The Global Deluge

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 15 March 2018; Revised 17 October 2022


Scripture: Scripture quotations may be translated by the author or taken from various versions. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.

Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the article. "SG/SH" with a number corresponds to a Greek or Hebrew word with an assigned reference number from Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

Special Terms: In order to emphasize the Hebraic nature of Scripture I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus) and Messiah (Christ).

Bible scholars and scientists who subscribe to progressive creation believe the flood of Noah's time to be a localized flood affecting a small population, principally in Mesopotamia. However, the Genesis narrative in Chapters 69 clearly affirms a global cataclysm, a flood of unimaginable magnitude. Let's consider the evidence.

Announcement and Instruction

God informed Noah in advance of His intention to wipe out all humanity on the face of the earth:

"7 I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them. 17 For behold, 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." (Gen 6:7, 17 ESV).

God instructed Noah to build a vessel to carry his family and animals of every kind in order to survive the deluge.

"14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks." (Gen 6:14-16 ESV)

The construction materials were unique. The word "gopher" occurs only in Genesis 6:14 and this tree may have only existed in primeval earth and had water resistance properties. Then Noah was to apply a water resistant sealant inside and outside the vessel to prevent any leakage.

The dimensions God prescribed for the ark made it much too large for regional animal life. A cubit is a Hebrew unit of measure of about 18 inches based on the length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. So converting the cubits to feet yields a vessel of 437 feet long, almost 73 feet wide and about 44 feet tall. That would give a volume of 1,396,000 cubic feet and a gross tonnage of 13,960 tons. The volumetric capacity would equal 522 standard railroad stock cars, enough to carry 125,280 sheep-sized animals and far more than enough to carry two of every known kind of land animal, living or extinct.

Narrative of Catastrophe

The straightforward account of the flood experienced by Noah and his family employs descriptions and terminology that depict a cataclysmic event which incorporated much more terrain than just the area where Noah lived.

The Hebrew noun mabbul (SH-3999; BDB 550), "flood" or "deluge," occurs 13 times in the Tanakh and applies only to the flood of Noah's time (Gen 6:17; 7:6, 7, 10, 17; 9:11, 15, 28; 10:1, 32; 11:10; Ps 29:10). The LXX translates mabbul with kataklusmos (SG-2627, deluge or flood), which also has the same restricted usage for the flood of Noah's time.

NOTE: The normal word for a localized flood is Heb. sheteph (SH-7858; BDB 1009; Job 38:25; Ps 32:6; Prov 27:4; Nah 1:8) or the verb shataph (SH-7857; BDB 1009; to overflow), used in relation to describing an overflowing river (Isa 8:8) or heavy rains that cause flooding (Ezek 11:11).

In one day all "the fountains of the great deep burst open and the windows of heaven were opened" (Gen 7:11). The judgment of God began with a great earthquake, the first in history. In this context the deep may refer to underground reservoirs of water. The word "windows" (Heb. arubbah) refers to sluices in the sky through which rain pours destructively. This was no gentle rain.

The rain was incessant, pouring for 40 days and 40 nights (Gen 7:4, 12). This is the first mention of the time period of "40 days," so it cannot be hyperbole or figurative language. The complete expression "forty days and forty nights" occurs only seven times in Scripture and the other occasions were also literal periods of time (Ex 24:18; 34:28; Deut 10:10; 1Kgs 19:8; Matt 4:2).

The rising waters covered "all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens" and reached a level 15 cubits above the highest mountains (Gen 7:19-20).

All flesh with the breath of life (humans and animals) outside the ark died (Gen 6:17; 7:21-23; 8:21). God "blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land." The list of animals destroyed by the deluge includes the birds, which could have escaped a local flood.

Out of the human population on the earth only Noah and his family were saved (Gen 7:23) and from his family descended seventy nations (Gen 10:1-32). So thoroughly did the roiling waters purge the earth of sinful mankind that no fossils of human beings of Noah's generation have ever been found. On the other hand, thousands of animal fossils have been discovered, all mute testimony of divine judgment.

After five months the ark finally rested on the mountains of Ararat (Gen 8:4). The narrative does not identify a specific peak or ground location.

Waters receded for two months before peaks were seen (Gen 8:5).

Noah and his family were in the ark for over a year (Gen 7:11; 8:14).

Flood Population

How many people were killed in the global deluge? Henry Morris provided the following calculations (BBMS 421).

The Biblical Facts

Starting with two people, Adam and Eve.

There were 1,656 years from Adam to Noah's age at the deluge.

There were ten generations, that is, ten men who had "sons and daughters."

Average age of nine men in the antediluvian era = 912 years.

Calculation Assumptions

Average family size of 6.

Average generation of 100 years.

Average lifespan of 500 years.

Yields 235 million people died in the Flood!

The current population rate would have resulted in 3 billion deaths! A generation is generally considered to be the period of time from the death of a person to the birth of his children. The average family used to be marriage at age 25 and 4 children born by age 35. The current generation may only be 30 years.

The Book of Job

It's very possible that Job lived only 300 years after the great deluge of Noah's time. Job mentions Noah being shut in the ark and the worldwide destruction by water following:

"Behold, He breaks down, and it cannot be built again; He shuts up a man, and there can be no opening. 15 Behold, He withholds the waters, and they dry up; again He sends them out, and they overturn [Heb. haphak, overturn, overthrow, inundate] the earth" (Job 12:14-15 BR).

The book of Job also speaks of the aftermath of the deluge, namely the drying (14:11-12), and the oceanic boundaries that protect the earth from a similar flood (26:10; 38:8-11). There are even hints of a post-Flood ice age (37:9-10; 38:22-23, 29-30). Indeed, there are more references to cold, snow, ice and frost in Job than in any other book of the Bible.

Covenant of the Rainbow

After the deluge God made a covenant with Noah. Indeed, the first time the word "covenant" occurs in Scripture is in reference to the covenant God made with Noah and his descendants (Gen 6:18; 9:1-17; Jer 33:25). In this covenant God expressed four expectations of mankind: (1) every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you (2) you shall not eat flesh with its blood. (3) whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; and (4) populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it (Gen 9:3-7). These expectations negate vegetarianism, justify capital punishment for murder and prohibit killing the unborn in the womb.

God then promised to never again destroy the earth by water, and that the seasons and the day and night will continue as long as the earth stands (Gen 8:22; 9:11). If the flood of Noah's time was only a local flood, then this promise is meaningless. Moreover, God gave the covenantal sign of the rainbow (Gen 9:13-16), as a perpetual reminder of His promise. Again, if the flood of Noah's time was only local, the promise of the rainbow is likewise meaningless, because localized floods still occur. The rainbow regularly broadcasts God's faithfulness in spite of mankind's ignorance of its meaning and repeated failure to His commandments.

The Besekh

The Greek word kataklusmos is used in passages that reference the deluge of Noah's time. Yeshua in his Olivet Discourse likens the global judgment of the Day of the Lord to the deluge of Noah's time that "came and took them all away" (Matt 24:38-39; para. Luke 17:27). Peter in his second letter affirmed that God "did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly" (2Pet 2:5 NASB).

Works Cited

BBMS: Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.

BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.

SG/SH: Reference to a Greek or Hebrew word in James Strong (1822-1894), Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1890). Print versions available from various publishers. Online.

For Further Study

Henry Morris, The Genesis Record. Baker Book House, 1976.

Henry Morris, The Remarkable Record of Job, Baker Book House, 1988.

John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, The Genesis Flood. Baker Book House, 1961.

John Whitcomb, The World That Perished. 3rd. ed. BMH Books, 2009.

Copyright 2018-2022 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.