Home > Chapter 17

Water, water everywhere

When Michael reached Tiong Bahru the road was awash from the rain that had pelted the city all Sunday afternoon. He inched his way behind the other cars, windscreen wipers slashing furiously. Returning with him from a visit to a friend at the Singapore General Hospital were Teck Whatt and Arjuna.

"Well, folks, it’s going to be a long drive to AMK. So sit back and relax," Michael announced, trying to make himself heard above the windscreen wipers.

"What we need is that amphibious bus," said Teck pointing through the window.

"What we need is an ark," muttered Arjuna ruefully.

Teck brightened up. "Say, Mike, why don’t we discuss something interesting like the Flood mentioned in Genesis. There are questions I’ve wanted to ask from Sunday School days."

"Me, too," added Arjuna eagerly.

"I have come across several views on this subject," Teck continued. "A few believe what the Bible says about a world-wide Flood but are not too bothered on the details. A larger number say that the Flood was local, not world-wide, hoping to avoid certain technical problems. Yet others think that it does not matter whether there was a Flood or not as long as they trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour."

"It sounds rather spiritual to say Christ is all that matters when we have difficulty understanding the Bible," commented Michael, "but I fear that it tends to make us lazy. Take the bodily resurrection of Christ. That too is difficult to accept or preach without explanation and understanding. We should take the same trouble with the Biblical teaching on the Flood."

"The Flood has to do with geology and not many Christians are knowledgeable about that," Teck volunteered.

"I accept that, Teck. On the other hand we who are not doctors read up on vaccines, vitamins and so on because of our health. But let’s get back to our subject."

"OK," Arjuna said, "first question. ‘Was the Flood confined to the area Noah and his family were staying, in what is now Iran? Or was it world-wide?’ "

"World-wide I would think. If you look at Genesis chapter seven, around verse nineteen you will find this to be so."

Michael pointed at this dashboard compartment from which Arjuna withdrew a Bible and, turning to the passage, read:

"And the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered… And 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." (Genesis 7:19-21)

"Note the emphasis on ‘all’ and ‘everywhere,’ " Michael said, "if it was only a local flood the description is ludicrously exaggerated."

Teck turned to a passage in the New Testament. "We know the Bible exaggerates sometimes. Listen to this. ‘Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth’. (Luke 2:1)

Now there are tribes and countries outside the jurisdiction of the Roman Empire. ‘All’ doesn’t always mean ‘all’ in the Bible."

"You are right up to a point," cautioned Michael, "What do you think ‘all’ means when Jesus said, ‘all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth’ (Matthew 28:18) and again, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations’. (Matthew 28:19) Surely the lesson is this - whatever ‘all’ means must be determined from the general and immediate context of the verse where the word is seen. Now in Genesis the Flood lasted 371 days, much too long for something local. In chapter nine there is a verse which says, ‘These were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was populated’. (Genesis 9:19)

The inference to be drawn is quite plain - the Flood destroyed the wicked world of Noah’s day. We also have the testimony of our Lord Himself. He said ‘And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall also be in the days of the Son of Man’. (Luke 17:26) Here he speaks of a day of universal and final judgment. He compares it quite naturally to the universal Flood in Noah’s time when men and women refused to enter the ark for safety. Jesus is implying that he is the ark of our salvation."

Passing the busy Orchard Road junction Michael decided to travel via Newton to Thomson Road.

"Look at all that water," Teck murmured, temporarily distracted from the discussion. Turning to his companions he asked, "Where did all the water to cover the earth come from? Rainwater could not have been sufficient?"

Arjuna replied, "I know, the water came from two sources - the sky and the reservoirs within the Earth’s crust which burst open". (Genesis 7:11, 8:2)

"Today we are still drawing water from these vast underground aquifers," Michael explained.

"What about the mountains? How can the waters cover all the high mountains, such as Everest which is 29,000 feet high?"

"A good point," replied Michael. "Remember that the face of the Earth has not always been the same. Mountains of the height of Everest might not have existed in Noah’s time, that is, in the early history of our world."

