Introduction: Genesis chapter 7 recounts the torrential Flood that wiped out almost all of humanity. Only Noah and seven of his family members survived inside the ark. Critics of the Bible often scoff at the Flood. Literary critics allege that it contains two separate accounts that were pasted together with alleged contradictions intact. Yet, as set forth later in Section II of this study, these views are mistaken. Like the creation account, the Flood account contains perfect literary patterns that would only be possible with a single author. Other critics allege that there is no evidence of the Flood. These views are also mistaken. As set forth in Section III, there is cultural evidence of the Flood in most cultures. There is also geological evidence of a catastrophic flood that destroyed an entire civilization near the final resting place of the ark. Yet, the Bible is primarily concerned with spiritual matters. Thus, Section I reveals the seven lessons from the Flood about the salvation offered through Jesus.
First, God declared to Noah that he was the only person righteous enough to be saved. Noah foreshadowed Jesus. God reveals that Jesus is the only person righteous enough across all times to be saved. Noah’s righteousness allowed him to save his family. Jesus’ righteousness will allow Him to save His family of believers as well. Second, from God’s instructions to bring both clean and unclean animals into the ark, He reveals that both sinners and saints can be saved through the ark of Jesus. Third, the Bible states that Noah had to wait seven days before the Flood. When the Flood began, it rained continuously for 40 days. The numbers have symbolic meaning. Seven is a number of completeness, and 40 symbolizes testing. The seven days also allude to a possible seven-thousand-year redemption plan. A day to the Lord is like a thousand years (Ps. 90:4). The number 40 symbolizes the testing that mankind will endure during this time period. Fourth, Noah’s faith led to his obedience. Jesus’ faith also led to His obedience at the cross. God also wants your faith to cause you to be obedient. Fifth, from the revelation that the Flood began when Noah was 600 (a symbol of man), the Bible also suggests a period of judgment in human history after six thousand years. Sixth, the animals had to enter the ark in pairs of two at a time. This foreshadows the narrow and straight path that leads to heaven. There are no shortcuts or alternative routes. Finally, all the people outside the ark died. This symbolizes the lack of opportunities for eternal survival for those outside of Jesus’ ark.
Noah was the only righteous person in his time. God searched all of the Earth and found only one man who was righteous enough in that time to be saved from His judgment: “1 Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.” (Gen. 7:1). Noah was a sinner. Yet, there were several things that made him righteous before God. First, he was blameless in his conduct before others (Gen. 6:9). Second, he “walked with God” in loving fellowship and devotion (Gen. 6:9). Third, he was obedient to God’s Word (Gen. 6:22; 7:5). Fourth, he was a man of faith (Heb. 11:7). Fifth, he was a preacher of righteousness to the lost (2 Pet. 2:5). Sixth, Noah loved the things of God more than the things of the world. He built an ark to save both God’s animals and any who would accept the hope of God’s new world. Finally, John Wesley points out that Noah’s righteousness was not merely an outward appearance. God examined Noah’s hidden heart and found that he was “righteous before Me”: “Those are righteous indeed that are righteous before God; that have not only the form of godliness by which they appear righteous before men, who may easily be imposed upon; but the power of it, by which they approve themselves to God, who searcheth the heart.” (John Wesley on Genesis 7).
Jesus is the only righteous person across all times. Christ had no sin. Yet, out of love, He assumed your sin so that you also can stand like Noah and be righteous in God’s eyes: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). “Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;” (1 Pet. 2:22). “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.” (1 Jo. 3:5). If you are grateful for the terrible price that Christ paid to make you righteous, how are you thanking Him? (Ro. 12:1).
Just as Noah was able to save his family, Jesus will save His family as well. Through faith in Christ, you also become part of His family as adopted children of God (Ro. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5). You also become part of His family through the future marriage between Him and His Church (Rev. 19:6-9). Like Noah’s family, you qualify to find salvation not based upon your own righteousness. Instead, you qualify for salvation based upon your faith in the one righteous man before God (Ep. 2:8). Just as God hid Noah’s family in the ark, Christ will hide you in Him when He judges the world: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3). Just Noah’s family was safe inside the ark, you are safe through your redemption in Christ (Ro. 3:24; Jo. 10:28). While Noah sealed the ark with pitch, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. “ . . . you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,” (Eph. 1:13). “Christ is an ark, in whom alone we can be safe, when death and judgment approach. The word says, Come; ministers say, Come; the Spirit says, Come, come into the Ark.” (Matthew Henry on Genesis 7). Have you accepted Jesus’ calls to find refuge in Him?
Be righteous through Christ, even in your hidden thoughts. Like Noah, God wants you to choose the righteousness of Christ over the world: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” (Prov. 11:4; 10:2; Zeph. 1:18). God also wants you to have a righteousness that is more than a mere outward appearance. He also wants your inward thoughts and desires to be righteous. This requires that you invite Him to search your inward thoughts to expose your hidden sins: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts;” (Ps. 139:23). It also requires that you renew your mind each day to purge all that is evil: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). Do you spend time each day inviting God in prayer to expose your sins and then repent of them?
Noah gave both the clean and the unclean a second chance at life. God told Noah to preserve the animals by taking one pair of each unclean animal and seven of each type of clean animal: “2 You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; 3 also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth.” (Gen. 7:2-3). Noah’s task was in keeping with God’s prior instruction to Adam to be a steward over the animals (Gen. 1:26). Noah was the second Adam who would steward the animals to ensure their survival. The males and females of each kind were necessary to allow the animals to repopulate (Gen. 1:22; 8:17). The greater number of clean animals also served two practical purposes. Mankind was not yet permitted to eat meat. Yet, they would be permitted to eat meat immediately after the Flood (Gen. 9:3). Likewise, the clean animals were also used for sacrifices (Lev. 11:1-47; Dt. 14:3-21). If there were only two of each kind of clean animal, a sacrifice of a clean animal immediately after the Flood would lead to the extinction of that species. Thus, more of each kind of clean animal had to be brought into the ark. The number seven for the clean animals also symbolized completeness. God provided three pairs of males and females of each clean kind of animal to repopulate. The seventh animal of each clean kind would be sacrificed at the completion of their journey (Gen. 8:20). His instructions, however, did not extend to fresh water fish, salt water fish, insects, plant life, and possibly amphibians.
The animals enter the ark1
Jan Brueghel the Elder 1568 – 1625 (The Animals Board Noah's Ark)2
Jesus gives both the clean and the unclean a second chance at life. There is also symbolic meaning behind the salvation of both the clean and unclean animals. Like the animals of Noah’s day, there are people who live either a clean life or an unclean life before God. Also like the animals of Noah’s day, there is a place in Jesus’ ark for both the unclean sinners who are willing to repent and the saints made clean through Him. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,” (Titus 2:11). “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (Jo. 3:17). Are you seeking to be made clean through the blood of Christ?
The seven days of waiting, and the 40 days of testing. After instructing Noah to save his family and the representatives of certain types of animals, God told him that there would be a seven-day pause before the torrential 40-day deluge: ‘“4 For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.”’ (Gen. 7:4). Each detail here has meaning.
The time for mourning and repentance. To the Jews, the seven-day-pause was a time for mourning Methuselah: “As long as Methuselah lived, the flood did not come upon the world. When Methuselah died, the rain was withheld for seven days after his death.”3 The Jewish interpretive text called the “Targum” also explains that God granted this last seven-day-period out of grace to give mankind one final opportunity to repent: “Behold, I give you the space of seven days; if they will repent, they will be forgiven, but if they will not repent, seven days from now, I will cause rain to come down upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”4 During this time, Noah most likely warned the people. Yet, the people ignored him. God may have required Noah to build such a massive ark in case any repented. He does not want any to perish. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). The number 40 also has meaning. It symbolizes testing. Moses was on Mount Horeb for 40 days and nights without food (Ex. 24:18; 34:28). The Jews were also tested for 40 years in the wilderness (Nu. 14:33-34; Dt. 2:7). The prophet Jonah also warned Nineveh that it had 40 days to repent because of its many sins before God destroyed it. Satan also tried to tempt Jesus after 40 days in the wilderness (Lk. 4:2; Matt. 4:2). These numbers together also carry prophetic meaning.
