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Questions about Noah’s Flood

Published: 10 November 2018 (GMT+10)

Marco T. from Italy writes in with a couple of questions about Noah’s Flood:

Greetings from Italy,

I have two very hard questions about the flood:

  1. Why God used a catastrophic flood to punish people in Noah’s time? Why use such a devastating method that require so many miracles instead to simply kill directly all the people while they are asleep at bed without impact animals and environments?
  2. Why God worried about to save animals on Noah’s ark and then after some years let many of them become extinct? Why God wanted to save animals from the flood and not save them from extinction afterwards? If God knew many animals will go extinct then why lose time to save them on the ark?

Thank you very much

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Thanks for writing in. My responses are in the order of your numbered questions.

Why did God make the Flood so destructive?

Why send such a devastating judgment? God lays out His rationale in Genesis 6:5–7:

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’”

Humanity’s sin grieved Him that much.

But the Flood didn’t stop people being sinners. God even had to judge them not long after the Flood at Babel! Still, we don’t see any other historical judgments in the Bible that come close to being as broadly destructive as the Flood. So why go so big first time around (aside from the Fall, anyway)? Here, I suspect the answer lies in God’s musings on man’s moral nature after the Flood in Genesis 8:21:

“I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.”

God knows the damage the Fall wrought on man’s moral nature. And did the Flood judgment fix it? No. But if the Flood couldn’t fix man’s corrupted heart, what sort of destructive judgment could? None. That’s the point. If God goes big first to prove such judgments don’t change us, He’s proven His point. He doesn’t have to go as big again. (Except in the final judgment, of course. But the point of the final judgment is a little different from that of historical judgments like the Flood. The Flood served purposes within fallen history; the final judgment is the end of fallen history.)

But why not kill just the people? Why the animals too? Why did the land have to be inundated? Man was the problem, and the land is where he lived. And just as God had cursed the land when He judged Adam in the Fall (Genesis 3:17–19), so He did likewise in the Flood. The land and every living thing on it would thus suffer the same fate as its steward. Plus, the bigger God goes, the more emphatically He can make the point that judgments like these don’t fix man’s corrupted heart.

Why put animals on the Ark God knew would go extinct after the Flood?

What time was lost in saving animals on Noah’s Ark that God knew would go extinct after the Flood? There’s no indication that time was lost. As to why God allowed them to go extinct after the Flood, God didn’t change the way the world behaved after the Flood (Genesis 8:22). As such, survival on the Ark was no guarantee of survival after the Flood. Yes, God blessed the animals coming off the Ark to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 8:17), just as he blessed the animals in Genesis 1. But the environment had drastically changed because of the Flood; there was no guarantee it could support the same sort of biodiversity it supported before the Flood.

We have to remember that God designed the biogeography of the pre-Fall world (Order in the fossil record), and it would’ve developed in response to that. Not so with the post-Flood world. Animals migrated from a single point, and the immediate post-Flood conditions were very harsh. The world had just been flooded! It’s not surprising that many animals would’ve found it too hard to cope with the new, much harsher conditions, and died out as a result. Competition for resources would’ve been quite intense, so the smaller, faster, and more environmentally adaptable would’ve had a distinct advantage. Smaller animals would’ve done well because they needed less resources. Faster animals would’ve done better because they could explore further for resources. And more environmentally adaptable animals would’ve done better.

I also suspect that organisms that regulate body temperature internally would’ve generally fared better than those that don’t. In other words, ‘warm blooded’ animals like mammals and birds would generally be more adaptable than ‘cold blooded’ animals like reptiles and (possibly) dinosaurs. Plus, the smaller versions of those would’ve also had a better chance of lasting longer: they would’ve been less competition with or obstruction to humans; they would’ve needed less resources; and the shorter generation times for smaller creatures would’ve made them more adaptable to new conditions in the long run. In other words, mammals and birds were better equipped to handle the harsh conditions of the post-Flood world than dinosaurs and large marine reptiles, and smaller mammals and birds were more likely to outlast larger versions.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Kim B.
Just a quick one re the comment made by Jeff V. on November 10th where he quoted the following sentence saying it was the Lord's word:

"The Lord moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform."

It's actually from a Christian hymn written by William Cowper in 1773.

God bless Creation Ministries!!
Christian R.
I believe the extinction or near-extinction of certain plant groups and specific biomes played a large part in the extinction of many “Paleozoic” and “Mesozoic” animals. For example, we know from dinosaur fossil sites around the world that before the Flood, these animals lived primarily in wetland and forest habitats dominated by gymnosperms (non-flowering plants), as opposed to the post-Flood era, which is dominated by angiosperms (flowering plants). These gymnosperm-wetland/forest biomes did not recover in the post-Flood era, so dinosaurs and many other animals that thrived in this habitat largely died out. Post-Flood mammals and other “Cenozoic” animals were equipped to thrive because they already inhabited angiosperm-dominated habitats before the Flood.
Kerry T.
How did plant life repopulate after the flood, & where did the seeds come from?
Janice F.
The author didn't point out that many animals became (and many are becoming) extinct through people's exploitation of the creatures' environments, or through out-and-out extermination of the species (like the dodo bird). Let's not blame God for what fallen human nature does.
Terry D P.
The two questions remind of what God says:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways.
This is the very word of the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.—Is§55:8-9
Jw W.
The Lord's wisdom is well beyond our comprehension. If we are to be one of the elect, we must live by faith and accept
God's judgement.It was part of the Lord's plan to eliminate the fallen angels and all the other corrupt beings. Don't
become one of the doubter's and question the Lord's actions ,Satan loves to put doubt in your relationship with Jesus.
Pray for wisdom, pick up your cross and love and help everyone that you can.
Dale S.
Christian greetings!
As for the first question, the Lord had a reason for punishing man with a worldwide Flood.The sinful nature of man with the violence and evil thoughts continually had spread across the globe. Our God is a merciful God! He could of destroyed the earth completely and started it over from the beginning. But instead God decided only to destroy the surface of the earth with water. God was so merciful that He gave man a hundred and twenty years to repent while Noah was building the Ark. Also God gave this judgment as an example in the New Testament as a warning to man to the coming judgment of the Great Tribulation and the second coming of Jesus Christ (Luke 17:26-27,30). Just look at the violence that has increased. Its like in the days of Noah. Our God the Lord Jesus Christ is merciful! He has given man many years to repent and receive Him as Lord and Savior from His first coming. Time is running out! The Lord's return in the Rapture is on the horizon! It is man that Jesus came to save (Luke !9:10) not animals He created. As to why God put land animals on the Ark? First of all, God's thoughts are above our thoughts.He created them for His pleasure not ours (Revelation 4:11).Second, according to the Scriptures man was to observe the animals and learn from them such as the ant for example (Proverbs 6:6-11). Thank you Shaun Doyle for the responses you gave to these two questions! Keep up the work in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58)!
Sincerely in Christ,
Dale Stuckwish
Additionally, we forget that the Flood was not only for the purpose of destroying man. Genesis 6:13 (ESV), "I will destroy them [man and animals] with the earth." Because the responsibility of producing the Nephilim, to thwart God's redemptive plan, was equally man's and angel's, God had to also destroy these "giants" and punish the angels and cleans the Earth. The Earth was ruled by Lucifer/ Satan, and he would have tried to defend it from God's judgement. Psalm 29, in regards to the Flood, "Give unto the Lord, O ye might sons, ... glory and strength." Because Jesus is included in the term "Lord", he is not the "mighty son" addressed, We have to assume it is Satan. As Psalm 29 describes the Flood events, Satan is told to take notice. The Flood and the Final Judgement (Revelations 8) take place so Satan has to realize once and for all that God will do everything to prove His love for man, and provide redemption for him, including casting cleansing fire from the altar in Heaven. The rebirth of the earth, post Flood, somehow made God's redemption of man again possible, and would "bring him (man) peace (Psalm 29: 11)."
Jeff V.
And it's ok to say we just don't know exactly why God did it all the way He chose to - as His word says - the Lord moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform - I've been praying to Him that when I get to Heaven He will let me be first in line to ask some questions -
H W Bud B.
I just read Shaun Doyle's response to the gentleman from Italy's questions about why God saved animals that He would later allow to go extinct.
I am a Lutheran and as such I tend to think that speculation on the things God thinks and acts upon that He does not share with us in His word is a fruitless task. To paraphrase St. Paul: When we get to heaven we will know.
Still, consider this: What went into the ark was every animal according to its kind. I am no biologist but I would not be surprised to hear that Woolly Mammoths are the same "kind" as elephants (which are still around today) and Dodo birds are birds - most of which are still around today and I wonder if the various dinosaurs are lizards like the Komodo Dragon (which still lives in the islands off the south of Japan). In any case, my point is that I suspect we could find some descendant of ALL of the kinds of animals which God preserved on the Ark alive and in the world today.
Regarding: Why kill everything outside the Ark with a flood rather than just do it with a wave of His hand (so to speak). God definitely works with visuals to teach us His plans. The image of washing that is so rich in the crossing of the Red Sea, Crossing the Jordan and finally in baptism is all made more powerful by the bigger image of a global flood.
Let's face it. God don't need to take a whole 6 days to create the heavens and the earth. He could have just said, "Make it so".
My thinking is that I want to explore everything that God has given me to explore but if He is silent on something then I'll find out later if I need to and if His reasons aren't immediately obvious to me then maybe that is because I don't see the big picture . . . yet.
Shaun Doyle
Speculation on these questions merely for the sake of speculating is I would agree reasonably fruitless. But the commenter presented them as "very hard questions", not as mere exercises in speculation. Where these sorts of questions foster doubts in God's justice and/or love, as seems to have been the case for the commenter here, then I think we should respond with more than a mere 'just have faith'. We should aim to show why it's reasonable to trust God despite the doubt. There are several ways we can do that, only one of which is giving a plausible account of why God might've done what He did.

I also don't think we can just hide in the possibility of all kinds still being with us (Dinosaurs are almost certainly extinct). Nor do I think we can blame all post-Flood extinctions on human activity. To some extent, I think the evidence forces us to look at the natural consequences of the Flood for ecology to explain why so many animals went extinct.
Lester V.
One additional thought on the animals that have gone extinct. There are many of these unfortunate creatures that have gone extinct due to the actions of man. By exploiting them, rather than stewarding them properly, fallen man has been responsible for killing off a number of birds and animals. The passenger pigeon, dodo bird, western black rhinosceros, quagga (a variety of plains zebra), and Tasmanian tiger/dog, are just a few examples. Like every other evil in this world, it's not God's fault - it's ultimately ours.
Jon P.
So because God made humans in a certain way, he wanted to demonstrate he made them that way to them, by killing them. Doesn’t sound very ethical or sensible.
Shaun Doyle
I didn't say that God killed people to show them He made them a certain way. First, the point I suggest wasn't about anything of how God made us; it was about the nature of human sinfulness. God didn't make humans sinful; we did that to ourselves. Second, would the Flood have served as a reminder that no destructive judgment can change the corruption within us to those killed in the Flood? Obviously not. I was thinking in broader redemptive-historical terms, of the lessons Noah's descendants could glean from the Flood.
Matthew C.
Can I also suggest that the animals that go extinct are species, not kinds? Can we be at all certain that any of the kinds that Noah took on the ark are completely extinct? It is entirely possible that every single one of those kinds still has some remnant species left somewhere on earth.
Shaun Doyle
I recommend Dinosaurs are almost certainly extinct, which addresses these sorts of questions.

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