Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Did Noah's Flood Cover Mountains?
Did the Flood of Noah produce so much water that all the mountains of the earth were submerged? What is the real meaning of Noah’s Flood?
by Ernest L. Martin
Recognizing that the river system that was known in the time of Adam was still in evidence in Moses’ day, goes a long way in showing that the topographical features of the earth in and around Mesopotamia were essentially the same at both periods of time. This gives reasonable proof that nothing in a geographical sense was drastically altered when the flood came on the earth in the time of Noah. This means that the mountains of Cush and Havilah near Mesopotamia on the east and almost 15,000 feet in elevation and Mount Ararat near the sources of the Euphrates and Tigris (over 17,000 feet in elevation) were in existence in Adam’s time as they are today.
These indications present major problems to the traditional concepts applied by most biblical literalists who believe that all the mountains over the globe were submerged by water. If they were submerged by the flood waters at the time of Noah, then where did the waters drain in order for the mountains and the dry land to appear? Were deep trenches created in the oceans so that the flood waters could flow into them, thus forming our present oceans? The Bible gives no support to this theory. We are told in the first creation account that there were "seas" before the formation of man and even in the narrative of the flood Moses spoke about "the fountains of the great deep" opening up which helped cause the flood (Genesis 7:11). The "deep," in this case, certainly means the seas or the oceans.
But if in the time of Adam the mountain ranges were at or near the same heights as they are today, and there were already ocean areas on earth, then where did the water go that supposedly submerged the mountains -- even the highest of them? This presents us with an almost impossible scenario that defies rational explanation. Indeed, one would naturally conclude that if Moses is endeavoring to give us literal information about the flood of Noah, then his account becomes unexplainable by any known physical laws with which we are acquainted. But actually, it is this very problem (which seems impossible to explain) that provides us with the clue to show us what really did occur at the flood. By realizing that there was no major mountain building or the creation of deep ocean trenches during the time of Noah’s flood, we are led to look in another direction in our inquiry concerning what Moses meant when he said the waters covered the mountains. And "looking in another direction" to obtain the answer is precisely what we ought to do.
What we discover is that Moses is indeed presenting to his readers literal descriptions of what happened during the time of Noah’s flood. He truly means that the influence of the flood waters was worldwide and that the mountains (even the very highest) were affected by the waters. But what has not been understood by most interpreters is the fact that when Moses said the mountains were "covered," he did not mean they were "submerged." He simply said that they were totally "covered" by the waters that came down from heaven, and this means every mountain on earth. Now, we need to understand what Moses really meant by "covered." By paying close attention to what Moses said, his account turns out to be a very different story from what most commentators have imagined over the past 1900 years.
Moses is actually revealing scientific knowledge about the origins of the flood that any scientist today would be able to understand. So, let us ask the question: Just what did Moses mean by his descriptions concerning the flood of Noah? What he shows is not only interesting, but it is profoundly important in comprehending the early history of mankind as well as the physical history of the earth itself.
To understand what Moses was saying, we need once more to remind ourselves of the "key" to biblical knowledge that I mentioned at the beginning of this research study. It is this: When the Bible uses words to describe events, prophecies or doctrines one must use the meaning of those words that God places on them, not what we might think they mean. We need to get biblical meanings within the context of the Bible. Try to find out what the biblical writers mean by the usage (or usages) of a word in any particular context. The same thing must be done with the words that are used by Moses to describe the events associated with the Flood of Noah. What he actually said (and meant) in various contexts is very different from what most people have put on the value of his words. If one will pay close attention to his usage of the words (and I mean their common and biblical usages -- not some strange and exotic meanings), one will be amazed at what Moses really said. What one finds in Scripture may be a surprise (even eye-opening) to any student of the Bible.
