Questions, and Solutions to Those Questions, Which Arise in Genesis.
What is the preparation of Noah? [Genesis 6:14].
1. If any one should wish to make an examination of the question of that ark of Noah's on more natural principles, he will find it to have been the preparation of the human body, as we shall see by the examination of each particular respecting it separately.
Why does he make the ark of squared pieces of wood? [Genesis 6:16].
2. He does this in the first place, because the figure of a square, wherever it may be placed, is steady and firm, consisting as it does of right angles, and it is confirmed in a purer and clearer manner by the nature of the human body.
In the second place, he does this because, although our body is an instrument, and although every portion of it is rounded off, nevertheless the limbs which are compounded of all these portions do, by some manner or other, evidently reduce that circular orb to the figure of a quadrangle or square. For example, take the breast which is rather square than circular; in the same manner take the belly, after it is swollen with food or by any natural excess, for there are some men pot-bellied by nature, who are to be excepted from our present argument. But if any one looks upon the arms and hands, and back and thighs, and feet of a man, he will find all these limbs compounded of a mixture of the square, with the circular figure at the same time.
In the third place, a quadrangular piece of wood shows in its extension nearly every sort imaginable of uneven distinction, inasmuch as its length is greater than its breadth, and its breadth greater than its depth. And such also is the formation of our bodies, which are compounded of one extension which is great, of another which is of moderate size, of another which is small, great in its length and small in its depth.
Why does God say, you shall make the ark in nests? [Genesis 6:14].
3. He gives this order very naturally, for the human body is formed of holes like nests; every one of which is nourished and grows like a young bird, a certain spiritual force which exists in it from its earliest origin penetrating through it, as, for instance, some of the holes and nests are the eyes, in which the faculty of sight has its abode; other nests are the ears, which are the place where hearing is situated. A third class of nests are the nostrils, in which the sense of smell is lodged. The fourth nest, which is of larger dimensions than those already mentioned, is the mouth, which is the seat of the taste; and it has been made of large size, since, besides taste, there is also another still more important instrument, which is that of articulate speech, reposing in it, namely, the tongue, which, as Socrates was wont to say, by beating in every direction in various manners, and by touching different parts, composes and forms a word, being, in truth, an instrument under the immediate guidance of reason.
And the nest is placed under the skull, and that which is called the membrane of the brain is a certain nest, as it were, of the genius of each man: as also the chest is a nest, in which abide the lungs and the heart, and both these things are receptacles of other internal organs; the lungs being the place in which the power of breathing is lodged, and the heart being the abode of both the blood and the breath, for it has two ventricles, which are, as it were, a certain kind of nests or receptacles in the breast; blood, from which the veins, as if they could perceive its operations, are irrigated; and a breathing-hole, which again is extended over and irrigates the perceptive channels of respiration.
And both the harder as well as the softer parts do, like nests prepared for the purpose, nourish the bones as real nests nourish young birds; the harder portion of which, namely, the marrow, is the nest, and the softer flesh is the nest of pleasure and pain; and if any one should wish to investigate the other parts, he will find that, in every respect, the nature of man has much the same foundation as the ark.
Why does God command the ark to be smeared with pitch, both on the inside and on the outside? [Genesis 6:14].
4. Pitch is so called by reason of its bird-lime like tenacity, because it glues together whatever was disunited before, so as to form one indissoluble and indivisible joint. For everything which is held together by bird-lime is immediately held to a natural union; but our body being composed of many parts is united on the outside, and is held together by its own proper habit, but the previous habit of connection which binds those things together is the soul, which, being situated in the middle, penetrates through every part till it reaches the surface, and then is turned back again from the surface to the center, so that our spiritual nature is rolled up compactly in a double fold, being united in a firm solidity and union.
Therefore this ark is smeared with pitch, both on the inside and the outside, for the reason here given.
But that ark which is placed in the holy of holies, and is covered over with gold, is the similitude of the world appreciable only by the intellect, as is declared in the account given of it: since just as there is a world appreciable by the intellect incarnate in incorporeal figures existing at the same time, consisting of a union of all figures by a certain invisible harmony; for, in proportion as gold is a more noble material than pitch, in the same ratio is that ark, which is in the holy of holies, superior to this one of which we are now speaking.
And again, God ordained that its measure should be quadrangular, from a regard to usefulness; but his object in the other ark was not so much that it should be useful as that it should be exempt from all possibility of decay; for the nature of incorporeal things, appreciable only by the intellect, is to be exempt from decay, being incorruptible and permanent. The one ark is tossed to and fro by the winds and the waters, but the other has its station constantly in the holy of holies; and being stable it is akin to divine nature, as the other, which is tossed about in every direction, and moved from one place to another, is akin to and the emblem of created nature. Besides this, that ark of the flood being, as it were, an example of corruption, is raised on high, but the other, which is in the holy of holies, imitates the incorruptible condition of eternity.
Why did God give the measures of the ark in the following manner; the length to be of three hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof to be fifty cubits, and the height to be thirty cubits: and above it was to be raised to a point in one cubit, being brought together gradually like an obelisk? [Genesis 6:15].
5. It was necessary that so vast a work should be constructed in conformity with literal directions, in order that so many animals, some of them of vast size, should be received into it, as individuals of each class were introduced with the food necessary for them; but if the matter is considered properly with reference to its symbolical meaning, then, for the comprehension of the formation of our body, we shall require to make use not of the quantity of cubits, but of the certain principles and proportions which are observed in them.
But the proportions which are contained in them are of sixfold, and double, and other portions are added. For three hundred is six times as many as fifty, and ten times as many as thirty; and again fifty is by two thirds a larger number than thirty. Such then are also the proportions of the body; for if any one should choose to investigate the matter and inquire into it carefully in all its points, he will find that man is made in an exact proportion of measurement, neither being too long or too little; and if a string be let down from his head to his feet, he will find that to reach that distance it requires a string six times as long as the width of his chest, and ten times as long as the depth of his ribs and their breadth as a second part of depth added thereto. Such is the certain proportion, received in accordance with nature, of the human body formed on exact measurement of the most excellently made men, who are incorrect neither in the way of excess nor of defect.
But again, it was with great wisdom and propriety that God ordained the summit to be completed in one cubit; for the upper part of the ark imitates the unity of the body; the head being forsooth as the citadel of the king, having for its inhabitant the chief of all, the intellect.
But those parts which are below the head are divided into separate portions, as for instance into the hands, and in an especial degree into the lower parts, since the thighs, and legs, and feet are all kept distinct from one another, therefore whoever should wish to understand these matters, on the principle which I have pointed out, will easily comprehend the analogy of the cubits as I have related it.
But above all things he must not be ignorant that each of these different numbers of cubits has separately a certain necessary proportion and principle, beginning with the first, those in the length of the ark. Therefore in its length it is composed of three hundred units, placed next to one another in continuation, according to the augmentation of units, from these twenty-four numbers, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four. But the twenty-fourth number is above all others a natural number, being distributed among the hours of day and night, and also among the characters of language, [he is referring to the Greek alphabet, which consists of twenty-four letters] and literal speech; and it is also compounded of three cubes, being complete, full, and compacted in equality.
For the number three constantly exhibits, as belonging to itself, the first equality of all, having a beginning, and a middle, and an end, all of which are equal to one another; and eight is the first cube, because it again has declared its first equality with the rest.
But the number twenty-four has likewise a great number of other virtues, since it is the substance of the number three hundred, as has been already pointed out; this then is its first virtue; and it has another, since it is compounded of twelve quadrangular figures, joined to one another by a continuous unity; and besides of two long figures, and twelve double figures, being forsooth compounded of twos separately increased by two and two.
Therefore the angular numbers which make up together the twelve quadrangular figures are these; one, three, five, seven, nine, eleven, thirteen, fifteen, seventeen, nineteen, twenty-one, and twenty-three; but the quadrangular figure combines the following numbers, one, four, nine, sixteen, twenty-five, thirty-six, forty-nine, sixty-four, eighty-one, a hundred, a hundred and twenty-one, and a hundred and twenty-four.
But those angular numbers which compose the other long figures are these; one, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty, twenty-two, twenty-four, being twelve in all; and after these come the compound numbers, two, six, twelve, twenty, thirty, forty-two, fifty-six, seventy-two, ninety, a hundred and ten, a hundred and thirty-two, and a hundred and fifty-six; being also twelve. And if you put together the twelve quadrangular figures, you will find a hundred and forty-four, and if you add the other twelve long figures, you will find a hundred and fifty-six; and from the combination of the two you will get the number three hundred, and the concord of full, and complete, and perfect nature rising up to the equal and infinite harmony; for a complete and perfect nature is the maker of equality, according to the nature of a triangle; but the equal and the infinite are the factors of inequality, according to the composition of the other long figure.
But the universe consists of a combination of equality and inequality, on which account the Creator himself, even amid the destruction of all earthly things, placed a sort of fixed pattern of stability in the ark.
This then is enough to say about the number three hundred. We must now proceed to speak of the fifty cubits, on the following principle; for in the first place it is composed of the right angle of the quadrangular figures; for a right angle is compounded of three, four, and five; and the square of these is nine, sixteen, and twenty-five, the sum total of which when added together is fifty; in the second place, the perfect number fifty is composed of these four triangles linked together, one, three, six, ten; and again of these four equal quadrangles also united together, one, four, nine, sixteen; therefore these triangles when collected together make twenty; and the quadrangles make thirty; and twenty and thirty added together make fifty.
But if the triangle and the quadrangle are added together, they make a heptangular figure: so that it is contained by its virtue in the number of fifty, that divine and holy number; to which the prophet had regard when he proclaimed the jubilee festival; and the whole of the jubilee year is free and a deliverer.
The third theorem is three triangles beginning with the unit, connected together in a continuous series, and three cubes beginning also with the unit, and connected together in a similar manner, which together make fifty; the examples of the first are one, four, and nine, which make fourteen; the examples of the second are, one, eight, and twenty-seven, which together make thirty-six; and the sum total of the two when added together is fifty.
Again, thirty is in an especial manner a natural number, for as in the series of units the number three is, so is the number thirty in the series of decimals; and that makes up the cycle of the moon, being the collection of separate months in full delineation; secondly, it is composed of four numbers, which are united in the continual series of these quadrangular figures, one, four, nine, and sixteen, which together make up thirty; on which account it was not without some foundation and sufficient reason that Heraclitus called that number "generation," when he said: a man in thirty years from the time of his birth can become a grandfather, inasmuch as he arrives at the age of puberty in his fourteenth year, at which age he is capable of becoming a father; and at the end of the year his offspring arrives at the birth, and again in fifteen years more begets another offspring like himself; and out of these names of grandfathers, fathers, and sons, as also out of the names of grandmothers, mothers, and daughters, a generation complete in its offspring is produced.
What is the meaning of a door in the side: for he says, "Thou shalt make a door in the side?" [Genesis 6:16].
6. That door in the side very plainly betokens a human building, which he has becomingly indicated by calling it, "in the side," by which door all the excrements of dung are cast out. In truth, as Socrates says, whether because he learnt it from Moses or because he was influenced by the facts themselves, the Creator, having due regard to the decency of our body, has placed the exit and passage of the different ducts of the body back out of the reach of the sense, in order that while getting rid of the fetid portions of bile, we might not be disgusted by beholding the full appearance of our excrements. Therefore he has surrounded that passage by the back and posteriors, which project out like hills, as also the buttocks are made soft for other objects.
Why has he said that the lower part of the ark was to be made with two and with three stories? [Genesis 6:16].
7. He has here admirably indicated the receptacles of food, calling them the inner parts of the house; since food is corruptible, and what is corruptible belongs to the inward part, because it is borne downwards, since some small portions of meat and drink which we take are borne upwards, but the greater part is secreted and cast out into dung; and the intestines have been made in two and in three stories, because of the providence of the Creator in order to supply abundant support to his creatures; for if he had made the receptacles of food and its passage having a direct communication between the bowels and the buttocks, some awkward circumstances must have taken place; in the first place there would have been a frequent deficiency, and want and hunger, and sudden evacuations also arising from divers unseasonable events; in the second place there would have been an immense hunger, for when the receptacles are emptied, it is inevitable that hunger and thirst must immediately supervene, like absolute mistresses in difficulty from pregnancy, and then it follows also that the pleasant appetite for food must be perverted into greediness and into an unphilosophical state; for nothing is so very inconvenient as for the belly to be empty.
And in the third place, there will be death waiting at the door; since those persons must speedily be overtaken by death who the very moment that they have done eating begin again to be hungry, and the moment that they have drunk are again thirsty, and who before they are thoroughly filled are again evacuated and oppressed by hunger; but owing to the long coils and windings of the bowels we are delivered from all feelings of hunger, from all greediness, and from being prematurely overtaken by death; for while the food which has been taken remains within us, not for such a time only as the distance to be passed requires, but for so long as was necessary for us, a change in it is effected; since by the pressure to which it is subjected, the strength of the food is extracted in the first instance in the belly; then it is warmed in the liver, and drawn out; after that whatever predominant flavor there was is emitted upwards to the separate parts, in the case of boys in order to contribute to their growth, and in the case of full-grown men to add to their strength; and then nature, collecting the remaining portions into dung and excrement, casts them out.
Therefore a great deal of time is necessarily required for the arrangement of so many and such important affairs, nature effecting its operations without difficulty by perseverance.
