The Genesis Flood: Global or Local?

There is a lot of debate in the religious communities as to whether the Genesis flood was local occurance or worldwide. Did Noah’s Ark sail above earth’s tallest mountains or just the regions highest hills? Did he bring two of every animal on earth on board the ark or just a native species? How could they have all fit? What about the water vapor canopy theory?


The idea of a global flood is supported by 1) the use of “universal” language used in Genesis 6-8, and 2) the interpretation of Genesis 2:5-6. Following the tenets of this theory is the belief that most of Earth’s sedimentary rocks and fossils were deposited over the face of the earth during the flood, when the fountains of the deep opened up and the earth shook. After which there was catastrophic tectonic plate shifts which caused the continents to spread apart and form, mountain ranges to spring up, sea floors to fall, and great canyons to be carved in the land all in a year’s time. This interpretation also suggests that there was a water vapor canopy over the earth that held a sizeable amount of water for it to rain for 40 days and nights.

The Water Vapor Canopy Theory

The water vapor canopy theory was first theorized by Henry Morris in the later half of the 20th century. In his book The Genesis Record (1976), Morris states,

“A worldwide rain lasting forty days would be quite impossible under present atmospheric conditions; so this phenomenon required an utterly different source of atmospheric waters than now obtains. This we have already seen to be the ‘waters above the firmament,’ the vast thermal blanket of invisible water vapor that maintained the greenhouse effect in the antediluvian world. These waters somehow were to condense and fall on the earth.”1

This canopy is also believed to have shielded the planet from harmful radiation which with its dispersal led to drastically reduced lifespans in the post-flood era.

Does The Bible Say It Ever Existed?

The theory is based on the interpretation of several passages.

Genesis 1:6-8, “Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven.”

So what is the expanse? The expanse (raqiya) is the same Hebrew word used to describe the area that the birds flew “above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens” in Genesis 1:20. Could birds have flown through this canopy of water? It is also the same expanse (raqiya) where God made the lights of the heavens (stars) visible to be for signs and seasons in Genesis 1:14. Was the canopy in outer space only to somehow condense and fall to earth during the flood? The expanse described here is merely talking about the atmosphere.

Genesis 7:11, “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.”

This sounds like supporting evidence, doesn’t it? The claim may hold water (no pun intended) if the same two Hebrew words “floodgates” (‘arubbah) and “sky” (shamayim) were not used elsewhere in the Bible post-flood. 2 Kings 7:19 states, “‘Now behold, if the LORD should make windows (‘arubbah) in heaven (shamayim), could such a thing be?'” and in Malachi 3:10 it states, “‘if I will not open for you the windows (‘arubbah) of heaven (shamayim) and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'” The term floodgates of the sky, also interpreted windows of heaven, is referencing rain and possibly a great rain, but not a water vapor canopy.

and Genesis 2:5-6, “Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.”

Genesis 1 is the creation account, where God creates the heavens, earth, animals and man. Chapter 2 details the events that were taking place on the sixth day of creation with Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. Verse 5 states that there were no plants in Eden since he has not yet planted them there yet. We will see below that the Garden of Eden is believed to have been in the Mesopotamian region where there is very little rainfall, while Eden itself may have been so dry it never rained there.

The Scientific Challenge of the Canopy Theory

The theory loses even more support when it is scientifically analyzed. There are five main objections to the theory which cast serious doubt on its credibility: 1) the atmospheric pressure would be so great, that it would rival that of Venus,2 2) air can only hold a certain amount of water before it becomes saturated and begins to rain, 3) the affect of gravity on the water would cause it to fall to earth, 4) sunlight would be blocked, at least in part, from reaching earth’s surface, 5) and the temperature of the planet due to the ensuing “greenhouse effect” would be a stagering 220 degrees fahrenheit.3 These five variables would make for a rather flimsy and problematic theory.

Then How Do You Explain The Long Lifespans Before The Flood?

If there wasn’t a water vapor canopy then how can the long lifespans before the flood be explained? One writer suggests the answer lies in what is known as the Exponential Decay Curve. When organisms are exposed to a radiation source, they will die off at the same rate of decay that we see in the Biblical record.

