God Did Not Send the Flood
In this paper, I will demonstrate that the flood of Noah’s day was not sent by God. I will show that humanity, through its global evil violence, released the violent comic powers, which were believed to dwell in the waters… And that it was those powers that flooded the earth… Not God! I will also demonstrate that the phrase, “I will send a flood… I will destroy,” is an ancient Hebraic figure of speech that does not describe what God does but what He allows humans to choose whether to follow the powers of darkness and suffer the consequences that their choices create.
Let’s start by considering what these ancient Hebrews believed about floods and engulfing waters.
If you lived in Bible times, how would you have understood the release of a flood or a raging river?
Let’s get into the mind of the worldview of Bible times.
Water and Biblical Cosmology.
You see, in the Bible, water, seas, rivers, etc. were considered the places where evil powers resided. Drs N.T. Wright and Gregory Boyd have thoroughly documented this, so there is no reason for me to duplicate it in detail. See NT Wright Evil and the Justice of God chapter 1; Gregory A. Boyd God at War —Chapters two through five.
Let me make some relevant points as it relates to the f
The people in Bible times believed that the sea and waters, etc. were the dwelling place of the cosmic enemies of God and His people.
10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them! (Psalm 74:10-11)
David calls on God to destroy the enemy. Notice that the enemy is more than one being—“destroy them”.
Who is this “them” enemy?
12 Yet, God, my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monster on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan
15 You split open springs and brooks; you dried up ever-flowing streams. (Psalm 74:12-15)
The destruction of the enemy involves the dividing of the “sea” by which God breaks the heads of the sea monster called Leviathan! This destruction of God’s enemy also included splitting open springs, brooks, and streams.
In that day, the Lord with His hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan, the fleeing serpent, Leviathan, the twisting serpent, and He will slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)
The final demise of Leviathan, the serpent, that great dragon that lives in the sea is assured. See Revelation 12:3, 9; 13:1.
The seas, oceans, rivers, etc. in Bible days were considered the dwelling places of cosmic enemies that threatened the people of God.
The Hebrew word “sea” is Yamm. This was the name of a common cosmic power in the Middle East that supposedly lived in the ocean.
Am I the sea (Hebrew Yamm), a sea monster, that you set a guard over me? (Job 7:120)
Consider what Isaiah said.
9 Wake up, wake up, and use your strength, powerful Lord. Wake up as you did in the old times, as you did a long time ago. With your own power, you cut Rahab into pieces and killed that sea monster
10 You dried up the sea and the waters of the deep ocean. You made the deepest parts of the sea into a road for your people to cross over and be saved. (Isaiah 51:9-10 NCV)
The ocean also housed the sea monster named RAHAB.
The drying up of the sea etc. was involved in the demise of this sea monster.
In the vision of Daniel 7, the monsters who made war on the saints of God came up out of the sea.
2 Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.
3 And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. (Daniel 7:2-3)
Consider the New Testament.
Note the role of water in the book of Revelation.
The serpent (identified as Satan the dragon), poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. (Revelation 12:15)
Mmmm … This flood originated from Satan, releasing waters like a river, attempting to kill the followers of Jesus!
Note that Satan, the serpent, poured water out of his mouth to kill the followers of Jesus. This image is described again in the seven last plagues.
13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs.
14 For they are demonic spirits performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (Revelation 16:13-14)
The serpent spewed a river out of its mouth to destroy God’s people, and now we are told clearly that this river that came out of his mouth is nothing less than demonic spirits!
Please note that these demonic spirits also came out of the mouth of the beast, and its origin is found in the sea, too!
And I saw a beast rising out of the sea (Revelation 13:1)
The beast, the antichrist is described is coming up out of the sea… The dwelling place of cosmic evil!
When deliverance is mentioned, the waters are attacked!
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great River Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the east. (Revelation 16:12)
In this passage, the waters were dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the east to come and rescue the persecuted and imprisoned people of God!
The drying up of rivers and waters means the removal of evil powers.
And finally… The waters are forever removed from existence.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (Revelation 21:1)
The beast came from the sea, remember?
At the time when God creates new heaven and earth—the dwelling place of evil will be no more!
What about the Gospels? Jesus walked on stormy waters! Jesus rebuked the raging waters when he was in the boat and called forth peace. And don’t forget that the demons begged Jesus to cast them into pigs and be thrown into the waters—their dwelling place (Mark 5:13)!
I hope you are now in the mind of what a flood meant in Bible times!
Again, what I’m suggesting is, mankind’s evil violence released the cosmic evil powers in the waters above and below and they came and destroyed them!