Moreover the ark itself appears to me to be very fitly compared to the human body; for as nature is exceedingly prolific of living creatures, for that very reason it has prepared an opposite receptacle similar to the earth for the creatures corrupted and destroyed by the flood; for whatever was alive and supported on the earth, the ark now bore within itself in a more general manner, and on that account God ordained it, being borne upon the waters as it was, to be as it were like the earth, a mother and a nurse, and to exhibit the fathers of the subsequent race as if pregnant with it, together with the sun and moon, and the remaining multitude of the stars, and all the host of heaven; because men beholding by means of that which was made by art, a comparison and analogy to the human body, might in that manner be more manifestly taught, for this was the cause of the various disputes among mankind; since there is nothing which has so much contributed to keep man in a servile condition as the essential humors of the body, and the defects which arise in consequence of them, and most especially the vicious pleasures and desires.
Why does he say that the deluge will be to the corrupting of all flesh in which there is the breath of life beneath the heaven? [Genesis 6:17].
8. One may almost say that what he had previously spoken in riddles he has now made plain; for there was no other cause for the corruption of mankind, except that, being slaves to pleasure and to desire, they did everything, and were anxious about everything for that reason only; moreover they passed a life of extreme misery.
But he added also, in a very natural manner, the place where the breath of life is, using the expression, "under heaven," because forsooth there are living beings also in heaven; for a happy body has not been made out of a heavenly substance, as if in truth it had received some peculiar and admirable condition, superior to that of other living creatures, but heaven appears to have been made especially worthy of and for the sake of these admirable and divine living beings, all of which are intellectual spirits; so that they give a share and participation in themselves and in the essence of vitality even to the creatures which exist upon the earth, and give life to all those which are capable of receiving it.
Why does he say, all things which existed upon the earth shall be consumed; for what sin can the beasts commit? [Genesis 6:13].
9. In the first place, as, when a sovereign is slain in battle the military valor of the kingdom is also crushed, so also he now has thought it reasonable that when the whole human race, bearing analogy to a sovereign, is destroyed, he should also destroy simultaneously with it the species of beasts likewise, on which account also in pestilences the beasts die first, and especially those which are bred up with and associate with men, such as dogs and similar animals, and afterwards the men die too.
In the second place, as, when the head is cut off, no one blames nature if the other portions of the body also, numerous and important as they are, are destroyed along with it, so too now no one can find fault with anything, since man is as it were the head and chief of all animals, and when he is destroyed it is not at all strange if all the rest of the beasts are destroyed also along with him.
In the third place, animals were originally made, not for their own sakes, as has been said by the philosophers, but in order to do service to mankind, and for their use and glory; therefore it is very reasonable that when those beings are destroyed for the sake of whom they had their existence, they also should be deprived of life, and this is the reason of this assertion in its literal sense; but with respect to its hidden meaning we may say, when the soul is exposed to a deluge from the overflow of vices, and is in a manner stifled by them, those portions also which are on the earth, the earthly parts I mean of the body, must of necessity likewise perish along with it; for life passed in wickedness is death; the eyes though they see perish, inasmuch as they see wrongly; the ears also though they hear perish, inasmuch as they hear wrongly; and the whole body of the senses perishes, inasmuch as they are all exercised wrongly.
What is the meaning of the expression, I will set up my treaty with you? [Genesis 6:9].
10. In the first place, he here warns us that no man is the inheritor of the divine substance, except him who is endowed with virtue; since the inheritance of men is possessed when they themselves are no longer in existence, but when they are dead; but as God is everlasting he grants a participation in his inheritance to wise men, rejoicing at their entering into possession of it; for he who has entered into possession of everything is in want of nothing, but they who are in distress from a want of all things are in the possession of no portion of truth.
And on this account God, showing himself favorable to the virtuous, benefits them, bestowing on them those things of which they have need.
In the second place, he bestows on the wise man a certain and more ample inheritance; for he does not say, I will set up my treaty for you, but with you; that is to say, you are yourself a just and true treaty, which I will set up for the race endued with reason, who have need of virtue, for a possession and a glory to them.
Why does he say: "Enter thou and all thy house into the ark, because I have seen that thou art a just man before me in that generation?" [Genesis 7:1].
11. In the first place, certain faith receives approbation, inasmuch as for the sake of one man who is just and worthy many men are saved by reason of their relationship to him; as is the case too with sailors and armies, when the one have a good captain and the others an excellent and skillful general.
In the second place, he extols the just man with praise, who thus acquires virtues, not for himself alone, but also for his whole family, which in this way deserves safety. And it is with peculiar propriety that this expression is added, namely, "I have seen that thou art a just man before me;" for men approve of the life of any one upon one principle, and God on quite a different one; for they judge by what is visible, but he derives his tests from the invisible designs of the soul.
Moreover, that is a very remarkable expression which is added as an insertion, namely, the one which says, "I have seen that thou art a just man in this generation;" that he might not appear to condemn those who had gone before, nor cut off the future hope of coming generations. This is the sense of the passage taken according to the letter.
But if we look at its inward meaning, when God will save the intellect of the soul, which is the principal part of the man, that is to say, the head of the family, then also he will save the whole family along with him; I mean all the parts, and all those who bear an analogy to the parts, and to the word which is uttered, and to the circumstances of the body; for what the intellect is in the soul, that also is the soul in the body. All the parts of the soul are in good condition, owing to the result of counsels, and all its family derives the benefit along with it. But when the whole soul is in a good condition, then also its habitation is again found to be benefited by its advantages, that is to say, the body is benefited by purity of morals and sobriety, those overstrained desires which are the causes of diseases being cut off.
Why does he order seven of each of the clean animals, male and female, to be taken into the ark, but of the unclean animals only two, male and female, in order to preserve seed upon all the earth? [Genesis 7:2].
12. By divine ordinance he has asserted the number seven to be clean, and the number two to be unclean; since the number seven is clean by nature, inasmuch as that is a virgin number, free from all admixture, and without any parent. Nor does it generate any thing, nor is it generated, as each of those numbers which are below the number ten, on account of their similitude to the unit, because it is uncreated and unbegotten, and nothing is generated by it, although it is itself the cause of creation and generation; because it rouses the virtues of all things which are well-arranged, for the generation of created beings.
But the number two is not clean. In the first place, because it is empty, not solid; and because it is not full, therefore neither is it clean; because it is likewise the beginning of infinite immensity by reason of its materiality. It also labors under inequality on account of the other long numbers; for all the other numbers after two which are increased in a twofold proportion are long numbers. But that which is unequal is not clean, as neither is that which is material; but that which proceeds from such is fallible and inelegant, being destitute of the purity of reason to conduct it to completeness and perfection; and it conducts it to such by its own intrinsic power, and by songs of harmony and equality.
This is enough to say on the physical part of the subject; it remains for us to speak of its moral bearings.
The irrational parts of our soul which are destitute of intellect are divided into seven; that is to say, into the five senses, and the vocal organ, and the seminal organ. Now these in a man endued with virtue are all clean, and by nature feminine, inasmuch as they belong to the irrational species; but to a man who has come into full possession of his inheritance they are masculine; for men endued with virtue are also the parents of the virtue of counsel to themselves, the best part of them not permitting them to come to the external senses in a precipitate and unbridled manner, but repressing them and leading them back to right reason.
But in the wicked man there exists a twofold wickedness; since the unjust man is full of doubts and perplexities, as a hesitating person, mingling things which ought not to be mixed, and connecting them with one another, confounding those things which may very easily be kept separate. Such are those passions which imbue the soul with some particular color, like a man spotted and leprous in body, the originally sound counsel being infected and contaminated by that which is destructive and fatal. But the principle of the entrance and of the custody of animals is added in a natural manner; for he says, "for the sake of nourishing seed." If we take the expression according to the letter, inasmuch as, although particular individuals may be destroyed, still at least a race is preserved to be the seed of future generations; forsooth that the intention of God, conceived at the formation of the world, might remain for ever and ever unextinguishable, the different races of creatures being preserved.
But if we regard the inward meaning of the words, it is necessary that in the irrational parts of the soul, likewise, there should be motions which are clean, as certain seminal principles, although the animals themselves are not clean; since the nature of mankind is capable of admitting contrarieties, for instance, virtue and wickedness; each of which he delineated at the creation of the world, by the tree bearing the name of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Forsooth our intellect, in which there is both knowledge and intelligence, comprehends both good and evil; but good is akin to the number seven, and evil is the brother of duality.
Moreover, the law of wisdom, which abounds in beauty, says expressly and carefully, that seed is to be nourished, not in one place only, but in all the earth, both naturally, in the first instance, and also morally, in its peculiar sense; because it is very natural, and suitable to the character of God, to cause that which in all parts and divisions of the world is said again to be the seed of living beings, to fill places which have been evacuated a second time with similar creatures, by a repeated generation; and not altogether to desert our body, inasmuch as it is an earthly substance, as if it were a thing deserted by and void of all principle of life.
Since, if we practice the drinking of wines and the eating of meats, and indulge in the ardent desire of the female, and in short practice in all things a delicate and luxurious life, we are then only the bearers of a corpse in the body; but if God, taking compassion on us, turns away the overflow of vices and renders the soul dry, he will then begin to make the body living, and to animate it with a purer soul, the governing principle of which is wisdom.
Why, after the entrance of Noah into the ark, did seven days elapse, after which the deluge came? [Genesis 7:10].
13. The kind Savior of the world allows a space for the repentance of sinners, in order that when they see the ark placed in front of them as a sort of type, made with respect to the then present time, and when they see all the different kinds of living creatures shut up in it which the earth used to bear on its surface, according to its parts adapted to the different species, they might believe the predictions of the deluge which had been made to them, so that, fearing total destruction above all things, they might be speedily converted, destroying and eradicating all their iniquity and wickedness.
In the second place, this language is a most manifest representation of the exceeding great abundance of the kind mercy of the beneficent Savior, by destroying the wickedness of many years, which from the time of their birth to old age has extended itself over their conduct in those persons who practice penitence for a few days, for the divine nature forgets all evil and is a lover of virtue. When therefore it beholds faithful virtue in the soul, it gives it honor in a wonderful degree, in order, in the first place, to take away all kinds of evil which impend over it from its sins.
In the third place, the number of seven days after the entrance of Noah into the ark, during which the command of God kept off the flood, is a recollection of the creation of the world, the birthday festival of which is kept on the seventh day, showing manifestly the authority of the Father; just as if he were to say, "I am the Creator of the world, commanding things to exist which have no existence; and at the same time I am he who am now about to destroy the world with a great flood. But the original cause of the creation of the world was the goodness which is in me, and my kindness; and the cause of its impending destruction is the ingratitude and impiety of those persons who have been loaded by benefits by me."
Therefore he causes an interval of seven days, in order that the unbelieving may remember, and that those who have abandoned their faith in the Parent of the world may in a suppliant spirit return to the Creator of all things, and so may entreat him again that his works may be everlasting; and that they may offer their entreaty, not with mouth and tongue, but rather with the heart of amendment and penitence.
Why did the rain of the deluge last forty days and an equal number of nights? [Genesis 7:4].
14. In the first place, the word day is used in a double sense. The one meaning that time which is from morning to evening, that is to say, from the first rising of the sun in the east to his sinking in the west. Therefore they who make definitions, say, "That is day, as long as the sun shines on the earth."
In another sense, the word day is used of the day and night together. And in this sense we say that a month consists of thirty days, combining together and computing the period of night in the same calculation.
These premises having been first laid down thus, I say that the word now spoken of has not been incorrectly employed, inasmuch as it implies forty days and forty nights; but is also so used in order to suggest a double number determined for the generation of mankind, namely, forty and eighty, as many men skilled in medicine, and indeed also in physical science, have suggested; but it is especially described in the sacred law, which was to them also the first principle of natural science.
Since therefore destruction was on the point of overwhelming all men and women every where on account of the excessive combination of iniquities and quarrels, the Judge of all considered it becoming to allot an equal time to their destruction to that which he had consumed in the original creation of nature and to the work of giving life to the world; for the principle of procreation is the perseverance of seed in the different parts; but it was necessary to honor the male creature with pure light, which knows not the shade; but the woman had a mixture in her body of night and darkness.
Therefore, in the creation of the whole world, the excess of the male or the unequal number, being composed of unity, becomes the parent of square numbers; but the woman who is an unequal number, being compounded of duality, becomes the parent of other long numbers. Moreover, the square is splendor and light combining together by the equality of the sides; but the other numbers being long necessarily exhibit night and darkness by reason of their inequality, since that which is in excess throws a shade over that which lies beneath the excess.
In the second place, the number forty is the produce of many virtues, as has been suggested in another place. It is also often used for the judgment of legislation, both with reference to those persons who have done any thing rightly deserving of praise and honor, and also with reference to those who on account of their sins meet with reproaches and punishments; so that it is superfluous to adduce proofs to demonstrate what is evident.
What is the meaning of the expression, "I will destroy every living substance that I have made from off the face of the earth?" [Genesis 7:4].
15. Do you not all shrink back in astonishment when you hear these words, by reason of the beauty of the sentence? for he has not said, "destroy from the earth," but "from the face of the earth," that is to say from its surface; in order, that is, that in the lowest depth of the earth the vital efficacy of all seeds might be preserved unhurt, and free from all injury which could possibly bring damage to it; since the Creator was not forgetful of his original design, but destroys those only who come in his way, and who move only on the surface of the earth, but leaves the roots in the depth, in order to produce the generation of other causes.
