Was the flood of Noah a worldwide flood, or could it have been a local one? This is a common question in our day. Some geologists, as well as some Bible students, contend for a local rather than a widespread event. In part, they reason that so soon after creation, the populations of people and animals had not grown large enough for them to spread beyond the region of Mesopotamia where life began. Can we assume, however, that God did not populate the entire earth with animals from the start? Certainly the human race would have had to migrate from Mesopotamia where Adam and Eve, the father and mother of every living human being, resided. The animal kingdom, however, was comprised of a multitude of male and female pairs. Genesis 1:24-25 tells us of a portion of God’s creative activity on the sixth day of the creation week: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds.’ And it was so. So God made the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and the creatures that crawl on the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” This description of God’s creation of animal life parallels in many ways the account of His creation of plant life in verses 11-12, and we don’t think of plants as having been present on the earth only in areas in and near the Garden of Eden.
The verses that describe the nature of the flood itself give us even more compelling reasons to believe the flood was global and not local. Genesis 7:17-21 strongly make the case for a worldwide catastrophe: “The flood continued for 40 days on the earth; the waters increased and lifted up the ark so that it rose above the earth. The waters surged and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. Then the waters surged even higher on the earth, and all the high mountains under the whole sky were covered. The mountains were covered as the waters surged above them more than 20 feet. Every creature perished—those that crawl on the earth, birds, livestock, wildlife, and those that swarm on the earth, as well as all mankind. Everything with the breath of the spirit of life in its nostrils—everything on dry land died. He wiped out every living thing that was on the surface of the ground, from mankind to livestock, to creatures that crawl, to the birds of the sky, and they were wiped off the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. And the waters surged on the earth 150 days” (vv. 17-21). Other statements in the Genesis account of the flood also tend to support a worldwide event. These include Genesis 6:13,17; 7:11.
Some secular scientists contend that geological diversity—the wide variety of land formations we see worldwide—can be accounted for only over time, by many millions of years of gradual change. Yet the mighty forces of the apparently global deluge described in Genesis actually are quite consistent with the geological evidence we see today. Widespread, powerful upheaval over a short period of time is a more reasonable—and, yes, even a more scientific—explanation for geological diversity than are gradual, gentle influences, even if these were exerted on the earth over millions or even billions of years.