Why “God remembered Noah” (Gen 8:1)? Had God forgotten him?

Of course not; that God had forgotten Noah is not at all the force of the statement. Rather, the force of the statement is to assert for the benefit of the faithful reader that God could, in this case too, be counted upon to do what he promised. Throughout the Bible, in the same way, God “remembers” (זָכַר, zakar) the promised blessing of many. For example, in Gen 19:29, God “remembers” Abraham before destroying Sodom, and so brings Lot out of Sodom; Abraham had extracted a promise from God to save Sodom even for 10 souls (Gen 18:32). So he was willing to stay his hand as Lot’s family had the opportunity to leave. This is one of many examples.

Why should “God made a wind to pass over the earth” (Gen 8:1)?

The key word “wind” translates רוּחַ or ruach, which can also mean spirit. This was no ordinary wind; it is not merely a dramatic narrative flourish. It was doubtless the spirit of God, and this appearance of the Holy Spirit serves the same initializing, creative purpose it had when “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2)—the last time that the world was covered by the deep. In other words, the Spirit is on hand not just to save the ark but to prepare the reborn world, just as the last time the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, what resulted was the separation and filling of creation.

What is the sequence of events beginning at Gen 8:2?

When we left things at the end of Gen 7, the waters were flooding the earth for 150 days. Then the waters began ebbing for 150 more days. It appears to have during this “abatement” period that the ark came to rest “upon the mountains of Ararat” (8:4), located by tradition in Turkey. It seems it was after 40 more days that Noah sent forth a raven (8:6-7) and a dove (8:8-9), apparently both on the same day; but since the dove immediately returned, they waited another seven days (8:10); then Noah sent out the dove again, and it came back the same day with the “olive leaf,” whereupon he waited another seven days (8:12), sent the dove out, and it did not return. Now, all these days so far do not add up to the next observed date: Noah’s 601st birthday (and recall that at 7:11 the text states that the flood began in the second month, 17th day, of Noah’s 600th year; so something like 318 days had elapsed). Then he removed the roof of the ark (probably only enough to get a clear view), looked out, and saw that the land was dry. But they still did not sally forth. They waited until the second month (of Noah’s 601st year), on the 27th day (for a total of one year and ten days), when God said “Go forth of the ark” (8:16). Exactly matching dates to events is a bit of a challenge, but it is something other commentators have done.

Was there significance to a raven and a dove (Gen 8:7-8)?

One commentator points out that the black raven, a scavenger, is an unclean bird (Lev 11:15); it wandered here and there (as Satan did; so he said in response to God, after returning “From going to and fro in the earth”; see Job 1:7). Meanwhile, the white dove is gentle, quiet, and here, returned with evidence of renewed life, of an olive tree that might was good for food and oil. It is perhaps not surprising that the dove became a symbol of the Holy Spirit, particularly after the Holy Spirit descended bodily to Jesus (e.g., Matt 3:16). Interesting, these two birds are sent forth at the end of a 40-day period, just as the twelve spies were sent (Num 13:2) to learn about the Promised Land (but at the beginning of a 40-year period). In both cases, one portion was unfaithful and worthless (ten of the Israelites, and the raven), and another portion was faithful and helpful (Joshua, Caleb, and the dove).

Is there not a symmetrical structure in the specific weeks and months given in the Flood narrative (Gen 7-8)?

Yes. As Wenham and others have pointed out, there is a symmetrical structure to the days and weeks described in the Flood narrative. That is, matching 7 days of waiting for the Flood (Gen 7:4) were 7 days of waiting for the dove to return (when it did not); similarly, 7 more days of waiting (Gen 7:10) matched 7 days of waiting for the dove to return (when it did); there were 40 days of heavy rain and flooding, and 40 days between the landing of the ark and opening of the window; and there were 150 days of flooding and 150 days of ebbing.

Does the symmetrical structure of the weeks and months given in the Flood (Gen 7-8) indicate that the narrative was carefully contrived?

There are at least three possible reactions to this observation (and to similar literary devices that indicate careful construction), and each bears mention. First, a skeptic might well say that, since the details were so contrived, it follows that the story was equally contrived and hence obviously merely mythic. Second, we might infer that this merely shows divine guidance, which is obvious throughout the whole narrative. Third, we might state that while the details might not correspond to reality (because they fit a contrived narrative form), this does not mean the events did not unfold roughly as reported. The key question, of course, is whether we are to believe the Flood of the Bible actually happened, at least roughly according to how it is described in Gen 6-8. If it did, then it was caused by God, who deliberately saved mankind by saving Noah. Since we know that the God of the Bible teaches through symbols and ritual, it is not at all unusual that the destruction of the Earth and the salvation of mankind would contain much in the way of symbol and ritual. That God might direct a symmetical 7-7-40-150-150-40-7-7 structure, not just to the narrative but to the events themselves, is easy enough to concede. After all, God is said to create through a divine Word; if mere human words have a narrative structure, why would not divinely creative Words also have a similar sort of structure? Hence the second option is what believers ought to maintain. Of course, if you do not believe the Flood happened, the first option will obviously seem the right one. If you think the Flood was merely a roughly true story, embellished with myth, but with deeper, more meaningful lessons, then the third will obviously seem the right one. And then there are those who believe that God created the entire universe ex nihilo, inspired the Bible, and did not employ mythic stories in Gen 1-11; they should have little difficulty believing that narrative structure might well mirror divine intentions.