Can one verse in the Bible give clues to how the flood of Noah could have been a global event, how groups of people settled on different continents, and how nearly every culture has a worldwide flood story? The answer to this question may surprise you.
Let’s go all the way back to the creation account in Genesis to lay the foundation work. Let’s look at Gen 1:9-10:
9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.
The Bible explains in chapter 6 that all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. God chose to destroy the earth using a flood. Scholars have debated whether or not the flood was a global event or just a localized flood. I am of the opinion that the flood was a global event, more on that later.
God told Noah to build an ark and get his family and a whole bunch of animals and get in the ark. So, Noah and his sons, Ham, Shem, and Japheth, grabbed their wives and climbed aboard the ark for the first ever-Mediterranean cruise. Apparently, it was a pretty big event.
Check out these verses from chapter 7:
19 The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered.
20 The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered.
21 All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind;
God gave Noah and his sons very specific instructions upon disembarking from their cruise. God Blessed Noah and his sons and told them to be “fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” God established a covenant with them and gave them the sign of the covenant. God’s bow (rainbow) is a sign for all creatures for all successive generations that He will not destroy the earth with a flood ever again.
Genesis chapter 10 breaks down the descendants of each of the sons of Noah. The descendants of Shem ultimately brought forth Abraham the father of the Jews. But a little incident happened between the flood and the call of Abraham that had profound effects on the world. The results of this event are evident even today.
A group of descendants from Ham traveled to Babel and settled in Shinar. They either forgot, ignored, or didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to be fruitful and multiply and “fill the earth.” Genesis chapter 11 records the story:
4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
I thought that was the whole idea. Needless to say, God was not happy about the turn of events and decided to do something about it.
7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.
Here is where it gets kind of interesting. The descendants of Shem are listed in Verses 10 through 26 of Genesis chapter 11. Remember, the line goes from Shem down to Abraham, or Abram as he was know before God gave him his walking papers. Abram’s great, great, great, grandfather was a man named Peleg. Not much is known about Peleg, but he is listed in another verse, Genesis 10:25, with a very interesting comment associated with him.
25 Two sons were born to Eber; the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan.
The Hebrew word for divide is palag. It is a verb that means, “to divide or split apart.”
So let’s summarize. When God created the world he gathered the water in one place, and then dry land appeared. God called the dry land earth. God instructs Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Some descendants of Ham decided to stay put and build a city and skyscraper, lest they be scattered over the face of the earth. God confuses their language and sends them over the face of the whole earth. At some point between the Tower of Babel and the birth of Abram, the earth was divided.
Several items seem very obvious to me. If there was one giant hunk of land (the face of the earth), it only makes sense that it was a global flood. If the waters rose above the highest mountains, it would have to cover the land entirely. Also, God instructed Noah to fill the earth. They would be unable to accomplish this if oceans already separated the large pieces of landmass. It would be much easier to fill the earth if the entire earth was accessible. It would be easy for various people groups to relocate and settle. These cultures would begin to develop independently once the land divided and they were unable to have close contact with others. It is interesting to realize that many of these generations of people overlapped due to the long lives that they lived during that time. Stories would have been passed down to each generation through oral story telling. There is no doubt that the integrity of the story was changed over time, but it is interesting to see how the information would have been passed down.
Some might argue that continental drift at the present rates would have taken millions of years. I would argue that it is a huge assumption to make that the rates have remained constant. If one pushes a raft away from the shore of a lake it initially moves rather quickly. Over a period of time it slows down and drifts rather slowly. I contend that the division of the land was conducted in a similar fashion. I believe the initial separation happened at a mush faster rate than the current rates of continental drift, after all, the Bible says the division of the earth happened during the time of Peleg’s life. I am always amazed at God’s appreciation for scientific detail.