I have never understood the belief that the author of Genesis intended us to interpret Noah’s Flood as a local event instead of a global one. The real motivation behind this interpretation is not the text of Scripture, but to accommodate an old-earth interpretation of the Bible and science. After studying this issue for some time, I am shocked at how many old-earth creationists actually believe the Bible depicts Noah’s flood as a local event instead of a global one. While this belief might be more respectable among scientists, there are several major problems with this interpretation. Here are some of them:
1. The covenant promise of God that he would never again send “a flood to destroy all flesh” (Gen 9:11) only makes sense if Noah’s flood was universal. If this was just a local flood, then that would make God a liar because there have been many local floods since Noah’s Flood that have killed millions of people. The flooding of the Yangzi-Huai River in China in 1931 killed between 1-4 million people. The flooding of the Yellow River in China in 1887 killed between 900,000 to two million people. This fact alone is enough to refute the belief that Noah’s Flood was only a local event since these floods were likewise only local events but God promised that he would never again send a flood like the one of Noah.
2. Noah’s Flood in the Bible is always presented in universal terms and never in local ones. It says, “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 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” (Gen 7:21-23) and “I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen 6:17).
3. If Noah’s Flood was only local in nature, there would have been no need to have two of every kind of animal on the ark. The area would have been repopulated after the flood by those animals outside the flood zone as they migrated. Having two of every kind of animal only makes sense if there are no more animals left to repopulate the earth.
4. Genesis presents the sons of Noah as the ancestors of all the people groups on earth: “These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed” (Gen 9:19).
5. Jesus interpreted Noah’s Flood in universal terms: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27). Noah’s Flood left no survivors just as no wicked men will escape the day of judgment when Christ returns.
6. Peter believed that Noah’s Flood destroyed the entire ancient world leaving only Noah and his family: “If he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Pet 2:5). Genesis indicates that only Noah and his family were righteous in God’s sight (Gen 7:1). The universality of Noah’s Flood is a picture of the universality of God’s judgment at the second coming: “And that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Pet 3:6-7).