Noah and the Flood: Part 2

So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground:
both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air.
They were destroyed from the earth.
Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. Genesis 7:23 (NKJV)

Opening Prayer: Lord, this story sounds very different from anything I've ever experienced. Please help me to understand how the Flood reshaped our world and set the stage for modern history, I pray.

This lesson will continue our study on the Flood described in the early portion of the book of Genesis. In case you missed it, we suggest you read Part 1 first.

Let's begin this lesson in Genesis chapter 7 and read verse 1:

1Then the LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation." (NKJV)

At last! After 100 years of boat building, God calls to Noah -- apparently from inside the ark. God calls Noah to "Come into the ark" and find safety with Him. This resonates with the call of Jesus nearly 2000 years ago:

28Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

Remember that the name "Noah" means "rest" in Hebrew, and Jesus' Hebrew listeners surely recognized the connection.

God's command to Noah also resonates with the call spoken in the last chapter of the Bible:

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17

So who gets to board the boat with Noah and his household? Verses 2-5 might surprise you:

2You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; 3also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. 4For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.” 5And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him.

After 100 years of building, Noah only gets a seven-day warning. Then immediately he must start the task of penning up all the animals that are showing up at the Ark. I think this was deliberate, to prevent Noah from trying desperately to get more of his neighbors and family aboard the Ark. The neighbors and family had ignored 100 years of warning. At some point, the grace period must end.

Did you notice anything peculiar about the passenger list? When I first read this verse, I was surprised to read that "clean" animals and birds would come to Noah in groups of seven. Popular folklore and children's storybooks only speak of the animals coming in pairs. As usual, such a disconnect obscures an important truth.

The "clean" and "unclean" designations tell us that God had given a detailed Law of some type to Adam and Eve after their famous fall. In Genesis 4, we read that Adam's son Abel offered the correct type of animal sacrifice but his brother Cain did not. When God spoke to Cain afterwards, the understanding was that Cain was fully aware of God's instructions. Cain did not plead ignorance.

Why is this important? Several reasons:

  • God is personally interested in every human being on Earth, especially you. He earnestly wants you to understand Him, so He has always made His truth available to any honest seeker.
  • God wants you to know the truth (Scripture) and trust Him enough to live in accordance with it.
  • God wants you to understand the difference between the sacred and the profane, because living a holy life will bring you lasting joy. The devil, by comparison, wants you to "do your own thing." The devil wants you to think that God's rules are unfair, and that profane things will make you happy.
  • While the unclean animals were important to re-establishing a balance in nature, they were not acceptable to eat or be offered as sacrifices.
  • God is so gracious to us that he ensured sufficient numbers of clean animals to replenish the earth and have plenty left over to feed humans and offer as burnt sacrifices. Nature worshippers and vegans seek to discourage both of the latter two activities.
  • The clean animals and birds were clearly favored by God, because of their helpfulness to human beings. The unclean animals were tolerated, to fulfill God's plan and purposes.
  • Trivial as it sounds, omitting the concept of "clean" versus "unclean" tends to obscure God's intensely personal love for every person on earth. It also obscures the thoughtful planning that God has invested in our individual lives.

Let's continue with verses 7-10:

7And 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. 8Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, 9There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. 10And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. (KJV)

When I was a kid, I couldn't figure out how Noah managed to gather up all the animals and get them on board in just seven days. The truth is, he could not possibly have managed such a task. Instead, the Scripture says they came to Noah. Some animals must have come a long distance, so they doubtless began the migration before God gave one week's notice to Noah. The boarding process itself took a full week.

This migration should not surprise you. If God can create animals, He can direct them to report in pairs (and sevens!) to the loading ramp. The animals obeyed God; Noah's neighbors did not.

One last historical observation: This was not a local flood, as some claim. If this Flood was merely local, God wasted Noah's time by having him build a gigantic boat and fill it with animals. With 100 years of warning, Noah and his family could have walked to higher ground. Ditto for the animals.

