This verse by verse Bible study on Genesis is an inductive verse by verse study with extensive reflections, teaching points, cross-references, and applications. They are the personal study of notes of a very good doctor friend of mine. His native tongue is Mandarin, but his English is amazing as you will see below. It is refreshing to take a look at this important book of Genesis through the eyes of a believer from another culture. Without further adieu: The Scribblings According to David.
Genesis 8-9 Inductive Bible Study
The Flood Subsided – Noah’s Restoration (VIII 1 – 19)
Epilogue – The Everlasting Covenant of God (VIII 20 – IX 17)
VIII 1 – 19. The Flood Subsided – Noah’s Restoration
v.1 “But God remembered Noah…”
Reflection: On a wooden box with no sail or rudder that knew only to float and drift along in the midst of boundless waters where not even one living creature with breath on its mouth could be found, God remembered Noah. The presence of a fiery trial does not mean the absence of God, one pastor said. God remembers. It does not mean, however, that God somehow forgets about what He ought to do. ESV Study Bible comments on this verse and says, “When the Bible says that God ‘remembers’ someone or His covenant with someone, it indicates that He is about to take action for that person’s welfare.” God is about to act when He remembers His chosen ones and His faithful promises. When God rained down burning sulfur from heaven to Sodom and Gomorrah, He remembered Abraham and Lot and saved them (Gen. 19:29). When the Israelites suffered under the yoke of slavery in Egypt, God remembered the covenant He made with their forefathers and delivered them (Ex. 2:24). For God’s children, a time may come when they look around and see no hope in their circumstances, yet they must not forget that His eyes are on the sparrows (Lk. 12:6-7), and it is His Promise, which says “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5), that we must cling to. God remembered Noah. And as far as the Flood story is concerned, it undoubtedly marks the turning point of the narrative.
v.1-3 “… And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated. …”
(1) The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens being opened, causing the global calamity, was a dramatic display of God’s wrath. Their closing, however, was somehow less dramatic to show forth God’s mercy. And for that reason, most people would pay far less attention to the latter. But we must not forget that the same God who brings damnation also brings restoration, however slow and subtle the process may seem. Matthew Henry commented, “God sent His wind to dry the earth, and seal up His waters. The same Hand that brings the desolation, must bring the deliverance; to that Hand, therefore, we must ever look. When afflictions have done the work for which they are sent, whether killing work or curing work, they will be taken away.” And as the prophet Hosea says in Hos. 6:1-3,
“Come, let us return to the Lord;
for He has torn us, that He may heal us;
He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
on the third day He will raise us up,
that we may live before Him.
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
His going out is sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
(2) Another footnote: the Hebrew word for “wind”, ruakh, can also be translated “Spirit”. Although for obvious reasons it refers here to the natural wind, its usage in v.1 definitely strikes a gentle note to echo the same verb in Gen. 1:2 and Gen. 6:3. And most interestingly, the Greek word for “wind”, pneuma, uniquely defines the Spirit in Jn. 3:8, where Jesus explained to Nicodemus the ministry of the Holy Spirit, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
v.4 “… the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.”
Reflection: Mt. Ararat, with an altitude of over 17,000 feet, is in the region of Caucasus in modern Turkey (see picture below). This is one more reminder to the reader that the Bible records actual people, actual places and actual events of actual history, not just some interesting stories with moral teachings scattered here and there. The Bible is a historical book. If it is true in the moral sense, it is also true in the historical sense.
v.6-12 “At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. … Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. …”
Reflection: Though as eye-opening as it is to me for the most part, the Matthew Henry’s Commentary on this verse took on a deviated path in hermeneutics and used instead a allegorical approach: “The dove is an emblem of a gracious soul, that, finding no solid peace of satisfaction in this deluged, defiling world, returns to Christ as to its ark, as to its Noah, its rest. The defiling world, returns to Christ as to its ark, as to its Noah, its rest. The carnal heart, like the raven, takes up with the world, and feeds on the carrion it finds there; but return thou to my rest, O my soul; to thy Noah, so the word is, Psalms 116:7. And as Noah put forth his hand, and took the dove, and pulled her to him, into the ark, so Christ will save, and help, and welcome those that flee to him for rest.” The puritan commentator saw “types” in the raven and dove that Noah sent forth. Although to some extent it might seem to make sense, there is no sufficient reason to believe such fanciful idea is buried underneath the plain and simple sense of the Scripture. Unless another writer under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would supplement another divine passage to substantiate that, a raven is still a raven; a dove, still a dove. And perhaps, a raven is a “detestable” bird according to Lev. 11:15. But attaching extra spiritual symbols to the birds would be subtly adding one’s own thinking into the pure meaning of these verses. Such, I believe, is not a good example of rightly handling the Word of Truth.
v.13-16. “And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. … Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.’”
