Genesis Bible Series
Genesis Chapter 6-8 Bible Study: The Mystery of the 17th!
by I Gordon
This study looks at one of the favourite stories of any half decent Sunday school... Noah's Ark! Unlike Sunday school however, I have decided to not focus so much on all the animals coming two by two into the ark. Sorry if that is what you were after. But I do have a good excuse... You see, when we get to the New Testament we find Noah's Ark spoken of as a type of Christ and His resurrection. Here is the scripture I'm talking about:
1 Peter 3:20-21 "...God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
So Peter saw in Noah's ark, and specifically in it passing through the waters, a symbol of salvation and our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ok, so far so good! So let's have a look a closer look at Noah's ark, it's type of Christ and specifically something I have called 'the mystery of the 17th' (which at this stage will purposefully remain somewhat, well, mysterious...)
General Observations about Noah
Before we get onto our little mystery, it is probably worth making a few quick general observations. Firstly it should be noted that Noah himself is a useful type of the Lord Jesus. We read about Noah that he was
'a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.' (Gen 6:9)
Now God chose this man to be the means of salvation to those who would enter the Ark. The New Testament states that he was 'a preacher of righteousness' (2 Pet 2:5) and God certainly gave him a huge task to undertake! But Noah not only undertook the task but he saw it through right to the end for we read that
'Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Gen 6:22)
Now all of this is but a glimpse of another man that God would use for salvation. That man was of course the Lord Jesus. He was the totally righteous Son of God whom the Father used to save those who would put their trust in Him. And the task given to this man would lead Him right to the cross. It meant the most violent of ends and excruciating suffering. Yet, like Noah before Him, Jesus did everything commanded of Him.
General Observations about the Ark
The ark itself is an even more complete picture of the Lord Jesus. When the waters of God's judgement fell upon the earth, only those that had taken refuge in the ark were safe. All those outside of the ark perished. This of course pictures the salvation that is 'in Christ' (2 Tim 2:10).
The Single Door
Genesis 6:16 ' Put a door in the side of the ark...'
There was only one way into the salvation that the ark provided. God instructed Noah to put a single door on the side of the ark. If you wanted to enter, you had to enter through the door. In like manner, God has given only one door to enter into the salvation He now provides. Jesus knew this well stating:
'Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and go out, and shall find pasture.' (John10:7-9)
Now, if it was up to man to enter through this door to find salvation, we can find encouragement from the fact that it was God Himself who would ensure that those who did enter were totally safe and secure. We read in the Gen 7:16 that it was the Lord who closed and sealed the door of the ark.
Genesis 7:16 'Then the LORD shut him in. '
The Mystery of the 17th
Genesis 8:1-4 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down , and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat .
Now I want to draw your attention to the day that the ark first touched ground again. We read above that after the waters had receded, the ark touched down on the mountains of Ararat on the 17th of the 7th month. That is pretty amazing don't you think? It's the 17th! Not with me? Ok, let's explore this a bit further.
We said at the start of the study that the ark is a picture of baptism. In going down through the waters and coming back out it is a picture of death and resurrection. With that in mind it makes it extraordinary that the day that the ark touched the earth again is on the 17th of the 7th. You see, in Exodus 12:1 the Lord changed the Israelite's calendar. What had been the 7th month since creation was now to become their 1st month. To this day the Jews have these two calendars (usually known as the civil and religious calendars). So the 17th of the 7th month (when the ark came to rest and a new life dawned for Noah and his family) is exactly the same day as the 17th of the 1st month (called Nisan) in the religious calendar. So what is significant about this day then?
New birth and the feast of first fruits
There are a surprising number of key events in Israel's history that occurred on this exact date. The 17th of Nisan (the first month in the religious calendar) is a very key date associated with resurrection! Here is a list of the events that occurred on this day:
- Noah's ark comes through the waters and rests on the earth for the first time bringing new life to Noah and his family on the 17th of Nisan.
