By Mike Willis
The Genesis Flood Was A Universal Flood
One who simply reads the Genesis narrative cannot but be impressed with the writer’s intention to describe a universal flood. In this section, we want to emphasize the language of the text that affirms that the flood of Genesis 6-8 was a universal flood.
The judgment was universal. The purpose of the flood was a divine judgment against the moral corruption in the earth. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5). Wickedness was spread throughout the world. Every man was affected, save Noah and his family. God expressed his determination to destroy the entire world: “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” (6:7). “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 earth” (6:12). No one can deny that the Lord’s expressed purpose for sending the flood was to execute judgment against the wickedness of man.
The language describing the judgment is universal. The words used in Scripture to describe the flood describe, not a local flood, but a universal flood. Consider the language of Scripture:
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 (6:13).
And, behold I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die (6:17).
. . . and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth (7:4).
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark (7:21-24). . . . neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done (8:21).
No less an authority than Jesus pronounced that only Noah and his family survived the Flood. He said, “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27). The Apostle Peter wrote, “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” (1 Pet. 3:20). Again, he wrote, “And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 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” (2 Pet. 3:4-6). What language could God have used to describe a universal flood, had he wanted to describe one, that would be clearer than these words?
Those who argue for a local flood sometimes assert that the population of the world was limited at this time to the Mesopotamian valley and that a local flood would have met the demands of the God’s universal judgment against man’s sin. The implications of this argument must be considered. This would demand that there be no archaeological evidence of a human being outside the Mesopotamian valley before the flood. If a human remain is found outside the Mesopotamian valley it must be dated after the flood or else one must believe that men migrated back to the Mesopotamian valley so that God’s judgment against sin could be executed.
The language describing the flood of water demands a universal flood. Notice what the text states about the flood itself:
- Rain lasted for 40 days and nights (7:4, 12).
- The fountains of the deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened (7:11).
- The waters became deep enough to bear up the ark (7:17). The ark was 30 cubits high, having a draft of 15 cubits (22.5 feet). The water must have been over 22.5 feet deep to float the ark.
- The waters prevailed for 150 days (7:24).
- The waters covered the highest hills by a depth of 15 cubits (7:18-19). The language is universal language. Genesis 7:19 says that the waters covered “all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven.” Notice the double use of the word col (“all,” “whole”): “All the high hills under the whole heaven.”
- The waters were deep enough that the ark landed on one of the mountains in the Ararat range (8:4). Furthermore, the tops of the mountains were not visible (8:5). The region of Ararat is Armenia. The mountains in that range are as high as 17,000 feet. Without regard to which mountain the ark landed on, the flood had to be a universal flood to cover the tops of these mountains.
- The waters required 150 days to diminish from off the earth (8:3).
- The flood lasted one year and ten days (7:11; 8:14).
Think about these statements of Scripture with reference to the flood. What kind of flood would be produced by torrential downpours for 40 days and nights and the breaking up of the fountains of the deep? What kind of flood lasts for a year and ten days? What kind of flood could cover even a small mountain, such as Mt. Hermon (9,500 feet)? If flood waters became deep enough to cover Mt. Hermon and prevailed for 150 days, how could the water not cover the whole earth? Water seeks its lowest level. If the water leveled out at a depth that covered mountains such as Mt. Hermon, as the words of Scripture state, then the text necessitates a universal flood.
The language regarding the re-population of the earth after the ark necessitates a universal flood. Moses wrote, “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread” (Gen. 9:18-19). Followed by the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, this text statese that all nations of the earth descended from the three sons of Noah. Unless the flood was universal, that simply is not true; if the flood was universal, then all of mankind descended from these three sons of Noah as the text of Genesis states.
The need for an ark demands a universal flood. The Bible clearly distinguishes local disasters from universal disasters, even those sent by God. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was a local disaster that affected four cities of the plain (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, Deut. 29:23). To escape the destruction of the cities of the plain, God instructed Lot and his family to flee the cities of the plain (Gen. 19:12-13).
Had the flood of Genesis 6-8 been a local flood there would have been no need for an ark. God announced his judgment 120 years before the flood (6:3). Noah and his family would have had time to flee anywhere on the face of God’s earth to escape a local flood. Why did they need to build an ark? Furthermore, animals survive local floods. If a flood hit the entire mid-west region, the animals of North America could survive without the need of an ark. So also would man! So why build an ark?
The size of the ark demands a universal flood. The ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. It had three floors in it. The word tÙbŒh properly means “chest, box,” indicating that the ark was not keel-shaped for navigation, but rectangular for floating. Using 17.5 inches for a cubit, Henry Morris calculated that the ark was 437.5 feet long, 72.92 feet wide, and 43.75 feet high with a deck area of 95,700 square feet (equivalent to about 20 standard college basketball courts) and a total volume of 1,396,000 cubic feet (The Genesis Flood 10). Morris wrote, “. . . the Ark had a carrying capacity equal to that of 522 standard stock cars as used by modern railroads or of eight freight trains with sixty-five cars in each” (The Genesis Flood 67-8). This structure took 120 years to build. Why was such a vessel needed to escape a mere local flood? If the only animals on the ark were animals in a local area, what need was there for an ark of this size?
The covenant of the rainbow demands a universal flood. After the flood is ended, God made a covenant with Noah never again to destroy the world with water. The covenant reads as follows:
And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 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. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth (9:9-16).
God did not keep his covenant if the flood was a mere local flood, for there have been many local floods since the Genesis flood that destroyed much human life, animal life, and property. The covenant has been kept if God intends to state that he will never again destroy the entire world with water.
These biblical evidences force one to the conclusion that the Genesis text meant to describe a universal flood. Only because extra-biblical evidences are thought to have greater reliability than the biblical text do men begin to search for another and different interpretation of the obvious meaning of the Genesis narrative.
(To be concluded next issue.)
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