Introduction: The Flood
"Many of us have fond memories learning about Noah and his ark during our days at home and in Primary. Perhaps our parents and teachers held up a picture of Noah preaching to laughing and mocking people as he stood in front of the partially built ark, or perhaps they showed us a picture portraying the ark filled with animals standing on the deck as the great vessel rested in the water. Later, our Sunday School or seminary teachers added to our knowledge of this great man, his righteousness, his missionary work, and the revelations surrounding the building of the ark. As Latter-day Saints, we treasure this sacred, true account of one of God's great prophets who lived so long ago.
"Not everyone throughout the modern world, however, accepts the story of Noah and the Flood. Many totally disbelieve the story, seeing it as a simple myth or fiction. Typical of some modern scholars, one author recently discounted the events of the Flood by using such terms as 'implausible,' 'unacceptable,' and 'impossible'; he stated that believers who would hope to provide geologic or other evidence regarding the historicity of the Flood 'can be given no assurance that their effort, however sustained, will be successful.' Another author titled his book The Noah's Ark Nonsense, revealing his disbelief that the Flood actually took place.
"Still other people accept parts of the Flood story, acknowledging that there may have been a local, charismatic preacher, such as Noah, and a localized flood that covered only a specific area of the world, such as the region of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers or perhaps even the whole of Mesopotamia. Yet these people do not believe in a worldwide or global flood. Both of these groups-those who totally deny the historicity of Noah and the Flood and those who accept parts of the story-are persuaded in their disbelief by the way they interpret modern science. They rely upon geological considerations and theories that postulate it would be impossible for a flood to cover earth's highest mountains, that the geologic evidence (primarily in the fields of stratigraphy and sedimentation) does not indicate a worldwide flood occurred any time during the earth's existence.
"There is a third group of people-those who accept the literal message of the Bible regarding Noah, the ark, and the Deluge. Latter-day Saints belong to this group. In spite of the world's arguments against the historicity of the Flood, and despite the supposed lack of geologic evidence, we Latter-day Saints believe that Noah was an actual man, a prophet of God, who preached repentance and raised a voice of warning, built an ark, gathered his family and a host of animals onto the ark, and floated safely away as waters covered the entire earth. We are assured that these events actually occurred by the multiple testimonies of God's prophets. (Donald W. Parry, "The Flood and the Tower of Babel," Ensign, Jan. 1998, 36)
Gen 7:2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens
We typically think that the Law of Moses first introduced a strict dietary code to the biblical record. Leviticus 11 catalogs those animals, fish, and creatures as clean or unclean. The children of Israel were to eat those animals that both chewed the cud and had a cloven hoof (Lev. 11:3). Yet, here we have a description of the clean beast more than many centuries before Moses. As part of the Law of Sacrifice and the higher law of the Patriarchal Priesthood, there must have been a dietary code-the details of which have not survived in the scriptural record. Some of these clean beasts and the fowl by sevens would be used for food during the journey.
Mark E. Petersen
Note that reference is made to the food Noah and his family would eat and also the food for the animals in the ark. Note also that of the clean beasts Noah took into the ark seven and seven, whereas of the unclean he took only two and two. This would permit him to offer burnt offerings to the Lord as soon as the flood subsided, without interfering with the procreation of life to replenish the earth. (Noah and the Flood [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 52 - 53.)
Gen 7:5 Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him
"Let us imagine for a moment the contempt and ridicule to which Noah, the man of God, was exposed on this occasion; long had that bigoted and self-righteous generation looked upon this prophet of the Most High as a fanatic, a fool, or a mad-man: when they beheld him engaged in building the ponderous ark, hundreds of miles from any considerable waters through fear of being drowned, and at the same time declaring that God had commanded him to do so, they no doubt, laughed him to scorn. But yet we see the good man steady to his purpose, until he had accomplished the mighty fabric. Then said the Lord unto him, 'Yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights, come thou and all thy house into the ark: for thee have I seen righteous before me.'-And while the giddy multitude gathered themselves together to mock and deride the good man, and witness as they vainly supposed the consumation of his folly... Noah enters the steadfast ark, which remains unmoved amidst the conflicting elements; and the invisible hand of his Creator closes the door behind him." (Messenger and Advocate, vol. 3 (October 1836-September 1837), Vol. 3 April, 1837 No. 31 484.)
Noah was 120 years building the ark, we are informed in the Scriptures, and during that time he preached the Gospel. How many who were willing to believe his testimony? Only eight souls in all, including himself. He was very unpopular, I presume, and had as much derision heaped upon his head, for building an ark on dry ground, as any man that ever lived on the earth. But Noah was a prophet and a messenger of God, called to warn that generation and to build an ark, and if he had not done it he would have been held responsible for the lives of himself and family and all that generation. But he had the Spirit of God and was willing to do as he was told, whether the doctrine he preached was popular or unpopular. He built the ark, and went into it with his family, and they were saved. The history of the flood and of the salvation of Noah and his family is well known. He performed the work assigned him to do, and was saved. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 11: 244.)
