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B'resheet/Genesis 7:24 And the waters were strong over the earth [for] a hundred and fifty days.
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Following the "days and forty nights" (v. 12) of rain, the destruction of "all living things that moved on the earth" (v. 21), and the stark reminder that - only Noah - and those with him in the ark survived, the narrative of the flood story tells us that the waters held sway over the earth for a period of one hundred and fifty days. The commentators disagree as to whether this was another period of time after the forty days of rain (Radak, Rashi) - making a total of one hundred and ninety - or whether this is the total including the forty days of rain, so telling us about one hundred and ten days after the rain ( Ramban, Sforno).
The verb at the beginning of the verse, , is a Qal prefix 3mp form from the root - to be or become strong, powerful or mighty (Davidson) - in a vav-conversive construction to make it past-tense sequential narrative. The root is the source of such phrases as - a mighty man of valour - and is used for many heroes or sub-heroes in the biblical stories, such as David's "mighty men" (see, for example, 2 Samuel 23:13-17 or 2 Kings 24:10-16). When the verb is followed by the preposition - as it is here - it has the sense of prevailing over someone or something (e.g. 2 Samuel 11:23). This leads some translations to render this verse: "the water held power over the earth" (CJB) or "the water prevailed upon the earth" (NASB).
The Ramban comments that the waters increased greatly, citing usage of the same verb in, "their transgressions, that they have magnified themselves" (Job 36:9, NASB) and "The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong" (Psalm 90:10, NRSV). Noting that the Sages show an awareness of the strength and power of water when they speak of " - the powers of the rains" (m. Ta'anit 1:1, b. Ta'anit 2a) at the start of a discussion about when it is appropriate to pray for rain, he concludes that "the waters were in complete strength, overcoming even the high mountains and inundating them." Umberto Cassuto1 says, "'prevail' here connotes a continuing state: the power of the water upon the earth continued for one hundred and fifty days. The word , used in verses 18-19 is not used here, hence the reference is not to the peak of the water's strength but to their power in general."
After this period of one hundred and fifty days, the waters started to recede. Nahum Sarna notes that such long and gradual recession might be due to tectonic plate movement - a more modern version of the older suggestions that the water went back into the "fountains of the deep" from which much of it had originally come. Nevertheless, for a period of five months, the earth was submerged by water. The CJB translation "the water held power over the earth" seems quite appropriate.
The Bible records a number of other occasions when time is limited; either a specific time interval is mentioned, or a reference to time is clearly included in the text. Abraham is told that his descendants will be in bondage for four hundred years "and they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (B'resheet 15:16, ESV). When in exile in Babylon, the Israelites are told "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place" (Jeremiah 29:10, ESV). Daniel hears in a vision "And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering" (Daniel 9:27, ESV); this last is particularly interesting because the word translated 'strong' is also a variant of the root . In all these instances, specific things are scheduled to happen at a particular time. In the case of Job, on the other hand, a season of testing is allowed without a specific time limit being imposed although a limit in amount is set: "The L-RD said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand' ... The L-RD said to Satan, 'Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life'" (Job 1:12, 2:6, ESV). The principle here is that despite time and circumstances appearing to the contrary, G-d has His plan, His schedule and His purposes - His sovereignty is absolute in all thing.
As believers, we too are covered by the promises and faithfulness of G-d. Rav Sha'ul writes, "No temptation has seized you beyond what people normally experience, and G-d can be trusted not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. On the contrary, along with the temptation he will also provide the way out, so that you will be able to endure" (1 Corinthians 10:13, CJB). Peter adds, "Rejoice in this, even though for a little while you may have to experience grief in various trials. Even gold is tested for genuineness by fire. The purpose of these trials is so that your trust's genuineness, which is far more valuable than perishable gold, will be judged worthy of praise, glory and honor at the revealing of Yeshua the Messiah" (1 Peter 1:6-7, CJB). This is comforting when we go through times of trial, testing and salvation, but how do we know it is true? On what is it based?
Our faith is fastened to nothing less than the faithfulness and character of G-d, proclaimed again and again in the Torah, the Prophets and the New Covenant Scriptures. Moshe taught the ancient Israelites: "Know therefore that the L-RD your G-d is G-d, the faithful G-d who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations" (D'varim 7:9, ESV), while Isaiah proclaimed, "Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist" (Isaiah 11:5, NASB). John's vision at the end of Bible confirms that this holds true to the very end and beyond: "Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war" (Revelation 19:11, ESV). This is foundational to our belief: G-d is faithful. Rav Sha'ul adds, "But the L-rd is worthy of trust; He will make you firm and guard you from the Evil One" (1 Thessalonians 3:3, CJB). There, see, G-d has promised to guard us from Satan, the Accuser, the enemy of our souls.
Although evil may appear to be having its way, although what Rav Sha'ul describes as "the cosmic powers over this present darkness ... the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12, ESV) often seem to be in the ascendancy, the truth is that they are ultimately powerless; they are wasted. They were defeated once and for all by Yeshua at the cross - "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15, NIV) although they shout and make a lot of noise they have no power over us unless we allow them to have it. Whether for one day, one hundred and fifty days or a lifetime - the enemy cannot conquer or destroy us; his influence is strictly limited and controlled by Father G-d. As Yeshua told the disciples: "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (John 10:29, ESV).
1. - Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part Two - From Noah to Abraham, Magnes Press Jerusalem 1984, 965-223-540-7, page 97
Further Study: Hebrews 10:23; 1 Peter 4:19
Now is the time to stand firm, to put on the armour of God (Ephesians
6:13-17) and to proclaim that our "one hundred and fifty days" is over and
that the power and authority of the enemy is broken and defeated!
© Jonathan Allen, 2012
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© Jonathan Allen, 2012
Your turn - what do you think of the ideas in this drash ?Like most print and online magazines, we reserve the right to edit or publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.