The seven-thousand-year-plan for redemption through times of testing. The seven-day wait for the Flood mirrors a seven-day wait after the Flood for the return of the birds released from the ark (Gen. 8:10, 12). In the Bible, seven symbolizes completeness. The seven-day wait for the Flood also parallels the seven days of creation (Gen. 1:1-2:3). Many early Jewish and Christian writers observed these patterns of the seven-day creation week, the seven-day wait for the Flood, and Psalm 90:4 to conclude that God has a 7,000-year plan for redemption. In the Bible, God confirms His messages in certain numerical patterns. Just as God created in six days and then rested on the seventh, the Jewish Talmud teaches that mankind will labor for six thousand days and rest during a final 1,000-year reign of the Messiah. Yet, because of sin, we cannot count this time exactly: “The school of Eliyahu teaches: ‘The world exists for six thousand years - - two thousand tohu [“void” (without revealed Scripture)]; two thousand, Torah; and two thousand, [and the last thousand] the era of the Messiah. But because of our numerous iniquities many of these years have been lost.”5 This same prophecy appears in the apocrypha book of Enoch: “As the world was made in six days, so its history would be accomplished in 6,000 years of rest . . . At its close would begin the 8th Eternal Day, when time should be no more.”6 Some early church writers also wrote of a 6,000-year period of human history. Barnabas, for example, also wrote: “in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all things to an end.”7 Irenaeus also wrote: “For the day of the Lord is a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year.”8 Jesus’ Millennial Reign is to last 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-5). Paul called this time period a Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:1-9). Many believe that mankind is living within the end of God’s sixth day. This explains how mankind could be living in the “last hour” for the last two thousand years: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 Jo. 2:18). “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” (1 Pet. 4:7). Jesus’ Millennial Reign will mark that last 1,000 years of this 7,000-year plan for redemption (Rev. 20:1-10). Yet, because mankind has lost the exact beginning of this 7,000-year-period, no one knows when mankind’s 6,000-year-reign will come to an end (Matt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32). Jesus doesn’t want you to delay in preparing for His return. He wants you to live each day holy as if it were your last.
Noah’s faith led to his obedience. For the second time, God recorded Noah’s obedience: “5 Noah did according to all that the Lord had commanded him.” (Gen. 7:5). Noah previously showed obedience by building a massive ark: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.” (Gen. 6:22). The New Testament clarifies that it was Noah’s faith that led to his obedience: “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Heb. 11:7). Noah’s faith-based obedience foreshadowed Christ.
Jesus’ faith led to His obedience. Jesus’ faith also led to His obedience. First, He fulfilled the Law through obedience. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17). Second, His faith also led to His obedience in becoming a lowly servant and then dying at the cross for those who hated Him: “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:8). “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” (Heb. 5:8). “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (Jo. 10:18). He wants you to follow His example.
Let your faith lead to obedience out of love. There are many religions that have things that you are required to do. Yet, this often causes people to simply go through the motions when doing these requirements. When the Jews did this, God said that their acts were meaningless to Him: “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.” (Is. 1:14). Jesus freed you of the obligation to follow the Ten Commandments. These are now commandments to follow out of devotion. When you keep His commandments out of devotion (and not obligation) you “abide” in His love: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.” (Jo. 15:10). “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15). Has your faith led to your obedience to both God’s Word and the directions of the Holy Spirit?
The judgment of mankind through water. God reveals that the Flood began when Noah was 600 years old on the 17th day of the second month of the Jewish calendar year (sometime in the Fall): “6 Now Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth. 7 Then Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him entered the ark because of the water of the flood. 8 Of clean animals and animals that are not clean and birds and everything that creeps on the ground, 9 there went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. 10 It came about after the seven days, that the water of the flood came upon the earth. 11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. 12 The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.” (Gen. 7:6-12). The water had two sources. The first was the “springs of the great deep” beneath the Earth (Gen. 7:11). The second was from rain (Gen. 7:12). God used rain (normally a symbol of His blessing) to judge the Earth: “Yet He commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven;” (Ps. 78:23). “through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” (2 Pet. 3:6). “All flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.” (Job 34:15). Mankind abused God’s blessings upon the Earth. As a result, God used those blessings to judge mankind for its sins.
J.M.W. Turner 1775 – 1851 (The Deluge)9
The judgment of mankind after 6,000 years of human history. There is also meaning behind the numbers in this account. In the Bible, the number six corresponds with mankind. On the sixth day, God created mankind (Gen. 1:26-7; 2:7). The number six also symbolizes the judgment of mankind, and the number 600 symbolizes mankind’s completed judgment. This also foreshadowed mankind’s likely judgment after 6,000 years of human history. Just as the Flood came when Noah turned 600, mankind will most likely have a 6,000-year-period of history followed by a 1,000 year rule of the Messiah. The Jewish king Joash (who symbolized Christ) was hidden from view for exactly six years before he was revealed and restored to his rightful place on the throne (2 Kgs. 11:3-12). Jesus’ transfiguration also took place “after six days.” (Matt. 17:1-2). Many Messianic Jews also follow this interpretation: “According to apostolic interpretations, the LORD allotted six thousand years of redemptive history corresponding to the six days of creation. The thousand year Messianic Era corresponds to the seventh day – the day of Sabbath rest. The kingdom will be a universal era of peace, however, it must pass through a period of apocalyptic judgments, cataclysms, and disasters called the birth pains of Messiah. The rabbis refer to the troubled times preceding the advent of the Messiah as ‘the birth pains of Messiah’ (chevlei mashiach)”.10 Jesus quoted from these interpretive texts in describing the end times. “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” (Matt. 24:8; Mk. 13:8). If we knew the exact beginning date, we could presumably calculate our end date. If we assume that the Second Coming will happen after exactly 6,000 years on the Jewish calendar during the Jewish Day of Judgment, Yom Kippur, we could assume the end date for humanity to be September 30, 2,239 A.D. Yet, Jesus did not reveal the end or the beginning date for mankind because He wants you to live ready for His return at all times.
Other numbers in the Flood account. There is also meaning behind the other numbers in this account. This includes ages of Noah’s adult children. All three were 100, having been born exactly one century earlier as triplets: “Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” (Gen. 5:32). This is 10 times the Ten Commandments. Their ages symbolize the complete judgment of mankind under God’s Law (Ro. 2:12). There is also meaning to the day that the rain begins. The Flood began in the Fall during the 17th day of the second month of mankind’s civil calendar. As set forth in the next study, the ark came to a rest on the 17th day of the seventh month, during the Passover week (Gen. 8:4). The ground became dry on Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year (Gen. 8:13). Both symbolized new beginnings. There were also exactly eight persons on the ark. In the Bible, eight is also a symbol of new beginnings. Through the ark of Jesus, He offers to make you a “new creation” in Him (2 Cor. 5:17).
Be ready at all times. The people in Noah’s day ignored his warnings of judgment. Noah built an ark that was large enough to accept all sinners who were ready to repent. Yet, none did. Instead, they laughed off Noah’s warnings and engaged in debauchery: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.” (Matt. 24:38-40; Lk. 17:26-7). Jesus knows that the rest of the world in the end times will ignore the warnings of His return. Are you living each day being ready for His return?
