For many people, the notion that the Bible teaches a global flood is as axiomatic as the notion that it affirms the existence of God. That the deluge of Noah covered the entire planet is, as some sincere and godly friends put it to me, the “obvious meaning of the text,” so that any other interpretation is circumventing “what Moses really meant.”
I can sympathize with how people view it this way. After all, if you start reading through Genesis 6-8, you stumble upon verses like these:
- “I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die” (Genesis 6:17, all translations ESV).
- “Take with you seven pairs of all [clean and unclean animals and birds] to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth” (Genesis 7:2-3).
- “And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered” (Genesis 7:19).
- “All flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind” (Genesis 7:21).
All flesh … all the earth … all the mountains under heaven. Sounds pretty clear, right?
But sometimes what seems initially obvious can actually become more and more implausible upon closer inspection. I believe that is the case with the notion of a global flood. In fact, here I want to suggest that both (1) the language of the biblical account and (2) the difficulties involved positing a global flood actually favor the idea that Noah’s flood was local (though bear in mind that “local” does not mean “small”). My interest here is not so much to convert people to a local flood view as much as to create some space for both views as interpretative options within the church, and to try to soften and nuance our rhetoric in our dialogue with those outside the church. Even more important than getting it right, in my opinion, is that we deal with the issue in a way that does not detract from our unity and mission.
What does “all the earth” mean?
We read the Bible in English translation, and with a modern understanding of planet Earth as a round globe orbiting the sun between Venus and Mars. So it is only understandable for a modern reader to interpret “all the earth” as “all of Planet Earth.” The Hebrew word erets, however, often means land, ground, or country; and when paired with kol (all, every), it almost always refers to a local territory through the Old Testament. Sometimes you know that because of a qualifier, as in verses like Genesis 2:11: “the name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole [kol] land [erets] of Havilah, where there is gold.” But even without a qualifier, this is the usual meaning. Rich Deem lists 56 examples of kol erets having a local referent in the Hebrew Bible. I here list the first 10, in canonical order—check out footnote 5 of his article for the other 46:
- Is not the whole [kol] land [erets] before you? Please separate from me: if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:9) (The “whole land” was only the land of Canaan)
- And the people of all [kol] the earth [erets] came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth. (Genesis 41:57) (The people from the Americas did not go to Egypt)
- Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all [kol] the earth [erets], nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you. (Exodus 34:10) (There would be no need to add “nor among any of the nations” if “all the earth” referred to the entire planet.)
- ‘You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all [kol] through your land [erets]. (Leviticus 25:9) (The Hebrews were not required to sound a horn throughout the entire earth)
- ‘Thus for every [kol] piece [erets] of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. (Leviticus 25:24) (The law does not apply only to those who own the entire earth)
- Behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all [kol] the ground [erets], then I will know that Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken.” (Judges 6:37, see also 6:39-40) (kol erets could not refer to the entire earth, since it would not be possible for Gideon to check the entire earth)
- And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout [kol] the land [erets], saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” (1 Samuel 13:3) (Obviously, Saul could not have blown a trumpet loud enough to be heard throughout the entire earth)
- For the battle there was spread over the whole [kol] countryside [erets], and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. (2 Samuel 18:8) (No, the battle did not take place over the entire earth.)
- So when they had gone about through the whole [kol] land [erets], they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. (2 Samuel 24:8) (No they didn’t go through the entire earth, just the lands of Palestine.)
- And all [kol] the earth [erets] was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. (1 Kings 10:24) (It is unlikely that the Native Americans went to see Solomon.)
If you read through Genesis 6-8 and substitute the word “land” or “territory” for “earth,” already the feel of the whole story changes. “Everything that is in the land shall die” (Genesis 6:17) gives a much different impression to the English-speaking reader than “everything that is on the earth shall die”—but the former is the more consistent rendering of the Hebrew throughout the Old Testament. And the same thing can be said about other language in Genesis 6-8: however comprehensive it seems in translation, it is frequently used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to local phenomena (for instance, cf. the phrase “under the whole heaven” in Deuteronomy 2:25 and elsewhere throughout Deuteronomy). (We won’t belabor the point, but we should also note in passing that Genesis 7:20 should be rendered “the water rose twenty feet, and all the hills/mountains were covered” rather than “the water rose to twenty feet higher than the hills/mountains.”)
