And he sent forth a raven
That by it he might make his observation, how high or low the waters were upon the earth; and the rather he sent out the raven, a bird of prey, which feeds on carrion, that if the earth had been dry, the smell of the dead carcasses would have invited it to go far off from the ark, and not return; but if not, he would see it again:
which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from
or, "and it went forth, going forth and returning" F12; it went forth out of the ark, and returned, but might not go into it, but went forth again, and then returned; and thus it continued going backwards and forwards, until the waters were dried up, when it returned no more: the Septuagint version is, "and it returned not"; and so some Jewish writers F13 say, it found the carcass of a man on the top of the mountains, and sat upon it for food, and returned not: hence came the fable of Apollo's sending a raven to fetch water, while he was sacrificing, which lighting on a large corn field, yet green, and being willing to enjoy some grains of it, waited till it was ripe, and neglected its orders F14; and hence is the proverb, "corvus nuntius". Some make this creature to be an emblem of the law, first sent forth, but brought no good tidings of the waters of God's wrath being assuaged, but worketh wrath, and is the ministration of condemnation and death: rather it is an emblem of unregenerate men, who are, like it, black through original sin and actual transgressions; are unclean and polluted in all the powers and faculties of their souls; are hateful, hating one another, and live in carnal and sensual lusts pleasures.
F12 (bwvw awuy auyw) "et exiit egrediende et redeundo", Pagninus, Montanus, Schmidt.
F13 Pirke Eliezer, c. 23.
F14 Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 1. c. 47.