WHAT DOES THE
BIBLE TEACH ABOUT THE FLOOD?
The Bible teaches in Genesis chapters six through nine that God sent a great flood on the earth and destroyed every human being who lived at that time, with the exception of eight people who survived on a great ship called an ark. There has been much speculation about this flood. Did it happen? If it did happen, was it really a world-wide flood or was it just a local or regional flood? I ask you to set aside whatever preconceived ideas you may have about this flood, or what you may have read or heard about it, and study with me what the Bible teaches concerning this event.
Let us begin with Genesis 6:1-3: "Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the LORD said, 'My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.'" This account tells us that men began to multiply on the face of the earth. Most conservative Bible scholars put the date of the flood 1656 years after the creation. If this is accurate, humankind had plenty of time to populate the earth in obedience to God's command. That command is recorded in Genesis 1:28 where God told Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it..." Someone once said, "this is the only command that God gave to humankind that we, as a whole, have actually obeyed." As we shall see, the Bible account of the flood teaches that people did obey God's command to fill the earth and did so by the time of the flood.
One author has estimated the population previous to the flood to be around ten trillion. I know that sounds like an unbelievable amount, but before you express doubt about this please read the following article: Population Growth - How Many Died In Noah's Flood? Also read, Population Growth - Is Ten Trillion Flood Deaths Reasonable? Another author has estimated a population of between 5 and 10 billion: Population of the Pre-Flood World. See also, World Population Since Creation. I am not a mathematician and I can't vouch for the accuracy of the conclusions of the authors of these studies. I have to admit that I do not know how many people were on the earth before the flood. However, God does know. And he has given us a good idea of how many people were on the earth in the following words: "The wickedness of man was great in the earth" (Genesis 6:5); "The earth was also corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence" (Genesis 6:11). When verse 11 says, "the earth was also corrupt", it is speaking of the conduct of the people who lived on the earth at that time in contrast with Noah's conduct, who verse nine says "was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God." The earth is said to be filled with violence because people had populated the whole earth and they were corrupt and violent. I find it hard to understand how a person can come to the conclusion that the earth's population was only a few hundred or a few thousand when the Bible says that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that the earth was filled with violence. God's word teaches that human and animal life populated the whole planet by the time God brought the flood on the earth.
Another thing we need to take into account is that the earth may have been much different physically before the flood. If we try to draw conclusions concerning world population before the flood by relying on physical conditions that exist now, we may come to the wrong conclusions. For example, there is good reason to conclude that the earth before the flood had much less water on its surface than it does today, which would mean the earth would be able to sustain a much higher population than it can today. Whatever the case, the fact is that the Bible teaches that the earth was filled in the days before the flood.
The Bible also teaches that daughters and sons were born to those who multiplied on the face of the earth. There is much speculation as to who the "daughters of men" and "the sons of God" were. There are some who believe that the daughters of men were human beings and the sons of God were angels. However, to believe that the "sons of God" were angels presents a problem. On one occasion, the Sadducees tried to trap Jesus in His teaching by giving the example of seven brothers who had each married the same woman because of what Moses taught in regard to a man who dies and has no children (Matthew 22:23-33). Moses taught that if a man dies without any children that his brother should marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Then the Sadducees asked Jesus, "Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her." Jesus' answer reveals something about angels that we should know: "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven." In other words, angels do not marry. But Genesis 6:2 says, "that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose." This is marriage. Now either Jesus was wrong when He said that angels do not marry, or the phrase "sons of God" refers to someone else. Also, the fact that in verse 3 God said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh..." indicates that the context of Genesis six is dealing with human beings (physical, flesh and blood beings), not angels. In fact, human beings are under consideration in the whole account of the flood.
