Was there rain before the flood?

  • Question from JT, United Kingdom

    In The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, he claims that there wasn’t any rain until the flood. So my question is: “Did Noah ever see rain before the flood?”

    The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren’s popular devotional book, approaches the Bible from a certain viewpoint, namely a literalist understanding of Scripture. This approach can actually have it’s advantages, but care is needed on asserting ‘facts’ from Scripture, particularly if the Bible is less than clear on some things. Also, it assumes that for Scripture to contain absolute truth, it has to be factually correct throughout.

    In the section of the book in question, Rick Warren is trying to draw an important principle from the Noah story and he points out that there are many reasons why Noah could have decided not to build the Ark. “First, Noah had never seen rain, because prior to the Flood, God irrigated the earth from the ground up. Second, Noah lived hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean… Third, there was the problem of rounding up all the animals…” (op. cit. p.71)

    The subject of Noah’s flood has appeared previously on freelance theology and it seems that many people get hung up on the mechanics of the Flood without considering the point of the story. The idea that Noah had never seen rain is a case in point. Creationist accounts of the formation of the world often use Genesis chapter 2 verses 5-6 (“Yahweh had not sent rain upon the earth… but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground”) to explain why the Flood was such an unexpected catastrophe. The Flood was caused when the ‘water in the sky’ (that had been put there in Genesis chapter 1 verse 7) was released without warning. Incidentally, Creationists often credit this ‘water in the sky’ as the reason for humankind’s longevity before the Flood, as it may have filtered out harmful solar rays and the like.

    The problem with this kind of scientific (and the word is used loosely) exposition of Genesis is that the bigger issues of the Creation stories, namely the marring of God’s image in humanity and the failed relationship between creator and creature, are often lost behind complicated explanations. Rick Warren’s exposition of the bigger issue – namely Noah’s faithfulness to God’s commands, despite the circumstances – is more important. “If God asked you to build a giant boat, don’t you think you might have a few questions, objections, or reservations? Noah didn’t. He obeyed God whole-heartedly. That means doing whatever God asks without reservation or hesitation.” (Warren, op. cit. p.72) Ironically, the throwaway reference to disputable theology has perhaps hindered the effectiveness of his message.

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