Rain Prior to the Flood

Alan Feuerbacher

The Society has long contended, based on Genesis 2:5, 6, that there was no rain prior to the Flood. This is not borne out by fossil evidence. Concerning a rich bed of fossils found in a region named Montceau-les-Mines, in central France, a Scientific American article said:242

The final part of the Paleozoic era, some 300 million years ago, was a time of transition. The Carboniferous period, when the continents were gathered in several landmasses near the Equator and a hot, humid climate sustained the swamp forests that gave rise to the major coal reserves of today, was drawing to a close....

.... fossil plants and animals were unearthed during the 19th century at Montceau-les-Mines, a coal basin situated northeast of the Massif Central, a mountain range formed during the Paleozoic at about the same time as the Appalachians....

Note that these statements are consistent with the plate tectonic theory I've already described. North America, Africa, and Europe had collided, forming part of a large continent called Pangaea, and raising mountain ranges. Much continental area was near the equator.

[The animals left] numerous footprints, which are preserved in the shales. Such footprints record the location of shores: riverbanks and the edges of lakes and lagoons.

Animals were not the only makers of fossil prints. Our team also often found imprints of falling rain [italics added], ripple marks left by running water and the cracked pattern of drying mud.

Another Scientific American article about fossil footprints found at Laetoli, Tanzania, said:243

Near Lake Eyasi in Tanzania is a series of layers of volcanic ash notable for having yielded the remains of early hominids that are among the oldest known: they date back between 3.5 and 3.8 million years. The layers of ash hold an even more unusual example of preservation: fossil footprints. Several tens of thousands of animal tracks have now been discovered in these ash deposits....

The extensive formation known to geologists as the Laetolil Beds is exposed over some 1,500 square kilometers.... The beds overlie ancient basement rocks of Precambrian age and are themselves bordered and overlain to the east by several large volcanoes....

Fossils are found mainly in the upper 45 to 60 meters of the beds, which at Laetoli are at least 130 meters thick. About three-fourths of the upper part of the formation consists of eolian tuffs: beds of volcanic ash that was redeposited by the wind after it had fallen. Most of the other ash beds, which alternate with the eolian tuffs, are 'air fall' tuffs, that is, deposits of ash that remained essentially undisturbed after it had settled out of the eruptive cloud.... the eolian ash buried animal bones and teeth, bird eggs, land snails and other objects exposed on the ground. All the ash, eolian and airfall, came from one volcano: Sadiman, about 20 kilometers east of Laetoli....

In 1976 Andrew Hill of Harvard University first came on animal tracks in a bed of tuff that since then has been called the Footprint Tuff.... in 1978 Paul I. Abell of the University of Rhode Island discovered an unmistakably hominid footprint in the tuff at another place. Clearing of the surface layer there revealed more hominid footprints in two long parallel trails.

See page 51 of the article for a photograph of these footprints. There are tracks to the right of the footprints that belong to an extinct three-toed horse, Hipparion. In general the animals preserved as fossils at Laetoli are similar in type to the animals found in the area today, but also include extinct types. The inclusion of extinct species is evidence these fossil beds must be pre-Flood. The Footprint Tuff is subdivided into a number of layers:

.... Most of the layers cover surface irregularities such as footprints with little change in thickness. This shows that they remained essentially undisturbed where they were deposited.

The surfaces of five layers are widely pockmarked by the impact of drops of rain [italics added]; three others are only locally rainprinted. The rainprints are close together and well defined. They were evidently made by showers that were heavy enough to dampen the ash but not heavy enough to erode it.

The article goes on to describe the further extensive deposition of volcanic ash, the development of new volcanoes on top of the old ash falls, the faulting and uplifting of parts of the area, and the resulting extensive erosion.

Various books on fossils display photographs of fossilized rainprints. The above evidence shows clearly that the rainprints could not have occurred after the Flood. There are simply too many geological events that have happened between their formation and exposure. Note that this does not depend on any dating methods other than the assumption that a huge number of geological events cannot be compressed into a timescale of just one year, at least, not without invoking miracles. As just one example, the Montceau-les-Mines fossils were laid down in an era that much other evidence shows was prior to even the age of dinosaurs. Since dinosaurs clearly did not exist after the Flood, the rainprint fossils must have been laid down before the Flood. Genesis 2:5, 6 says:

Now there was as yet no bush of the field found in the earth and no vegetation of the field was as yet sprouting, because Jehovah God had not made it rain upon the earth and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist would go up from the earth and it watered the entire surface of the ground.

Based on this scripture, the Society said in the Aid book:244

With the canopy, there was no need for it to rain, 'but a mist would go up from the earth....' Not until after the Flood does the Bible first mention the lightning and thunder.

