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Article 0125 - Questions About the Genesis Flood

Questions About the Genesis Flood

Jon Gary Williams

The Genesis flood was one of the world's most dramatic and awesome events, yet few have taken time to give it the serious attention it deserves. Many professed Bible believers have found it difficult to respond to questions asked about the flood, and in some instances this obstacle has led to a weakened faith in the Bible itself. These occurrences are unfortunate. Christians are to be ready to respond to those who ask about their "hope" (II Peter 3:15). The hope by which Christians live is measured by their confidence in God's word; the greater the confidence in the word of God, the greater the hope.

When one has a proper understanding of the facts surrounding the flood, questions asked about this great event are easily answered. Following are some common questions.

Was the Flood Worldwide?

Those who have done little study on this subject may lean toward the theory of a "local" flood - - one which covered only a portion of the globe. However, this solves nothing at all, for it is impossible to harmonize the "local" theory with the Genesis record. The flood is shown to be worldwide in scope for a number of reasons:

1) Since the Bible is the only historical source containing a detailed narrative of the flood event, it is only reasonable to listen to its testimony. "And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth, and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered" (Genesis 7:19). This passage is obviously describing a universal, worldwide deluge.

2) Testimony of the apostle Peter shows a world wide flood (II Peter 3:3-7). Here Peter speaks of a forthcoming day when men would no longer think seriously of Christ's second coming and the final destruction of God's creation. Anticipating this skepticism, Peter appeals to the fact of the historical destruction of the world by water, showing that since a worldwide catastrophe had occurred once, that it was absurd to think that another such destruction of some sort would never take place. Peter stated, "...the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished..." That he was speaking of a universal flood is obvious.

3) The record clearly states, "all flesh" that had the "breath of life" was to be destroyed "from under heaven, and everything that is in the earth shall die" (Genesis 6:17). Since this death was worldwide in scope, it only follows that the flood was also worldwide.

4) If the flood was only local, there would have been no need for the animals to be saved within the ark. The flooded area would have been easily repopulated from surrounding regions. And likewise, if the flood was only local there would have been no need for the building of an ark! God could have directed Noah and his family to relocate to a location outside the flood area.

5) Geology itself testifies that the world experienced a universal flooded condition. Throughout the globe skeletal and fossil remains of animals are found in mass quantities deep within fissures (huge slits in the earth) on mountain sides and in other elevated areas. These remains are of a wide variety, representing some animals which did not share the same habitat, showing that they were brought together by some powerful force. Also, within these fissures are found animals, such as elephants and horses, that could not possibly have scaled to such heights.

How could such diverse animal remains have been collected in these remotely elevated locations?
 There is only one reasonable explanation - water, and lots of it! At some point in time water levels must have risen above the elevation of these fissures. As the water drained back into the earth, multiplied millions of animals were deposited into these openings with devastating force. Since this geologic phenomenon exists the world over it must be concluded that a flood of enormous magnitude extended worldwide.

Additionally, in many places throughout the world are found giant concentrations of coal deep beneath the earth's surface. These deposits are the result of huge quantities of vegetation which have been compacted together into the earth's crevices, forming coal.

How could such vast quantities of vegetation have been brought together? This is again the result of massive amounts of water! No other explanation can account for the accumulation of such unbelievably large amounts of vegetation. As water was sucked back into the earth's crevices, massive floating islands of vegetation were deposited into the earth.

Evidence abounds, both in scripture and in the earth's geological makeup, confirming that the Genesis flood was global in nature.

Where Did the Flood Water Come From?
To many this is a staggering question, but only because it has not been properly evaluated. The flood is all too often pictured as resulting from nothing more than extended rainfall, with the flooding slowly rising to a great level. Certainly, rainfall was one means of flooding the world, but this does not tell the whole story. Not only did the heavens open up with rain, but we read that "on the same day were all the fountains of the deep broken up" (Genesis 7:11). The word "deep" used in this passage has the Hebrew meaning of "subterranean waters," no doubt referring to the underground reservoirs of the antediluvian world.

During this historic event, the volcanic regions of the world belched forth with a tremendous amount of fury. Water, steam and all sorts of matter from beneath the earth's surface must have poured out with unbelievable magnitude. To see just one "fountain" of the earth "break up" is an incredible sight, but what was it like when "all the fountains" of the great deep broke up simultaneously? No doubt, the outer crusts of the earth were twisted, mangled and torn into deformity. Notice that the text shows the "breaking up" of the fountains lasted for 150 days (Genesis 7:11-8:2). This was five months of chaos, giving some insight into the geological wrenching of the outer crusts of the earth. Such vast and prolonged geologic upheavals (or a series of catastrophic events) is the only reasonable explanation for the gross irregularities in the earth's surface. As Morris and Whitcombe express it, "Presumably, then, the ocean basins were fractured and uplifted sufficiently to pour waters over the continents, in conjunction with those waters which were above the 'firmament' and which poured down through the 'windows of heaven'." Indeed, much of the water that flooded the earth came from within the earth itself.

Where Did the Flood Water Go?

As noted, much of the flood water receded back into the earth. However, there were other places for the water to go.

1) During the flood as the earth's crusts were being twisted and contorted, no doubt some land masses were raised while others were lowered. These lower areas would serve as basins into which water would naturally flow, forming the present-day oceans of the earth.

2) Much of the water was captured at the earth's Arctic and Antarctic regions. The discovery of frozen animals and plants in the Arctic shows that at one time the entire region held a tropical climate. If, as some scientists project, the earth at one time was not tilted on its axis, but rather had it's north/south pole perpendicular to the sun, this would have produced an evenly spread temperate-to-tropical condition around the globe. This, in turn, would explain why such animals and plants would be flourishing in our present colder regions. If, at the time of the flood, the earth was tilted on its axis, this would have quickly produced massive frozen regions at the poles, and accounting for much of the flood water being retained in ice form. It has been estimated that if all the ice at the poles were to melt, many land masses would be inundated with water.

3) Much of the flood water, of course, evaporated and found it way back into the atmosphere. Today, the earth's atmosphere continually holds billions of tons of water.

Was the Ark Large Enough To Hold the Animals?
In some circles it is considered witty to poke fun at "Mr. Noah's houseboat." The Biblical account of the ark is often seen as nothing more than fantasy and, without serious investigation, it is labelled unscientific. It should be pointed out, however, that objections directed against the ark account spring out of ignorance of the facts. In order to properly understand and appreciate the account of the ark it is adventageous to grasp several key points.

1) The argument that the ark could not contain the total of required animals is easily rebutted by understanding how many animals were actually needed in the ark. Some have mistakenly thought that there were two of every variety of animal (i.e., two of every variety of dog, two of every variety of cat, etc.). The fact is that only two of each species was required, from which all varieties would later come.

2) This supposed problem is further reduced with the understanding that almost 90% of all land animals are insect size or smaller and many of them can survive in a water environment. Of the remaining 10%, 95% are smaller than a medium size dog. The remaining animals live in water, eliminating them from a place in the ark. Scripture states that only animals with the "breath of life" died (Gen. 6:17). Additionally, it was not necessary for mature animals to be taken into the ark, which would reduce considerably the space required.

3) How large was the ark? A skeptic once said that no matter how you look at it, the ark was not large enough to hold all those animals. When asked how large the ark was, he did not know. When asked how many animals were on the ark, he did not know. So, he did not know the size of the ark, nor did he know how many animals were on it, yet, he was certain the ark was not large enough. Hence, his argument was not based on reason, but on his biased opinion.

What was the size and capacity the ark? Genesis tells us that the measurements were 300 x 50 x 30 cubits. A cubit was at least 18 inches, with some ancient records having it longer. This made the ark a gigantic floating container - - a massive vessel at least 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet in height. Its three 15-foot tall stories each had upwards to 500,000 cubic feet or a total of more than 1,500,000 cubic feet. It's volume capacity is estimated to be equivalent to that of a train of more than 500 standard box cars. Imagine, eight trains each hauling 65 box cars. Indeed, the ark was quite capable of containing the animals.

How Did Noah Gather All the Animals?
Again, skeptics have gone to great lengths in disparaging Noah and the ark. Noah is sometimes pictured as an ignorant old man wandering the countryside, capturing all sorts of animals to put into the ark. As one skeptic said, "No educated man would consider for a moment that Noah could have captured all those animals and taken them to the ark."

Here again it is necessary to expose the ignorance of the skeptics. With a simple reading of the Genesis account of the flood, the foolishness of this argument becomes obvious. Noah did not have to gather the animals. In Genesis 6:20, God told him the animals would come to him. In the providential working of God the animals were guided to the ark.

How Was the Ark Ventilated?

Some skeptics have argued that the ark story is fiction because no allowance was made for ventilation. One said, "The ark story if foolish. With only one little window in the top of the ark how could all those animals have breathed?" So the account of a "window" (Genesis 6:16) is considered another flaw in the story and reflects on the inspiration of the Bible. At first glance this may appear to be a sound argument. But was the ark virtually sealed off? Did it have only one window?

Skeptics are again building upon assumption. This argument is made without regard for the text. The Bible does not say there was "one little window" in the ark. It says there was "a window" in the ark. But what does this mean? An examination of the text is in order. The King James version states, "A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above." The American Standard and the Masoretic Text read, "A light shalt thou make to the ark, and to a cubit shalt thou finish it upward." Leupold, in his commentary renders it, "An opening for light shalt make for the ark and to a cubit shalt thou make it complete toward the top."

The Hebrew text shows that the "window" was more than a mere cubit square opening. Rather, it was an opening for an abundance of light, within a cubit from the top. The meaning is that an opening within a cubit of the top extended completely around the ark. This is what the Hebrew word tekhallennah ("make it complete" or "finish it") indicates. An opening within a cubit of the top reaching around the ark would have supplied ample ventilation. And let it be remembered that while Noah was the builder of the ark, the grand Architect and Designer was God. He knew what was necessary for life to be sustained aboard the ark.

Was There Time to Build the Ark?

This is another imagined problem designed to cast doubt on this Biblical story. It is argued that one man could not have built such a huge craft. Of course, the building of such an enormous ark was no small venture and may have seemed impossible. And, indeed, it would have been had not God been involved.

However, it must be remembered that Noah was not alone. He had three sons to help in this task. Also, it is possible, if not probably, that Noah hired others in this work. The skeptic might respond, "But even if Noah had others to help him it would have taken years and years to accomplish." This cannot be denied - - it did indeed take many years to complete the job! And here again is another example of the skeptic failing to carefully observe the Genesis account. Genesis 6:3 reads, "My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." So from the time of the promise of the coming flood Noah had 120 years to build the ark. It is as simple as that.

Were Dinosaurs on the Ark?

Since they were a part of the animal world, dinosaurs were certainly on the ark. However, considering the size of some dinosaurs this is an obvious question. How, for example, could animals like the Brontosaurus or the T-Rex fit into the ark? In response there are several important matters to consider.

1) Though dinosaurs are commonly perceived to be huge, the fact is the great majority of the dinosaurs were quite small.

2) It is generally presumed that only adult animals were taken into the ark. Yet, it is entirely likely that the larger animals, including the larger dinosaurs, were taken in their infant state. Nothing at all required that the animals be full grown, and such animals could later have adequately repopulated the earth.

3) While there are about 650 names of dinosaurs, there only about 55 different "kinds." It is from these general kinds that many different dinosaurs could descend. This is much like many different varieties of dogs coming from one kind of dog, or many different varieties of cats coming from one kind of cat.

Questions concerning the Genesis flood are both interesting and welcomed, for they help the serious Bible student to look deeper into this amazing historical account. Such a study creates a stronger faith in the word of God.