So who were the daughters of men and the sons of God? Evidently the daughters of men were descendants of Cain who had rejected God and who did not live according to His will (Genesis 4:1-24). The fact that the Bible teaches that Cain "went out from the presence of the LORD" may indicate that Cain no longer tried to please God as he had attempted to before he murdered his brother. (See also, Where Did Cain Get His Wife?) The sons of God were the descendants of Seth who were obedient to God (Genesis 4:25-26) The fact that the Bible teaches that "then men began to call on the name of the Lord" shows that the descendents of Seth were followers of God (cf. Acts 9:14; Romans 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:2). The implication is that the daughters of men (descendants of Cain) were able to lead the sons of God (descendants of Seth) away from God, and that is why disobedience was so prevalent in the world in Noah's day, and this is what led God to destroy the world. The phrase "sons of God" is used three other times in the Old Testament (Job 1:6; 2:8; 38:7). Some conclude that in the book of Job the Bible is speaking of angels when it uses the phrase "the sons of God." However, the context must determine the interpretation. For example in Job 38:7 it seems reasonable to me that the angels are referred to because the context is speaking of the creation of the universe and no human beings were present at the creation until God created Adam and Eve. However in Job 1:6ff there could be another interpretation. The "sons of God" could be referring to human beings who were presenting themselves before God. In this case Job would have been one of the sons of God. One reason for this conclusion is that God directed Satan's attention to Job implying that Job was present. The same can be said about Job 2:8. The fact that the Bible records that "Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD", does not necessarily void the interpretation that the sons of God were human beings because in no way can Satan be referred to as a son of God. The phrase "sons of God" is used in the New Testament five times and it refers to human beings in every case (Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:36; Romans 8:14, 19; Galatians 3:26). The fact is this: the phrase must be determined by the context in which it is used. And the context in Genesis six has human beings under consideration, not angels.
In Genesis 6:4 the Bible tells us more about the sons of God and the daughters of men: "There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown." There is no doubt that God intended for us to understand that the evil that prevailed in the world during this time came about as a result of the intermarriage between the wicked and the righteous. That intermarriage resulted in the sons of God being influenced to follow the evil ways of the wicked.
The Bible mentions the giants on the earth in those days. The word "giants" comes from the Hebrew word nephilim. The word nephilim means "giants" (Word Study Dictionary). This word is used in Numbers 13:32-33. There it says this: "And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants [Hebrew: nephilim] (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." This is the account of the 12 Israelite spies being sent to spy out the land of Canaan. Notice that the word "nephilim" is here translated as "giants" in the NKJV. There is good reason to believe that it should be so translated since it described these men as being "of great stature", and that the Israelites felt like they were the size of grasshoppers compared to them. The word nephilim described the size of people. There are those who see a problem in believing in a universal flood destroying every human being on the earth outside the ark, and the fact that some people many years after the flood are called nephilim. The problem is non-existent when we understand that both passages are describing human beings that are of great size (giants) rather than a race of people. In Deuteronomy 1:28 the people of Israel, in discussing the report brought back by ten of the spies said, "Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, 'The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of Anakim there.'" In using the terms "bigger" and "taller" we learn again that the word nephilim refers to people of great size (See also, Deut. 2:10; 3:11; 9:2). It does not refer specifically to a race of people who survived the flood, but to the fact that those people were big and tall like people before the flood.
One of the mistakes that people often make in reading this passage is to come to the conclusion that the "giants" were the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of men. But that is not what this passage teaches. Notice that Moses said that there were giants on the earth in those days, and then uses the following words: "also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men..." The word "afterward" tells us that the giants existed before the sons of God and the daughters of men produced offspring. The phrase "there were giants" indicates that there were people who were great in size, nothing else. But the giants existed before the sons of God came in to the daughters of men so it cannot refer to the offspring that resulted from those intermarriages.
He then told us that the daughters of men bore children to the sons of God. And those children were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Evidently the offspring that resulted from the intermarriage of the righteous and wicked were well known for some reason. The fact that God inspired Moses to speak of these men of renown and then in the next verse says, "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth..." may indicate what these men were well-known for. They may have been well-known for their wickedness.
The Bible indicates that as the population grew the people became more wicked. At some point God could not tolerate the wickedness any more. Genesis 6:7 says, "So the LORD said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.'" God had the right to destroy these people and animals because He is the One who made them (Romans 9:21). But there was one man who found grace in the eyes of the LORD. That man's name was Noah (Genesis 6:8).
Noah had been obedient to all that God had commanded him (Genesis 6:22). He had built the ark; he had preached to the people; He had taught his family to be obedient to God. Chapter seven of Genesis gives the details about God bringing the flood on the earth. Genesis 7:7-9 says, "So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, of animals that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth, two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God commanded Noah." Here is a question that needs to be answered by those who believe that the flood in Noah's day was a local or regional flood: Why build an ark? If Noah and his family could have simply walked to higher ground, why go to all that trouble of building an ark? Well, someone might answer: "God told him to build an ark as an object lesson." Well, where is the evidence for that? Just because someone gives this answer doesn't make it true. What evidence is there that God told Noah to build the ark as an object lesson? God told us in verse 7 why He wanted Noah and his family on that ark. It says, they "went in to the ark because of the waters of the flood"! It was not to give an object lesson. It was to save them from the flood!
Second, if the flood was just a local or regional flood, why take the animals on the ark? The fact that the Bible teaches that the earth was filled with violence indicates that both human kind and animals had spread throughout the earth. Those animals outside of the immediate region where Noah built the ark would not be affected by a regional or local flood. The animal population would have survived where flood waters did not reach. But here is a fact: God told Noah why He wanted him to take the animals on the ark: "You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth" (Genesis 7:2-4). Why did God tell Noah to take the animals on the ark? "...to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth"! Notice that little word "all." The phrase "on all the earth" indicates that there would be no species alive on all the earth after the flood, if the animals were not taken on the ark to "keep the species alive." There would have been absolutely no need to keep the species alive on the ark if the flood was local or regional. I am amazed at how often the Bible anticipates the errors of humankind. Noah was not commanded to take the animals on the ark as an object lesson. He was commanded to take them on the ark so they could survive the flood! Further, Genesis 6:17-18 tells another reason God had Noah to build the ark: "And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark - you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you." God commanded Noah to build the ark so that he and his family would survive the flood. If they had not had that means of escaping the flood, they would have been killed along with "all flesh in which is the breath of life." If Noah had not survived, God could not have made a covenant with humankind.
Here is a third question for the local/regional flood advocates to answer: Why does the Genesis account use universal terms in describing the flood if it was local/regional? For example, why would God say "the earth was filled with violence..." (Genesis 6:11-12) if only a small part of the earth had violence in it? Why would God say, "...all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth" (Genesis 6:12) if only a small part of flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. Why use that same language in verse 13? Also, why would God say, "And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die" (Genesis 6:17). Do you think God wanted us to understand what occurred during and after the flood? If so, then if He did not intend for us to understand that the flood was worldwide, why did He use universal terms to describe it? Words like, "filled"; "all flesh on the earth"; "everything...shall die"? In Genesis 7:4 God said, "...I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made." Given this language, how can we understand the flood to be anything but a world-wide flood? Yet, even some who claim to be Christians accept theories of men and women who are unbelievers instead of the Bible account. Some have even gone so far as to deny the inspiration of the Bible account of the flood in order to try to deny what it teaches because it does not agree with the theories of evolutionary scientists. If God had wanted us to understand that He was only going to destroy all living things in a certain locality or region on the earth, why would He use all these universal terms to describe the flood? It is not enough to answer that He was using language that the people of that time would understand, or that He was just referring to the known world at that time. Where is the evidence for that conclusion? There is no evidence whatsoever that God wanted us to believe that the flood was just a local/regional flood. The fact is that God intended for us to understand that the flood was world-wide, and that is why He used the language that He did in describing these events.
Look at Genesis 7:19-22, "And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive." Why would God use this kind of language if He did not intend for us to understand that the flood killed every air breathing animal and all human beings on the earth? The fact of the matter is, He would not have. The person who takes the view that the flood was local or regional denies the Bible account. That person is, in reality, accusing the Holy Spirit of lying. When God said that "only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive" there is no qualifying statement made in regard to people who were not affected by the flood. The reason is that there were no people on the earth in Noah's time that was not affected by the flood. It killed every one of them!! To say, "all the high hills under the WHOLE heaven were covered" does not leave any hills uncovered. To say that "The mountains were covered" does not leave any mountains uncovered. To say "all flesh died"..."and every man" died does not leave any man alive. To say that God "destroyed all living things" and that they were "destroyed from the earth" does not leave any man who was not destroyed. To say "ONLY Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive" does not leave any room for anyone outside of the ark to remain alive. The Bible account of the flood clearly teaches that the flood was a world-wide flood!
Here is another point to consider. When Noah and his family left the ark, God made a covenant with them. This is recorded in Genesis 9:11-17. Please read it with me: "'Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.' And God said: 'This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.' And God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.'" The covenant that God made with Noah and "with every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth" was to never again destroy the earth with a flood and He gave the rainbow as a sign of this covenant. But what kind of flood would God never allow again? The fact is this: there are various localities and regions that are flooded every year resulting in much destruction and death. But it is not universal or world wide destruction. It is local or regional. Since God made a covenant (a binding agreement) with all people that He would never destroy the world with a flood again - and since there are local or regional floods that still take place - the only conclusion we can come to is that the flood in Noah's time was world-wide. If the flood in Noah's time was a local or regional flood, then the only conclusion one can come to is that God has broken His covenant. When the person, who takes the view that the flood in Noah's time was a local or regional flood see's a rainbow in the sky, he must admit that God has not kept His covenant if the flood in Noah's day was local or regional. If one rejects the world-wide flood, he is accusing God of breaking His covenant and promise! In addition, he is calling God a liar.
