A Worldwide Flood—What Does It Mean to You?
UNTIL the middle of the nineteenth century most people in Christendom believed that a worldwide flood had once snuffed out almost all earthly life. The best-known account of this is found in the Holy Bible, which states that only eight humans and selected animals survived the Flood in an “ark,” or a massive floating chest.
Today it is popular for people to view the Flood as a myth. Many Bible scholars claim that it recollects a merely local inundation of ancient times, perhaps in the area of Mesopotamia.
Did the Biblical flood really occur? How extensive was it? What does that event mean to people living today?
The Flood, According to the Bible
The Bible’s first book, Genesis, sets forth the details of the Flood. In Genesis, chapter 6, we note that conditions in the world had deteriorated to the point that God said: “And as for me, here I am bringing the deluge of waters upon the earth to bring to ruin all flesh in which the force of life is active from under the heavens. Everything that is in the earth will expire.” (Gen. 6:17) God provided for the preservation of the human family and the animal kingdom by commanding Noah to build an ark, or oblong chest, 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high.—Gen. 6:14, 15.
Do you realize how large that vessel was? If we calculate according to the conservative estimate of 17.5 inches per cubit, the ark measured 437 feet 6 inches by 72 feet 11 inches by 43 feet 9 inches. As the ark was divided into three levels, it would have a total of more than 91,000 square feet of floor space and an overall capacity of 1.2 million cubic feet. That is enough space for 445 standard railroad boxcars, or 10 trains of some 44 cars each. Would it be necessary to build such a massive structure to survive a local flood? Could not Noah simply have moved to an area unaffected by a local flood? Let us note carefully what the Bible, at Genesis 7:11, 12, 17-24, says as to the extent of the Flood:
“All the springs of the vast watery deep were broken open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And the downpour upon the earth went on for forty days and forty nights. . . . and the waters kept increasing and began carrying the ark and it was floating high above the earth. And the waters became overwhelming and kept increasing greatly upon the earth, but the ark kept going on the surface of the waters. And the waters overwhelmed the earth so greatly that all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens came to be covered. Up to fifteen cubits the waters overwhelmed them and the mountains became covered.
“So all flesh that was moving upon the earth expired, among the flying creatures and among the domestic animals and among the wild beasts and among all the swarms that were swarming upon the earth, and all mankind. Everything in which the breath of the force of life was active in its nostrils, namely, all that were on the dry ground, died. Thus he wiped out every existing thing that was on the surface of the ground, from man to beast, to moving animal and to flying creature of the heavens, and they were wiped off the earth; and only Noah and those who were with him in the ark kept on surviving. And the waters continued overwhelming the earth a hundred and fifty days.”
Does a local flood fit that description? The book The Genesis Flood observes: “It would not have been possible for water to cover even one high mountain in the Near East without inundating Australia and America too!” The same publication then quotes the observation of well-known Hebrew scholar S. R. Driver:
“It is manifest that a flood which would submerge Egypt as well as Babylonia must have risen to at least 2000 ft. (the height of the elevated country between them), and have thus been in fact a universal one . . . a flood, on the other hand, which did less than this is not what the Biblical writers describe.”
The Christian Greek Scriptures, which include the testimony of Jesus Christ, confirm that the Flood was world wide. (Matt. 24:37-39; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5; 3:6) Does the earth bear testimony to such a deluge? What would one look for?
Effects of Water in Motion
River floods in recent times give an idea of the enormous power of water in motion. A publication of the United States Department of Agriculture says of certain floods in the state of Utah: “[They] destroyed houses . . . and deposited debris to a depth of several feet, including boulders of all sizes up to 20 tons in weight. Some larger boulders were moved about 1000 feet from the canyon’s mouth down a 4° gradient. Several of these weigh from 75 to 100 tons each, and two, previously mentioned, weigh 150 and 210 tons respectively.”
The opening of “the floodgates of the heavens” does not refer to a simple rainstorm. (Gen. 7:11) It meant the pouring down of thousands of millions of gallons of water that had been suspended in the upper atmosphere as a globe-encircling water canopy, which the Bible called “the waters . . . above the expanse.” (Gen. 1:6, 7) The weight of these additional waters plunging earthward would surely contribute to considerable tectonic movements. Shifting and buckling of earth’s crust would generate immense tsunami waves that would sweep across land areas. According to an article in Scientific American, waves churned up by a storm at Cherbourg, France, “hurled 7,000 pound stones over [a] wall and moved 65-ton concrete blocks 60 feet.”
Is There Worldwide Evidence?
Do we see similar effects of flooding throughout the earth? A. M. Rehwinkel gives an example in his book The Flood:
“Large masses of granite and hard metamorphic rock, for example, which can be traced to Scandinavia, are scattered over the plains of Denmark and northern Germany. Some of these blocks are of an immense size, weighing thousands of tons. The same phenomenon is found here in America in the New England States and in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, in eastern and western Canada, and elsewhere. . . . In many cases the distance over which they have been transported is very great, and sometimes they are found at an elevation apparently much higher than their source.”
