I once explained that there is more than one history of Noah, and this is a good thing. It allows us to dissect and compare each history, in order to gain some new insights.
We have one such scenario when it comes to days before the Flood. God only knows how the Bible was ultimately assembled, but my concern is to glean revelations that get us closer to the Almighty. So, from Genesis 6:15 to about 7:4 (and slightly beyond these verses, in actuality), we have an ‘Elohim’ source (in Chapter 6) that illuminates the building of the Ark, and a ‘YHWH’ source (in Chapter 7) describing the final week before the Flood. These sources may be disjointed chronologically, but their narratives are united through several similarities. Both describe the animals and the members of Noah’s family, and the gravity of God’s judgment on mankind. There is, however, distinct differences which I find to be quite eye-opening. They are both stamped with certain numbers, and they seem to fit special patterns which will guide us in our interpretations. If I’m right, they are like blueprints to God’s operations, in some ways like military generals that divide operations into phases. Note this example from the Iraq War effort:
In the U.S. military, each phase number corresponds with a doctrinal explanation of events so that planners have a common frame of reference. For example, if military leaders announce ‘the operation has reached phase II’ officers understand the infantry is nearing Baghdad, while ‘Phase III’ might mean that Baghdad is captured.
The accounts of Noah’s life appear to portray how God marks his own phases of an operation, or as it is usually phrased, a “covenant”. The following might help illuminate the phases of God’s covenant He established with Noah.
When we read the first account of Noah in Genesis 6:15-22, what number(s) are associated to Noah’s building of the ark?
15 This is how you shall make it. The length of the ship shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 You shall make a roof in the ship, and you shall finish it to a cubit upward. You shall set the door of the ship in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third levels. 17 I, even I, will bring the flood of waters on this earth, to destroy all flesh having the breath of life from under the sky. Everything that is in the earth will die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you. You shall come into the ship, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 Of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ship, to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds after their kind, of the livestock after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every sort will come to you, to keep them alive. 21 Take with you some of all food that is eaten, and gather it to yourself; and it will be for food for you, and for them.” 22 Thus Noah did. He did all that God commanded him.Genesis 6:15-22
I would suggest it’s the numbers 2 and 3. Besides the “two of every sort” of animals, Noah gathers food for both humans and animals (denoting two classes of living beings), the ark has three dimensions, with three levels, and there are three that partake of God’s covenant with Noah (his sons, his wife, and his son’s wives). The types of animals are also classified into three basic kinds (birds, livestock, and creeping things). Furthermore, each concept is repeated (i.e. ‘take food / it will be food for you’) – 2 or 3 times.
Now, what verbs are associated to this account? We read verbs denoting building (the Ark), assembling (animals), establishing (a covenant), and gathering (food). If we think of these numbers and verbs in terms of phases, this describes preparatory actions, the buildup phase for a final execution phase to come at a later time. In scripture, this pattern of 2s and 3s appears EVERYWHERE, and they appear alongside the same verbs and concepts in the account we just read:
“This is the third time I am coming to you – At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (1 Corinthians 13:1, quoting Deuteronomy 19:15), and “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19)
The patterns of 2s and 3s thus represents the “witness” phase when facts are gathered and testimonies are prepared – just like how Noah gathered food for animals and materials for the Ark. We’re actually reading about two concurrent “operations” – one was a plan of salvation for Noah and all animal life; the other was to investigate the initial accusation of God: that the world was evil and corrupt (vv. 6:5,11). In this “witness” phase, accusations proceed to trials, and what was up to this point only an idea on a blueprint is built into a tangible object.
The Scriptures also call Noah a witness through his building of the Ark (see also 2 Peter 2:5), but when we say “Noah” we mean his entire household. They chose to stay and are the unsung heroes that deserves greater recognition for their faithfulness. Noah’s sons could’ve had harems of their own, and all these men’s’ wives could’ve opted for easier lives with the Nephilim “celebrities” (see vv. 6:2-4). Indeed, Noah’s house built more than the Ark – they were building a case for the Almighty.
Now, moving on to the second account that ends with ‘Noah did all that was commanded of him’, what number(s) or patterns stick out here?
1 The LORD said to Noah, “Come with all of your household into the ship, for I have seen your righteousness before me in this generation. 2 You shall take seven pairs of every clean animal with you, the male and his female. Of the animals that are not clean, take two, the male and his female. 3 Also of the birds of the sky, seven and seven, male and female, to keep seed alive on the surface of all the earth. 4 In seven days, I will cause it to rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights. I will destroy every living thing that I have made from the surface of the ground.”5 Noah did everything that the LORD commanded him.Genesis 7:1-5
So this account also has a few twos (or pairs) in it as well, but I would suggest that 7 and 40 are heavily highlighted in Genesis 7, as is the distinction of clean vs. unclean animals.
This later account takes place when the Ark was finished, about one week before the Flood, while the former takes place just before the building of the Ark. As I portrayed, that former account was highlighted by 2s and 3s to demonstrate the “witness” phase of God’s planning cycle. Now, however, it is time for Phase “7”, when plans are finished, and the verdict is laid. This is saying that ‘we had our witness phase; this is now the end’. The power of sevens is the power of judgment.
I interpret the sudden mandate to take seven “clean” animals as a response to no other humans responding to Noah’s witness. I like to believe that at first, there was plenty of room for more people in the Ark, but no one accepted the invitation. As a result, God commanded Noah to take more clean animals to give Noah a head start in establishing flocks and herds after the flood – but it was originally God’s intention to leave as much space as possible for human souls.
Nevertheless, the fact that “seven” is all over the page is not coincidence. We know it is often marked with things that are ended or completed, such as ‘And on the seventh day God ended his work which He had created’ (Genesis 2:2). But it is also associated with great judgments, such as the march around Jericho’s walls and the “seventy weeks” prophecy of Daniel (see Joshua 6 and Daniel 9:24-27, respectively). In short, “seven” appears in Genesis 7 because it is prophetic symbolism of both the completion of the covenant with Noah, as well as the judgment of that age. Witnesses had offered their testimony, the facts were gathered, and as the Scriptures say that “God saw” means their testimony had been reviewed by Him – but only Noah was investigated and found to be righteous (vs. 1). The verdict was in.
As for 40, that number appears throughout Scripture as well. It denotes a transition from one period to the next. It is often associated with fasting, which is a way for men and women to progress to a new phase of life – “putting on a new wineskin” as Yeshua taught (Matthew 9:16-17). This is why Moses was on Mount Sinai forty days as God transitioned Israel from Egyptian captivity to a covenant of Law (Exodus 34:28), why Elijah fasted forty days after Israel returned to the Almighty (1 Kings 9:18), and why Yeshua fasted forty days to mark the beginning of the Messianic age (Matthew 4:2). The forty-day rains of Noah’s time mark a similar transition, from one age to the next.
I would suggest that as we read through the Bible we would become more sensitive to the prophetic patterns which appear in plain sight. In the case of Noah, the appearance of 2s and 3s suggest that God gave a considerable amount of time for people to listen to the witness and building of the Ark. By the time that ‘sevens’ appear on the page, this denotes the Rubicon phase – the final verdict, the point of no return.
Try to think about where else these patterns appear. There’s a reason Yeshua was crucified with two other criminals, and rose on the third day. These patterns of 2s and 3s suggest that we are still in the witness phase, when testimonies are received in heaven, and meaning that we still have time to repent. But I would also suggest there is a reason a pattern of sevens is woven into the book of Revelation. Whenever those days are fulfilled (whenever that may be), it will mark the end for all of us, and we don’t want to miss our chance of salvation like the ancients missed the Ark of Noah.