The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 7: The Flood
In the days of Noah a double curse was resting upon the
earth in consequence of Adam's transgression and of the
murder committed by Cain. Yet this had not greatly changed
the face of nature. There were evident tokens of decay, but the
earth was still rich and beautiful in the gifts of God's providence.
The hills were crowned with majestic trees supporting the fruit-laden
branches of the vine. The vast, gardenlike plains were
clothed with verdure, and sweet with the fragrance of a thousand
flowers. The fruits of the earth were in great variety, and almost
without limit. The trees far surpassed in size, beauty, and perfect
proportion any now to be found; their wood was of fine grain
and hard substance, closely resembling stone, and hardly less
enduring. Gold, silver, and precious stones existed in abundance.
The human race yet retained much of its early vigor. But a
few generations had passed since Adam had access to the tree
which was to prolong life; and man's existence was still measured
by centuries. Had that long-lived people, with their rare powers
to plan and execute, devoted themselves to the service of God,
they would have made their Creator's name a praise in the earth,
and would have answered the purpose for which He gave them
life. But they failed to do this. There were many giants, men
of great stature and strength, renowned for wisdom, skillful in
devising the most cunning and wonderful works; but their guilt
in giving loose rein to iniquity was in proportion to their skill
and mental ability.
God bestowed upon these antediluvians many and rich gifts;
but they used His bounties to glorify themselves, and turned
them into a curse by fixing their affections upon the gifts instead
of the Giver. They employed the gold and silver, the precious
stones and the choice wood, in the construction of habitations
for themselves, and endeavored to excel one another in beautifying
their dwellings with the most skillful workmanship. They [p. 91] sought only to gratify the desires of their own proud hearts,
and reveled in scenes of pleasure and wickedness. Not desiring
to retain God in their knowledge, they soon came to deny
His existence. They adored nature in place of the God of nature.
They glorified human genius, worshiped the works of their
own hands, and taught their children to bow down to graven
In the green fields and under the shadow of the goodly trees
they set up the altars of their idols. Extensive groves, that retained
their foliage throughout the year, were dedicated to the worship
of false gods. With these groves were connected beautiful gardens,
their long, winding avenues overhung with fruit-bearing
trees of all descriptions, adorned with statuary, and furnished
with all that could delight the senses or minister to the voluptuous
desires of the people, and thus allure them to participate in the
Men put God out of their knowledge and worshiped the creatures
of their own imagination; and as the result, they became
more and more debased. The psalmist describes the effect produced
upon the worshiper by the adoration of idols. He says,
"They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that
trusteth in them." Psalm 115:8. It is a law of the human mind
that by beholding we become changed. Man will rise no higher
than his conceptions of truth, purity, and holiness. If the mind is
never exalted above the level of humanity, if it is not uplifted by
faith to contemplate infinite wisdom and love, the man will be
constantly sinking lower and lower. The worshipers of false gods
clothed their deities with human attributes and passions, and thus
their standard of character was degraded to the likeness of sinful
humanity. They were defiled in consequence. "God saw that the
wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination
of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. . . .
The earth also was corrupt before God; and the earth was filled
with violence." God had given men His commandments as a rule
of life, but His law was transgressed, and every conceivable sin
was the result. The wickedness of men was open and daring,
justice was trampled in the dust, and the cries of the oppressed
reached unto heaven.
Polygamy had been early introduced, contrary to the divine
arrangement at the beginning. The Lord gave to Adam one wife, [p. 92] showing His order in that respect. But after the Fall, men chose
to follow their own sinful desires; and as the result, crime and
wretchedness rapidly increased. Neither the marriage relation nor
the rights of property were respected. Whoever coveted the wives
or the possessions of his neighbor, took them by force, and men
exulted in their deeds of violence. They delighted in destroying
the life of animals; and the use of flesh for food rendered them
still more cruel and bloodthirsty, until they came to regard human
life with astonishing indifference.