But didn’t the text specifically say that God sent the flood and that He destroyed them?
Let’s now deal with these phrases.
“I Will Send a Flood”—a Figure of Speech
In what follows, I will attempt to demonstrate that the phrase “I will destroy… I will send a flood” is an ancient Hebrew figure of speech that describes not what God does but what He allows.
Moses wrote the flood account in Genesis. He quoted God as saying:
For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy (Genesis 6:17).
Behold, I WILL DESTROY them with the earth. (Genesis 6:13)
It really looked as if God was the direct active agent in sending the flood and bringing destruction until…
We read that Moses also said something similar in the book of Deuteronomy.
In Deuteronomy chapter 32, we read a similar aggressive language, attributed directly to God.
23 I will heap calamities on them
and spend my arrows against them.
24 I will send wasting famine against them,
consuming pestilence and deadly plague;
I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts (Deuteronomy 32:23-24).
Again on the surface level, it looked as if God was the direct active agent in sending destruction and calamity upon people until we read the immediate context.
20 I will hide my face from them,” He said,
“and see what their end will be;
for they are a perverse generation,
children who are unfaithful. (Deuteronomy 32:20)
So God’s “I will send” meant He stepped back and removed His presence… The Hebrew word for face actually means presence.
Earlier on in this same narrative, it was made even clearer.17 Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our god is not with us?’
18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day. (Deuteronomy 32:17-18)
“In that day,” the day God released His anger by hiding, the day “I will send” … consequences would come upon them. The disasters happened because “God is not with us;” they came because God “hides his face!”
With divine protection withheld, consequences flowed without divine hindrance and protection.
So we can see that the phrase “I will send … I will strike … I will destroy” is an ancient Hebrew figure of speech that can describe what a person passively allows and not what they actively do.
The Hebrews often used active verbs to express not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do. In other words, throughout the Bible, God’s allowance of something to take place often is described by the writers as having been done by the Lord. What God allows, He does.
So we have precedence from within the writings of Moses that direct action can be attributed to God without God being the active agent. We are dealing with ancient Hebrew Semitic figures of speech.
Here is another example also from the writings of Moses.
For the Lord will strike the Egyptians, and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will not allow the destroyer to strike you. (Exodus 12:23)
So we are told by Moses that “the Lord will strike” and yet He won’t allow the destroyer to strike!
Who is the striker; God or the destroyer?
And to confuse things further, we are told that the Lord, who is the striker, will prevent the destroyer, who is also the striker, from striking the Israelites.
So God prevents Himself from striking?
This makes no sense to our modern way of thinking.
Clearly, we are dealing with ancient eastern expressions and phrases—3500-years-old—that make no sense to us, moderns, living in the west!
The phrases “I will send … I will strike … I will destroy” are ancient Hebrew figures of speech that do not always describe what a person does but what they allow without intervention
How can we tell when this figure of speech is being used? Check the surrounding context. Are there clear indications in the unfolding narrative that other forces are the actual destructive agents?
So when God said He would send the flood and that He would destroy the earth, were there indications in the unfolding narrative that God was actually stepping back and allowing nature to unravel itself?
Yes, there were!!!
God Did Not Burst Open the Waters
When the flood came, the text-only had the waters as the subject of the verbs; not God. It said the “waters of the flood came upon the earth” (Genesis 7:10, NAS), and “the fountains of the great deep burst open” (Genesis 7:11, NAS). The only verbs ascribed to God in the actual flood event were when He moved to restore, save, and deliver. It was God who sent Noah and his family into the ark (Genesis 7:16), and sent the wind over the earth (Genesis 8:1). “The flood is described in natural terms as the effects of sins (of violence in particular) with no divine act of intervention; only with the subsiding of the waters is God’s activity stated explicitly” (Fretheim, God, and World, 80).
Repeatedly in Genesis 7, the account said that the “water” killed every living thing (Genesis 7:17, 18, 19, 20, 24). The author of Genesis 7 was using the cosmic warfare motif (I described this at the beginning of this paper) to show that the waters were responsible for the death of everything that breathed; not God.
Remember that the waters were where the hostile cosmic powers lived! It was these powers that actually destroyed the earth, not God.
But what about Genesis 7:23, where we were told that God personally killed everybody and everything?
He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. (Genesis 7:23)
Not all English translations render it this way. The word “he” as the subject of the sentence is not found in the Hebrew text, and neither is the word “God” for that matter.
The NIV is accurate by not inserting any nouns or pronouns as the subjects of the sentence simply because they are not there.
23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out (Genesis 7:23).
Consider Young’s Literal Translation.
