(NOTE: This is actually last month’s question. With Christmas, New Years and working on launching this new website, we did not have time to post a new question yet, but will very soon!)
This question is frequently used to cast serious doubt on the Bible and often in attempt to ridicule it as being just a bunch of fairytales. The conversation typically goes something like this… “Let me get this straight… the Bible says there was a worldwide flood during which the entire Earth was covered with water. So where did all that water go? I’m looking around… but I don’t see it!”
Most Christians don’t know how to respond and sometimes offer answers that don’t seem very credible (even ones that they themselves don’t really buy into). For example, they might say “Well, I think God made it disappear when the flood was over.” Others will avoid an answer altogether. We need, however, to make sure that we know what God’s Word actually tells us about this question rather than making up our own answers which often are neither biblically sound nor scientifically accurate.
Genesis 6-8 does indeed describe a worldwide flood. We read in Genesis 7:20 that the highest mountains were covered “15 cubits” which would be about 22 ½ feet and that “all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.” (Gen 7:19) This was definitely a global flood, worldwide in extent. That’s a lot of water. Skipping many other details regarding the flood itself, including where all the water came from to begin with, we will focus on where it went afterwards.
Most people do not realize just how much water is on the Earth today. It is 70% covered with water in its present form. In fact, there’s so much water that if you were to smooth out the Earth like a cue ball (i.e. flatten the mountains and fill in the oceans) there’s enough water to cover the Earth 1.7 miles deep! Now that truly is a lot of water! An interesting side note… scientists have discovered small amounts of frozen water on Mars and believe that the red planet has experienced a global flood in its past. However, the Earth is currently 70% covered with liquid water and they deny the possibility of a global flood here!
The Bible gives us a very good explanation of where the waters went at the end of the flood. Psalm 104:6-9 (NASB) states “You covered it with the deep as with a garment; The waters were standing above the mountains. At Your rebuke they fled, at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away. The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth.” Think about the phrase, “The mountains rose; the valleys sank down.” What does that indicate? It tells us that the mountains before the flood were not as high as they are today and valleys (more specifically the ocean trenches) were not as deep. Therefore, the mountains that were covered with water during the flood were not the same as we see today. For example, Mount Everest, which today is about 5.5 miles high, was not that tall in the pre-flood world. It’s interesting to note that we find fossilized sea creatures on top of Mount Everest! That only makes sense if it was lower in the past and covered with water. (There’s not enough water on the planet to cover mountains that high and there is also evidence of great uplifting.) Ocean trenches, such as the 6.8 mile deep Mariana Trench off the coast of Japan also did not exist. Catastrophic plate tectonics not only explains the uplifting of mountains, but also the creation of these great ocean trenches (a topic for some other time).
God promised us in Genesis 9:13-15 that He would never again flood the entire Earth. The catastrophic post flood change in the Earth’s geology was God’s way of abating the waters and ensuring that there would never again be such a flood, “You set a boundary that they may not pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth.” (Psalm 104: 9)
In summary, we have the water rushing off the uplifted mountains, traveling across the land and running down into the deepening ocean trenches. So where did all the water go after the flood? It mainly went back into the oceans! Today, all ocean and lake water is really “flood” water! There have been subsequent formations of local bodies of water, such as lakes, ponds and rivers, but the water is really all the same… it just gets circulated differently via evaporation, condensation, rain, springs, etc. There’s actually a fair amount of additional water that is trapped in layers of the Earth, due to the effects of the flood. As strange as it may sound, if you had some coffee this morning, you were actually drinking “flood water”!
This is a greatly abbreviated response to this question, but hopefully it will better position you to address it in the future. The Bible truly is the ultimate “Answers” book and I encourage each of you to read it every day and allow God to greatly strengthen your faith so that you may be a blessing and encouragement to others. You may also wish to purchase our “Answers” DVD which addresses this question as well as 9 other “Top 10″ questions.