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Noah's Flood: Global or Local?

By Donald Hochner Edited: 3/24/10

I would like to share what I learned about Noah's flood. Some scholars maintained that the original location of the Garden of Eden, though known to Adam’s son, Seth and his descendants, was obliterated by the devastating effects of Noah's flood. The geographical conditions of that region had changed significantly, including the rivers which served as the borders of the garden. I believe Noah's flood was not global, which I will attempt to show you.

In scripture, the phrases "the earth" and "the world" pertained to a locality, and not to the whole earth. Even when America was first discovered by Europeans, it was called "the new world." This phrase did not refer to a new planet, but just a locality on the same planet.

We have been told in the biblical account that the flood would cover the "earth", that everything in the "earth" would die, and other statements about the "earth", all of which would teach the idea of a world-wide flood - EXCEPT for one thing: Hebrew word "erets", especially in the Book of Genesis. Its translated "earth" 665 times, "land" 1581 times, "country" 44 times, "ground" 119 times, "lands" 57 times, "countries", 15 times, and a few others. It seems that the “land” overflowed the “earth” in KJV (pun intended). Same thing with the “mountains” can be used as “hills” (#2022, har). It seems to me that all of them are in limited land areas rather than the entire planet.

We need to keep in mind that the people living at the time of Moses had no concept of a "global" planet ... to them the "earth" would be the extent of the geographical land area known to them. To apply this literal meaning throughout the Bible causes problems. (As does other LITERAL exegesis)

These false interpretations are assumed and encouraged so that we can continue to support "tradition" or orthodoxy - never mind what Scripture is really saying. In so doing, we allow these misinterpretations to contradict other verses where the same word is used! We end up making a mockery of Scripture by trying to get it to fit ill-conceived theology.

For example, the word is used concerning Abraham, "Get out of thy country [erets]...unto a land [erets] that I will shew thee" (Gen. 12:1). Of course we know God did not mean for Abraham to leave the earth and to go another earth or planet. Or another one, "Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country [erets], and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur and sojourned in Gerar" (Gen. 20:1). Notice the translators used “country” instead of “earth” even it is the same Hebrew word.

Other references in Genesis also show that "erets" was used to show specific lands: "The whole land [erets] of Havilah (Gen. 2:11)," “whole land [erets] of Ethiopia” (Gen. 2:13), "the land [erets] of Nod, on the east of Eden" (Gen. 4:16), Famine at the time of Joseph affected "all lands [erets]" (Gen. 41:54). Do word study. Try use the word "land" instead of global "earth" and it make a lot more sense because some Bible translations can be misleading.

Why, then, should any insist that the flood covering "the face of the whole earth (erets) must mean a universal flood? Not only that, there is another Hebrew word, adamah (Strong’s #127) for “land” or “ground.” Would we be assuming too much to say that the usage of "adamah" inter dispersed with "erets" would qualify that word? Would we be assuming too much to say that land affected was "Adam's" land, field, ground etc? (Opposed to Cain's or other tribes or nation's ground)

If we view the flood as global, then we must (if we are consistent) apply that same usage in other places were the same words and phrases are used. Here is the list of example with “the face of the earth/land/ground ” with Hebrew words, erets or adamah during Noah’s days:

Gen. 5:29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground [adamah] which the LORD hath cursed.

Gen. 6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth [adamah], and daughters were born unto them,

Gen. 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth[adamah]; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Gen. 7:3 - Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of the earth [erets].

Gen. 7:4 - For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth [erets] forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off face of the earth [adamah].

Gen. 7:23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground[adamah], both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth [erets]: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

Gen. 8:9 - But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters [were] on the face of the whole earth [erets]: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.

Gen. 8:13 And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth [erets]: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked , and, behold, the face of the ground [adamah] was dry.

Gen. 8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground [adamah] any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done.

You see, it seems that the translators cannot make up with their mind with “earth”, “land”, and “ground.” You can compare other Bible translations like NASB, NIV, etc. Good thing that we can check some Hebrew words.

But remember we let the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures about "the face of the earth/land/ground" in other passages:

Gen. 2:6 - But there went up a mist from the earth [erets], and watered the whole face of the ground [adamah].

Gen. 4:14 - Behold, thou hast driven me [Cain] out this day from the face of the earth [adamah]; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth [erets]; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

Gen. 11:8 - So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth [erets]: and they left off to build the city. 9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth [erets].