- The feast of firstfruits (symbolising new life) would occur on the first Sunday after Passover (Passover was on the 14th of Nisan (Ex 12) so any time this falls on a Thursday, the feast of firstfruits was on the 17th of this month).
- Israel came through the Red Sea on the 17th of Nisan having left at Passover on the 14th. For them this was death to their old life (with the drowning of the Egyptians) and resurrection to a new life in God on the 17th!
- The manna which had fed the nation of Israel for the 40 years in the wilderness stopped on the 16th of Nisan and from the 17th onwards Israel feasted on the new grain of the promised land (Josh 5:10-12). This again is a picture of the new life that came on the 17th!
- The death sentence hung over the entire Israelite nation as their sworn enemy, Haman, had convinced the king to sign a decree to destroy them (Esther 3:1-12). The decree went out on the 13th Nisan (Esther 3:12). Esther then proclaimed a three day fast (Esther 4:16) for the 14th, 15th and 16th. On the 3rd day (5:1) Esther approached the king saying to herself 'If I perish, I perish!' (an attitude of death or resurrection... it's in God's hands!) On the 17th Nisan, the tables were turned on the enemy Haman and instead of the Jews being destroyed, his own life was taken!
Events leading to the greatest 17th....
Now I'm sure you will agree that God has placed some key 'resurrection' type events on the 17th of Nisan. All of these were of course but a small picture of the greatest event that would occur on this day... the resurrection of Jesus Christ!
If you read the Exodus 12 passage mentioned earlier, you would have noticed that God told the Israelites to take a spotless lamb on the 10th of Nisan and to inspect it up until the 14th Nisan where it would be killed in the Passover sacrifice. The 10th of Nisan, in the week leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, was Palm Sunday. It was on this day that He presented Himself to the Israelites as their Messiah to be openly adored and worshiped. On Thursday the 14th of Nisan, in direct fulfilment of the Exodus 12 passage, the true Passover lamb was slain for your sin and mine.
The greatest 17th by far!
Before crossing the Red Sea on the 17th Nisan, it looked like it was all over for the Israelites. The whole Egyptian army was bearing down on them and they were utterly trapped. And yet, in the face of death, God bought resurrection life to His people and death to their enemies!
Before going to the king unannounced, it looked to Esther and the rest of her people that Haman's evil decree would bring the death of the Jews. And yet, it a twist of fate, the 17th came and it was Haman himself that faced the gallows and was defeated!
With the death of Jesus all looked lost to His disciples and followers. Their Messiah was dead! The one they had placed all their hope in was gone. And yet strange events in the sky and in the temple at the time of His death gave a flickering hope that the end of the story had not yet come! The disciples, being Jewish, knew that God had told Moses that the first Sunday following the Sabbath after Passover would be the feast of Firstfruits. (See Lev 23:9-14). It was on this day that they were to offer to God the first fruits of the harvest. And yet, even the disciples didn't see that God was starting a new 'first fruits' on this day, the 17th Nisan. A 'first fruits' of those that would be raised from the dead! Read again the events that happened on that great day!
Luke 23:1-8 'On the first day of the week (17th of Nisan), very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again .'' Then they remembered his words.'
1 Cor 15:20-23 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep . For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Like the defeat of the Egyptians and the death of Haman on this same day previously, this Sunday morning saw the resurrection of Jesus and the defeat of Satan! Death had been turned into life and defeat into victory!
One of the things I love about God is that He is very exact and precise. It's like He loves to provide clues, little bread crumbs, throughout His word for us to follow if we will take the time. The mystery of the 17 th is one of those bread crumbs. What starts off as an insignificant date mentioned in Gen 8:4 is in reality the first in a series of clues that God gave pointing to the resurrection of His dear Son! All we need to do is take some more time searching and following the clues! And if you follow these right to the end, you'll find that God's clues always lead to His dear Son, Jesus!
Because He Lives!
God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
And then one day, I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to vict'ry,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!