Noah stepped off the Ark near the Murat River, a tributary of the Euphrates. Where did he go from there and where was the first place they settled? What was it like? How long did they stay together as a family? Can we answer these question with the Bible and archeology?
Archeological support for the current academic model of human evolution only began in the 1950’s with Robert Braidwood. This reconstruction supposes that Neanderthals and early man came from Europe as hunter-gatherers, built settlements in the Near East, then 4000 years later began farming. As I can explain more fully in future blogs, this is a pretty wild idea that is being questioned today. A Yale scholar wrote in 2017, “It turns out that the greater part of what we might call the standard narrative has had to be abandoned once confronted with accumulating archaeological evidence.”(1) A much simpler and more fitting model aligns with the Bible and the Flood.
When answering the question “where”, we are drawn to river routes. We learn that, “The advantage of waterborne transport compared with overland cart or donkey travel is almost impossible to exaggerate. A Diocletian edict specified that the price of a wagon load of wheat doubled after fifty miles. Because it reduces friction dramatically, movement by water is exponentially more efficient.”(2) This continued to be true until about the 19th century. For that reason, I have meticulously traced out the major rivers of the Near East by carefully following the valleys visible on Google Earth. The map that I arrived at below gives us an astonishingly informative view of the center of the Fertile Crescent.
The yellow line on the map below follows the Euphrates River downstream, then moves east along a fertile plain that leads to a highland mountain called Karacadag. This is where the oldest crops are said to have been planted. The first settlement was surely along the Euphrates or around Karacadag. We could call Karacadag the center of the world because the major rivers have a source there and lead to all parts of the Near East (see map above). The first family could quickly explore and establish settlements throughout the area. Interestingly, the Balikh basin is where Haran was located where Abraham lived, Jonah went to Nineveh on the Tigris, and the Khabur basin is where Ezekiel had his visions. Rivers show us where they traveled, and settlements show us where they stopped. There is no reason to think that it had to take thousands of years.
What then does the Bible say about the first settlement after the Flood? According to Genesis 9:20-27, the entire first family was living in one place for the first years. Noah’s three sons, Japheth, Shem, and Ham were all close at hand. Ham’s affront to his father resulted in Noah’s cursing Ham’s son Canaan. Since Canaan is listed in Gen. 10:6 as the forth prominent tribal head of Ham’s lineage, Canaa had probably been born, and this probably happened 10 to 15 years after the Flood. We therefore have good reason to believe there was one main settlement for the first decade, which would have been located along the middle Euphrates.
Many facts remain to be examined about the first settlement. Museums teach that the earliest settlements belonged to hunters, while the Bible says that Noah began to be a “husbandman”, that is, a farmer. Which was it? Can we identify Noah’s town with an early settlement such as Nevali Cori or Murebet? We should look at about eight early settlements along the Euphrates River. Then we also need to ask how quickly they spread out to fill the earth. Most theologians believe that everyone stayed together for a hundred years, until God forced them to disperse at the Tower of Babel event, but this is hardly possible to believe in light of archeology and Biblical chronology. We have good reasons to revise current thinking.
It seems to me that the theories are much more complicated than they need to be. The better that we understand the Bible, archeology, and our true human nature, the easier it is to understand history and the more it makes sense.
(1) Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James C. Scott, pg. 10.
(2) Scott, pg. 54.