Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors]

earth :” “The wicked shall not be unpunished.” We call special attention to this fact, because a distinct recognition of its truth and influence, is, as we conceive, essential to a correct understanding of the subject. It is the great and prominent feature of the case. The deluge may, and undoubtedly does, present to our view many curious and interesting, as well as grand and mysterious, subjects; all worthy of careful research and serious attention. But, over all these, the fact to which we have adverted should cast the serious influence of its deep solemnity. The flood was a divine infliction, a punishment of sin. It exhibits the divine government, shows the purity and justice of God, and places those attributes before us in energetic operation. We see the world corrupt and impure, and filled with violence; the whole world sunk into the unmitigated darkness of error and iniquity. Or, if this darkness is at all broken, it is only by the piety and preaching of one individual man. We gaze in painful surprise on the moral desolation of the scene; and while we look, the clouds of divine vengeance gather, the floods descend, the unrighteous are swept away in one universal ruin, the whole earth is submerged in the mighty deep. But, amid all this vengeance, mercy to man is richly manifested in the preservation of the righteous family; who, inclosed within the ark by the divine appointment, float in safety over the watery expanse, and ultimately leave their sanctuary to occupy a renovated earth, and to supply it with a new series of inhabitants.

It is in this aspect that we propose to investigate this interesting subject.

Our first object will be to explain and illustrate the Scripture narrative; after which we shall furnish the corroborative evidence which is afforded by profane history; adding such general observations as may be required.

The first intimation of the divine purpose is communicated in these remarkable terms: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Gen. vi, 5-8.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

It is impossible for a serious mind to read these words without being painfully affected by their serious peculiarity.

The testimony thus borne to the general character of mankind is not relieved by one single righteous feature. The thoughts of the heart are evil, unmixed evil, in continual operation. From this unholy source flowed unmingled impurity of conduct. Men were wicked, their wickedness was great, and, as population increased, was going on at a fearful rate of progress. Religion did not exist, and sin reigned in uncontrolled dominion. No language can more fully exhibit this case, in all the depth and intensity of its evil, than the words of the sacred text just cited.

But the most remarkable part of this declaration is that which refers to the feelings and judgment of the divine mind on this lamentable state of things. We must, of course, admit that the language employed is used, to some extent, figuratively; just as when eyes, ears, and hands, are attributed to the divine Being. God cannot change his mind, or be the subject of pain; which would, in the ordinary application of language, appear to be indicated by the terms " repented,” and “grieved him at his heart.” But we greatly err if we allow our knowledge of this obvious fact to explain away or neutralize the meaning of this important portion of holy writ. The words are a part of inspired truth chosen by the Holy Spirit to describe what took place on this momentous occasion; and they are replete with meaning, however difficult it may be in other or added terms to set forth this meaning more clearly. We are, however, plainly told that the great wickedness of the world was not only observed by the divine Being, but that it made an impression, produced an effect on his mind, which is best exhibited to our limited apprehension by the words we have quoted. Again: we are taught by this language, that even when Jehovah enters into judgment, he ceases not to be compassionate and merciful; but that the influence of these attributes does not prevent the exercise of his justice. We add a translation of the Septuagint rendering of this passage, which may aid us in entering more fully into its meaning than any lengthened observations: “And the Lord God having seen that the wicked actions of men were multiplied upon the earth, and that every one in his heart was intently brooding over evil continually, then God laid it to heart that he had made man upon the earth, and he pondered it deeply. And God said, I will blot out man whom I have made from the face of the earth, even

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

man, with cattle, and reptiles, with flying creatures of the sky; for I am grieved that I have made them."*

Immediately after the divine purpose was thus declared, it was communicated to Noah: “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher-wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them." Gen. vi, 13-21. We would pause a mon

nt, to consider this communication as addressed to the holy man. How startling must the terrible announcement have been to him!

