I have always been interested in speaking with other readers of the bible about some of the conclusions they have come to. To get to the point as there is much to be said, the one that continues to spark conversation and sometimes debate is the flood of Noah. Was it global? I say no, however it was as large as it needed to be to accomplish what it was suppose to…kill all humans minus Noah’s family. Usually Christians respond with a look of amazement. I think with clear thinking and scripture it can be seen that this is not only a reasonable view but correct.
The first point is the perspective we bring to the account. We look at the account and we see the word “world” and we think of our understanding of the term “world” (France, Australia, Antartica, Fiji, Japan, etc.). While this may be right or wrong it’s important to at least recognize it.
Does World always mean world?
Within the Book of Genesis – the same book of the Flood Account
A few examples where the word or phase “world” may not necessarily mean “global”. The closest one in the same book (Genesis) is found in Genesis 41:56. Recall this famine how it struck and how God used Joseph during this monumental time? Was this famine global? The Hebrew word used there is “‘erets”. Which can mean “land, earth, whole earth, the inhabitants of earth, or district/region”. Keep in mind this event is after the flood. So it wouldn’t be wise to conclude that Aborigines of Australia nor American Indians travelled to Egypt to buy grain. However it would be wise to conclude the author’s “frame of reference” and not necessarily ours.
In the Bible – OT and NT
Another quick but not one quick to be dismissed reference. In 1 Kings 10:24
1Kings 10:24 All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.
Again we see the Hebrew word “‘erets” used for world. Keeping in mind the reference of the writer and not necessarily the reference of a modern day reader, we ought not conclude Patagonian natives sent yearly delegations to Jerusalem to consult with Solomon.
In the book of Romans Paul writes
Rom. 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.
We should not conclude from this passage, the apostle Paul is here referring to the globe but the Roman Empire.
In the Flood account itself
A simple observation of the flood account itself can see that the account doesn’t intend to be considered global.
Gen. 8:5 The water decreased steadily until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.
40 more days pass and Noah releases the dove.
Gen. 8:6 Then it came about at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made;
Gen. 8:7 and he sent out a raven, and it flew here and there until the water was dried up from the earth.
Gen. 8:8 Then he sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the land;
Gen. 8:9 but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the ark, for the water was on the surface of all the earth. Then he put out his hand and took her, and brought her into the ark to himself.
What is clearly demonstrated here are two perspectives. The perspective of Noah and the perspective of the dove. To the dove the whole world was covered. From Noah’s perspective it wasn’t.
What can we conclude thus far reasonably?
- Within the book of Genesis – whole world, or earth doesn’t always mean global
- Within the bible as a whole -whole world, or earth doesn’t always mean global
- Within the flood account itself – whole world or earth doesn’t always mean global