During the winter of 2011, I spent hours snuggled in front of my fireplace, drawn by the warmth of the leaping flames and the popping sound of burning logs. It was there that I wrote the manuscript for my latest book, “The Unsolved Mystery of Noah’s Ark.”
I had done research for the book for over twenty years. I knew from the research, and my study of scripture, that the ark had not come to rest on Mount Ararat itself, but on the range of mountains called Ararat. Knowing at what altitude the ark was fixed, would be a prime factor in determining its location. The raven and the dove that Noah sent out (Genesis 8:7-8) would also help point the way to the ark’s permanent place.
The window of the ark was notably high on the top level, and because of that, Noah could not see if the floodwaters had receded. When the tops of the mountains became visible, he released a raven. Presumably it fed on floating carrion, as it did not return. Then Noah sent out a dove, but it found no place to rest its feet, so it flew back to the ark. Noah waited a week and sent the dove out again. This time she returned with a live olive leaf held in her beak. (Genesis 8:11). After another seven days, Noah let the dove fly out a third time. She did not return. The waters had subsided – the flood was over.
As I wrote, a nagging question kept me wondering where the dove had found an olive tree. I read Genesis 7:23. It shows that every living substance on the ground had been destroyed. Verse 24 reads that the floodwaters had overpowered the land for 150 days. As a gardener, I knew that plants died easily from overwatering, so it seemed a contradiction that the dove had plucked a fresh olive leaf.
I did some fact-finding about olive trees, and learned they can live for many centuries. Their sturdy root systems are capable of surviving even if the rest of the tree is destroyed. A new trunk can regenerate from the remaining roots. Olive trees can only grow in certain locations. If the longitude is too high, the trees will freeze, if too low, the trees cannot withstand the extreme heat. They grow between 30-45 degrees longitude north and south. That fact, coupled with how far a young dove could fly in the daytime, was a help in determining where the ark had probably run aground. Small doves can fly about 20-30 miles in a day.
An obvious question remained: how did an olive tree survive submerged in water for 150 days?
I read several scientific papers which stated olive leaves contain a high amount of cuticular wax that acts both as a barrier to prevent evaporation of water, and functions as a shield against contamination of external water and microorganisms. These wax crystals enhance the
water repellent quality of the leaves. I also learned that the wood of the olive is exceptionally resistant to deterioration. I had my answer - olive trees had survived the deluge.
Israel’s King David could relate to the olive tree. Psalm 52:8-9 (KJV): He said, “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name: for it is good before thy saints.”
The prophet Jeremiah, speaking to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem said, “The Lord called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit . . .” Jeremiah 11:16 (KJV).
Like Jeremiah, I too compare the olive tree to the nation of Israel – it is their national tree. World history shows that Israel was destroyed several times; its people taken captive and dispersed to every part of the earth. Everything seemed to be lost, devastated, and cursed. Through it all, God had a miraculous plan that He would use to restore what had been destroyed. Israel’s suffering people would return spiritually and physically. Like the devastated and seemingly destroyed olive tree, Israel is re-growing from its ancient roots. We see much of this happening in today’s events.
Eagerly, we wait for the day that Messiah will return to His people. Jesus said to the Jews: “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:39 (NIV).
Return to the one whose name is above all names – He will restore, and make all things new.