277. Though the first chapter clearly proves that these wild beasts were created with the others, on account of sin their nature was altered. Those created gentle and harmless, after the fall became wild and harmful. This is my view, though since our loss of that state of innocent existence it is easier to venture a guess than to reach a definition of that life.
278. But, you ask, if because of sin the nature of animals became completely altered, how could Noah control them, especially the savage and fierce ones? The lion surely could not be controlled, nor tigers, panthers and the like. The answer is: Such wild animals went into the ark miraculously. To me this appears reasonable. If they had not been forced by a divine injunction to go into the ark, Noah would not have had it within his power to control such fierce animals. Undoubtedly he had to exercise his own human power, but this alone was insufficient. And the text implies both conditions, for at first it says: "Thou shalt bring into the ark," and then adds: "Two of every sort shall come unto thee." If they had not been miraculously guided, they would not have come by twos and sevens.
279. That two by two and seven by seven came of their own accord is a miracle and a sign that they had a premonition of the wrath of God and the coming terrible disaster. Even brute natures have premonitions and forebodings of impending calamities, and often as if prompted by a certain sense of compassion, they will manifest distress for a man in evident peril. We see dogs and horses understand the perils of their masters and show themselves affected by such intelligence, the dogs by howling, the horses by trembling and the emission of copious sweat. As a matter of fact it is not rare that wild beasts in danger seek refuge with man.
280. When, therefore, there is elsewhere in brute natures such an intelligence, is it a wonder that, after having been divinely aroused to a sense of coming danger, they joined themselves voluntarily to Noah? For the text shows they came voluntarily. In the same manner history bears witness, and our experience confirms it, that, when a terrible pestilence rages or a great slaughter is imminent, wolves, the most ferocious of animals, flee not only into villages, but, on occasion, even into cities, taking refuge among men and humbly asking, as it were, their help.
B. THE FOOD NOAH TOOK INTO THE ARK.
V. 21. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.
281. Inasmuch as the flood was to last a whole year, it was necessary to remind Noah of the food to be collected from the herbs and the fruits of trees in order to preserve the life of man and of animals. Though the wrath of God was terrible, to the destruction of everything born on earth, the goodness of the Lord shines forth, notwithstanding, in this an awful calamity. He looks to the preservation of man and the animals, and through their preservation to that of the species. The animals chosen for preservation in the ark were sound and of unblemished body, and through divine foresight, they received food suitable to their nature.
282. As for man, it is established that, as yet, he did not use flesh for food. He ate only of the vegetation of the earth, which was far more desirable before the flood than at present, after the remarkable corruption of the earth through the brackish waters.
283. We observe here the providence of God, by whose counsel the evil are punished and the good saved. By a miracle God preserves a portion of his creatures when he punishes the wicked and graciously makes provision for their posterity.
284. It would have been an easy matter for God to preserve Noah and the animals for the space of a full year without food, as he preserved Moses, Elijah and Christ, the latter for forty days, without food. He made everything out of nothing, which is even more marvelous. Yet God, in his government of the things created, as Augustine learnedly observes, allows them to perform their appropriate functions. In other words, to apply Augustine's view to the matter in hand, God performs his miracles along the lines of natural law.
285. God also requires that we do not discard the provisions of nature, which would mean to tempt God; but that we use with thanksgiving the things God has prepared for us. A hungry man who looks for bread from heaven rather than tries to obtain it by human means, commits sin. Christ gives the apostles command to eat what is set before them, Lk 10, 7. So Noah is here enjoined to employ the ordinary methods of gathering food. God did not command him to expect in the ark a miraculous supply of food from heaven.
286. The life of the monks is all a temptation of God. They cannot be continent and still they refrain from matrimony; likewise they abstain from certain meats, though God has created them to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe, and by those who know the truth, that every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving, 1 Tim 4, 3-4. The use of medicine is legitimate; yea, it has been created as a necessary means to conserve health. The study of the arts and of language is to be cultivated and, as Paul says, "Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified through prayer." 1 Tim 4, 4-5.
287. God was able to preserve Noah in the midst of the waters. They fable of Clement that he had a cell in the middle of the sea. Yea, the people of Israel were preserved in the midst of the Red Sea and Jonah in the belly of the whale. But this was not God's desire. He rather willed that Noah should use the aid of wood and trees, so that human skill might thereby have a sphere for its exercise.
288. When, however, human means fail, then it is for you either to suffer or to expect help from the Lord. No human effort could support the Jews when they stood by the sea and were surrounded in the rear by the enemy. Hence, a miraculous deliverance was to be hoped for, or a sure death to be suffered.
C. NOAH'S OBEDIENCE.
V. 22. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
289. This phrase is very frequent in Scripture. This is the first passage in which praise for obedience to God is clothed in such a form of words. Later we find it stated repeatedly that Moses, the people, did according to all that God commanded them. But Noah received commendation as an example for us. His was not a dead faith, which is no faith at all, but a living and active faith. He renders obedience to God's commands, and because he believes both God's promises and threats, he carefully carries out what God commanded with reference to the ark and the gathering of animals and food. This is unique praise for Noah's faith, that he remains on the royal way—adds nothing, changes nothing and takes nothing from the divine command, but abides absolutely in the precept he has heard.
290. It is the most common and at the same time most noxious sin in the Church, that people either altogether change God's commands or render something else paramount to them. There is only one royal road to which we must keep. They sin who swerve too much to the left by failing to perform the divine commands. Those who swerve to the right and do more than God has commanded, like Saul when he spared the Amalekites, also sin even more grievously than those who turn to the left. They add a sham piety; for, while those who err on the left cannot excuse their error, these do not hesitate to ascribe to themselves remarkable merit.
291. And such error is exceedingly common. God is wont sometimes to command common, paltry, ridiculous and even offensive things, but reason takes delight in splendid things. From the common ones it either shrinks or undertakes them under protest. Thus the monks shrank from home duties and chose for themselves others apparently of greater glamour. Today the great throng, hearing that common tasks are preached in the Gospel, despises the Gospel as a vulgar teaching, lacking in elegance. What noteworthy thing is it to teach that servants should obey their master and children their parents? Such a common and oft-taught doctrine the learned papists not only neglect but even ridicule. They desire rather something unique, something remarkable either for its reputed wisdom or for its apparent difficult character. Such is the madness of man's wisdom.
292. In general it is wisdom to observe not so much the person that speaks as that which he says, because the teacher's faults are always in evidence. But when we consider precepts of God and true obedience, this axiom should be reversed. Then we should observe not so much that which is said, but the person of him who speaks. In respect to divine precepts, if you observe that which is said and not him who speaks, you will easily stumble. This is illustrated by the example of Eve, whose mind did not dwell upon the person who issued the command. She regarded only the command and concluded it to be a matter of small moment to taste the apple. But what injury was thereby wrought to the whole human race!
293. He who observes him that gives the command will conclude that what is very paltry in appearance is very great. The Papists estimate it a slight thing to govern the State, to be a spouse, to train children. But experience teaches that these are very important matters, for which the wisdom of men is incompetent. We see that at times the most spiritual men have here shamefully fallen. When we, therefore, remember him who gives the command, that which is paltry and common becomes a responsibility too great to discharge without divine aid.
294. The Papists, therefore, who look only at the outward mask, like the cow at the gate, can make light of duties toward home and State, and imagine they perform others of greater excellence. In the very fact that they are shameless adulterers, blasphemers of God, defilers of the sanctuary and brazen squanderers of the Church's property, they powerfully testify against themselves that they can in no wise appreciate the paltry, common and vulgar domestic and public duties.
295. In what, therefore, consists the holiness they vaunt? Forsooth, in that on certain days they abstain from meat, that they bind themselves to certain vows, that they have a liking for certain kinds of work. But, I ask you, who has given command to do those things? No one. That which God has enjoined or commanded, they do not respect. They render paramount something else concerning which God has given no command.
296. Hence, the vital importance of this rule, that we observe not the contents of the command but its author. He who fails to do this will often be offended, as I said, by the insignificance or absurdity of a task. God should receive credit for wisdom and goodness. Assuredly that which he himself enjoins is well and wisely enjoined, though human reason judge differently.
