Flood

Flood (the rendering of several Heb. words SEE RAIN, but especially of מִבּוּל, mabbul', κατακλυσμός), an event related in the book of Genesis (ch. vii and viii), by which, according to the usual interpretation of the description, the whole world was overwhelmed and every terrestrial creature destroyed, with the exception of one human family and the representatives of each species of animal, supernaturally preserved in an ark, constructed by divine appointment for the purpose. SEE ARK.

1. The successive stages of its progress were in order and at intervals as follows. In the 600th year of his life, Noah was commanded to enter the ark, taking with him his wife, and his three sons with their wives. One week afterwards, on the 17th day of the 2d month (answering nearly to our November),)there began a forty-days' rain, and the fountains of the great deep were broken up, so that its waters rose over the land until all the high hills under the whole heavens were covered. Fifteen cubits (twenty-seven feet) upward did the waters prevail (rise). On the 17th day of the 7th month (about April), or 150 days after the deluge began, the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, or Armenia, the waters having begun to abate. They continued to decrease till the 1st day of the 10th month (July), when the tops of the mountains were visible. Forty days after this, Noah sent forth a raven from the ark, which never returned. He next (apparently after seven days) sent forth a dove, which came back. Seven days afterwards he dispatched the dove again to ascertain the state of the earth, and in the evening she returned with an olive-leaf in her mouth. After an interval of seven days the dove was sent forth a third time, and returned no more. On the first day of the 1st month of the new year (Sept.-Oct.) the waters were dried from off the earth, and on the 27th day of the 2d month,(Nov.) Noah came out of the ark, built an altar, and offered sacrifice. SEE NOAH.

2. The truth of the Mosaic history of the deluge is confirmed by the tradition of it which universally obtained. A tradition of the deluge, in many respects accurately coinciding with the Mosaic, account, has been preserved almost universally among the ancient nations. It is a very remarkable fact concerning the deluge that the memory of almost all nations begins with the history of it, even of those nations which were unknown until they were discovered by enterprising voyagers and travellers; and that traditions of the deluge were kept up in all the rites and ceremonies Of the Gentile world; and it is observable that, the farther we go back, the more vivid the traces appear, especially in those countries which were nearest to the scene of action. Such narratives have formed part of thee rude belief of the Egyptians, Chaldaeans, Greeks, Scythians, and Celtic tribes. They have also been discovered among the Peruvians and Mexicans, the aborigines of Cuba, North America, and the South-Sea Islands. SEE ARARAT.

Bible concordance for FLOOD.

3. The account furnished by the sacred historian is circumstantially distinct, and the whole is expressly ascribed to divine agency: but in several of the lesser particulars secondary causes, as rain, "the opening of the windows of heaven" (Ge 7:11), and the "breaking up of the fountains of the great deep," are mentioned, and again thee effect of wind in drying up the waters (Ge 8:1). It is chiefly to be remarked that the whole event is represented as both commencing and terminating in the most gradual and quiet manner, without anything at all resembling the catastrophes and convulsions often pictured in vulgar imagination as accompanying it. When the waters subsided, so little was the surface of the earth changed that the vegetation continued uninjured; the olive-trees remained from which the dove brought its token. We allude particularly to these circumstances in the narrative as being those which bear most upon the probable nature and extent of the event, which it is our main object in the present article to examine, according to the tenor of what little evidence can be collected on the subject, whether from the terms of the narrative, or from other sources of information which may be opened to us by the researches of science. See Cockburn, Inquiry into the Truth and Certainty of the Mosaic Deluge (London, 1750).

