I don’t think it’s possible to believe in the God of Abraham, and not have wondered what the world was like before the flood spoken of in Genesis. This event is such an important tenant of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions that it is not possible to be member of any of these faiths without accepting the Genesis flood as fact, even if the scientific evidence for worldwide disaster of the magnitude suggested by the flood stories is scientifically debatable.
That aside, the very prospect of a world so corrupt and evil that God found it necessary to wipe out mankind and everything that he had touched is almost unimaginable. What was this world like before the flood? It most certainly was not a perfect world in any sense, yet when imagining it we often idealize a perfect tropical paradise with an abundance of food and plenty.
As Christians however, we cannot allow ourselves to romanticize a world so objectionable to God that it had to be destroyed. We also need to understand that it was not Man that made it so as is most often touted by theologians. The stories in the Book of Jubilees, a parallel text to Genesis, tells us it was the offspring of the “Watchers,” called, Nephilim, that made the world so violent that it needed to be destroyed or man would cease to exist long before our journey of discovery of the knowledge of evil was complete.
So what went wrong with the Old World? The Book of Jubilees gives us some insight into this question. It seems the world had been invaded by disobedient angles called Watchers and overrun by their offspring called Nephilim, and the destruction had more to do with this than it did with man’s so called fall from grace. I question if it was even a fall at all, rather than just a choice we made to pursue a course of discovery that was always available to us, even if God warned us against taking this journey.
Regardless, man’s quest for knowledge of evil certainly made us easy prey to these disobedient “Sons of God.” It appears that these offspring of the Watchers became so blood thirsty and violent, that no human would have escaped death at their hands if God had not interfered and wiped them out. Why was it necessary to destroy the entire world, I don’t know, but I believe God saw it as the only way to completely rid the earth of these unholy offspring.
What do we know of the Earth and society before the flood? Actually, very little by way of direct knowledge and even what we think we know comes to us from millennia of oral traditions before it was ever written down in clay or ink. These stories were passed down through oral traditions for more than 2500 years before the very first accounts of Genesis were actually recorded in writing. There are many older versions of the flood written around 2600 B.C. such as the Gilgamesh Epic, and some Ancient Chinese folklore and other stories from just about every culture around the world, but those were written with a different intent than Genesis and are even shorter than the story in Genesis, so none of them tell the story as completely as Genesis does.
The Book of Jubilees and The Book of Enoch, even with their late dates, give much more detail regarding what ancient Hebrews believed it was like to live in a world before the destruction came. From a Christian perspective, however, the book of Genesis only gives a brief outline of what happened and why the earth was destroyed: 1600 years of history reduced to about 4300 words, but the next few chapters in this book will explain what Genesis does have to say and also try to dispel some of the very bad theology that is sometimes taught in regard to this ancient period of our history.
Did it Ever Rain before the Flood?
Many scholars have stated, purely on speculation, that before the flood, it had never rained on the Earth. There is almost no evidence to support this supposition and I personally have a hard time believing that it had never rained before the flood. This is what the Bible does say. God told Noah: “I am going to bring floodwaters on the Earth to destroy all life under the heavens, and every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on Earth will perish.” Genesis 6:17 (NIV)
No place does it say that it had never rained. Where this idea comes from is a much earlier passage in Genesis: “This is the account of the heavens and the Earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the Earth and the heavens - and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the Earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the Earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the Earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.” Genesis 2:4-6 (NIV)
The assumption by many scholars is that after this, God never sent rain even up to the time of the flood because the earth was watered by waters that came up from the ground because the water table was very shallow, so rain was not necessary. Some scholars even try to link it with the four rivers mentioned in Genesis 2:10-15 to suggest that these four rivers watered the whole earth. Once again, here’s what the Bible says regarding the four rivers: “Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria and the fourth river is the Euphrates. Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Genesis 2: 10-15 (NAS).
