123 The 3 in 1 Flood Story Genesis 7
As we move now from Noah to the story of the Flood we discover that the author of Genesis, understood to be Moses, tells the story three times in this chapter, adding more detail with each telling. We note that this was a typical part of a verbal society. We also make note of the many references to 40 days in scripture and realize it is not to be understood as a literal number but a figure of speech. Given this destruction of the inhabitants of the earth God in mercy manages to save all who chose to be saved.
Genesis 7 Three parallel accounts of the Flood
There are three flood accounts in this chapter: verses 1-5, verses 6-11 and verses 12-24. All three start with going into the boat (1, 7, 13). They all recount that Noah’s family and pairs of animals entered and each account ends with the role played by water: rained forty days and forty nights or covered the earth for 150 days (4, 12, 17, 24). Either one of these accounts could stand independently, together they add complimentary detail. It is not as if Moses took three accounts and melded them into one detailed account. He rather lists the three accounts to give maximum detail.
One characteristic of an oral society is repetition of detail in story telling. In literary societies once detail is written down it is permanent. There is no need to repeat it Here are some examples of the literary device of repetition in this chapter. The concept of pairs, or male and female is repeated 11 times (2-3, 9, 14-16). “Forty days” is repeated in each account (4b, 12, 17). The idea that all living land creatures, including humans, were annihilated is repeated in verses 4b, 10, 12, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24.
First Account (1-5)
When everything was ready, the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I can see that you alone are righteous.
How many unrighteous people were there who did not enter the ark?
“However, given the nature of mankind at the beginning, all physical capacities were still running at nearly 100 percent, including their reproductive systems. Regarding many of the patriarchs, including Adam, Seth, Methuselah, and others the Scriptures state: “he begat sons and daughters” (Genesis 5: 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, etc.). Therefore, using an extremely conservative population increase of 1.5 percent per year for 1,656 years, there would have been 774,000,000 people alive at the time of the flood!” Michael Riemer in Reindeer don’t Fly
“Although it is difficult to obtain an actual value of world population at the time of the flood, 5 to 17 billionpeople would appear to be reasonable populations, with an average of around 10 billion.” Harold L. Wilmington
Seems like there is no consensus at all with regard to the pre-flood population.
2 Take with you seven pairs—male and female—of each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice and take one pair of each of the others. 3 Also take seven pairs of every kind of bird. There must be a male and a female in each pair to ensure that all life will survive on the earth after the flood.
When was the distinction first made between clean and unclean animals? Before the flood, at the flood, or after the exodus (Leviticus 11:1-47)? The accounts given by Moses are retrospective. All histories are written in this way.
4 Seven days from now I will make the rains pour down on the earth. And it will rain for forty days and forty nights, until I have wiped from the earth all the living things I have created.”
40 is used many times in the scriptures. It appears again in verse 12 and 17. A parallel is saying, “I told you a thousand times!” It does not mean it literally, just many times. So, 40 is used to indicate a suitable length of time for . . .
The world is transformed by 40 days of rain.
Moses’ early life of 40 years in Egypt, 40 years herding sheep, 40 years leading liberated slaves through the desert, spending 40 days with God on Mt Sinai, and interceded on Israel’s behalf for 40 days and 40 nights (Deuteronomy 9:18, 25).
The maximum number of lashes a man could receive for a crime was 40 (Deuteronomy 25:3)
Manna fell for 40 years (Exodus 16:35).
12 spies view the Promised Land over 40 days.
David is irritated by Goliath’s 40-day challenge, and reigns for 40 years.
King Saul and king Solomon also reigned for 40 years.
Israel oppressed by Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1).
Elijah travels 40 days from Mt Carmel to Mount Sinai (1 Kings 19:8).
Ezekiel was to lie on his right side for 40 days symbolizing Judah’s sin (Ezekiel 40:6).
The city of Nineveh repented in 40 days (Jonah 3:4).
Jesus spent 40 days in the desert after his baptism (Matthew 4:2).
40 days between resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:3).
We have 40 days of Lent and 40 days of Ramadan which echo the importance of 40.
5 So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him.
Repetition of 6:22 emphasizing that Noah was a faithful believer in God.
Second Account (6-12)
6 Noah was 600 years old when the flood covered the earth. 7 He went on board the boat to escape the flood—he and his wife and his sons and their wives. 8 With them were all the various kinds of animals—those approved for eating and for sacrifice and those that were not—along with all the birds and the small animals that scurry along the ground. 9 They entered the boat in pairs, male and female, just as God had commanded Noah. 10 After seven days, the waters of the flood came and covered the earth.
This is a repetition of verse 2 but adds the age of Noah, the date of the flood, and gives the source of the flood water.
11 When Noah was 600 years old, on the seventeenth day of the second month, all the underground waters erupted from the earth, and the rain fell in mighty torrents from the sky. 12 The rain continued to fall for forty days and forty nights.
Emphasizing the significance of how widespread and destructive the flood was.
Third Account (13-24)
13 That very day Noah had gone into the boat with his wife and his sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—and their wives. 14 With them in the boat were pairs of every kind of animal—domestic and wild, large and small—along with birds of every kind. 15 Two by two they came into the boat, representing every living thing that breathes. 16 A male and female of each kind entered, just as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord closed the door behind them.
Verse 2 has seven pairs of clean animals. The rest of the references to the numbers of animals entering the ark list only one pair. Now wild and domestic animals are mentioned. Shem, Ham, and Japheth are named.
17 For forty days the floodwaters grew deeper, covering the ground and lifting the boat high above the earth. 18 As the waters rose higher and higher above the ground, the boat floated safely on the surface. 19 Finally, the water covered even the highest mountains on the earth, 20 rising more than twenty-two feet above the highest peaks. 21 All the living things on earth died—birds, domestic animals, wild animals, small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the people. 22 Everything that breathed and lived on dry land died. 23 God wiped out every living thing on the earth—people, livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and the birds of the sky. All were destroyed. The only people who survived were Noah and those with him in the boat. 24 And the floodwaters covered the earth for 150 days.
From verse 21 it is stated 5 times that every living or breathing land animal, including people, perished. This account is emphatically making the point first made in verse 4b. All life on the land was destroyed. It is as if the author knew that there would be questions about the accuracy of the account and so pre-empted the incredulity of the reader.
In the next chapter we are given the length of time that the waters covered the earth.
In Genesis 1:6-8 God created order by placing light and land between the waters above and the waters below. The flood creates the primeval chaos that was there before the creation. It is an attempt by the evil one to destroy the order that God created in creation.
Ian Hartley November 2022.