The animals could only enter the ark by twos. In the final moments before the Flood, God brought the animals into the ark in pairs of twos. As the deluge began, He then shut the door: “13 On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark, 14 they and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, all sorts of birds. 15 So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life. 16 Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the Lord closed it behind him.” (Gen. 7:13-16). There are two important facts that can be inferred from this passage. First, to protect the ark from the force of the raging waters, the door to the ark had to be narrow. The animals could only enter through a narrow plank in pairs of twos. Second, Noah left the door open for all who would heed his call for repentance. God shut the door when it was too late for people to repent. This suggests that the people who mocked Noah during the 120 years while he built it tried to enter as the intense 40-day-deluge began. Yet, by that point, it was too late for them.
The path to heaven is straight and narrow. Noah and his family had to go through a doorway into the Ark to be saved (Gen. 7:16). Jesus is the “doorway” that all must pass through to be saved (Jo. 10:9). There are no shortcuts or alternative paths to this doorway. Like the narrow planks leading into the ark, the path leading to heaven is also narrow: “. . . the way is broad that leads to destruction . . . the way is narrow that leads to life.” (Matt. 7:13-14). “There is a way that seems right to a man. But it ends in the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). While the animals had no problem obeying God to take the narrow path onto the ark, the people were unwilling to follow His directions: “An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master's manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” (Is. 1:3; Jer. 8:7). Are you traveling down Jesus’ narrow path by living a holy life? Or, are you traveling on the broad highway with those around you?
Let God alone decide when to shut the door on someone’s salvation. There is also a spiritual lesson from the fact that Noah let God shut the door. Noah was not qualified to determine who should be saved, nor are you. Someone’s sins in your eyes might seem unforgivable. Yet, it is for God alone to decide who gets to go to heaven. “God kept the door open until the last possible minute, but there came a time when the door had to shut. When the door is open, it is open, but when it is shut, it is shut. Jesus is “He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7) (David Guzik on Genesis 7).11 Have you written off people whom you deem unworthy of heaven?
The death sentence to all people outside the ark. While Noah, his family and the animals were all safe inside the ark, all of mankind outside of the ark died under God’s judgment: “17 Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. 18 The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. 20 The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. 21 All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; 22 of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. “23 Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. 24 The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.” (Gen. 7:17-24). This judgment fulfilled the prior warning that God gave to Noah: “Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.”’ (Gen. 6:13). This foreshadows the end times.
The death sentence to all outside of Jesus. Noah could only save himself and his family: ‘“even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,’ declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezek. 14:14). All who are outside of Christ at the time of the final judgment will perish: “but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 8:12). “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25:30). Are you warning others of the dangers that await if they fail to repent? (Matt. 28:16-20).
Many Bible critics cannot see these hidden meanings in the Flood. They read without comprehending. “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matt. 13:13). Unable to see the prophetic connections between the wording of the Flood account and Jesus’ Second Coming, many literary critics assume that the repetitive nature of certain passages must indicate the existence of multiple authors and separate flood accounts. Literary critics allege that these separate Flood accounts were merged together at some point in the past.12 Yet, as with the theory that there were once multiple creation accounts, this theory suffers from at least three fatal problems.
First, this theory imagines a non-orthodox people who memorized their own accounts of the Flood and then happily accepted a new merged account without any questions. While the western world is largely secular today, the ancient Jews were serious about their faith and would have stoned anyone who tried to force them to forget the sacred texts that they had memorized.
Second, this theory also imagines a vast conspiracy whereby a few priests managed to gather and destroy every prior account of the Flood to conceal their actions. Reverent Jews would have kept hidden copies of their prior accounts. They also would have stoned the conspirators. Civil conflict would have also likely broken out within Israel. Archeologists would have also found evidence that the Jews once had different creation and Flood accounts.
Third, like the creation account, the repetition of certain phrases across in the Flood account form perfect literary patterns that would not be possible if the account were merged together from multiple authors. Bible scholar G. Wenham gives the following example:
(A) Seven days of waiting for the flood (7:4)
(B) Seven days of waiting for the flood (7:10)
(C) 40 days of the flood (7:17a)
(D) 150 days of water triumphing (7:24)
(D) 150 days of water waning (8:3)
(C) 40 days of waiting (8:6)
(B) Seven days of waiting (8:10)
(A) Seven days of waiting (8:12)13
Bible scholar D. W. Anderson gives another example of a perfect pattern:
1. Transitional introduction (6:9-10)
2. Violence in God’s creation (6:11-12)
3. First divine address: resolution to destroy (6:13-22)
4. Second divine address: command to enter the ark (7:1-10)
5. Beginning of the flood (7:11-16)
6. The rising flood waters (7:17-24)
7. God’s remembrance of Noah (8:1a)
6. The receding flood waters (8:1b-5)
5. The drying of the Earth (8:6-14)
4. Third divine address: command to leave the ark (8:15-19)
3. God’s resolution to preserve order (8:20-22)
2. Fourth divine address: covenant blessing and peace (9:1-17)
1. Transitional conclusion (9:18-19)14
If the Flood account were the merged product of separate flood accounts, drafted by different authors, these perfect patterns would not exist. These patterns are instead evidence of a single author who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; Moses.
Critics of the Flood also raise several objections based upon the lack of geological evidence that the Flood was a global event. The first part of this section sets forth the cultural and human genetic evidence in support of a Flood that almost wiped out humanity. The second part of this section sets forth the geological and animal genetic evidence raised against a global Flood. The third section seeks to harmonize how the Flood could be global to all of humanity without leaving physical evidence across the entire world.
The existence of a Flood that almost destroyed humanity is shared by most world cultures. The existence of a Flood is also confirmed by human genetic evidence.
(1) World-wide cultural evidence in support of a Flood.
The global Flood is recorded in cultures across the world. Consider the following:
The major world faiths. Belief in the Flood is shared by all the major world religions. Both Judaism, Christianity, and their offshoots share the same Genesis account. The Flood is also described twice in the Quran (Sura 11 & 71). Hinduism also has a Flood account: They believe that their god Vishnu appeared as a fish to a human named Manu to warn him of an impending flood. Vishnu ordered Manu to collect all living creatures and all of the world’s grains in a boat. Manu also brought seven great sages and their wives into his boat. Only those inside Manu’s boat survived.15 Together, the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu religions account for the majority of the people on Earth.
Middle Eastern pagan religions. If Noah’s world was wiped out by the Flood, one would expect to see the existence of the Flood in old pagan religions of the Middle East. And that is exactly what scholars have found. For example, the Flood is documented in the ancient writings of the Babylonians. Dating back to 2,100 BC during the Third Dynasty of Ur, the epic of Gilgamesh records a story of various Babylonian gods who caused a flood because mankind had become wicked. One of their gods, however, warned Gilgamesh. He then built a ship that allowed for both his family and various animals to escape. Like Noah’s account, the Babylonian account involved Gilgamesh sending out various birds to search for dry land. These included a raven, a dove, and a swallow. When Gilgamesh and his family landed on dry ground, they made a sacrifice to give thanks to their gods. This account is so similar to Noah’s account that critics of the Bible claim that the Jews must have borrowed it from them.16 Yet, his boat was a cubical ship, approximately 200 feet tall, 200 feet in length and 200 feet in width. Unlike the ark, it would not have been stable or seaworthy.17
Flood accounts across the world. If the descendants of mankind all spread out from Noah’s descendants, one would also expect the Flood to be documented in indigenous myths around the world. This is again exactly what many have found. By one estimate, there are at least 17 known flood stories in Africa and the Middle East, 38 from the Pacific Islands, 21 from the Far East, 13 from Europe and Asia, 21 from Greek authors, 58 from North America, 21 from Central America, and 24 from South America.18 Examples of cultures with flood accounts include: “the legends of the Samo-Kubo tribe of New Guinea, the Athapascan Indians of America, the Papago Indians of Arizona, Brazilian tribes, Peruvian Indians, African Hottentots, natives of Greenland, native Hawaiian islanders, Hindus, Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Australian natives, the Welsh, Celts, Druids, Siberians, and Lithuanians.”19 For example, the Maasai tribe of Kenya has the following Flood account: “Once upon a time the rivers began to flood. Then god told two people to get into a ship. He told them to take lots of seeds and to take lots of animals. The water of the flood eventually covered the mountains. Finally the flood stopped. Then one of the men, wanting to know if the water had dried up, let a dove loose. The dove returned. Later he let loose a hawk which did not return. Then the men left the boat and took the animals and the seeds with them.”20 If skeptics claim that the Jews stole their Flood account from the Babylonians, how do they explain the similarities between the Biblical Flood and the flood account of the Massai tribe? The people of Mesopotamia, Israel, and Kenya had no interactions at that time.
