The Flood: Universality; The Ark
Genesis Lesson #045
March 17, 2004
The issue we are looking at is whether the flood was universal or local. There is no need for the ark of this size to be built if it is just a local flood. If Noah has a 100-year warning of the flood, why not just move if it is local? Furthermore, if it was a local flood why would he need to build an ark the size described in the Scriptures, which is roughly 450 feet by 75 feet? According to all the biblical information this would not have been the kind of vessel that would be built to handle a local flood.
Genesis 7:1, "And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." The emphasis in this verse is on the character of Noah. He is righteous, and as we have seen this righteousness was positional righteousness by virtue of his faith in Christ as presented in the Old Testament. His inheritance that is related to this in Hebrews 11:7 is related to his spiritual growth which qualifies him for his inheritance. It has been emphasized that we as believers receive imputed righteousness from God at the instant of salvation, but it is what we do with our spiritual life that is the basis for our inheritance in terms of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ.
Genesis 7:2, 3, "Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth." What we have here is two categories of animals, clean and unclean. Since Moses does not take time to define how we know which is which here we can assume that it follows the categorization that is laid out in Deuteronomy chapter fourteen for the Jews in the Mosaic law. There we have a clear definition of what was clean and what was unclean. What we are dealing with here is clean and unclean kinds, and a kind is not a species. This is a mistake that is often made by people who critique the Bible. The purpose here is to keep the offspring alive on the face of the earth. Well if it is not a world-wide, universal cataclysm that is going to destroy everything else, why would you need to take anything on the ark? What this tells us is that every animal that we see today goes back to the animals that were on the ark.
Verse 4, "For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth." Note the terms that indicate universality. So God is going to get them all on the ark a week before the rains begin to fall and before the flood begins.
Verse 5, "And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him." This is the faith-rest drill. Notice that the faith-rest drill isn't sitting back and trusting God and waiting for something to happen. He trusts God and he gets on the ark. There is a passive aspect to the faith-rest drill and there is an active aspect. If the Bible is telling us to do something, such as pray without ceasing, then we not only trust God and claim the promise but we keep praying. Noah trusts God to deliver him and he builds the ark; he trusts God to provide for him and he gets in the ark. He does according to everything that God had commanded him. This is the act of obedience.
Starting in verse 6 we get the chronology of the flood. This, again, demonstrates that this couldn't be just some little local flood. They enter the ark seven days before the flood begins. "And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth." There is some discussion about what kind of calendar was being used but it really doesn't matter. The chronology here is based on Noah's birthday. And in verse 7 there is repetition again" "And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood." This is repeated from 6:18 and is repeated again in 7:13. Whenever we find that much repetition God the Holy Spirit is doing it for emphatic reasons. Just eight of them entered the ark because of the water of the flood.
Verse 9, "There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah." There is something supernatural going on here because God brought these animals to Noah. Questions have been asked as to how certain animals arrived there, and how they crossed the sea, etc. First of all, we have to realize that the land masses weren't the same as they are today. The earth looked vastly different. In fact, there may not have even been a division of the land mass between the western hemisphere and the eastern hemisphere. That separation and the continental drift probably occurred during the time that the earth was covered by the flood waters, if not immediately afterward. Secondly, we have to realize that the operational terms here is kinds, and that all that was needed was a kind to get on the ark. It is probable that God just supernaturally moved these animals to the ark because of just the massive problem of handling all of those animals.
Verses 10, 11, "And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In 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 [burst open], and the windows of heaven were opened." The phrase "all the fountains of the deep burst open" tells us a lot. Where did all of this water come from? We saw back in Genesis 1&2 that the hydrospheres in the early earth were quite different from what they are today. Somewhere out beyond the atmosphere there was this vast collection of water. We don't know how that was collected, whether it was solid, whether it was frozen, whether it was ice crystals, whether it was just outside the earth's atmosphere—something like Venus where there is a complete cloud cover on the planet—or whether it was further out. But somewhere out surrounding the planet there was this vast amount of water. Then there were these underground channels on the earth. There was no rain on the earth during that time. In Genesis chapter two we are told that the earth was watered by a mist. So apparently there were these underground channels and caverns where water was cycled underground, and that was how the earth was watered. What happened at the flood is these underground channels burst open. This was not just happening in one place but all over the earth.
Verse 12, "And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights." All of the water that came on to the earth was then absorbed and now fills up the various ocean basins of the earth. But there was a different system before the flood. Notice that first the fountains of the deep burst open, then the flood gates of the sky are opened. That would make sense when there were all these tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of volcanoes erupting simultaneously, throwing enormous amounts of volcanic ash into the upper atmosphere which then provides a mechanism for water vapor to condense on and precipitate out on to the earth. So it is in the right order. If the writer had reversed it, it wouldn't fit the scientific scenario.
Verses13, 14, "In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; they, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort." This goes back to day one, we have repetition. Every beast after his kind are the wild animals; all the cattle after their kind are the domesticated animals.
Verse 15, "And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life." So this excludes fish.
