Nil Nisi Verum

Home » Apologetics » “All the high mountains were covered by water” How this text takes away from a global Flood event and points towards a regional Flood

“All the high mountains were covered by water” How this text takes away from a global Flood event and points towards a regional Flood

There is a reference in Genesis 7 that can be a hurdle when looking into the extent of the Flood. Those who would hold to a global Flood look to this passage and have concluded the Flood was global in scale. Yet with a clear look at the account allowing the account to speak for itself, one can see in the end a global Flood perspective has to be forced into the account/text rather than pulled from it. With a close look at the text we can arrive at 4 objective facts:

1- the word for “covered” has four different literal definitions

2- the word for “high mountains” has three different literal definitions.

3- the dove returns to Noah with an olive branch, olive trees don’t grow at elevations of 16,000 feet.

4- how the waters receded points to a regional flood that was universal in scope rather than a flood that was global in its extent which wouldn’t allow waters to go anywhere.

“The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered.” (Genesis 7:19 NAS95)

At first glance the text surely appears to allude or lean to a global Flood and the extermination of all life outside of the ark for the entire planet. From animals near the area to the extent of Antarctica and Australia. Given the first glance reading of this text one would even have to conclude that Mount Everest (29,000 feet elevation) was under water as well by more that 20 feet!

“The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered.” (Genesis 7:19 NAS95)

And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. (Genesis 7:19 ESV)

One of the things to keep in mind regarding the Hebrew language is the number of words. In English words number in the millions while in biblical Hebrew there are only around 3,000. This is important when looking into the first word in this passage “covered”. The verb translated “covered” is kasah. This “covering” can be rendered in a number of different ways:

1. “residing upon”

2. “running over” or

3. “falling upon”

There are distinctions here that should not be disregarded and particularly in this case are important. Kasah can be interpreted to mean that more than twenty feet of water stood, that is, remained, over the high hills or mountains; or it could mean that this enormous amount of water either ran over them (as in a flash flood) or fell upon them as rainfall. Either option is permissible while still being literal. Generally one can use context to look into the meaning of the phrase but the context here doesn’t provide us with that clue. The context gives no clear indication which of the three meaning to choose. The choice of how to render this word from the Hebrew however would not change the effects of the “covering”. In fact any of the three scenarios would guarantee total destruction, that is no survivors.

Gen. 7:19 The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains  everywhere under the heavens were covered. (NASB)

All the High Mountains

The Hebrew words for “all the high mountains” are kol heharim hugebohim. Here again, because of biblical Hebrew’s small vocabulary, the words cover a wide range of meaning. The word rendered “Mountain” is har. Har is used for: 

1 Hill

2 Hill country

3 Mountain

To give an idea of the range of reference for this word, it could refer to a towering peak, the kind that would require days to ascend, or it could mean a rolling hill that children in their playtime could enjoy. Anything in between is also possible.

gaboah rendered here as “high” can be

1 High
2 exalted
3 elevated
4 lifted above

Generally it applies to any elevation above the plain, from a landmark hill to a Mount Ararat. I would conclude Genesis 7:19 is describing Noah’s inability to see anything but water, horizon to horizon, from his viewpoint on the upper deck. If the ark were floating anywhere near the middle of the vast Mesopotamian plain on water as deep as two or three hundred feet, no hills or mountains would be visible from it.

Noah would see nothing but water. The high mountain ranges surrounding the Mesopotamian valley would be beyond Noah’s line of sight. His view was limited, of course, as everyone’s is, by Earth’s curvature, atmospheric conditions, aging eyes and other factors. I don’t think this is an unreasonable situation to posit. Many of us have driven through areas where we cannot see mountains simply because of the curvature of the earth.

The dove brings a clue

This interpretation that the Flood covered the essential region of the planet rather than the whole globe receives added support from Genesis 8:5.

the waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month, the tops of the mountains [or hills] became visible

The text speaks only of the region visible to Noah, not of the peaks beyond his horizon. Consider this at first, neither the raven nor the dove Noah released could fly far enough to find a landing place. A week later, when Noah sent the dove out again, it recovered a leaf from an a olive tree. Olive trees do not grow at Earth’s highest elevations, yet this tree lived. We can reasonably assume the har [hills or mountains] Noah finally saw were low-lying hills or foothills.

Supporting the conclusion that Genesis 7:19 speaks only of the region visible to Noah, we have the contrast in Genesis 8 between Noah and the dove’s perspective on the receding waters of the Flood. In Genesis 8:9 Noah releases a dove. The text records in Genesis 8:9 that from the perspective of the dove “the waters were on the face of the whole earth” meaning much less than the entire surface of planet Earth.

Where did all that water go?
How did all that water go away? Genesis 8:1 describes how God removed the floodwaters from the land: He sent a wind. This removal technique perfectly suits the requirements of water removal from a gigantic flat plain such as Mesopotamia. Water even tens of feet deep would flow very inefficiently toward the ocean, but a wind would significantly speed up its movement. Wind also speeds natural evaporation.

Thus wind would prove an effective means for removing water from an expansive, low-lying plain. It would prove of little if any use, however, in removing the waters of a global Flood. Such a quantity of water could not possibly recede to any location on or around the planet by the means describe in just eleven months. A Flood universal to all of humanity inhabiting one geographical region certainly could, especially with a supernatural assist.

From this we can with reason look at what the text itself says and conclude
1 the water covering the mountains was an amount of water pouring over the mountains versus water sitting on top.
2 the meaning of the hills described could have ranged from a simple rolling hill to an incredibly steep peak
3 the natural tree line for olive trees doesn’t grow to heights of 16000 feet.
4 if the globe was covered in water to a depth of more than 29000 feet above current sea level, water would have no place to recede to. Particularly in 10 months. In a large regional Flood water has plenty places to go.

Before being simply dismissive keep in mind the consistency of Scripture. The bible cannot contradict itself. This being one of our understandings we recall the Psalmist writing of the creation of the world that water would never cover mountains again.

6You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
The waters were standing above the mountains.
7At Your rebuke they fled,
At the sound of Your thunder they hurried away.
8The mountains rose; the valleys sank down
To the place which You established for them.
9You set a boundary that they may not pass over,
So that they will not return to cover the earth. -pslam 104 (nasb)
In the end a global account has to be forced into the text rather than letting the text describe the physical event itself and be free to say what it does. The Flood while catastrophic to all humanity (save 8) did not encircle the globe as it was never the purpose of it. 
1 Most proponents of the global Flood would claim that during the event of the Flood the modern day mountains, continents, and the Grand Canyon we have today were created (in a matter of months, to include Mount Everest) their reading would still have water being over Everest by 20 feet.
2 R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, volume 1 (Chicago: Moody 1980), p 448-449.
3 William Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), p 407.
%d bloggers like this: