Q and A – Continued – Regional Flood / Rainbow
“In regards to Noah and the Flood being a regional flood instead of a worldwide flood, has God broken covenant of never doing it again, since the rainbow was the sign that he would never do it again? Clearly there have been many regional floods.”
A couple of thoughts here:
First, my argument in a sermon some months ago was that the flood was regional. This position was based not off speculation but based on Scripture itself. In Chapter 10, we can trace out what the authors of Genesis meant by “World” as they outline the ends of the world where the people spread out to. This was clearly not the whole globe.
Second, let’s remember that the way to interpret the text about Noah and the Flood has everything to do with the writer attaching a God Perspective to everything they were doing. This was the way history was written in such ancient periods. If the early Hebrews won a war, they would write, “God commanded us to take them!” If they lost in battle they would write, “God was not with us because we sinned.” It was a particular kind of writing that interpreted all their reality in reference to God acting.
Another example of this is usually found in having children. If someone could have children they were seen as blessed from the Lord, and if they could not have children then they did not receive the Lord’s favor. This was embedded in the way they thought about life. The positive is that instead of doing this in a Polytheistic way, attributing life circumstances to many gods, they were leaning into Monotheism, the developing belief that there was only one God. This represented a big development in the history of religions, even though it took a lot of time to fully take root.
Third, when it comes to rainbows, if we read Scripture like it was meant to dictate all reality to us, then we might think, “That was the first rainbow in the history of the world.” This would clearly be false. Rainbows are a phenomenon based on refracted light through an atmosphere that has rain/water present. It is very, very safe to assume rainbows predated the flood.
If on the other hand we read Scripture as illuminating the circumstances of the writers, their beliefs, as well as their interactions with God, then that rainbow, seen after the flood, was taken with special meaning. God used a natural phenomenon to remind the world that he will never act this way again. The only thing we need to conclude is that God’s wrath will never take such dramatic and physical form in the destroying of human flesh as what took place in the flood on such a large scale.
Fourth, if we read this passage in light of the whole of Scripture, we actually find quite a development on the subject of the wrath of God. We find God’s wrath pictured very emotionally in the earlier books of the Bible. Yet, as time progresses and the centuries run by, God’s wrath has a different look. God’s wrath is now understood as his endless opposition to evil, but his action is not to take the lives of others. Even more, emotion no longer overwhelms God. There is clearly an update taking place as God’s people learn more about who the eternal God is.
To conclude, God has not broken his covenant. We can and should still be reminded of God’s promise, that dramatic natural events are not the kind of events that he uses to bring forth his opposition to evil.