Genesis 8:1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; 2 the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated; 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ar’arat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.
“God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided” On the first day of creation in Genesis 1:2, God’s Spirit/wind (the Hebrew word ruah is the same one word used in Genesis to mean wind, breath, Spirit) hovered over the waters of the depths. So once again God’s wind/Spirit blows over the waters and restrains and contains them and imposes God’s will and order on them. The renewed and purified creation is about to emerge again from the primordial waters of chaos.
“the fountains of the deep … were closed..” The same abyss which existed at the beginning when God imposed order on the chaos (Gen 1:2), which then burst forth to cause the deluge (7:11), now are closed once again.
“…the waters receded from the earth…” Where did all these waters go? According to Genesis 7:19 covered the entire earth to a depth of 15 cubits (approximately 22.5 feet) above the highest mountain peaks. This would have created quite a problem for draining it off as there would have been no place for it to drain. St. John Chrysostom (d. 407AD) acknowledges in his own sermons that the story stretches credibility, but asks his flock to accept that there is some kind of mystery here which is beyond human understanding, and again says the story is really about faith and our willingness to follow God to the depths of the earth or to the heights as the case may be. Chrysostom is at a loss for how to account for the story because he does accept it as somehow literally true even though not always reasonable. He appeals to the fact that there are secrets or mysteries of God that we will never be able to understand so we should move beyond the physical details and allow the story to shape our faith which is what it is supposed to do more than give us a history of the world. The story for him is ultimately about God’s love for the world and how we are to learn about this love by reading scriptures. In the end Chrysostom says the right response from us to these stories is thanksgiving to God for salvation.
“At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated…” Noah, family and animals would have been in the ark for 5 months when it hits the top of Ara’rat, if the P-Source story is literally true (see Source Theory). They still have another 190 days left in the ark if one is following the details of the story (and the P-Source). They would have needed a huge quantity of food for this duration, not to mention a massive clean up job if that was possible. But if we don’t get caught up in the literal details, we do see the story as a typology of salvation. God does what it takes to save His chosen ones. Humans are called upon to be faithful no matter in what conditions we find ourselves. In the end, God prevails as all is happening according to His will, even natural disasters are not outside of God’s will, nor can they overcome God’s protection for his chosen righteous remnant. Of course for us another lesson is that the Lord did not spare his favored ones from having to endure the suffering and deprivation caused by the nearly year long flood. The story only tells us that in the end – after enduring suffering, after being shut up in the ark (a coffin!) – God triumphs and rescues his faithful, raising them from the dead.
“At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated” When God first made creation, He divided the waters on one day to expose the dry land. The restoration of creation is carrying on for 5 months and then only the mountain tops appear. Is God less eager this time to allow the earth to be inhabited by humans? The Lord seems to be willing to take much more time to allow things to dry out and become habitable. There is no steady movement day by day – now time is dragging and God makes no comment about the goodness of His creation cleansed of violence and wickedness.
“in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month” This is exactly 150 days since the flood began on the 17th day of the second month. Because of the Jewish writer is using the ancient perpetual solar calendar to reference the story scholars tell us that the story has the waters beginning to ebb and then the mountain tops first appearing on two different Wednesdays. Wednesday also happens to be the day when the Exodus from Egypt begins (Exodus 12:40-51, Numbers 33:3). The story places the ark coming to a rest on Ara’rat on a Friday (7th month, 17th day). Coincidentally on a Friday, the Lord Jesus hanging on the cross says, “It is finished” (John19:30)
Seventy three days after landing on Ara’rat the other mountain tops become visible on a Wednesday, as already noted.