Reflection: A simple math would show us that Noah and his family had spent 378 days on the Ark. Noah had spent a little more than a year in a floating wooden box. Scripture does not mention any seasickness he or his family had, but it is very possible that the one-year maritime trip was not enjoyable. After all, no one had any nautical experience whatsoever before the Flood. The worldwide typhoon lasted only 40 days, and the raging rains 150 days, and for the rest of the time, the Ark was just resting on the peak of Mt. Ararat (Gen. 8:4). One can easily imagine the urgent yearning of this family to get off – seeing the Ark got stuck and the earth began to dry out, and especially the dove went out and never came back – indicating the dry land was possibly habitable by then. Noah could have tried breaking the door, climbing up the roof, or many other ways to get out. But he didn’t. Instead, he waited for another 3 months. He waited till God told him to do so. Such was an amazing example of waiting on the Lord (Ps. 62:1-7, 25:1-5, 27:11-14). Matthew Henry had well commented, “God consults our benefit, rather than our desires; He knows what is good for us better than we do for ourselves, and how long it is fit our restraints should continue, and desired mercies should be delayed. … As Noah had a command to go into the ark, so, how tedious soever his confinement there was, he would wait for a command to go out of it again. We must in all our ways acknowledge God, and set Him before us in all our removals. Those only go under God’s protection, who follow God’s direction, and submit to Him.”
v.17 “Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh … that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”
Reflection: The world was literally a desolate place at this point, having just gone through divine judgment. Yet the God of the Bible is nothing like the god of a deist, who withdraws from the affairs of his created order and simply do nothing. God is actively involved – and He is now going to replenish and restore the “terraformed” earth. To that end, by His Sovereign Will, He chose to use natural, instead of supernatural, means. “Be fruitful and multiply”. The blessing that God gave to Adam and Eve in Gen. 1:22 was reiterated to Noah. It is a command as well as a promise: the wonderful ecosystem would be gradually restored. Nonetheless, it would be a much more hostile environment for man to live, as indicated by the sudden and significant drop of man’s lifespan afterwards. The MacArthur Study Bible comments, “Noah faced a new world where longevity of life began to decline immediately; the earth was subject to storms and severe weather, blazing heat, freezing cold, seismic action, and natural disasters.” One may ask, why? The answer is, such is the consequence of sin. Although the damage that sins had brought would be gradually and eventually alleviated, things might never be the same. The addict who breaks free from the bondage of drugs by the power of the gospel might still have to face the medical sequelae his sin has done to his body. The adulterer who is forgiven by the offended spouse by the power of the gospel might still have to face the severe damage his sin has done to his marriage. The rebuilt temple in Jerusalem under the permission of a gentile king was never again as magnificent as the temple King Solomon built during Israel’s heyday. Sin does have consequences. And it will not go unnoticed. When Moses gave warning to the Israelites, he said “… behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). And such an understanding should serve, at least in part, as a healthy deterrence to committing sins in our pursuit of a life of righteousness.
v.18-19 “So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.”
Reflection: The faithful Ark-builder finally walked out of the vessel with the same obedience, with his family and all the creatures delivered from the judgment. From this very act, the renewal of a desolate world was set in motion. From this very man, the repopulation of a devastated earth was triggered off. ESV Study Bible comments, “While the land is cleansed of the defilement caused by human wrongdoing and a new start is made possible with God, the people’s nature has not been transformed, as the final short episode in Gen. 9:20-28 reveals. The inclination of the human heart is still toward evil.” Ending on such on a pessimistic note might seem disheartening, unless one realizes that the Great Physician who brings a definitive and complete remedy to the problem of sin should eventually come – as promised. And nothing is truly restored except by His redemptive work, once and for all.
