Noah's Flood


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Noah's Flood

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Many religions have mythological flood epics recounting either local or worldwide deluges that destroyed Earth a long time ago. But the story of Noah's flood is possibly the most famous. It is found in the biblical book of Genesis, beginning in chapter five, and it can be summarized by categories.

The Reasons for the Flood

It is often said the flood was sent because of human wickedness. But the Bible throws in a mysterious verse that raises questions.

When men began to increase in numbers on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.... The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become....

Now what's this all about? Speculation runs rampant. Who are the "sons of God"? What are "Nephilim," a word often translated as "giants"?

It depends, of course, on your hermeneutics, your method of interpretation. Literalists say one thing, metaphorists another. Some insist the "sons of God" were demons, fallen angels. When they had sex with the "daughters of men," children of demonic fathers were born. These offspring were either monstrous "giants," or they were the inspiration for heroes of the various pantheons of gods later enshrined in myth by the Greeks and Romans. Others claim the "sons of God" were the offspring of the "godly" line of Seth, the son of Adam and Eve who was born after the death of Abel. The "daughters of men" were the offspring of the wicked Cain, who murdered his brother.

Still others, of course, insist the whole thing is simply another case of an author quoting from some long-lost source we don't know about, so we can never know the story that was probably familiar to the original audience.

For centuries the "giants of Genesis" were credited with all sorts of feats. They built Stonehenge. They set up the many standing stones that dot the eastern shores of Europe. Some stories even had them building the stone statues of Easter Island.

Whatever the reason, God didn't like what had happened. It wasn't just human sin that caused the great flood. Obviously the author of Genesis had something else in mind.

The Mechanics of the Flood

"Okay," say the skeptics. "Where did the water come from—and where did it go afterward?"

Well, there are many ideas floated about this, too.

If it was really just a local flood that was misunderstood to be worldwide in scope, perhaps we're reading about the formation of the Mediterranean Sea. Or maybe the Bible is telling us about flooding around the area of the Black Sea. Still others read into this story proof of the flood that destroyed Atlantis.

Others go a little further out on a limb. The Bible says this is a worldwide flood. That means we need to find a bigger source for all the water.

Perhaps Genesis 1 gives us a hint. The waters of creation were separated into the waters "above the firmament" and the waters "below the firmament." Maybe a water canopy, possible in the form of ice, surrounded the planet. Maybe Earth once had rings like Saturn. And for a trigger point, perhaps the whole planet was once perpendicular on its axis, creating a "greenhouse effect" with moderate, constant seasons from pole to pole. That would explain the climate of the Garden of Eden and perhaps even account for the longer life spans of the early heroes of Genesis. All God had to do to set the flood in motion was to tilt the Earth to its present twenty-three and a half degrees. Then the whole canopy would collapse in the form of rain for forty days. It's the tilt of the Earth that gives us seasons, after all, and that would explain why the author tells us that after the flood, Earth would forever after have "seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter... as long as the earth endures." It could also explain what happened to the dinosaurs, why there are marine fossils high in the Rocky Mountains, and where oil deposits came from.

But that's still a lot of water. Where did it all go? Perhaps it just settled back into its present location. Maybe Earth was originally mostly land. And it took a while for all that water to drain down to its proper depth. And, by the way, isn't coastal flooding what all the global warming people are warning us about? Maybe the waters of Noah's flood are locked up in the polar ice caps.

The Account of Noah

Genesis claims the entire population of the world was destroyed. All but eight people—Noah, Noah's wife, their three sons, and their sons' wives—perished. From Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, descended all the modern races. Noah also took on board two of each of the "unclean" animals, those that weren't kosher, and seven of each of the "clean" animals. In other words, seven sheep but only two pigs; seven cows but only two lobsters (see Kosher). From this menagerie came every animal that now exists on Earth. Those that weren't included are now extinct.

They were crammed into an ark some 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. The boat was meant to float, not sail.

Is that big enough? Well, there are no end to models, both wood and computer generated, that have been built in order to "prove" it would be possible.

At any rate, the Bible insists it was Noah's home for the forty days and nights of rain, augmented by water from "all the springs of the great deep." The highest mountains were covered to "a depth of twenty feet." Then the waters took an additional "one hundred and fifty days" to recede. To find out when dry land was available to settle, Noah first sent out a raven, then a dove. The dove returned, unable to find a place to rest. A week later, another dove returned with an olive leaf in its beak. Finally, a third dove was sent out and failed to return. On the first month of Noah's 601st year, the earth was dry enough for him to come out of the ark, build an altar, offer a sacrifice, plant a vineyard, make some wine, and get drunk.

Does the Ark Still Exist?

Many books tell the stories of those who claim they have seen the remnants of the ark on Mount Ararat. Their descriptions have prompted a lot of high-powered excursions and well-funded expeditions. People take this seriously because Jesus said, in Matthew 24:37, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." In other words, the discovery of the ark would be a reminder, a good sign that the Second Coming is near. Besides this, it would support the conservative position that the Bible can be interpreted in a literal manner.

Although rumors of its final resting place are found way back in antiquity, the first modern sighting seems to have been reported by a Russian pilot in 1917. But his report was buried in government archives until the 1940s. In 1955 a French antiques dealer named Fernand Navarra claimed to have climbed to the site, removed some wood from a beam, and returned to have it analyzed. Initial reports said it was oak, at least 5,000 years old. Later, with the invention of radio carbon dating, estimates were upgraded to about 700 CE, far too late to have been from Noah's time.

Since then, "ark-aeologists" have built a whole cottage industry around finding what would be one of the greatest discoveries of all time. Various theories have been posed, the most popular being that the ark, now frozen in a glacier, has split into two halves, one of which has been carried farther down Mount Ararat. Satellite photos have been studied and some people claim a shadowy shape can be discerned during warm summers. But the ark remains an elusive goal.

So what can be said to summarize the search for the ark and the historical truth of Noah's flood?

As with all Bible stories, it comes down to interpretation. Those who read the Bible as they would a history text insist the flood was a real, worldwide catastrophe that happened just as Genesis says it did.

Others tend to think it may be a written rendition of oral history—memories of a long-forgotten local flood that was big enough to have seemed to be universal in scope to those who experienced it. A lot of flood stories exist, after all. Most religions around the world have similar myths. True, this may be proof of a universal flood. But it may also point to one big event that happened somewhere around the area of the Middle East, the memory of which diffused with migrating people wherever they went. Still others believe the flood is a mythological rendering of the human psyche, perhaps arising out of our birth experience.