23 And wiped away is all the substance that is on the face of the ground (Genesis 7:23 YLT)
No “He,” no “God,” the sentence simply said that everything was wiped out.
This translation reflects the unfolding context more accurately.
The surrounding verses inform us that it was the waters of the flood that were responsible for taking away the breath of every living thing. And we know that the cosmological mindset of that time assumed that the waters were the dwelling place of hostile, evil cosmic forces.
Do any other Bible writers give us any hints as to whether or not God was actively involved in sending the flood?
Isaiah Said That God Hid at the Flood
Yes! Prophet Isaiah talked about God’s role when the flood came.
What did Isaiah say?
The prophet made a clear reference to the flood and God’s role in it in chapter 54.
Judah was in captivity under Babylon. They were experiencing the “wrath” of God. Isaiah made a direct parallel between their situation and the flood.
Speaking to the exiles, he said:
7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion, I will gather you.
8 In overflowing anger for a moment, I hid My face, but with everlasting love, I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:7-8)
It’s clear that divine wrath at this time manifested itself with God hiding His face (Hebrew presence). Isaiah said that God revealed His anger by hiding—by deserting! God stepped back and allowed the conquest and captivity of Israel by the Babylonians to take place.
God’s wrath was clearly passive. God withheld divine protection at this time and allowed consequences that their choices created to flow unhindered.
So where does the flood fit here?
In the very next sentence, Isaiah drew a direct parallel with what God did at the time of the flood.
9 “This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. (Isaiah 54:9)
By the above, God made a direct parallel between the release of anger followed by compassion and gathering at this time of Noah with the current situation!
“Just as I manifested my anger then so too now!”
And here is the thing! He just clearly said that He released His anger by hiding His presence; by stepping back and doing nothing. His anger was passive in both instances. Just as the people chose Babylon and their gods, and God simply stepped back and hid His face and allowed the consequences their choices created to flow without divine help, so too, did God hide His face at the time of Noah. The world was engulfed in violence and sold out to demonic forces—and this released those forces in a worldwide violent flood.
What about the New Testament? What did it say about God’s role at the time of the flood?
Peter and the Flood
Peter said a lot about the flood.
Peter seemed to say that God was the direct active agent who sent the flood in Noah’s day.
5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world the ungodly (2 Peter 2:5 NASB)
So what are we to do with this statement?
First of all, the phrase “he brought in a flood” is not a full-proof translation. We are not reading … e.g. Greek doesn’t say “he [pronoun, subject of the sentence] brought in a flood [object of the sentence with a verb].” The Greek word is a participle, and participles are very difficult to translate. And Peter has really made it hard for us, given there are so many participles in the first verses of this chapter.
Without getting into too much Greek detail, let me illustrate what I mean from other English translations.
5 and spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the Flood upon the world of the ungodly (2 Peter 2:5 KJ21)
Did you notice that it didn’t say that God brought the flood in? This translation tried to render the difficult participle faithfully: “bringing in the flood.” However, the participle was not clear enough as to who brought in the flood!
Consider Young’s Literal Translation of the Greek text:
5 and the old world did not spare, but the eighth person, Noah, of righteousness a preacher, did keep, a flood on the world of the impious having brought (2 Peter 2:5 YLT)
See? We read of “a flood having brought” … but it was not clear who the subject was? We know that a flood came … but how exactly was it brought and what was God’s role in the flood?
So we need to be careful of the translator’s bias in English translations.
So how are we to decide what God’s role was in the flood?
Context is king!
The opening words of this chapter were pivotal about the role of God in the destruction.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1 KJ21)
This initial verse is critical for understanding the rest of this section in 2 Peter 2. After talking about how the false teachers could bring destruction upon themselves, Peter went on to give several examples from Biblical history of other groups of people who were destroyed—and the Flood was one of those examples. But the question remains: how did they bring upon themselves this destruction, and what was God’s role?
Was God Active or Passive?
When Peter wrote, in 2 Peter 2:5, that the flood was brought upon the people at the time of Noah, Peter used the exact same word he used in 2:1 to write about how the false teachers brought destruction upon themselves (Gk., epagō, “to bring upon”). The destruction of both groups happened the exact same way!
The flood was brought upon the people in the days of Noah in the same way that destruction was brought upon false teachers, and chains of darkness were brought upon angels who sinned, and fire and brimstone were brought upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
OK, so how was this destruction actually brought about by the beings themselves?
We have two contextual clues about the way these groups of beings brought destruction upon themselves.
First, we have a very common Biblical figure of speech. We are told that the way the angels were punished was the same way the people from Noah’s day were punished … the way they brought it upon themselves.
