Creationists will interpret the Hebrew ‘kol ha aretz’ in modern global terms

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Damien F. Mackey


And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.

And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters.

And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.

 Genesis 7:17-19






The above verses from Genesis 7 reveal a repetitiveness that would lead the JEDP theorists, starting with Jean Astruc (late C18th), to posit multiple sources or documents for early Genesis. And they were completely right about the multiplicity, I believe, whilst being completely wrong about the nature of the sources. See my:


Preferring P. J. Wiseman to un-wise JEDP


Creationists, on the other hand, who generally reject the JEDP manglings, tend to err by not reading the Book of Genesis in light of the times and circumstances in which it was written, but, rather, with a modern (and non-Semitic) superimposition of meaning.

A classical example of this can be found in relation to the Hebrew word, kol (כָל), whose translation is “all”. In articles pertaining to the Genesis (or Noachic) Flood, I have had cause to criticise their wrong-headed interpretation of the coupling of kol with ha-aretz (כָל־הָאָ֙רֶץ֙) as meaning “the whole (global) earth”.

Conveniently, there is at hand this reasonable explanation of the common Hebrew phrase (


The Genesis Flood
Why the Bible Says It Must be Local
by Rich Deem


When you read an English translation of the biblical account of the flood, you will undoubtedly notice many words and verses that seem to suggest that the waters covered all of planet earth.3 However, one should note that today we look at everything from a global perspective, whereas the Bible nearly always refers to local geography. You may not be able to determine this fact from our English translations, so we will look at the original Hebrew, which is the word of God. The Hebrew words which are translated as “whole earth” or “all the earth” are kol (Strong’s number H3605), which means “all,” and erets (Strong’s number H776), which means “earth,” “land,” “country,” or “ground.”4 We don’t need to look very far in Genesis (Genesis 2) before we find the

Hebrew words kol erets.


  • The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole [kol] land [erets] of Havilah, where there is gold. (Genesis 2:11)
  • And the name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole [kol] land [erets] of Cush. (Genesis 2:13)


Obviously, the description of kol erets is modified by the name of the land, indicating a local area from the context. In fact, the term kol erets is nearly always used in the Old Testament to describe a local area of land, instead of our entire planet.5


The “whole earth” often refers to the people not geography


However, there are many more examples of where kol erets is used without reference to any specific land, although the context clearly indicates a local area. For example, in Genesis 11 (the Tower of Babel) the text says, “the whole [kol] earth [erets] used the same language.”6 We know that this reference is not really to the earth at all (and certainly not to the “whole earth”), but to the people of the earth, who all lived in one geographic location. It wasn’t until later that God scattered the people over the face of the earth.7 There are many other examples of where kol erets actually refers to people rather than the geography of the “whole earth”:


  • Shall not the Judge of all [kol] the earth [erets] deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25) (God judges the people of the earth, not the earth itself)
  • Now behold, today I am going the way of all [kol] the earth [erets], and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. (Joshua 23:14) (Joshua was going the way of all people in the earth, whose ultimate destiny is death.)
  • And all [kol] the people of the land [erets] entered the forest, and there was honey on the ground. (1 Samuel 14:25) (The words “the people of” are added to the English, since they are not found in the Hebrew. The actual translation would be “all the land entered the forest,” obviously referring to the people and not to the land itself moving into the forest.)
  • While all [kol] the country [erets] was weeping with a loud voice, all the people passed over. (2 Samuel 15:23) (Obviously, the earth cannot weep with a loud voice.)
  • “I am going the way of all [kol] the earth [erets]. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. (1 Kings 2:2) (David was going the way of all people in the earth, whose ultimate destiny is death.)
  • He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all [kol] the earth [erets]. (1 Chronicles 16:14) (Judgments are done against people, not the planet)
  • Sing to the LORD, all [kol] the earth [erets]; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. (1 Chronicles 16:23) (The people sing, not the planet)
  • Tremble before Him, all [kol] the earth [erets]; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. (1 Chronicles 16:30) (This does not refer to earthquakes!)
  • Let all [kol] the earth [erets] fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. (Psalm 33:8) (People, not planets, fear the Lord)
  • For the choir director. A Song. A Psalm.) Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; (Psalm 66:1) (People shout, not the earth)
  • “All the earth will worship Thee, And will sing praises to Thee; They will sing praises to Thy name.” Selah. (Psalm 66:4) (People worship, not the earth)
  • Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all [kol] the earth [erets]. (Psalm 96:1) (People sing, not the earth)
  • Worship the LORD in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all [kol] the earth [erets]. (Psalm 96:9) (People worship, not the earth)
  • Shout joyfully to the LORD, all [kol] the earth [erets]; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises. (Psalm 98:4) (People shout, not the earth)
  • (A Psalm for Thanksgiving.) Shout joyfully to the LORD, all [kol] the earth [erets]. (Psalm 100:1) (People shout, not the earth)
  • He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all [kol] the earth [erets]. (Psalm 105:7) (Judgments are done against people, not the planet)
  • “The whole [kol] earth [erets] is at rest and is quiet; They break forth into shouts of joy. (Isaiah 14:7) (People shout, not the earth)


