What does the Bible say about the Flood? By Jack Kettler
As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical, and commentary evidence for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. When looking at the text of Scripture in Genesis, we see that the flood was a worldwide event. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself referred to the flood, which came and destroyed the world of Noah’s day. The writer of Hebrews calls Noah one of the examples of faith. The apostle Peter mentions Noah and the flood. The flood was a real event in human history. At the end of this study, there is a link to Answer in Genesis for more research.
The Flood: God’s judgment on humankind for its moral depravity and sinfulness by means of an historical flood which wiped out the entire population of the world except for Noah and his family, as recorded in chapters 6-8 of Genesis; also called the Great Flood, the Great Deluge, or the biblical flood. *
“And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast, thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female, to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.” (Genesis 7:1-7)
“And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.” (Genesis 7:17-24)
“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.” (Isaiah 54:9 ESV)
“For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark.” (Matthew 24:38)
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27 ESV)
From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Luke 17:27:
“They did eat, they drank,…. That is, the inhabitants of the old world ate and drank, not merely in a common way, with moderation, and for the support and comfort of life, which is not blameworthy, nor inconsistent with religious exercises; but they lived in an extravagant and luxurious manner; they indulged their sensual appetites, and put away the evil day far from them, that Noah told them of:
they married wives, they were given in marriage; not as should have been done by professors of religion among themselves; but the sons of God, or professors of the true religion, the posterity of Seth took them wives of the daughters of men, of the wicked, of the seed of Cain; and very likely gave their daughters in marriage to the sons of men; see Genesis 6:2 and so they went on in a secure manner, notwithstanding all the remonstrances, warnings, and threatenings of God, by his servant:
until the day that Noe entered into the ark; which he had built by divine direction, for the saving of himself and family, and the creatures that were with him, from the waters of the flood; and this was in the six hundredth year of his life, in the second month, the month of October, and in the seventeenth day of that month; Genesis 7:11
and the flood came and destroyed them all; all the inhabitants of the earth, every living substance, men, cattle, creeping things, and fowls of the heaven; all but Noah, and his wife, and his three sons, and their wives, and the creatures that were with him in the ark: the flood came not of itself, or by chance, or through the influence, or by the concurrence of second causes merely; though these were used, ordered, and directed by the first cause of all things; but it came by the power of God, according to his will; he brought it on the world of the ungodly; see 2 Peter 2:5 The mode of expression is Jewish; it is said of Cain, who is supposed by the Jews to have lived till the flood, “the flood came”, and washed him away.” (1)
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)
From Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Hebrews 11:7:
7. warned of God—the same Greek, Heb. 8:5, “admonished of God.”
Moved with fear—not mere slavish fear, but as in Heb. 5:7; see on  Heb. 5:7; Greek, “reverential fear”: opposed to the world’s sneering disbelief of the revelation, and self-deceiving security. Join “by faith” with “prepared an ark” (1Pe 3:20).
By the which—faith.
Condemned the world—for since he believed and was saved, so might they have believed and been saved, so that their condemnation by God is by his case shown to be just.
Righteousness, which is by faith—Greek, “according to faith.” A Pauline thought. Noah is first called “righteous” in Ge 6:9. Christ calls Abel so, Mt 23:35. Compare as to Noah’s righteousness, Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 2Pe 2:5, “a preacher of righteousness.” Paul here makes faith the principle and ground of his righteousness.
Heir—the consequence of sonship which flows from faith.” (2)
“And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” (2Peter 2:5)
From the Pulpit Commentary on 2Peter 2:5:
“Verse 5. – And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person; rather, as in the Revised Version, the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others. “The eighth” is a common classical idiom (generally with the pronoun αὐτός) for with seven others. Mark the close parallelism with 1Peter 3:20, where, as here, the apostle impresses upon his readers the fewness of the saved. A preacher of righteousness. The Old Testament narrative does not directly assert this; but “a just man and perfect,” who “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9), must have been a preacher (literally, “herald”) of righteousness to the ungodly among whom he lived. Josephus, in a well-known passage (‘Ant.,’ 1:03, 1), says that Noah tried to persuade his neighbours to change their mind and their actions for the better. Bringing in the Flood upon the world of the ungodly. The Revised Version renders, when he brought a Flood upon the world. In the Greek, there is no article throughout this verse. In verse 1 the ungodly are represented as bringing upon themselves swift destruction; here God brings the punishment upon them. The same Greek verb is used in both places. In one place St. Peter gives the human, in the other the Divine, aspect of the same events (comp. Clement I, 7 and 9).” (3)
“Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” (2Peter 3:6)
From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on 2Peter 3:6:
“Whereby, by which heavens and water, mentioned in the former verse, the fountains of the great deep being broken up, and the windows of heaven opened, Genesis 7:11. Or, by the word of God, as the principal cause, and the water as the instrumental, which, at his command, was poured out upon the earth both from above and below.