The possible sources of this harmful radiation are cosmic rays and ultra-violet light. Both of which are suspected sources due to the fact that they damage living tissue and alter DNA to produce mutations. We know that cosmic rays reach earth because they have been measured in mines thousand of feet underneath earth’s surface.4

Recently scientists have discovered the shell of a very close supernova which is currently bombarding the earth with cosmic rays. What makes this supernova so deadly is the high amount of radiation being shed and its proximity, as opposed to most supernova that are so far away their effect is minimal. “In other words very recently in the last several thousand years the earth began to be bombarded with a more deadly type of cosmic rays from a nearby supernova.”4 Much lower levels of cosmic radiation would have existed prior to the flood, if the supernova had occurred in conjunction with it, allowing for a much more hospitable earth than we live in today. Along these same lines, the earth’s magnetic field (earth’s partial protection from radiation) and the sun’s magnetic field play a role in how much radiation can reach the surface of the planet.

A study was done recently that showed low doses of radiation can actually increase lifespan, presumably as would have been seen pre-flood.

“Acute subinhibitory low dose radiation (≤250 mGy) stimulates all components of the antimutagenic system, reducing the cumulative mutation load observed in aging, disease, and cancer. All statistically significant, adequately controlled epidemiologic studies of the public, medical cohorts, and occupational workers confirm low doses of radiation are associated with reduced mortality from all causes and decreased cancer mortality and may be protective against accidental high dose radiation. Low-dose body irradiation for cancer immunotherapy has been shown to be effective in rodents and humans. 5

Earth’s ozone layer is also a shielding layer against radiation – an invisible protective canopy of sorts. It has been noted that in the pre-flood era, the ozone layer was probably more substantial. This would have allowed for a greater atmospheric pressure, and increased amounts of oxygen concentration.6 In short, it would have had a similar effect as what has been found to occur in a barometric chamber: increased lifespan of the fruitfly by 3 generations, and accelerated growth of piranha fish – from 2″ to 16″ over a 2.5 years period.7 The evidence for this lies in the fossil record where very large reptile, mammals, and insects exist – such as the dragonfly which had a wingspan of 24″! The abundant supply of oxygen and greater pressure work hand in hand for delivering more oxygen into the body. This higher level of oxygen intake produces a more efficient body aerobically and metabolically.

A high-dose of radiation by cosmic rays to the ozone layer would have depleted this layer. Supernovas in the past have been associated with lowering the concentration of the upper atmospheric ozone.7 In fact we still see the ozone layer depleting today.


When we study the scriptures, we have to remember that what we are reading is a translation. Sometimes the passages accurately translate, while other times the translation lends itself to interpretation. Why should we look at the Hebrew text? There are only about 8,700 different ancient Hebrew words listed in Strong’s Concordance, while English is much more thorough at 171,476 words in current use, 47,156 obsolete words and around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries, according to the Oxford Dictionary.9 English tends to be more precise in communication, while Hebrew depends on context, and cultural and historical frames of reference to define the meaning of words.10 This is why there can be multiple meanings in English for a single word in Hebrew and why it is so important that we must look at the original Hebrew word and context to understand what the writer is trying to communicate to us.

Whole Land “kol ‘eretz”

The Hebrew word kol, meaning “whole” or “all”, and ‘erets, meaning “earth,” “land,” “territory,” “country,” or “ground” can refer to either the entire globe or more commonly to a region. Abraham was told to leave his ‘eretz and go to an ‘eretz which God would show him. Abraham was not an alien from another planet, nor would he have had a spaceship. It is the same word ‘eretz that is used to describe the “earth” in the Genesis flood account.

Example 1: The people of all (kol) the earth (‘erets) came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all (kol) the earth (‘erets). (Genesis 41:57)
Example 2: You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all (kol) through your land (‘erets). (Leviticus 25:9)
Example 3: For the battle there was spread over the whole (kol) countryside (‘erets), and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. (2 Samuel 18:8)
Example 4: So when they had gone about through the whole (kol) land (‘erets), they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. (2 Samuel 24:8)

Planet Earth: “tebel”

The Hebrew word tebel used 36 times in the Old Testament also means earth, but when this word is used it is referring to the whole planet which we can see based on its context. This word is NOT used to describe the Genesis flood.