The Water of the Flood
The ordinary words that Moses used to describe the dynamics of the flood of Noah must be understood in the sense that there was no submergence of the mountains under a flood of waters. The fact that the Mesopotamian river system and the mountain areas from whence the rivers had their sources were virtually the same in Adam’s day as in the time of Moses, is good evidence that the 14,000 and 17,000 feet mountains were not submerged by the waters of Noah’s flood. But wait a moment. It seems to say in chapters seven and eight of Genesis that the mountains were indeed submerged. How can one for even a moment suggest something contrary to this?
At first thought one would consign such a concept to the trash heap because the words in the Bible appear to say that the mountains were submerged. But the truth is, Moses did not say what most people have assumed. First of all, let us notice the two sources of the waters that brought on the flood. Moses tells us clearly that "the fountains of the deep" broke up and "the windows of heaven" were opened (Genesis 7:11). Just how springs in the bottom of the ocean can cause the ocean to rise is not known, but Moses said it happened and this phenomenon must be considered as a factor in causing the waters to rise. But this springing up of water from the ocean depths was not emphasized by Moses. The main source of the waters, as he recorded, was the forty days of rain that came down from the heavens (Genesis 7:12). It appears certain that most of the water that caused the flood came down from the heavens, and in the New Testament the apostle Peter said the waters were "downpoured" upon the earth (II Peter 3:6 Greek).
It has been suggested that the waters came down from some kind of a watery reservoir that once surrounded the earth as mentioned by Moses regarding events that occurred on the second day of creation recorded in Genesis 1:3-8. This is no doubt true, as we will soon see. This watery reservoir cannot be considered the vaporous water content presently found in our atmosphere or in its visible form such as clouds. All of the water vapor in our atmosphere if condensed would amount to just over 4 inches of water and this could hardly have represented the worldwide rainfall that caused the ark to float.
What was this watery mass in the heavens? Moses seems to be speaking about some form of watery reservoir located above the earth’s atmosphere in either a liquid or a frozen state that was visible from the earth. It appears to have been located in outer space (above the earth) but close enough to our globe to be considered a part of the earth’s planetary system. We will soon discuss what this may have been, but at this juncture in our study let it be said that Moses referred to great quantities of water located above the earth in the period before the flood and when he said "the windows of heaven" were opened, enough water would have come down to met the essential conditions of the flood that he recorded in chapters seven and eight of the Book of Genesis.
Let us understand that simple rainfall generated from the dynamics of our present atmosphere (where water evaporates mainly from the oceans, condenses in the form of clouds and then falls to the earth as rain) cannot account for the flood of Noah. Even if Noah had built his ark not a hundred feet from the shore of the ocean and rain fell in great downpours from our present atmospheric phenomena, the oceans would not have risen at all because the water falling as rain over the land areas would flow right back into the oceans. Indeed, the oceans would actually have retreated in size because the vast basin areas of the world would have captured a great deal of the rainwater and that water would not have returned to the sea. The only way the oceans can rise is if water comes from some source other than the ocean itself such as ice caps melting or something similar. Simple rain, no matter how hard it comes down, will not cause the oceans to flood the earth because most of the water will quickly return to the oceans. One has to look elsewhere for the water that Moses said was the cause of the flood of Noah. It was no doubt the water from "the windows of heaven" that primarily caused the flood.
Indeed, this is exactly what Moses tells us. When one translates correctly a particular word that Moses used, he clearly informs us that the main bulk of the water descended "from above," He even tells us the amount of water that fell to the earth over a 40 day period. The theologians who translated the King James Version completely misunderstood what Moses meant in Genesis 7:20 by rendering the Hebrew as: "Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered." Notice the italicized word "upward." Because most theologians automatically assume that Moses meant that the mountains (even the highest of them) were completely submerged by the flood waters, they were led to translate the Hebrew word malemelah (which actually means "from above") by the word "upward." This is a major mistake. It transfers a meaning to the word that gives the English reader the very opposite impression from what the Hebrew intended.
