Skeptical in the Sumerian city Shuruppak, the ruins
Skeptical view of the flood myth
As skeptics have long been aware, there was no global flood in the last 5000 years, a boatload of animals did not ground on so-called Mount Ararat or on any mountain, and the world’s animals are not descended from two or seven pairs of each species that lived during the third millennium BC. Nor is there any archaeological proof that a man survived a flood by being on a boat loaded with animals, food, and drinking water.
The Noah’s Ark book summarized here does not claim historicity for Noah or the ark story, but the book does claim that some of the story elements in the Ancient Near East flood were based on an actual river flood. This archaeologically attested flood of the Euphrates River has been radiocarbon dated to about 2900 BC. This flood left a few feet of yellow mud in the Sumerian city Shuruppak, the ruins of which have been found at Tel Fara about 125 miles southeast of Baghdad. Some but not all Sumerian cities also show signs of this river flood at the beginning of the Early Dynastic I period. According to the Sumerian King List, a legendary king named Ziusudra lived in Shuruppak at the time of the flood. There was also a flood myth about king Ziusudra which includes several story elements very similar to the Genesis flood myth. Shuruppak was also the flood hero’s city according to the Epic of Gilgamesh. The flood myth in the Epic of Gilgamesh was adapted from an earlier myth, the Epic of Atrahasis which is also very similar to the Genesis flood myth. Six of these Ancient Near East flood myths contain numerous distinctive story elements that are very similar to the Genesis flood myth and indicate a literary affinity or dependency on a common body of myths about the flood hero Ziusudra and based on the Euphrates River flood of 2900 BC.
Parts of the original myths were physically possible, but other parts were not possible. The possible parts can be treated as an ancient legend to which mythical material was added later. However, without contemporary artifacts, it is not possible to prove how much of the original legend was true and how much was fiction based on a real flood. In the Noah’s Ark book, the original legend is reconstructed by piecing together fragments from the various surviving editions of the flood myth, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This reconstruction is governed by the requirement that each story element in the legend be physically possible, technologically practical, consistent with archaeological facts, and plausible for 2900 BC. Some of the impossible story elements were mistranslations or misunderstandings, and these are corrected before including them in the reconstructed legend.
The reconstructed legend is this: Ziusudra reigned for ten years as king of Shuruppak, a Sumerian city then on the Euphrates River. Ziusudra’s reign was at the end of the Jemdet Nasr period that ended with the flood of 2900 BC. Then as now, river barges were used for transporting cargo on the Euphrates River. This cargo included livestock, beer, wine, textiles, lumber, stone, metals, dried fish, vegetable oil, and other cargo. In June about 2900 BC during the annual inundation of the Euphrates River, the river was at crest stage. A six-day thunderstorm caused the river to rise about 15 cubits (22 feet) higher and to overflow the levees. By the time the river began to rise, it was already too late to evacuate to the foothills of the mountains 110 miles away. Ziusudra boarded one the the barges that was already loaded with cargo being transported to market. The runaway barge floated down the Euphrates River into the Persian Gulf and grounded in an estuary at the mouth of the river. After moving to dry land, Ziusudra offered a sacrifice to a Sumerian god on an alter at the top of a temple ziggurat, an artificial hill. Later, story tellers mistranslated the ambiguous word for hill as mountain. The story tellers then erroneously assumed that the nearby barge must have grounded on top of a mountain. Additional details in the reconstructed legend about Ziusudra (Noah) can be found in the Noah’s Ark book.
Tour of subjects
For Old Testament scholars
The Noah’s Ark book reviewed here does not claim historicity for Noah or the ark story, but the book does claim that some of the story elements in the Ancient Near East flood were based on an actual river flood. This archaeologically attested flood of the Euphrates River has been radiocarbon dated to about 2900 BC. This flood left a few feet of yellow mud in the Sumerian city Shuruppak about 125 miles southeast of Baghdad. Some but not all Sumerian cities also show signs of this river flood at the beginning of the Early Dynastic I period. According to the Sumerian King List, a legendary king named Ziusudra lived in Shuruppak at the time of the flood. Zuisudra was the Sumerian Noah. There was also a flood myth about king Ziusudra which includes several story elements very similar to the Genesis flood myth. Noah was a Sumerian king of Shuruppak and son of Lamech (SU.KUR.LAM in Sumerian) who preceded Noah as king of Shuruppak. Shuruppak was the flood hero’s city according to the Epic of Gilgamesh. The flood myth in the Epic of Gilgamesh was adapted from an earlier myth, the Epic of Atrahasis which is also very similar to the Genesis flood myth. Six of these Ancient Near East flood myths contain numerous distinctive story elements that are very similar to the Genesis flood myth and indicate a literary affinity or dependency on a common body of legends about the flood hero Ziusudra (Noah) and based on the Euphrates River flood of 2900 BC.
