7:1 The Final Call: With the Flood to begin in seven days, God bid Noah to enter the Ark with his family. In addition to the pair from each species that he had been commanded previously to bring, he was now told to bring seven pairs of animals that the Torah would later declare to be clean (kosher) so that he would be able to use them as offerings when he left the Ark (Rashi). They would also provide him with a supply of livestock for food, in anticipation of God’s removal of the prohibition against eating meat (9:3) (Radak).
Notice also that in the previous chapter, the name Elohim (God) was used indicating God’s Attribute of Justice. Here He is called Hashem, the God of Mercy, for He is saving Noah from the Flood, and, in addition, He is saving Noah’s entire family and possessions, which, on their own merits, did not deserve to be saved. The Name Hashem is also an indication that Noah’s future offerings would be accepted, since the chapters dealing with offerings use only the Name Hashem (Ramban).
“..to be righteous before Me” – For you are righteous – and not the members of your household. Therefore the verse says, come, you and all your household into the ark – it is only for your sake that they are being saved (Sforno). This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that 8:1 says: And God remembered Noah, and makes no mention of his children (Minchah Belulah).
Kli Yakar notes that God had never before singled out Noah as the righteous man of that generation as long as Methuselah was still alive and there was also the possibility that the generation night repent. When Methuselah died and they persisted in their wickedness, however, God singled out Noah and finalized the decree.
7:2 “..of every clean animal..” – In order words, from every animal which will one day be declared ‘clean’ – as food for Israel. This shows that Noah studied Torah (Rashi).
Ramban explains that God fully explained to Noah the signs of ritual cleanliness for beast and fowl as found in Leviticus 11. For the sake of being brief, the Torah describes them here as ‘clean’. The reference to ‘clean’ does not refer to physical cleanliness, but to ritual acceptability.
The concept of ‘clean’ animal is mentioned here for the first time. It can have no other meaning than acceptability for sacrifice, because heretofore, animal flesh for food was forbidden.
“..take unto you seven pairs..” – One should not ask ‘why seven and not six or eight.’ Know that God in His wisdom ordained that seven would serve the higher purpose He intended (Radak).
The animals that came to preserve their species came of their own accord, prompted by the Divine Will. God gave Noah the merit of catching those that were destined to be slaughtered, for, in His great benevolence, God would not have these animals offer themselves for death. At the same time this teaches man that clemency must be exercised even toward animals (Ramban).
7:4 “For in seven days time..” – What purpose was served by these seven days?
** Rav said: These were the days of mourning for Methuselah, thus teaching that lamenting for the righteous postpones retribution;
** Another meaning is: After the seven days during which the Holy One blessed be He, reversed the order of nature, the sun rising in the west and setting in the east – that the wicked might be arrested by the phenomenon and led to repentance..
** And another interpretation: God showed them the bounty of the righteous in the World to Come so that they might closely examine their own ways and say “Woe unto us over this good which we are forfeiting!” – for they had corrupted their way on the earth.
“..forty days and forty nights..” – According to the Midrash: ‘They have transgressed the Torah which was later given after forty days’ … ‘they corrupted the features of the human embryo which take shape after forty days…’
7:6 “Noah was six hundred years old..” – Rav Yehudah said: The year of the Flood is not counted in the number of Noah’s years. For he was 600 years old when the Flood commenced, the Flood lasted a year in all, and he lived 350 years after the Flood (9:28) yet his lifetime is given as 950 years, not 951. The reason for this was that it was a year of such suffering and tribulation that it was as if he had been dead during that year. But, it is counted in the chronological reckoning of the total number of years from the world’s creation when we determine the seasons and intercalations.
7:7 “Noah, with his sons..” – The men and women are listed separately because marital intimacy was forbidden at a time when the whole world was in distress (Rashi).
“..because of the waters of the Flood.” – Rashi interprets this phrase to mean that Noah entered only at the last moment: ‘Noah was of little faith, believing and yet not believing that the Flood would come, and he did not enter until the rising water forced him to do so.’ As the Midrash comments: ‘He lacked faith: had the waters not reached his ankles, he would not have entered the ark’.
How can we say that the righteous Noah was lacking in faith? – Noah could not bring himself to believe that the Merciful God would truly destroy all life. Or, Noah thought that the onslaught of the water would cause the generation to repent and win God’s mercy; he did not reckon on their continued stubbornness. Nevertheless, Scripture implies a criticism of Noah because he should have obeyed despite his calculations.
7:9 “two by two..” – Ramban comments that one pair of every species, the clean ones included, came of its own accord, meaning that God caused them to come instinctively. As for the additional six pairs of the kosher animals that Noah would use later for offerings, he had to gather them himself. For God to have sent these animals to Noah without any effort on his part would have diminished the significance of his offerings. A person’s free-willed offering is an expression of his gratitude or an effort to increase his closeness to God. Consequently, it is his own desire and his own exertions that give value to the offering.
7:11 Zohar states that this verse, which speaks of a deluge emanating from above and below, alludes to the potential of a great flood of spiritual growth that was destined for that year. It would have been the year when the Written and Oral Torahs were given, but mankind failed dismally and was undeserving of the opportunity.