Gen 7:6 Noah was six hundred years old
Using the chronology found in Genesis 5 and supposing that the Fall of Adam was 4000 BC, we can calculate the year of the Flood as 2344 BC.
Gen 7:7 Noah went in, and his [family]... into the ark
"Bible students from many different backgrounds have seen the ark as a symbol as well as a physical reality. Andrew Jukes, a prominent biblical scholar, says, 'If there is a type in the Bible, the ark is surely a type-of Christ without doubt-but of Christ viewed dispensationally. Christ is the Ark, taking the chosen family from the world of judgment to the new heavens and the new earth.'
"Here, then, we see a literal enactment of a great symbolic truth that affects all of us: just as God provided a means (the ark) for Noah's family to escape the waters (death), and reach a glorious promised land, he has also provided a way for us to escape spiritual and physical death and attain a land of promise." (L. H. Read, "The Ark of the Covenant: Symbol of Triumph," Ensign, June 1980, 23)
Gen 7:11 the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up
"The worldwide flood of Noah's time has been accepted as a benchmark historical event by Jews and Christians for thousands of years-and similar traditions appear among the Greeks, Mesopotamians, and some American Indian tribes. Yet the story is regarded skeptically today in our secular world. Most current geology texts ignore the Flood, ridicule it, or use it as an example of prescientific superstition.
"Consequently, Latter-day Saints and other Christians sometimes find the apparent conflict between their faith in the scriptures and their education puzzling. The account of Noah's flood is a typical illustration of the differences which occur between scriptural information and modern secular teachings about the history of the world." (F. Kent Nielsen, "The Gospel and the Scientific View: How Earth Came to Be," Ensign, Sept. 1980, 67)
One of the points of contention for "modern thinkers" is that there is not enough water in the earth's atmosphere to even come close to completely covering the surface with water. Their point is well taken. However, there is enough water in the subterranean channels of the earth to change that picture drastically. Hence, the idea that the fountains of the great deep were broken up becomes crucially important. Somehow, God manipulated the ocean waters and the subterranean water tables such that the surface of the earth was covered-completely covered.
Those who don't believe God has that great power fundamentally lack faith. Which is easier? To create the earth or to baptize it with water? If God can create the earth, then certainly, He can cover the earth with a flood. Maybe those who don't believe in the Flood will be more convinced when the earth is baptized by fire.
Joseph Fielding Smith
I am grateful that I was born with an understanding and believing heart and spirit. It is never hard for me to accept that which is written and affirmed by revelation. I am confident that the Lord is right, even where I am unable to understand the answers. In this case of the flood the answer is plain and simple.
Our brother, in denying the story of the flood, states, "There is not enough water existing in the earth and its atmosphere to flood the earth so that the mountains would all be covered."
Also, he says: "In the event of water being introduced from external space, the mass of the earth would be so altered that its astronomical constants would be altered, e.g. . time taken to revolve in its orbit, distance from the sun, etc. Such an amount of water would not evaporate in the specified time of 150 days without boiling violently, when no life could possibly exist."
My answer to all of this is that it is mere speculation. The Lord, who created the earth, certainly controls it. Why try to deny him this power?... the earth has maintained its steady course, and "abideth the law" which was given to it. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 315-316.)
Gen 7:19 all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered
"Genesis 7:19-20 states, 'All the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered ... ; and the mountains were covered.' These verses explicitly state that all of earth's high mountains ('hills' should read 'mountains' here; Hebrew harim) were covered by the waters. Lest one believe that the statement 'under the whole heaven' is figurative and can be read or interpreted in different ways, a scriptural search through the entire Old Testament reveals that the phrase is used elsewhere only in a universal sense, as it is here; the phrase does not refer to a geographically restricted area (see Deut. 2:25; Deut. 4:19; Job 28:24; Job 37:3; Dan. 9:12). For instance, Job 28:24 also uses the phrase when referring to God's omniscience, which is certainly not restricted to a specific geographical region on the earth.
"Verse 9 states, 'The waters were on the face of the whole earth.' The phrase 'on the face of the whole earth' refers to a worldwide flood (see Gen. 1:29; Gen. 11:4, 8, 9).
"Taken altogether, these statements should convince every believer in the Bible that the great Deluge was a worldwide event, not a localized flood that filled only the Mesopotamian or some other region." (Donald W. Parry, "The Flood and the Tower of Babel," Ensign, Jan. 1998, 37)
Gen 7:20 The Baptism of the Earth
As we contemplate the symbolism of the baptism of the earth via the Flood, we realize that many parallels exist between the earth and the Lord's righteous children. Both were created spiritually before they were created temporally. Both were created in a state of paradise and suffered the consequences of the Fall. Both must be baptized with water and with fire (D&C 45:32). Both will die (D&C 29:25). Both will be resurrected to inherit a celestial glory.
Orson F. Whitney
To Noah, also, came a dispensation of the Gospel. In his day the earth was baptized with water, prefiguring the baptism of fire, which our planet is destined to undergo, prior to its glorification. "For as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man." (Conference Report, April 1908, Outdoor Meeting. 91.)
