Genesis (Part 36)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the first 35 parts of this study, you can find the previous posts HERE.

Genesis 8:13-19

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 had dried out. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out 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 swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.


From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

We get an explanation for just exactly how long Noah has been on the ark at this point.

Verse 13

(13) The first day of the month.—It will be plain to any one studying the following table that this was exactly one month after the day on which Noah, for the third time, sent out the dove (Genesis 8:12):—

The flood commenced in the second month, called

Marchesvan, on day 17.

The waters prevail during 150 days = 5 months,

unto month 7, day 17.

Mountain-tops seen on month 10, day 1,

i.e., after 73 days.

Noah sends out raven at end of 40 days.

Dove thrice sent out, at intervals of

7 days = 21 days.

134 days.

But from the seventeenth day of the seventh month to the first day of the first month of the following year, there are:—

Of the seventh month 13 days.

Five months of 30 days each = 150 days.

First day of new year 1 days.

164 days.

It was thus very slowly that the earth returned to its normal state. The intervals of seven days between the sending forth of the birds prove that the division of time into weeks was fully established, and also suggests that religious observances were connected with it.

The covering of the ark.—The word is elsewhere used of the covering of skins for the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:14; Numbers 4:25), and it has probably a similar meaning here. To have removed the solid framework of the roof would have been a very laborious task, and still more so to have broken up the roof itself. But as the asphalte employed for filling up the interstices between the beams in the hulk of the ark would have been difficult to manage for the roof, it was apparently protected from the rain by a covering, probably of skins sewn together.

No one can read the narrative without noticing that Noah is not only described as shut up within the ark, but as having very slight means of observing what was going on around. Had there been a deck, Noah would have known exactly the state of the flood, whereas, peeping only through the zohar, he seems to have been able to see but little, possibly because his sight was obstructed by the overhanging eaves of the roof. Thus the freshly-plucked olive-leaf was like a revelation to him. But when these skins were taken off, there were numerous apertures through which he could obtain an uninterrupted view, and he “looked, and, behold, the face of the adâmâh was dry.”

I had never considered – though it should have been obvious – that the Ark lacked any kind of deck upon which to stand and look out. Noah had only a little window to peak out of (or to send birds through) but he otherwise lacked the ability to see much of anything.

The Pulpit Comentary makes mention of how Noah calculated the duration of months:

And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried.Verse 14. – And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried. יָבְשָׁה The three Hebrew verbs employed to depict the gradual cessation of the floods express a regular gradation; קָלַל (ver. 11), to be lightened, signifying their abatement or diminution (κεκόπακε τὸ ὕδωρ, LXX.); חָרַב (ver. 13), to be dried up, indicating the disappearance of the water (ἐξέλιπε τό ὕδωρ, LXX.); יָבֵשׁ (ver. 14), to be dry, denoting the desiccation of the ground (ἐξηράνθη ἡ γῆ, (LXX.). Cf. Isaiah 19:5, where there is a similar gradation: וְנָהָר יֶךחרַב וְיָבְשׁ, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.

The data are insufficient to enable us to determine whether the Noachic year was solar or lunar. It has been conjectured that the year consisted of twelve months of thirty days, with five intercalated days at the end to make up the solar year of three hundred and sixty-five days (Ewald); of seven months of thirty days and five of thirty-one (Bohlen); of five of thirty and seven of twenty-nine (Knobel); but the circumstance that the period from the commencement of the Deluge to the touching of Ararat extended over five months exactly, and that the waters are said to have previously prevailed for one hundred and fifty days, naturally leads to the conclusion that the months of Noah’s year were equal periods of thirty days.

It is worth keeping in mind that these things might have been calculated differently at the time of the writing of Genesis. I am not sure how much it matters in this instance but many a scholarly debate has occurred over questions of “when” and “for how long” in the Bible.

Case in point – back to Ellicott. He presents a different interpretation of how Noah might have counted the duration of a month and presents a slightly different solution.

Verse 14

(14) In the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month.—That is, fifty-seven days after Noah removed the covering, and a year and eleven days after the flood began. The word rendered “dried” at the end of this verse is different from that translated “dried up” and “dry” in Genesis 8:13, and marks a further stage in the process. It should be translated, was thoroughly dry.

There is in this year and eleven days a curious fact. It is reasonably certain that thirty days were reckoned to a month. But as a matter of fact, twelve lunar months do not make 360 days, but only about 354. Probably, therefore, the day of the new moon was often twice counted, as the last of the old month and the first of the new. But if to these 354 days we add 11, that is, from the 17th to the 27th of the second month. the result is exactly a full solar year of 365 days.

Verses 15-19

(15-19) Go forth . . . —At the end of exactly a solar year, thus curiously rectified, Noah, his family, and all the animals belonging to the Noachian world-circle are to leave the ark. The vast extent of the flood, and the total destruction of all that had existed before, is indicated by the repetition of the primæval command, in Genesis 1:22, “to be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.” Whatever the flood may have been with respect to the whole globe, it was to Noah and his race absolutely a. new beginning of things.

Of course, this set of verses concludes with everyone getting out of the ark. I suspect there has never been a greater zoological leg stretch in all of history.

Let’s look at some of the more *out there* ideas of what happened here in the context of now having completed the Flood. Could the Ark have been… a space ship? (Look it up. That’s a somewhat popular fringe theory.)

I think the best answer is that the ark was not a space ship. But let’s suspend disbelief and entertain the idea anyway. I think for the Ark/spaceship idea to move forward, we have to assume a few things:

  1. Noah did not know it was a space ship. The design details we are given in the text does not include anything leading one to believe it flew on its own. It was/is well designed to float on the water. There are not ancient texts to my knowledge that imply Noah built rocket engines. However, it is possible that Noah’s ark was picked up by a space ship. Is it possible he could have remained unaware of that occurring? Sure. Maybe he got into the ark and it was beamed up by something else. If Noah could not see out… well, maybe there was a reason for the “no deck to stand on” design.
  2. If somehow Noah did travel in space (the stories of both Enoch and Elijah evoke space travel imagery) is it possible that the passage of time from his perspective was different than the passage of time for someone on earth? Sure. If you’ve seen the film Interstellar, then you are aware of the idea that time passes more slowly for someone moving through space at high speed than for someone left behind on earth. As a result, space traveling Noah might actually resolve some places where the known science supporting a Flood does not match up with the timeline of when the Bible tells us that Noah exited the ark. If a post-Ice Age flood occurred, Noah could have been off world for what felt like months… then he could have returned and found out he had been gone for thousands of years.

[Maybe I will do a spaceships in the Bible series at some point.]

We will also see in the next few chapters and verses whether or not there is any textual evidence of people not on the ark surviving the Flood other places on the planet. That will point us toward an answer as to whether the Flood was global or whether it was regional.