The evidence which geology may disclose, and which can in any degree bear on our present subject, must, from the nature of the case, be confined to indications of superficial action attributable to the agency of water, subsequent to the latest period of the regular geological format-ions, and corresponding in character to a temporary inundation of a quiet' and tranquil nature, of a depth sufficient to cover thee highest mountains and, lastly (as indeed this condition implies), extending over the whole globe; or, if these conditions should not be fulfilled, then indications of at least something approaching to this, or with which the terms of the description may be fairly understood and. interpreted to correspond. (See Prof. Hitchcock, on - The Historical and Geological Deluges compared," in the Bib. Repos. January, 1837; April, 1837; April, 1838; also Brown's. translation of " twelve dissertations" [on the Flood] out of Le Clerc [Commentary, i, 66-70, 1710] on Genesis, London, 1696.) Of those geological facts which seem to bear at all upon such an inquiry, the first, perhaps, which strikes us is the occurrence of what was formerly all included under the common name of dilivium, but which more modern research has separated into many distinct classes. The general term may, however, not in aptly describe superficial accumulations, whether of soil, sand, gravel, or loose aggregations of larger blocks, which are found to prevail over large tracts of the earth's surface, and are manifestly superinduced over the deposits of different ages, with which they have no connection. An examination of the contents of this accumulated detritus soon showed the diversified nature of the fragments of which it is composed in different localities. The general result, as bearing on our present subject, is obviously this: the traces of currents, and the like, which the surface of the earth does exhibit, and which might be ascribed to diluvial action of some kind, are certainly not the results of one universal simultaneous submergence, but of many distinct, local, aqueous forces, for the most part continued in action for long periods, sand of a kind precisely analogous to such agency as is now at work. While, further, many parts of the existing surface show no traces of such operations; and the phenomena of the volcanic districts prove distinctly that 'during the enormous periods which have elapsed since the craters were active, no deluge could possibly have passed over them without removing all those lighter portions of their exuviae which have evidently remained wholly untouched since they were ejected. Upon the whole, it is thus apparent. that we have no evidence whatever of any great aqueous revolution at any comparatively recent period having affected the earth's surface over any considerable tract: changes, doubtless, may have been produced on a small scale in isolated districts.' The phenomena presented by caves containing bones, as at - Kirkdale and other localities, are not of a kind forming any breach in the continuity of the analogies by which all the changes in the surface are more and more seen to have been carried on,, But a recent simultaneous influx of water covering the globe, and ascending above the level of the mountains, must have left-'indisputable traces of its influence, which not only is' not the case, but against which we have seen positive facts standing out. Such traces must especially be expected to be found in the masses of human remains which such a deluge must have imp bedded in the strata of soil and detritus, if these were formed by that event. Now it is quite notorious that no bed indisputably attributable to diluvial action has ever been found containing a single bone or tooth of the human species. We must therefore contend that no evidence hems yet been adduced of any deposit which can be identified with the Noachian deluge. SEE GEOLOGY.

Definition of flood

Apart from the testimonies of geology, there are other sciences which must be interrogated on such a subject. These are, chiefly, terrestrial physics, to assign the possibility. of a supply of water to stand all over the globe five miles in depth above the level of the ordinary sea; natural history, to count the myriads of species of living creatures to be preserved and continued in the ark; mechanics, to construct such a vessel; with some others -not less necessary' to the case. But we have no space to enter more minutely on such points: the reader will find them most clearly and candidly stated in Dr. Pye Smith's Geology and Scripture, etc., p. 130, 2d edit. SEE ARK.

Let us now glance at the nature and possible solutions of the difficulty thus presented. We believe only two main solutions have been attempted. One is that proposed by Dr. Pye Smith (ib. p. 294), who expressly contends that there is no real contradiction between these facts and the description in the Mosaic record, when the latter is correctly interpreted. This more correct interpretation then refers, in the first instance, to the proper import of the Scripture terms commonly taken to imply the universality of the deluge. These the author shown by a large comparison of similar passages, are only to be understood as expressing a great extent; often, indeed, the very same phrase is applied to a very limited region or country, as in Ge 41:56; De 2:25; Ac 2:5, etc. Thus, so far as these expressions are concerned, the description may apply to a local deluge. Next, the destruction of the whole existing human race does not by any means imply' this universality, since, by ingenious considerations as to the multiplication of mankind at the alleged era of the deluge, the author has- shown that they probably had not extended beyond a comparatively limited district of the East. A local destruction of animal life would also allow of such a reduction of the numbers to be included in the ark as might obviate objections on that score; and here again the Oriental idiom may save the necessity of the literal supposition of every actual species being included. This is a consideration of very great importance when we take into account the countless varieties of animated beings for which the ark itself made no provision, such as reptiles, insects, and even fishes, which could not exist in the brackish waters, even if they survived the collisions of the flood.. The other difficulties above alluded to, arising from kindred sciences, such as the lack of water, the effect of so large an accession of water upon the temperature and upon the rotation of the earth, the unfitness of such a place as the ark for the long confinement of so many animals, the actual existence of trees in different parts of the world older than. the deluge, and the impossibility of preserving even vegetable life for so long a time under water, are all likewise obviated by the supposition of a local deluge. Again, the difficulties in the way of the descent of so many animals from so lofty, bleak, and craggy a mountain as Ararat, and their dissemination thence over all the world, are obviated in this way, by supposing that it was on one of its lower eminences that the ark grounded, as it floated by the force of the southerly irruption towards the great mountain barriers of Armenia. Lastly, this author suggests considerations tending to fix the region which may have been the scene of the actual inundation described by Moses in about that part of Western Asia where there is a large district now considerably depressed below the level of the sea (see the Bibliotheca Sacra, July, 1867, p. 465): this might have been submerged by the joint action of rain, and an elevation of the bed of the Persian and Indian Seas. Finally, he quotes the opinions of several approved divines in confirmation of such a view, especially as -hearing upon all the essential religious instruction which the narrative is calculated to convey.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