4 For if God spared not the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment (2 Peter 2:4 KJ21)
Angels were reserved for judgment by God when He “delivered them over to” the chains of darkness.
The phrase “delivered over to” is common terminology used throughout the Scripture to describe the process by which God gives His creatures the freedom to go their own ways, even when it is in rebellion to Him. He hands them over to their sin. He gives them up to it. God’s creation lived in sin and rebellion, and as a natural consequence of their wickedness, death and destruction came upon them.
Then Peter said that the way the angels experienced condemnation by being handed over to the self–generated consequences of their choices— is the exact same way that the people of Noah’s time experienced the flood.
4 For if God spared not the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment;
5 and spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the Flood upon the world of the ungodly (2 Peter 2:4-5 KJ21)
See? The way angels who sinned were handed over to experience the self–generated consequences of their choices was the exact same way the people of Noah’s day brought the flood upon themselves! To be “handed over to” in the Bible always means that God steps back, hides His face, does nothing, and allows consequences to flow without divine intervention.
In other words, the people of Noah’s day created the consequences of the flood! We have already looked at this at the beginning of this paper.
In 2 Peter 2, Peter clearly reveals the idea that sin cannibalizes itself, and when sin takes root and leads us further away from God, there comes the point when we depart from God’s protective hand and invite ruin and destruction upon ourselves.
This is further supported by the way Peter also refers to the role of the cosmic forces inhabiting the waters—as we have already seen.
In 2 Peter 3:3-7, Peter returned to the topic of the flood to make his point once again about how God would deal with people who followed their own evil desires in the last days. Peter wrote, in 2 Peter 3:6, that the world perished when it was flooded with water. Now we had already seen this idea in Genesis. Peter was familiar with this idea. Peter said that when people sinned, they brought the waters back upon themselves, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:6). Notice the imagery Peter used of God, pushing back the waters to create and bring form to the world, and how the waters brought the flood [the cosmic beings that lived in the waters and destroyed the world that God created. The cosmic warfare motif which we saw in Genesis 1–8, was evident here in Peter’s writings as well.
Peter was clearly painting this contrast which we saw between the creative work of God in bringing order to the chaos in Genesis 1, and the exact opposite of this, when the waters came back upon the face of the earth and destroyed all that God had
Peter’s ultimate point is made in 2 Peter 3:9: God does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance. God does everything possible to withhold the floodwaters, to stop the destruction, and to restrict calamity. God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, not even the death of the wicked. He does not want the wicked to die but wants them to repent. To that effect, He does everything He can to give people ample opportunities to repent.
Jesus and the Flood
And what about what Jesus said about the role of God at the time of the flood?
27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:27 (KJ21)
According to Jesus, the flood just came! He did not say that God sent it!
The flood just came!
In this paper, we have seen that the phrase “I will send a flood … I will destroy” is an ancient Hebrew figure of speech that does not describe what God does but what He allows. Every other mention describing the destructive action never has God as the subject of the action. The waters above and below simply burst open.
Israel at the time of Moses held to a common belief in the ancient Middle East that the seas and rivers were the dwelling places of the cosmic enemies of God and His people. When the waters burst open, it meant that evil manifested and destroyed the world. In fact, we saw that Isaiah said that God, in His wrath, hid His presence during the flood and allowed consequences to flow without divine intervention.
Peter informed us that God handed the people at the time of the flood over to the consequences of their choices. Jesus said that the flood simply “came” without mentioning God at all!
Genesis said that the heart of God was grieved when He saw that violence had filled the earth. God knew humanity had sold out to violent evil forces, and it was those forces, which supposedly dwelt in the waters, that broke forth the waters and destroyed the earth. So God did not flood and destroy the earth; humanity did, as it sold itself to violent cosmic powers.
But the story of Noah’s flood did not end with worldwide death. Apostle Peter spoke about all those who died at the time of the flood and told us that Jesus went straight to them after His death on the cross.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, [a] he went and made a proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water (1 Peter 3:18-20)
As soon as Jesus died, He went straight to the people of Noah’s day—only eight were saved and the others, the spirits, remained in prison until the death Christ, the Lord. And after Jesus had died, He went straight to them and made a proclamation to them.
What did He proclaim? As we keep reading the following verses, we are told that Jesus preached the Gospel to them.
6 for this cause was the Gospel preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6 KJ21)
Even those who died at the time of Noah were not ultimately abandoned by God. Jesus had them at heart, and as soon as he died on the cross, he went straight to them and preached the Gospel to them so that they might live in the spirit!