Parts of the original myths were physically possible, but other parts were not possible. The possible parts can be treated as an ancient legend to which mythical material was added later. In the Noah’s Ark book, the original legend is reconstructed by piecing together fragments from the various surviving editions of the flood story, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This reconstruction is governed by the requirement that each story element in the legend be physically possible, technologically practical, consistent with archaeological facts, and plausible for 2900 BC. Some of the impossible story elements were mistranslations or misunderstandings, and these are corrected before including them in the reconstructed legend.
These are some examples of mistakes: The ambiguous word for hill or country was mistranslated as mountain. The words that identified the flood as a river flood were changed to indicate an ocean deluge. The archaic number signs in which the Genesis 5 numbers and Noah’s age were recorded, were mistranslated which made them about ten times their original value. The “flood” of Genesis 6-7 was confused with the “waters” of Genesis 8. A journey on foot to Mount Judi in the Mountains of Ararat was confused with a journey on the water of the Persian Gulf. The numbers in the Sumerian King List were also mistraslated by an ancient scribe.
The reconstructed legend is this: Ziusudra reigned for ten years as king of Shuruppak, a Sumerian city then on the Euphrates River. Ziusudra’s reign was at the end of the Jemdet Nasr period that ended with the flood of 2900 BC. Then as now, river barges were used for transporting cargo on the Euphrates River. This cargo included livestock, beer, wine, textiles, lumber, stone, metals, dried fish, vegetable oil, and other cargo. In June about 2900 BC during the annual inundation of the Euphrates River, the river was at crest stage. A six-day thunderstorm caused the river to rise about 15 cubits (22 feet) higher and overflow the levees. By the time the river began to rise, it was already too late to evacuate to the foothills of the mountains 110 miles away. Ziusudra boarded one the the barges that was already loaded with cargo being transported to market. The runaway barge floated down the Euphrates River into the Persian Gulf and grounded in an estuary at the mouth of the river. After moving to dry land, Ziusudra offered a sacrifice to a Sumerian god on an alter at the top of a temple ziggurat, an artificial hill. Later, story tellers mistranslated the ambiguous word for hill as mountain. The story tellers then erroneously assumed that the nearby barge must have grounded on top of a mountain. Additional details in the reconstructed legend about Ziusudra (Noah) can be found in the Noah’s Ark book.
Answers to Creationists arguments
Noah’s flood is the keystone in the belief system of the young-earth creationists who believe the flood was global and created massive geological changes in the earth’s crust. But there was no global flood. Creationist arguments are printed here in boldface:
According to Genesis 7:19-20 all the high mountains under the whole sky were covered with flood water. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them 15 cubits deep. The reference to 15 cubits (22 feet) refers to the draft of the ark.
Mountains is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word harm meaning hills in this context. The King James Version of Genesis 7:19 translates hills correctly. There is no mention of draft or deep or depth in the Hebrew text of Genesis 7:20. A literal translation from Hebrew is “Five ten cubits upward rose the waters and they covered the hills.” Note that “hills” is not in the same clause as cubits or rose. The 15 cubits was how much the water rose, not how deep the water was. The depths would be different at different places. The tops of the hills in the clause “and they covered the hills” were less than 15 cubits above the normal water level during the annual inundation and were therefore covered when the water rose 15 cubits higher. “Under the whole sky” means within Noah’s visible horizon. All of the hills within Noah’s visible horizon were covered by the water when the river rose 15 cubits. If the flood water had been more than ten thousand cubits deep, the authors of Genesis would have said so. Fifteen cubits is consistent with a local flood.
The flood continued for more than one year. This cannot be reconciled with a local-flood theory. If nothing could be seen but the tops of mountains after the waters had subsided for 74 days, we must conclude that the flood covered the whole earth.