Moreover, that expression, "I will destroy," was also written by divine inspiration; for it happens that if we remove the letters which require to be removed, the whole table for the reception of letters remains the same. By which he proves that he will destroy the fickle generation on account of their impiety, but the conversation and essence of the human race he will preserve for ever and ever to be the seed of future generations. And what follows agrees with this, since to the expression, "I will destroy," this other is also added, all natural existence, every thing which exists, or rises upon the earth; but existence is the destruction of the opposite characteristics; and that which is dissolved loses quality, but retains body and materiality. This is the letter of what is said.
But in the inward meaning, the flood is symbolically representative of spiritual dissolution. When therefore by the grace of the Father we desire to throw away and to wash off all sensible and corporeal qualities by which the intellect was infected as by swelling sores, then the muddy slime is got rid of as by a deluge, sweet waters and wholesome fountains supervening.
Why does he say: "Noah did every thing which the Lord commanded (or ordered) him?" [Genesis 7:5].
16. A noble panegyric for the just man. In the first place, because with an ingenuous mind and a purpose full of affection towards God he performed, not a part of what he had been commanded, but the whole of God's commands. But the second is the more true expression, because he does not choose so much to command as to order him; for masters command their slaves, but friends order friends, and especially elder friends order younger ones. Therefore it is a marvellous gift to be found even in the rank of servants, and in the list of ministers of God; and it is a superabundant excess of kindness for any one to be a beloved friend to the most glorious Uncreated Essence.
Moreover, the sacred writer has here carefully employed both names, the Lord God, as declaratory of his superior powers of destroying and benefiting, using the word Lord first, and placing the name God, giving the idea of beneficence, second; since it was a time of judgment let the name which is the indication of his destroying power come first. But still, as he is a kind and merciful king, he leaves as relics the seminal elements by which the vacant places may be replenished, for which reason, at the first beginning of the account of the creation, the expression, "Let there be," was not an exterminating act of power, but a beneficent one.
Therefore, at the creation, he changed the appellations and use of names; but as the name God is an indication of his beneficent power, the sacred writer has more frequently employed that in his account of the creation of the universe, but after everything was perfected then he called him Lord, in reference to the creation itself, for this name betokens royal power and the ability to destroy; since, where the act of generation is God is used first in order, but when punishment is spoken of the name Lord is placed before the name God.
Why did the deluge take place in the six hundredth year of the life of Noah, and in the seventh month, and on the twenty-seventh day of the month? [Genesis 7:11].
17. Perhaps it happened that the just man was born at the beginning of the month, at the first beginning of the commencement of that very year which they are accustomed to call the sacred year, out of honor, otherwise the sacred historian would not have been so carefully accurate in fixing the day and month when the deluge began to the seventh month and the twenty-seventh day of the month.
But, perhaps, by this minuteness he intended manifestly to indicate the precise time of the vernal equinox, for that always occurs on the twenty-seventh day of the seventh month.
But why was it that the deluge fell on the day of the vernal equinox? Because about that time the birth and increase of everything take place, whether living creatures or plants; therefore the vengeance and punishment inflicted brings with it the more terrible and dreadful threats, as happening at the period of plenty and fertility of the sheaves of corn, and indeed, in the very midst of that productiveness, and bringing the evil of utter destruction as a reproof of the impiety of those who are exposed to the punishment.
For behold, says he, all nature contains its own productions within itself in the greatest abundance, namely, wheat and barley, and everything else which is produced from seed, brought on to complete generation, as, also, it begins to generate the fruits of trees; but you, like mortals, corrupt its mercies, perverting the divine gifts, and purposes, and mysteries.
But if the deluge had taken place at the autumnal equinox, when there was nothing growing on the earth, but when all the crops were collected into their proper storehouses, it would not have, in any degree, been looked upon as a punishment, but rather as a benefit, as the water would have cleansed the plains and the mountains. But as the first man who was produced out of the earth was also created at the same season of the year, he whom the divine writer calls Adam, because in fact it was on every account proper that the grandfather, or original parent, or father of the human race, or by whatever name we may choose to designate that original founder of our kind, should be created at the season of the vernal equinox, when all earthly productions were full of their fruit; but the vernal equinox takes place in the seventh month, which is also called the first in other passages, with reference to a different idea.
Since, therefore, the first beginning of the generation of our race, after the destruction caused by the deluge, commenced with Noah, men being again sown and procreated, therefore he also is recognized as resembling the first man born of the earth, as far as such resemblance or recognition is possible. And the six hundredth year has for its origin the number six; and the world was created under the number six, therefore, by this same number does he reprove the wicked, putting them to shame because he would, unquestionably, never, after he had created the universe by means of the number six, have destroyed all the men who lived on the earth under the form of six, if it had not been for the preposterous excess of their iniquities. For the third power of six and the minor power is the number six hundred, and the mean between both is sixty, since the number ten more evidently represents the likeness of unity, and the number a hundred represents the minor power.
What is the meaning of the expression, "And the fountains of the deep were broken, and the springs of heaven were opened?" [Genesis 7:11].
18. The literal meaning is plain enough, for it suggests the two extremities of the universe, the heaven and the earth, to have met together for the destruction of mortals deserving of condemnation, the waters running forth to meet one another from all quarters, for part of them bubbled up from out of the earth, and part descended downwards from heaven; and in truth, that expression is very explicit, "The fountains were broken up," for when a rupture is effected then the thing confined rushes forth without any hindrance.
But with reference to the interior meaning of the expression we may as well say this: the heaven is symbolically the human intellect, and the earth is the sense and body, therefore there is great distress and calamity when neither remains, but when each threatens a secret attack. But what is the exact meaning of my words?
It often happens that acuteness of intellect exhibits cunning and wickedness, and bears itself with bitterness in every respect when the lusts of the body are restrained and bridled; but the contrary fact often prevails, and the lusts rejoice in their opportunities and proceed onward, gaining strength from luxury and abundance of means; therefore, the gate of these lusts is the outward sense combined with the body; but when the intellect, neglecting outward circumstances, is consistent with itself, then the senses lie harmless, as if completely abandoned; but when both are united, the intellect in exerting all cunning and wickedness, and the body irrigated with all the senses and gorged with every kind of vice to satiety, then we are exposed to a deluge; and this is in fact a great deluge, when the streams of the intellect are opened by iniquity, and folly, and greedy desire, and injustice, and arrogance, and impiety, and when the fountains of the body are opened by lust, and desire, and intemperance, and obscenity, and gluttony, and lasciviousness, with relations and sisters, and all irremediable diseases.
What is the meaning of the expression, "And the Lord shut him in, closing the doors of the ark?" [Genesis 7:16].
19. Since we have said that the structure of the human body is symbolically indicated by the ark, we must take notice, also, that on the outside this body is enclosed by a hard and dense skin, to be a covering to all its parts; for nature has made this as a sort of coat, to prevent either cold or heat from being able to do man injury.
The literal meaning of the expression is plain enough, for the door of the ark is carefully shut by divine virtue for the sake of security, lest the water should enter in at any part, as it was to be tossed about by the waves for an entire year.
What is the meaning of the expression, "And the water was greatly increased, and bore up the ark which floated upon the water?" [Genesis 7:17].
20. The literal meaning is plain enough, but it contains an allegorical reference to our bodies, which ought to be borne up as if on the water, and by fluctuating with our necessities to subdue hunger and thirst, cold and heat, by which it is agitated, disturbed, and kept in motion.
Why did the water overflow fifteen cubits above all the highest mountains? [Genesis 7:19].
21. With respect to the literal statement we must remark that the excess was not merely one of fifteen cubits above all high mountains but above those which were a great deal more lofty and high than some others; therefore it was a great deal more than that height above the lower ones.
But we must interpret this statement allegorically; for the loftier mountains shadow forth the senses in our body, because it has been permitted to them to occupy the abode of stability in the lofty region of our head. And there are five numbers of these, each to be considered separately, so that they amount in all to fifteen.
As, there is the faculty of sight, the thing which is visible, the act of seeing.
The faculty of hearing, the thing which is audible, and the act of hearing.
The faculty of smelling, the thing which can be smelled, and the act of smelling.
The faculty of taste, the thing which can be tasted, and the act of tasting.
The faculty of touch, the thing which can be touched, and the act of touching.
These are the fifteen cubits in excess; for they also are overwhelmed by the overflow, being destroyed by the unseasonable influx of infinite vices and evils.
What is the meaning of the expression, "And all flesh capable of motion perished?" [Genesis 7:21].
22. It is with especial propriety, and strictly in accordance with natural truth, that the sacred historian has here pronounced all flesh capable of motion devoted to destruction; for flesh excites pleasures, and is excited by pleasures; and such affections are the causes of the destruction of souls, as on the other hand sobriety and patience are the causes of safety.
What is the meaning of the expression, "And everything which was on the dry land died?" [Genesis 7:22].
23. The literal meaning is notorious, because in that great deluge everything which was upon the earth was destroyed and perished; but with respect to the secret meaning, as, since the material of timber, when it is parched and dry, is readily consumed by fire, so, likewise, when the soul is not mingled with wisdom, and justice, and piety, and the other enduring virtues, which alone are able to impart real joy to the thoughts, then it, being parched up and dried like a plant which is deprived of any power of budding or producing seed, or like a withered trunk, dies, being handed over to the mercy of the overwhelming overflow of the body.
What is the meaning of the words, "It destroyed every living substance which was on the face of the earth?" [Genesis 7:23].
24. The literal meaning of these words only announces a plain statement of a fact, but it may be turned into an allegory in this manner. It is not without reason that the sacred historian has used the words "a living substance," for that is characteristic of ambition and pride, which lead men to despise both divine and human laws; but ambition and arrogance do rather appear on the face of our earthly and corporeal nature with an elated countenance and contracted brows.
Since there are some persons who come nearer to one with their feet, but with their chests, and necks, and heads lean back, and are actually borne backwards and bend away like a balance, so that with one half of their body, in consequence of the position of their feet, they project forward, but backward with the upper portion of their chests, drawing themselves back like those persons whose muscles and nerves are in pain, by which they are prevented from stooping in a natural manner. But men of this kind it was determined to put an end to, as one may see from the records of the Lord and the divine history of the scriptures.
What is the meaning of the words, "Noah remained alone, and they who were with him in the ark?" [Genesis 7:24].
25. The literal meaning of this is evident; but with respect to its concealed sense we may advance an opinion, that the intellect which is desirous of studying justice and wisdom does, like a tree, discard all noxious shoots which bud forth about it, and rejects all extravagant humors of superfluous vigor, I mean immoderate excess of the affections, and wickedness, and all the effects of such.
Therefore he is here said to have been left alone with those of his own kindred, and his kindred are properly all those designs and thoughts of each individual, which are regulated in accordance with virtue, on which account the statement is added "And he remained alone, and they who were with him," in order to reveal a more genuine joy; but he remained in the ark, that is to say, in the body, because it was purified from every vice and spiritual disease, as the intellect was not yet put in such a condition as to be wholly incorporeal.
And on this account also, we must render thanks to the merciful Father, because he received his consort and colleague no longer as one endowed with superior power, but to be subordinate to his own power, on which account also the body is not submerged in the deluge, but rising above the flood is not at all destroyed by the eddies of the cataracts, which a crapulous, libidinous, vanity-loving will, overflowing all things, raises to an eminence.
Why is it that the sacred writer says, "And God was mindful of Noah, and of the beasts, and of the cattle," but does not add that he remembered his wife and children? [Genesis 8:1].
26. As the husband agrees with and is equal to his wife, and as the father is equal to his sons, there is no need of mentioning more names than one, but one, the first, is sufficient; therefore, by naming Noah he, in effect, names all those who were with him of his family; for when husband, and wife, and children, and relations are all agitated by discord, then it is no longer possible for such to be called one family, but instead of being one they are many; but when harmony exists then one family is exhibited by one superior of the house, and all are seen to depend upon that one, like the branches of a tree which shoot out from it, or the fruit upon a vine branch which does not fall off from it.
And in another part, also, the prophet has said, "Have a regard to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who brought you forth," where, because in fact it was one family, he displays the agreement by mentioning the woman.
Why is it that the sacred writer made mention first of the beasts and afterwards of the cattle, saying that God remembered Noah, and the beasts, and the cattle? [Genesis 8:1].
27. In the first place, that poetical rule has not been expressed in vain, that he led the bad into the middle; therefore he places the beasts in the middle, between the domestic animals, that is to say the men and the cattle, in order that they might be tamed and civilized by having an intimate association with both.
In the second place, he thought it scarcely reasonable to bestow a provident benefit on the beasts by themselves, because he was about immediately to add a statement of the beginning of the diminution of the deluge. This is the explanation of the statement taken literally.
But with respect to the inner meaning, that just intellect, dwelling in the body as if in the ark, possesses both beasts and living animals, not those particular ones which bite and hurt, but, that I may use such an expression, those general kinds which contain in themselves the principles of seed and origination; since without these the soul cannot be manifest in the body. Moreover, the soul of the foolish man employs all poisonous and deadly animals, but that of the wise man those only which have changed the nature of wild beasts into that of domestic creatures.
What is the meaning of the expression, "He brought a breath over the earth, and the water ceased?" [Genesis 8:2].
28. Some people say that what is here meant by "a breath" is the wind, at which the deluge ceased. But I am not aware that water is diminished by wind, but only that it is disturbed and agitated into waves, for if it were otherwise the vast extent of the sea would have been wholly dried up long ago.
