A Reversal of Creation: Genesis 7:5–16

reversal of creation (2)

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b) Gen 7:5–16: This section comprises the fourth scene of the flood narrative. It describes Noah’s obedience, the passengers’ entrance into the ark, and the beginning of the flood.[1]

As with Gen 1, Moses used several literary devices. This indicates that he had either received a poem-like version of the flood story or that he added lyrical embellishments to the narrative account.[2]

As a result, this scene consists of poetic narrative, full of tension and emotion.[3]

Moses condensed all of Noah’s difficult work into this brief statement, “And Noah did according to all which the Lord had commanded him” (Gen 6:14–7:3).

However, some details appear in Gen 7:6–9,[4] such as the date of the flood’s beginning, Noah’s age, who occupied the ark, and how much time Noah had to fill it.[5]

Noah did what the Lord commanded, and God did what he promised. Both proved faithful to fulfill what the Lord said should occur.[6]

Throughout Gen 7:6–16a, Moses employed extended parallelism. After briefly describing what took place in Gen 7:6–9, he returned to the same topics with greater detail.[7]

In this case, Gen 7:6a matches Gen 7:11a; Gen 7:6b parallels Gen 7:11b–12; Gen 7:7 goes with Gen 7:13; Gen 7:8 correlates with Gen 7:14; and Gen 7:9a is like Gen 7:15–16a.[8]

By repeating the same information with increasing precision, Moses heightened the tension of the narrative.[9] We shall focus upon the more detailed verses.

Moses began Gen 7:10 by writing, “And it happened after the seven days, that the water of the flood came upon the earth.”

The Lord had promised this seven-day period in Gen 7:4.[10] This verse begins a small chiasm within the extended reverse parallelism of the flood account (Gen 6:9–9:19):

A       7 days (time before flood after God commands Noah to enter the ark, Gen 7:10)

B      40 days (raining on the earth, Gen 7:12, 17)

C      150 days (waters prevail, Gen 7:24; Gen 8:3)

B́    40 days (Noah lifts the ark’s cover after landing on Ararat, Gen 8:6)

Á       7 days (Noah dispatches a second dove, Gen 8:10, 12)[11]



Moses reported an amazingly precise date.[12]

He wrote, “In the six hundredth year of the life of Noah, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on this very day all of the springs of the great deep were broken open, and the windows of the heavens were opened.”

By including an exact date—which typically occurs in the Ancient Near East only in the annals of kings—Moses imbued the account with historical credibility.[13]

Using the Hebrew calendar based upon the lunar cycle, the total length of time Noah spent on the ark totals twelve months and eleven days (Gen 8:13–14).[14]

However, a lunar year lasts eleven days less than the time it takes for the earth to completely orbit the sun. Based upon our reckoning, the flood lasted exactly one year.[15]



Moses named two sources of flooding. A massive eruption occurred due to the land over a subterranean ocean bursting open, and a tremendous downpour fell from above.[16]

Both “springs (mayin) of the great (rav) deep (tehom)” and “windows (arubah) of the heavens (shamay)” appear in other poetic biblical accounts (Ps 78:15–16; Mal 3:10).[17]

This portrayal of underground springs conforms to the Ancient Near Eastern view of land sitting upon subterranean waters (Gen 2:10; Ps 24:1–2).[18]

They gushed forth when God cleaved the springs open in a sudden explosion.[19] By releasing these waters, the Lord returned the earth to its original chaos (Gen 1:2).[20]

Approximately 9,300 years ago, the Mediterranean broke through the Bosphorus into a shrinking freshwater lakebed, creating an enormous waterfall and deep erosion into one section of what is now the Black Sea. This resulted in cataclysmic flooding.[21]

Just as we describe the “setting of the sun,” “the windows of the heavens were opened” does not depict scientific language.[22]

The only other usage of the term “window of heaven” in the Ancient Near East occurs in an account of Baal erecting his home.[23]

It says, “He opens a casement in the house, a window within the pa[lace]. Baal op[ens] rifts in [the cloud]s. Ba[al gives] forth his holy voice, Baal discharges the ut[terance of his li]ps. His h[oly] voice [convulses] the earth…the mountains quake.[24]



The language in Gen 7 regarding the two sources of water alludes to the imagery of Gen 1:6–7.[25] God was undoing his great act of separating the waters above from the waters below the earth.[26]

Israel’s prophets alluded to the reversal of creation as an act of judgment (Isa 24:17–21; Jer 4:23–26; Amos 7:4–6).[27]

Moses’s original audience would have recalled this cosmic scene in which the god Marduk split the remains of the evil water goddess Tiamat:[28]

When the lord [Marduk] paused to view her dead body that he might divide the monster and do artful works. He split her like a shellfish into two parts: half of her he set up and ceiled it as sky, pulled down the bar and posted guards. He bade them to allow not her waters to escape.[29]

The flood which Noah experienced reversed the creation order. The waters above and below acted as the Lord commanded. By his word, God can control or release them (Isa 51:9–10; Ps 74:13–15).[30]

Moses reported, “And the downpour [fell] on the earth forty days and forty nights.”