All commentators have assumed that the flood mentioned in Genesis 7:6-17 was the same as the deep “waters” that lasted more than a year. But nowhere in Genesis 8 is the word “flood” mentioned. Noah’s encounters with deep water were in two phases: a river flood phase that lasted less than a week and a deep water phase that lasted a year. The river flood floated Noah’s barge down into the Persian Gulf and the barge floated about the deep water of the Gulf for a year. The deep water that Noah experienced for a year was not a flood; it was the deep water of the Persian Gulf. The “tops of hills” above the water surface are commonly called islands. If only islands could be seen after the water became more shallow for 74 days, it means only that Noah’s barge was still several miles or more from the shore and dry land beyond the horizon. Deep water in the Persian Gulf for more than a year is consistent with a local river flood.
According to Genesis 7:11, all the fountains of the great deep were broken up. The great deep refers to oceanic depths and underground reservoirs. Presumably, the ocean basins were fractured and uplifted sufficiently to pour water over the continents. This continued for five months. Such vast and prolonged geologic upheavals in the oceanic depths cannot be reconciled with a local flood theory. Instead this upheaval was global.
The Hebrew word baqa translated as “broken up” in the King James version is translated “burst forth” in the Revised Standard Version and New International Version. The Hebrew word mayan for “fountain” can also mean a well or spring which share a common meaning: a source of water. References to sources of sea water breaking or bursting may have meant only that water from the Persian Gulf was bursting onto the shore during a storm. This frequently happens along a seashore during a storm. Noah and the others could not report on oceanic depths because they would have no way of knowing what was happening at oceanic depths. Bursting of Gulf water onto the shore during a thunderstorm was a local condition.
The Ark was unusually large. For Noah to have built a vessel of such huge magnitude simply for the purpose of escaping a local flood is inconceivable.
It is conceivable that Noah built a large river barge for hauling cargo. When a local river flood occurred, it is conceivable that Noah used the barge as a lifeboat. That may not have been what Noah had planned, but it certainly is conceivable that he used a large river barge to escape a local river flood.
There would have been no need for an ark at all if Noah’s intent was to escape a local flood. How much more sensible it would have been for Noah to move to an area that would be unaffected by the local flood. The great numbers of animals could have moved out also. The entire story borders on the ridiculous if the flood was confined to some section of the Near East. The fact that he built the ark “to keep their kind alive upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis 7:3) proves that the flood was global.
The story would be ridiculous only if you accept the myth that Noah knew the flood was coming and built the barge solely as a lifeboat. Alternatively, if he built the barge to transport cattle and grain to market and had no inkling that a flood was coming until the rain began to fall, then using the barge to escape a local flood makes sense. When the river overflowed the levees, it was too late to evacuate to the foothills of the Zagros mountains which were 110 miles away. The phrase “all the earth” did not mean the planet earth, it meant all the ground, all the land in the flooded region known to Noah. He would have had no way of knowing what was happening to the land outside his local region.
The Apostle Peter in II Peter 3:6 refers to the “world that then existed was overflowed with water and perished.” Peter’s reference to the flood would have no value if the flood were only a local inundation.
Peter received his information on the flood from the same texts that we have and was therefore limited by the same ambiguities in the text that we can see for ourselves. Just because Peter referred in broad terms to a world that was overflowed with water, does not prove that the “world” in the original story was anything more than the local world known to Noah. Peter was using the flood story as a metaphor; he was not giving a discourse on geography.
Genesis 7:21-23 teaches that all mankind perished in the flood. Only Noah and his family were left. Since the human race had spread around the planet by the time of the flood, it follows that the flood was global.
If Noah and his family were the only survivors, then they would be the only source of information on the flood. There would be nobody from other parts of the world to report on conditions there. Noah would have had no way of knowing what was happening on the earth beyond his local area. It would have been impossible for Noah to travel all over the earth or even to all the cities of the Ancient Near East checking on whether anyone else survived. Noah and the author of his story cannot be used as a source of information on facts about which they could have no knowledge. The other survivors of the flood near where Noah lived were ignored by the author of Noah’s story, because they were beyond the scope of the story. A modern news report about people who survived a local river flood does not mention the billions of people who were not in the flooded area.