VIII 20 – IX 17. Epilogue – The Everlasting Covenant of God
VIII 20. “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”
Reflection: What Noah was doing here, namely, the sacrifice of burnt offerings, was later established as one of the well-defined rituals in the religious service of OT Israel (Lev. 1:3-17). According to the MacArthur Study Bible, “It was an offering of repentance for sins committed, with the desire to be purged from the guilt of sinful acts. Designed to demonstrate the sinner’s penitence and obedience, it indicated his self-dedication to the worship of God.” Unlike other offerings, part of which goes to the priests as their sustenance, it requires the animal to be completely consumed by fire, and therefore is to be brought before the Lord and not before man. The spiritual significance of burnt offerings is that it provides, as Lev. 1:4 shows, the atonement for sin. In other words, it is an offering to acknowledge one’s sinfulness and to ask for the forgiveness of his sins, with the animal being sacrifice as a symbol of the deadly consequence of sin as well as the substitutionary atonement for the sinner. However, as Heb. 10:4 puts it, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” The practice of burnt offerings points to the perfect Lamb of God, Christ Himself, as the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of man, as Heb. 9:26 puts it, “But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
The first thing Noah did when he got out of the Ark was what was to be the very first thing done in the new world. What he did was not to build a house for himself, cook a meal for himself, have a good sleep by himself, or any worldly care of the like. Instead, he built God an altar. The very first thing he did was worship. Matthew Henry commented, “He begins well, that begins with God.” In fact, not only that, but he offered a sacrifice that represented his confession of sin. On the one hand, this demonstrates once again that the righteousness of Noah was righteousness by faith (viz. he did not have attained a state of sinless perfection, and therefore he offered sacrifices for his sins), and that the doctrine of Sola Fide was not exactly a NT novelty. On the other, we also see the faith of Noah was by all means a genuine saving faith, because the more spiritually mature a believer is, the deeper he understands his sinfulness. The first of the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” speaks not of a one-time event but of a constant trait of Kingdom citizens: a broken and contrite heart over sin.
VIII 21. “And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in His heart…”
Reflection: Another rhetoric use of anthromorphism in Scripture. It does not mean that the Almighty has two nostrils, or a four-chamber pumping heart (and in this case the heart actually means the mind) in the same way as we do, for God is by nature a Spiritual being (Jn. 4:24). “God smelled the aroma”, simply means, “God is pleased with Noah’s sacrifice”. And God, as a Person, Who, unlike the god of the pantheist, has a Mind, can certainly “say in His heart” whatever He in His Sovereign Will wants to accomplish or decree.
“… for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
Reflection: Someone challenged an early Church Father and said, “I believe people are born innocent; they just chose to sin afterwards.” To which the Church Father replied, “If so, then find me one who does not choose to sin.” Despite the debate within Christian circle concerning the doctrine of original sin, the Bible makes it clear that the spiritual diagnosis of our heart is total depravity, and that it comes not as a result of anything from outside the sinner himself. King David even prayed in Ps. 51:5, in confessing the heinous sins he had committed, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Also, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire,” wrote the apostle James in Jas. 1:14-15, “then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Men become sinners not by choice, but by nature. Human free will is not undetermined, but self-determined, with an “inwardly curved” tendency, as Luther put it. No matter how hard we try, our righteousness is only like filthy rags to God. And it is exactly because of that, the covenant of salvation would come as a gift; not something we can earn. We really don’t deserve it. It is by grace through faith that we have been saved; not of works. Coming back to the Scripture here, when God made the Promise with Noah not to destroy the world with flood, it is certainly not something Noah should deserve, or else he wouldn’t have come out of the Ark and offered a burnt offering to atone for his sins. Better yet, the verse could be phrased this way for a clearer sense of its implication: “I will never again curse the ground because of man, despite the fact that the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
“I will never again curse the ground because of man, … Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.”
Reflection: Gen. 9:11 gives an accurate and complete description of the Covenant. God was not saying He would not destroy the whole earth again; He was saying He would not destroy the whole earth with a global flood again. In fact, God will destroy the whole world again in the future, and this not just the whole world, but the entire universe. 2 Pet. 3:7 reads, “But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Knowing the heavens and earth shall one day pass away should prompt believers to invest their primary energy and time in rewards that has eternal value, and not be caught up with earthly affairs, however noble they may seem. Paul exhorts the Corinthian believers to be more heavenly-minded in 1 Cor. 3:12-15, “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” Therefore, when that Day comes, what will be disclosed by the test of fire? How are you living your life for His Kingdom and glory?
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Reflection: The cycle of seasons is established after the cataclysmic event as a perpetual remembrance of His everlasting Covenant to Noah. “While the earth remains”, as it is today, when we see the seasons changing, we know that millennia ago there happened to be a man who, because of his righteousness by faith, was saved from a wicked world and a divine judgment.
IX 1. “And God blessed Noah and his sons …”
Reflection: Such is the first Covenant that God has made with man. The benediction in the Covenant is four-fold. Here we shall examine one by one.
“… and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’”
Reflection: The first part of the benediction concerns the replenishment of the earth. The Gen. 1:22 command was once again reiterated to Noah. Though men are called to populate the earth here, it is nothing like the Darwinian “leaving the greatest amount of offspring”. To a hardcore evolutionist, “mating” should happen as much as possible (viz. with as many maters of the opposite sex as possible) in order to leave behind as many descendants as possible, for only in that can one have evolutionary advantages over those who can find fewer maters, doomed eventually to be extinct over time. In that process, one can easily see the fatal damage monogamy will do to the evolutionary momentum of human. How can one leave behind maximal number of offspring if a man is to have coitus with only his wife? But to the God-fearing man, procreation must happen without violating his marriage vow of “till death do us part”. The only way for Noah to “be fruitful and multiply” is through his wife.
IX 2. “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.”
Reflection: The second part of the benediction concerns the reestablishment of man’s dominion. Man is still to rule the earth. However, in the new world, man’s rule came by terror (“the fear … and the dread of you shall be upon every [animal]…”) and no more by love, as in the Garden of Eden, where it only took one couple to manage the whole ecosystem in the planet. The curse of sin was perhaps shifted henceforth to a third gear (the first on Gen. 3:17, the second on Gen. 4:12), by which the relationship between man and animals underwent such a dramatic change.
IX 3. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”
Reflection: The third part of the benediction concerns the subsistence of man’s life. For the first time in history, it would seem from the Bible, men became carnivorous. Though the Scripture does not explicitly spell out, the practice of eating meat might have already begun in men shortly after the fall. But it was not officially permitted by God till here. Perhaps, the reason, as some scholars speculate, lies in the dramatic ecological changes by the flood, thereby causing the fruits and vegetables grown in a different ecosystem being significantly less nutritional to be solely dependent by man. The grant of the use of animals for food was, nevertheless, accompanied by one restriction set forth in v.4.
IX 4-6. “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.’”
Reflection: The fourth part of the benediction, coming with the restriction clause to the third, was the institution of civil government (and thus marks the beginning of a dispensation that bears its name).
For the former issue, in the OT, it was forbidden for raw blood to be consumed as food, because it represents life (Lev. 17:11). Even from a purely hygienic perspective, such practice is actually quite healthy for man. The subject of eating blood in the NT era, nevertheless, is beyond the scope of the expositional study here.
For the latter issue, first of all, we see the establishment of capital punishment for homicide cases, and Scripture gives reason for this: because man alone was created in God’s image. As ESV Study Bible note puts it, “To murder another human being is to murder what is most like God, and is thus implicitly an attack on God Himself.” And second, as can be inferred, for the enactment of capital punishment to restrain commission of violent crime, armed public authorities would be needed, thus necessitating the institution of civil government.
One must understand that the objective of lex talionis (Ex. 21:12, 23-25; Lev. 24:17-22; Deut. 19:21) in jurisprudence is primarily protective, not merely punitive. Such legal principle is set for civilians and against criminals, to protect the former group from being killed and the latter group from killing people. Of course, the verdict of death penalty should not be carried out unless the suspect is tried fairly and justly, and all the evidences consistently point beyond a reasonable doubt to his guilt. NT References that support capital punishment include Jn. 19:11, Acts 25:11, Rom. 13:4. Total removal of capital punishment, in fact, has only humanistic grounds yet no Biblical grounds (a case can be made for Jesus sparing the adulterous woman in Jn.8:1-11).
IX 7. “And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
Reflection: A final reiteration of the blessing of the Noahic Covenant.