Similar details of the Flood. If all of mankind descended from Noah’s descendants, one would also expect some similarity in the Flood accounts across the indigenous world. This is again exactly what many have found. Of the more than 200 cultures which have their own account of the Flood, 88% involve a favored family saved for its righteousness. In 70% of the stories, the survivors wait out the flood on a boat. In 67% of these stories, the escapees bring along animals. In 66% of the stories, human wickedness caused the pagan gods to unleash the flood. In 57% of the accounts, the survivors’ boat lands on a hillside or mountain top.21
Other cultural references to the Flood. There are a number of other cultural references to the Flood. For example, the ancient Greeks and Romans have a similar story of Deucalion and Pyhrra. They saved their children and a collection of animals from a flood on a boat. As another example, in 360 BC, Timaeus of Plato wrote of the “great deluge of all.”22 As another example, the Chinese word for “boat” is a combination of three ancient symbols: “vessel,” “eight,” and “mouth,” which together tell the story of eight people saved by a boat. Just as intriguing, the Chinese character for “to covet” is the symbol of a woman combined with the symbols for two trees. This closely matches the two trees that Eve had to choose between in the Garden of Eden.23
(2) Human genetic evidence of a Flood that almost destroyed mankind.
There is also genetic evidence that mankind was nearly wiped out in the Flood. Scientists use mitochondrial DNA to date the age of the first woman. By contrast, scientists use the Y-chromosome to date the age of the first man. In theory, the two techniques should produce the same age for the first common man and the first common woman. Instead, the dating methods place the first common woman as having lived earlier than the first common man.24
For scientists, this is a problem. This, however, is exactly what one would expect from the Flood. Noah was the first common male of the four males on the ark. Noah’s wife and his son’s wives, however, all would have had different mothers. Thus, the first common female would trace back before the first common male Noah. Because of the long ages of the peoples who lived in Noah’s day, this could have created a substantial gap between the date of the first common male and the first common female.
At first appearance, there is compelling evidence from marine fossil deposits on mountain tops to support a global Flood. For example, the summit of Mount Everest is composed of deep marine limestone. This includes fossils of ocean-bottom dwelling creatures called “crinoids”. These exist at about 29,035 feet or almost 5 miles above sea level. Likewise, whale skeletons have been found at 440 feet above sea level north of Lake Ontario, 500 feet above sea level in Vermont, and 600 feet above sea level in the Montreal Quebec area.
Yet, this evidence does not withstand closer scrutiny. Many scientists and Bible scholars have attacked the claim that the Flood reached every inch of dry land and every mountain top across the globe on the following scientific and Biblical grounds.
(1) The total volume of water needed to cover every mountain peak. Scientists allege that there is insufficient water on Earth to cover the tallest mountains. The Bible says that the floodwaters came from the Earth’s aquifers and rain within the atmosphere (Gen. 7:11-12). The water later returned to the places it came from (Gen. 8:1-5). Thus, the amount of water needed to cover the tallest mountains in the world can be tested against the total amount of water estimated to be inside the Earth and in the atmosphere. By measuring the estimated water on Earth, scientists calculate that the Earth contains only 22% of the water required to cover every mountain on the planet. Stated differently, “To inundate all of Earth’s surface would require more than four times the sum of all the water currently present in Earth’s oceans and lakes, in Earth’s atmosphere, and within Earth’s crust.”25 More importantly, Bible scholars point out that the Bible makes a specific claim about the height of the Flood. It comes nowhere near five vertical miles, the height of Mount Everest. Instead, the Bible reveals that the waters rose only 15 cubits: “The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered.” (Gen. 7:20). A “cubit” measures from the distance of an average forearm from the middle finger tip to the bottom of the elbow. “Lengths ranged between 38 to 51.8 cm (15.0 to 20.4 in).”26 If the Flood raised the ark by 15 cubits, it raised the ark by between 225 to 306 inches. This ranges between 18.75 feet and 25.5 feet. This is less than 1% of Mount Everest’s 29,000-foot peak. Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa. It rises 5,895 meters or 19,341 feet above sea level. If the ark rose 25.5 feet, this is also less than 1 percent of the height of Mount Kilimanjaro. Likewise, the highest peak within the mountains of Ararat in Turkey is 5,137 meters or 16,854 feet. This again is far above the level of the Flood waters. Furthermore, even if the 5 vertical miles of water needed to cover the Earth came from a divine source, some scientists allege that the added mass of the Earth with that much water would have changed the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. This change in the Earth’s orbit would be detectible and would have had other adverse repercussions for all life on Earth.
(2) Alleged massive earthquakes and a change in the laws of physics. Recognizing that the Flood could not have covered the top of Mount Everest in its current location, many proponents of a global Flood allege that the mountains of the Earth rapidly formed and the continents broke apart during the approximate one-year duration of the Flood. This alleged cataclysmic movement of the Earth’s continental plates happened after the 40 days of rain began. For example, the late Dr. Henry Morris argues that the Flood included: “great tectonic upheavals and volcanic outpourings that completely changed the crust of the earth and its topography in the days of Noah.”27 Another young earth creationist argues that: “Mount Everest — like other high mountains in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, etc. — was formed after or during the Flood. It didn't exist in its present form before the Flood. . . There were hills in the pre-Flood world of course (Genesis 7:19), and it was these that the Bible speaks of when it says the mountains were covered to a depth of 15 cubits (6.75 meters) during the Flood.”28 Pastor David Guzik also argues: “If the earth were a perfect sphere, the oceans would cover the land to a depth of two-and-a-half to three miles. Before the cataclysmic flood, the earth may have been much nearer to a perfect sphere.”29 Yet, the Bible makes no claim that a separate cataclysmic movement of the Earth’s continental plates occurred either during or after the Flood. Instead, God said that He made the continents on day three (Gen. 1:10). He was also extremely detailed in how His judgment unfolded. First, He announced the Flood before it began. He then gave the people 120 years to repent. After the people failed to repent, He then meticulously recorded through Moses how He followed the details of His promised judgment. This was important to show that He keeps His Word. God never initiates a punishment without first warning that it will happen. A series of cataclysmic earthquakes occurring either during or after the Flood began is not only missing from the Genesis account, it would be contrary to God’s nature. Throughout the Bible, God always gives advanced warnings to encourage repentance. He does state that great earthquakes are coming. Yet, they will happen in the future just before Christ’s Second Coming: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.” (Matt. 24:7; Lk. 21:11). “I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood;” (Rev. 6:12). Moreover, the future earthquakes will be stronger than anything to have ever happened in mankind’s history, including the Flood: “And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.” (Rev. 16:18). If a prior earthquake was strong enough to have ripped apart the continents, moved them across the world in one year, and formed the current mountain ranges, it is hard to imagine what type of a greater future quake could happen during the end times that would not completely destroy everything on Earth.
(3) The lack of scientific evidence for a global Flood or a change in the laws of physics. Using satellite technology, scientists have verified that most continents move at a constant rate of slightly less than one inch per year.30 As one example, the Indian plate continues to be driven below the Tibetan Plateau at a rate of 67 mm per year. This movement causes the Himalayas to rise at a predictable rate of approximately 15 mm each year. Using these consistent movements, scientists estimate that the Himalayas were once underwater in an ancient sea called the “Tethys Sea”. This dates back approximately 15 million years ago, before the Indian sub-continent collided with the continent of Asia.31 In response to this evidence, some global Flood proponents speculate that the laws of physics changed during the Flood. This change allegedly caused an increase in the decay rate of certain radioactive isotopes inside the Earth’s core. This allegedly caused accelerated plate tectonics and mountain growth. It is also alleged that the continental plates of the Earth moved 5,000 miles in one year from a prior central location called Pangea to their current locations. Yet, the Bible again does not state that this happened. To the contrary, God said that He fixed the laws of physics: “Thus says the LORD, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established,”’ (Jer. 33:25). Astronomer Hugh Ross also points out that the light from other stars shows that the laws of physics have remained constant throughout history. According to Ross, if the decay rate for radioactive isotopes were increased during the Flood, the same change inside the Sun would have dramatically increased its heat and evaporated all of the Earth’s water. All would have died. Furthermore, according to Ross, if the Earth’s plates moved 5,000 miles during the Flood as claimed under this theory, the Earth would have had 42,000 consecutive magnitude 11 earthquakes. With this type of energy being released across the Earth, volcanic ash greater than ever seen previously would have obscured the atmosphere and created a nuclear winter. This would have prevented plant life from growing after the Flood. This in turn would have led to the death of Noah, his family and all the animals that they had just saved. With consecutive magnitude 11 earthquakes, the ark would have also been subject to massive tsunamis both before and after it landed. All of the Earth’s topsoil and any vegetation would have also been buried.32 As a result of either the post-Flood nuclear winter or the ongoing massive tsunamis, Noah’s dove would not have found a living olive tree (Gen. 8:11). No trees would have survived.
(4) The absence of physical evidence that the Flood was global. Opponents of a global Flood also argue that the evidence of a global Flood is not confirmed by any: (1) uniform world-wide geological evidence, (2) tree ring evidence, or (3) ice core evidence. First, if there were a global Flood, there would be global patterns of a single flood across every mountain range. Yet, as one example, the Hawaiian islands have no sedimentary layers of the Flood. The Hawaiian islands further provide no evidence that they formed in a single cataclysmic event. Instead, each island shows evidence that it formed separately as the pacific plate has moved slowly over a “hot spot” in the Earth’s mantle. The newest Hawaiian island in the chain called “Loihi” is still forming. It is erupting from its summit at a depth of 1000 meters below the surface of the ocean.33 Second, tree ring data goes back more than 8,500 years for bristlecone pines in the American Southwest and 11,000 years for European oaks and pines. These tree rings show no evidence that the Flood reached the American Southwest or Europe during these time periods. Third, scientists have ice core data going back 123,000 years for Greenland and 800,000 years for Antarctica. Although ice core samples near the coasts are not reliable predictions of the past, the ones away from the coasts provide reliable data for each consecutive year of the Earth’s past atmosphere. These ice core records are verified with volcanic dust from known eruptions, like the Krakatoa eruption of 1883 and the eruptions of Vesuvius, which destroyed Pompeii in 79 AD. The data from both poles shows no evidence of a Flood that reached as far as either Greenland dating back 123,000 years ago or Antarctica dating back 800,000 years ago.34
(5) The absence of evidence of a past animal “genetic bottleneck”. Opponents of a global Flood also argue that it is not supported by genetic evidence in animals. When a species is reduced to a low number of individuals, biologists can find genetic markers called a “genetic bottleneck.” This genetic bottleneck information remains identifiable in future generations, like rings in a tree. Examples of this have been documented with species that suffered a rapid population decline in the past. Examples include the American bison, northern elephant seals, and the European version of the bison, called the “wisent”.35 If the Flood had reduced the unclean species on Earth to a single breeding pair, then the current genome of all these species should contain genetic evidence of that prior event. Yet, that evidence cannot be observed.
(6) The rapid animal mutation rate needed for a global Flood. Opponents of a global Flood argue that it would have required a greater rate of evolution for animals after the Flood than even secular biologists consider possible. Until the 1970s, most thought that only a few hundred animals were on the ark. For example, in its 1771 edition, the Encyclopedia Britannica recorded: "...Buteo and Kircher have proved geometrically, that, taking the common cubit as a foot and a half, the ark was abundantly sufficient for all the animals supposed to be lodged in it ... the number of species of animals will be found much less than is generally imagined, not amounting to a hundred species of quadrupeds”.36 Yet, beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, young earth creationists came up with far larger estimates of the number of animals on the ark. For example, in 1982, a pair of young earth creationists named Dr. John C. Whitcomb and the late Dr. Henry M. Morris estimated that 35,000 animals were on the ark.37 As another example, in 1996, a young earth creationist named John Woodmorappe created a list of 15,754 living and now extinct animals that he believed were on the ark. His lists included 7,428 mammals, 4,602 birds, 3,724 reptiles, and no amphibians.38 Even if there were 15,754 or 35,000 animals on the ark, this is still far smaller than the number of species alive today. Although estimates vary, it is believed that up to 8.7 million animal species exist today. This includes 6.5 million on land and 2.2 million in the oceans.39 The number would include millions more if the ark held dinosaurs and every other extinct creature, as taught by young earth creationists. Young earth creationists assume that the thousands of animals on the ark included only representatives of each family or order of animals. These allegedly then evolved into the millions seen today in only a few thousand years. Yet, even secular advocates of macroevolution do not believe that this rate of mutation is possible. For example, Richard Dawkins, a famous atheist and advocate of macroevolution, argues that “In real life, the probability that a gene will mutate is often less than one in one million.”40 He further states that even small mutations are likely to be fatal: “the chances are very high that a big random jump in genetic space will end in death. Even a small random jump in genetic space is likely to end in death.”41 Thus, if there were a major increase in the genetic mutation rate after the Flood, most animals would have died at birth. Advocates of evolution believe that it takes millions of years for a new species to form. If the rate of mutation were as high as claimed by some young earth creationists and animals were able to survive it, we would expect to see evidence of new animal species forming since mankind appeared. Yet, that evidence does not exist. We would also expect to see fossil evidence of transitional species appearing after the Flood. Yet, that evidence is also missing. More importantly, God declared in the first chapter of the book of Genesis that mankind was His last and final creation. God entered His Sabbath rest after He created man. He will not create again until His eighth day when He creates the New Jerusalem for His believers. Thus, the alleged rapid formation of new species after the Flood is contrary to both observed genetic mutation rates and God’s Word.
(7) The distribution and survival of certain animals, insects, and plants in a global Flood. Finally, opponents of a global Flood argue that it would lead to a number of unexplainable circumstances regarding the survival and distribution of certain specialized freshwater fish, certain animals, certain insects, and many kinds of plants. For example, Noah was not instructed to bring any fresh water fish. If the Flood were global, all of the freshwater fish of the Earth would have died. Noah also was not told to bring any insects. Adult mayflies live for only a few days. To survive, the larvae of many mayflies require shallow fresh running water. This would not have existed over the approximate one-year Flood. Likewise, for the Flood to be global, certain animals, like the kangaroo, would have had to have been transported from Australia to the Middle East to enter the ark. In order to be confined to their present locations, these animals would then need to be transported back to Australia after the Flood. If they were not transported back, we would see fossils of kangaroos in the Middle East. They also would have spread out in many directions from the Middle East after the Flood. The only other alternative is to believe that certain mammals evolved into kangaroos the minute they reached Australia, all within a few thousand years or less. This would have required radical genetic changes. Kangaroos give birth to young animals that continue to develop in the mother’s pouch. They are called “Marsupialia'' mammals. Other examples include wallabies, the koala, and the Tasmanian devil. By contrast, “Eutherian” mammals, like primates, give birth to well-developed young. Each of these different kinds of Marsupialia mammals would have needed to have evolved independently in Australia in a few thousand years. As another example, some animals, like sloths, cannot travel overland very well at all. They would need to be transported from their native jungle environments to the ark and then transported back after the Flood. Other animals, like koalas, require a special diet with foods that do not exist in the Middle East. Koalas only eat eucalyptus leaves, which do not exist in the Middle East. This problem also exists for a number of insects. For example, silkworms only eat mulberry leaves. These are also not found in the Middle East.