Therefore it appears to me that the sacred writer here means the breath of the Deity, by which the whole universe obtains security at the same time with the calamities of the world, and with those things which exist in the air, and in every mixture of plants and animals. Since the deluge of that time was no trifling infliction of water, but an immense and boundless overflow, extending almost beyond the pillars of Hercules and the great Mediterranean Sea, since the whole earth and all the spaces of the mountains were covered with water; and it is scarcely likely that such a vast space could have been cleared by a wind, but rather, as I have said, it must have been done by some invisible and divine virtue.
What is the meaning of the expression, "The fountains of the deep were closed, and the cataracts of heaven?" [Genesis 8:2].
29. In the first place, it is agreed upon by all that in the first period of forty days the waters of punishment fell uninterruptedly, the lowest fountains of the earth being burst asunder; and from above, the cataracts of heaven being opened, and pouring down until all places, both level and mountainous, were covered with the inundation; and for another period of a hundred and fifty entire days the waters did not cease to fall, nor did the streams cease to flow, nor the springs to burst up, though still in milder quantities, not so as to increase the existing flood, but only so as to secure the duration of the existence of the deluge, which was also assisted from on high; and this is what is indicated in the meantime by the statement that after a hundred and fifty days the fountains and the cataracts were closed up; therefore, while as yet they were not closed up it is plain that they were in action.
In the second place, it was necessary that that which afforded the excessive supply of waters for the deluge, namely, the double reservoir of water, the one from the fountains of the earth, and the other from the pourings forth of heaven, should be both closed, for the more the stores from which any material is supplied fail, the more it is consumed by itself, especially when divine virtue has given the command.
This is the literal meaning of the expression. But with respect to the inner sense of the passage, since the deluge of the mind arises from two things, for it arises partly from counsel, as if from heaven, and in another degree also from the body and from sense, as if from earth, the vices being reciprocally introduced by the passions and the passions by the vices, it was inevitably necessary that the word of the divine physician entering in as a salutary visitation for the purpose of healing the disease, should prevent both kinds of overflow for the future; for it is the first principle of the medical art to drive away the cause of the infirmity and to leave no longer any materials for disease; and the scripture teaches this, also, in the case of the leper, for when the leprosy is checked and is prevented from extending further, it then fixes the station and abode of the leprous man in the same place by a law, because the character of being stationary implies cleanliness, for that which is moved contrary to nature is unclean.
What is the meaning of the statement that after a hundred and fifty days the water began to abate? [Genesis 8:3].
30. We must here inquire whether those hundred and fifty days, during which the water was abating, are to be distinguished from the four months, or whether they have a reference to the days previously mentioned, during which the deluge went on unceasingly, as still increasing.
Why does he say, "The ark settled in the seventh month on the seven and twentieth day of the month?" [Genesis 8:4].
31. It is reasonable here to consider how the beginning of the deluge commences in the seventh month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, and how the diminution, when the ark rested on the top of the mountains, again took place in the seventh month and on the twenty-seventh day of the month; therefore we must say, that there is here an homonymy of months and days, for the beginning of the flood took place in the seventh month, beginning at the birthday of the just man, near the time of the vernal equinox, and its diminution took place in the seventh month, beginning from the highest point of the flood at the autumnal equinox, since the two equinoxes are separated from one another by seven months, having an interval of five months between them.
For the seventh month of the equinox is also by its virtue the first month, because the creation of the world took place in it, on account of the abundance of all things at that season. And, in like manner, the seventh month of the autumnal equinox, which, according to time, is the first in dignity, having its principle of that number seven derived from the air; therefore, the deluge took place in the seventh month, not according to time but according to nature, having for its principle and commencement the spring season.
Why does he say, "In the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the heads of the mountains appeared?" [Genesis 8:4].
32. As in numerals the number ten is the extreme bound of the units, being a definitive and perfect number, so too it is the cycle and end of the units, and also the beginning and cycle of the decades, and of infinity of numbers; thus the Creator, on the cessation of the deluge, condescended that the tops of the mountains should appear in the number of the decade, being a definitive and perfect number.
Why was it after forty days that the just man opened the window of the ark? [Genesis 8:5].
33. We must observe carefully that the divine historian uses the same number in speaking of the influx of the deluge and in mentioning the cessation and complete removal of the evil; forsooth on the twenty-seventh day of the seventh month in the six hundredth year of the life of Noah, that is to say in the six hundredth year after his nativity, the deluge began at the spring season; but on the twenty-seventh day of the seventh month, the ark rested on the top of the mountains at the vernal equinox.
But it is plain from these circumstances that the deluge became invisible in the six hundred and first year of Noah's life, again on the seventh month and the twenty-seventh day of it, so that after the lapse of an entire year, it again settled and established the earth as it was at the moment of its destruction, in the spring season, budding forth and covered with verdure and full of all kinds of fruits.
But again in a similar manner the overflow of the deluge took place for forty days, the cataracts of heaven being opened and fountains bursting upwards from the lowest depths of the earth; and again a hope of renewal took place at intervals of forty days after a sufficient cessation of the rains, when he opened the window; and again the duration of the permanent deluge lasted for a period of a hundred and fifty days, as also its gradual diminution occupied a period of a hundred and fifty days; so that we may well admire the equality of the arrangement, for the evil increased and ceased according to the same number, like the moon, which from its first rise proceeds in its increase according to an equal number, going onward to its perfect fullness of light, and then again with an equal number in its decrease, returning back to its original state, after having been previously full; and in like manner in the case of divine chastisements, the Creator preserves a regular order, banishing all irregularity from the divine borders.
What is the window of the ark, which the just man opens? [Genesis 8:6].
34. The literal statement scarcely admits of any difficulty or doubt, inasmuch as it is plain; but with reference to the inner meaning we have this to say: each separate part of the senses has imitated the windows of the body, since it is through them as through windows that the comprehension of sensible objects enters into the intellect, and again it is through them that the intellect stretches forth as if escaping; but a portion of these windows, the senses, the more noble portion too, I say, is the sight; inasmuch as that above all the rest is akin to the soul, and it is intimately acquainted with light, the most beautiful of the essences, and it is the minister of sacred things; moreover that is the one which first laid open the road to philosophy.
For beholding the regular motion of the sun, and of the moon, and the erratic course of the other planets, and the unerring circular motion of the whole heaven, and the order and harmony there existing beyond all calculation, as if it were the one real creator of the whole world, it by itself related to its one chief counsellor and director all that it saw: and then intellect, seeing those things with its acute eye, and by those things discerning superior demonstrative ideas, and the cause of all those things, immediately perceived that there was a God at the same moment that it arrived at the conception of generation and providence, because forsooth it was plain that this visible nature was not created by itself: for it was impossible that such a harmony, and order, and reason, and most consistent analogy, and that a concord of such a character and extent, and that such true and perfect felicity should exist by its own power: but it was necessary that there must be some Creator and parent of it acting like a governor and director, who generated these things, and then having generated them preserves them safe and sound.
Why did he send out a raven first? [Genesis 8:6].
35. If we look to the literal statement, the raven is said to be an animal particularly set apart for being sent on messages and employed in offices; for to this very day many people watch its mode of flight and its chattering, judging that it gives some intimation of unknown facts; but with respect to the hidden meaning, as a raven is a black, and arrogant, and speedy animal, it is a sign of wickedness, which brings night and darkness over the soul, and it is also swift to meet all the things of the world in its flight.
And also that it is very bold, so as at times to cause the destruction of those who seek to catch it, since pride produces also rash impudence, the opposite of which is virtue, which is consistent with the brilliancy of light, and is by nature decorated with a modest bashfulness; therefore it is quite natural that if there was any darkness remaining behind in the intellect, darkness which exists in accordance with folly, he should expel that and send it out beyond his borders.
Why did the raven after it had gone forth not return, when there was not yet any part of the earth dried? [Genesis 8:7].
36. This passage admits of an allegorical interpretation since injustice is contrary to the light of justice; so that in comparison of the admirable actions of the man endued with virtue, it thinks it more desirable to rejoice with its kinsman the deluge; for injustice is a lover of confusion and corruption.
Why does he speak here in an incorrect manner, "Till the water was dried up from the earth;" when it was not the water which was dried up from the earth, but the earth which was dried from the water? [Genesis 8:7].
37. He uses this expression in an allegorical sense, indicating by the fall of the waters the immensity of vices, by which when saturated and vigorous the soul is corrupted, but when they are dried up and withered, it is preserved; for then they cannot inflict any mischief upon it, since they are become impotent and dead.
Why does he in the second place send forth the dove, and why does he send it forth from himself to see whether the water had ceased, when he uses no such expressions about the raven? [Genesis 8:8].
38. In the first place, the dove is a clean animal, and in the second place it is tame, civilized, and one which associates with mankind, on which account also the honor has been allotted to it of being offered up upon the altar in sacrifices; and on this account the sacred writer, sanctioning this honor and adding the weight of his assertion, has said, he sent it forth from himself, declaring by this expression that it dwelt with him; and again, by the expression that it was to see whether the water was abated, he displays the common anxiety felt by both.
But those birds, the raven and the dove, are symbols of wickedness and virtue: for the one, whether it is wickedness or the raven, has no house, nor habitation, nor city, being an insolent unsociable bird; but the other, namely virtue, has a regard to humanity, and to the public good: and so the man endowed with virtue sends that bird forth as his ambassador for desirable and salutary objects, wishing to receive from it desirable information; and she, like an ambassador, brings us back genuine pleasure, so that what is hurtful may be guarded against, and what is useful may be diligently and carefully admitted.
Why did the dove, when it found no rest for its feet, return to Noah? [Genesis 8:9].
39. Is not the reason of this evident, and is it not a plain proof that wickedness and virtue are symbolically indicated by the raven and the dove? For behold the dove, which is the last sent out, finds no rest. How, then, could the raven, who departed previously, while the calamity of the deluge was still prevailing, find any place, and make a settlement? For the raven was neither a swan nor an ibis, nor did he belong to the class of aquatic birds.
But the sacred writer here points out in an enigmatical manner, that wickedness, when it has gone forth out of doors, to the swelling whirlpools of the vices and passions which overflow and corrupt the soul and life, joyfully admits them, and dwells with and takes up its abode with them, as with its nearest friends and relations; but virtue, turning away with loathing from even the first sight of them, at once springs back, and does not return, scarcely finding rest for its feet; finding, in fact, no standing ground anywhere, and no place worthy of itself. For what other greater evil can there be than this, that virtue should not be able to find in the soul any place ever so small for rest and for abiding in?
What is the meaning of the statement, "Putting forth his hand, he received her, and brought her in to himself?" [Genesis 8:9].
40. The literal meaning is plain, but with respect to the hidden sense we must elicit the truth carefully. The wise man employs truth as an overseer of and ambassador in important affairs, which, when it perceives that those natures are worthy of it, abides among and dwells with them, correcting them, and making them better, since wisdom is a very common, and equal, and useful thing. But when, with reference to the opposite natures, it sees that in some points they are preposterously redundant and in others altogether deficient, it returns to its proper place; and the man endowed with virtue admits it in word, putting forth his hand to take it, and in fact opening all his intellect for its reception, and unfolding it by the perfect number, full and equal, with all imaginable promptitude.
Nor even then, when he had sent her forth from himself to examine the natures of other things, had he separated it from himself, but had only acted like the sun, which sends forth his beams to give light to all things, because it is not at all consistent with the character of his boundless light to be separated at all.
Why did he, after waiting yet seven other days, send forth the dove a second time? [Genesis 8:10].
41. This is an excellent example for life, since although it will behold natures obstinate at first, still the hope of changing them into better natures is scarcely allowed to drop; and as a prudent physician does not in a moment apply a perfect cure to a disease, or effect a complete restoration to health, but employs salutary medicines after he has given nature an opportunity of first opening the way to recovery, so too the man endowed with virtue behaves with respect to the employment of the word which is in accordance with the law of wisdom.
But the number seven is the sacred and dominical number, according to which the Father of the universe, when he made the world, is said to have looked upon his work. And the contemplation of the world, and of all the things contained in it, is nothing else but philosophy, and that excellent and select portion of it which wisdom contains, comprehending within itself also a work still more necessary to be seen.
What is the meaning of the expression, "The dove returned a second time to him about evening, having in her mouth a leaf and a thin branch of olive?" [Genesis 8:11].
42. All these separate points are selected and approved signs -- the returning, the returning about evening, the having an olive-leaf and a thin branch of that tree, and oil, and the having it in her mouth; but yet every one of these signs can be examined with a certainty beyond certainty, for the return is distinct from its previous return, for that one bore with it an announcement of nature being wholly corrupted and rebellious, and being wholly destroyed by the deluge, that is to say, by great ignorance and insolence; but this second return brings the news of the world beginning to repent, but to find repentance is not an easy task, but is a difficult and laborious business.
And it is on this account that the dove arrived in the evening, having passed the whole day from morning to evening in its visitations; in word, indeed, examining places, but in fact investigating the different parts of nature itself by continual visitation, and seeing them all clearly from beginning to end, for the evening is the indication of the end.
The third sign, again, is its bringing a leaf; but a leaf is a small part of a tree, still it does not exist without a tree. And the beginning of displaying repentance is somewhat corresponding to this, since the beginning of correction has some slight indications about it, which we may call a leaf, by which it appears to receive guardianship, but can easily be shaken off; so that the hope shall in that case not be great of attaining the desired improvement, which is typified by the leaf of no other tree but of the olive alone, and oil is the material of light. For wickedness, as I have said before, is profound darkness, but virtue is luminous brilliancy, and repentance is the beginning of light. But you must not yet suppose that the beginning of repentance is only visible in branches just germinating and beginning to look green, but that it exists too while they are still dry, and while the seminal principle is dry and quiescent.
