What Was the World Like Before the Flood?
By Matthew Castro
A month ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Ark Encounter with my family during Fall Break. If you are unfamiliar with the Ark Encounter, it is a real life replica of Noah’s Ark, and located outside Cincinnati in Northeast Kentucky. I would be lying if I told you I was full of anticipation. I assumed that it would be a lazy attempt at using a well known Biblical story to build a Christian theme park for Disney boycotters.
We arrived at the Ark Encounter, and walked down a path to the Ark, which is massive and impressive to behold. I learned it is the largest entirely wood construction in the world today. The path to the Ark had several ancient Mesopotamian designed tablets that illustrated different portions of the Genesis story. I was surprised by the Biblical thoughtfulness that was used in the tablets.
After carefully reading each tablet along the path, we slowly walked due to our dumbfounded amazement at the size of the Ark. We eventually walked inside the full replica of Noah’s creation. We viewed the different cage replicas that demonstrated potentially how different size animals were kept during the flood. The amount of thoughtfulness and details used inside the Ark was unexpected.
One of my favorite elements to the Ark Encounter was the displays and information about the historical period from the creation to the Flood. We call this period of human history the Antediluvian period. We only have six chapters in the Bible that address this period, which are Genesis 1-6. The people of the Ark Encounter used the limited data in Genesis to constructed an interesting theory about this period. In this article, I will outline what the Pre-Flood world may have looked like, and put in proper historical context the devastation of God’s judgement on the world through the Flood.
The Antediluvian period or the period from the creation of the world to the global flood is demonstrated in the Bible in Genesis 1-6. We know that God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh day. He created man and woman in his image on the sixth day. The account by Moses of the period becomes more specific when we are given the names, geography, and actions of the first person in history. God names the man, Adam, and places him in a garden formed by God called Eden, which is in the east. Moses provides some more geographical clues to Eden, as a garden surrounded by four rivers. The first is the Pishon, which is connected to the land of Havilah. The second river is Gihon, which flowed around the whole land of Cush. The third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates. Therefore, we can deduce a guess to the general area of Eden, which may have be around modern day Iraq and Iran.
Adam was tasked with naming the animals, and then God created the woman from the rib of Adam. She was then given the name Eve by Adam. Adam and Eve were the first generation of humans on the earth. They were exiled from Eden due to their failure to keep God’s singular law, which was to refrain from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were deceived by Satan, who took the form of a serpent at the time of the deception, and humanity was removed from the presence of God, their creator. Sin and death entered the world, after the sin of the first generation.
Adam and Eve migrated east from Eden, and had a son named Cain. Eve then gave birth to another son, who was named Abel. Due to Adam’s sin, he was now forced to difficult labor on the land for food. Adam begin cultivating the land, and shepherding herds. Cain, Adam’s first born, was a worker of the ground, and Abel was a keeper of sheep. Therefore, we begin to see farming and agricultural practices be established early in the Antediluvian period.
However, we also see the negative attributes of the world early in this period. Cain, out of jealousy of God’s acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice, murdered his brother. The world quickly began to be impacted negatively by Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. This theme of wickedness and violence in the world becomes the crux of the Flood story. Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters (Gen. 5:4). They had another son named Seth.
Adam and Eve most likely built a community with their many offspring, where they cultivated the land and herded sheep. Adam lived from 930 years, which provided the opportunity for a large family of both sons and daughters to populate their family settlement. Each of their children had the equal opportunity to also have many sons and daughters as well. Seth, Adam’s heir, also had other sons and daughters, and he lived for 912 years.
How Large was the Population?
Moses included 10 generations between Adam and Noah. The first nine are all described as having others sons and daughters, while living long lives. Enoch and Lamech are the only two that lived less than 895 years. With long lifespans and the opportunity for large amounts of children born to each set of parents, large population settlements could have been built during this time.
Cain was then forced to migrate east of Eden away from his family, after he married one of his sisters and had a son named Enoch. Cain built another settlement, and named it Enoch (Gen. 4:17). Moses outlines the generations from Cain starting in Genesis 4:17. Moses includes 7 generations. While the details that are included with Adam’s descendants are omitted with Cain’s descendants, we can assume that Cain’s descendants also lived similar lifespans and had many sons and daughters as well, since they were living near each other and experienced similar environmental conditions.
Based on the information provided above, we may be able to calculate a larger population on the earth before the Flood than previously thought. We can approximate based on the genealogies from Genesis that the period between creation to the Flood was 1,656 years. During that time if the growth rate was the same as in 2000, which was .012, then there would have been around 750 million people on earth during the Antediluvian period. However, due to extremely long lifespans prior to the Flood, it is more likely than that the the growth rate was much higher. If the rate was closer to .013 than the population would have been closer to four billion at the Flood.
How Technologically Advanced were They?
