corner graphic

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Deluge

Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

[image]

a term specifically applied in modern times to Noah's flood, as related in Genesis 7:8. (See FLOOD).

I. Biblical History of the Flood. The sacred historian informs us that in the ninth generation from Adam, when the race of man had greatly multiplied on the face of the earth, wickedness of every kind had fearfully increased, that every imagination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil continually, that the earth was filled with violence, and that to such a degree of depravity had the whole race come, that "it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." We are further told, in graphic and impressive language, that the Creator determined to purge the earth from the presence of the creature whom he had made. "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them." (See ANTHIOPOMORPHISM).

In the midst of a world of crime and guilt there was, however, one household, that of Noah, in which the fear of God still remained. "Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations, and walked with God. And Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." He was commanded to make an ark of gopher wood, three hundred cubits long, fifty broad, and thirty high. Into this large vessel he was to collect a pair of "every living thing of all flesh," fowls, cattle, and creeping things after their kind, along with a suitable amount of food. He was to enter it himself, taking with him his wife, and his three sons with their wives, but with no other human company. The reason of these preparations was made known in the solemn decree. "Behold I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die." The ark thus commissioned was slowly prepared by Noah. See ARK. At length, in the six hundredth year of his age, the ark was finished, and all its living freight was gathered into it as in a place of safety. Jehovah shut him in, says the chronicler, speaking of Noah. And then there ensued a solemn pause of seven days before the threatened destruction was let loose. At last the flood came; the waters were upon the earth. The narrative is vivid and forcible, though entirely wanting in that sort of description which in a modern historian or poet would have occupied the largest space. We see nothing of the death-struggle; we hear not the cry of despair; we are not called upon to witness the frantic agony of husband and wife, and parent and child, as they fled in terror before the rising waters. Nor is a word said of the sadness of the one righteous man who, safe himself, looked upon the destruction which he could not avert. But one impression is left upon the mind with peculiar vividness, from the very simplicity of the narrative, and it is that of utter desolation. This is heightened by the contrast and repetition of the two ideas. On the one hand we are reminded no less than six times in the narrative in chaps. 6, 7, 8, who the tenants of the ark were (Genesis 6:18-21; Genesis 7:1-3; Genesis 7:7-9; Genesis 7:13-16; Genesis 8:16-19), the favored and rescued few; and, on the other hand, the total and absolute blotting out of everything else is not less emphatically dwelt upon (Genesis 6:13; Genesis 6:17; Genesis 7:4; Genesis 7:21-23).

This evidently designed contrast may especially be traced in chap. 7. First, we read in Genesis 7:6, "And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came waters upon the earth." Then follows an account of Noah aid his family and the animals entering into the ark. Next Genesis 7:10-12 resume the subject of Genesis 7:7 : "And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on tne seltsame day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows (or floodgates) of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights." Again the narrative returns to Noah and his companions, and their safety in the ark (Genesis 7:13-16). And then in Genesis 7:17 the words of Genesis 7:12 are resumed, and from thence to the end of the chapter a very simple but very powerful and impressive description is given of the appalling catastrophe,: "And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased and bare up the ark, and it was lift up from off the earth. And the waters prevailed and increased exceedingly upon the earth: and the ark went on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed very exceedingly upon the earth, and all the high mountains which [were] under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upwards did the waters prevail, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died which moveth upon the earth, of fowl, and of cattle, and of wild beasts, and of every creeping thing which creepeth upon the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every substance which was on the face of the ground was blotted out, as well man as cattle, and creeping thing and fowl of the heaven: they were blotted out from the earth, and Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth a hundred and fifty days." The waters of the Flood increased for a period of 190 days (40+150, comparing 7:12 and 24). And then "God remembered Noah," and made a wind to pass over the earth, so that the waters were assuaged. The ark rested on the seventeenth day of the seventh month on the mountains of Ararat. After this the waters gradually decreased till the first day of the tenth month, when the tops of the mountains were seen. It was then that Noah sent forth, first, the raven, which flew hither and thither, resting probably on the mountain-tops, but not returning to the ark; and next (? after an interval of seven days; comp. Genesis 7:10), the dove, "to see if the waters were abated from the ground" (i.e. the lower plain country). "But the dove," it is beautifully said, "found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark." After waiting for another seven days he again sent forth the dove, which returned this time with a fresh (טָרָ ) olive-leaf in her mouth, a sign that the waters were still lower. Once more, after another interval of seven days, he sent forth the dove, and she "returned not again unto him any more," having found a home for herself upon the earth. No picture in natural history was ever drawn with more exquisite beauty and fidelity than this: it is admirable alike for its poetry and its truth. Respecting two points, we may here remark (1) that the raven was supposed to foretell changes in the weather both by its flight and its cry (AElian, II. A. 7:7; Virg. Georg. 1:382, 410). According to Jewish tradition, the raven was preserved in the ark in order to be the progenitor of the birds which afterwards fed Elijah by the brook Cherith. (2) The olive-tree is an evergreen, and seems to have the power of living under water, according to Theophrastus (Hist. Plant. 4:8) and Pliny (H. N. 13:50), who mention olive-trees in the Red Sea. The olive grows in Armenia, but only in the valleys on the south side of Ararat, not on the slopes of the mountain. It will not flourish at an elevation where even the mulberry, walnut, and apricot are found (Ritter, Erdkunde, 10:920).

