WHILE giving the prophecy about the sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus said: “Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matthew 24:3, 37) Clearly, Jesus foretold that what is happening in our day has a parallel in Noah’s time. A reliable and accurate account of the events of Noah’s day can prove to be an invaluable treasure.
Is Noah’s log such a treasure? Does it have the marks of a true historical document? Can we really determine when the Flood occurred?
When Did the Flood Occur?
The Bible provides chronological information that allows for a careful count back to the beginning of human history. At Genesis 5:1-29, we find the genealogical line from the creation of the first man, Adam, to the birth of Noah. The Deluge began “in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life.”
To determine the time of the Flood, we need to start with a pivotal date. That is, we must begin with a date that is accepted in secular history and that corresponds to a particular event recorded in the Bible. From such a fixed point, we can make calculations and assign to the Flood a date based on the Gregorian calendar now in common use.
One pivotal date is 539 B.C.E., the year when Persian King Cyrus overthrew Babylon. Secular sources for the time of his reign include Babylonian tablets and documents of Diodorus, Africanus, Eusebius, and Ptolemy. Because of a decree issued by Cyrus, a Jewish remnant left Babylon and arrived in their homeland in 537 B.C.E. That marked the end of Judah’s 70-year desolation, which according to the Biblical record had begun in 607 B.C.E. By taking into account the period of the judges and the reigns of Israel’s kings, we can determine that the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt occurred in 1513 B.C.E. Bible-based chronology takes us back another 430 years to the making of the covenant with Abraham in 1943 B.C.E. Next we must take into account the births and life spans of Terah, Nahor, Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, and Shelah, as well as Arpachshad, who was born “two years after the deluge.” (Genesis 11:10-32) We can thus place the beginning of the Flood in the year 2370 B.C.E.*
The Floodwaters Fall
Before we review the events of Noah’s day, you may wish to read Genesis chapter 7 verse 11 to chapter 8 verse 4. Regarding the downpour, we are told: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life [2370 B.C.E.], in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on this day all the springs of the vast watery deep were broken open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.”
Noah divided the year into 12 months of 30 days each. In ancient times, the first month started about the middle of our calendar month of September. The floodwaters began to fall in “the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month” and continued falling for 40 days and 40 nights during the months of November and December 2370 B.C.E.
Regarding the Deluge, we are also informed: “The waters continued overwhelming the earth a hundred and fifty days. . . . And the waters began receding from off the earth, progressively receding; and at the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters were lacking. And in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” (Genesis 7:24–8:4) So the period from when the waters overwhelmed the earth to the time they receded was 150 days, or five months. The ark thus came to rest on the mountains of Ararat in April of 2369 B.C.E.
Now you may wish to read Genesis 8:5-17. The tops of the mountains appeared nearly two and a half months (73 days) later, “in the tenth month [June], on the first of the month.” (Genesis 8:5)* Three months (90 days) later
What do these precise records involving events, details, and time factors prove? Simply this: The Hebrew prophet Moses, who evidently based Genesis on records he had received, was presenting facts, not a mythical allegory. The Deluge therefore has great significance for us today.
How Did Other Bible Writers View the Flood?
In addition to the Genesis account, there are many references to Noah or the Deluge in the Bible. For example:
(1) The researcher Ezra included Noah and his sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) in the genealogy of the nation of Israel.
(2) The physician and Gospel writer Luke includes Noah when listing the ancestors of Jesus Christ.
(4) The apostle Paul speaks of the great faith that Noah displayed in constructing the ark for the survival of his household.
Can there be any doubt that these inspired Bible writers accepted the Genesis account of the Flood? They unquestionably considered it to be a true event.
Jesus and the Flood
Jesus Christ had a prehuman existence. (Proverbs 8:30, 31) He was a spirit creature in heaven during the Flood. As an eyewitness, Jesus therefore gives us the greatest Scriptural confirmation of Noah and the Deluge. Said Jesus: “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.”
Would Jesus use folklore to warn us about the coming end of this system of things? Hardly! We are confident that he used a genuine example of the execution of divine judgment upon the wicked. Yes, lives were lost, but we can draw comfort from knowing that Noah and his family were saved through the Flood.
“The days of Noah” are highly significant for those living today, during “the presence of the Son of man,” Jesus Christ. As we read the detailed account of the global Flood preserved in a record kept by Noah, we can be certain that it is a genuine historical document. And the divinely inspired Genesis account of the Deluge has great meaning for us. Just as Noah, his sons, and their wives put faith in God’s means of survival, we today can come under Jehovah’s protection on the basis of our faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (Matthew 20:28) Moreover, we can have the hope of being among the survivors of the end of this wicked system of things just as Noah’s log shows that he and his family survived the Flood that brought an end to the godless world of that time.
For details on the dating of the Flood, see Volume 1, pages 458-60, of Insight on the Scriptures, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Keil-Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, page 148, states: “Probably 73 days after the resting of the ark, the tops of the mountains were seen, viz. the tops of the Armenian highlands, by which the ark was surrounded.”
[Box on page 5]
Did They Live That Long?
“ALL the days of Noah amounted to nine hundred and fifty years and he died,” says the Bible. (Genesis 9:29) Noah’s grandfather Methuselah lived for 969 years
God’s original purpose was that man should live forever. The first man, Adam, was created with the opportunity to enjoy a span of life that would never end if he was obedient to God. (Genesis 2:15-17) But Adam disobeyed and forfeited that opportunity. After 930 years of existence, spent in the slow process of dying, Adam returned to the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:19; 5:5) The first man passed on the inheritance of sin and death to all his offspring.
Still, the people who lived in that time period were closer to Adam’s original perfection and apparently for this reason enjoyed greater longevity than those further removed from it. Hence, the human life span approached a thousand years during the pre-Flood period, dropping rapidly after the Deluge. Abraham, for example, lived only 175 years. (Genesis 25:7) And some 400 years after that faithful patriarch’s death, the prophet Moses wrote: “In themselves the days of our years are seventy years; and if because of special mightiness they are eighty years, yet their insistence is on trouble and hurtful things.” (Psalm 90:10) The situation today is much the same.
[Chart/Pictures on page 6, 7]
Counting Backward From Cyrus’ Decree Allowing the Jews to Return From Exile to the Flood of Noah’s Day
537 Cyrus’ decree*
539 The overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus
607 70-year desolation of Judah begins
906 years of
1513 Israel’s Exodus from Egypt
430 years 430-year period when the sons of Israel
dwelt in the land of Egypt and in Canaan
1943 Validating of the Abrahamic covenant
2148 The birth of Terah
2370 Beginning of the Flood
Cyrus’ proclamation for the release of the Jews from exile was made “in the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia,” likely in the year 538 B.C.E. or early in 537 B.C.E.