That universal flood which was sent upon the earth in the time of Noah, and from which there were but eight persons saved. Moses' account of this event is recorded in Ge 6-8. See ARK OF NOAH. The sins of mankind were the cause of the deluge; and most commentators agree to place it B. C. 2348. After the door of the ark had been closed upon those that were to be saved, the deluge commenced: it rained forty days; "the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." All men and creatures living on the land perished, except Noah and those with him. For five months the waters continued to rise, and reached fifteen cubits above the highest summits to which any could fly for refuge; "a shoreless ocean tumble round the world." At length the waters began to abate; the highest land appeared, and the ark touched ground upon Mount Ararat. In three months more the hills began to appear. Forty days after, Noah tested the state of the earth's surface by sending out a raven; and then thrice, at intervals of a week, a dove. At length he removed the covering of the ark, and found the flood had disappeared; he came forth from the ark, reared an altar, and offered sacrifices to God, who appointed the rainbow as a pledge that he would no more destroy mankind with a fool.
Since all nations have descended from the family then preserved in the ark, it is natural that the memory of such an event should be perpetuated in various national traditions. Such is indeed the fact. These traditions have been found among the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Greeks, Hindoos, Chinese, Japanese, Scythians, and Celts, and in the western hemisphere among the Mexicans, Peruvians, and South sea islanders. Much labor has been expanded in searching for natural causes adequate to the production of a deluge; but we should beware of endeavoring to account on natural principles for that which the Bible represents as miraculous.
In the New Testament, the deluge is spoken of as a stupendous exhibition of divine power, like the creation and the final burning of the world. It is applied to illustrate the long suffering of God, and assure us of his judgment on sin, 2Pe 3:5-7, and of the second coming of Christ, Mt 24:38.
It began in the year 2516 B.C., and continued twelve lunar months and ten days, or exactly one solar year.
The cause of this judgment was the corruption and violence that filled the earth in the ninth generation from Adam. God in righteous indignation determined to purge the earth of the ungodly race. Amid a world of crime and guilt there was one household that continued faithful and true to God, the household of Noah. "Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations."
At the command of God, Noah made an ark 300 cubits long, 50 broad, and 30 high. He slowly proceeded with this work during a period of one hundred and twenty years (Ge 6:3). At length the purpose of God began to be carried into effect. The following table exhibits the order of events as they occurred:
In the six hundredth year of his life Noah is commanded by God to enter the ark, taking with him his wife, and his three sons with their wives (Ge 7:1-10).
The rain begins on the seventeenth day of the second month (Ge 7:11-17).
The rain ceases, the waters prevail, fifteen cubits upward (Ge 7:18-24).
The ark grounds on one of the mountains of Ararat on the seventeenth day of the seventh month, or one hundred and fifty days after the Deluge began (Ge 8:1-4).
Tops of the mountains visible on the first day of the tenth month (Ge 8:5).
Raven and dove sent out forty days after this (Ge 8:6-9).
Dove again sent out seven days afterwards; and in the evening she returns with an olive leaf in her mouth (Ge 8:10-11).
Dove sent out the third time after an interval of other seven days, and returns no more (Ge 8:12).
The ground becomes dry on the first day of the first month of the new year (Ge 8:13).
Noah leaves the ark on the twenty-seventh day of the second month (Ge 8:14-19).
The historical truth of the narrative of the Flood is established by the references made to it by our Lord (Mt 24:37; comp. Lu 17:26). Peter speaks of it also (1Pe 3:20; 2Pe 2:5). In Isa 54:9 the Flood is referred to as "the waters of Noah." The Biblical narrative clearly shows that so far as the human race was concerned the Deluge was universal; that it swept away all men living except Noah and his family, who were preserved in the ark; and that the present human race is descended from those who were thus preserved.
Traditions of the Deluge are found among all the great divisions of the human family; and these traditions, taken as a whole, wonderfully agree with the Biblical narrative, and agree with it in such a way as to lead to the conclusion that the Biblical is the authentic narrative, of which all these traditions are more or less corrupted versions. The most remarkable of these traditions is that recorded on tablets prepared by order of Assur-bani-pal, the king of Assyria. These were, however, copies of older records which belonged to somewhere about B.C. 2000, and which formed part of the priestly library at Erech (q.v.), "the ineradicable remembrance of a real and terrible event." (See Noah; Chaldea.)
