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1 And Yahweh said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
In process of time, Noah was "warned of Elohim of things not seen as yet." Noah believed them, and "God, by His spirit" in him, "went and preached to the spirits (now) in prison " (1 Pet. 3:19), that is, to the Antedillivians, "who were disobedient in the days of Noah."
He warned them of the coming flood, which would "destroy them from the earth;" and proved to them his own conviction of its certainty by "preparing an ark for the safety of his own house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith " (Heb. 11:7).
But, his faith, thus made perfect by his works, made no salutary impression upon his contemporaries.
Elpis Israel 1.4.
13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark;
Noah and his family left a world absorbed with its own material wants, leaving homes, property and relations for a situation in which was promised only the sparsest of necessities. He did it because he "believed God."
15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.
"breath of the spirit of lives,"
I say, is common to all animals and man. This will be evident to those who can consult the original of Gen. vii. 22,15. They know that in the English Version it is not correctly rendered "breath of life;" the words "the spirit of" have been unfaithfully omitted. In verse 15, the words rendered "breath of life" are not the same as those similarly rendered in Gen. ii. 7. In this, it reads nishmath khayyim, "breath of lives;" and in that, "from all the flesh which has in it ruach khayyim, spirit of lives."
So that man is affirmed to have "the breath of lives" in his nostrils, and all other flesh "the spirit of lives" in theirs; hence, as spirit is regarded as of a higher dignity than breath, we might, on such premises, conclude that the "lower" animals are really demiurgically superior to man. And, indeed, when we compare the doings of said animals with the conduct of men, lay and clerical, we might suppose that the stupidity and brutishness of brain-flesh was truly their distinguishing characteristic, and that the so-called "brutes" were essentially their superiors.
But said premises are not sound; for the superiority of the one race over the other is not predicated on the matter of which they are made, and by which they are vitalized, but on the organic formation of the same. Hence, there is no natural demiurgic difference between an Archbishop of New York or of Canterbury, or a Bishop of Natal, and the serpent and monkey tribes of the forest; the Spirit, therefore, by Moses (and this perhaps, may be the reason why the Bishop of Natal is so hostile to Moses) has been careful in Gen. vii. 22, to give us to understand that the nishmah and ruach, "breath" and "spirit," are common to all kinds of human brutes, both "lower animals" and men.
I say human brutes, for the word human, which one class of brutes has appropriated to itself exclusively, really or demiurgically pertains to all the earthborns or formations from the ground*.
[* Homo, a man or woman, for humo, from humus, h.e., made of earth. Hence, humanus, human (Lat. Dict.).]
The text reads, after mentioning all the creatures,
"and every man, all which has breath of spirit of lives, kol asher nishmath-ruach khayyim, in their nostrils, out of all which is in the dry land, died."
We have seen that man and the other creatures are all termed nephesh, and are said to have nephesh in them; and in Gen. ix. 4, we are informed by the Spirit what nephesh elementally, or in concrete essence, is, in the law given to Noah.
"Flesh with its nephesh, or soul, its blood, ye shall not eat."
From these premises, then, we learn, that men and their brethren of the ground are all of them souls -- human or ground-souls; that they have all got souls in them; and that these souls are the blood of their flesh.
19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
The first reflection that occurs to the mind is, that in the flood itself (leaving out of account the miraculous nature of its revelation beforehand to Noah, and the directions for preparation) the miraculous element was, so to speak, minimised to the lowest point. God could have annihilated the human race more expeditiously in many other ways; for example, Nadab and Abihu struck dead in a moment; all the first-born of Egypt destroyed in a night; Sennacherib's army decimated by a single fatal blast, and many more.
In the flood, natural suffocation by water was resorted to. There was doubtless a reason for this slow method. Probably, it admitted of those adjuncts of preliminary terror which the justice of God saw the case demanded. Then, again, Noah's salvation was accomplished by as little of the miraculous as possible. It would have been easy for God to have isolated a certain district from which the destroying waters should have been kept, and within which Noah and all his, would have been protected from the destroying tempest.
Instead of that, just as the death of the doomed population was effected by natural means, so the salvation of Noah was effected by natural means, by the floating of a wooden structure within which he had previously retired for safety. For this also there was doubtless excellent reason: Noah's salvation was in this way made the result of his own faith and obedience, in which God was honoured and Noah brought into the right relation.
