Waterworld: Noah’s flood
All aboard1 The LORD told Noah, “Go into the boat with your family. Of all the people on the planet, I can see that you are the only good soul. 2 Take with you seven pairs of all the kinds of animals you use in sacrifices. Take the male and the female of each. And then take one pair of every other kind of animal. 3 Take seven pairs of birds as well—male and female—to make sure they survive the flood. 4 In seven days I will pummel the earth with rain. I will keep the rain pouring 40 days and 40 nights—until everything on earth is dead.” 5 Noah did everything God told him to do. 6 Noah was 600 years old at the time of the flood. 7 Noah and his family—wife, sons, and sons’ wives—boarded the boat to escape the flood. 8 Animals used for sacrifice as well as all the other animals, including birds, and every critter that crawls on the earth, 9 boarded the boat, two by two, male and female, just as God told Noah to do it.
Turning on the water10 Seven days later the flood started. 11 Underground water erupted like geysers at the same time the rain fell in torrents. It all started when Noah was 600 years, two months, and 17 days old. 12 Rain fell 40 days and 40 nights. 13 Before the rain started, Noah went into the boat with his wife and his sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—along with their wives. 14 With them they had every kind of animal—wild and mild—including every critter that crawls on the earth and every kind of bird that flies. 15 Two by two, every kind of creature that drew a breath went into the boat with Noah. 16 With everyone inside the boat, as God had commanded Noah, the LORD shut the door behind them. 17 For 40 days the floodwater rose, lifting the boat high above the ground. 18 As the water continued to rise, the boat floated safely through the storm. 19 The floodwater rose so high that it covered all the mountains on the earth, 20 rising 22 feet above the highest mountain peak. 21 All life on earth died—everything that moved: birds, livestock, wild animals, every kind of swarming bug, as well as the humans. 22 If it lived on land and drew a breath it died. 23 To sum it up, God washed away every living, breathing life form on the face of the earth: people, animals, crawling critters, and birds. Everyone and everything died. The only survivors were Noah and those with him on the boat. 24 The floodwater covered the earth for 150 days.
These were animals that the Laws of Moses would later label as ritually clean, or kosher.
Seven meters. Literally 15 cubits. A cubit was about 18 inches, or 46 cm.
The highest mountain is Mount Everest at 29,029 feet (8850 m). That’s about the cruising altitude of a 747 passenger jet.
Most Christians seem to believe the Flood story as it’s reported in the Bible. But other Christians say there’s something fishy about it. Of the following questions, which some Christians and non-Christians ask about the Flood, which do you think is hardest to explain? And how would you explain it?
- How could a pair of every species of animal fit on a boat a little longer than a football field and half as wide— and then live on that boat for a year? A cruise ship that size would hold only about 1,500 guests on a 10-day tour.
- Without satellite technology, how could anyone know that the Flood covered “all the mountains on the earth, rising 22 feet [7 m] above the highest mountain peak” (7:19-20)?
- How could a flood cover the planet 5½ miles high, covering Mount Everest (29,029 feet, 8850 m), when geologists say there is not nearly enough water on the planet to do that?
- How could people and animals breathe if they were floating in a boat at the “cruising altitude of a 747 passenger jet” (7:20 footnote)?
Bible writers use the number 40 a lot. Flood rains fell “40 days and 40 nights” (7:12). Moses met with God on Mount Sinai for 40 days (Exodus 24:18). Jesus fasted 40 days (Matthew 4:2). Should we read that number literally, or could it simply be a way of saying “for a long time,” or “for a few weeks”?
There’s another flood story. It’s from what is now Iraq. The story sounds a lot like the Flood story in the Bible. Scholars create charts detailing the similarities between the Genesis story and the one that shows up in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a story several hundred years older than Moses. In both cases a man builds a boat, survives the flood with his family and animals, releases a dove to see if the water has receded, and offers a sacrifice when they disembark the boat. Does the similarity bother you or does it simply reinforce the truth of the Bible story?
Do you think God actually punished the world by sending a flood that wiped out civilization? Or is it possible, as some Christians theorize, that an ancient writer had heard about a mega flood in stories passed on by earlier generations. And the writer presumed God sent the Flood, since the people in the ancient world thought God controlled everything that happened, for better or worse?
LIFE APPLICATION. If Noah did anything even close to what is described in the Bible, it took an incredible amount of faith in God. What is the biggest leap of faith in God you have seen someone take? And when have you had to put more faith in God than felt comfortable?