Stories of a great flood that destroys humanity are told in cultures all around the world. There a literally hundreds of flood accounts, stories and myths and for the most part they are all similar in plot. God (or the gods) destroys humanity by sending a flood and humanity in preserved because one man and his family are saved from the catastrophe. The Hawaiian culture has a story about a man (Nu-u) who builds a canoe with a house on it to escape a great flood. He is saved and he attributes his safety to the moon. The creator god descends to the earth on a rainbow and corrects Hu’u and explained it was he who protected him.
The Hihking is a Chinese flood story about a man (Fuhi) and his family (wife, 3 sons, and 3 daughter-in laws) who survived aboard a boat when a great flood covered the land.
The Toltec Indians tell a story that after the world had been in existence for 1716 years it was then destroyed by a flood and only one family survived.
The closest parallels of the biblical flood come from Mesopotamia. In this version, the gods all agreed on a flood to stop human population growth as a sort of divine retribution. One god dissented and tipped off his worshiper Atrahasis (the equivalent of Noah). When the flood was unleashed, the gods cowered before it like dogs unable to control it. After the flood the gods hurried to the sacrifice as they were hungry, since sacrifices had stopped during the flood. One of the top gods was surprised to find a man had survived the flood.
The Mesopotamian and biblical accounts are very similar as they both deal with a person who is saved from the flood. There are minor differences between the two accounts but theologically they vary quite considerably. According to DA Carson, “These (theological differences) are so considerable that it seems likely that the author of the biblical account was deliberately trying to correct or refute the common oriental view of the flood. In particular Genesis is trying to explain what God is really like and how he relates to the world.”
For instance in the Mesopotamian account the gods are not sovereign, they had no control over the situation. They needed the sacrifice for food. They create the catastrophe but have no control over it. This is not so in the biblical account. God is sovereign, in complete control of the matter and in need of nothing from humanity.
With so many stories about a great or universal flood in history one would be hard pressed to call the flood account of Genesis a total myth. With a common theme in so many cultures it could be easy to conclude that an actual flood did occur in the past and it is a story or event that has been passed down from generations to generation.
Overall the theme and general plan of the flood story (6:9–9:17) is quite clear. Three elements make up the basic theme:
1) God saves Noah and his companions by having them embark in an ark.
2) God sends a flood which destroys the rest of the world.
3) He promises never to send another such flood.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (65–66). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (65). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Wenham, G. J. (1998). Vol. 1: Genesis 1–15. Word Biblical Commentary (156). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
Preview or purchase Jeff's Books