about 223 days after the beginning of the Flood.
The sending of the raven and the dove. — V.6. And it came to pass at the end of forty days that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made; v.7. and he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Forty days after the summits of the highlands had become visible, Noah opened the window of the ark, that is, he took away the screen from the light-opening and let a raven fly out, his intention being to find out whether it were possible for birds to find the necessary food on the earth by this time. But this experiment was not satisfactory, since the raven went forth and returned, probably feeding on the carrion which he found and then returning for his mate, without, however, becoming an inmate of the ark again. V.8. Also he sent forth a dove from him to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; v.9. but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. Then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. For his second attempt at finding out how much the waters had decreased on the earth Noah chose a bird of more domestic habits, a dove. For the dove the bleak cliffs were no acceptable roosting-places; so she returned to the shelter of the ark. Noah concluded from this that the waters were still covering the entire lowlands, so he put forth his hand for the dove to alight upon, thus causing her to return into the ark. V.10. And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; v.11. and the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf, plucked off. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. Noah continued to give evidence of the patience of faith by once more waiting a full week before he sent out another dove. This dove made a wide flight in search of the plains and did not return until the evening. But the token which she brought was a fair sign of deliverance soon to be expected, for in her bill she carried a leaf, or small twig, of an olive-tree, a species which is found only in the lowlands, has green leaves throughout the year, and is able to endure the action of water for a long time. Thus Noah had proof that the waters had fallen to the level of the olive-trees in the valleys. V.12. And he stayed yet other seven days and sent forth the dove, which returned not again unto him any more. The dove, finding both roosting-places and food in abundance, no longer felt the need of returning to the shelter of the ark. The attraction of freedom, under the circumstances, and the new life outweighed the desire to return. The great Flood was a thing of the past.
Noah leaves the ark. — V.13. And it came to pass in the six-hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. V.14. And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried. Almost three hundred days had now elapsed since Noah and his family had entered the ark, and still he exercised patience, waiting for the earth to regain its solidity and the vegetation to come forth. But several weeks later, the waters of the Flood proper having dried up, Noah took off the roof, or covering, of the ark. It was now plain that the waters were no longer flowing back, and that the ground was in process of becoming dry. And still he waited fifty-seven days until the surface of the ground was fully dry and fit for human and animal habitation, the plants having meanwhile had an opportunity to mature for food. V.15. And God spake unto Noah, saying, v.16. Go forth of the ark, thou and thy wife and thy sons and thy sons’ wives with thee. Noah did not leave the ark by his own arbitrary will, but waited patiently until the Lord expressly gave the command, solemnly naming the individuals that were thus delivered after more than a year spent in the ark. V.17. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl and of cattle and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. The animals that had been in the ark with Noah, all the birds and the mammals and the reptiles, were to be the nucleus for, the parent-stock of, a new world of animals. For that reason the Lord even intensified the blessing which He had spoken upon them after their creation, chap. 1, 22 ff. The new generation was to be propagated mightily and grow into very many as soon as possible, for the whole earth was now without living inhabitants with the exception of those saved in the ark. V.18. And Noah went forth and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him; v.19. every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. Noah and his family were obedient, as usual. And as for the animals, down to the smallest reptile that had found shelter in the ark, they were undoubtedly glad to return to the life of freedom which they had enjoyed before the Flood. Thus the Lord, for the sake of Noah, did not fully destroy the earth, but intends to preserve it until He has carried out His work in His Church on earth. Nevertheless, we must not forget that the Deluge is a type and precursor of the last Judgment. When the patience and long-suffering of the Lord will finally have been exhausted, then the day of His wrath will strike the world like a thief in the night.
The promise of God. — V.20. And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. Noah’s first act after leaving the ark of deliverance was an act of worship. He built an altar, a place of slaying the sacrificial victim, and brought a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God. That is a proof of true faith, of true piety, if men wait for the help of the Lord in all patience, even when deliverance seems long in coming, and finally give all praise and thanks to God for the revelation of His goodness in sending help. V.21. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor; 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 everything living as I have done. When Noah made his offering, the Lord smelled the smell of pleasure, of satisfaction, that is, He accepted the prayers and the disposition of mind which was revealed in this sacrifice in mercy. Therefore He said to Himself, to His heart, He thought within Himself, a conclusion which He afterward revealed to Noah, that He would never again bring such a judgment of total destruction upon the earth within the period which He had fixed for its existence; for the earth will not stand forever, will not last throughout eternity. A day is coming when the almighty Lord will bring upon the world His wrath and the fire of His jealousy to consume the corrupt world. Meanwhile it is His mercy and long-suffering that causes Him to abstain from smiting every living thing. For that which the human heart and mind shapes within itself, what it imagines, what it thinks, what it plans, is evil from the earliest days of youth. Since the Fall all men are naturally depraved and corrupted, inclined only to that which is evil. There is only one way of effecting deliverance from this inherited disposition toward everything that is evil, namely, through the obedience and merit of Jesus Christ the Savior. As for the earth: V.22. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease. That is the promise, that is the order of God, who fixes the laws of nature and, according to circumstances, changes or suspends them as He finds best. The human race, but not the great Creator, is dependent upon the order and upon the laws of nature. The consideration of the goodness and of the patience of God, therefore, should be an earnest incentive to us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.