Whereas our word English "upward" means to proceed from the bottom to a higher position, the Hebrew word used by Moses that the King James’ scholars incorrectly translated "upward," actually means to descend "from above." To come "from above" means to fall downward, not to rise upward. Indeed, in Joshua 3:13 and 16 this same word refers to the waters in the Jordan River and it shows that the waters of the Jordan flowed "from above" (that is, downward) toward the Dead Sea. Obviously, water in all rivers flow downward, not upward. And in a variant of the same word (mamael), the prophet Isaiah recorded: "Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness" (Isaiah 45:8). So, the King James’ translators (and followed by a host of others) have given a diametrically opposite meaning to the Hebrew word malemelah and thereby missed the point entirely of what Moses meant. It is no wonder that people over the centuries have been confused in understanding the flood narrative.
Moses actually said the waters came "from above." And indeed, he even gave details about those waters that will show the exact amount of water that came "from above." He said the waters "prevailed" (or they descended in their strength) to the tune of fifteen cubits (just about 23 feet of water came down from the sky). In a word, Moses was reporting that 23 feet of water (that is 276 inches of rainfall) fell to earth in that 40 day period. This would answer to about 7 inches of rainfall occurring on each of the 40 days and this represents about a third of an inch an hour. That was a lot of rain!
Someone might ask: How did Moses (or Noah) know that about 276 inches (that is, 15 cubits) of rain came down over that 40 day period? There is no problem. God could have revealed it to Noah by a divine revelation (which was highly possible). Barring that, Noah could have measured the height of the waters after the flood against the height of some well known mountain ridge or rock formation in the area where the ark landed.
But how can all of this be true? Does not Moses record that even the mountains were covered by the waters which came down from heaven and he meant even the highest mountains. Of course Moses taught this. But even here, most of us have been reading into the word "covered" what we have wanted it to mean, not what Moses actually intended. As explained at the beginning of this research study, we must find out what Moses (or God) means by the word or words that are used, not what we read into them. This is where all the trouble comes in trying to comprehend what the Bible is teaching.
The fact is, the mountains were indeed covered, but nowhere does Moses say (or even hint) that the mountains were submerged. This is an important distinction that needs to be seriously weighed and not to be thrust aside as unworthy of consideration. The truth is, Moses is telling his readers that the mountains (as well as all land masses including the oceans) were completely doused with 276 inches of rain that came "from above." The word "covered" does NOT mean "submerged." Even today people in California often look at the mountains in wintertime and say how beautiful they are "covered with snow." In no way do they mean that the snow is so deep that the whole state of California is under 15,000 feet of snow so that Mount Whitney can be barely "submerged."
While it is easily recognized that the word "covered" may not of itself mean "submerged," does not Moses tell us that by the first day of the 10th month (some 223 days after the rains began to come "from above’) that the tops of the mountains finally became visible (Genesis 8:5)? Of course he does and it makes perfectly good sense what he means. With about 276 inches of water in the form of rain entering the atmosphere of the earth and coming down to the surface, such a phenomenon would have produced a super-saturated atmosphere making very thick clouds with intensely heavy foggy conditions. This cloudy and rain-filled mantle surrounding the surface of the earth for a period of several months could easily have caused all of the mountains to be obscured from sight. In fact, Noah could probably not see more than 20 yards in any direction from the ark for about five months. This super-saturated condition of the atmosphere would no doubt have made it impossible for any animals requiring air to breathe. And, as Moses indicated, all forms of life depending on the breathing of air either suffocated or drowned during this time.
Noah and those in the ark, however, were in an enclosed area during the time of the flood’s greatest intensity (Genesis 8:6 shows the ark was somehow sealed from the outside atmosphere) and those in the ark were protected from this suffocating environment. After five months (150 days) of intense super-saturating of the atmosphere, God caused a wind to pass over the earth (Genesis 8:1). The atmosphere slowly began to clear up from the impenetrable fog and the dense clouds. At this time the waters began to recede. Because of the drying effect of the "wind," it may well be that the lower parts of the mountains could then be observed through that gradual lessening of the foggy and cloudy conditions. And by the 10th month (as Moses said) one could then look into the distance and see the clouds and fog had cleared up enough to allow the tops of the mountains to be seen (Genesis 8:5).
