Genesis 6-9: The Extent and Historicity Of The Flood

Genesis 6-9: The Extent and Historicity Of The Flood

This is the 6th installment of a series of papers in which I exegete and comment about the Primeval History portion of biblical history (i.e Genesis 1-11). Because some of these papers are really lengthy, I have made them available as downloadable PDFs rather than simply post them as blog posts. This way, if you would prefer to download this to one of your devices and read them at your own leasure, you can. This paper can be downloaded by clicking here –> https://www.dropbox.com/s/d8o9hcj553j5gud/Genesis%206-9_%20The%20Extent%20and%20Historicity%20Of%20The%20Flood.pdf?dl=0

Abstract: In this paper, I will examine the biblical account of the deluge that destroyed all of humanity except for Noah and his family. I will argue from the biblical text that the flood was local and that it was never intended to be taken as an account of a global flood; a flood that covered every inch of the planet. This can be seen through an examination of many clues within the biblical narrative. Not only will I make positive arguments for the local flood from scripture, but I will also point out the exegetical and logical absurdities of the global interpretation. Finally, I will examine the similar flood accounts in pagan mythologies and make the case that, contrary to showing Noah’s Ark is just another flood myth, the existence of all such myths point to an actual historical flood that decimated the ancient world, and was subsequently interpreted in different cultures through their own theological lenses. 

Genesis 7 – What The Passage Says

“Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.’ And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in.

The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters.And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.

He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.” (ESV)

Genesis 8 – What The Passage Says 

“But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.

In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (ESV)

The Positive Case For A Local Flood

There are several lines of biblical evidence that point to the flood being a localized event that, while killing every homo sapien (and Nephilim half-breeds), was nevertheless confined to more or less the Mesopotamian area.

Line Of Evidence 1: In Hebrew, The Word For Earth Did Not Always Mean The Entire Planet.1

The Hebrew word for Earth is “Erets”2 and, like many Hebrew words, it has a variety of meanings. It can mean (1) the entire plane of human and animal existence, (2) it can be a very large portion of land, or (3) it can mean the ground you’re standing on (i.e dirt). This means that when Genesis says water covered “the surface of the earth”, there’s wiggle room to say that it just covered a large portion of land (the entire Mesopotamian plane). Of course, we cannot just choose whichever possible definition we like and say “Yeah, I like this definition. Let’s go with it”. Context must determine meaning. However, given that many Young Earth Creationists see the word “Earth” in their English Bibles and insist that it must mean the entire globe, it is worth pointing out that that is not the only way Erets is used. Therefore, the extent of the flood cannot be determined simply pointing to your Bible and say “Look! It says the whole earth!”

This can be seen by a brief word study. 

“The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole [kol] land [erets] of Havilah, where there is gold.” – Genesis 2:11

Are we really being asked to believe that every place in Havilah was infiltrated by this river? Or that a river surrounded the entire planet Earth? If so, the Bible would be sadly mistaken, which it cannot be because it is the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16 cf. Proverbs 30:5).

“And the name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole [kol] land [erets] of Cush.” – Genesis 2:13

Again, no one thinks that “kol erets” means that the river of Gihon flowed around the entire planet Earth. Obviously, the description of kol erets is modified by the name of the land, indicating a local area from the context. We know this because geography tells us that the Pishon and Gihon rivers do not in fact travel around the whole globe.

“And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout [kol] the land [erets], saying, ‘Let the Hebrews hear.’” – (1 Samuel 13:3) 

Obviously, Saul could not have blown a trumpet loud enough to be heard around the entire planet. He couldn’t have sent trumpeters around the world either. There weren’t any trumpet blowing Israelites in ancient China, for example. 

“And the people of all (כֹּל) the earth (אֶרֶץ) came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph . . .” – Genesis 41:57 

Did everyone in the Mediterranean come? China? India? North America? This is an obvious example of hyperbole. 

For the battle there was spread over the whole (כֹּל) land (אֶרֶץ) … ” – 2 Samuel 18:8 

This battle didn’t take place in every portion of the entire globe.

These are just a few examples in which the term “erets” and even “kol erets” don’t refer to the entire globe. In fact, the term kol erets is nearly always used in the Old Testament to describe a local area of land, instead of our entire planet.3 Although Kol Eretz was indeed used sometimes to describe the entire planet, most of its usages in the OT refer to just a large portion of land.

Of course, as I said, context is king. Whether “kol erets” means the entire planet Earth or just a large area of land needs to be determined by context. That context is not just the immediate context of the chapters and verses in Genesis 6-9, but also the context of the entire Bible. This leads me to line of evidence 2, but first, an excursus on an argument I no longer use in support of a global flood and why.

Excursis : Why I No Longer Think That Psalm 104:9 Is Good Evidence Against A Global Flood.

Psalm 104 is a poetic account of creation. Psalm 104:9 seems to argue against a global flood. This verse says “You set a boundary they (the ocean waters) cannot cross. Never again shall they cover the earth”. (emphasis mine)

I used to argue that If Psalm 104 is talking about the time in which God created everything, the time referred to in Genesis 1, then obviously, God swears that water will never cover the entire planet again and this means that this passage prohibits a global flood interpretation. 

The word “erets” is used in both the account of Noah’s flood as well as in Psalm 104:9. I argued in the past that they both cannot mean the entire globe. If what is meant by “Earth” is the entire planet in both usages, then there’s a contradiction in The Bible. On the one hand, Genesis 7-8 says that water covered the whole Earth. On the other hand, in Psalm 104, when God created the land, he swore that water would never again cover the Earth. So, I would argue, unless the global flood advocate wants to jettison biblical inerrancy, he must admit that one usage of Erets must mean “the entire globe” while the other usage must mean something less than the entire globe, like “a large portion of land” or “the ground”

This is the argument I made back when I was a concordist and held to The Day-Age view of Genesis 1. Upon adopting the interpretation that I defended in my paper “Genesis 1 – Functional Interpretation, Temple Inauguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics”, I wondered if I would have adjust my view of the flood to be consistent. I wondered if some of my arguments for a local flood depended on viewing Genesis 1 as an account of material origins/natural history. I think it does, but it does so in a very peculiar way. Genesis 1 and Psalm 104 are still about God’s creative activity regardless of whether “creation” is understood in terms of material manufacturing or decreeing of functions. In fact, the latter can be powerfully seen when one examines Psalm 104 closely. 

