Before and After the Flood

By Frank van Steenbergen

Göbekli Tepe


According to many stories of the beginning of the world, water existed before creation. Genesis (1:1-2) starts as follows: “In the beginning God made from nothing the heavens and the earth. The earth was an empty waste and darkness was over the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was moving over the top of the water.”

It was also this primordial flood that God used to annihilate his first creation – making the water rise again, combined with incessant rain for forty days, creating the deluge that would wipe out this first creation, that had gone bad.  Further in Genesis (6:5) we read the story of the false start: God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagining of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord repented that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart and the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the creeping thing and the fowls of the air, for I repent that I have made them.”  Combining the watery depths and the floodgates of the sky, the great flood erased all life, apart from Noah and his entourage on the ark. After landing in Mount Arafat at the border of Northeast Turkey and Armenia, human and animal life got a second chance.

The Ark of Noah by Jacques Callot, 1646, Credit: Rijksstudio


Is there anything left of this first civilization? Enigmatically, not far from Mount Arafat there is Göbekli Tepe, potbelly hill – close to current day Urfa – home to the world’s oldest temple. Dating back 12,500 year it is older than any other known place of worship.  Stonehenge for instance has a history of only 5000 years. Göbekli Tepe is not only much older, but also much more sophisticated. – with carvings of lions, birds, snakes, gazelles, even abstract symbols – suggesting a highly civilized society. The sacral site consists of enclosed oval spaces in each of which 12 massive t-shaped pillars are erected with two more such pillars in the center of the oval. Some carvings are even three-dimensional. Only a small part of the temple complex has been unearthed and underneath there are layers and layers to discovered still. Apart from Göbekli Tepe, similar places have been discovered in the last thirty years, all in a 75-kilometer radius: Sefer Tepe, Hamzan Tepe, Nevalı Çori, Karahan Tepe and Yenimahalle.

Stone-carved man from Karahantepe – from

The unique sites are now stranded in history – they came out of nothing and disappeared in it as well. The enigma of Göbekli Tepe and the other religious sites is not only how they came about – most likely in a society of hunter-gathers – but also how they were abandoned. It appears they were carefully covered with sediment, left intact but forgotten. Archeologists date this event around 7500 years ago.

Now compare this with the chronology of the flood. There are several estimates – situating the big flood between 4000 to 7000 years back. Particularly the latter estimate would tally with the abandonment of Göbekli Tepe and the other settlements. Göbekli Tepe would then probably not have been buried by human hand, but could have been covered in the sediments of a gently rising and falling flood. All this asks the question: is Göbekli Tepe evidence of the civilisation that existed prior to the Big Flood?

After this false start according to Genesis 9: 9-17, God decided not to punish erring mankind with destruction again. Instead, God would tolerate human folly and try to bring salvation. The rainbow became the sign of this new covenant. God spoke to Noah: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:  I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,  I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

Primordial water would not rise again.

flood water Genesis  
December 21, 2023  
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