Example 1: He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, [and] lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set [them] among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth [are] the LORD’S, and he hath set the world (tebel) upon them. (1 Samuel 2:8)
Example 2: And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world (tebel) were discovered, at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils. (2 Samuel 22:16)
Example 3: Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth (‘erets) and the world (tebel), even from everlasting to everlasting, thou [art] God. (Psalm 90:2)

Inhabited Earth: “adamah”

Now let’s look at the flood account in Genesis. Notice the addition of the Hebrew word ‘adamah used in this passage. This term specifically means “ground,” “territory,” “inhabited earth.”

Example 1: The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land (‘adamah), from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:7)
Example 2: “For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth (‘erets) forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land (‘adamah) every living thing that I have made.” (Genesis 7:4)
Example 3: Then he sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the land (‘adamah); (Genesis 8:8)
Example 4: The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground (‘adamah) 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)


Genesis 7:20 reads, “The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered.” Mt. Everest stands at about 29,000 feet above sea level today. The global flood theory suggests that Mt. Everest grew to this height during the flood in just one year – due to major earthquakes caused by extremely fast continental drift. From Genesis 7:19, we see that the mountains existed before the flood, not created in a catastrophic uprising. The water level rose to cover the mountains, not the mountains came forth out of the water. Let’s look at a couple other possibilities.

The Hebrew word for higher in this verse is (ma’al), meaning “above” or “upwards.” So what were the flood waters fifteen cubits upward of? Let’s take a look at what is meant by the word mountain. The word here is the Hebrew word (har), meaning “hill,” “mountain,” “hill country.” The ancient Mesopotamians also considered their temples (ziggurats) to be mountains in reference to the flat plains of Mesopotamia. They called them “E. kur,” which in Sumerian means “house of the mountain” or “mountain house.”11 So were the flood waters fifteen cubits above Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on earth? Noah could not see Mt. Everest and could not make this claim. Were they the high hills which surrounded the land or were they the ziggurat temple mounds? Whichever mountain top it was, Noah had to be able to measure to the tops of them from the floating ark above in order to claim he was fifteen cubits higher than they were.

So How Did Noah Measure 15 Cubits Above The Mountains?

So how did Noah measure the mountains; did he have a ruler? It may be valid to say that Noah didn’t measure them at all. When God told Noah how big to make the ark, he told him it was to be thirty cubits tall. This thirty cubits was from the underbelly of the boat to the very top. We know that the ark floated freely on the water during the flood (Genesis 7:17-18), and the water had to rise to a certain point before the ark became buoyant. The ark would have become buoyant when the waters reached about fifteen cubits deep. Noah would have known the measurement because the ark could traverse the mountains in the region and the ship’s underbelly not get caught and strike them as they floated by.

One researcher claims that Noah may have measured the high hills or “mountains” by using a rod or pole. “In riverboats of that day, people used rods or poles to measure water depth.”12 If Noah used this method to measure the peaks of the mountains, such as Mt. Ararat (at 17,000 feet), the surges and waves created from the rapidly growing mountains would have made it difficult to get this reading, let alone trying to keep the mountain still while trying to measure it! Also in question would be finding the highest mountain on the planet to go and measure it… I doubt he was given the gift of GPS and dropping anchor on the peak of Mt. Everest or Mt. Ararat would have been a feat.

Distance To The Horizon

How far would Noah had to have been from the horizon to see the mountains covered? Here’s a calculation done by Answers In Creation to help explain the distance.

“Our starting point is Noah. He was on the ark, which had a height of about 45 feet. Accounting for a 20 foot draft for the ark, Noah was perhaps 25 feet above the water’s surface. If he were six feet tall, Noah would be about 6.82 miles from the horizon. By contrast, the horizon for a 100 foot tall hill would be about 12.25 miles. Adding these two horizon distances together, Noah would have to be 19.07 miles from a 100 foot tall hill in order not to see it. Other landmass heights are calculated below.13

Reference Point
Noah (31 Feet tall)
100 foot hill
1,000 foot hill
3,000 foot hill
One Mile hill

6.82 miles

Horizon + Noah’s Horizon


Looking at the “earth” from the eyes of Noah, he would have seen a one mile high mountain disappear as the flood waters rose from a distance of less than 100 miles on a clear day. Visibility would also decrease depending on atmospheric conditions, such as rain.