Verse 11 makes a peculiar statement of fact:

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

Up to this point, it had never rained upon the Earth. Mists and natural fountains were sufficient to water the vegetation. Furthermore, we know from the fossil record that the earth had significantly higher atmosperic pressure and oxygen content than we presently have.

One possible explanation is that God had protected the Earth with a canopy of water vapor above the atmosphere. This gaseous canopy would have absorbed the harmful portions of solar radiation and re-radiated visible light and heat (infrared radiation) to the earth. Such a canopy (the term in Scripture is firmament) would have made the entire planet like a greenhouse. The whole earth had tropical climate except the poles, which were temperate like the coastal areas of California. Proof of this is buried everywhere. Researchers have found fossilized tropical plants throughout the world, including under the polar ice caps.

Rain was not part of the pre-Flood ecology. Something radical must have happened to disrupt the equilibrium and create rain clouds. Note that verse 11 says that "the fountains of the great deep" were broken up. Something fractured the Earth's crust and released the massive underground caverns of water and the volcanic layers beneath them.

All over the world, we see fault lines and underwater ridges that testify of this great catastrophe. Something massive and unusual fractured the Earth's crust and led to the eventual formation of the mountain ranges we see today. Furthermore, something caused the widespread Ice Age shortly after the Flood. What could have created such disruption?

The primary cause, of course, is that God simply spoke a word to trigger certain events on earth. But what types of natural events could have produced the Flood and the Ice Age? Thoughtful scientists have investigated the Flood account in the Bible and discovered a surprising amount of evidence to document these unrepeatable events. For example, the Institute for Creation Research has an interesting series of videos on Creation and the Flood, which give more detail than I can include here. In addition, I will list some other excellent books that will help you understand the underlying scientific facts.

Now let's read verses 12-16:

And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights. 13On the very same day Noah and Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark— 14they and every beast after its kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. 15And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. 16So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.

Try to picture how Noah felt. On a positive note, he was seeing the rewards of faithfulness. He had trusted the Lord and built this immense boat, enduring 100 years of hard work and ridicule. And God had been faithful, bringing the animals to Noah and causing the Earth's crust to fracture like an egg shell, right on schedule.

So Noah must have felt relieved that he hadn't wasted 100 years on this project. However he must have been disappointed in the short passenger list. Noah was 500 years old when he started building the boat, so he probably had dozens of sons, daughters and grandkids before Shem, Ham and Japeth. None of them feared God enough to join Noah. All of them thought their father was crazy. All of them drowned.

None of Noah's friends and neighbors were aboard the Ark. The giant boat had probably become a world-famous tourist attraction. So every time the neighbors (or tourists) asked him about the project, Noah had the opportunity to share the Lord's word and invite people to be saved. They could have made room for other families ("We'll leave out the skunks and rattlesnakes, and put you and Ruth over here by the horse pen..."). If they took God seriously, other people could have built their own boats. But none of his friends believed him. None of his brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews believed him. And before the rain started, his own wife and kids probably had their doubts.

In the world's eyes, Noah was just another old-fashioned religious fanatic. Just another cult leader hung up on this end-of-the-world stuff. After all, they'd been hearing that scary stuff for a thousand years, going back to Grandpa Enoch's days.

Was it Noah's fault, with that doom-and-gloom message? Should Noah have preached something more positive, something more contemporary, something to build people's self esteem? Should he have hired a contemporary worship team to put his message to music?

No, no and no. The problem wasn't Noah's preaching style. It wasn't his listeners' self esteem. It wasn't the lack of music. The problem was sin. We humans love it. God hates it. But God so loved the lost sheep of Noah's day that He gave them 900 years of warning, including 100 years of really conspicuous boat building to get their attention.

