from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 7

Genesis 8: Raven and Dove

The Story


The storm cleared, and after a hundred and fifty days the waters of the flood were gone. The mountains again were seen, and the ark rested on the mountain tops. Noah opened the window of the ark and sent out birds, first a raven and then a dove, to see if the waters had gone. The raven, a big black bird with a harsh voice, flew back and forth over the waters until they dried up. The dove when first sent out found no place to light, and came back to Noah in the evening. The next time she brought back an olive leaf in her mouth. And the third time she did not come back, for the ground was dry. Then Noah uncovered the ark and the people and the animals from the ark came out to find happy homes. Noah worshiped; the Lord was pleased with his worship and promised that there should not again be a flood to destroy all things.

Can you think what this story meant to the wise people of long ago? After the days of Eden, evil and unhappiness were growing more and more. Finally they were like a flood that covered the earth, and almost nothing good was left.


There was a time when wickedness was everywhere in the world. How is this described in the Bible story?

As we read the next chapter, keep in mind what you have learned about the meaning of the story and see if you can tell what the new lesson means. It tells of the going of the waters, until at last the ground was dry. What can this mean? When the flood came upon the earth, the mountains were covered by the waters; now their tops were seen again. Does anyone see what this can mean?

The clearing of a storm is beautiful. It is a glorious picture, the abating of the waters, the resting of the ark, and (in our next lesson) the rainbow in the sky. The name Ararat sounds familiar, and we think of Armenia and the country between the Black and Caspian seas. But the ancient people who first had this story had no maps and thought of the names chiefly in a spiritual way.

Read carefully about Noah's opening the window and sending out the birds. You will know that it means a trying out, to learn if the time had come when gentle, innocent thoughts, like doves, could again find place in people's minds. Yes, at last the time had come after the days of trouble, and it was time to come out from the ark. How many sons had Noah? Please learn their names.

The story tells of Noah's building an altar and offering sacrifice of all clean beasts and birds. We read also in Gen. 4 of offerings made by Cain and Abel. People did not sacrifice animals in worship until a later time. The offerings of Abel and Noah mean love and kindness expressed in worship and in other useful ways. It is such love and service which is as a sweet savor to the Lord. "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

The flood had gone and the ground was dry. Noah opened the ark, and he and his family and all the animals that were with him came out upon the earth. The Lord blessed them, and it was the beginning of another happy time in the world. It was not like the Garden of Eden, but people were good and they were happy; they remembered the Lord and made offerings to Him, and when they did so in a good spirit, it was pleasing to the Lord and He blessed them again. Let us read the story.

1. What were covered when the flood came, which were seen again when the flood went away? On what did the ark rest?

2. What did Noah open in the ark? What did he send out?

3. Tell me about the dove's first going out; the second going, and what she brought back; the third going.

4. How did Noah worship the Lord?

5. What numbers are mentioned in this lesson?

Spiritual Study


What do the waters of the flood represent? The wickedness, especially the falsity, which overwhelmed the minds of human beings. For those represented by Noah and his family, it was a time of temptation. You see the meaning when you read that the waters were abated and the ark found rest. The wind which dried up the waters represents the heavenly influence which protects from evil. Compare Exod. 14:21. It was in the seventh month; do you see a meaning in this number? Seven is associated with the Sabbath and the rest which follows temptation. (A. 842, 851)

When the flood came, the mountains were covered; they represent heavenly states of love to the Lord and one another. As the flood abated, the mountains again appeared, and it was upon these mountains that the ark found rest; it is the return of heavenly states. But the people represented by Noah and his descendants were different from the people of the Golden Age. In that age, love was the leading trait of character; now it was intelligence, but intelligence associated with goodness, for they did what they saw was right. The mountains which were covered were the loving states of the Golden Age; those which now appeared were the good intelligent states of the new Silver Age which followed. (A. 795, 851, 854)

What did we learn was represented by the window in the ark, opening upward? Like the eye in the face it represents intelligence, the entrance of heavenly light into the mind. Now the window was opened; it suggests the opening of spiritual intelligence. And what came out from the window? Birds; and birds represent affections for thought of many kinds. As the evil days passed by, would the first thought be very interior and wise, or would it be ignorant and largely false? The blackness of the raven, the bird that was first sent out, suggests falsity or at least ignorance. (Ps. 147:9; Luke 12:24; A. 863, 865)

After the raven, came the dove; and what kind of thought does the dove represent? Heavenly thought of a very gentle innocent kind. This is why the dove was used in offerings to the Lord, and why the Divine Spirit coming forth in the Lord's human life was represented by a dove at His baptism. There are degrees of gradual increase of this heavenly thought; the first exercise of it is self-confident, with the sense of thinking and acting in one's own power. This is suggested by Noah's sending the dove from himself and afterward drawing it in to himself with his hand. The second time that the dove went it brought the olive leaf. Trees represent intelligence; the olive, which bears the noblest oil, represents intelligence in regard to the Lord's goodness and love. People’s thoughts turned to these holy subjects, and the olive leaf plucked off is an emblem of the heavenly wisdom of the Golden Age handed down for them, which they took up into their minds and mouths. Again the dove went forth and did not return; it expresses the freedom, the joyful exercise of holy, heavenly thoughts, now that the evil days were wholly gone. (A. 870, 874, 886, 892)

How is it possible that offerings of animals could be pleasing to the Lord? Even in the old days people were taught that the offerings themselves were not pleasing, but the obedient, loving spirit in which the offerings were made. (Jer. 7:21-23; Ps. 40:6; 1 Sam. 15:22; Micah 6:6-8; Hos. 6:6) The beasts which Noah offered on his altar represent all good innocent affections which the people of that age brought gratefully to the Lord to be blessed by Him. What can it mean when it says the Lord smelled the sweet savor of the offering? It means that He perceives the kind affection. (John 12:3; A. 922, 925)

The last verse of the chapter speaks of the succession of day and night and of the seasons. Spiritually it tells of successive states through which one passes in regeneration, and the progress will go on forever. Notice that in the first two phrases, "seed time and harvest and cold and heat," the lesser word comes first, suggesting development from less to greater; also the first phrase relates to more intellectual development and the second phrase to the development of the affections. But in the last two phrases, "summer and winter, and day and night," the stronger word comes first. It refers to a time when heavenly character is established. And here the phrase which refers to the affections precedes, and that which relates to intelligence follows, because in a fully developed character love has the leading place. Swedenborg says of these words that "they contain so many and so important hidden things of heaven that it is impossible to describe a ten thousandth part of them; for the angels by influence from the Lord, in those most common words taken from earthly things, can see with an indefinite variety the whole process of regeneration and the state of one about to be regenerated and of one already regenerated, when man can scarce see anything at all." (A. 935-937)

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