After the Flood
1.The subsiding of the Waters
A little group stood on steeply rising ground, looking down at the wide plain below. From where they stood, a thousand feet above sea level, they could see the far horizon forty miles away; in between, there stretched a desolate expanse of mud. No trees, no grass, no movement and no living thing; just mud. Behind them, higher up the mountain-side, the trees, still grew, clothing the rocky crags with green verdure. Up there, they knew, the birds still sang and flitted to and fro between the branches. A rushing stream - the one which today men call the Changulak tumbled down the gorge leading from the mountains and flowed placidly across the plain to lose itself in the distant marshes. Right on the horizon they could just discern the sunlight glinting on the waters of a mighty river, Hiddekel, as it was called in the early days although now it is known by its modern name of Tigris-and they looked again across that wide expanse of mud and were silent.
The older man turned to his three younger companions. The four women, standing a little apart, listened. "My sons, the Most High God has delivered us from the evil world in which we were born and have lived our lives. He has broken the tyranny of those evil powers which have oppressed all men with so terrible an oppression and seduced them into sin so that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil, and that continually. Year in, year out, we told them that the judgment of God must surely come if they did not repent, but they heeded not. They went on with their eating and drinking, their planting and building, their marrying and giving in marriage, until the Flood came and took them all away, and we only are left". His gaze wandered over the distant horizon. "And now, my sons, it is our mission to build a new world in this earth which has, been swept clean by that judgment. Never more will you be oppressed by the powers of evil. They lie, with all their cities and all their works, under the sand and silt which this great Flood has carried in its wake to cover the world we knew. We shall see that world no more. The Most High has given us a new earth, a clean earth, an earth freed from evil, that you and your children may serve him in obedience and righteousness the days of your lives and become fathers of a race that will fulfil the wise and gracious purposes of our God". He looked again at the three young men and their wives, intently following his every word. "See then that you keep his covenant and obey his laws, for He has promised that He will no more destroy the earth with a flood, neither will He again blot out all flesh as He has done. But if your children depart from his ways, then his judgments will come upon them by famine, and by pestilence, and by the beasts of the earth, for 110 men can escape his justice. Teach them therefore that they serve the Most High all their days, that they train their children likewise; so shall it be well with them and theirs".
One of the other men-the serious, thoughtful looking one-looked out again across the barren plain. "How shall we fare for food? Nothing will ever grow in this inhospitable waste? Out stores will last us a little longer, but after that....?" His eyes sought his father's face. Noah looked at his eldest son affectionately. "The birds of the air and the winds of heaven will bring the seeds from the mountains. The green grass will spring forth and the trees will grow. It will not be this year and it will not be next; for many years to come we must find our homes in the mountains and eat that which the mountains bring forth. Here must your children be born and here grow to manhood. But tile day will come when that wide plain will be golden with corn ready for harvest. There will your children's children build cities and learn the arts and crafts you knew in the world that has passed away. There will they worship God in spirit and in truth and serve him in sincerity." A shadow passed across his face. "Whether sin will invade again I do not know, for sin is subtle and the power of the Evil One is great". But the shadow passed and in his eyes there gleamed the vision of the prophet; he looked again at his eldest son. "But this I know, for this I have seen in the visions of the night." His gaze now was directed at the far horizon, beyond the distant shining river. "I see, beyond there, a city, and in that city a man of your seed, a man to whom God comes as he came to me, a man in whom the next great step in his mighty purpose is to be taken. As we, my sons" and now his gaze included them all "as we are called upon to step out in faith to a new world, knowing not whither we go, to carry forward the Divine purpose, so will he be called to leave behind the land in which he will be born and go out in faith to a land which God will show him, that through his seed all nations of the earth may be blessed. I know not what the future holds - good or of evil", and again his eyes grew sombre, "but this I know, that it shall be well with them that fear God".
There was a long silence. At last the old man turned his back upon the plain below and faced the dark gorge leading up into the mountains. Up there, in the distance, lay a long, black shape, the great enclosed vessel in which the eight had taken refuge to escape the flood-waters. It lay now, deserted, where the mountains had entrapped it when the waters began to recede, mute witness to the faith of those who alone of all the world had heeded the signs of the times, and obeyed their Lord's injunction to flee the judgment which had to come upon the corrupt and fast dying race. He took a step towards it. "Come with me; we must renew our promise of loyalty to the Most High, with offerings for his acceptance, that this day of deliverance be a day to remember as long as we shall live." Silently, they followed, picking their way among the rugged rocks, climbing steadily upward until they reached the place where they would meet with God.
