Flood Legends

From Issue: Discovery 10/1/2007

After God saved Noah and his family from the Flood, God told them to have children and fill the Earth with people. They obeyed God, and had many children and grandchildren. In fact, every one of us today is a descendant of Noah and his family.

Can you imagine being one of the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of Noah? Think about being able to ask Grandpa Noah or Uncle Shem questions about the Flood and living on the ark for a year with many different types of animals. Of course, today we can go to the Bible to learn about the Flood, but the people born soon after the Flood did not have the book of Genesis to read. (It was not written for another thousand years or so.) The story of the global Flood was passed down from parents to children for many generations. Then, in about 1500 B.C., God inspired Moses to write the account of Noah and the Flood in the book of Genesis so the true facts would be recorded for all history.

But before Moses wrote about the Flood, many parents and grandparents were telling their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all about the huge ark, the wonderful animals, and the devastating Flood. As the years went by, they probably mistakenly altered the story, and the details were changed.

When we look into the history of mankind, we find that there are over 250 stories (outside of the Bible) about a great flood. Nations such as China, Greece, India, Africa, and Mexico all have legends about a huge flood. Some of their details are very different, but in most of the legends animals were saved, one family was chosen, the flood covered the entire Earth, and a boat of some kind was built. When you think about it, that is exactly what we would expect to find if all the nations around the world trace their roots back to Noah and his family. Over the many years, the details of the flood story were altered, but many facts stayed the same. Aren’t we thankful God inspired Moses to write down the correct version of the story so that we can know exactly what happened?

Take a look at some of the legends from around the world and see how similar they are to the flood story as recorded in the Bible.

One of the closest matches to the story of Noah comes from the land of Babylon. In a story known as the Gilgamesh Epic, a man named Gilgamesh met an old man named Utnapishtim. The old man, Utnapishtim, told Gilgamesh how one of the gods had warned the old man to build a boat because a terrible flood was coming. Utnapishtim built the boat and covered it with pitch. He put animals of all kinds in the boat and also took provisions. He and his family got in the boat, and the flood lasted for six days and nights. When the flood ended, the boat rested on Mount Niser. After seven days, Utnapishtim sent a dove out to see if the waters had gone down. The dove came back, so he sent a swallow, which also returned. Finally, he sent out a raven that never returned. Utnapishtim and his family left the boat and sacrificed to their gods.

In the ancient land now known as Mexico, one tribe of Indians known as the Toltecs told of a great flood. In their legend, a massive flood destroyed the “first world” 1,716 years after it was created. Only a few people escaped this worldwide flood in a “toptlipetlocali” (a word that refers to something like a closed chest). After these few people left the “closed chest,” they wandered about the Earth and found a place where they built a “zacuali,” something like a high tower, in case another flood came upon the Earth. During the time of the “zacuali,” their languages were confused and they separated to different parts of the Earth (read Genesis 11:1-9).

In the land of China, there are many legends about a great flood. One of those comes from a group of people known as the Nosu. According to their legend, God sent a messenger to Earth to warn three sons that a flood was coming. Only the youngest son, Dum, listened to the messenger. He built a wooden boat to prepare for the flood. About 20 days later, a huge flood covered the whole Earth. Dum entered his boat, and was saved. The boat landed on the mountains of Tibet, where Dum had three sons who repopulated the Earth.

Why are there legends of a great flood in cultures all over the world? Because thousands of years ago, God destroyed the Earth with a global Flood—just as the Bible says.


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