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GENESIS 8:1-22

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Flood Subsides Noah's Deliverance The Great Flood The End of the Flood The Flood Subsides
    (6:5-8:22)    
8:1-5 8:1-5 8:1-5 8:1-5 8:1-5
8:6-12 8:6-12 8:6-12 8:6-12 8:6-12
8:13-19 8:13-14 8:13-19 8:13-14 8:13
        8:14
        They Disembark
  8:15-19   8:15-19 8:15-19
  God's Covenant with Creation   Noah Offers Sacrifice  
  (8:20-9:17)      
8:20-22
(22)
8:20-22
(22)
8:20-22
(22)
8:20-22
(22)
8:20-22
(22)

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. There is an obvious parallel between Genesis 1:2,6-13 and Genesis 7, in that watery chaos returns.

 

B. There is an obvious parallel between Gen. 1 and Gen. 8 in God restoring a life-sustaining land

1. compare Gen. 1:2 with 8:1

2. compare Gen. 1:6-7 with 8:2

3. compare Gen. 1:22,24 with 8:17

4. compare Gen. 1:28 with 9:1-2

 

C. Genesis 8:1-19 is a reversal of Gen. 7:11-24. This is surely literary structuring.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GENESIS 8:1-5
  1
But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided. 2Also the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky was restrained; 3and the water receded steadily from the earth, and at the end of one hundred and fifty days the water decreased. 4In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. 5The water decreased steadily until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.

8:1-5 Notice how the repetitious literary pattern highlights the dropping wter level.

  1. the water subsided, Gen. 8:1
  2. the water receded steadily from the earth, Gen. 8:3
  3. the water decreased, Gen. 8:3
  4. the water decreased steadily, Gen. 8:5

You can almost feel the water level drop bit by bit. The waters of chaos are being pushed back into their boundaries.

  1. waters above the vault
  2. waters around the dry land (i.e., the deep)

Also notice that YHWH often uses a gradual natural activity. He could have done it instantly but He did it progressively, as He did in Genesis 1.  God used natural means (not exclusively but often) to accomplish His will (Egyptian plagues, quails of the exodus, strong wind dried bottom of the Red Sea, landslide at Adam stopped the Jordan River for Israel's crossing, etc). Usually these events use natural

  1. timing
  2. intensity
  3. locality

God is sovereign but He created the physical realm and then used it for His purposes.

8:1 "God" This is the term Elohim. See notes at Gen. 1:1,

Special Topic: Names for Deity, C.

▣ "remembered" This term (BDB 269, KB 269, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) is used in the sense of God taking appropriate and personal action towards someone (cf. Gen. 8:1; 9:15,16; 19:29; 30:22). The covenant God is about to act again because of who He is and what He wants. Noah will be the beginning of a new humanity.

▣ "Noah" This name (BDB 629) may mean "rest," a popular etymology based on sound, not philology. See full note on "rest" at Gen. 2:2.

▣ "God caused a wind" The VERB (BDB 716, KB 778) is a Hiphal IMPERFECT. God used a natural means in an accelerated way to dry up the flood waters, Gen. 8:1b, as He did in the Exodus (cf. Exod. 14:21).

It is also possible to see God's acts in Gen. 8-9 as paralleling God's Spirit's acts in Genesis 1. This is a new beginning for mankind. If so, the wind here parallels "the Spirit hovered" of Gen. 1:2.

Special Topic: Waters

▣ "subsided" This rare term (BDB 1013, KB 1491, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) is used for the abating of the king's anger in Esther 2:1. The water here is an expression of God's anger over mankind's evil (cf. Gen. 6:5,11,12,13).