297. From the wisdom of God the Papists detract when they consider divinely enjoined tasks as paltry and attempt to undertake something better or more difficult. God is not propitiated by such works, but rather provoked, as Saul's example shows. As if God were stupid, dastardly, and cruel in that he commanded to destroy the Amalekites and all their belongings, Saul conceived a kinder plan and reserved the cattle for the purpose of sacrifice. What else was such action but to deem himself wise and God foolish.
298. Hence Moses rightly commends in this passage Noah's obedience when he says that he did everything the Lord had enjoined. That means to give God credit for wisdom and goodness. He did not discuss the task, as Adam, Eve and Saul did to their great hurt. He kept his eye on the majesty of him who gave the command. That was enough for him, even though the command be absurd, impossible, inexpedient. All such objections he passes by with closed eyes, as it were, and takes his stand upon the one thing commanded by God. This text therefore is familiar as far as hearing it is concerned, but even as to the performance and practice of it, it is known to very few and is extremely difficult.
I. NOAH OBEYS COMMAND TO ENTER THE ARK.
1. Noah saw God's favor in his command 1.
* Noah experienced severe temptations and needed comfort 1-2.
2. What God wished to teach Noah by calling him to enter the ark 3.
3. Whether God spoke this commandment directly to Noah 4-5.
* When God speaks to us through men it is to be viewed as God's Word 4-5.
* The thoughts of the Jews on the seven days 6.
* The office of the ministry.
a. Through it God deals with mankind 7.
b. Why we should not despise the office and expect revelations direct from God 8-9.
* God speaks with man in various ways 9.
* Corruption and destruction of the first world.
a. The ruin of the first compared with that of the last world 10-13.
* The need of posterity to pray that they retain pure doctrine 12.
b. Why so few righteous persons were found in Noah's day 12.
* The efforts of the pope and bishops to crush the Gospel 13.
c. First world severely punished, neither old nor young were spared 14-15.
d. Punishment of first world greatly moved Peter when he wrote about it 16-17.
* Peter's record of sermon Christ delivered to the spirits of the first world in prison 16-17.
a. Who are to be understood here by the unbelieving world 18.
b. Peter here shows the wrath and long suffering of God 19.
c. Nature and manner of this sermon 20.
* Apostles had special revelations we cannot grasp 20-21.
4. How Noah was righteous before God 22.
5. How the world laughed at him while executing God's command, God then comforted him 23-24.
6. Greatness of Noah's faith and steadfastness in executing this command 25-26.
* Luther's confession he would have been too weak for such a work 25-26.
* The great firmness of John Huss and Jerome of Prague 27.
* We are to comfort ourselves when all the world forsakes and condemns us 28.
7. God commands Noah to take the animals he names along into the ark 29.
* Why God so often repeats the same thing 29.
a. What is to be understood by Behemoth 30.
b. How many of each kind entered the ark 31.
* The rain at the flood was exceptional 32.
* The flood is a token of God's righteousness and from it we conclude God will punish the sins of the last world 33.
8. By what may we learn Noah's faith and obedience to God 34.
* Why God did not save Noah in some other way 34.
I. NOAH OBEYS COMMAND TO ENTER THE ARK.
V. 2a. And Jehovah said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark.
1. As soon as that extraordinary structure, the ark, was built, the Lord commanded Noah to enter it, because the time of the deluge, which the Lord announced one hundred and twenty years before, was now at hand. All this convinced Noah that God was taking care of him; and not only this, but also, as Peter says (2 Pet 1, 19), gave him an ample and abundant word to support and confirm his faith in such great straits. Having foretold the deluge for more than a century, he doubtless was bitterly mocked by the world in many ways.
2. As I have said repeatedly, God's wrath was incredible. It could not be grasped by the human mind, in that original age of superior men, that God was about to destroy the whole human race, except eight souls. Noah, being holy and just, a kindly and merciful man, often struggled with his own heart, hearing with the greatest agitation of mind the voice of the Lord, threatening certain destruction to all flesh. It was needful, then, that repeated declaration should confirm his agitated faith, lest he might doubt.
3. God's command to enter the ark amounted to this: "Doubt not, the time of punishment for the unbelieving world is close at hand. But tremble not, do not fear, for faith is at times very weak in the saints. I shall take care of you and your house." To us such promise would have been incredible, but we must admit that all things are possible with God.
4. Notice Moses' peculiar expression again: "Jehovah said." It gives me particular pleasure that these words of God did not sound from heaven, but were spoken to Noah through the ministry of man. Although I would not deny that these revelations may have been made by an angel, or by the Holy Spirit himself, yet where it can plausibly be said that God spoke through men, there the ministry must be honored. We have shown above that many of God's words according to Moses, were spoken through Adam; for the Word of God, even when spoken by man, is truly the Word of God.
5. Now, as Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, died in the very year of the deluge, it would not be inapt to infer that (since Lamech, Noah's father, had died five years before the flood,) this was, so to speak, Methuselah's last word and testament to his grandson, a dying farewell. Perhaps he added some remarks as these: My son, as thou hast obeyed the Lord heretofore, and hast awaited this wrath in faith, and hast experienced God's faithful protection from the wicked, henceforth firmly believe that God will take care of thee. The end is now at hand, not mine alone, which is one of grace, but the end of all mankind, which is one of wrath. For after seven days the flood will begin, concerning which thou hast long and vainly warned the world. After this manner, I think, spoke Methuselah, but the words are attributed to God, because the Spirit of God spoke through the man.
Thus I like to interpret these instances to the honor of the ministry wherever, as in this case, it can appropriately be done. Since it is certain that Methuselah died in the very year of the flood, the supposition is harmless that these were his last words to Noah, his grandson, who heard his words and accepted them as the Word of God.
6. The Jews' peculiar idea concerning these seven days is that they were added to the one hundred and twenty years in honor of Methuselah, that therein his posterity might bewail his death. This is a harmless interpretation, for the patriarch's descendants did not fail to do their duty, particularly his pious children.
7. But the first view concerning the ministry of the Word, is not only plausible, but also practical. God does not habitually speak miraculously and by revelation, particularly where, he has instituted the ministry for this very purpose of speaking to men, teaching, instructing, consoling and entreating them.
8. In the first place, God entrusts the Word to parents. Moses often says: "Thou shalt tell it to thy children." Then to the teachers of the Church is it entrusted. Abraham says (Lk 16, 29): "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." We must expect no revelation, be it inward or outward, where the ministry is established; otherwise all ranks of human society would be disturbed. Let the pastor preach in Church; let the magistrate rule the State; let parents control the house or family. Such are the ministries of men instituted by God. We should make use of them and not look for new revelations.
9. Still I do not deny that Noah heard God speak after Methuselah's death. God speaks ordinarily through the public ministry—through parents and the teachers of the Church—and in rare cases by inward revelation, through the Holy Spirit. It is well that we remember not to overlook the Word in vain expectation of new revelations, as the fanatics do. Such a course gives rise to spirits of error, a source of disturbance to the whole world, as the example of the Anabaptists proves.
V. 1b. For thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
10. This is truly a picture of the primitive, ancient world, as Peter calls it. 2 Pet 2, 5. His appellation carries the thought of a peculiarity of that particular age, which is foreign to the people of our own. Could words be more appalling than these, that Noah alone was righteous before the Lord? The world is similarly pictured in Ps 14, 2-3, where we read that the Lord looked down from heaven to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. But he says: "They are all gone aside; they are together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
11. Similar to this judgment upon the world was Christ's declaration as to the last days. He says: "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Lk 18, 8. It is a fearful thing to live in such an evil and godless world. By the goodness of God, since we have the light of his Word, we are still in the golden age. The sacraments are rightfully administered in our Churches, pious teachers proclaim the Word purely, and, though magistrates be weak, wickedness is not desperately rampant. But Christ's prophecy shows that there will be evil times when the Lord's day approaches. Wholesome teaching nowhere will be found, the Church being dominated by the wicked, as today the plans of our adversaries are a menace. The pope and the wicked princes zealously strive totally to destroy the ministry of the Word, oppressing or corrupting the true ministries, that everyone may believe whatever pleases him.
