Was the Flood of Noah Local or Global?
Some of our readers may wonder why a question like this must be asked. After all, they reason that the Bible teaches a worldwide flood and that settles it. They are not troubled by the arguments for and against such a flood.
On the other hand, there are many others who profess to be Christians who outright deny that the flood of Noah was worldwide. They go along with the secularistic uniformitarian principle that all present processes were present in the past, and there is no room for a miraculous intervention of God into earth history. To use the words of Peter, they affirm that “all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4b). We might also point out that most non-religious, non-supernatural, and non-believing people would also reject a worldwide flood.
Therefore, this question should be asked since there are many people who claim to be Christians who maintain that the flood of Genesis was merely confined to the Fertile Crescent, thus it was quite local in extent. They think that the problems associated with a cataclysmic worldwide deluge are simply too many to take the Bible seriously. But is this a tenable position to take if we wish to be true to the Word of God?
Reasons for a Worldwide Flood
- First, everyone must admit that the Bible teaches that there was a flood that covered the earth in extent. Further, the depth of the flood covered the highest mountains. Also, Noah and his family were required to stay in the ark for over a year, something that would not have been needed if it was a local event.
- Since everyone admits that Genesis 6-9 describes a worldwide flood, if we were to deny such a deluge, we would be rejecting the very Word of God. In other words, the inspiration of the Bible is at stake since this is something taught in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- The flood occurred some 1,600 years after creation and by this time, the migration of people would have taken them a great distance from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1-5). If there were a local flood, it would not have reached all the people of the world.
- Since all land animals and birds were also to be destroyed, are we to think that no animals were found outside of the Fertile Crescent? This would be beyond imagination.
The Description of the Flood Demands that it be Global in Extent
If we believe in the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, we should be very concerned about what we actually read on its pages. Let’s examine some of the verses from Genesis 6-9 to discover how the flood of Noah is described.
- Every person was to be destroyed in the flood. God said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:7). All land creatures were to be wiped out, thus the flood must have covered all the land of the earth.
- The Lord said, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth” (6:13). Again, “all flesh” (all life) was to be destroyed. And God says that He will destroy “the earth”—not merely a small portion of the earth. While “earth” may sometimes be translated as “land,” surely here it is speaking of the entire globe.
- God told Noah to build an ark—a huge vessel that could support representatives of all animals and birds during a worldwide flood. If the flood were merely local, Noah and his family could have easily walked out of the local area.
- To build such a huge vessel, it must have taken Noah many years with much help from others. All of this would not have been necessary if he could have walked a few hundred miles to escape a local flood.
- The Lord said, “I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish” (6:17). Again God emphasizes the worldwide extent of the flood.
- “Now Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth” (7:6). Notice that the flood came upon the “earth” and not merely a local area.
- “It came about after the seven days, that the water of the flood came upon the earth” (7:10). Again, we see that the “earth” was inundated and not merely a small portion of land near the Tigris and Euphrates.
- Scripture says that “the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened” (7:11b). This indicates a mass of water that was far beyond the natural. It was sufficient to cover the entire earth and not merely the Euphrates valley.
- The description of the flood itself speaks of a worldwide deluge: “Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered” (7:17-20). The water was so high that it covered the tops of the highest mountains. This speaks of a worldwide flood and not a local event.
- After the water ceased, the Bible says that “the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat” (8:4). We may not know the exact mountain, but we do know that the ark of Noah rested on the mountains. This shows that the flood was not merely a local event but it was great enough to cover the mountains with a very high altitude.
- Before the flood, high mountain ranges were probably not in existence. These came about when there was much volcano activity, perhaps when the fountains of the deep spewed forth massive amounts of water. Earthquakes also must have changed the terrain at this time. Some would also say that “continental drift” also occurred at this time. All of this leads us to conclude that the flood was worldwide.
- After the flood, God said that “neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth” (9:11b; cf. vv. 15, 16). This again shows that the flood was an “earth wide” flood and not a local event. There have been many local floods in many parts of the world, and many thousands of people have been drowned, but there has been only one worldwide deluge.
All of these Scripture passages show us that we are dealing with a worldwide flood and not a local flood. An ark of large dimensions was needed to carry the earth-dwelling animals and birds for over a year. This was needed since humans and the animals were unable to find a place of safety without such a vessel.
New Testament References
The Hebrew writer says that Noah, “in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (11:7). In condemning the world, we learn that the whole world was involved in this judgment and not merely a small geographical area.
When we turn to 2 Peter 2:5 to learn 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.” Notice that reference is made to the “ancient world” and “the world of the ungodly.” Surely this means that the flood came upon the whole world and not only a small portion.
Peter mentions the worldwide deluge in 2 Peter 3:5-6: “. . . by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” This shows that the apostle, Peter, affirms the worldwide judgment of the flood. He says, “The world at that time was destroyed,” not just the Mesopotamian valley!
Matthew 24:37-39 as well as Luke 17:26-27 refer to the flood and the fact that “the flood came and took them all away” (Matthew24:39). This shows that a judgment came on the world at that time, but an even greater judgment will befall the world when Christ returns.
The Evidence is Clear
We have seen abundant evidence that the flood of Noah’s day was a worldwide cataclysm and not a minor (or major) local event. It was meant to wipe out all human beings, all land animals and birds, and this was to be the end of a wicked world and a beginning of a new world and new age.
Those who would deny this extensive support of a global catastrophe may be seeking to bolster the uniformitarian view of naturalism. This is the belief that God does not intervene in earthly life with miraculous events. But the flood of Genesis 6-9 definitely is a miraculous occurrence and is meant to teach us a lesson. Just as God destroyed the world by water at the time of Noah, so He will destroy the world again—by fire! “By His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7).
Are we ready for God’s sure judgment that is coming on this earth? Now is the time to prepare, for our merciful God is also a God of judgment and wrath, and He will surely bring judgment on those who reject His mercy and insist on their own chosen way of sin. Are you prepared?