Genesis 8:7
And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.
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Genesis 8:7-12. Noah sent forth a raven — Through the window of the ark; which went forth — As the Hebrew phrase is, going forth and returning; that is, flying about, but returning to the ark for rest; probably not in it, but upon it. This gave Noah little satisfaction: therefore, he sent forth a dove — Which returned the first time with no good news, but probably wet and dirty; but the second time she brought an olive-leaf in her bill, which appeared to be fresh plucked off; a plain indication that now the trees began to appear above water. Note here, that Noah sent forth the dove a second time, seven days after the first time, and the third time was after seven days too: and probably the first sending of her out was seven days after the sending forth of the raven. The olive-branch is an emblem of peace.

8:4-12 The ark rested upon a mountain, whither it was directed by the wise and gracious providence of God, that might rest the sooner. God has times and places of rest for his people after their tossing; and many times he provides for their seasonable and comfortable settlement, without their own contrivance, and quite beyond their own foresight. God had told Noah when the flood would come, yet he did not give him an account by revelation, at what times and by what steps it should go away. The knowledge of the former was necessary to his preparing the ark; but the knowledge of the latter would serve only to gratify curiosity; and concealing it from him would exercise his faith and patience. Noah sent forth a raven from the ark, which went flying about, and feeding on the carcasses that floated. Noah then sent forth a dove, which returned the first time without good news; but the second time, she brought an olive leaf in her bill, plucked off, plainly showing that trees, fruit trees, began to appear above water. Noah sent forth the dove the second time, seven days after the first, and the third time was after seven days also; probably on the sabbath day. Having kept the sabbath with his little church, he expected especial blessings from Heaven, and inquired concerning them. The dove is an emblem of a gracious soul, that, finding no solid peace of satisfaction in this deluged, defiling world, returns to Christ as to its ark, as to its Noah, its rest. The defiling world, returns to Christ as to its ark, as to its Noah, its rest. The carnal heart, like the raven, takes up with the world, and feeds on the carrion it finds there; but return thou to my rest, O my soul; to thy Noah, so the word is, Ps 116:7. And as Noah put forth his hand, and took the dove, and pulled her to him, into the ark, so Christ will save, and help, and welcome those that flee to him for rest.The raven and the dove are sent out to bring tidings of the external world. "Forty days." Before Noah made any experiment he seems to have allowed the lapse of forty days to undo the remaining effect of the forty days' rain. "The window." He seems to have been unable to take any definite observations through the aperture here called a window. The raven found carrion in abundance, floated probably on the waters, and did not need to return. This was such a token of the state of things as Noah might expect from such a messenger. He next sends the dove, who returns to him. "Yet other seven days." This intimates that he stayed seven days also after the raven was sent out. The olive leaf plucked off was a sign of returning safety to the land. It is said by Theophrastus (Hist. Plant. 4, 7) and Pliny (H. N. 13, 50) that the olive strikes leaves even under water. From this event, the olive branch became the symbol of peace, and the dove the emblem of the Comforter, the messenger of peace. After seven other days, the dove being despatched, returns no more. The number seven figures very conspicuously in this narrative. Seven days before the showers commence the command to enter the ark is given; and at intervals of seven days the winged messengers are sent out. These intervals point evidently to the period of seven days, determined by the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest. The clean beasts also and the birds are admitted into the ark by seven pairs. This points to the sacredness associated with the number arising from the hallowed character of the seventh day. The number forty also, the product of four, the number of the world or universe, and ten the number of completeness, begins here to be employed for a complete period in which a process will have run its course.7. And he sent forth a raven—The smell of carrion would allure it to remain if the earth were in a habitable state. But it kept hovering about the spot, and, being a solitary bird, probably perched on the covering. He sent forth a raven; a fit messenger for that purpose, because it smells dead carcasses at a great distance, and flies far, and then returneth to its former habitation with something in its bill.

To and fro; Heb. going and returning; i.e. went forth hither and thither; now forward, then backward; sometimes going from the ark, and sometimes returning to the ark, though never entering into it again. Not as if she returned afterwards; the phrase implies that she never returned. And so the word until is often used, as 2 Samuel 6:23, Michal had no child until the day of her death, i.e. never had a child. See also Psalm 110:1 Matthew 1:25.