12. So much the more diligently should we pray for our posterity, and take earnest heed that a more wholesome doctrine be transmitted to them. If there had been more godly teachers in the days of Noah, there might have been more righteous people. The fact that Noah alone was proclaimed a righteous man makes it evident that the godly teachers had been either destroyed or corrupted, leaving Noah the sole preacher of righteousness, as Peter calls him, 2 Pet 2, 5. Since government had been turned into tyranny and the home vitiated by adultery and whoredom, how could punishment be delayed any longer?
13. Such danger awaits us also if the last days are to be like the days of Noah. Truly, the popes and bishops strenuously endeavor to suppress the Gospel and to ruin the Churches which have been rightfully established. Thus does the world assiduously press onward to a period similar to the age of Noah, when, with the light of the Word extinguished, all shall go astray in the darkness of wickedness. For without the preaching of the Word, faith cannot endure nor prayer, nor the purity of the sacraments.
14. Such, according to Moses, was the condition of the ancient world in Noah's day, when the world was young and at its best. The greatest geniuses flourished everywhere and people were well educated by experience because they lived so long. What will be our fate in the frenzy, so to speak, that shall befall the world in its dotage? We should remember to care for our posterity and continually pray for it.
15. As the first world was most corrupt, it was thus subject to terrible punishment. Adults perished who provoked God to anger by their wicked deeds, also those of an innocent age, who had knowledge and were unable to distinguish between their right hand and their left. Many, doubtless, were deceived by their own guilelessness; but God's wrath does not discriminate, it falls upon and destroys alike adults and infants, the crafty and the guileless.
16. This awful punishment appears to have moved even the Apostle Peter. Like one besides himself, he uses words which we today are not able to understand. He says: Christ, having been made alive in the Spirit, also "went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that aforetime were disobedient, when the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water," etc. (1 Pet 3, 19-20).
17. A strange declaration, and an almost fanatical saying, by which the Apostle describes this event! By these words, Peter assures us that there was a certain unbelieving world to whom the dead Christ preached after their death. If this is true, who would doubt that Christ took Moses and the prophets with him to those who were fettered in prison, in order to change the unbelieving world into a new and believing one? This seems to be intimated by Peter's words, though I should not like to make this assertion authoritatively.
18. But doubtless those whom he calls an unbelieving world were not the wicked despisers of his Word nor the tyrants. If they were overwhelmed in their sins, these were certainly condemned. The unbelieving world of which he speaks seems rather to be the children and those whose lack of judgment precluded belief. These were at that time, seized and carried away headlong to their destruction, by the offenses of the world, as if in the power of a rapid stream, only eight souls being saved.
19. In this way does Peter magnify the awful intensity of God's wrath. At the same time he praises his long-suffering in that he did not deprive those of the Word of salvation who at the time did not or could not believe because they hoped in the patience of God and would not be convinced that he would visit such fearful and universal punishment upon the world.
20. How this came to pass is beyond our understanding. We know and believe that God is wonderful in all his works and has all power. Therefore he who in life preached to the living, could also in death preach to the dead. All things hear, feel and touch him, though our human minds can not understand the process. Nor is it to our discredit when we are ignorant of some of the mysteries of Holy Writ. The apostles had each his own revelation, and contention concerning them would be presumptuous and foolish.
21. Such was the revelation of Christ given to the spirits that evidently perished in the flood, and we may perhaps, not inappropriately connect it with that article of our creed which speaks of the descent of Christ into hell. Such was also Paul's revelation concerning paradise, the third heaven (2 Cor 12, 2-4), and certain other matters of which we may be ignorant without shame. It is false pride to profess to understand these things. St. Augustine and other teachers give their fancy loose rein when they discuss these passages. May it not be that the apostles had revelations which St. Augustine and others did not have? But let us return to Moses.
22. A truly fearful description of the world is vouchsafed in this declaration of God that he saw Noah alone to be righteous before him, in spite of the small children and those others who had innocently been misled. Let us particularly note the term, "Before me." It signifies that Noah was blameless not only as regards the second table of the Law, but also as regards the first. He believed in God, and hallowed, preached and called upon his name; he gave thanks to God; he condemned godless teachings. For, to be righteous before God means to believe God and to fear him, and not, as they taught in popedom, to read masses, to free souls from purgatory, to become a monk, and like things.
23. This term "Before me" has reference also to the condemnation of the ancient world. Having neglected the worship demanded by the first table, they criminally transgressed also the second. Not only did they mock Noah as a fool, but they went so far as to condemn his teaching as heresy. Meanwhile they ate, drank, and celebrated festivals in security. Before the world, accordingly, Noah was not righteous; measured by her code he was a sinner.
24. Hence God, or the grandfather, Methuselah, consoles Noah with the Word of counsel to disregard the blind and wicked verdict of the world, neither to care for her views and utterances, but to close eyes and ears while heeding alone the Word and verdict of God, believing himself to be righteous before God, or approved and acceptable to him.
25. And Noah's faith was truly great; he could rely upon God's utterance. I, forsooth, should not have believed. I realize what weight the whole world's hostile and condemnatory judgment must carry. We are condemned in the judgment of the Pope, the Sacramentarians, and the Anabaptists, but this is mere play and pleasure, compared to what the righteous Noah had to bear, who found not a single person in the whole world to approve of his religion or life, except his own sons and his pious grandfather. We have, the endorsement of many Churches, by God's grace, and our princes fear no danger in defense of their doctrine and religion. Noah had no such protectors, and he saw his enemies living in peaceful leisure and enjoyment. If I had been he, I surely should have said: Lord, if I am righteous, if I am well pleasing to thee and if those people are wicked and displeasing to thee, why, then, dost thou enrich them? Why dost thou heap upon them all manner of favors, while I, with my family, am greatly harassed and almost without assistance? In short, I should have despaired in such great afflictions unless the Lord had given me that spirit which Noah had.
26. Therefore, Noah is a brilliant and admirable example of faith, who opposed the judgments of the world with an heroic steadfastness of mind in the assurance that he was righteous while all the rest of the world was wicked.
27. Often when I think of those most holy men, John Huss and Jerome of Prague, I view with astonishment the courage of their souls, as they, only two in number, set themselves against the judgment of the whole world, of pope, emperor, bishops, princes, universities and all the schools throughout the empire.
28. It is helpful often to reflect upon such examples. Since the prince of the world battles against us, endeavoring to kindle despair in us with his fiery darts, it behooves us to be well armed, lest we succumb to the enemy. Let us say with Noah: I know that I am righteous before God, even though the whole world condemn me as heretical and wicked, yea, even desert me. Thus did the apostles desert Christ, leaving him alone; but he said (Jn 16, 32): "I am not alone." Thus did the false brethren desert Paul. Hence, this is no uncommon danger, and it is not for us to despair; but with courage to uphold the true doctrine, in spite of the world's condemnation and curse.
Vs. 2-3. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, the male and his female; and of the beasts that are not clean two, the male and his female. Of the birds also of the heavens, seven and seven, male and female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.
29. It is evident that God takes pleasure in speaking to Noah. Hence, he does not confine himself to a single command, but repeats the same things in the same words. To human reason such repetition appears to be absurd talkativeness, but to a soul struggling against despair the will of God cannot be repeated too often, nor can too exhaustive instruction be given relative to the will of God. God recognizes the state of a soul that is tempted, and hence makes the same statements again and again, so that Noah may learn from frequent conversations and conferences that he is not only not forsaken though the whole world forsake him, but that he has a friend and protector in God who so loves him that he never seems to weary of conversing with him. This is the cause of the statements being repeated. However, as has been explained, God spoke with Noah not from heaven but through men.
30. In respect to the language, this passage shows that ha-behemah signifies not only cattle, the larger animals, but also the smaller ones which were commonly used for sacrifice, as sheep, goats and the like. The custom of offering sacrifices was not first instituted by Moses, but was in the world from the beginning, being handed down, as it were, by the patriarchs to their posterity; as shown by the example of Abel, who brought of his first fruits an offering to God.
31. As to the remainder of the passage, we explained at the end of the sixth chapter how to harmonize the discrepancies apparent in the fact that here seven beasts of each kind are ordered to be taken into the ark while only two of each kind are mentioned there. To repeat is not necessary. Since Noah was saved by a miracle, he thought that a seventh animal should be added to the three pairs of clean beasts as a thank-offering to God, after the flood, for his deliverance.