According to a careful adjustment of the chronology of the Hebrew Bible, the Noachian deluge appears to have occurred (begun) in the year from the creation of Adam 1657, and before Christ 2516. It continued twelve lunar months and ten days, or exactly one solar year (Browne, Ordo Saeclorum, p. 325 sq.), as the following tabular exhibit of the incidents will show:

The word specially used to designate the Flood of Noah (הִמִּבּוּל, ham- mabbul') occurs in only one other passage of Scripture (Psalms 29:10). The poet there sings of the majesty of God as seen in the storm. It is not improbable that the heavy rain accompanying the thunder and lightning had been such as to swell the torrents, and perhaps cause a partial inundation. This carried back his thoughts to the great flood of which he had often read, and he sang, "Jehovah sat as king at the Flood," and looking up at the clear face of the sky, and on the freshness and glory of nature around him, he added, "and Jehovah remaineth a king forever." In Isaiah 54:9, the Flood is spoken of as "the waters of Noah." God himself appeals to his promise made after the Flood as a pledge of his faithfulness to Israel: "For this is as the waters of Noah unto me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee nor rebuke thee."

In the N.T. our Lord gives the sanction of his own authority to the historical truth of the narrative, Matthew 24:37 (comp. Luke 17:26), declaring that the state of the world at his second coming shall be such as it was in the days of Noah. Peter speaks of the "long suffering of God," which "waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water." and sees in the waters of the flood by which the ark was borne up a type of baptism, by which the Church is separated from the world. Again, in his second Epistle (2. 5), he cites it as an instance of the righteous judgment of God, who spared not the old world, etc.

II. Traditions. The legends of many nations have preserved the memory of a great and destructive flood from which but a small part of mankind escaped. It is not always very clear whether they point back to a common center, whence they were carried by the different families of men as they wandered east and west, or whether they were of national growth, and embody merely records of catastrophes, such as especially in mountainous countries are of no rare occurrence. In some instances, no doubt, the resemblances, between the heathen and the Jewish stories are so striking as to render it morally certain that the former were borrowed from the latter. We find, indeed, a mythological element, the absence of all moral purpose, and a national and local coloring, but, discernible among these, undoubted features of the primitive history.

