Does the Scripture depict Noah’s flood as a global event or as a local event? What sort of Biblical evidence supports a global flood as opposed to a local flood? This study highlights just 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.
The following list presents each reason in the order of its appearance in the text.
- Genesis 6:5–7 (see also 6:11–12; 7:1) reveals that God intended to destroy all mankind as well as all animals. This indicates a global situation involving all mankind rather than referring to inhabitants of a locality or region. The judgment must be as extensive as the corruption of mankind.
- The narrative expressly mentions that even the birds will be destroyed (6:7). Birds can fly from the devastated area to non-affected areas. Note the repetition of this detail in 6:20 and 7:3, 14.
- In 6:13 (read in context with 6:7) the Divine declaration includes not only “the end of all flesh,” but the destruction of the earth itself. Though the animals were not involved in mankind’s corruption, they did suffer the natural consequences of mankind’s sinful behavior. Kenneth Mathews concludes that “There can be no dispute that the narrative depicts the flood in the language of a universal deluge.”
- The size of the ark (6:15) makes it “one of the largest wooden ships of all time—a mid-sized cargo ship by today’s standards.” A local flood would not require such a ship, or any ship at all. A ship the size of the Biblical ark intentionally meets all the needs for containing Noah’s family and thousands of animals for a long period of time. A local flood would require something much more modest, perhaps nothing more than a large riverine cattle barge such as Robert Best describes for the Gilgamesh epic.
- Rooms (6:14) and decks (6:16) for the ark also indicate a complexity and scale of construction unsuited, and certainly unnecessary, for escaping a local flood event.
- The Hebrew word for floodwaters (mabbul, 6:17) bears some similarity to the Akkadian term abubu employed in the Babylonian legend of a flood. The Scriptures use this Hebrew word to denote an unparalleled cataclysmic event.
- Absence of any mention of a rudder or other steering device for the ark implies that the movement was left in God’s hands. The situation did not require some sort of steering mechanism to keep clear of rocks, banks and other objects blocking any downstream movement of a vessel.
- The rest of Genesis treats the eight people who populated the ark (6:18; 9:19) through the flood as the progenitors of the post-flood world, not just the ancestors of a localized (or even regionalized) population. See the Table of the Nations in 10:1–11:32.
- The variety and number of animal life brought into the ark for preservation (6:19; 7:14–16) testifies to an inclusiveness that does not seem rational in the case of a small local flood. Most animals escape flood waters by fleeing to higher, drier ground.
- Provisions for food on behalf of both the human and animal inhabitants (6:21) indicate a longer period of dependence upon such supplies than might be necessary in a mere local flood.
- The purpose for the ark and its housing of all of the creatures to be brought into it is “to keep the species (זֶ֖רַע, lit., seed) alive on the face of all the earth” (7:3). Dr. Henry Morris rightly reasons that, “The stated purpose was, of course, valid if the Flood was to be universal, but irrelevant if the Flood were local.”
- “All living things that I have made” (7:4) seems to refer to creation and thus to be global in its outlook. Comparisons between Adam and Noah/creation and un-creation permeate the entire flood narrative. The parallels present dramatic evidence for the globality/universality of both narratives.
- “All the fountains of the great deep” (7:11) seem out of place for a mere local or even regional flood.
(Read Part 2)
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.
 The same thing occurred at the fall (cf. Rom 8:19–22)—animal life suffered from the consequences of man’s disobedience. No human or animal needs to be culpable of someone else’s sin to suffer from its destructive, disruptive and debilitative results.
 Robert M. Best, Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic: Sumerian Origins of the Flood Myth (Ft. Meyers, FL: Enlil Press, 1999), pp. 32, 81, 83.
Photo within the article is by Paul J. Scharf