V. 4. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the ground.
32. Here you see God's care to give Noah complete assurance. He sets a limit of seven days, after which will follow a rain of forty days and forty nights. God speaks with peculiar significance when he says that it shall rain. It was not a common rain, but fountains of the deep as well as the windows of heaven were opened; that is, not only did a great mass of rain fall from heaven, but also an immense amount of water streamed forth from the earth itself. And an immense amount of water was necessary to cover the highest mountain tops to a depth of fifteen cubits. It was no ordinary rain, but the rain of God's wrath, by which he set out to destroy all life upon the face of the earth. Because the earth was depraved, God despoiled it, and because the godless people raged against the first and second tables of the commandments, therefore God also raged against them, using heaven and earth as his weapons.
33. This story is certain proof that God, though long-suffering and patient, will not allow the wicked to go unpunished. As Peter says (2 Pet 2, 5), if he "spared not the ancient world," how much less will he spare the popes or the emperors who rage against his Word? How much less will he spare us who blaspheme his name when our life is unworthy of our calling and profession, when we freely and daily sin against our consciences? Let us, then, learn to fear the Lord, humbly to accept his Word and obey it; otherwise punishment will overtake also us, as Peter threatens.
Vs. 5-10. And Noah did according unto all that Jehovah commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creepeth upon the ground, there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, male and female, as God commanded Noah. And it came to pass after the seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.
34. This is clear from what precedes. Noah's faith is praiseworthy in that he obeyed the Lord's command and unwaveringly entered the ark with his sons and their wives. God truly could have saved him in innumerable other ways; he did not employ this seemingly absurd method because he knew no other. To him who kept Jonah for three days in the midst of the sea and in the belly of the whale, what do you think is impossible? But Noah's faith and obedience are to be commended because he took no offense at this plan of salvation divinely shown to him, but embraced it in simple faith.
II. COMPLETE DESTRUCTION BY FLOOD.
* Why Moses so often repeats and expresses in few words what other writers describe at length 35-39.
* Noah's grief because of the approaching calamity 38.
* The way of coarse and satiated spirits 39.
1. When did the flood commence.
a. Some think it began in the spring 40.
b. Others think it began in the autumn 41.
c. Which is the more probable 42.
* What to think of the Jews reckoning the year has two beginnings 44.
2. How the flood continued.
a. Must distinguish the fountains of the earth, the windows of heaven and the rain 45.
* Of the earth and the water.
(1) Why the water does not overflow the earth since the earth floats in the water 46.
(2) Why the water above the earth does not fall and overflow the earth 47-48.
(3) How the prophets wondered at this as a miracle, but we in our day give it little thought 49.
b. How were the fountains broken up, how can such a work be ascribed to God 50-51.
* Overflowing of the German fountains at Halle 51.
c. How were the windows of heaven opened 52.
(1) What is meant by the windows of heaven 53.
(2) Why such words used here 53.
3. Flood covered and destroyed the whole earth 54.
4. Why God sent the deluge 54.
* Why God so often repeats the same thing 55-60.
* What is meant by Zippor 55.
* How God's wrath as seen in the deluge was very great 56-57.
5. The deluge was a terrible spectacle; Noah and his sons took courage from it 58-60.
* Noah's glorious faith at the sight of the deluge 60.
* Noah's long ship voyage; how he was comforted 61.
6. How the world's destruction harmonizes with God's promises: how the promises to the Church agree with his threatenings 62ff.
* God's threatenings and man's unbelief.
a. Why the first world believed not the threatenings about the deluge 62ff.
b. Why the Jews believe not the threatenings of the prophets 63.
c. Why the Papists believed not the threats against them 64.
* God's Church and her maintenance.
a. The world understands not how the church is maintained 66.
b. What is the true form of the true Church 66.
c. God's promises not rescinded when rejected; who bear the name of the Church 67-68.
7. Whether God fully rescinded through the flood the rule over the earth he once gave man 69.
* How God preserved his Church through the deluge 69.
8. The deluge was apparently against God's promise 70.
* God allows nothing to hinder the punishment of the impenitent 71-73.
* By what means Papists adorn themselves and how it is all in vain 72.
* Why we should not rely on present, temporal things, but upon God's Word 73.
* The marks of a true Church.
a. What they are not and what they are 74-76.
b. Papists have characteristics Holy Scriptures give as marks of Antichrist 75.
c. Church born of God's Word and is to be known by that Word 76.
d. Rule to be observed in the marks of the true Church 77.
e. How far one may consider the Papists the true church, and how far not 78-79.
f. The true church is where the Word is, although few belong to it and it has no temporal power 79.
g. Whether the Evangelicals can justly be accused of falling from the old church 80.
h. How and why the Evangelical or Gospel Church is really the true Church 81.
* How Noah retained all and remained lord of the world although the deluge destroyed everything 81.
II. COMPLETE DESTRUCTION.
Vs. 11-12. In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
35. We see that Moses uses a great many words, which results in tiresome repetition. How often he mentions the animals! how often the entrance into the ark! how often the sons of Noah who entered at the same time! The reason for this must be left to the spiritually minded; they alone know and see that the Holy Spirit does not repeat in vain.
36. Others, however, who are more materially minded may think that Moses, being moved, when he wrote the passage, by the greatness of God's wrath, desired to enforce its truths by repetition; for reiteration of statements is soothing to troubled minds. Thus did David repeat his lament over his son Absalom, 2 Sam 18, 33. So viewed, this narrative shows depth of feeling and extreme agitation of mind. This example of wrath so impresses the narrator that for emphasis he mentions the same thing again and again, and in the same words.
37. This is not the custom of poets and historians. Their emotions are factitious; they are diffuse in their descriptions; they pile up words for mere effect. Moses husbands his words, but is emphatic by repetition that he may arouse the reader's attention to the importance of the message and compel him to feel his own emotions instead of reading those of another.
38. Evidently Moses did not only wish to convey by persistent repetition the extreme agitation of his own mind, but also of that of Noah himself, who, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and burning with love, necessarily deplored the calamity when he saw that he could not avert it. He foresaw the doom of the wisest and most distinguished and eminent men. Thus did David mourn when he could not call back Absalom to life. So Samuel mourned when he despaired of saving Saul.
39. The text is not a mere tautology or repetition. The Holy Spirit does not idly repeat words, as those superficial minds believe, which, having read through the Bible once, throw it aside as if they had gathered all its contents. Yet these very repetitions of Moses contain a statement more startling than any to be found in heathen records—that Noah entered the ark in the six hundredth year, the second month and the second day of his life.
40. Opinions differ as to the beginning of the year. One is, that the year begins at the conjunction of the sun and the moon which occurs nearest to the vernal equinox. Thus this month is called the first by Moses in Exodus. If the flood set in on the seventeenth day of the second month, it must have continued almost to the end of April, the most beautiful season of the year, when the earth seemingly gathers new strength, when the birds sing and the beasts rejoice, when the world puts on a new face, as it were, after the dreary season of winter. Death and destruction must have come with added terror at that season which was looked forward to as a harbinger of joy and the apparent beginning of a new life. This view is substantiated by the words of Christ in Matthew 24, 38, where he compares the last days of the world to the days of Noah and speaks of feasting, marriage and other signs of gladness.
41. A second opinion makes the year begin with that new moon which is nearest to the autumnal equinox, when all the harvest has been gathered from the fields. Its advocates declare this to be the beginning of the year, because Moses calls that month in which such new moon occurs, the end of the year. They call this autumnal equinox the beginning of the civil year, and the vernal equinox the beginning of the holy year. The Mosaic ceremonies and festivals extend from the latter season up to the autumnal equinox.
42. If Moses in this passage is speaking of the civil year, then the flood occurred in September or October, an opinion I find Lyra held. It is true that fall and winter are more liable to rains, the signs of the zodiac pointing to humidity. Again, as Moses writes further on, a dove was sent forth in the tenth month and brought back a green olive branch. This fact seems to harmonize with the view that the deluge began in October.
