The Biblical account of the flood is found in Genesis 6:11 to 9:17.  As we read[1]:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).

But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord…  Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.  Noah walked with God… And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.  Make yourself an ark of gopher wood… 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.  But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.  And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female” (Genesis 6:8-19).

Noah obeys, and constructs the ark according to God’s precise specifications.  He and his family board, along with all the animals that have been called by God.  God shuts them inside the ark.

After seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.  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.  And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:10-12).

The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth…  And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.  The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.  And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind…  They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.  And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (Genesis 7:17-24).

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided… At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.  And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen (Genesis 8:1-5).

At the end of forty days Noah… sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth.  Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground.  But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark… He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark.  And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.  Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.  In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry (Genesis 8:6-13).

Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing that is with you… that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.  Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark (Genesis 8:15-19).

Upon leaving the ark, Noah builds an altar and offers a sacrifice to God.  God blesses Noah, and makes a convenant with him:

God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.  I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:8-11).

A Real, Historical Event

There are many today who doubt the historicity of the Genesis account, including the flood narrative.  However, the Bible refutes such scepticism.  The Bible is very clear that the flood really did happen; it was a real, historical event.

You will note in the biblical account of the flood that there are repeated references to the exact date on which the events occurred (for example in Genesis 7:11).  The ESV Study Bible draws our attention to this, stating that “by pinpointing the exact date of the flood within Noah’s life, the text underlines that it was a real event.”[2]

Likewise, in Isaiah 54:9-10, we read:  ““This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you.  For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

In Matthew 24:37, Jesus says:  “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

And Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:20 of: “when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.”

Throughout the Bible, Old and New Testaments, and in the teaching of Jesus Himself, the flood is considered a real, historical event.  This means that it was a real historical event.  To compromise and deny this is to deny the teaching of Scripture.  Lloyd-Jones is very clear about this:

“You can’t play fast and loose with these early chapters of Genesis… You cannot hold on to Jesus Christ and the Gospel if you reject this, because He believed this [as] literal history.  The whole of this salvation which the Bible has to offer is historical.”[3]

Similarly, some sceptics have attempted to suggest that the flood was just a local event.  It is plainly obvious that the Bible does not allow for such views; what is described is a cataclysmic event of spectacular violence and world-wide impact (note in Genesis 6:13 the reference to destroying the earth, along with all flesh).  The destructive forces that God unleashed are beyond anything we can imagine.

So what evidence is there for the Christian to support this claim?  If there really was a worldwide flood of such magnitude, you would expect evidence of it to show up not just in geology, but also in the history of many cultures around the world.  After all, according to the Bible, all mankind is descended from Noah and his sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth).

First, geology.  As Snelling points out, if there was a worldwide flood that wiped out nearly all life on earth, “wouldn’t we expect to find billions of dead plants and animals buried and fossilized in sand, mud, and lime that were deposited rapidly by water in rock layers all over the earth? Of course! That’s exactly what we find.”[4]  He goes on to provide six different geological evidences for the flood.

Second, cultural history.  Many cultures do indeed have ancient flood narratives, which often bear striking similarities to the Genesis account.  As Anderson and Edwards explain, “a primeval catastrophic flood is well embedded in the traditions of nations across the world, including Iran, Egypt, Russia, China, India, Mexico, Peru and Hawaii.”[5]

Here are just a few; note the similarities, and differences, to the Biblical narrative:

The Epic of Gilgamesh; Tablet XI – The Story of the Flood (Mesopotamia)

In this story, the gods decide to wipe out mankind with a global flood.  A man named Utanapishtim is warned about this upcoming flood by the god who made mankind, and told to build a huge boat (in the shape of a cube):

“O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubartutu:  Tear down the house and build a boat!  Abandon wealth and seek living beings!  Spurn possessions and keep alive living beings!  Make all living beings go up into the boat.  The boat which you are to build, its dimensions must measure equal to each other:  its length must correspond to its width.”

Utanapishtim narrates:

“It was a field in area, its walls were each 10 times 12 cubits in height, the sides of its top were of equal length, 10 times 12 cubits each.  I laid out its (interior) structure… I provided it with six decks, thus dividing it into seven (levels).  The inside of it I divided into nine (compartments).

I had all my kith and kin go up into the boat, all the beasts and animals of the field and the craftsmen I had go up… I watched the appearance of the weather – the weather was frightful to behold!  I went into the boat and sealed the entry… Just as dawn began to glow there arose from the horizon a black cloud.  The land shattered like a pot.  All day long the South Wind blew, blowing fast, submerging the mountain in water, overwhelming the people like an attack.  No one could see his fellow, they could not recognize each other in the torrent.  The gods were frightened by the Flood, and retreated, ascending to the heaven of Anu.  The gods were cowering like dogs, crouching by the outer wall.

Six days and seven nights came the wind and flood, the storm flattening the land.  When the seventh day arrived, the storm was pounding, the flood was a war struggling with itself like a woman writhing (in labor).  The sea calmed, fell still, the whirlwind (and) flood stopped up.  I looked around all day long – quiet had set in and all the human beings had turned to clay!  The terrain was as flat as a roof.