“He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the junipers. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the hyrax. He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then people go out to their work, to their labor until evening. How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:10-24, emphasis mine)

The functional orientation of this text is as clear as it is from Genesis 1 and from Ancient Near Eastern creation texts such as Enuma Elish, Assyrian Kar 4, and The Egyptian Instruction of Merikare. In fact, Psalm 104 particularly is strikingly similar to The Egyptian Instruction of Merikare in how it’s worded; “Well tended is mankind—god’s cattle. He made sky and earth for their sake . . .He made breath for their noses to live. They are his images, who came from his body . . . He made for them plants and cattle, Fowl and fish to feed them . . . When they weep he hears .“ Actually, given the functional ontology of the Ancient Near East, and given that the sea was a common symbol for chaos and disorder, I think it’s quite probable that in Psalm 104:8-9, the Psalmist is saying that God conquered chaos, He brought order into this disorderly world, and He declared that never again would the sea cover the world (i.e never again would chaos and disorder reign). To put it another way, I think Psalm 104:8-9 subtly alludes to a common ANE creation motif that scholars call “Chaoscomfph”. As I explained in my paper  “Genesis 1 – Functional Interpretation, Temple Inauguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics”, I believe this motif is also found in Genesis 1. However, it is much more explicit in other passages of The Bible, such as Psalm 74 which refers to God crushing the heads of Leviathan. Now, this is a symbolization of the waters obviously, so does that mitigate the force of the argument? I thought so at first, but upon further reflection, I think that the chaos-to-order motif found in the creation accounts does correlate with the flood waters in Genesis 6-9. As John Walton says, “In Genesis, after the cosmos is ordered, a crisis leads God to return the cosmos to an unordered, nonfunctional state by means of a flood. Here the cosmic waters are let loose from their boundaries and again the earth becomes nonfunctional. What follows is a re-creation text as the land emerges again from the waters and the blessing is reiterated. Of greatest interest, in that context God makes the Creator’s promise in Genesis 8:22: ‘As long as the earth endures, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Summer and winter, Day and night Will never cease.’ Here we find the same three major functions in reverse order: food, weather and time, never to cease. The author is well aware that these are the main categories in the operation of this world that God has organized.”4

What happens at the flood is essentially a de-creation and re-creation of the heavens and earth. The functions that were installed on Days 1, 2, and 3 are undone in the flood (not materially, but they no longer function for humans) and are re-established after the flood. 

Now, given my view of Genesis 1, this means that I can’t actually affirm that there is a dilemma in interpreting “earth” as global in both Genesis 7 and Psalm 104 (with the assumption that Psalm 104 and Genesis 1 are describing the same event), as all three of these texts are using ocean waters as symbols of non-order. However, I think Psalm 104 does put the global flood advocate in a difficult trilemma. They can interpret Psalm 104:9’s “earth” as a local region, say that The Bible contradicts itself, or they can adopt the functional origins view of creation in Genesis 1. The global flood advocate would not want to do any of these. 

What about my own view? If Psalm 104 is a creation psalm, and this is when God said that never again would the sea cover the whole earth, and by this is meant that never again would the cosmos be rendered non-functional, does that not place myself in bind? Doesn’t that mean that God went back on his promise in Psalm 104:9 to never again allow the world to become non-functional for humans? Well, that depends on whether you think the Psalmist is projecting these events into the time period of Genesis 1. If he is referring to the re-creation of the cosmos post-flood, then there is no problem at all. 

In fact, it’s interesting to note that one of the ways that global flood advocates try to avoid the initial dilemma I set forth in this sub-subsection is to argue that Psalm 104 isn’t about creation at all, but about the Noahic Flood. This is what William D. Barrick argues in his paper “EXEGETICAL ANALYSIS OF PSALM 104:8 AND ITS POSSIBLE IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERPRETING THE GEOLOGIC RECORD”5 It is also the position that Terry Mortenson of Answers In Genesis takes. Mortenson writes “Old-earth creationists such as Hugh Ross claim Psalm 104:6–9 refers to the Creation Week, but a closer look shows otherwise. ….But most of the psalm speaks of the creation as it appears to the psalmist at the time he is living and writing.”6 and he then goes on to give some of his arguments to support that claim. 

I would suggest that ““Old-earth creationists such as Hugh Ross” and Young Earth Creationists like Terry Mortenson are both half-right. It is about what happens after The Noahic Flood, but it is about God’s creative activity after The Noahic Flood. It is about God’s creative activity as Hugh Ross argues, it’s just not during the 6 day period in Genesis 1. God established the functions of time, weather, and fecundity for human beings in Genesis 1, he undid those functions (for humans) in Genesis 7, and he re-established them in Genesis 8:22 as John Walton says in the quote above. 

So, to conclude, in saying that Genesis 1, Psalm 104:9, and Genesis 6-9 is employing sea water as a symbol for chaos and non-order isn’t a problem for my view. This is because I actually agree with YECs that Psalm 104 is post-flood and that verses 8 and 9 are about the subsiding of the waters. I just think that the Psalmist had a functional ontology in his mind when penning those words. I think he had Genesis 8:22 in mind. 

The problem though, is that this is not what YECs say. They deny that Psalm 104 is about God’s creative activity at all! As Mortenson writes “We would disagree that it is a creation account as Genesis 1 is.”7 But the problem with this is that it is overwhelmingly obvious that Psalm 104 is a creation account.

“He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the junipers. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the hyrax. He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then people go out to their work, to their labor until evening. How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:10-24, emphasis mine)

In this text, we see that the Psalmist is describing God as making things. For example, God makes springs pour water into the ravines, God makes grass, God made the moon and the sun. He ends his list with praise, saying “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all!” This sounds like a passage about creation to me. Many commentaries such as The inscription of the Syriac version of Psalm 104, John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible8, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible 9, John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible10, Adam Clarke’s Commentary,11 and Charles Spurgeon’s commentary12 agree, though they assume that Psalm 104 is narrating the original creation of Genesis 1 rather than the re-creation of Genesis 8:22. 

I think the reason many commentators assume that Psalm 104 is a rehashing of Genesis 1 is precisely because they mention the same things being made (or re-made in Psalm’s case). Below is a comparison of Genesis 1 and Psalm 104. 

What Is CreatedPsalm 104Genesis 1
The Sky (or firmament – the solid dome that holds back the cosmic waters).

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent 

– verse 2

And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God made] the firmament and separated the waters that were under the firmament from the waters that were above the firmament. And it was so. 

– verses 6-7 

On Day 2 of creation.

Vegetation For The Purpose Of Providing Food

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the junipers. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

  • Verses 14-18

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

– verses 11-13

On Day 3 of creation. 

The Sun, Moon, and Stars For The Purpose Of Marking Seasons (i.e carrying out the function of time)

He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then people go out to their work, to their labor until evening. 

– Verses 19-23

And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

  • Verses 16-19
  • On Day 4 of creation
General Statement That God Made Everything

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

  • Verse 24

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 

  • Verse 1
The Creation Of The Land and Its Separation From Ocean Water

He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.

  • Verses 5-9

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

  • Verses 9-10
  • On Day 2 of Creation

Table 1 – A Comparison of Psalm 104 to Genesis 1

So, clearly Psalm 104 and Genesis 1 are about God’s creative activity. They are both “creation accounts” in this respect. However, I agree with young earth creationists that this is a post-flood account. I agree with them on that, but I think they go too far in saying that this isn’t a creation text. Likewise, I disagree with most commentators in saying that this describes the same events in Genesis 1. In light of the Ancient Near Eastern backdrop, I propose that Psalm 104 should be seen as a re-creation text. God decreed the functions of all things like He did in Genesis 1. He reopened His Cosmic Temple, if you will, after He had rendered it non-functional in the deluge. 

Of course, someone at this point may ask “Why think it’s post flood?” Well, the young earth commentators I’ve referenced have pointed out that there’s similarity in language between what God says in Psalm 104 and in Genesis. In both of the passages below, you can see a vow on God’s part to never again destroy the world with a flood. 

Psalm 104Genesis 
“But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.” – verses 8-9

In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. ….I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

  • Genesis 8:13, 9:11

Table 2: Comparing Psalm 104 to Genesis 1

I went through this lengthy excursus to explain why I no longer believe Psalm 104:9 is a good argument against a global flood, but I also wanted readers to know how it ties in with my understanding of Genesis 1 that I have written about elsewhere. 

