The Science of the Bible: The Flood

Building the Ark. (Credit: James Tissot / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Excerpt from When God Speaks for Himself: The Words of God You’ll NEVER Hear in Church or Sunday School, by Mark Tier and George Forrai (Inverse Books, 2016). Reprinted with permission from Mark Tier.

From Chapter 4: Reason, Science and the Church

The Science of the Bible:

The Flood

Why a flood? Since God created man why not simply strike all the evil people dead? And since his rationale for the flood is that he “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth” [Genesis 6:5] why does he also decide to destroy every animal — and why does “it repenteth me that I have made them”? [Genesis 6:7]. No reason is given.

And if he “repenteth” at his creation of the animals, why then enlist Noah’s aid to save them?

Be that as it may, it’s worth examining the story of the flood in some detail — and the details provided in the Bible are unusually clear.

The cause of the flood: rain. “And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” [Genesis 7:12]; “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered” [Genesis 7:19].

So the entire world was covered with water — every patch of earth, no matter how high.

The results were predictable [Genesis 7:21-23]:

21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:

22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.

23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

That seems pretty straightforward…but Genesis 7:20 specifies exactly how deep the flood waters were:

20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

Considering that the highest point of the earth is the tip of Mount Everest, 8,848 meters, one cubit must be a pretty long measure.

Except it isn’t.

Like the foot, the cubit is a measurement based on the human body. If you bunch your fingers onto the tip of your thumb, the cubit is the distance from the tips of your fingers to your elbow.

Used as a unit of measurement in Babylon, Persia, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Arabia and elsewhere in the ancient world, cubits varied considerably in length, from 428.1 mm (16.85 inches) in the First Temple period of Israel to 650.2 mm (25.6 inches), the Arab cubit.[1]

Which means the 15-cubit depth of the flood was somewhere between 6.42 and 9.75 meters.

Whichever cubit you use, it’s way short of the 8,848 meter height of Mount Everest. Nor does it make much of a flood at the top of the somewhat closer Mount Sinai, 2,285 meters high.

Whichever way you look at it, God didn’t achieve his aim of destroying “All in whose nostrils was the breath of life.”

Excerpted from When God Speaks for Himself by Mark Tier and George Forrai. Copyright © Mark Tier and Pronto Express, 2010. All rights reserved.


Mark TierMark Tier, an Australian based in Hong Kong, started writing when he was 14 – and hasn’t stopped since. His first work, Understanding Inflation, was a bestseller in his native Australia in 1974. That was followed by The Nature of Market Cycles, How To Get A Second Passport, and The Winning Investment Habits of Warren Buffett & George Soros, which has been published in 3 English (New York, London, & Hong Kong) and 11 other-language editions. Once labelled “the Eclectic Investor” for his wide range of interests, he co-edited two science fiction anthologies which won a Prometheus Award in 2005, an analysis of Christianity, When God Speaks for Himself, and a political thriller, Trust Your Enemies. His website is

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