A World That Was Destroyed
1. (a) Has world destruction ever before faced mankind? (b) Why should we be grateful that Noah did not scoff at warning of it?
ONCE before, world destruction was impending. People of all nations can be grateful that among their ancestors there was a man who did not scoff at God’s warning of a global flood. Because Noah listened and obeyed, he and his wife, his three sons and their wives survived. From them, all of us have descended.—Genesis 10:1, 32.
2. Why did God destroy that world?
2 God destroyed that world because he saw that the earth was full of violence. “The badness of man was abundant in the earth.” (Genesis 6:3, 5, 13) Conditions were very much like those in our 20th century.
3. What had caused the situation to become so serious?
3 What had caused the situation in Noah’s day to become so serious? A significant factor is disclosed at Genesis 6:2, which reports: “The sons of the true God began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking; and they went taking wives for themselves, namely, all whom they chose.” But what was wrong with that? Well, these were not merely human males who decided to get married. These “sons of the true God” were angels, spirit creatures, who observed the beautiful women on earth and the pleasures of marriage and who took on human form. (Compare Job 1:6.) Their materializing human bodies and marrying were acts of disobedience to God. The Scriptures state that they “forsook their own proper dwelling place” and that their relations with women were “unnatural,” a perversion. (Jude 6, 7; 1 Peter 3:19, 20) Their hybrid offspring were abnormally large. These were called Nephilim, or “fellers,” because they were bullies.—Genesis 6:4.
4. (a) Why was Noah shown favor by God? (b) What preparation was made for the preservation of life?
4 Though living in the midst of that corrupt world, Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah. Why? Because “Noah was a righteous man.” He was acquainted with the issues raised in Eden, and he proved to be faultless, “a man of integrity.” (Genesis 6:8, 9; The Jerusalem Bible) With a view to the preservation of Noah and his family, as well as specimens of every kind of land animal and flying creature, Jehovah instructed him to build an ark, a huge chestlike structure. As God explained: “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.” (Genesis 6:13-17) Wisely, Noah listened to God and obeyed.
5. How extensive was the Flood?
5 The Deluge came in the year 2370 B.C.E., as indicated by the Bible’s detailed chronology. It was the greatest cataclysm in human history, even down to the present time. So overwhelming was it that “all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens came to be covered.” (Genesis 7:19) By means of the Deluge “the world of that time suffered destruction.” (2 Peter 3:6) But someone may ask, ‘If even the highest mountains were covered with water, where is all that water now?’ Evidently it is right here on the earth.
6. After the Flood, where did all the water go?
6 It should be realized that the Bible does not say that any mountains in Noah’s day were as tall as Mount Everest. Scientists have said that in the past many of the mountains were much lower than at present and that some have even been pushed up from under the seas. Furthermore, it is believed that there was a time when the oceans themselves were smaller and the continents were larger than they are now, as testified to by river channels extending far out under the oceans. But regarding the present situation, National Geographic magazine, in its issue of January 1945, reported: “There is ten times as much water by volume in the ocean as there is land above sea level. Dump all this land evenly into the sea, and water would cover the entire earth, one and one-half miles deep.” So, after the floodwaters fell, but before the raising of mountains and the lowering of seabeds caused water to drain off the land and before the buildup of polar ice caps, there was ample water to cover “all the tall mountains,” as the Bible states.—Genesis 7:17-20; 8:1-3; compare Psalm 104:8, 9.
7, 8. What record of the Flood is there apart from the Bible?
7 Such an overwhelming global deluge surely must have made a never-to-be-forgotten impression on those who lived through it. Future generations would be told about it. Since the Bible record states that all nations have descended from the same group of Flood survivors, it is reasonable to expect that in all parts of the earth there would be evidence of some early memory of that great cataclysm. Is this the case? Yes, indeed!
8 As the offspring of the Flood survivors migrated to distant places and as time elapsed, details became distorted and the account was adapted to local religious concepts. But it can hardly be a coincidence that in primitive legends around the world there is recollection of a great flood that destroyed mankind with the exception of a few who were preserved together. Memory of this is found in Mesopotamia and other parts of Asia, in Australia and the Pacific islands, among scores of Indian tribes in North and South America, in stories told among the ancient Greeks and the Romans, in Scandinavia, and among African tribes. Many of these accounts make mention of animals’ being preserved in a boat along with humans. Paralleling the Bible record, some relate that birds were sent out to determine when the water had receded. (Compare Genesis 7:7-10; 8:6-12.) No other ancient event is so widely recollected.
9. What practices reflect a recollection of the events of “the second month” on Noah’s calendar?
9 Historical details associated with the Flood have affected customs even down till our day. How? Well, the Bible reports that the Flood began “in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month.” That “second month” corresponds to the latter part of October and the first part of November on our calendar. (Genesis 7:11) It is therefore noteworthy that many people around the world commemorate a Day of the Dead or Feast of Ancestors at that time of year. Why then? Because these customs reflect a memory of the destruction caused by the Deluge.a
10. Why is the Bible account of the Flood most reliable and of the greatest personal value?
10 It is the Bible itself, however, that contains uncorrupted testimony about what occurred. What Noah saw and experienced was later incorporated in the Bible. Centuries later, God himself, when speaking through the prophet Isaiah, referred to “the waters of Noah.” (Isaiah 54:9) God’s firstborn Son observed the events of Noah’s day. Later, when on earth, this One, Jesus Christ, spoke of the Flood as a historical fact and he also explained why so many died at that time.