Closer to home, it has been nearly 2000 years since Jesus warned of the great destruction that will precede His second coming. His apostles felt that Jesus could return at any moment, and so should we. But centuries of passed, and the nation of Israel was extinct for most of that time. "Scholars" mocked at the idea of the Lord's literal return to earth, pointing out that the prophecies revolved around the nation of Israel and Israel didn't exist (then). When Israel miraculously became a nation again, there was a flurry of renewed interest in the Lord's return, especially after Israel miraculously defeated the combined armies of its Islamic neighbors in the 1960s and 1970s. Current events in the Middle East have matured to the point where only one or two tiny details remain to be fulfilled before Ezekiel's war can be launched and the seven-year Tribulation period can begin. Despite the clear evidence of Scripture and history, the scoffers (like Noah's neighbors) continue to scoff.

Why did God Himself shut the door after Noah entered?

God Himself determined who would survive and who would perish. With the storm intensifying, Noah might have been tempted to close the door too soon, excluding animals (and perhaps repentant neighbors) that were part of God's plan for the future world. Possibly worse, Noah might have endangered the entire Ark by waiting too long for family and friends who -- before the deluge -- had expressed a casual interest in joining them on the Ark. The casual believers were not part of God's plan, which included leaving clear DNA evidence that all contemporary humans had a common male ancestor dating to the time of the Flood.

As we'll see later, God is again standing at the door waving and calling for all of us to get on board before the next world-wide catastrophe. And our hearts are broken by friends and relatives who express a casual interest in joining us in heaven, but who will wait too long and miss the boat.

What clues tell you that this was no ordinary rain storm?

For starters, the fountains of the great deep -- giant underground caverns of water -- were broken up. Volcanic action propelled the water toward the surface. The earth's crust was split open and the water came up. In fact, there was such pressure that the escaping water and rock might have formed the comets and caused the craters on the face of the moon.

And the water came down -- the windows of heaven were opened. Translation: More water came down as rain than presently exists in the earth's atmosphere. As mentioned earlier, the best explanation is that a canopy of water vapor formerly enclosed the planet above the present atmosphere, creating tropical conditions throughout the world. The Meisner effect (magnetic suspension) would explain how it could have been supported. However, the canopy/firmament is just a theory, and brighter people than this author have differing opinions for and against.

Now try to form a mental picture of these two factors working together. As the earth's crust was fractured by giant north-south rifts, volcanic action exploded simultaneously around the globe. Tidal waves of water flew in all directions. Unprecedented amounts of volcanic dust and aerosols (like sulfuric acid) were blown into the air. The volcanic activity possibly contributed to the destruction of the gaseous canopy. With the canopy's equilibrium destroyed, the water fell to earth as rain and sleet and snow.

This was not a gentle spring rain. Nor was it a monsoon or even a hurricane. This was an unprecedented environmental catastrophe, mitigated only slightly when the rains stopped 40 days later. Even as the flood waters receded, the earth's new atmosphere struggled to find equilibrium.

How could water have covered the entire earth?

Good question. For your answer, just look at a globe. There is a lot more ocean water than dry land. In fact, if the continents were flattened out and scraped into the oceans, there would be no dry land.

Now the rest of Chapter 7, verses 17-24:

And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lifted up above the earth. 18And the waters prevailed, and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. 19And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered. 20Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. 21And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both birds, and cattle, and beasts, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: 22all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, of all that was on the dry land, died. 23And every living thing was destroyed that was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark. 24And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days. (ASV)

But how did the waters get higher than mountains like Mount Everest?

If it existed before the Flood, Everest was considerably shorter. All mountains are formed by either volcanic action or the collision of surface plates. The edge of one plate gets wedged up the edge of the other to form a mountain or hill. Today, the plates are pretty stationary and pretty hard. During and after the Flood, the earth's crust was broken up and much more plastic than today. Therefore all the major mountain chains were formed by volcanic action and plate movements during and after the Flood.

All of today's mountain chains are composed of sedimentary rock, which can only mean that they formerly were under water. Climbers have found fossilized sea creatures on Mount Everest, silent testimony that it was under water during the Flood.