The subterranean fountains burst forth and the waters inundated the earth in a great seismic upheaval filling up the valleys, while simultaneously the torrential rains fell from heaven in such force that, figuratively speaking, the very ‘windows of the heavens’ opened up, causing complete havoc and obscuring day and night (Ibn Ezra; Radak)
The waters were scaling hot, notes the Talmud (Sanhedrin 108b).
7:12 “And the rain was..” Noting that later (verse 17), the narrative mentions ‘Flood’ while here it refers to ‘rain’, Rashi explains that when the water descended, it began gently because it still could have become a rain of blessing had the people belatedly repented. Only when they refused did it become a Flood (Zohar 1:25).
7:13 “On that very day..” – Rashi comments: Scripture teaches you that his neighbors threatened to kill him and smash the ark if they saw him entering it, whereupon God said: ‘I will have him enter the ark before the eyes of everyone and we shall see whose word prevails!” (Midrash).
“Noah came..” – It would have been easier to simply state ‘the sons of Noah’ without naming them. However, they are specifically listed, and Noah’s name is repeated three times in this verse, to emphasize that each entered and was saved by his merit (Ibn Caspi).
7:15 “..they came to Noah ….in pairs” – Two of every species – male and female – came of their own volition on that very day when the rains began and not before, because it was God that commanded, and His spirit which gathered them (Isaiah 34:16) (Ramban).
Malbim says that every phrase in this verse is laden with the wondrous spectacle of the event: And they came to Noah – Although most animals run away from man; to the ark – although animals despise confinement and cling to their freedom to roam: two and two – and not more; of all flesh – not even one species was missing.
7:16 “And Hashem shut it on his behalf” – On that day God caused the whole earth to shake; the sun darkened, the fountains raged, lighting flashed, and thunder roared as never before. But the sons of man remained obstinate.
When the Flood began to rage, seven hundred thousand men surrounded the ark and begged Noah to let them in.
‘Have you not all rebelled against God and said He does not exist?’ Noah said to them. ‘That is why God is now destroying you just as I have been warning you for the past 120 years, and you would not heed the call. Yet now you desire to be spared?’
‘We will repent now!’ they cried. ‘Only open the door of your ark for us.’
‘Now that you are in trouble, you finally agree to repent? Why did you not repent these last 120 years which were extended to you just for that very purpose? Now that you are beset with problems you finally come. But it is too late: God will not now hearken to you. You are doomed, and your pleas are to no avail.’
The people tried to forcibly enter the ark to escape the rains but the wild animals surrounding the ark drove them away, to meet their death in the Flood…(Sefer HaYashar).
7:17 The Ravages of the Flood – Hoffman writes: There is an abundance of repetition in this narrative in order to give vivid expression to the great deluge. Therefore, entire verses are devoted to illustrate each aspect of the miracle.
Accordingly, verse 17 tells of the abundance of water and the lifting of the ark; verse 18: the floating of the ark; verse 19: the total submergence of the mountains; verse 20: the 15 cubit height of the water over the mountains.
Similarly, when describing the destruction of the earth, an entire verse is devoted to each point; verse 21 declares that all earthlings died; verse 22: that this death was the fate only of those creatures who live on land; verse 23: in the almost total calamity only Noah and those who were with him were saved.
7:21 “..and all mankind.” – The verse lists the creatures in the order in which they were overcome by the Flood: First the birds and finally man (Ha’amek Davar).
The birds were overcome first, because they were too frail to withstand the downpour – then the domesticated animals; then the wild beasts many of whom dwelled in caves high in the mountains which protected them somewhat longer from both the lower and upper waters: they perished when the waters covered the mountain peaks; man probably tried every method known to him to survive: he climbed the highest trees atop the highest mountains; tried building rafts, etc. There were individuals who survived longer than others. But by the time the waters reached a level of fifteen cubits above the mountain peaks, combined with the strength and ravages described in these verses even man perished (Malbim).
7:22 “..whatever was on dry land,” – Maharsha, citing Zevachim 113b, states that the scalding heat of the flood waters did not affect the fish because the ravages of the Flood were directed to dry land. The fish did not participate in man’s sins, and they were spared.
This is also implied by verse 17: ‘The Flood was upon the earth’ – not on the sea.
Ramban suggests that it is conceivable that the flood-waters mingled with the seas and heated only the upper waters while the fish descended to the depths and thereby survived … For none of the fish were brought into the ark to keep their seed alive, and no mention is made of fish in the covenant in 9:9-10.
7:23 “And He blotted out all existence..” – After having stated in the previous verse that they died, it now adds that the Flood blotted out, dissolved, their bodies, and this is the meaning of the verb in Numbers 5:23: ‘and he shall blot them out in the waters of bitterness’ (Ramban).
“And they were blotted out from the earth.” – The repetition of the verb emphasizes their total obliteration. Their very names were blotted out from the world; they left no seed (Ibn Ezra).
7:24 The storm prevailed and all the living creatures in the ark were terrified. The lions roared, the oxen lowed, and the wolves howled…and Noah and his children cried and wept, thinking that death was at hand.
Noah prayed to God and said: ‘Hashem, help us, for we have no strength to bear this evil that has encompassed us, for the waves of the waters have surrounded us, mischievous torrents have terrified us, the snares of death have come before us; answer us, Hashem, answer us, light up Your countenance toward us and be gracious to us. Redeem and deliver us.’
God listened to his voice, ‘and God remembered Noah…’ (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer; Zohar).