Why a Fully Consistent Approach to Biblical Exegesis Implies the Creation of Genesis 1 Is Not About the Physical Creation of the Cosmos and Why Noah’s Flood Also Appears to Have Been an Historical Parable about a War.

If the destruction of heaven and earth at the end of the age did not result in the complete annihilation of the cosmos, then the creation of heaven and earth in Genesis 1 is not likely about the physical creation of that same heaven and earth, is it?  How could heaven and earth be physical in Genesis 1 and something else entirely in 2 Peter 3?  Here we see that a fully-consistent approach to Preterism implies an old earth.

The idea that the creation of Genesis 1 may not be the creation of the physical cosmos is implied all over the Bible. For example, in Isaiah 51:15-16 God is said to “plant the heavens and Lay the foundations of the earth” at the creation of the kingdom of Israel during the Exodus:

But I am Yahweh your God who divided the sea whose waves roared Yahweh of Hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth and I have covered you with the shadow of My hand that I may plant the heavens and Lay the foundations of the earth and say to Zion you are My people.1

Isaiah 51:15-16 is about the conquest of Canaan during the Exodus as v. 9 is about cutting Rabah (a sea monster symbolizing Egypt) to pieces and v. 10 mentions “a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over” referring to the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. Thus contextually it is clear that according to Isaiah 51:15-16 heaven and earth are created at the conquest and settlement of the Israelites in the land of Canaan after the Exodus. Clearly heaven and earth were not physically created when Israel was established as a nation.

If the creation of heaven and earth denotes the establishment of a new kingdom (Isaiah 51:15-16), then the destruction of heaven and earth should, therefore, signify the fall or conquest of a kingdom. And that is exactly what we find in Scripture.  The destruction of Judah, Edom, and Egypt by the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C. are each portrayed as the destruction of heaven and earth (Jeremiah 4:23-26, Isaiah 34:4-5, Ezekiel 32:7-9).  Also the subsequent destruction of Babylon in 539 B.C. is also depicted as the destruction of heaven and earth (Isaiah 13:9-13).  Of course, the same thing is true of the destruction of Israel at the end of the age (Revelation 6:12-14, Hebrews 12:26) (see The Earth is More than 6000 Years Old: How Young Earth Creationists have Misinterpreted the Bible). In all these verses, we see that the creation and destruction of heaven and earth has nothing to do with the physical creation or dissolution of the cosmos. Instead, in all these instances it is quite clear contextually that what is being spoken of in this creation and destruction imagery is the establishment or fall of an isolated kingdom.

That having been said, there is, of course, more to Genesis 1 than initially meets the eye.  If we look at Jesus’ ministry we see that Jesus always taught in non-literal, symbolic stories called parables. If Jesus is the Word of God (John 1) and is in some way responsible for the writing of the Bible, why would Jesus suddenly communicate woodenly literally throughout this text when Jesus rarely ever did during His ministry? If Jesus is the Word of God and Jesus teaches in parables what chance is there that Jesus suddenly records history literally in Genesis?  Doesn’t seem likely, does it?  This becomes even more obvious when we read stories about talking snakes and donkeys.  Does a story about a talking snake sound like literal history to you?  Modern scholarship has now come to the realization that Genesis is ancient history allegorized. In other words, Genesis is history written as a parable. In other words, Genesis and much of the rest of the Bible is written in the SAME literary style Jesus used throughout His ministry—presenting literal truths in symbolic parables.  When recording their history and future the authors of the Bible do not record these events woodenly literally as we would today. Rather, the Bible wraps the events of the past, present and future in poetry and symbolism to give meaning to these people, places and events. In the following article I will present Biblical and related extra-Biblical evidence showing that the creation account of Genesis 1 is a parable depicting the establishment of a new city/kingdom or dynasty after war in creation symbolism.

In making this case it is important to highlight the fact that the people of Israel ultimately trace their ancestry back to Mesopotamia through Abraham (Genesis 11:31). Thus it is in Mesopotamia that the earliest stories of Genesis presumably transpired.  The earliest extant tablets of Mesopotamian myths date to 2100 B.C., that is 1700 years older than the oldest extant manuscript fragment of the Old Testament.  And in order to really grasp the people of Israel’s ancient Mesopotamian origin recorded in Genesis it is useful to consult the extant accounts of Mesopotamia which often predate extant Biblical accounts of Genesis by several hundred years.

