The Noah Narrative: Exiting the Ark

Genesis 8 is the hinge of the flood narrative. The storyline shifts from the water engulfing (ch.7) to the water receding. This chapter begins with God remembering Noah; then Noah in response to God’s faithful deliverance remembers God.

God Remembered Noah (vv1-5)

The opening verse, “God remembered Noah …” (v1),[1] could cause two misunderstandings: firstly, that God was merely recalling information and, secondly, even further from the truth, that God had forgotten Noah and all with him.

While the word signifies an internal reckoning, it does not stop there but continues to action. It shows God moving to act on one’s behalf, “combining the ideas of faithful love (Jer 2:2; 31:20) and timely intervention.”[2]

The idea of remembering becomes a motif throughout the OT (with its first usage here). It is a significant phrase, but, for Noah, it must have been surprising. He was five months into the deluge and had not heard from God; he may well have felt forgotten. The silence of God was not neglect, however, but a call for Noah to trust God’s wisdom.

God acted and caused the water to recede. The boat did not bob aimlessly in the middle of the ocean. In God’s kind providence it rested on the mountain range of Ararat. The place and time of the ark resting has typical significance.

When the Ark Rested

“The ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat” (v4). Exodus shows that the seventh month became the first month (Exo 12:1-2; Deu 16:1). The 14th day of the first month (the seventh month in Gen 8:4) marked the sacrifice of the Passover lamb – both the lamb in Egypt and the ultimate Lamb of God (1Co 5:7).

Three days after the Lamb of God died, He rose. The 17th, therefore, carries significance as a day of resurrection. When the ark rested on the 17th of that month, it would unfold that, more than 2,000 years later, on that exact day, our Saviour would rise. Our ark – the Person who sheltered us from divine wrath – rested. “The Saviour’s triumphant return from amongst the dead is the public proof that the wrath of God in regard to the sins of His people has spent itself, and that rest and peace have been established for evermore.”[3]

Where the Ark Rested

The meaning behind “Ararat” is difficult to ascertain. However, a case could be made for the Brown-Driver-Briggs’ definition, “a curse reversed: precipitation of curse.” If so, where the ark rested becomes a partial fulfilment of the plea of Noah’s father when Noah was born (Gen 5:29), the final fulfilment being One who was “made a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). The curse was “sorrow,” “thorns” and “sweat” (Gen 3:17-19). This three-fold curse was experienced by Christ at the cross and has been reversed by His resurrection. The sorrow has turned to joy; the crown of thorns exchanged for a crown of glory; the sweat of labour is over (Joh 20:7) – His work is finished.

Noah Remembered God (vv6-22)

Noah’s Trust

“Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made” (v6). Though we read that the window was made by Noah, he never opened it during the deluge; instead, he trusted God to guide the ship. After opening it, he engaged in post-flood research by sending out the raven and the dove. Leaving allegorical and prophetical considerations, Noah would have learned much practically. By sending out the unclean bird, he would know that God had fulfilled His word of retribution. The fact that the raven never returned meant that it was being sustained elsewhere. The diet of floating carcases for the raven was the witness to judgment exacted. Then, by sending the discriminating dove, he would see signs of life (v11).

Noah knew that the judgment of chapter 6 had passed, and the promised covenant would also be fulfilled (Gen 6:18). Although he was about to step out into a vastly different world, the God above him remained the same. Noah had spent a solar year inside the ark. When he left that ark, the sun remained where it was. The solitary sun was a parable of God’s immutability. Judgment was the message all around – faithfulness the message above.

Noah’s Patience

Noah did what he could to understand the state of the new world by sending out the dove. Neither the signs of life from the dove, the beginning of a new year or the dried earth convinced him to leave. It was God who called him into the boat, so God would have to call him out (vv15-16). How often what we see as signs of providence are excuses for impatience – we must, like Noah, wait on God.

Noah’s Worship

Priority: Noah, after stepping out of the ark onto new ground, had much vying for his attention. A new home for his family and shelter for the animals would be needed. Even to rest on solid ground would be a luxury. If ever someone was too busy for devotion, it was Noah. His priority, however, was the worship of God. There was immediacy and decisiveness in his movements: “Noah went forth … out of the ark. And Noah builded an altar” (vv18-20). “The patriarch’s first care is to bless the care which has so cared for him. His first posture is the bended knee and uplifted hand.”[4] God told him to make an ark but never to build an altar. The carnal instinct of Cain was to build a city (Gen 4:17), but to build an altar was Noah’s spiritual instinct. More important than his own interests or what those around him needed, Noah gave primacy to what God deserved.

Extent: Beyond giving God precedence, Noah did the unprecedented. In Noah’s worship we have a number of first mentions: the mention of “altar,”[5] “burnt offering,” and of God “smelling a sweet savour.” Noah was not happy “ticking a box” of religious observance. He took his offering from “every clean beast and of every clean fowl” (v20). The offering was a sacrifice (in every sense of the term). Building an altar would cost time and require effort. The clean animals could have been used for his own food (ch.9). Noah’s sacrifice was in proportion to the appreciation he had of his own salvation. Do our shortages in spiritual sacrifices stem from diminished appreciation?

As with all worship, we must remember that we are only giving back to God what was already His. Worship enriches us, not God. The animals that Noah offered were first given to Noah as a stewardship from God. The pagan flood fables might also have the main character raising an altar to a god (or gods), but they depict the gods crowding around the altar like flies because of their hunger. Our God does not need sacrifices to survive. All creation is His, whether the growth of the field or the beast of the hill; “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psa 50:12). In worship, God desired something deeper. He wanted their devotion. He wanted the praise of their heart, not just the animal from their stall; “Offer unto God thanksgiving … Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me” (Psa 50:14,23).

Result: A note on human depravity bookends the flood narrative (Gen 6:5-6; 8:21). As a result of this sacrifice God resolves to never send another flood. This is not because the flood has changed human nature,[6] or because men are now less worthy of condemnation. Human sin would demand a regular and predictable deluge. Instead, God responds with the regularity and predictability of earth’s climate. The longsuffering of God from then until now is on display.

God accepts this sacrifice because of what it points to – the ultimate, climactic sweet-smelling sacrifice (Eph 5:2). On that basis, He guarantees that “while the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (v22). Some take this truth too lightly and resort to climate alarmism, forgetting that God is in control. Others mistake the uniformity and stability of the seasons as God’s silence and non-existence.  Like the scoffers in Peter’s day, they are saying, “All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2Pe 3:4). They forget the condition in the promise, “while the earth remaineth.” Though they have been rocked to spiritual slumber by the steadiness of God’s control, God will intervene – no more water, but fire next time (vv7,10).

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.

[2] Derek Kidner, Genesis, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), 92.

[3] W.W. Fereday, “Chapters on Genesis – Beginnings,” (accessed at:

[4] Henry Law, The Gospel in Genesis (London, England: Banner of Truth, 1960), 77.

[5] An altar would be implied for the offering of Abel but the first explicit mention is here.

[6] Dynamic equivalent translations will say “even though” (NIV, CSB) instead of “for” in the statement, “for the intent of man’s heart …” Regardless of translation, although men deserve another flood, in grace another one will not be sent. God knows that to deal with the root of sin, His Son will need to be sent – not another storm.