The world was in its infancy; yet iniquity had become so
deep and widespread that God could no longer bear with it; and
He said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face
of the earth." He declared that His Spirit should not always strive
with the guilty race. If they did not cease to pollute with their
sins the world and its rich treasures, He would blot them from
His creation, and would destroy the things with which He had
delighted to bless them; He would sweep away the beasts of the
field, and the vegetation which furnished such an abundant supply
of food, and would transform the fair earth into one vast scene of
desolation and ruin.
Amid the prevailing corruption, Methuselah, Noah, and many
others labored to keep alive the knowledge of the true God and
to stay the tide of moral evil. A hundred and twenty years before
the Flood, the Lord by a holy angel declared to Noah His purpose,
and directed him to build an ark. While building the ark he was
to preach that God would bring a flood of water upon the earth
to destroy the wicked. Those who would believe the message,
and would prepare for that event by repentance and reformation,
should find pardon and be saved. Enoch had repeated to his
children what God had shown him in regard to the Flood, and
Methuselah and his sons, who lived to hear the preaching of
Noah, assisted in building the ark.
God gave Noah the exact dimensions of the ark and explicit
directions in regard to its construction in every particular. Human
wisdom could not have devised a structure of so great
strength and durability. God was the designer, and Noah the
master builder. It was constructed like the hull of a ship, that
it might float upon the water, but in some respects it more
nearly resembled a house. It was three stories high, with but [p. 95] one door, which was in the side. The light was admitted at
the top, and the different apartments were so arranged that all
were lighted. The material employed in the construction of the
ark was the cypress, or gopher wood, which would be untouched
by decay for hundreds of years. The building of this immense
structure was a slow and laborious process. On account of the
great size of the trees and the nature of the wood, much more
labor was required then than now to prepare timber, even with
the greater strength which men then possessed. All that man
could do was done to render the work perfect, yet the ark could
not of itself have withstood the storm which was to come upon
the earth. God alone could preserve His servants upon the
"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as
yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house;
by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the
righteousness which is by faith." Hebrews 11:7. While Noah was
giving his warning message to the world, his works testified of
his sincerity. It was thus that his faith was perfected and made
evident. He gave the world an example of believing just what
God says. All that he possessed, he invested in the ark. As he
began to construct that immense boat on dry ground, multitudes
came from every direction to see the strange sight and to hear
the earnest, fervent words of the singular preacher. Every blow
struck upon the ark was a witness to the people.
Many at first appeared to receive the warning; yet they did
not turn to God with true repentance. They were unwilling to
renounce their sins. During the time that elapsed before the coming
of the Flood, their faith was tested, and they failed to endure
the trial. Overcome by the prevailing unbelief, they finally joined
their former associates in rejecting the solemn message. Some
were deeply convicted, and would have heeded the words of
warning; but there were so many to jest and ridicule, that they
partook of the same spirit, resisted the invitations of mercy, and
were soon among the boldest and most defiant scoffers; for none
are so reckless and go to such lengths in sin as do those who have
once had light, but have resisted the convicting Spirit of God.
The men of that generation were not all, in the fullest
acceptation of the term, idolaters. Many professed to be worshipers of [p. 96] God. They claimed that their idols were representations of the
Deity, and that through them the people could obtain a clearer
conception of the divine Being. This class were foremost in
rejecting the preaching of Noah. As they endeavored to represent
God by material objects, their minds were blinded to His majesty
and power; they ceased to realize the holiness of His character,
or the sacred, unchanging nature of His requirements. As sin
became general, it appeared less and less sinful, and they finally
declared that the divine law was no longer in force; that it was
contrary to the character of God to punish transgression; and
they denied that His judgments were to be visited upon the
earth. Had the men of that generation obeyed the divine law,
they would have recognized the voice of God in the warning of
His servant; but their minds had become so blinded by rejection
of light that they really believed Noah's message to be a delusion.
It was not multitudes or majorities that were on the side of
right. The world was arrayed against God's justice and His laws,
and Noah was regarded as a fanatic. Satan, when tempting Eve to
disobey God, said to her, "Ye shall not surely die." Genesis 3:4.
