The Waters Cover the Earth
May 12th, 1957 @ 8:15 AM
THE WATERS COVER THE EARTH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-12-57 8:15 a.m.
You’re sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the early morning church hour, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Waters Cover the Earth. Last Sunday morning, at this hour, we spoke of the judgment of God in the flood. This morning, we are to speak of the flood itself.
Now, if you have your Bible, turn to the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, and we’re going to follow the story briefly through the flood. In the fourth chapter of Genesis is the story of the seed of Cain. Cain worshiped God in self-righteousness. Cain was envious of his brother Abel who was acceptable unto God, and, in that envy, he slew his own brother – the first one to pour out human blood on the ground [Genesis 4:1-8]. Instead of repenting and seeking the mercy and grace of God, Cain despises the mercies of heaven and goes out from the presence of the Lord [Genesis 4:9-16].
And it is the seed of Cain that builds civilization. In the seventeenth verse, he builds the first city [Genesis 4:17]. In the twenty-first, twenty-second verses, his progeny are they who invent all kinds of instruments of amusement and of building whereby they can make this evil world a better place for themselves but not a place better for God [Genesis 4:21-22]. They are building a civilization without God, and it concludes with the story of Lamech, polygamist Lamech [Genesis 4:19], with his blood-thirsty song after he has slain a man [Genesis 4:23]. So we have in this earth a seed of Cain, the progeny of Cain – men who do not honor God.
Now the fifth chapter, the next chapter of Genesis, is the story of the godly seed of Seth. After the murder of Abel, God raises up Seth to take Abel’s part and place [Genesis 4:25]. And so, in the fifth of Genesis, you have the story of the seed of Seth – those who love and honor God. In the twenty-second verse is named Enoch who walked with God [Genesis 5:22], and, in the twenty-fourth verse, you have his translation: "Enoch walked with God . . . and he walked with God . . . " [from Genesis 5:22-24]. And as one of the children said: "And the evening time came, and God said to Enoch, ‘Enoch we are nearer My home than yours, you just come home with Me.’" So God took him, and Enoch was translated that he should not see death [Genesis 5:24].
Then, in the twenty-ninth verse, you have the birth of Noah whose name means "comfort" [Genesis 5:29]. In the terrible and violent times that have now descended upon this earth, there was born into this righteous family of Lamech another Lamech, a son named Noah, saying: "This same shall comfort us in these terrible times" [from Genesis 5:29].
Now, the sixth chapter of Genesis is one of the blackest and darkest and starkest of all of the chapters in the Bible. It came about through the intermarriage of the children of God with the children of Cain [Genesis 6:1-2, 4]. Intermarriage with evil is always productive of darkness and of compromise and of judgment. In one of the earnest admonitions of last Sunday morning, we said to our young people, "When you marry to reform someone, you are opening yourself to some of the deepest heartache you could ever experience in life. If a boy is not reformed before a girl marries him, he will certainly not be reformed after the marriage."
The intermarriage of God’s children with the seed of Cain brought progeny into this earth that filled it with violence and iniquity – so much so, that in all of this earth there was just one righteous man and his family [Genesis 6:5-12]. The children of God, as they intermingled and intermarried with the children of Cain, lost their witness. They lost their testimony, and the cause and love of God died in this earth except for one righteous family – just one.
Then you have this dark judgment of God upon the earth. "And God said unto Noah," Genesis 6:13, "the end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth." And the judgment of God is pronounced. But it says in the eighth verse here: "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" [Genesis 6:8]. As the Lord God looked over the earth, He found that one righteous family, and the Lord said: "For his sake, I will spare him and his family."
So He tells Noah, in the fourteenth and the fifteenth verses, to make an ark of a certain dimension, of a certain kind, in a certain way [Genesis 6:14-16]. And to this day, the dimensions of that ark are a wonder to read and to behold. All of the ships of the ancient world were made on an altogether different pattern. It is only in these modern and recent times that these great ships are made along the pattern that God gave to Noah for the ark.
So Noah is commanded to make an ark of hope, and of safety, and of salvation, and of deliverance which ark is a type of our salvation in Christ. In the great and final and ultimate judgment of this world, we have a hope in Jesus [John 14:6]. It had one door [Genesis 6:16], and Noah, and the animals, and the families, and Noah’s children all went into that one door into the ark.
Now, in the seventh chapter, you have the story of the flood. In Genesis 7:4, it rained for the first time. When Noah, for 120 years, warned of this impending judgment, it was a joke. It was a matter of scorn and ridicule building that ark miles and miles from water to float it. It was a standing gibe. It was a stock joke repeated on every hand. They’d never seen it rain! "The earth was watered," the Bible says, "by the mist that arose and watered the face of the earth" [Genesis 2:6]. They’d never seen it rain.
