Imagens das páginas

wicked, God commanded him to build a huge ark of gopher or cypress wood, three stories high, and large enough to receive not only Noah and his sons with their wives, but also two animals of every unclean species, male and female, and seven pairs of every clean species, whether beast or bird or reptile, with the necessary food for the sustenance of all. Thus specimens of the whole brute creation were to be saved with Noah; for God would not altogether destroy the world which He had blessed and pronounced good in all its parts.

Noah built the spacious ark as God had directed; he entered it with his family; and the animals left their green pastures, and their forest homes, and their woody thickets, and came around Noah, who took them into the ark in accordance with God's commands. Noah had attained the great age of six hundred years, when he was to witness a stupendous change, and to bid farewell to the world he had known before. The Deluge commenced on the seventeenth day of the second month. Torrents of rain descended in floods from the heavens, and the fountains of the deep gushed forth. The seas, the rivers, and the lakes, began to swell and overflow, carrying away with them stately trees, and cities, and all works of human industry. Then indeed must man's sinful heart have been smitten with bitter pangs of regret and shame. Did it at last humble itself before the merciful Creator, who had been so long-suffering, so slow to anger ? Can we not see even now, after the lapse of thousands of years, those terrible scenes of despair and agony, when men struggled desperately, but in vain, to save their doomed lives by toiling up the towering rocks and rugged mountain peaks? Can we not hear that piercing wail from earth to heaven, as the floods dashed, and foamed, and roared-as the waters, stern workers of their Master's bidding, rose higher than the towering rocks,


higher than the rugged mountain peaks? At last the relentless floods covered all living things, and buried all in one appalling grave. No bird, no beast, no human being, could withstand God's judgment. But amid this scene of ruin and devastation, the ark, guided by the Lord, floated on steadily and securely. During forty days it was borne up by the increasing waters which prevailed upon the earth, overtopping, by fifteen cubits, the loftiest mountain crests.

Then the waters began to decrease, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month, or after exactly five months, the ark rested over the peaks of Mount Ararat. The country of Ararat, bearing the same name as the mountain, is a part of the beautiful province of Armenia, one of the most fertile countries of the north. region around the mountain makes the impression of a dreary and devastated wilderness ; it is haunted by bears, small tigers, lynxes, and lions, and is infested by large and extremely venomous serpents, which frequently impede the

progress of caravans. . . . At a little distance, the summit does not appear particularly imposing ; for numerous lower mountains obstruct the view; and the plateau itself, on which it rises, is of considerable height. But viewed from the vast plain which skirts its base, it appears as if the highest mountains in the world had been piled upon each other to form this one sublime immensity of earth and rock and snow. Here the aspect is overwhelming; it awes the mind with the stupendous power of the Creator; the peaks seem to reach into the very heart of heaven, and the sides disappear dimly in the endless horizon.''

The ark, hovering over this mountain range, gradually descended as the water subsided ; and on the first day of

· Kalisch, Commentary on Genesis, p. 190.

the tenth month it rested on its highest peak, which, like other elevated points, began then to emerge from the floods. Here Noah, still imprisoned, looked forth upon the wide-spreading though decreasing waters; and after waiting forty days longer, anxious to know the condition of the earth, he sent forth a raven from the ark. This bird, glad to regain and to enjoy its liberty, and thriving in the humid atmosphere, returned to the ark only to be fed, flitting to and fro, until the waters had quite abated. Yet Noah, anxiously hoping that the floods were disappearing from the land, sent out another bird, and this time a dove. But the dove, more delicate than the raven, found no resting-place, and returned to the ark. After seven days it was again sent forth, and now it returned at eventime with a fresh olive leaf in its mouth. Then Noah knew that the earth was almost free from the flood, although still unfit for habitation. After another seven days, the winged messenger was sent out again, and returned no more. Like Noah in the days of old, we still regard the dove and the olive leaf as symbolical of peace and joy. And a feeling of gladness must in truth have filled Noah's heart, for the floods had disappeared from the earth; the Deluge had fulfilled its awful mission. In the beginning of the first month, the surface of the earth was cleared from the waters; and on the twenty-seventh day of the second month, or exactly 365 days after the commencement of the flood, the ground was perfectly dry. At the command of the Lord, Noah left the ark, and with him his wife, his sons and their wives, and every living creature that he had saved from destruction.

to testify his thankfulness to God for having preserved him from the universal judgment, he built an altar, and presented a stupendous burnt-sacrifice of every clean beast and of every clean fowl. God graciously accepted this offering, and said : ‘I will not again curse the

ground any more for man's sake ; for the cogitation of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again smite any more every living being as I have done. While the earth remains, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.' Thus, by a covenant of mercy, the earth was thenceforth to be preserved unharmed ; nature was to continue in her uninterrupted course, and never again was the whole globe to suffer for the sins of man : God promised to measure the deeds of His children not by the standard of justice, but by that of compassionate love, and to remember in His judgments the innate weakness of the human heart.

The history of mankind seems to recommence with Noah. Similar to Adam, he was placed by God in a new world, beautiful and blooming, the father of the only family that was to people the earth, the ruler over all living things. But he received more unlimited dominion over the animal world than was ever allowed to Adam : from his time, the brute creation lived in fear of man, and man partially subsisted on animal food. To preserve the remembrance of the original security of all beasts, God prohibited man to eat their blood, which was regarded as their soul or principle of life.

And stern was His decree against the shedder of human blood. Murder was to be unsparingly avenged by death ; for could a greater crime be conceived than that of destroying a being created by God in His own image? Thus the Lord established for evermore His covenant with Noah, and also with every living creature, that there should never again be a flood to destroy the earth. As a sign of this covenant, the brilliant rain-bow spanned the heavens, bright with the Almighty's promise of mercy to His erring creatures ; for God said: “I have set My bow in the clouds, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant

between Me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, that I shall remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Noah's three sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham had not inherited his father's piety; he was guilty of unfilial conduct, which drew down upon him Noah's severe anger. Cursed,' he said, 'be Canaan (for Ham was Canaan's ancestor); a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren.' But Noah blessed his other two sons, promising large territories to Japheth, and dominion and glory to Shem.

Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood; he was an active husbandman and cultivator of the vine ; and when he had witnessed the gradual increase of the human family after its all but total extirpation, he died at the age of nine hundred and fifty years.



The Biblical narrative, interrupting for a short time the history of individuals, pauses to enumerate the generations of the sons of Noah. Shem, Ham, and Japheth were the ancestors of nations, and their descendants the founders of cities and empires. The children of Japheth settled in the northern and western continents of the globe; the progeny of Ham established themselves in the south; and the offspring of Shem were gathered in the central parts of the ancient world. The following list contains the names of Noah's descendants, together with the tribes, countries, or cities, which they probably represent.

« AnteriorContinuar »