Saturday, May 5, 2018

Why Didn't the Ark Riders See any Mountains?

My model of early Genesis has a regional flood in the highlands North and East of Mesopotamia as the epicenter of the flood. Mesopotamia got a "glancing blow". The target was not all of humanity, nor all animals, but rather the Adamic line which was given to produce Messiah and had gone badly astray. This was around 6,500 years ago.

One of the challenges in this model is the charge that it should not have taken so long for the tops of mountains to be seen if indeed it was a regional flood in the highlands. A closer look at the text shows that this is not the problem that it is made out to be.

First let's look at a couple of basic facts about spotting things on the horizon.....

The ark was 30 cubits tall, which we think is about 45 feet. The text hints that the draft of the vessel was 15 cubits because it says that the mountains were covered to at least that depth (Gen.7:20). So the top deck was about 22.5 feet off of the water. If their view was otherwise unobstructed this would be consistent with a visual horizon over the water of 5.8 miles.

Even if they were in some depression, say near Lake Urmia, until the east wind blew them unto the "mountains of Ararat" there were still some mountains which loom many thousands of feet higher than the surrounding terrain. It strains credulity to claim that those highest peaks were underwater for any length of time, especially for months. For example, a peak 5,000 feet higher than the surrounding terrain- be it earth or water, should be visible from sea level 86 miles away. A peak which soared 10,000 feet high, and there are several like that in this area even if the water was still 1,000 feet deep, should be visible a whopping 122 miles away with clear viewing. There is really not sufficient room for a vessel to drift for months without coming near to at least some of them.

Never the less, they (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) reported early on that "all of the mountains were covered". This report could be based on the fact that they drifted for months without ever running aground. It was not until the seventh month, the sixth month of their ordeal, that the ship ran aground. And it was not until two and a half months later, in the tenth month, that they reported "the tops of the mountains appeared".

I think some of the confusion can be cleared up if we put out of our mind the picture we have of the ark and instead go back to the text and see what it says things were like. I mean, if they drifted around for months with a crow's nest like modern vessels without seeing any land of course that strongly mitigates against a regional highland flood. But the ark was not built like that. The pictures and recreations we see of the ark with a row of windows on the upper deck are not what the text says that it looked like.

Instead, ark was built with the top cubit unfinished except for the spines to support a covering. This is the "window" mentioned when God is giving instructions for the ark. It's not really a window, and another word is used for the window which Noah opened to release the birds later in the account. Instead, that last 1.5 feet was left unfinished except for the framing for lighting and ventilation. A "cover" or "roof" was stretched out over the top of this, and based on the word used it was likely made of animal skins. Lamb skin perhaps? This was very much like what we would think of as an "awning" to keep the rain out.

So far as we can tell, that is all they had for visibility. The "door" of the ark was shut with pitch and could not be open and shut easily. There is no indication that Noah ever opened the "window" which he used to let the birds out until he in fact used it for that purpose after the ship ran aground. It is likely that opening the window broke the pitch seal, which would have been problematic if it rained again.

In the same way 8:13 is written like Noah and his family don't get a really good look at the surrounding landscape until they cast aside the cover of the ark. Again, he seemed very reluctant to take that cover off. I would imagine if they took it off too early and found the ground a swamp, replacing the cover from inside the ark would have been a difficult to impossible task. If they had taken off the cover and found a swamp they were in trouble if it rained again.

This is a strong hint that the eaves of the awning extended far over the sides and limited their view from these openings until it was removed. That would also explain Noah sending out the birds in hopes they would find dry ground. They couldn't see very far until they removed the cover or roof. They didn't have a row of unobstructed windows in the top of their vessel from which they could view the horizon and beyond. They could have drifted within a few miles of mountain tops and never seen them.

In verse 8:5 it says that "the tops of the mountains were seen". I had always assumed that meant distant mountains, but now I realize that the text does not support the idea that they had such visibility. Instead it was referring to the mountains on which they had run aground a month or two before. Earlier in the text there is a mention of "high" or "exalted" mountains. These are just mountains. They can start to see the tops of the mountains rising up out of the water in their immediate area. This leads them to wonder if there is not higher and drier ground just a couple of miles away. So they release the dove to go check. Because they can't see that far due to the awnings.

So once again, the solution to the paradox is to be found in the text. The text describes a situation where the ark-riders had limited visibility until the cover was removed from the ark. Thus, the regional highland flood model remains plausible.

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