I. NOAH OBEYS COMMAND TO ENTER THE ARK.V.1a. And Jehovah said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark.
1. As soon as that extraordinary structure, the ark, was built, the Lord commanded Noah to enter it, because the time of the deluge, which the Lord announced one hundred and twenty years before, was now at hand. All this convinced Noah that God was taking care of him; and not only this, but also, as Peter says (2 Pet 1,19), gave him an ample and abundant word to support and confirm his faith in such great straits. Having foretold the deluge for more than a century, he doubtless was bitterly mocked by the world in many ways.
2. As I have said repeatedly, God's wrath was incredible. It could not be grasped by the human mind, in that original age of superior men, that God was about to destroy the whole human race, except eight souls. Noah, being holy and just, a kindly and merciful man, often struggled with his own heart, hearing with the greatest agitation of mind the voice of the Lord, threatening certain destruction to all flesh. It was needful, then, that repeated declaration should confirm his agitated faith, lest he might doubt.
3. God's command to enter the ark amounted to this: "Doubt not, the time of punishment for the unbelieving world is close at hand. But tremble not, do not fear, for faith is at times very weak in the saints. I shall take care of you and your house." To us such promise would have been incredible, but we must admit that all things are possible with God.
4. Notice Moses' peculiar expression again: "Jehovah said." It gives me particular pleasure that these words of God did not sound from heaven, but were spoken to Noah through the ministry of man. Although I would not deny that these revelations may have been made by an angel, or by the Holy Spirit himself, yet where it can plausibly be said that God spoke through men, there the ministry must be honored. We have shown above that many of God's words according to Moses, were spoken through Adam; for the Word of God, even when spoken by man, is truly the Word of God.
5. Now, as Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, died in the very year of the deluge, it would not be inapt to infer that (since Lamech, Noah's father, had died five years before the flood,) this was, so to speak, Methuselah's last word and testament to his grandson, a dying farewell. Perhaps he added some remarks as these: My son, as thou hast obeyed the Lord heretofore, and hast awaited this wrath in faith, and hast experienced God's faithful protection from the wicked, henceforth firmly believe that God will take care of thee. The end is now at hand, not mine alone, which is one of grace, but the end of all mankind, which is one of wrath. For after seven days the flood will begin, concerning which thou hast long and vainly warned the world. After this manner, I think, spoke Methuselah, but the words are attributed to God, because the Spirit of God spoke through the man.
Thus I like to interpret these instances to the honor of the ministry wherever, as in this case, it can appropriately be done. Since it is certain that Methuselah died in the very year of the flood, the supposition is harmless that these were his last words to Noah, his grandson, who heard his words and accepted them as the Word of God.
6. The Jews' peculiar idea concerning these seven days is that they were added to the one hundred and twenty years in honor of Methuselah, that therein his posterity might bewail his death. This is a harmless interpretation, for the patriarch's descendants did not fail to do their duty, particularly his pious children.
7. But the first view concerning the ministry of the Word, is not only plausible, but also practical. God does not habitually speak miraculously and by revelation, particularly where, he has instituted the ministry for this very purpose of speaking to men, teaching, instructing, consoling and entreating them.
8. In the first place, God entrusts the Word to parents. Moses often says: "Thou shalt tell it to thy children." Then to the teachers of the Church is it entrusted. Abraham says (Lk 16,29): "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." We must expect no revelation, be it inward or outward, where the ministry is established; otherwise all ranks of human society would be disturbed. Let the pastor preach in Church; let the magistrate rule the State; let parents control the house or family. Such are the ministries of men instituted by God. We should make use of them and not look for new revelations.
9. Still I do not deny that Noah heard God speak after Methuselah's death. God speaks ordinarily through the public ministry — through parents and the teachers of the Church — and in rare cases by inward revelation, through the Holy Spirit. It is well that we remember not to overlook the Word in vain expectation of new revelations, as the fanatics do. Such a course gives rise to spirits of error, a source of disturbance to the whole world, as the example of the Anabaptists proves.