In the fourth verse of the seventh chapter of Genesis: "It rained upon the earth" [from Genesis 7:4]. Then something else far more terrible in the eleventh verse of the seventh of Genesis: "That same day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were open" [Genesis 7:11]. God opened the windows of heaven, and it rained. And God broke up the great fountains of the deep. He laid back the gates of the seas and the oceans, and the waters flooded this earth from the vast seas which poured out of their basins. And the Lord opened the windows of heaven and the waters fell from the sky [Genesis 7:12]. Oh, what a terrible, terrible judgment!
Then, in the eighth chapter, you have the story of Noah waiting upon God [Genesis 8:1-16]: God, the great Pilot of the ship, waiting a year, then sending out the raven, then sending out the dove, and the dove again, then, finally, the dove again which didn’t return. Then, at the end of a year of waiting, God calls Noah to come forth [Genesis 8:16]. And in the twentieth verse of the eighth chapter, you have the first altar that is built in the earth [Genesis 8:20]. And there, Noah offered unto God a sacrificing. And then in the ninth, you have the Noahic covenant that God makes with Noah and his children [Genesis 9:8-17].
Now, this is the brief summary of the story of the flood. There are two questions about it. One we shall answer very briefly; the other we shall answer in the remaining time of this morning message.
First, how much of this earth was covered by the flood? In the seventeenth verse of the sixth chapter of Genesis, God says, Genesis 6:17: "Behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon ha‘erets, to destroy all flesh . . . and every thing that is in the earth shall die."
Now, how shall we translate that word erets? Well, we can look at it briefly. Turn to Genesis 12:1 and you will find that word used twice in Genesis 12:1: "Now, the Lord had said unto Abram, ‘Get thee out of thy erets, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a erets that I will show thee."
Now, the erets there, "get thee out from thy erets," that erets refers to the country of Chaldea. "Unto a erets that I will show thee" – that erets refers to Canaan. So that Hebrew word erets there in the twelfth chapter of Genesis in the first verse refers to "a country." It refers to "a district."
Now, turn over here to Genesis 41:41, and you’ll have the same word translated "land." In Genesis 41:41: "And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, ‘See, I have set thee over all the erets of Egypt.’"
Now, one of the commonest words in the Hebrew Old Testament is that word erets translated "earth," translated "district," translated "country," translated "land." So in the seventeenth verse of the sixth chapter of Genesis, when it says: "Behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the erets . . . " it could mean God covered this entire world with water which is what I think He did – and you’re going to see that in a minute why I think so – or it could mean that He covered just a certain district.
Now, I cannot tell for certain. I do not think any man knows for sure. All the Bible avows is this – now, in the seventeenth verse [Genesis 6:17] it says it, then it’ll repeat it again in the seventh and the twenty-first verse. Now, all the Bible avows is this: God says, "Even I bring a flood of waters upon the erets." Now, the Bible says, "to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life . . . and every thing that is in the erets" – there it is again – "shall die" [Genesis 6:17].
Now look at 7:21:
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, of fowl, of cattle, of beast, of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:
All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
Now the Bible is very specific about that.
I wonder: are there not a lot of you here who were old enough to follow the Scopes Trial in Dayton, [Tennessee] , when for days, and days, and days, Clarence Darrow [1857-1938] had William Jennings Bryan [1860-1925] on the witness stand, and the thing finally turned into an interrogation about the authenticity and reliability of the Bible itself? Now, do you remember that?
One of the things that happened that I remembered in that trial was this. Clarence Darrow, having William Jennings Bryan on the witness stand, began to probe him about Bryan’s belief in the Bible. Then he got into this flood. And after a long and circuitous thing, he had prepared the stage for the cracking of a whip. And his ultimate question was, leading up to one other: "Mr. Bryan, do you believe that everything died, drowned, perished in the flood?"
And Mr. Bryan replied, "Yes."
Then Clarence Darrow, laughing, asked – ridiculously asked, "Then you believe the fish also drowned. You believe the fish also died!"
Well, the Bible very specifically designates what perished. The Bible says that all of mankind perished except righteous Noah and his family [Genesis 7:23]. And the Bible says that all the animals of the land and of the air died [Genesis 7:21-22] – says that.
Now, that leads me up to my second question of which I’m going to do my best to answer this morning. Was there such a thing as this, or is this a nursery tale?
The most effective weapon in the world is ridicule, and wherever men seek to undermine the faith, especially of young people, they ridicule the Bible. And one of the shafts of their ridicule will always be aimed at the story of Noah and the Ark. It’s funny to them. It’s a nursery tale to them. It’s a product of somebody’s wild imagination. So we’re going to ask the question this morning, "Was there such a thing as a flood that covered this earth? Was there?" All right, we’re going to answer that.
