(Read Part 1)
We are continuing our study that highlights 22 reasons from the flood narrative’s text that lead to the conclusion that the account describes a global flood, rather than a local, or even regional, flood. We are considering each reason in the order of its appearance in the text.
Last time we looked at the first 13 reasons, and in this article will think about nine more such reasons.
- The Biblical account claims that “the waters prevailed exceedingly” and “covered” “all the high hills under the whole heaven” (7:19) and surged yet another 15 cubits above that (7:20). If the highest mountains in a region are covered, what means can local/regional flood advocates reasonably put forth to contain the flood waters other than a ring of even higher mountains or perhaps a Divine action? A localized flood in Mesopotamia could not possibly provide containment to allow such mountains (even if just a few hundred feet in height) to be kept submerged for 150 days.
- The Biblical text speaks of the death toll among living creatures in catastrophic terms: “all flesh died” (7:21). The first to be mentioned are “birds” and the final group is “every man,” listing the life forms in an order closely related to their order of creation. In case the reader misunderstands the author’s intent, he makes it even more specific in the next verse: “All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died” (7:22). In case this explanation should prove inadequate, the author adds a more detailed declaration (7:23).
- The flood waters dominated the landscape of the earth for 150 days (7:24) before beginning to decrease. Even the greatest of modern floods (like those in Bangladesh) rarely dominate the landscape for more than a few days before rapidly draining off the land. Five full months is a long period of time to maintain flood waters in a confined area. Sarna points out this contrast with the Mesopotamian accounts: “Atrahasis and the Sumerian version have seven days and seven nights followed by the shining sun. In Gilgamesh there seem to be six days of inundation.”
- “The ark rested” somewhere in “the mountains of Ararat” (8:4)—not on some plain. This mountain range lies to the north of the Mesopotamian valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. How many floods ever result in large objects like the ark being deposited at the potential upstream origin of flood waters rather than depositing them downstream?
- “The tops of the mountains” did not appear above the water until the 225th day of the flood (8:5). Even Walton admits that this particular detail “is the most difficult statement to explain for those arguing that the text does not require a global flood.”
- The length of time spent on the ark (371 days; cf. 8:14 compared with 7:11), while consistent with a global flood, does not comport with a local, or even regional, catastrophe.
- God’s mandate for the flood survivors (8:17; 9:7) and subsequent blessing (9:1, 7) echo His creation blessing and mandate (1:28), implying the same global outlook.
- God’s promise to “never again curse” and destroy all life (animal and human) by a cataclysmic flood (8:21–22; 9:11–17) fits a global catastrophe far better than a local flood. How many times has God violated His promise since Noah’s flood—if it was just a local flood?
- Capital punishment for murder applies universally to all who have “the image of God” as a result of creation (9:6; cf. 1:26–27). Such legislation better suits a global flood context than a local or regional flood, because it addresses a universal situation paralleling the universal corruption of mankind (6:11–12). It also fits the parallel to creation in that the recreation also addresses the matter of “the image of God.”
From a literary standpoint, a wide range of scholars now recognize the flood narrative as a unified account. Such a conclusion militates against the claim of an accretion of multiple additions throughout the compositional history of the text. This also lends credibility to the surface meaning of the text that argues well for a global flood. As Walton observes, the Genesis account of the flood might very well predate the extrabiblical Ancient Near Eastern accounts that distort the Biblical event with their own imagination and pagan theology.
Wenham concludes in no uncertain terms that the flood narrative recounts “a universal catastrophe that engulfed all humanity, except for one man and his family who were saved by the grace of God.” Indeed, it marks “the great turning point in the history of the world.”
Although many evangelicals gravitate toward a local flood interpretation, seemingly as an accommodation to scientific theories and speculations, the list of observations from the text lends support to Waltke’s conclusion that “the narrator, even allowing for oriental hyperbole, seems to have in mind a universal flood.”
(Read Part 3)
Dr. William D. Barrick served as professor of Old Testament and director of Th.D. studies at The Master’s Seminary from 1997 to 2015. He remains active in ministry as a theologian and a linguistics expert whose service, writings and translations have spanned numerous nations and languages. He is also the Old Testament editor of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary from Logos Bible Software. We are most grateful to include him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.
Copyright © 2016 by Dr. William D. Barrick. Used by permission of the author.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 “Yet the possibility cannot be ruled out that the Genesis account is a pristine record of the event as passed down from Noah, which suffered corruption when transmitted in the hands of other cultures.”—Walton, Genesis, p. 319. Derek Kidner, Genesis, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 97, suggests that the Babylonian and Biblical accounts “have ultimately a common origin, which Genesis reflects faithfully and Babylon corruptly.”
Photo within the article is by Paul J. Scharf