Tablets of the Epic of Creation (Enuma Elish) 1900-1600 B.C.

Perhaps the oldest extant hint that the creation of the cosmos is about the creation of a new city especially after war appears suggested in the Epic of Creation (1900–1600 B.C.).  Here there is a great war between Marduk and Tiamut. After this war, Marduk orders the creation of Babylon and for a whole year the Anunnaki (gods) began construction of the city.  Then Marduk creates primeval man to relieve the gods and finish the construction the city.2  Here we see that the creation of a city coincides with the creation of mankind itself. I believe the same message is implied in Genesis 1.

In Genesis 1:1 God “created the heavens and the earth.”  Remember that according to Biblical precedent the creation of heaven and earth is used elsewhere in the Bible to symbolize the establishment of a new nation or kingdom. I believe the same meaning is intended in Genesis 1.

The idea that the creation of heaven and earth is not about the physical creation of the universe is also suggested by the chronological absurdities in this creation account.  For example, plants and trees are created before the sun.  Even more absurd is the fact that God creates light on day 1 and yet the sun, moon and stars are not created until day four. Furthermore, if the sun is created on the fourth day, how is it that there are three days in which there is “evening and morning” prior to the creation of the sun (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13)? The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 is another creation account.  And in Genesis 2 the order of creation laid out in Genesis 1 is largely presented in reverse in Genesis 2.

However, the idea that Genesis 1 is a poem about the creation of a new kingdom by acts of war makes perfect sense of how the sun, moon and stars do not make their appearance at the beginning of creation.  In Genesis 1:6-7 there is a separation of the waters above from the waters below implying a kind of evaporation of water that creates the clouds.  Clouds darken the sun, moon and stars: “When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. 8 All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land, declares the Sovereign Lord [emphasis mine].” (Ezekiel 32:7-8.)

Why are there clouds darkening the sun, moon and stars at the beginning of creation?  Because presumably at the beginning of this creation account is a destruction of a previous heaven and earth brought about by the coming of the Lord on the clouds in judgment—something we see in the destruction of heaven and earth everywhere else in the Bible.  In Genesis 1:2 “the Spirit of God hovers over the waters.”  According to Psalm 104 when God hovered over the waters in Genesis 1, this was the first time in the Bible in which God came on the clouds of heaven.  When Psalm 104 records the steps of creation, it does not say that God moved or hovered over the waters.  Instead, Psalm 104:3 says that the Lord came on the clouds: “He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.”  Thus according to Psalm 104 God came on the clouds of heaven at the start of creation.

Whenever God came on the clouds in judgment on a nation, God is said to come amidst the Glory Cloud; a thick, dark cloud that is explicitly said to darken the sun, moon and stars.  The Glory Cloud is a dark cloud accompanied by rain, thunder, lightning, and earthquakes (2 Samuel 22:8-15, Isaiah 66:15-16, Psalm 18:6-16, Psalm 50:3, Psalm 97:1-5, Psalm 144:5, Exodus 40:34-38, Leviticus 16:2 and Ezekiel 1:4). We see the Glory Cloud exemplified in Psalm 18:7-14:

The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. . . .  He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.  He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.   He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.  Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.  He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them [emphasis mine].

When God came on the clouds of heaven in the Glory Cloud He often appears at the head of invading armies as implied by Joel 2:10-11:

Before them [an invading army] the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command.  The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful.  Who can endure it?  [Emphasis mine.]

As stated above, the darkening of the sun, moon and stars in Joel 2:10-11 is a result of the blanketing effect of the thick clouds of the Glory Cloud as indicated in Ezekiel 32:7-8: “When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. 8 All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land, declares the Sovereign Lord [emphasis mine].” Notice that the darkening of the sun, moon and stars in Joel 2:10-11 is because the clouds of the Glory cloud covered these luminaries making them invisible to people according to Ezekiel 32:7-8.  The fact that God came on the clouds at the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth in Genesis 1:1 explains why the sun, moon and stars do not make their appearance until day 4 as the darkening of the sun. moon and stars was a sign of the coming of the Lord on the clouds in judgment on a nation at the coming creation of a new heaven and earth.

In Genesis 1:16 God is said to make the sun, moon and stars.  Did God physically create the sun and moon in Genesis 1:16 or did He just cause them to appear?  In the sacred writings of Mesopotamia (where the Jews trace their ancestry), the appearance and disappearance of the stars is equated with their creation and destruction:

And then they addressed Marduk their son, ‘May your decree, O lord, impress the gods! Command to destroy and to recreate, and let it be so! Speak and let the constellation vanish! Speak to it again and let the constellation reappear.’ He spoke, and at his word the constellation vanished. He spoke to it again and the constellation was recreated.3

How do constellations appear and disappear?  As stated above, the constellations disappear and are thus “destroyed” when the thick cloud cover of the Glory cloud blankets the sky when God on the clouds of heaven in judgment on a nation (Ezekiel 32:7-9).

Here we see that there is “evening and morning” before the sun appears because throughout the first three days of creation God was coming in the clouds of heaven in judgment on a nation with the thick cloud cover of the Glory Cloud rendering the sun, moon and stars invisible until day 4.  These luminaries are made visible and thus are “recreated” according to Mesopotamian ideas of cosmology when the sun, moon and stars reappear after the thick clouds of the Glory Cloud pass.  The fact that the sun is not created until the fourth day is another hint that Genesis 1 is about war.

In keeping with the notion that Genesis 1 is about the creation of a new kingdom after war, Genesis 1:2 explicitly mentions darkness at the start of creation.  Remember that darkness is a sign of the coming of God on the clouds of heaven in judgment according to Ezekiel 32:7-8 where God covers the sun, moon and stars with a cloud and says, “I will bring darkness over your land.”

Genesis 1:2 also says that prior to creation “the earth was formless and void.”  This exact phrase is found in Jeremiah 4:23-26 referring to the fall of Judah to the Babylonian army in the sixth century B.C.: “I looked at the earth, and it was formless and void; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. . . . I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins . . .” [Emphasis mine.]  Jeremiah describes Judah exactly as the earth is described prior to its creation in Genesis 1:2: “Now the earth was formless and void, darkness was over the surface of the deep[.]” (Genesis 1:2.) Notice that in both Jeremiah 4:23-26 and Genesis 1:2 the earth is dark, “formless and void” and devoid of living beings.  This is because before very instance in which there is the creation of heaven and earth in the Bible there is a destruction of heaven and earth that precedes it. This dark, formless and void state of the earth in Genesis 1:2 is that destroyed heaven and earth/kingdom before the new kingdom/new heaven and earth begins.

Above we discussed the dividing of the waters above from the waters below (Genesis 1:6-8). After the separation of the waters above from the waters below, Genesis 1:6-10 then mentions the dividing of the waters below to form dry ground.  What does the dividing of the waters signify and how does this point to the establishment of the new kingdom?  Isaiah 51:15-16 appears to shed light on this question:

But I am Yahweh your God who divided the sea whose waves roared Yahweh of Hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth and I have covered you with the shadow of My hand that I may plant the heavens and Lay the foundations of the earth and say to Zion you are My people. (Isaiah 51:15-16.)4

Above we showed how according to Isaiah 51:15-16, heaven and earth are created at the conquest and subsequent establishment of the kingdom of Israel in the land of Canaan during the Exodus.  What does the dividing of the sea mean in Genesis 1:10 and Isaiah 51:15-16?  Interestingly, the dividing of the sea in Isaiah 51:15 is about Moses’ parting of the waters of the Red Sea in Exodus 14:21, not about the parting of the waters in Genesis 1:10. But in order to gain insight into what the parting of the waters means in Genesis 1:10, I believe we must look at what it appears to have meant in Exodus 14:21 when Moses divided the Red Sea.  If we let the Bible interpret itself, the parting of the Red Sea appears to symbolize the Exodus itself.  Though “earth” or “land” could perhaps be used at times to refer to the entire globe, “earth” and “land” seems perhaps most often to refer to an individual kingdom in focus (Isaiah 1:1-3; Isaiah 24-27; Jeremiah 51:24-25).  Similarly, “sea” and all other aquatic lingo often (maybe generally) refers to foreign nations (Revelation 17:15; Daniel 7; 9:26; 11:10, 40; Psalm 65:7; 144:7, Isaiah 8:7-8; 17:12; 60:5; Jeremiah 46:7-8; 47:1-2; 51:55-56; Ezekiel 26:3; Nahum 1:8) (see In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations).  When Moses divided the sea, this miracle appears to symbolize the fact that Moses drew the people of Israel, the earth, out of the Egyptian Empire, the sea.  The parting of the Red Sea thus symbolizes the creation of a new kingdom (the earth/Israel) out of the gentile nations (the sea/Egypt).   It is interesting to note that the name Moses means “to draw out.” The same meaning seems implied in Genesis 1:10. Why does the same meaning appear to be implied in Genesis 1:10? Because according to Isaiah 51:15-16 when God is said to have “divided the sea” in Exodus 14:21 He is also said to “plant the heavens and Lay the foundations of the earth and say to Zion you are My people” (Isaiah 51:16).  In other words, according to Isaiah 51:15 the dividing of the waters in Exodus 14:21 was part of the creation of a new heaven and earth (i.e. “the planting of heaven and laying the foundation of the earth” (Isaiah 51:16)).  The “planting of heaven and laying the foundation of the earth” denotes the establishment of Zion after the Exodus as the creation of a new heaven and earth. If the Israelite conquest of Canaan during the Exodus was the creation of heaven and earth, what does this imply about the dividing of the waters in Genesis 1:10 and the creation of heaven and earth in Genesis 1:6-10?  How could Genesis 1 be about the creation of a physical heaven and earth when the creation of heaven and earth denotes the establishment of a new kingdom in Israel 51:15-16? Would not the similarities between Isaiah 51:15-16 and Genesis 1:6-10 not imply a similar meaning in Genesis 1?

Still not convinced that the creation of heaven and earth refers to the establishment of a new kingdom?  Let us now look at what is meant by the “foundation of the earth” of Isaiah 51:16. What is the “foundation of the earth”?  Is the foundation of the earth the physical soil or rock of the ground?  According to Revelation 21 the foundation of the earth refers to the founders of a city.  In Revelation 21:1 we see the creation of a new heaven and earth: “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away[.]” In this “new heaven and earth” we see that the foundations of the city are the twelve apostles, the twelve founding fathers of this kingdom: “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb [emphasis mine].” (Revelation 21:14).

In the rest of Genesis 1 God creates plants, animals and humans.  Plants often symbolize people in the Bible (Deuteronomy 32:2; Judges 9:8-15; 2 Kings 19:26; Job 5:25;19:10; 24:20; Psalm 1:3; 37:2, 35; 52:8; 74:1-5; 92:12; 103:15).  Animals also often symbolize people (Psalm 22:1-13; 49:12, 20; 57:4; 68:29-31; 73:22; 74:19; Jeremiah 12:9; Ezekiel 39:18; Daniel 7:11; Micah 5:8; Acts 10:9-28).  The creation of plants and animals in Genesis 1 seems to represent the people populating the new kingdom with the man created in Genesis 1:27-28 seemingly representing their king as man is said to “[r]ule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

On the seventh day God finishes His work and rests. (Genesis 2:1-3.) The fact that God “rested” after creation is another subtle sign that the first six days of creation are about war.  There are many Hebrew words that mean rest–seemingly all of them are used in context somewhere in the Bible unambiguously to denote peace or security from a lack of war (Deut 3:20; 12:10; 25:19; Josh 1:13-15; 11:23; 21:44; 23:1; 2 Sam 7:1, 11; 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Chron 22:9; 2 Chron 14:6; Jer 45:3; 47:6; 48:11-15; 50:34-35; Lam 5:5; Hab 2:5).  One prime example is 1 Chronicles 22:9: “But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.”  The first word for “peace” translated here from the NIV is menuchah meaning “resting place, rest.”  The “rest” Solomon receives from his enemies is nuach or noach which means “to rest”.  Nuach also spelled Noach is the root word for which the name Noah is derived. This is significant as we shall see when we get into the flood as Noah’s flood is also a tale of war poetically portrayed as a flood. The second word for “peace” is shalom meaning “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.”  In this one sentence we see three different Hebrew words for rest each denoting peace or security due to a lack of war.

Was Noah’s Flood Another Historical Parable about Another Ancient War or Siege?

Noah’s flood in Genesis 6 mirrors the beginning of creation in Genesis 1:1-10 where the earth begins in a flooded state before the separation of the waters and the appearance of dry land.  Thus in both Genesis 1 and 6 there is a flood. Both floods appear to symbolize the same thing: foreign nations/armies as do all aquatic terms in the Bible (Revelation 17:15; Daniel 7; 9:26; 11:10, 40; Psalm 65:7; 144:7, Isaiah 8:7-8; 17:12; 60:5; Jeremiah 46:7-8; 47:1-2; 51:55-56; Ezekiel 26:3; Nahum 1:8) (see In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations).  Genesis 6 appears to be another poem about war.

The inundation of Genesis 6-9 does not appear to have been a literal flood at all whether local or global. There are many problems associated with a global flood. For example, how did arctic penguins end up in the near east?  How did all the animals in the world fit in the ark and how were they fed?  Another problem with a global flood unique to Preterism is the fact that a global flood is, of course, much more tragic than Israel’s first-century war with Rome creating a problem with Matthew 24:21: “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”  There are just as many problems with the idea of a local flood. For example, if the flood was local, why did God instruct Noah to make a boat? Why didn’t God just tell Noah to move?  Furthermore, if the flood was just a local event, why save every kind of animal?

As stated above, the name Noah comes from the Hebrew noach which means rest. In Genesis 2:2 we saw that rest in Hebrew means more than “not working” it often carries with it an explicit and clear idea of peace or security from a lack of war (Deut 3:20; 12:10; 25:19; Josh 1:13-15; 11:23; 21:44; 23:1; 2 Sam 7:1, 11; 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Chron 22:9; 2 Chron 14:6; Jer 45:3; 47:6; 48:11-15; 50:34-35; Lam 5:5; Hab 2:5).   The fact that the hero of Genesis 6-8 has a name that denotes security and peace is not a coincidence as Noah’s story also appears to be a war story.

Noah was not a common man. According to Antiquities of the Jews, Noah was a king: “This calamity happened in the six hundredth year of Noah’s government, in the second month, called by the Macedonians Dius, but by the Hebrews Marchesuan: for so did they order their year in Egypt [emphasis mine].” (Ant. 1.3.3)

Recall that floods and all other aquatic terminology signify foreign nations (especially foreign armies) in the Bible (Revelation 17:15; Daniel 7; 9:26; 11:10, 40; Psalm 65:7; 144:7, Isaiah 8:7-8; 17:12; 60:5; Jeremiah 46:7-8; 47:1-2; 51:55-56; Ezekiel 26:3; Nahum 1:8). The verses cited above clearly show how aquatic imagery denotes foreigners and foreign armies.  However, this meaning is implicit all over the Bible, even in verses where it may not seem immediately obvious.  For example, in Job 22:11 Eliphaz tells Job that a flood of water covers him: “[That is] why it is so dark you cannot see, and why a flood of water covers you.”  In the Book of Job, Job was never afflicted by literal water.  The “flood of water” that afflicted Job seems to refer back to the armies of Sabeans and Chaldeans who brought upon Job his trails by attacked Job’s family in Job 1:13-17.

Cuneiform tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh (1800 B.C.)

Interestingly, floods also symbolize foreigners and their armies in the sacred literature of Israel’s neighbors.  For example, the Epic of Gilgamesh gives us a detailed Mesopotamian perspective of the flood of Genesis 6.  The Epic of Gilgamesh is particularly useful in understanding the Genesis flood as extant copies of this tale are far older than any extant manuscript fragments of Genesis. Interestingly, the flood account in the Epic of Gilgamesh seems to suspiciously symbolize a war or siege. In some translations, the Mistress of the Gods expresses remorse for ordering the flood by saying, “I commanded wars [referring to the flood itself] to destroy the people.”5 In the third tablet of Atrahasis, the flood is called the kasusu-weapon and is explicitly likened to an army: “The kasusu-weapon [the flood] went against the people like an army.”6  In keeping with the flood being a symbol of waring armies, the flood, also called the kasusu-weapon or flood weapon, is referred to as an “onslaught”7 and said to be “like a battle force”8 with warrior gods all “marching on” and “marching ahead.”9 Similarly in the Mesopotamian tablet of Anzu there is the expression “flood-wave of battles.”10  And in the second tablet of Anzu the mother of the gods seeks to stir the gods to go to war by saying, “Muster your devastating battle force . . . and inundate [flood] the earth[.]”11  A similar statement is again made shortly thereafter in the second tablet of Anzu, “A clash between battle arrays was imminent, the flood-weapon massed.”12  In Erra and Ishum we also see floods symbolizing armies: “She summoned an enemy and despoiled the land like (standing) corn before (flood-) water.”13

If floods symbolize foreign armies in Noah’s flood and in the Epic of Gilgamesh, what does the boat or arck signify in these accounts?  In keeping with the theme of floods signifying foreign armies, in ancient Middle Eastern writings we also see boats signifying a palace or fortified city.  For example, in the Epic of Gilgamesh the boat that withstood the flood is called a “palace.”14 The Mesopotamians were not the only ones to use a boat to signify a palace or fortified city.  The Egyptians seem to have employed similar meaning to boats in their mythology as well.  In the Legend of Horus of Behutet, Thoth names the ship of the god Heru-Behutet “Ur”: “And Thoth said, ‘The name of [thy ship] shall be ‘called ‘Ur’[.]”  Ur is an ancient Mesopotamian city. Interestingly, Ur is the city in which the Jewish people originally traced their ancestry through Abraham according to Genesis 11:31.15  Since Noah was a king (Ant. 1.3.3), was Noah’s ark/boat also a symbol of his palace or fortified city?

Ezekiel lying on his side for forty days and nights to symbolize the siege of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:6-7).

If Noah was a king and floods symbolize foreign armies while boats denote a palace or fortified city, then it appears that the flood of Genesis 6 is an historical parable or symbolic historical account of a foreign army besieging Noah’s fortified city or palace (i.e. boat) which Noah seems to have constructed and fortified to protect himself from the coming army (i.e. flood) in response to God’s warning.16 According to Genesis 7:12 “rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” Interestingly, this is also the length of time in which Ezekiel lies on his side to symbolize the siege of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 4:6-7.

According to Genesis 7:19 the flood is said to have covered all the mountains under heaven.   Mountains denote cities in the Bible.  Daniel 9:16; Psalms 2:6; 48:1; Isaiah 66:20; Jeremiah 51:25; and Joel 3:17 are a few clear examples in which a city is called a mountain although there are so many examples of this meaning in the Bible that it is far too numerous to cite.  It is also important to note that in the Bible “all” does not always mean “without exception.” Matthew 2:1-3, Matthew 4:8, Matthew 10:22 are a few clear examples in which “all” or “every” has clear and obvious exceptions. The explicit notion of a flood covering a mountain to symbolize a siege is found in Jeremiah 51. Here Babylon is said to be a mountain covered by the sea.  Ancient Babylon was never flooded. Jeremiah 51 makes it clear that this flood covering the mountain or city of Babylon is the armies of the Medes and Persians who caused Babylon to fall in the sixth century B.C.:

“Before your eyes I will repay Babylon and all who live in Babylonia for all the wrong they have done in Zion,” declares the Lord. “I am against you, you destroying mountain [Babylon], you who destroy the whole earth,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 51:24-25.)

“The sea [the armies of the Medes and Persians] will rise over Babylon; its roaring waves will cover her.” (Jeremiah 51:42.)

“Waves of enemies [armies of the Medes and Persians] will rage like great waters; the roar of their voices will resound.” (Jeremiah 51:55.)

In keeping with the idea that floods are a symbol of foreign armies, rain is also a sign of war.  Recall as stated above, whenever God came on the clouds of heaven He was accompanied by thick rain clouds (Psalm 18:7-14) while also often said to be at the head of an invading army (Joel 2:10-11). After the waters recede, God makes a covenant with Noah.  In this covenant God promises not to destroy all life with a flood. And God provides a sign in the form of a rainbow to mark this promise: “Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. I will not again use the waters to become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:14-15.)  Recall that the Glory Cloud is thick rain clouds marked by thunder, lightning and earthquakes (Psalm 18:7-14) often accompanied by conquering armies (Joel 2:10-11).  In Genesis 9:14-15 God promises to let his people know when He is coming in judgment on these thick rain clouds with another foreign army vs. when God is simply providing rain. The presence of the rainbow is the sign God uses to distinguish judgment from peace.

It is important to note that the word “never” (wə·lō) in Genesis 9:11 and 9:15 is also used in Genesis 43:8 when Judah promises to bring his youngest son to Joseph so that he can buy more grain: “Then Judah said to Israel his father, ‘Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not (wə·lō) die.” Of course, these people were not going to live forever because they could buy grain.  The promise of no floods is like this. The word often translated “never” (wə·lō) has a meaning that suggests something more like “not” rather than “never again.”  In other words, Genesis 9:11 and 9:15 doesn’t mean there will never ever again be a flood. Instead, the message conveyed in Genesis 9:11 and 9:15 appears to be that there will not be a flood or foreign assault again if there is a rainbow accompanying the Glory Cloud.

Recall as stated in the commentary on Genesis 1 that animals of all kinds often represent people in the Bible (Psalm 22:1-13; 49:12, 20; 57:4; 68:29-31; 73:22; 74:19; Jeremiah 12:9; Ezekiel 39:18; Daniel 7:11; Micah 5:8; Acts 10:9-28).17 In Acts 10 we learn that clean animals represent Jews and unclean animals, Gentiles or foreigners.  Consistent with this symbolism is the idea that the clean animals in the ark represent the subjects of Noah’s kingdom with the local people represented as clean animals and the foreign slaves represented by the unclean animals.  Meanwhile the people of the story seem to signify Noah and his royal family as man is said to “[r]ule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

In Genesis 8:3 we see the waters of the flood gradually recede to make dry land appear equivalent to the separation of the waters at the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:9-10) and the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21). Recall that the dividing of the sea in Exodus seems to symbolize the fact that Moses drew the Jewish slaves, the earth, out of Egypt, the sea, to create a new kingdom, the earth, from the Gentile nations, the sea (see In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations).  I believe a similar meaning is intended in the account of Noah’s flood. Here Noah overcomes his foreign adversaries and retains his independence from foreign conquest keeping the earth, Noah’s kingdom, separate and independent from the sea (Gentile nations).

Around the time the waters recede Noah sends out a dove who returns with an olive branch (Genesis 8:11).  An olive branch is a symbol of peace dating at least as far back as the fifth century B.C. with the Greeks. Olive branches also symbolize peace in Arab folk traditions.  Perhaps this symbol is much older in the ancient near-east and signifies the peace that resulted in the receding of the flood waters symbolizing the departure of the foreign armies?

The evidence presented above shows quite clearly and powerfully that the creation and destruction of heaven and earth as mentioned throughout the Bible is not a physical creation of the cosmos. Rather the creation and destruction of heaven and earth seems to contextually refer exclusively to the establishment or dissolution of individual, isolated kingdoms throughout the Bible.  This understanding seems to be bolstered by the fact that similar language and implicit meaning is also found in the sacred writings of Israel’s immediate neighbors (i.e. ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt) suggesting this understanding may go back to the common ancestors of the people who later became or at least influenced these great, ancient civilizations.  The information presented above harmonizes the destruction of heaven and earth in 2 Peter 3 and elsewhere throughout the Bible with the creation of heaven and earth in Genesis 1 and creation of heaven and earth at the establishment of Israel as a kingdom at the Exodus according to Isaiah 51:9-16. The evidence presented above also solves the dilemma a literal global deluge poses to the Preterist interpretation of Matthew 24:21 where a global flood is clearly more tragic than Israel’s first-century war with Rome.  And, of course, the evidence presented in this article fully reconciles the conflict between Genesis and science in regards to the age of the earth.  If Genesis 1 is about a war as is suggested quite powerfully above, then there is no longer a conflict between the Bible and science in regards to the age of the earth.

  1. Interlinear translation www.biblehub,com/interlinear/isaiah51-15.htm; www.biblehub,com/interlinear/isaiah51-16.htm (07/05/2022).
  2. Epic of Creation V-VI, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 259-261.
  3. Epic of Creation IV, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 250.
  4. Interlinear translation www.biblehub,com/interlinear/isaiah51-15.htm; www.biblehub,com/interlinear/isaiah51-16.htm (07/05/2022).
  5. Epic of Gilgamesh XI, cited in https://arthistoryproject.com/timeline/the-ancient-world/mesopotamia/the-epic-of-gilgamesh/gilgamesh-5-the-story-of-the-flood/ (4/22/22).
  6. Atrahasis III OBV iii, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 31.  In Erra and Ishum soldiers are referred to as weapons: “Make them march at my side as my fierce weapons.”  (Erra and Ishum I, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 289.)
  7. Epic of Gilgamesh XI, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 112.
  8. Epic of Gilgamesh XI, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 112.
  9. Atrahasis II OBV vii, Epic of Gilgamesh XI, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 29, 112.
  10. Anzu I, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 205.
  11. Anzu II, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 212. In this pericope we also see that the “evil winds” which “flash as they march over” Anzu also denotes armies, an idea also not foreign to the Bible.
  12. Anzu II, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 212.
  13. Erra and Ishum IV, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 305.
  14. Epic of Gilgamesh XI, cited in Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, trans. Stephanie Dalley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 112.
  15. The Legend of Horus of Behutet XVII.6, cited in E.A. Wallis Budge, Legends of the Gods: The Egyptian Texts, Edited with Translations (San Diego, CA: The Book Tree, 2008), 83.
  16. According to Biblical genealogies Noah’s flood occurred in 2348 B.C.  The city which later became Jericho had fortified walls as early as the 8th millennium B.C. And the city of Solnitsata in Europe had walls in the 6th or 5th millennium B.C. The earliest walled cities in Europe were made of wood and earth before later being replaced with stone walls.  Perhaps Noah’s palace and city was also a mixture of wood and earth perhaps explaining why Noah was instructed to build his ark out of goffer wood?  It seems unlikely that Noah would have constructed the fortifications of his palace or city with stone as this construction seems to have been hastily built as implied in the Genesis account.  Although if Noah did construct his palace or fortifications with stone it may have been a mixture of stone and wood.  For example, Herod’s temple which at first glance looks to be built entirely of stone was actually built of a mixture of stone with wood paneling in the roof and interior. Thus it could be said that Noah’s ark was built of wood when in reality it was a mixture of wood and earth or wood and stone.  Perhaps Noah’s immediate neighboring kingdoms having experienced extended periods of peace had no fortified walls explaining why they are said to have ridiculed him?
  17. In Genesis 8:20 Noah sacrifices clean animals to the Lord.  Though it appears that the animals in Noah’s ark signify people, I do not believe this is a human sacrifice.  I think Noah sacrificed a literal animal but I believe that animal still represents people like the people Noah lost in the siege. Thus Noah’s sacrifice would then mirror the sacrifices prescribed in the Law of Moses where the sacrificial animals represent Jesus—the Lamb of God–and the saints who were murdered by the Jews throughout their history.
    What about 1 Peter 3:20: “to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people (psuche meaning breath, soul), eight in all, were saved through water”? 1 Peter 3:20 is interesting since throughout Genesis 6-9 it says all living creatures with the breath of life were killed (Genesis 6:17) except those who entered the ark (Genesis 7:15).  Even so 1 Peter 3:20 is a correct. According to Genesis there were 8 people who survived the flood, this is true when read at face value as this is what the text states.  Even if Peter believed the animals were people 1 Peter 3:20 is not false as that is what Genesis states.