Great men, worldly, honored, and wise men, repeated the same.
"The threatenings of God," they said, "are for the purpose of
intimidating, and will never be verified. You need not be alarmed.
Such an event as the destruction of the world by the God who
made it, and the punishment of the beings He has created, will
never take place. Be at peace; fear not. Noah is a wild fanatic."
The world made merry at the folly of the deluded old man.
Instead of humbling the heart before God, they continued their
disobedience and wickedness, the same as though God had not
spoken to them through His servant.
But Noah stood like a rock amid the tempest. Surrounded by
popular contempt and ridicule, he distinguished himself by his
holy integrity and unwavering faithfulness. A power attended his
words, for it was the voice of God to man through His servant.
Connection with God made him strong in the strength of infinite
power, while for one hundred and twenty years his solemn voice
fell upon the ears of that generation in regard to events, which,
so far as human wisdom could judge, were impossible.
The world before the Flood reasoned that for centuries the laws
of nature had been fixed. The recurring seasons had come in their
order. Heretofore rain had never fallen; the earth had been [p. 97] watered by a mist or dew. The rivers had never yet passed their
boundaries, but had borne their waters safely to the sea. Fixed decrees
had kept the waters from overflowing their banks. But these
reasoners did not recognize the hand of Him who had stayed the
waters, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further." Job 38:11.
As time passed on, with no apparent change in nature, men
whose hearts had at times trembled with fear, began to be
reassured. They reasoned, as many reason now, that nature is above
the God of nature, and that her laws are so firmly established
that God Himself could not change them. Reasoning that if the
message of Noah were correct, nature would be turned out of
her course, they made that message, in the minds of the world,
a delusion—a grand deception. They manifested their contempt
for the warning of God by doing just as they had done before the
warning was given. They continued their festivities and their
gluttonous feasts; they ate and drank, planted and builded, laying
their plans in reference to advantages they hoped to gain in
the future; and they went to greater lengths in wickedness, and
in defiant disregard of God's requirements, to testify that they
had no fear of the Infinite One. They asserted that if there were
any truth in what Noah had said, the men of renown—the wise,
the prudent, the great men—would understand the matter.
Had the antediluvians believed the warning, and repented of
their evil deeds, the Lord would have turned aside His wrath, as
He afterward did from Nineveh. But by their obstinate resistance
to the reproofs of conscience and the warnings of God's prophet,
that generation filled up the measure of their iniquity, and became
ripe for destruction.
The period of their probation was about to expire. Noah had
faithfully followed the instructions which he had received from
God. The ark was finished in every part as the Lord had directed,
and was stored with food for man and beast. And now the servant
of God made his last solemn appeal to the people. With an agony
of desire that words cannot express, he entreated them to seek a
refuge while it might be found. Again they rejected his words,
and raised their voices in jest and scoffing. Suddenly a silence fell
upon the mocking throng. Beasts of every description, the fiercest
as well as the most gentle, were seen coming from mountain and
forest and quietly making their way toward the ark. A noise as of
a rushing wind was heard, and lo, birds were flocking from all [p. 98] directions, their numbers darkening the heavens, and in perfect
order they passed to the ark. Animals obeyed the command of
God, while men were disobedient. Guided by holy angels, they
"went in two and two unto Noah into the ark," and the clean
beasts by sevens. The world looked on in wonder, some in fear.
Philosophers were called upon to account for the singular
occurrence, but in vain. It was a mystery which they could not
fathom. But men had become so hardened by their persistent
rejection of light that even this scene produced but a momentary
impression. As the doomed race beheld the sun shining in its
glory, and the earth clad in almost Eden beauty, they banished
their rising fears by boisterous merriment, and by their deeds of
violence they seemed to invite upon themselves the visitation of
the already awakened wrath of God.
God commanded Noah, "Come thou and all thy house into the
ark; for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation."