“THEY TOOK NO NOTE”
11. Why were so many people destroyed in the Flood?
11 Jesus did not say that everyone apart from Noah’s household was criminally violent. Instead, he stated: “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 [Jesus Christ] will be.”—Matthew 24:37-39.
12. Why was their ‘taking no note’ so serious?
12 It was not wrong for them to eat and drink in moderation or to marry honorably. But when warned of global disaster, their continuing to center their lives on such personal pursuits demonstrated that they did not really believe either Noah or Jehovah God, whose message of warning Noah proclaimed. If they had believed, they would have earnestly inquired how survival was possible and then taken urgent action to meet the requirements. Perhaps some of the people agreed that something ought to be done to put a stop to the widespread violence of those days, but a global flood no doubt seemed very unlikely to them. So, as Jesus stated, “they took no note [of God’s message through Noah] until the flood came and swept them all away.” That was recorded as a warning example for us.
13. (a) As foretold, how do many people today react when told that Christ is invisibly present, and why? (b) What does Peter say they are ignoring?
13 The inspired apostle Peter likewise sounded a warning when he wrote: “In the last days [where we now are] there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’” Such persons do not want to feel accountable to anyone. So they push out of their minds the idea of Christ’s presence and what it will mean to those who pursue an ungodly way of life. But Peter continues: “According to their wish, this fact escapes their notice, that there were heavens from of old and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God; and by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water. But by the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.”—2 Peter 3:3-7.
14. Why should fulfillment of “the word of God” at the time of creation and in Noah’s day make us think seriously today?
14 Those who ridicule are ignoring the fact that “the word of God” does not go unfulfilled. To refute their viewpoint, the apostle Peter refers us back to the time of creation. At that time God said: “Let an expanse come to be in between the waters and let a dividing occur between the waters and the waters.” Having made that pronouncement, “God proceeded to make the expanse and to make a division between the waters that should be beneath the expanse and the waters that should be above the expanse.” Thus “the word of God,” his statement of purpose, was fulfilled. (Genesis 1:6, 7) His word was also fulfilled when he decreed a global deluge in Noah’s day and used those waters to destroy “the world of that time.” And it will be by that same irresistible word of God that destruction will come upon the present ungodly system of things.
15. (a) Why is 2 Peter 3:7 not predicting the burning up of planet Earth? (b) Then what are “the heavens” and “the earth” that are “stored up for fire”?
15 What took place at the time of the Flood was a pattern of things to come. The earth was not destroyed back then, but ungodly people were. What, then, is meant by the statement that “the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire”? (2 Peter 3:7; 2:5) Well, what effect would literal fire have on the already intensely hot sun and stars in the physical heavens? And how would burning up the literal earth fit in with God’s purpose to make it a Paradise? Clearly, “the heavens and the earth that are now,” as here referred to, must be symbolic. (Compare Genesis 11:1; 1 Kings 2:1, 2; 1 Chronicles 16:31.) “The heavens” represent the governmental powers raised up above mankind in general, and “the earth” is ungodly human society. In the great day of Jehovah they will be destroyed as completely as if burned in fire. Those who continue to scoff at the divine warning of this put their lives in serious jeopardy.
DELIVERANCE FOR PERSONS OF GODLY DEVOTION
16. As shown at 2 Peter 2:9, what is the key to deliverance?
16 The account of the Flood dramatically illustrates a point that we today need to take to heart. What is that? After referring to what God did in Noah’s day, the apostle Peter concludes: “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.” (2 Peter 2:9) The key to deliverance, then, is being a person of godly devotion.
17. How did Noah give evidence of godly devotion?
17 What does that mean? Noah obviously was a man of godly devotion. “Noah walked with the true God.” (Genesis 6:9) He pursued a course of life that harmonized with Jehovah’s revealed will. He had a close personal relationship with God. Building the ark and gathering specimens of all the birds and animals was a colossal job. Noah did not take a wait-and-see attitude. He had faith. Noah “proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.” (Genesis 6:22; Hebrews 11:7) People needed to be reminded of Jehovah’s righteous ways and warned of coming destruction of the ungodly. Noah did that too as “a preacher of righteousness.”—2 Peter 2:5.
18. Why must each one who survived the Flood have had such devotion?
18 What about Noah’s wife, his sons and their wives—what was required of them? The Bible account focuses special attention on Noah because he was the family head, but the others also must have been persons of godly devotion. Why so? The case of Noah’s children was later cited by Jehovah to his prophet Ezekiel to show that, if Noah were living in Israel at that time, his children could not expect deliverance on the basis of their father’s righteousness. They were old enough to obey or to disobey, so they personally needed to give evidence of their devotion to Jehovah and his righteous ways.—Ezekiel 14:19, 20.
19. So, what should we be doing, and how?
19 In view of the certainty of the impending world destruction, the Bible urges us to keep it close in mind and to prove that we, too, are persons of godly devotion. (2 Peter 3:11-13) From among the descendants of Noah, there are people today in all parts of the earth who are heeding that wise counsel and who will be survivors into the “new earth.”
a The Worship of the Dead (London; 1904), by Colonel J. Garnier, pages 3-8; Life and Work at the Great Pyramid (Edinburgh; 1867), Vol. II, by Professor C. Piazzi Smyth, pages 371-424.