How Big Was the Flood?

Genesis 7:11 – In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 

The size of the flood has been widely debated and the two primary options that have been put forth are that it was a local flood, limited to the general area in which Noah lived, or a universal flood, covering the face of the entire planet. And, at first reading, the account of the flood certainly appears to be universal in nature covering the entire planet. Upon further inspection, however, there are at least four reasons why a less than universal flood is possible. Below are a few reasons to support each side.

The Case for a Global Flood

  1. Genesis 1:1 says God “created…the earth”, and 7:6 says, “the flood of waters came upon the earth”
  2. A plain reading of the Genesis account seems to report a global Flood
  3. Most Christians throughout history have believed in a global Flood
  4. God can and does do miracles
  5. Geological oddities point to a global Flood (e.g. seashells on mountain tops)
  6. Human sin cursed all of Creation, so the Flood covered all that was cursed
  7. Cultures across the world have Flood stories including the Babylonians, Chinese, Indians, Greeks, Mayans, islanders of the South Pacific, etc.

The Case for a Local Flood

  1. Noah reported what he saw, and he did not see the entire planet
  2. The Hebrew word for earth/land (eretz) can mean anything from the Promised Land to the planet
  3. Genesis was first read by Hebrews in the wilderness returning to the Promised Land
  4. No one lived globally until God scattered them (Genesis 11), so a local Flood would have brought judgment on every sinner
  5. Geological oddities (e.g. seashells atop mountains (occurred when God made the mountains and the seas (Genesis 1:9)
  6. Despite the earth being 70% covered by water, the amount of water needed to cover Mount Everest is roughly eight times the amount of water on earth
  7. The housing and caring for every type of animal on the earth, including their global redistribution, seems implausible

The question remains, how big was the flood? I would simply state that the flood was big enough. The point of the flood was to judge sinners. Since humanity had not spread out across the entire earth, most of the earth was not inhabited and would not be until God scatters mankind in Genesis 11. Therefore, to accomplish God’s purpose of judging all fallen sinners, the flood simply needed to be big enough to cover all the people who lived on the earth. Subsequently, whether the flood was universal or simply covered the area in which everyone lived, it was big enough to accomplish God’s purpose of putting an end to all sin and sinners except Noah and his family, who were saved by grace.

Thank God that, like Noah, even when we didn’t deserve His love and grace, He saved us anyway. Who can you share the good news of God’s grace with this week?

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