Genesis vii. 7-12.

July 23, 2010

And Noe went in and his sons, his wife and the wives of his sons with him into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.  And of the beasts clean and unclean, and of fowls, and of every thing that moveth upon the earth, two and two went in to Noe into the ark, male and female, as the Lord had commanded Noe.  And after seven days were passed, the waters of the flood overflowed the earth.  In the six hundreth year of the life of Noe, in the second month, in the seventeenth day of the month, all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the flood gates of heaven were opened: and the rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

7-9. Noe and his family and the animals enter the ark

St. Chrysostom: “Not without reason did Scripture add, as the Lord had commanded Noe: this was to increase once more the praise of the just man, because he had fulfilled everything, just as the Lord had commanded him, and because he had left nothing out” (xxv. 3.).

10-12. The flood begins

a. “And after seven days were passed”

St. Bede: “The seventh day indicates the sabbath, that is, the rest, of the life to come.  Therefore, since the flood signifies the water of baptism, it fittingly comes after the seven days following the completion of the ark, because we are baptized in the hope of eternal rest.  And because the waters of the flood symbolize the surges of temptation, they also fittingly come after the seven days, for on account of their faith in the hope of future goods the just suffer persecution from those who wretchedly place earthly goods before heavenly, and temporary things before those that last forever.  And finally because the flood is compared to the coming of the last judgment, here too it is fitting that after seven days it inundates the earth, because at the last judgment all the elect who have carried the sweet yoke and light burden of Christ find rest for their souls” (In Principium Genesis II. col. 94-95).

b. “In the second month, in the seventeenth day of the month”

St. Chrysostom: “See the diligence of Scripture, how it has taught us not only the year in which the flood occurred, but even the month and day” (xxv. 3.).

St. Ambrose: “There is no doubt that that the second month is in springtime, when the budding plants grow, the field bears its fruit, and both the earth and animals pour forth in giving birth.  Therefore at that time God made the flood, when the pain of those punished in their plenty would be greatest, the vengeance more terrible, as though they heard God say: ‘Behold, bountiful nature has produced everything according to the grace of the liberality of divine providence.  The earth has fruitfully given forth everything for the use of men; the crops can be seen, the fields are filled with wheat and barley, the leaves of the trees are clothed with the flowers of the coming fruits; the earth is not lacking in any of its services, the wild animals are not lacking in their office, which is solemnly discharged in giving birth, so that man may lack nothing.  Only man is lacking on his part: he does not know his own author, by whom all things are ordered.  He forgets his Creator.  Man despises his rewarder, although God has not despised His work.  Let all things perish with man, for whom all things were made.  Let man be destroyed with his riches, let him die with his dowry.  The earth had not lacked in anything before man, it did not err in any of its fruits; in man alone did it recognize that it had fallen, bring forth thorns and thistles instead of fruit.  The one admirable gift, the mind of man, has perished.  Why, therefore, should all these things be saved?’  Therefore the water does not pour in after the fruits have been gathered, lest the earth experience benefits rather than the flood” (De Noe et Arca, xiv. 48.).

St. Bede: “The month among the Hebrews was calculated solely according to the course of the moon, from new moon to new moon.  Their first month, in which it was commanded that the pasch be celebrated, and in which the earth was made, is called Nisan, which we call April.  The second is Jair, which we call May: on its seventeenth day, that is, when the moon of that month was at its seventeenth day, the flood came, and on the same day Noe entered the ark with all the men, animals and birds that were to be saved in it” (In Principium Genesis II. col. 95).

Cornelius: “The second month: in Hebrew this is called Iar, and basically corresponds to our May, at least with regard to its last part: for the first month of the Hebrews and of Holy Scripture is Nisan, which corresponds partly to March, partly to April.  Therefore the flood began in May, so that God might show that the cause of the flood was not natural, from the rains and showers of winter, but was brought about by a special providence of God at the beginning of summer, when the heat and dryness begin.  Therefore, so that the pain of the wicked would be greater, God destroyed them in the most beautiful time of year, when they were expecting nothing but happiness for themselves.  The same judgment fell upon the rich man of the Gospel who, having collected many goods, was promising himself a luxurious life from that point on; but he perished that same night” (Commentaria, p 141).

The seventeenth day of the month – Cedrenus says that this day was a Sunday: so on a Sunday the flood began, the rains ceased, and the flood came to an end – so he and not a few others relate” (ibid., p 142).

c. “The great deep”

“That is, of the many depths.  For beneath the earth are many depths, that is, chasms filled with water … Some think that the great deep refers here to the barathrum, that subterranean chasm, immensely deep, which is full of both waters placed there by God at the beginning of the world, and of waters from the sea, and which many think is the mother of all rivers, fountains and fresh water … Although there are many chasms of water beneath the earth, nevertheless these are all thought to be one subterranean chasm, or depth, mainly because it is very likely that all of them are joined together by fissures and channels, and come together in a certain primary, largest chasm, as it were their source.  Therefore, out from this abyss burst the most vast flow of waters, and like rivers – nay, like seas – covered the earth.  For every see is joined to and united with the abyss already mentioned by channels; whence for deep here, seas are also understood: for the deep is the chasm of waters that are contained by both the earth and the sea” (ibid.).

d. “The flood gates of heaven were opened”

St. Chrysostom: “See what moderation Holy Scripture uses even here: for it speaks everything according to human custom.  It is not that there are flood gates in heaven, but it tells all this to us by familiar words, as if to say: ‘God merely said the command, and at once the nature of waters obeyed the Creator’s order, and as they flowed together inundated the whole globe.  Now, even the fact that the flood lasted for forty days and forty nights is the greatest evidence of goodness.  For God wished, on account of His great mercy, for at least some of those punished to escape the general destruction, when they saw their fellows perish and themselves subject to the same destruction.  For it is very likely that on the first day a certain good portion perished in the flood, and on the second day the floods increased somewhat, and the same on the third day, and the others.  So accordingly He brought forth the flood over forty days and forty nights, so as to take away all pretext for excuse.  For if He had wished and ordered it so, He could have inundated everything in a single instant: but instead He used such a long space of days because of His mercy” (xxv. 3.).

Cornelius: “Clouds are here called the flood gates of heaven by catachresis; that is, the second region of the air, divided into many parts and regions, and containing and enclosing vapors and waters within itself as with a gate or a door …

“Note: The cause of the flood was twofold: one from above – the rain bursting forth from the flood gates of heaven; the other from below – the rush and inundation from the deep, such that the earth, in between, was invaded on every side and covered with the waters” (Commentaria, p 143).

St. Ambrose: “Now in the deeper sense, the symbol of heaven signifies the human mind, and the name of earth the body and senses.  Great therefore is the shipwreck when the whirlwind and storm of the mind and body and of all the senses are mingled” (De Noe et Arca, xiv. 49.).


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