Genesis 8:11 – Did the Dove Really Find an Olive Tree?
From the time the waters of the Flood commenced, until Noah and his family set foot on dry land, they were in the great ark for a period of one year and ten days (Gen. 7:11; 8:14). The entire earth had been covered with water (Gen. 7:19; cf. 2 Pet. 3:6).
This cataclysm was not a local inundation — a mere Mesopotamian mud-puddle, as it were — in spite of the uncertainty of some Christian writers regarding this matter. (See: Willis, 174.) The Flood of Noah’s day was a global deluge.
As the waters of the Flood receded, Noah sent out birds to test the water-level. First he sent a raven, and then later a dove. The second time he dispatched the dove, it returned with an olive leaf in its beak. Note the precise reading of the text.
“[A]nd the dove came in to him at eventide: and lo, in her mouth an olive-leaf plucked off” (Gen. 8:11).
But how, the critic wants to know, could the dove have plucked a fresh olive leaf from a tree that, a week earlier (Gen. 8:10), had been totally submerged in water?
The answer is simple — the olive tree can flourish under water. One scholar observes:
“It is a remarkable fact, as bearing indirect testimony to this narrative, that the olive has been ascertained to bear leaves under water” (Edersheim, 47).
Several years ago, this writer personally observed a young olive tree, fully leafed and completely immersed, thriving in a northern California mountain stream.
And so, underline “olive-leaf” in Genesis 8:11, and marginally note: The Olive tree can leaf under water — the Bible is accurate!
- Willis, John. 1984. Genesis. Abilene: Abilene Christian University Press.
- Edersheim, Alfred. 1890. Bible History. Vol. I. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s.