The world; the earth, with all the inhabitants of it, eight persons excepted. This the apostle allegeth against the forementioned scoffers, who said that all things continued as they were, when yet the flood had made so great a change in the face of the lower creation.” (4)
From Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology on the Flood:
Terminology. The Genesis flood is denoted in the Old Testament by the technical Hebrew term mabbul [2Peter 3:6).
Extra biblical Parallels. Ancient flood stories are almost universal (up to 230 different stories are known). Floods are by far the most frequently given cause for past world calamities in the folk literature of antiquity. The stories nearest to the area of the dispersion at Babel are the closest in detail to the biblical account.
Four main flood stories are found in Mesopotamian sources: the Sumerian Eridu Genesis (ca. 1600 b.c.), the Old Babylonian Atrahasis Epic (ca. 1600 b.c.), the Gilgamesh Epic (Neo-Assyrian version, ca. eighth to the seventh centuries b.c.), and Berossus’ account (Babylon, third century b.c.).
The Unity of the Genesis Flood Account. The detailed chiastic literary structure of Genesis 6-9 argues for the unity of the flood narrative instead of small textual units (J and P) as suggested by the Documentary Hypothesis. A close reading of the flood narrative as a coherent literary whole, with particular attention to the chiastic structure, resolves apparent discrepancies in the Genesis account.
Theology of the Flood. Theology as History: The Historical Nature of the Flood. In the literary structure of the flood narrative the genealogical frame or envelope construction (Genesis 5:32, 9:28-29) plus the secondary genealogies (Genesis 6:9-10, 9:18-19) are indicators that the account is intended to be factual history. The use of the genealogical term toledot [6:9) as throughout Genesis (13 times, structuring the whole book), indicates that the author intended this narrative to be as historically veracious as the rest of Genesis. A number of references in the Book of Job may allude to the then-relatively-recent flood (9:5-8; 12:14-15; 14:11-12; 22:15-17; 26:10-14; 27:20-22; 28:9; 38:8-11). The occurrence of the flood is an integral part of the saving/judging Acts of God in redemptive history, and its historicity is assumed and essential to the theological arguments of later biblical writers employing flood typology.
The Motive or Theological Cause of the Flood . In contrast with the ancient Near Eastern flood stories, in which no cause of the flood is given (Gilgamesh Epic) or in which the gods decide to wipe out their human slaves because they are making too much noise (Atrahasis Epic and Eridu Genesis), the biblical account provides a profound theological motivation for the flood: humankind’s moral depravity and sinfulness, the all-pervading corruption and violence of all living beings (“all flesh”) on earth (Genesis 6:1-8,11-12 ), which demands divine punishment.
The God of the Flood (Theodicy). The theological motivation provides a divine justification (theodicy) for the flood. In contrast to the other ancient Near Eastern stories, in which the gods are arbitrary, acting out of unreasoning anger, selfishness, and caprice, seeking to deceive the people and not inform them of the impending flood, the biblical picture of the God of the flood is far different. God extends a probationary period during which his Spirit is striving with humanity to repent (Genesis 6:3). God warned the antediluvian world through Noah, the “preacher of righteousness” (2Peter 2:5; cf. 1 Peter 3:19-20).
God himself makes provision for the saving of humankind (Genesis 6:14-16). He “repents”—he is sorry, moved to pity, having compassion, suffering grief (Genesis 6:6). God takes up humanity’s pain and anguish (Genesis 6:6; 3:16-17). The divine act of destruction is not arbitrary. God “destroys” what humanity had already ruined or corrupted; he mercifully brings to completion the ruin already wrought by humankind.
The God of the biblical flood is not only just and merciful; he is also free to act according to his divine will, and he possesses sovereign power and full control over the forces of nature (in contrast to the weakness and fright of the gods during the flood, according to ancient Near Eastern stories). Yahweh’s omnipotent sovereignty seems to be the theological thrust of Psalm 29:10, the only biblical reference outside Genesis employing the term mabbul [מַבוּלּ]: “Yahweh sat enthroned at the flood.”
The choice of divine names throughout the flood narrative, instead of indicating separate sources, seems to highlight different aspects of God’s character: the generic Elohim when his universal, transcendent sovereignty or judicial authority is emphasized; and the covenant name Yahweh when his personal, ethical dealings with Noah and humankind are in view.
Human Moral Responsibility. The portrayal of humanity’s moral depravity as the cause of the flood highlights human responsibility for sin. Noah’s response of faith/faithfulness (Hebrews 11:7 ) underscores that accountability to God is not only corporate but individual: Noah found “favor” in God’s sight, he was “righteous,” “blameless,” and “walked together” in personal relationship with God (Genesis 6:8-9 ); he responded in implicit obedience to God’s commands (Genesis 6:22; 7:5,9; cf. Ezekiel 14:14,20).