43. But I cannot endorse this argument of the Jews, assuming two beginnings of the year. Why not make four beginnings, since there are four distinct seasons according to the equinoxes and solstices? It is safer to follow the divine order, making April the first month, starting with the new moon which is nearest to vernal equinox. The Jews betray their ignorance in speaking of an autumnal beginning of the year: the autumnal equinox is necessarily the end of the year. Moses so calls it for the reason that all field labors had then ceased and all products had been gathered and brought home.
44. Hence, it is my belief that the flood began in the spring, when all minds were filled with hope of the new year. Such is the death of the wicked that when they shall say, "Peace and safety," they perish. 1 Thes 5, 3. Nor is any inconsistence shown in the fact that the green olive branch is afterward mentioned, for certain trees are evergreen, as the boxwood, fir, pine, cedar, laurel, olive, palm and others.
45. But what does Moses mean by saying that the fountains of the great deep burst, and that the windows of heaven were opened? No such record is found in all pagan literature, although the heathen searched with zeal the mysteries of nature. One discrimination should be made as regards the abysses of the earth, the floodgates or windows of heaven, and the rain. Rain, as we know it, is a common phenomenon, while that of bursting floodgates and abysses is both unfamiliar and amazing.
46. Almost all interpreters are silent on this point. We know from Holy Writ that God, by his Word, established a dwelling-place for man and other living beings on dry land, above the water, contrary to nature; for it is opposed to natural law that the earth, being placed in water, should rise up out of it. If you cast a clod into the water, it sinks at once. But the dry land stands up out of the water by virtue of the Word, which has set bounds for the sea, as Solomon (Prov 8, 27) and Job (ch 38, 11) declare. Unless the water were restrained by the power of the Word, with a bound, as it were, they would overflow and lay waste everything. Thus is our life guarded every single moment, and wonderfully preserved by the Word. We have an illustration in partial deluges, when at times entire states or regions are flooded, proving that we should daily suffer such unpleasant things if God did not take care of us.
47. But just as there are waters below us, and beneath the earth, so, too, are there waters above us, and beyond the sky. If they should descend, obeying natural law, destruction would result. The clouds float as if suspended in space. When at times they descend, how great the terror they cause! But imagine the result of a universal collapse! How they would burst, in obedience to the law of their nature, did they not remain in place above us, suspended, as it were, by the Word!
48. Thus we are girt about on all sides by water, shielded only by a frail ceiling of unsubstantial material—the air that we breathe—which bears up the clouds and carries that weight of water, not in obedience to the laws of nature, but by the command of God, or by the power of the Word.
49. When the prophets think of these things they are lost in admiration. It is contrary to nature that such a weight should remain in suspension above the earth. But we, blinded by daily witnessing of such wonders, neither observe nor admire them. That we are not at any moment overwhelmed by waters from above or from below, we owe to the divine majesty which orders all things and preserves all creatures so wonderfully, and he ought to be the object of our praise.
50. Startling and significant are the words Moses uses—the fountains of the great deep were broken up. The conception he would convey is that they had been closed by God's power and sealed, as it were, with God's seal, as today; and that God did not open them with a key, but rent them with violence, so that the ocean, in a sudden upheaval, covered everything with water. It is not to be supposed that God moved his hand, because the fountains of the deep are said to have been broken up. It is the custom of Scripture to adapt itself to our understanding in the phraseology employed, and that under consideration here denotes that God gives leave to the waters in that he no longer restrains or coerces them but suffers them to rage and break forth unchecked according to their nature. That is the reason the ocean seemed to swell and boil. In the salt works in our neighborhood there is a spring named after the Germans, which, if it is not pumped out at certain times, swells and overflows with terrific force.
51. They say that in olden times the town of Halle was once destroyed by a violent overflow of a spring of the kind described. If a single spring could work such destruction what would be the result of the uncurbed power of ocean and seas? Thus mankind was destroyed before they even knew their danger. Whither should they flee when the waters poured in upon them with such force?
52. But this is not all: the windows of heaven also were opened. Moses' word implies that to that time the windows were closed as they are closed today. Indeed, the world thought such opening impossible; their sins, however, made it possible.
53. Moses' use here of the word "windows" signifies the literal opening of heaven. With rain as we know it, the water appears to fall by drops from the pores of the rain-clouds, but at the time of the flood it came down with great force, not through pores, but through windows, like water poured from a vessel with one movement, or as when water-skins burst in the middle. Moses uses this figure of speech for the sake of effect, so that those occurrences are brought to our vision.
54. A volume of water, therefore, swept over the earth, from the sky as well as from the innermost parts of the earth, until at last the whole earth was covered with water, and the fertile soil, or the entire face of the earth was destroyed by the briny flood. A like instance occurs nowhere in any book. The Holy Scriptures alone teach us that these things were visited upon the world sinning in imagined security, and that to this day the waters suspended in the clouds are restrained only by the kindness of God. Otherwise they would descend in vast volume, as in the flood, according to the law of their nature.
Vs. 13-16. In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; they, and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. And, they went in unto Noah and the ark, two and two of all flesh wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God commanded him.
55. Here Moses begins to be remarkably verbose. His wordiness hurts tender ears when he so often and apparently without any use repeats the same things. It is not sufficient to say "all birds," but he names three kinds of birds. Of these, the term zippor is usually said to mean "a sparrow," but this passage shows clearly that it is a generic term, doubtless so called from the sound, zi, zi. He also names three kinds of beasts. Also, when speaking of the flood itself, he is very wordy, saying that the waters prevailed, that they increased, that they flooded and covered the face of the earth. Finally, when he tells of the effect of this flood, he makes similar repetition: "All flesh expired, died, was destroyed," etc.
56. But I said above (para 37) that Moses repeats these things contrary to his style, in order to force the reader to pause and more diligently learn and meditate upon this great event. We cannot fully comprehend the wrath which destroys, not man alone, but all his possessions. Moses wishes to arouse hardened and heedless sinners by such a consideration of God's wrath.
57. Hence, these words are not idle, as a shallow and unspiritual reader might judge. They rather challenge us to fear God, and call attention to the present so that, sobered by the thought of such wrath, we may make an earnest beginning in the fear of God, and cease from sin. For not without many tears does Moses appear to have written this account! So utterly is he with eyes and mind absorbed in this horrible spectacle of wrath that he cannot but repeat the same statements again and again. Doubtless he does this with the purpose to thrust such darts of divine fear, so to speak, into the souls of pious readers.
58. It may be well to transport ourselves in thought into the time of the event. What do you think would be our state of mind if we had been put into the ark, if we had seen the waters spreading everywhere with overwhelming force and the wretched human beings perishing without possibility of help? Let us remember that Noah and his sons were also flesh and blood; that is, they were men who, as that person in the comedy (Terence, Heaut. 1: 1, 25) says, thought nothing human was foreign to themselves. They were in the ark for forty days before it was lifted off the earth. In those days were destroyed all the human beings and animals living upon the earth. This calamity they saw with their own eyes; who would doubt that they were violently stirred by the sight?
59. Furthermore, the ark floated upon the waters for one hundred and fifty days, buffeted on all sides by the waves and winds. There was no hope for any harbor, or for any meeting with men. As exiles, therefore, as vanished from the earth, as it were, they were driven here and there by currents and winds. Is it not a miracle that those eight human beings did not die from grief and fear? Truly, we are made of stone if we can read this story with dry eyes.
60. What outcry, sorrow and wailing if from the shore we see a small boat overturned, and human beings miserably perishing! Here, however, not one boat-load, but the entire world of men perish in the waters; a world composed not only of grown persons, but also babes; not only of criminal and wicked ones, but also simple-hearted matrons and virgins. They all perished. Let us believe that Moses told the tale of this calamity with such redundancy of words in order that we might be impelled to give earnest attention to this important event. Noah's faith was truly of a rare kind, since he consoled himself and his family with the hope of promised seed and dwelt more upon this promise than the destruction of all the rest of the world.
Vs. 16-24. And Jehovah shut him in. And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lifted up above the earth. And the waters prevailed, and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both birds, and cattle, and beasts, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: all, in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, of all that was on the dry land, died. And every living thing was destroyed that was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days.