Moses in his explanation of Cain’s genealogy provided some interesting clues to the technology used during the Antediluvian period. In Genesis 4:20, Lamech had two wives. One was named Adah, who had a son named Jabal, who is the founder of living in tents and raising cattle. Jabal began the industry of fabricating material from nature to build homes, which may have included utilizing animal skin. Adah had another son, who was named Jubal. He created musical instruments like the lyre and pipe. Lamech’s other wife, Zillah, had a son named Tubal-cain. He made all instruments of bronze and iron. By the eighth generation, the world was able to forge metal tools and other instrumentals that we use today.
The early period of human history may have been far more advanced technologically than we may have previously assumed. For centuries before Noah, the world was able to forge metal tools, that would have allowed them to build buildings, ships, farming equipment, weapons, and all sorts of inventions. Another clue that would have allowed the early humans before the Flood to advance quite quickly is the ease of communication due to a one language world. Moses recorded in Genesis 10 that God confused the human community with multiple languages, and then dispersed them from one another. Before the Tower of Babel, people spoke one language, which allowed them to work more effectively with one another. Currently, we have progressive technologically quite quickly over the past few years. However, how far more advanced would the world be today if everyone thought and spoke in the same language?
Judgment of God on the Whole World
Before Noah and his family, the world was probably around 4 billion people with large metropolises with metal tools and music. Jesus even told us in Luke 17 about Noah’s day, “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” They lived similar lives as you and I today. However, what is also true then as today, is the sinfulness of the world.
Moses recorded that Seth and his family began to call upon the name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26). Enoch, the son of Jared, was taken to heaven by God, because he was faithful to God (Gen. 5:24). During the days of Noah, we learn that the wickedness of man was great in the earth (Gen. 6:5). We can assume from Cain’s murder of his brother Abel that the world was filled with similar violent intentions. Metal weapons would have been forged during the time to wage war on others as the human heart is filled with jealousy and envy like Cain.
Some form of idol worship should be assumed as well since many did not call out to God like Seth, Enoch, and then Noah. We are told in Gen. 6:5, “. . . and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” They followed the way of the serpent like Cain, and lived in opposition to God. They became children of the serpent. Noah is the only one left on the earth that knows and follows God. (Gen. 6:9).
Even though Adam lived more than half of the Antediluvian period, knowledge of God the Creator was sparse by the time of Noah. It is heartbreaking that a population of 4 billion potentially, and only one family walked with God. The human heart is easily led to wickedness and abandonment of God.
God declared to Noah that he was going to judge humanity with a global flood (Gen. 6:17), because they were corrupt in every way. God was going to show grace on Noah and his family alone. God informed Noah to build an ark that would be able to store Noah’s family and two of every kind of life breathing animal. The rest of the world was left to be judged by God.
We have to consider this judgement by God in context. This is not Sodom and Gomorrah, the Canaanite invasion, or another isolated judgement of God. God destroys 4 billion people and 1,600 years of architecture, arts, and technology with one flood. God said to Moses, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6:13). God did what he promised. He used flood waters to wipe clean the world’s corruption. Noah and his family alone were redeemed from the wrath of God on sin.
Every piece of evidence of that civilization was erased. The many potteries and tools were lost. The only thing that remains is God’s account of the Antediluvian period which is included in Genesis 1-6.
Judgment of God on Christ Jesus
The story of the Flood properly manifests God’s holy hatred of sin. The Flood is a major demonstration of the consequences of sin. The cross of Christ is the other major demonstration of God’s wrath. God’s wrath like the flood waters was poured out on Christ Jesus, His beloved son, on the cross. Even though Jesus was more righteous than Noah, he was not saved from God’s wrath, because Jesus willingly embraced God’s will to bruise him to save corrupt humanity.
While the Ark was not constructed to save the righteous in the crucifixion story, Christ Jesus became the vessel of grace not for the righteous but for the guilty. In Christ Jesus, sinners may be rescued from the wrath to come. He is the true and better Ark.
Judgment to Come on the World
While God promised with the rainbow never to judgment the world again with a flood of water, another global judgment is drawing near. The world dismisses the global flood as no more than a child’s tale of a big boat with cute animals. The judgment of God is tamed by the world as the inappropriate emotions of a evil fictional god for ignorant fools. However, the God, who created the world and everything in it including humanity, is holy and undefiled. Humanity is rotten to the core. Everyone in the world deserves the full wrath of God, which was put on full display with the flood.
When you consider the historical reality that God judged the entire world during the Antediluvian period, then the possibility of another judgment on the whole world full of people and cities and technologies becomes more real. John wrote in Revelation 19:15, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to stoke down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” All flesh will be slain. All with be judged again. Civilizations with people, architecture, arts, and technologies will be destroyed once again. The only way of escape is not a great boat, but the God-man, Jesus Christ. By faith in Christ Jesus alone will you escape the wrath to come.