* * * * * * * *
Some such scene as that must certainly have been enacted in the day that Noah and his family emerged from the Ark to face a world devastated. It must have been a harrowing experience. Everything they knew in life had been swept away; even the landscape had changed. They could not have known whether they were near their former haunts or in a different part of the world altogether. If the deductions to be outlined hereafter are anywhere near the truth they were probably not too far away from their former home; perhaps within five hundred miles or so, but even so the aftermath of the Flood would have presented so different a scene that they might as well have been on another planet. It is usually assumed that the antediluvian world was more or less in the vicinity of present-day Iraq simply because that is the scene of the earliest recognisable peoples-those of Abraham's day -in the Book of Genesis. There is however a logical basis for the conclusion. The early chapters of Genesis bear internal evidence of having been committed to writing in Sumer not later than the Early Dynastic period, about six centuries before Abraham. The geographical indications appertaining to the Garden of Eden story are those appropriate to that period. It has already been shown ("Garden of Eden" BSM Mar/Apr. 1981) that the historian of those days visualised the site of Eden as an extension of their own plain of Shinar (Sumerian "Edinu") but lower down the river, halfway along what later became the Persian Gulf. On this basis the antediluvian world could be conceived as extending over all the low-lying eastern half of Arabia as well as into the later plain of Shinar (Iraq) all of which could have been overrun by the Flood. But the whole of this one-time fertile parkland was now covered with thirty to sixty feet of sand, clay and gravel, and all the works of man were buried beneath for ever. Of all the theories which have been advanced to explain the cause of the Flood, the one which best fits the Bible account, the Sumerian legends which come from the same sources as the Bible, and the geological evidences on site which still remain, is that the whole area of the Persian Gulf, from southern Arabia to northern Iraq, was swept by a tsunami, (more commonly called a tidal wave), of colossal proportions, coming in from the Indian Ocean, its originating force continuing so long that the water banked up in Iraq for five months before it began to recede. The immediate cause of such a tidal wave could have been, and probably was, the sudden descent upon earth at the poles of stupendous masses of water vapour and minute ice crystals which, according to many geologists from Liebnitz (1690) until the present day, had been thrown up in prehistoric igneous ages, circulated at high altitudes with gradually decreasing momentum, until gravity at length overcame that centrifugal force and they crashed on to the earth-just as modern orbiting satellites do today when they have run their course. The result would be a massive tidal wave originating at the poles and travelling across the ocean in every direction. The magnitude of a wave generated by such a happening cannot be estimated, but in the past two centuries waves started by submarine earthquakes or volcanic eruptions have travelled thousands of miles and flooded the land to depths of a hundred feet. The known record is one that devastated a section of north-eastern Siberia in the 18th century; the water was 210 feet high when it crashed over the coast. It can be calculated that waves of this nature, starting in the Antarctic regions and re-inforced for the Biblical forty days by the continuing descent of the "waters above the firmament" to which the Bible itself refers,, could have sent a 100 foot wave up the Persian Gulf at 60 miles an hour, devastating the entire area over a terrain 600 miles wide, and bank up steadily in Iraq until the water was some 1000 to 1500 feet deep before it began to subside. Something like this might well have been the situation which faced Noah and his family in those stressful days. Just as there have been theories as to the cause of the Flood, so through the ages there have been many claims made as to the identity of the mountain at which the Ark came to rest. The most familiar one to western peoples is Ararat in north-eastern Turkey; this, legend had its rise about the 13th century A.D. and was originated by the Armenian church in that area, but it rests upon no other basis and Ararat is certainly not the mountain. From the First Advent until then, and to the present as far as the Eastern churches and the Moslem faith are concerned, the claim is for Mount Judi, in southern Turkey, almost certainly a legend started by the captive Israelites of the Ten Tribes settled there by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C. But both the Bible and Sumerian legend, which are both much nearer to the event, place it in or near the Sumerian plain in which the sons of Noah afterwards settled-a much more likely and logical location. Reasons have been given heretofore ("Ararat and Aratta", BSM May/June 1979) for identifying the mountain of the Ark with Mount Anaran (Lat. 33N. Long.47E), east of Babylon, on the edge of the Zagros Mountains, bordering the plain. This was the "Mount of the East", sacred mountain of Sumerians and Babylonians, described in their ceremonial hymns of praise, its position indicated by the orientation of the temple-towers in their two sacred cities of Babylon and Nippur, both of which point directly to Anaran, and physically so situated as to be suited in every respect to be the place where the Ark was stranded by the subsiding waters. There is every probability that this is the mountain described by Sumerian legend; it is within the ancient land of Urartu (Biblical Ararat) as demanded by Genesis. Now at this end of the 20th century comes another line of testimony which may well assist in confirming that it was indeed in this area that Noah and his family first set foot on their new domain. A flurry of archaeological research commencing in 1978, and still continuing, connected with the Iraq Government's River Diyala irrigation project, which will shortly create a great lake where early remains are known to lie, and in the vicinity of Mount Anaran, has revealed hitherto unexplored village sites so early that they could well be the first to be instituted after the Flood. Heretofore the earliest evidences of human habitation in the world have been conceded by the best authorities to be at Qalal Jarmo and Karim Shahir in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, discovered and excavated by Braidwood and Howe in 1948-51. Now here on the mountain slopes between Anaran and the River Diyala there are similar villages, some of which are as old or older than Jarmo. When all that can be ascertained about these ancient sites ha~ been published it may well be a reasonable conclusion that this is where life started again after the Flood.
