The Genesis Flood (4/4)
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 fourth article (of four), the following questions are addressed:
What catastrophic storm conditions and large waves? The Bible says nothing of such huge storms and waves, recording only a heavy fall of rain and a flood:
11 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 open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.
12 And the rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights….
17 The flood engulfed the earth for forty days. As the waters increased, they lifted the ark and raised it above the earth.
Furthermore, the Ark did not travel on the open sea, it stayed within the Mesopotamian flood plain and river valleys.
There is nothing in the Genesis text to indicate that this was the first rainbow. Reading the classical Hebrew and Christian commentaries over the centuries (and certainly before Newton’s work on the prism), we find plenty who believed that this was not the first rainbow. Take the Jewish commentator Saadia Gaon for example (882-942 AD), who held the view that this was not the first rainbow – he could hardly have been asserting this on scientific grounds, as Newton might have.
But far earlier than Saadia is the Babylonian Talmud (compiled 6th century AD from earlier rabbinical sources), in which we find the rabbis commenting that the rainbow has been around since the beginning of creation (Babyloian Talmud, Seder Mo’ed, Pesahim 54b).
No. There’s nothing more to say on this, the Genesis record simply says no such thing.
The fact that the animals could escape on their own isn’t the point. The new community exiting the Ark would be faced with an empty flood plain which had been ecologically impoverished of both vegetable and animal life. Taking a new animal supply along with you was a good idea, unless you wanted to spend a lot of time being very hungry until all the animals returned (if they did). There is also the fact that God had placed on man the responsibility of caring for the environment Genesis 1:28; 2:15), and it was important that Noah be involved in the act of preserving local wildlife.
The Ark was slightly larger than the largest recorded Egyptian obelisk barge. Like those barges, it was made of wood. We cannot find any of those Egyptian obelisk barges today either. Dead wood doesn’t last for centuries in the open air without degrading, and there is no reason to suppose it was buried and fossilized or petrified. It is most likely that Noah and his family recycled the Ark’s timber after the flood, using for housing, shelters for animals, and fuel (as the Egyptian obelisk barges would have been recycled). But even if they hadn’t, it would have eventually disintegrated under the influence of local weather and wildlife.
People have all kinds of ideas about how large the Ark was. Confusion is caused by people disagreeing on how long the cubit was that Noah used, because the Hebrews used several cubit lengths over time.
Many people think the cubit used by Noah was the 21 inch cubit, but the 21 inch Hebrew cubit was not used until very late in Israel’s history. The Siloam inscription in the famous tunnel of Hezekiah (Jerusalem, 8th century BC), indicates a Hebrew cubit length of around 17 inches, which is 431.8mm (making the Ark about 410-425 feet long), and is the earliest written evidence for the cubit length used in Israel before the Babylonian exile. Several standard reference sources such as Harper’s Bible Dictionary (page 1,180, published 1985), the New Bible Dictionary (page 1,236, published 1996), and the Tyndale Bible Dictionary (page 1,299, published 2001), all identify the old Hebrew cubit as around 17.5 inches on the basis of the Siloam inscription (the New Bible Dictionary also notes ‘ Excavated buildings at Megiddo, Lachish, Gezer and *HAZOR reveal a plan based on multiples of this measure’).
This is also the nearest written Hebrew source to the composition of the flood narrative in Genesis, and so this is the most likely length of the cubit used by Noah. Most commentaries, both religious and non-religious, place the ancient Hebrew cubit at around 17-18 inches.
These questions are all addressed in the following articles: