The Terrible Flood of Noah
Physics and the Bible:Lambert Dolphin, Physicist Website
The 104th Psalm is a beautiful hymn about creation that complements the information given to us in Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible. Here, as in other Scriptures, the origin of the universe and our planet is not pictured as a massive explosion (such as a Big Bang) but as an orderly series of events in which everything was crafted by the hands of an artisan, a Master Builder.
Before the Fall
The early earth after creation is nowhere pictured as a place of smoking volcanoes, sulfureous fumes and violent quakes. The Apostle Peter quite simply says that the earth "was formed out of water and by means of water" (2 Peter 3:5). The whole purpose of creation was to produce an environment-a habitat-for man. In fact, the universe was designed for man to manage and govern (Gen 1:26-31, Heb 2:6-8). All this has changed as far as we are concerned-Adam forfeited his rightful place as steward over the creation. The world we live in has been ruined, and the human race in its ongoing rebellion against God continues to require interventions by God when He calls men into courts of judgment. God's last major judgment was the Flood of Noah-and this great disaster was actually not very long ago in the history of our race.
Seventy-one percent of the earth's surface today is indeed water-the oceans average 3.8 kilometers deep. Only 29% of the earth's surface is land-whose average elevation is only 623 meters! If all the continents and land masses were leveled into the sea using a giant bulldozer, nearly two miles of water would cover our entire earth. Glaciers and ice caps hold about two percent of earth's water; were they all to melt, sea levels around the world would rise 40 meters-a big problem for many large sea-level cities should this happen. The earth's atmosphere today holds only about two inches of precipitable water-this is constantly being replenished by the hydrologic cycle.1
Before the Flood
The earth before the Flood of Noah was a very different place! Our long years of educational brainwashing in the mythology of evolutionary theory and an old-earth has numbed us to the clear testimony of the Bible that God's intervention in human affairs during the time of Noah, the tenth man from Adam, changed things forever on our planet.2 Since Old Testament chronologies are actually quite complete, we can date the Flood as most likely occurring between 2500 B.C. and 3400 B.C.- depending on our choice of the Masoretic Hebrew text or the Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament, respectively. The earth before the Flood seems to have possessed a uniform sub-tropical climate. There may have been no rainfall, no ice and snow, and no major seasonal changes. (For instance, palm tree fossils have been found in Alaska, frozen warm-climate mammoths in Siberia, and coal in Antarctica.) The oceans would have been much warmer, and earth's rivers and streams may well have originated in powerful springs-such as the spring that supplied the four rivers of Eden.
I personally subscribe to a vapor canopy model of earth's atmosphere before the Flood, which could have provided the greenhouse effect for a worldwide mild climate. But vapor canopy models are very limited by basic thermodynamic considerations. In his classic pioneering study,3 Joseph Dillow suggested a pre-Flood atmospheric pressure at sea level twice the present value-a big help to the extinct flying reptile Pteranadon, who would probably not get off the ground in today's atmosphere. But too much water vapor in the upper atmosphere before the Flood would obscure the stars, and even the sun and moon, because of perpetual cloud cover. And for the atmosphere to support the weight of additional water vapor, the surface temperature would have to rise rapidly toward the boiling point of water. Condensation of water vapor during very heavy, prolonged rainfall would release enormous amounts of latent heat of condensation.
However, in spite of these difficulties, a modest vapor canopy - perhaps holding 40 feet of rain water - may have existed prior to the deluge of the Flood.
Most of the water for the great Flood of Noah came from the so-called "fountains of the great deep" (Gen 7:11). This source of water is mentioned before the rain from the "windows of heaven."
During the formation of the earth on the second and third days of creation, large quantities of water were evidently placed between the earth's crust and mantle in what might be called giant subterranean reservoirs. This water was probably under high pressure to begin with (causing artesian springs and geysers to abound), but after the fall of man and the angels-when some of the heavier atomic elements were apparently made unstable by reduced nuclear binding forces so that radioactive decay commenced - the shorter-lived isotopes could well have heated the subsurface to a point of criticality where it could scarcely be contained by the strength of the overlying crust. We mentioned this in last month's article as a possible cause for the explosion of a planet where the asteroid belt now is found.
Extensive volcanic activity may have occurred at the same time-the fountains of the great deep were thus broken open and volcanic ash hurtling into the stratosphere could have collapsed the vapor canopy by dispersing condensation nuclei around which raindrops formed.4
[Incidentally, gravitational compaction of the earth at the time of earth's formation would not have raised the interior temperature above 1000 degrees C, yet the earth's core-present temperature about 4300 degrees-has evidently melted and overturned in the past. Radioactive heating is believed to have supplied the extra energy needed - see http://www.ldolphin.org/Early.html]
The Flood in Noah's time was certainly a direct act of judgment by God on a world which had become thoroughly and continually evil:
"Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And the Lord 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 6:5-7)
Since God is in full control of nature-there are no "accidents" in God's universe-the exact mechanisms the Lord used to initiate the Flood need not preoccupy our attention. Erudite scientific models for the geophysical processes that accompanied the Flood have been presented at three Pittsburgh International Conferences on Creation5- the proceedings are available and highly recommended. Dr. Walter Brown's outstanding book on the Flood, which can be found on the Internet,6 especially concentrates on possible mechanisms for the bursting open of the fountains of the great deep.
