Those that entered were male and female, just as God commanded him. Then the LORD shut him in.
Enter while time remains
God has chosen to give us a role to play in his creation, and that decision gives us both honor and opportunity. When we have done what we are capable of doing on the basis of created capability and grace, God handles all the rest.
What kinds of roles has God enabled us to play? In what ways can we count on God to do those things we cannot possibly do?
When the ark has taken in its last occupant, one problem remains — closing the great door that allowed access to its interior spaces (Gen. 6:16). The NET Bible says God “shut him in,” but the final phrase may also mean God “shut [it = the door] behind him.” Kenneth Mathews says, “The concluding remark, ‘the Lord shut him in,’ initiates his protective care over the vessel and finally ends the anxious moment of the narrative as the occupants hasten within the walls of safety (v. 16b).”
It seems likely that God shut the door because Noah was not able to do so, but we are not told. Once the door had closed, it was necessary to seal it against the rising waters. It may be that God applied the pitch to the boundaries of the door in keeping with his instruction to cover the ark inside and out with pitch (Gen. 6:14).
The verb which is used (Hebrew ? SGR) to say God shut the door occurs elsewhere in Genesis, and there we may receive additional hints about what was going on when God sealed the ark. The sordid story of Sodom, the home of Abraham’s nephew Lot, contains a chilling scene in which Lot’s house is surrounded by a huge mob of men demanding that Lot give them his visitors for homosexual relations (Gen. 19:4–5); the mob does not realize the visitors are angels sent to destroy Sodom because of its depravity!
Lot defends his visitors by going out to the mob to persuade them to turn aside, but when the mob becomes more violent the angels act. Lot is pulled back into the house and the angels shut (Hebrew SGR) the door (Gen. 19:10). To prevent further assault on the door to Lot’s house, the angels strike the mob with blindness (Gen. 19:11). Afterward, the mob still gropes blindly for the door (Gen. 19:11). In the end, only Lot, his wife and his two daughters are saved; two prospective sons-in-law ignore a warning and stay behind to die in divine judgment.
Many comparisons are possible between the story of Noah and the story of Lot. However, our purpose is to understand Noah’s situation. Consider this speculative scenario. By the time God shut Noah into the ark, the rains have already begun to fall and water was steadily rising. Eventually the violent people living near Noah would have realized that the great ship was an ideal refuge from the rising waters, and the ship was unable to flee until the waters finally lifted it (Gen. 7:17).
Who shuts the door and prevents a desperate assault on the ark? God! Just as he had stationed angels with a flaming sword at the entry to Eden (Gen. 3:24), just as protected the door of Lot’s house from vicious assault, God protects the ark so that the godless perish and the righteous live.
A variation of this scenario might also help interpret an enigmatic saying of Jesus: “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.” (Luke 16:16, NIV 2011). John had preached impending judgment (Matt. 3:7–12) and pointed the repentant toward Jesus. Jesus and his kingdom are like the ark which saves from world destruction, and men were forcing their way on board against Pharisaic opposition. The invitation to board is still open, but one day the door will be shut. Those who come too late will find the door shut and themselves “outside . . . where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13b).
Now we return our focus to Genesis. Consider carefully that the saving ark had an access door. To state the obvious, the one place of safety on the entire earth had a single way to get inside. That was sufficient for loading the ark, and it worked just as God intended it should. Only those who entered by that door lived.
By analogy, God has also provided one way of access to safety from the judgment he will bring on our violent and sinful world. Jesus Christ is that access. Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Anyone who will seek safety must do so before the door is closed. It will happen on a certain day, during a specific month, in a definite year.
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.
 Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 378.