So let’s look at this passage in detail to examine what it actually says. What Genesis 2:4-7 says is that God had not “YET” sent rain. This passage is a referring to a time during the creation, before there were plants on the earth and before man had been created. It says that there were waters that spring up out of the ground that watered the Earth. The Bible is not specific about whether or not God ever sent rain,
I believe that long before man was created and most certainly after God created man, and especially after He sent them out of the garden to work the land, He would have caused it to rain so they could produce fruits and grains to live on. It is inconceivable to think that every plant on the earth, before the flood, was watered and sustained by underground springs alone. The theory that it had never rained prior to the flood is pure speculation. There is no scriptural evidence to back it up. It is simply a misunderstanding that comes from taking Genesis 2:5 out of context and trying to create theology that is not supported by the text.
Genesis is the story of the creation and told in the simplest and most basic way possible. For anyone to make it their life’s work to prove every detail of Genesis is a scientific fact is not only unnecessary, I believe it is unbiblical. You may recall that Jesus taught almost exclusively using parables and metaphors, so why would we expect Genesis to be anything but a very well-crafted story to explain creation in the simplest of terms to a people who only understood simple things. I am also a fiction writer but my fiction works are designed to spark the reader’s interest and to use story to get a point across to the reader.
Dogmatism and speculation that asserts to be truth are the two greatest enemies for the Church today. Trying to turn these stories into scientific facts only serves to divide believers into camps so we can spend our time arguing with one another rather than pooling our resources to carry out the Lord’s work. How the Deceiver must laugh every time he bates us into a public discourse over such silly matters as, “Did it ever rain before the flood?” We cannot conclude with any certainty that it either did or did not rain before the flood, and anyone who says they can prove it with Biblical passage is only fooling themselves and trying to fool you as well.
Civilization before the Flood
The Book of Genesis gives us very few clues regarding the civilization that existed prior to the Noachian destruction. What little it does give us however, is just enough to spur the imagination to concoct all kinds of elaborate scenarios, schemes, and mythologies regarding those times and places. My fiction books on the topic are no exception to this. In this context however, I am determined to not let my imagination carry me off into a faraway fantasy land, but rather to discuss the actual text and what we can consider as “Biblical”. I will also discuss some of the mythology that has been taught for generations, often presenting the information as fact, but is merely fiction in disguise.
The first fact that we know about civilization before the flood is that there was a city in the land of Nod called Enoch. This city was built by Cain and named after his son. In order to thoroughly separate fact from fiction, let’s look at exactly what the Bible has to say about this city.
“So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.” Genesis 4:16-17 (NIV)
“Wait just a second,” you say, “is that it? Surely there must be more. I mean, I’ve been told all kinds of things about Cain and his sons so this can’t possibly be all the Bible has to say about them.”
Well you’re right, there is more about Cain’s descendants in the verses that follow this one, but as far as Cain and his city, it ends here. This is absolutely all we know about Cain after he left his father. There is not another word in the Bible about any accomplishment or deed done by Cain directly after verse 17. These forty-eight words are all we have. Now this is not to say there have not been volumes of mythology that have come down through the ages regarding Cain, but actual Biblical text is virtually nonexistent. But what does this text tell us about Cain.
For one, it tells us that Cain had a wife and he was a builder, and since this is the first mention anywhere in the Bible about cities, we can probably surmise it was the first city built. There is no mention whatsoever about Adam or Seth or anyone in Eden ever building a city. That is not to say they didn’t, but there is no Biblical evidence to suggest that they did.
Second, we can assume from this passage, that at the time Cain built this city, there must have been a large number of people living in the land of Nod. How many, we have no way of knowing, but when you see at my population chart in an article below, you will see how quickly the population would have grown in the pre-flood world.
What we do not know is how much time elapsed after Cain left Adam before he built his city. We do not know how old he was, nor do we know to what age Cain died, although some mythology in the Book of Jubilees tells us that Cain dies the same day the Adam dies when his house collapsed on his head, but that is just mythology.
We also have no idea how long any of Cain’s decedents lived as their ages are never given; either their age at the birth of the next son mentioned in the genealogic line, or their age at death. There is a great difference between what we know of Seth’s line verses Cain’s. We may be able to make a close guess based on what know from the line of Seth, that the length of life for Cain and his descendants were comparable to those of the descendants of Seth, but it would only be a guess and not biblical. We simply have no facts to go on here. So I will move on to my next topic.
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