Was the Flood Global?
The Hebrew language has several words to describe ordinary floods, but Genesis 7-11 uses the unique word mabbul (found only elsewhere in Psalm 29:10). When Hebrew scholars put the Old Testament into Greek, they chose the Greek word kataklusmos, from the verb "to inundate," in place of the Hebrew mabbul. All the language of Genesis, and especially the words of the Apostle Peter, give us the clearest possible picture of a worldwide, cataclysmic, universal disaster from which only eight human beings escaped with their lives. Warning of false teachers and strong-willed skeptics, Peter tells us:
"For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and 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... Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.' For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that 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. But the present heavens and earth by His Word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men..." (2 Peter 2:4-5, 3:3-7)
Noah and his sons (and perhaps some hired hands) probably had less than 76 years to build the Ark in which Noah's family and selected animals were to find refuge from the Flood. We know the size of the Ark from Genesis 6:14-16, and many fine books have been written in recent years7 analyzing the design and adequacies of this great barge. The Ark is said to have landed on the Mountains of Ararat in Eastern Turkey after the Flood. Many amazing search expeditions<8 have been launched in our century, though all have thus far been inconclusive.
There would be no need to labor many decades building a boat to escape a local flood-simple flight to the next valley or to a nearby mountain would have sufficed. Nor would a local flood require such an elaborate plan to save representative animal species.
Scripture is clear: the purpose of the Flood was to judge and destroy a decadent, thoroughly evil human civilization that probably numbered some billions of individuals - along with their cities and all the infrastructures.
Noah escaped not because he was blameless (justified by his faith as we are), but because he (and his family) responded to God's mercy and grace. A good many other individuals who lived in the 1655-2255 years between Adam and Noah no doubt responded to the gospel preached by Adam, by Enoch, and by others who knew the Lord. But by the time of the Flood, apparently the entire "civilized" world had become totally unresponsive to the offer of God's free salvation. Crazy Noah kept on building his weird boat on dry land-far from the ocean-in a country where it never rained! He probably endured constant mocking, scorn and ridicule up until the end. Noah's friends were welcome to find refuge on the Ark by faith in God, but no one else believed God's clear warnings.
"And all flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. And the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days...." (Genesis 7:21-24)
The Ark finally landed on the very same day of the Hebrew calendar that Jesus Christ would be raised from the dead about three millennia later in history, taking into account the calendar change in Exodus 12. The subterranean caverns of the great deep collapsed, so that the waters receded into what are now our deep ocean basins.
With the tremendous weight of water removed from the land, isostatic rebound allowed great mountains, capped with sediments, to "float" up on the underlying mantle below the crust. (Mountains before the Flood were most likely much lower than they are now.) Seeds sprouted, life began again, and Noah and his family left the Ark to repopulate the earth under a new covenant with God (Gen 8:18-9:17). Four men and four women, who knew and loved the living God personally, began to repopulate the earth. They started with only meager resources and animals from the Ark - plus the bountiful grace of God
After the Flood
The post-Flood climate was now very different - assuming the collapse of the vapor canopy. An ice-age followed. Earth's original one continent broke up and spread apart (rapid continental drift)- either during the Flood-or as some believe during the days of Peleg, perhaps 100-600 years later.9 The dinosaurs, once contemporary with men, rapidly died out, quite possibly from a separate disaster not long after the Flood. Storms, natural disasters and great seasonal weather changes set in during the years immediately following the Flood as well.
Everything was different, yet life survived, recovered and proliferated. Great civilizations were built up again in a matter of only hundreds of years.
Next month our plan is to look at world population statistics and growth rates for both the ancient world and for the past few hundred years, especially guided by the vast pre-Flood knowledge accumulated by the eight Flood survivors with life spans of 300+ years and the long life experiences of post-Flood peoples with similar longevities. The mathematics and census data lead to an inescapable conclusion: Our earth has surely again reached a critical time on God's calendar of events for world history. Another great and terrible judgment most certainly lies just ahead. As God provided an Ark of Refuge in the Days of Noah, so He invites all to find eternal safe harbor and refuge through a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. We are invited to come "into" the Body of Christ by faith and thereby to find rescue and everlasting life.
"And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all." It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed." (Luke 17:26-30)
Time is running out!
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