Gen. 41:56 - And the famine was over all the face of the earth [erets]: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.

There is no evidence of a global famine at that time... the Bible states "all countries (erets) came to Egypt" to buy corn (Genesis 41:57). Surely it means the countries close to Egypt... Certainly not "all" countries -- unless we assume the Australians or the American Indians... were in Egypt buying corn.

If we take "erets" to mean the entire planet, then we also have to interpret that OTHER PLANETS came to Egypt to buy corn. All this, so we can maintain the false teaching of a universal flood.

Exodus 10:5, 15 - We read about a plague of locusts that "covered the face of the whole earth [erets]." It should be pretty evident that this locust plague covered only a limited LAND of Egypt... it is the same wording in both places. Yet we never assume these locusts covered the entire globe.

Num. 11:31 - And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth [erets].

After the Israelites were delivered from Egypt and settled in Canaan, the scripture says they "covered the face of the earth" (erets, Numbers 22:5,11) Not even fundamentalists would say that Israelites covered every square foot of the planet...This is simply a way of stating that they occupied the land in which they were dwelling.

1 Sam. 20:15 - But also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever: no, not when the LORD hath cut off the enemies of David everyone from the face of the earth [adamah].

2 Sam. 18:8 - For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country [erets]: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

Isa. 23:17 - And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth [adamah].

Jer. 25:26 - And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth [adamah]: and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.

There are many instances in the Bible where it speaks of "the earth" or the face of the earth... which clearly refers to a limited land, area, or country. We read about "all" the hills being covered... or "all" flesh destroyed. When God spoke of destroying "all flesh", He said he "will destroy them with the earth" (Genesis 6:13). The planet earth was not destroyed (of course not) neither was all the flesh on the planet -- only that flesh and land where Noah lived was destroyed.

We know that after Joshua had led the Israelites into the Promised Land, we read: "So Joshua took the whole land [erets]...and the land [erets] rested from war" (Joshua 11:23). No one would think of reading "earth" into this passage! We know that the conquest of Canaan didn't include America, China, and Australia!! So, I think the "land" in a limited area is more consistent than the word "earth” [erets]:

Gen. 19:31 - God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot's daughters said "there's not a man in the earth to come in unto us.” We know that not every man in the world was killed... only those in the area of the destruction.

Exodus 9:33 - "The rain was not poured upon the earth." Of course we understand it is just speaking about a certain area in Egypt.

2 Chronicles 36:23 - Cyrus' empire is said to have encompassed "all the kingdoms of the earth ." But there were kingdoms in the Far East which were surely not included.

Ezra 1:2 - Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth ; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

Jer. 34:1 - "All the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the peoples, fought against Jerusalem." There the phrase "of the earth" is limited to "his dominion," i.e., the dominion of Nebuchadnezzar.

Hab. 1:6 - For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land , to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs.

Here are a few examples in the New Testament:

Acts 11:28 - Speaks of a similar famine throughout the entire world, yet it is not likely it really meant over the whole globe including the New World.

Luke 2:1 - Refers to a decree which went out to tax "the whole world." But this was only refers to Romans who controlled the land of Judea.

Rev. 1:7 - Refers to the coming of Christ during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, "Behold, he [Jesus] cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds [tribes of Israel] of the earth [land of Judea] shall wail because of him." All futurists believe the coming of Christ will be seen from all over the earth.

Let me give you a few more points to ponder:

1. We read also that "the water increased and bare up the ark, and it was lifting up ABOVE THE EARTH" (Gen. 7:17). Do you think that's possible the ark was lifted into the space and orbited above the earth?!?

2. As I said before, if the flood was global, how did the water drained? What about the rain? This would be like dipping water out of one end of a swimming pool and pouring it in the other end. The level would be remaining unchanged!

3. Ralph Woodrow wrote, "Notice the order of events in Genesis 8:4, 5: And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.”

It was 74 days AFTER the ark rested that "the tops of mountains were seen." We believe these were some mountains right around the spot where the ark came to rest. If the writer meant all the mountains in the world, he should have said the tops of the mountains were seen and AFTER this the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat. This is self-evident, for there are MOUNTAINS ALL OVER THE WORLD THAT ARE HIGHER THAN ANY IN THAT LAND THAT WAS ANCIENTLY KNOWN AS ARARAT!" (p. 14).

4. He also wrote, "After it stopped raining and the water began to go back down, the Bible implies the water receded at the rate of 15 cubits in 74 days (Genesis 7:20; 8:4, 5). A number of recognized commentators have mentioned this point. If we figure a cubit at about 18 inches, the water level would have dropped 270 inches during this time or, to round it off, 4 inches a day. If the flood depth was 29,050 feet (348,600 inches) and the water level dropped 4 inches a day, it would take 87,150 days to get back down to normal sea level. That would be almost 239 YEARS!" (p. 17).

5. Another fact is, if there were ALL animals and species in the world went into the ark, some of them do not live a year! Like for example, some incest like bee, male ants, fly, etc. Remember that all of these creatures who were in the ark did not reproduction UNTIL after they came out the ark (Gen. 8:15-17).

6. Another problem arises, God told Noah to bring the creatures into the ark and sort the male and female creatures. If there were every creature in the world, this would require more knowledge than distinguishing between a bull and a cow. What about snakes, ants, termites, snails, etc?

7. What more, how about feeding lions, leopards, tigers, cats, etc.? How much extra animals would be required for all the meat-eating animals? What about the elephants? One elephant eat 44 lbs of grain, 66 lbs of hay, 20 to 70 lbs of turnips, carrots, cabbage or fruit. If an elephant eat 170 lbs of food each day, this would be 62,050 lbs during the year in ark. Don't forget to double those pounds to 124,100 for two elephants! Even some animals like panda (Asia), koala (Australia), and three - toed sloth (South America) require a specialized diet. Did Noah and his family gather some for them? What about the woodpeckers that peck the wood or termites eat the wood! That would be much trouble! =) Did the dinosaurs also included as some would claim?

8. When the rain came, the rivers filled and ran into the seas which rose until the entire world was covered - according the universal flood view-point. All water became salty. Some fish can only live in fresh water and some require water of a certain temperature. I don't suppose Noah provided climate-controlled aquariums for fish! (Woodrow, p. 38-39)

9. If we figure a cubit at 18 inches, this works out to the ark being 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Dividing the height of the ark by 3 (for the three levels) would allow a maximum of 15 feet per level. But we must remember that to support the tremendous weight that would be carried, large beams in floors and ceilings would be required, making actual clearance about 13 feet. The door would have been no higher than this. If huge animals such as African elephants and giraffes (dinosaurs? DH) were involved - as world-wide flood would require - some would have had problems even getting in the door! (Woodrow, p. 44)

10. What I find this very interesting from the writings of Josephus, the noted 1st century Jewish historian. He quoted from Nicolaus of Damascus: "There is a great mountain in Armenia...upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in the ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved. This might be the man about whom Moses the legislator of the Jews wrote." (Antiquity of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 3)

Josephus goes on to say: "Now the sons of Noah were three...these first of all descended from the mountains into the plains, and fixed their habitation there; and PERSUADED OTHERS WHO WERE GREATLY AFRAID OF THE LOWER GROUNDS ON ACCOUNT OF THE FLOOD, and so were very loath to come down from the higher places, to venture to follow their examples. Now the plain in which they first dwelt was called Shinar. God also commanded them to send colonies abroad..." (Antiquity of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 4)

It seems to me that Josephus approved the writing from Nicolaus of Damascus otherwise he would have corrected Nicolaus’ account. Therefore, his understanding of the flood is important because he is the first century Jew who lived contemporary to the time of the writing of the New Testament.

11. There is another interesting thing about the book of Genesis, chapter 4 & 5, mentions TWO family lines that came from Adam. The line of Noah came from Seth. The other line came from Cain. Those who believe in world-wide flood must conclude that all of these were drowned. But there is a problem. The writer of Genesis refers to the descendants of Jabel, Jubal, and Tubal-Cain was STILL LIVING AT THE TIME HE WROTE! (Gen. 4:20-22) Notice there is present tense, not past tense. I will explain a little bit about the line of Seth later.

12. Lastly, the flood, the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth traveled and settled in various countries. "By these were the isles [coastlands] of Gentiles DIVIDED in their lands, every one after their tongues, after their families, in their nations...These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations in their nations: and by these were the nations DIVIDED in the earth after the flood" (Gen. 10:5, 32). Now, if the flood had drowned all but eight people, how can we explain the existence of these nations to which Noah's descendants migrated and which "divided" by them? Therefore, the belief that all nations of the world that came from Noah's three sons are filled with some difficulties because many assumed all races came from them. The Bible says they were scattered because of different languages, not skins or appearances.

I am sure that we have been hearing that Noah was building the ark and preaching for 120 years. Others say that people will not live after 120 year old. Anyway, we read in Genesis 6:3, "And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." Judgment was pronounced upon the people in that land but the Lord was willing to delay this for 120 years. This passage doesn't say anything about a flood, or about building an ark, or about HOW this judgment would be carried.

What I find it interesting from Woodrow: "At this time, 120 years before the flood, Noah would have been 480 years old (for he was 600 at the time of the flood - Gen. 7:11). Later when Noah was 500 years old, his sons were born (Gen. 5:32). And it was later still, AFTER these sons had grown and married, that Noah was told to build the ark. "Make an ark...I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth...and you shall come into the ark, you, AND YOUR SONS, and your wife, AND YOUR SONS' WIVES WITH YOU" (Gen. 6:14-18)."

Clearly, then, it did not take 120 years it build the ark. It is possible that the legend handed down in the book of JASHER - that it took five years (Jasher 5:34) - is correct, but the Bible itself does not say how many years it took.

What about the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4? “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” (NASB) Notice it says “and also afterward” which means they existed after the flood!

In Gen. 6:2, some assumed that “sons of God” were the fallen angels but according to Jesus, they were neither marry nor given in marriage. In other words, in the resurrection, there is no procreation/sex in heaven and they became like the angels in heaven (Matt. 22:30). Also Jesus mentioned about these wicked people in Noah’s day when they were eating, drinking, and marrying (Luke 17:27). So this would rule out the fallen angels. So who were they? We need to go back to previous chapters in Gen. 4. Notice after Cain killed Abel and he was “kicked out” and settled in the land of Nod and married his wife (where he got his wife?). After that, Adam got another son named Seth. Seth got his son named Enosh. Then they began to call upon the name of the LORD (Gen. 4:25-26). These were the descendants of Seth (“sons of God”). Hold that in your thought.

We move into next chapter (Gen. 5) that says, “This is the book of the generations of Adam….” in verse one. Also notice in verse three talks about the birth of Seth and then in verse four he had other sons and daughters. However, it doesn’t mentioned about Adam’s other children (names and ages)! The rest of Gen. 5 talks about the line of Seth until Noah. These people were the “sons of God” or some would call the covenant people. So God was displeased with “sons of God” were mixing with the daughters of men (Cain’s descendants, see Gen. 4:16-24 and/or the Nephilim but they were too big?), just like King Solomon did in his days. God decided to destroy all of the line of Seth except 8 people for their apostasy.

You might wonder about the animals in the ark. Remember there are some animals that listed in the Law of Moses (clean and unclean), not all animal kingdoms in the world, even the dinosaurs. The flood destroyed the land where they from (somewhere near four rivers of Eden), not whole earth.

Also another one during Moses’ time in Numbers 13:33: "There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." (NASB) This is the same Hebrew word in Strong’s #5303. Why they weren't destroyed during the flood? This is a stumbling block for those who hold the global flood.

There are so many problems in such a view which have been overlooked. You might ask about God's covenant that there will never again to destroy all mankind and animals with the flood. That is true; I could say that He would never again destroy ALL people from the line of Seth and animals in THAT local flood.

Basically, the Bible was not written to us. It was written to people who lived long ago. It was understandable to them. We need to get out of our modern mindset, and try to read the Bible as they would have.

I would like to add something in Luke:

17:26 `And, as it came to pass in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man;

17:27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were given in marriage, till the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the deluge came, and destroyed all;

17:28 in like manner also, as it came to pass in the days of Lot; they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building;

17:29 and on the day Lot went forth from Sodom, He rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed all.

17:30 `According to these things it shall be, in the day the Son of Man is revealed;

You see, God destroyed ALL people in the DAY of Noah, in the DAY of Lot and the DAY of Son of Man (during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70) which means locally only, not worldwide. This is more consistent with the preterist view. This is one of many reasons why I am convinced it was a local flood: Sodom and Gomorrah, Egypt, and Jerusalem in AD 70 were destroyed locality. All futurists believe there will be worldwide destruction but they misinterpreted it. Seems to me that is why they think the same thing with the worldwide flood.

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