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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 13–21
Verses 13–21

Here it appears indeed that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God’s favour to him was plainly intimated in what he said of him, Gen. 6:8-10, where his name is mentioned five times in five lines, when once might have served to make the sense clear, as if the Holy Ghost took a pleasure in perpetuating his memory; but it appears much more in what he says to him in these verses—the informations and instructions here given him.

I. God here makes Noah the man of his counsel, communicating to him his purpose to destroy this wicked world by water. As, afterwards, he told Abraham his resolution concerning Sodom (Gen. 18:17; Shall I hide from Abraham?) so here “Shall I hide from Noah the thing that I do, seeing that he shall become a great nation?” Note, The secret of the Lord is with those that fear him (Ps. 25:14); it was with his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7), by a spirit of revelation, informing them particularly of his purposes; it is with all believers by a spirit of wisdom and faith, enabling them to understand and apply the general declarations of the written word, and the warnings there given. Now,

1. God told Noah, in general, that he would destroy the world (Gen. 6:13): The end of all flesh has come before me; I will destroy them; that is, the ruin of this wicked world is decreed and determined; it has come, that is, it will come surely, and come quickly. Noah, it is likely, in preaching to his neighbours, had warned them, in general, of the wrath of God that they would bring upon themselves by their wickedness, and now God seconds his endeavours by a particular denunciation of wrath, that Noah might try whether this would work upon them. Hence observe, (1.) That God confirmeth the words of his messengers, Isa. 44:26. (2.) That to him that has, and uses what he has for the good of others, more shall be given, more full instructions.

2. He told him, particularly, that he would destroy the world by a flood of waters: And behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, Gen. 6:17. God could have destroyed all mankind by the sword of an angel, a flaming sword turning every way, as he destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians and the camp of the Assyrians; and then there needed no more than to set a mark upon Noah and his family for their preservation. But God chose to do it by a flood of waters, which should drown the world. The reasons, we may be sure, were wise and just, though to us unknown. God has many arrows in his quiver, and he may use which he please: as he chooses the rod with which he will correct his children, so he chooses the sword with which he will cut off his enemies. Observe the manner of expression: “I, even I, do bring a flood; I that am infinite in power, and therefore can do it, infinite in justice, and therefore will do it.” (1.) It intimates the certainty of the judgment: I, even I, will do it. That cannot but be done effectually which God himself undertakes the doing of. See Job 11:10. (2.) It intimates the tendency of it to God’s glory and the honour of his justice. Thus he will be magnified and exalted in the earth, and all the world shall be made to know that he is the God to whom vengeance belongs; methinks the expression here is somewhat like that, Isa. 1:24; Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries.

II. God here makes Noah the man of his covenant, another Hebrew periphrasis of a friend (Gen. 6:18): But with thee will I establish my covenant. 1. The covenant of providence, that the course of nature shall be continued to the end of time, notwithstanding the interruption which the flood would give to it. This promise was immediately made to Noah and his sons, Gen. 9:8-11 They were as trustees for all this part of the creation, and a great honour was thereby put upon him and his. 2. The covenant of grace, that God would be to him a God and that out of his seed God would take to himself a people. Note, (1.) When God makes a covenant, he establishes it, he makes it sure, he makes it good; his are everlasting covenants. (2.) The covenant of grace has in it the recompence of singular services, and the fountain and foundation of all distinguishing favours; we need desire no more, either to make up our losses for God or to make up a happiness for us in God, than to have his covenant established with us.