8:2 "the floodgates of the sky" See Special Topic: The Windows of Heaven

8:4 "the mountains of Ararat" This has been explained in three ways:

  1. a mountain on the Turkey/Russian border
  2. a mountain to the north of Mesopotamia near Lake Van
  3. the term itself refers to a whole mountain range (Assyrian urartu, BDB 76), not specifically a peak (notice the PLURAL "mountains")

8:5  "month" See Special Topic: ANE Calendars

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GENESIS 8:6-12
  6
Then it came about at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made; 7and he sent out a raven, and it flew here and there until the water was dried up from the earth. 8Then he sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the land; 9but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the ark, for the water was on the surface of all the earth. Then he put out his hand and took her, and brought her into the ark to himself. 10So he waited yet another seven days; and again he sent out the dove from the ark. 11The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth. 12Then he waited yet another seven days, and sent out the dove; but she did not return to him again.

8:6 "forty days" This phrase usually means "a long, indefinite period of time." However, in this context, the dates are so specific it might mean forty exactly.

Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture, #7.

▣ "the window" This is a different term (BDB 319) from the ambiguous terms of Gen. 6:16 (literally "roof," BDB 844 I). Its size and location are uncertain but probably in the roof itself.

8:6-12 Be careful not to allegorize these birds! There is an exact parallel in Mesopotamian literature (i.e., Gilgamesh Epic, Gen. 11:145-155), which seems too specific for coincidence. There is a literary or worldview relationship between the Bible (i.e., Genesis 1-11) and Mesopotamian literature.

8:10 TheVERB "waited (BDB 403, KB 407) is rare and appears in the writings of Moses only here, two times.

  1. Gen. 8:10, where an emendation (MT has BDB 296, KB 297) is required (Qal IMPERFECT with waw)
  2. Gen. 8:12, the parallel of v. 10 (Niphal PERFECT with waw)

This root is not found outside of Hebrew (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 435-436). It is used of

  1. hope
  2. waiting (here)

One wonders if Noah's waiting seven more days surely had an element of hope in it.

▣ "yet another seven days" See full note at Gen. 7:4.

8:11 "a freshly picked" This is one of two unusual usages of the ADJECTIVE (BDB 383, cf. Ezek. 17:9), which normally means "torn in pieces by predation." The implication here is uncertain except that the olive twig was "freshly" torn from an olive stump. Not only had the water revealed dry ground but some plants had begun to sprout.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GENESIS 8:13-19
  13
Now it came about in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the water was dried up from the earth. Then Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the surface of the ground was dried up. 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15Then God spoke to Noah, saying, 16"Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons' wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth." 18So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him. 19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by their families from the ark.

8:13 "Noah removed the covering" This seems to imply he removed part of the roof (i.e., "the covering," BDB 492). Although this same term in Exod. 26:14; 36:18; 39:34, etc. will refer to the animal skin covering of the tabernacle. This may be the meaning here (i.e., animal skins). In Ezek. 27:7 the same root, with different vowels, refers to a ship's deck.

8:15 "God spoke to Noah" This entire context reveals the patience and obedience of Noah. God's commands (i.e., Gen. 8:15-19) parallel Gen. 7:1-5.

8:16 "Go out" This is the first of several commands in Gen. 8:16-17.

  1. "go out," Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 422, KB 425), Gen. 8:16
  2. "bring out," Hiphil IMPERATIVE (BDB 422, KB 425), Gen. 8:17
  3. "breed abundantly," Qal PERFECT with waw used in an IMPERATIVAL sense (BDB 1056, KB 1655), Gen. 8:17; the IMPERATIVE forms in Gen. 1:22,28; 9:1
  4. "be fruitful," Qal PERFECT with waw used in an IMPERATIVAL sense (cf. Gen. 1:22,28; 9:1,7 BDB 826, KB 953), Gen. 8:17
  5. "multiply," Qal PERFECT with waw used in an IMPERATIVAL sense (cf. Gen. 1:12,28; 9:1,7 BDB 915, KB 1176), Gen. 8:17

These commands are parallel to Gen. 1:22,24. In a sense God is starting over. The waters of chaos destroyed all air-breathing land life except what was on the ark (also excluding the sea life). God's original purpose is continued (cf. Gen. 6:18).

8:17 These commands of God (also Gen. 9:1) parallel Gen. 1:22,24. See Contextual Insights at the beginning of this chapter.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GENESIS 8:20-22
  20
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.
22While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
And cold and heat,
And summer and winter,
And day and night
Shall not cease."