Line Of Evidence 2: The Way The Bible Describes The Water Receding Suggests A Less-Than-Global Flood.

The method by which the flood ended also tells us that the flood was local. According to Genesis, the water receded and was dried by the wind (see below). If the flood were global, there would be no place for the waters to recede to. Likewise, a wind would not significantly affect a global flood, further suggesting that the Genesis flood was local in extent.

“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” – Genesis 8:1 (emphasis mine)

“The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down,” – Genesis 8:3 (emphasis mine)

“The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.” – Genesis 8:5 (emphasis mine)

Line of Evidence 3: The Contextual Argument. 

In Michael Heiser’s blog post on The Naked Bible Blog, Heiser writes “A regional flood theorist would direct you to Genesis 10 as the context for the flood account asking, What is ‘the world’ to the biblical writer? Answer: Genesis 10. That chapter lists out all the nations descended from Noah’s sons. They cover only the Mediterranean and ancient Near East. There is no knowledge of Australia, China, Japan, North America, South America, etc. Hence they would take the language of Gen 6-8 and simply argue that, to the writer, the account covered all the known land masses, but the real-time event wasn’t global.

They would then take you to ‘all the earth’ in Gen 9:19. Look at it carefully: ‘These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.’

Since the sons of Noah produced all the nations of Genesis 10, and those nations do not represent the totality of the globe, Genesis 10 = ‘the whole earth.’ The point is the phrase ‘all the earth’ is getting defined in this verse as the places populated by the descendants of the sons of Noah. Those places are listed in Genesis 10, and that very obviously don’t add up to the entire planet.”13

Dr. Heiser goes on to say that The Contextual Argument also helps to make sense of phrases like “the whole heaven.” There’s an obvious question here we would ask: Did Noah see the sky over Australia? North America? Or just as far as the eye could see? Heiser writes that “A local-regional theorist would point out that a flood of that magnitude (hundreds of thousands, even millions of square miles — but not the entire globe) is unprecedented and accounts for the language and the real-time experience of Noah.”14

In other words, there is legitimate hyperbole here. If your town was suddenly flooded and you were on a raft, and you couldn’t see anything but water from miles around, you might likely say something like “The whole world was flooded!” Even though it might have just been your city, or even your state. 

The Exegetical and Logical Absurdities Of A Global Flood

Problem 1: Interpreting The Word “Earth” As Meaning The Entire Planet Brings You To a Bizarre Conclusion At The End Of The Noah’s Ark Story.

This was humorously pointed out by Christian Apologist Richard Deem on his website www.godandscience.org. He pointed out that if you interpret the phrase “whole earth” in Genesis 6-9 as meaning the entire planet, then what that means is that The Bible says that the entire planet dried up and became a desert! The oceans, lakes, ponds, puddles, all bodies of water evaporated from the planet! Just take a look at the biblical passages below to see why.

“Then it came about at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made; and he sent out a raven, and it flew here and there until the water was dried up from the earth.” – Genesis 8:6-7, NASB (emphasis mine)

“After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. –  Genesis 8:6-7, NIV (emphasis mine)

“Now it came about in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the water was dried up from the earth.” – Genesis 8:13a, NASB (emphasis mine)

“By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. –  Genesis 8:13b, NIV

“and in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.” –  Genesis 8:14, NASB (emphasis mine)

“By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.– Genesis 8:14, NIV

If one were to interpret these verses from a global perspective, one would have to conclude that the entire planet Earth became a desert after the flood! Obviously this interpretation is absurd. In these verses, the dryness of the earth is obviously referring to the local land area that had been flooded and not the entire planet Earth. Obviously, “the earth” that was dried up was a local landmass that had been flooded.

Problem 2: The Ark Wasn’t Big Enough For All The Animals In The World

One of the often cited problems with a global flood, by local flood advocates and atheists alike, is that it’s absurd to think that every single animal on the face of the globe got on one boat. The ark was huge to be sure “And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.” (Genesis 6:15) which would be 510 feet long, and 50 feet high. That would house quite a large zoo, but the problem is that it’s still not large enough. 

Michael Shermer, a self-proclaimed atheist, and the publisher of Skeptic magazine and director of the Skeptics Society is quoted as having said, 

“There’s no possible way that Noah could have retained all 10 billion species on a single boat and then distributed them appropriately where the marsupials are all in Australia and so forth. This is ridiculous. It is so ridiculous I find it embarrassing for people who attempt to prove that it’s true.”15

As the infographic below demonstrates, even much larger, modern day ships can carry only thousands of people (who, by the way, are animals). Are we really to believe that even a minimal estimate of 7.7 million animals fit on the ark when The Queen Mary, which is 1100 feet long to Noah’s Ark’s 500 feet, could only carry a little over 4,000? 

Figure 1: The Size Of Noah’s Ark Compared To Other Large Ships 

Moreover, pretty much every global flood advocate I have ever met or know of is a Young Earth Creationist, and on the Young Earth Creationist scheme, there would be far more animals to get on the ark than even this more likely estimate. You would have to not only fit the millions or billions alive at the time most scientists estimate, but you would have to fit all of the species in the fossil record as well! 

How do global flood advocates get around this glaring problem? Shari Abbot of ReasonsForHopeJesus.com explains that “Genesis tells us that God created land and sea creatures after their kind.  Kind is not the same thing as species. It’s closer to what biology calls families, with some exceptions.  Take for example the dog kind. One female dog and one male dog can mate and produce various species—e.g. coyote, wolf and all domestic dogs. So the different species we have today could have easily been generated after the flood from the information already present within the parent kind.  A plain reading of the Bible teaches that Noah only had to take representatives of the different kinds of land-dwelling, air-breathing animals.”16 Abbot then quotes Genesis 6:20 which says “Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.” (KJV)

Basically, Noah only put each of every “kind” of animal on the ark. For example, instead of having thousands of species of cats, he only put one type of cat on the ark, and after the flood, evolution took over to produce the many different breeds of cats we see today, from the bob cat to the house cat. This would reduce the number of animals Noah would need to get on the Ark. At first, this seems like a reasonable hypothesis, but it doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. 

If there were only 1400 or fewer “kinds” on the Ark, and in the present there are more than 34,000 land-animal species and countless additional extinct species, there should be fossil and/or historical evidence for this all-of-a-sudden appearance of these thousands of furry critters. However, unfortunately for the global flood advocate, there isn’t a scintilla of evidence. Scientists way before Charles Darwin published his theory (we’re talking 17th and 18th centuries here) did not document new species forming before their eyes, nor have the plethora of species they described changed into new species since then. 

In his article, “Did Modern Animals Evolve From The Inhabitants Of The Ark”, Joel Duff writes

 “Answers in Genesis infers rapid evolution of species by comparisons with domesticated animals and domesticated dogs in particular. Everyone agrees that all domesticated dogs are derived from the wolf species Canis lupus. In fact they are so similar to wolves that most taxonomists today include domestic dogs in the same species as the wolf preferring to attribute to them only subspecies status (Canis lupus familiaris). It is self-apparent that domestic dogs display great morphological variation in size, shape, and color. These differences are frequently highlighted in young-earth literature just as they are on the Ark Encounter as prima facie evidence that visible changes also can occur within kinds (or, in taxonomic language, families).

