The catastrophic destruction of men and animals by an overwhelming flood in the days of Noah, 2370 B.C.E. This greatest cataclysm in all human history was sent by Jehovah because wicked men had filled the earth with violence. The survival of righteous Noah and his family, eight souls in all, together with selected animals, was by means of a huge ark or chest.—Gen. 6:9–9:19; 1 Pet. 3:20; see ARK No. 1; NOAH No. 1.
EXTENT OF THE DELUGE
This was no local flash flood or cloudburst. Local floods come and go in a matter of days; this one lasted over a year, the greater portion of which was required for the water to subside. How unreasonable to believe that Noah spent perhaps fifty or sixty years building a huge vessel of more than one and a fifth million cubic feet in volume for the survival of his family and a few animals from a mere local flood! If only a comparatively small area was affected, why the need of bringing into the ark specimens of “every living creature of every sort of flesh” in order to “preserve offspring alive on the surface of the entire earth”? (Gen. 6:19; 7:3) Definitely this was a global deluge, the like of which never occurred before or since. “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 [c. 22 feet (6.7 meters)] the waters overwhelmed them and the mountains became covered.” (7:19, 20) “The end of all flesh has come before me,” Jehovah said, hence “I will wipe every existing thing that I have made off the surface of the ground.” And it was just so. “Everything in which the breath of the force of life was active in its nostrils, namely, all that were on the dry ground, died. . . . only Noah and those who were with him in the ark kept on surviving.”—6:13; 7:4, 22, 23.
TIMING OF THE DELUGE
The Deluge did not come suddenly without warning. Years of time were spent building the ark, time that Noah the “preacher of righteousness” also used in warning that wicked generation. Finally the time limit was up “in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month.” The “male and female of every sort of flesh” had been brought into the ark with Noah’s family, as well as a sufficient food supply for all, and “after that Jehovah shut the door.” Then “the floodgates of the heavens were opened.” (Gen. 7:11, 16) An incessant torrential downpour for “forty days and forty nights”; “the waters continued overwhelming the earth” a hundred and fifty days. (7:4, 12, 24) Five months after the downpour began, the ark “came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” (8:4) It was nearly two and a half months later before “the tops of the mountains appeared” (8:5), another three months before Noah removed the ark’s covering to see that the earth had practically drained (8:13), and nearly two months later when the door was opened and once again the survivors set foot on dry ground.—8:14-18.
Noah and his family entered the ark in the 600th year of Noah’s life, the 2d month (October-November), the 17th day. (Gen. 7:11) One year later (a year consisting of 360 days) was the 17th day, 2d month, 601st year. Ten days after that would be the 27th day of the 2d month, when they came out; a total of 370 days, or parts of 371 separate days, spent in the ark. (8:13, 14) In the log that Noah kept, it appears he used months of 30 days each, 12 of them equaling 360 days. In this way he avoided all the complicated fractions involved had he used strictly lunar months consisting of slightly more than twenty-nine and a half days. That such calculations were used in the account is made certain when 150 days is said to equal five months.—7:11, 24; 8:3, 4.
SOURCE OF THE WATERS
It has been said that if all the moisture in the atmosphere were suddenly released as rain it would not amount to even a couple of inches if spread over the earth’s surface. So from what source was this vast deluge of Noah’s day? The account of creation tells how Jehovah made an expanse of atmosphere about the earth, and this expanse formed a division between the waters below it, the oceans, and the canopy of water above it.—Gen. 1:6-8.
Says The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 1964, page 285: “Recently, scientists have discovered a region in the upper atmosphere, called the thermosphere, where temperatures range between 100 and 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (D. R. Bates, ‘Composition and Structure of the Atmosphere,’ The Earth and Its Atmosphere, New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1957, pp. 104-105). High temperature is the chief requisite for retaining a large quantity of water vapor. Furthermore, it is known that water vapor is substantially lighter than air and most of the other gases making up the atmosphere. There is nothing physically impossible, therefore, about the concept of a vast thermal vapor blanket once existing in the upper atmosphere.”
This, then, is what the apostle Peter was talking about when he recounts that there was “an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water,” and that “by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.” (2 Pet. 3:5, 6) Up until the Deluge, the “heavens in ancient times” very evidently had an altogether different appearance than they do today. With the canopy of water vapor a “greenhouse effect” was created that provided even the polar regions with a tropical temperature, as geologists well know existed at one time. With the canopy, there was no need for it to rain, “but a mist would go up from the earth and it watered the entire surface of the ground.” (Gen. 2:5, 6) Not until after the Flood does the Bible first mention the lightning and thunder. Not until after the Flood was a rainbow visible. (9:13) Not until after the Flood does the Bible speak of “cold and heat, and summer and winter.”—8:22.
EFFECT ON EARTH’S SURFACE
With the Deluge great climatic changes came suddenly. Other changes also came, for example, the life-span dropped very rapidly. Some have suggested that the watery canopy prior to the Flood shielded out some of the harmful radiation, and with the canopy gone, free cosmic radiation genetically harmful to man increased. It has also been suggested that such increase in radiation may have accounted for the increase in varieties of bird and animal life within the basic family kinds that emerged from the ark. However, these theories cannot be proved either true or false, for the Bible is silent on the matter. Incidentally, any great change in radiation would have altered the rate of formation of radioactive carbon-14 to such an extent as to invalidate all radiocarbon ages prior to the Flood.