When you think about it, it makes sense that a writer in the ancient Near East would refer to all of their own region with more comprehensive language “all the earth/land/territory,” especially if all of humanity was limited to that region prior to the scattering of Babel, and if that is all the author knew about. The biblical authors used the idiom and language of their day. They probably didn’t know about the South Pole, and we shouldn’t expect them to have used language as if they did.
Thus when we read in Genesis 41:57, “all the earth (kol erets) came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth,” it is not necessary to conclude that Eskimos from the fringes of Northern Siberia traveled to the Middle East, and the ancient Mayans beat Columbus to the punch in sailing across the Atlantic, and aboriginal Australians made their way across India or the Indian Ocean. In fact, even writers in the New Testament use comprehensive language to refer to local phenomena. For example, Acts 2:5 says, “now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven;” and in Colossians 1:6 Paul claims that the gospel is bearing fruit “in the whole world.” This language refers to the whole known world; that is, the Mediterranean world.
Furthermore, there are a couple clues within the story that indicate kol erets probably does not mean the entire globe here. For instance, in Genesis 8:4 the ark comes to rest in the hills/mountains of Ararat, and then Genesis 8:5 tells us that “the tops of the mountains were seen” (although “hills” is a better translation). Then Noah sends out his scouting dove, and we read that “the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth” (8:9). How can the waters still be over the entire globe if the hills are visible (8:5) and the Ark has already rested (8:4)? “The face of the whole earth” clearly means a particular area here, or “land” or “territory.” Furthermore, as others have pointed out, if erets means the entire globe in Genesis 6-8, then consistent literalism would demand a global desert after the flood, since Genesis 8:7 and 8:14 claim that the “earth” became completely dry after it was flooded.
Envisioning a Global Flood
Let’s assume the flood was global. Water six miles deep covered the Rockies and Everest with unbroken waves and torrent. (We don’t know where all this water came from, and where it went, but let’s not trouble with that now.) Every single species on planet Earth, both male and female, got on the ark and lived there for approximately a year. Arctic wolves travelled the 8000 miles from Northern Canada, Kangaroos hopped over from Australia, and all the various species indigenous to Madagascar journeyed up the coast of Africa (all somehow traversing the ocean and surviving the alternate weather conditions). Subsequently, 8 people within 7 days load all these millions of animals into the ark (there are approximately 7-9 million different animal species on earth, so two of each animal, even with a generous definition of how the Bible defines “kind,” yields a lot of animals). Then, for the next 370 days or so, these 8 people not only survived themselves aboard the ark, but provided ventilation, sanitation, and fresh food and water for all these millions of animals. And then they opened up the ark, and all the animals traveled back to where they were from over the globe and repopulated their regions.
Now God can do anything. But we need to realize what we are asking people to believe if we insist this is the only way to interpret this story. We are asking people to believe in miracle after miracle after miracle, beyond what is actually described in the Genesis story. David Snoke provides a helpful list of all that a global flood entails (I condense some of these for space, and omit his last two):
- The miracle of transportation of millions of animals to the Ark from Australia, the Americas, Antarctica, and the islands.
- The miracle of the compression of the animals in the Ark. The described volume of the Ark is not large enough for all the millions of animal species plus the food and fresh water they would need for 370 days aboard the ark.
- The miracle of the feeding of the carnivorous animals on the Ark. If carnivorous animals came along, then many extra animals of other types had to come for food, unless meat was miraculously refrigerated.
- The miracle of the caretaking of millions of animals by just eight people, including tons of dung production per day.
- The miracle of the survival of the occupants of the Ark despite the huge heat production in a closed space.
- The miracle of the survival of special-climate animals (e.g. polar bears and penguins) on the Ark.
