But Noah…

A Light Shining in the Darkness of the Pre-Flood World*


In our recent critique of Vignette #5 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, we spent quite a bit of time poking around in the first genealogy of the Bible found in Genesis 5.  There, we discovered some valuable information concerning the line of righteous People who lived from the time of Adam to the time of Noah, the Patterns of life that began to develop during this period, and the Precedents that were established by these godly people as they sought to live out their lives in a world of ever-increasing wickedness.  Our analysis ended with a brief introduction to Noah, the tenth in line from Adam, the one whom his father, Lamech, predicted would…

…give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed (Genesis 5:29).

Since the name Noah means “rest”, it is likely that Lamech believed this son to be the long-awaited Redeemer, the one God had promised to Eve.  The “rest” he had in mind was one in which mankind’s bondage to sin and death would be ended and earth’s sin-caused curse would be removed.  It is doubtful that a world-wide flood wiping our nearly all of the earth’s inhabitants was the kind of “rest” he had envisioned when he named his son as he did.

As for our exploration into the flood and its earth-altering consequences, before we dive headlong into those turbulent waters, there are still at least three things that we need to take into consideration if we are going to understand why a disaster of this magnitude had become necessary in the first place.  It was these three factors, working in tandem, that helped to make the Antediluvian civilization such a dark and dangerous one that it had to be erased off the face of the map…

The Planet in its pre-flood condition;
The Population and the effects of its explosion on society; and,
The Powers and their influence on life during this era.


A Pre-Flood Concept of the Cosmos


The Planet

Although the Bible doesn’t give us any specifics about the physical conditions of the earth before the flood, it does give us enough clues to lead us to believe that it must have been a vastly different place than the earth we are familiar with today.  Of course, we know that it is still the same size, same shape, and in the same position in its orbit around the sun that it has always been but, from what we can gather from the Biblical clues as well as recent scientific findings, it is likely that both today’s climate and the earth’s topography are completely different from that of the original earth.

As for changes in climate, these would seem to be attributable to differences in the distribution and storage of the earth’s waters.  Back in Genesis 1:1, 1:7, and 1:9, while studying the Creation Story, we learned that…

    • The earth started out as a formless mass of waters—meaning that there was water, water everywhere, but where was it to go?
    • So, God separated the waters by making an “expanse” (a firmament or “thin stretched-out space”) and inserting it between the waters, calling this expanse “Heaven”—storing part of the waters above the earth in the form of water vapor;
    • Then God gathered the waters under the expanse together into one place, commanding dry land to come forth out of them, calling the dry land “Earth” and the gathered waters “Seas”—thus containing the waters around the land or beneath it in underground “chambers” or rivers.

What effect might this pre-flood arrangement of waters have had on the climate?  Well, a layer of water vapor situated above the earth’s atmosphere, acting as a layer of insulation between it and the sun…

    • Would have provided the earth with nearly uniform temperatures everywhere;
    • These uniform temperatures would have limited the movement of air, thus preventing windstorms of any kind;
    • Without any air circulating, dust particles from the earth would not have been moved to the upper atmosphere, thus eliminating the condensation which would have resulted in precipitation;
    • In lieu of precipitation, the moisture on the earth would have been provided regularly, rather than intermittently, by dew or ground fog—something confirmed in Genesis 2:5-6 with these words…

…for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land…and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole surface of the ground;

    • In conjunction with the uniformly warm temperatures, this regular misting of the earth would have contributed to the world-wide growth of abundant and rich vegetation; and,
    • A vapor shield surrounding the earth would have resulted in an increase in the atmospheric pressure which, according to some modern research, would have resulted in an increase in health and longevity.[1]


The Pre-Flood Supercontinent


When it comes to the topographical differences in the earth, rather than the earth being broken up into the seven continents that we are familiar with today, it is now believed that the land mass of the early earth was formed into one super continent called Rodinia. [2]

According to the US Geological Survey…

The belief that continents have not always been fixed in their present positions was suspected long before the 20th century…it was not until 1912 that the idea of moving continents was seriously considered as a full-blown scientific theory — called Continental Drift — introduced in two articles published by a 32-year-old German meteorologist named Alfred Lothar Wegener.

Wegener’s theory was based in part on what appeared to him to be the remarkable fit of the South American and African continents, first noted by Abraham Ortelius three centuries earlier. Wegener was also intrigued by the occurrences of unusual geologic structures and of plant and animal fossils found on the matching coastlines of South America and Africa, which are now widely separated by the Atlantic Ocean. He reasoned that it was physically impossible for most of these organisms to have swum or have been transported across the vast oceans. To him, the presence of identical fossil species along the coastal parts of Africa and South America was the most compelling evidence that the two continents were once joined.

…But at the time Wegener introduced his theory, the scientific community firmly believed the continents and oceans to be permanent features on the Earth’s surface. Not surprisingly, his proposal was not well received, even though it seemed to agree with the scientific information available at the time. A fatal weakness in Wegener’s theory was that it could not satisfactorily answer the most fundamental question raised by his critics: What kind of forces could be strong enough to move such large masses of solid rock over such great distances?[3] 

What forces indeed!

As for a reason God may have chosen to use one super continent for the early earth, just think how much easier it would have been for the descendants of Adam to fulfill the commission that God had given him to…

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28).

