What was there about Noah that caused God to look upon him with favor?
many saints of old, we really do not know very much about this man. What we do
know is that the society of his day was extremely wicked, perhaps more so than
any society which has ever lived. It must have been so to provoke such a severe
judgment from God.
we do not know any of the particulars of the people of that day. We do not know
for what reasons God declared the society to be so wicked. Nevertheless, as we
read the account in chapter 6 of Genesis, God’s assessment of the people demonstrated the
extreme depth of depravity to which they had descended.
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
the seven things listed in the book of Proverbs that are particularly
detestable to God are “hearts that devises wicked schemes and feet that are
quick to rush into evil.”
King David wrote of this condition in the book of Psalms:
The fool says in his heart, “There is
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on all
mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:1-3 NIV)
form that the evil took in the lives of the people of Noah’s day, their
immorality apparently had come to the point that even their every thought was
evil. There was no goodness at all left in them. After God had seen the deep
corruption of the world, it was to Noah alone that he came with the news that
he had determined to put an end to all people.
Noah managed to retain his goodness and stay strong in the midst of this evil
society. Of Noah, we read, “he was a righteous man, and he lived a blameless
life among the people of his time.”
Those words remind us of another outstanding person of the Old Testament—the man Job. God said of him, “there is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8).
fact, in the book of Ezekiel, we read how God presents the lives of Noah and
Job, along with a third man—the Old Testament prophet Daniel, as examples of
living upright lives in the midst of depraved societies.
that passage of Scripture, the Lord is speaking to Ezekiel about Ezekiel’s own
people Israel, who had fallen into idolatry. As God speaks about the nation of
Israel, he expands the application to other nations to say, “If a country sins
against me by being unfaithful, and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off
its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its people and their animals, even
if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only
themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 14:13-14).
With this we see that the lessons of Noah were not only applicable for Noah in his day, but God means them to be applicable to any country and in any time. That makes it relevant also to any one of us in our own day.
The Boat Ride
myself have never been on a ship at sea during a cyclone. I have seen movies,
but of course that is a pitiful substitute. Perhaps if you are or have been a
Navy man or woman, or have worked on shipping vessels, you have been in an
ocean-going craft during a great storm. You know something of what it is to
ride the great ocean swells, experience the extreme listing of the ship from
side to side and wondering at every moment if it would capsize.
cannot imagine what it must have been like for Noah and his family on board
their vessel when the fountains of the deep began to burst upon the land. The
ark was not really a boat or a ship in the traditional sense. It was not
designed by God to travel from one place to another over the surface of the
waters. It was an ark—a box. Its only purpose was to preserve its contents and
keep them safe.
when those great surges of waters elevated one end of the ark on gigantic
waves, and then sent it crashing down while lifting the other end, it must have
been a wild ride for man and beast within. The storm surge must have been
tremendous. When you consider how quickly the entire earth became flooded, the
water would have had to come gushing up with incredible force.
am sure that when Noah heard the creaking and straining of the timbers of the
ark, he had to wonder if he had made those joints tight enough to withstand the
stresses and pressures put upon them. Were there leaks that they had to repair
during the storm, or a failing in the hull or the structure that Noah and his
family had to deal with? We don’t know any of these details.
think of the account of the Apostle Paul when he was on the Mediterranean
during a powerful storm, and when the ship’s crew, in order to try to keep the
ship from breaking apart, wrapped cables around the entire vessel in an attempt
to bind it together. We do not know what it was like for Noah and his family,
but I am quite certain that they did not sit quietly in the galley drinking
their cocktails and tea and listening to the pitter patter of the rain on the
top of the ark.
After the forty days, when rains and the rising water finally ceased, they all must have been relieved. God had told them that the storm would be of that duration—forty days, but perhaps it was difficult to even keep track of days and nights. But it was obvious when the storm was over. The rain had stopped. The fact that the waters had ceased to rush onto the land may have been more difficult to determine, since the ark was still caught in the currents as the water receded and washed about.
the account of the flood, the Bible is quite specific concerning certain time
markers. For instance, it states that the rains began to fall and the great
deep burst forth on the seventeenth day of the second month of the six hundredth
year of Noah’s life. I know it was not called the seventeenth of February, but
I am going to use our own calendar so that it is less confusing.
you are a stickler for these kinds of things, you can do your own calculations
using the Old Testament feast-day calendar. But even with that, since the flood
occurred long before that calendar was in effect, you would have to question if
even this is the correct calendar to use. I doubt if Noah had this calendar
hanging on the wall of the captain’s quarters.
the rains and surges of water began on the seventeenth of February, year 600 AN
(After Noah, in contrast with BN). When the rain stopped at the end of the
forty days, Noah opened the window to look out on a watery horizon (Genesis 8:6).
next time marker is the seventeenth of the seventh month – July seventeen.