In a global flood scenario, every animal we know today would have been affected by the flood waters. This includes both land animals, who would face certain death by drowning and water dwelling animals who would suffer from either too much or too little salinity. If this was a regional flood, only the local species needed to be taken on the ark so they can repopulate the area after the flood. Water dwelling species would not have been affected by the salt/fresh water change of the ocean.

Land Animals

The earth currently has somewhere between 1.5 to 6 million species of animals, so how did all these animals fit on the ark?14 To be fair, the Bible does not say every species, but the animals after their kind. If we’re to assume that the DNA of today has so multiplied that several species of animals are considered one kind (i.e. there are a large amount dog varieties, but all are still considered dogs), then this reduces the number of animals that would have had to have been on the ark. Noah didn’t have to take one of each variety, but one of each “kind.” The Bible also states which animals he was to take, further limiting the term “kind.” The animals specified were cattle, fowls, creeping things (reptiles and other things that creep, possibly insects). All of these animals are native to Mesopotamia. The Bible calls for two of the unclean animals and seven of the clean, both male and female (fourteen clean animals in all). This is of course assuming that clean and unclean meant the same thing in Noah’s time as it did when God gave Moses the Law. Clean animals are considered sheep, cows, and goats. Unclean would be animals such as pigs, camels, badgers, and gazelles.15 Considering the different kinds of animals in the Mesopotamian region, where we can assume a local flood, then the number of animals ranges in the hundreds. This number seems more probable than the millions supposed by the global flood theory.

Also to consider is that Noah and his family of 7 (wife, 3 sons and their wives), would have had to take care of all these animals. Not only would they need to feed them, but pick up after them as well. The smell of the creatures and their excrement must have been strong after considering the congested quarters and time they were on the ark. Storage for the animals and for themselves for this time period would have been necessary as well. Again, a few hundred animals seems much more likely. Food type would also have been an issue. Certain animals around the world only eat certain food. Take the panda who eats eucalyptus leaves. Would Noah have had to travel thousands of miles to gather food to satisfy the needs of the specific animals? All of these factors make a local flood scenario much more likely. Once the animals disembarked, they would have easily repopulated the region they were from.

Water Animals

The global flood theory says that during the flood there was massive amounts of sedimentary rock being layed, such as that found on Mt. Everest during the flood… in less than 1 year. Geologists who have studied the sedimentary layers of rock found in the Grand Canyon do not support a massive laying of the layers.16 The sediments take a long time to be layed in the order it was done. Also, this quick laying of sediments would have been a problem for the species that live on the bottom of the ocean as it would have covered and killed them. Also in question is the amount of water pressure that additional amounts of water would have caused on the Marine life, making their living environment inhospitable. Perhaps an even more puzzling scenario is how did marine life adapt to the quickly changing salinity in the water? Fish and other sea creatures live in specific salinities that are necessary for life to survive. If you put a fresh water fish into salt water, it will die and same with the salt water fish if put into fresh water. If this were a local flood, marine life would have been able to survive such a disaster.


The way Genesis describes the receding of the waters presents yet another problem for a global flood interpretation. In Genesis 8:13-14, three times it mentions the water had been dried up from the earth and it being completely dry. If we were to translate the word earth in the same way that a global flood interpretation of the previous chapters allows, this would imply that the earth to be devoid of water, to be completely dry. This is obviously an incorrect interpretation of these verses as we have plenty of evidence of water that still exists. Planet earth did not become a desert planet. It should be suggested that the water being dried from the earth (‘erets) was again a local occurance.

The Wind of God

We also have to ask the question of where the waters receded to. The global theory says that the earth, which was relatively flat before the flood, grew mountains and the valleys sunk down. This would seem to explain where the water went to, except this makes void the purpose of God sending a wind to make the waters retreat. In Genesis 8:1 it states, “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided.” Does this sound like the act of wind building mountains? The wind would have pushed the flood waters off the land to dry the ground. We’ll look at this more later when we look at a pooible location for where the flood could have been.


Psalm 104, also known as the “creation psalm”, follows the same order as the creation account described in Genesis 1.

Other verses referenced below also show parts of the creation account that correspond with the psalm. What becomes apparent is that this is not talking about the time after the flood, but the first, second and part of the third day of creation. Interestingly verse 9 points out that on the third creation day, God has set the boundary for the water that it shall not cross over the land again. It is also reiterated in Proverbs 8:29, Jeremiah 5:22, and Job 38:8-11.