And he sent forth a raven,.... That by it he might make his observation, how high or low the waters were upon the earth; and the rather he sent out the raven, a bird of prey, which feeds on carrion, that if the earth had been dry, the smell of the dead carcasses would have invited it to go far off from the ark, and not return; but if not, he would see it again:

which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from the earth; or, "and it went forth, going forth and returning" (l); it went forth out of the ark, and returned, but might not go into it, but went forth again, and then returned; and thus it continued going backwards and forwards, until the waters were dried up, when it returned no more: the Septuagint version is, "and it returned not"; and so some Jewish writers (m) say, it found the carcass of a man on the top of the mountains, and sat upon it for food, and returned not: hence came the fable of Apollo's sending a raven to fetch water, while he was sacrificing, which lighting on a large corn field, yet green, and being willing to enjoy some grains of it, waited till it was ripe, and neglected its orders (n); and hence is the proverb, "corvus nuntius". Some make this creature to be an emblem of the law, first sent forth, but brought no good tidings of the waters of God's wrath being assuaged, but worketh wrath, and is the ministration of condemnation and death: rather it is an emblem of unregenerate men, who are, like it, black through original sin and actual transgressions; are unclean and polluted in all the powers and faculties of their souls; are hateful, hating one another, and live in carnal and sensual lusts pleasures.

(l) "et exiit egrediende et redeundo", Pagninus, Montanus, Schmidt. (m) Pirke Eliezer, c. 23. (n) Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 1. c. 47.

And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.
7. a raven] The Heb. and LXX give the definite article, “the raven,” which some have explained as the only male raven in the ark. But the article is idiomatically generic; cf. Genesis 8:8, Gesenius, Heb. Gr. 126, § 4. The Israelite story records the sending, first of a raven, and then, on two successive occasions, of a dove. The Babylonian account records the sending first of a dove, which returned; then of a swallow, which returned; and lastly of a raven, which turned not back.

Noah, stranded with the ark on the highest point, is unable to see anything around or below him.

went forth to and fro] Presumably it was preying upon floating carcases. The “to and fro” suggests the picture of its flitting backwards and forwards, near the ark.

Genesis 8:7Forty days after the appearance of the mountain tops, Noah opened the window of the ark and let a raven fly out (lit., the raven, i.e., the particular raven known from that circumstance), for the purpose of ascertaining the drying up of the waters. The raven went out and returned until the earth was dry, but without being taken back into the ark, as the mountain tops and the carcases floating upon the water afforded both resting-places and food. After that, Noah let a dove fly out three times, at intervals of seven days. It is not distinctly stated that he sent it out the first time seven days after the raven, but this is implied in the statement that he stayed yet other seven days before sending it out the second time, and the same again before sending it the third time (Genesis 8:10 and Genesis 8:12). The dove, when first sent out, "found no rest for the sole of its foot;" for a dove will only settle upon such places and objects as are dry and clean. It returned to the ark and let Noah take it in again (Genesis 8:8, Genesis 8:9). The second time it returned in the evening, having remained out longer than before, and brought a fresh (טרף freshly plucked) olive-leaf in its mouth. Noah perceived from this that the water must be almost gone, had "abated from off the earth," though the ground might not be perfectly dry, as the olive-tree will put out leaves even under water. The fresh olive-leaf was the first sign of the resurrection of the earth to new life after the flood, and the dove with the olive-leaf a herald of salvation. The third time it did not return; a sign that the waters had completely receded from the earth. The fact that Noah waited 40 days before sending the raven, and after that always left an interval of seven days, is not to be accounted for on the supposition that these numbers were already regarded as significant. The 40 days correspond to the 40 days during which the rain fell and the waters rose; and Noah might assume that they would require the same time to recede as to rise. The seven days constituted the week established at the creation, and God had already conformed to it in arranging their entrance into the ark (Genesis 7:4, Genesis 7:10). The selection which Noah made of the birds may also be explained quite simply from the difference in their nature, with which Noah must have been acquainted; that is to say, from the fact that the raven in seeking its food settles upon every carcase that it sees, whereas the dove will only settle upon what is dry and clean.
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