With thee will I establish my covenant - The word ברית berith, from בר bar, to purify or cleanse, signifies properly a purification or purifier, (see on Genesis 15 (note)), because in all covenants made between God and man, sin and sinfulness were ever supposed to be on man's side, and that God could not enter into any covenant or engagement with him without a purifier; hence, in all covenants, a sacrifice was offered for the removal of offenses, and the reconciliation of God to the sinner; and hence the word ברית berith signifies not only a covenant, but also the sacrifice offered on the occasion, Exodus 24:8; Psalm 50:5; and Jesus Christ, the great atonement and purifier, has the same word for his title, Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8; and Zechariah 9:11.
Almost all nations, in forming alliances, etc., made their covenants or contracts in the same way. A sacrifice was provided, its throat was cut, and its blood poured out before God; then the whole carcass was divided through the spinal marrow from the head to the rump; so as to make exactly two equal parts; these were placed opposite to each other, and the contracting parties passed between them, or entering at opposite ends met in the center, and there took the covenant oath. This is particularly referred to by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 34:18, Jeremiah 34:19, Jeremiah 34:20; : "I will give the men (into the hands of their enemies, Jeremiah 34:20;) that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof," etc. See also Deuteronomy 29:12.
A covenant, says Mr. Ainsworth, is a disposition of good things faithfully declared, which God here calls his, as arising from his grace towards Noah ( Genesis 6:8;) and all men; but implying also conditions on man's part, and therefore is called our covenant, Zechariah 9:11. The apostles call it διαθηκη, a testament or disposition; and it is mixed of the properties both of covenant and testament, as the apostle shows, Hebrews 9:16, etc., and of both may be named a testamental covenant, whereby the disposing of God's favors and good things to us is declared. The covenant made with Noah signified, on God's part, that he should save Noah and his family from death by the ark. On Noah's part, that he should in faith and obedience make and enter into the ark - Thou shalt come into the ark, etc., so committing himself to God's preservation, Hebrews 11:7. And under this the covenant or testament of eternal salvation by Christ was also implied, the apostle testifying, 1 Peter 3:21, that the antitype, baptism, doth also now save us; for baptism is a seal of our salvation, Mark 16:16. To provide a Savior, and the means of salvation, is God's part: to accept this Savior, laying hold on the hope set before us, is ours. Those who refuse the way and means of salvation must perish; those who accept of the great Covenant Sacrifice cannot perish, but shall have eternal life. See on Genesis 15:10; (note), etc.
- Section VI - The Deluge
- XXIII. The Ark
9. דור dôr “age, time from birth to death,” applied either to an individual or the whole contemporary race, running parallel with some leading individual. Hence, the “race” or “generation” living during that time.
14. תבה tēbâh “chest, ark.” It is used only of this vessel of Noah‘s construction, and of the little vessel in which Moses was put Exodus 2:3, Exodus 2:5. The root, according to Furst, means “to be hollow.” אבה 'ēbeh a cognate word, signifies “a reed;” κιβωτός kibōtos Septuagint. גפר goper α . λ ., perhaps “fir, cypress, resinous wood.” קן qēn “nest, room; related: prepare, rear up.”
16. צהר tsohar “shining, light;” not the same as the חלון chalôn Genesis 8:6, or the aperture through which Noah let out the raven.
18. ברית berı̂yt “covenant; related: cut, eat, choose, decide.”
The close of the preceding document introduces the opening topic of this one. The same rule applies to all that have gone before. The generations of the skies and the land Genesis 2:4 are introduced by the finishing of the skies and the land Genesis 2:1; the generations of man in the line of Sheth Genesis 5:1, by the birth of Sheth Genesis 4:25; and now the generations of Noah, by the notice that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. The narrative here also, as usual, reverts to a point of time before the stage of affairs described in the close of the preceding passage. Yet there is nothing here that seems to indicate a new author. The previous paragraph is historical, and closely connected with the end of the fourth chapter; and it suitably prepares for the proceedings of Noah, under the divine direction, on the eye of the deluge. We have now a recapitulation of the agent and the occasion, and then the divine commission and its execution.
Here are the man and the occasion.
The generations of Noah. - In the third document we had the generations of man; now we are limited to Noah, because he is himself at peace with God, and is now the head and representative of those who are in the same blessed relation. The narrative, therefore, for the first time, formally confines itself to the portion of the human family in communion with God, Noah is here characterized by two new and important epithets - “just” and “perfect.” It is to be remembered that he had already found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Adam was created good; but by disobedience he became guilty, and all his race, Noah among the rest, became involved in that guilt. To be just is to be right in point of law, and thereby entitled to all the blessings of the acquitted and justified. When applied to the guilty, this epithet implies pardon of sin among other benefits of grace. It also presupposes that spiritual change by which the soul returns from estrangement to reconciliation with God. Hence, Noah is not only just, but perfect. This attribute of character imports not only the turning from darkness to light, from error to truth, from wrong to right, but the stability of moral determination which arises from the struggle, the trial, the victory of good over evil, therein involved. The just is the right in law; the perfect is the tested in holiness. “In his ages;” among the men of his age. This phrase indicates the contrast between Noah and the men of his day. It is probable, moreover, that he was of pure descent, and in that respect also distinguished from his contemporaries who were the offspring of promiscuous intermarriage between the godly and the ungodly. “Noah walked with God,” like Henok. This is the native consequence of his victory over sin, and his acceptance with God. His sons are mentioned, as they are essentially connected with the following events.
And the land was corrupt. - In contrast with Noah, the rest of the race were corrupt - entirely depraved by sin. “It was filled with violence” - with the outward exhibition of inward carnality. “And God saw this.” It was patent to the eye of Heaven. This is the ground of the following commission.
The directions concerning the ark embrace the purpose to destroy the race of man Genesis 6:13, the plan and specification of the ark Genesis 6:14-16, the announcement of the deluge Genesis 6:17, the arrangements for the preservation of Noah and his family, and certain kinds of animals Genesis 6:18-21.
The end of all flesh. - The end may mean either the point to which it tends, or the extermination of the race. The latter is the simpler. All flesh is to be understood of the whole race, while yet it does not preclude the exception of Noah and his family. This teaches us to beware of applying an inflexible literality to such terms as all, when used in the sense of ordinary conversation. “Is come before me,” is in the contemplation of my mind as an event soon to be realized. “For the land is filled with violence.” The reason. “I will destroy them.” The resolve. There is retribution here, for the words “corrupt” and “destroy” are the same in the original.
The ark. - Reckoning the cubit at 1.8 feet, we find the length to be about 540, the breadth 90, and the height 54 feet. The construction of such a vessel implies great skill in carpentry. The lighting apparatus is not described so particularly that we can form any conception of it. It was probably in the roof. The roof may have been flat. “And to a cubit shalt thou finish it above.” The cubit is possibly the height of the parapet round the lighting and ventilating aperture. The opening occupied, it may be, a considerable portion of the roof, and was covered during the rain with an awning מכסה mı̂ksēh Genesis 8:13. If, however, it was in the sides of the ark, the cubit was merely its height. It was then finished with a strong railing, which went round the whole ark, and over which the covering, above mentioned, hung down on every side. The door was in the side, and the stories were three. In each were of course many “nests” or chambers, for animals and stores. It may be curious to a mechanical mind to frame the details of this structure from the general hints here given; but it could not serve any practical end. Only the animals necessary to man, or unusual to the region covered by the deluge, required to be included in the ark. It seems likely that wild animals in general were not included. It is obvious, therefore, that we cannot calculate the number of animals preserved in the ark, or compare the space they would require with its recorded dimensions. We may rest assured that there was accommodation for all that needed to be there.
The method of destruction is now specified. A water flood shall cover the land, in which all flesh shall perish. I, “behold,” I. This catastrophe is due to the interposition of the Creator. It does not come according to the ordinary laws of physics, but according to the higher law of ethics.
The covenant with Noah. Here is the first appearance of a covenant between God and man on the face of Scripture. A covenant is a solemn compact, tacit or express, between two parties, in which each is bound to perform his part. Hence, a covenant implies the moral faculty; and wherever the moral faculty exists, there must needs be a covenant. Consequently, between God and man there was of necessity a covenant from the very beginning, though the name do not appear. At first it was a covenant of works, in regard to man; but now that works have failed, it can only be a covenant of grace to the penitent sinner. “My covenant.” The word “my” points to its original establishment with Adam. My primeval covenant, which I am resolved not to abandon. “Will I establish.” Though Adam has failed, yet will I find means of maintaining my covenant of life with the seed of the woman. “With thee.” Though all flesh be to perish through breach of my covenant, yet will I uphold it with thee. “Go into the ark.” This is the means of safety. Some may say in their hearts, this is a clumsy way to save Noah. But if he is to be saved, there must be some way. And it is not a sign of wisdom to prescribe the way to the All-wise. Rather let us reflect that the erection of this ark was a daily warning to a wicked race, a deepening lesson of reliance on God to Noah and his household, and a most salutary occupation for the progenitors of the future race of mankind. “And thy sons, etc.” Noah‘s household share in the covenant.
And of all the living. - For the sake of Noah, the animal species also shall be preserved, “two of each, male and female.” They are to come in pairs for propagation. The fowl, the cattle, the creeping thing or smaller animals, are to come. From this it appears that the wild animals are not included among the inmates of the ark. (See Genesis 7:2-3, Genesis 7:8.) The word “all” is not to be pressed beyond the specification of the writer. As the deluge was universal only in respect to the human race, it was not necessary to include any animals but those that were near man, and within the range of the overwhelming waters. Fodder and other provisions for a year have to be laid in.
The obedience of Noah and the accomplishment of his task are here recorded. The building of so enormous a fabric must have occupied many years.
Adam taught his descendants the law of God, which law was handed down to the faithful through successive generations. The continual transgression of God's law called for a flood of waters upon the earth. The law was preserved by Noah and his family, who for right-doing were saved in the ark by a miracle of God. Noah taught his descendants the Ten Commandments. The Lord preserved a people for Himself from Adam down, in whose hearts was His law. He says of Abraham, He “obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Genesis 26:5. SR 146.1
The Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said unto him: SR 146.2
“I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect. And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” Genesis 17:1, 2. “And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Genesis 17:7. SR 146.3
He then required of Abraham and his seed, circumcision, which was a circle cut in the flesh, as a token that God had cut them out and separated them from all nations as His peculiar treasure. By this sign they solemnly pledged themselves that they would not intermarry with other nations, for by so doing they would lose their reverence for God and His holy law, and would become like the idolatrous nations around them. SR 146.4Read in context »
The curse did not come all at once. It was first felt at Adam's fall, and increased at the murder of Abel, and greatly increased at the flood. Since the flood, as the human family have forgotten God, and have followed in a course of disobedience, and have transgressed his commandments, the curse has rested heavier and heavier upon men and upon the beasts. The trees and all vegetation also have felt the effects of the curse. All through the inspired history are exalted blessings promised upon the people of God on conditions of obedience, and curses threatened for disobedience. 4aSG 122.1
“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth. The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The Lord shall establish thee a holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give thee rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand. And thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.” 4aSG 122.2Read in context »
Man is only mortal, and while he feels himself too wise to accept Jesus, he will remain only mortal. Men have done wonderful things in the intellectual world, but who gave them power to do this?—The Lord God of hosts. If in their fancied efficiency men triumph because of their own power, and glorify themselves, following the example of the antediluvian world, they will perish. The imagination of that long-lived race was only evil, and that continually. They were wise to do evil, and the earth was corrupted under the inhabitants thereof. Had they connected themselves with the One who is infinite in wisdom, they could have done marvelous things with their God-given ability and talents. But, turning from God, they chose to follow Satan's lead, as many today are doing; and the Lord swept them from the earth, with all their boasted knowledge. 1SM 298.1
Humanity may be exalted by the world for what it has done. But man can lower himself very fast in God's sight by misapplying and misappropriating his entrusted talents, which, if rightly used, would elevate him. While the Lord is long-suffering and not willing that any shall perish, He will by no means clear the guilty. Let all take heed to the words of the Lord. “Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people? Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:29-30). 1SM 298.2Read in context »
Adam and Eve, at their creation, had a knowledge of the law of God; they were acquainted with its claims upon them; its precepts were written upon their hearts. When man fell by transgression the law was not changed, but a remedial system was established to bring him back to obedience. The promise of a Saviour was given, and sacrificial offerings pointing forward to the death of Christ as the great sin offering were established. But had the law of God never been transgressed, there would have been no death, and no need of a Saviour; consequently there would have been no need of sacrifices. PP 363.1
Adam taught his descendants the law of God, and it was handed down from father to son through successive generations. But notwithstanding the gracious provision for man's redemption, there were few who accepted it and rendered obedience. By transgression the world became so vile that it was necessary to cleanse it by the Flood from its corruption. The law was preserved by Noah and his family, and Noah taught his descendants the Ten Commandments. As men again departed from God, the Lord chose Abraham, of whom He declared, “Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Genesis 26:5. To him was given the rite of circumcision, which was a sign that those who received it were devoted to the service of God—a pledge that they would remain separate from idolatry, and would obey the law of God. The failure of Abraham's descendants to keep this pledge, as shown in their disposition to form alliances with the heathen and adopt their practices, was the cause of their sojourn and bondage in Egypt. But in their intercourse with idolaters, and their forced submission to the Egyptians, the divine precepts became still further corrupted with the vile and cruel teachings of heathenism. Therefore when the Lord brought them forth from Egypt, He came down upon Sinai, enshrouded in glory and surrounded by His angels, and in awful majesty spoke His law in the hearing of all the people. PP 363.2Read in context »