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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Gen. 8–10]

NOW God remembered Noe and all that was in the ark, and He sent a wind upon the earth. This moved the waters, and after a hundred and fifty days they began to abate. At length, the ark rested upon a mountain in Armenia, called Mount Ararat, and the tops of the hills began to appear. Noe perceived this with great joy, for he had been now three hundred and fifty days shut up in the ark.

In order to see whether the waters had subsided on the earth, he opened the window and sent forth a raven which did not return. He next sent forth a dove, but she, not finding a spot whereon to rest her foot, returned to the ark. After seven days he again sent forth the dove. She came back to him, in the evening, carrying in her mouth a bough of an olive-tree with green leaves (Fig. 3). Noe therefore, Understood that the waters had abated from off the face of the earth. He stayed in the ark yet other seven days, and he sent forth the dove again, which did not return to him.

 

Fig. 3. Noe in the Ark with the returning dove. Early Christian painting. Catacomb of S. Domitilla, Rome.

God then said to Noe: “Go out of the ark.” So Noe went out of the ark with his wife, his sons and their wives, together with all the living creatures which he had placed in it. Filled with gratitude towards the Lord who had so wonderfully preserved him, he built an altar to the Lord and offered on it a sacrifice of clean animals. The sacrifice of Noe was pleasing to the Lord. He blessed Noe and his sons, and said to them: “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth.” God made a covenant with Noe that He would never again destroy the earth with water. The rainbow, which we see in the clouds, is the sign of this covenant between God and the earth.

The sons of Noe were Sem, Cham and Japhet. Now Noe began to cultivate the earth. He planted a vineyard, and, drinking of the wine, he fell asleep, and was uncovered in his tent. Cham, seeing his father thus exposed, spoke of it in a jesting way to his brothers. They, however, filled with a chaste and holy fear, put a cloak upon their shoulders, and, going backwards so as not to look upon him where he lay, covered their father’s nakedness. And Noe, awaking and hearing what had happened, said: “Cursed be Chanaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” But he blessed Sem and Japhet.

The Goodness of God. Almighty God, in His loving mercy, remembered not only Noe, but the beasts in the ark; for He hateth nothing that He hath made. We, too, should be merciful, and carefully avoid cruelty to animals. He who wantonly ill-treats dumb beasts, proves that he has a hard, cruel heart.

God’s Faithfulness. Just as the punishment with which God threatened sinful man, was brought to pass in the most terrible way, so the promise which He made after the Deluge, never again to destroy the world by water, has been kept for more than four thousand years.

Confidence in God. In Noe we have a glorious example of this virtue. Full of a living faith in God’s presence, wisdom and power, he gave himself over entirely to the direction of divine Providence. Full of confidence in God, and in complete submission to His will, he built the ark and shut himself up in it; nor did he leave it, till God Himself told him to do so. Fear might very well have seized him, and he might very well have asked himself how the animals would fare in the ark, and so forth: and when the ark was driven about hither and thither, the anxious thought of how long it would be able to resist the beating of the waves, might very well have occurred to him. But he allowed no such fears to take possession of him, and confided himself entirely to the Lord God and His holy word. Belief in the wisdom and power of the ever present God ought to fill us also with courage and comfort in time of tribulation, and make us trust in God, and be content with whatever He wills. “Commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in Him, and He will do it” (Ps. 36:5). He who puts his trust in God, builds on a sure foundation.

Gratitude to God. Why was God well pleased with Noe’s sacrifice? Firstly, because it was offered with faith in the future Saviour; and, secondly, because it was offered in thanksgiving. You may imagine and picture to yourself how Noe and his family knelt round the altar, praying with fervour and devotion, thanking God from the bottom of their hearts, and promising Him that they would serve Him all the days of their life, and avoid those sins which had called down such a terrible punishment. Gratitude to God is a holy and essential part of our worship of Him.