First, if there was such a cataclysmic, terrific thing as that – first, you would find it in the record of the earth itself. Such a vast change in the whole surface of this earth could not but leave an indelible imprint in the very earth itself. So let’s dig down in the earth and let’s see for ourselves. Is there a record in the earth of such a thing as the flood?
You listen to me. One-time professor George Frederick Wright [1838-1921] of Oberlin University wrote an article for the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. And the last sentence in that article is this: "If we disbelieve in the Bible deluge, it is not because we know too much geology, but too little." Well, what was this professor talking about? I’ll read it to you.
In these recent years, Mr. C. Leonard Woolley [Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, 1880-1960], director of the joint expedition of the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania, were sent down into Chaldea to dig down into Ur of Chaldea. And they have written books of their discoveries of that ancient Mesopotamian land. Now, I’m going to quote out of the book written by Mr. Woolley who directed that geological expedition: "The shafts" – now they’re digging down in Ur of Chaldea. You listen to this. This is one of the finest things you’ll ever discover:
The shafts went deeper and suddenly the character of the soil changed. Instead of the stratified pottery and rubbish, we were in perfectly clean clay, uniform throughout, the texture of which showed that it had been laid there by water . . . The clean clay continued without change . . . until it had attained a thickness of a little over eight feet –
eight feet –
Then, as suddenly as it had began, it stopped, and we were once more in layers of rubbish full of stone implements, flint cores from which the implements had been flicked off, and pottery –
and other things.
The great bed of clay marked . . . a break in the continuity of history: above it, we had the pure Sumerian civilization slowly developing on its own lines; below it there was a mixed culture . . . Inundations are of normal occurrence in lower Mesopotamia, but no ordinary rising of the rivers would leave behind anything approaching the bulk of that clay deposit: eight feet –
and that after the centuries had pressed it together down in the ground –
Eight feet of sediment imply a very great depth of water, and the flood which deposited it must have been of a magnitude unparalleled in history . . .
Taking into consideration all the facts, there could be no doubt that the flood of which we had thus found the only possible evidence was the Flood of Sumerian history and legend, the Flood on which is based the story of Noah.
[Ur of the Chaldees: A Record of Seven Years of Excavation, by Sir Leonard Woolley, 1929, reprinted with revisions 1950, 1952]
Brother, that’s geology – just digging down: a solid clay deposit, an alluvial deposit, eight feet thick; above it, all of the evidences of civilization; below it, all the evidences of civilization like the ash heap on the outside of the city; but between the two, eight feet of alluvial deposit. What a flood! What a vast covering of water to deposit such sediment as that.
Well, my, we haven’t got time to get into this thing. In my reading, I was amazed at the things that I found. These geological things, I was amazed at it. For example, in my studying, I came across a distinguished geologist by the name of Sir Henry Howorth [Sir Henry Hoyle Howorth, 1842-1923], and he has written three tremendous books upon the flood. And the thesis of this great geologist is this: He says that these great continental land changes that we have attributed to other things such as glacial ice – he says glacial sheets of ice, continental sheets of ice, are absolutely unable to bring to pass the great changes that are attributed to them. And he says that those great continental changes that we find written in the rocks of these five continents, he says, that they were brought about by this terrible, universal flood. Now, I quote from him in order that you can see what he means. Now, you listen to this great geologist:
Presently came a tremendous catastrophe, the cause of which . . . was the rapid and perhaps sudden upheaval of some of the largest mountain chains in the world, accompanied probably by great subsidences of land elsewhere. The breaking up of the earth’s crust at this time, of which the evidence seems to be overwhelming, necessarily caused great waves of translation to traverse wide continental areas . . . and these waves of translation as necessarily drowned the great beasts and their companions, including paleolithic man, and covered them with mantels of loam, clay, gravel and sand, as we find them drowned and covered. They also necessarily took up the great blocks which the glaciers had fashioned, and transported them to a certain distance and distributed them and the drift associated with them, as we find them distributed.
[The Glacial Nightmare and the Flood, by Sir Henry H. Howorth, 1893]
This great geologist says as the waters covered the earth, it lifted up those great glaciers, those great continental ice sheets, and floated them to the places where we find their deposits. And he says, outside of that, there’s not any explanation for the unusual glacial activity that we find recorded in the rocks. This man here is saying there’s no other explanation except that at one time this world was catastrophically destroyed and covered by the breaking up of the fountains of the deep and by the covering of this earth with water.