Noah's warnings had been rejected by the world, but his influence
and example resulted in blessings to his family. As a reward for
his faithfulness and integrity, God saved all the members of his
family with him. What encouragement to parental fidelity!
Mercy had ceased its pleadings for the guilty race. The beasts of
the field and the birds of the air had entered the place of refuge.
Noah and his household were within the ark, "and the Lord shut
him in." A flash of dazzling light was seen, and a cloud of glory
more vivid than the lightning descended from heaven and
hovered before the entrance of the ark. The massive door, which it
was impossible for those within to close, was slowly swung to its
place by unseen hands. Noah was shut in, and the rejecters of
God's mercy were shut out. The seal of Heaven was on that door;
God had shut it, and God alone could open it. So when Christ
shall cease His intercession for guilty men, before His coming
in the clouds of heaven, the door of mercy will be shut. Then
divine grace will no longer restrain the wicked, and Satan will
have full control of those who have rejected mercy. They will
endeavor to destroy God's people; but as Noah was shut into the
ark, so the righteous will be shielded by divine power.
For seven days after Noah and his family entered the ark, there
appeared no sign of the coming storm. During this period their
faith was tested. It was a time of triumph to the world without.
The apparent delay confirmed them in the belief that Noah's [p. 99] message was a delusion, and that the Flood would never come.
Notwithstanding the solemn scenes which they had witnessed—the
beasts and birds entering the ark, and the angel of God closing the
door—they still continued their sport and revelry, even making a
jest of these signal manifestations of God's power. They gathered
in crowds about the ark, deriding its inmates with a daring
violence which they had never ventured upon before.
But upon the eighth day dark clouds overspread the heavens.
There followed the muttering of thunder and the flash of lightning.
Soon large drops of rain began to fall. The world had never
witnessed anything like this, and the hearts of men were struck
with fear. All were secretly inquiring, "Can it be that Noah was
in the right, and that the world is doomed to destruction?"
Darker and darker grew the heavens, and faster came the falling
rain. The beasts were roaming about in the wildest terror, and
their discordant cries seemed to moan out their own destiny and
the fate of man. Then "the fountains of the great deep" were
"broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." Water
appeared to come from the clouds in mighty cataracts. Rivers
broke away from their boundaries, and overflowed the valleys.
Jets of water burst from the earth with indescribable force, throwing
massive rocks hundreds of feet into the air, and these, in falling,
buried themselves deep in the ground.
The people first beheld the destruction of the works of their
own hands. Their splendid buildings, and the beautiful gardens
and groves where they had placed their idols, were destroyed by
lightning from heaven, and the ruins were scattered far and wide.
The altars on which human sacrifices had been offered were torn
down, and the worshipers were made to tremble at the power of
the living God, and to know that it was their corruption and
idolatry which had called down their destruction.
As the violence of the storm increased, trees, buildings, rocks,
and earth were hurled in every direction. The terror of man and
beast was beyond description. Above the roar of the tempest was
heard the wailing of a people that had despised the authority of
God. Satan himself, who was compelled to remain in the midst
of the warring elements, feared for his own existence. He had
delighted to control so powerful a race, and desired them to live
to practice their abominations and continue their rebellion against
the Ruler of heaven. He now uttered imprecations against God, [p. 100] charging Him with injustice and cruelty. Many of the people, like
Satan, blasphemed God, and had they been able, they would have
torn Him from the throne of power. Others were frantic with
fear, stretching their hands toward the ark and pleading for
admittance. But their entreaties were in vain. Conscience was at last
aroused to know that there is a God who ruleth in the heavens.
They called upon Him earnestly, but His ear was not open to their
cry. In that terrible hour they saw that the transgression of God's
law had caused their ruin. Yet while, through fear of punishment,
they acknowledged their sin, they felt no true contrition, no
abhorrence of evil. They would have returned to their defiance of
Heaven, had the judgment been removed. So when God's judgments
shall fall upon the earth before its deluge by fire, the impenitent
will know just where and what their sin is—the despising
of His holy law. Yet they will have no more true repentance than
did the old-world sinners.
Some in their desperation endeavored to break into the ark,
but the firm-made structure withstood their efforts. Some clung
to the ark until they were borne away by the surging waters, or
their hold was broken by collision with rocks and trees. The
massive ark trembled in every fiber as it was beaten by the merciless
winds and flung from billow to billow. The cries of the beasts
within expressed their fear and pain. But amid the warring
elements it continued to ride safely. Angels that excel in strength
were commissioned to preserve it.
The beasts, exposed to the tempest, rushed toward man, as
though expecting help from him. Some of the people bound their
children and themselves upon powerful animals, knowing that
these were tenacious of life, and would climb to the highest points
to escape the rising waters. Some fastened themselves to lofty trees
on the summit of hills or mountains; but the trees were uprooted,
and with their burden of living beings were hurled into the seething
billows. One spot after another that promised safety was
abandoned. As the waters rose higher and higher, the people fled
for refuge to the loftiest mountains. Often man and beast would
struggle together for a foothold, until both were swept away.
From the highest peaks men looked abroad upon a shoreless
ocean. The solemn warnings of God's servant no longer seemed
a subject for ridicule and scorning. How those doomed sinners
longed for the opportunities which they had slighted! How they [p. 101] pleaded for one hour's probation, one more privilege of mercy,
one call from the lips of Noah! But the sweet voice of mercy was
no more to be heard by them. Love, no less than justice,
demanded that God's judgments should put a check on sin. The
avenging waters swept over the last retreat, and the despisers of
God perished in the black depths.
"By the word of God . . . the world that then was, being
overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth,
which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto
fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."
2 Peter 3:5-7. Another storm is coming. The earth will again be
swept by the desolating wrath of God, and sin and sinners will be
The sins that called for vengeance upon the antediluvian world
exist today. The fear of God is banished from the hearts of men,
and His law is treated with indifference and contempt. The
intense worldliness of that generation is equaled by that of the
generation now living. Said Christ, "As in the days that were
before the Flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving
in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew
not until the Flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the
coming of the Son of man be." Matthew 24:38, 39. God did not
condemn the antediluvians for eating and drinking; He had given
them the fruits of the earth in great abundance to supply their
physical wants. Their sin consisted in taking these gifts without
gratitude to the Giver, and debasing themselves by indulging
appetite without restraint. It was lawful for them to marry. Marriage
was in God's order; it was one of the first institutions which He
established. He gave special directions concerning this ordinance,
clothing it with sanctity and beauty; but these directions were
forgotten, and marriage was perverted and made to minister to
A similar condition of things exists now. That which is lawful
in itself is carried to excess. Appetite is indulged without restraint.
Professed followers of Christ are today eating and drinking with
the drunken, while their names stand in honored church records.
Intemperance benumbs the moral and spiritual powers and prepares
the way for indulgence of the lower passions. Multitudes
feel under no moral obligation to curb their sensual desires, and
they become the slaves of lust. Men are living for the pleasures [p. 102] of sense; for this world and this life alone. Extravagance pervades
all circles of society. Integrity is sacrificed for luxury and display.
They that make haste to be rich pervert justice and oppress the
poor, and "slaves and souls of men" are still bought and sold.
Fraud and bribery and theft stalk unrebuked in high places and
in low. The issues of the press teem with records of murder—crimes
so cold-blooded and causeless that it seems as though
every instinct of humanity were blotted out. And these atrocities
have become of so common occurrence that they hardly elicit a
comment or awaken surprise. The spirit of anarchy is permeating
all nations, and the outbreaks that from time to time excite the
horror of the world are but indications of the pent-up fires of
passion and lawlessness that, having once escaped control, will
fill the earth with woe and desolation. The picture which Inspiration
has given of the antediluvian world represents too truly the
condition to which modern society is fast hastening. Even now,
in the present century, and in professedly Christian lands, there
are crimes daily perpetrated as black and terrible as those for
which the old-world sinners were destroyed.
Before the Flood God sent Noah to warn the world, that the
people might be led to repentance, and thus escape the threatened
destruction. As the time of Christ's second appearing draws near,
the Lord sends His servants with a warning to the world to prepare
for that great event. Multitudes have been living in
transgression of God's law, and now He in mercy calls them to obey
its sacred precepts. All who will put away their sins by repentance
toward God and faith in Christ are offered pardon. But many
feel that it requires too great a sacrifice to put away sin.
Because their life does not harmonize with the pure principles of
God's moral government, they reject His warnings and deny the
authority of His law.
Of the vast population of the earth before the Flood, only
eight souls believed and obeyed God's word through Noah. For
a hundred and twenty years the preacher of righteousness warned
the world of the coming destruction, but his message was
rejected and despised. So it will be now. Before the Lawgiver
shall come to punish the disobedient, transgressors are warned to
repent, and return to their allegiance; but with the majority these
warnings will be in vain. Says the apostle Peter, "There shall
come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and [p. 103] saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers
fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning."
2 Peter 3:3, 4. Do we not hear these very words repeated, not
merely by the openly ungodly, but by many who occupy the
pulpits of our land? "There is no cause for alarm," they cry.
"Before Christ shall come, all the world is to be converted, and
righteousness is to reign for a thousand years. Peace, peace! all
things continue as they were from the beginning. Let none be
disturbed by the exciting message of these alarmists." But this
doctrine of the millennium does not harmonize with the teachings
of Christ and His apostles. Jesus asked the significant question,
"When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?"
Luke 18:8. And, as we have seen, He declares that the state of
the world will be as in the days of Noah. Paul warns us that we
may look for wickedness to increase as the end draws near: "The
Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart
from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of
devils." 1 Timothy 4:1. The apostle says that "in the last days
perilous times shall come." 2 Timothy 3:1. And he gives a
startling list of sins that will be found among those who have a
form of godliness.
As the time of their probation was closing, the antediluvians
gave themselves up to exciting amusements and festivities. Those
who possessed influence and power were bent on keeping the
minds of the people engrossed with mirth and pleasure, lest any
should be impressed by the last solemn warning. Do we not see
the same repeated in our day? While God's servants are giving
the message that the end of all things is at hand, the world is
absorbed in amusements and pleasure seeking. There is a constant
round of excitement that causes indifference to God and prevents
the people from being impressed by the truths which alone can
save them from the coming destruction.
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In Noah's day philosophers declared that it was impossible
for the world to be destroyed by water; so now there are men of
science who endeavor to show that the world cannot be destroyed
by fire—that this would be inconsistent with the laws of nature.
But the God of nature, the Maker and Controller of her laws, can
use the works of His hands to serve His own purpose.
When great and wise men had proved to their satisfaction that
it was impossible for the world to be destroyed by water, when [p. 104] the fears of the people were quieted, when all regarded Noah's
prophecy as a delusion, and looked upon him as a fanatic—then
it was that God's time had come. "The fountains of the great
deep" were "broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened,"
and the scoffers were overwhelmed in the waters of the Flood.
With all their boasted philosophy, men found too late that their
wisdom was foolishness, that the Lawgiver is greater than the
laws of nature, and that Omnipotence is at no loss for means to
accomplish His purposes. "As it was in the days of Noah," "even
thus shall it be in the days when the Son of man is revealed."
Luke 17:26, 30. "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in
the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great
noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also
and the works that are therein shall be burned up." 2 Peter 3:10.
When the reasoning of philosophy has banished the fear of God's
judgments; when religious teachers are pointing forward to long
ages of peace and prosperity, and the world are absorbed in their
rounds of business and pleasure, planting and building, feasting
and merrymaking, rejecting God's warnings and mocking His
messengers—then it is that sudden destruction cometh upon them,
and they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:3.
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"After the Flood"