The following reading of Genesis 1.1-2.3 is formatted ala The Books of the Bible: Covenant History without any chapter or verse marketings. The description below is taken from Preface. It explains the use of line space and format instead of chapters and verses.
Because the biblical books were handwritten, read aloud, and then hand-copied long before standardized printing, their authors and compilers needed a way to indicate divisions within the text itself. They often did this by repeating a phrase or expression each time they made a transition from one section to another. We can confirm that particular phrases are significant in this way by observing how their placement reinforces a structure that can already be recognized implicitly from other characteristics of a book, such as changes in topic, movement in place or time, or shifts from one kind of writing to another. Through line spacing, we’ve marked off sections of varying sizes. The smallest are indicated by one blank line, the next largest by two lines, and so on, up to four-line breaks in the largest books. We’ve also indicated key divisions with a large initial capital letter of new sections. Our goal is to encourage meaningful units to be read in their entirety and so with greater appreciation and understanding.
Zondervan. NIV, The Books of the Bible: Covenant History: Discover the Origins of God’s People (Kindle Locations 265-272). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.
After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.
By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.
Then 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.”
So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORDsmelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.
“Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.
As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
The story now shifts. The rain has stopped. The ground is becoming dry. The section that we are covering tells us the story of the covenant that God made with Noah. It begins with the news that the floodwaters were receding (Genesis 8.1-5). Next, we are told about the appearance of dry land (Genesis 8.6-14). Then, Noah and his family leave the ark (Genesis 8.15-22). Finally, the storyteller reports the good news about the covenant that God gave to Noah (Genesis 9.1-17).
God remembered Noah and the animals with him. It is recorded that God “remembers” seventy-three times in the First Testament. This does not mean that God recalled, but that his attention is focused on an action. In this case, it was the sending of wind over the earth. One word in Hebrew is translated by either “wind” or “Spirit.” In Genesis 1.2, the Spirit is hovering over the water. The picture may be the same here. The divine Spirit encounters the water in the first account and restrained it. In this account, he encounters the water and evaporates it. We should take note that the “greater light” or the sun as we call it played no role in drying the water. In all the polytheistic myths the sun dries the earth. Again with the polytheistic backdrop, it is not one of the deities (the sun) that causes the land to dry. It is the one and only God who causes it to dry. Finally, the ark comes to rest on the mountains of Ararat (somewhere in today’s Eastern Turkey). Noah and his family remain in the ark for a long period after the ark came to rest before they disembarked.
Noah begins the process to discover if the water had receded enough for it to be safe to leave the ark. To ascertain this, Noah sent out two birds, first a raven and then a dove, which he sent out two times. God does not speak to Noah and tell him if the ground was dry. Noah had been told about when the flood would begin and was given specific specifications on how to build the ark. But here God is silent. So, Noah moved from being a passive recipient of the revelation that God had given him to an active analyst of what the next move could be. The raven returned finding no food that could sustain it. The dove returned to the ark because its feeding habits were food that would have come from lower areas, which had not dried out at that point. There are two words for “dry” in verses 13 and 14. The first means to be free from moisture while the second means to be completely absent of water.
We draw your attention to the fact that in this whole episode that God is the only one who is speaking. Noah simply listened and carried out the commands of God. We may say that in all of the stories of the First Testament that the human characters are sub-characters to the main character of the First Testament, which is God. Two times in these verses God speaks once to Noah (8. 15-17) and once to himself (8. 21-22). Between the two speeches by God, Noah leaves the ark (8. 18-19). For the first time, Noah hears the divine voice from inside the ark. Think about it. He had done all that God had commanded. He was secure in the ark with his family and the animals. Then God was silent.
While Noah was being an active analyst of his present condition by sending out the raven and doves, he did not move from the ark until God spoke to him and told him it was okay to do so. We can certainly draw a wonderful application from this process. While we are to be active to discover our present circumstance, we should not move ahead until God gives the “green light.”
What would be the first thing that Noah would do as he reoriented himself to dry ground after floating for about a year? He engaged in worship by building an altar. This is the first reference in Scripture to an altar. This does not mean that Noah did not previously worship God or that altars were not built before this time. The point is that the first act of Noah indicated his thanks for what God had done for him, his family, and the animals. This early building of altars for worship was before the institution of the priesthood in the worship of Israel. Altars were erected mainly to commemorate some event in which the person building the altar had had dealings with God. There is no information about how they were constructed.
When Noah sacrificed, the text says that God smelled the pleasing aroma. The First Testament refers only a few times to the “senses” of God such as seeing, hearing, stretching out his hand, etc. Such references should be understood as anthropomorphisms (sorry about the big word). Anthropomorphism is a figure of speech in which an attribute of God, such as mentioned above, is described in human terms of quality.
The storyteller shares that God creates predictability in the natural world. The predictability was a gracious gift from God. This would suggest that no rites associated with the fertility cults of polytheism could bring about this condition. It was from the one and only God.
The Flood is over. Every living being and animal is dead except for Noah, his family, and the animals that were with him on the ark. Sin had taken its toll. These verses wrap-up the story of the Flood. They can be broken into two parts. Genesis 9.1-7 deal with the renewal of the world and Genesis 9.8-17 provide assurance that God will not judge the world in a similar fashion again. In the first section, Noah’s sons are told to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” This is somewhat reminiscent of Genesis 1. In the second section, the important phrase is that God will establish a covenant.
However, we must note that the world after the Flood is not exactly the same as the world as created by God in Genesis 1. As an illustration, man is now allowed to kill animals for food and add meat to his diet (Genesis 9.2-3). It is an interesting thought that even the animals will be held accountable for crimes (Genesis 9.5-6).
Beginning with Genesis 9.8, God begins the process of making a covenant with Noah. There are two covenants mentioned and contracted between God and Noah (Gen. 6.18; 9.8-17). These covenants are a prelude to other biblical covenants where obligation and promise play an important role. A covenant was a contract or agreement between two parties. The main features of the covenant with Noah were that it was entirely instituted by God. It was universal. It applied not only to Noah and his family but to every living creature. It was unconditional. It was everlasting. This kind of destruction would never again happen. There was a visible sign, the rainbow. God would put his rainbow in the clouds. In Hebrew, there is no way to distinguish between “rainbow” and “bow” which is a weapon. One word covers both. God’s power is seen as a function of his grace, not a function of some military might.
The rainbow ark was like a battle bow hung against the clouds. The bow would be put away, which indicated that peace was at hand. Covenants were made in the ancient east as a step toward peace. So God after making war on sin now makes a covenant of peace with Noah and the world. We must remember that the bow is in the sky for God’s benefit, not for ours. While it may be pleasing to the eye of all those who have seen one, it is a visible reminder for God to remember his covenant with Noah. Again, we must allow the storyteller to use literary figures of speech to tell his story. God does not really need a sign to remember. After all, who would want to serve a forgetful God?
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- How often do you start something that God has directed you to do before the light is green?
- When God is silent what should you do?
- How does an anthropomorphism help you better understand God?
- How has God provided you with assurance after he has disciplined you?
- How do the insights on “rainbow” help you understand God’s peace?