Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 8

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 8:1. And God remembered Noah, &c. — This is an expression after the manner of men; for not any of his creatures, much less any of his people, are forgotten of God. But the whole race of mankind, except Noah and his family, was now extinguished, and gone into the land of forgetfulness, so that God’s remembering Noah was the return of his mercy to mankind, of whom he would not make a full end. Noah himself, though one that had found grace in the eyes of the Lord, yet seemed to be forgotten in the ark; but at length God returned in mercy to him, and that is expressed by his remembering him.

Verses 3-5
Genesis 8:3-5. The waters returned from off the earth continually — Hebrews they were going and returning; a gradual departure. The heat of the sun exhaled much, and perhaps the subterraneous caverns soaked in more. And the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat — Or, Armenia, whither it was directed, not by Noah’s prudence, but the wise providence of God. The tops of the mountains were seen — Like little islands appearing above water. They felt ground above forty days before they saw it, according to Dr. Lightfoot’s computation, whence he infers, that if the waters decreased proportionably, the ark drew eleven cubits in water.

Verses 7-12
Genesis 8:7-12. Noah sent forth a raven — Through the window of the ark; which went forth — As the Hebrew phrase is, going forth and returning; that is, flying about, but returning to the ark for rest; probably not in it, but upon it. This gave Noah little satisfaction: therefore, he sent forth a dove — Which returned the first time with no good news, but probably wet and dirty; but the second time she brought an olive-leaf in her bill, which appeared to be fresh plucked off; a plain indication that now the trees began to appear above water. Note here, that Noah sent forth the dove a second time, seven days after the first time, and the third time was after seven days too: and probably the first sending of her out was seven days after the sending forth of the raven. The olive-branch is an emblem of peace.

Verse 13-14
Genesis 8:13-14. Noah removed the covering of the ark — Not the whole covering, but so much as would suffice to give him a prospect of the earth about it: and behold the face of the ground was dry; and in the 27th day of the second month was a fit habitation for Noah.

Verse 20
Genesis 8:20. Noah builded an altar — The first altar that we read of; but not the first which was built; for the sacrifices which were offered before, Genesis 4:3-4, presuppose an altar or altars. And it ought to be well observed, that the silence of Scripture concerning any thing is not sufficient evidence that it was not done; to remember which will greatly assist us in understanding many passages of the sacred oracles. Here we see, that the first thing that he did after his wonderful preservation was to pay this debt of gratitude so justly due to that God who had so wonderfully preserved him. Hitherto he had done nothing without particular instructions and commands from God: but altars and sacrifices being already of divine institution, he did not stay for a particular command thus to express his thankfulness. And he offered on the altar, of every clean beast, and of every fowl — One, the odd seventh that we read of, Genesis 7:2-3.

Verse 21
Genesis 8:21. God smelled a sweet savour — In the Hebrew it is a savour of rest: that is, he accepted the person, and faith, and thank-offering of Noah, and was well pleased therewith, and with these hopeful beginnings of the new world, as men are with agreeable and fragrant smells. I will not again curse the ground — Hebrews I will not add to curse the ground any more. God had cursed the ground upon the first entrance of sin, Genesis 3:17; when he drowned it he added to that curse: but now he determines not to add to it any more. For the imagination of man’s heart is evil — The original word, rendered for, may properly be rendered although. And then the meaning will be, I will not any more destroy the earth, although I have just cause so to do. But the sense given in our translation is confirmed by the Septuagint, and is probably the true meaning of the passage. But what a surprising reason it is for God’s resolving no more to curse the earth! It seems to be the same with the reason given for its destruction, Genesis 6:5. There is, however, this difference: there it is said, The imagination of man’s heart is evil continually, which implies, his actual transgressions continually cry against him. Here it is said, his heart is evil from his youth, or childhood: he brought it into the world with him, he was shapen and conceived in it. Therefore I will no more take this severe method; for he is rather to be pitied than punished, and it is only what might be expected from such a degenerate race.

Verse 22
Genesis 8:22. While the earth remaineth — Here it is plainly intimated that the earth is not to remain always: it, and all the works therein, must be burned up. But as long as it doth remain, God here promises the course of nature shall not be discontinued; but God’s providence will carefully preserve the regular succession of times and seasons. Seed-time and harvest shall not cease — To this we owe it that the world stands, and the wheel of nature keeps its track. See here how changeable the times are, and yet how unchangeable! 1st, The course of nature always changing. As it is with the times, so it is with the events of time; they are subject to vicissitudes, day and night, summer and winter, counterchanged. In heaven and hell it is not so; but on earth God hath set the one over against the other. 2d, Yet, never changed; it is constant in this inconstancy; these seasons have never ceased, nor shall cease while the sun continues such a steady measurer of time, and the moon such a faithful witness in heaven. This is God’s covenant of the day and of the night, the stability of which is mentioned for the confirming our faith in the covenant of grace, which is no less inviolable, Jeremiah 33:20. We see God’s promises to the creatures made good, and thence may infer that his promises to believers shall be made good also.