The ordinary course of nature had been maintained up to this hour; the business, the pleasures, the follies of life, were still pursued; no external sign prognosti"cated approaching calamity; yet the word of God declared it, and assured the pious patriarch that he was about to punish the sins of mankind by covering the world with universal ruin. Upon this testimony Noah was required -as the only means of safety to himself and his family, and, more than this, as the only way of entering into that covenant which God had promised to

establish” with him—to prepare the ark of the size and shape,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

* This, and most of the translations from the Septuagint which we may give in future pages, are taken from Bagster's English Version by Sir L. C. L. Brenton, Bart.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

and according to the directions, which he had received. Well, then, might the apostle say, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark!" Heb. xi, 7. The world down to that day had never witnessed such an exercise of faith: it has seen few such since. Not only were all appearances, and every external reason against him, but he well knew that public opinion would denounce his obedience, and place him in avowed collision with a whole world, without a friend or a follower to aid or to counsel him; and yet, in such circumstances, Noah dared to believe, and accordingly the ark was built.

We have, however, principally to notice the divine address to Noah, for the purpose of obtaining some definite ideas of the nature of the preparations which were to be made to meet this great calamity. We must first refer to the directions given for building the ark; for, as we are assured that they were fully carried out, they afford us a description of that remarkable vessel. On this subject a variety of opinions have been entertained; and every important word in the original account has been subjected to the most severe critical investigation. Yet, after all, nothing very material to the sense has been elicited, beyond what is con. veyed by the authorized version. We will, however, notice a few of the most important of these criticisms, with such explanations as have been obtained. The word which our translators have rendered “ark” is an (tēh-bah,) and is only found in the Hebrew Scriptures in this place, and when speaking of that vessel in which the infant Moses was preserved. The term which was given as the name of the ark of the tabernacle and temple is entirely different, and is also used in describing the coffin of Joseph; at other times it is rendered “chest.” From the word itself, therefore, we can obtain no idea respecting the construction or form of the ark built by Noah.

Again: the word which our translators have rendered “gopher,"'. as indicating the kind of wood of which the ark was to be built, the LXX. have supposed to refer to the prepared shape of the material ; and hence, the command in their version reads, "Make thee an ark of square timber.” Various other explanations have been given. According to Vossius, the term refers to the timber of those trees which shoot out quadrangular branches in the same horizontal line, such as fir, pine, cedar, &c. By Jerome, in the Vulgate, it is rendered “smoothed or planed timber;" by

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Aben Ezra and Kimchi, “light Aoating wood.” By Parkhurst it is regarded as signifying nothing more than a general name for such trees as abound with resinous, inflammable juices. Other opinions have obtained; but nothing certain is known on the subject.

The form of the ark has also been a point of dispute; about which the most singular, and, we might almost say, the most absurd, opinions have been circulated. These have been called forth in consequence of the authors drawing their views, not from the description given by Moses, but from what they have been pleased to consider necessary for the circumstances in which the ark was placed. As many of these suppositions have been unreasonable, the results have been equally so. One learned writer regards the ark as a square, extending over a space equal to that covered by the base of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, or the area of Lincoln's Inn Fields in London; and being at least six hundred and twenty-five English feet on each side. We have already intimated our opinion that, in order to form a correct view of this subject, we should adhere to the Scriptural account: if any further justification of this course is needed, it is furnished by the fact, (which invests it with special importance,) that this account is given as containing directions for building the vessel. It is not a partial description of it after it had been constructed, but the identical verbal plan from which it was made.

If we look simply at the directions given to Noah, whatever difficulty may arise as to some minute particulars, there can be none as to the general form of the ark. We are told that it was to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high: this at once presents to the mind the idea of an oblong square body, thirty cubits high. What objection can exist to our receiving this as the exact truth? But, we are told, it must have had a bottom formed like the hull of a ship, or it would not sail, or, as it is termed, “live," in a tempestuous sea. But to this it may be replied, Where are we informed that the ark was intended to resist tempestuous waves, or to make way through the waters? It was to swim, to float on the water; but not to pass from one part of the world to another. It had, consequently, neither masts, sails, oars, nor helm : it was, in fact, a floating house; and hence the specific part of the directions applies to the proportions which were important to its steadiness

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »