Did Everything Die in the Universal Flood?
The account in Gen 7:21-23 says that all flesh that moved on the earth, birds, cattle, beast, and every swarming thing that swarms, and all people perished in the universal flood. In other words, all in whose nostrils was the breath of life and all that was on the dry land, died. The Creator blotted out every living substance which was upon the face of the earth; only Noach and his family were left, and the living creatures that were with him in the ark.
The words of Gen 7:17, “and the flood was (came) on the earth for forty days” relate to the 40 days of rain by which the water was raised to 15 cubits upward (1 cubit is about the length of the arm from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow) and remained 150 days (Gen 7:24). But if the water covered “all the high mountains under the heavens”, this clearly indicates the universality of the flood, and the probability that something was left alive is zero. The statement, indeed, that the waters rose 15 cubits above the mountains for 150 days also indicates that all fowls did not survive either, since they could not have possibly found a place of rest. And the geological facts and the legends in all ancient cultures testify to the submersion of the entire globe under the waters of the flood. So, it looks like every living creature died in the universal flood, except for the eight human beings and the animals in the ark.
However, we need to note here what the account does and what it does not say. Gen 7:21-23 is very particular in the statement that all that were on the dry land died, but not the living creatures that were in the sea. As a matter of fact, all mammals and fish in the seas were not affected at all in the universal flood, only those on the dry land and those that were in the sky. After the flood the mankind and the nature were “re-started” with the eight humans and the living creatures that were kept alive in the ark. There is no indication that Noach fathered other children after the flood, therefore, the new generation that sprang from the sons of Noach, the three fathers of mankind were: Yaphet, Shem, and Cham.
How about the vegetation? Did all the vegetation perish in the flood? The plants that were in the seas and rivers did not die, as the sea creatures did not, but how about the vegetation on the dry land? Although the foliage was most definitely unable to survive a flood, the trees themselves were able to survive 150 days under water, as long as the root system was intact. But were the trees able to survive the universal flood that covered the whole earth? Below is an excerpt from the present author’s book The Reckoning of Time, Chapter, In the Beginning, concerning the chronology of the flood.
In year 1656 from Creation, Noach finished building the ark and in,
Day 17 of the eighth month, he entered the ark, and the rains began (Gen 7:11-13). (Rabbi Eliezer says: This refers to Marheshvan (the eighth month); Rabbi Joshua however says that this refers to Iyar (the second month). — [Seder Olam Rabbah, Ch. 4])
Day 27 of the ninth month: forty days of rain ended (Gen 7:17) and for 150 days the waters were mighty and greatly increased on the earth, during which the water reaches a height of fifteen cubits above the mountain peaks (Gen 7:18-24).
Day 1 of the third month, year 1657: and after 150 days, water calmed and began to subside (Gen 8:2-3).
Day 17 of the third month: and in sixteen days, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat on the 17th day of the seventh month from the commencement of the flood (Gen 8:4).
Day 1 of the fifth month: in 44 days, 1st of the tenth month of rain, the mountain peaks break the water’s surface (Gen 8:5). Rashi comments on Gen 8:5 thus:
This refers to Av, which is the tenth [month] from Marcheshvan, when the rain commenced. Now if you say that it refers to Elul, which is the tenth [month] from Kislev, when the rain stopped, just as you say: “in the seventh month,” refers to Sivan, which is the seventh [month] after the cessation [of the rain]; [I will tell you that] it is impossible to say this. You must admit [that] the seventh month can be counted only from the time that the rain stopped, because there did not end the forty days of the rains and the one hundred fifty days when the water gained strength, until the first of Sivan. And if you say that it refers to the seventh [month] from the [beginning of the] rain, it would not come out to be Sivan. The tenth [month] can be counted only from the time the rain commenced to fall, for if you say [that it is counted] from the time when the rain stopped, which is Elul, you would not understand (verse 13): “In the first [month], on the first [day] of the month, the waters dried up from upon the earth,” for at the end of the forty days, when the mountain peaks appeared, he sent forth the raven, and he waited twenty-one days with sending the dove, totaling sixty days from the time the mountain peaks appeared until the surface of the earth dried. And if you say that they appeared in Elul, it would mean that they dried up in Marcheshvan. Scripture, however, calls it the first [month] and that can refer only to Tishri, which is the first [month] from the creation of the world, and according to Rabbi Joshua, it is Nissan.
Day 10 of the sixth month: Noach waited forty days and opened the ark’s window and sent a raven from the ark to test the conditions in flooded world outside. (Gen 8:6-7)
Day 17 of the sixth month: in seven days, Noach sent a dove for the first time. The dove returned, finding no rest for her feet (Gen 8:8-9).
Day 23 of the sixth month: Noach waited another seven days and sent it a second time. The dove returned with an olive branch in the beak. (Gen 8:10-11)
Day 30 of the sixth month: and Noach waited another seven days and sent the dove for its third mission, but it did not return to the ark at all (Gen 8:12). Still Noach remained in the ark.
Day 1 of the seventh month: In 601st year (of Noach’s life), 1st day of 1st month of 1657 water completely drained and Noach removed the covering of the ark, but it took another 57 days for the surface of the earth to dry completely (Gen 8:13). (According to Rabbi Eliezer, it is Tishri, and according to Rabbi Joshua, it is Nissan — [from Rashi R.H. 12b]. Some 800 years later, this day would be known by the Israelites as Yom Teruah (Leviticus 23) and in our study that year will be proven to be the 33 Jubilee.
Day 27 of the eighth month: and on 27th day the ground fully dried and Noach exited the ark (Gen 8:14-16) and built an altar to YHVH and took of every clean creature and sacrificed them on it (Gen 8:20).
Insert: The location of the altar [in the Holy Temple] is very exactly defined and is never to be changed. . .. It is a commonly held tradition that the place where David and Solomon built the altar, on the threshing floor of Aravnah, is the very place where Abraham built an altar and bound Isaac upon it; this is where Noach built [an altar] when he came out from the ark; this is where Kain and Abel brought their offerings; this is where Adam the first Man offered a korban when he was created—and it is from [the earth of] this place that he was created. Thus, the sages have said: Man was formed from the place of his atonement. (Maimonides)
Therefore, the year was 1657 from Adam when the flood ended, and the face of the earth became dry (Gen 8:1-16). In that same year the Creator made a covenant with mankind, represented by Noach and his family, as it is written in Gen 9:1-13.
From this account of the Flood, we may deduce that the judgment of the generation of the universal flood lasted for 365 days: for the rains started to fall on the seventeenth day of the eighth month until Noach exited the ark on twenty-seventh day of eighth month of the following year.
Back to our study. The waters began to subside and forty days after the appearance of the mountain tops, Noach first let a raven and then a dove fly out for the purpose of ensuring that there was a dry land. The fact that Noach waited 40 days before sending the raven corresponds to the 40 days of rain and the rising of the waters. Noach might have assumed that 40 days would be required for the waters to recede. The dove, when it was first sent out, found no rest and returned (Gen 8:11). The second time, however, it returned and brought a fresh olive-leaf in its mouth. Noach perceived from this that the water must have been almost receded, as the olive-tree being a sturdy tree would have put out leaves even under water. Therefore, we understand that the vegetation on the dry land indeed survived the flood and gave the life on the earth a new beginning.
In conclusion, we should ask the question, “What is the moral of this study?” First, not all living creature died in the universal flood. But we should think about something else. As it came to be in the days of Noach and in the days of Lot, likewise, it will be in the day of the Messiah’s return: many will be called, some will leave, but only a remnant will make it to the end. This is what Yeshua the Messiah is teaching us by saying, “likewise, as it came to be in the days of Noach and in the days of Lot …” As in the days of Noach, many were called but only eight souls were saved, so in the days of Lot, eight were called, but only three were saved. The continuation is in the next articles, “As in the Days of Noach, so in the Days of Messiah“ and “As in the Days of Lot, Likewise, as in the Day of the Son of Man“.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.