(78) Why was it that Noah lived after the deluge three hundred and fifty years? (#Ge 9:28). It is now declared that in two periods of seven years the form of the world was originally created and now renewed under Noah. But the wise man lives for a period of fourteen quarters of a century; and fourteen times twenty-five is equal to seven times fifty, or fifty times seven. And it is the principle of the seventh year and also of the fiftieth, which has an especial order of its own explained and ordained in Leviticus.
(79) Why among the three sons of Noah does Ham appear always to occupy the middle place, but the two extremities are varied; for when their birth is mentioned, Shem is placed in the first rank, in this manner, Shem, Ham, and Japhet; but when they are spoken of as fathers, then Japhet is mentioned first, and the beginning of the enumeration of the nations is derived from Japhet himself? (#Ge 10:1). Those who inquire into the literal nature of the divine writings think thus of the order in which these men are mentioned, looking upon him who is the first named, that is Shem, as the younger; and upon him who is named the last, that is Japhet, as the elder. However they may choose to think of this let them, being guided by the principle of mere opinion. But we who look to the real meaning of these statements think that there is here a reference to the three things, good, bad, and indifferent; which last are called secondary goods; and we must therefore think that the sacred writer always puts the bad in the middle, so that being confined at either extremity it may be subdued on one side by the one, and on the other side by the other; so that, being confined, it may be kept in and subdued. But the good and the indifferent, or secondary good, change the order with one another; for when there is such great evil present, and yet not wholly and altogether, the good rejoices in the first place, having the position of the dispenser and chief of the whole. But when it is placed in the position of the will in a state of conspiracy, and injustice remains not only in the intellect but is also conducted to its end by unjust works, then that first good is changed from its original order into another place, together with all the good habits which depend upon it, rejecting all education and all arrangement, as being wholly unable to attain its proposed end, just as a physician does when he sees an incurable disease. But the elder good manages that virtue which is around the body and exterior to it; therefore, by observing the extremities with greater caution, and closing in the beast within its toils, it is sufficiently demonstrated that it does not dare to bite or injure any more. But while it feels that it has done no injury, it is transferred into a more secure and more permanent position, and then, a higher and better fortified place being assigned to it, it easily retains the lower position too as one easy to be preserved; for, in consequence of the superior power of its guardian, it is always practicable to watch it closely, since nothing is more mighty than virtue.