(28) What is the meaning of the expression, “He brought a breath over the earth, and the water ceased?” (#Ge 8:2). Some people say that what is here meant by “a breath” is the wind, at which the deluge ceased. But I am not aware that water is diminished by wind, but only that it is disturbed and agitated into waves, for if it were otherwise the vast extent of the sea would have been wholly dried up long ago. Therefore it appears to me that the sacred writer here means the breath of the Deity, by which the whole universe obtains security at the same time with the calamities of the world, and with those things which exist in the air, and in every mixture of plants and animals. Since the deluge of that time was no trifling infliction of water, but an immense and boundless overflow, extending almost beyond the pillars of Hercules and the great Mediterranean Sea, since the whole earth and all the spaces of the mountains were covered with water; and it is scarcely likely that such a vast space could have been cleared by a wind, but rather, as I have said, it must have been done by some invisible and divine virtue.
(29) What is the meaning of the expression, “The fountains of the deep were closed, and the cataracts of heaven?” (#Ge 8:2). In the first place, it is agreed upon by all that in the first period of forty days the waters of punishment fell uninterruptedly, the lowest fountains of the earth being burst asunder; and from above, the cataracts of heaven being opened, and pouring down until all places, both level and mountainous, were covered with the inundation; and for another period of a hundred and fifty entire days the waters did not cease to fall, nor did the streams cease to flow, nor the springs to burst up, though still in milder quantities, not so as to increase the existing flood, but only so as to secure the duration of the existence of the deluge, which was also assisted from on high; and this is what is indicated in the meantime by the statement that after a hundred and fifty days the fountains and the cataracts were closed up; therefore, while as yet they were not closed up it is plain that they were in action. In the second place, it was necessary that that which afforded the excessive supply of waters for the deluge, namely, the double reservoir of water, the one from the fountains of the earth, and the other from the pourings forth of heaven, should be both closed, for the more the stores from which any material is supplied fail, the more it is consumed by itself, especially when divine virtue has given the command. This is the literal meaning of the expression. But with respect to the inner sense of the passage, since the deluge of the mind arises from two things, for it arises partly from counsel, as if from heaven, and in another degree also from the body and from sense, as if from earth, the vices being reciprocally introduced by the passions and the passions by the vices, it was inevitably necessary that the word of the divine physician entering in as a salutary visitation for the purpose of healing the disease, should prevent both kinds of overflow for the future; for it is the first principle of the medical art to drive away the cause of the infirmity and to leave no longer any materials for disease; and the scripture teaches this, also, in the case of the leper, for when the leprosy is checked and is prevented from extending further, it then fixes the station and abode of the leprous man in the same place by a law, because the character of being stationary implies cleanliness, for that which is moved contrary to nature is unclean.