The original question was:

The olive leaf in the dove’s mouth? Where did it come from if the world had been totally flooded for one year in Noah’s day? Surely all plant life would have died?

Answer by John Mackay

Let’s start with Noah entering the ark. The record in Genesis 1-6, indicates that prior to Noah’s flood the earth had no extreme seasons, so olive trees had a “good life” and people lived a very long time. Genesis 7 states it started to rain in Noah’s 600th year on the 17th day of the second month (Genesis 7:11), and Noah disembarked from the ark one year and ten days later (Genesis 8:14) on the 27th day of the second month of his 601st year. At that point any food, seeds and cuttings that Noah had stored on the ark that had not been consumed as food would have been available for use after the flood when the Bible reports Noah planted a vineyard full of grapes.

However, the record of the dove bringing the olive leaf happened several months before this and prior to anyone departing the ark (Genesis 8:11), so obviously it came from an olive plant that somehow survived the flood. But how could that happen?

Understanding the chronology of the flood really helps in this. Most people are aware of the 40 days of rain recorded in Genesis 7:22, by the end of which “all in whose nostrils was the breath of life had died”. Genesis 7:24 then tells us that the waters continued to rise for 110 more days until by 150 days the earth was covered. At the end of that time the waters ceased rising. Genesis 8:4 then informs us the Ark rested on the mountains of Ararat during the 7th month on the 17th day of that month. From then on the water level decreased continually until the first day of the 10th month, when the tops of the mountains could be seen. 40 days later Noah let go a raven and a dove. (Genesis 8:6) After the return of the dove, Noah waited another 7 days then released a second dove which brought back the olive leaf (Genesis 8:10-11). Seven days later, the dove was sent out again but did not come back.

The increasing good weather by the first day of the first month of Noah’s 601st year meant Noah could take the covering off the ark and see ground. Then soon after this, on the 22nd day of the second month, the earth was dry enough for God to tell Noah it was time to disembark along with the animals. (Genesis 8:13-19)

So where did the olive leaf come from?

Between the time the ark grounded on a mountain side on the 17th day of the 7the month, until the tops of the mountains were seen on the 10the day of the 10th month and until the dove was released the second time and bought back the olive leaf was approximately three months. It was only after that, God told Noah he could leave the ark because the ground was dry enough. But from a botanical perspective it also means, that any grass, seeds or plant fragments that had survived the months of flooding, have now had several months to germinate or sprout on a warm moist earth, thus producing a lush, albeit short in height, coverage of planet earth, making for plenty of food to eat for the animals, without having time to produce thick jungles to impede rapid migration around the planet

In today’s world we know that many plant plants, seeds and cuttings can survive inundation. Coconuts are a classic surviving years of ocean flow. Charles Darwin also did some experiments with seeds immersed in water to test his theory about plants being distributed by ocean currents.  (See Origin of Species, Chapter XII, “Geographical Distribution”)  Others have conducted similar experiments since Darwin’s time. In Australia there a many large man-made dams can be full for 20 or 30 yrs then dry out during massive drought. Soon after we see grass and weeds commencing to grow from seeds we have now proven have been buried in the mud for up to decades.

But how would olives survive?

As a gardener who has grown olive trees, it is easy to discover they grow well from seeds and moderately well from cuttings. In the flood, even whole olive trees and other vegetation would have been ripped up and floated in mats of debris, which would have been deposited eight months later back on the ground as the waters receded. If they also had a root ball attached that survived the inundation, then setting down onto a wet ground at a moderate altitude, such “cuttings” would have had no difficulty sprouting new leaves for the dove to find and carry back.  So any criticism of the flood account based on the survivability of olives is bust!

Hopefully by now you have also realised that chapter 6-9 of Genesis, are the most detailed recorded year in the entire Bible, which is evidence it was never intended to be a “Once upon a time” tale. It’s written as a blow by blow diary. A reminder Gods Word is true from the beginning.

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About The Contributor

John Mackay