Well, in my reading I came across another great geologist. His name is Sir William Dawson [Sir John William Dawson, 1820-1899]. And in a letter that was read before the Victorian Institute in London, he said, and I quote:
As you are aware, I have for years, on geological and paleontological grounds, maintained the existence of a physical break between the earlier and later portions of the Anthropic Age –
the Age of Man –
and that this was of the nature of a temporary submergence which would probably prove to be identical with the historical deluge. The conviction of the truth of this theory has been growing upon me in recent years owing to the accumulation of new facts.
Brother, it’s not just the Book. I have said several times, especially lately, a thing is true not just because it’s in the Book. Because it’s true, it’s in the Book. And that’s always true. This thing happened! This thing happened just that way, and that thing was written down in God’s Book because it happened.
And as the New Testament would say: "These things are written for our ensamples," for our examples, "upon whom the ends of the world have come" [1 Corinthians 10:11]. You don’t have to just look in the Book. There in the record of the earth, you’ll find that story of the great and awful flood which came as a judgment of God.
Now, oh, in a few minutes that remain, may I say a whole host of the other things? I have just said that if this thing happened, so tremendous a thing would be recorded in the rocks, in the earth itself. Another thing, if a thing like that happened, it would be embedded in the memory of mankind. So tremendous and terrible and awful a judgment would linger in the memory of the race as long as men told their children the story of a yesterday. All right, do you find that? You surely do!
That terrible and awful judgment of the flood made an indelible impression in the memory of the race that thousands and thousands of years and of generations were not able to erase. In all of the five continents – in Indonesia, in the South Pacific, in Asia, in Eurasia, in North and South America, wherever mankind is – there you will find the legend and the tradition repeated throughout the generations of the story of this judgment of Almighty God.
Over there in China, they have the story of Fu Xi who they say founded their civilization. It is dated something like 4,000 BC. And this man escaped and he alone with his wife, three sons, and three daughters. And from him, mankind began to populate the earth. When you go to India, in the Hindu faith, there in those Datakims, 1,000 BC, you have that story again.
When you come over to Mesopotamia, there in those what they call the deluge tablets of Babylonian civilization – there you have the crude, polytheistic story just about like you will read it in the Book of Genesis. Those tablets were unearthed in 1866 by George Smith [1840-1876]. You can read them for yourself – written 2,000 years BC.
Then, when you come into the Greek classical periods, one of their greatest poets was Hesiod who lived in the eighth century BC. He tells the story, the wickedness of the earth, and Zeus dooms it to destruction. But Deucalion finds grace because he was righteous. He’s instructed how to build an ark – a ship, a boat – to preserve his house, and Deucalion, his wife, three sons, and three daughters escape the judgment of the flood.
Everywhere that the human race went, that was repeated. And it’s universal: the memory, the indelible impression of that catastrophic day.
Now, I haven’t time to speak of other things. I have written down here for us a recent discovery by Dr. Langden [Stephen Herbert Langden, 1876-1937], Professor of Assyriology in Oxford University. Digging down there in Mesopotamia, they found a tablet on which is supposed to be inscribed all of the kings of Babylon from the beginning of creation up until the time it was written. And right in the midst of that tablet is the break in the civilization, and it starts all over again from heaven. And it speaks of that break: "The deluge came up . . . " Isn’t that what the Bible says? "The fountains of the deep were broken up" [Genesis 7:11].
I mention just one other. Here in the New Testament, the inspired Word of God, we have the corroborated testimony of Noah and the flood: "By faith Noah," Hebrews 11:7, "by faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." And then the corroborated testimony of our own Savior, Jesus Christ in Matthew 24::
But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
For as in the days (of Noah) that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark,
And knew not until the flood came, and took them away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
This is God’s Word. This is God’s testimony. And what you find written in the Book, you’ll find written in the rocks; you’ll find written in the heavens; you’ll find written in the memory of the human race. This is the Word of God – our admonition, our example as we read the page. When wickedness abounds and violence is in the earth, "look up for the day of your redemption draweth nigh" [from Luke 21:28].
Now, in the moment, while we sing this stanza of a song, somebody you, to give his heart in faith to Christ or to put his life in the fellowship of this blessed and precious church – by letter or by baptism or by statement, as God shall lead the way and open the door, would you come while we stand and while we sing?
THE WATERS COVER THE EARTH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Pre-flood events
1. Genesis 4 – Tragic story of Cain
2. Genesis 5 – Godly life of Seth
3. Genesis 6 – Intermarriage of believers and unbelievers
II. Testimony of Geology
1. C. Leonard Wooley – Mesopotamia clay layers
2. Sir William Dawson – break between early and later portions of anthropic age
III. Testimony of Tradition
1. Chinese, date a flood 4,000 years before Christ
2. Hindu legend
3. Chaldean deluge tablets
IV. Testimony of archaeology
V. Testimony of the New Testament – Hebrews 11:9; Matthew 24:37-39