Eschatological Judgment. When God announced the coming of the flood to Noah he said, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh” (Genesis 6:13). The “eschatological” term qes (end) later became a technical term for the eschaton. The divine judgment involved a period of probation (Genesis 6:3), followed by a judicial investigation (“The Lord saw” Genesis 6:5; “I have determined,” Genesis 6:13; RSV), the sentence (Genesis 6:7), and its execution (the bringing of the flood, Genesis 7:11-24). The New Testament recognizes the divine judgment of the Genesis flood as a typological foreshadowing of the final eschatological judgment.
The Noahic Covenant. The word berit [Genesis 6:18; 9:8-17), and the covenant motif is an integral part of the flood narrative. The Noahic covenant comes at God’s initiative, and demonstrates his concern, faithfulness, and dependability. He covenants never again to send a flood to destroy the earth. This covenant promise flows from the propitiatory animal sacrifice offered by Noah (Genesis 8:20-22).
Unlike the other biblical covenants, the Noahic covenant is made not only with humankind but with the whole earth (Genesis 9:13) including every living creature (Genesis 9:10, 12, 15, 16), and is thus completely unilateral and unconditional upon the response of the earth and its inhabitants. The sign of this everlasting covenant is the rainbow, which is not primarily for humankind, but for God to see and “remember” the covenant he has made with the earth (Genesis 9:16).
The Flood Remnant. The flood narrative contains the first mention in the biblical canon of the motif and terminology of remnant: “Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained [saar]” (Genesis 7:23). The remnant who survived the cosmic catastrophe of the flood were constituted thus because of their right relationship of faith and obedience to God, not because of caprice or the favoritism of the gods, as in the extra biblical ancient Near Eastern flood stories.
Salvific Grace. God’s grace is revealed already before the flood in his directions for the building of the ark to save those faithful to him (Genesis 6:14-21 ); and again after the flood in his covenant/promise never again to destroy the earth with a flood, even though human nature remained evil (Genesis 8:20-22; 9:8-17).
But the theological (and literary, chiastic) heart of the flood account is found in the phrase “God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1). The memory theology of Scripture does not imply that God has literally forgotten; for God to “remember” is to act in deliverance (see Exodus 6:5). The structural positioning of God’s “remembering” at the center of the narrative indicates that the apex of flood theology is not punitive judgment but divine salvific grace.
Numerous thematic and verbal parallels between the accounts of Noah’s salvation and Israel’s exodus deliverance reveal the author’s intent to emphasize their similarity. Various references in the psalms to God’s gracious deliverance of the righteous from the “great waters” of tribulation, may contain allusions to the Genesis flood (Psalm 18:16; 32:6; 65:5-8; 69:2; 89:9; 93:3; 124:4).
Flood Typology. The typological nature of the flood account is already implicit in Genesis. Isaiah provides an explicit verbal indicator that the flood is a type of covenantal eschatology (54:9), along with several possible allusions to the flood in his descriptions of the eschatological salvation of Israel (24:18; 28:2; 43:2; 54:8). The prophets Nahum (Nahum 1:8) and Daniel (9:26) depict the eschatological judgment in language probably alluding to the Genesis flood.
The New Testament writers recognize the typological connection between flood and eschatology. The salvation of Noah and his family in the ark through the waters of the flood finds its antitypical counterpart in New Testament eschatological salvation connected with water baptism (1 Peter 3:18-22 ). The flood is also a type of the final eschatological judgment at the end of the world, and the conditions of pre-flood morality provide signs of the end times (Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27; 2Peter 2:5, 9; 3:5-7).
Universality of the Flood. One of the most controversial aspects of flood theology concerns the extent of the flood. Three major positions are taken: (1) the traditional, which asserts the universal, worldwide, nature of the deluge; (2) limited flood theories, which narrow the scope of the flood story to a particular geographical location in Mesopotamia; and (3) nonliteral (symbolic) interpretation, which suggests that the flood story is a nonhistorical account written to teach theological truth. Against the third interpretation, we have already discussed the historical nature of the flood. Of the two first positions, the limited flood theories rest primarily on scientific arguments that set forth seemingly difficult physical problems for a universal flood. These problems are not insurmountable given the supernatural nature of the flood; numerous recent scientific studies also provide a growing body of evidence for diluvial catastrophism instead of uniformitarianism. Only the traditional universalist understanding does full justice to all the biblical data, and this interpretation is crucial for flood theology in Genesis and for the theological implications drawn by later biblical writers.
