Genesis chapter 8 begins with Noah and his family as eyewitnesses to the recreation of the world. To read these opening lines in Hebrew is to evoke the Spirit of God once again moving upon the waters, closing the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens, so that once again the firmament divided the waters, and these two unique forces, which have never been active in quite the same way since that time, were reversed.
God’s recreation took time, for though the waters subsided, the process was gradual. Each morning, the expanse of the waters looked the same, and what was happening underneath the water, the nearing of land, was invisible. With no word from the Lord, no reassurance of what was to come, these must have been anxious days. Would their food supplies hold out? Would all the animals survive, or would there be some species extinction before this ordeal was through? What if the new earth was mostly water? How would they learn to survive in such an environment?
And what would they see, if the waters were to fully recede? Would there be massive piles of the dead? Would there be rotting vegetation, ruined cities, filth and garbage everywhere? Or, would the earth have been scrubbed clean by the turbulence of the storm? Would there be any vegetation at all? Would they have to reseed the entire earth?
What a collective sigh of relief they all must have had when the first mountain peaks appeared. As God once again separated the dry ground from the water, the progress of recreation became ever more evident. Finally, Moses sent out his raven, then his doves. And so, let’s pause for a moment, and think about how God revealed His creation and recreation.
- Day 1: God separated light from dark, for after the forty days of storm, when all was darkness and chaos, the storm clouds softened and the sun began to shine through.
- Day 2: Now God repaired the firmament, and once again the waters above and the waters below were separated.
- Day 3: As the land appeared, there must have been hints that at least some vegetation had survived. Then came the dove with proof that God had preserved the trees, and the flowering plants.
- Day 4: All throughout the passage, the narrator offers times and dates, for the ark’s occupants must have begun to look up into the night sky and notice the position of the visible planets and stars acting as a calendar “for signs and for seasons and for days and years,” just as God had commanded.
- Day 5: At least the raven and the doves were now flying through the sky, and the water was already teaming with life. Perhaps the buzz of insects, woken from their hibernation by the sunshine, and the other birds within the ark now released, filled the air.
- And now, the moment had come to re-enact Day 6. Look at these two passages, side by side:
|Genesis 1:24-26: Creation||Genesis 8:16-19: ReCreation|
| 24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. |
26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
|17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” |
15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 18 So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.
- Day 7: Noah and his family rightly understood this was a sacred moment, and they were standing upon holy ground. The great drama of creation had been portrayed before them, and they, now, represented the Adams and Eves of the new age.
Noah gazed intently at the seven pairs each of all the clean animals, perhaps now increased by births throughout their harrowing year. God had given in abundance to them. All had presumably survived their grueling right of passage. These few animals were to once again fill the earth. They must have looked so small and vulnerable, standing there, on the peak of Mount Ararat, the whole mountain range spread before them, empty of all life save trees, grasses, flowers, and insects.
Yet Noah did not see scarcity. He saw abundance. He saw the fruit of faithfulness before him, the Lord’s faithfulness. Now he would match God’s abundance with his own abundant thankfulness.
Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.Genesis 8:20
And God was pleased. Just as God had taken such great pleasure in His creation, giving His blessing and hallowing the day of His enjoyment and rest, so now,
When the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.”Genesis 8:22
The Dove Returns to Noah | James Tissot [Public domain]