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Why no mention of the Ice Age in the Bible?

Published: 16 June 2018 (GMT+10)

Today’s feedback, from Thomas McFadden in the United States, asks why there are no biblical references to the post-Flood Ice Age.

I have just read the article https://creation.com/the-extinction-of-the-woolly-mammoth-was-it-a-quick-freeze. In it Michael Oard discusses a rather long-lasting geological event, a post-Flood ice age, that seems to have started hundreds of years after Noah's world-wide Flood. Should we understand that the human authors of Bible texts, written during the period of time Oard proposes for the Ice Age, were unaware that the Ice Age was happening? Or, must we accept that God did not chose to include in the Bible anything about it? I think I read that something in the Book of Job may be a reference to the Ice Age but that seemed very vague in comparison to the scope and significance of Oard's post-Flood Ice Age. Is there a creationist consensus of any sort as to why humans who lived through the period of the Ice Age (even if not near the ice) did not record it?

Geomorphologist Dr Ron Neller responds.

Thank you for your question Thomas. From articles on our website you will see that the Post-Flood Ice Age began immediately after the Flood when the ocean temperatures (and possible atmospheric volcanic dust) favoured the build-up of ice on the continents. This build-up continued, it is estimated, for 500 years until it reached peak ice, and then began to melt back over the following 200 years.1 

This is a long period of time compared with our human lifespan. The changes would have occurred slowly over decades and not been obvious to the people living at the time. We look back at geological records and create temperature estimates for past climates and can have all this information on a single graph. So, we can label the different parts of the graph as “Ice Age”, “Medieval Warm Period” and “Little Ice Age”, etc. But those alive at the time would not have had that long-term perspective. They would not have thought of themselves as living in the Ice Age, or the Medieval Warm Period, for example. These are labels that modern scientists have applied. In fact, it was only an Ice Age when compared with the period of history we live in, which came afterwards.


Approximate extent of the ice cover at the peak of the post-Flood Ice Age

The other issue is the area of the earth that the ice build-up covered. Published diagrams showed it covered parts of Europe, Asia, North America, and parts of some southern continents. There was no ice cover in the Middle East. Also, the area of ice cover would have grown and contracted over the centuries. People living at that time—including Abraham, born about 350 years after the Flood2—would not have been aware of this global situation because they did not have rapid travel and wide communications. We have only become aware of the past extent of the ice cover in the last 150 years. So, they would have had no concept of an ice age.

It is interesting that there is not much discussion about the local climate in the Bible. I see that it snows now in Jerusalem, but such snow is not discussed in the Bible. However, they were familiar with snow and ice. If you search a site like Bible Gateway, you can see that snow is mentioned some 25 times and ice even less. So, although the very early book of Job mentions ice and snow in a few places, including Job 6:16, 37:10; 38:22; 38:29–30, that reference is vague, as you say, and not necessarily confirmation of the post-Flood Ice Age. Joshua 3:15 includes a comment that the Jordan River was in flood stage, and we know that would have been due to the snows melting on Mount Hermon, something that still occurs today.

In summary, the Ice Age is a modern concept invented to describe a unique period of climate on the earth. This period of unusual climate only became obvious to us in the last 200 years after considerable geological exploration globally and after considering the geological history that covered a time-span of thousands of years. The ice sheets did not extend to the Middle East. At the time, the people would not have been aware that they were living in what would become a unique period of climate history, and so would not have thought it was something unusual or notable.