Critic Robin Parry askes: “ How did animals get to their present ranges? How did koalas get from Ararat to Australia, polar bears to the Arctic, etc., when the kinds of environment they require to live does not exist between the two points. How did so many unique species get to remote islands? Why are so many animals found only in limited ranges? Why are so many marsupials limited to Australia; why are there no wallabies in western Indonesia? Why are lemurs limited to Madagascar?”42
Likewise, critic Mark Isaak asks how all the plants could have survived, when Noah was never ordered to collect them. Noah’s dove further found an adult olive tree with leaves that survived the Flood. This suggests that the tree was in a place where it and its leaves were spared from the Flood (Gen. 8:11).:
“Many plants (seeds and all) would be killed by being submerged for a few months. This is especially true if they were soaked in salt water. Some mangroves, coconuts, and other coastal species have seeds which could be expected to survive the Flood itself, but what of the rest?
Most seeds would have been buried under many feet (even miles) of sediment. This is deep enough to prevent sprouting.
Most plants require established soils to grow--soils which would have been stripped by the Flood.
Some plants germinate only after being exposed to fire or after being ingested by animals; these conditions would be rare (to put it mildly) after the Flood.
Noah could not have gathered seeds for all plants because not all plants produce seeds, and a variety of plant seeds can't survive a year before germinating. Also, how did he distribute them all over the world?”43
The fact that most cultures have stories of the Flood confirms humanity was almost wiped out in the past during the Flood. Thus, the Flood was global to humanity. Yet, the lack of world-wide geological and animal biological evidence of the Flood suggests that the Flood happened before humanity had spread across the globe. This means that God could have brought judgment upon all of humanity without sending the Flood to every inch of the globe.
Many, however, have been told that the only possible literal interpretation of the Bible is to believe that the Flood destroyed every inch of land across the globe. When faced with these types of tough theological questions, many believers are tempted to simply shrug their shoulders and move on. Yet, believers should never ignore controversies in the Bible. Believers are expected to know why they believe what they believe so that they can answer the questions of both seekers or skeptics: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (1 Pet. 3:15).
Believers are also not expected to check their brains at the door when they accept Christ. Indeed, believers are told to test everything that they are told, including Church interpretations of the Flood account: “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (1 Thess. 5:21). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jo. 4:1).
The Bible is inspired and never incorrect (2 Tim. 3:16). Yet, human interpretation can sometimes be wrong.
If the physical evidence does not match the interpretation, the interpretation should be re-examined. This is the lesson that the Church learned from its sad prosecution of Galileo Galilei (“Galileo”). In 1631, the Roman Catholic Church attacked Galileo for teaching that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The Roman Catholic Church relied upon Psalms 93:1 and 104:5 and Ecclesiastes 1:4-5 for the proposition that the Earth is “immovable” and could not, therefore, revolve around the Sun.
Galileo responded by making a “frame of reference” interpretation. From the frame of reference of a person standing on the Earth, the Earth’s gravity will make it feel “immoveable” or stationary to the person standing on the Earth. A person will feel stationary even though the Earth is in fact spinning at 465 meters per second or 1,040 miles per hour while it hurls through space around the Sun at 30 kilometers per second or approximately 67,000 miles per hour.
The Catholic Church responded by declaring Galileo to be a heretic. For hundreds of years, the Church rejected this approach to interpretation, even after it accepted the truth of Galileo's discoveries. Until 1835, Galileo’s published works on heliocentrism remained on the Church’s index of prohibited books. Not until 1981, 350 years later, did the Roman Catholic Church officially forgive Galileo. Regrettably, this unnecessary clash with the scientific method – rooted in nothing more than tradition – turned many away from their faith.
The Roman Catholic Church further was not alone in condemning Galileo. Martin Luther also mocked Galileo’s writings.44 John Calvin also found Galileo’s teachings to be absurd and contrary to his understanding of Scripture.45
Those who advocate that the Flood was global point to the descriptions of the water covering the “high mountains” and the “Earth”. Read in isolation, this view is simplistic and compelling: “19 . . so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. 20 . . . and the mountains were covered. 21 All flesh that moved on the earth perished . . .“23 Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land . . .” (Gen. 7:17-23). Yet, this interpretation does not withstand the accepted rules for Bible interpretation.
For several reasons, interpreting the Flood as extending beyond Noah’s world is flawed.
First, it is one of the most important rules of Bible interpretation never to interpret verses in isolation. Instead, each word should be examined in the context of how it is used elsewhere in Scripture. This includes the word “world.” In nearly every context where the terms “world” or “under heaven” is used, it speaks of the world of the speaker from his frame of reference, not the entire physical world. The following are seven examples from both the Old and New Testament:
1) The world of Joseph. When Joseph was second in command in Egypt, the Bible records that the entire “world” went to Egypt because of a famine: “All the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.” (Gen. 41:57). At that time, transportation between China and the Middle East or the Americas and the Middle East did not exist. Should believers demand as a test of faith that Chinese delegations came to Joseph for grain? Likewise, should believers insist as a test of faith that the Eskimos traveled to Egypt for grain? Such a test of faith would be absurd. In this context, no one would doubt that the “world” can be interpreted literally as Joseph’s known world of the Middle East.
2) The world of Moses. When Moses lived, God promised to protect the Jews by causing “the peoples everywhere under the heavens” to fear them.” (Dt. 2:25). Did the Sioux tribes, the Apache tribes, and Kickapoo tribes of America fear the Jews? Likewise, did the Antaifasy peoples of Madagascar fear them? Obviously, the literal interpretation of this verse speaks to the people under heaven in the Middle East from Moses’ frame of reference.
3) The world of Solomon. When Solomon lived, “all the kings of the Earth” came to hear from him: “And all the kings of the Earth were seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.” (2 Chr. 10:23; 1 Kgs. 10:24). Solomon lived around approximately 970 to 931 BC.46 This is about the same time that Emperor Mu of the Zhou dynasty ruled China (976 -922 BC).47 In order to interpret the Bible literally, must we believe that Emperor Mu of China traveled to Israel to seek Solomon’s counsel? Likewise, did the feudal heads of the kingdoms of Japan also pay Solomon a visit? Or, did the heads of the tribes of South Africa and the Congo visit him? The most distant visitor mentioned is the queen of Sheba, a region near current Ethiopia (1 Kings 10:1-13). Again, this verse obviously speaks to the kings of the Earth who were known to Solomon from his frame of reference.
4) The world of Caesar Augustus. Examples of this type of frame of reference interpretation can also be found in the New Testament. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Caesar Augustus took a census of “all the inhabited Earth”: “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.” (Lk. 2:1). Did Caesar count the members of the Inca tribes in Peru, the Maya tribes in Mexico, and the Yanomami tribes of the Amazon? Clearly, he did not. Instead, the literal interpretation of this verse is that his men counted the members of the known world of the Roman empire from his frame of reference.
5) The world of Luke. As another example, Luke records shortly after Jesus’ death: “Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under Earth.” (Acts 2:5). In 33 A.D., did Jews come from Mongolia to live in Jerusalem? Likewise, did they come from Argentina, Nepal, and the Philippines to live in Jerusalem? Again, clearly they did not. Luke literally spoke of the known world of the Jews from his frame of reference.