Try to picture what was happening. The earth's crust had suffered multiple fractures because of the unprecedented volcanic activity. There was a lot of water churning around atop the ground, creating a global mud puddle thousands of feet thick in places. After weeks of churning, there were several months during which the waters drained back underground or out to the sea. The remaining mud stratified into "fossil layers." Last year's backyard brontosaurus became this year's million-year-old fossil.

Speaking of fossils, remember that the Flood didn't happen instantly. As the water levels increased, the slower beasts (and those nearest the sea coasts) would have drowned first. The stronger and swifter animals would have sought and found higher ground. The hilltops would have become crowded with creatures like wolves, big cats, eagles, vultures and flying insects that were also good swimmers. The hardy ones survived a few extra days or weeks but eventually drowned like the others. If the water and surface temperatures were cold, the remains would have sunk into the rising mud and stayed there (instead of floating back to the surface later).

Researchers at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles have discovered exactly this type of stratification in the animal remains recovered there. The top layer of fossil animals were predominantly the survivors just mentioned: wolves, saber-tooth cats, lions, bison, eagles, hawks, vultures, etc. These creatures, normally a tiny portion of the animal population, are found in great numbers and close proximity in the top layers of sand and tar. Less-hardy beasts populate the lower layers.

Now let's read chapter 8, verses 1-3:

Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained. 3And the waters receded continually from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.

After several long months, God closed up "the fountains of the deep." He stopped the rain. He made a wind (the Hebrew word is ruach) pass over the earth for the first time. Winds are produced by large temperature and pressure variations between regions. These differences (and hence the wind) didn't exist before the Flood, presumably because of the greenhouse effect of the canopy.

God now begins reshaping the world. He allows water to drain back into some of the underground caverns. He sends wind to evaporate some of the water and return it to the atmosphere. Noah doesn't have a depth guage or sonar scope on board the Ark, but he can sense that God has begun the recovery operation.

Verses 4-5 speak of another mechanism that God used to drain the waters:

And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. 5And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.

As we hinted earlier in this lesson, the present-day mountains began to be formed at this time. The earth's crust had been fractured along what we call "fault" lines. The crust had been softened by months of soaking and churning. As the fracture lines were crushed back together, the edges of the different sections were thrust upward to form the mountains we see today.

Verse 5 above hints that Noah began to see new mountain peaks pushed upward out of the water. In addition to those formed by the collision of surface plates, there was an unprecedented (and never-repeated) level of volcanic activity causing new mountains to rise. Since Noah's day, volcanic activity has abated greatly, but still continues to create islands and mountains along the fault lines created in Noah's day.

The rising mountains would have speeded the process of draining. In the United States, we see evidence that the rising Rocky Mountains pushed great torrents of water south and west, through what we now call the Grand Canyon. In order to create the Grand Canyon, the ground must have been very soft and the volume of water must have been hundreds of times the present flow of the Colorado River.

Nothing short of post-Flood drainage, rushing through layers of soft post-Flood sediment, could have created Grand Canyon. Nothing short of a world-wide catastrophe could have created the present mountain ranges and underwater ridges.

Let's continue with verses 6 and 7:

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: 7and he sent forth a raven, and it went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.

So what's the deal with the raven?

Ravens are omnivorous. The raven could make a meal from almost anything, including decaying matter. So it flew back and forth between the ark and the rest of the world until it decided the outside world was more attractive ("...until the waters were dried up...").

When the raven stopped returning, Noah sent out a more delicate bird, verses 8-12:

And he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; 9but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him to the ark; for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: and he put forth his hand, and took her, and brought her in unto him into the ark. 10And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11and the dove came in to him at eventide; and, lo, in her mouth an olive-leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. 12And he stayed yet other seven days, and sent forth the dove; and she returned not again unto him any more.

So now there's enough exposed land and vegetation to support the animals and people on board the ark. Life after the Flood was going to be very different, but at least it would be possible.

Verses 13-14 tell us:

And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry. 14And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dried.