Some have theorized that these huge masses of stone were carried to their present locations on top of glaciers during an ice age. “However, these boulders are also found in warmer climates far from any signs of glaciation. For example, in Southern California,” notes the book Target: Earth. Too, glaciers cannot account for many of these “erratic” rock masses resting on ground higher, sometimes thousands of feet higher, than their apparent original location. “And there is still another problem connected with the erratics for which the glacial theory has no satisfactory answer,” observes Rehwinkel:
“And that is the question of the mixture of rocks in one locality brought there from sources lying in opposite directions. This phenomenon has been observed in several places of the earth. One of them is in Saxony, where rocks are found lying together of which some had their source in Scandinavia in the north, while others were carried there from some source in the south. . . . Moving ice cannot accumulate boulders from opposite directions and deposit them together at one place.”
“All Flesh . . . Expired”
According to the book of Genesis, outside the ark “all flesh that was moving upon the earth expired” during the worldwide flood. (Gen. 7:21) Is there widespread evidence of such a watery destruction of living creatures?
Interestingly, in the United States, England, France, southern Spain, Germany, Russia and elsewhere huge fissures in the earth have been found filled with the remains of large numbers of animals. They include mixtures of bones of the elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, reindeer, horse, hog, bear, and many others. One such cavern near Palermo, Sicily, yielded more than twenty tons of bones for commercial purposes. Often these fissures are located on isolated hills at considerable height where animals would be expected to flee from floodwaters that “kept increasing greatly upon the earth.” (Gen. 7:18) With regard to the variety of animal remains found in one bone cave, the book Earth’s Most Challenging Mysteries asks:
“What made rabbits run into the same cave as coyotes? And an antelope with a wolverine and a grizzly? Bones of the mastodon were found, also a few reptiles . . . The whole mass of bones was covered and preserved by a flood deposit of gravel and rocks.”
An extraordinary testimony to the widespread watery destruction of animal life is the remains of the mammoths found throughout northern Siberia and into Alaska. Hundreds of thousands (some estimate as many as 5,000,000) of these creatures were rapidly buried and quick-frozen in icy muck. They are sometimes found in a near-perfect state of preservation, with undigested tropical vegetation in their stomachs and between their teeth. As to the type of catastrophe that could sweep away creatures over so widespread an area, Earth’s Most Challenging Mysteries observes:
“There is one significant fact that is always connected with every dinosaur fossil and every mammoth fossil, and that is that every fossil is almost invariably dug out of water-laid sedimentary rock. Every fossil is either dug out of shale, which is just floodwater mud hardened into rock, or out of floodwater sand hardened into sandstone, or frozen into permafrost.”
Target: Earth notes with regard to the Yukon district of North America: “The presence of bones, trees, peat, and other debris all mixed together down to a depth of nearly 100 feet, points to a cataclysmic flood of tremendous proportions that must have moved across the land, grinding the bodies of the animals with stones and trees and spreading the whole out over the Yukon Valley.”
And when the destruction had been accomplished, what happened to the floodwaters? A sinking of the sea basins would cause the waters to collect there, allowing dry land to appear again. (Compare Psalm 104:8.) In the oceans today there is more than enough water to have accomplished what the Bible describes; 71 percent of the earth’s surface is water, with an average depth of two and a half miles.
Human Testimony to an Earth-wide Flood
A worldwide flood would surely make a deep impression in the memories of those who survived it. It is only reasonable that they related this event to their offspring. Since it was from “the families of the sons of Noah,” the builder of the ark, that “the nations were spread about in the earth after the deluge,” we would expect to find references to the Flood in the traditions of different peoples. (Gen. 10:32) Is there such testimony to a worldwide flood?
In his book Die Sintflut in Sage und Wissenschaft (The Deluge in Legend and Science) Dr. Johannes Riem of Germany notes: “Among all traditions there is none so general, so widespread on earth, . . . as the Flood tradition.” Some 150 separate flood legends have been found from every part of the earth, including ancient Greece, Rome, India, Australia, and the Americas. Though these legends differ in details, there is remarkable agreement on basic points. For example: (1) There was a moral cause of the Flood, namely, man’s wickedness; (2) Global destruction of the human race took place; (3) One man was forewarned and saved himself and a few others in an ark or boat. The Historical and Critical Commentary of the Old Testament: Genesis says:
“The harmony between all these accounts is an undeniable guarantee that the tradition is no idle invention; a fiction is individual, not universal; that tradition has, therefore, a historical foundation; it is the result of an event which really happened in the ages of the childhood of mankind.”
What Does the Flood Mean to You?
Abundant, indeed, is the evidence of a worldwide flood. What does this mean?
First of all, it reveals the Creator, Jehovah, as a righteous God who “did not hold back from punishing an ancient world” that had sunk to the depths of wickedness. (2 Pet. 2:5; Gen. 6:5-7, 11-13) It underscores God’s faithfulness in fulfilling what he promises to do, and his loving interest in mankind by providing both advance warning and a way to escape the Deluge. (1 Pet. 3:20) But that is not all.
“For just as the days of Noah were,” said Jesus Christ, “so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”—Matt. 24:37-39.
The Bible’s time schedule and the fulfillment of numerous prophecies indicate that the invisible “presence” in Kingdom power of Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” began in 1914 C.E. The present generation, therefore, faces a global “great tribulation” that will wipe out the present violent and morally corrupt system of things and that will outstrip even the worldwide flood of Noah’s day. (Matt. 24:3-34) Will you be among the “great crowd” who survive that tribulation?—Rev. 7:9, 14.
That depends upon whether you act on the advance warning as did Noah and his family. Will you take the time to study the Bible and find out what God’s will is for people today? Doing so can mean survival of the “great tribulation” into a paradisaic new order.—Rev. 21:4, 5.