Copyright, John T. Stevenson, 2000


In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. (Genesis 7:11).

Genesis presents itself as a historical book. Absent is the "once upon a time" formula of fairytales. Instead we are given the language of precise historical records.



Even a cursory look at the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 indicate a great difference in the average life span of mankind before the Flood to what it is today.




































Praise of God


















Man of the Javelin













Noah is said to have lived to be a total of 950 years old. A notable and dramatic change takes place after Noah. Was this one of the judgments of God upon the post-diluvian world? Was it the result of different ecological conditions? We do not know. The Bible does not tell us.

It is perhaps significant that the oldest names from the Sumerian King lists also reflect very lengthy ages among those kings (some of the kings were said to have lived for over 20,000 years).

The meaning of the name "Methuselah" has been the subject of some disagreement among scholars.

(1) A weapon (Javelin).

(2) To send.

Thus, the name can either mean, "When the weapon is used" or else it can mean, "When he sends." Still another possibility is that there is a double meaning to the name.

Notice that, if we read this as a strict chronology, the Flood came the same year that Methuselah died. Perhaps his name was a prophecy - that his death would send the avenging weapon of the Lord upon the earth.



Genesis 4 gives us a brief glimpse into the society and culture of mankind before the Flood.

1. Cities (Genesis 4:17).

And Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. (Genesis 4:17).

After the murder of his brother, Cain was banished from society; so he went out at formed a new society with a city of his own. This city and other cities of the antediluvian world are unknown to archaeology.

The earliest city found by archaeologists to date is Jericho. Its ruins have been estimated at 7000 B.C. in the pre-pottery era. This early city consisted of a single wall, a tower and several round huts. There does not seem to have been a written language at that early date.

Later settlers at this site were not more advanced. Indeed, they were less advanced, except that they used pottery.

2. Polygamy (Genesis 4:19).

And Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. (Genesis 4:19).

Although polygamy had not been expressly forbidden, it was evidently contrary to the divine design. The Mosaic Law would prohibit kings of Israel from multiplying wives (Deuteronomy 17:17).

3. Nomadic herdsmen (Genesis 4:20).

And Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. (Genesis 4:20).

Tent-dwellers represented an advancement to stationary living. They were the equivalent of the travel-trailer. They were able to pull up stakes and travel to greener pastures.

4. Musical instruments (Genesis 4:21).

And his brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. (Genesis 4:21).

5. Bronze and iron (Genesis 4:22).

As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron. (Genesis 4:22a).

Bronze (Nechosheth) is an alloy of copper mixed with about 10% tin which increases its strength (the greater the ratio of tin, the lower the melting point).

Examples of copper implements date back as early as 6000 B.C. while bronze artifacts have been dated at 3700 B.C.

Iron (Barzel), on the other hand, is a more recent discovery. Iron beads have been found in Egyptian jewelry as early as 3400 B.C. and is thought by many to have been used even earlier. But it was not until 1400 that the Hittites developed a closely guarded monopoly of smelting the iron ore which they mined from the mountains of eastern Anatolia.



"Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.

"And this is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height thirty cubits.

"You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks." (Genesis 6:14-16).

There have been a number of reports in the last hundred years of people claiming to have seen the Ark on Mount Ararat. Unfortunately, not a single one has been substantiated with clear photographs and some of these claims are contradictory as to the Ark's location.

1. The Word "Ark."

The Hebrew word is Tebah. This same word is used in Exodus 2:3-5 to refer to the ark that the mother of Moses used to hide her child. It is thought to be an Egyptian loan-word to describe a box.

2. The Size of the Ark.

The dimensions of the ark are given in cubits. A cubit was the distance from a man's elbow to the tip of his fingers - generally about 18 inches. There was also a royal cubit which was a few inches longer (kings suffered from the same malady known to Texans - they liked to be thought of as bigger than everyone else).

Assuming the standard cubit, we are left with the following dimensions:












It has often been noted that these are the dimensions of an ocean-going barge.

3. The Building Materials.

The ark was to be made of gopher - (translated as "gopher wood"). Rather than a translation, this is actually a transliteration. The word is a hapax legomena - it is not used elsewhere in the Bible. This makes it difficult to determine what type of wood it is.

It is more likely that this is either an Akkadian or a Sumerian loan word - a term that was borrowed from a different language group.

Noah was also told to "cover it inside and outside with pitch" (6:14). This literally reads "COVER it within and without in COVERING." The word for "cover" is kapher. It is the same word that describes the act of atonement. Indeed, we still use the same word today when we speak of the Jewish Festival of Yom Kippur.



In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. (Genesis 7:11).

It is evident from the chronological formula given that we are meant to understand this as an actual historical event. But what is the nature of this event?

The phrase that NAS has translated "floodgates of the sky" is (Aruboth haShama'im) and is more properly "windows of heaven." This exact same term is found in Malachi 3:10 where the Lord is pictured as opening the windows of heaven to pour out blessings on His people (this kind of usage is also seen in 2 Kings 7:2,19). The idea of the windows from above being opened in order to bring destruction is pictured in Isaiah 24:18.

Then it will be that he who flees the report of disaster will fall into the pit, and he who climbs out of the pit will be caught in the snare; for the windows above are opened, and the foundations of the earth shake. (Isaiah 24:18).

In the same way, "all the fountains of the great deep" has its parallels such as Deuteronomy 4:18 where we read of fish that are "in the water below the earth." Thus, the picture is that of the sky and the ocean loosening their bonds so that their waters fall upon the land.

Was this a world-wide flood or was it merely limited to the geographical area of Mesopotamia?

1. Arguments for a Universal Flood.

a. The depth of the flood.

Genesis 7:19-20 says that ALL the high mountains which were under ALL the heavens were covered by the waters of the flood.

The peak of Mount Ararat extends to an elevation of around 17,000 feet. If only this one single peak was covered, then most of the world would also be covered.

b. The duration of the flood.

The flood is said to have lasted 371 days - a little over a year. Local floods do not last this long.

c. The need for the ark.

If the flood was to be merely confined to a certain isolated area, it would not have necessitated Noah spending all that time and effort in building the ark. He could have moved to high ground.

d. The testimony of the Apostle Peter.

...the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.

But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:6-7).

Peter's words imply a total destruction of the enter world.

2. Arguments for a Local Flood.

a. HaAretz is "the land."

The Hebrew word which is translated "the world" throughout the flood narrative (HaAretz) can be translated "the land."

"The LAND of Nod" (Genesis 4:16).

"In the LAND of Shinar" (Genesis 10:10).

"Out of that LAND went forth Asshur" (Genesis 10:11).

"Go forth from your COUNTRY, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the LAND which I will show you..." (Genesis 12:1).

"And in you all the families of the EARTH shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3).

Each of these instances uses the same basic word. It can refer to the entire world, or it can merely refer to a certain area of land.

By the same token, when the Bible says that the world was covered by water, we need not take this to refer to the entire planet earth. It could merely be a reference to that land area.

b. Universalist terms can be used in a limited sense.

The Scriptures sometimes use terms like "all" and "every" in a way which is understood to be a limited sense. We need not go very far to prove this point. Note the following verses:

The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of ALL living (Genesis 3:20).

Was Eve the mother of all life? Or merely the mother of all HUMAN life? If we are to understand her to be the mother only of human life, then we must agree that this universal term is used in a limited sense.

"Of EVERY living thing of ALL flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark..." (Genesis 6:19).

Most people who advocate a universal flood do not take this command to refer to ocean animals (no goldfish bowls on the ark). Thus even the universalist understands that there are times when universal language is used in a limited sense. Therefore when we read of every living thing being destroyed in the flood, we can understand it to refer to the living land animals in that particular area, not necessarily to a flood which covered the entire planet.

c. Where did the water go?

Mount Everest rises over 5 miles above sea level. There are many other mountains in the world which are over the 3 mile height.

For flood waters to cover the earth would mandate that either the mountains were not there (thus they would have to be VERY recent in origin) or else that water came from some supernatural source and then went away again. Another possibility would be that the ocean beds somehow sank to collect the excess water.

It is interesting to note that sediment deposits have been found underneath the Sumerian ruins at Ur, at Fara and at Kish, lending some credence to the theory of a local flood.

3. Summary.



The Biblical account says that the waters covered the whole earth.

The word aretz is often used to describe a local area.

The Biblical language goes out of its way to use language of totality.

The account is given from the viewpoint of the narrator is from his perspective the destruction is total.

The size of the ark indicates that this was no local flood. A vessel of this size would not have been needed to escape a local flood.

The size of the ark is not related to the extent of the flood. The building of the ark was a matter of faith, not of pragmatism.

The purpose of the ark was punishment of world-wide sin. In a local flood some could have escaped.

God could have made certain all flesh was destroyed without flooding the entire globe.

There are world-wide traces of a flood to be found in ocean fossils on mountaintops.

The evidence is scattered and sometimes seemingly inconsistent.

The promise of no future floods (Gen. 9:15) is not true if this is only a local flood.

The promise is for no flood to "destroy all flesh."



A number of "Flood Traditions" have come down to us from a number of ancient cultures. The most popular of these in the one found in the Gilgamesh Epic.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a long Akkadian poem on the theme of human beings' futile quest for immortality. A number of earlier Sumerian stories about Gilgamesh, the quasi-historical hero of the epic, were used as sources, but the Akkadian work was composed about 2000 BC. It exists in several different recensions, none of them complete.

In the story, Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu seek immortality through fame, but when Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh finds that fame to be hollow. Unable to accept the finality of death, he goes to Utnapishtim, the Babylonian counterpart of the biblical Noah, to learn the secret of his immortality.

This interview takes place on the 5th of seven tablets. Utnapishtim tells the story of how he was spared the destruction of the great flood through the building of a giant square barge.

Utnapishtim goes on to explain that he received eternal life due to the unique circumstances of the flood, but he consoles the dejected Gilgamesh with news about a plant of life. A snake swallows the plant before Gilgamesh can use it, however, and he finally returns home, reluctantly accepting death without future resurrection as inevitable.

What are we to make of the fact that a document predating the book of Genesis by hundreds of years also contains a story of the flood with many of the same aspects of the Biblical account? Some have argued that this is proof that the Biblical narratives were adopted from pagan myths and have no bearing on the truth. I believe that it demonstrates just the opposite. It is an independent testimony to the truth of the actual events.

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