Did the antediluvians see rain before the flood?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of whether the antediluvians (people who lived before the Great Flood) saw rain before the Flood is a subject of debate among biblical scholars. The Bible provides some clues, but it does not give a definitive answer.

The Pre-Flood Environment

To understand whether rain existed before the Flood, we must first consider the description of the pre-Flood environment in the Bible.

Creation and Early Earth

The initial state of the earth, as described in Genesis, provides some insight into the early climate and hydrological conditions. Genesis 1:6-7 states: “Then God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.”

This passage describes the creation of the atmosphere, with waters above and below the firmament. Some scholars interpret the “waters above” as a vapor canopy that encircled the earth, which could have created a greenhouse-like effect, contributing to a stable, uniform climate.

The Water Cycle in Eden

Further details about the pre-Flood hydrological system are given in Genesis 2:5-6: “Before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.”

This passage explicitly states that rain had not yet occurred, and instead, a mist (or stream) rose from the earth to water the ground. This suggests an alternative water cycle, where the earth was naturally irrigated from below rather than from above through rainfall.

The Antediluvian Period

As we move from the creation narrative to the broader antediluvian period, the Bible provides limited information on the weather patterns. The focus on the mist as the means of irrigation in Genesis 2:5-6 points to the continuity of this system until the Flood.

The fact that the people of Noah’s time made fun of the idea that rain from heaven could bring destruction to the earth in the Flood, and that Noah is honored for believing “things not seen as yet” (Hebrews 11:7), shows that rain was unknown to the antediluvians. Only Noah’s eyes of faith could picture water falling from heaven and drowning all living beings who would not seek shelter in the ark he built.

The antediluvians before the Flood thought that for centuries the works of nature had been unchanged. The repeated seasons had come in their order. Heretofore, rain had never fallen; and the earth had been watered by a mist or dew. Fixed laws of nature had kept the waters from spilling over their banks. They did not foresee that it was the hand of God that had kept the waters in order, when He commanded, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further” (Job 38:11).

As time went on, with no obvious change in nature, men whose hearts had at first shook with fear, began to be at ease. They figured that nature is beyond the God of nature, and that her laws are unchangeable, that God Himself could not change them.

Had the antediluvians understood Noah’s warning and became regretful of their evil deeds, the Lord would have canceled away His punishment, as He afterward did with the people of Nineveh. But by their stubborn rejection to the reproofs and the warnings of God’s prophet, they filled up the cup of their sin, and became ready to receive the consequences of their evil deeds.

The Great Flood and Rain

The account of the Great Flood in Genesis 6-9 is central to understanding the question of pre-Flood rain. The description of the Flood itself provides the first explicit mention of rainfall.

The First Mention of Rain

In Genesis 7:4, God informs Noah: “For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.” This is the first direct mention of rain in the Bible.

Genesis 7:11-12 further elaborates: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.”

These verses describe a dual source of the Flood waters: the breaking up of the “fountains of the great deep” and the opening of the “windows of heaven.” The term “windows of heaven” is often understood to refer to heavy rainfall, suggesting an unprecedented deluge.

Theological and Literary Considerations

The question of pre-Flood rain is not only about meteorological details but also involves theological and literary considerations.

Theological Symbolism

Rain in the context of the Flood serves as a powerful symbol of God’s judgment and the cleansing of the earth. The use of rain in this narrative underscores its role as an instrument of divine intervention.

Literary Structure

The Genesis narrative uses specific literary techniques to convey theological truths. The introduction of rain in the Flood account can be seen as a deliberate literary choice to highlight the dramatic nature of the event. This technique emphasizes the Flood’s unprecedented impact on the earth and humanity.

Post-Flood Climate

The conclusion of the Flood narrative also addresses the future climate and weather patterns.

God’s Covenant with Noah

After the Flood, God establishes a covenant with Noah, promising never to destroy the earth with a flood again. Genesis 8:22 states: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.”

This verse suggests the establishment of regular climatic and seasonal cycles, which would likely include regular rainfall as part of the natural order.

The Rainbow as a Sign

God sets the rainbow as a sign of this covenant in Genesis 9:12-17. The rainbow, which requires rain to form, symbolizes the new post-Flood order and God’s promise of mercy. The fact that the rainbow was introduced after the Flood (Genesis 9:13–16), and didn’t appear to have occurred earlier, presents additional proof to the thought that the falling of water from the skies had been unknown before to that event.

Conclusion

The pre-Flood world, as described in Genesis, featured an alternative irrigation system involving mist, and the first explicit mention of rain occurs in the context of the Flood. The introduction of rain in the Flood narrative highlights its significance as an instrument of divine judgment and the transformation of the earth. The post-Flood establishment of regular climatic cycles, including rain, marks a new chapter in the divine-human relationship, emphasizing God’s promise of stability and mercy for future generations.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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