There are many people who reject the Bible account of the flood, or at least try to dismiss it, and then still claim to be Christians. A Christian is a follower of Christ. He is a believer in Christ. Should the Christian not believe what Jesus believed? For those of you who claim to be Christians but who deny the flood was worldwide, hear what Jesus Himself said about it: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be..." (Matthew 24:36-38). Evidently Jesus fully accepted the Genesis account of the flood as being true and accurate. He even said, "the flood came and took them all away." The word "all" means what it says. Does Jesus' words not show that He believed that God destroyed every human being on the earth (with the exception of those on the ark) just as the account in Genesis six through nine shows? In fact, He used the account of a world wide judgment in Noah's day to indicate the conditions of the world before He Himself comes in a universal judgment. To say that Jesus just used the "world-wide flood myth" to illustrate the final judgment because that's what people believed then, is to accuse Jesus of using a falsehood to teach truth. In other words it is to accuse Jesus of lying to the people He taught. Not only that, but to say this is to make a statement with no evidence to back it up. Also, one must consider the fact that if the worldwide judgment of the flood in Noah's day was a myth, then why would the final judgment not be a myth? There is no indication whatsoever that Jesus rejected the Bible account of the flood as myth or only believed it to be a local/regional flood. He fully accepted the Genesis account of the world-wide flood as fact!
But Jesus is not the only One who accepted the Genesis account of the flood as fact: The apostle Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit to use the fact of the universal judgment of the flood in Noah's day to prove to the false teachers of his day that Jesus would fulfill His promise to come in judgment on the world (Please read 2 Peter 3:3-13). The Holy Spirit could not have inspired Peter to use this argument if the judgment of the world had not happened in Noah's day.
Not only does Jesus and the Holy Spirit know that the flood in Noah's day covered the whole earth, but God the Father also added His testimony to this fact. In Isaiah 54:9 He said, "For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you." Here, God Himself said that the waters of Noah covered the earth. What further testimony do we need??? When Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father all say this is what happened, who is presumptuous enough to deny it?
Do you need further proof? In Hebrews 11:7, the writer spoke of Noah: "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." Who did Noah condemn by building the ark? THE WORLD! Not a locality. Not a region. THE WORLD! In 1 Peter 3:20 Peter wrote, "...who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water." How many people were saved from the flood? "Eight souls." Not hundreds, thousands or millions, but eight. Surely the Holy Spirit knows what He is talking about. Why would He inspire Peter to write these things unless He knew them to be true?
There is no doubt that the Bible teaches that the flood in Noah's day was world-wide - it covered the whole earth. It covered all the mountains. It destroyed all flesh outside of the ark. IT WAS WORLD-WIDE! Now here is the question: Do you believe what the Bible teaches about it or do you believe the theories of human beings?
I would suggest to you that most people who reject the Bible account of the flood in Genesis 6-9 or who believe the flood took place but that it was local or regional, do so because of their belief in the theory of evolution which is so ingrained into our society. Most of the interpretations of the facts that scientists discover today is colored by their belief in the false theory of evolution. It is absolutely possible, and in fact it is taking place every day, that scientific facts are discovered but misinterpreted because of the belief that God does not exist. The book of Romans describes the people who reject a belief in God in Romans 1:18-25, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man - and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." Does this passage not describe many people in our society today? Most scientists reject a belief in the existence of God. Therefore, they interpret the facts they discover in their studies in harmony with theories developed by men and women who reject the existence of God. If one leaves God out of the equation he will suppress the truth of those facts. He will become futile in his thoughts, and his foolish heart will be darkened. The result will be that he will exchange the truth of God for the lie.
I realize that it is not popular to stand for what the Bible teaches. It never has been. But if a person truly loves God, he will believe, teach and obey God's word, no matter how foolish it is to those who reject a knowledge of God. Remember, the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.' Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
Chapters six through nine of the book of Genesis is inspired by God (2 Peter 1:16-21; See also The Inspiration of the Bible). These chapters give an accurate account of the events that occurred when God brought the flood on the world in Noah's day. Please don't try to harmonize the events described therein with the modern theories of people who reject God. Just accept what the Bible teaches and understand that human theories change but the word of God abides forever (1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 2:17).