One of the greatest cataclysmic events in the history of planet Earth was undoubtedly the flood of Noah’s day as recorded in Genesis chapters 6 to 9. It was an awesome geologic event with major implications with regard to the past, present, and future of this world. Interest in the Genesis flood has increased recently with several expeditions going to Ararat in Turkey hoping to find any evidence of Noah’s ark that might be there. But political and climactic difficulties have hindered any full-scale investigation.
That the flood took place as an historical event can hardly be questioned. Apart from the inspired Genesis record, Jesus put His stamp of authority on the biblical record in Matthew 24:27–39. Paul also (Hebrews 11:7) and Peter (1 Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 2:5) testified to its reality. Secular history also confirms it with reports in the Gilgamesh Epic of Babylon, as well as in Sumerian and other writings. Sir James George Frazer lists one hundred of these reports. It is true they do not agree on the flood details, but is it not remarkable that they all agree that a flood of some magnitude inundated the earth?
Some people, trying to remove the supernatural, postulate a local flood. But that cannot be. The flood waters prevailed and “all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered” (Genesis 7:19, emphasis added). “Fifteen cubits [22 feet] upwards did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered” (verse 20). Such a situation would be impossible with a local flood for the waters would spill over into the next valley. To retain the water from doing so would require as big a miracle as the flood itself.
If the flood was purely local why did Noah have to spend over a hundred years building an immense craft measuring about 437 feet long with a breadth of 73 feet and a height of 44 feet? Its volume would have been about 1.4 million cubic feet. With a local flood Noah and his family would have needed only to emigrate into the next valley. The wicked, who were supposed to be destroyed by the judgment of the flood, could have done the same thing.
Remember there were 1,656 years from Adam to Noah and the flood. From Adam to Noah were eighteen generations and at a modest increase of 1.5% per year the population would have grown to almost 800 million people. That means the world’s population was not just confined to one valley which the flood would destroy. A local flood would not have achieved the Lord’s objective stated in Genesis 6:13.
The waters remained on the earth after the flood, not in the cloud system above the earth. The clouds retain moisture, but if all the clouds were precipitated the water level on earth would rise by only a few inches. Scientists can tell us fairly accurately how much water is currently on earth. Assuming, for the sake of simplicity, that the earth is perfectly round (it is actually a sphere) it is a simple calculation to ascertain the heights of the mountains that were covered to a depth of about 22 feet. There were no mountains as high as Everest in antediluvian days. They were probably no higher than about eight thousand feet.
In a universal flood imagine a ball covered by water on which floats Noah’s ark with its precious cargo of people and animals. For the flood waters to dissipate and for dry land to appear required significant major geologic processes including volcanism, diastrophism (earth movement including orogeny or mountain building), sedimentation, tidal movements, and fossilization. To regain isostatic balance the land would have to be moved upwards and the resultant valleys would draw off the flood waters. Psalm 104:6–9 describes the recession of water to allow the “dry land” to appear at creation (Genesis 1:9–10). The same geologic activity would have been seen immediately after the flood. “They [the floodwaters] go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them” (Psalm 104:8). The marginal rendering is even clearer, “The mountains ascend, the valleys descend.”
This means that there has been a major change in the surface of the earth’s crust. Charles Darwin, known by many as the father of evolution, once stated that nothing, not even the wind that blows, is more unstable than the crust of the earth. The world that Noah saw when he stepped out of the ark was vastly different from the one with which he was familiar. So someone asks, where is the evidence of such a cataclysm today? The answer is simple: everywhere. The present earth’s crust is a direct result of the recession of the flood waters. The scientists tell us the world’s great mountain ranges such as the Himalayas and the Andes show evidence of being upheaved distances measured in miles. Seashells have been found in their upper reaches at heights to which no bird could fly. So as the flood waters receded there was unprecedented geologic activity and evidence of the flood is to be seen everywhere.
Some argue that if there was a universal flood it would take ages for the world to recover, but recent events prove the error of that view. In 1963 the volcanic Icelandic island of Surtsey was born. Within two years the first plant was found growing in Surtseyan lava and by 2008, 69 species of plant life were thriving and sea birds had made Surtsey their home. The massive eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 destroyed much of the local area with the loss of 57 lives. But within just 25 years much of the plant life was restored. So it does not take millions of years to recover from a catastrophe.
The flood of the past demonstrates the inevitable punishment of sin. In the present the evidence of the flood is written on every mountain and valley. For the future, the universal nature of the flood that destroyed all humans and animals outside of Noah’s ark gives credibility to the God’s warnings of another universal judgment, not by water but by fire (2 Peter 3:10). In light of this final judgment of planet earth Peter poses a powerful question, “What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?”
Dr. Frank McClelland is minister emeritus of Toronto FPC in Toronto, Ontario.