There are many places in Genesis where the words “all” and “every” must be understood in the literal sense. The constant repetition of universal terms throughout Genesis 6-9 shows conclusively that the magnitude and geographical extent of the flood was of primary importance in the mind of the writer. Unlike the limited scope of the word “all” in Genesis 41:57: “the people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain”, the word “all” in Genesis 1-11 deals with universal origins (the material universe, all plants, all animals, etc.) Genesis 1-11 contains many such superlatives which lose their meaning if limited to a local area observed by the narrator.
When a modern news reporter writes that everyone died in an airplane crash, readers are expected to understand that “everyone” does not apply to the entire planet. Likewise when the narrator of the flood story wrote in Genesis 7:21 that “every man” died, the reader is expected to understand that the scope of “every” applies only to the flooded region. People living outside the flooded region were not included in “every” and were not mentioned, because they were not affected by the flood and were beyond the scope of the story.
Many ranchers in the flooded region survived the river flood by climbing to hills or buildings that were higher than 15 cubits, but most of their livestock drowned. In contrast “every beast according to its kind, and all the cattle” that Noah owned or were in his custody were saved in his river barge. In other words, Noah did not leave any of his animals behind.
The scope of Genesis 1-11 is not all global. Genesis 2:14 refers to the river “which flows east of Assyria and the fourth river is the Euphrates.” This limits the scope of the story to a local region, the Tigris-Euphrates valley.
Not all species of animal were in the ark. There was need for no more than 35,000 individual animals on the ark. Many of the animals could have hibernated and therefore needed no food or drink. We do not really know how all this was accomplished.
Genesis 7:2 does not say “all animals” or “all land animals.” It says “all clean animals.” We do not have to guess at how many clean animals there were because Deuteronomy 14:4-5 lists them. Similarly with the unclean animals. About 270 animals would satisfy the totals implied by Genesis 7:2-3. There could have been enough food and drink for 270 animals on Noah’s modest size barge and therefore there is no reason to suppose that any of them hibernated.
If we accept the Biblical testimony concerning an antediluvian canopy of waters (Gen. 1: 6-8, 7:11, 8:2), we have an adequate source for the waters of a global flood.
The “canopy theory” was thoroughly discredited by Soroka and Nelson who did the physics calculations to prove that the canopy theory is physically impossible. Which is more likely, that an ancient scribe mistranslated an ambiguous word or that three quintillion tons of water mysteriously appeared and disappeared?
The ocean basins were deepened after the flood (Gen. 8:3, Psalms 104:6-9) to provide adequate storage space for the additional waters.
The writer of Genesis had no way of knowing whether the ocean basins were deepened or not. Genesis provides no direct evidence that the ocean basins were deepened. The deep waters of Noah’s experience did not drain into a deepened basin, the waters became shallow because Noah’s barge drifted into shallow water. Psalms 104:6-9 refers to a thunderstorm: “the waters storm clouds stood above the mountains; they fled at the sound of your thunder.” This is mythic metaphor for a thunderstorm: that the sound of thunder frightened away the water-filled clouds above the mountains.
If the flood was global, then all air-breathing animals not in the ark perished and present-day animal distribution must be explained as migrations from the mountains of Ararat. The kangaroos in the ark migrated in all directions. Some of their descendants reached Australia and only those kangaroos survived. They could have floated across the ocean on natural rafts of vegetation or on boats manned by Noah’s descendents.
Genesis does not mention kangaroos. Genesis 7:2-3 specifies seven pairs of each kind of clean animal and one pair of each kind of unclean animal. Deuteronomy 14:4-18 lists the species of clean animals and the species of unclean animals. Kangaroos were not listed and therefore were not in the ark. Likewise with giraffes, elephants, lions, etc. Genesis 7:2-3 is consistent with a local flood.
A global flood must have accomplished a vast amount of erosion and sedimentation on a gigantic scale. Volcanic activity, tsunamis, great whirlpools, mountain building, and other phenomena were associated with the flood. The vastness of this geological activity must have been in proportion to the huge depth of the flood.
Such massive changes in the surface of the earth would have destroyed all traces of landmarks in the Euphrates River valley where Noah’s ancestors lived (Genesis 2:14) and where Noah lived (according to the Sumerian king list). And after all of this destruction of landmarks, Noah supposedly was able to find his way back to the Euphrates River valley where his descendants lived (Genesis 11) and find the exact spot where some writings were buried (according to Berossus). For Noah to be in the southern Euphrates valley before and after the flood, indicates a local flood in the Euphrates valley.