All the best,
Ron Neller
Scientist, Speaker, Writer
Creation Ministries International—Australia

References and notes

  1. See, for example, Oard, M.J., What caused the Ice Age?Creation 36(3):52–55, 2014; creation.com/what-caused-ice-age. Return to text.
  2. See the table of chronology in Cosner, L., How does the Bible teach 6,000 years?Creation 35(1):54–55, 2013; creation.com/6000-years. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Life in the Great Ice Age
by Michael J Oard, Beverly Oard
US $16.00
Hard Cover
The Ice Age
US $10.00
The Frozen Record
by Michael J Oard
US $20.00
Soft Cover
Mammoth: Riddle of the Ice Age
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $0.60
Soft Cover
What about the Ice Age?
by Dr Don Batten
US $0.60
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Ross L.
Having seen many "ice age maps" over the years, I am struck, once again, that the map in this article also shows vastly more ice age coverage in the northern latitudes than the southern. Why is this? Would not the volcanic ash spewed by the certainly tens of thousands of volcanoes (in both N and S hemispheres) travel globally, causing the significantly cooler temperatures world-wide to produce the torrential snow falls equally north and south due to increased atmospheric moisture from the warmer oceans?
Michael Oard
Yes, numerous volcanoes would generally spread out globally the volcanic aerosols that reflect sunlight back to space. It is the warm sea surface temperatures after the Flood that would provide the abundant moisture for the Ice Age, and the greatest difference would be at mid and high latitudes, compared to today. Thus the strongest evaporation, compared to today, would be at mid and high latitudes, close to where the snow and ice built up on land. So, when you look at the globe, the Northern Hemisphere has much more land at mid and high latitude than the Southern Hemisphere. Therefore the main build up of snow and ice was Antarctica and the mountains of southern South America, while in the Northern hemisphere it was northern North America and northern Eurasia.
Bill N.
An immense amount of work is done by researchers on ice and other cores to reach the conclusion of multiple ice ages over a very long time. For instance, on 3 Greenland cores 185,000 isotope and 1,000,000 chemical measurements were done on about 60.000 annual layers. Ice cores are correlated with land and ocean cores to help deduce climate in ages past.
I think they would have noticed if they were only measuring a few hundred years. If not, has Michael Oard written to the researchers involved to tell them where they are wrong? I think they would appreciate knowing they were wasting their time!
Tas Walker
Hi Bill,
Can I suggest that you read some more articles on creation.com about the Ice Age. Type "Ice Age" in the search box and you will find lots, including Greenland ice cores: implicit evidence for catastrophic deposition, which discusses the sorts of analyses you mention and how subjective they are. Can I also suggest that you consider how a person's worldview affects the way they interpret evidence and the stories they tell. This article, written for a college student, explains how you can do that. If you understand this you will become more critical about the information you read and be able to differentiate between facts and philosophy.
David B.
I find it amusing that some people are quick to attack citing Genesis for representing factual history on the grounds that "the Bible is not a textbook," and yet some (sometimes the same ones) seem to expect the Bible to be some sort of comprehensive, encyclopedic record of everything that existed and happened. While the creation of the heavens and Earth was a universal event, and the cataclysm that featured the Flood of Noah's time was global, most of the events in the Bible are focused on what happened to the people in the line of descent from Adam to Christ, with the largest extent coming with the history of the Israelites as they became a nation.

The Bible is, indeed, not a textbook, and so it should not be expected to mention everything that might be found in a text on general science, or geography, biology, zoology, or ... climatology. Unless there were massive glaciers in Israel, we should not expect much mention of anything indicating that there was what we now call an Ice Age.
Your lead in today asked about evidence for Abraham and Ice Age. Abram showed Lot the well watered plain near Sodom, which is now part of the Dead Sea Desert. The present Dead Sea is the remnant of a very living sea providing water and protein for a large population in Lot's time. Abram moved to Egypt during a time of extended population pressure suggesting droughts which would be typical of changing weather patterns when the Ice Age was abating, and likely that period needs to be extended to Joseph's time in Egypt where the 7 year drought was not a regular occurrence that Egypt was familiar with. An effect of an abating Ice Age would extend over hundreds of years.
Gennaro C.
Interesting enough the world map shown in the answer, looks to me self explanatory to answer the question of why - among other comments - may be the post flood ice age may have not interested the Bible's people of the time in order to be mentioned in the Bible. Surely the polar easterlies or westerlies currents (the el-ninios or la-ninias of the time) prevented the ice weather to hit the middle east territories, the ones mentioned in the Bible; may be.
Thank you CMI for your presence.
Gennaro Cozzi
Phil H.
Interesting that continental drift is not mentioned in this article. If Australia was once joined to Africa and both migrated northwards, while Australia also migrated eastwards, while Antarctica remained, that would explain glaciation in Africa, but I'm not aware of u-shaped valleys or moraines in Australia. Perhaps our mountains are too low.
Obviously drift was much faster than secular science allows and started soon after the Noahic flood. Do you have any articles on this?
Tas Walker
There is evidence of glaciation in Australia during the Pleistocene, which corresponds to the post-Flood Ice Age. However, there are also claims that there were ice ages in Australia including during the Carboniferous and the Permian. Geologists have also claimed multiple ice ages in Africa. Geologists routinely invoke an ice age when they encounter scratches in rocks, larger rounded stones in a finer matrix, and other features. However, these interpretations have problems and the features can be interpreted in a non-glacial setting. In other words, we should not uncritically accept any geological interpretation of a past environment, especially if it does not seem to fit with the global Flood. Here are some relevant articles.
Underwater mass flows
You will find articles on creation.com about plate tectonics, ancient ice ages, multiple ice ages, and many other relevant topics.
Albie de Villiers D.
We have very visible evidence of glacier floors near Barkly West in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Thanx for all the effort so that people can love God with their mind also!
Michael D.
I actually think it's rather significant that there are 4 references to ice and snow in the book of Job. According to some commentators (such as Henry Morris in "The Remarkable Record of Job"), Job quite possibly lived in the south of what is now the country of Jordan, in Bible times "Edom". I lived in Jordan for a number of years, and although there is occasional snow in the northern higher regions, reference to broad waters being frozen, and the great deep being frozen are definitely not what one would expect in the south of the country. Since Job was one of the few Bible writers who perhaps did write fairly soon after the flood, although of course we can't know that for certain either, I think it's quite intriguing that there is mention of widespread ice, cold and snow such as is found in Job. Whether that relates to the ice age or not, needs someone with more expertise than myself to comment on.
anthony B.
The Bible tells us that only 8 humans survived the Flood, so if the Ice Age started immediately after the Flood I do not suppose that the survivors would have had much motivation to write about post- Flood events. They would have been very busy rebuilding their lives after such a cataclysmic event, and so far as I am aware neither Noah, his sons and their wives wrote anything recorded in the Bible. Any information would have been passed on purely by the oral route and then written up by the offspring of the survivors.
Michael B.
I think that we do get some sense of the ice age in Scripture when we read of the heavily forested areas that are no longer there due to ancient deforestation and climate changes most likely due to the ending of the ice age.
Denese K.
It has been very exciting to discover evidence for the Ice Age here in South Africa - one of the "parts of some southern continents" mentioned in the article. Secular geologists have dated this evidence as being around 18 000 years old - very young in terms of the evolutionary geological picture presented by prevailing academia. Having watched some of CMI's Ice Age dvd's, the claim is borne out that the Ice Age was the most recent global geological event to have taken place on the earth. Of course, the Bible authors would not have been present here in South Africa to include mention of this ice age in the Bible text.
Two other examples of Scripture that may impact the occurrence of an Ice Age, the bountiful agriculture of the Promised Land. One of the major sources of Solomon's wealth was taxation on the agricultural grain crops. This points to the "early and later" rains which would have been important in dry farming. Also, the "Green Sahara" that was responsible for the extreme wealth in Egypt; both events speak of greater rainfall and animal distribution (lions and wild asses) in Bible area.
Ken H.
Let's not forget that there were only 8 people on Earth immediately after the flood. Doubling that every 25 years brings that up to about 4 million. That number would be on the lower end of the realm of likelihood, but even at 40 million, or 140 million, there wouldn't be a great amount who ventured far enough to experience the ice age. And those that did wouldn't have an historical frame of reference with which to marvel over these conditions to much of an extent.

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