Careful readers of Genesis 6-9 have long recognized certain difficulties in interpreting the narrative as it now stands. Thus, for example, in 6:20 Noah is commanded to take into the ark two of every kind of beast and bird; but in 7:2, 3 he is commanded to take in seven of all the clean beasts and birds. According to 7:4, 12 the flood came as the result of a forty days’ rain; but according to 7:11 it was because the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened. Again, according to 7:17, the flood continued on the earth forty days; while according to 7:24 its duration was a hundred and fifty days.
These fundamental variations and the presence of duplicate versions of the same incidents point, some writers think, to two originally distinct accounts of the flood which have been closely woven together by the final editor of the book of Genesis. When these two accounts are disentangled, they are each practically complete and apparently represent variant versions of the same flood story. (See Hist. Bible, I, 53-56, for these two parallel accounts.) The one, known as the prophetic version, was written, these writers believe, about 650 B.C. It has the flowing, vivid, picturesque, literary style and the point of view of the prophetic teacher. In this account the number seven prevails. Seven of each clean beast and bird are taken into the ark to provide food for Noah and his family. Seven days the waters rose, and at intervals of seven days he sent out a raven and a dove. The flood from its beginning to the time when Noah disembarked continued sixty-eight days. At the end, when he had determined by sending out birds that the waters had subsided, he went forth from the ark and reared an altar and offered sacrifice to Jehovah of every clean beast and bird.
The other and more detailed account is apparently the sequel of the late priestly narratives found in Genesis 1 and 5. The style is that of a legal writer—formal, exact and repetitious. In this account only two of each kind of beast and bird are taken into the ark. The flood lasts for over a year and is universal, covering even the tops of the highest mountains. No animals are sacrificed, for according to the priestly writer this custom was first instituted by Moses. When the flood subsides, however, a covenant is concluded and is sealed by the rainbow in accordance with which man’s commission to rule over all other living things is renewed and divine permission is given to each to eat of the flesh of animals, provided only that men carefully abstain from eating the blood. This later account is dated by this group of modern Biblical scholars about 400 B.C.
THE CORRESPONDING BABYLONIAN FLOOD STORIES.