And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
Joshua 24:2 (KJV)
Flood – Although this verse is in Joshua, it speaks of a time so close to the beginning in Genesis, it speaks of the time of Abraham and his father, Terah. So when reading this, the word “flood” seems to reflect the one flood with which we’re all so acquainted – Noah’s flood. And immediately we start questioning whether or not Noah’s flood was local to a specific area or whether it covered the whole earth. In fact this verse is often quoted by those who declare Noah’s flood to be localized because how can someone live on the “other side of the flood” if it was world wide?
Let’s take a look at the word nahar. The interesting thing to note is that it doesn’t mean “flood”. It means “river” or “stream”. It’s used over 120 times in the Old Testament. Most of those times it’s referring to the major rivers in the areas. In the Psalms it used more generally as torrents of water or other similar examples.
So if Abraham and his father and forefathers lived on the other side of the river, which river is that, and what is being related to us?
Do you see in Haran, before Abraham enters Canaan, he had to cross over a river? This is what’s being referenced in Joshua, not the flood.
Once properly translated, this story takes on a completely different meaning and steers us clear of the idea that the flood was localized (at least in the case of this verse). It’s important that when a verse causes us to question something, we should dig into the details and look up the words in their actual written language. We need to understand how those words were used in the culture at the time, and not translate them based on our culture and current day understanding. Are you just reading the Bible? That’s a great start, but you’ve got to study it. You’ve got to dig into it and unravel the mysteries therein. You’ll find a whole new adventure just beneath the surface – and just across the river.