18 Noah and the Ark


Edward Madeley



THE references made to Noah and the flood in the Bible are very few, viz. : Isa. liv. 9 ; Ezek. xiv. 20 ; Matt. xxiv. 38 ; Luke xvii. 27 ; 1 Pet. iii. 20 ; 2 Pet. ii. 5 ; iii. 6 ; Heb. xi. 7. They give no indication whatever, when properly translated and rightly understood, of having respect to any physical event. The history of a universal flood as recorded in the sixth, seventh, and eighth chapters of the book of Genesis, is not an inspired account of a flood of literal waters sweeping over the whole earth, but of a devastating inundation of false persuasions and evil lusts, superinduced by licentious conduct and carnal security, over the whole church collectively and the mind individually, which, sweeping away all the landmarks of goodness and truth, accomplished a judgment upon a perverted generation.

” The flood came and took them all away ” (Matt. xxiv. 39), and thus inaugurated a new epoch in human history. A new dispensation or religion was mercifully established, signified by the ark in which righteous Noah, his family, and all kinds of living creatures were preserved from destruction. Hence the apostle Peter writes concerning the ark, and speaks of it as the means of salvation, saying, ” The like figure whcreunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. iii. 21).

Now, the flood is represented, according to most chronologists, as having taken place about four thousand two hundred years ago ; yet there are trees believed to have been in existence at least five thousand years, and recent researches have brought Egyptian monuments to light considered to be above six thousand years old. But, I would ask, if this history were to be understood in its merely literal sense, of what real use is it to the immortal soul ? How does it advance our progress iii the divine life ? How does it prepare us, as all revelation professes to do, for the kingdom of heaven ? It must refer to a far more terrible judgment than that which includes only the destruction of the bodily life, even of the mass of mankind then inhabiting the earth. It describes, in natural and figurative language, a flood which now and in all ages ruins and sweeps away the immortal soul, and teaches us that an ark of eternal salvation is always provided for the humble, penitent, and faithful believer, in which he may be prepared for an eternal state of blessed association with angels and conjunction with the Lord.

The purpose of the ark is described to have been the preservation of every living thing of all flesh ; and for this end he was to take into the ark, firstly, his own family, consisting of eight persons, together with seven pairs of all clean animals, and pairs of everything that creepeth upon the earth ; and, secondly, he was commanded to take into the ark ” of all food that was eaten ” a sufficiency for at least a year and ten days. Now, the ark, being described as three hundred cubits of eighteen inches long, fifty cubits broad, and thirty cubits high, could not have been of larger capacity than the Great Eastern steamship. Sir Isaac Newton and Bishop Wilkins make the tonnage of the ark less than that vessel ; but Dr. Arbuthnot, by increasing the cubit to twenty-two inches, makes the dimensions larger. But we may judge how insufficient such a vessel would be from the fact which Dr. Pye Smith admits, ” that of existing mammalia (or animals which suckle their young), more than a thousand species are known ; of birds, fully five thousand ; of reptiles, very few of which can live in water, two thousand ; of insects, using the word in the popular sense, the number of species is immense, to say one hundred thousand would be moderate ; each has its appropriate habitation and food, and these are necessary to its life ; and the larger number could not live in water. Also the innumerable millions upon millions of animalcules must be provided for, for they have all their appropriate and diversified [food], places, and circumstances of existence.”- Relation between the Holy Scriptures and Geological Science, page 135. Nor do these numbers form the only difficulty ; for, as the same writer observes, ” All land animals have their geographical regions, to which their constitutional natures are congenial, and many could not live in any other situation. We cannot represent to ourselves the idea of their being brought into one small spot, from the polar regions, the torrid zone, and all the other climates of Africa, Europe, America, Australia, and the thousands of islands, millions of which live only on animal food, and the disposal of them, without bringing up the idea of miracles more stupendous than any which are recorded in Scripture, and, may we not add, utterly incredible.” On the other hand, the Doctor gravely concludes that the flood was only partial, and not, as literally described, universal, and that the ark only contained the animals of the district.