With the sudden collapse of this vast canopy untold billions of tons of water deluged the earth. This great added weight may have caused tremendous changes in earth’s surface. The earth’s crust is very thin (estimated at between twenty [32 kilometers] and one hundred miles [161 kilometers] thick), stretched over a rather plastic mass thousands of miles in diameter. Hence, under the added weight of the water great shiftings in the crust likely came. In time new mountains evidently were thrust upward, old mountains rose to new heights, shallow sea basins were deepened, new shorelines were established so that now four-fifths of the surface is covered with water.
This shifting in the earth’s crust accounts for many geological phenomena, such as the raising of old coastlines to new heights. Mighty hydraulic forces were set on a rampage—angry waves smashing mighty boulders together and drifting them great distances from their native setting, raging waters carving out valleys and canyons in all parts of the earth, tidal waves heaping up strange sedimentary deposits and burying beneath their thick layers the debris of animal and plant life. It has been estimated by some that water pressures alone were equal to two tons per square inch (6.45 square centimeters), sufficient to fossilize fauna and flora quickly.—See The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch, Patten, 1966, p. 62.
With the removal of the insulating canopy the polar regions were suddenly plunged into a deep freeze and many forms of animal life were refrigerated for thousands of years. Glacial pressures were brought into play. However, the great gorges of the earth and the drifts of debris can be accounted for only by irresistible, incompressible water on the rampage, rather than by continental glaciers of so-called ice ages.
Other evidence of a drastic change: Remains of mammoth elephants and rhinoceroses have been found in different parts of the earth. Some of these were found in Siberian cliffs; others were preserved in Siberian and Alaskan ice, and when exposed and thawed out, were eatable. Some of these giants of the animal kingdom were caught so suddenly in the Deluge they were found with undigested food in their stomachs or still unchewed in their teeth. In a cave in Sicily more than twenty tons of bones were recovered in a six-month period, bones of elephants, deer, oxen and hippopotami, which evidently had taken refuge in the cave from the rising water. The fossil remains of many other animals, such as lions, tigers, bears and elk, have been found in a common strata, indicating that all these creatures were destroyed simultaneously; in their case, it was not a matter of gradual deterioration.
Such a cataclysm as the Deluge, which washed the whole world of that time out of existence, would never be forgotten by the survivors. They would talk about it to their children and their children’s children. For five hundred years after the Deluge Shem lived on to relate the event to many generations. He died only ten years before the birth of Jacob. Moses preserved the true account in Genesis. Sometime after the Flood, when God-defying people built the Tower of Babel, Jehovah confused their language and scattered them “over all the surface of the earth.” (Gen. 11:9) It was only natural that these people took with them stories of the Flood and passed them on from father to son. The fact that there are more than ninety different stories about that great Deluge, and that such stories are found among the traditions of many primitive races the world over, is a strong proof that all these people had a common origin and that their early forefathers shared that Flood experience in common.
These folklore accounts of the Deluge agree with some major features of the Biblical account: (1) a place of refuge for a few survivors, (2) an otherwise global destruction of life by water, (3) a seed of mankind preserved. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Chinese, the Druids of Britain, the Polynesians, the Eskimos and Greenlanders, the Africans, the Hindus, the American Indians—all these have their Flood stories. This similarity impressed one traveler who said: “Among the 120 different tribes which I visited in North, South, and Central America, not a tribe exists that has not related to me distinct or vague traditions of such a calamity, in which one, or three, or eight persons were saved above the waters upon the top of a high mountain.”—The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol. II, p. 822.
Certain primitive people (in Australia Fiji and Society Islands, Peru, Mexico and other places) have preserved a possible remnant of these traditions about the Flood by observing a festival in November, a ‘feast to ancestors.’ The Hindus celebrate this festival on the seventeenth day of November, the Egyptians on the seventeenth of Athyr, the same day they say the Flood began.
Stronger evidence of the historicalness of the Deluge than the pagan traditions of primitive people is the endorsement other Bible writers gave under inspiration. The only other place where the same Hebrew word (mab·bulʹ, deluge) occurs outside the Genesis account is in David’s melody where he describes Jehovah as seated “upon the deluge.” (Ps. 29:10) However, other writers make reference to and confirm the Genesis account, as, for example, Isaiah. (Isa. 54:9) Ezekiel also endorses the historicity of Noah. (Ezek. 14:14, 18, 20) Peter draws heavily upon the Deluge account in his letters. (1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet 2:5; 3:5, 6) Paul testifies to the great faith Noah displayed in constructing the ark for the survival of his household. (Heb. 11:7) Luke lists Noah in the lineage of Messiah’s forebears.—Luke 3:36.
And both Luke and Matthew report what Jesus said about the days of the Deluge. Far more than just a simple endorsement of the veracity of the Deluge account, Jesus’ words show the pictorial and prophetic significance of those ancient events. In answer to the disciples’ question, ‘What will be the sign of your presence and the conclusion of the system of things?’ Jesus said, among other things: “For just as the days of Noah were, 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. 24:3, 37-39; Luke 17:26, 27) There is, therefore, abundant evidence from the inspired Holy Scriptures themselves to support the authenticity and genuineness of the Deluge account. It does not rest on mere traditions of men, on the folklore of primitive people, or on geological and archaeological findings.