The ways of God are always most wisely adapted to the requirements of each situation as it arises, and it will be found in the study of each case that the amount of miracle employed is the smallest that the case calls for. There is none of the prodigality of marvel-meaningless marvel that characterises all artificial histories-such as the apocryphal gospels, the life of Mahomet, or the Arabian Nights entertainment. Only so much extra-natural effort is put forth as is needful for the object in view.
The miracle in the case lay in the bringing of the water. The question of how much was necessary involves the question of the area to be covered: in other words, was the flood universal in the sense of covering the entire globe? Considering the comparatively limited extent of the human family at the time, and that it was confined to one small district of the globe, it would seem reasonable to conclude from the principle already looked at-the divine sparingness of means-that the flood was co-extensive only with the Adamically-inhabited portion of the globe.
There are facts that compel such a conclusion; and as all facts are of God, they must be in agreement. The animals of New Zealand are different from those of Australia. The animals of Australia, again, are different from those of Asia and Europe. These again differ entirely from those of the American continent: all differ from one another: and the fossil remains on all the continents show that this difference has always prevailed.
Now if the flood were universal in the absolute sense, it is manifest that these facts could not be explained, for if the animals all over the earth were drowned, and the devastated countries were afterwards replenished from a Noachic centre, the animals of all countries would now show some similarity, instead of consisting of totally different species.
The animals taken into the ark in that case would be the animals of the humanly-populated district only-a comparatively small district in relation to the face of the world at large. If we suppose that only the district populated by the human race was submerged, there would be no difficulty, because in that case, the outlying parts of the earth would not be interfered with, and the state of the animal life in these parts would continue to be what it had been in previous times.
It seems at first sight a difficulty in the way of this view, that the Mosaic description of the flood seems to set before us an absolutely universal flood.
"All the high hills that were under the whole heavens were covered."
This difficulty will vanish, however, if we realise that the language of the narrative is intended only to represent things as they appeared to the Noachic survivors. The whole Bible narrative was written for the inhabitants of the earth, and therefore adopts their point of view throughout. Any other would have been inconsistent with the object of the narrative. When you describe a matter to children, you instinctively adapt the form of your discourse to their modes of looking at things, otherwise you fail to be understood. You speak very differently to an equal.
In relation to God's great works, men are children: they can only take in the aspects of these works as they appear to mortal sense, and consequently the Divine presentation of them in narrative has to deal with aspects, not with the modus in esse. This is not to present an error instead of a truth, but to use in discourse a part of the truth where a part only is serviceable: for the aspect of a matter is certainly part of the truth of a matter, though it may be but a small part. To speak of the sun rising in the morning is to speak of an aspect of the truth not in any way inconsistent with the fact that the sun does not move.
To an onlooker, "all the high hills under the whole heavens" would be covered; as a matter of fact, all the hills within range of his observation and for many miles beyond it would be submerged. But the hills in other parts of the world might be untouched for all that.
When Moses said that God had put the fear and the dread of Israel upon the nations that were "under the whole heavens"; and Paul, that the Gospel had been preached "to every creature which is under heaven," the statement was not intended in the absolute sense, but in the sense relative to the speaker. The nations "under the whole heavens" of Israel's experience were afraid, but there were other nations under the whole heaven of absolute speech, that had never heard of them.
Every creature under the heaven of actual apostolic operations had heard the Gospel, but there were vaster multitudes under other skies to whom the Gospel never went-the Chinese, Japanese, and others. This indicates the local stand-point that must be recognised in the understanding of apparently absolute expressions-a thing common to current speech, as when we say of an invited party of friends, "Every one has come," the "every one" is absolute only within the range of the subject referred to.
23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.
The ark and all its contents sanctified
"They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not till the flood came, and took them all away" (Matt. 24:38-39);
leaving only eight persons of the sons of Seth alive.
Thus was the mingled seed of Seth and Cain exterminated from the earth. Cain's race became utterly extinct, and those only of Seth remained who were upright in their generations, and who walked with Elohim. The distinction of seeds was temporarily suspended. The generation of vipers was extinct; but sin in the flesh survived -- a principle destined in after times to produce the most hideous and terrible results.
Elpis Israel 1.4.