Genesis Flood

Sat, 27 Apr 1996 01:02:01 -0500

A Recent, Local (and historical) Flood

(Excerpts taken from The Origins Solution)

In 1928-29, Leonard Woolley excavated the ancient city of Ur in
Southern Mesopotamia. At one point he found about 10 feet of water
-laid clay he attributed to the great flood. Elated by his find, Wooley
encouraged excavators at other sites to look for flood layers. Sure
enough, flood layers or more cautiously "sterile stratum" of various
thicknesses were found. At last, thought Woolley, archeology had
established firm evidence for what had long been a controversial Bible
story. But that euphoric feeling was not to last.

Dating archeological digs in the absence of deposits of volcanic ash
lacks the kind of precision archaeologists prefer, but nevertheless, the
thick flood stratum Woolley found at Ur was placed at the early fourth
millennium, about 3800 BC. Notwithstanding, a higher flood level
also was uncovered dated to about 2700 BC, but it had been discounted
as too little and too late. 1

Langdon and Watelin excavated Kish in 1928-29. They dated the
bottom layer which amounted to about one foot in thickness to 3300
BC. This seemed to lend support to Woolley's claim, even though the
dates were 500 years apart. The thickest layer at Kish was at a higher
level, however, and assigned a similar date to the thinner layer found
at Ur.

Mallowan, who excavated the more northern city of Ninevah,
uncovered several strata of mud and riverine sand totaling six feet in
depth. Diplomatically, he called this not a flood, but a "pluvial
interval," and placed it at the fourth millennium, similarly dated to
Woolley's layer. But then, flood deposits at Kish, Shuruppak, Uruk,
and Lagash were considered and a consensus put all of these layers at
nearly a thousand years later than Woolley's renowned find, averaging
around 2900 BC. 2

Of equal importance to the finding and dating of the flood deposits
connected with Kish, Shuruppak, Uruk, Lagash, and possibly Ur, is
the total absence of flood layers found anywhere else in the Near East.=20
What has been hard for many to accept is that the flood of Noah's day
was entirely local to Southern Mesopotamia. According to Bright:
A number of sites in Mesopotamia, of equal or greater
antiquity, have been excavated down to virgin soil, and no
evidence of flooding came to light at them. Perhaps the most
important of these is Eridu, located only seven miles away from
Ur. Equally serious is the fact that no site in Syria or Palestine,
where archaeologists were equally active during the early part
of the present century, has yielded a "flood layer." In these
two countries some of the oldest towns in the world have been
excavated ...(and) show no evidence of a flood ... 3
The present-day distribution of animals around the globe, along with
the fossilized remains of their early ancestors in the same locales,
precludes a global flood at such a late date in earth history.=20
Furthermore, the Genesis flood harmonizes with the local legends. By
comparing the Genesis flood narrative with its counterparts we can see
how closely they follow suit. Three parallel account are used. The
eleventh tablet of Gilgamesh, written in Accadian, an early Semitic
language, speaks of one Utnapistim (he who found long life).=20
Utnapishtim reputedly built a large vessel, loaded it with family and
animals, and survived a massive flood. The legend of Ziasudra is the
Sumerian version, and Atrahasis (exceeding wise) was written in

Hard Hearts

Genesis 6:5: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in
the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was
only evil continually."

Utnapishtim: "Shuruppak - a city which thou knowest, (and) which on
Euphrates [banks] is situate - that city was ancient, (as were) the gods
within it, when their heart led the great gods to produce the flood." 4

Although the Atrahasis account lists "clamor," "uproar," and maybe,
overpopulation as the reason for bringing the flood, the Gilgamesh
tablet agrees with Genesis. It was hardened "hearts" that brought on
the flood.

Man Destroyed

Genesis 6:7: "And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have
created from the face of the earth;..."

Ziusudra: "By our ... a flood [will sweep] over the cult centers; to
destroy the seed of mankind ..." 5

Those who occupied the land are to be destroyed from the land.=20
Although the Sumerians were first to set down their version of the
flood, they also were first to know how to write. Probably they
learned the flood story from the Semites, although they must have had
some firsthand knowledge. Sumer flourished centuries before the

A Favored Servant

Genesis 6:8: "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."