….The origin of dog breeds from a single species of canine isn’t comparable, temporally or mechanistically, to the origin of multiple canine species. Nor is there biblical or other historical eye-witness reports to support this speculative inference of rapid speciation. To the contrary, the fossil record of canine and vulpine species we see today reveals that most modern species—e.g., coyotes, wolves, foxes, jackals, Dholes, etc.—have existed much as they appear today for many thousands of years. Likewise, Answers in Genesis appeals to gross visual differences between organisms to make their case that the external appearance of a species is but a small part of its biology. Vast quantities of genome/DNA data are available for many canine species. Even a cursory examination of this data reveals that domestic dogs are remarkably similar to one another genetically—far more similar than humans are to one another—confirming their wolf subspecies status. On the other hand, wolves are much more genetically diverse than domestic dogs, even though they appear—superficially—to look rather similar to one another. When other species of canines are compared, genetic differences become far more pronounced. So pronounced, in fact, that the differences between chimpanzees and humans look small in comparison.17

As Greg Moore writes “The young-earth model assumes the animals on the ark were able to produce new species in a few hundred years. We know this is the maximum timeframe because historical records indicate some of the subtypes were in existence by then. However, animals, especially advanced animals, simply do not and cannot change at such rapid rates. If speciation really does operate this fast, why does any line exist at all that is stable enough and distinct enough to be called a species? Why is not the world filled with intermediate forms of every conceivable kind? Why have some species not changed from their ancestors in the fossil record?And why do we not witness thousands of animals species developing from others today?”18 In other words, if evolution really happened within the time span a young earth, global flood model needs, why did it slow down to the rate it did today? Why was it so rapid after Noah’s flood but came to a near grinding halt? 

In conclusion, the postulation of the rapid evolution of kinds post-flood is not a tenable solution for the global flood advocate. Local flood advocates like myself don’t have a problem. We only need to say that Noah put thousands of animal kinds of the ark, and those would be the animals from his area. 

Objections To A Local Flood Interpretation

Now that I’ve given 4 positive arguments for a local flood and two negative arguments against a global flood, let me take some time to address objections to the local flood model. 

Objection 1: Why Not Just Tell Noah To Move? 

One objection that I see consistently raised from global flood advocates is the question of why God didn’t just ask Noah to move if the flood didn’t cover the entire world. It’s a good question. After all, if the flood didn’t cover the entire planet, Noah had somewhere else to go. Why not just tell Noah’s family to pack their bags and leave? Evacuation seems like a more reasonable response to an oncoming flood. Building a massive Ark and putting all those animals on it, the global flood proponent argues, would only make sense if the flood engulfed the entire planet, leaving no dry land to move to.

First of all, I think we could ask similar questions about other instances in The Bible. Why did God make the Israelites march around Jericho for seven days prior to the wall falling down? Why did God make the Israelite look upon the bronze serpent to be healed of snake bite in the wilderness? Why did Jesus spit on some mud, rub it on the eyes of a blind man, and then tell him to wash the mud off in the pool of Siloam in order to cure him of blindness? None of these things were required by God in order for Him to get His purposes achieved. If we’re going to reject a local flood interpretation because we don’t understand why God made Noah build an Ark, we would have to reject the biblical accounts of Jericho’s fall and the blind man’s healing. Sometimes God does things we don’t understand. In fact, God didn’t even need to use a flood at all. God could have made all of the evil people and angel-human hybrids simultaneously have heart attacks and drop dead, or He could have struck every individual down with lightning, or He could have done any number of things. We could just as well ask why God didn’t use any of these potential methods for judging humanity rather than a flood. Obviously God had reasons for using both a flood and telling Noah to build an ark, even if we don’t know what those reasons were.

I think The Bible actually provides the answer for why God told Noah to build the Ark instead of leave. Attentive readers of The Bible will notice a pattern as they read through the historical narratives. That pattern is that whenever God unleashes His judgment, He sends a prophet to warn the people ahead of time, so that they can repent and possibly avoid God’s judgment. This is because God loves all people (John 3:16) and is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God is love (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16), as such, He really would rather not judge anyone for their sins, but instead forgive them, but this is only on the condition of repentance (see Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 33:11). This is why He sends prophets ahead of time to try to persuade people to repent. For example, God sent angels to Sodom before it was to be destroyed (Genesis 19:1), sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn them of the judgment to come (Jonah 3:3), and sent two prophets to Warn Israel of their coming judgment (Revelation 11:3).19 

The Ark was a big testimony to the people of Noah’s time that a judgment was coming. Noah was the messenger of judgment to these ancient peoples.

This is exactly what The New Testament tells us about Noah”.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell

and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not

spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness,

with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;”

–  2 Peter 2:4-5a

This passage explicitly calls Noah a “preacher of righteousness”. This implies that Noah preached to his contemporaries to repent while he was building the ark. If God had Noah and his family evacuate the area, the people never would have had the years of preaching that they did in fact receive. But God, in His great love for them, had Noah stay and preach to them, trying to persuade them to turn from their evil so that God would not have to destroy them. The flood didn’t catch these ancient peoples by surprise. It was prophesied to them for years. In the end, they had no excuse for their sins. God was completely fair to them. He gave them many years grace to repent, but when those 100 years had come, God, in His righteousness, justly eliminated them.

Objection 2: If The Flood Was Local, Then That Means That God Broke His Promise Because There Have Been Many Local Floods After Noah’s Day

According to The Answers Book, chapter 10,

“If the Flood were local, God would have repeatedly broken His promise never to send such a Flood again. There have been huge ‘local’ floods in recent times: in Bangladesh, for example, where 80% of that country has been inundated, or Europe in 2002.”20

Is there any truth to this claim?  Do the local floods we see today constitute a breaking of the covenant God made with Noah in Genesis 9:8-15?

Greg Neyman of Old Earth Ministries responds to this claim in an online article by saying “To answer this question, one must look at exactly what the covenant says. First, who is the covenant with? This is contained in verses 9-10. Clearly, it was made with Noah and his sons, and their descendents.  It was also made with every living creature that is with Noah. At the end of verse 10, God extends it to ‘even every beast of the earth.’ There is no question who the covenant is with, however it is interesting that God makes a distinction between the living creatures with Noah (with every living creature that is with you), and the rest of the creatures (even every beast of the earth). Why would God make this distinction? If all the animals were killed, and Noah had all the survivors on the ark, then it was useless to extend the covenant beyond the ark’s inhabitants.  This indicates that the flood was local, and there were animal populations outside of the inhabitants of the ark. If every living thing were on the ark, the term ‘even every beast of the earth’ gives no additional meaning to the text.”21

Neyman goes on in his article to say that the covenant is in verses 11 and 15 which say respectively

11 “And I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be shut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

15 “and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

Gregg Neyman then writes “The purpose of the flood was to wipe out this corruption.  The main meaning for the Hebrew word for flesh in the Flood chapters, bâsâr, is person or man. The Hebrew dictionary doesn’t even make it possible to extend this to animal flesh.  God is not talking about the corruption of the animal kingdom, but about man’s corruption. This is corrected in some other translations (NIV=“people”; Amplified=“humanity”). The purpose of the flood was to wipe out man, not animals. Yes, animals in the flooded locations would be killed, but they are not the target of God.”22

Of course, I would argue that another primary target of God was the Nephilim; half-angel, half-human hybrids, see my paper “Genesis 6: The Nephilim – Descendents Of Cain, Neanderthals, Ancient Kings, Or Human-Angel Hybrids?” The point though, is that the purpose was to exterminate all evil humans (and nephilim). This is what God promised to never do again, and as explained earlier, the ancient readers of Genesis would have viewed this as a de-creation of the heavens and earth, given their functional ontology. In Genesis 8:22, God promises that the three functions established on Day 1, and re-established with the subsiding of the waters (time, weather, fecundity) would never cease. Question: have these things ceased as a result of the various local floods in the world? No. No they have not. Has time, weather, and food ceased functioning for humanity? No. No they have not. Have all of humanity been wiped out via water since Noah’s Day? No. No they have not. In local floods today, less than 1/100th of one percent of the world’s populations are killed. In Noah’s flood, almost 100 percent of mankind was killed. There is no comparison. 