And it is on this account that the fifth sign is shown, that, namely, of the dove when it comes bearing a slender branch.
And the sixth sign is that this slender branch was in its mouth, for the number six is the first perfect number, since virtue bears in its mouth, that is to say in its conversation, the seeds of wisdom and justice, or, in one word, of honesty of the soul; and not only bears this, but gives some portion of participation in it even to the foolish, by drawing up water for their souls, and irrigating them with the desire of repentance for their sins.
Why is it said, "And Noah knew that the waters had ceased from off the earth?" [Genesis 8:11].
43. The literal statement is plain, since if the leaf had been taken up from off the water it would have been wet and soaked, but now he says that it was dry and slender, as if it had become dry by being on the earth which was dried. But with reference to its inward meaning, the wise man takes it as a symbol of repentance, and wishes to check the calamities of excessive obstinacy by taking the leaf, since it was not yet green, but slender, for the reason which has been already mentioned.
At the same time we may admire the Father on account of his exceeding kindness, for although corruption had prevailed over all the men who lived on the earth from the excess of their iniquities, still there remained some relics of antiquity and of that which was from the beginning, and a slight seed of previous virtues; by which it is intimated nevertheless that the memory of all the good deeds that have been done from the beginning is not wholly destroyed. On which account a certain prophet, the kinsman and friend of Moses, uttered an oracle of this kind, "If the omnipotent Lord had not left us a seed, we should have been like blind and barren people," [Isaiah 1:9] able neither to know the truth nor to generate it. And the Chaldaeans in their native language call blindness and sterility Sodom and Gomorrah.
Why, in the third place, after seven other days, did he again send forth the dove, which did not again return to him? [Genesis 8:12].
44. According to the word, the dove made no more return to him; but what in fact is meant is virtue, which, however, is not an indication of alienation, since, as I have said before, she was not separated from him at that time, but sent forth like a sun-beam to pay a visit of examination to the natures of others, but then, not finding any one to listen to her precepts of correction, she returns, and properly comes to him alone. But this time she is no longer the possession of one single individual, but is rather a common good to all those who have been willing to receive the emanations of wisdom as if coming up from the earth, those persons, that is, who from the very beginning have labored under a great thirst of perfect wisdom.
Why in the six hundred and first year of the life of Noah, and on the first day of the first month, did the waters of the deluge cease from off the earth? [Genesis 8:13].
45. The word first, according to the defect of time, is spoken of with reference either to the month or the man, and each interpretation has reason to support it; for if we are bound to maintain that the water began to abate in the first month, we are equally obliged to consider that the sacred historian intended also to speak of the seventh month, that is, of that month which is the second equinox, since the same month is both the first and the seventh; that is to say, the first as respects nature and virtue, and the seventh in point of time.
Therefore in another place he says, [Exodus 12:2] "This month is unto you the beginning of months, the first among the months of the year;" calling that the first which is so in respect of nature and virtue, and which as to number is in time the seventh month, since the equinox has its appointed order in regular series, and in point of time is assigned the better season of the year. But if you take that word first to have reference to the man, then it will be used with more truth, and with strict propriety, for the just man was truly and properly the first, as in a vessel the captain is the first man, and in a state the prince. But he is first not only in virtue, but also in order, inasmuch as in the very circumstances of the regeneration of the second sowing of the human race he was the beginning and the first.
Moreover, it is very admirably considered with reference to this passage, that the deluge took place during the life of the first man, and that again, when it abated, things returned to their former steadiness, since after the deluge took place he had to live by himself with his whole family, and after that evil was removed he alone was found upon the earth during the latter period of his life until the regeneration of mankind began.
But it is not to no purpose that this testimony is given both of the preceding portion of his life, and also of the later period, for he alone burnt with a desire for that genuine life which is in accordance with virtue, while all the rest of the world were hastening on to death by reason of their fatal wickednesses. Therefore of necessity the evil ceased on the six hundred and first year of his life, since in truth the destruction came with reference to the sixth number, and safety was restored in unity, since unity is more a generativeness of the soul, and is the best for giving life, wherefore also a deficiency of water in the sea takes place at the new moon, in order that the units may be preferred in dignity both among months and years, when God saves those things which are upon the earth; since the man who cultivates just habits is called by the Hebrews in their native language Noah, but by the Greeks he is named Dikaios; however, he is not exempted from the laws affecting the body.
For although he is not subordinate to the power of others, but is a prince, yet still, because he is nevertheless devoted to death, as he is dead, the principle of that number six is connected with unity; since it was not in one year taken separately that the deluge ceased, but together with the number six (as contained in the number six hundred), which is connected with it according to corporeality and inequality; since the other being a long number is in the first place six (that is to say, six hundred); on which account it is said, in the six hundred and first year. But the just man is so in his generation, not in that which is general, nor again in that in which he is just by comparison with the general corruption, but according to some especial generation; for his generation bears with it a certain comparison. But that man also is deserving of praise whom God selected beyond all other generations as being considered worthy of life, placing a limit to that life, and to him as being about to be both the end and the beginning of each generation and of each age; the end of that which is corruptible, the beginning of that which is to follow.
And truly it is much more proper to praise him who, bending upwards with his whole body, looked up by reason of his friendship with God.
What is the meaning of the expression, "And Noah opened the roof of the ark?" [Genesis 8:13].
46. The text stands in need of no explanation. But with reference to its meaning, because the ark is symbolically our body, we must consider that that is spoken of as the roof of our body, which covers it and for a long time preserves its strength; such is concupiscence, by which the body is preserved and made to last, in a moderate degree, that is, and in accordance with the law of nature; as also it is dissolved by pain.
When therefore the intellect is attracted by a desire for heavenly things it wishes to spring upwards, and in that way it bursts asunder every appearance of concupiscence; so that that thing being as it were removed which threw a veil of shade over it and obscured it, it might be able to apply its senses to undisguised and incorporeal natures.
Why is it that the earth was dried up in the seventh month, and on the twenty-seventh day? [Genesis 8:14].
47. Do you not see that he here calls that month the seventh, which a little while before he styles the first? for the seventh, as far as relates to time, is the same, as I have said before, as that which is the first in nature, being the beginning of the equinox. But it is with great propriety that the beginning of the deluge is fixed to the seventh month, and the twenty-seventh day of the month; and again, the end and cessation of the deluge is fixed to the same seventh month and the same day; for, both the deluge and the removal of life took place at the equinox; the principle of which we have indicated a little time ago; for the seventh month is found to be synonymous with months and days of this time, and then again, the twenty-seventh day occurs with the same meaning, when the ark rested on the mountains.
This is the month which by nature is the seventh, but in point of time the first, which in fact is the month of the equinox. Therefore, at the equinoxes a power of selection is given for seven months and twenty-seven days; for the deluge took place in the seventh month, on which the vernal equinox takes place; so that it is in time the seventh, but in nature the first.
And the cessation of the deluge and the display of mercy belong to the same measure, when the ark rested on the tops of the mountains; again in truth in the seventh month, but not the same month, but in that in which the autumnal equinox occurs; that is to say, the seventh by nature, but the first in point of time.
But the most perfect cure, the fact of the evil being wholly dried up, is again fixed to the seventh month and the twenty-seventh day of the vernal season; in order that both the beginning and the end of the deluge might find its boundary at the same season; and that the middle season when human life is repaired, is fixed to the intermediate season.
In the meantime that expression is more certainly to be observed, namely, that the whole year, by a strict computation of days, made the deluge equal to the exact time of the remedy; for it began in the six hundredth year of Noah's age, in the seventh month, and on the twenty-seventh day; so that the whole space of the intermediate time completed a perfect year, the beginning being placed at the vernal equinox, and the flood also ending equally at the same epoch of the vernal equinox. And in this manner, after all things on earth, things full of fruit, had undergone destruction, as I have said before, now that the persons who used the fruits were also destroyed, the earth being wholly relieved of all evil was again found full of seeds and fruit-bearing trees, according to the production of spring; for he thought it reasonable that, as the earth after it had suffered the deluge was in a similar condition when dried again to that in which it was before, so it should now show itself, and pay the debt which it owed to nature.
Nor ought any one to wonder that in one day the earth when left to itself produced every thing by divine virtue, both seeds and trees, all complete, entirely and suddenly, with perfect and excellent herbs, and grain, and plants, and fruits; since in the creation of the world on one day of the six he finished and brought to perfection the whole generation of plants. But the present fruits were already perfect in themselves, and produced all kinds of fruits in a manner suitable and corresponding to the season of spring; for all things are possible to God, who scarcely requires time to effect any thing.
Why was it that after the earth was dried, Noah did not depart out of the ark, before he had received a fresh command from God, for God said to Noah: "Go forth, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives, together with all the rest of the living creatures?" [Genesis 8:16].
48. Justice is commonly inspired with fear, as on the other hand injustice is rash and self-confident. But the proof of a fear of God is the not giving up more to, or guiding one's self more by one's own reason than by God. And above all other men it was natural for that man who had seen the whole earth suddenly become an immense sea, to suspect that it might be possible that the same misfortune would again return.
Besides this, he also gave a thought to the corresponding consequence, namely, that as he had entered into the ark at the command of God, so it was fitting that he should also leave it at the command of the same being; for let no one believe that he can ever do any thing perfectly unless God himself guides him by his preventing precepts.
Why, when they entered into the ark was the order as follows: first himself and his sons, and after them his wife and his sons' wives, but when they went forth the order was changed, for the sacred historian says, "Noah and his wife went forth, and after them his sons and his sons' wives?" [Genesis 8:18].
49. By the literal statement the sacred writer gives an obscure intimation, in the order in which they entered, that the propagation of seed was taken away, but by the order of their egress he implies the continuance of the process of generation; since, while they are entering, the sons are mentioned together which their father, and the daughters-in-law with their mother-in-law, but when they are going forth the wives are all mated again, the father being accompanied by his wife, and each of his sons also by his wife, since he chose to show by fact rather than by words everything which it is fitting for his friends to do.
Moreover he had in express words, and not by any vague intimations, commanded the men, as they were about to enter into the ark, that they while there were to keep themselves from connection with women; but now that they were about to depart from it, he plainly intimates to them that offspring is to be begotten in accordance with nature, by the order in which he appoints their going forth; nor did he employ words only, in order to make his proclamation about the state of the ark, saying, "After a destruction of all things on earth, of such a character and of such extent, do not indulge in pleasures, for that is not decorous. It is sufficient, however, for you to have received your lives; but while you are actually in the ark, to ascend up into the marriage bed with your wives would be a proof of your being devoted to lasciviousness."
And, indeed, it was natural for them, as being relations to those who were being destroyed, to be moved with compassion for the perishing human race, especially because they themselves also were still in doubt whether, from some quarter or other, calamity might not fall also upon themselves; and besides these considerations it was absurd, while those who were alive were perishing, for those in the ark to be contriving that others who did not exist should be born, being warm at an unreasonable time, and burning with an inopportune desire. But after the anger of God ceased, then he commanded those who had been delivered from the calamity, when they had again gone forth out of the ark in order, to apply themselves to the procreation of a succeeding generation, when he tells us, that the men did not go forth with the men, nor the women with the women, but the wives with their husbands.
But with respect to the inner meaning of this fact, we must say this, that when the mind is about to wash off and cleanse away its sins, then it is fit for male to live with male, that is to say, for the intellect, the chief part of the man, to be as a father, united to each separate thought, as a father to his sons, without any admixture of the female race, which is in accordance with the outward sense; since it is a time of battle, in which it is necessary to keep the order of the cohort distinct, and to preserve it strictly in order, that the soldiers may not be mingled in confusion, and so, instead of gaining a victory over the enemy, be conquered themselves; but when the purification is completed, and when the soul is dried up from all ignorance, and when a complete deliverance from everything pernicious has taken place, then it becomes the man to collect his scattered forces together, not in order that masculine counsels may be rendered effeminate by softness, but that the female race, that is to say, the outward senses, may clothe themselves with the vigor of the male, attaining to masculine counsels, and from their receiving seed for the production of a generation; so that, from this time forth they may cherish, in all things, sentiments of wisdom, and honor, and justice, and courage, and, in one word, of virtue. But, besides this, it will be reasonable also to take notice, that when once a confusion, in the similitude of a deluge, has overwhelmed the intellect, and when the different senses, being perplexed by the affairs of this world, like so many bulwarks erected against them, begin to quarrel, it is utterly impossible that any one should be able, either to sow, or to conceive, or to generate any good thing. But when all the hostile attacks of various agitations and passions are checked, and when the ceaseless invasions of lawless counsels are repressed, then the soul produces virtue and excellent works, as the most fertile portion of the earth, when dried, produces fruits.
Why did Noah build an altar without having been commanded to do so? [Genesis 8:20].
50. The requital of gratitude which is due to God ought to be offered to him without command, and without any delay or hesitation, showing the mind to be free from vices; for it becomes that man, who has been endued with blessings by God, to offer him his thanks with a grateful and willing mind; but he who delays to do so, waiting for an express command, is ungrateful, being as it were compelled by necessity to honor his benefactor.
Why is he said to have built an altar to God, and not to the Lord? [Genesis 8:20].