On Mt. Nimush the boat lodged firm… One day and a second Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway… When a seventh day arrived I sent forth a dove and released it.  The dove went off, but came back to me; no perch was visible so it circled back to me.  I sent forth a swallow and released it.  The swallow went off, but came back to me; no perch was visible so it circled back to me.  I sent forth a raven and released it.  The raven went off, and saw the waters slither back.  It eats, it scratches, it bobs, but does not circle back to me.

Then I sent out everything in all directions and sacrificed (a sheep)… The gods smelled the savor, the gods smelled the sweet savor, and collected like flies over a (sheep) sacrifice.”[6]

The Bundaba Flood Story (Australian Aboriginal)

“Long, long ago there was a great flood. It originated from the fact of some children who found the “winking” owl in a tree and plucked out all its feathers. They forced a grass reed through its nose and treated the bird most shamefully. The bird flew without wings, into the heavens and showed himself to Ngowungu, the Great Father. Ngowungu became very angry and decided to drown the people.

Later the people saw a small cloud rising which grew bigger and bigger till it spread all over the sky. The thunder began to roll and crash and the people were greatly afraid.  With the rain and thunder was a terrible wind… The salt water, the sea, came pouring over the ranges from the north. The flood rose higher and higher till all the land was covered except the tops of two or three mountains.

From further west a man and his wives with a dog were battling their way in a canoe when a bird with a leaf in its mouth flew in front of them showing them the way to Mt. Broome. They eventually reached Mt. Broome and landed there where some other survivors were.

Then Djabalgari, the great left-handed man incised his little finger and let the blood trickle down into the flood waters. The waters began to go down and eventually disappeared off the country. All other people were drowned.” [7]

Hawaiian Flood Story

“Hawaiians have a flood story that tells of a time when, long after the death of the first man, the world became a wicked, terrible place. Only one good man was left, and his name was Nu-u. He made a great canoe with a house on it and filled it with animals. In this story, the waters came up over all the earth and killed all the people; only Nu-u and his family were saved.”[8]

Pawnee (Nebraska, USA) and Miao (China) Tribe Flood Stories

“The Pawnee tribe… has the following tradition: the creator Ti-ra-wa destroyed the first people, who were giants, by water because of his indignation about their corruption and after that he created a man and a woman like present people, who became the Pawnees’ ancestors… The Miao tribe… [tell that] when god destroyed the whole world by the flood because of wickedness of man, Nuah the righteous man and his wife Matriarch, their three sons, Lo Han, Lo Shen, and Jah-hu survived by building a very broad ship and embarked on it with pairs of animals.”[9]

These are just a small representation of the many flood narratives that exist all around the world.

The Truth Behind the Myths

Scoffers, of course, will refuse to accept this as evidence of the truth of the Biblical account, largely because they rule out the supernatural.  Many of them demand ‘evidence’, and talk of being ‘people of reason’, but the reality is that no evidence will ever be enough for them.  Remember what Jesus said about the sign of Jonah.

As Sarfati states: “It is common to make legends out of historical events, but not history from legends.”[10]  All people descend from Noah and those with him on the Ark.  Therefore, it is not surprising that many cultures have memories of the flood.  These memories, passed down through the generations orally and then written down, became corrupted and embellished over time, which is why there are many variations on the flood story to be found.  However, the common themes indicate that they are all based upon true events of history.  This is the best explanation for the existence of myriad flood narratives found right across the world, from the Americas to Australia and everywhere in between.

The Bible is God-breathed, and when the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to record the events in Genesis, the result was an accurate record of the true events that took place.

How can we be sure that the Bible’s account is the true account of what really took place?  Look at how much more credible and coherent the biblical account is; it is a coherent, detailed historical record that fits perfectly into the historical narrative of the Bible.  The details too are much more plausible than those of the other narratives.[11]  Let us compare, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Genesis.

Sarfati states that:

“The Bible teaches that mankind was originally monotheistic.  Archealogical evidence suggests the same, indicating that only later did mankind degenerate into idolatrous pantheism.”[12]

Corduan presents a study of the evidence for “original monotheism” in his book, which is well worth reading.  As he points out, “virtually every religious culture carries a vestige of monotheism… and the tribes that are least developed in terms of their overall material culture provide some of the strongest support for original monotheism”.[13]  The point here is that, because the Genesis account is monotheistic, while the Epic is polytheistic, this shows that the Epic is a corruption of the true account, because polytheism is a later degeneration away from monotheism.

Sarfati presents further proofs:

“In Genesis, God’s judgment is just… [He] shows mercy to Noah, and is sovereign.  Conversely, the gods in the Gilgamesh Epic are capricious and squabbling, cower at the flood and are famished without humans to feed them sacrifices.”[14]

The gods of the Gilgamesh Epic do not seem to have any real, concrete motive for sending the flood.  The closest it gets is the line “Charge the violation to the violator, charge the offense to the offender”, which is very vague.  This is a clear sign that, as time went on, people forgot the true God, and His just reasons for sending the flood; to punish man for turning from Him in sin and rebellion.  They persisted in that same rebellion and sin themselves, writing Him out of the flood narrative in favour of gods of their own making and the teaching of demons.[15]

There’s the length of the flood, too.  The Gilgamesh Epic tells of just six days and seven nights of rain, and gives no mention of the fountains of the deep.  This just does not seem enough water for a global flood.  The Genesis flood timeline, however, lasts a whole year, and includes the opening of the fountains of the deep.

