Did It Rain Before the Flood?
Weldon E. Warnock
Did it rain before the Flood, or was, the earth's vegetation watered by irrigation from underground streams? It is my conviction that it did rain before the Flood, although I cannot be absolutely certain. A river ran out of the garden of Eden and parted into four headstreams (Gen. 2:10). These four rivers were Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel and Euphrates. The water from these rivers would pour into the sea. However, the sea, would not overflow.
We read, "Or who shut up the sea with doors. . . . Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed" (Job 38:8,11). "He gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command" (Prov. 8:29, NIV). Both of these preceding verses were speaking of the time of creation. But let us notice again, "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again" (Eccl. 1:7). Obviously, here is suggested evaporation. The sea is not full and the water, by vaporization, returns to the rivers, and falls as rain. This principle antedates Noah, it seems to me. Hence, I conclude there was rain before the Flood.
At the time of Adam Genesis 2:6 states, "But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground." C.F. Keil said, "The mist (vapor, which falls as rain, Job 36:27) is correctly regarded by Delitzsch as the creative beginning of the rain itself, from which we may infer, therefore,,that it rained before the flood" (The Pentateuch, Keil & Delitzsch, Vol. 1, p. 78). Genesis 2:5, which says "for the Lord God had not caused it to rain," would have to be interpreted in conjunction with verse 6.
The Pulpit Commentary notes in regard to v. 6, ". . vaporous exhalations began to ascend to the aerial regions, and to return again in the shape of rain upon the ground" (Vol. 1, p. 40). Lange declares that the midst "can mean nothing but the rain itself" (Genesis-Leviticus, Vol. 1, p. 202).
On the other hand, the New International Version translates Genesis 2:6, "but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground." The New English Bible renders the passage, "A flood used to rise out of the earth and water all the surface of the ground." However, virtually all standard translations adopt "mist," In my estimation, "mist" is to be preferred. In Job 36:47 the same word necessarily means "vapor."
Whitcomb and Morris maintain that there was no rain before the Flood. They wrote,, "This inference is supported also by the fact that the rainbow is mentioned as a new sign from God to man after the Flood, implying strongly that rain as we know it and the subsequent, rainbow were experienced for the first time then (Genesis 9:11-17)" (The Genesis Flood, p. 241).
But was the rainbow experienced for the first time in Genesis 9:11-17? God said to Noah, "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth" (v. 13). "I do set," according to The Pulpit Commentary, literally means, "I have given, or placed, an indication that the atmospheric phenomenon referred to had already frequently appeared" (Vol. 1, p. 143). The NIV reads, "I have (emphasis supplied) set my rainbow in the cloud." The ASV has in a footnote, "I have (emphasis supplied) set." Therefore, it appears that God took the rainbow, a familiar and frequent phenomenon, and gave a symbolic meaning to it. The rainbow would from that day forth symbolize that God would never again destroy the world by water.
Concerning the rainbow, Keil suggests, "From this it may be inferred, not that it did not rain before the flood, which could hardly be reconciled with chapter 2:5, but that the atmosphere was differently constituted; a supposition in perfect harmony with the facts of natural history, which point to differences in the climate of the earth's surface before and after the flood" (op. cit., p. 154). Though Keil's position is possible, Genesis 9:11-17 does not compel us to reject the rainbow before the Flood, and in view of the data already presented, I am of the opinion the rainbow and rain preceded the days of Noah.
Sometimes Hebrews 11:7 is offered as evidence that rain was unknown until Noah. The verse roads, "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." The verse does not say they had not seen rain, but rather it refers to the deluge that would sweep the earth. As F.F. Bruce proposed, "Such a catastrophe had never been known before" (Hebrews, p. 291).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 6, p. 171