Genesis vii. 1-3.

July 14, 2010

Chapter VII.  After Noe and his companions enter the ark, water immediately covered the peaks of the mountains for 150 days, and submerged whatever life was left outside the ark.

And the Lord said to him: Go in thou and all thy house into the ark: for thee I have seen just before me in this generation.  Of all clean beasts take seven and seven, the male and female.  But of the beasts that are unclean two and two, the male and female.  Of the fowls also of the air seven and seven,the male and the female: that seed may be saved upon the face of the whole earth.

1. The command to enter the ark

St. Ambrose: “Clearly the faith of a prophetic meaning is also added in this passage, because the fool is foolish to himself alone, but the wise man is wise for himself and for many.[1] And so by the merit of Noe the just man his household also is saved in the flood” (De Noe et Arca, xi. 36.).

St. Chrysostom: “Then, so that we may know that God did not save the just man only by His pleasure, but also as the wages of his labors and the reward of his virtue, He says: ‘And so I order you to enter the ark, you and all your household, Because I have seen thee just before me in this generation.  Great is this testimony, and worthy of faith.  For what could be greater than this, that the Creator Himself, Who brought him forth that he might be, pronounces such things of the just man?  This is true virtue, when one shows it forth before the Lord, when that eye that cannot be deceived makes its judgment.  The good God teaches us here the measure of virtue, insofar as it was required from the just man (for He does not wish the same measure of virtue to be borne by all, but requires a differentiation in virtue according to the variety of the times), and says: Because I have seen thee just before me in this generation, which is so evil, which has descended into such malice, which displays such an ungrateful soul.  I have seen thee just, you alone have I found pleasing, I have seen that you have the rule of virtue: you alone have appeared just before me, while all the others were perishing; I order you to enter the ark with all your household” (xxiv. 5.).

St. Ambrose: “Many appear to men to be just; few appear so to God.  They appear one way to men, another way to God.  To men, according to the appearance of their life; to God, according to the purity of their soul, the truth of their virtue.  Men examine external things; God considers those that are within.  Scripture carefully has added, In this generation, so that it might neither condemn earlier ones, nor exclude later ones, and rightly take into account the occurrence of the flood as the ruin of his generation, which had no share in righteousness.  This according to the letter.

“Now a deeper sense calls us forth, such that we think this to be vigor of mind in the soul, and the soul in the body, which is head of the family in its house.  For what the mind is in the soul, the soul is in the body.  If the mind is safe, the house is safe, the soul is safe; if the soul is unharmed, the flesh is unharmed.  For a sober mind restrains all passions, governs the senses, rules speech.  And so the Lord says well to the just man, Do thou enter in: that is, enter into yourself, into your mind, into the principle of your soul – there is found salvation, there is government; outside is the flood, outside is danger.  Now if you dwell within yourself, you are also safe without; for where the mind is its own judge, thoughts are good and actions are good.  For if no vice overshadows the mind, its thoughts are sound.  If chastity is present for its zeal, and temperance for the heart, no flame of lust is kindled, no sickly ulcer creeps in.  For sobriety of mind is the medicine of the body” (De Noe et Arca, xi. 37-38.).

2a. “Of all clean beasts”

Cornelius: “Theodoretus, Abulensis and Bede think that these animals are called clean by anticipation, because clean animals were to be distinguished by the law of Moses, Lev. xi.  But others think, better, that the distinction of animals (and even of birds, as the Septuagint has) into clean and unclean, with which Lev. xi. is concerned, was also in the law of nature, by an inspiration of God and by the tradition of the elders; in other words that the animals that God set aside as clean for His sacrifices during the time of natural law, were those that afterward, in the time of the law of Moses, were set aside as clean for the Jews to eat.  Thus St. Chrysostom, Didymus, and Pererius” (Commentaria, p 140).

2b-3. “Take seven and seven … two and two”

“Josephus, St. Ambrose, Chrystostom [, Bede, etc.] explain this passage thus: that is, ‘You shall take into the ark seven of each animal that is clean: the first pair for the propagation of the species, the second pair for sacrifice, the third pair to be eaten after the flood, and finally the seventh, a male, to be offered as sacrifice as soon as the flood ceases’ – and indeed as soon as it ceased, Noe sacrificed one of each clean animal to God in thanksgiving, viii. 20.  But of the unclean animals, only one pair was preserved in the ark, for the propagation of the species” (Commentaria, p 140).

St. Bede: “Seven and seven, it says, on account of the many kinds of animals that were to be included in this number … And it says two and two, because these also were to be taken of many kinds of animals, whence it is very easily apparent to anyone that if the matter concerned only the saving of a kind of animal and no higher, hidden grace, it sufficed to conserve the smaller number of animals to restore the species; now, though, because not all who undergo the washing of baptism in the Church also preserve the cleanness of good works, unclean animals also enter the ark with the clean.  And well are the clean contained under the number seven, because the grace of the Spirit, by which the hearts of the faithful are cleansed and sanctified, is sevenfold.  The unclean are included under the number two, because false Catholics perceive the sacraments with a twofold heart: they wish both to rejoice here with the world, and reign in the world to come with Christ.  Of such James says:[2] Therefore let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.  A double-minded man is inconstant in all his ways” (In Principium Genesis II. col. 93-94).

[1] Prov. ix. 12, LXX: Son, if you become a wise man for yourself, you will also be wise for others.  But if you walk away evil, you will draw evil for yourself alone. Vulgate/DR: If thou be wise, thou shalt be so to thyself: and if a scorner, thou alone shalt bear the evil.

[2] James i. 7-8.


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