Did it rain before Noah's Flood?

Question
Did it rain before Noah's Flood?
Answer
Thanks for your question. The Scripture does not specifically answer this question. There are good theologians on both sides of the issue. Some scholar's state there was rain before the Flood, others state there was not.

I, but not necessarily all those at IIIM, believe it did rain before the Flood. Why? Let's examine some passages:

Genesis 2:5-6

Some assert that the mist (Gen 2:5-6) and the rivers (Gen 2:10-14) watered the whole earth, therefore there was no need for rain before the Flood. However, while this may be a valid assertion and happened for a time, note that Genesis 2:5-6 says that God had not yet sent the rain. It was only the 3rd Day of Creation (Gen 1:11-13). "No bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up" - for TWO REASONS:

  • (1) for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land
  • (2) and there was no man [Hebrew: adam] to work the ground

This implies that God would grow these shrubs and the plants of the field, when there was rain and at least one man to cultivate the ground. I personally believe, God had already laid the "seed" of these specific shrubs and plants at creation (Gen 1:11, 12, 29, 30), but the land needed to be cultivated for them to grow.

In Genesis 2:15 , on Day 6 (Gen 1:26-28, 31) we observe that God created Adam (Hebrew: adam) to work the ground (Hebrew: adamah cf. Cain later in Gen 4:2, 12, etc.). So, rain was the only parameter left to be met before God allowed the shrubs and the plants of the field to grow.

In the curse announced in Genesis 3:14-19, the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:21) included the phrase, "plants of the field" (Gen 3:18). "Plants of the field" in Genesis 3:18 is the Hebrew phrase "eseb sadeh." The same exact phrase is used in Genesis 2:5. Therefore, since we can assume that Adam understood what "plants of the field" were (otherwise the curse would have been meaningless to him) and that these plants would come forth only after it began to rain and God had already created adam (Adam) to work the adamah (ground, Gen 2:15), I think it is likely that it rained before the Fall and the Flood.

Rain before the Fall is likely (Psa 104:13-15; Prov 3:19-20). The Hebrew 'ed (normally translated as "streams" or "mist" in Genesis 2:6) has the sense of a "rain cloud" in Job 36:27, where it is associated with rain (Job 36:28-30), so it is certainly plausible that 'ed has the same sense in Genesis 2:6, where it is likewise associated with rain (Gen 2:5) - Dr. Mark Futato, "Because it Had Rained" below. [1] Water evaporates from the oceans and other water sources (it "goes up") and the clouds, composed of mist, give us rain. So, rain forms and then falls from the clouds (composed of "mist," Hebrew: 'ed). So, Genesis 2:5-6 is more than likely informing us about the beginning of the rain or hydrologic cycle (Eccl 1:7), which in the order of creation began after Adam's creation (Gen 2:15).

Hebrews 11:7

Others emphasize that Hebrews 11:7 implies it never "rained" (Hebrew: matar, Gen 2:5) upon the earth until the time of the Flood. However, if it had not rained until the Flood, then how did Noah understand what God was talking about? If it had never rained before, we would expect a question like, "Lord you mentioned rain to Adam too, but what's rain?" How would others have understood Noah's preaching (1 Pet 3:19-20; 1 Pet 4:6; 2 Pet 2:5)? Though God and Noah could have had other conversations regarding the Flood that are not recorded in Scripture, it is unlikely that this all important definition would have been left out of Scripture, if Noah and those he preached to had never seen rain before.

Again, the rain cycle probably began on Day 6 with Adam's creation, or very shortly thereafter.

Stable Weather Pattern Argument

Some assume that weather patterns were stable until the Flood. But we don't see this fact - stability after the Fall and before the Flood - in Scripture. Indeed, we see the direct opposite. The curse in Genesis 3 involved the ground ("cursed is the ground because of you," Gen 3:17). "Dust" of the earth - produced by sand without water - is mentioned three times in the curse (once toward the serpent in Gen 3:14, and twice toward Adam in Gen 3:19). This implies that part of the curse involved the fact that the original sources of water would have begun to dry up somewhat. It was still an estimated 2300 years until Noah's Flood. Water would still have been needed. So, the "windows of heaven" (Gen 7:11; 8:2; cf. 2 Kings 7:2, 19; Mal 3:10) more than likely opened up "somewhat," if not before the Fall, then immediately thereafter so the hydrologic cycle could water the earth. So, again it is more than likely that it rained before the Flood.

Canopy Theory Argument

One last theory as to the speculation that it did not rain until the Flood involves the much debated Canopy Theory. These scholars assert that there was a canopy of water above the atmosphere (Gen 1:6-8) until the events of Noah's day, at which point it disappeared. Some further assert that mankind had a long life prior to the Canopy disappearing (see Gen. 5), but afterwards it was much shorter. Therefore, the Canopy protected mankind from a short life.

At first, this may sound feasible. However, after the Flood, people were still living a rather long time (Gen 11:10-32). Most still consider 500 years (Gen 11:11), 430 years (Gen 11:17), and 403 years (Gen 11:13, 15), etc. a rather long lifespan. For twelve generations after the Flood, human longevity remained higher than today.

In addition, the Canopy Theory itself is not accepted by most scholars today. It is essentially pseudo science; it doesn't hold water. It suffers from many biblical and scientific problems (pressure, heat, light, ultraviolet light, and nucleation problems, etc.). I will mention only two biblical problems (there are many more):

  • (1) Psalm 148:4-6 was written after the Flood. It reveals that the "waters above" are still actually in place. So, the "windows of heaven" still exist at this point (2 Kings 7:2, 19; Mal 3:10).

  • (2) Genesis 8:2 states that two sources of water were stopped and restrained, not that they disappeared. So, the Canopy still exists and it does not seem to effect man's lifespan, which is set by God, not a canopy full of rain (Heb 9:27).

Conclusion

So, "by implication" we can assume that people in the Antediluvian period (Pre-Flood era) understood somewhat what "rain" (matar, [Gen 2:5], (but not the "violent rain," geshem [Gen 7:12; 8:2] of the Flood because it was only a one time event) was prior to the universal world-wide flood. It more than likely began to rain before the Fall, as then the curse would have better understood by Adam. Supposing it rained before the Flood, rainbows (one of God's covenant signs) could have been withheld by God's sovereignty until after the Flood. I presently live in Florida and use to live in England. It rains in both places a lot, but in God's providence even today there is not a rainbow after every rainstorm.

This said, I would refrain from being dogmatic about any position at this time.

Note:

[1] Dr. Futato was one of my favorite seminary professors. He made Hebrew of all things easy - easier - to follow and understand. Thanks Mark. This said, I respectfully do not agree with his Framework View of Creation.

Related Topics:

Because it Had Rained, Part 1
Because it Had Rained, Part 2
A Universal or Regional Flood?
Noah, Baptism, and Hell - 1 Peter 3:18-22
Why did the Ark require pitch?
The Ark and the Temple?
Did man eat meat before the Fall and the Flood?
Baptism in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).