V.1b. For thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
10. This is truly a picture of the primitive, ancient world, as Peter calls it. 2 Pet 2,5. His appellation carries the thought of a peculiarity of that particular age, which is foreign to the people of our own. Could words be more appalling than these, that Noah alone was righteous before the Lord? The world is similarly pictured in Ps 14,2-3, where we read that the Lord looked down from heaven to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. But he says: "They are all gone aside; they are together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
11. Similar to this judgment upon the world was Christ's declaration as to the last days. He says: "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Lk 18,8. It is a fearful thing to live in such an evil and godless world. By the goodness of God, since we have the light of his Word, we are still in the golden age. The sacraments are rightfully administered in our Churches, pious teachers proclaim the Word purely, and, though magistrates be weak, wickedness is not desperately rampant. But Christ's prophecy shows that there will be evil times when the Lord's day approaches. Wholesome teaching nowhere will be found, the Church being dominated by the wicked, as today the plans of our adversaries are a menace. The pope and the wicked princes zealously strive totally to destroy the ministry of the Word, oppressing or corrupting the true ministries, that everyone may believe whatever pleases him.
12. So much the more diligently should we pray for our posterity, and take earnest heed that a more wholesome doctrine be transmitted to them. If there had been more godly teachers in the days of Noah, there might have been more righteous people. The fact that Noah alone was proclaimed a righteous man makes it evident that the godly teachers had been either destroyed or corrupted, leaving Noah the sole preacher of righteousness, as Peter calls him, 2 Pet 2,5. Since government had been turned into tyranny and the home vitiated by adultery and whoredom, how could punishment be delayed any longer?
13. Such danger awaits us also if the last days are to be like the days of Noah. Truly, the popes and bishops strenuously endeavor to suppress the Gospel and to ruin the Churches which have been rightfully established. Thus does the world assiduously press onward to a period similar to the age of Noah, when, with the light of the Word extinguished, all shall go astray in the darkness of wickedness. For without the preaching of the Word, faith cannot endure nor prayer, nor the purity of the sacraments.
14. Such, according to Moses, was the condition of the ancient world in Noah's day, when the world was young and at its best. The greatest geniuses flourished everywhere and people were well educated by experience because they lived so long. What will be our fate in the frenzy, so to speak, that shall befall the world in its dotage? We should remember to care for our posterity and continually pray for it.
15. As the first world was most corrupt, it was thus subject to terrible punishment. Adults perished who provoked God to anger by their wicked deeds, also those of an innocent age, who had knowledge and were unable to distinguish between their right hand and their left. Many, doubtless, were deceived by their own guilelessness; but God's wrath does not discriminate, it falls upon and destroys alike adults and infants, the crafty and the guileless.
16. This awful punishment appears to have moved even the Apostle Peter. Like one besides himself, he uses words which we today are not able to understand. He says: Christ, having been made alive in the Spirit, also "went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that aforetime were disobedient, when the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water," etc. (1 Pet 3,19-20).
17. A strange declaration, and an almost fanatical saying, by which the Apostle describes this event! By these words, Peter assures us that there was a certain unbelieving world to whom the dead Christ preached after their death. If this is true, who would doubt that Christ took Moses and the prophets with him to those who were fettered in prison, in order to change the unbelieving world into a new and believing one? This seems to be intimated by Peter's words, though I should not like to make this assertion authoritatively.
18. But doubtless those whom he calls an unbelieving world were not the wicked despisers of his Word nor the tyrants. If they were overwhelmed in their sins, these were certainly condemned. The unbelieving world of which he speaks seems rather to be the children and those whose lack of judgment precluded belief. These were at that time, seized and carried away headlong to their destruction, by the offenses of the world, as if in the power of a rapid stream, only eight souls being saved.
19. In this way does Peter magnify the awful intensity of God's wrath. At the same time he praises his long-suffering in that he did not deprive those of the Word of salvation who at the time did not or could not believe because they hoped in the patience of God and would not be convinced that he would visit such fearful and universal punishment upon the world.
20. How this came to pass is beyond our understanding. We know and believe that God is wonderful in all his works and has all power. Therefore he who in life preached to the living, could also in death preach to the dead. All things hear, feel and touch him, though our human minds can not understand the process. Nor is it to our discredit when we are ignorant of some of the mysteries of Holy Writ. The apostles had each his own revelation, and contention concerning them would be presumptuous and foolish.
21. Such was the revelation of Christ given to the spirits that evidently perished in the flood, and we may perhaps, not inappropriately connect it with that article of our creed which speaks of the descent of Christ into hell. Such was also Paul's revelation concerning paradise, the third heaven (2 Cor 12,2-4), and certain other matters of which we may be ignorant without shame. It is false pride to profess to understand these things. St. Augustine and other teachers give their fancy loose rein when they discuss these passages. May it not be that the apostles had revelations which St. Augustine and others did not have? But let us return to Moses.
