The Genesis Flood (1/4)
The Genesis flood record is not an embarrassing mess of unlikely circumstances and implausible descriptions like the other Mesopotamian flood stories. It is an accurate account of a genuine historical event. It is superior to the records of the 3rd millennium flood left by other Mesopotamian cultures, showing a direct knowledge of the events and careful attention to detail.
The information in the Genesis flood record is reliable, and is proved so by archaeological findings. There was a real Noah, a real ark, and a real flood. There was a real judgment, sent by a real God.
In this first article (of four), the following questions are addressed:
• ‘all flesh’: Psalm 145:21, Isaiah 40:5; 66:23, Jeremiah 45:5, Ezekiel 20:48; 21:4, Joel 2:28
• ‘under heaven’: Mark 16:15, Colossians 1:23
• ‘the face of the earth’: Genesis 4:14; 41:56, Exodus 10:5, Numbers 11:31; 22:5, 11, Isaiah 23:17, Jeremiah 25:26, Ezekiel 34:5; 38:20
• ‘The fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the wild beasts, all the things that creep on the ground’: Ezekiel 38:20
Equivalent phrases also used in a non-literal sense include:
• Deuteronomy 2:25, ‘all people under heaven’
• 1 Kings 18:10, ‘every nation and kingdom’
• Ezekiel 38:20, ‘The fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the wild beasts, all the things that creep on the ground, and all people who live on the face of the earth’
• Daniel 4:1; 5:19; 6:24, ‘all peoples, nations, and language groups’
• Mark 16:15, Colossians 1:23, ‘all creation’
This article provides evidence that the flood was an event local to Mesopotamia.
Physical evidence such as flood deposits indicate that the areas of Babylonia, Akkad, and Sumer were all affected by the flood. Flood layers have been found from Ur to Kish, a distance of over 200 kilometres:
‘The search for flood deposits within the settlement hills was triggered by Sir C. Leonard Woolley’s excavations at Ur south of Uruk in the 1920’s. WOOLLEY (1931) ascribed a more than 2.5 m thick homogeneous loam void of artifacts to Noah’s Flood. Below this layer are traces of an early civilization which had been buried by a great flood. The hanging layers were those of the pure Sumerian civilizations. Systematic search has shown that other tells [archaeological sites] in middle and southern Mesopotamia, e.g. Kish (Tell al-Uhaimir) and Shuruppak (Tell Fara), also have layers which may be interpreted as deposits of a great flood.
It seems that Mesopotamia was subject to a mega-flood around 2900 BC. A unique rise in the water table of the Euphrates and Tigris, e.g. caused by extraordinary and long-lasting rains in their source area, plus a southern wind blocking the drainage into the Persian Gulf, may have drowned the extremely flat central and southern Mesopotamia completely.’
Dr. Helmut Brückner, Department of Geography, University of Marburg, ‘Are there evidences for Noah’s Flood?’
The physical evidence is consistent with the Biblical account of flood waters lying on the earth for an extended duration:
‘When Kish was systematically excavated between 1923 and 1933, the Anglo-American team discovered a flood stratum upon which the remains of the Early Dynastic I period, [commenced 2,900 BC] i.e. the first period dominated by priest kings, was found. 
Meanwhile, excavations have ‘shown that the Archaic Sumerian or Early Dynastic civilization of the early third millennium follows notable flood levels at several important sites: Shuruppak, Kish, and Uruk among them. […] The great recorded depth of the deposits at Ur, over 3 m, and at Shurrupak, probably about 60 cm, are significant as they would require lagoon-like conditions for a fairly long time‘. 
 M. Gibson, ‘Kis. B. Archaologisch’, in Realexicon der Assyriologie, vol. 5, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter 1976-80, p. 618.
 R. L. Raikes, ‘The physical evidence of Noah’s Flood’, Iraq XXVIII (1966),p. 53.
Gunnar Heinsohn, ‘The Rise Of Blood Sacrifice And Priest-Kingship In Mesopotamia: A ‘Cosmic Decree’?’, 2001
‘At Shuruppak, and also at Uruk, the last Jemdet Nasr remains are separated from the subsequent Early Dynastic I Period by clean, water-lain clay deposited by a flood. This clay is nearly five feet thick at Uruk  and two feet thick at Shuruppak.  Since the Sumerian King List mentions that Noah (Ziusudra) lived in Shuruppak (today the archaeological mound of Fara), and since Noah is believed to have lived during the Jemdet Nasr Period,  then these sediments date from the right time and place and may be deposits left by Noah’s Flood.
