Genesis 8:7, Why the Raven Failed

After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.

//After the rain stopped and the flood waters began to abate, Noah had to decide when it was safe to exit the ark. Remember, there was only one window in the ark and it pointed skyward, away from the ground. So had all the water receded or not?

Noah sent a raven forth, hoping it would go in search of land, but the raven just flew around in circles. Stupid raven! Next, Noah sent out a dove who returned because it had nowhere to land. A week later Noah sent the dove out again, and it quickly returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf as a sign that it was safe to open the door of the ark.

Why was the dove more helpful than the raven? After all, ravens are the smartest bird there is. A raven’s brain is as large (proportionally to its body) as a chimpanzee’s, and they share the cognitive capacities of primates. It’s a mystery how this raven failed.

So the rabbis thought long and hard, and in the Midrash that developed, the raven gets to explain his point of view, speaking eloquently to Noah. There were only two ravens aboard the ark, the raven pointed out, and if perchance he never found his way back to the ark, he would be unable to mate. What a disaster: the world would be short of one type of creature! Other rabbis explained that the raven questioned Noah’s trustworthiness. What if Noah had designs on the raven’s wife? Better to hang around the ark and not go on Noah’s mission.

So the raven flew in circles, never leaving the ark.

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