Unlike the general word for rain (matar) in Gen 7:4, the term used here (geshem) refers to heavy showers or a deluge (Job 37:5–6; Ezra 10:9; Zech 10:1).[31] Torrential rains fell upon the earth.[32]



However, Moses’s emphasis lies upon the salvation of those inside the ark, rather than upon those who did not seek refuge there.[33]

He again described the entry of the passengers into the boat but with greater details, conferring a majestic tone to the account.[34] Just as with the logistics of building the ark, Moses omitted the specific aspects of this embarkation.[35]

The text conveys that Noah and his family served as grand marshals of this parade, with various types of animals proceeding behind them.[36]

Disney’s decision to animate this scene to the tune of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” in Fantasia 2000 seems fitting.[37]

Moses wrote, “On that very same day, Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, them and all of the living things according to their kinds. And every animal according to its kind, and every creeping thing which creeps upon the earth according to its kind, and every bird according to its kind, every wing.”

The phrase “on that very same day” signifies a memorable event (Gen 17:23; Exod 12:41; Deut 32:48–50).[38]

That Moses mentioned Noah’s sons before his wife and cited none of the women by name reflects the patriarchal emphasis of Ancient Near Eastern cultures.[39]

Designating the younger women as “the three wives of his sons” indicates that they comprised a separate group within the family.[40]

Evidently, none of the younger couples had produced children by this time.[41]

Moses continued, “And they entered into the ark to Noah, two [by] two from all flesh in which [was] the breath of life. Those that went in, male and female of all flesh, entered as God commanded him.”

Much like the Lord brought the animals to Adam to name them, so God led creatures to Noah to preserve them (Gen 2:19).[42]

Earlier, the Lord had announced that he would “destroy all flesh in which was the breath of life” (Gen 6:17). Now, he exempted a remnant from imminent extermination.[43]

In fact, God invisibly guided this great procession of male and female animals to protection.[44]

Moses did not mention the seven pairs of clean creatures and birds here. However, everyone whom the Lord designated entered the ark (Gen 7:2–3, 16).[45]



This section ends on a dramatic note, saying, “And the Lord shut him in.”

God’s act of sealing Noah and those with him into the ark emphasizes divine protection (Job 38:8–11).[46] While the storm raged around them, the one who shut them in guaranteed their safety.[47]

Other Ancient Near Eastern flood heroes escaped very differently.[48]

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim said, “I watched the appearance of the weather. The weather was awesome to behold. I boarded the ship and battened up the entrance.”[49]

According to the Atrahasis Epic:

The appearance of the weather changed. [The god] Adad roared in the clouds. As soon as [Atrahasis] heard Adad’s voice, pitch was brought to him to close the door. After he had bolted the door, Adad was roaring in the clouds. The winds became savage as he arose. He severed the mooring line and set the boat adrift.[50]

Unlike those great heroes, God’s favor saved Noah and his entourage (Gen 6:8).[51]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 7:5–16. What is the significance of Moses listing the exact date when the flood began? How was God reversing creation? Why is the fact that God shut the door important? How does that encourage you?





Go to Not Knowing the Day or the Hour (Matt 24:36)

[Related posts include Introduction to Genesis 1In the Beginning of God’s Creating (Gen 1:1–2); God Separates the Waters (Gen 1:6–8); Dry Ground Appears (Gen 1:9–13); A Well-Watered Garden (Gen 2:8–14); A Parade of Animals (Gen 2:19–20); God Grieves (Gen 6:5–6); Wiping Out Everyone (Gen 6:7); Noah Found Favor (Gen 6:8); Specifications for an Ark (Gen 6:14–16); A Deluge to Ruin All Flesh (Gen 6:17); God Establishes a Covenant (Gen 6:18); Two of Every Kind (Gen 6:19–22); By Twos and Sevens (Gen 7:1–4); Renewal of the Earth (Gen 8:6–14); Receiving a Divine Warning (Heb 11:7); The World Destroyed by Water (2 Pet 3:5–6); Ancient LiteratureHebrew Poetry; and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Chapter 7: God Opens the Heavens and the Earth (Genesis 7:1–24)]


[1]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 177.

[2]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 291.

[3]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 181.

[4]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 288.

[5]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 138.

[6]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 289.

[7]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 291.

[8]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 177.

[9]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 138.

[10]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 179.

[11]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 289–90.

[12]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 179.

[13]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 139.

[14]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 7:11.

[15]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 179.

[16]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 291.

[17]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 181.

[18]Walton, Genesis, 126.

[19]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 292.

[20]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 181.

[21] Yanchilina et. al., “Compilation of Geophysical, Geochronological, and Geochemical Evidence Indicates a Rapid Mediterranean-Derived Submergence of the Black Sea’s Shelf and Subsequent Substantial Salinification in the Early Holocene,” Marine Geology 1, no. 383 (1January 2017): 14–34, 32, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025322716302961.

[22] Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 7:11.

[23]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 7:11.

[24]Ginsberg, “Poems About Baal and Anath,” in ANET, 7:26–31, 135, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n159/mode/2up. Italics original.

[25]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 291.

[26]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 181.

[27]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 139.

[28]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 292.

[29]Speiser, “Enuma Elish (The Creation Epic),” 4:135–40, 67, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n91/mode/2up.

[30]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 293.

[31]H. J. Zobel, “םָטָר” (matar, geshem), TDOT 8:250–65, 251.

[32]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 293.

[33]Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary, 126.

[34]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 181.

[35]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 293–4.

[36]Waltke, and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 138–9.

[37]The video clip is available online.

[38]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 139.

[39]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 293.

[40] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 182.

[41] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 293.

[42] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 139.

[43] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 294.

[44] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 182.

[45] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 179.

[46] Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 226.

[47] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 139.

[48] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 139.

[49] Speiser, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” ANET, 11:91–3, 94, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n119/mode/2up.

[50] Lambert and Millard, “Epic of Atra-Khasis,” RANE, 29.

[51] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 182.