God Questions His Creation: Genesis 8:13-19 (a)

Patterns in the sand left by receding tide waters

See:  God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 8:6-12 (b)

Genesis 8:13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go forth from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring forth with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh–birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth–that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.” 18 So Noah went forth, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 And every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves upon the earth, went forth by families out of the ark.

“In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month”   Using the perpetual solar calendar of the ancient world the Jewish writer of Genesis tells us that Noah discovers the dry ground precisely on a Wednesday which happens to be New Year’s Day, the first day of the newly cleansed and restored creation.  Much later in Jewish history, New Year’s Day will also be the same day of the year on which the tent of the sanctuary was consecrated by Moses, which marks another new first day for God’s people (Exodus 40:2).   In the P-Source (see Source Theory), Noah removes the covering of the ark precisely 60 days after the other mountain tops became visible to Noah when the ark struck ground on Ara’rat.   In verse :14 the earth is finally dry on a Wednesday, 57 days after the waters had abated.    According to the P-Source story, exactly 340 days after Noah, et al, entered the ark, they are commanded by God to disembark and go into all the world.   The departure from the ark and processing into the world may be what the Evangelist Mark had in mind when he reports Jesus, after the resurrection, commanding His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).  As all of creation experienced salvation and a resurrection from death when Noah, his family and the animals emerged from the ark, so too after the resurrection, the apostles are commanded to preach the good news to the entire creation – not just to humans, but to all living beings.

“Noah removed the covering of the ark…”   This text suggests that Noah and his fellow ark passengers have been below deck, kept in the dark for some 283 days.  Perhaps the text is hinting back to the beginning of creation when God said, “Let there be light.”  For the first time in over ten months Noah is able to see both the light and God’s earth again.   Noah may be the first human to see a sight similar to Genesis 1:9-10 on the third day of creation when it was God who saw the goodness of the dry land and named it “earth.”   This also happened on a Wednesday, the first Wednesday of the world’s existence as described in Genesis 1.

While God Himself protectively shut Noah in the ark (7:16), Noah has to remove the covering himself to get out of the ark.  Was there some reticence on God’s part to let them out?  Does God want Noah and all of us to understand He is not going to do for us what we are capable of doing for ourselves?  It calls to mind Exodus 14:15 when God confronts Moses for whining about their situation:  “Why do you cry to me? You tell the people what they need to do.”  

It is God not Noah who takes the initiative in having the humans and the animals disembark to repopulate His restored world newly cleansed of sin.  God sends Noah and family out of their little paradise (back) into the world.  The God who had shut them into the ark and cut them off from the world returns them to the world from which they had been taken.  If we remember that the word “ark” actually can mean a “coffin” we have in this scene a prefiguring of the resurrection with the saved people returning to life in the redeemed creation.

Chrysostom says the story of the flood is to remind us that there is a God and there will be a Judgment Day.  It is a warning to us to spare us from suffering.  “What could be worse than this stupidity if, though hearing every day about the judgment and the kingdom, we imitate those living in the time of Noah, and the people in Sodom, waiting to learn everything by experience?  Yet it was for this reason that all those events were preserved in writing, that if one would be incredulous with regard to things to come he might receive, from things that have already occurred, a clear assurance of the future.”  (HOMILIES ON ST. JOHN 1-47,  p. 384)   In other words, are we so stubborn and stupid that we will have to wait until we stand before the Judgment seat before we will believe it is happening?  God, after all, has tried to warn us!    The Scriptures are given to us as a form of knowledge so that we don’t have to experience every bad thing in order to learn from them – we can learn from the experiences of others in and through the Scriptures and thus spare ourselves harm!  For Chrysostom the story of Noah and the flood is most important because it is a prototype story which also serves as a prophecy of what is to come and it should warn us to be prepared for the coming judgment of God.    By reading the Old Testament stories as prototypes, Chrysostom takes what might be treated as just ancient history or even trivia (who cares what happened 2000 years ago?) and treats it as the Word of God; Scripture prophetically speaks to us today through ancient events, thus making these ancient stories relevant to our present lives as well as preparing us for the future.  The greatest purpose of the Scriptures is not to tell us ancient history but to teach us how to live today and to prepare us for eternity.   For Chrysostom to get stuck arguing over whether the story of the Flood  is literally true is to miss the point that whether it is factual or prototypical or prophetic, it is relevant to us as we try to understand what God is planning today and for the future.  The importance of the past is how it prepares us for the future.

Next:   God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 8:13-19 (b)