Many like my friend Dick Fischer believe that the flood of Noah occurred
in the Mesopotamian valley. The view is a position to which many in the
church retreated due to the fact that there was no physical evidence for a
global flood, due to the problems of housing all of the animals on the ark
(especially after the New World with its multitudinous life forms was
discovered), and due to the growing belief that the Gilgamesh epic was the
source of the Biblical Flood story.
Usually we are not allowed to take a story or an account and make it say
whatever we want it to say. If we say that a story represents a particular
event, then the only way we can say this is if the details correspond to
the details of the event. If the story does not correspond to the events
of a given scenario there are two possibilities: 1. the story is wrong or
2. the scenario is not the correct one. Assuming that the Biblical
account is based in an actual set of events, lets see how well it fits the
Two days ago, I laid out 8 facts of the Biblical story. We will use those
again and see if the Mesopotamian scenario can fit the story. I will add
a ninth fact that the Ark landed on the mountains.
The facts are:
1. Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth (Genesis 5:32)
Can be true regardless of where the flood was.
2. Noah built a boat, pitched it inside and out (Genesis 6:14)
Can be true regardless of where the flood was.
3. Noah brought two of "every kind of animal that moves along the ground"
Why? Dick quoted Bright as saying,
>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
>3. Lloyd R. Bailey, _Noah: The Person and the Story in History and
>Tradition_ (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 32.
If the flood did not extend seven miles away, how on earth can it be
considered a really memorable flood? Why would this flood, less than 7
miles across strike everyone as a story worthy of re-telling? Why would
such a story of Noah be developed from such a puny flood?
Secondly, why the need for an ark if the animals only needed to move 7
The Mesopotamian scenario does not fit the Biblical account.
4. The great deep broke open (Genesis 7:11)
Dick Fischer writes:
>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.
>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:
I question the validity of using the Atrahasis epic to determine the
meaning of a Hebrew word in a Hebrew version of the story. The only way
to justify this is to have already assumed that the Hebrew is the copy and
the Atrahasis is the original. If this is true, then maybe the Atrahasis
epic is the divinely inspired one.
The Hebrew word in Genesis 2:6 is different from the word fountain used in
Genesis 7:11. I would suggest that maybe the Septuagint made a
To state that Genesis 2:6 is referring to irrigation is contradicted by
Genesis 2:5. It clearly says that there was no man to till the ground,
and there were no plants of the field. That is a strange thing to say
about an irrigated land.
It is difficult to see any correspondence between the scenario and the
5. The rain fell for 40 days and nights (Genesis 7:12)
The worst rainfall I have ever been in was 15 inches in a single day.
This was when I lived in Lafayette, Louisiana. Amazingly, it didn't
actually flood the entire town. That much rain would wipe out Dallas. The
Bible describes 40 days of rain day and night. The Guiness Book of World
Records (1984, p. 137) states that the greatest rainfall in a single 24
hour period was 73.62 inches. The rain I was in was mild by comparison.
If only 10 inches of rain fell over the Mesopotamian region each day for
40 days you would have dumped about 10 meters (.01 km) of water
everywhere. This would be an amazing amount of water.
Mesopotamia 600 km X 400 km X .01 km = 2400 km^3
But the Persian Gulf holds only
500 km X 150 km X .03 km = 2250 km^3.
entire Persian Gulf would have been flushed with freshwater. It would have
killed all the marine fish. This is not known to have happened.
Thus if the Mesopotamian basin is the site for the Flood, it was unlikely
to have rained for 40 days and nights. If it had rained for 40 days under
this scenario, then why is a town only 7 miles from Ur never flooded? 5000
years ago, Ur was nearly at sealevel on the shore of the Persian Gulf. The
scenario does not match the Biblical account.
6. The ark floated above the "high mountains" (Genesis 7:18-20)
Central Mesopotamia has no mountains upon which the ark can land. The
land is very flat and no one is likely to mistake a hill of 5 meters for
the mountains of Ararat. The scenario being painted does not match the
7. The rising of the waters apparently lasted for 150 days (Genesis 7:24)
A local Mesopotamian flood can have rising waters for 150 days. In
the 1926 Mississippi River flood the water was rising for about 170 days.
(Clark, 1982, p. 87). But this will not explain what the Bible seems to
be describing. Assume that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were rising
for 150 days. Anything floating on the river when this starts will be
well out into the Indian ocean before. A normal river flows at rates of
1-2 miles per hour. in a flood, that can increase to 10 mph. Using the
conservative figure, if Noah started from the foothills of the Turkish
mountains (310 miles from the Persian Gulf), he would arrive at the
Persian Gulf in about a week. This would be difficult to mistake for a
long flood. Also, Noah would not be around to observe that the waters
rose for 150 days.
Since Noah and company would have to walk back to Mesopotamia, why is
there no corresponding tale of this journey attached to the Flood story?
8. He stayed on the ark a little over a year (Genesis 8:13)
As we saw, Noah would be in the Persian Gulf in a week. Yes he could
stay on the ark on the ocean for a year, but it seems like this is
becoming a different story than what the Bible relates.
9. He landed on the mountains of Ararat.
This is very difficult to do from the Indian Ocean.
If the Biblical account is so plastic as to be able to have come from any
event whatsoever, how do I then know that there is any substance to it at
all? The deep is irrigation; it could not have rained for 40 days; the
entire land was not flooded (7 miles away was dry); the ark would float to
the sea rather than a mountain; Noah would have to walk home; the animals
could walk 7 miles to safety.
It would appear to me that a Mesopotamian Flood would be described in
quite different terms than what the Scripture is using. It should contain
a different set of events. I must conclude from this that either the
Scriptural account is wrong or the scenario Dick is proposing is not the
one that generated the story of Noah.
Clark, Champ, 1982. _Flood_ (Alexandria: Time-Life Books)
Foundation,Fall and Flood