In conclusion, God’s covenant promise with Noah has not been breached. 

Objection 3: If The Flood Was Local, Then  Why Did God Tell Noah To Put Two Of Every Kind Of Animal On The Ark?

John Walton and Tremper Longman III do not hold to a global flood. Nevertheless, they don’t share my view that The Bible depicts a local flood. They argue that The Bible depicts a global flood, but spoke of the flood globally as hyperbole. Thus, the flood is local, but The Bible talks about it as though it were global. The main difference between our two views is that theirs says “The Bible paints the flood hyperbolically as global” and my view says “The Bible doesn’t even depict the flood as global”. But that the flood wasn’t global, we would both agree. We could label these two views as The Hyperbolically-Global-Depiction View and the Local-Depiction View respectively.

Lest one think I’m misrepresenting their view, allow them to speak for themselves: 

“Thus, it is our conclusion that Genesis 6–8 describes a worldwide, not a local flood. This conclusion leaves us with what at first read, at least from our twenty-first-century Western perspective, is an error or at least a contradiction. The Bible describes a worldwide flood, yet absolutely no geological evidence supports a worldwide flood. While some people believe that this means that science must be wrong if the Bible is right, we believe that if science is right, then it leads us to a better interpretation of the biblical material, the interpretation that gets us to the original intent of the biblical author. We have attempted to support the idea that the rhetoric related to the flood is intentionally universal but that it is actually the impact and significance that is universal rather than the range and scope. As a final example of this distinction, we offer the example of the Holocaust. People today might talk about the Holocaust in terms of the ‘total annihilation of European Jewry,’ assuming the event in its traditional and rhetorically expressed terms. The speaker describes the event in intentionally universalistic terms yet at the same time recognizes the hyperbole, as those hearing the description also would.”23

One of the arguments Walton and Longmann give against my view that The Bible intended to depict a local flood is that “…if we have in Genesis 6–9 the description of a local flood, why take pairs of every kind of animal, including birds? Even if humans did not live outside the bounds of the local flood, certainly most of the animals did. Indeed, the fact that the birds needed to be included in the ark indicates that the flood waters must have risen very high indeed.”24

So the argument is that if the flood were intended to be depicted as local by the author of Genesis, why did he say that Noah had to bring two of every kind of animal on to the ark, even birds who could have flown to safety? 

I posed this objection in the Old Earth Creationist Facebook group and Letitia Wong said this; “Is it too much of a reach to posit *practical reasons for bringing birds into Noah’s ark? The Flood was local but by no means *small in terms of area. Nowhere are we told in the scriptures that the animals on the ark were exclusively for repopulation purposes, although it is natural for us to conclude that. The inclusion of clean and unclean birds were for offerings, and the animals that are named are what were important for human life to continue immediately after leaving the ark. If birds were excluded, how would Noah have gauged the water subsiding? If animals were not preserved, how would Noah and his family begin to cultivate the land again. It would have been mostly a wasteland. Animals that might have escaped the flood were unlikely to return quickly.”

Another person in that same Facebook group wrote “The ‘whole earth’ would have included the areas around the Land of Eden, such as Cush, Havilah and Nod. I believe this includes all of the Arabian/Mesopotamian regions (i.e. about 1.5 million square miles). It’s a giant bowl, surrounded by mountains.

At today’s heights, of the southernmost hills, you could fill that area, with water, to 600 feet.

Nothing would survive, if for no other reason, than God had willed it, including birds. They cannot fly, and therefore not feed, in heavy rains. 40 days without food. Afterwards, you have 1.5 million lifeless square miles. You need those animals for the food web to wook, and also for the sacrifices (Genesis 8:20-21).” 

Objection 4: Doesn’t Peter’s Epistle Say The World Was Flooded? 

Yes, but this doesn’t prove a global flood. Why? Well, as Hugh Ross explains “Twice in his second epistle, Peter addresses the extent of Noah’s flood. In both cases, Peter qualifies the Greek word cosmos, translated as “world.” In 2 Peter 2:5 he writes that the “world of the ungodly” was flooded. Here, Peter implies a distinction between the whole of planet Earth and that part of Earth inhabited by ungodly human beings. He does this again in 2 Peter 3:6 where he refers to the world that was deluged and destroyed as cosmos tote, which literally means “the world at the time the event occurred.” By attaching the adjective tote to cosmos, Peter implies that the world of Noah is not the same as the world of the Roman Empire.

The limitations that Peter imposes upon Noah’s flood are consistent with a great many biblical texts that declare the doctrine that God’s judgment wrath is always limited to the extent of human reprobation. An obvious example is God’s refusal to wipe out the Amorites living in the hills of Canaan at the time that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.”25

Conclusion On The Extent Of The Flood

In conclusion, the flood is local and the Hebrew word ’erets, typically translated “earth,” should rather be rendered “land.”

“The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth land, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth land, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth [adamah] the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Gen 6:5-7) 

“I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth land to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth the land will perish.” (Gen 6:17) 

“Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth land for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth land every living creature I have made.” (Gen 7:4)

“Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth land.” (Gen 7:6) 

“And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth land.” (Gen 7:10) 

And rain fell on the earth land forty days and forty nights.” (Gen 7:12) 

And so on.

Examining Other Flood Stories. 

Anyone who studies Ancient Near Eastern religions is well aware that there are a lot of different flood stories, particularly from ancient Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria. No one disputes that these ancient flood accounts exist. Rather, what is debated among scholars is how these flood accounts relate to Genesis 6-9 and how significant they are. Atheists point to these flood myths as evidence that the story of Noah’s ark is just another myth plagiarized from religious traditions that came before it, and therefore the story of Noah’s Ark has no grounding in history. As I said in the abstract of this paper and in the above subheader, I think the existence of these flood myths proves just the opposite. But that conclusion will come later. For right now, let’s just take a look at the Ancient Near Eastern material available to us, and after that, look at the similarities and differences between these and the biblical account of the flood. 

Flood Myth 1: Eridu Genesis

Let’s first take a look at the Sumerian flood account which scholars have named “Eridu Genesis”. Eridu Genesis starts out with the gods making humans, the humans building the first cities, the invention of monarchy, and after all this, then we get to Eridu Genesis’ flood story. The account starts off with the god Enki telling the king of Shuruppak, whose name is Siusudram, that his fellow gods planned on destroying humanity with a flood. After this, the texts are fragmented, but from the fragments available, scholars infer that Enki instructed Ziusudra to build an ark and told him how to do so. When the text stops being fragmented, we get a brief account of the flood:

“All the evil winds, all stormy winds gathered into one and with them, then, the Flood was sweeping over [the cities of] the half-bushel baskets for seven days and seven nights. After the flood had swept over the country, after the evil wind had tossed the big boat about on the great waters, the sun came out spreading light over heaven and earth.”26

 After the waters recede, Ziusudra then offers sacrifices to the gods, who then “were granting him life like a god’s, were making lasting breath of life, like a god’s, descend into him.”