51. In passages of beneficence and regeneration, as at the creation of the world, the sacred writer only refers to the beneficent virtue of the Creator, by which he makes everything in its integrity, and he implies this by concealing the royal name of Lord, as one which bears with it supreme authority; therefore now also, since what he is describing is the beginning of the renewed generation of mankind, he borrows for his description the beneficent virtue, which bears the name of God; for he used the kingly attribute, which declares his imperial power, by which he is called Lord, when he was describing the punishment inflicted by the flood.
What is the meaning of the statement, "He took of the cattle and of the flying animals, and he offered whole burnt offerings on the altar?" [Genesis 8:20].
52. All this is said with reference to an inward meaning, both because he received everything from God as a favor and gift; and also because he took of the clean sorts of animals, and burnt those which were unpolluted and clean, as entire and pure first fruits; for they are proper victims for good men to offer, and are themselves entire, being full of integrity; and they may be classed as fruits, for fruit is the end, for the sake of which the plant exists.
This indeed is the literal statement; but with respect to the inner meaning, the clean cattle and the clean birds are the outward senses and intellect of the wise man, with the thoughts which are received in his mind; all which things it is reasonable to offer in their integrity as entire and perfect fruit, in the way of a display of gratitude to the Father, and to offer them to him as an unpolluted and clean oblation of a victim.
Why does he offer his sacrifice to the beneficent virtue of God, but the acceptance of it takes place by means of both the qualities of the Lord and God, for Moses says, "And the Lord God smelled a savor of sweetness?" [Genesis 8:20].
53. He says this since, when unexpectedly, after all hope is gone, we are preserved from dangers which are coming over us, we then, looking solely at the beneficence of him who has preserved us, do, on account of our joy, display ingratitude, and refer the benefits which we have received rather to the beneficent power than to the Lord. But the beneficent preserver himself, by means of both his attributes, looks down upon and honorably accepts grateful minds, that he may not appear to halt in rewarding them; but he declares that such a display of gratitude is pleasing to both attributes of the one God. [Or, "But the one God very much likes to act by means of both his attributes." -- Note to the Latin version.]
What is the meaning of the words, "And the Lord God said, repenting him, I will not again proceed to curse the earth for the works of man, for the thoughts of the mind of man are toward, and are diligently and ceaselessly exercised in, wickedness from his youth up; therefore I will not now proceed to smite all living flesh as I have done at other times?" [Genesis 8:21].
54. The reasons alleged appear to indicate a change of purpose, which is an affection not usual nor akin to the divine virtue; for the dispositions of mankind are variable and inconstant, so that all affairs among them are altogether uncertain; but with God nothing is uncertain, nothing incomprehensible, for he is a being of mighty and consistent determination; how then, when reasons of the same kind are present to him, because he was forsooth aware from the very beginning that the mind of man was deliberately inclined to wallow in wickedness from his youth on, could he have originally intended to destroy the human race by a flood; and yet afterwards say, that he did not intend to destroy it any more, when the same evils still exist in the mind? But we must think that every kind of expression of this sort is, by law, connected with learning and the utility of instruction rather than with the nature of truth, since there are, as it were, two kinds which occur in the whole course of the law; in the first place, as it is said, "Not as a man;" and in the second place, as it is said, "As a man," the one God is believed to instruct his son.
That first expression relates to the actual truth; for, in real fact, God is not as a man, nor again, as the sun, nor as the heaven, nor as the world, which is perceptible by the outward senses, but as God, if it is justifiable to assert that also; since that most happy and blessed being will not endure similitude, or comparison, or enigmatical description; nay, rather he surpasses even blessedness and felicity itself, and whatever can be imagined as better than and preferable to them.
But the second expression relates to instruction and direction, I mean the express words, "As a man," in order that it may be observed, that he is willing to impress us beings, born of the earth, lest perchance we should unceasingly incur his anger and his chastisement by our implacable hostility to him, without any peace; for it is sufficient for him to be roused and embittered against us once, and once to exact vengeance against sinners; but to inflict punishment over and over again for the same thing is the conduct of a savage and ferocious disposition: since, says he, "when I shall inflict deserved retribution, as is possible, on every one, I will cause a burning recollection of my design to be preserved."
Therefore behold, the sacred historian has excellently expressed himself, saying, "That God observed in his mind," for his mind and disposition rejoice in a superior degree of constancy; but our wills are found to be inconsistent and vacillating, on which account we cannot be properly said to observe and think with our minds, since it is by the thoughts that the passage of the mind is allowed to take place, ["if you connect the Armenian words in a different manner, the sense will be 'meditation is the purification of the course of the mind,' and this is perhaps better."--Note by the Latin Translator] but the human intellect is unable to be extended over everything, since it is incapable of penetrating all things in a perfect and suitable manner.
But that expression, "I will not proceed any more to curse the earth," is used with great propriety, for it is not becoming to add more curses to what has already been done, because the evils that have been inflicted are already complete; because, although they are in some sense imperfect, inasmuch as the Father is kind and merciful, and most humane, still he is rather inclined to alleviate the evil than to add to men's misery. But that is as it were the same thing, according to a common proverb, to wash a brick, or to draw water properly, and wholly to eradicate wickedness, with all its deeply imprinted tokens from the mind of man; for if it is implanted in it at first, it does not exist accidentally, but is engraven deeply on it and clings to it.
But since the mind is a potential and principal part of the soul, he introduces that word "diligently;" but that which has been weighed with diligence and care is exquisite thought, examined more certainly than certainty itself. But this diligence does not tend to any one evil, but as is plain, to mischief, and to all mischief; nor does it exist in a perfunctory manner; but man is devoted to it from his youth, not only in a manner, but from his very cradle, as if he were in some degree united to, and nourished, and bred up with sin.
But yet God says, "I will not any more smite all flesh;" giving notice that he will not, at any future time, destroy every portion of mankind altogether, but only single individuals, in ever such great numbers, who perpetrate unspeakable wickednesses; for he does not leave wickedness unpunished, nor does he grant it liberty or impunity, but indulging his care for the human race on account of his original design, he of necessity fixes destruction as a punishment for sinners.
What is the meaning of the expression, "Sowing-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and spring, shall not cease day nor night?" [Genesis 8:22].
55. If taken literally this expression signifies the continuation of the duration of the annual seasons, and that the earthly temperature adapted to animals and plants is not again to be destroyed; since indeed, if the weather is corrupted it would corrupt them likewise, and if it is preserved in its existing state it would preserve them also safe and sound; for it is according to the weather and temperature that all animals and plants are preserved safe and sound, without any infirmity, being accustomed, in some measure, to be produced separately, in an admirable way, and to grow up together. But nature is like a harmony, composed of opposite sounds, both flat and sharp; for thus, also, the world is compounded of opposite qualities, for when, in the first place, the mortal commixtures of cold and heat, of moisture and dryness, preserve their natural order, without any confusion, they are themselves a cause which prevents destruction from overwhelming everything upon the earth.
But if we regard the inward sense of the passage, the seed time is the beginning and the harvest time is the end, and both the beginning and the end are concurrent causes of safety, for either thing alone is by itself imperfect, because the beginning requires an end, and the end has a natural inclination for the beginning; but cold and heat bring round winter and autumn; for the autumn is fiery, but only in such a degree as succeeding in its annual revolution to cool the fiery summer.
And, symbolically, with reference to the mind, cold indicates fear, since it causes terror and trepidation; but heat indicates anger, because an angry disposition bears in itself a resemblance to flame and fire; for it is necessary that those things should always exist and always remain among created and corruptible beings; since summer and spring have been instituted for the production of fruits; spring for the perfecting of the seeds, and summer for the perfecting of fruits and the buds of trees.
These things indeed are discerned symbolically in addition to the inward sense of the words, producing a double fruit; what is necessary being computed in the season of spring, and what is superfluous in the summer. Therefore necessary food is for the most part for the body, being whatever is produced freely from seeds; as virtues are necessary for the soul. But as many fruits as come by way of excess from trees in summer, besides the advantage which they are to the body, do also bring corporeal goods to the mind, as external advantages: for these external advantages are subservient to the body, and the body is subservient to the mind, and the mind to God. But day and night are the measures of times and numbers; and time and number exist without interruption. Day indicates lucid wisdom, and night betokens obscure folly.
Why was it that God, blessing Noah and his sons, said, "Increase, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and rule over it; and let your fear and the dread of you be upon all beasts, and upon flying fowls, and upon reptiles, and upon the fishes which I have placed under your hand?" [Genesis 9:1].
56. This devotion of the inferior animals to man, God also at the beginning of the creation bestowed on the sixth day upon man, after he had created him in his own image; for the scripture saith, "And God made man; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and said, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth; and be ye lords over it, and be ye rulers of the fishes, and of the flying fowls, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."
And did he not by these words evidently intimate that Noah, at the beginning of what we may call the second creation of mankind, was found equal in honor to that creature who in the first instance was made as to his form in the likeness of himself? Therefore he equally assigned both to the one and to the other the principality and power over all the creatures that live upon the earth.
But do thou diligently take notice that he showed this man, who at the time of the deluge was the only just man and the king of all the creatures which live upon the earth, to be equal in honor, not to the identical man who was first created and formed out of the earth, but to that one who was made according to the likeness and form of the true incorporeal entity, to whom also he gives power, making him a king, not the very created man (or the man formed out of the earth), but him who is according to his form and similitude, that is to say, incorporeal.
Wherefore also the creation of that man, who as to his form is incorporeal, was marked to have taken place on the sixth day, in accordance with the perfect number six; but the creation of that man who was created after the completion of the world and subsequent to the generation of all animals on the seventh day, because it is after that that the manly figure was fashioned out of clay. Therefore after the days of generation he says, "on the seventh day of the world;" for God had not yet rained upon the earth, and no man did exist who could cultivate the earth. And then he proceeds to say, "But God formed a man out of the clay of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul."
Therefore how he can be made worthy of the same kingly power according to the image of the man thus formed, he, I mean, who is the beginning of the second creation of mankind, is indicated by the letter of the history that relates these events.
But with reference to the inward sense of the passage we must give an explanation in the following manner. God wills that the souls of wise men should increase in the magnitude and multitude of the beauty of their virtues, and should fill the mind as if it were the earth with those beauties, leaving no portion empty and void so as to become occupied by folly. And he wills also that they should rule over, and strike terror into, and inflict alarm upon all beasts; that is to say, he wills that all wickedness should be subdued by their will, since wickedness is of an untamed and savage nature. Also he willed that they should be lords over all flying fowls, which by reason of their lightness are raised on high, being armed with courage and empty pride, and which thus cause the greatest mischief, being scarcely controlled at all by fear. Moreover, he made them rulers over all creeping things, which are the symbols of destructive vices, for they creep through the whole soul, namely, concupiscence, desire, sadness, and cowardice, striking and goading; as also they are indicated by the fishes, which eagerly cultivate a moist and delicate life, but one which is far from being sober, wise, or lasting.
Why does God say, "Every creeping thing which lives shall be to you for food?" [Genesis 9:3].
57. Creeping things are of a twofold nature; some being venomous, and others domestic. The venomous ones are serpents, which, instead of feet, use their bellies and breasts, creeping upon the earth; but the domestic ones are those which have legs above their feet. This is the literal meaning of the statement.
But if we look to the inward sense of it, then the creeping things represent the foul vices, but the clean ones represent joy; for in connection with the passion of concupiscence there will exist joy and pleasure; and in connection with desire there will be will and counsel, and in connection with sorrow goading and compunction, and in connection with avidity there will be fear.
Therefore such disordered perturbations of the passions threaten souls with death and destruction; but the joys do really live, as he himself has warned us in an allegory; and they also give life to those who possess them.
What is the meaning of the expression, "As the green herb I have given you all things?" [Genesis 9:3].
58. Some persons say that by this expression, "As the green herb I have given you all things," the eating of flesh was permitted. But I say that even though God had intended to give that permission, still that before all things he must have intended to establish by law the necessary use of herbs, that is to say of vegetables. And under the general name of herb he includes all the other additional descriptions of green food, without mentioning them expressly in the law. But now the power of this command is adapted not to one nation alone among all the select nations of the earth which are desirous of wisdom, among which religious continence is honored, but to all mankind, who cannot possibly be universally prohibited from eating flesh.
Nevertheless, perhaps the present expression has no reference to eating food, but rather to the possession of the power to do so; for in fact every herb is not necessarily good to eat, nor again is it the uniform and invariable food of all uniform living animals; since God said that some herbs were poisonous and deadly, and yet they are included in the number all. Perhaps therefore, I say, he means to express this, that all brute beasts are subjected to the power of man, as we sow herbs and take care of them by the cultivation of the land.
What is the meaning of the expression, "You shall not eat flesh in the blood of its life?" [Genesis 9:4].
59. God appears by this command to indicate that the blood is the substance of the soul; I mean of that soul which exists by the external senses and by vitality, not of that which is spoken of with a certain especial pre-eminence, being the rational and intellectual soul; for there are three parts of the human soul; one the nutritive part, another that which is connected with the external senses, and the third that which exists in reason. Therefore the rational part is the substance of the divine spirit according to the sacred writer Moses: for in his account of the creation of the world, he says, "God breathed into his face the breath of life," as being what was to constitute his life. But of that part of the soul which is connected with the external senses and with vitality, blood is the substance; for he says in another place, "The blood exists in every breath of flesh."
It is with great propriety in fact that he has called the blood the breath of all flesh, because there are in the flesh senses and passions, but not intellect nor thoughts. But again by the expression "the spirit of blood," he intimates that the spirit is one thing and the blood another; so that the essence of the soul is truly and beyond all possible question spirit. But that spirit has a place not by itself separately, apart from the blood in the body; but it is interwoven and mingled with the blood.
