Genesis 7:19
And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Genesis 7:19-20. All the high hills, and the mountains were covered — Therefore, there were hills and mountains before the flood. Deists, and other infidels, would persuade us that this was impossible, because of the vast height of divers hills and mountains. But, not to mention here that this fact has been established by the universal consent of all nations, that there was a general deluge which over-flowed the whole world, and that it has been demonstrated by different writers that there is in nature a sufficient quantity of water to deluge it, concerning both which see the Encyclopædia Britannica; it will be sufficient to observe here, that this cannot be thought impossible by any one who believes in the existence of such a being as Jehovah, a God of infinite power, to whom it surely was as easy to bring forth a sufficiency of water for this purpose, as it was to create all things by the word of his power, or to say, Let there be light, and there was light. It is evident Moses, the historian, makes no difficulty on this subject. So far from questioning whether the quantity of water in the earth and atmosphere was sufficient, he thought the sources from whence it came were not exhausted, since both of them required to be stopped by the same almighty hand that opened them, lest the flood should increase more than it actually did.7:17-20 The flood was increasing forty days. The waters rose so high, that the tops of the highest mountains were overflowed more than twenty feet. There is no place on earth so high as to set men out of the reach of God's judgments. God's hand will find out all his enemies, Ps 21:8. When the flood thus increased, Noah's ark was lifted up, and the waters which broke down every thing else, bore up the ark. That which to unbelievers betokens death unto death, to the faithful betokens life unto life.Upon the land. - The land is to be understood of the portion of the earth's surface known to man. This, with an unknown margin beyond it, was covered with the waters. But this is all that Scripture warrants us to assert. Concerning the distant parts of Europe, the continents of Africa, America, or Australia, we can say nothing. "All the high hills were covered." Not a hill was above water within the horizon of the spectator or of man. There were ten generations from Adam to Noah inclusive. We cannot tell what the rate of increase was. But, supposing each couple to have ten children, and therefore the common ratio to be five, the whole number of births would be about five million, and the population in the time of Noah less than four million. It is probable that they did not scatter further than the necessities and conveniences of life demanded. In a fertile region, an area equal to that of the British Isles would be amply sufficient for four million men, women, and children.

Let us suppose, then, a circle of five hundred miles in diameter inhabited by man. Let this occupy the central region of a concentric circle of eight hundred miles in diameter. With a center a little southwest of Mosul, this larger circle would reach fifty miles into the Mediterranean, the Euxine, and the Caspian, and would probably have touched the Persian Gulf at the time of the deluge. If this region were covered with water, it is obvious that no land or mountain would be visible to a spectator within the inner circle of five hundred miles in diameter. "Fifteen cubits upward." This was half the depth of the ark. It may have taken this draught of water to float it. If so, its grounding on a hill under water would indicate the depth of water on its summit. The gradual rise of the waters was accomplished by the depression of the land, aided, possibly, by a simultaneous elevation of the bed of the ocean. The water, by the mere necessity of finding its level, overflowed the former dry land. The extent of this oscillation of the solid crust of the earth is paralleled by the changes of level which geology indicates, the last of which took place at the time of the six days' creation. It is possible that most of the land that was then raised was now again temporarily submerged in the returning waters; while distant continents may have all along existed, which never came within the ken of antediluvian man. The sobriety and historical veracity of the narrative are strikingly exhibited in the moderate height to which the waters are said to have risen above the ancient hills.

17. the waters increased, and bare up the ark—It seems to have been raised so gradually as to be scarcely perceptible to its occupants. Profane wits pretend this to be impossible, because of the vast height of divers mountains. But,

1. This cannot be thought impossible by any man that believeth a God; to whom it was as easy to bring forth a sufficiency of water, for this end, as to speak a word. And if we acknowledge a miracle of the Divine power and providence here, it is no more than even heathens have confessed in other cases.

2. Peradventure this flood might not be simply universal over the whole earth, but only over all the habitable world, where either men or beasts lived; which was as much as either the meritorious cause of the flood, men’s sins, or the end of it, the destruction of all men and beasts, required. And the or that whole heaven may be understood of that which was over all the habitable parts of it. And whereas our modern heathens, that miscall themselves Christians, laugh at the history of this flood upon this and the like occasions, as if it were an idle romance; they may please to note, that their predecessors, the ancient and wiser heathens, have divers of them acknowledged the truth of it, though they also mixed it with their fables, which was neither strange nor unusual for them to do. Lactantius appeals to the heathens of his age concerning it. Nay, there is not only mention of the flood in general, but also of the dove sent out of the ark, in Plutarch, and Berosus, and Abydenus. And the memory of this general flood is preserved to this day among the poor ignorant Indians, who asked the Christians who invaded their land, whether they ever heard of such a thing, and whether another flood was to be expected? And the Chinese writers relate, that but one person, whom they call Puoncuus, with his family, were saved in the flood, and all the rest perished. And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth,.... Yet more and more, so that the people without the ark were obliged to remove, not only from the lower to the higher rooms in their houses, and to the tops of them, but to the highest trees; and when these were bore down, to the highest hills and mountains; and to those it was in vain to fly, by what follows:

and all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered: whence it appears there were hills before the flood, and that these were not caused by it, and that the deluge was universal, since there was not a hill under the whole heaven but what was covered with it. In Deucalion's flood all men are said to perish, except a few who fled to the high mountains (n); which story seems to be hammered out of this account.

(n) Apollodorus, de Deor. Origin. l. 1. p. 19.

And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19. all the high mountains] The account, given by P, describes the covering of the mountains of the whole earth by the waters of the Deluge. It is this hyperbolical description which has naturally seized upon the imagination of readers. It is not necessary to enlarge upon the physical impossibility of such an event. If the literal interpretation were adopted, the waters would have submerged not only the mountains of Western Asia and of Europe, but also the Andes and the Himalayas. Water at that height would have been ice: organic life would have been impossible. Geology has shewn that no such universal Deluge has ever occurred. The accumulation of the vast amount of water represented in such a scene and encompassing the whole globe is beyond the range of physical possibility.

Popular imagination working upon the tradition of a vast inundation in the Euphrates Valley lent itself to exaggeration.Genesis 7:17-24 contain a description of the flood: how the water increased more and more, till it was 15 cubits above all the lofty mountains of the earth, and how, on the one hand, it raised the ark above the earth and above the mountains, and, on the other, destroyed every living being upon the dry land, from man to cattle, creeping things, and birds. "The description is simple and majestic; the almighty judgment of God, and the love manifest in the midst of the wrath, hold the historian fast. The tautologies depict the fearful monotony of the immeasurable expanse of water: omnia pontus erant et deerant litera ponto." The words of Genesis 7:17, "and the flood was (came) upon the earth for forty days," relate to the 40 days' rain combined with the bursting forth of the foundations beneath the earth. By these the water was eventually raised to the height given, at which it remained 150 days (Genesis 7:24). But if the water covered "all the high hills under the whole heaven," this clearly indicates the universality of the flood. The statement, indeed, that it rose 15 cubits above the mountains, is probably founded upon the fact, that the ark drew 15 feet of water, and that when the waters subsided, it rested upon the top of Ararat, from which the conclusion would very naturally be drawn as to the greatest height attained. Now as Ararat, according to the measurement of Perrot, is only 16,254 feet high, whereas the loftiest peaks of the Himalaya and Cordilleras are as much as 26,843, the submersion of these mountains has been thought impossible, and the statement in Genesis 7:19 has been regarded as a rhetorical expression, like Deuteronomy 2:25 and Deuteronomy 4:19, which is not of universal application. But even if those peaks, which are higher than Ararat, were not covered by water, we cannot therefore pronounce the flood merely partial in its extent, but must regard it as universal, as extending over every part of the world, since the few peaks uncovered would not only sink into vanishing points in comparison with the surface covered, but would form an exception not worth mentioning, for the simple reason that no living beings could exist upon these mountains, covered with perpetual snow and ice; so that everything that lived upon the dry land, in whose nostrils there was a breath of life, would inevitably die, and, with the exception of those shut up in the ark, neither man nor beast would be able to rescue itself, and escape destruction. A flood which rose 15 cubits above the top of Ararat could not remain partial, if it only continued a few days, to say nothing of the fact that the water was rising for 40 days, and remained at the highest elevation for 150 days. To speak of such a flood as partial is absurd, even if it broke out at only one spot, it would spread over the earth from one end to the other, and reach everywhere to the same elevation. However impossible, therefore, scientific men may declare it to be for them to conceive of a universal flood of such a height and duration in accordance with the known laws of nature, this inability on their part does not justify any one in questioning the possibility of such an event being produced by the omnipotence of God. It has been justly remarked, too, that the proportion of such a quantity of water to the entire mass of the earth, in relation to which the mountains are but like the scratches of a needle on a globe, is no greater than that of a profuse perspiration to the body of a man. And to this must be added, that, apart from the legend of a flood, which is found in nearly every nation, the earth presents unquestionable traces of submersion in the fossil remains of animals and plants, which are found upon the Cordilleras and Himalaya even beyond the limit of perpetual snow.

(Note: The geological facts which testify to the submersion of the entire globe are collected in Buckland's reliquiae diluv., Schubert's Gesch. der Natur, and C. v. Raumer's Geography, and are of such importance that even Cuvier acknowledged "Je pense donc, avec MM. Deluc et Dolomieu, que s'il y a quelque chose de constat en gologie; c'est que la surface de notre globe a t victime d'une grande et subite rvolution, dont la date ne peut remonter beaucoup au del de cinq ou six mille ans" (Discours sur les rvol. de la surface du globe, p. 190, ed. 6). The latest phase of geology, however, denies that these facts furnish any testimony to the historical character of the flood, and substitutes the hypothesis of a submersion of the entire globe before the creation of man: 1. because the animals found are very different from those at present in existence; and 2. because no certain traces have hitherto been found of fossil human bones. We have already shown that there is no force in these arguments. Vid., Keerl, pp. 489ff.)

In Genesis 7:23, instead of ויּמּח (imperf. Niphal) read ויּמח (imperf. Kal): "and He (Jehovah) destroyed every existing thing," as He had said in Genesis 7:4.

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