The reward of gratitude. Noe’s thankfulness pleased the Lord God, so that He gave him still greater blessings. When we thank God for benefits we have received, we prepare the way for new ones.

The olive-branch, brought back to the ark by the dove, showed those who were inside that the destruction on the earth had ceased, and that the time of their liberation was at hand. On this account, the olive-branch has ever since been a token of peace and joy.

Intemperance. Noe’s drunkenness was excusable, because he was ignorant of the strength of wine. This is now known to everybody, so that it is a great sin to drink enough to obscure the senses and reason. Drunkenness leads to many other sins, such as quarrelling, fighting, swearing &c., and is, therefore, one of the capital sins. Man may drink wine &c. in moderation, for the purpose of refreshing and strengthening himself. But children should never drink wine, still less, spirits. Such drink is unwholesome for children, and those who indulge in it are pale and sickly, and often stupid and stunted in their growth. But milk and bread make rosy cheeks!

Cham’s sin. What Commandments did Cham sin against? Firstly, against the sixth Commandment, by his immodesty. Secondly, against the fourth Commandment Cham scoffed at, and failed in respect to his father, and spoke evil of him, by needlessly repeating to his brothers what he had seen. What ought Cham to have done when he accidentally found his father in that state? He ought to have turned away his eyes, covered up his father, and not told any one about it.

The blessing and curse of parents. When Noe learnt about Cham’s conduct, he pronounced a curse on him and his descendants, and promised a blessing to Sem and Japhet. He foresaw, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that Cham’s descendants would, like those of Cain, turn away from God, and be punished by Him. The African negroes are descended from him, and they are to this day sunk in the lowest state of superstition, governed by cruel tyrants, treated as slaves, and often bought and sold as such. Their way of living is very barbarous, and they are very hard to convert to Christianity. The blessing on Sem and Japhet and their children has been fulfilled as completely as has been the curse on Cham. Sem was the heir of the divine promise, for the chosen people of God sprang from him, and of his race was born the Messias. The children of Japhet formed great and powerful nations, and were early converted to Christianity, some of them even in the time of the apostles. You can see by this story that children who are wanting in respect to their parents, are punished by God, but that those who love and honour them, are blessed and rewarded by Him.

Detraction. Just as Sem and Japhet covered their father’s nakedness with a cloak, so ought we to cover the faults of our fellow-men with the mantle of charity, and never reveal them except in case of necessity. You commit the sin of detraction, if you reveal the sins of others without necessity.

Noe, the third type of Jesus Christ. Noe was the only just man in a sinful world: Jesus Christ is alone, and of and by Himself, most just, most holy. Noe built the ark for the saving of the human race: Jesus Christ founded the Church in order that in her men might find salvation. Noe preached penance and foretold the Deluge: our Lord preached penance and foretold the Last Judgment. Noe offered a sacrifice to God, which was so well-pleasing to Him that He made a covenant with him and his posterity: our Lord, by His death on the Cross, offered the most perfect sacrifice, and obtained for all men pardon, grace and everlasting peace. Noe saved the human race by the ark: Jesus Christ saves men by His Church.

APPLICATION. Say a hearty “Deo gratias” (thanks be to God) whenever you have escaped a danger or received a blessing or succeeded in some undertaking. As Noe’s first act on leaving the ark was one of thanksgiving, so let your first act, when you wake in the morning, be one of thanksgiving.

Noe was saved in the ark on account of his justice. What have you done to deserve being received into the one ark of salvation, the Church, almost as soon as you were born? Thank God very often for having made you a member of the one true Church. There is, says St Augustine, no greater treasure than the Catholic faith.

Cham’s conduct was very wrong. Would it not be wrong of you to look at anything indecent? Be on your guard, therefore, against curious looks, and be modest in dressing and undressing.

Honour your father and your mother. Do not despise them even if they have faults. “The eye that mocketh at his father or that despiseth his mother, let the ravens of the brooks pick it out, and the young eagles eat it” (Prov. 30:17).








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