 P. Carleton, Buried Empires: The Earliest Civilizations of the Middle East (London: Edward Arnold, 1939), 64.
 M. E. Mallowan, “Noah’s Flood Reconsidered,” 80.
 C. A. Hill, “A Time and Place for Noah,” 26.’
Carol A Hill, ‘Qualitative Hydrology Of Noah’s Flood’, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, volume 58, number 2, page 126, June 2006
For more on the physical details of the flood, see:
The flood was recorded in a number of other literary accounts outside the Bible, which is strong evidence that it was a genuine historical event.
• Sumerian ‘Eridu Genesis’ (around 1,600 BC): contains a record of a massive Mesopotamian flood from which animals and people were saved in a large ship built by Ziusudra king of Shurrupak
• Akkadian ‘Atrahasis Epic’ (around 1,600 BC): contains a similar account to the flood story in the Eridu Genesis, most likely borrowing from it, adding a few extra details
• Assyrian ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ (around 2,000 BC): contains a flood story which was added in the 7th century BC, copied from the Atrahasis Epic (not contained in the original 2,000 BC text), with additional details.
Of these three flood stories, the account in the Epic of Gilgamesh is the most detailed and the closest to the Genesis record, but is also the latest (written long after the book of Genesis had been completed).
Was the Genesis flood story copied from the older flood stories?
Although many non-professional people believe this (and it seems logical, since there are flood stories older than the record of Genesis), there are more problems with this argument than can be solved, which is why this view is not commonly accepted by professionals in the relevant fields. Recognized authorities on the subject of literary ‘borrowing’ between cultures (including a number who specialize specifically in Mesopotamian literature, and who have studied the question of whether the Genesis account ‘borrows’ from the earlier records), have concluded that no such ‘borrowing’ took place.
Quote 1: Interpretations of the Flood. Martinez and Luttikhuizen (eds). Brill:1999.
‘The derivative nature of the Biblical Flood narrative or rather the existence of an antecedent Mesopotamian tradition for the early forms of the Biblical story is undeniable. However, the extent to which the later narrative is derived from the earlier tradition remains uncertain. A direct form of literary influence cannot be asserted, as the distinctive features of the respective narratives are too plentiful to allow such an affirmation. All one can say is that the Biblical accounts must have been influenced by the Mesopotamian oral tradition or by a pre-existing series of such orally transmitted traditions.’
Quote 2: Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood. W.G. Lambert and A.R. Millard. Eisenbrauns:1999 reprint of 1969 OUP
‘…it is obvious that the differences are too great to encourage belief in direct connection between Atra-hasis and Genesis, but just as obviously there is some kind of involvement in the historical traditions generally of the two peoples.’
Quote 3: Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context, John H. Walton, Zondervan: 1989
‘This suggests that we are not dealing with a literary dependence or even a tradition dependence as much as we are dealing with two literary perspectives on a single actual event. To illustrate from another genre, we expect that the Hittite and Egyptian accounts of the battle of Qadesh will exhibit similarities, for they report about the same battle. Their differing perspectives will also produce some differences in how the battle is reported. The similarities do not lead us to suggest literary or tradition dependence. We accept the fact that they are each reporting in their own ways an experience they have in common.’
Quote 4: “I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood”: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11, Richard Hess and David Tsumura (eds.), Eisenbrauns: 1994, p.52
‘Thorough comparisons have been made between the Flood stories of Genesis and the “Gilgamesh Epic,’ tablet XI, and their interrelationship and priority have been discussed.
Heidel discusses the problem of dependence and summarizes three main possibilities that have been suggested:
1. The Babylonians borrowed from the Hebrew account,
2. The Hebrew account is dependent on the Babylonian,
3. Both are descended from a common original.
The first explanation, according to him, finds “little favor among scholars today,” while “the arguments which have been advanced in support of [the second view] are quite indecisive.”
As for the third way of explanation, Heidel thinks that “for the present, at least, this explanation can be proved as little as the rest.’
Quote 5: “A New Babylonian ‘Genesis’ Story”, “I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood”: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11, Richard Hess and David Tsumura (eds.), Eisenbrauns: 1994, p.126f
‘However, it has yet to be shown that there was borrowing, even indirectly. Differences between the Babylonian and the Hebrew traditions can be found in factual details of the Flood narrative (form of the Ark; duration of the Flood, the identity of the birds and their dispatch) and are most obvious in the ethical and religious concepts of the whole of each composition.
All who suspect or suggest borrowing by the Hebrews are compelled to admit large-scale revision, alteration, and reinterpretation in a fashion that cannot be substantiated for any other composition from the ancient Near East or in any other Hebrew writing.
If there was borrowing then it can have extended only as far as the “historical” framework, and not included intention or interpretation.’