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Some Christians believe that Noah's Flood was a local event, and that the author of the Flood narrative never intended it to be understood as global in scope.

My question is, how then would we explain the following promises from God immediately following the Flood?

The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. --Genesis 8:21

I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” --Genesis 9:11

and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. --Genesis 9:15

I'm sure ancient readers were aware that local floods still happened after Noah's Flood, so what could God (and the author of Genesis) mean by this if it were just a local flood?

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Local-flood proponents generally fall into one of two camps:

  1. That the narrative is told from the point of view of the author, and from the author's point of view, the flood covered the entire (known) earth. (One example).

    In this view, I believe the only logical explanation for your question would be that God's promise was taken to mean that this would not happen again. Specifically, God promised not to destroy the entire known world by water again.

    So your objection about the author knowing about local floods isn't really relevant, since the flood of Noah was a distinct event from his perspective.

  2. The Bible's language is not unambiguous, and a strong textual case can be made for the possibility of a local flood. This article offers a good explanation of this view.

    In this view, if "all the earth" doesn't mean all the physical planet, then when God says "all the earth" He also doesn't mean the entire physical planet, which would allow for local floods of a lesser degree (what degree, I'm sure is subject to debate).

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    Therefore there have never been any more local floods that seemed global to the onlookers? – Steve Aug 13 '15 at 0:43
  • @Steve: That's probably pretty hard to prove either way, but that would make sense. – Flimzy Aug 13 '15 at 1:36
  • One more thing... does this suggest that God knew his words to be objectively inaccurate, but was OK with saying it that way anyway since it would seem accurate to the listeners? Or would proponents deny that God spoke these words in the first place? – Jas 3.1 Aug 13 '15 at 3:06
  • @Jas3.1: It seems pretty self-evident to me, but I'll look for a source. – Flimzy Aug 13 '15 at 3:56
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    @Jas3.1: There are many possible explanations for how God's words should be interpreted, from they are paraphrased (probably recorded decades after the fact), to the concept that God never literally spoke words, but that the intended meaning of the sign was communicated, and also interpreted through the same worldview that the rest of the account was recorded. This makes the most sense to me, but I'm not going to say that's what all local-flood proponents believe. – Flimzy Aug 13 '15 at 3:58
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One prominent adherent to the idea of a local flood, Hugh Ross, has maintained that the flood of Noah wiped out all of humanity.

"In both its linguistic and historical context, world in the Genesis passages refers not to the entire planet but rather to the “world” of people. So the Flood could have been worldwide without being global."

Ross goes on to state that if the flood took place before humans had migrated to South America, there would be no reason for the flood to extend that far.

Exploring the Extent of the Flood: What the Bible Says: Part Two

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The Flood was a universal judgement.

"And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die."- Genesis 6:1

"...if He did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, among the eight;"- 2 Peter 2:5

Now what does "universal" mean?

including or covering all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception

Well, according to Merriam-Webster.

So this means that the Flood was a divine judgement that God inflicted on anybody living in the ever-so ancient days of Noah. No discrimination was present in who He was going to judge- destroy all flesh.

Their ages, socioeconomic status, gender, nationality, religion, personal circumstances...all of that did not matter when the Flood came. It was a broad and sweeping judgement, literally.

Now the question is, can the word "universal" be used in cases where you're really just talking about all the people around you and not literally, everybody in the world?

Yes, for example, it is not wrong for a nation to say that they have universal healthcare, even though they are really just referring to the type of socialised healthcare that is solely applicable to that nation. Another example includes the notion of universal suffrage. It's not wrong to say that all the adult citizens of, for example, USA have the universal right to vote when really, we are referring to a right that exists only to a certain group of people in a particular area of the world.

Likewise, on a daily basis, we wouldn't come and call someone who expresses "I'm going to destroy the world" to be in error if they only destroyed the world that they individually know of.

The bottom line here is that for something to be called universal, it must be collective, distributive, without exception/limitation and most succintly, broad.

This accurately describes the nature of God's judgement in using the Flood, whether one interprets it to be local or global. Everything must die, except for Noah and his family. There's no time for "What about them?", "Who sinned?", "Who did what?". The only words that one could justifiably say back then was, "Time's up! Board on or be boarded."

So when God says that he will never send a flood like the one in Noah's days, all He means is that He'll never inflict it in a way that disregards the factors and circumstances of all the sinners involved (and targeted) in this fearsome judgement. But that doesn't mean God will one day judge the world, this time, on a much more catacylsmic and horrific scale. On that day, it will be fire.

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."- 2 Peter 3:10

  • Is this actually an answer from the local flood perspective? Most local flood proponents will say that it was localised to the Middle East and did not include, for example, Indigenous Australians. – curiousdannii Feb 22 at 13:17
  • Yep. I adhere to a local flood perspective and personally, I believe it makes much more sense and reduces the so-called "contradictions" skeptics point out in the Bible. Noah was just a local guy from Mesopotamia. – AngelusVastator Feb 23 at 1:16

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