"Michael, you are only guessing that the Earth’s surface was relatively flat at that time," Teck said, "that’s because, some people will say, it suits your interpretation of the Bible."

"I don’t think so, Teck. Even by modern geological standards there are ‘young’ mountains, meaning that they rose recently, whatever that means. Everest and the whole Himalayan range are considered ‘young’. Now the Bible has something to say about the Earth’s geology in Psalm 104, verses 6-8."

Arjuna obliged by reading the passage.

"Thou didst cover the earth with the deep as with a garment;
The waters were standing above the mountains.
At Thy rebuke they fled
At the sound of Thy thunder they hurried away.
The mountains rose; the valley sank down
To the place which Thou didst establish for them

Michael continued, "A world-wide Flood, if it occurred, could have enough energy to lift mountains and form ocean basins, as the Psalm says. The energy comes from weight readjustments (isotasy) in the Earth’s mantle due to shifts in the position of massive amounts of water draining into the oceans. There is nothing unscientific about that. The unbeliever has his models of how mountains are built. The Christian has his Biblical data with which he constructs his model. Both models must compete to see which one agrees with reality and the established findings of science."

"Can I change the line of discussion? I have a Christian friend who found it unthinkable that Noah could have got all the animal into the ark in the seven days the Lord gave him for the job. (Genesis 7:4, 10) Think of all the animals in the Singapore Zoo, he said to me, and the much larger numbers of other kinds of animals not in our Zoo and you can see it was a mission impossible."

"Bear in mind, Arjuna, that Genesis tells us God made plants and animals ‘after their own kind’. (Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25) The true meaning of the word ‘kind’ is what we today understand by the word ‘family’. So God created the cat family, cattle family, dog family and, of course, the human family. They did not evolve into each other. They were created separately. In due time the various families produced many species by interbreeding between members of the family. For instance, today we have hundreds of species of dogs in the dog family. In Noah’s time there were not that many species for him to bring into the ark. Furthermore, he need not look after the enormous numbers of marine animals. The ark was never in danger of being over-crowded."

"Even so, how did he and a few helpers round them all up in seven days," Arjuna repeated.

"He didn’t have to," was Michael’s reply.

"What do you mean?" Arjuna responded with a quizzical look.

Michael directed him to two Bible verses.

"Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive… these went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah". (Genesis 6:20, 7:9)

"Say, that’s neat," Teck said, almost with relief, "Noah didn’t round them up. They came to him as God said they would. I didn’t pay attention to those verses before."

"Of course," he added thoughtfully. "The unbelievers will laugh at this. They will think it’s a bit of whimsy."

"They do that with everything they can’t understand," retorted Arjuna to comfort his friend.

"The basic thing is that they don’t believe what they read in the Bible. It’s an inbuilt bias," Michael put in gently.

After a pause he quipped, "Well - aren’t you going to ask me how many freezers full of meat Noah had to store to feed the animals and humans for a whole year?"

"Okay - how many freezers?" Arjuna tossed back.

"He didn’t have to," Michael remarked with a grin, "they were all plant-eaters, herbivores."

They looked up the passage which said, "And as for you take for yourself some of all the food which is edible and gather it to yourself, and it shall be food for you and for them". (Genesis 6:21, see also 1:29-30)

Turning off Upper Thomson Road they headed for Michael’s flat. The rain had stopped by the time they drew up to a parking lot.

"Mike," asked Arjuna as they stepped out, "only eight people who were in the ark survived - Noah, his three sons and the four wives. If all mankind came from those eight people as you said just now there must be some evidence in the folklore and traditions of all the nations of the world. Is there?"

"Indeed there are many Flood traditions in various cultures spread all over the world. Take the Chinese as an example. Their character for the word ‘boat’ is interesting."

Michael traced the Chinese word on the muddy window of his car.

"This old form of the word ‘boat’ has on its right hand side the two radicals and which together mean ‘eight mouths’, that is ‘eight people,’ the number that was in the ark-boat of which the Chinese considered themselves descendants."

Teck and Arjuna stared at the ideogram, deep in thought.

Michael looked up and waved to his wife Linda who was signaling that dinner was ready.