Verse 16, "And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in." It is God who closes and seals the door. It is God who protects us in salvation. This is a type of our eternal security. God put Noah in the ark, sealed him in, and supernaturally protects and secures him through this event.
Verse 17, "And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth." What we have here is a description of a rapid rise. Remember the ark is more than forty feet high and is heavily loaded.
Verse 19, "And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered." The verb that is translated "prevailed" is the Hebrew word gabar which is related to the word for a mighty man or warrior. It means to prevail or to rise or to exercise power. The mountains of the antediluvian world were not as high as the mountains we have today. For example, Ararat is over 17,000 feet high; Everest is over 29,000 feet high. There is not enough water on the earth today to cover them with the ocean basins as deep as they are today and the mountains as high as they are. However, if everything was leveled then water would cover the entire earth to a depth of 10,000 feet. There is an interesting scenario in Psalm 104:5-9, "Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. They go up by the mountains [this should read 'the mountains went up']; they go down by the valleys [should read 'the valleys went down'] unto the place which thou hast founded for them. Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth." These verses are talking about the flood, not creation. If they were talking about creation then God setting a boundary was violated at the flood. It is at the flood that the boundary is set when God promises that there will no longer be a flood. So the Hebrew in verse 8 should be translated, "The mountains went up" and the valleys went down," indicating that at the time of the flood there were these massive geologic pressures that push up the mountains as well as create the deep valleys into which the oceans and the water would flow at the end of the flood.
Verse 20, "Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered." Fifteen cubits is 22 feet, which is apparently the draught of the ark. This would allow the ark to pass over all of the land and not become grounded.
Verses 21-23, "And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of 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." Same terminology that we have in Genesis 2, neshamah. Life is related to breathing. "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 the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark."
Verse 24, the next chronological notation. "And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days." So there was a period of 110 days of rising water and forty days where it was stable. This is approximately five months. This is when the ark rests but it is another six or seven months before they can come out of the ark. So this tells us that this is when there was all of the geologic upheaval going on underneath the water.
Genesis 8:1, ""And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged." This doesn't mean God forgot Noah, it is simply a figure of speech, an anthropomorphism, indicating that God now turns His attention to Noah.
Verses 2, 3, "The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; and the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated." Then in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month the ark comes to rest on Mount Ararat.
Verse 14, "And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried." They were on the ark for a little over a year. So this is not some little local flood episode or none of it makes sense. It becomes totally absurd if we don't take it literally.
1) Using the principle of a plain, literal hermeneutic this passage can only refer to a universal flood.
2) Expressions involving the universality of the flood and its effects, such as "all" and "every" and words of that nature, occur more than 30 times in Genesis 6-9.
3) A forty-day rain would be impossible under current meteorological conditions.
4) The term of the flood in the Hebrew is mabbul, and is used exclusively of Noah's flood, never of any other event in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word sheteph, which is the word for a local flood, is not used anywhere regarding Noah's flood. Mabbul is used in Genesis 6-11 and in Psalm 29:10.
5) The construction, outfitting and stocking of the ark would be unnecessary for a local flood. Why not just move?
6) All the mountains "under the whole heaven" were inundated and under at least fifteen cubits of water. This indicates a world-wide event.
7) The mountains are all covered, and the word there is kasah which means to overwhelm, to conceal, to cover, and it is used sometimes of putting on clothes. Genesis 7:19 says all of the mountains were concealed.
8) The text uses a double superlative: all the high mountains under all the heavens. That is not a local idea.
9) In a local flood the animals could escape or be taken to another area.
10) In verse 21: you have to save some to preserve the gene pool of each kind. In verses 10 every man dies in accordance with the purpose of the flood. In a local flood most people would escape.
11) All that possessed the breath of the spirit of life died.
12) No local flood would continue to rise for 150 days. And as soon as it stops raining the water starts to go down. But what we have here is that the water keeps going up.
13) Even after the waters begin to abate and the ark grounded on the highest of the mountains, Ararat, it is another two and a half months before the tops of other mountains could be seen. That wouldn't be true in a local flood.
14) Even after four months of receding flood waters the dove sent out by Noah could find no dry land on which to land.
15) It is an entire year or a little more before enough land had been exposed to permit the occupants to leave the ark.
16) The New Testament uses a unique term, KATAKLUSMOS to describe the flood, not the usual Greek word for flood. So neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament use local flood terminology to describe Noah's flood.
17) New cosmological and meteorological conditions come into existence after the flood. There are now sharply defined seasons, according to Genesis 8:22. There is now a rainbow that is a promise that God will not cause this kind of flood again. But if this kind of flood is a local flood then God breaks His promise about every spring
18) Man's longevity began a long, slow decline immediately after the flood.
19) Later biblical writers accept the idea that this was a universal flood, both Old Testament writers as well as Jesus, and New Testament writers accept this as a world-wide flood. If it is not, then that impugns the veracity of a lot of Scripture.
20) The Lord Jesus Christ accepted the historicity and universality of the world-wide flood, even making it the climactic sign and type of the coming world-wide judgment at the end of the Tribulation when He returns. Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:27, 27.