2 October 2020

Genesis 8:1-22

… and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf (v. 11)

Psalm 133 


After the flood Noah prepares to leave the ark. Beginning with the symbolic ‘forty days’ (v. 6), Noah sends out winged observers, which suggests that there was only limited visibility from the ark, or that it suited the writer to introduce birds into the story with a specific purpose. It may well be in our minds that the Spirit “swept over the face of the waters” like a bird in Genesis 1:2. Something similar happens here as the birds fly over another watery chaos. There may be additional symbolism in the fact that the first bird Noah releases is black, it is still a dark time of chaos. It's also worth noting that the raven does not return (verse 7).

A dove is sent out next for another survey, returning empty-beaked (verses 8-9). The repeated sending of the birds is a literary device highlighting both tension and meaning in the story. God's intervention and reconstruction requires patience and waiting. It is on the third attempt that the dove returns with an olive leaf (verse 11), thus becoming a symbol of peace.  Noah is an extremely patient man, or prudent where mud is involved, and waits another seven days (verse 12). However, the author seems to have forgotten that the ark is on a mountaintop, nor do we have any idea about the logistics of releasing the animals. But it is not that kind of story.

Our passage tells us that the day on which Noah, his family and all the animals leave the ark was the first day of his 601st year, it was both his birthday and a new year, the calendar seems to be linked to his own life. Thus we are told that those who were saved spent ten and a half months inside the ark with each other, we can only imagine what that could have been like.

To Ponder:

  • What's your response to ‘chaos’?
  • How patient are you with God, yourself, other people?

Bible notes author

Julian Bond

Julian works for the Connexional Team as the grants team leader. Previous to that he was the director of the Christian Muslim Forum, which is built on friendship between a group of Christians and Muslims, showing how faith is a catalyst for good relationships and welcomes the 'other'.

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