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Friday, August 21, 2009

How many people perished in Noah's flood?

In the first place, it was God's flood, not Noah's.

I was studying for my Sunday School lesson, some time ago, and was amazed to read that some people think that there may have been as many as 3,000,000,000 people on earth at the time of the Flood, who were, presumably, drowned. Where did this figure come from, I wondered? What is the evidence for it?

Well, of course, there isn't any evidence for it, but, with the right assumptions, human population growth would have accomplished this.

This figure may have come from a book by Henry Morris, which is excerpted here. If so, that's interesting, because that isn't what Morris actually wrote, according to the excerpt. What he was actually writing about was the human population after the flood, which, he said, could have expanded to billions from the time of the flood to the time he wrote.

This web page simply asserts that the population at the time of Noah "probably numbered at least several billion persons!" So does this one. Neither gives reasons, or documentation, for the assertion.

This page says that there were enough generations (up to 15) from Adam to Noah, which would have been enough time to produce up to a billion people.

All of these are speculation. We just don't know how many people perished in the Flood.

See here for more questions about Noah's flood.

Thanks for reading.

18 comments:

superrustyfly said...

I'm not sure about some of these dates. Most Archaeologists tend to move with the Bible's span of time at least going to 8000 BC. Abraham is claimed to have lived around 2000 BC, which makes it hard to see how 500 years could produce billions of people (if the Flood happened as early as 2500 BC). Plus, the idea that the years of the bible folks being added together is not a good idea either, since most scholars would say that it would be odd. Such a literal reading would be weird since a literal dating would place Abraham well into the years of Jacob, which is probably not the case. It would probably be beneficial to see the years in a way that is not chronologically important.

i am Grateful... Kerry i am. said...

Very interesting... thanks for the thoughts... all joy, kerry

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Kerry I am.

rustyfly, I agree with you that we aren't sure of a lot about the chronology of the flood, and, as indicated, I don't think we have a clue as to how many people perished in the Flood, except that there must have been at least a few thousand of them, perhaps many more.

Thanks.

Daniel Smith said...

I can't say I have a clue, but I do believe that all of the humans were still able to live together in a semi-stable environment. Considering the tower of babel incident later it seems logical to think that most humans (apart from Cain) would have lived together in a city-like setting.

That said, they didn't have access to skyscraper technology or automobiles so how could they have been more that a few thousand? Tens of thousands at the extreme fringe?

Plus there's the whole murder thing that Cain brought into the human world. I'd say other humans murdered after him. Even though Adam and Eve and their descendants had the potential for truly enormous numbers of offspring the harsh conditions and general depravity of some individuals surely cut many lives short of their potential.

So, again, thousands with tens of thousands at the very extreme end of possibility.

Daniel Smith said...

re: superrustyfly

Not that I'm a scholar, but I do remember some college professors explaining some things about this. Generally, the genealogy before the flood cannot be used to accurately date early events because there are at least two significant gaps. Furthermore, most scholars tend to think that many generations of people were simply skipped over. There was no distinction in Hebrew between Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, etc. They were all "father" so you just can't trust the genealogies like that. The best proof, however, comes from the new testament. When giving the genealogy of Jesus I believe there are three sets of ten generations given. Other passages in the bible include other individuals in the same genealogies where they overlap so clearly the new testament passage skips some generations. How many we have no way of knowing.

Regarding the math behind billions of people consider this: If Adam and Eve truly lived to be around 900 years old then they could have had 800 children - 400 boys and 400 girls. Thus, humanity with those age levels had the potential for exponential growth on the factor of 400 or even better. It doesn't take many generations to break 1 million or 1 billion. Premature death, disease, and murder surely limited that potential in my opinion.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Daniel Smith.

I think you are right about genealogies in the Bible. You are also right about disease and murder, but there may have also been wars, even back then.

The bottom line, of course, is that we just don't know how many people there were back then. We can only make rough guesses, even a few centuries ago, let alone in prehistoric, or very early historic times.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

900 years old?
You actually believe that?
So that would make them contemporaries of the Old Kingdom if Egypt (Menes, or Narmer, et al...). So if I understand you well, in less than a thousand years, mankind grows from one couple in a cool garden to millions spread out around the globe (including the Americas).
Why argue...

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I guess you were responding to a commenter, not to me. I think I pretty well expressed ignorance about the dates, etc., in the actual blog post.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

I have researched this for over 20 years. and teh number I came up with that drowned in the flood...was over 51 billion. With a deathrate, of almot 0 in comparrison to a staggaring birthrate. I used a very concervative number of 1 child every 10 years. Remember that the first people were told to go forth and prosper. when you live an average of 930 years. no diseases, in a perfect global enviroment. if the flood didnt occur in 2500 BC, there would have been over 11 trillion by 2000 bc

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Anonymous, whoever you are.

Obviously, you, or someone, has made a lot of assumptions, such as that people lived an average of 930 years (Only two people are mentioned as living that long in Genesis 5.) and that there were no diseases, wars, murders, etc. But you may be right. We just don't know.

Daniel Smith said...

I'm afraid Anonymous cannot be right. With all of our modern agricultural technology, at most we can make the Earth sustain roughly 20-50 billion humans - and that only for a short time until other finite resources run out. Since those resources still exist in the present day -AND- the ancients surely did not possess our level of technology, the actual number can't be anywhere close to Anonymous' estimate. The math simply doesn't work out.

In my opinion, the actual number could be in the millions given the birthrate but I consider that highly unlikely. Tens-of-thousands seems far, far more reasonable given the lack of transportation beyond riding/walking, infrastructure, etc.

Martin LaBar said...

I think you are right, Daniel Smith, but we don't know for sure. Thanks.

jimmy carter said...

The way you get the most out of looking at things is to look at it from the other way 8 people were saved in the Ark it doesn't matter if there were trillions or hundreds of thousand the amount of peopl the amount of people saved were vwere very few less than 1 percent now the end is here and
finding eterna and finding eternal life is l is like catching Noah's boat do you there be that find it,

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, jimmy carter. Jesus warned us about being like the people in flood times, in Luke 17:26, and that's far more important, as you say, than knowing how many people perished in the flood.

Anonymous said...

hut is the only homes:
Asia had 60% of the population.
China / India / other with 20% in Europe.
8 million people worldwide... at best. 2 million in Europe?

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. I don't think we can be sure that huts were the only homes. At least some people must have lived in tents, and caves, and perhaps some had more permanent dwellings.

Lori said...

Can one of you explain to me why pre-flood people could not have achieved some relatively high levels of accomplishment? It seems everyone here is depicting them as hunters/gatherers and primitive. Since the flood would likely have obliterated all evidence of their progress, why does this primitive view of them have to be so?

Martin LaBar said...

I quote from Genesis, and the passage is about people before the flood, and, apparently, while Adam was still alive, so you have a point:

4:20 Adah gave birth to Jabal, who was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 4:21 His brother’s name was Jubal, who was the father of all who handle the harp and pipe. 4:22 Zillah also gave birth to Tubal Cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron. Tubal Cain’s sister was Naamah.

Thanks for your comment.