22. A truly fearful description of the world is vouchsafed in this declaration of God that he saw Noah alone to be righteous before him, in spite of the small children and those others who had innocently been misled. Let us particularly note the term, "Before me." It signifies that Noah was blameless not only as regards the second table of the Law, but also as regards the first. He believed in God, and hallowed, preached and called upon his name; he gave thanks to God; he condemned godless teachings. For, to be righteous before God means to believe God and to fear him, and not, as they taught in popedom, to read masses, to free souls from purgatory, to become a monk, and like things.
23. This term "Before me" has reference also to the condemnation of the ancient world. Having neglected the worship demanded by the first table, they criminally transgressed also the second. Not only did they mock Noah as a fool, but they went so far as to condemn his teaching as heresy. Meanwhile they ate, drank, and celebrated festivals in security. Before the world, accordingly, Noah was not righteous; measured by her code he was a sinner.
24. Hence God, or the grandfather, Methuselah, consoles Noah with the Word of counsel to disregard the blind and wicked verdict of the world, neither to care for her views and utterances, but to close eyes and ears while heeding alone the Word and verdict of God, believing himself to be righteous before God, or approved and acceptable to him.
25. And Noah's faith was truly great; he could rely upon God's utterance. I, forsooth, should not have believed. I realize what weight the whole world's hostile and condemnatory judgment must carry. We are condemned in the judgment of the Pope, the Sacramentarians, and the Anabaptists, but this is mere play and pleasure, compared to what the righteous Noah had to bear, who found not a single person in the whole world to approve of his religion or life, except his own sons and his pious grandfather. We have, the endorsement of many Churches, by God's grace, and our princes fear no danger in defense of their doctrine and religion. Noah had no such protectors, and he saw his enemies living in peaceful leisure and enjoyment. If I had been he, I surely should have said: Lord, if I am righteous, if I am well pleasing to thee and if those people are wicked and displeasing to thee, why, then, dost thou enrich them? Why dost thou heap upon them all manner of favors, while I, with my family, am greatly harassed and almost without assistance? In short, I should have despaired in such great afflictions unless the Lord had given me that spirit which Noah had.
26. Therefore, Noah is a brilliant and admirable example of faith, who opposed the judgments of the world with an heroic steadfastness of mind in the assurance that he was righteous while all the rest of the world was wicked.
27. Often when I think of those most holy men, John Huss and Jerome of Prague, I view with astonishment the courage of their souls, as they, only two in number, set themselves against the judgment of the whole world, of pope, emperor, bishops, princes, universities and all the schools throughout the empire.
28. It is helpful often to reflect upon such examples. Since the prince of the world battles against us, endeavoring to kindle despair in us with his fiery darts, it behooves us to be well armed, lest we succumb to the enemy. Let us say with Noah: I know that I am righteous before God, even though the whole world condemn me as heretical and wicked, yea, even desert me. Thus did the apostles desert Christ, leaving him alone; but he said (Jn 16,32): "I am not alone." Thus did the false brethren desert Paul. Hence, this is no uncommon danger, and it is not for us to despair; but with courage to uphold the true doctrine, in spite of the world's condemnation and curse.
V.2, 3. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, the male and his female; and of the beasts that are not clean two, the male and his female. Of the birds also of the heavens, seven and seven, male and female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.
29. It is evident that God takes pleasure in speaking to Noah. Hence, he does not confine himself to a single command, but repeats the same things in the same words. To human reason such repetition appears to be absurd talkativeness, but to a soul struggling against despair the will of God cannot be repeated too often, nor can too exhaustive instruction be given relative to the will of God. God recognizes the state of a soul that is tempted, and hence makes the same statements again and again, so that Noah may learn from frequent conversations and conferences that he is not only not forsaken though the whole world forsake him, but that he has a friend and protector in God who so loves him that he never seems to weary of conversing with him. This is the cause of the statements being repeated. However, as has been explained, God spoke with Noah not from heaven but through men.
30. In respect to the language, this passage shows that ha-behemah signifies not only cattle, the larger animals, but also the smaller ones which were commonly used for sacrifice, as sheep, goats and the like. The custom of offering sacrifices was not first instituted by Moses, but was in the world from the beginning, being handed down, as it were, by the patriarchs to their posterity; as shown by the example of Abel, who brought of his first fruits an offering to God.