8:20 "Then Noah built an altar" His first act was that of worship and thanksgiving. Sacrifice is an ancient institution (cf. Gen. 4:3; 12:7,8; 13:18; 22:9; 26:25; 33:20; 35:7). This is also the first act of Gilgamesh in the Gilgamesh Epic after the flood (cf. Gen. 11:156-158).

It is never stated what the purpose of the killing and offering of animals to God symbolized, but Job 1:5 may point the way. Job's yearly sacrifices had a propitiatory significance. Fallen humans needed a way to be restored to God's favor. Not until the full sacrificial system of Leviticus is this revealed. Exodus 12 is a foreshadowing of a propitatory sacrifice where animal blood (i.e., life) saves a human family (i.e., firstborn).

▣ "every clean animal" The criteria determining clean and unclean is uncertain (cf. Gen. 7:2), but apparently was related to appropriate sacrifice (cf. Num. 18:15), not dietary guidelines (cf. Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14).

8:21 "The Lord smelled the soothing aroma" This phrase is used in the Bible in the sense of God accepting an offering (especially Leviticus and Numbers). It does not imply that the meat was food for God as it was in the Gilgamesh Epic (cf. Gen. 11:159-161). The Bible never views the sacrificial system as food for divine beings as the surrounding nations did.

Special Topic: God Described As Human (anthropomorphism)

Special Topic: A Soothing Aroma

NASB, TEV, NJB, JPSOA  "the Lord said to Himself"
NKJV, NRSV, Peshitta  "the Lord said in His heart"
REB  "he said within himself"
LXX  "the Lord God, when he had given it thought, said"

The MT has "YHWH said in his heart." There are two observations.

  1. the imagery of the heart focuses on the thoughts and plans of mankind (and here, God, cf. Gen. 6:6)
  2. the writers of the Bible often function as "super authors" knowing the mental, unspoken thoughts. This is where a commitment to
    1. inspiration
    2. by the Holy Spirit

is crucial. God knows the thoughts and intents of the human heart but the writer of Scripture knows, by revelation, the thoughts and intents of YHWH.

Special Topic: The Bible (its uniqueness and inspiration)

▣ "I will never again curse the ground. . .I will never again destroy every living thing" These parallel statements show the tension in God's heart between His love (cf. Isa. 54:9) for His creation and His justice. Mankind is evil and corrupt but God has chosen to work with us in time and set it straight in the eschaton (i.e. last days). In this judgment God's attitude toward sinful mankind changed. Humans are still evil. God's attitude will change again when His people are unable to perform the Mosaic covenant. God will institute a new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34 and Ezek. 36:27-36). Humans will be made right with God through the Messiah's performance and sacrificial death.

Although it is surely true that God promises never to send another flood, 2 Pet. 3:10 asserts that He will purify the earth with fire. God will work with sinful mankind but His goal is righteousness (cf. Lev. 19:2; Matt. 5:48).

▣ "the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth" The evil so evident before the flood (cf. Gen. 6:5,11,12,13) is still within fallen mankind, as Noah and his family will clearly show!

Special Topic: Heart

Special Topic: The Fall

8:22 The necessities of air-breathing life on this planet established on days one through three of Genesis 1 are:

  1. time/seasons, Gen. 1:3-5, day one
  2. weather, Gen. 1:6-8, day two
  3. agriculture and animal keeping, Gen. 1:9-13, day three

These crucial elements were destroyed by the flood waters, so YHWH restores them (Gen. 8:22) and promises that they will not be destroyed again.

This verse is also a theological affirmation of YHWH, not the fertility cults of the ANE, as the true creator, sustainer, and provider.

It is this constancy in nature that has given rise to modern western science. God established uniformitarianism (i.e., the regular, uniform activities of nature, cf. Jer. 33:20,25). However, notice the initial phrase "while the earth remains." Genesis 8:22 is printed in most English translations in a poetic passage.

 

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