Sunday, December 27, 2009

Noah's Flood

Was Noah's flood regional or worldwide?

If the flood was local rather than world-wide, the flood must nevertheless have covered an enormous area – otherwise the ark would not have been necessary.

For the ark to have been necessary, the destruction caused by the flood waters must have been so widespread that it must have been deemed well-nigh impossible for animals to readily migrate into the area afterwards and repopulate it again.

It must have flooded such an enormous area that it must have been impossible for Noah and his family to survive by instead migrating away from the area. His small family’s only hope of survival was for Noah to exert all the effort of building such a huge ark.

The flood waters were so great that we are told they “increased greatly upon the earth…and ALL the high hills, that were under the WHOLE HEAVEN, were covered…” The waters prevailed 15 cubits above the highest mountain. A whole year and ten days expired before the waters were abated enough for Noah and his family to safely exit the ark.

If this was local rather than world-wide, it would be necessary to find the geographical area to be surrounded by a ring of higher mountains which would form a catchment for this enormous volume of flood waters.

I don’t know if there is evidence that such a wide, high and unbroken ring of mountains ever existed in the Middle East – or anywhere else in the world, for that matter. It would be interesting to know.

So the flood was probably worldwide.

But I've been wondering whether enough water exists on the planet to cover the whole surface of the earth.

I was taught in Physics at school that mass is constant. So if there was enough water to cover the earth in Noah's day, I was thinking that all that water must still be on the planet somewhere.

I wasn't sure whether I would be able to find an answer to the question of the total mass of H2O on earth on the internet, so I asked the Lord about it.

Immediately, the first thing that came to mind was that the creation story begins with the whole earth covered with water:

"And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters".

And another Scripture kept ringing in the ears of my spirit:

“…the earth standing out of the water and in the water…”

Therefore, whatever happened from Day 1 of creation onwards, there must always have remained enough water on earth to be able to cover the whole surface with water once again.

On Day 2, God created a firmament which separated the waters below and above it. This firmament was called, "Heaven". It is the place where birds would later fly. So I guess this "firmament" is talking about earth's atmosphere. Then it says a volume of water was separated and placed above this firmament. I don't know what this refers to. But whatever it is, the point I’m observing is that the total mass of water still remained constant before and after this event.

So it doesn’t matter to me (for the purposes of this question) what is meant by the waters above the firmament – because the volume of water under the firmament was still enough to cover the entire surface of the earth even after some of the water had been separated above the firmament.

Then on Day 3, after the firmament made a separation between the waters, God caused the waters below the firmament (which still completely covered earth’s surface) to be gathered into separate places called “seas,” allowing dry land to appear for the first time. So this means that even with part of the original mass of water separated by the firmament, there was still enough water below the firmament to cover the entire surface of the earth.

I don’t know what God did to cause all the water to gather together into places called "seas". I guess He either raised the land in places, or dug trenches for oceans in other places, or even caused a lot of the water to go underground. But either way, the volume of water to cover the earth was still there – below the firmament.

So what happened to cause the flood?

"All the fountains of the great deep were broken up."

The use of the word "broken up" implies quite a cataclysmic, violent action, quite an upheaval. Peter compares the scope of the flood with the final judgment. It was fierce. The language allows room for something entirely disruptive to the world. I imagine even the whole terrain of earth could have been changed. Flood waters could have thrown sediment all over the planet. Genesis talks about something deep in the earth being “broken up”. It wasn’t only the surface that was affected.

If all the water that was under the firmament was brought to the surface and spread out all over the land again, it would have been enough to cover the entire surface of the earth to a certain depth, given the right conditions. But not only did water come from the deep - from under the firmament - but also "the windows of heaven were opened". So by utilizing water from both these sources, the earth could have been well and truly covered with water.

But to what depth? For example, could Mt Everest have been under water? I think it is possible that the flood could have caused Mt Everest to become that high. Or it may not have even existed prior to the flood. I discovered on a NASA website (NB not a Creation Science website) that marine fossils exist on top of Mt Everest and the sediment was once a seabed.