31. As to the remainder of the passage, we explained at the end of the sixth chapter how to harmonize the discrepancies apparent in the fact that here seven beasts of each kind are ordered to be taken into the ark while only two of each kind are mentioned there. To repeat is not necessary. Since Noah was saved by a miracle, he thought that a seventh animal should be added to the three pairs of clean beasts as a thank-offering to God, after the flood, for his deliverance.
V.4. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the ground.
32. Here you see God's care to give Noah complete assurance. He sets a limit of seven days, after which will follow a rain of forty days and forty nights. God speaks with peculiar significance when he says that it shall rain. It was not a common rain, but fountains of the deep as well as the windows of heaven were opened; that is, not only did a great mass of rain fall from heaven, but also an immense amount of water streamed forth from the earth itself. And an immense amount of water was necessary to cover the highest mountain tops to a depth of fifteen cubits. It was no ordinary rain, but the rain of God's wrath, by which he set out to destroy all life upon the face of the earth. Because the earth was depraved, God despoiled it, and because the godless people raged against the first and second tables of the commandments, therefore God also raged against them, using heaven and earth as his weapons.
33. This story is certain proof that God, though long-suffering and patient, will not allow the wicked to go unpunished. As Peter says (2 Pet 2,5), if he "spared not the ancient world," how much less will he spare the popes or the emperors who rage against his Word? How much less will he spare us who blaspheme his name when our life is unworthy of our calling and profession, when we freely and daily sin against our consciences? Let us, then, learn to fear the Lord, humbly to accept his Word and obey it; otherwise punishment will overtake also us, as Peter threatens.
V.5-10. And Noah did according unto all that Jehovah commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creepeth upon the ground, there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, male and female, as God commanded Noah. And it came to pass after the seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.
34. This is clear from what precedes. Noah's faith is praiseworthy in that he obeyed the Lord's command and unwaveringly entered the ark with his sons and their wives. God truly could have saved him in innumerable other ways; he did not employ this seemingly absurd method because he knew no other. To him who kept Jonah for three days in the midst of the sea and in the belly of the whale, what do you think is impossible? But Noah's faith and obedience are to be commended because he took no offense at this plan of salvation divinely shown to him, but embraced it in simple faith.
II. COMPLETE DESTRUCTION.V.11, 12. In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
35. We see that Moses uses a great many words, which results in tiresome repetition. How often he mentions the animals! how often the entrance into the ark! how often the sons of Noah who entered at the same time! The reason for this must be left to the spiritually minded; they alone know and see that the Holy Spirit does not repeat in vain.
36. Others, however, who are more materially minded may think that Moses, being moved, when he wrote the passage, by the greatness of God's wrath, desired to enforce its truths by repetition; for reiteration of statements is soothing to troubled minds. Thus did David repeat his lament over his son Absalom, 2 Sam 18,33. So viewed, this narrative shows depth of feeling and extreme agitation of mind. This example of wrath so impresses the narrator that for emphasis he mentions the same thing again and again, and in the same words.
37. This is not the custom of poets and historians. Their emotions are factitious; they are diffuse in their descriptions; they pile up words for mere effect. Moses husbands his words, but is emphatic by repetition that he may arouse the reader's attention to the importance of the message and compel him to feel his own emotions instead of reading those of another.
38. Evidently Moses did not only wish to convey by persistent repetition the extreme agitation of his own mind, but also of that of Noah himself, who, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and burning with love, necessarily deplored the calamity when he saw that he could not avert it. He foresaw the doom of the wisest and most distinguished and eminent men. Thus did David mourn when he could not call back Absalom to life. So Samuel mourned when he despaired of saving Saul.
39. The text is not a mere tautology or repetition. The Holy Spirit does not idly repeat words, as those superficial minds believe, which, having read through the Bible once, throw it aside as if they had gathered all its contents. Yet these very repetitions of Moses contain a statement more startling than any to be found in heathen records — that Noah entered the ark in the six hundredth year, the second month and the second day of his life.
40. Opinions differ as to the beginning of the year. One is, that the year begins at the conjunction of the sun and the moon which occurs nearest to the vernal equinox. Thus this month is called the first by Moses in Exodus. If the flood set in on the seventeenth day of the second month, it must have continued almost to the end of April, the most beautiful season of the year, when the earth seemingly gathers new strength, when the birds sing and the beasts rejoice, when the world puts on a new face, as it were, after the dreary season of winter. Death and destruction must have come with added terror at that season which was looked forward to as a harbinger of joy and the apparent beginning of a new life. This view is substantiated by the words of Christ in Matthew 24,38, where he compares the last days of the world to the days of Noah and speaks of feasting, marriage and other signs of gladness.
41. A second opinion makes the year begin with that new moon which is nearest to the autumnal equinox, when all the harvest has been gathered from the fields. Its advocates declare this to be the beginning of the year, because Moses calls that month in which such new moon occurs, the end of the year. They call this autumnal equinox the beginning of the civil year, and the vernal equinox the beginning of the holy year. The Mosaic ceremonies and festivals extend from the latter season up to the autumnal equinox.
42. If Moses in this passage is speaking of the civil year, then the flood occurred in September or October, an opinion I find Lyra held. It is true that fall and winter are more liable to rains, the signs of the zodiac pointing to humidity. Again, as Moses writes further on, a dove was sent forth in the tenth month and brought back a green olive branch. This fact seems to harmonize with the view that the deluge began in October.
43. But I cannot endorse this argument of the Jews, assuming two beginnings of the year. Why not make four beginnings, since there are four distinct seasons according to the equinoxes and solstices? It is safer to follow the divine order, making April the first month, starting with the new moon which is nearest to vernal equinox. The Jews betray their ignorance in speaking of an autumnal beginning of the year: the autumnal equinox is necessarily the end of the year. Moses so calls it for the reason that all field labors had then ceased and all products had been gathered and brought home.
44. Hence, it is my belief that the flood began in the spring, when all minds were filled with hope of the new year. Such is the death of the wicked that when they shall say, "Peace and safety," they perish. 1 Thes 5,3. Nor is any inconsistence shown in the fact that the green olive branch is afterward mentioned, for certain trees are evergreen, as the boxwood, fir, pine, cedar, laurel, olive, palm and others.
45. But what does Moses mean by saying that the fountains of the great deep burst, and that the windows of heaven were opened? No such record is found in all pagan literature, although the heathen searched with zeal the mysteries of nature. One discrimination should be made as regards the abysses of the earth, the floodgates or windows of heaven, and the rain. Rain, as we know it, is a common phenomenon, while that of bursting floodgates and abysses is both unfamiliar and amazing.
46. Almost all interpreters are silent on this point. We know from Holy Writ that God, by his Word, established a dwelling-place for man and other living beings on dry land, above the water, contrary to nature; for it is opposed to natural law that the earth, being placed in water, should rise up out of it. If you cast a clod into the water, it sinks at once. But the dry land stands up out of the water by virtue of the Word, which has set bounds for the sea, as Solomon (Prov 8,27) and Job (ch 38,11) declare. Unless the water were restrained by the power of the Word, with a bound, as it were, they would overflow and lay waste everything. Thus is our life guarded every single moment, and wonderfully preserved by the Word. We have an illustration in partial deluges, when at times entire states or regions are flooded, proving that we should daily suffer such unpleasant things if God did not take care of us.
47. But just as there are waters below us, and beneath the earth, so, too, are there waters above us, and beyond the sky. If they should descend, obeying natural law, destruction would result. The clouds float as if suspended in space. When at times they descend, how great the terror they cause! But imagine the result of a universal collapse! How they would burst, in obedience to the law of their nature, did they not remain in place above us, suspended, as it were, by the Word!
48. Thus we are girt about on all sides by water, shielded only by a frail ceiling of unsubstantial material — the air that we breathe — which bears up the clouds and carries that weight of water, not in obedience to the laws of nature, but by the command of God, or by the power of the Word.
49. When the prophets think of these things they are lost in admiration. It is contrary to nature that such a weight should remain in suspension above the earth. But we, blinded by daily witnessing of such wonders, neither observe nor admire them. That we are not at any moment overwhelmed by waters from above or from below, we owe to the divine majesty which orders all things and preserves all creatures so wonderfully, and he ought to be the object of our praise.
50. Startling and significant are the words Moses uses — the fountains of the great deep were broken up. The conception he would convey is that they had been closed by God's power and sealed, as it were, with God's seal, as today; and that God did not open them with a key, but rent them with violence, so that the ocean, in a sudden upheaval, covered everything with water. It is not to be supposed that God moved his hand, because the fountains of the deep are said to have been broken up. It is the custom of Scripture to adapt itself to our understanding in the phraseology employed, and that under consideration here denotes that God gives leave to the waters in that he no longer restrains or coerces them but suffers them to rage and break forth unchecked according to their nature. That is the reason the ocean seemed to swell and boil. In the salt works in our neighborhood there is a spring named after the Germans, which, if it is not pumped out at certain times, swells and overflows with terrific force.
51. They say that in olden times the town of Halle was once destroyed by a violent overflow of a spring of the kind described. If a single spring could work such destruction what would be the result of the uncurbed power of ocean and seas? Thus mankind was destroyed before they even knew their danger. Whither should they flee when the waters poured in upon them with such force?
52. But this is not all: the windows of heaven also were opened. Moses' word implies that to that time the windows were closed as they are closed today. Indeed, the world thought such opening impossible; their sins, however, made it possible.
53. Moses' use here of the word "windows" signifies the literal opening of heaven. With rain as we know it, the water appears to fall by drops from the pores of the rain-clouds, but at the time of the flood it came down with great force, not through pores, but through windows, like water poured from a vessel with one movement, or as when water-skins burst in the middle. Moses uses this figure of speech for the sake of effect, so that those occurrences are brought to our vision.
54. A volume of water, therefore, swept over the earth, from the sky as well as from the innermost parts of the earth, until at last the whole earth was covered with water, and the fertile soil, or the entire face of the earth was destroyed by the briny flood. A like instance occurs nowhere in any book. The Holy Scriptures alone teach us that these things were visited upon the world sinning in imagined security, and that to this day the waters suspended in the clouds are restrained only by the kindness of God. Otherwise they would descend in vast volume, as in the flood, according to the law of their nature.
V.13-16. In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; they, and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. And, they went in unto Noah and the ark, two and two of all flesh wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God commanded him.
55. Here Moses begins to be remarkably verbose. His wordiness hurts tender ears when he so often and apparently without any use repeats the same things. It is not sufficient to say "all birds," but he names three kinds of birds. Of these, the term zippor is usually said to mean "a sparrow," but this passage shows clearly that it is a generic term, doubtless so called from the sound, zi, zi. He also names three kinds of beasts. Also, when speaking of the flood itself, he is very wordy, saying that the waters prevailed, that they increased, that they flooded and covered the face of the earth. Finally, when he tells of the effect of this flood, he makes similar repetition: "All flesh expired, died, was destroyed," etc.
56. But I said above (§37) that Moses repeats these things contrary to his style, in order to force the reader to pause and more diligently learn and meditate upon this great event. We cannot fully comprehend the wrath which destroys, not man alone, but all his possessions. Moses wishes to arouse hardened and heedless sinners by such a consideration of God's wrath.
57. Hence, these words are not idle, as a shallow and unspiritual reader might judge. They rather challenge us to fear God, and call attention to the present so that, sobered by the thought of such wrath, we may make an earnest beginning in the fear of God, and cease from sin. For not without many tears does Moses appear to have written this account! So utterly is he with eyes and mind absorbed in this horrible spectacle of wrath that he cannot but repeat the same statements again and again. Doubtless he does this with the purpose to thrust such darts of divine fear, so to speak, into the souls of pious readers.
58. It may be well to transport ourselves in thought into the time of the event. What do you think would be our state of mind if we had been put into the ark, if we had seen the waters spreading everywhere with overwhelming force and the wretched human beings perishing without possibility of help? Let us remember that Noah and his sons were also flesh and blood; that is, they were men who, as that person in the comedy (Terence, Heaut. 1: 1, 25) says, thought nothing human was foreign to themselves. They were in the ark for forty days before it was lifted off the earth. In those days were destroyed all the human beings and animals living upon the earth. This calamity they saw with their own eyes; who would doubt that they were violently stirred by the sight?
59. Furthermore, the ark floated upon the waters for one hundred and fifty days, buffeted on all sides by the waves and winds. There was no hope for any harbor, or for any meeting with men. As exiles, therefore, as vanished from the earth, as it were, they were driven here and there by currents and winds. Is it not a miracle that those eight human beings did not die from grief and fear? Truly, we are made of stone if we can read this story with dry eyes.