III. God here makes Noah a monument of sparing mercy, by putting him in a way to secure himself in the approaching deluge, that he might not perish with the rest of the world: I will destroy them, says God, with the earth, Gen. 6:13. “But make thee an ark; I will take care to preserve thee alive.” Note, Singular piety shall be recompensed with distinguishing salvations, which are in a special manner obliging. This will add much to the honour and happiness of glorified saints, that they shall be saved when the greatest part of the world is left to perish. Now,

1. God directs Noah to make an ark, Gen. 6:14-16. This ark was like the hulk of a ship, fitted not to sail upon the waters (there was no occasion for that, when there should be no shore to sail to), but to float upon the waters, waiting for their fall. God could have secured Noah by the ministration of angels, without putting him to any care, or pains, or trouble, himself; but he chose to employ him in making that which was to be the means of his preservation, both for the trial of his faith and obedience and to teach us that none shall be saved by Christ but those only that work out their salvation. We cannot do it without God, and he will not without us. Both the providence of God, and the grace of God, own and crown the endeavours of the obedient and diligent. God gave him very particular instructions concerning this building, which could not but be admirably well fitted for the purpose when Infinite Wisdom itself was the architect. (1.) It must be made of gopher-wood. Noah, doubtless, knew what sort of wood that was, though we now do not, whether cedar, or cypress, or what other. (2.) He must make it three stories high within. (3.) He must divide it into cabins, with partitions, places fitted for the several sorts of creatures, so as to lose no room. (4.) Exact dimensions were given him, that he might make it proportionable, and might have room enough in it to answer the intention and no more. Note, Those that work for God must take their measures from him and carefully observe them. Note, further, It is fit that he who appoints us our habitation should fix the bounds and limits of it. (5.) He must pitch it within and without—without, to shed off the rain, and to prevent the water from soaking in—within, to take away the bad smell of the beasts when kept close. Observe, God does not bid him paint it, but pitch it. If God gives us habitations that are safe, and warm, and wholesome, we are bound to be thankful, though they are not magnificent or nice. (6.) He must make a little window towards the top, to let in light, and (some think) that through that window he might behold the desolations to be made in the earth. (7.) He must make a door in the side of it, by which to go in and out.

2. God promises Noah that he and his shall be preserved alive in the ark (Gen. 6:18): Thou shalt come into the ark. Note, What we do in obedience to God, we ourselves are likely to have the comfort and benefit of. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself. Nor was he himself only saved in the ark, but his wife, and his sons, and his sons’ wives. Observe, (1.) The care of good parents; they are solicitous not only for their own salvation, but for the salvation of their families, and especially their children. (2.) The happiness of those children that have godly parents. Their parents’ piety often procures them temporal salvation, as here; and it furthers them in the way to eternal salvation, if they improve the benefit of it.

IV. God here makes Noah a great blessing to the world, and herein makes him an eminent type of the Messiah, though not the Messiah himself, as his parents expected, Gen. 5:29. 1. God made him a preacher to the men of that generation. As a watchman, he received the word from God’s mouth, that he might give them warning, Ezek. 3:17. Thus, while the long-suffering of God waited, by his Spirit in Noah, he preached to the old world, who, when Peter wrote, were spirits in prison (1 Pet. 3:18-20), and herein he was a type of Christ, who, in a land and age wherein all flesh had corrupted their way, went about preaching repentance and warning men of a deluge of wrath coming. 2. God made him a saviour to the inferior creatures, to keep the several kinds of them from perishing and being lost in the deluge, Gen. 6:19-21. This was a great honour put upon him, that not only in him the race of mankind should be kept up, and that from him should proceed a new world, the church, the soul of the world, and Messiah, the head of that church, but that he should be instrumental to preserve the inferior creatures, and so mankind should in him acquire a new title to them and their service. (1.) He was to provide shelter for them, that they might not be drowned. Two of every sort, male and female, he must take with him into the ark; and lest he should make any difficulty of gathering them together, and getting them in, God promises (Gen. 6:20) that they shall of their own accord come to him. He that makes the ox to know his owner and his crib then made him know his preserver and his ark. (2.) He was to provide sustenance for them, that they might not be starved, Gen. 6:21. He must victual his ship according to the number of his crew, that great family which he had now the charge of, and according to the time appointed for his confinement. Herein also he was a type of Christ, to whom it is owing that the world stands, by whom all things consist, and who preserves mankind from being totally cut off and ruined by sin; in him the holy seed is saved alive, and the creation rescued from the vanity under which it groans. Noah saved those whom he was to rule, so does Christ, Heb. 5:9.