- The miracle of the feeding of special diet animals (e.g. the koala) on the Ark.
- The miracle of the creation of water out of nowhere and the destruction of that water afterwards. In a local flood, water moves from one place to another, but in a global flood, new water would have to be created.
- The miracle of the non-sinking of the continents under the weight of that water.
- The miracle of the survival of trees and plants under that water.
- The miracle of the survival of fresh water fish in salt water (or, salt water fish in fresh water).
- The miracle of the survival of amphibious and tidal pool creatures on the ark. Certain species need particular conditions of water environment. In addition to bringing food and water to drink for the regular animals, Noah would have had to set up special aquariums that changed the type of water at different times of day.
- The miracles of the survival of worms, insects, etc. underwater (or, the miracle of the transportation of all insects, worms, etc. to the Ark, including all the necessary ingredients for termite hills, ant colonies, etc).
Does the biblical account require us to believe all these miracles? Or is it possible that “all the earth” in Genesis 6-8 actually means “in the land,” as in Genesis 41:57 and the other 55 verses Deem references?
The transportation and survival of the animals from only some part of the Mesopotamian region (as envisioned in a “local” flood) would still, of course, have required God’s miraculous care and provision. But in my opinion, it accords better with the size of the ark, the number of people involved, the amount of time, and the actual language of the narrative.
At the very least, allowing for the possibility of a local flood should not be written off as circumventing the “obvious meaning” of the text. For me, as far as I am aware, it is an effort to take seriously the meaning of the text, which involves what the original author meant the original readers to take from it in its original context. In fact, what inclines me to imagine a huge but non-global event here in Genesis 6-8 is the text itself (the meaning of the Hebrew terms and phrases as they occur elsewhere in the Old Testament, for instance; or the sequence of Genesis 8:4-9).
And when I try the envision the alternative to a local flood—imagining Noah somehow getting those poison dart frogs to and from Brazil, or those giant salamanders to and from Japan—what initially seemed obvious at the start of this post starts to look more and more implausible.
Thanks Gavin. Good, thoughtful work here that highlights a topic where not shooting one another seems like a good idea.
I like your thoughts here. I’ve been wrestling with the positions related to the historical Adam (and the theological implications that come with it) and your piece high lights some of the elements associated with it.
I’m curious if you place the entire human population in this “land” where the local flood took place or if you allow for geographical distance like you’ve done with the animals.
In His Service,
Hey Josh! Yes, I do think the flood killed all humanity except Noah and his family, as humanity had not yet dispersed across the globe (Gen. 11:8-9). Hope this helps.
Thank you for your article on a local flood. I found it very insightful and thought-provoking.
One question that arose in thinking about the subject was how you see the whole dinosaur issue? Gap theory? If you haven’t posted on it (mea culpa: I didn’t check yet), I for one would be interested on your thoughts on that.
Thanks and keep up the great work,
Hey John! Thanks for the comment. Perhaps you can clarify what you mean by the “dinosaur issue,” but I don’t have any exceptional views on dinosaurs. I’m an old-earth creationist and think dinosaurs lived on earth long before the flood. If you are getting at something else, let me know.
Gavin, thanks for the post. I’ve been open to the idea of a local (but still large) flood for a few years. It seems to make good sense for all of the reasons you mentioned and it wouldn’t necessarily have to do violence to the Bible. I would be interested in learning more about how the “all flesh died” language in 7:21 relates to (or doesn’t relate to) humans and animals. I saw you put some comments about this on FB, which was helpful. Anyway, probably lots here to discus; don’t need to reply at all. But, I did want to tell you the next post I’d love to see you write, namely, why creation issues are so often inflammatory, and what is (and what is not) at stake in the various understandings. Sometimes I feel our sense of proportion is lost in this conversation (not meaning lost by you, but others). When I talk with people at my church about this, it seems they are worried about the ‘scary drift in culture away from the Bible’ (which does exist and is palatable) and they think that if a person is open aspects of the ‘old earth’ view then that person is also necessarily part of the ‘scary drift’ (which might not be the case at all). Anyway, keep it up. Thanks!
Thanks for the good comment, Ben. I resonate with what you say about some people taking creation issues out of proportion. I am not fully sure why that is the case, although I have reflected just a little about the psychology involved in theological disagreement, especially progressive vs. conservative disagreements. Maybe I’ll try to write up some thoughts sometime. Or I’d love to hear yours!
Gavin, once again a very helpful post! I have been weighing this interpretation for a few years, and I have been afraid to voice my thoughts for fear of repercussions from those who would reject the interpretation. I appreciate your emphasis on the details and language of the text itself, which for me is the deciding issue. Do you know if Patristic theologians have any insights into the matter? Are you aware of any of their thoughts you could share with us?
Good thoughts, Erik. You know, one of the things I have wanted to do is a survey of church history to see what various people have said. I just have not had time yet. One day I will, Lord willing. In the meantime, let me know if you discover anything on that!
[…] “Why a Local Flood?” by Gavin […]
I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Gen. 9:11)
Given the fact that there have obviously been floods of a local variety to include if you will flooding from events such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes, the local or big but not of the whole earth variety type flood would clearly be in contradiction to God’s covenant promise to never destroy all life by the waters of the flood and the additional piece of that covenant promise that there will never be a flood to destroy the earth.”
Furthermore, it is an assumption that the poison dart frog and the salamander all had to make it to the ark and that assumption is supported by the idea that they had to traverse the oceans from Brazil and Japan to make it to the ark are not what one would call very good claims for a position.
The context speaks of a global catastrophic flood. The evidence we see all over the planet speaks of a global catastrophic event that impacted the entire planet. All major cultures have at least the legend of a global flood that again impacted the entire planet. Why would God go through the effort of having Noah build an ark to house the animal kinds and his family if they could just have escaped somewhere else that was safe on the earth at that time?
Seems the simplest answer in interpreting Scripture is the best one yet again in this regard. It was a global flood to deal with the comprehensive sin problem taking place at that time. It was a global judgment of massive proportions, one God has promised to never execute again on the earth, at least in the manner of a flood that covers the entire earth as took place in Genesis.
Of course the Hebrew words for earth and even day can have different meanings in different contexts. The important point is to grasp the context the word is being used in and to compare that usage with other similar points in Scripture. This line of thinking reminds me of the attempts to make the days of creation something other than actual days because day in different contexts can mean different periods of lengths of time.
Thanks for the comment, Mike. I had a few minutes to type out some responses:
First of fall, other local floods do not contradict Gen. 9:11 because they are not as catastrophic and large-scale as the flood of Noah or universal with respect to humanity. That is the key difference between Noah’s flood and other floods: the former was a judgment on all humanity except Noah and his family. Never again will God do that.
“Furthermore, it is an assumption that the poison dart frog and the salamander all had to make it to the ark and that assumption is supported by the idea that they had to traverse the oceans from Brazil and Japan to make it to the ark are not what one would call very good claims for a position.”
I am not sure quite how to construe this sentence, but if you think it is *only* an assumption that distant animals would have to travel to the ark, you probably need to state an alternative proposal. How else did animals from Japan or North America get there?
“The context speaks of a global catastrophic flood.”
Where do you see this in the context? I tried to address in my first point that none of the language in the text actually refers to a global flood. Would love to know what you are thinking here.
“The evidence we see all over the planet speaks of a global catastrophic event that impacted the entire planet. All major cultures have at least the legend of a global flood that again impacted the entire planet.”
What evidence do you see specifically? The global flood evidence I have read is very weak. And I agree that the legend of a huge flood is very common among cultures near the Middle East, but I don’t think this cultures far away from Asia have this legend, or the legend concerns a global flood specifically. Would love to understand more what you are referring to here.
“Why would God go through the effort of having Noah build an ark to house the animal kinds and his family if they could just have escaped somewhere else that was safe on the earth at that time?”
Good question! For the same reason local floods result in the loss of life: the flood occurs quickly and catastrophically, before people can leave. Most local flood advocates believe God did not cause Noah to travel far away well in advance because He wanted to protect the animal life there, and Noah’s ark was his way of doing that.
“Of course the Hebrew words for earth and even day can have different meanings in different contexts. The important point is to grasp the context the word is being used in and to compare that usage with other similar points in Scripture.”
That is what I’ve tried to do with texts like Genesis 41 and I Kings 10 and many others. But I know I won’t convince everyone! God bless.
Hello Gavin, and thanks for the article.
I believe the one major issue missed is the issue of context. In the verses about the flood, the context, according to Scripture, is the whole land or entire earth “under heaven.” That would mean all of it with the idea of all meaning without exception.
In the verse about Abraham and Lot going into Canaan, the context is clearly NOT the whole land “under heaven,” and as such the writing itself gives the context to the land which is before them.
Similarly the other verses you quoted where kol and erets are in close proximity show context within the events themselves and do not claim the context of the event is the whole earth “under heaven.”
Hi Mike, thanks for the comment. I am not sure if you read the article, but I address the language of “under heaven” in it as well as kol erets. It is also used to refer to local areas throughout the OT. Blessings,
Again, not trying to write my own lengthy blog here, but you have once again ignored the context in conjunction with the words/phrases used. And adding in New Testament phrases doesn’t help since we are dealing with the Hebrew at this point.
So, going back to the flood…under the heaven…and whole earth…and all flesh that has the breath of life in it (nephesh) all require the entirety of all the dry land must have been covered.
Also, Michael’s comments above make a lot of sense…God promised to not flood the whole earth again like He just had…Now, you answered back that God won’t flood the planet such that all humanity is killed off…but again, you miss the fact that it was actually all flesh with nephesh that was killed off and not JUST humans. So Michael’s point is spot on…if there were nephesh organisms outside the local area, then the flood wasn’t merely local.
You state that the waters only rose 20 in total as opposed to 20 feet above the mountains/hills. Firstly, yes, the Hebrew rendering should be hills and not mountains…that actually fits the Creation model nicely as the mountains would not have been present until after the flood event anyway. However, there is a qualifier on the front of hills…that being, “high.” All the high hills were covered. And again, taking in to account the entirety of context and not picking and choosing, as you have so done previously, the rendering that the water was 20 feet above the high hills is indeed the better rendering.
Anyway…of course there is much, much more…but like I said above, this isn’t my blog…I merely came across it and since I’ve been a part of these discussions for nearly 20 years decided to chime in. I pray that you consider the entirety of context and do not allow what you believe about science to be used to interpret what you read out of the Scriptural text…the other way around is the Biblical way to go and is called a Biblical worldview…taking what we know from Scripture and interpreting science in the light of Scripture. I believe you have done the opposite in this case (e.g. poison dart frogs, etc.)
Additionally, I don’t believe this was addressed in the article or the comments underneath, but, it is quite clear that the animals were brought to the ark. In order for God to save the animals, He merely had to move them elsewhere and it would have been fine.
Similarly with Noah and the 7 other humans…God clearly spoke and Noah clearly heard to build an ark. Therefore, since God speaks so clearly, He should have merely clearly told Noah and his family to move elsewhere and they clearly would have heard and obeyed.
The local flood hypothesis has no basis in Scriptural exegesis…sorry, brother!
Hi Mike, thanks for the interaction here. Respectfully, I think it is you who are ignoring the context here. I say that because you are assuming definitions of words/phrases without looking at their broader meaning in Scripture (e.g., “under the whole heaven” in Deuteronomy 2:25).
“In order for God to save the animals, He merely had to move them elsewhere and it would have been fine.”
I think that statement reflects a very naive view of how ecosystems operate.
Regarding Scripture vs. science, I always want Scripture to be authoritative over science, but I also think there are times when science and basic common sense can make us question how we are interpreting Scripture. So in this case, asking about how particular species like poison dart frogs is not going against the “context” (whatever that means), it is simply being curious about how it actually happened. Blessings!
//What evidence do you see specifically? The global flood evidence I have read is very weak. And I agree that the legend of a huge flood is very common among cultures near the Middle East, but I don’t think this cultures far away from Asia have this legend, or the legend concerns a global flood specifically. Would love to understand more what you are referring to here.//
I would recommend taking a look at the below links as they outline a small portion of the flood legends across cultures across the globe to include China, Peru,and countries far away from the Middle East.
“Respectfully, I think it is you who are ignoring the context here. I say that because you are assuming definitions of words/phrases without looking at their broader meaning in Scripture (e.g., “under the whole heaven” in Deuteronomy 2:25).”
Actually, just because a phrase is used in a certain way in a certain place, does NOT mean it’s used in that particular way in another particular place. That was the point I was making…
So, again, when you take the entirety of the actual context around the phrase itself, then it is quite clear that in the context of the Genesis verse in question, under the whole heaven means all the dry land that is on the planet. Reference the points made about all flesh, and nephesh, etc., which you did not comment on.
I said, “In order for God to save the animals, He merely had to move them elsewhere and it would have been fine.”
You retorted with, “I think that statement reflects a very naive view of how ecosystems operate.”
The real problem is that again you are, by the very nature of this sentence, taking what you see in science, and in particular, secular/mainstream scientific conclusions, and attempting to place them into the Bible.
It was a supernatural event in the first place that God Himself brought the animals to Noah. If we use your above argument, then God Himself reflects “a very naive view of how ecosystems operate,” since it was The Almighty that brought the animals away from their native ecosystems and to the ark. Your argument here is quite vacuous, indeed.
“Regarding Scripture vs. science, I always want Scripture to be authoritative over science,”
“…but I also think there are times when science and basic common sense can make us question how we are interpreting Scripture.”
Bad finish…and quite a contradiction to the immediately previous statement.
“So in this case, asking about how particular species like poison dart frogs is not going against the “context” (whatever that means), it is simply being curious about how it actually happened.”
The issue here is, yet again, you bringing in secular/mainstream science and attempting to place them into the Bible. For example, the word, with its associated meaning, “species.” Nowhere in Scripture does it mention species…neither does it refer to the concept of the species especially with respect to the Creation and Noah’s flood.
So what you are left with is the Biblical “kind.”
So back to poison dart frogs…The specific poison dart frog did NOT have to be brought to the ark…merely 2 frogs. That’s the issue at hand.
Thanks for responding!
These are interesting thoughts. I guess I find the lack of dialogue about God’s covenantal relationship with people in these types of discussions strange given that it was probably more important to the ancient Israelites than the issues we are discussing today.
I think the “land” translation makes quite a bit more sense in the context of God’s covenant relationship with Israel because of the strong ties with the land itself.
Genesis 1 thru 2:3 provides the Israelite worldview/polemic against other gods (i.e. that their God is great and beyond the created order). This establishes God as the most worthy Deity of having a covenant with.
Genesis 2:4-25 focuses specifically on man’s relationship to the land itself. This is evidenced by a specific geographical location with a variety of land markers. In addition it outlines man’s relationship to God and to each other. This sets the boundaries and expectations of God’s covenant.
Genesis 3 Reveals the consequences of breaking the covenant with God. The results are disastrous as it affects mankind’s relationship with God, the land and each other.
Genesis 4 An example of the “fruits” of severing a covenant with God has on mankind.
Genesis 5 The toledot increases the narrative speed implying that the consequences of Genesis 4 how now been multiplied tremendously.
Genesis 6-8 This assumption is confirmed in God’s declaration that humanity has ruined itself in breaking their covenant with Him. The land was polluted because of man. Relationships between mankind were destroyed because of the broken covenant. Things were not the way they were supposed to be because the covenant had been broken.
Except for one man who still sought to covenant with God. Noah is his family are told they will be spared if they obey what God commands them to do (in this case its building the ark and taking animals along). This again is a similar kind of test of obedience related to covenanting with God (Gen. 6:18).