We will see that the major elements of this story are repeated in later Babylonian as well as the biblical version of the story.

In the flood narrative, we also get the famous Sumerian King List. This text says that kingship is a gift from above to the first city, Eridu, and then how kingship passed from city to city. The Sumerian King List splits its accounting of kingship into a pre flood period and a post flood period. Ergo, the flood isn’t told in a narrative form, as a story, it’s just mentioned: “There are five cities, eight kings ruled them for 241,000 years. [Then] the Flood swept over [the earth]. After the Flood had swept over [the earth] . . .”27

Flood Myth 2: The Babylonian Epic Of Atrahasis

An article on Livius.org summarizes the flood story in The Epic of Atrahasis as follows: “The Epic of Atrahasis is the fullest Mesopotamian account of the Great Flood. The text is known from several versions: two written by Assyrian scribes (one in the Assyrian, one in the Babylonian dialect), the third one (on three tablets) was written during the reign of king Ammi-saduqa of Babylonia (c.1647-c.1626 BCE).

The story of the Flood is the final part of this epic, which starts with complaints by the Lesser Gods, who refuse to work any longer. Humankind is created, but men make so much noise, that the gods decide to wipe them out. The plan to send a Deluge, however, is betrayed by the god Enki, who sends a dream to Atrahasis.”28

The epic goes on to have Enlil explain the meaning of the dream to Atrahasis in a very clever way. You see, the gods had made Enlil swear not to tell any humans of what they intended to do. So Enlil basically tells Atrahasis’ house, knowing that the guy is definitely within earshot. Gotta love loop holes, am I right?

Enlil said “Wall, listen to me! Reed wall, pay attention to all my words! Flee the house, build a boat, Forsake possessions, and save life. The boat which you build, [ ] be equal [ ] Roof her over like the depth, So that the sun will not see inside her, Let her be roofed over fore and aft.”29

Atrahasis then did what Enlil told him – I mean his house – and built an ark, put all the animals on it, and then got his family on board. Then it started to rain like pee pouring out of a bucket. 

Adad [the storm god] was roaring in the clouds. The winds were furious as he set forth, He cut the mooring rope and released the boat. . . . . . Anzu [the divine storm bird] rent the sky with his talons, . . . . . . . And broke its clamor [like a pot] [ ] the flood [came forth] Its power came upon the peoples [like a battle]. . . . . The deluge bellowed like a bull, The wind [resound]ed like a screaming eagle. The darkness [was dense], the sun was gone.”

The cuneiform text is badly damaged at this point and the text becomes fragmentary after this. In their book The Lost World Of The Flood, John Walton and Tremper Longman II say that the reference to “like flies,” are probably talking about to the gods’ reaction to Atrahasis’s sacrifice after the flood,30 as we see in the Gilgamesh Epic’s version of the flood, to which we now turn.

Flood Myth 3: The Epic Of Gilgamesh

The epic of Gilgamesh is probably the best known flood story outside of The Bible’s. In this epic, Gilgamesh is an impetuous young ruler who does whatever he pleases. He harms his subjects so much that they pray to the gods for help. The gods answer the prayers by creating Enkidu, a “wild born” who lives in The Steppe. Enkidu is pretty much the original Tarzan. He was born in the wild, ran around naked, lived with the animals, and lived like an animal. But, being human, and ergo, an intelligent rational being, Enkidu would often thwart traps set by hunters in order to help his animal friends. When the hunters complain to Gilgamesh, he plots to civilize Enkidu and sends a harlot named Shamhat to seduce him and to civilize him. Enkidu falls in love with Shamhat and Shamhat teaches him the ways of being human. Enkidu then realizes that his psychic link with the animals is lost. They run away from him and won’t have anything to do with him. He is no longer like them. Realizing he no longer has a life in The Steppe, Enkidu goes to live with Shamhat in Uruk. There, Enkidu hears about Gilgamesh gets mad at the fact that Gilgamesh has sex with every bride-to-be the night before their wedding  (the “right of the first night”). 

Enkidu gets into a brawl with Gilgamesh and both put up quite a good fight, but in the end, Enkidu is defeated by Gilgamesh. Rather than killing Enkidu though, Gilgamesh is impressed by both Enkidu’s boldness in challenging him as well as his ability to hold his own for so long. The two become friends. At first, it’s not evident how the gods plan on answering Uruk’s citizens pleas for help under Gilgamesh’ harsh rulership, but after becoming friends, Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out on adventures together, thus leaving the citizens of Uruk with some peace in Gilgamesh’ absence for a while. 

At one point during their adventures, Ishtar, the goddess of war and sex, sees Gilgamesh bathing. Ishtar proposes a relationship. Gilgamesh basically responds “Yeah, no. Most of your lovers ended up getting killed. You’re too rough with your boy toys. Imma pass.” Ishtar goes to Anu in anger and has him send “The Bull of Heaven” to attack Uruk, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu work together to defeat it. Seeing as that plan didn’t work, Anu put a curse on Enkidu. Enkidu died. In light of Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh realizes that he too will one day die and sets off on a quest to find immortality.31 This quest leads him to Uta-napishti

In the appendix to his book Gilgamesh Immortal, Brian Godawa writes that “In Tablet XI of the epic poem, Utnapishtim, the Gilgamesh Noah, explains that because of some unexplained sin of man, the pantheon of gods decide to send a Deluge to kill all of mankind. But the god of the waters of the Abyss, Enki (or Ea) defies the decision and sneaks away to give a dream to Utnapishtim, a wealthy man who lives in the city of Shuruppak in Mesopotamia. Through the dream, he tells him to tear down his house and build a large boat to save ‘the seed of all living creatures.’ He gives him the dimensions of the boat and instructions of how to build it. Utnapishtim is to lie to his neighbors when asked about the large boat by explaining that he is going to move downstream to the city of Eridu. When he finishes the boat, he loads on it all kinds of animals as well as all his extended family members and some skilled craftsman. The gods then start a storm of wind and rain, led by the storm god Adad, that devastates the land with such force, even the gods get scared and hide up in heaven like frightened dogs with their tails between their legs. The blowing wind and gale force downpour lasts six days and seven nights until ‘all the people are turned to clay.’”32

The boat finally runs aground on Mount Nimush, Uta-napishti sends out a raven dove to see if it can find a perch, but it does not and returns to him. He waits and sends a swallow, and then finally a raven that does not return, indicating enough dry land is available to get out of the boat. 

Wenham has listed seventeen major correlations between the Genesis Flood and the Gilgamesh Deluge that indicate a strong genetic connection between the two narratives:

  1. Divine decision to destroy 
  2. Warning to flood hero 
  3. Command to build ark 
  4. Hero’s obedience 
  5. Command to enter 
  6. Entry 
  7. Closing door 
  8. Description of flood 
  9. Destruction of life 
  10. End of rain, etc. 
  11. Ark grounding on mountain 
  12. Hero opens window 
  13. Birds’ reconnaissance 
  14. Exit 
  15. Sacrifice 
  16. Divine smelling of sacrifice 
  17. Blessing on flood hero. 33

But Alexander Heidel’s classic The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels shows a lot of differences between The Epic Of Gilgamesh and The Bible’s flood story.

