Subsidence of the Waters - Part 1 (series: Lessons on Genesis)
by John Lowe
November 14, 2013
Commentary on the Book of Genesis
By: Tom Lowe
Lesson I.D.7: Subsidence of the Waters. Gen. 8:1-14
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;
2 The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;
3 And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days, the waters were abated.
4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
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.
6 And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:
7 And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro until the waters were dried up from off the earth.
8 Also, he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;
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.
10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;
11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.
12 And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.
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.
14 And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried.
When anxious believers are searching the Bible for something to encourage them, they’re more likely to turn to Romans 8 than to Genesis 8. After all, Romans 8 is one of the most encouraging chapters in scripture, while Genesis 8 describes God’s “mop up” operation after the Flood.
But the next time you find yourself in a storm, Genesis 8 can give you new hope and encouragement, because the major theme of the chapter is renewal and rest after the tribulation. The chapter records the end of a storm and the beginning of a new life and hope for God’s people and God’s creation. Just consider what God does in Genesis 8 and take courage!
“And God remembered Noah” is a phrase we should remember when we are going through a storm because that is a time when it’s easy to feel forsaken. Feeling forsaken is a normal human emotion that most of us have experienced, whether we admit it or not. “Why standest thou afar off, O LORD?” asked the psalmist, “Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10.1). Paul confessed that his troubles in Asia had been so severe that he almost gave up on life (2 Cor. 1.81); and Jesus, who experienced all our human trials, spoke from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27.46; NKJV). Feeling desolate is nothing new for the people of God, but when we do, we may recall this song:
God is still on the throne,
And He will remember His own!
Whittier wrote: “I only know I cannot drift beyond His love and care.” And William Cowper’s hymn has this beautiful sentiment: “I may forgetful be, yet will He remember me.”
The word “remembered” in Genesis 8.1 doesn’t mean to recall something that may have been forgotten. God can’t forget anything because He knows the end from the beginning. Instead, it means, “to pay attention to, to fulfill a promise and act on behalf of somebody.” For example, God’s promise, “and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10.17) means that God doesn’t hold our sins against us and treat us as sinners. Certainly, God knows what we have done; but because of our faith in Jesus Christ our sins are “forgotten.” God deals with us as if our sins had never been committed! The Lord remembers them against us no more.
To “remember” implies a previous commitment made by God and announces the fulfillment
of that commitmenti
. Noah, his family, and the animals had been together for over a year, which is a lot of “togetherness.” Did they ever get impatient with each other or with the animals? There is no record that God ever spoke to them after He had shut them into the ark, so perhaps somebody in the family experienced an occasional fleeting fear that maybe God didn’t care for them anymore.
We can be sure that God never forgets or forsakes His people, not only because of His promises,ii
but also because of His character. God is love, and where there’s love there’s faithfulness. He can never deny Himself or His Word because He’s the faithful God, and He can never change because He’s unalterable. Because He’s perfect, He can’t change for the better; and because He’s holy, He can’t change for the worse. We can depend on him no matter what our circumstances or no matter how we feel. According to Genesis 7.242
, the Flood reached its peak in 150 days. The torrential rain and the eruptions of water beneath the earth had both ceased (v. 2), and during the next five months, God caused the water to recede and leave the dry ground behind. During these days, Noah had to continue to be patient, and the last days of waiting were probably the hardest.
Where did the floodwaters go? Never underestimate the power of moving water! It’s possible that the Flood greatly altered the contours of the land and created new areas for the water to fill, both on the surface of the earth and underground. Since there were eruptions from beneath the earth (Ge. 7.113
), entire continents and mountain ranges could have risen and fallen, creating huge into which the water could spill. The winds that God sent over the earth helped to evaporate the water, and also move it to the places God had provided. A God powerful enough to cover the earth with water is also wise enough to know how to dispose of it when its work is done.
On the seventeenth day of the seventh month, the ark rested on a peak in the mountains of Ararat, located in modern Turkey. This was some satisfaction to Noah, to feel that he was on firm ground, and no longer moving. It arrived there by the gracious providence of God since there was no provision made for steering the vessel. We don’t know which peak it was; explorers searching for the remains of the ark can’t find much biblical data to help them. In later years, the seventh month was very special to the Jews, since that was the month they ushered in the new year with the Feast of Trumpets and celebrated the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23.23-44).
It is interesting that God told Noah when the Flood would come, even to the day (Ge. 7.44
), however, He never gave him a particular account by revelation of when the water would go away and how it would be accomplished. The knowledge of the former was necessary for the preparation of the ark, but the knowledge of the later would serve only to gratify his curiosity, but concealing it from him would test his faith and patience.
The Hebrew text says that “the ark came to rest,” reminding us that Noah’s name means “rest” and that his father Lamech had hoped that his son would bring rest to a weary world (Ge. 5.28, 295
). Though the ark had rested safely, Noah was waiting for the Lord to tell him what to do. He waited forty days and then sent out the raven, and being an unclean carrion-eating bird (Lev. 11.13-156
), it felt right at home among the floating carcasses.
Noah waited a week and then sent out a dove, which, being a clean bird, found no place to land; so it returned to the ark (vv. 8, 9). This was probably disappointing for Noah; the raven vanished, and when the dove returned to the shelter of the ark he knew that it meant the waters were too deep for her to find rest “for the sole of her foot.” A week later Noah sent out a dove again, and when it returned with a fresh olive leaf, Noah knew that the plants were growing and fresh life had appeared on the earth (vv. 10, 11). A dove bearing an olive branch is a familiar symbol of peace around the world. A week later, when Noah sent out a dove for the third time, it didn’t return; so he knew the water had dried up.
Ravens survive on a broad range of food types. If any food was available outside the ark, the raven could survive. In contrast, a dove is much more selective in its food choices. The doves choice of food would indicate that new life had begun to grow, therefore, Noah and his family could also survive outside the ark.