If this interpretation of Genesis is correct then it is a clear case where the Bible contradicts a demonstrable fact. If this is unacceptable, then what is the correct interpretation?

Apparently recognizing this difficulty, Insight245 said the "time referred to is evidently early on the third creative 'day,' before vegetation appeared."

If Genesis 2:5, 6 actually refers to the third creative day, and not the entire period before the Flood, why does Genesis not explicitly state this? The rest of Genesis chapter 2 gives a history of man's creation, so a reference to the lack of rain in verses 5-6 makes no sense unless it describes conditions existing at the time referred to in verses 7 to 24. For example, verse 7 says:

And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life....

How could verses 5-6 make sense unless they directly relate to what follows? Why does Insight say the time referred to is evidently early on the third day? Evidently because the Society recognizes the fossil evidence. We seem to be left with the conclusion that Genesis 2:5, 6 either contradicts fact or makes no sense.

Barnes Notes on the Old Testament gave an explanation of Gen. 2:5 that may make sense but still has major difficulties. It said:246

Verse 4 b takes us back into the time of the work of creation, more particularly to the time before the work of the third day began, and draws our attention to certain details, which, being details, could hardly have been inserted in chapter one: the fact that certain forms of plant life, namely the kinds that require the attentive care of man in greater measure, had not sprung up. Apparently, the whole work of the third day is in the mind of the writer. When verdure covered the earth, the sprouting of these types of vegetation was retarded, so that they might appear after man was already in full possession of his domain and in a position to give them their needed care. That is why it is remarked in the double causal clause 5 b: God had not yet caused rain to descend upon the earth; also, man did not exist as yet to till the ground. The fact that not the whole of vegetation is meant appears from the distinctive terms employed, neither of which had as yet appeared in the account. They are siach hassadheh, well rendered by Meek "field shrubs"; we render above: "shrub of the field"; and 'esebh hassadheh, also well rendered by Meek, "field plants"; our rendering: "plant of the field." For the word sadheh means tillable ground, arable fields, the ground "yielding plants and trees" (B D B). That at least must be the meaning in this connection where man's cultivation is referred to. It is not important to the author to mark the point of time within the creation week when this condition prevailed.

Note that Barnes Notes ignores the geological problem raised by the reference to the lack of rain before the Flood. If Genesis' use of "shrub of the field" and "plant of the field" really is limited to the plants in the immediate vicinity of the Garden of Eden, part of the difficulty is resolved. But Barnes Notes' disingenuous speculation on what "shrub" and "plant" really mean here has only marginal support in the original language.

A check of how the original Hebrew words are translated in other places in the Hebrew scriptures shows that they are often used to refer to all sorts of vegetation, not just the kinds that man cultivates. The New World Translation generally renders the words as "bush" and "vegetation" rather than "shrub" and "plant." Gen. 21:14, 15 tells how Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness, where Hagar "threw the child under one of the bushes." This "bush" was growing in the wilderness, not a cultivated field. Job 30 describes Job's bewailing of his condition, and verse 7 says: "Among the bushes they would cry out; Under the nettles they would huddle together." This is clearly a reference to bushes (note with nettles) in uncultivated land. Gen. 1:29, 30 shows that "vegetation" refers to all sorts of plants: "Here I have given to you all vegetation bearing seed which is on the surface of the whole earth.... I have given green vegetation for food."

There are also difficulties with how Barnes Notes explains the original word for "field." While it is often used in the sense of tillable field, it has a much wider sense. It can be used in the sense of "ground," "open country," "territory," "the wild," "land," etc., not just in the sense of a tillable field. For example, the New World Translation renders Gen. 27:5 as "Esau went on out into the field to hunt game." Did he go into his barley field to hunt game? Probably not; the New International Version renders it as Esau went out into the "open country" to hunt. Gen. 32:3 speaks of the "field of Edom" (NWT) or "country of Edom" (NIV). Gen. 2:19, 20; 3:1; and 3:14 speak of "the wild beasts of the field" (NWT). Again, are these wild beasts of a barley field, or the wild beasts of the earth?

Clearly there is no compelling argument from the Hebrew language that Gen. 2:5 refers to the time of creation of Adam rather than some time on the third creative day.


242 Daniel Heyler and Cecile M. Poplin, "The Fossils of Montceau-les-Mines," Scientific American, New York, September, 1988.

243 Richard L. Hay and Mary D. Leakey, "The Fossil Footprints of Laetoli," Scientific American, New York, February, 1982.

244 Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 440, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 1971.

245 Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, p. 728, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 1988.

246 H. C. Leupold, Barnes Notes on the Old Testament: Exposition of Genesis, pp. 111-113, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1960.