Difference 1: In Gilgamesh, the gods destroy humanity because they’re making too much noise. In The Bible, God destroys humanity because “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” 

Difference 2: In Gilgamesh, one god tells Utnapishtim to build a boat in a dream, in defiance to the rest of the pantheon. In The Bible, there is one all sovereign God who wants to destroy evil humanity but spare Noah and his family. Yahweh answers to no one. 

Difference 3: The gods realized they made a mistake in sending the flood because they depended on humans to give them sustenance in the form of sacrifices. The text depicts them as swarming around the sacrifice like flies. In The Bible, Noah’s sacrifice is depicted in priestly terms in atonement for sins (Leviticus 1:9). 

How The Existence Of Other Flood Narratives Bolster Rather Than Undermine The Historicity Of The Noahic Flood.

It’s pretty clear that all of these narratives are strikingly similar to the biblical account of The Noahic Flood. There are plenty of differences too, such as the monotheism of The Bible and the polytheism of these other flood narratives. However, the similarities outnumber the differences. Skeptics of The Bible use this fact to argue “Oh Noah’s Ark is just a plagiarized version of these other ANE flood myths. It’s just one flood myth among many. It’s just The Epic Of Gilgamesh with a Jewish spin to it. Noah’s Ark isn’t historical anymore than any of these other flood stories are.” 

I think the opposite is the case. In his book, Flood Legends: Global Clues of a Common Event.34 Charles Martin argues that myths have actual events behind them. Martin points out the fact that there are many flood myths from around the world, and introduces the concept of “telephone mythology,” named after the childrens’ game “telephone” in which one kid whispers something into another kid’s ear and then that kid whispers what he heard from the previous kid into the next kids ear, and this goes on until the messages goes all around the room. The end result is a garbled but sort of similar version of what was originally said. Could this have happened with the flood story? Could there have been an original flood, a man who was informed by a supernatural entity to save his family and the animals by building a boat, and then the flood came and swept everyone else away, and that this man’s descendents passed on the story of what happened until we have all these different flood accounts? 

Charles Martin thinks so, and so do I. I think it’s very likely that when Noah and his three sons split into different people groups, they developed their own cultures and religions which shaped how they conveyed the narrative. 

What are the odds that if there weren’t a humanity-destroying flood, that all of these different cultures would just so happen, by chance alone, come up with extremely similar narratives? Anyone familiar with The Minimal Facts approach to demonstrating the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection will be familiar with The Criterion Of Multiple Attestation. This is a principle historians use when examining historical documents and are trying to figure out whether what they say is true. If you find one event mentioned in two or more independent documents, that increases the likelihood that it actually occurred. Because, if you have, for example, 5 independent documents saying X occurred, what are the odds that these 5 independent writers are all making up the same event by chance? 

My logic here is similar; if there was no flood and no Ark, then we shouldn’t have the vast array of different flood narratives that we do, and we especially shouldn’t see so many points of comparison. It’s possible that one document could have plagiarized another, but all of them? There are simply too many flood myths to say that they’re all plagiarizing a common source. This was long before the internet, and these flood narratives are separated by vast geographical distances. 

Now, some Young Earth Creationists, Martin included, will try to use the abundance of flood myths to support a global flood. I think they’re right in inferring a historical flood of significant proportions, but as John Walton and Tremper Longmann III write “The fact that there are flood stories from different parts of the world does not mean it was experienced in these parts; rather, the argument goes, it was passed down from the time of the flood. In other words, the flood legends would not be an argument to support a worldwide flood over, say, a local flood. A more reasonable explanation for the pervasiveness of flood stories around the world is that a catastrophic but local flood so impressed people that it was handed down and across cultures as a worldwide flood story.”35

Of course, the question that needs to be asked is, which, if any, of the flood narratives is the correct one? They do differ after all. Which one is uncorrupted? I myself would argue that The Bible’s is the correct and uncorrupted one. God would ensure that His narrative would be unembellished as time goes on. Of course, this comes from my belief that The Bible is inspired. The skeptic doesn’t believe The Bible is inspired, so why should he accept The Bible’s version as tracing back to the original event? Well, this depends on the validity of my arguments for the inspiration of The Bible, which is beyond the scope of this paper. Readers who want to read my arguments for The Bible’s inspiration should pick up a copy of my book The Case For The One True God: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Case For The God Of Christianity and a copy of my book My Redeemer Lives: Evidence For The Resurrection Of Jesus. 

Now, scientifically speaking, what kind of flood would fit the description of the biblical flood? William Ryan and Walter Pitman, both scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory connected to Columbia University wrote a book called “Noah’s Ark: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History.” If you want to look at the actual scientific evidence, you should read their book. Space does not permit me to delve into that scientific evidence here, so get the book and read it if you are interested. I will simply give their conclusion. Their conclusion is that a flood “burst through Bosporus in 5600 BC so violently [that it] cleaved Europe from Anatolia.”36 

Ryan and Pitman’s description of the types of people who experienced this flood is as follows:

“It seemed quite likely that the humans who were there to witness the Black Sea flood and be driven from their homes by the inundation would have been townspeople, some skilled in tilling fields, planting seeds, harvesting crops, and breeding animals. They may even have been experimenting with the diversion of streams for rudimentary irrigation. Many would have been artisans, bricklayers, carpenters, painters, sculptors, basket weavers, leather workers, jewelers, potters, and morticians. Goods were made for both local consumption and for trade with other distant communities in the Levant and perhaps even in Eastern Europe as Gordon Childe had foreseen. A form of social and political structure would have been in existence, with one class of society conducting administrative tasks, others manual labor, and others such as the shaman performing ceremonies of religion, magic, and even brain surgery. They suffered from diseases including malaria and arthritis. The average human life span was barely thirty years, but a few elders lived into their sixties. One may presume that like their Natufian ancestors thousands of years earlier, when confronted by a drastic change in their environment, they would cope by packing their belongings and departing for a new homeland to carry on with the acquired knowledge, tools, and culture.”37

Just like Charles Martin, “Ryan and Pitman suggest that those who survived this flood remembered it as they immigrated to new locations, thus inspiring flood stories that we are aware of among later cultures, including the Babylonian and biblical accounts.”38

In conclusion, contrary to undermining the historicity of the biblical flood narrative, the existence of the plethora of different flood stories makes it more likely. What’s interesting about Ryan and Pitman is that they didn’t go into their scientific investigation believing the biblical flood was a historical event. They believed there was no historical basis to it at all. They believed it was just pure myth. They ended up believing that a real event stands behind the flood story.  

Conclusion

Christians who believe that the flood in Genesis 6-9 was a local or regional event rather than global stand on solid exegetical ground. It is therefore unwarranted for fellow Christians to call us “unbiblical” for not believing that the flood was a global event. Moreover, Christians are also on solid ground in believing that The Noahic Flood was a real event that occurred in real history. Old Testament scholars John Walton and Tremper Longman III would agree, and they provide the same reasons that I have given in Proposition 14 of their book The Lost World Of The Flood titled “Proposition 14: The Flood Story Has A Real Event Behind It”.  


