Genesis vi. 17-22.

July 5, 2010

Behold I will bring the waters of a great flood upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, under heaven.  All things that are in the earth shall be consumed.  And I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt enter into the ark, thou and thy sons, and thy wife, and the wives of thy sons with thee.  And of every living creature of all flesh, thou shalt bring two of each sort into the ark, that they may live with thee: of the male sex, and the female.  Of fowls according to their kind, and of beasts in their kind, and of every thing that creepeth on earth according to its kind; two of every sort shall go in with thee, that they may live.  Thou shalt take unto thee of all food that may be eaten, and thou shalt lay it up with thee: and it shall be food for thee and them.  And Noe did all things which God commanded him.

17-18. “I will establish my covenant with thee”

St. Chrysostom: “‘This will be done to purify the world,’ God says, ‘but do not let this trouble you or confuse your mind.  For because I see that their ulcers are incurable, I wish to stop the floods of their malice, so that they do not render themselves liable to heavier punishment.  Therefore even now, on account of my accustomed mercy I am tempering my wrath with kindness, and am imposing a punishment which will be without pain, and which they will not feel.  Nor am I looking to the greatness of their sins or to their merits, but rather to what is to come: I wish both to impose fitting punishments on them and to free their descendants from the same evil.  Therefore, do not be sad, and do not be disturbed hearing this.  For even if they suffer the punishment they deserve for the sins, I will establish my covenant with you.  Because they had all first shown themselves unworthy, and did not think well of my commandments, I will now, therefore, establish my covenant with you.  Indeed, your first parent, suffering deception after receiving so many gifts, transgressed my command: and he who was born from him fell into the same depth of evil, such that he received continual punishment and a curse.  And truly his descendants were not made better by his punishments, but exacerbated their evil so that I reject their very genealogies.  It is true that afterwards I found Enoch, who preserved the image of virtue, and because he was very dear to me I removed him while he was still living, showing all who cultivate virtue how great are the rewards they may obtain, and desiring that the others might become his imitators and enter upon the same way.  But the others all followed evil, and because I have found you alone in such a multitude who are able to revoke the transgression of your first parent, I will establish my covenant with you.  For the works of your good life declare that you have been faithful in receiving my commands. ‘  And finally, lest the just man still be sad hearing this, thinking he were to be the only one saved, again He, if I may say so, soothes him with consolation and says: And thou shalt enter into the ark, thou and thy sons, and thy wife, and the wives of thy sons with thee.  For although they were far from the virtue of this just man, they were nevertheless foreign to the more serious sins of the rest.  Also, they obtained salvation for two other reasons.  First, for the honor of the just man.  For the merciful God is accustomed to give honor to His servants, in such a way that they are able to obtain both grace for themselves and the salvation of others … this was the first reason; the second was this: He wished some leavening, some root to remain for the disposition of posterity: not that it was impossible for God to make man again, and from the one man again make an increase; but it seemed good to Him this way because of His accustomed kindness” (xxiv. 4.).

19. “Of every living creature thou shalt bring in two”

“Attend, therefore, to God’s goodness also in what follows.  For just as He threatened punishment, when He said that the race of men, and cattle, and reptiles, and birds, and wild animals all would perish: in the same way here He orders, because of the just man, that there be led into the arc one pair from every type of all of these, so that there might be the seed and first-fruits of a multitude that would come afterwards … Do not pass this by, beloved: think what a commotion of cares all this caused for the just man, thinking to himself how much care all of these would need.  For it was not enough for him to care for his wife, and sons, and daughters-in-law: concern and care for so many brute animals was also added” (ibid., 5.).

Cornelius: “Understand this of land animals: therefore even wild beasts, such as lions, wolves and tigers, were led two by two into the ark, and then appeared to Noe, that most innocent man, tamed and like meek little lambs, as they appeared to Adam in paradise.  Now no fishes entered the ark, nor amphibians, because these latter can leave either in water or on land … if there were some amphibians that could not be without land for so long, or because of food, or because they needed a place to sleep at night, these were received and preserved with the others in the ark.  Again, animals from rotting were not led into the ark, such as mice, worms, bees, scorpions; nor were those who are born from the mating of different species, like the mule from a horse and a donkey.  Therefore, Arias Montanus, in his book De Arca, counts 150 species of land animals that entered the ark, not including snakes.  Now Pererius counts 25 species of snakes and reptiles.  Therefore there were altogether about 175 species of land animals in the ark; of which six only were larger than a horse, a few equal, and many smaller even than sheep.  Pererius considers all these land animals as the equivalent of 250 cattle, and does not think they would have occupied more space in the ark than would that number of cattle.  You will find scarcely 150 species of birds in Gesnerum and Aldrovandum; among these a few are larger than swans, and very many smaller than them.  The ark was therefore easily able to hold all of them, since its capacity was 450,000 cubits, as I have said” (Commentaria, p 139).

20. “They shall go in with thee”

“In Hebrew, iabon elecha, they will come to you, that is of their own accord, even if they are wild: either by an instinct received from God, or by the guidance of angels, as they were led to Adam before.  So Noe did not seek out these animals and lead them to the ark, as Philo thinks; nor did the animals themselves escape to the ark by swimming as the flood increased, as Hugo Victorinus thinks as cited in Buteo” (ibid.).

21. “Thou shalt take unto thee of all food”

St. Chrysostom: “‘Do not think,’ He says, ‘that I have left you destitute of my providence.  For look, I command that those things necessary for your nourishment, and which pertain to the feeding of the animals, all be brought into the ark, so that you will experience no hunger or want, nor will the animals perish from lacking food suitable to them” (xxiv. 5.).

St. Bede: “The Lord has also filled His Church with manifold nourishment for the spiritual life, both to invite the crowds of the faithful to gain eternal rewards by the common institutes of His commandmants, and to call the more perfect by a stricter discipline of observance to higher things in the same eternal kingdom …

“If all this was carried out according to the manner common to men, how could eight people have sufficed to place food and drink every day for so many birds, cattle, beasts and reptiles, and attend to the other things that were necessary? especially since Scripture tells us nothing of God ordering drink to be taken into the ark?  How could the manure and urine of so many animals not either make an intolerable stench or damage the base of the ark, no matter how well it was lined with bitumen? how could the animals stay in one place for a whole year and the birds not lose their flight, nor the quadrupeds their step?  Therefore the same Lord who preserved incorrupt the ark with those it carried, and who steered it so that it would not fall apart in the sea, but set it on a place in the mountains where it would be easy and quick for all the living things within it to leave from its door and make their way to land: the same Lord provided a way for all in the ark to be fed and endure safely.  Nor is it believed without cause, as some think, that Noe prepared for each animal that would enter the ark only enough food for one day’s use, and that this was restored every day to signify the mystery by which in the Church we are all refreshed in the way suitable to our own capacity with the food of life, and that from then on until the day of their exit the animals remained restful by the divine will, or even slept” (In Principium Genesis II. col. 92-93).

22. “And Noe did all things which God commanded him.”

“That is, he built the ark, prepared the little rooms, and brought food into them for all the animals” (ibid. col. 93).

St. Chrysostom: “See here the great praise of Noe.  Certainly he did not carry out one thing and neglect another, but rather did everything that was commanded him, and did it in the way it was commanded to him: he left nothing out, but fulfilled everything, and was approved by his works to be justly deemed worthy of the kindness of God” (xxiv. 5.).

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