Genesis 8:11
And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, see, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
8:4-12 The ark rested upon a mountain, whither it was directed by the wise and gracious providence of God, that might rest the sooner. God has times and places of rest for his people after their tossing; and many times he provides for their seasonable and comfortable settlement, without their own contrivance, and quite beyond their own foresight. God had told Noah when the flood would come, yet he did not give him an account by revelation, at what times and by what steps it should go away. The knowledge of the former was necessary to his preparing the ark; but the knowledge of the latter would serve only to gratify curiosity; and concealing it from him would exercise his faith and patience. Noah sent forth a raven from the ark, which went flying about, and feeding on the carcasses that floated. Noah then sent forth a dove, which returned the first time without good news; but the second time, she brought an olive leaf in her bill, plucked off, plainly showing that trees, fruit trees, began to appear above water. Noah sent forth the dove the second time, seven days after the first, and the third time was after seven days also; probably on the sabbath day. Having kept the sabbath with his little church, he expected especial blessings from Heaven, and inquired concerning them. The dove is an emblem of a gracious soul, that, finding no solid peace of satisfaction in this deluged, defiling world, returns to Christ as to its ark, as to its Noah, its rest. The defiling world, returns to Christ as to its ark, as to its Noah, its rest. The carnal heart, like the raven, takes up with the world, and feeds on the carrion it finds there; but return thou to my rest, O my soul; to thy Noah, so the word is, Ps 116:7. And as Noah put forth his hand, and took the dove, and pulled her to him, into the ark, so Christ will save, and help, and welcome those that flee to him for rest.The raven and the dove are sent out to bring tidings of the external world. "Forty days." Before Noah made any experiment he seems to have allowed the lapse of forty days to undo the remaining effect of the forty days' rain. "The window." He seems to have been unable to take any definite observations through the aperture here called a window. The raven found carrion in abundance, floated probably on the waters, and did not need to return. This was such a token of the state of things as Noah might expect from such a messenger. He next sends the dove, who returns to him. "Yet other seven days." This intimates that he stayed seven days also after the raven was sent out. The olive leaf plucked off was a sign of returning safety to the land. It is said by Theophrastus (Hist. Plant. 4, 7) and Pliny (H. N. 13, 50) that the olive strikes leaves even under water. From this event, the olive branch became the symbol of peace, and the dove the emblem of the Comforter, the messenger of peace. After seven other days, the dove being despatched, returns no more. The number seven figures very conspicuously in this narrative. Seven days before the showers commence the command to enter the ark is given; and at intervals of seven days the winged messengers are sent out. These intervals point evidently to the period of seven days, determined by the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest. The clean beasts also and the birds are admitted into the ark by seven pairs. This points to the sacredness associated with the number arising from the hallowed character of the seventh day. The number forty also, the product of four, the number of the world or universe, and ten the number of completeness, begins here to be employed for a complete period in which a process will have run its course.10. again he sent forth the dove—Her flight, judging by the time she was abroad, was pursued to a great distance, and the newly plucked olive leaf, she no doubt by supernatural impulse brought in her bill, afforded a welcome proof that the declivities of the hills were clear. The dove came in to him in the evening, as the manner of doves is, partly for better accommodation, both for food and lodging, than yet she could meet with abroad; and partly from her love to her mate.

In her mouth was an olive leaf.

Quest. Whence was this leaf, when trees had been so generally overthrown and rooted up by the deluge?

Answ.

1. Many trees might be preserved by an advantageous situation, between the rocks or hills which broke the force of the waters.

2. It is probable that God, by his powerful providence, preserved the plants and trees for future ages; and therefore there is no mention of any of their roots or seeds preserved in the ark.

3. The olive-tree especially will not only stand, but live and flourish under the waters, as Pliny, 1. 13. c. 25, and 16. 20, and Theophrastus, 4. 8, observe. Add, that the word here rendered leaf signifies also a tender branch. And the dove came in to him in the evening,.... It having been out all day delighting itself in a free air, and perching upon the trees, but yet not finding sufficient food, or a proper lodging, it returned to Noah at the evening for food and dwelling in the ark:

and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: which might easily be done, and even an "olive branch", as the word sometimes signifies, and is by some (p) rendered; for it being now the summer season, young branches sprouted out, which being tender, were easily cropped: the Targum of Jonathan adds,"which it had took from the mount of Olives;''but there is no necessity to suppose it went so far from the ark, since Assyria, a country nearer, was a land of olive oil, like that of Judea; 2 Kings 18:32 and besides, olives grew in Armenia itself, where the ark rested. Gogarene, in Armenia, is said by Strabo (q) to produce olive trees; though a modern author says (r)"I do not see where the dove which was sent out of the ark could find an olive branch, if the ark be supposed to have rested on Mount Ararat, or any of the mountains in Armenia; for this sort of trees is not found hereabout, where the species must be lost, and yet olives are known to be a kind of trees which never die:''but the above accounts show it to be otherwise in ancient times:

so Noah knew the waters were abated from off the earth: by this he perceived not only that they were gone off the mountains, but the lower grounds, at least the hills on which olive trees delight to grow; and yet that they were only abated, and not entirely gone off, since the dove returned to him: this dove sent out the second time, and returning, may be considered as an emblem of a Gospel minister, comparable to a dove, for the dove like gifts of the Spirit of God, by which he is qualified for his work, and for his simplicity, harmlessness, meekness, and humility; and the olive leaf in its mouth may be an emblem of the Gospel, which is from Christ, the good olive; is the Gospel of peace, which an olive branch is a symbol of, proclaiming and publishing peace and reconciliation by Christ; and as that is ever green, the Gospel always continues, and is the everlasting Gospel, and which was brought, and more fully and clearly dispensed in the evening of the world; and by it, it is known that the waters of divine wrath are assuaged, and the people of God may be assured they will never return to come upon them.

(p) "ramum olivae", V. L. so Ainsworth, see Nehemiah 8.15. (q) Geograph. l. 11. p. 363. (r) Tournefort's Voyage to the Levant, vol. 3. p. 173.

And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an {f} olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

(f) Which was a sign that the waters were much diminished: for the olives do not grow on the high mountains.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. at eventide] i.e. at the time when the dove would return to roost; implying a long absence from the ark.

an olive leaf pluckt off] Better, as R.V. marg., a fresh olive leaf. This would shew two things, (1) that the waters had sunk to a level at which the olive would grow, and (2) that life had revived upon the earth. The scene has universally been accepted as symbolical of reconciliation and peace. It finds no counterpart in the Babylonian story. The olive would be the most familiar tree to the dweller in Palestine.

LXX φύλλον ἐλαίας κάρφος, Lat. ramum olivae virentibus foliis.

13 (P). And it came to pass … earth] The disappearance of the waters is dated by P as coinciding with the 1st day of the 1st month of Noah’s 601st year. The 1st month would be Tisri, corresponding to our October. See note on Genesis 7:11. Those who assume a reference to the later Heb. reckoning, which was identical with that of the Babylonian calendar, suppose the 1st month to be that of Abib, in the spring time, when the rainy season ended.

(J) and Noah removed] LXX ἀπεκάλυψε τὴν στέγην τῆς κιβωτοῦ, Lat. aperiens tectum arcae.

the covering of the ark] The literal rendering of the Heb. But what it was, and how it was removed, we are not told. The details of the structure of the ark, according to J, were probably left out, in order to make way for the description of P in Genesis 6:14-16.

14 (P). And in the second month] We have here the last date in the Flood story. The earth is dry on the 27th day of the 2nd month in the 2nd year. The Flood had begun on the 17th day of the 2nd month in the previous year (Genesis 7:11). From first to last we have here a period of one year and 10 days. It has been pointed out that a lunar year consists of 354 days; and that one lunar year and 11 days is exactly a solar year of 365 days. This may be merely a coincidence; and in calculating the months we reckon them as solar months of 30 days each.

The LXX in Genesis 7:11 dated the commencement of the Flood from the 27th day of the 2nd month of the 1st year; and, therefore, assigns an exact year to its duration.

dry] Note the successive stages in P: Genesis 8:5 waters decreased, tops of mountains visible; Genesis 8:13 waters gone; Genesis 8:14 soil dry.Verse 11. - And the dove came in unto him. Literally, to him. As the manner of doves is, partly for better accommodation both for food and lodging than yet he could meet with abroad, and partly from love to his mate (Peele). In the evening (of the seventh day). And, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off. Not as if "Deo jubente, uno die germinavit terra" (Ambrose), but because the olive leaves kept green under water (Chrysostom). Rosenmüller, Lange, and Kalisch quote Pliny (13. 50) and Theophrastus ('Hist. Plant., 4:8) to this effect. That the olive tree grows in Armenia is proved by the testimony of Strabo (11. 575), Horace (Od. I. 7. 7), Virgil (Georg. 2:3), Diodorus Siculus (1. 17), &c. On this point vide Kalisch. The leaf which the dove carried towards the ark was "taraf," freshly plucked; hence rightly translated by "viride (Michaelis, Rosenmüller) rather than by "decerptum" (Chaldee, Arabic) or "raptum" (Calvin). Κάρφος (LXX.) is just the opposite of "fresh," viz., withered. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. Forty days after the appearance of the mountain tops, Noah opened the window of the ark and let a raven fly out (lit., the raven, i.e., the particular raven known from that circumstance), for the purpose of ascertaining the drying up of the waters. The raven went out and returned until the earth was dry, but without being taken back into the ark, as the mountain tops and the carcases floating upon the water afforded both resting-places and food. After that, Noah let a dove fly out three times, at intervals of seven days. It is not distinctly stated that he sent it out the first time seven days after the raven, but this is implied in the statement that he stayed yet other seven days before sending it out the second time, and the same again before sending it the third time (Genesis 8:10 and Genesis 8:12). The dove, when first sent out, "found no rest for the sole of its foot;" for a dove will only settle upon such places and objects as are dry and clean. It returned to the ark and let Noah take it in again (Genesis 8:8, Genesis 8:9). The second time it returned in the evening, having remained out longer than before, and brought a fresh (טרף freshly plucked) olive-leaf in its mouth. Noah perceived from this that the water must be almost gone, had "abated from off the earth," though the ground might not be perfectly dry, as the olive-tree will put out leaves even under water. The fresh olive-leaf was the first sign of the resurrection of the earth to new life after the flood, and the dove with the olive-leaf a herald of salvation. The third time it did not return; a sign that the waters had completely receded from the earth. The fact that Noah waited 40 days before sending the raven, and after that always left an interval of seven days, is not to be accounted for on the supposition that these numbers were already regarded as significant. The 40 days correspond to the 40 days during which the rain fell and the waters rose; and Noah might assume that they would require the same time to recede as to rise. The seven days constituted the week established at the creation, and God had already conformed to it in arranging their entrance into the ark (Genesis 7:4, Genesis 7:10). The selection which Noah made of the birds may also be explained quite simply from the difference in their nature, with which Noah must have been acquainted; that is to say, from the fact that the raven in seeking its food settles upon every carcase that it sees, whereas the dove will only settle upon what is dry and clean.
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