Flood stories can be found in every part of the world and common to most of them is the recollection of a great flood which destroyed all but a tiny remnant of the human race. Many of these traditions tell of the building of a great boat which saved humans and animals and which finally landed on a mountain. This indicates that Noah’s flood was global.
Flooding is experienced in every region of the earth where there are rivers. Myths about flooding can therefore arise independently around the world. Over time, story elements from one local flood story gets mixed with other flood stories in distant lands. If one story had an unusually memorable story element, such as a boat saving a family from a flood, eventually some other local flood legends would absorb that story element. Similar stories in different parts of the world were the result of travelers and missionaries taking the Noachian story to different parts of the world. No single worldwide flood is needed to account for these flood stories, many of which are unrelated to Noah’s story.
Attempts to harmonize Genesis with modern geology by proposing local-flood theories have been discredited. There is no trace of such a local flood in the Euphrates River valley. The flood layer found by Leonard Woolley at Ur was not even in the same century with the flood layers found by Stephen Langdon at Kish.
Just because the Ur flood and the Kish floods were different floods does not imply that neither of them was Noah’s flood. One of the Kish floods occurred at about the same time as flooding at Shuruppak and Uruk and could have been Noah’s flood, a local flood that occurred about 2900 BC.
One hundred and fifty days after the Flood began, the waters started to subside and the Ark grounded on Mount Ararat, one of the highest mountain peaks. Another thirty-one weeks were required for the waters to subside. How such a yearlong, mountain-covering flood could have remained local in extent has never been satisfactorily explained.
The Hebrew word for mountain in Genesis 8:4 can also mean hill and is translated as hill in the King James version of Genesis 7:19. A local flood covering a few hills is consistent with Genesis 7:19. Genesis 8:4 says “mountains of Ararat” not “Mount Ararat.” If Noah’s sons visited one of the mountains of Ararat and story tellers mistakenly assumed the barge had landed there, such a simple error could explain why the mountains of Ararat were mentioned as the landing place. Noah’s barge grounded at sea level in an estuary near some low hills of the Euphrates River delta. If Noah’s barge was floating about the deep water of the Persian Gulf for a year, then the prior hill-covering local flood need not have been more than a few days.
Mountain peaks several miles high did not exist before the flood. The mountains covered by the flood were less than seven thousand feet high. After the flood began, the mountains rose to their present height and the ocean basins subsided to their present depth. According to Psalms 104:8 “The mountains rose, the valleys sank down.”
Where is the evidence of such recent mountain rising? How would the psalm writer know if they rose or not? In the same poem he also wrote “You set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never shake” (Psalms 104:5-6). The poet believed that the earth was flat and rested on a shaky foundation. Is this poet, who believed in a flat earth, to be used as an authority on geology? Missing from his poem is evidence to support his statements, examples and identification of which mountains rose, and data on how high they rose and how many years ago and over how many years the mountains rose. This poem is primitive nature myth to explain earthquakes and thunderstorms.
Could Noah have been so ignorant of the topography of southwestern Asia, where the highest mountains of the world are located, as to actually think that the Flood covered “all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens” (Genesis 7:19), when it really covered only a few foothills?
Noah may have known about the Zagros Mountains 110 miles east of Shuruppak. But since he could not see beyond the horizon, he would have no knowledge of whether the Zagros Mountains were flooded or not. He reported only what he could see and he could see only sky and water, because he was several miles from shore. From Noah’s point of view, the whole world was flooded and all the high hills (less than 15 cubits high) were covered. Note that the word “hills” is used in the King James Version of Genesis 7:19. “Mountains” is a mistranslation in other versions of Genesis 7:19.
A flood in Armenia 17,000 feet deep while Egypt or India were not flooded would be a more incredible miracle than anything implied by the traditional understanding of a universal flood.
The flood water rose 15 cubits (Genesis 7:20) and had no connection with a 17,000 foot mountain. Mountains is a mistranslation. The flood covered hills not mountains.
Additional creationist arguments are answered in chapter 13 of the Noah’s Ark book
Frequently Asked Questions
Questions are in bold face. Answers are in regular type.
Was Noah’s flood story fiction or fact?
Much of the flood story was fiction, but there was a real river flood on which the original flood legend was based. Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah was listed in the Sumerian King List and therefore may have been a real person, but there is no hard evidence that Noah/Ziusudra existed.