6) The world of Paul’s accusers. Likewise, Paul’s accusers claimed that he was stirring up trouble throughout the entire “world”: “For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension of Jews throughout the world . . . ” (Acts 24:5). Speaking prophetically, Paul did eventually stir up the hearts of mankind across the world. Yet, at the time his accusers made charges against him, his influence was limited to the known Roman empire. He had not yet instigated the indigenous peoples of Hawaii, Cambodia, Nepal, Mongolia, and Tibet.
7) The world of Paul. Paul stated that the faith of the Romans was reported “all over the world.” (Rom. 1:8). “[I]f indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” (Col. 1:23). Yet, at that time, word of their faith was limited to the Roman Empire. At that time, the Maori tribes of New Zealand, the Tswana tribe of Batswana, and the Kolufo peoples southeastern Papua (the southeastern part of Indonesian New Guinea) were not familiar with the faith of the people of Rome, Paul’s teachings, Jesus Christ or the Jews.
Peter also reveals that the Flood impacted Noah’s known world. This is evident by the otherwise unnecessary qualifier “at that time” in the phrase: “through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded by water.” (2 Pet. 3:6).
Believers typically have no trouble understanding that Joseph, Moses, Solomon, Luke, and Paul wrote literally of the “world” from their frame of reference. Why is it hard to accept that Noah did the same thing? Looking for how words are used throughout the Bible can typically solve most problems of interpretation. This includes the Flood.
Second, as stated above, the Bible is clear that the waters rose only 15 cubits (Gen. 7:20). God obviously sought to avoid misunderstandings about the height of the Flood waters. Simply put, they never exceeded 25.5 feet in height. Thus, it is a gross mischaracterization to claim that the waters rose 5 vertical miles. Why then have many made it a test of faith that the Flood covered the tallest mountains on Earth when that claim expressly contradicts God’s Word?
Third, as set forth above, the Bible makes no claim that the mountains formed after the Flood began. The Bible also warns against those who try to add to God’s Word (Rev. 22:18). Again, why have some made it a test of faith to believe in massive world-wide earthquakes, continental drift and the instant formation of mountain ranges when the Bible never says this?
Fourth, the description of the Flood reaching the “high mountains” is a strictly modern interpretation. In the first King James Version of the Bible, it states that the Flood covered only the “high hills”: “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.” (Gen. 7:19) (KJV). This is consistent with a Flood that was at most 25.5 feet high. God gave this precise detail to prevent misinterpretation. Yet, many have ignored this precise detail because it does not support their interpretation.
Fifth, although God’s Word is inerrant (2 Tim. 3:16), He invites believers to examine the record of nature to verify that their interpretations are correct. For example, believers are told that they can learn about how God created the universe by studying starlight: “The Heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His Hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Ps. 19:1). Mankind’s rejection of His finger prints in creation will also condemn nonbelievers: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Ro. 1:20). If there is no evidence that the Flood extended to all seven continents, that does not mean the Flood did not happen. It means that believers need to double check the basis for their interpretation.
Sixth, although God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, there is evidence that mankind resisted in His call to populate the world. God had to create the separate languages and drive the people apart when they united at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9).
Finally, God’s law of proportionality would not have allowed Him to bring judgment upon parts of the Earth that humans had not yet inhabited in Noah’s day. Murder pollutes the land where it is split with sin (Nu. 35:33; Gen. 4:10). Sin must be punished as part of God’s divine justice. Yet, His Old Testament law of an “eye for an eye” is a law of proportion in judgment (Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Dt. 19:21). It would violate His law of proportionality to punish animals and lands that had never been contaminated by human sin. In other words, if Noah’s people sinned while living in a confined area of the Middle East, it would be against His character for Him to destroy Koalas in Australia or polar bears in the Arctic that had never been exposed to human sin. The first humans to set foot on Antarctica did not happen until 1821 when American Captain John Davis made a brief landing. Mankind did not reach the South Pole until Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s expedition on December 14, 1911.48 Thus, Antarctica was not contaminated by human sin in Noah’s day, and God would have had no reason to judge it.
There are two primary theories for the location of a literal Flood that destroyed all of Noah’s world at a time when mankind had not yet migrated from the Middle East. One theory places the Flood in Mesopotamia. The second places it in the modern Black Sea basin.
(1) The theory of the Mesopotamian Flood.
Some believe that the Flood took place inside of Mesopotamia at a time when humanity was allegedly confined to that region. Hugh Ross, for example, believes that Noah’s ark landed in the northern Mesopotamian plain on the southern border of the mountains of Ararat: “This range encompasses an area measuring more than 100,000 square miles (250,000 square kilometers) with elevations ranging from the hundreds to the thousands of feet (or meters).”49
Ross’ theory has the advantage of placing Noah’s family in Mesopotamia where future events in Genesis would later unfold. Yet, it also suffers from two serious disadvantages. First, there is no geological evidence of the Flood in this region. Second, the area is not confined on all sides to hold in the waters of the Flood. The southern parts of Mesopotamia open into the Persian Gulf and the mostly flat deserts where modern day Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia meet. Thus, if the Flood were in this region, waters would not have risen 25 feet without dissipating.
During the last ice age, the Persian Gulf waters were approximately 400 feet lower. A civilization at the base of the Persian Gulf would have been destroyed as the ice caps melted. Yet, the ocean waters would have risen slowly as the ice melted. Moreover, if the ark started its journey at the bottom of the present Persian Gulf, it would have at best landed in modern day Kuwait where the ocean waters stopped. This would leave the ark hundreds of miles from the mountains of Ararat where the ark came to a rest.
(2) The theory of the Black Sea basin Flood.
A more likely theory would place the Flood inside the basin of the modern Black Sea. There are three things about the Black Sea basin that make it the most likely location for the Flood. These include: (a) evidence of an ancient civilization destroyed by the Flood; (b) a location consistent with the ark’s final resting area; and (c) evidence of the curse from the Flood.
(a) Evidence of an ancient civilization destroyed by the Flood.
On September 13, 2000, Robert Ballard, the underwater explorer who found the Titanic, confirmed the existence of a prior civilization that once lived at what is now a submerged coast line at the bottom of the Black Sea. Sometime between 4,500 B.C. and 5,500 B.C., a flood instantly destroyed this civilization.
One settlement was located 12 miles off the coast of Turkey, west of the Turkish town of Sinop. The remains of this civilization now rest in approximately 300 feet of water. Ballard’s team found wood beams carved by hand, a stone chisel and two other stone tools with holes drilled through them.
This further was not an isolated settlement. At another site, some 150 meters (500 feet) under water, archaeologists found more than 30 stone blocks, pieces of wood and other objects -- possibly ceramics. The stone blocks did not appear to be part of a natural geological formation. The researchers concluded that they had found sites that were once occupied by people.
In 1999, Ballard’s team also dredged up samples of rocks from the old shore line of what is now called the “New Euxine Lake” at the bottom of the Black Sea. At one level of sediment, they found two species of freshwater mollusks which ranged from 7,460 to 15,500 years old. At a higher level of sediment, they found seven species of salt-water mollusks, dated to be between 2,800 to 6,820 years old.
Thus, about 7,000 years ago, the Black Sea basin switched from being a fresh water lake to a salty sea. Researchers also found a one millimeter boundary between the fresh and salt water sediments. This establishes that the civilization was instantly destroyed. Fredrick Hiebert of the University of Pennsylvania declared: “This is a major discovery that will begin to rewrite the history of the cultures in this key area between Europe, Asia and the ancient Middle East.”50
Although researchers have confirmed the existence of the Flood, they refuse to attribute it to God’s intervention. They viewed the Bible has a myth. Yet, they believed that there were too many allegedly similar myths to dismiss. This caused them to investigate.
Secular scientists now call this the “Black Sea deluge.” This theory describes the catastrophic rise and destruction of life inside the Black Sea basin circa 5,600 BC when waters from the Mediterranean Sea breached the then dry Bosporus strait of modern day Turkey.51
During the last ice age, sheets of ice up to two miles thick covered much of the northern parts of North America, Europe, and Russia. So much water had been withdrawn from the world’s oceans that their level was about 400 feet (120 meters) lower than it is today.