61. For forty days the ark stood in some plain. By that time the waters had risen to such an extent that they lifted the ark, which then floated for one hundred and fifty days. A long sea voyage indeed, and one of great mourning and tears. Yet the occupants upheld themselves by faith, not doubting the kindness of God toward them. They had experienced his goodness when building the ark, when preparing the food, when getting ready other things needful for this occasion, and finally when the Lord closed the ark after the flood came in its power.
62. The question arises, how can God be truthful here? He had set man as master over the earth to cultivate and rule it. God did not create the earth to lie waste, but to be inhabited and give its fruits to men. How can we reconcile such purpose of the creator with the fact that he destroyed all mankind except eight souls? I have no doubt that this argument influenced the descendants of Cain as well as the wicked posterity of the righteous generation not to believe Noah when he proclaimed the flood. How can we harmonize God's promise to Adam and Eve, "You shall rule the earth," and his words here to Noah, "The water shall overpower all men, and destroy them all." So the unbelievers decided that Noah's preaching was wicked and heretical.
63. In like manner the books of the prophets bear witness that the threats of the Assyrian and Babylonish captivity were not believed by the priests and kings, who knew this grand promise: "This is my resting-place forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it," Ps 132, 14; and that other, by Isaiah: "Here is my fire, and my hearth-stone," Is 31, 9. To them it was incredible that either the State or the temple should be overthrown by the gentiles. And the Jews, miserable outcast though they be, even to this day hold fast the promise that they are God's people and heirs of the promises given Abraham and the fathers.
64. Thus is the pope puffed up with the promises given to the Church: "I am with you unto the end of the world," Mt 28, 20; "I will not leave you desolate," Jn 14, 18; "I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not," Lk 22, 32; and others. Though he sees and feels the wrath of God, yet, caught in these promises, he dreams, and likewise his followers, that his throne and power are secure. Hence the Papists blatantly use the name of the Church to overwhelm us, promising themselves the utmost success, as if they could force God to establish the Church according to their dreams and desires.
65. Fitly, then, do we here raise the question how the flood, by which all mankind perished, agrees with the will of God, who created human nature and gave it the promise and endowment of dominion. The answer to this question will likewise settle the one concerning the Church. It is this: God remains truthful, preserving, ruling and governing his Church though in a manner transcending the observation and understanding of the world. He permits the Roman pontiff and his adherents to think that the pope is the Church. He suffers him to feel secure and to enjoy his dignity and title. But in fact God has excommunicated the pontiff, because he rejects the Word and establishes idolatrous worship.
66. On the other hand, God has chosen for himself another Church, which embraces the Word and flees idolatry, a Church so oppressed and shamefully afflicted that it is not considered a Church but a band of heretics and the devil's school. Thus Paul writes to the Romans (ch 2, 17) that the Jews do not fear God yet they glory in the Law and in God, at the same time denying, blaspheming and offending God. And while the Jews, who take pride in being God's people, are doing this, God prepares for himself a Church from the gentiles, who truly glory in God and embrace his Word.
67. But who should dare to accuse God of untruthfulness because he preserves the Church in a manner unknown and undesired by man? Of similar nature were the promises concerning the preservation of Jerusalem and the temple. These promises were not violated when that city and temple were laid waste by the Babylonians. For God established another Jerusalem and another temple in the Spirit and by the Word; Jeremiah promised (Jer 29, 10-11) that the people should return after seventy years and that then both the temple and the nation should be re-established.
68. As regards the Jews, these were destroyed at that time, but not as regards God who had promised in his Word that they should be rebuilt. The Jews argue correctly that God will not desert the nation and temple; but God keeps his promise in a way foreign to the thought of the Jews, who believed that the nation would not be destroyed because the promise said: "This is my resting-place forever." God permitted destruction in order to punish the sins of his people, and yet he preserved and protected the Church when the pious were brought back by Cyrus and built the temple.
69. In like manner, dominion over the world was given to man in the beginning of creation. This is taken away in the flood, not forever, but for a time, and that not altogether. Though the greater part of the world perishes, yet man retains his mastery; and this mastery is preserved to mankind, not as represented by a multitude, as the world desired and believed, but by a few persons—eight souls—a thing which seemed incredible to the world.
70. Hence God did not lie; he kept his promise, but not as the world would have had it. He destroyed the sinners and saved the righteous few, which, like a seed, he thereafter multiplied in many ways.
71. The Papists should keep before their eyes this judgment of God. It teaches that neither numbers nor power nor his own promise is allowed to prevent him from punishing the impenitent. Otherwise he would have spared the first world and the offspring of the patriarchs to whom he had granted dominion over the earth. Now he destroys all and saves only eight.
72. Is it wonderful, then, that he deals with the Papists in the same way? Though they boast of rank, dignity, numbers, and power, yet, because they trample the Word of God under foot and rage against it, God will cast them away, choosing for himself another Church, which will humbly obey the Word and accept with open arms the gifts of Christ which the pope's Church, trusting in its own merits, haughtily spurns.
73. Therefore none should trust in the good things of present possession, though they be promised by the divine Word. We must look to the Word itself and trust in it alone. Those who set the Word aside and put their trust in present things, will not go unscathed in their fall from faith, however much they may boast of power and numbers. This truth is shown by the flood, by the captivity of the Jews and their present misfortune, and by the seven thousand men in the kingdom of Israel.
74. The proof is sufficiently strong, that great numbers do not make a Church. Nor must we trust in holiness of origin, in forefathers, or in the gifts of God which we enjoy. We must look to the Word alone and judge thereby. Those alone who truly embrace the Word will be as immovable forever as Mount Zion. They may be few in number and thoroughly despised by the world, as were Noah and his children. But God, through these few, preserved to man the truth of that promised mastery when he had not even room to set his foot upon the earth.
75. Our enemies, setting aside the Word, make much of number, outward appearance, and persons. But the apostles foretold that the Antichrist will be a respecter of persons, that will rely upon numbers and ancient origin, that he will hate the Word and corrupt God's promises and that he will kill those who cling to the Word. Shall we, then, consider such people to be the Church?
76. The Church is a daughter born from the Word, not the mother of the Word. Therefore, whoever loses the Word and looks to men instead, ceases to be the Church and lapses into utter blindness; nor will either great numbers or power avail. They who keep the word, as did Noah and his family, are the Church, though they be few in number, even but eight souls. The Papists at this time surpass us in numbers and rank; we not only are cursed, but suffer many things. But we must endure until the judgment, when God will reveal that we are his Church, and the Papists the church of Satan.
77. So, then, we must observe that rule in 1 Sam 16, 7, where the Lord says to Samuel: "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for Jehovah seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart."
78. Let us not, therefore, give heed to the greatness and might of the pope, who boasts that he is the Church, proclaiming the apostolic succession and the majesty of his person. Let us look to the Word. If the pope embraces it, let us judge him to be the Church; but if he does violence to it, let us judge him to be the slave of Satan.
79. Paul says (1 Cor 2, 15) that the spiritual person judgeth all things. If I were the only one on the face of the earth to keep the Word, I should be the Church, and rightfully pass judgment upon all the rest of the world that they were not the Church. Our enemies have the office without the Word, and really have nothing. We, on the other hand, have the Word, though we have nothing; yet we have everything through the Word. Therefore, either let the pope, the cardinals and the bishops come over to our side, or let them cease to boast that they are the Church, which they cannot be without the Word, since it is begotten only by the Word.
80. We bear a great load of hatred, being accused of having deserted the ancient Church. The Papists, on the other hand, boast that they have remained true to the Church, and they want to leave everything to the judgment of the Church. But we are accused falsely. To speak the truth, we must say that we departed from the Word when we were still in their Church and now we have returned to the Word and have ceased to be apostates from the Word.
81. Therefore though in their judgment they rob us of the title of the Church, still we retain the Word, and through the Word we have all ornaments of the true Church. For whoever has the Creator of all, must needs also possess the creatures themselves. In this sense Noah remained master of the world, though the waters prevailed, and the earth perished. Though he lost his property, yet, because he retained the Word by which everything was created, it may truly be said he retained everything.
I. NOAH'S CONDITION IN THE ARK; THE WATERS ABATE.
A. NOAH'S CONDITION IN THE ARK.
1. How Noah and his family anxiously waited for God's promise, and lived in faith, which is a hard life 1-3.
2. He had a hard time in the ark. What sustained him 2-4.
3. How he suffered in two ways 5.
* Whether God can forget his saints 6.
