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The Flood Story of the Bible

The literature of the ancient Near East includes several accounts of a primordial flood. The biblical flood story, a portion of which is quoted here, is, however, unique. While in other myths the flood occurs as a matter of divine caprice, in the Bible God's reasons are moral. The flood occurs because the earth is "filled with violence." In other words, humankind has to be destroyed because it has perverted Creation.


Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and set the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

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