NOTES

1: The ancient author of Genesis and the original audience wouldn’t have conceived of the world as a planet anyway, but here I employ the word “planet” because it’s what we modern scientifically minded westerners think when we talk about the entire plane of human and animal existence. I use the term “global” for precisely the same reason. The Ancient Near Eastern view of the cosmos was that of a flat Earth, with a solid dome sky that held back a large body of waters, and this dome was held up by “pillars”, in some ANE writings these pillars are said to be the mountains, in other writings, it is said to be held up by the gods. Occasionally, windows would open up in the solid dome sky to let a little bit of that cosmic water down in the form of rain. This picture of the cosmos differs in the details depending on the culture. For example, Israel believed mountains held up the sky while other ANE cultures believed it was gods who held it up, but the basic picture remains the same across ANE countries even if the secondary details differ. See, for examples, the article “The Ancient Universe and the Cosmic Temple “by J. Richard Middleton, July 19, 2016, https://biologos.org/articles/series/evolution-and-biblical-faith-reflections-by-theologian-j-richard-middleton/the-ancient-universe-and-the-cosmic-temple, 2 “Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Cosmology” by Dr. Michael S. Heiser –> https://www.moreunseenrealm.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Genesis-and-Ancient-Near-Eastern-Cosmology.pdf, “Scripture and Cosmology: Reading The Bible Between The Ancient World and Modern Science” by Kyle Greenwood, IVP Academic, September 3rd, 2015. See also John Walton’s books “The Lost World Of Genesis One” and “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and The Old Testament”, both published by IVP Academic. See also The NIV FaithLife Illustrated Study Bible, page 5.

2: https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/erets.html     

3: Check out the usages of kol erets for yourself in this online biblical Hebrew lexicon. →  https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/erets.html    

4: Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Genesis One (The Lost World Series) (p. 60). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

5: Barrick, W.D. 2018. Exegetical analysis of Psalm 104:8 and its possible implications for interpreting the geological record. In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, ed. J.H. Whitmore, pp. 95–102. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship. 

https://creationicc.org/2018_papers/12%20Barrick%20Ps%20104%20final.pdf

6: “Psalm 104:6-9—the Flood or Day Three of Creation Week?” by Dr. Terry Mortenson on July 28, 2009 — https://answersingenesis.org/the-flood/psalm-104-flood-or-day-three-of-creation-week/ 

7: ibid.

8: Click here to see John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible → https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-104.html 

9: Click here to see Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary On The Whole Bible http://www.htmlbible.com/kjv30/henry/H19C104.htm 

10: Click here to see John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes On The Whole Bible https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/psalms-104.html 

11: Click here to see Adam Clarke’s Commentary → http://www.godrules.net/library/clarke/clarkepsa104.htm 

12: http://bible.crosswalk.com/Commentaries/TreasuryofDavid/tod.cgi?book=ps&chapter=104&verse=006 

13: Dr. Michael S. Heiser, The Naked Bible Blog, “How To Argue From the Biblical Text for a Local-Regional Flood Instead of a Global Flood” — https://drmsh.com/argue-biblical-text-local-regional-flood-instead-global-flood/ 

14: ibid.  

15: As quoted in “How Could Noah Fit All the Animals on the Ark?” by Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope* Jesus | Jul 5, 2016 — https://reasonsforhopejesus.com/noah-fit-animals-ark/ 

16: “How Could Noah Fit All the Animals on the Ark?” by Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope* Jesus | Jul 5, 2016 — https://reasonsforhopejesus.com/noah-fit-animals-ark/ 

17: “Did Modern Animals Evolve From the Inhabitants of the Ark?”  By Joel Duff, August 31, 2016, — https://biologos.org/articles/did-modern-animals-evolve-from-the-inhabitants-of-the-ark  

18: “Rapid Post-Flood Speciation: A Critique of the Young-Earth Model” by Greg Moore — https://godandscience.org/youngearth/speciation.html 

19: Or “will send” if you disagree with my preterist eschatology. 

20: Was the Flood global?, The Answers Book (web version), answersingenesis.org/Home/Area/AnswersBook/global10.asp 

21: “Creation Science Rebuttals God’s Broken Promise: review by Greg Neyman” © Old Earth Ministries – First Published 3 October 2005 – http://oldearth.org/broken_promise.htm 

22: ibid.

23: Longman III, Tremper. The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate (pp. 49-50). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

24:  Longman III, Tremper. The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate (p. 46). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

25: “Does the Bible Say Noah’s Flood Was Global or Universal?” – BY HUGH ROSS – NOVEMBER 2, 2016 → https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2016/11/02/does-the-bible-say-noah-s-flood-was-global-or-universal 

26: 2. Translations of the Eridu Genesis come from Thorkild Jacobsen, COS 1:513-15. He is translating the oldest copy of the composition that we have dating to approximately 1600 BC.

27: Translation from Thorkild Jacobsen in ANET, 265.

28: https://www.livius.org/articles/misc/great-flood/flood3_t-arahasis/ 

29: 5. Translations from Atrahasis are by B. Foster, in COS 1:450-52. For important studies on Atrahasis, see W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969). See also A. R. Millard, “A New Babylonian ‘Genesis’ Story,” TynBul 18 (1967): 3-18.

30: Longman III, Tremper. The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate (p. 189). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition

31: For anyone who’s interested, The third installment to Brian Godawa’s “Chronicles Of The Nephilim” novel series actually tells the entire Gilgamesh Epic in modern novel form virtually unchanged. He shows how The Epic Of Gilgamesh could have been completely true and fit within biblical history like a hand in glove. He depicts Uta-napishti, whom Gilgamesh seeks eternal life from, as the biblical Noah and the protagonist of the first Chronicles Of The Nephilim novel Noah Primeval. The reason he is called Uta-napishi is that this was a nickname Noah’s wife Emzara had given him decades ago and would often call him that. Thus, people eventually just knew him by that name. In Chronicles Of The Nephilim, Gilgamesh is a Naphil, and Noah tells him that it was a false rumor that he had been given eternal life. Noah tells Gilgamesh about Yahweh and about how he sent a flood upon the world to get rid of evil and the Watchers’ offspring. Gilgamesh becomes Nimrod in the Chronicles series, the man who leads the building project for The Tower Of Babel in Genesis 10-11. 

      Godawa writes “In Gilgamesh Immortal, while I do write of Gilgamesh visiting Noah and his wife on a distant island, and I do have Noah tell Gilgamesh the story of the Flood, just as he does in the Epic of Gilgamesh, I bring a subversive twist to the scenario. The story that Gilgamesh inscribes onto clay and stone is not the one that Noah told him. Why? Because Gilgamesh is not a repentant follower of Noah’s god, Yahweh Elohim, the God of the Bible. So it would make sense that if he rejects the living God, he would reject the living God’s metanarrative and replace it with his own that would exalt himself or his biased religious construction. So the version we read in the Epic of Gilgamesh today is the deliberately fabricated version of a rebel against Yahweh. This is the nature of all subversive storytelling as I have indicated in previous appendices of the Chronicles of the Nephilim.”  — Godawa, Brian. Gilgamesh Immortal (Chronicles of the Nephilim Book 3) (p. 321). Embedded Pictures Publishing. Kindle Edition.

32: Godawa, Brian. Gilgamesh Immortal (Chronicles of the Nephilim Book 3) (pp. 321-322). Embedded Pictures Publishing. Kindle Edition.

33: Wenham, “The Coherence of the Flood Narrative,” p. 346.

34: Charles Martin, Flood Legends: Global Clues of a Common Event (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009).

35: Longman III, Tremper. The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate (pp. 163-164). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. 

36: William Ryan and Walter Pitman, Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998), 55.

37: ibid. Page 187. 

38: Longman III, Tremper. The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate (pp. 148-149). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. 

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