The focus of the flood is to punish mankind (Gen. 6:7). All the flesh where mankind resides is in view here because the covenant (or lack thereof) is specific to man which also has direct ties to the land (which is reiterated again and again through these chapters as well as a dominate theme throughout the Old Testament).
Genesis 8 concludes with God’s covenant with Noah and the land because mankind breaks the covenant (Gen. 8:21).
Genesis 9 Re-affirms God’s original covenant with man with additional stipulations because something has fundamentally changed with man after Adam’s fall. This is evident as Noah will later curse his own son because of drunkenness (setting up a polemic against the Cannites, and their gods, for the future).
Genesis 10 provides another toledot designed to speed up the narrative to show us that while things may not be as bad as before the flood (perhaps because of the limit of man’s life time God placed), people still aren’t properly covenanting with Him.
Genesis 11 illustrates this with the failure of mankind to spread out (which is probably what people were doing before the flood in their rebellion. So a geographically small area would be all that’s required to wipe out humanity at that point). They aren’t covenanting with God because they aren’t obeying Him.
Another toledot speeds up the narrative and gets us back to a person who wants to covenant with God (or rather who God sees as willing/wanting to covenant with Him).
Genesis 12 is the introduction of such a person through the man Abraham. This begins the cycle of covenant again whereby God lays out stipulations for covenanting with Him and the human agent is given the responsibility / choice to obey God’s covenant calling. This also comes with the promise of a specific geographical location (i.e. land) in addition to blessings.
The pattern I find in these chapters focuses specifically on God’s covenant with man and it always relates to land. This takes place throughout Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament. I find that most of the discussions about Genesis don’t focus enough on the covenant nature of all that’s taken place in Genesis give that’s what the Israelites were most likely concerned with.
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Thankyou for your thought provoking post. While the extra list of miracles required for a global flood initially seems confronting, each of these points has been investigated in detail by various scholars and organisations, and can either be directly refuted, or an alternate explanation provided. You have only put the merits of one side of this debate forward, when much work has been done to present the evidence of a truly global flood.
Looking purely at this issue of how many animals would have had to fit on the ark, research has been conducted that indicates approximately 8000 pairs of animals would be enough to represent every ‘kind’ of animal on earth at that time, as required by the text. This number of animals would easily fit within the given dimensions of the ark.
You have suggested that millions of animals would be required. What data supports this? You are comfortable however that the number of animals only from the Mesopotamian region would fit. How do you know how many different species of animals were present in this region at that time?
In any case, it is unfair to the ‘global flood’ side of the debate to simply present these required miracles as if they have never been investigated or challenged.
More information can be found in John Woodmorappe’s book Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study, or on Creation Ministries website.
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I am not sure if you even get notifications on these older posts, but I wanted to give a shout and let you know that I have been studying origins and the nature of Genesis with regard to the ANE context (Kline opened my eyes a few years ago to the options). I have been struggling through the milieu and have found your work encouraging and quite helpful.
For what it is worth, I am a member at Immanuel Nashville. The “brainpower” there is nothing to scoff at, to be sure. I have not had time to sit with anyone there due to schedule and the inherent lack of brevity the “project” lends, so I find comfort that someone connected to us has cogent, studied thoughts on the matter.
Grace and Peace,
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great to hear! thanks for sharing matt. hope to meet you next time I’m at Immanuel.
The solution seems pretty simple to me. The flood was local, and written with rhetorical statements through the perception of an ancient Near East cosmological worldview. Ie, the reason the Biblical Authors describe the flood as global is because they had never traveled the earth to know its shape or size, and they spoke with rhetorical language to emphasize theological meaning in the narrative.
All the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth. Genesis 41:57
Did eskimos travel the Atlantic ocean to get grain from Egypt?
The real challenge seems to be the broader implication and questions related to biblical inerrancy. Without a proper theological foundation, some may struggle to accept interpretations that may seem plain and simple to someone else.