The “whole earth” usually refers to local geography


Examples of where kol erets refers to a local area include the following verses:


  • “Is not the whole [kol] land [erets] before you? Please separate from me: if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:9) (The “whole land” was only the land of Canaan)
  • And the people of all [kol] the earth [erets] came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth. (Genesis 41:57) (The people from the Americas did not go to Egypt)
  • Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all [kol] the earth [erets], nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you. (Exodus 34:10) (There would be no need to add “nor among any of the nations” if “all the earth” referred to the entire planet.)
  • ‘You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all [kol] through your land [erets]. (Leviticus 25:9) (The Hebrews were not required to sound a horn throughout the entire earth)
  • ‘Thus for every [kol] piece [erets] of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. (Leviticus 25:24) (The law does not apply only to those who own the entire earth)
  • behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all [kol] the ground [erets], then I will know that Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken.” (Judges 6:37, see also 6:39-40) (kol erets could not refer to the entire earth, since it would not be possible for Gideon to check the entire earth)
  • And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout [kol] the land [erets], saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” (1 Samuel 13:3) (Obviously, Saul could not have blown a trumpet loud enough to be heard throughout the entire earth)
  • For the battle there was spread over the whole [kol] countryside [erets], and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. (2 Samuel 18:8) (No, the battle did not take place over the entire earth.)
  • So when they had gone about through the whole [kol] land [erets], they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. (2 Samuel 24:8) (No they didn’t go through the entire earth, just the lands of Palestine.)
  • And all [kol] the earth [erets] was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. (1 Kings 10:24) (It is unlikely that the Native Americans went to see Solomon.)
  • Then the fame of David went out into all [kol] the lands [erets]; and the LORD brought the fear of him on all the nations. (1 Chronicles 14:17) (It is unlikely that the Native Americans knew about David.)
  • And David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the LORD shall be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all [kol] lands [erets]. (1 Chronicles 22:5) (The temple was famous to all the lands in the Middle East, but was destroyed before the advent of globalism.)
  • And they were bringing horses for Solomon from Egypt and from all [kol] countries [erets]. (2 Chronicles 9:28) (It is unlikely that the Chinese brought horses to Solomon)
  • Many more examples8

As can be seen above, in the majority of instances kol erets does not refer to the entire planet earth. In fact, of the 205 instance of kol erets in the Old Testament, it might refer to the entire planet just 40 times,9 and even some of those are questionable. About half of those instance occur in the books of Psalms and Isaiah. The Genesis flood narrative also uses the phrase “the face of the earth.” This is the exact phrase used by Cain when he was banished by God (Genesis 4:14). Are we to think that Cain was banished to outer space? In addition, the flood narrative says that “the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth” (Genesis 7:17). If “earth” really refers to the planet, this text would imply that the ark somehow levitated above the planet. Obviously, “earth” refers to the local land on which the ark was sitting, and not to planet earth.


[End of quotes]


Author Rich Deem began this particular article with a verse from Psalm 104 that appears to deliver a king-hit to any notion of a global Flood:


The concept of a global Genesis flood can be easily eliminated from a plain reading of Psalm 104,1 which is known as the “creation psalm.” Psalm 104 describes the creation of the earth in the same order as that seen in Genesis 1 (with a few more details added). …. The verse that eliminates a global flood follows: “You set a boundary they [the waters] cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.” (Psalm 104:9)1 Obviously, if the waters never again covered the earth, then the flood must have been local. Psalm 104 is just one of several creation passages that indicate that God prevented the seas from covering the entire earth.2 An integration of all flood and creation passages clearly indicates that the Genesis flood was local in geographic extent. ….


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