Psalm 104

Other Verses

Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. (verse 2)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Gen 1:1)

Who alone stretches out the heavens and tramples down the waves of the sea; (Job 9:8)

He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind; (verse 3)

The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens and has founded His vaulted dome over the earth, He who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth, the LORD is His name. (Amos 9:6)

He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers. (verse 4)

He established the earth upon its foundations, so that it will not totter forever and ever. (verse 5)

Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. (Psalm 102:25)

You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands; (Hebrews 1:10)

(Isaiah 48:13), (Isaiah 51:13), (Isaiah 51:16), (Zechariah 12:1)

You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters were standing above the mountains. (verse 6)

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)

When He established the heavens, I was there, when He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, when He made firm the skies above, when the springs of the deep became fixed, (Proverbs 8:27-28)

(Genesis 1:7), (Proverbs 30:4), (Job 38:9)

At Your rebuke they fled, at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away. (verse 7)

Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. (Genesis 1:9)

He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. (Psalm 33:7)

The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them. (verse 8 )

God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:10)

To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, for His lovingkindness is everlasting; (Psalm 136:6)

You set a boundary that they may not pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth. (verse 9)

When He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth; (Proverbs 8:29)

For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it. (Jeremiah 5:22)

“Or who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop’? (Job 38:8-11)


When we read about the Genesis flood, it is important that we remember what the purpose of the flood was – to wipe the “earth” clean of the wicked people whose hearts were continually filled with evil. Does it really matter whether the Noah’s Ark story was a global or local event? Only in that it adds credibility to the Bible. Science and the Bible work in harmony together, not against each other for God created science and uses it to show the works of his hands to us. The purpose of the story in that the judgement of man was global, whether the flood was or not.

If you’d like, give this a try: Read the Genesis flood account again, but this time without preconceptions and keeping the information above in mind.


1 Creation Wiki, Encyclopedia of Creation Science, “Canopy Theory” (
2 8D. F. Siemens, “More Problems with Flood Geology,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 44, no. 4 (1992): 231.
3 Rich Deem, Evidence For God, “The Water Vapor Canopy Theory Why the Bible (And Science) Says It is False” (
4 Arnold Mendez, The Scientific Evidence For Biblical Longevity, “Background Stellar Radiation” (
5 Pollycove M. Feinendegen LE. Biologic responses to low doses of ionizing radiation: detriment versus hormesis-part 2 dose responses of organisms. Journal of Nuclear Medicine. Newsline. 42:9:26N-37N. 2001.
6 Arnold Mendez, The Scientific Evidence For Biblical Longevity, “Increased Atmospheric Pressure and Oxygen Concentration” (
7 Arnold Mendez, The Ozone Shield, “Increased Atmospheric Pressure and Oxygen Concentration” (
Keelynet, “Dr. Baugh & the Pre-Flood Environment” (, 3/31/2001
8 A.J. Monty White, Ph.D., Answers, “Flood Legends,” The Significance of a World of Stories Based on Truth (, March 29, 2007
9 Oxford Dictionaries, “How many words are there in the English language?” (
10 Dennis Bratcher, The Voice, “Hebrew and Aramaic Terms Word Meanings for Old Testament Study” (
11 M. A. Beek, Atlas of Mesopotamia (London: Nelson, 1962), map 8; M. Roaf, “Palaces and Temples in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, ed. J. M. Sasson (New York: Charles
Scribners, 1995), 425.
12 3G. F. Bass, “The Earliest Seafarers in the Mediterranean and the Near East,” in A History of Seafaring Based on Underwater Archaeology, ed. G. F. Bass (New York: Walker, 1972), 12.
13 Greg Neyman, Old Earth Creation Science Where Was the Flood of Noah?, “Requirements for the Location of the Flood” (, May 12, 2007
14 H. Ross, “Noah’s Floating Zoo,” Facts and Faith 4 (1990): 4.
15 Carol A. Hill, The Noachian Flood: Universal or Local?, (

Author: Olivia

I am a mom and a homeschooling teacher of two little ones. I am also a Biblical Studies major with a hobby in Creation Science. I love to research Biblical topics and how science and the Bible live in harmony with each other. I learn beside my children when we read, build, and explore with the help of our glorious classroom - God's green Earth!

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