Was Noah's Flood Universal?

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Was Noah's Flood Universal?

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For many, the theory of evolution is the foundational underpinning for the geological and biological sciences. Since evolution is so widely accepted in much of the academic community, many believe that the geological record can only be interpreted using evolutionary guidelines.

These widely accepted guidelines supposedly show that the present is the key to the past. According to this concept (often called uniformitarianism), since there are no worldwide or global floods occurring now, there have been none in the past.

Misled or confused by the scientific community, many readers of Genesis have given in to the concept of a regional or local flood. The Bible, however, is very clear about the magnitude and scope of Noah’s Flood. The biblical story, both in Old and New Testaments, firmly tells us that planet Earth was indeed covered by a universal flood. (For background information concerning what really lies behind many scientists’ belief in evolution and its effect on their view of the Bible, request your free copies of Creation or Evolution: Does it Really Matter What You Believe? and Life’s Ultimate Question: Does God Exist?)

Biblical facts about Noah’s Flood

The Bible says the deluge began in the 600th year of Noah’s life. How long did it last? Many believe that the Flood merely lasted the 40 days and 40 nights of rain followed by a short drying period, after which the earth was ready for Noah and the animals.

They fail to realize how long the whole Flood episode lasted. The Noachian deluge lasted for more than a year (compare Genesis 7:11 Genesis 7:11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
American King James Version×
and 8:14-15). During this time the earth was covered by water for 150 days—five months. The Bible clearly states that “the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days” (Genesis 7:24 Genesis 7:24And the waters prevailed on the earth an hundred and fifty days.
American King James Version×
; 8:3-4).

How deep and how widespread was the water? Scripture indicates that the tops of all the mountains all around the world were covered to a depth of 15 cubits (Genesis 7:20 Genesis 7:20Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
American King James Version×
)—about 20 to 30 feet depending on the size of cubit that was used. Even assuming that the antediluvian mountains may not have been as high as some mountains are today, this still represents an enormous amount of water (see Psalms 104:5-9 Psalms 104:5-9 5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At your rebuke they fled; at the voice of your thunder they hurried away. 8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys to the place which you have founded for them. 9 You have set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.
American King James Version×
).

Another indication of the hydrological forces involved may be gathered from the following verse: “… I will destroy them [along] with the earth” (Genesis 6:13 Genesis 6:13And God said to 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.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout). The earth would also be destroyed along with wicked humanity. This could well indicate a massive reshaping of global topography.

This statement is repeated at the conclusion of Noah’s Flood: “… Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:11 Genesis 9:11And 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.
American King James Version×
).

The Flood of Noah’s time was an earth-wrecking experience. The shape of the landforms after the Flood may have been quite different from the earth that existed before the deluge. Some recent geological formations stand as natural witnesses to the destructive force of these raging waters (see “Evidence of a Worldwide Flood”).

The very need for the ark is a strong indication of the magnitude of the Flood.

If the Flood were only a local or regional event, it would have been a simple matter for Noah to move somewhere else. There would have been no need for the gathering of all the animals and Noah’s family into the ark.

The Bible reveals that this deluge was of such a magnitude that provisions were made to assure the survival of both humanity and the animals. The whole point of building the ark would have been meaningless if the Flood were simply regional or local.

Peter’s perspective

The New Testament shows that its inspired writers considered a worldwide flood a real historic event. The apostle Peter wrote: “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3:5-6 2 Peter 3:5-6 5 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: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
American King James Version×
).

In this passage the apostle Peter affirms the reality of a global flood. Interestingly, he states that even during his time some people had willfully forgotten this obvious truth. How much more so in our skeptical world today?

The overall content of 2 Peter 3 also bears witness to the Flood’s universality.

In this prophetic chapter Peter also refers to the second coming of Jesus Christ (an event of worldwide importance in its scope, Matthew 24:30-32 Matthew 24:30-32 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near:
American King James Version×
) and a future global cataclysm that will envelop the earth in fire. Clearly Peter’s basic perspective here is universal—not regional or local.

Jesus Christ also understood the Flood from the same global perspective. He used the Flood as an example in His teaching to illustrate an important spiritual lesson: “… As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man … until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27 Luke 17:26-27 26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27 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.
American King James Version×
).

We see that the Bible repeatedly uses universal terminology to describe the dimensions and devastation of the Flood. The eighth-century-B.C. Hebrew prophet Isaiah also bore witness to a universal deluge. He quoted our Creator as saying: “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you” (Isaiah 54:9 Isaiah 54:9For this is as the waters of Noah to me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with you, nor rebuke you.
American King James Version×
).

Consider that there have been many local floods in the world since Noah’s time. That being so, if the Flood of his day was merely local in scope too, then God would have lied in allowing more of them to happen. So if we accept the Bible and God’s promises in it, then we must conclude that the Flood of Noah’s day was not merely a local event. It was a universal flood, the likes of which have never been seen again—just as God promised.

Faith and Noah’s Flood

Of course, a Christian’s belief in the Bible is always supported by the element of faith in God and in the truthfulness of His Word. Even the Flood of Noah is mentioned in the context of godly faith.

“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7 Hebrews 11:7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
American King James Version×
). The patriarch Noah was one of “the elders [who] obtained a good testimony” by means of his faith and patience (verse 2).

Although one’s belief in the inspiration of the Bible is clearly undergirded by rationality, common sense and even archaeological finds and historical records that often substantiate biblical events—ultimately it rests on faith that the Bible is both inspired by God and true.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (verse 1, New International Version). Without faith we have no hope. As verse 6 tells us, “… Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” GN

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