Genesis 7:13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast according to its kind, and all the cattle according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth according to its kind, and every bird according to its kind, every bird of every sort. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And they that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.
The story of the flood waters is related to the theme of salvation and judgment. It is a theme which is repeated numerous times in the Bible. In the beginning of creation, the dry land was made to appear from the chaotic deep waters in Genesis 1. The Hebrew people will be saved from Pharaoh by passing through the threatening waters of the Red Sea which will drown their pursuing tyrant. And finally with the coming of Christ, baptism becomes the means of salvation for His chosen people. Thus we can see the theme of water being related to creation, salvation, and judgment.
One of the priest’s prayers at Vespers asks God to “Guide us to the haven of Your will.” God’s will is sometimes very demanding and difficult for us to perform, and yet it is a haven for us as well. The Noah story is precisely about totally trusting God. In the story Noah builds this huge ark – a huge box for a ship – even though no water is around him. He trusts God. He takes wild and dangerous animals into this giant box along with his family. He trusts God. He is sealed in the box for more than 11 months without being able to see the sunlight, and without fresh air. He trusts God. The ark is sent on a wild ride on a totally destructive flood over which Noah has no control. He trusts God. Noah trusts that God’s will is indeed a haven despite its most obvious dangers and uncertainties. This is certainly a main part of the message of the story.
“(The animals)… went into the ark with Noah, two and two … male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him” As in 7:9-10, so in this version of the story, the animals follow Noah like sheep into the ark. The animals obediently do what God commanded Noah. There is a great emphasis on the fact that only in the moments before the cataclysmic flood do the animals suddenly have the relationship with the humans that God envisioned back in paradise. Somehow the animals know this time, in this moment, salvation is on the line, and they need to follow Noah as if they are obeying God Himself. The human finally has dominion over the animal kingdom!
“…the Lord shut him in…” Again in the story God acts in an anthropomorphic fashion and is able to shut the door of the ark. Is this a “pre-incarnation” of God? It is at a minimum a prefiguring of God’s intervening in human history in order to save humanity from sin. How is it possible for God to touch that which is “not God”? “Not God” is all now part of the fallen world and yet God is still able to act in the world and even touch it; unless of course the text is only figuratively speaking. But the exact role of God in saving the humans by closing the ark door suggests strongly God lovingly and “pre-” incarnationally acts to save humankind. Origen in the 2nd Century felt the anthropomorphic acts of God such as shutting the door of the ark precisely show us that we need to read the text symbolically or figuratively or otherwise we make the Creator God nothing more than one of the minor gods of paganism. Arguing in a world awash in paganism, Origen warns Christians against too literal a read of the bible which he felt can only lead to wrong theology and to disbelief.