Since the text says twice that the waters “prevailed on the earth” for 150 days,
and since these five months would approximate the 150, I am going to make the assumption
that this is the time period that the Bible is referring to. It was at that
point, at the end of the 150 days, that Noah felt a slight thud, and if he was standing up, perhaps lost his balance a little as
his ark came to rest on the top of one of the mountains of Ararat.
it was not until the tenth month, on the first of October that the mountains
became visible, and not until the very first day of the first month of the next
year, New Year’s Day of the year 601 of Noah’s life, that he removed the
covering from the ark.
that point, Noah began using a new calendar. It was now the year 0000 AF (After
Flood) Then, it was not until February 27 of year 0000 that God told Noah that
he and his family, along with all of the animals, could emerge from the boat
that had been their home for more than a year.
That is the timetable of the flood as given to us in the verses of Genesis, chapters seven and eight.
I would like to quote a portion of the account. This portion follows the verse
that tells of the time when the mountaintops became visible (8:5). Although it follows
this verse in the narrative, I do not think it is necessarily in chronological
order. I will explain in a moment, but first the verses:
At the end of forty days Noah opened
the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and
fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent forth a dove
from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground.
But the dove found no place to set her
foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face
of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into
the ark with him.
He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore. (Genesis 8:6-12 ESV)
As mentioned, these verses directly follow the verse that tells us that there were mountaintops that were visible. Why then, does it say that when Noah sent out the dove the first time, it came back to him because it could find nowhere to perch? Did the dove not notice those mountains sticking out of the water that the verse before mentioned? After all, she was in a mountainous area. No, she did not see the mountaintops because as the text tells us, “There was water all over the surface of the earth.”
can see why sometimes, trying to piece things together from such a brief
account is difficult and it even sounds like someone must have made a mistake.
And there is also something else—there is a difference in the way histories of
various cultures are written.
our own traditions, we tend to write our histories in a rather strict
chronological order. We begin at the beginning of the event and make our way
through the chronology, stating things that happened their own proper moment.
The Bible, however, often does not do that. Quite often in the Bible,
historical accounts are first given as a relatively broad overview, only to
later retrace the steps in a more chronologically manner in order to fill in
some detail not given in the first account.
is also why some people say there must have been two creations of the heavens
and the earth, since there is one account in Genesis 1, and a separate one in
Genesis 2 (More specifically, Genesis
1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25
). But these are not
two accounts of different creations. The first is a broader overview of the
creation. Then, in the second account, some of the important details that were
left out of the first one have been added.
think that this is what we are dealing with here in the sending out of the
birds. The forty days does not mean forty days after the mountaintops became
visible. That would not seem to make any sense. Noah had already opened the
window to look out, and his boat was on the top of one of the many mountains in
the area, so he would not have to send out a dove at that point to see if there
was land. He would have been able to see for himself what it looked like.
Rather, when the text is referring to the forty days here, it is speaking of the time at the end of the forty-day rainstorm and upheaval of the aquifers. It was at this time that Noah sent out the raven. It is not that I am trying to be that stickler for detail that I earlier mentioned; it is just that there is a point that I want to make.
The Question of
when we read that after forty days, Noah sent a raven out of the ark, I think
that this is speaking not about the forty days after the appearance of the
mountain tops, but immediately after the forty days of rain and flood surge.
After Noah sent him out, the raven did not return.
as we read in the text, Noah later then sent out a dove. I do not think that
the dove was sent out immediately after the raven did not return, as if this
was another attempt by Noah to see if there was land. It was not that, after
the raven failed to return, Noah said, “Well that clearly did not work! Here,
let me try this dove to see if I have any better luck!”
if you read the text carefully, it does not specifically state that Noah sent
out the raven for the purpose of seeing if there was land at all. It just says
that he sent it out. Later, when he sent out the dove, the text does say that Noah did this for the
purpose of looking for land.
the timing of the first time that Noah sent out the dove, this the text does
not state. All that we know that it was sometime after the raven. Since in the
narrative, we read of the sending of the dove immediately after the account of
the raven, we make the assumption that it was very soon.
it does not necessarily mean that, and I actually do not think that is what it
does mean. I have already mentioned the difficulties of trying to piece
together details out of such brief written accounts. I will tell you in a
moment why I think that the dove was sent out not immediately after the raven,
but rather much later.