60. What outcry, sorrow and wailing if from the shore we see a small boat overturned, and human beings miserably perishing! Here, however, not one boat-load, but the entire world of men perish in the waters; a world composed not only of grown persons, but also babes; not only of criminal and wicked ones, but also simple-hearted matrons and virgins. They all perished. Let us believe that Moses told the tale of this calamity with such redundancy of words in order that we might be impelled to give earnest attention to this important event. Noah's faith was truly of a rare kind, since he consoled himself and his family with the hope of promised seed and dwelt more upon this promise than the destruction of all the rest of the world.
V.16-24. And Jehovah shut him in. And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lifted up above the earth. And the waters prevailed, and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both birds, and cattle, and beasts, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: all, in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, of all that was on the dry land, died. And every living thing was destroyed that was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days.
61. For forty days the ark stood in some plain. By that time the waters had risen to such an extent that they lifted the ark, which then floated for one hundred and fifty days. A long sea voyage indeed, and one of great mourning and tears. Yet the occupants upheld themselves by faith, not doubting the kindness of God toward them. They had experienced his goodness when building the ark, when preparing the food, when getting ready other things needful for this occasion, and finally when the Lord closed the ark after the flood came in its power.
62. The question arises, how can God be truthful here? He had set man as master over the earth to cultivate and rule it. God did not create the earth to lie waste, but to be inhabited and give its fruits to men. How can we reconcile such purpose of the creator with the fact that he destroyed all mankind except eight souls? I have no doubt that this argument influenced the descendants of Cain as well as the wicked posterity of the righteous generation not to believe Noah when he proclaimed the flood. How can we harmonize God's promise to Adam and Eve, "You shall rule the earth," and his words here to Noah, "The water shall overpower all men, and destroy them all." So the unbelievers decided that Noah's preaching was wicked and heretical.
63. In like manner the books of the prophets bear witness that the threats of the Assyrian and Babylonish captivity were not believed by the priests and kings, who knew this grand promise: "This is my resting-place forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it," Ps 132,14; and that other, by Isaiah: "Here is my fire, and my hearth-stone," Is 31,9. To them it was incredible that either the State or the temple should be overthrown by the gentiles. And the Jews, miserable outcast though they be, even to this day hold fast the promise that they are God's people and heirs of the promises given Abraham and the fathers.
64. Thus is the pope puffed up with the promises given to the Church: "I am with you unto the end of the world," Mt 28,20; "I will not leave you desolate," Jn 14,18; "I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not," Lk 22,32; and others. Though he sees and feels the wrath of God, yet, caught in these promises, he dreams, and likewise his followers, that his throne and power are secure. Hence the Papists blatantly use the name of the Church to overwhelm us, promising themselves the utmost success, as if they could force God to establish the Church according to their dreams and desires.
65. Fitly, then, do we here raise the question how the flood, by which all mankind perished, agrees with the will of God, who created human nature and gave it the promise and endowment of dominion. The answer to this question will likewise settle the one concerning the Church. It is this: God remains truthful, preserving, ruling and governing his Church though in a manner transcending the observation and understanding of the world. He permits the Roman pontiff and his adherents to think that the pope is the Church. He suffers him to feel secure and to enjoy his dignity and title. But in fact God has excommunicated the pontiff, because he rejects the Word and establishes idolatrous worship.
66. On the other hand, God has chosen for himself another Church, which embraces the Word and flees idolatry, a Church so oppressed and shamefully afflicted that it is not considered a Church but a band of heretics and the devil's school. Thus Paul writes to the Romans (ch 2,17) that the Jews do not fear God yet they glory in the Law and in God, at the same time denying, blaspheming and offending God. And while the Jews, who take pride in being God's people, are doing this, God prepares for himself a Church from the gentiles, who truly glory in God and embrace his Word.
67. But who should dare to accuse God of untruthfulness because he preserves the Church in a manner unknown and undesired by man? Of similar nature were the promises concerning the preservation of Jerusalem and the temple. These promises were not violated when that city and temple were laid waste by the Babylonians. For God established another Jerusalem and another temple in the Spirit and by the Word; Jeremiah promised (Jer 29,10-11) that the people should return after seventy years and that then both the temple and the nation should be re-established.
68. As regards the Jews, these were destroyed at that time, but not as regards God who had promised in his Word that they should be rebuilt. The Jews argue correctly that God will not desert the nation and temple; but God keeps his promise in a way foreign to the thought of the Jews, who believed that the nation would not be destroyed because the promise said: "This is my resting-place forever." God permitted destruction in order to punish the sins of his people, and yet he preserved and protected the Church when the pious were brought back by Cyrus and built the temple.