As also the veins which exhibit a pulse, as if they were vessels to convey breathing, bear with them most unmixed and pure air, but blood likewise, though perhaps in a less degree; for there are two vessels, the veins and the breathing channels; but the veins have more blood than breath, and the breathing channels have more breath than blood. Therefore the proper admixture in each vessel is distinct, as the greater and the lesser proportion.
This is the meaning of these words when taken literally; but if we look to their inner meaning, he calls the blood of the soul that warm and fiery virtue belonging to it which we name courage. And he who is full of this wisdom despises all food, and every pleasure of the belly, and of those parts which are below the belly. But if any one adopts a profligate life, and becomes a wanderer like the wind, and gradually inactive from laziness and a luxurious life, he in fact does nothing else but fall upon his belly, as a reptile creeping upon the earth, and greedily licking up earthly things, closing his life without ever tasting of that heavenly food which the souls which are desirous of wisdom receive.
What is the meaning of the expression, "The blood of your souls will I require from every beast, and from the hand of man's brother will I require the life of man?" [Genesis 9:5].
60. The multitude of creatures which do injury is twofold; some being beasts, and others men. But beasts are rather the least injurious of the two, because they have no actual familiarity with those whom they wish to injure, principally because they do not fall under their power, but destroy those who have properly power over them. But when he speaks of brothers, he means men who are murderers, intimating these three things. First of all, that all we men are akin to one another, and are brothers, being connected with one another according to the relation of the highest kind of kindred; for we have received a lot, as being the children of one and the same mother, rational nature.
In the second place, he intimates that very commonly numerous and terrible quarrels arise, and acts of treachery take place, between relations, and rather between brothers, on account of the division of their inheritance, or on account of some superiority of dignity in the household; since a quarrel between those of the same family is worse and altogether unseemly, because brothers who are really so by the ties of nature meet in contest with a great knowledge of one another's internal circumstances; being therefore well aware what kind of attack they must employ in their present warfare.
But, in the third place, as it appears to me, he employs the appellation of brothers in order to warn men of the implacable and severe punishment which is reserved for murderers; that they, without meeting any compassion, shall suffer what they have inflicted; for they have not slain strangers, but their own brothers in blood.
It is with exceeding great propriety that he calls God the protector and overseer of those who are slain by man; for although men despise the revenge, yet let them not behave negligently, but although impure men of savage disposition escape for the moment from danger, still let them know that they are already caught and brought before the greater tribunal of justice, namely, before the divine judgment-seat, which rises up to inflict vengeance on the wicked for the defense of those who have received shameful and unworthy treatment.
This is the literal meaning of the words; but if we look to the inward sense of them they have a regard to the merit of the purity of the soul, to which it is suitable to avoid unceasing destruction brought in from outward parts; which merit, that propitious and beneficent being, the most merciful and only Savior, does not despise; but he expels and destroys all its enemies who stand around it, calling them beasts, and men brothers; for beasts are a symbolical expression for furious men threatening calamitous death; but men and brothers are both separate individual thoughts, and words uttered by mouth and tongue, because they are akin to them, and, by consequence, they bring on great and destructive evils, leaving no stone unturned, no work or word omitted to do injury.
What is the meaning of the expression, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed?" [Genesis 9:6].
61. There is no excess in this declaration, but rather an indication of a still more formidable denunciation, because he says, "He himself shall be poured out like blood who pours out blood." For that which is poured out flows forth and is lost, so that it has no longer any power or substance. And by this he shadows forth the fact that the souls of those who perpetrate unworthy actions imitate the mortal body in its corruption, as far as corruption is accustomed to come upon individuals; for the body is then dissolved into those parts of which it was composed, returning into its proper elements. But the miserable soul, laboring under distresses, is borne hither and thither by the overflow of a lascivious life; and the very evils which have grown up along with it are accustomed to suffer the same overflow, in the manner of the parts of the limbs.
Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own image? [Genesis 9:6].
62. Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word of the supreme Being; since it is fitting that the rational soul of man should bear before it the type of the divine Word; since in his first Word God is superior to the most rational possible nature. But he who is superior to the Word holds his rank in a better and most singular pre-eminence, and how could the creature possibly exhibit a likeness of him in himself? Nevertheless he also wished to intimate this fact, that God does rightly and correctly require vengeance, in order to the defense of virtuous and consistent men, because such bear in themselves a familiar acquaintance with his Word, of which the human mind is the similitude and form.
What is the meaning of the words, "There shall not again be a deluge to destroy all the earth?" [Genesis 9:11].
63. By his last saying he declares sufficiently that there may be various inundations, but that there shall never be one of such a character as to be able to change the whole earth into a lake or sea.
This is the literal meaning of this saying.
But if we look to its inward sense, there a divine kindness is intimated, according to which, although it is not every part of the soul which is allowed to make proficiency in every virtue, still some are adorned in a considerable degree. So that, supposing any one is not able to display excellence in his whole body, he still may labor with all diligence to acquire all the means in his power to display excellence; and that exertion is within his reach. And it does not follow that if any one is less highly endowed, or is unable to make every portion of his life altogether perfect, that he is on that account to despair of those things which he is able to do and to attain to.
Since as there is power in every individual, he who does not exert himself in accordance with it is both idle and ungrateful; idle because of his laziness, and ungrateful because, though he has received most excellent means, he still sets himself in opposition to the essential qualities of things.
Why does God say that, as a sign that he will never again bring a deluge over the whole earth, he will place his bow in the clouds? [Genesis 9:13].
64. Some persons imagine that by the bow he means that thing which by some is called Jupiter's belt, from its figure, dwelling on its continual similitude to the rainbow; but I do not perceive that that has been positively asserted. In the first place, because the bow aforesaid ought to have a peculiar and essential nature of its own, because it is called the bow of God; for he says, "I will set my bow in the clouds." But that which belongs to God and is said to have been set in any place as his, indicates plainly that it is not devoid of essence or of substance.
But the belt of Jupiter has not, properly speaking, any separate nature of its own, but is merely an appearance of the solar rays on a wet cloud, all the phaenomena of which are non-existent and incorporeal. And moreover, this is a further proof of that, that it is never seen at night, though clouds exist by night as well as by day.
In the second place, we must also say that even in the day-time, when clouds obscure the whole face of heaven, the belt of Jupiter is never at all seen in them. But what remains may also be affirmed without any falsehood, when the Maker of the law says, "I will set my bow in the clouds;" for, behold, while clouds are present there is no appearance of the belt of Jupiter visible. But he said, "Where there is a collection of clouds let there be a bow seen in the clouds." Still it often happens, when the clouds are collected and when the air is obscured and thickened, that no appearance of a rainbow is seen anywhere.
We must consider, therefore, whether haply the sacred historian indicates something else by this mention of the bow, namely, that in the very exercise of the mercy of God, and also in the moment of his bitterness towards men on earth, there still shall not be any ultimate destruction of them, in the fashion of a bow, which is too soft and unfit for such a purpose, nor shall there be any violence added, so as to cause a rapid destruction, but there shall be a moderate determination, each attribute being carefully measured; for the great deluge took place with a breaking asunder and disruption of the clouds and of all things; as he himself asserts, when he says, "The fountains of the deep were broken up." And yet it was not an unmeasured vehemence.
Moreover, a bow is not itself a weapon, but only an instrument for the use of weapons, namely, for the arrow which strikes; and the arrow being sent forth by means of the bow strikes a part which is at a distance, while the parts which are nearest to it remain unhurt. And this is given as a proof that the whole earth shall never for the future suffer any deluge, since no one arrow ever hits all places, but only those which are at a distance.
Therefore the divine virtue, being invisible, is symbolically indicated by the bow in the cloud; being in truth dissolved according to the figure of tranquillity, and condensed in accordance with a cloud; so that it does not permit all the clouds to be altogether dissolved into water, so that the earth may not be made a lake by an inundation, which it carefully forbids, and arranges the condensation of air, checking it as by a bridle, though it is at that time the more accustomed to exhibit itself as rebellious by reason of its excessive fullness. For by reason of the clouds it also shows itself to be replenished, dripping, and saturated.
Why is it that after the sons of the just man have been named Shem, Ham, and Japhet, he relates only the generations of the middle one, saying, "And Ham was the father of Canaan;" and afterwards he adds, "These are the three sons of Noah?" [Genesis 9:18].
65. Mentioning four men, Noah and his sons, he says that these were obedient. Because the grandson Canaan was in his habits like his father who begat him, on that account, instead of mentioning only one, he includes both in his enumeration, so that they are four in number, three in virtue. But in the meantime in the scripture he mentions only the generations of the middle one, on account of the just man whom he is going to speak of subsequently, because although he was his father, since Ham is the father of Canaan, still he does not mention the father with blame, but with respect to the man with whom he thought it fair that the son should be a partaker, he yet did not give the father a participation with him.
In the second place, perhaps he thus gives a premonitory warning also to those persons who by the acuteness of their mental vision can see a long way off what is at a distance, namely, that he designs to take away the land of the Canaanites from them after the lapse of many ages, and to give it to his chosen people who are thoroughly devoted to God. Therefore he chooses to designate the chief inhabitant of that region, namely Canaan, and to show that he both practiced singular and peculiar wickedness of his own, and also all the wickedness of his father, so that in every part he might be convicted of an ignoble slavery and submission.
This is the literal meaning of these words. But if we have a regard to the inward sense, he does not say that Ham had a son named Canaan, but he predicates offspring of him alone, saying, "Ham was the father of Canaan." Since such a disposition as that of Ham is always the father of such designs as those of Canaan, and that the very names themselves intimate this. For if we translate them into another language, Ham means heat or hot; and Canaan means merchants, or buyers, or causes, or recipients.
Accordingly, he is not now speaking manifestly of generations, nor is he saying that one man is the father or the son of another man, but he is evidently demonstrating the connection between one counsel and another, by reason of its alienation from all familiarity with virtue.
What is the meaning of the statement, "Noah began to be a cultivator of the earth?" [Genesis 9:20].
66. He is here comparing Noah to the first created man who was formed out of the earth; for in that manner also does he speak of him when he came forth out of the ark; since both then and now there took place a first beginning of the cultivation of the land, each being after a deluge. For also, at the time of the original creation of the world the earth was, as it were, a lake, being covered by an inundation of water, for the sacred historian could not tell us that God said, "Let the waters be gathered together into one body, and let the dry land appear," unless it had previously been inundated with waters which now returned into certain depths of the earth.
Nor again is the expression a purposeless one, "He began to be a tiller of the earth," for in the second generation he was himself the beginning of men, and also of seed, and of the cultivation of the land, and of the life of all other things. This is the literal meaning of the words.
But if we look to their inner sense, a distinction is made between being a cultivator of the earth and a tiller of it; as the murderer of his brother is represented as tilling the earth, but not as cultivating it. For by the earth our body is symbolically represented, which is by its nature earthly, and which the unjust and wicked man tills like a lazy hireling, but which the man endued with virtue cultivates like a skillful manager of plants and an agriculturist of good works appointed to superintend it. Because the workman of the body, the mind, as being carnal, procures carnal pleasures; but the cultivator of the earth is careful to produce useful fruits, those, namely, which are to be obtained by the study of continence, and modesty, and sound wisdom; and he prunes away all superfluous excesses and bad habits which spring up around, like the thin and misplaced branches of trees.
Why does the just man first plant a vineyard? [Genesis 9:20].
67. It was very natural for it to be a subject of anxiety and doubt to him in what quarter he was to find any plants after the deluge, when everything upon the earth was destroyed. Therefore it appeared natural, as was said a little while ago, that the earth was made dry in the spring season; therefore when the spring produced the buds of trees, the roots and stems of the vine could easily be found by the just man still alive, and might thus be collected by him.
But we have to consider why the first thing he did was to plant a vineyard, and why he did not rather sow wheat and barley, since the latter are necessary productions of the earth, without which life cannot be supported, but the former is only a material for superfluous pleasure. The answer is that Noah, adopting a salutary design, consecrated and offered up to God those things which are necessary to support life and which require no co-operation for the production of the fruit; but the superfluous plants he devoted to men; for the use of wine is superfluous and not necessary. As therefore God ordered fountains of water fit to drink to burst up from the earth without the co-operation of man, so he also of his own accord granted to man in a similar manner wheat and barley, in order that he himself might be the sole giver of each kind of food which serves for necessary eating and drinking. But he did not take away the power nor grudge them providing for themselves by their own industry those things which contribute to pleasure.
What is the meaning of the statement, "He drank of the wine and was drunken?" [Genesis 9:21].
68. In the first place, the just man did not drink the wine, but a portion of the wine, not the whole of it; in which case an incontinent and debauched man does not quit his means of debauchery, till he has first swallowed all the wine that there is before him; but by the religious and sober man everything necessary for food is used in a moderate degree. And the expression, "he was drunken," is here to be taken simply as equivalent to "he used the wine."
But there are two modes of getting drunk, the one is that of an intemperate sottishness which misuses wine, and this offense is peculiar to the depraved and wicked man; the other is the use of wine, and this belongs to the wise. It is therefore in the second of these meanings that the consistent and wise Noah is here called drunken, not as having misused but as having used wine.
What is the meaning of the statement, "He was naked in his house?" [Genesis 9:21].
69. This is a praise of the wise man both in the literal sense of the words, and also in their hidden meaning, that his exhibition of nakedness took place not out of doors but in his house, being concealed by the roof and walls of his house; for the nakedness of the body is concealed by a house which is made of stones and beams of wood: but the covering and clothing of the soul is the discipline of wisdom.
