Questions About the Genesis Flood

Did Noah’s Flood really cover the entire earth? And was it really possible for him to carry all the animals in his ark?
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

No narration available

One of this planet’s most significant events, rivaled only by the eventual end of the world itself, was the great Flood that is recorded in Genesis 6-8.

Let us address two questions frequently posed regarding this catastrophe.

“Did the Flood cover the entire earth?”

It is tragic that some equivocate on this subject. Willis avers: “There is simply not sufficient concrete information to allow a dogmatic judgment on this matter” (p. 174).

The view that the Flood was a mere local event was conceived about 300 years ago, and those today who subscribe to that notion do so because they have been influenced by evolutionary ideology. Note: “As with the Creation narrative, however, the evidence and arguments from science stack up overwhelmingly against a literal interpretation of the Flood story” (Sheler, p. 52, emphasis added).

And so, in deference to “science” [really, evolution theory] biblical data are either dismissed or manipulated so as to produce the desired result.

But the evidence for a global Flood is overwhelming.

Plain biblical language

The Mosaic language could not be plainer relative to the extent of the Deluge. “[A]II the high mountains, that were under the whole heaven were covered. . . And all flesh died that moved upon the earth” (Gen. 7:19,21).

While is it true that occasionally comprehensive terms are employed in a more limited sense, the context must demand such, and that factor does not obtain here.

Waters of the deep

A portion of the Flood waters came as a result of the fountains of “the great deep” being broken up (Gen. 7:11). The waters of “the deep” refer to the oceanic depths which adorn the entire planet (cf. 1:2; Psa. 104:6). This language certainly suggests more than a “Mesopotamian mud puddle.”

Size of the ark

If the Flood was but a localized occurrence, why did God have Noah work for more than a century constructing an Ark (of enormous capacity), when the family (not to mention the animals) easily could have migrated elsewhere to a safe region?

Length of time in the ark

There have been numerous devastating floods in various areas of the earth, which may impact different locales for weeks on end. But Noah and the other inmates of the Ark were in the vessel for more than a year. This was no local inundation.

Ancient traditions

There are numerous ancient traditions, from all around the globe, of a Flood that consumed the entire earth, and from which but one family was spared. Noted archaeologist Howard Vos contends that “on all continents and among almost all peoples of the earth flood accounts have been found.” Anthropologists have collected between 250 and 300 of these records (p. 32). This evidence hardly suggests a local flood.

Purpose of the flood

The Flood was designed as a punishment against the worldwide corruption of humanity (righteous Noah excepted) (Gen. 6:5,7,13; cf. Mt. 24:37-39; Lk. 17:26-27; 1 Pet. 3:20). This important point can be reconciled only with a global disaster.

“Never again”

God made a covenant with Noah that no flood, of this scope, would occur ever again (Gen. 9:11). If that Flood was simply regional, Jehovah’s pledge has been violated many times across the centuries.

Preview of future destruction

Peter prophesied the future return of Christ to render judgment upon the entire earth (2 Pet. 3). The apostle then anticipates a responsive quibble. Certain mockers would chide: “Where is the promise of his coming?” They appeal to the apparent uniformity of nature (i.e., the present order has prevailed for centuries).

But Peter charges that these scoffers “willfully forget” that the “world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (3:6). He affirmed that the earth would be destroyed at the time of the Lord’s return. If language means anything at all, the implication (indeed the affirmation) is that the entire globe of Noah’s day was ravaged by the Flood.

Christians must cease this senseless yielding to the criticisms of unbelievers relative to the integrity of the sacred text.

“How could thousands of animals have been housed in Noah’s Ark? This seems literally impossible.”

I am reminded of a story concerning a critic who once made the same objection. How could all of those animals have been squeezed into a vessel of that size! When asked how many animals there were, he shrugged. When pressed as to the size of the Ark, he confessed he really didn’t know.

All he knew was this: That unknown quantity of animals could not have been crammed into a barge of that undetermined size!

In their tremendous book, The Genesis Flood (1961), Whitcomb and Morris put the matter in focus (and their work has not been refuted by the critics to this day).

The dimensions of the Ark are given in Genesis 6. Roughly the vessel was some 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. With its three decks, it had a storage space of some 100,000 square feet, or the capacity equivalent of 8 freight trains consisting of 65 cars each—a total of 520 cars.

It is estimated (by evolutionary authorities) that there are approximately 1 million animal species (Dobzhansky, p. 166)—which includes everything from mammals to protozoans. Many of these, of course, would not even need to be inside the Ark; others are exceedingly small.

There are only about 17,600 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians altogether. This means there were, at most, about 35,000 vertebrate animals within Noah’s ship.

And note this: Noah brought into the Ark classifications designated as “kinds.” A “kind” is a broader category than a “species.” Moses spoke of “the owl ... after his kind” (Lev. 11:16), and yet there are more than 500 different sorts of owls. So the number of Ark-dwelling creatures can be reduced even further.

The average animal-size within the Ark is estimated to have been about that of a sheep. A standard railroad freight car can accommodate approximately 240 sheep. Thus only about 146 cars would be needed to facilitate the number of inmates of the Ark—considerably less than the 520 cited above.

A consideration of the evidence, therefore, clearly demonstrates that the arguments levied against the biblical affirmation of a global Deluge are invalid.

Efforts to limit Noah’s Flood to a local region are shameful compromises designed to placate an unbelieving community. Let Christian people not resort to such.

  • Dobzhansky, Theodosius. 1955. Evolution, Genetics, & Man. New York: John Wiley.
  • Willis, John. 1979. Genesis. Abilene, TX: ACU Press.
  • Sheler, Jeffery. 1999. “Is The Bible True?” U.S. News & World Report. October 25.
  • Vos, Howard. 1963. Genesis and Archaeology. Chicago: Moody Press; cf. Vos, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia—Rev. Vol. II. 1982.
  • Whitcomb, John & Morris, Henry. 1961. The Genesis Flood. Grand Rapids: Baker.