The account of the Flood in the Koran is apparently drawn partly from Biblical and partly from Persian sources. In the main, no doubt, it follows the narrative in Genesis, but dwells at length on the testimony of Noah to the unbelieving (Sale's Koran, chap. 11, p. 181). He is said to have tarried among his people one thousand save fifty years (chap. 29, p. 327). The people scoffed at and derided him, and Ò thus were they employed until our sentence was put in execution and the oven poured forth water." Different explanations have been given of this oven, which may be seen in Sale's note. He suggests (after Hyde, De Rel. Pers.) that this idea was borrowed from the Persian Magi, who also fancied that the first waters of the Deluge gushed out of the oven of a certain old woman named Zala Cufa. But the tanner (oven), he observes, may mean only a receptacle in which waters are gathered, or the fissure from which they broke forth. Another peculiarity of this version is, that Noah calls in vain to one of his sons to enter into the ark: he refuses, in the hope of escaping to a mountain, and is drowned before his father's eyes. The ark, moreover, is said to have rested on the mountain Al Judi, which Sale supposes should be written Jordi or Giordi, and connects with the Gordysei, Cardu, etc. or Kurd Mountains on the borders of Armenia and Mesopotamia (ch. 11, p. 181-183, and notes). (See ARARAT).

1. The traditions which come nearest to the Biblical account are those of the nations of Western Asia. Foremost among these is the Chaldean. It is preserved in a Fragment of Berosus, and is as follows: "After the death of Ardates, his son Xisuthrus reigned eighteen sari. In his time happened a great Deluge, the history of which is thus described: The Deity Kronos appeared to him in a vision, and warned him that on the 15th day of the month Daesius there would be a flood by which mankind would be destroyed. He therefore enjoined him to write a history of the beginning, course, and end of all things, and to bury it in the City of the Sun at Sippara; and to build a vessel (σκαφος ), and to take with him into it his friends and relatives; and to put on board food and drink, together with different animals, birds, and quadrupeds; and as soon as he had made all arrangements, to commit himself to the deep. Having asked the Deity whither he was to sail, he was answered, To the gods, after having offered a prayer for the good of mankind.' Whereupon. not being disobedient (to the heavenly vision), he built a vessel five stadia in length and two in breadth. Into this he put everything which he had prepared, and embarked in it his wife, his children, and his personal friends.

After the flood had been upon the earth and was in time abated, Xisuthrus sent out some birds from the vessel, which, not finding any food, nor any place where they could rest, returned thither.' After an interval of some days Xisuthrus sent out the birds a second time, and now they returned to the ship with mud on their feet. A third time he repeated the experiment, and then they returned no more; whence Xisuthrus judged that the earth was visible above the waters, and accordingly he made an opening in the vessel (?), and, seeing that it was stranded upon the site of a certain mountain, he quitted it with his wife and daughter and the pilot. Having then paid his adoration to the earth, and having built an altar and offered sacrifices to the gods, he, together with those who had left the vessel with him, disappeared. Those who had remained behind, when they found that Xisuthrus and his companions did not return, in their turn left the vessel and began to look for him, calling him by his name. Him they saw no more, but a voice came to them from heaven, bidding them lead pious lives, and so join him who was gone to live with the gods, and further informing them that his wife, his daughter, and the pilot had shared the same honor. It told them, moreover, that they should return to Babylon, and how it was ordained that they should take up the writings that had been buried in Sippara and impart them to mankind, and that the country where they then were was the land of Armenia. The rest, having heard these words, offered sacrifices to the gods, and, taking a circuit, journeyed to Babylon. The vessel being thus stranded in Armenia, some part of it still remains in the mountains of the Corcyraeans (or Cordyeans, i.e. the Kurds or Kurdistan) in Armenia, and the people scrape off the bitumen from the vessel and make use of it by way of charms. Now, when those of whom we have spoken returned to Babylon, they dug up the writings which had been buried at Sippara; they also founded many cities and built temples, and thus the country of Babylon became inhabited again" (Cory's Ancient Fragments, p. 26-29). Another version abridged, but substantially the same, is given from Abydenus (Ibid. p. 33, 34). The version of Eupolemus (quoted by Eusebius, Praep. Evang. 10:9) is curious: "The city of Balmylon," he says, "owes its foundation to those who were saved from the Deluge; they were giants, and they built the tower celebrated in history."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Deluge'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/d/deluge.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box:
 or 
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

 
Prev Entry
Delos
Next Entry
Delus
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology