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Questions about Noah’s Flood

Published: 10 November 2018 (GMT+10)
Noahs-ark

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.

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