See NOAH .
1. The Biblical story, Ge 6:5 to Ge 9:17 [Ge 6:1-4 is probably a separate tradition, unconnected with the Deluge (see Driver, Genesis, p. 82)]. The two narratives of Jahwist and Priestly Narrative have been combined; the verses are assigned by Driver as follows: Jahwist Ge 6:5-8; 7:1-5,7-10,12,16 b, Ge 7:17 b, Ge 7:22-23; 8:2-3 a, Ge 8:6-13 b, Ge 8:20-22; Priestly Narrative Ge 6:9-22; 7:6,11,13-16 a, Ge 7:17 a, Ge 7:18-21,24; 8:1-2 a, Ge 8:3-5,13 a, Ge 8:14-19; 9:1-17. Jahwist alone relates the sending out of the birds, and the sacrifice with which Jahweh is so pleased that He determines never again to curse the ground. Priestly Narrative alone gives the directions with regard to the size and construction of the ark, the blessing of Noah, the commands against murder and the eating of blood, and the covenant with the sign of the rainbow. In the portions in which the two narratives overlap, they are at variance in the following points. (a) In Priestly Narrative one pair of every kind of animal (Ge 6:18-20) in Jahwist one pair of the unclean and seven of the clean (Ge 7:2-3), are to be taken into the ark. (In Ge 7:9 a redactor has added the words 'two and two' to make Jahwist's representation conform to that of Priestly Narrative.) The reason for the difference is that, according to Priestly Narrative, animals were not eaten at all till after the Deluge (Ge 9:3), so that there was no distinction required between clean and unclean. (b) In Priestly Narrative the cause of the Deluge is not only rain, but also the bursting forth of the subterranean abyss (Ge 6:11); Jahwist mentions rain only (Ge 6:12). (c) In Priestly Narrative the water begins to abate after 150 days (Ge 8:3), the mountain tops are visible after 8 months and 13 days (Ge 7:11; 8:5), and the earth is dry after a year and 10 days (Ge 8:14); in Jahwist the Flood lasts only 40 days (Ge 7:12; 8:6), and the water had begun to abate before that.
2. The Historicity of the story.
DELUGE signifies, in general, any great inundation; but more particularly that universal flood by which the whole inhabitants of this globe were destroyed, except Noah and his family. According to the most approved systems of chronology, this remarkable event happened in the year 1656 after the creation, or about 2348 before the Christian aera. Of so general a calamity, from which only a single family of all who lived then on the face of the earth was preserved, we might naturally expect to find some memorials in the traditionary records of Pagan history, as well as in the sacred volume, where its peculiar cause, and the circumstances which attended it, are so distinctly and so fully related. Its magnitude and singularity could scarcely fail to make an indelible impression on the minds of the survivors, which would be communicated from them to their children, and would not be easily effaced from the traditions even of their latest posterity. A deficiency in such traces of this awful event, though perhaps it might not serve entirely to invalidate our belief of its reality, would certainly tend considerably to weaken its claim to credibility; it being scarcely probable that the knowledge of it should be utterly lost to the rest of the world, and confined to the documents of the Jewish nation alone. What we might reasonably expect has, accordingly, been actually and completely realized. The evidence which has been brought from almost every quarter of the world to bear upon the reality of this event, is of the most conclusive and irresistible kind; and every investigation, whether etymological or historical, which has been made concerning Heathen rites and traditions, has constantly added to its force, no less than to its extent.