If one looks at the text carefully, Moses is only stating that the tops of the mountains could be seen, not that they emerged from being under oceans of water that had submerged even the 17,000 feet high Mount Ararat. He simple meant that the "wind" that God produced on earth caused the fog and clouds to disperse and the tops of the mountains were now able to be seen. This is all that Moses means and it can be shown from the meaning of the Hebrew words that he used. Let us notice them carefully.
When Moses said that the flood waters coming ‘from above" caused the mountains to be covered, the Hebrew word he used was kahsah and the word has a basic meaning of "to hide" or "to conceal." It is translated "to hide" in Genesis 18:17; Job 33:17; Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 10:18, and "to conceal" in Proverbs 11:13 and 12:23. It is often used to mean "hiding one’s flesh" by putting on clothing. With this in mind, it should be mentioned that Moses could easily have meant that the super-saturated atmosphere (with its thick clouds, fog and rain caused the mountains to be "hidden from view" by the waters that were coming "from above," This in fact was the case. Only after a five month period of super-saturating of the atmosphere (and a two month drying out period) was it possible to once again see the tops of the mountains. By Moses using the word kahsah in Genesis 7;19,20, he is simply showing that the mountains had been hidden from view for seven months. In no way did he mean that they were submerged.
Let us understand one thing clearly. There is no stretching the meanings of the Hebrew words to reach this conclusion. These meanings fit in quite properly with the context of the narrative that Moses is giving his readers. In actual fact, the "way out" meanings are forced onto the Hebrew words when we accept the traditional belief that Mount Ararat was submerged under water (and all other mountains on earth). It is the traditional meanings that stretch one’s imagination beyond belief. But the simple statements of Moses, when properly understood, make a great deal of common sense. Not only that, they give us a correct account of what was occurring during the time of Noah’s flood.
But yet, and in spite of how sensible this interpretation may be, there remains one other problem in accepting this view. Does not Moses say that the ark began to float at the start of the flood and finally it rested in the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4)? He certainly does. It is this account that seems to suggest that the waters rose up (carrying the ark with them) to such a height that the mountains of Ararat were submerged. Yes, this is what most people seem to thing Moses was endeavoring to state. But this is not the case at all. Moses had something else in mind.
The answer to this so-called dilemma is so easy to understand. The reason that the ark landed in the mountain area of Ararat is because that is where it was built. The simple truth is, Noah constructed the ark in a basin area in the mountains of Ararat (say in the region where Lake Van is at the present). Since that area around Lake Van has no outlet to the sea, the ark would have risen with the rising waters from the 276 inches of rain that fell. In actual fact, the watershed area in the basin could have caused a lake to develop (possibly Lake Van itself) to a height well over 40 or 50 feet deep from the waters that came "from above," Since the ark was not constructed to navigate to some distant area (it was simple built to float), it could have been built in the basin area where Lake Van is presently situated and touched land again just a few miles away from where it was built.
One thing for certain, the ark did not come to rest near the top of Mount Ararat (some suppose at about the 15,000 foot level). Moses said it anchored in "the mountains of Ararat," not on Mount Ararat itself. The region near the shores of modern Lake Van (being in a basin area) could well fit the precise spot where the ark again touched land. The fact that the ark landed in a basin area (where a new lake had formed on account of the prodigious amount of water that came "from above" and onto the earth) may well explain how other basin areas on earth (without outlets to the oceans) became partially filled with water during the time of Noah’s flood. The origin of the waters in the Dead Sea, just to the east and south of Jerusalem (and many similar areas in other parts of the world), could be explained with this interpretation. But if, on the other hand, Noah’s flood did in fact submerge even the highest of the mountains, then why was not the basin area containing the Dead Sea brim full with water in the time of Abraham and even today from those flood waters? The simple truth is, the Dead Sea basin is not full of water (nor other basins on the earth) because the earth, since the time of Adam, had never been submerged in water.
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