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This is actually several similar questions compounded together. I hope this doesn't come off the wrong way, but it seems like Noah had the opportunity (and I'm sure he had the motive) to leave the ark before he actually did, and I'm wondering if someone can explain why.

Starting in Bereishit Chapter 8, Verse 4, it says Noah's ark came to rest on the mountains in the seventh month. So why not leave the ark then? (I believe Seder Olam ch. 4 says because the bottom of the boat was 11 cubits below the surface... but drying at a rate of 4 cubits per month seems a bit slow compared to how fast it must have dried afterwards.) Then it says in the tenth month that the mountain peak was visible. So why not leave the ark then? 54 days later the dove couldn't find anywhere to land... What was wrong with the mountain peak, I mean it had two months to dry in the sun by then? Another week later, the twelfth month, the dove found an olive branch and Noah knew the waters had gone. Aside from the question of how did a new olive tree grow so fast, why didn't Noah go and get some leg room and let the animals walk around outside for the first time in a year right away, when it was good enough for the dove? Then, why does it say the waters had dried up in the first month if the dove was successful in its mission to find land the previous month? Why not go out now? And then a month later, the second month, it says the ground dries again, why did it even mention when it dried the first time? And then if God told Noah when to leave the ark, why did he bother send out birds and looking to see if the ground was dry?

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related/duplicate: – Michoel Apr 18 '13 at 8:11

2 Answers 2

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains as follows (Likkutey Sichos vol. 25, pg. 28 - adapted in English here):

The Ark contained a pair of every species of animal known to man. The fact that they could co-exist in a structure measuring 300 X 50 X 30 handbreadths for an entire year was nothing short of a miracle. In fact, it was a taste of the Messianic era when, (Yeshayahu 11:6-9) "A wolf shall live with a lamb, and a leopard shall lie with a kid.." In this case, it is easy to understand Noach's reluctance to leave the Ark until explicitly commanded to by G-d; having been exposed to such a high level of supernatural behaviour resembling the Messianic era, he was in no hurry to go out.

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This seems contradictory, for if he was not at all eager to leave the boat, he should not have sent out the birds. – A L Apr 18 '13 at 16:54

This is in addition to the answer posted above based on the Lubavitcher Rebbe. This addition addresses the contradiction comment to that answer.

The answer that Noach was reluctant to leave is in addition the fact that being explicitly commanded to "Enter the Ark" (Bereishis 7:1), he was not allowed to leave until explicitly commanded by G-d to "Go out of the Ark" (Bereishis 8:16).

This reinforces the question: Why did Noach send out the birds if could not (and did not want to) leave the Ark?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains as follows (Hitva’aduyot 5745, vol. 4, pp. 2407–2409 - adapted in English in Daily Wisdom by Kehot

As the Torah will recount, Noah did not leave the ark until G‑d told him to do so. So what was the purpose of seeing if the land was dry by sending out these birds?

The answer is that since G‑d had entrusted him with the survival of life, Noah felt responsible to take whatever natural steps would encourage G‑d to hasten the renewal of life on earth.

The pain of exile is compared to the raging waters of the Flood. Like the Flood, only G‑d can end the exile. But, like Noah, we can hasten the redemption by actively yearning for it and doing all in our power to hasten its arrival.

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