history extending back to the dawn of life. Evidence proves that it is more than mere history, however. Its unfailing prophecy and deep wisdom demonstrate that it is what it claims to be—God’s communication to mankind. Unlike myths, the Bible includes names and dates as well as genealogical and geographical details in its historical accounts. It gives us a picture of what life was like before the Flood and reveals why a whole world came to a sudden end.
What went wrong with that antediluvian society? The following article considers that question. It is an important question for those who may wonder just how secure the future of our present civilization is.
Why Did That Ancient World Perish?
THE global Deluge was not a natural disaster. It was a judgment from God. Warning was given, but it was largely ignored. Why? Jesus explained: “In those days before the flood, [people were] 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.”—Matthew 24:38, 39.
A Developed Civilization
In certain respects, the pre-Flood civilization enjoyed advantages that we do not have today. For example, all of mankind spoke one common language. (Genesis 11:1) This would have favored achievements in arts and sciences that require the collective effort of many people with diverse skills. Also, the long life span that most people then enjoyed meant that they could continue to build on what they had learned over the centuries.
Some claim that the human life span was not really so long back then and that the years mentioned in the Bible account were really months. Is that true? Well, consider the case of Mahalalel. The Bible says: “Mahalalel lived on for sixty-five years. Then he became father to Jared. . . . All the days of Mahalalel amounted to eight hundred and ninety-five years and he died.” (Genesis 5:15-17) If a year means a month, Mahalalel fathered his son when only five years old! No, people then were closer to the perfect vitality of the first man, Adam. They really did live for centuries. What did they achieve?
Many centuries before the Flood, earth’s population had grown to such an extent that Adam’s son Cain was able to build a city, which he called Enoch. (Genesis 4:17) Down through the pre-Flood ages, a variety of industries developed. There were forges for “every sort of tool of copper and iron.” (Genesis 4:22) Doubtless these tools were used for construction, carpentry, tailoring, and agriculture. All these trades are referred to in the accounts of the earth’s earliest human inhabitants.
Accumulated knowledge would have made it possible for successive generations to develop such specialties as metallurgy, agronomy, rearing sheep and cattle, writing, and the fine arts. Jubal, for example, was “the founder of all those who handle the harp and the pipe.” (Genesis 4:21) Civilization developed extensively. Yet, everything came to a sudden end. What happened?
What Went Wrong?
With all its advantages, pre-Flood society had a bad start. Its founder, Adam, was a rebel against God. Cain, the builder of the first recorded city, murdered his own brother. Little wonder that evil snowballed! The consequences of the defective legacy that Adam left his offspring were cumulative.—Romans 5:12.
Things were evidently coming to a head when Jehovah determined that he would allow the situation to continue just another 120 years. (Genesis 6:3) The Bible says: “The badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time. . . . The earth became filled with violence.”—Genesis 6:5, 11.
In time, Noah was told specifically that God would destroy all flesh in a deluge. (Genesis 6:13, 17) Although Noah became “a preacher of righteousness,” it was evidently difficult for people to believe that everything around them was going to end. (2 Peter 2:5) Only eight people heeded the warning and were saved. (1 Peter 3:20) Why is this important for us today?
What Significance for Us?
We live in times similar to those of Noah. We regularly hear about horrifying acts of terrorism, campaigns of genocide, mass killings by gunmen with little apparent motive, and domestic violence on a shocking scale. The earth has again become filled with violence, and as before, the world has been put on notice of a judgment to come. Jesus himself said that he would come as God’s appointed Judge and separate people as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. Those found unworthy, said Jesus, “will depart into everlasting cutting-off.” (Matthew 25:31-33, 46) The Bible says that this time, however, there will be millions of survivors—a great crowd who worship the only true God. In the world to come, these will enjoy life in permanent peace and security as never before.—Micah 4:3, 4; Revelation 7:9-17.
Many scoff at such Biblical statements and at warnings about the judgment act that will show such statements to be true. But the apostle Peter explained that such cynics are ignoring the facts. He wrote: “In the last days there will come ridiculers . . . saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his?’ . . . For, 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