3) Gen 7:17–20: This section begins the fifth scene of the flood narrative.[1] One commentator titled Gen 7:17–24 as The Triumphant Flood, for here the story reaches its peak.[2]

All of the recorded action takes place outside of the ark,[3] rendering a depiction of eerie, silent desolation.[4]

To enhance the mood, Moses employed repetition and often used words containing the letters m, b, and p to convey the impression of the ark rolling on the water.[5]

He began by writing, “And the flood came to pass, forty days upon the earth. And the waters increased and they lifted the ark, and it was high over all the earth.”

For emphasis, Moses repeated the duration of the flood and that the rainfall consisted of a deluge.[6]

He employed the same Hebrew word for the increase (ravah) of the waters that he earlier reported the Lord used to bless humans and animals that they might “multiply” (Gen 1:28). This gives us another hint that the flood reversed creation.[7]

Indeed, “The waters prevailed (gabar) and they increased exceedingly upon the earth.”

“Prevailed” connotes having the upper hand due to greater strength than that of opposing forces (Exod 17:8–13; 1 Sam 2:9–10).[8] Thus, the waters did not merely rise, they triumphed.[9]

In Gen 7:17–24, Moses used a form of this military word four times to describe this flood.[10]

Chaotic waters which covered the earth at the beginning of God’s creative activity once again surged like hostile warriors, undoing the order which the Lord had put into place (Gen 1:1–2, 9–10).[11]

Despite this savage tempest, “The ark proceeded on the surface of the waters.”[12]

As the waves crashed, the boat traveled over them.[13] This sentence conveys a sense of peace and safety. God in his mercy had shut Noah and his fellow passengers inside, and he would bring them through the storm without harm.[14]

Moses wrote, “And the waters prevailed more and more exceedingly upon the earth, and all of the high mountains were covered which were under all of the heavens.”

The sense of the Hebrew is hard to capture in English, as the beginning of the verse says, “prevailed exceedingly exceedingly upon the earth.”

Hebrew authors often used repetition to express intensification,[15] yet the term which occurs twice in a row already describes escalation.

This tremendous flow of water did not merely submerge the land masses: Moses continued, “Fifteen cubits higher prevailed the waters, and they covered the mountains.”

The flood rose to approximately twenty-two feet above the tallest mountains. Since the height of the ark reached 45 feet, this should have enabled the submerged portion to pass over the peaks without running aground.[16]

Years later, the powerful Akkadian ruler named Naram-Sin, who reigned from 2261–2224 BC, claimed, “I made the land of Akkad (look) like (after) the Deluge of water that happened at an early time of mankind.”[17]

In addition to his claim of overwhelming destruction in his quest to enlarge his territory, Naram-Sin placed the flood in an era long before his own. This contradicts Ussher’s estimate that the flood occurred in 2349–2348 BC.[18]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Gen 7:17–20. How did Moses communicate the vastness of this deluge? Based upon the text, what was the condition of the ark? What does this communicate about God’s ability to protect his people from disaster?





Go to The Breath of Life Extinguished


[Related posts include In the Beginning of God’s Creating (Gen 1:1–2); Dry Ground Appears (Gen 1:9–13); The Blessing of Fruitfulness (Gen 1:28); Ancient Near Eastern Genealogies (Gen 5:1); By Twos and Sevens (Gen 7:1–4); A Reversal of Creation (Gen 7:5–16); God Reverses the Flood (Gen 8:2–5); The Day of the Lord Will Come (2 Pet 3:10); and Ancient Literature]

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


[1]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 158.

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

[3]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 295.

[4]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 140.

[5]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 158.

[6]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 296.

[7]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 182.

[8]H. Kosmala, “גָּבַר” (gabar), TDOT 2:367–382, 368.

[9]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 182.

[10]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 296.

[11]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 140.

[12]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 296.

[13]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 182.

[14]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 296.

[15]Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 431–2, https://archive.org/stream/geseniushebrewgr00geseuoft#page/430/mode/2up.

[16]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 140.

[17]Gelb, et al, “Abubu,” in CAD, 1:77, https://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/cad_a1.pdf.

[18]James Ussher, The Annals of the World (London: Crook and Bedell, 1656), 6, Https://archive.org/stream/AnnalsOfTheWorld/Annals#page/n15/mode/2up.