IX 8. “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you …’”
Reflection: When God called Noah to build the Ark, He used the word Covenant, berith in Hebrew, in Gen. 6:18. Now, 120 years later, He finalized it here. “A Covenant”, according to the ESV Study Bible, “formally binds to parties together in a relationship, on the basis of mutual commitment, with consequences for keeping or breaking the commitment.” Seven times were the word used in this passage, signifying the legality of the Covenant.
IX 9-11. “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
Reflection: This is the content of the Covenant (also the first speech of Elohim), in which God promised that He would never destroy the world with deluge. This is also one of the most powerful arguments against the Regional Flood theory. The reasoning is simple: if God simply flooded the Near East, how could He promise “never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth”?
The Noahic Covenant is a unilateral covenant, not effected by mutual agreement; an unconditional covenant, not dependent on men’s performance; and an inviolable covenant, not subject to changes in circumstances. This is the covenant that dispenses divine common graceuniversally (“with you and every living creature”) and perpetually (“for all future generations”). In addition, unlike the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Priestly, Davidic, and the New Covenant, all of which deal with the spiritual realm, the Noahic Covenant is a physical covenant (“never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood”).
MacArthur Study Bible commented on the specificity of the Covenant: “The specific promise of this covenant, never to destroy the world again by water, was qualified by the means (‘by the waters’), for God has since promised to destroy the earth with fire one day (2 Pet. 3:10-11, Rev. 20:9; 21:1)”; as well as the sign of it, on v12: “The rainbow is the perpetual, symbolic reminder of this covenant promises, just as the circumcision of all males would be for the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 17:10-11)”.
One more interesting note: the worldwide flood caused the ecological system of the earth to be dramatically different from the one before, and one of the changes was the beginning of the hydrological cycle – there would be rains on earth from this point. For Noah, who had only experienced rains for once, and that rains being a catastrophic one in which the whole world was destroyed, it is not hard to imagine the panic that would have easily set in for Noah when he saw rains again. The establishment of this Covenant, then, shows God’s personal involvement with Noah. He was so merciful to Noah that He prepared him in advance to cast out future fear by telling him, when the next time you would see rains, rest assure, for it won’t be something like the one you have seen.
IX 12-15. “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
Reflection: This is the sign of the Covenant, and thus the assurance and guarantee of the Covenant. The galaxies, the solar systems, the sun, the moon and the stars are in and of themselves not a sign, other than to be a sign of the circadian and seasonal cycle. There is only one sign in the sky that has spiritual meaning: the rainbow.
The word bow is the same word for the battle bow. The bow is a weapon that brings death and destruction. The following excerpt from MacArthur’s sermon is most interesting and inspiring:
In Near Eastern literature there are often deities depicted with a bow, wielding destruction. And the Old Testament pictures God like that. Ex. 15:3 says, “The Lord is a warrior.” Hab. 3:9, “His bow is made bare.” Zach. 9:14, “His arrows are lightning.” God is depicted as a warrior with a bow. In the Flood, God the Warrior shot His lightning arrows, pierced the earth, the earth broke open, exploded and then the sky fell, and certainly with it arrows of lightning and destruction. He bent His bow in wrath. But from now on, God has hung up His bow and He hung it in the sky where everybody can see it. Next time you see a rainbow, that’s God’s bow. He hung it up because this is not the time of judgment, this is the time of peace. So God hung His bow as a sign of His mercy toward a world of sinners.
IX 16. “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
Reflection: Again, God does not need a visual reminder in keeping the Covenant He made. It is simply the Scripture’s way of telling us that God is faithful.
MacArthur Study Bible commented on the Noahic Covenant being everlasting: “This covenant with Noah is the first of five divinely originated covenants in Scripture explicitly described as ‘everlasting’. The other four include: 1) Abrahamic (Gen. 17:7); 2) Priestly (Num. 25:10-13); 3) Davidic (2 Sam. 23:5); and 4) New (Jer. 32:40). The term ‘everlasting’ can mean either 1) to the end of time and/or 2) through eternity future. It never looks back to eternity past. Of the six explicitly mentioned covenants of this kind in Scripture, only the Mosaic or Old Covenant was nullified.”
IX 17. “God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’”
Reflection: Lastly, this is the summary of the Covenant.