The only other mode of viewing the subject is that which, accepting the letter of the scriptural narrative, makes the deluge strictly universal; and allowing (ass they must be allowed) all the difficulties, not to say contradictions, in a natural sense, involved in it, accounts for them all by supernatural agency. In fact, the terms of the narrative, strictly taken, may perhaps be understood throughout as representing the whole event, from beginning to end, as entirely of a miraculous nature. If so, it may be said, there is an end to all difficulties or question, since there are no limits to omnipotence, and one miracle is -not greater than another. In a word, if we suppose the flood to have been miraculously produced, and all the difficulties thus overcome, we must also suppose that it was not only miraculously terminated also, but every trace and mark of it supernaturally effaced and destroyed. Now, considering the immense amount of supernatural agency thus rendered necessary, this- hypothesis has appeared to some quite untenable. Dr. Pye Smith, in particular (whom no one will suspect of any leaning to scepticism), enlarges on the difficulty (p. 157, and note), and offers some excellent remarks on the general question of miracles (p. 84-89); and there can be no doubt that, however plausible may be the assertion that all miracles are alike, yet the idea of supernatural agency to so enormous an amount as in the present instance is, to many minds at least, very staggering, if not wholly inadmissible. In fact, in stretching the argument to such an extent, it must be borne in mind that we may be trenching upon difficulties in another quarter, and not sufficiently regarding the force of the evidence on which any miracles are supported. SEE MIRACLE.

