In my last post I covered the topic of creation, if you want to take a look at it please click HERE. Today I am going to analyze Noah’s Flood, which is closely related. Specifically, I am going to present two popular views on the Flood and then I will explain the one i have selected and why.
Before continuing I recommend you read through Genesis 6, 7, 8 and 9 if it has been a while. I will be quoting in the KJV because it is my favorite but another version that you might find helpful for this passage is the ESV.
A view that is getting more and more popular is the Local Flood model. To give a basic summary, the doctrine asserts that Noah’s Flood did not cover the whole Globe. Instead what took place was a very large flood covering as much as a continent but no more than that. The reason popularity is building on this is because it goes hand in hand with Old Earth Creationism (OEC). Specifically, you need millions of years of pre-fall rain for OEC to work which is why they interpret verses like this (Gen 2:5-6) in a local context.
The argument to support Local Flood centers around a few key verses and associated facts.
- The word “earth” in this passage doesn’t have to mean the whole Globe. In the original Hebrew it can mean “land” in a general sense.
“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Gen 6:11-13 KJV
- The word “mountain” doesn’t have to mean mountain, it can also mean hill. When understood in a local context this would mean the highest hills in the area.
“Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.” Gen 7:20 KJV
Source: Answers in Genesis
This verse above is a critical one for global vs local flood. If the water really did go 15 cubits over the mountains that does mean Global flood. Unless you are going to insist that there was a force field holding the water in a certain area as demonstrated in the picture above.
Local flood proponents do not argue this, instead they say that the word mountains is mistranslated because it can mean either mountain or hill.
Above I have posted three examples of the Hebrew word Heharim on Biblehub. I have found that it does in fact vary, sometimes it is mountain sometimes it is hill. It is context that determines which the translator selects and they don’t always agree.
The last point of the argument is as follows:
- Since the tower of Babel is what eventually separated humanity, that means humans were all living in one area. It therefore follows that the wrath of God would only be poured out on the area in which they lived.
This argument above is more from logic than it is any particular verse. The problem that I see with it is that it is making assumptions where the text doesn’t speak. The fact is that we don’t know what pre-flood society or government was like. I would assert though, that if it can be proven that humanity was spread out across the planet before the flood, that would negate local flood entirely (Gen 6:5-7).
Those are the three primary points of the Local Flood argument. They do bring a few other things up but the argument generally is that since the text allows for a local flood that means it was. The rest of the Local Flood argument focuses on addressing problems pointed out by the traditional view. I will attempt to incorporate those into my presentation on Global Flood as appropriate.
This is the view that I hold as I believe it is the Biblical understanding of the scope of Gods wrath typified in the flood. I have scanned these three chapters of Genesis back and forth many times as I wanted to ensure that I am not holding to this view simply for the sake of tradition. I will share with you which passages convinced me.
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” Gen 6:5-7 KJV
To understand the above passage in a Local Flood view you would have to assume that God only means the animals associated with man, and that man only lived in a local area of the earth. The problem is the referent for defining the scope of this outpouring of judgment is the creation account itself. Thus, all men and animals who were created are receiving the judgment. Limiting this to only some animals associated with all mankind is reading into the text.
For all mankind and all animals to receive this outpouring of judgment it follows that the flood would have to cover the whole globe.
“And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 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.” Gen 6:19-20 KJV
The above verse is a point of logic for me. One may argue that the water covered the tallest hills rather than the mountains, that is fine as the text allows for both, but it plainly states that birds were on the Ark to keep them alive. Today birds of all sorts fly from one end of the continent to another to stay alive as seasons change.
If the flood were only local they could have simply been sent to another region for a few years. Instead God wanted them on the Ark. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that there was no safe place to go.
So putting the Birds and the use of creation terminology in verses 5-7 togrther I think what we see here is a larger scope of judgment than a local flood would allow for. That being the case, this gives us a reason to understand “Haaretz” in a global fashion rather than a local one.
“And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.” Gen 9:11 KJV
I would argue based on the above text that in a Local Flood motif the above verse is stripped of meaning. We have had many horrendous floods throughout human history. Some have destroyed very large populated areas. Specifically I am thinking about the tsunami that obliterated the Philippines a number of years ago. If Noah’s Flood were local it would follow logically that the covenant promise is local too.
The last point supporting my argument for Global Flood is the apocalyptic language we find in the New Testament.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” 1 Pet 3:18-22 KJV
Above notice the scope of the Judgment and Mercy of God. This is a wrath that was poured out on everyone alive in Noah’s day, pointing typologically to the Judgment poured out on everyone who has ever been alive on Judgment Day, juxtaposed with the mercy of God poured out in his blood on the cross and received in the waters of baptism. I don’t see a geographic limitation on any of these themes.
“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Pet 3:5-7 KJV
Here Peter is clear that the world which stands out of the water and in the water was overflowed with water and then juxtaposes that with Judgment Day. I have to be honest, I would have to really strain hard to try to see a geographic limitation here. This seems rather all encompassing and I am not going to read my Bible through a liberal kaleidoscope.
As with OEC I do not believe Local Flood is heresy, but it is certainly heterodoxy. To adopt the view one has to on some level twist the scriptures to fit their motif. My concern with doing so is not so much that one loses the Global Flood, but rather that they have adopted a magisterial methodology of understanding scripture. Once one caves in to this there really isn’t any good reason to hold back on doing the same thing with other passages one finds distasteful.
How do I accept a Global Flood in light of modern science? Speaking for myself, I don’t feel the need to explain the flood in naturalistic terms. I don’t see why we can’t simply view the flood as a miracle. We don’t we try to explain how Jesus walked on water, or how Jonah survived inside of a whale. The reason is because these things are miracles, by definition they defy nature and expectation. Personally, I think that pretty much addresses anyone’s objection to the flood.
In summary, Local Flood argues that since a few words stripped from their context allows for Local Flood then that means we have a Local Flood in view. Global Flood argues that those specific words can go either way, but when put in context and compared to other scripture you have a global event.
I will address one question though that many bring up. Some argue that since a finite size is given for the Ark in the Bible, how is it that all the animals fit on the Ark in the first place? This is a sound question, and isn’t really the point of my post but since it is so common I will post a short YouTube video that addresses it below.