Was there a global flood?
No. The flood of Noah was a Euphrates River flood in southern Sumer similar to the flood of 1985 in southern Iraq. The “earth” in Genesis 7:17-18 refers to the ground/land in the flooded region, not the entire planet.
Did the ark ground on Mount Ararat?
No. Mount Ararat was not involved in the original flood legend. The ark grounded in an estuary at the mouth of the Euphrates River. The mountains of Ararat got involved in the story because Noah’s son Shem traveled on foot to the mountains of Ararat after the barge grounded. Story tellers confused the mountain that Noah’s son visited with the hill on which Noah offered a sacrifice. The ark never came close to a mountain.
But doesn’t the Epic of Gilgamesh have the ark grounding on Mount Nisir?
No. The word KUR usually translated Mount can mean mound or country. The river barge grounded on a mound of mud or sand in an estuary at the mouth of the river.
When did the flood occur?
The Euphrates River flooded about 2900 BC at the end of the Jemdet Nasr period and the beginning of the Early Dynastic period. This river flood left a few feet of yellow mud in Shuruppak and a few other Sumerian cities. Polychrome pottery from the Jemdet Nasr period was found immediately below this flood lawyer. Hence Noah/Ziusudra reigned during the end of the Jemdet Nasr period. The flood layer has been radiocarbon dated to 2900 BC.
How did Noah build such a large boat without help?
He had lots of help. Noah was a king and kings delegate responsibility to managers who hire workmen to do the job. Noah did not build the ark with his own hands.
How could a wooden ark 450 feet long withstand the stresses from a storm and not break up?
The ark was not a mono-hull galleon, it was an array of small flat-bottom pontoons roped together. Large modern river barges are also assembled from dozens of small barges chained together.
What was gopher wood?
“Gopher wood” was a transliteration of gish gipar (meadow wood) or kupar (cypress wood).
How could all species of animals fit in the ark?
They didn’t. All of the kinds of animals that Noah had in his stockyard were put in the ark, but these were domesticated ranch animals and there were less than 280 of them.
How could the animals know when to come to the ark and where to find it?
The owners of the animals had their herdsmen take the animals to the ark to be transported as cargo. Noah had his herdsmen load into the barge all of the livestock in his stockyards.
How did Noah prevent all the other people in his city from boarding the ark?
He didn’t have to. The other people climbed high hills far from the river.These hills are not mentioned in Genesis 7:19-20 because they were too far from the river for Noah to see.
Did everybody drown in the flood except Noah and his family? Are all the people of of the world descended from Noah?
No. Everybody did not drown. Hundreds, possibly thousands of Sumerians drowned in the flooded area, but there were many thousands of survivors of Noah’s river flood, even in his own city, and especially in distant lands not affected by the flood.
Did people live to be more than 900 years before the flood?
No. That was an ancient mistranslation of archaic numbers. Noah lived to be 83.
How could Noah know years in advance that a flood was coming to provide enough time to build the ark?
The ark was not built as a lifeboat. It was built long before the flood as a commercial river barge for transporting cattle, grain, and other cargo. Noah learned that the flood was coming only when he saw heavy rain falling. This was a few hours before the river overflowed the levees. Noah did not know the flood was coming when he commissioned building the river barge.
How do you explain the conflict between the 1-year flood in Genesis 8:13 and the 6-day flood in Gilgamesh XI,129-131?
There is no conflict. The river flood lasted 6 days. During the rest of the year the ark was drifting about the Persian Gulf. Genesis 8 refers to the “waters” and does not use the word “flood” or “ocean” or “sea”.
Legends about Noah’s flood can be found all over the world, such as the Hawaiian legend about the god Kane sending a flood and only Nu’u escaped in a large boat that grounded on a mountain. Doesn’t this prove that Noah’s flood was global?
No. Wherever there are rivers there are floods and local storytellers tell stories about these local floods. Later when Europeans taught the Genesis stories to the Hawaiians, local storytellers incorporated the name Nu’u and the mountain into the older Hawaiian river flood story.
How did the kangaroos get from Mount Ararat to Australia?
There were no kangaroos in Noah’s barge. Kangaroos are not mentioned in Genesis nor in Deuteronomy 14:4-18 where the kinds of clean and unclean animals are listed.