” The language employed [however] in Gen. vii. derives its force,” says Dr. W. T. Hamilton, most truly,” as expressive of complete universality, not merely or mainly from the meaning of the several individual terms, but from the structure of the whole. The complete covering of the entire earth s surface is asserted, and the submergence of the loftiest mountain summits, not merely on the earth, or the laud, but under the whole heaven, is affirmed. Further still, the destruction of animal life, human and brute, is declared to have been complete; and then, as if to make assurance doubly sure, the saved are enumerated, Noah and those with him in the ark, and these are declared to have been the only living creatures preserved from destruction: And Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. This closing declaration applies to the human race, and to all creatures in which was the breath of life, not merely in any one land, or province, but under the whole heaven.” The animal distribution,” again writes Milner, ” from one common centre, the mountains of Ararat, to repopulate the world, it is impossible to reconcile with zoological facts, without supposing a series of the most astounding and useless miracles, concerning which a total silence is preserved in the Scripture narrative. We know that the kangaroos and emus of New Holland, the llamas of Peru, the sloths, armadillos, and ant-eaters of Paraguay, to mention no other in stances, never could have accomplished the passage from the places of their location to any central part of the old world and back again, from the scene where the ark of Noah was set afloat, by natural means. Neither can the polar bear, the hippopotamus, the ostrich, and the eider fowl, the reindeer and the giraffe, to refer to no more examples, exist together in a state of nature requiring a great diversity of climates ; and supposing them aggregated by the Divine Power, and sustained in a common temperature, the difficulty of conceiving a building capable of accommodating a tenth of the single pairs of all the species is prodigious. The difficulty increases when we consider the vast number of fresh-water fish and reptiles of the rivers to be provided for [to all of which, as well us those fitted to live in the salt-water, the brackish water produced by the rain would be fatal].

To supernatural agency, indeed, all things are [supposed to be] possible ; but when nothing is said of its action in the record (not even the slightest hint of a miracle), when the object imagined to have been effected by it must have been, to a great extent, useless, and when the congregation of the animals is represented as in the main the work of Noah ” [we may well imagine that some other explanation of the catastrophe is required, and must be found]. The evidence as to the actual occurrence of the Noachic deluge, whether universal or partial, adduced by various learned writers and commentators, is the ancient and wide-spread traditions of floods, which are said to have taken place among all nations, and from the most remote periods ; including those of the Grecian and Roman mythology. Dr. Pye Smith, Dr. Bedford, Harcourt, and Kitto enumerate the Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Medians, Persians, Druids, Greeks, Romans, Africans, Scythians, Celtic tribes, Goths, Hindoos, Chinese, Burmese, Mexicans, Peruvians, Araucania Indians of South America, Aztecs, Miztics, and Apotees, North Americans, Tahitians, Sandwich Islanders, Western Caledonians, and the Crees, or Arctic Indians ; and assert that all preserve in their mythologies or histories the principal facts recorded by Moses. But much that has been written by ancient historians, and interpreted by modern writers on this subject, is fanciful, uncertain, and most fallacious. The allegories of ancient mythology have also been greatly perverted and much misunderstood. Hence have arisen the confused and contradictory opinions attributed to them. The source of all heathen worship, and, we may add, of all heathen mythology, indeed, was the corruption of the truths of revealed religion ; so all the above nations derived their views, originally, from a more ancient Word than we now possess, altogether written according to the science of Correspondences, and of which, in all probability the first eleven chapters of Genesis formed a part.

From a profound ignorance of this science, modern writers have either wilfully overlooked or totally misapprehended the myths and analogies of the ancient world. The description of the Deluge in Genesis is altogether a divinely-inspired parable, a spiritual or mental history, arranged in the form of a narrative, and filled with holy instruction and heavenly lessons of wisdom. Over the inner glory is thrown this outward covering, which has protected it from fearful abuse, and prevented awful profanation. Many have been the absurd theories proposed to account for the waters of the Deluge. Dr. Burnett supposed that the surface of the earth was smooth and dry ; that the outer crust or shell cracked and broke, causing the water to spread over it, and elevating the mountains and hills from the plain. Whistar considered that a comet was brought into collision with the world, which broke open the fountains of the great deep, and that the waters were dried up by a miraculous wind. Others have imagined that a comet both brought the water with its tail and dried it up again after the flood. Kircher supposed that the air was converted, for the time, into water, without reflecting upon the necessity of air to support life, and that if the whole atmosphere were compressed into water, it would only stand thirty-two feet above the surface, not sufficient to cover a single hill deserving the name. The leading commentators are satisfied, however, with the absurd assertion that there was- a miraculous creation of water sufficient for the purpose, and a dissipation or annihilation of it at the end of the flood.

Again, the heaviest fall of rain known has been stated at about seven inches in forty-eight hours, occasioning most devastating floods ; but the waters of the Deluge must have risen at the incredible rate of six hundred and fifty feet every twenty-four hours, for forty days and nights in succession. Indeed, the vast rate at which it must have fallen may be best imagined when we consider that it is calculated die amount required to cover the mountains would be forty times that of all the oceans on the face of the earth. Such an accumulation of water would present serious astronomical objections. Both the bulk and diameter of the earth would be so increased as to seriously interfere with the diurnal and orbital motions of the earth, and these alterations must have had a disturbing influence upon the whole solar system. Indeed, Dr. Pye Smith says that it could not have taken place without its effects being felt throughout the entire stellar universe. While, on the other hand, geologists affirm, with one consent, that the surface of the earth nowhere exhibits the traces of a universal flood, which they agree to regard as a physical impossibility.