Note that Noah opened the door at the one-year mark to see what's going on, but nobody was in a hurry to leave. The surface of the ground was visible. Trees and plants had started growing, but the land was still pretty waterlogged for several weeks after that. Finally God spoke, with both a command and a blessing (a common pattern), verses 15-19:

Then God spoke to Noah, saying, 16"Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth." 18So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, and whatever creeps on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark.

Remember that God had previously said "Come..." into the Ark. Now He says, "Go!" He was commanding Noah to leave his comfort zone, his place of relative safety, and trust Him to take care of the last human beings on Earth.

God told them to leave the Ark, but God also spoke a blessing to both the people and the animals ("...be fruitful, and multiply...").

Let's finish up chapter 8:

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.
22"While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease."

Why did Noah build an altar and offer sacrifices?

Gratitude would be sufficient reason, but there's another important principle involved: reciprocity. God wants a TWO-WAY relationship with you and me. Most days, that is a difficult principle to understand. It seems like God is doing everything important: keeping us alive, keeping the world spinning around the sun, and setting down all the rules for how we should act. No matter what we do, the world keeps spinning and God is in charge of the rules, and the bad folks seem to be breaking the rules and getting away with it.

But strange as it sounds, God wants us to interact with Him. We can't give Him the earth and sun and stars (like He gives us), but we can give back to Him a portion of what He's already given to us. We can give Him our time (prayer and worship) and some of our treasure (whatever stuff we hold dear) to show that we really DO care about Him.

But why animal sacrifices?

First, the clean (edible) animals were the most valuable commodity on earth at that time; giving one of those animals would be a real statement of trust in God. Second, there were spiritual truths embodied in each of the different types of sacrifices -- truths that would be sketched out in later Scriptures and given life in the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Don't forget the blessing in verses 21-22.

Good point. God promised that He would never again wipe out the earth and all living creatures like He did at the Flood. Furthermore, He promised that seedtime and harvest (earthly food supply chain) and the familiar seasons would continue as long as the earth continued to exist.

In Chapter 9, God expands on terms of the blessing:

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6"Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.
7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Bring forth abundantly in the earth
And multiply in it."

Note the many elements of this covenant (agreement) between God and Noah:

  • Be fruitful and multiply.
  • The diet changes from the vegetarian menu given Adam and Eve to the omnivorous diet necessary in the Post-Flood environment.
  • From now on, animals and birds will be afraid of you (because they're on the menu?).
  • Life is precious in God's sight; the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11); therefore you shall not eat the blood of any animal.
  • Human life is especially precious in God's sight since we are made in God's image.
  • God requires the death penalty of murderers -- "...at the hand of man...will I require the life of man." Do you suppose God considers unborn children to have life? What do you think?
  • Be fruitful and multiply. God mentions this twice, so it must be important. Notice that God does not command Noah to find an "ecologically sustainable population level." Anybody who has ever taken an airplane trip knows that the world is mostly empty space. Overpopulation is a myth. The real problem is excessive grouping in population centers. Governments actually prefer it that way. It makes us easier to control. Think about it.

The covenant promises continue in verses 8-16:

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 9"And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. 11Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." 12And God said: "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."

Did this blessing and covenant only apply to Noah?

The Lord is speaking to Noah and his sons, but the covenant includes all living creatures and not just the humans. Notice the elements of the covenant:

  • Never more would He use a flood to destroy all life from the earth.
  • God placed the rainbow in the rain clouds as a token (or symbol) of the covenant.
  • God promised that He would observe a rainbow in every rain storm He brought to the earth, and that He would remember His covenant. On reflection, it's good that this covenant doesn't depend on OUR ability to see the rainbow or OUR ability to remember the covenant.

Let's skip through a few verses of unpronounceable names and look at Chapter 10, verses 21-25:

And children were born also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder. 22The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. 23The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. 24Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. 25To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.

Notice anything interesting in verse 25?