[The earth] was baptized by water. A great flow of water came, the great deep was broken up, the windows of heaven were opened from on high, and the waters prevailed upon the face of the earth, sweeping away all wickedness and transgression-a similitude of baptism for the remission of sins. God requires the children of men to be baptized. What for? For the remission of sins. So he required our globe to be baptized by a flow of water, and all of its sins were washed away, not one sin remaining. (Mark E. Petersen, Noah and the Flood [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 56.)
Gen 7:21 all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle... and every man
Behold, the power of Satan was upon all the face of the earth...
And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept...
The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands...
And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;
And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them. (Moses 7:24-34)
According to apocryphal writings, Abraham, Ezra, and Baruch, among others, questioned the wisdom and charity of sending total destruction on the human race. "Dost thou think," says the Lord to Baruch, "that in these things this Most High rejoices or that His name is glorified? ... Go therefore ... and instruct so far as thou art able, that they may learn so as not to die at the last time, but may learn in order that they may live at the last times." To Ezra God gives a gentle reprimand, "Thou comest far short of being able to love my creatures more than I!" And, as we have seen, Enoch in the Joseph Smith account gives the strongest testimony of all-that he actually saw God weep! (Moses 7:28.)
All who were willing to repent were duly removed to a place of safety; it was only those who doggedly refused to listen over a period of years, the wicked "residue of the people," who had to be left behind to perish. ("A Strange Thing in the Land: The Return of the Book of Enoch, Part 12," Ensign, June 1977, 86-87)
Let us suppose that you and I were there as spirits, awaiting the privilege of taking bodies, and that we could see the wickedness and corruption that was going on upon the earth, and that we could see prophets going about teaching the principles of righteousness and warning the people of judgments that should come, of the flood that should overwhelm them, and of the prisons prepared in which the ungodly should be cast. And we say, "Father, you see the people on the earth that they are wicked and depraved, fallen and corrupt! Yes. Is it right and just that we who have done no wrong should have to enter into such corrupt bodies and partake of the influences with which they are surrounded?" "No," says the Father, "it is not just, and I will cut them off; I will cause the floods to come upon them to destroy them, and I will send those wicked and disobedient spirits into prison," which he did.
Here was an act of justice. Some men who profess to be very wise, think God was unjust in thus destroying so many of his creatures. They know nothing about it because they do not comprehend the law of God and the purposes of God. It was an act of justice and righteousness according to the eternal justice that dwells in the bosom of the Father. (The Gospel Kingdom: Selections from the Writings and Discourses of John Taylor, selected, arranged, and edited, with an introduction by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1941], 99.)
Gen 7:21-23 Chiasmus in Genesis
"Some chiasms are relatively straightforward, such as the example in Genesis 7:21-23 (translating literally from the Hebrew):
a There died on the earth
b all birds,
d beasts and creeping things,
f all life
g and was destroyed.
f Every living thing
e both man,
d creeping things,
a were destroyed from the earth."
(John W. Welch, "Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon," New Era, Feb. 1972, 6)
Gen 7:23 Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark
"We all need to build a personal ark, to fortify ourselves against this rising tide of evil, to protect ourselves and our families against the floodwaters of iniquity around us. And we shouldn't wait until it starts raining, but prepare in advance. This has been the message of all the prophets in this dispensation... as well as the prophets of old.
"Unfortunately we don't always heed the clear warnings of our prophets. We coast complacently along until calamity strikes, and then we panic.
"When it starts raining, it is too late to begin building the ark. However, we do need to listen to the Lord's spokesmen. We need to calmly continue to move ahead and to prepare for what will surely come. We need not panic or fear, for if we are prepared, spiritually and temporally, we and our families will survive any flood. Our arks will float on a sea of faith if our works have been steadily and surely preparing for the future." (W. Don Ladd, "Make Thee an Ark," Ensign, Nov. 1994, 29)
Ezra Taft Benson
We will live in the midst of economic, political, and spiritual instability. When these signs are observed-unmistakable evidences that His coming is nigh-we need not be troubled, but "stand in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come" (D&C 87:8). Holy men and women stand in holy places, and these holy places consist of our temples, our chapels, our homes, and stakes of Zion, which are, as the Lord declares, "for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth" (D&C 115:6). We must heed the Lord's counsel to the Saints of this dispensation: "Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord" (D&C 133:10).
This preparation must consist of more than just casual membership in the Church. We must be guided by personal revelation and the counsel of the living prophet so we will not be deceived. Our Lord has indicated who, among Church members, will stand when He appears: "At that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins" (D&C 45:56). (Come unto Christ, pp. 115-16.)
There is a real sifting going on in the Church, and it is going to become more pronounced with the passing of time. It will sift the wheat from the tares, because we face some difficult days, the like of which we have never experienced in our lives. And those days are going to require faith and testimony and family unity, the like of which we have never had. (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 106-107.)