Is the flood of Noah’s day just a myth, as some people would refer to it? Is it just a fictitious story to alert us of God’s attitude toward sin and to help us see the need for faithfully serving the Lord, lest we fall under His wrath and condemnation? What does the Bible teach and indicate about the flood?
Let us first of all note that it is recorded as factual in the book of Genesis 6-9, and is also mentioned elsewhere in the Scriptures as an actual event. For instance, Genesis 10:1 reads, “Now these are the records of the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah; and sons were born to them after the flood” (emphasis mine). The chapter goes on to list many descendants and then concludes by saying in verse 32, “These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood” (emphasis mine).
How could so many real people be described as having been born “after the flood,” if the flood were just a mere myth?
Jesus Himself also refers to Noah and the great flood in Matthew 24:37-39 in likening it to the unexpected nature of His coming, that all will seem like just another ordinary day until the event would suddenly happen and take them by surprise. And where that is also mentioned in Luke’s account, there is the additional likening to “the days of Lot” (Abraham’s nephew) and the destruction of Sodom (Luke 17:26-30). So just as real, as the person of Lot and the place of Sodom, is the great patriarch Noah and the flood of his day.
Noah was a real person; and though not mentioned among his many descendants in Genesis 10, you are also one of them! For we can all trace our ancestry back to him — every person of every race!
When you think of Noah, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Would it not be the flood and his building the ark? He is commended for that in Hebrews 11:7, which is in a chapter that mentions various real people who were obedient to God because of their faith in Him, such as Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David, and Samuel. But how could Noah even be mentioned among all these great people of faith if the flood account were merely a fictitious story?
Peter also refers to a people “who were once disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (1 Pet. 3:20). A real people, a real God, a real Noah, real days, a real ark that had to be built, real water, and a real safe deliverance! What out of this list would you want to make fictitious?
So the Bible makes it clear that the flood actually did occur.
Perhaps the idea of it being global, however, causes some to disbelieve. Of course, there are those who simply view the flood of Noah’s day as occurring in just a small geographical region, around where Noah lived, rather than covering all of the earth.
But what does the Bible say about that? “The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher [22.5 feet], and the mountains were covered” (Gen. 7:19,20).
Peter also speaks of the world in time’s past when it was destroyed by “being flooded with water” in 2 Peter 3:6. God did away with the old world to make it new. This might remind you of the time when the Lord first made this planet. For in the beginning it was covered with water everywhere (Gen. 1:2); but when God then said, “…’Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’…” (v. 9), He then “…called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas…” (v. 10).
So it was certainly a new world for Noah and his family to step out on, after the flood waters subsided and land appeared. The creatures on board were now free to roam and find places to their liking, and gradually their different kinds would increase. The earth would also once again abound in vegetation, greenery, and the beauties that appeal to our aesthetic nature. What a beautiful and unpolluted world it must have been, and God wanted it to be repopulated for others also to enjoy. For after blessing Noah and his sons, the Lord then said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). And let me add that had they not obeyed that, I would not be here to tell you about it, nor would you be here to listen.
We can also infer from God’s promise that “…all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen. 9:11), that the Lord meant all the earth, that the flood of Noah’s day was global, rather than just covering an area in which Noah lived. For otherwise, God would not be keeping His word every time a flood occurs somewhere. But He, however, cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
The flood of Noah’s day should instill within us how serious sin is and how our iniquities can affect our Creator. For “…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” (Gen. 6:5); and God “..was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (v. 6). He then 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'” (v. 7).
Yet, even in spite of that, the Lord still wanted to see these people repent and be saved; and He, therefore, gave them ample time and opportunity to do so. As Peter states, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9) — “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation…” (v. 15).
Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5); and just as the prophets had “the Spirit of Christ within them” (1 Pet. 1:11), even so Noah would have also preached by that Spirit. In that way, it is said that Jesus “went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who were once disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark” (1 Pet. 3:19,20). For it was “in the spirit” (v. 18) that the Lord did this through the preaching of Noah to the people of his day — but they did not take heed. And when they died, after rejecting the goodness of God, they went to the Hadean realm where they are “now in prison” and awaiting the final judgment (v. 19). Cf. 2 Peter 2:4-9.
So God’s patience will eventually become exhausted, in the sense that the opportunity for His salvation is time-limited, such as in the case of Noah’s day. For the Lord states, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3).
It was during that long period that Noah preached to the people and continued to work on the ark, but was probably often viewed as a laughing stock to many who saw and heard him. He, however, not only persevered until the deed was done, in spite of the ridicule and rejection, but also did his work reverently unto the Lord. For the record states, “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7, emphasis mine). Noah’s righteous life and sincere dedication to God would have also caused those, to whom he preached, to realize even more of their unholy and lost state, as his godly life greatly clashed with the sinful behavior of their own lives.
As Noah and his family found safety in the ark to save them from a perishing world, we can also find refuge and salvation for our souls in Jesus Christ. For “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). And Paul shows the way we get into Christ to include baptism: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Of course, faith in Jesus (Jn. 8:24), which comes through hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17), repentance (Luke 13:5), and acknowledging our faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38) are also necessary in order to make baptism valid.
Peter also cites Noah and his family being “brought safely through the water” (1 Pet. 3:20) to illustrate baptism today. For he declares in the next verse, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you…” (v. 21). Baptism now saves us by bringing us safely to “the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38), to salvation (Mark 16:16), and to “newness of life” (Rom. 6:3,4), in which we are “new creatures” (2 Cor. 5:17).
When penitent believers obey the gospel plan to be forgiven and become Christians, God Himself then adds them to the church (Acts 2:47), which is referred to as being “the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:2). And the importance of being in that body can be inferred from Ephesians 5:23, which speaks of Jesus as being “the Savior of the body.” So we can also think of the church as metaphorically being a type of “ark” that we must be in today in order to be saved from the wrath to come.
May the account of the great flood of Noah’s day, as recorded in the Bible, help instill within us the proper attitudes toward sin and righteousness and also give us the incentive we need toward putting God first in our lives and keeping Him there.