If we look to the actual tenor of the whole narrative as delivered by Moses (Ge 7; Ge 9), we shall observe that the manifest immediate purport of it is the same as that of the rest of the early portion of his history, viz. as forming part of the introduction TO THE LAW. Thus we find, in thee first instance, the narrative dwelling on the distinction of clean and unclean beasts (Ge 7:2); afterwards on the covenant With Noah; the promise of future enjoyment of the earth and its fruits; the prohibition of eating blood; the punishment of murder (Ge 9:4, etc.); all constituting, in fact, some of the rudiments out of which the Mosaic law was framed, and which were thus brought before the Israelites as forming an anticipatory sanction for it. Regarded in a Christian light, the narrative is important solely in respect to the applications made of it is- the New Testament, and these are only of the following kind: it is referred to as a warning of Christ's coming (Mt 24:38; Lu 17:27); as an assurance of judgment on sin (2Pe 2:5),; and of God's long- suffering; while the ark is made a type of baptism and Christian salvation (1Pe 3:20); and, lastly, Noah is set forth as an example of faith (Heb 11:7). In these applications no reference is made to the physical nature of the event, nor even to its literal universality. They are all allusions, not to the event abstractedly, but only in the way of argument with the parties addressed in. support of other truths; an appeal to the Old Testament a addressed to those who already believed in it-in the first of the instances cited, to the Jews in the others, to Jewish converts to Christianity (compare 1Pe 1:1, and 2Pe 3:1). Indeed, if the terms "earth" (אֶיֶוֹ) and ,"heavens" (שָׁמִיַם) be referred in the Mosaic -narrative itself to the visible extent of land and superincumbent arch of sky (as they often signify), all direct statement of the universality of the deluge over the surface of the globe will at once disappear. - That it was coextensive with the spread of the human race at the time is indeed demanded by the conditions of the sacred history SEE ANTEDILUVIANS;- but there is no evidence that the population before the flood was either so extensive or so widely disseminated as many have imagined, calculating upon the inapposite rate of modern increase and later usages. On the contrary, it appears that even after the deluge the inhabitants were still so greatly inclined to cluster around one native centre that the catastrophe of Babel was requisite in order to induce a fulfilment of the divine behest that mankind should "fill the earth." Undoubtedly, if read from the present advanced stage of the world's history, it would be impossible to understand the language otherwise than of an absolute. universality; for, now that every region of the world is known, and known to be more or less occupied by man and beast, it must have been in the strictest sense a world-embracing catastrophe which could be described as enveloping in a watery shroud every hill under the whole heaven, and destroying every living thing that moved on the face of the earth. But here it must be remembered, the sacred narrative dates from the comparative infancy of the world, when but a limited portion of it was peopled or known; and it is alsias one of the most- natural, as well as s-most fertile sources of error, respecting. the interpretation of such early records, that one is apt to overlook the change of circumstances, and contemplate what is written from a modern point of view. Hence thee embarrassments so often felt, and the misjudgments sometimes actually pronounced, respecting those parts of Scripture which speak of the movements of the heavenly bodies in language suited to the apparent, but at variance, as has now been ascertained, with the real phenomena. In such cases it is forgotten that the Bible was not intended to teach the truths of physical science, or point the way to discoveries in the merely natural sphere. Of things in these departments of knowledge it uses the language of common life. So, whatever in the scriptural account of the deluge touches on geographical limits or matters strictly physical, ought to be taken with the qualifications inseparable 'from the bounded horizon of men's views and relations' at the time. Accordingly, there were not wanting theological writers who, long before any geological fact, or well-ascertained fact of any sort in physical science, had appeared to shake men's faith in a strictly universal deluge, actually, put the interpretation now suggested as competent upon the narrative of the deluge. Thus Poole, who flourished in the middle of the 17th century, says in his Synopsis on Ge 7:19: "It is not to be supposed that the entire globe of the earth was covered with water, Where was the need of overwhelming those regions in which there were no human beings? It would be highly unreasonable to suppose that mankind had so increased before the deluge as to have penetrated to all the corners of the earth. It is, indeed, not probable that they had extended beyond the limits of Syria and Mesopotamia. It would be absurd to affirm that the effects of the punishment inflicted upon men alone applied to places in which there were no men." Hence he concludes that "if not so much as the hundredth part of the globe was overspread with water, still the deluge would be universal, because the extirpation took effect upon all the part of the world which was inhabited." In like manner Stillingfleet, a writer of the same period, in his Origines Sacrae (book 3, chapter 4), states that "he cannot see any urgent necessity from the Scripture to assert that the flood did spread over all the surface of the earth. The flood was universal as to mankind; but from thence follows no necessity at all of asserting the universality of it as to the globe of the earth, unless it be sufficiently proved that the whole earth was peopled before the flood — which I despair of ever seeing proved." Indeed, this view dates much farther back than the comparatively recent time when these, authors lived; for while bishop Patrick himself took the other and commoner view, we find him thus noting in his commentary on Ge 7:19: "There were those anciently (i.e., in the earlier ages), and they have their successors now, who imagined the flood was not universal — ἀλλ᾿ ἐν ω῏/ οἱ τότε ἄνθρωποι ᾤκουν — but only there where men then dwelt; as the author of the Questiones ad Orthodoxos tells us, Quaest. 34." It is certain, therefore, that this is not a question between scientific naturalists on the one side, and men of simple faith in Scripture on the other. Apart from the cultivation or the discoveries of science, we have two classes of interpreters of Scripture, one of which find no reason to believe in more than a restricted universality, while the other press the language to its farthest possible extent — take it, not as descriptive of God's judgment upon the earth, in so far merely as it was occupied by men, but with reference to the globe at large, and to an event in its natural history. See Offerhaus, De diluvio Noetico (Franeck. 1694); Hardt, Historia diluvii Noachi (Helmst. 1728); Diecke, Ueber die Sundfluth (St. Gall, 1861); Rendell, History of the Flood (Lond. 1851, 1864). SEE DELUGE.

 
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