Atrahasis: "[Ea] opened his mouth, [say]ing to his servant: Thou sayest
`let me seek ...' The task which I am about to tell thee guard thou
well: Wall hearken to me, reed hut, guard well all my words! Destroy
this house, build a ship, renounce worldly goods, keep the soul=20
alive." 6

The subterfuge, apparently, was that Ea was in the inner counsel of the
gods, and was not supposed to reveal the decision to bring the flood
and destroy man to any mere mortal. Ea speaks to the wall so that
Atrahasis may overhear the words, and escape death.

Pitching the Ark

Genesis 6:14: "Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou
make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch."

Utnapishtim: "I laid out the contours (and) joined her together. I
provided her with six decks, dividing her (thus) into seven parts. Her
floor plan I divided into nine parts. I hammered water-plugs in her. I
saw to the punting-poles and laid in supplies. Six `sar' (measures) of
bitumen I poured into the furnace, three sar of asphalt [I also] poured=20
inside." 7

Pitching boats on the inside was unusual from what we know about
early ship building. Yet both accounts confirm this was done.

Designing the Ship

Genesis 6:15: "And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The
length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty
cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits."

Atrahasis: "[Say]ing to Ea [his] Lord: I have never built a ship [...].=20
Draw a design [of it on the gr]ound that, seeing the [de]sign, I may
[build] the ship." 8 =20

Utnapishtim: "The ship that thou shalt build, her dimensions shall be
to measure. Equal shall be her width and her length. (Skipping some
lines.) Ten dozen cubits the height of each of her walls, ten dozen
cubits each edge of the square deck." 9

The dimensions differ, as do the proportions. But the Sumerians used
a sexagesimal system that affects measures of time and measures of
length. What is important is that both accounts describe a huge ship
requiring a lot of work to build.

Saving Family and Animals

Genesis 6:18-20: "But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou
shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons'
wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every
sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they
shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after
their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of
every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive."

Atrahasis: "[Into the ship which] thou shalt make, thou shalt take the
beasts of the field, the fowl of the heavens. (Skipping a few lines.)=20
Aboard her [bring] thy grain, thy possessions, thy goods, thy wife, thy
family, thy relations, and thy craftsmen. Beasts of the field, creatures
of the field, as many as eat herbs, I will send to thee and they shall
guard thy door." 10

The epic accounts appear to save more than eight people unless Noah's
family, "thy relations," were also "craftsmen." In the eleventh tablet
of Gilgamesh, the boatman plays a part, aiding Gilgamesh in finding
the plant of eternal life. Still, nothing precludes Noah's sons from
being boatmen or craftsmen. And certainly, we have no reason to
regard the epic accounts as "true" even if based upon an actual

Fountains of the Deep

Genesis 7:10,11,12: "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, the seventeenth day of the month, the
same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the
windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth
forty days and forty nights."

Utnapishtim: "A black cloud came up from out the horizon. Adad
thunders within it, while Shullat and Hanish go before, coming as
heralds over hill and plain; Erragal tears out the masts, Ninurta comes
along (and) causes the dikes to give way; ..." (Skipping some lines.)=20
"Six days and six nights the wind blew, the downpour, the tempest,
(and) the flo[od] overwhelmed the land. When the seventh day arrived,
the tempest, the flood, which had fought like an army subsided in (its)
onslaught." 11

The phrase "fountains of the deep" (Gen. 7:11; 8:2) has been a major
contributor to the global flood concept. Visions of great, oceanic,
water-spewing volcanoes have been conjured up to rationalize this
phrase, and to account for the massive amount of water needed for a
universal deluge.