So that since this series is intended to bring together in proper relation all that the Scriptures have to say-admittedly very little-about that obscure period between Noah and Abraham, and such historical records of the period the sands of Iraq have yielded up during this century, these present findings are of more than casual interest. Here, perhaps, are the remains of those first villages in which the sons of Noah and their children lived after the Flood. The subsidence of the waters must have seemed a slow process. If Chap. 8.14 is to be taken literally it means that the Occupants, of the Ark remained inside for seven months watching the waters subside to the level of the plain. From their position, say a thousand feet up on the mountainside, the water's edge in the vicinity of Mount Anaran would then be at least thirty miles away, almost out of sight. Perhaps, that is the meaning of the rather cryptic statement that on the first day of the first month the "face of the ground was dry" but that not until fifty-seven days later, on the twenty-seventh day of the second month, was the "earth dried" (Chap. 8. 13-14). At a constant rate of fall the water's edge on the first day of the first month would have been about ten or eleven miles from the stranded Ark, only halfway to the visible horizon. "The face of the ground was dry" in vs. 13 is "panim adamuh charab" meaning that the surface of the fields was dried, which in such case could mean the immediate vicinity of the Ark. "The earth was dried" in vs. 14 is "erets yabesh", meaning that the earth or the land was destitute of water. Only when there was no visible sign of water over the land would Noah be sure that the Flood was gone; only then in obedience to the Lord's command did he come out. There remained the mud. The water had gone, back to the ocean, but it had left behind a blanket of clay, sand and gravel much of which had been scooped up from the sea-bed and salt! Not infrequently an extra high tied floods low lying farmland bordering the seas of this country; the water drains away in a week or so but the salt it leaves behind renders the land unusable sometimes for a year or more. This Flood lasted over twelve months and must have rendered the land completely sterile for decades. Or even centuries before rain and the annual river floods leached out the salt and agriculture became again possible. Some of the salt has not gone even yet. The Iraq Government is at present trying to restore some of the ruined buildings of ancient Babylon to create a tourist attraction; one of the greatest handicaps that has, been encountered is the saline condition of the soil on which the city was built, causing disintegration to the remaining ruins as soon as they are uncovered and exposed to the air. It was to be very many years before the children of Noah could descend into the plain and create their farms and pasture lands. In the meantime they must perforce remain in the mountains. Reading Genesis 8 to 11 consecutively it is easy to assume that events followed each other in quick succession, that almost immediately after leaving the Ark the people came "from the east" (Gen. 11.1) into the Plain of Shinar and commenced their building operations. This could not possibly have been. Several centuries must have elapsed before the story of the Tower of Babel was enacted. Even after the Flood was ended and everything had returned to normal the head of the Persian Gulf was some three hundred miles north of its present position and formed an impassable barrier to Noah and his family up there in the mountains. Only in the course of time as the four great rivers, the Euphrates, Tigris, Kherkhah, and Batin (the Euphrates, Hiddekel, Pison and Gihon of the Eden story) brought down masses of silt to deposit every year over the plain did the land build up and drive the waters back to where they are now. By Abraham's, day, a thousand years after the Flood, the head of the Gulf had receded a hundred and fifty miles and Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham's home town, was a seaport. Today the sea has receded another hundred and fifty miles from Ur. In all this waste of water and marshland there could be no home for man. Noah had perforce to look elsewhere.
The signs are that he went north-westward along the fringe of the mountains. To this day their lower slopes are thickly forested, harbouring wide terraces rich in pasture, and in ancient times wild grain. Here are the remains of these ancient settlements which subsisted as centres of human life for at least four or five centuries and were only deserted when the plain was at last free of water and the cities known to us in the Bible story-Ur, Erech, Babylon, Nippur, Nineveh, Larsa, Sippar began to be built. The story of those early years is not recorded in the Bible, but nowadays it is beginning to be possible to trace its outlines in what those early settlers left behind them, to be brought to light in this our day.
To be continued.