Chapter 7

In the then-existing generation, among the contemporaries of Noah, YHWH found him to be righteous and, therefore, directed that he and his household enter the ark. Of the clean animals, he was to take seven pairs (literally, “seven, seven” [or seven by seven]), male and female, and one pair, male and female of unclean animals, into the ark. At the time Noah lived, no distinction existed between animals that were clean or suitable for food and those which were not. When, however, the narrative was committed to writing, the people of Israel were fully aware of the distinction and needed no explanation as to what was meant. To preserve all the different kinds of birds, Noah was told to select seven pairs of each kind, male and female. It appears that seven days were allotted for Noah and his family to bring all the animals and birds and the essential supply of food into the ark. Targum Jonathan (thought to date probably from the second century CE) indicates that the seven-day period was granted so that the people might repent. If they repented, God would forgive them. If, however, they did not change, God decreed that he would cause rain to come down upon the earth. It would rain for forty days and forty nights, leading to a deluge that would destroy every living thing on the surface of the land. (7:1-4)

Based on the ages of the men listed in Genesis chapter 5, Methuselah died in the year the deluge began. This may be the reason that Targum Jonathan also refers to the seven-day period before the downpour began as a time of mourning for Methuselah. The mourning for Methuselah, however, did not cause the people to turn away from their wayward conduct.

Noah did exactly what he had been commanded to do. He was then in his 600th year of life. To escape the deluge, he, his wife, his sons, and their wives entered the ark. The clean and the unclean animals, birds, and crawling creatures, two by two, male and female, went into the ark as God had commanded Noah. Just as God had revealed, the waters of the flood came down upon the earth at the end of seven days. On the seventeenth day of the second month, the downpour began. Targum Jonathan refers to the “second month” as Marchesvan (Heshvan; mid-October to mid-November), for formerly “the months had been numbered from Tishri” (mid-September to mid-October), “which was the beginning of the year at the completion of the world.” Rain from the sky above and water on the earth below (“all the fountains of the great deep” that had “burst forth”) began to cover the land as the rain continued without letup for forty days and forty nights. (7:5-12)

All who had entered the ark were safe — Noah, his wife, his three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives, and every kind of beast, domestic animal, crawling creature, and bird, male and female, that had gone into the ark with Noah. As the flood waters rose, no one could come into the ark, for YHWH had closed the entrance. Once the flood waters rose high enough to cover land, including the higher elevations, the ark began to float. All hills and mountains (the then-existing highest elevations on the flooded land) were covered with water. The reference to fifteen cubits (22.5 feet; c. 7 meters) may indicate that the depth of the water over the highest elevations corresponded to the approximate draft of the ark. Every bird, domestic animal, beast, crawling creature, and human outside the ark died — “all flesh” or every living fleshly creature, the life of which depended on breathing (the “breath of life” in the nostrils). YHWH blotted out every living creature. Only Noah, members of his family, and the living creatures with him inside the ark survived. For 150 days the waters of the deluge remained unabated. (7:13-24)