But Genesis 6:19 says “every living thing.”
Noah loaded into the barge every living animal that he had. He did not load any animals he did not have.
The 15 cubits in Genesis 7:20 must refer to the draft of the ark when it grounded on Mount Ararat and cannot refer to how much the water rose. Otherwise how could only 15 cubits of water cover mountains?
Mountains were not involved. Sumer was very flat. All the hills that Noah could see were less than 15 cubits high and therefore were submerged when the water rose 15 cubits.
If the flood was a local flood, why would Noah bother with a boat? Why not just move the animals and family overland to the foothills of the Zagros mountains?
Your hidden assumption is that Noah knew long in advance that the flood was coming. Actually he knew the flood was coming only when heavy rain began to fall. By then it was too late to travel to the mountains that were more than a hundred miles away.
How did Noah know the flood was coming?
During the annual inundation, the Euphrates River was at crest stage just below the top of the levees. When Noah saw heavy rain falling in the distance, he knew the river would be rising in a few hours. He did not have to be a metorologist to understand that the river would soon overflow the levees.
Why did Noah offer a sacrifice after the ark grounded?
It was the duty of ship captains to offer sacrifices to the gods at a local temple when their boats arrived safely.
More questions are answered in chapter 12 of the Noah’s Ark book.
Noah was king of Shuruppak
According to the Genesis version of the flood story, Noah was closely associated with animals. But he was not a mere shepherd or cattle rancher. In the Epic of Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah is repeatedly called a king or chief (lugal). According to the Weld-Blundell king list WB-62, Ziusudra (Noah) was king of the city-state Shuruppak. Lugal literally means great man and was “normally a young man of outstanding qualities from a rich landowning family.” The flood hero was a respected leader who spoke to “the city people and the elders” of Shuruppak according to Gilgamesh XI,35 and Atrahasis III,i,39-41. In the WB-62 king list, Ziusudra (Noah) succeeded his father as king of Shuruppak.
The flood of 2900 B.C. deposited sediment in Shuruppak directly above artifacts from the Jemdet Nasr period. Hence, the flood hero was probably chief executive of Shuruppak during the end of the Jemdet Nasr period and the flood story began to circulate during the Early Dynastic I period that followed the flood.
Shuruppak was then a capital city and a commercial center located on the Euphrates River. As head of the Shuruppak city-state government, Noah was probably a wealthy land owner. Wealthy people then invested in cattle and other domesticated animals and so apparently did Noah. A clue to what he did with these animals is found in Gilgamesh XI, 81-82: “All I had of silver I loaded, all I had of gold I loaded … into the boat.” Gold and silver were not a common medium of exchange prior to minting of standard-weight coins in the seventh century BC. In earlier times, gold and silver were used largely by professional merchants and those involved in caravan trade.
Possessing gold and silver, Noah was probably a merchant or government trade official before becoming chief executive of Shuruppak. Perhaps he owned a private merchanting business or managed foreign trade for his father, king of Shuruppak. Early in his career, Noah probably controlled large numbers of workers who transported livestock and other commodities in overland caravans and on small river barges to nearby cities. His workers may also have grown grain, hay and other crops near Shuruppak to feed the animals and to have surplus fodder and food to sell. Noah also had a vineyard (Genesis 9:20) which suggests he had a winery business.
As a wealthy leader of the city-state Shuruppak, Noah would have access to the labor and materials needed to build a large commercial barge. Although popular versions of the story have Noah being ridiculed by the townspeople, actually the elders of Shuruppak probably encouraged and supported building of the barge under control of their own leader Noah, because they may have envisioned that the barge would substantially increase their own personal wealth and the wealth of Shuruppak. Noah promoted this vision and told the elders that the gods would “shower plenty on you, an abundance of birds, a profusion of fish” when the new barge became operational. For several weeks each year, Noah’s barge probably hauled cargo to cities on the Euphrates River including the port city Ur then near the mouth of the river.
Although surviving versions of the flood story suggest that the flood hero rode on the barge only once, and that the barge made only one voyage, it is not likely that the storm and flood happened at exactly the right moment to interrupt the barge’s maiden voyage. It is more likely that the barge was used many times to transport cargo, but without Noah on board. Kings have better things to do with their time than to ride on cattle barges. Only the final voyage was mentioned in the story, because that may have been one of the few times or the only time that Noah rode on the barge.