Questions From Readers
After the Flood, Noah sent out from the ark a dove that returned with “an olive leaf.” Where did the dove find the leaf?
The Bible tells us that “the waters overwhelmed the earth so greatly that all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens came to be covered.” (Genesis 7:19) As the floodwaters receded, Noah on three occasions sent out a dove—a week apart. The second time, the dove returned with “an olive leaf freshly plucked in its bill, and so Noah got to know that the waters had abated from the earth.”—Genesis 8:8-11.
Of course, there is now no way of telling how long a particular portion of the earth was flooded, for the earth’s topography was undoubtedly changed by the Deluge. Nonetheless, it is likely that water covered most regions long enough for many trees to die. Yet, some apparently retained their vitality, enabling them to sprout fresh shoots when the waters receded.
Concerning the olive tree, The New Bible Dictionary states: “If cut down, new shoots spring up from the root, so that as many as five new trunks could thus come into being. Moribund [near dead] olives usually sprout in this manner also.” It is “as if its vitality were indestructible,” says The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. No human today knows the details, such as salinity and temperature, of the floodwaters. Hence, we cannot be sure about their potential effect on olive trees and other vegetation.
However, the wild olive cannot survive in cold temperatures, such as those found on higher mountains. It generally grows in areas below 3,000 feet [1,000 m], where the average temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit [10°C]. “Thus,” says the book The Flood Reconsidered, “Noah could deduce from the freshly plucked leaf that the lower valleys were becoming free of water.” When Noah released the dove a week later, it did not return, indicating a greater abundance of vegetation and potential resting places for the dove.—Genesis 8:12.