Think of the vast capacity of the ark, even though it wrere only that of the Great Eastern ; yet it had but one small window in the upper story, affording a most imperfect light, and all the rest must have been involved for more than a year in entire darkness. Glass, even, is a modern discovery. True, some enlightened writers affirm that the ark was illuminated by tin- reflection of large and most brilliant gems or by phosphorescent substances. Reason revolts at the idea. Again, the ark had also but, one door on the vast sides. The accumulation of refuse must have leen enormous, and nothing is said of ventilation. How could this be literally understood? We might ssk where, after such a surging flood, was the olive branch to be found? And from whence did Noah obtain the vines he planted? Other difficulties and inconsistencies are to be found in the narrative itself. Noah, for instance, was commanded to admit pairs of animals into the ark, and then to take of dean beasts, of which no mention is elsewhere made till the laws of Moses were compiled, by sevens. Some explain the number to mean seven pairs, and others seven animals. It is, however, asserted that after Noah and his family had gone into the ark, the beasts, birds, and creeping things went in unto Noah “two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him : and the Lord shut him in.”

That Noah was not a real, but a representative character, like Adam, Enoch, Methuselah, and others, seems plain from the length of time which he is said to have lived, nine hundred and fifty yeaw ; and from his name, which means rest, or consolation. The destruction or end of one church, which was overwhelmed by evil lusts and false persuasions, and the commencement of another in which righteousness and truth might dwell, was indeed to all a source of divine comfort. That Noah, the ark, and the flood were altogether typical of this great generating change, is also evident from what the apostle Peter says of them in the third chapter of his first Epistle, second verse, as “Being the like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us; (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience, toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” For what does the sacrament of baptism mean but to present to us a sign of purification from all sinfulness by divine truth, and thus salvation from “the floods of ungodliness” and iniquity? Hereby is attained a state of spiritual rest from temptation, aflliction, and sorrow, and of divine consolation and peace, when the ark rests safely on the mountains of Ararat, the mountains of love and light, as the name imports.

We seem forced, then, from these and a multitude of other considerations, to regard the entire narrative of the Deluge as a parable or allegory, and all the traditions referring to it as of the same character, with this exception, that the parable of the Bible is divinely inspired in its spiritual sense and import, is holy and true, and practically good in every particular, while the pagan traditions are but human corruptions of the remains of revealed religion existing among thorn. Noah and his sons were adored as deities, and even the ark is said to have been worshipped as a goddess under various names. The whole parable, then, instead of being a description of a literal Hood of water, is an inspired account of the moral condition of the burnan race at, that time, when they had become completely wicked, or had filled up the measure of their iniquities. The judgments and providence of God, temptations, heresies, profaneness, and persecution, the prevalence of error, trouble, and even wars, disease, and death, are ail likened, both in divine and ancient writings, to irresistible and destructive floods. Especially is the end of one church or dispensation of religion and the commencement of another represented in divine language by a flood, and called also the end of the world Thus the end of the Adamic dispensation is represented by Noah s flood ; the end of the Jewish dispensation is foretold by Daniel as a flood; and the end of the first Christian dispensation is predicted by the Lord Himself as like Noah’s flood. The very form of the ark, in general so like the temple at Jerusalem, composed of three stories, shows that it was designed to represent the mind of man, with its three degrees; and the beasts, birds, and creeping things denote the affection, the thoughts, and the lowest principles of the life. By a flood is signified an inundation of evil and falsity, sin and folly; and it is in the ark of salvation, provided for us in the divine Word, that we can alone find safety, as it is narrated they of old did, from the overwhelming torrents. The animals entered by pairs and by sevens, for truth must always be united to its true partner, goodness, in order to be fruitful ; and the holy quality of all regenerate principles is presented to us in the septuple of the clean animals. This flood extinguished the life of God within the soul of the ungodly, together with all the heavenly principles of love and charity, signified by its overwhelming all flesh, and covering the hills and mountains.

That the ark was, in all its measurements and arrangements, a divine figure of the human mind in the process of being regenerated or redeemed from the destructive elements of evil and falsity, thus preserved from the powers of hell and death, is not only evident from its general form, but, from all the other particulars named. The three stories, or mansions, or rooms, signify the three degrees of truth in the mind and all its faculties. The window in the uppermost story of the ark means intellectual light, received by the church and by every man, from Above, or from the Lord. The door in the side, or way of access into the church, and that which admits into the mind spiritual life, signifies the outward doctrine of sacred charity, to which we hearken, and by which we are admitted to the protection, peace, and blessedness wrhich are promised : thus internal and external instruction. Hence all this is said to be done to establish a covenant between God and man.

Nor is it to be passed over, as of trifling significance, that the same waters which destroyed the ungodly, preserved Noah and all within the ark from the same destruction. The forty days denote, as they always do in the Word, all the states of grievous temptation through which every one is led in the regenerate life. Hence, to signify similar things, Moses w-as in the mount forty days and forty nights ; the children of Israel sojourned forty years in the wilderness ; the prophet Elijah journeyed forty days and forty nights from the wilderness to Horeb, the Mount of God, on the strength of his miraculous food ; the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to bear, representatively, the iniquity of Judah forty days ; and, finally, the Lord Jesus was led into the wilderness, where for forty days He bore grievous temptations.

And the ark is said finally to have rested on the mountains of Ararat, which implies an elevated state of light and love. Various states of fluctuation and change in the regeneration are also signified by sending forth first a raven and then a dove to see if the waters were abated. And complete regeneration and liberty are denoted by going forth and building an altar to sacrifice to the Lord. The literal sense is clearly untenable, and the narration could never have been intended to be understood in any other than a spiritual sense. By this interpretation, the sacred oracles are preserved from the cavils and ridicule to which they have been subjected ; science is not defied, but vindicated ; and reason is not discarded, but honored. The history is so wonderfully arranged, as to every particular, that an examination of it by the inquiring and reflecting mind will issue in regarding the whole narrative as a holy and divinely-inspired revelation of Him who knoweth the secrets of every heart, a symbolic mental history couched, for wisest reasons, in the language of similitude and correspondence, and thus most worthy of God to give and of man to receive. Every sentence of it, when properly understood, is filled with a heavenly meaning, and every word teems with light and life.

So, also, the subsequent history of the Tower of Babel, and the confusion of tongues said to have been consequent on its unhallowed erection, is a series of corresponding images, arranged in the factitious form of a narrative, to signify and represent the further departure of mankind from the simplicity of truth and the true worship of God. “The people of the earth,” it is said, “journeyed from the east ” (Gen. xi. 2), that is, they departed from a holy state of charity and love, denoted by the east, thus from the Lord. Their worship became more profane and their conduct more corrupt, and they are represented, therefore, as building for themselves habitations there, endeavoring to find rest and security in the degraded plain or valley of Shinar. In that low state, bricks, or false principles framed from their impure imaginations, originating in and confirmed by the burning lusts of self-love and the love of the world, were substituted for the stones of truth, and the pure doctrines thence derived ; and the slime, or pitch, or bitumen of unclean concupiscence was supplied in the place of mortar, the conjoining principles of aifection and mutual love springing from goodness. The sad result was the origination and multiplication of heresies, idolatries, and countless false sentiments in religion, the increase and strengthening of numberless evil lusts, and the substitution of doctrines of faith for the life of charity, thus originating all kinds of doubt, denial, and mental confusion, ending in spiritual destruction. Thus men brought upon themselves the direful judgment and punishment signified by the ” fire and brimstone ” rained upon them apparently from God out of heaven, denoting a state of self-inflicted torment, directly opposed to the divine will and wisdom.

According to this view of the nature and character of the Word, we may see how wicked men and nations, and even apparently evil actions, were capable of representing what is holy, good, and true. Both the unjust judge and the unfaithful steward represented, in the internal sense, the Lord s divine operations for man s welfare, and what we are required spiritually to do, in order to secure his divine blessing and protection. The descendants of Israel, though as a people they were a vile, obstinate, sensual, and rebellious race from the beginning, were yet made subservient to the divine purposes, in representing a true spiritual church, without being one themselves ; and though they ” made the Word of God of none effect by their traditions “(Matt. xv. 6), yet they became the depositaries of that Volume of eternal life, in which the particulars of their own history were recorded for the use of all future ages, as the shadows of the kingdom of God both in heaven and on earth.151 Wicked kings, as Saul and Ahab, by virtue of their regal authority, and impious priests, as the sons of Eli, by virtue of their sacerdotal character, were, under that representative dispensation, and in a good sense, types of the Lord, and are called ” the Lord s anointed.” Concerning David, Israel’s king, it is thus written in a prediction of the advent of the Saviour, whom he represented, ” David, my servant, shall be king over them, and they shall have one Shepherd, and they shall dwell in the land ; even they and their children, and their children’s children forever :and my servant David shall be their prince forever” (Ezek. xxxvii. 24, 25). And, again : ” The children of Israel shall return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king ” (Hos. iii. 5). Thus, in a good sense, of David, notwithstanding his enormous crimes, it is written, not of his personal, but of his representative character, that ” he was a man after God s own heart ” (Acts xiii. 22) ; for in all the particulars of his remarkable history he was the chosen representative of the Lord, and his whole life was representative of the progress of every regenerating mind.