69. In like manner, dominion over the world was given to man in the beginning of creation. This is taken away in the flood, not forever, but for a time, and that not altogether. Though the greater part of the world perishes, yet man retains his mastery; and this mastery is preserved to mankind, not as represented by a multitude, as the world desired and believed, but by a few persons — eight souls — a thing which seemed incredible to the world.
70. Hence God did not lie; he kept his promise, but not as the world would have had it. He destroyed the sinners and saved the righteous few, which, like a seed, he thereafter multiplied in many ways.
71. The Papists should keep before their eyes this judgment of God. It teaches that neither numbers nor power nor his own promise is allowed to prevent him from punishing the impenitent. Otherwise he would have spared the first world and the offspring of the patriarchs to whom he had granted dominion over the earth. Now he destroys all and saves only eight.
72. Is it wonderful, then, that he deals with the Papists in the same way? Though they boast of rank, dignity, numbers, and power, yet, because they trample the Word of God under foot and rage against it, God will cast them away, choosing for himself another Church, which will humbly obey the Word and accept with open arms the gifts of Christ which the pope's Church, trusting in its own merits, haughtily spurns.
73. Therefore none should trust in the good things of present possession, though they be promised by the divine Word. We must look to the Word itself and trust in it alone. Those who set the Word aside and put their trust in present things, will not go unscathed in their fall from faith, however much they may boast of power and numbers. This truth is shown by the flood, by the captivity of the Jews and their present misfortune, and by the seven thousand men in the kingdom of Israel.
74. The proof is sufficiently strong, that great numbers do not make a Church. Nor must we trust in holiness of origin, in forefathers, or in the gifts of God which we enjoy. We must look to the Word alone and judge thereby. Those alone who truly embrace the Word will be as immovable forever as Mount Zion. They may be few in number and thoroughly despised by the world, as were Noah and his children. But God, through these few, preserved to man the truth of that promised mastery when he had not even room to set his foot upon the earth.
75. Our enemies, setting aside the Word, make much of number, outward appearance, and persons. But the apostles foretold that the Antichrist will be a respecter of persons, that will rely upon numbers and ancient origin, that he will hate the Word and corrupt God's promises and that he will kill those who cling to the Word. Shall we, then, consider such people to be the Church?
76. The Church is a daughter born from the Word, not the mother of the Word. Therefore, whoever loses the Word and looks to men instead, ceases to be the Church and lapses into utter blindness; nor will either great numbers or power avail. They who keep the word, as did Noah and his family, are the Church, though they be few in number, even but eight souls. The Papists at this time surpass us in numbers and rank; we not only are cursed, but suffer many things. But we must endure until the judgment, when God will reveal that we are his Church, and the Papists the church of Satan.
77. So, then, we must observe that rule in 1 Sam 16,7, where the Lord says to Samuel: "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for Jehovah seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart."
78. Let us not, therefore, give heed to the greatness and might of the pope, who boasts that he is the Church, proclaiming the apostolic succession and the majesty of his person. Let us look to the Word. If the pope embraces it, let us judge him to be the Church; but if he does violence to it, let us judge him to be the slave of Satan.
79. Paul says (1 Cor 2,15) that the spiritual person judgeth all things. If I were the only one on the face of the earth to keep the Word, I should be the Church, and rightfully pass judgment upon all the rest of the world that they were not the Church. Our enemies have the office without the Word, and really have nothing. We, on the other hand, have the Word, though we have nothing; yet we have everything through the Word. Therefore, either let the pope, the cardinals and the bishops come over to our side, or let them cease to boast that they are the Church, which they cannot be without the Word, since it is begotten only by the Word.
80. We bear a great load of hatred, being accused of having deserted the ancient Church. The Papists, on the other hand, boast that they have remained true to the Church, and they want to leave everything to the judgment of the Church. But we are accused falsely. To speak the truth, we must say that we departed from the Word when we were still in their Church and now we have returned to the Word and have ceased to be apostates from the Word.
81. Therefore though in their judgment they rob us of the title of the Church, still we retain the Word, and through the Word we have all ornaments of the true Church. For whoever has the Creator of all, must needs also possess the creatures themselves. In this sense Noah remained master of the world, though the waters prevailed, and the earth perished. Though he lost his property, yet, because he retained the Word by which everything was created, it may truly be said he retained everything.
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