Sarfati points out, further, that the shape of the ark in the Gilgamesh Epic is “ridiculous”; a huge cube that would roll and tip in even calm seas.  Noah’s ark, meanwhile, was perfectly seaworthy and optimally designed.  For arrogant sceptics who doubt that such a ship could be built by ‘primitive’ ancient people, he also references other giant wooden vessels recorded in history, which were of comparable size to the ark.[16]

Osanai states in her thesis studying the two accounts:

“According to the specifics, scientific reliability, internal consistency, the correspondence to the secular records, and the existence of common elements among the flood traditions around the world, the Genesis account seems to be more acceptable as an accurate historical record. If all human races are descendants of Noah’s three sons, the survivors from the universal Flood, and the two accounts had derived from the same historical event, the reason the accounts have many similarities is explicable.”[17]

All the other flood accounts, while having echoes of the Genesis story, share similar problems.  They are implausible, and all read very differently to Genesis, which is a coherent historical narrative.  Genesis alone has the stamp of authority.

Of course, I must say at this point that my primary reason for believing the biblical account to be true is that I trust the Bible as the authoritative, inerrant and sufficient Word of God.  The Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to see and believe.  As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13:  “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”

There is nothing else but the Bible that describes so perfectly the world in which we live, and there is no other message like the Gospel.  I can personally testify to that.

In conclusion then, the flood that we read about in Genesis was a real, historical event, just as the Bible describes.  Echoes of the true story, though corrupted, can be found in the mythology of diverse people groups from around the globe, along with evidence in the natural world around us.  The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is authoritative, inerrant, and sufficient.  Brothers and sisters, let us have confidence in this Word of God!

[1] I’ve shortened the account somewhat to limit the length of this article; I would recommend that you read the full account also.

[2] T. Desmond Alexander, ‘Genesis’, in the ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), p.63.

[3] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, ‘God Must Punish Sin’ [A Sermon on Genesis 6:7-8], Martyn Lloyd-Jones Trust, available at: www.mljtrust.org/audio-sermons/genesis/6/, accessed 23rd April 2018.

[4] Dr. Andrew A. Snelling, ‘Geologic Evidences for the Genesis Flood – Part I: An Overview’, Answers in Genesis, available at: answersingenesis.org/the-flood/geologic-evidences-for-the-genesis-flood, 18th September 2007, accessed 17th April 2018.  Sadly, most people, including many Christians, are blind to such evidence because they have been indoctrinated with the theory of evolution since they were children.

[5] Clive Anderson and Brian Edwards, Evidence for the Bible (Leominster: Day One Publications: 2014).  This book, a gift from Fillia, was purchased from the gift shop in the British Museum.  It may be surprising to some that a book supporting the trustworthiness of the Bible should be found in such a place, but it goes to show that, despite what scoffers might say, the Bible’s history is accurate.  God will not allow His truth to be silenced.

[6] The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI (translated by Maureen Kovacs).  Available at: www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/tab11.htm, 1998, accessed 16th April 2018.

[7] Cited in: W. Douglas and Howard Coates, ‘Australian Aboriginal Flood Stories’, Answers in Genesis, available at: answersingenesis.org/the-flood/flood-legends/australian-aboriginal-flood-stories, 1st March 1981, accessed 17th April 2018.

[8] Dr. Monty White, ‘Flood Legends: The Significance of a World of Stories Based on Truth’, Answers in Genesis, available at: answersingenesis.org/the-flood/flood-legends/flood-legends, 29th March 2007, accessed 17th April 2018.

[9] Nozomi Osanai, ‘A comparative study of the flood accounts in the Gilgamesh Epic and Genesis – Chapter 7: A comparison from secular historical records’, Creation Ministries International, available at: creation.com/gilgamesh-epic-v-genesis-thesis-by-nozomi-oaanai-chapter-7-a-comparison-from-secular-historical-records, accessed 22nd April 2018.

[10] Jonathan D. Sarfati, The Genesis Account: A Theological, Historical and Scientific Commentary on Genesis 1-11 (Powder Springs: Creation Book Publishers, 2015), p.506.

[11] This also refutes sceptical suggestions that Genesis is ‘copied’ from pagan myths.

[12] Sarfati, Genesis Account, p.506.

[13] Winfried Corduan, Neighbourhing Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012).

[14] Sarfati, Genesis Account, p.508.

[15] As Paul writes in Romans 1:22-25: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!  Amen.”  And thus, tragically, it continues to this very day.

[16] Sarfati, Genesis Account, pp.499-506.

[17] Nozomi Osanai, ‘A comparative study of the flood accounts in the Gilgamesh Epic and Genesis – Conclusion’, Creation Ministries International, available at: creation.com/conclusion-of-nozomi-osanais-thesis-gilgamesh-epic-v-genesis, accessed 22nd April 2018.


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