Therefore there are two kinds of nakedness, one which takes place by accident, which is the result of an involuntary offense, because the just man, using, if I may say so, his honesty as if it were a garment with which he is clothed, stumbles out of his own accord like men who are intoxicated, or who are afflicted with insanity; for in such men their offenses are not deliberately committed: but it is his task and pleasing duty to clothe himself, as with a garment, with the discipline and study of honesty.
There is also another kind of nakedness of the soul which is caused by perfect virtue, which expels from itself the whole carnal weight of the body, as if it were flying from a tomb, as indeed it has long been buried in it as in a tomb; as also it avoids pleasures, and also a great number of miseries arising from the different passions and many anxieties arising from misfortunes, and indeed all the evil effects of these different circumstances. He therefore, who has been able with distinction to pass through such various and great dangers, and to escape such injuries, and to emancipate himself from such evils, has attained to the destiny of happiness, without any stain or disgrace; for I should pronounce this to be the ornament and badge of beauty in those individuals who have been rendered worthy to pass their existence in an incorporeal manner.
Why is it that the sacred writer has not simply said, Ham saw his nakedness, but Ham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father? [Genesis 9:22].
70. By stating the fact thus, he both blames the son in the father and the father in the son, as performing together in common the deed of folly, and iniquity, and impiety, and every other kind of wickedness. This is the literal meaning of the statement; and as to the inner sense, we must look at that in the same manner in which we have hitherto treated these subjects.
What is the meaning of the statement, "He told it to his two brothers out of doors?" [Genesis 9:22].
71. The sacred historian is here adding to the gravity of the transaction. In the first place, because he did not report the involuntary evil of his father to one brother only, but to both of them; and no doubt if he had had any more he would have told it to them all, as he did in fact to every one he could; and he did so with ridicule in his very words, making a jest of what ought not to have been treated with laughter and derision, but rather with shame and fear mingled with reverence.
In the second place, when the historian says he told it them, not in the house but out of the house, he evidently points out that he displayed his father when naked, not only to his brothers, but also to the bystanders with whom they were, both men and women.
This is the literal information conveyed by the words. But if we look to their inward meaning, then we shall see that a depraved and malignant habit of life is full of derision and contempt: and it is a bad thing to judge of the miseries of others even by one's self like a chastising judge. But in this case what has happened is worse than this, for any man with a joyful mind to ridicule the involuntary misfortune of a devoted disciple of wisdom, and to make a song of and proclaim abroad his misery, is the part of a thoroughly hostile accuser, who ought rather to have pardoned such an occurrence than to have added accusation or vituperation to it.
Moreover, because these three things are, as I have said before, as it were brothers together; namely, good, bad, and indifferent, being all the offspring of one parent thought: in accordance with each of these principles, they have been found to be overseers, some celebrating virtues with praise, others upholding acts of malignity, and others supporting riches and honors and other good things which, however, are not attached to and which are external to the body.
The overseers who emulate wickedness rejoice at the fall of the wise man, and ridicule and disparage him, as if he had done no good by the part which he adopts and to which he applies himself as better for the mind, or for his body, or for his external circumstances, to his internal virtues or to any of the good things which are around and exterior to his body. Unless indeed that man alone is eminently able to attain his object, who applies himself to iniquity, as that alone is accustomed to confer advantages on human life.
Pronouncing these and similar precepts, those who are overseers of iniquity ridicule those who devote themselves to virtue, and to those things by which virtue is produced and consolidated: as some look upon those things to be which are around the body, and outside it, and which may be regarded in the light of instruments serving to that end.
What is the meaning of the statement, "Shem and Japhet, taking a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders and went backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father, and they themselves did not see it?" [Genesis 9:23].
72. The literal meaning of the statement is evident; but with respect to the inner sense contained in it, we must say that the light man who is in too great haste only sees those things which are before his eyes and exposed to his sight: but that the evil man also sees those things which are at his back, that is to say, the future.
And since what is posterior is postponed to what is anterior, so is what is future to what is present, the sight of which is peculiar to the virtuous and wise man, who in truth is a second Lynceus, being according to the fables gifted with eyes in every part.
Therefore every wise man, who is not so much man as actual intellect, walks backward, that is to say, he sees what is behind him or future, as if it were placed in brilliant light; and seeing every thing on all sides of him with a perfect sight, and looking all around him, he is found to be armed, and protected, and fortified, so that no part of his soul is ever found naked or in an unseemly plight, on account of any accidents which occur unfortunately.
What is the meaning of the statement, "And Noah became sober after the wine?" [Genesis 9:24].
73. The literal meaning is too notorious. Therefore we need only here speak of what concerns the inner sense of the words. When the intellect is strengthened, it is able by its soberness to discern with a certain accuracy all things, both before and behind it, both present, I mean, and future; but the man who can see neither what is present nor what is future with accuracy, is afflicted by blindness; but he who sees the present, but who cannot also foresee the future, and is not at all cautious, such a man is overcome by drunkenness and intoxication; and he, lastly, who is found to be able to look all around him, and to see, and discern, and comprehend the different natures of things, both present and future, the watchfulness of sobriety is in that man.
Why is it that after the sacred historian has enumerated Ham in the middle of the offspring of Noah, or has placed him in the middle between his brethren, he nevertheless points out that he was the younger, saying, "Noah saw what his younger son had done to him?" [Genesis 9:25].
74. This is a manifest allegory, because he here takes as the younger, not him who was so in age and in point of time, but him who was younger in mind; since wickedness is unable to attain to a perception of the learning which is proper to the elder; but the elder thoughts belong to a will which is truly growing old, not indeed in body, but in mind.
Why did Noah when praying for Shem speak thus: "Blessed is the Lord God, the God of Shem: and Canaan shall be his servant?" [Genesis 9:23].
75. The names Lord and God are here used together on account of his principal attributes, both of benevolence and of kingly power by which the world was created; for as king he created the world according to his beneficence; but after he had completed it then the world was arranged and set in order by his attribute of kingly power. Therefore he at that time rendered the wise man worthy of a common honor, which the whole world also received, all the parts of the world being formed in an admirable manner with the attributes of the Lord and God, doing so by his especial prerogative, munificently pouring forth the favor and liberality of his beneficent power.
And it is on this account that the beneficent power of God is mentioned twice. Once, as has been already stated, being placed in opposition to his kingly power; and a second time without any such connection, in order, forsooth, that the wise man having been rendered worthy of his gifts, both such as are common to him with others and such as are peculiar to himself, he might also be rendered acceptable both to the world and to God; to the world on account of the excellence imparted to him in common with it, and to God for such as was peculiar to himself.
Why, when Noah prayed for Japhet, did he say, "God shall enlarge Japhet, and bid him to dwell in the house of Shem: and Canaan shall be their servant?" [Genesis 9:27].
76. Without examining the literal statement, for the meaning of that is plain, we had better approach the inner sense contained in it, and examine that, in which the second and third blessings mentioned are capable of an enlarged and ample extension. As, for instance, good health, and a vigorous state of the outward senses, and beauty, and strength, and opulence, and nobleness of birth, and friends, and the power of a prince, and numbers of other things. And on this account he said, "God shall enlarge," etc.
Because taken separately, the abundant possession of such numerous and great blessings has of itself been injurious to many persons who have scarcely dwelt with justice, or wisdom, or any other virtues, the complete possession of which dispenses to man in an admirable manner the advantages which are external to and which surround the body; but the deprivation or absence of them leaves him without the enjoyment or use of them; and man, if deprived of all good protectors, and of the use of these enjoyments, is exposed to as much suffering as he is capable of. Therefore he prays on behalf of he man who has those things which are around and exterior to the body, that he may dwell in the house of the wise man; so that attending to the rules of all good men he may see and regulate his own course by their example.
Why because Ham had sinned did God pronounce that his son Canaan should be the servant of Ham and Japhet? [Genesis 9:27].
77. In the first place, God pronounced this sentence because both father and son had displayed the same wickedness, being both united together and not separated, and both indulging in the same disposition.
But in the second place, he did so because the father would be exceedingly afflicted at the curse thus laid upon the son, being sufficiently conscious that he was punished not so much for his own sake as for that of his father. And so the leader and master of the two suffered the punishment of his wicked counsels, and words, and actions.
This is the literal meaning of the statement. But if we look to its inward meaning, then in reality they are no more two different men than two different dispositions. And this is made plain by the names given to them, which manifestly denote the nature of the facts; for Ham being interpreted means heat or hot; and Canaan means merchants or causes.
Why was it that Noah lived after the deluge three hundred and fifty years? [Genesis 9:28].
78. It is now declared that in two periods of seven years the form of the world was originally created and now renewed under Noah. But the wise man lives for a period of fourteen quarters of a century; and fourteen times twenty-five is equal to seven times fifty, or fifty times seven. And it is the principle of the seventh year and also of the fiftieth, which has an especial order of its own explained and ordained in Leviticus.
Why among the three sons of Noah does Ham appear always to occupy the middle place, but the two extremities are varied; for when their birth is mentioned, Shem is placed in the first rank, in this manner, Shem, Ham, and Japhet; but when they are spoken of as fathers, then Japhet is mentioned first, and the beginning of the enumeration of the nation is derived from Japhet himself? [Genesis 10:1].
79. Those who inquire into the literal nature of the divine writings think thus of the order in which these men are mentioned, looking upon him who is the first named, that is Shem, as the younger; and upon him who is named the last, that is Japhet, as the elder. However they may choose to think of this let them, being guided by the principle of mere opinion. But we who look to the real meaning of these statements think that there is here a reference to the three things, good, bad, and indifferent; which last are called secondary goods; and we must therefore think that the sacred writer always puts the bad in the middle, so that being confined at either extremity it may be subdued on one side by the one, and on the other side by the other; so that, being confined, it may be kept in and subdued.
But the good and the indifferent, or secondary good, change the order with one another; for when there is such great evil present, and yet not wholly and altogether, the good rejoices in the first place, having the position of the dispenser and chief of the whole. But when it is placed in the position of the will in a state of conspiracy, and injustice remains not only in the intellect but is also conducted to its end by unjust works, then that first good is changed from its original order into another place, together with all the good habits which depend upon it, rejecting all education and all arrangement, as being wholly unable to attain its proposed end, just as a physician does when he sees an incurable disease.
But the elder good manages that virtue which is around the body and exterior to it; therefore, by observing the extremities with greater caution, and closing in the beast within its toils, it is sufficiently demonstrated that it does not dare to bite or injure any more. But while it feels that it has done no injury, it is transferred into a more secure and more permanent position, and then, a higher and better fortified place being assigned to it, it easily retains the lower position too as one easy to be preserved; for, in consequence of the superior power of its guardian, it is always practicable to watch it closely, since nothing is more mighty than virtue.
Why do the people of Ceos, and of Rhodes, and the isles of the Gentiles, spring from Japhet? [Genesis 16:4].
80. Since he has the name denoting breadth (namely Japhet), being expanded in his growth and increase, that part of the things of the world which have been assigned by nature for the use of mankind, that is to say, the earth, can no longer hold him, therefore he passes over into the other part, that is to say, the sea and the islands belonging to it.
This is the literal meaning of the statement.
But if we look to its inner sense, all the external blessings which are bestowed by nature, such as riches, and honor, and principalities, are lavished and poured forth in every direction on those men into whose hands they come, and are also extended widely to others who are not so much within reach; so that in a greater, or at all events, in no less a degree do they surround and hem the man in, in accordance with the greediness of the lovers of riches and glory, since they are eager for principalities, and are never satisfied because of their insatiable desires.
Why the eldest son of Ham is Chus. [Genesis 10:6].
81. The sacred historian has here produced a word most completely in accordance with nature, saying that Chus was the elder son of evil, Chus being the dissolved and loose nature of the earth, for the earth, when dense and fertile, and moist, is full of herbs, and hills, and trees, and is well arranged for the production of different fruits; but when dissolved and reduced to dust and dry, it is unfruitful and barren; and besides it is tossed about in the air, when it is raised from the ground by the wind, by its dust making the air all alive.
Such as this is the first origin and the first shoots of evil being destitute of the generation of good pursuits, and the cause of barrenness to the soul and to all its parts.
Why was Chus the father of Nimrod, who began to be a giant and a hunter before the Lord: on which account they said, "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord?" [Genesis 10:8].
82. The father in this case, having a nature truly dissolute, does not at all keep fast the spiritual bond of the soul, nor of nature, nor of consistency of manners, but rather like a giant born of the earth, prefers earthly to heavenly things, and thus appears to verify the ancient fable of the giants and Titans; for in truth he who is an emulator of earthly and corruptible things is always engaged in a conflict with heavenly and admirable natures, raising up earth as a bulwark against heaven; and those things which are below are adverse to those which are above.
On which account there is much propriety in the expression, he was a giant against God, which thus declares the opposition of such beings to the deity; for a wicked man is nothing else than an enemy, contending against God: on which account it has become a proverb that every one who sins greatly ought to be referred to him as the original and chief of sinners, being spoken of "as a second Nimrod."
Therefore his very name is an indication of his character, for it is interpreted Aethiopian, and his art is that of hunting, both of which things are detestable: an Aethiopian because unmitigated wickedness has no participation in light, but imitates night and darkness: and the practice of the huntsman is as much as possible at variance with rational nature, for he who lives among wild beasts wishes to live the life of a beast, and to be equal to the brutes in the vices of wickedness.