And here, it were injustice to the memory of ingenuity and erudition almost unexampled in modern times, were we not to mention the labours of Bryant, the learned analysist of ancient mythology, whose patience and profoundness of research have thrown such new and convincing light on this subject. Nor must we forget his ardent and successful disciple, Mr. Faber, who, in his "Dissertation on the Mysteries of the Cabiri," has in travelling over similar ground with his illustrious master at once corrected some of his statements, and greatly strengthened his general conclusions. As the basis of their system, however, rests on a most extensive etymological examination of the names of the deities and other mythological personages worshipped and celebrated by the Heathen, compared with the varied traditions respecting their histories, and the nature of the rites and names of the places that were sacred to them, we cannot do more, in the present article, than shortly state the result of their investigations, referring for the particular details, to the highly original treatises already mentioned. According to them, the memory of the deluge was incorporated with almost every part of the Gentile mythology and worship; Noah, under a vast multitude of characters, being one of their first deities, to whom all the nations of the Heathen world looked up as their founder; and to some circumstance or other in whose history, and that of his sons and the first patriarchs, most, if not all, of their religious ceremonies may be considered as not indistinctly referring. Traces of these, neither vague nor obscure, they conceive to be found in the history and character, not only of Deucalion, but of Atlas, Cronus, or Saturn, Dionusos, Inachus, Janus, Minos, Zeus, and others among the Greeks; of Isis, Osiris, Sesostris, Oannes, Typhon, &c, among the Egyptians; of Dagon, Agruerus Sydyk, &c, among the Phenicians; of Astarte, Derceto, &c, among the Assyrians; of Buddha, Menu, Vishnu, &c, among the Hindus; of Fohi, and a deity represented as sitting upon the lotos in the midst of waters, among the Chinese; of Budo and Iakusi among the Japanese, &c. They discover allusions to the ark, in many of the ancient mysteries, and traditions with respect to the dove and the rainbow, by which several of these allegorical personages were attended, which are not easily explicable, unless they be supposed to relate to the history of the deluge. By the celebrated Ogdoas of the Egyptians, consisting of eight persons sailing together in the sacred baris or ark, they imagine the family of Noah, which was precisely eight in number, to have been designated; and in the rites of Adonis or Thammuz, in particular, they point out many circumstances which seem to possess a distinct reference to the events recorded in the sixth and seventh chapters of Genesis. With regard to this system, we shall only farther observe, that, after every reasonable deduction is made from it, which the exuberant indulgence of fancy occasionally exhibited by its authors appears to render necessary, it contains so much that is relevant and conclusive, that it induces the conviction that it has a solid foundation in truth and fact; it being scarcely possible to conceive, that a mere hypothesis could be supported by evidence so varied, so extensive, and in many particulars so demonstrative, as that which its framers have produced.
Beside, however, the allusions to the deluge in the mythology and religious ceremonies of the Heathen, to which we have thus concisely adverted, there is a variety of traditions concerning it still more direct and circumstantial, the coincidence of which, with the narrative of Moses, it will require no common degree of skeptical hardihood to deny. We are informed by one of the circumnavigators of the world, who visited the remote island of Otaheite, that some of the inhabitants being asked concerning their origin, answered, that their supreme God having, a long time ago, been angry, dragged the earth through the sea, when their island was broken off and preserved. In the island of Cuba, the people are said to believe that the world was once destroyed by water by three persons, evidently alluding to the three sons of Noah. It is even related, that they have a tradition among them, that an old man, knowing that the deluge was approaching, built a large ship, and went into it with a great number of animals; and that he sent out from the ship a crow, which did not immediately come back, staying to feed on the carcasses of dead animals, but afterward returned with a green branch in its mouth. The author who gives the above account likewise affirms that it was reported by the inhabitants of Castells del Oro, in Terra Firma, that during a universal deluge, one man, and his children, were the only persons who escaped, by means of a canoe, and that from them the world was afterward peopled. According to the Peruvians, in consequence of a general inundation, occasioned by violent and continued rains, a universal destruction of the human species took place, a few persons only excepted, who escaped into caves on the tops of the mountains, into which they had previously conveyed a stock of provisions, and a number of live animals, lest when the waters abated, the whole race should have become extinct. Others of them affirm, that only six persons were saved, by means of a float or raft, and that from them all the inhabitants of the country are descended. They farther believe, that this event took place before there were any incas or kings among them, and when the country was extremely populous. The Brazilians not only preserve the tradition of a deluge, but believe that the whole race of mankind perished in it, except one man and his sister; or, according to others, two brothers with their wives, who were preserved by climbing the highest trees on their loftiest mountains; and who afterward became the heads of two different nations. The memory of this event they are even said to celebrate in some of their religious anthems or songs. Acosta, in his history of the Indies, says, that the Mexicans speak of a deluge in their country, by which all men were drowned; and that it was afterward peopled by viracocha, who came out of the lake Titicaca; and, according to Herrera, the Machoachans, a people comparatively in the neighbourhood of Mexico, had a tradition, that a single family was formerly preserved in an ark