As they did this, it wouldn’t have taken long for…

…the earth [to] be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

But, as we shall soon see, even though the people of this period succeeded in fulfilling God’s command to “multiply and fill the earth,” the vast majority of them failed miserably at doing it in a way that would bring any kind of glory to God.

The Population

When we get to this part of the Bible—that is, to the story of Noah and the Flood—I think there is a tendency on our parts to believe that the population of the earth at the time must have been relatively small.  Perhaps this is because, having only read five chapters and having only been introduced to a fairly small group of people so far, we get the impression that not a lot of time has passed and not much has happened in the course of these five chapters.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Using the figures given to us in Genesis 5, when we total up the years from the beginning of Adam’s life to the birth of Noah, we learn that 1,056 years had elapsed.  By adding the 600 years that Noah lived before the flood to that number, we find that men and women had been living and multiplying on the earth for at least 1,656 years.  This is a lot of time for populations to expand and for cultures to shift and deteriorate.  For example, just think how much our world has changed in the past 1,056 or 1,656 years, respectively.  If we subtract the former figure from 2015, we will find ourselves in the year 959 AD, and by doing the same to the latter figure, we would be taken back to the year 359 AD—without a doubt, a lot of change has taken place in our world since either one of these dates!

Take the population, for instance.  In the same length of time that passed between Adam and the birth of Noah, the population of our present world grew from an estimated 300 million to over 7 billion, while the population from 359 AD to today has increased from an estimated 198 million to well past the same 7 billion mark [4].  This is all the more remarkable when you consider that this increase was produced by men and women who were living greatly reduced life spans and having considerably fewer children than those who were alive during the years preceding the flood.  As for the population at the time of the flood, if I had to wager a guess as to its size, I think a very conservative estimate would put that at a minimum of 2 billion—which is to say, 2,000,000,000 people!  How did I arrive at that figure?


Depending on how many children each couple had, the population could have been even greater!


Going back to the genealogy listed in Genesis 5, in addition to each of the sons listed there, the fathers were said to have “had other sons and daughters.”  Although no numbers were recorded for us, given that the average life span for these men was about 850 years, it stands to reason that the number of their offspring would have been considerable. Josephus, the Jewish historian notes that…

The number of Adam’s children, as says the old tradition, was thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters. [4]

With this in mind, it doesn’t require a huge stretch of the imagination to suppose that Adam and Eve could have had at least ten sons and ten daughters who would have made up the first set of ten couples.  If each of these couples had at least ten sons and ten daughters, and they, in turn, had another ten sons and ten daughters, etc.—at the end of ten generations (and not allowing for any deaths), this would have produced a population of 2,000,000,000 people.  Roughly speaking, this would be about the same as China’s total population today added to about half of the population of India—and no matter how you look at it, that is a lot of people!

The Powers

Now, in order to put these things into perspective, let’s try to imagine what our world would be like today if all of the people in China and half of the people in India were living together spread out over a single land mass.  Given its temperate climate and regulated underground hydraulic system, this land would be one that was filled with lush green vegetation and one where hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes were unknown events.  Something else that would be unknown is any kind of institutional structure such as governments, laws, police, armies, churches, or schools, to dictate codes of conduct or to help control the actions of the people.  In fact, there would only be three forces around with the power to influence human behavior, with these being the…

Power of God;
Power of the Human Conscience;
Power of Demonic Spirits.

Because most of these people eventually followed in the Way of Cain, rejecting God and choosing to do life on their own terms, God’s Power is something that would have ceased to be available to them.  As for the Power of the Human Conscience, due to the people’s on-going sinning, their consciences would have become so seared that they would have been rendered useless as a means of curbing their actions.  This would have left them open and vulnerable to the Power of the Demonic Spirits–and from what we can gather from Genesis 6:1,2,4, this would have included demon possession or sexual cohabitation…

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose… and….when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

So, the picture that we’re presented with here is one in which at least 2,000,000,000 people with fallen human natures—having denied God and His power, and whose consciences had become so calloused that they no longer knew the difference between right and wrong—are running around doing whatever they please—or, whatever the demonic forces at work in the world were working in them to do.  What a bleak and seemingly hopeless picture of humanity that is—and yet, this is what life would have been like in the years leading up to the Flood.  Is it any wonder that when…

…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…


…the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart?

Or, that He would say…

…I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land…for I am sorry that I have made them?  (Gen. 5-7)

At this low point in our Story, it seems like all is lost and humanity is a goner, however, this is not the case.  It was into this very dark and doomed world that God highlighted one wonderful ray of redemptive light when He recorded…

But Noah… found favor [grace] in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8) …

…an incredibly redemptive act that we will learn more about next in Vignette #6–Obedience Doesn’t Come Cheap!




* Featured image is a mosaic in Basilica di San Marco, Venice by an anonymous artist, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


[1] Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record (San Diego, California:  Creation-Life Publishers, 1976) p.60.

[2] https://answersingenesis.org/geology/plate-tectonics/noahs-lost-world/

[3] US Geological Survey, This Dynamic Earth:  Historical Perspective, http://wwwusgs.gov, (August 7, 2012).

[4] US Census Bureau, Historical Estimates of World Population, https://www.census.gov, (December 19, 2013).

[5] Josephus, The Works of Josephus, as translated by William Whiston (Lynn, Mass.:  Hendrickson Publishers, 1981) p. 27.


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