* Severest temptations are when man thinks he is forsaken by God 7.
4. Noah's condition became more miserable because of his family's distress 8-10.
5. Noah and family with difficulty overcame their temptation 11.
* Christians need steadfastness 12.
* Why God for a time conceals himself from his faithful ones 13.
* Temptations severe when saints imagine God has forsaken them 14.
B. THE WATERS ABATE.
1. The time the waters abated 15.
2. How the wind blew upon the earth and dried it. 16-17.
3. The abating of the waters was a sign by which God comforted Noah 18.
* Noah's Ark.
a. When it began to float, how long it floated and when it rested 19.
b. On what mountain did it rest 20.
c. What to think of Josephus' testimony 21.
4. When the mountain tops first seen 22.
5. How Noah learned the deluge had ceased.
a. Why Noah sent forth the raven, and how the error arose the raven never returned 23-24.
* The Jews' unclean thoughts of the raven 24.
b. Noah sent forth a dove, and if at the same time with the raven 25.
c. Noah sent out a second dove, which assured him that the flood had ceased 26.
(1) Dove returned with an olive leaf 26.
(2) Whether it did this of its own impulse, and what God thereby wished to indicate 27-28.
(3) The Jews' ideas on where the dove got the olive leaf 27.
(4) Why an olive leaf 28.
6. How long Noah and family were in the ark 29.
I. NOAH IN ARK—FLOOD ABATES.
A. NOAH'S CONDITION IN THE ARK.
V. 1a. And God remembered Noah, and all the beasts, and all the cattle that were with him in the ark.
1. When that horrible wrath had exhausted itself, and all flesh with the earth had been destroyed, the promise made by God to Noah and his sons, that they were to be the seed of the human race, began to be realized. No doubt this promise was to them an object of eager expectation. No life is so hedged about with difficulties as that of faith. This was the life lived by Noah and his sons, whom we see absolutely depending upon the heavens for support. The earth was covered with water. Bottom on which to stand there was none. It was the word of promise that upheld them, as they drifted in this welter of waters.
2. When the flesh is free from danger, it holds faith in contempt, as the claims of the Papists show. It loves showy and toilsome tasks; in these it sweats. But behold Noah, on all sides surrounded by waters, yet not overwhelmed! Surely it is not works that sustain him but faith in God's mercy extended through the word of promise.
3. The difficulty besetting Noah is hinted at in the words: "God remembered." Moses thus intimates that Noah had been tossed on the water so long that God seemed to have forgotten him altogether. They who pass through such a mental strain, when the rays of divine grace are gone and they sit in darkness or are forgotten by God, find by experience that it is far more difficult to live in the Word or by faith alone than to be a hermit or a Carthusian monk.
4. Hence, it is not a meaningless expression when the Holy Spirit says that "God remembered Noah." He means that from the day Noah entered the ark, no word was spoken, nothing was revealed to him; that he saw no ray of divine grace shining, but merely clung to the promise which he had accepted, while in the meantime the waters and waves raged as if God had certainly forgotten. The same danger beset his children and also the cattle and all the other animals throughout the one hundred and fifty days they were in the ark. And though the holy seed by the aid of the conquering Spirit overcame those difficulties, the victory was not won without vexation of the flesh, tears and stupendous fear, felt, in my opinion, even by the brutes.
5. Thus a twofold danger beset them. The universal flood which swallowed up all mankind could not vanish without stupendous grief to the righteous, particularly as they saw themselves reduced to so small a number. Further, it was a serious matter to be buffeted by the waters for almost half a year without any consolation from God.
6. The expression used by Moses, "God remembered Noah," must not be short of its meaning by calling it a rhetorical figure, signifying that God acted after the manner of one who had forgotten Noah, whereas God cannot in truth forget his saints. A mere master of rhetoric, indeed, does not know what it means to live in such a state as to feel that God has forgotten him. Only the most perfect saints understand that, and can in faith bear, so to speak, a God who forgets. Therefore the Psalms and all the Scriptures are filled with complaints of this nature, in which God is called upon to arise, to open his eyes, to hear, to awaken.
7. Monks possessed of a higher degree of experience, at times underwent this temptation and called it a suspension of grace. The latter may be experienced also in temptations of a slighter nature. The flame of lust found in young people is altogether unbearable unless it is held in check by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Similarly, at a more mature age, impatience and the desire for revenge can nowise be overcome unless God tears them from the soul. How much more liable is the soul to fall into the darkness of despair, or into ensnaring predestinarian tenets, when more severe temptations beset us and the suspension of grace is felt.
8. Hence this expression is not to be passed by as a mere rhetorical ornament, according to the interpretation of the rabbis. It is intended rather to portray the state of soul which feels despair coming on amid unutterable groanings of heart, with just a spark of faith left to wrest victory from the flesh. In the same way that Paul suffered from Satan's messenger, we may believe that Noah felt himself stabbed in the heart, and that he often argued thus within himself: Dost thou believe that thou alone art so beloved of God? Dost thou believe that thou will be kept safe to the end, when waters are boundless, and those immense clouds seem to be inexhaustible?
9. When, then, such broodings found their way also into the weak souls of the women, what cries, wails and tears may we surmise to have been the result? Almost overcome by sadness and grief, he was forced to lift up and comfort those with the cheer his own heart did not feel.
10. It was, therefore, no jest or frolic for them to live so long locked up within the ark, to see the endless downpour of rain and to be carried to and fro floating upon the waves. This was the experience of having been forgotten by God which Moses implies when he says that God at last remembered Noah and his sons.
11. Though the occupants of the ark overcame this feeling by faith, they did not do so without great vexation of the flesh; just as a young man who leads a chaste life overcomes lust, but surely not without the greatest vexation and trouble. In this instance, where the trial was greater, where all evidence was at variance with the fact that God was gracious and mindful of them, they indeed triumphed, but not without fearful tribulation. For the flesh, weak in itself, can bear nothing less patiently than the thought of a God who has forgotten. Human nature is prone to be puffed up and haughty when God remembers it, when he vouchsafes success and favor. Is it a wonder, then, that we become broken in spirit and desperate when God seems to have cast us away and everything goes against us?
12. Let us remember that this story sets before us an example of faith, of endurance, and of patience, to the end that, having the divine promise, we should not only learn to believe it, but should also consider that we are in need of endurance. Endurance is not maintained without a great struggle, and Christ calls upon us, in the New Testament, to acquire it when he says: "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved," Mt 24, 13.
13. This is the reason why God hides for a time, as it were, seeming to have forgotten us, suspending his grace, as they say in the schools. As in this temptation not only the spirit but also the flesh is afflicted, so afterward, when he again begins to remember us, the perception of grace which during the trial was evident only to the spirit and most faintly at that, is extended to the flesh also.
14. Hence, the word "remembered" indicates that great sadness beset both man and beast during the entire time of the flood. It must have been by dint of great patience and extraordinary courage that Noah and the others bore this lapse from God's memory, which is simply unbearable to the flesh without the spirit even in slight trials. True, God always remembers his own, even when he seems to have forsaken them; but Moses indicates that he remembered his people here in a visible way, by a sign, and by openly fulfilling what he had previously promised through the Word and the Spirit. This is the most important passage in this chapter.
B. Waters Abate.
Vs. 1b-3. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; the fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; and the waters returned from off the earth continually; and after the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.
15. Moses said above (ch 7, 11-12) that the deluge raged in three different ways; for not only were the fountains of the great deep broken up and the windows of heaven opened, but also the rain descended. When these forces ceased on the one hundred and fiftieth day, quiet was once more in evidence and the fact that God remembered, and Noah with his sons and their wives, as also the animals, was refreshed after terror so great and continuous. If a storm of two days duration causes seafarers to despair, how much more distressing was that tossing about for half a year!
16. The question here arises, how the wind was made to pass over the earth, which as yet was entirely covered with water. It is nothing new that winds have the power to dry, especially those from the east, called by our countrymen "hohle winde," and by Virgil "parching winds," from the drouth which they bring upon the earth. These are mentioned also by Hosea 13, 15. The explanation, accordingly, is simple. Moses says that the wind was made to pass over the earth, that is, over the surface of the waters, for such a length of time that at last, the waters being dried up, the earth again appeared. So, in Exodus, a burning wind is said to have dried up the Red Sea. Now, God might have accomplished this without any wind, yet he habitually employs a natural means to attain his purposes.
17. Up to this time Noah had lived in darkness, seeing nothing but the waters rolling and raging in a terrifying volume. Now the delicious light of the sun bursts forth once more, and the winds cease to roar from all points of the compass. Only the east wind, calculated to reduce the waters, is blowing, and gradually it takes away the stagnant flood. Other means also are effective; the ocean no longer hurls its waves upon the land, but takes back the waters which it had spewed forth, and the floodgates of heaven are closed up.
18. These are outward and tangible signs by which God consoles Noah, showing him that he had not forgotten, but remembered him. This is a practical and needed lesson also for us. When in the midst of dangers we may with certainty look for God's help, who does not desert us if we continue in faith, looking forward to the fulfilment of God's promises.
V. 4. And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
19. The waters increased for forty days, until the ark was lifted from the earth. Then for one hundred and fifty days it floated upon the waters, driven by the winds and the waves, without a sign of God's remembrance. At length the waters began to decrease, and the ark rested.
20. The point of dispute among the Jews here is the number of months. But why waste any more time upon immaterial matters, particularly as we see that the suggestions of the rabbis are not at all wise? It is more to the purpose for us to inquire where the mountains of Ararat are to be found. It is generally believed that they are mountains of Armenia, close by the highest ranges of Asia Minor, the Caucasus and the Taurus. But it appears to me that more likely the highest of all mountains is meant, the Imaus (Himalaya), which divides India. Compared to this range, other mountains are no more than warts. That the ark rested upon the highest mountain is substantiated by the fact that the waters continued to fall for three whole months before such smaller ranges as Lebanon, Taurus, and Caucasus were uncovered, which are, as it were, the feet or roots of the Himalaya, just as the mountains of Greece may be called branches of the Alps extending up to our Hercinian Forest (Harz). To anyone who surveys them with care the mountains seem to be wonderfully related and united.
21. Josephus has wonderful things to tell about the mountains of Armenia, and he records that during his time remains of the ark were discovered there. But I suppose nobody will judge me to be a heretic if I occasionally doubt the reliability of his statements.
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.
22. Moses said before that by the seventh month the waters had fallen so far that the ark rested upon Ararat. In the third month thereafter, the tops of the lower mountains began to appear, so that Noah, looking down from the mountains of Ararat as if from a watchtower, saw also the peaks of the other mountains, of the Taurus in Asia, the Lebanon in Syria, and the like. All these were signs of God's remembrance.
Vs. 6-7. And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: and he sent forth a raven, and it went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.
23. So far the history; the allegorical significance we shall discuss at its proper place. The carelessness of a translator has caused a dispute upon this part of the story. The Hebrew text does not say that the raven did not return, as Jerome translated; hence there was no need to invent a reason why he did not return—because he found dead bodies lying about everywhere. They claim that abundance of food prevented him.
24. On the contrary, Moses says that the raven which had been sent forth, returned; although he did not permit himself to be again imprisoned in the ark as the dove did. Moses implies that Noah sent forth the raven to find out whether animals could, by that time find dry land and food. The raven, however, did not faithfully carry out his mission, but rejoicing to be set free from his prison, he flew to and fro, and paying no attention to Noah, he enjoyed the free sky. The swinish Jews, however, show the impurity of their minds everywhere. For they suppose that the raven had fears concerning his mate, and that he even suspected Noah concerning her. Shame upon those impure minds!
Vs. 8-9. And he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him to the ark; for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: and he put forth his hand, and took her, and brought her unto him into the ark.
25. When Noah's hopes had been set at naught by the raven, which flew about wantonly but brought no tidings concerning the condition of the earth, he took a dove, thinking that she would more truly perform the mission. The text almost authorizes us to say that those two birds were sent forth at the same time, so that Noah might have two witnesses from whom to gain desired knowledge. The raven enjoying the free sky, flew round about the ark, but did not want to return into it. The dove, however, fleeing from the corpses and corruption, comes back and permits itself to be caught. This story, as we shall hear, offers a fine allegory concerning the Church.
Vs. 10-12. And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came in to him at eventide; and, lo, in her mouth an olive-leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. And he stayed yet other seven days, and sent forth the dove; and she returned not again unto him any more.
26. The dove, being a faithful messenger, is sent forth once more. Moses carefully describes how the waters decreased gradually, until at last the surface of the earth, together with the trees, was laid bare. We do not believe that the dove brought the olive leaf intentionally, but by the command of God, who wanted to show Noah, little by little, that he had not altogether forgotten but remembered him. This olive leaf was an impressive sign to Noah and his fellow-prisoners in the ark, bringing them courage and hope of impending liberation.
27. The Jews dispute sharply in respect to this matter of where the dove found the olive leaf, and some, in order to secure special glory for their homeland, make the ludicrous assertion that she took it from the Mount of Olives in the land of Israel, which God had spared from the flood that destroyed the remainder of the earth. But the saner Jews rightly refute this nonsense by arguing that if this were true, the olive leaf could not have been a sign for Noah that the waters had fallen. Others have invented the fable that the dove was admitted to paradise and brought the leaf from there.
28. But I have (ch 2, para 39-42) set forth at length my views concerning paradise, and this nonsense is not worthy the effort of a refutation. It serves a better purpose to remind you that all these things happened miraculously and supernaturally. A dove is not so intelligent as to pluck a bough and bring it to the ark in order that Noah might form a judgment with reference to the decrease of waters. God ordained these events. Other trees had leaves at that time, particularly the taller ones which rose sooner from the waters. The olive tree is comparatively short, hence it was calculated to furnish information concerning the decrease of the waters and to serve as an object lesson of the cessation of the wrath of God and the return of the earth to its former state. Of this he had more certain proof however, when the dove, having been sent out the third time, did not return: for not only did it find food on earth, but was able to build nests and to flit to and fro.
Vs. 13-14. And it came to pass in the six hundred 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 dried. And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dry.
29. Here we see that Noah was in the ark an entire year and ten days; for he entered the ark on the seventeenth day of the second month, and came out again, after a year had passed, in the same month, but on the twenty-seventh day. Poor Noah, with his sons and the women, lived in the ark more than half a year in sore grief, without a sign of being remembered by God. Afterward God gave him gradual proof, through various signs, that he had not forgotten him, until at last, after the lapse of a year and ten days, he was again given dominion over the earth and sea. On this day of the second month, the flood had not only disappeared, but the earth was dry. This is the story of the flood and its abatement. After this fearful wrath, there ensues an immeasurable light of grace, as is shown in the following sermon addressed to Noah by God himself.
II. NOAH COMMANDED TO LEAVE THE ARK; HIS OFFERING TO GOD; GOD'S RESOLVE NOT TO CURSE THE EARTH AGAIN.
A. NOAH COMMANDED TO LEAVE THE ARK, AND HE OBEYED 30-32.
* Man should do nothing but what God commands 30-32.
* Is it right to start a new worship without God's command to do so 33-34.
* The examples of saints and special works.
1. Should we imitate the works of the holy patriarchs 34-35.
2. The result among the Jews of a reckless imitation of the saints 36.
3. Should have regard here, not to works but to faith 37-38.
II. NOAH LEAVES ARK, HIS SACRIFICE AND GOD'S PROMISE.
A. Noah Obeys Command to Leave the Ark.
Vs. 15-17. And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth from the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee of all flesh, both birds, and cattle, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth.
30. Up to this point the narrative is only a record of facts, or the description of a divine work. Though the works of God are not mute but eloquent witnesses, and present to our vision the will of God, a still greater comfort is vouchsafed when God links to the works the Word, which is not manifest to the eye but perceptible to the ear and intelligible to the heart through the promptings of the Holy Spirit. So far God had given proof by his work that he was appeased, that the God of wrath had turned into a God of mercy, who turns back the waters and dries up the earth. Such comfort he now amplifies by his Word in that he lovingly accosts and enjoins him to leave the ark with the other creatures, both men and animals.