Yes. It says that in the days of Peleg, the earth was divided. His name means "division" and was probably meant to be historically descriptive, like Methuselah in our previous lesson.

The post-Flood Ice Age most likely lasted several centuries. During that time, massive amounts of water were trapped in the glaciers. But eventually the oceans -- thoroughly warmed by the Flood's volcanic activity -- cooled enough to change the weather patterns. Many competent scientists and scholars believe that the ocean levels rose worldwide in Peleg's lifetime. All around the world, we see a continental shelf and evidence that the shorelines were 200-300 feet lower than their present locations.

If the oceans were 200-300 feet lower than presently, there would be significantly more surface area above water. People could have walked or made short boat trips to many areas that are presently islands. The rising ocean levels, however, would have isolated (divided, as the Bible says) various population groups from each other. This might explain the legend of Atlantis, which reportedly "sank" below the ocean.

So what?

OK, so there was a big flood a long time ago. So what? Why have you made us sit and read two entire lessons on ancient history? What's in it for me?

Quite a bit, actually. This lesson could help you avoid the next world-wide catastrophe.

What catastrophe?

Jesus Himself said that a time of tribulation was coming upon the world immediately before His return to set things straight. And He said in the gospel of Matthew chapter 24:

And as [were] the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 38For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, 39 and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man...
42Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. 44Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.

And if that passage is too subtle for you, spend a few days reading the Book of Revelation -- the last book in the Bible, fittingly enough. The last chapter of world history is about to be written, and we already know how it's going to end.

So how does all this Noah stuff prepare us for the last days' tribulation?

For starters, notice that God put people into three different groups with respect to the Flood. Some people perished during the Flood. Some people were preserved by God through the midst of it (Noah and family). And some (Enoch and maybe Lamech) were taken out of the world BEFORE the Flood. If God follows the same pattern, then I want to position myself to be in the group that's taken out of the world before the next catastrophe.

Any other parallels?

God said that the human race had grown exceptionally wicked and complacent (sound familiar?). God is holy and just, and will return in the person of Jesus to judge the entire earth and restore righteousness to the earth. And He's giving us ample warning through the rebirth of the nation Israel, the blossoming of the fig tree and other remarkable signs of the times. Jesus said (in Matthew 24:32-35) that when these signs began to take place, THAT generation would not pass away until all those events would happen and He would return. Our generation has seen these things begin to take place. I believe that our generation has the opportunity to recognize the signs and be prepared for the Lord's return.

Well, IF God is so holy that He can't stand sin, and IF the world is so sinful that He will bring another world-wide catastrophe before He returns to set things right, what's He waiting for?

I agree that sometimes it just doesn't make sense. Wouldn't a loving, all-knowing, and sinless God take immediate action to stop the spread of evil and disease that might cause injury or death to innocent people? Looking around at world conditions today, we have to wonder: does God really plan to send Jesus back to restore the world? The answer is in 2 Peter, chapter 3, verses 3-9:

Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." 5For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

It's ironic that God chose Peter -- the most impulsive of the Apostles -- to write these words about the patience of God and the mercy that is available to us if and when we repent. The bottom line is that God loves us fallen creatures so much that He gives us time to repent.

How much time?

If you're able to read this, there's still time for you. So instead of wondering how long you can tread water, it's better to ask: "What does God want from me?" Two other questions are also helpful: "What's the reward for doing it His way?" and "What are the consequences for doing it my way?" These questions were answered in our Durable Joy series of lessons.

Closing Prayer: Father, it's difficult for me to understand either Your holiness or Your amazing love for us sinners. Change my heart to make it more like Yours, that I may understand You better, and that I may recognize the perilous times we live in. Amen.

As mentioned earlier, an excellent source of study materials is the Institute for Creation Research. You can obtain many well-written resources from them; I particularly recommend The Genesis Flood by Dr. Henry Morris and Dr. John Whitcomb, and the Defenders' Study Bible. Just click here to navigate to the ICR home page and enter "Genesis Flood" in the search box.

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