It is alleged that verses 13 and 14 in the eighth chapter of Genesis are contradictory. Critics assert that two different dates are given for when the earth was dry after the global Flood. Consider the following passages:
And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry. And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dried. (Genesis 8:13–14, emphasis added)
So how could the earth dry up on both of these dates?
All forms of human communication contain inherent limitations (Genesis 11:1–9). Because of these limitations, properly translating words and concepts from one language into another language can be a difficult task. In light of this, it is advisable to examine Scriptures in their original languages—especially when allegations of corruption or contradiction arise.
Properly translating words and concepts from one language into another language can be a difficult task.
Consider, for instance, that the word translated as “dried” and “dry” in verse 13 is a different Hebrew word than what is rendered “dried” in verse 14. Don’t let me scare you too much with Hebrew words, but the phrase “were dried up from off the earth” uses the word charab (translated as “dried”). The phrase “and, behold, the face of the ground was dry” once again uses the Hebrew word charab. Compare this to verse 14 where the word for “dried” is yabesh. Charab in this form means “to be waste” and “be desolate,” while yabesh in this form means “to be dry” and “be without moisture.”
This language indicates that a gradient of drying has occurred, and it is clearly not a restatement of the same degree or concept of dryness. Therefore, the use of charab in this context indicates that the Flood waters had largely drained from the continents, though the ground would have still been saturated. Yabesh, on the other hand, indicates that continents were truly dry near the end of the following month.
Another consideration is the probable change in location of the observer. There seems to be a shift in perspective moving from verse 13 to 14. Verse 13 states that from Noah’s point of reference atop the Ark, the surface of the ground appeared dry on the first day of the first month. Verse 14 seems to indicate that the declaration of the earth being sufficiently dry 56 days later came from God’s perspective, since only He would have known this information. Since the Ark came to rest amongst the “
mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4), it is expected that the elevated region within eyesight of Noah dried sooner than other lower areas.
Finally, and perhaps most obviously, it is rather arrogant of the skeptic or critic to think the writer of Genesis was so ignorant that he couldn’t keep from contradicting himself in two successive verses. Rather than immediately charging the writer with a contradiction, these individuals should dig just a little deeper. Instead, in their haste to find problems in Scripture, those who claim these verses to be contradictory end up looking foolish for failing to understand the basic uses of language.
With all of this in mind, we can confidently conclude that these back-to-back verses contain no legitimate contradiction. This example is a reminder that it is crucial to understand both context and language when discerning an author’s intent of communication.