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Was Noah's Flood Worldwide or Local?

Noah's Flood (Genesis 6): Worldwide or Local?The Bible describes the flood of Noah's day as a worldwide, historical event. Yet some believe it was only a local flood. What are the consequences of these views? 

Can the Bible teaching be harmonized with a local flood? Here is a summary of evidence that the flood was worldwide.

Some people doubt or deny that the flood was worldwide. But consider the evidence (unless otherwise indicated, references are to Genesis chapters 6-9):

1. The wording throughout uses expressions clearly referring to a worldwide event: whole earth, under the whole heaven, etc. See 6:13,17; 7:3,4,21-23. [6:7; 8:9,21; 9:11,15]

2. All flesh under the whole heaven died, including all that had the breath of life and all men. The only ones that survived were the ones on the ark (6:13,17; 7:4,21-23; 8:21; 9:11,15). How can this be explained except by a worldwide flood? In a local flood, some animals and almost surely some people in other places would survive.

3. The flood involved a steady downpour combined with fountains of the deep breaking up for a period of 40 days, followed by a period of 150 days in which the waters prevailed. A whole year passed before the ground was suitable for human habitation (7:11,12,24; 8:3,5,14). Surely the result would create more than just a local flood.

4. The water covered all the high hills under the whole heaven. It prevailed over the mountains by 15 cubits (7:19,20) and continued this way for 150 days (7:24). Water naturally flows to the lowest level. It could not cover and remain above the mountains unless the whole surface of the earth was covered.

5. Five months after the flood began, the ark rested on Ararat (7:11; 8:4). But another 2 1/2 months followed before the tops of the mountains were visible (8:5). Forty days after that, a dove sent out could find no place to land, because the water still covered the whole earth (8:6-9). Again, clearly this required a worldwide flood.

6. To build the ark and place the animals on it would be absurd, if this was only a local flood. In a local flood, animals elsewhere and probably people elsewhere would have survived. God could have saved some people and animals to repopulate the earth much more easily by having them migrate to where the flood would not occur. Yet the account clearly says the ark was needed to save the people and animals from passing from the face of the earth. (See 7:3,4,23.) Those who claim that this is a local flood effectively deny that God is all-wise. They make Him out to be more foolish than the average human!

7. We are later told that all living things on the earth were descended from Noah and the animals on the ark. See 9:1,18,19 (note the genealogy in chap. 10, especially 10:32). If the flood was not worldwide, there would be other people and animals elsewhere to repopulate the earth. [8:17,19]

8. God promised He would never again send such a flood to destroy all flesh from the face of the earth (8:21; 9:11,15). If this was just a local flood, God has repeatedly broken this promise.

9. Peter used the flood as a parallel of the worldwide judgment to occur when Jesus returns (2 Peter 3:3-7). If the flood was not worldwide, then how do we know the whole earth will be destroyed when judgment comes?

To deny that the flood was worldwide is to simply deny the Scriptures. To claim this is a legend is to make a mockery of the story. Once again, there is no middle ground. We must accept the account as historic truth as written, or we must simply deny the Bible is inspired by God.

(C) Copyright 2012, David E. Pratte;
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Topics for further Bible study

Evidences for God, Jesus, & the Bible
Noah's Flood: History or Legend?
Creation vs. Evolution
The Consequences of Evolution
Creation: Significance of the Doctrine - Return to the Gospel Way home page.

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