Analyses of the flood layers at the excavated city sites found only those
elements that could be expected from the waters of the Euphrates. No
remains of any salt water creatures were present which indicates none
of the floods involved sea water. 12

The Septuagint version of the Bible uses the word "fountain" rather
than "mist" in Genesis 2:6, referring to an irrigation system in all
likelihood. Here "fountains of the deep" again points to irrigation.=20
The Hebrew word for "deep" can mean the sea, it can refer to
subterranean waters, or it can mean the depths of a river. In the
Atrahasis epic, the phrases "fountains of the deep" or "fountain of the
deep" appear four times. In all instances, fountain(s) pertain to
"fields," as in this example:

Be[low] the fountain of the deep was stopped, [that the =20
flood rose not at the source].
The field diminished [its fertility]. 13

used for irrigation. In the Gilgamesh account, Ninurta was the "lord of
the wells and irrigation works." 14 So, we now know precisely what
the phrase "fountains of the deep" means. The expression is defined
by usage, and was employed by Semites long before Moses used it in
the flood narrative. It was the overflowing rivers that caused the dams,
dikes, and irrigation canals to burst open, flooding the land. We can
now properly interpret "fountains of the deep" as a reference to
irrigation, which clearly mandates a local flood.

Death of Man

Genesis 7:21,22: "And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both
of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that
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."

Utnapishtim: "And all of mankind had returned to clay." 15

In the Gilgamesh narrative, the goddess Ishtar "cried out like a woman
in travail, Like the spawn of fishes they fill the sea!'" 16 "The
Anunnaki gods ( his followers,' angels perhaps) weep with her. The
gods, all humbled, sit and weep." 17

Although rampant polytheism may have been a chief reason for the
judgment of the flood, Van Amringe credited "the children of Adam
intermarrying with the daughters of men," 18 as the fatal sin; by
reason of which "all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth"=20
There were then residents of Asia, probably near or about the
Euphrates; consequently, it was not necessary that the
punishment of the Deluge should be more extensive than the
prevalence of the wicked beings who had become corrupt. If,
therefore, there were other men in the world besides Adam and
his descendants,--and if the Deluge did not prevail over all parts
of the Earth at the same time,--it follows, that, although all the
descendants of Adam, except Noah and family, were destroyed,
there may have been others, in other parts of the earth, who
escaped. 19
The only reason under the sun for considering the flood to be a global
catastrophe, obliterating all the world's humanity and all the world's
air-breathing land animals, is the biblical narrative itself. One cannot
help but get the impression that the flood encompassed more than just
the Mesopotamian valley. But the last phrase, "of all that was in the
dry land, died" should help us keep our perspective. Mesopotamia,
present-day Iraq, is a desert, and a desert is a "dry land."

The Ship Comes to Rest

Genesis 8:4,5: "And the ark rested in the seventh month on the
seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. And the
waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month,
on the first day of the month were the tops of the mountains seen."

Utnapishtim: "Upon Mount Nisir, the ship grounded. Mount Nisir held
the ship that it moved not." 20

As a further step toward reconciliation, let us dispel the myth that the
ark came to rest high on the 17,000 foot Mount Ararat. The Genesis
text, using the plural "mountains" (or hills), identifies no particular
mountain, but points toward Armenia, "Ararat" being identical with the
Assyrian "Urartu" which broadly embraces that region. 21 Mount
Nisir from the Gilgamesh epic is also recorded in the annals of King
Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria. This is a low-lying mountain at the
beginning of the Zagros range situated south of where the Little Zab
joins the Tigris, near the 9,000 foot Pir Omar Gudrun. 22 Berossus
names the mountains of the "Gordyaeans," or the Kurds, as the landing
site. These mountains correspond with "Jebel Judi" in agreement with
Syriac and Arabic traditions and lie in the southwestern part of
Armenia. 23

Opening the Hatch

Genesis 8:6: "And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah
opened the window of the ark which he had made."

Utnapishtim: "I opened the hatch, and the light fell upon my
countenance. I was horrified, and I sat down and wept. Over my
countenance ran my tears." 24

Sending Out the Birds

Genesis 8:7-12: "And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and
fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent
forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the
face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot,
and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face
of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled
her in unto him into the ark. And he stayed yet other seven days; and
again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; And the dove came in to
him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off:
so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. And he
stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned
not again unto him any more."

Utnapishtim: "When the seventh day arrived, I sent forth and set free a
dove. The dove went forth, but came back; since no resting place for it
was visible, she turned round. Then I sent forth and set free a
swallow. The swallow went forth, but came back; since no resting
place for it was visible, she turned round. Then I sent forth and set
free a raven. The raven went forth and, seeing that the waters had
diminished, he eats, circles, caws, and turns not round. Then I let out
(all) to the four winds ..." 25

Is there any similarity between these accounts? One might think the
second version came from another translation of Genesis rather than
from an entirely different source.

Alters, Offerings and Signs

Genesis 8:20: "And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of
every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings
on the altar."

Utnapishtim: "I poured out a libation on the top of the mountain.=20
Seven and seven cult-vessels I set up, upon the pot-stands I heaped
cane cedarwood, and myrtle." 26

Ziusudra: "The king kills an ox (and) offers an abundant sacrifice of
sheep." 27

An offering made at the end of the voyage is a conspicuous
commonality in three of the four accounts.

Genesis 8:21: "And the Lord smelled a sweet savor;..."

Utnapishtim: "The gods smelled the savor, the gods smelled the sweet=20
savor." 28

In the end it is impossible to skirt the conspicuous similarities in the
four versions, testifying to one memorable, but local, event.

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible agrees on this point:
There is, however, one flood tradition which bears such striking
resemblance to the biblical story that it must be directly related
to it. This is the cuneiform (Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian)
tradition. 29
The Sumerian, Accadian, and Assyrian accounts, as well as the
inspired version in the Bible, are conspicuously related. Probably,
they arose from one source initially, and went separate ways to end up
in different books. The uninspired versions do not detract from
Genesis, they corroborate Genesis. E. J. Young holds the same view:
Man would have handed that truth down to his descendants, and
after the flood that truth would have been passed on to those
who were not in the line of promise as well as to those who
were in the line of promise. Among unbelievers we can well
understand that the truth would become corrupted with
superstition. 30
Leonard Cottrell adds:
The fact remains that there was a great flood. And it happened
in lower Mesopotamia, in the "Land of Shinar." 31

1. M. E. L. Mallowan, "Noah's Flood Reconsidered," _Iraq_ ,
(Autumn 1964), 70.
2. Gleason Archer, _A Survey of Old Testament Introduction_
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 208.
3. Lloyd R. Bailey, _Noah: The Person and the Story in History and
Tradition_ (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 32.
4. James B. Pritcherd, _Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the
Old Testament_ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), 93.
5. Ibid., 44.
6. Ibid., 105.
7. Ibid., 93.
8. Ibid., 105.
9. Ibid., 93.
10. Ibid., 105.
11. Alexander Heidel, _The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament
Parallels (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1963), 84.
12. Mallowan, "Noah's Flood Reconsidered," 72-75.
13. Albert T. Clay, _A Hebrew Deluge Story in Cuneiform_ (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1922), 63.
14. Knut Tallquist, _Addadische Gotterepitheta_ (Helsinki: 1938), 424-426.
15. Pritcherd, _Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old
Testament_, 94.
16. Ibid., 94.
17. Samuel Noah Kramer, _Sumerian Mythology_ (New York: Harper
& Brothers, 1961), 39.
18. W. F. Van Amringe, _An Outline of a New Natural History of
Man_ (New York: Baker & Scribner, 1848), 62.
19. Ibid., 62.
20. Clay, _A Hebrew Deluge Story in Cuneiform_, 79.
21. Heidel, _The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, 250.
22. Pritcherd, _Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old
Testament_, 94.
23. Heidel, _The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, 250.
24. Clay, _A Hebrew Deluge Story in Cuneiform, 78-79.
25. Pritcherd, _Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old
Testament, 94-95.
26. Ibid., 95.
27. Heidel, _The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels_, 105.
28. Pritcherd, _Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old
Testament, 95.
29. _Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (New York: Abingdon Press,
1962), Vol. II, 280.
30. E. J. Young, _In The Beginning_ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth
Trust Publishers, 1976), 38.=20
31. Leonard Cottrell, _The Land of Shinar_ (London: Souvenir Press,
1965), 133.=D1=A0=0F=A0