Many lines of biblical evidence converge in affirming the universal extent of the flood and also reveal the theological significance of this conclusion: (1) the trajectory of major themes in Genesis 1-11 creation, fall, plan of redemption, spread of sin is universal in scope and calls for a matching universal judgment; (2) the genealogical lines from both Adam (Genesis 4:17-26; 5:1-31) and Noah (Genesis 10:1-32; 11:1-9) are exclusive in nature, indicating that as Adam was father of all preflood humanity, so Noah was father of all postflood humanity; (3) the same inclusive divine blessing to be fruitful and multiply is given to both Adam and Noah (Genesis 1:28; 9:1); (4) the covenant (Genesis 9:9-10) and its rainbow sign (Genesis 9:12-17) are clearly linked with the extent of the flood (Genesis 9:16,18); if there was only a local flood, then the covenant would be only a limited covenant; (5) the viability of God’s promise (Genesis 9:15; cf. Isaiah 54:9) is wrapped up in the universality of the flood; if only a local flood occurred, then God has broken his promise every time another local flood has happened; (6) the universality of the flood is underscored by the enormous size of the ark (Genesis 6:14-15) and the stated necessity for saving all the species of animals and plants in the ark (Genesis 6:16-21; 7:2-3); a massive ark filled with representatives of all nonaquatic animal/plant species would be unnecessary if this were only a local flood; (7) the covering of “all the high mountains” by at least twenty feet of water (Genesis 7:19-20) could not involve simply a local flood, since water seeks its own level across the surface of the globe; (8) the duration of the flood (Noah in the ark over a year, Genesis 7:11-8:14) makes sense only with a universal flood; (9) the New Testament passages concerning the flood all employ universal language (“took them all away” [ Matthew 24:39]; “destroyed them all” [Luke 17:27]; Noah “condemned the world” [Hebrews 11:7]); and (10) the New Testament flood typology assumes and depends upon the universality of the flood to theologically argue for an imminent worldwide judgment by fire (2Peter 3:6-7).
The theology of the flood is the pivot of a connected but multifaceted universal theme running through Genesis 1-11 and the whole rest of Scripture: creation, and the character of the Creator, in his original purpose for creation; uncreation, in humankind’s turning from the Creator, the universal spread of sin, ending in universal eschatological judgment; and re-creation, in the eschatological salvation of the faithful remnant and the universal renewal of the earth. Richard M. Davidson (5)
“The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King forever.” (Psalm 29:10)
From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Psalm 29:10:
“The Lord sitteth upon the flood,…. Noah’s flood; which is always designed by the word here used, the Lord sat and judged the old world for its wickedness, and brought a flood upon them, and destroyed them; and then he abated it, sent a wind to assuage the waters, stopped up the windows of heaven, and the fountains of the great deep, and restrained rain from heaven; and he now sits upon the confidence of waters in the heavens, at the time of a thunder storm, which threatens with an overflowing flood; and he remembers his covenant, and restrains them from destroying the earth any more: and he sits upon the floods of ungodly men, and stops their rage and fury, and suffers them not to proceed to overwhelm his people and interest; and so the floods of afflictions of every kind, and the floods of Satan’s temptations, and of errors and heresies, are at his control, and he permits them to go so far, and no farther;
yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever: he is King of the whole world, over angels and men, and even the kings of the earth; and he is also King of saints, in whose hearts he reigns by his Spirit and grace; and the Gospel dispensation is more eminently his kingdom, in which his spiritual government is most visible; and this will more appear in the latter day glory, when the Lord shall be King over all the earth; and after which the Lord Christ will reign with his saints here a thousand years, and then with them to all eternity, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (6)
From Strong’s Lexicon:
“over the flood;
Preposition-l, Article | Noun – masculine singular
Strong’s Hebrew 3999: 1) flood, deluge. 1a) Noah’s flood that submerged the entire planet earth under water for about a year. Some think Noah’s flood was only local. However, the description of it found in Gen. 6 through 8 makes this patently absurd. If it was local, Noah had 120 years to migrate out of the area to safe ground! Why waste all that effort building a ship? He only had to move less than 1500 feet a day to reach the farthest point on the globe! With the possible exception of Ps 29:10, this word always refers to Noah’s flood. The real reason for insisting on a local flood is the acceptance of evolution with its long geological ages. Most holding that view are not willing to allow a global worldwide flood to have happened less than 5000 years ago. To admit such eliminates the need for the geological ages for most of the geological column would have been rapidly laid down by Noah’s flood.” (7)
God’s covenant with Noah:
“And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:11)
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
1. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Luke, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 486.
2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1433.
3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, 2Peter, Vol.22., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 44.
4. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 926.
5. Walter A. Elwell, Editor, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House), p. 261-263.
6. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Psalms, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 327-328.
7. KJV Bible with Comprehensive Strong’s Dictionary (3 in 1): [Illustrated]: KJV Bible with Strong’s markup, Strong’s dictionary with Lexicon definitions, Bible word index [Kindle Edition] 152552-152559.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
Answers in Genesis the Flood https://answersingenesis.org/the-flood/