The Word Made Fresh
1The day came when the LORD said to Noah, “I have found that you alone are a good and decent man in my sight among this whole generation of humans. It’s time to board the ark with your family. 2Take on board with you seven pairs, male and female, of each of the sacrificial animals, and a single pair, male and female, of each kind of animal that is not used for sacrifices. 3Also bring on board seven pairs of the birds, male and female, so their kind will survive on the earth. 4In seven days I will make it rain on the earth for forty days and nights, and every living thing I have made will be wiped from the face of the earth.”
5Noah did exactly as the LORD ordered.
6Noah was 600 years old when the flood covered the earth. 7He, with his wife, his sons, and his sons’ wives got on board the ark to escape the flood. 8He brought a pair, male and female, of every kind of animal and bird — seven pairs of the “clean” animals and birds used for sacrifices 9went on the ark in pairs as God had specified. 10Seven days later the flood began.
11Noah was 600 years old, and in the second month, on the 17th day, all the underground cisterns of water gushed onto the surface and the windows of heaven opened wide 12and rain poured down upon the earth for 40 days and nights. 13On that day Noah and his wife and his sons and their wives were on the ark, 14as were every wild animal, every domestic animal, every crawling creature, and every kind of bird and creature with wings. 15They all got on the ark with Noah — a pair of every creature that breathed the air. 16They all boarded the ark as God had ordered Noah and they were all safely shut in.
17The flooding continued for forty days and the water rose until the ark was floating and was carried high above the land. 18The waves swelled and grew to huge proportions, but the ark floated safely on the surface. 19The flood continued to rise until even the highest mountains on earth were under water. 20The flood continued to rise above the mountains, 45 feet above the highest peaks. 21Everything of flesh and blood on the earth died: birds, domesticated animals, wild animals, flying creatures, and every human being, 22indeed everything that breathes the air, died. 23God wiped out everything alive on the earth’s surface — people, animals, creeping things, birds — everything died. Noah and his family and the creatures on the ark with them were the only ones left.
24The flood covered the earth for 150 days.
1-5: This paragraph has several sevens — 7 pairs of clean animals (animals acceptable as sacrifices), 7 pairs of each variety of birds, seven days until the rain begins. Scholars say that the repetitious use of the number 7 is a clue that this part of the story, concerned as it is with righteousness and ritual, is from the “Priestly” source
6-10: This is essentially a repetition of the previous paragraph, without specifying seven pairs of clean animals or the righteousness of Noah, and is probably from the Elohist source (note the use of the word God, whereas in the last paragraph the reference was to the LORD). The seven days that pass between gathering the animals and the onset of the flood is a common element in both sources.
11-16: The date is more specific; the source of the flood waters is from below and above. The rains fall for 40 days and nights — 40 is a symbolic number representing the completion of a trial (40 years in the wilderness for Israel, 40 days in the wilderness for Jesus). Noah and his family and all the animals enter the ark.
17-24: The flood rose for 40 days and stood for 150 days more. All living things that breathe perished “on the face of the earth,” but later information makes it clear that the flood was more local than is usually surmised — the generations that follow found suitable mates outside Noah’s family, for instance.
The worst calamity in all of scripture is accompanied by the protecting presence of God. How can we ever think that God is not with us just because things go wrong in our lives? Patient suffering is heroic and faithful.