To me, the language of Genesis and Peter allows room for the possibility that the upheaval caused by the dissipating flood waters may have been great enough to force seabeds to the surface and push Himalayan peaks up in a short space of time. This flood is described in apocalyptic terms. It was powerful. Peter called it a different world back then.

So it’s possible that the world’s mountains were not quite so high, pre-flood. I did some calculations and I think I am fairly sure that there is enough water in our oceans to cover the earth to a depth of about 2.7km if the land was flat. But Noah’s flood was caused by more than just ocean water – the fountains of the great deep were broken open, and the windows of heaven were opened.

So where did all that water go, after the flood?

God sent a wind and much of it was “assuaged”.

The rest ran into the seas or could have returned underground.

It took a year and ten days before Noah could safely leave the Ark with enough dry land for eight people and a boat load of animals. So it could have taken 40 years for all the water to run off – who knows?

About 100 years after the flood, a guy was born and they named him Peleg, "because in his days the earth was divided". I always assumed this division referred to the Babel dispersion. Maybe it does. Certainly the earth was divided in a social sense after the tower of Babel.

But then I wondered whether the Bible may have used the word earth more deliberately than that – because it says it was the earth, not the people, that was divided.

If the earth was divided geologically during Peleg’s lifetime, what could have caused it?

Notice this didn’t happen immediately after the flood. Neither did it occur in one day. It was nearly 100 years after the flood before the whole process was completed. If the division was geological, perhaps continental shift or rising sea-levels may have caused it.

I thought the meaning of the name Peleg could reveal a clue. I looked it up, and discovered that Peleg פָּלֶג means division, as if by an earthquake. So the idea of geographic activity is definitely intrinsic to his name.

Perhaps that is a clue that the earth’s terrain experienced major changes within a generation or two of the flood.

I searched further, and found that his name is related to a word that refers to water. Lots of English words are phonetically related to it.

For example, the English word archipelago means a chain of islands, that is, a strip of land separated in places by the sea; and pelagic means: of or relating to the sea.

So the idea is there that during Peleg's day, water levels may have risen, cutting land-masses off from each other.

But why would this have happened 100 years after the flood?

Perhaps it was God's timing because of the Babel thing.

Or perhaps the flood was so impacting on terra firma that changes took that long to settle. This flood affected more than just the surface of the earth. The terrain of the earth, the heights of the mountains, the depths of the oceans – all these things could have become suddenly very different as a result of the flood and its aftermath.

So from a Biblical point of view I’m satisfied there was enough water to cover the earth, as it looked like before the flood. But how about from a scientific point of view?

71% of the earth’s surface is covered by ocean. The average depth of the oceans is 3,711 meters. (That’s how I calculated that if the whole earth were flat, the water could cover the earth to a depth of more than 2½ km.)

So for the highest mountain of the pre-flood world to be covered by mere cubits may not have required much more water than what exists in our oceans, if the mountains were lower in those days.

But what if Mount Ararat was the same height before the flood as it is today (5,137m)? Could that much water possibly be somewhere beneath the earth’s surface?

The volume of the earth’s oceans is 1.386 × 109 km³.

The earth’s total volume is 1.083 207 3×1012 km³.

The oceans represent only 0.0012795336% of the earth’s total volume.

The amount of water required to submerge Mt Ararat by 15 cubits would be approximately 1.9 times the amount of water in our current oceans, or a mere 0.0024343% of the earth’s volume.

That’s still such a small proportion of the earth’s total volume. If you drew it in cross-section diagram of the earth you’d hardly even see it.

So I think this volume of water could quite easily have been held captive underground, before the fountains of the great deep were broken up.

A lot of this water could have remained above ground after the flood as higher ocean levels, or it could have returned underground.

But the most likely explanation is that the terrain of the earth was so different before the flood – perhaps shallower oceans and lower mountain peaks – that the amount of water currently in our oceans was enough to flood it all.

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