Noah did send out the dove the first time and after it returned, seven days later
he again sent it out. This time the dove returned with a freshly picked
new-growth olive leaf. Noah knew that new life had begun upon the new earth.
After seven additional days, Noah again sent out the dove. This time the dove
did not return. Noah took this to mean that the ground was probably becoming
dry, so he removed the covering of the ark.
It was also at this point that God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it” (Genesis 8:16-17 NIV).
What the Two
have spent so much time scrutinizing this short account of the two birds
because I think that there perhaps is more to them than acting as simple drones
to look over the area to see if they could find land.
seems to me that there is some allegorical meaning attached to them. However, I
am not sure how far down that path I want to go. What I can tell you is that the raven was considered an unclean bird all
throughout the Old Testament, since if feeds on carrion and rotten flesh. That
is apparently what Noah’s raven did after it did not return. It would find
plenty of rotting flesh floating on the flood waters.
some way this raven represents the viler or the corrupt qualities of man which
derives its own life though the death of others. In some significant ways, this
bird represents the world that had been destroyed, still living on its old
contrast, the dove was considered a clean bird. It does not eat carrion. It was
this bird that Noah sent out to look for land. Besides whatever symbolism the
dove had, it actually did fulfill the role of Noah’s drone. Noah sent it out to
do reconnaissance. The first time, the dove returned. Everywhere the dove flew,
it saw only water. In fact, the text states, “there was water over all the
surface of the earth.” There was no place for the dove to rest. It would not
accept floating pieces of the old life as a place of rest, as did the raven.
Seven days after that, Noah again sent out the dove. It returned to the ark again, but this time with the new olive leaf. Despite whatever conclusion one might draw concerning the raven and its carrion representing the old, sinful earth, certainly the olive leaf is a symbol of the new earth. New life had begun to emerge out of death.
New Life out of
you can see the application here concerning our life with Christ. Our old lives
centered on things that are only destined for death. Like the raven, we fed on
death and on a world that is destined for judgment and will be condemned.
we do not need to be this way. Jesus offers us a new motivation in living. He
put it in this way: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and
believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but
has passed from death to life”
(John 5:24 NAS).
the sad part is, many who have made some indication in their lives that they
want to make this change that Jesus spoke about, still continue to feed on
death. Here is what the Apostle Paul said:
“Those who live according to the flesh
have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in
accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The
mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is
life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not
submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God…for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:5-8; 13-14 NAS)
or not we like to admit it, left to ourselves, we all are like the people of
the earth before the flood. Every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is
only evil continually. This life must be put to death.
course, this present earthly life actually will eventually be put to death. But
Jesus instead offers us life. Because of our ways, we all are condemned only to
death, but Jesus instead has taken that penalty upon himself, so that he can
offer us life.
then, do we continue to delight ourselves on things destined only for death? If
there is an allegorical meaning to the raven, surely it must be this. Noah put
out the raven from the ark, showing that the old life, along with the desires
of all that is dead, is to be put out of our lives.
even lists some of these things in a letter that he wrote to a church he helped
He calls these things the “deeds of the flesh:” They are such things as immorality,
impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of
anger, disputes, dissentions, factions…do I need to go on? You get the picture.
These things are not to be a part of true life.
To live a life that is fulfilling and
successful, each of us need to put these ways of thinking to death now, for
that is their destiny anyway.
died for our sins,” is the eternal truth of the Christian life, but it is a
mantra that has been repeated so often that I am afraid it has lost its
practical meaning for us. Do we not realize that by saying we believe this,
each of us in our natural state died that day with him? We ourselves were also
crucified on that day.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” These again are the words of the Apostle Paul (Galatians 2:20).
faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent
fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned
the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
old lives are condemned. Do we not realize this? Why do we continue to delight
ourselves in that which is destined to die.
let each one of us learn to live as heirs of righteousness.