What is now the Mediterranean Sea was a largely dry valley. A narrow height of land between what is now Spain and Northern Africa held back the Atlantic Ocean.
Approximately 12,000 years ago, the glaciers from the last ice age began to melt. Around this time the Atlantic Ocean flowed into the Mediterranean Sea.
The Sea of Marmara in Western Turkey rose with the Mediterranean and the world’s oceans. Eventually, water breached through the Bosporus Valley, near modern day Istanbul. With the estimated force of 200 Niagara Falls, water burst into the Black Sea Basin.
Before the sea water destroyed it, the basin of the Black Sea was a freshwater lake inhabited by many people during the late Stone Age or the Neolithic period. The lake was at times estimated to be two-thirds the size of the Black Sea and unconnected to the Mediterranean. The Flood forever destroyed the freshwater lake, the civilization, and its inhabitants.
From the frame of reference of the people inside the Black Sea basin, the water would have appeared to come from both the ground and the sky. It would be like an ant at the end of a rising bath tub. This matches the Genesis account. The scientists who have found evidence of the Flood are only missing God’s divine hand in humanity’s near destruction.
(b) A Flood location consistent with the ark’s final resting area.
Many people incorrectly assume that the ark came to rest at the top of Mount Ararat, 5,137 meters or 16,854 feet above sea level. Yet, the Bible does not say this. Instead, it says that the ark came to a rest somewhere within the “mountains of Ararat”: “In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat.” (Gen. 8:4). We can further establish that the ark was nowhere near the peak of Mount Ararat. When the ark came to a rest, Noah’s dove found an olive tree (Gen. 8:11). These trees are coastal trees of the Mediterranean. The peak of Mount Ararat is mostly frozen with no olive trees.
The map below shows the location where Robert Ballard’s team found human settlements that the Flood destroyed. Other ancient cites are likely still waiting to be discovered.
The area also is next to the mountains of Ararat where the ark came to a rest. The topography further includes submerged rolling hills north of Turkey’s Black Sea coast. These are most likely the “high hills” that are described in the original King James Version of the Flood: “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.” (Gen. 7:19) (KJV).
Secular researchers now are also beginning to trace the spread of the Indo-European languages across Europe, Asia, and India to this discovery: “If a massive flood did occur, it may have played a role in the migration of people away from the region, possibly helping to spread the Indo-European languages-- from which Sanskrit and many European languages including English evolved-- to India and Europe. Linguists who study the origin of languages note that migrations of people from the eastern part of the Black Sea around 6,000 years ago include three eastern branches-- going toward Iran, India, and Central Asia respectively-- and two western migrations-- the first going directly towards Greece while the second went around the Caspian Sea towards Europe where many Western languages emerged from.”53
Thus, using a Noah frame of reference, the “world at that time” was truly destroyed, just as revealed in the Book of Genesis. This physical evidence verifies the Bible to be true.
Some might ask why God told Noah to build an ark. He could have told Noah to leave with his family and the unique regional animals on foot before the Flood began. This is what He did with Lot and his family. Yet, for Noah’s world, this would not have served God’s purpose. Noah was a preacher of righteousness to the lost (2 Pet. 2:5). The ark existed to bring people to repentance and cause people to seek refuge in faith. Out of grace, the people received an extra seven days to repent after they ignored Noah for 120 years. The massive size of the ark was meant to save as many people as possible. It was not meant for just Noah’s family and the unique regional animals of that area. Yet, only Noah and his family accepted God’s invitation.
(c) Evidence of the curse from the Flood.
Finally, the Black Sea basin also reflects evidence of God’s curse. The Flood left a path of destruction from which even marine life has never fully recovered. As a result of the Flood, denser salt water filled the bottom of the basin. This in turn caused a layer of lighter, brackish waters to form on top. Unlike other oceans, the Black Sea lacks the temperature differences that drive normal ocean circulation. This means that oxygen from the atmosphere cannot reach the sea bottom.
Without the normal processes of ocean circulation, deadly hydrogen sulfide forms at the bottom of the Black Sea basin. As a result, life has slowly suffocated from the bottom upwards. “As the result of past geological events, its morphometry and specific water balance, nearly 87 percent of the Black Sea water volume is anoxic and contains high levels of hydrogen sulfide. The 13 percent of the volume that contains oxygen consists of the shallow surface water and the waters from the shelves.”54 The last portions of livable parts of the Black Sea are further slowly disappearing. The hydrogen sulfide poisoning is consistent with the curse described in Genesis: “Thus, He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to the birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark.” (Gen. 7:23).
Avot deRabbi Natan 32:1; b.Sanhedrin 97a; b. Megillah 17b; First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. II, (2015) Shadows of the Messiah, Noach p. 30.↩︎
Targum Pseudo-Yonatan; First Fruits of Zion, p. 30.↩︎
Sanhedrin 97a-97b (italics added).↩︎
Author: Anonymous, The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden (Thomas Nelson 1974), p. 81.↩︎
Epistle of Barnabus, chapter 15, The Apostolic Fathers, pp. 151-151.↩︎
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 1, 28:3; Cox, Cleveland, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, (Hendrickson Publishers 1994) p. 557.↩︎
First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. II, (2015) Shadows of the Messiah, Noach p. 30; Raphael Patai, “The Pangs of Times” The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press 1988) p. 94-103.↩︎
Julius Wellhausen, “The Composition of the Hexateuch and the historical books of the Old Testament” (1876).↩︎
G. Wenham, “The Coherence of the Flood Narrative,” VT 28 (1978): 336-48; Genesis 1-15, WBC (Waco: Word, 1987), p. 156-7; Kenneth Mathews, “The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture” Genesis 1-11:26, Vol. 1A, (B&H Publishing Group Nashville Tenn. 1996) p. 377.↩︎
B.W. Anderson, “From Analysis to Synthesis: The Interpretation of Genesis 1-11, JBL 97 (1978) p. 23-29; Mathews, p. 352.↩︎
See, Shatapatha Brahmana (circa, 700–300 BC), and Matsya Purana (250–500 AD); https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths↩︎
Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis (rtb press 2014) p. 181.↩︎
Tim LaHaye and John Morris, The Ark on Ararat (Publisher David R. Godine 1983).↩︎
David Guzik on Genesis Chapter 7↩︎
Lynch, Patricia (2010). African Mythology, A to Z; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths.↩︎
Tim LaHaye and John Morris, The Ark on Ararat (Publisher David R. Godine 1983).↩︎
Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis (rtb press 2014) p. 74-5.↩︎
Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis (rtb press 2014) p. 159.↩︎
Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis (rtb press 2014) p. 165-7.↩︎
Ross, p. 160-7.↩︎
John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing 1982).↩︎
John Woodmorappe, Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study (El Cajon: Inst. for Creation Research, 1996)↩︎
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110823180459.htm. (See also, Ehrlich, Paul and Ann, Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1981), pp. 20-23 (estimating the number of terrestrial animals on Earth fall between 1.5 million and 6 million.)↩︎
Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker (W.W. Norton & Company 1996) p. 57.
Dawkins, p. 73.
Martin Luther, Table Talk, quoted in Nicolaus Copernicus, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, reprinted in Great Books of the Western World (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1939), p. 499-838; quoted by John Lennox, Seven Days that Divide the World (Zondervan 2011), p. 17.↩︎
John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 4:6-7; quoted by Lennox, Seven Days that Divide the World (Zondervan 2011), p. 18.↩︎
Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis (rtb press 2014) p. 165-7.↩︎
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Climate History: Exploring Climate Events and Human Development"; William Ryan and Walter Pittman, Noah's Flood, (Touchstone Books, Simon and Schuster 1998) p. 249.↩︎