Old Testament

What Was the Population of Earth Before the Flood?

Depending on who you ask, the global population is somewhere around 7.9 billion people. That is a lot of people. Is this the highest population the earth has ever experienced? In the spirit of investigation I want to consider what the population of the earth was before the flood.

photo of earth -- what was its population before the flood?

The Earth’s Population at the Very Beginning

A straightforward reading of the Bible begins with two human beings, Adam and Eve, created by God and put in charge of the garden to take care of it and work it (Gen 2:15). Their offspring include Cain, Abel, and Seth, although Genesis makes clear Adam and Eve have other sons and daughters as well (Gen 5:4).

Cain kills his brother in one of the most appalling acts of violence recorded in Scripture, and is banished from his immediate family. While in exile, Cain finds a wife, marries, and has children. Although some people wonder who Cain’s wife was, the simple answer is that Cain’s wife was one of his sisters. Apparently his family had grown fast enough that there were other siblings around that he could marry at that time.

A Methodology for Determining the Earth’s Population Before the Flood

To begin our investigation in earnest, we will use the genealogy of Genesis 5 to calculate how much time passed from creation until the flood. In doing so we arrive at 1,656 years (there may also be room in the genealogies for additional years but we will use 1,656 years for a baseline).

How many people could have been born in 1,656 years? If we simply use the population growth percentage of recent years (e.g., 1.13% population growth rate in 2016), that would give us an earth population of around 241 million at the time of Noah.

However, given the fact that the average age was much higher, and environmental conditions were much more stable and conducive to life, it seems that a higher rate of population growth would be expected. If we increase the rate even by the tiniest amount (from 1.13% to 1.30%) we would arrive at a population of around 3.9 billion. However, it is much more likely that the population increase would have been far greater than this.

Israel’s Population Growth Rate in Egypt

Consider, for example, Israel’s population increase while in the land of Egypt. Israel came into Egypt as 70 persons (Gen 46:27), and yet when they left Egypt 400 years later, their numbers conservatively estimated around 2 million. This is at least a 2.5650% growth rate per year. If we use this same growth rate for the pre-flood world, the numbers would be astronomical.

Even if we use a much smaller growth rate than the previous example for the pre-flood world (e.g., 1.5% per year) that would still get us to 122 billion people at the time of the flood. I have a hard time believing that there were that many people on the planet, but I also realize that the world was made to be a home for many people. Minimally, we should acknowledge that there is a high likelihood that the earth’s pre-flood population may be significantly higher than we sometimes think.

Concluding Thoughts on Earth’s Pre-flood Population

  • Given the longer lifespans of pre-flood life (e.g., Adam 930 yrs, Jared 962 yrs, etc.), as well as the optimal living conditions, we should expect a faster population growth rate than we currently have today.
  • Taking into account that man was inherently bent on evil (as he is today) it is beyond doubt that there was much violence, war, and murder which impacted or slowed population growth. Thus, the actual number may be well below 122 billion.
  • However, given the above information, it is reasonable that the pre-flood world had a population that may have exceeded the current day. Perhaps even greatly so.

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.


  • Knives

    So you’re telling me from Adam to Noah in 1,656 years that millions of people were born, and God only saved 8 of those people and everyone alive today are incest babies of Noah?

    Didn’t god kill off the humans because of the evil things they were doing? Isn’t incest viewed as something evil in the bible?

    Also, Didn’t God tell people not to kill each other? Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to then kill off all those people?

    If humans started with Adam and Eve, how do you explain Gobekli Tepe which is believed to be 13000 years old versus Adam and Eve which according to biblical time lines were 9700 years ago? Also, how do you then explain cave paintings that are upwards of 40,000 years old?

    Why is Hinduism older than Judaism if Adam and Eve were the first humans?

    If Adam and Eve were the first humans why were the Babylonians already worshipping other gods? For that matter, why were there even be other gods for god to be jealous over?

    how can you blindly follow a religion with so many huge holes in its history and hypocrisies in its dogma?

  • Douglas Gregg

    It is difficult to believe that in this modern age of technology, our knowledge of history and the sciences of geology, archaeology, physics, astronomy, paleontology etc that there are still people who believe that this allegorical, ancient mesopotamian flood mythology is belived by some adults to be real history. Please tell me I am being punked here?

  • Salim Batri

    Very interesting article and some of the comments which I am along with. However, I came across this website while searching for commentaries about the the story of Noah and its implications for the days we are living in. My purpose is to use the Flood story as a tool of evangelism, especially digital, beside mass distribution of gospel tracts and booklets. Whether the earth population at that time was in the hundreds of millions or a few billions, Noah was unable to save people spiritually through his continuous preaching for about 120 years, except his family! The reason, I suppose is because it is God’s purpose and we do not know why. When we, as Bible beleivers, use the above mentioned tools to win souls to the Lord, it is not our job to know who or how many will be saved, and when we prayerfully distribute these tools, we are obeying God’s command and do what it says ” to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Marks 15:16). Any comments will be appreciated.

    • Peter Goeman

      Thanks for reading, Salim. I think you are correct–when we share the good news of the Gospel, we can never guarantee acceptance of the message. Only God can open one’s heart. Natural man is incapable of understanding the things of God (1 Cor 2:14). We proclaim the message, and God will either use it to harden the hearts of individuals, or will open their eyes and save them. That is a difficult reality, but a necessary implication of the text. Salvation belongs to the Lord (cf. Jonah 2:9).

  • Randy Kain

    The Bible gives limited information about how many children Adam and Eve had, but is a little more specific about how long Adam lived. Also, it is obvious that people had to marry siblings. The Bible seems to indicate that people before the Towere of Babel Judgment had technology that would amaze us now and that the intent in building the Tower was not about the height of the building, but rather for space travel. Evolution-minded people are biased against the idea that people during the Flood period and before the Tower of Babel Judgment were much more advanced then we are today. Our attempts at space travel are very minimal compared to what they could have done. However, removing the Universal Language caused a large reduction of knowledge at that time, reducting lifespans because of great ignorance. The evil elite encourage using common language in order to acquire more knowledge, but they want to keep the masses fighting with each other to encourage a one-world government ruled by the devil. It makes more sense that there were millions of people by the time of the flood, since people were not limiting themselves to having two or less babies, as seems to be the case with globalists.

  • Dave Hosein

    Great Reading, Looks like lots and lots people perished before the flood. Hopefully, we don’t read on and forgot what was just read. The same thing is about to happen soon. Not flood, but similar catastrophies. Think we should take stock, or someone would be commenting about us, our present population.

  • Jorge

    I agree with the Prof. A less polluted earth certainly offered better population growth conditions. Men and women were surely more fertile.

    By the way, Noah didn’t have to preach to everyone directly, his listeners aided him, albeit involuntarily. The same thing happened when the prophet Jonah preached in Nineveh, which was a huge city. He did so in 40 days to a population estimated to be 500 thousand.

  • jerry

    all of you have no idea what’s going on, who cares about the past who lost their lives for dis -obedience what you should be worrying about is the last and biggest destruction and billions on the earth will lose their lives men women and children. that is waht you should be talking about and how to have a chance at surviving. all humans lives are very limited tick tock clock ⏰️ 💥 choose correct or don’t…

  • Morgan

    I’m pretty sure one of the reasons our lives are so short right now is could you imagine the power one could attain in 900 years?

    One other thing you don’t mention, but I’ve read a few times. It is that people back then were much taller. About 14 feet on average. Everything was bigger. That would make sense as far as fossils we find, like the Megladon, Super Croc, Dinosaurs etc.

    I imagine that much of the earth, if not all of it was occupied. Right now, if we put all humans together, we wouldn’t even account for 1% of the earth’s surface. Isn’t that something?

  • D.M. Hoffmann

    Re my previous post… Sorry I forgot to explain that the adjustments needed to be inserted into the assumptions/theories would include the 2000 yrs used for the average calculation to be multiplied by 2 for the actual figure of 4000 post-flood.

    • Morgan

      How about this calculation. I’d like to know how much of the earth was occupied by Humans. See, right now if you put us all together, we aren’t even 1% of the dry land. In fact, dry land only covers 29% of the earth too. I’d like to know if all dry land on earth was covered?

  • D.M. Hoffmann

    Some people think/believe/assume that the pre-flood population was about the same as today… however that is not likely, based on the pre-flood and post-flood being around the same period of time — i.e. average 1850 years (using 1700 yrs pre-flood and 2000 yrs today post-flood). The pre-flood period population began with 1 couple whereas the post-flood 4 couples. So with that as a starting point, adjustments need to be inserted into the assumptions/theories. DMH

    • Dave Holtzworth

      what are you smoking? so in 1,650 years we had 122 billion people and in the 4000 years since the flood we’ve only made to just over 8 billion. might want yo go back and re do your previous math classes

      • Robert S

        Dude….he just explained in the article how we could have gotten to 122 billion. Read it again, and while at it, bring some math books yourself. If everyone lived till they were 900+ back then, it wouldn’t take long to fill the whole world up with people.

        • Douglas Gregg

          There is an estimate of around 20 million people living in 2500 BC. The average growth rate from 10,000 BC to 1700 CE is 0.04 and the average life span was35. In many of those centuries populations declined due to famine, wars and disease.

          No one ever live to 900 years. This is make believe. Life was harsh and very difficult and you could easily die from a tooth infection.

          There was no A&E, no Noah, no flood and no Tower of ‘Babble’. It is fun fiction but no adult should be under the delusion that this is real history. If they are it is time to put away childish things.

  • William Wright

    The technology in the days of Noah may have been similar or superior to the technology we have today. How else could you build such an advanced vessel that could hold and sustain eight human beings and numerous species of animals in a confined space for over a year?

    You would also need food , water, ventilation, lights, sanitation, etc for at least a year.

    There also had to be in place a post flood plan to sustain Noah , his family, and all the creatures right after the waters receded.

    The artwork we see is quite misleading regarding this event as we are lead to believe that man was in a primitive state with little or no technology or technical skills in the “days of Noah”.

    I believe the Bible and the Word of YHVH states that man was very sinful and his thoughts were only evil continually.

    There may have been an enormous amount of technical skills in all sciences at the time of the flood.

    • Douglas Gregg

      //How else could you build such an advanced vessel that could hold and sustain eight human beings and numerous species of animals in a confined space for over a year?//

      Yes! That’s why this is not real history! From ‘The impossible Voyage of Noah’s Ark’

      Not only was the ark without pedigree, it was without descendants also. Creationists Kofahl and Segraves tell us that civilization quickly redeveloped after the flood because the survivors carried over the prediluvian culture: Noah lived 350 years afterwards, Shem 502 (The Creation Explanation, p. 227). During this time, people were fanning out and “replenishing the earth,” carrying with them reminiscences of the deluge that would someday excite American missionaries from Sumatra to Spitzbergen. Yet Noah’s primary contribution to humanity, his incredible knowledge of naval engineering, vanished without a trace, and the seafarers returned to their hollow logs and reed rafts. Like a passing mirage, the ark was here one day and gone the next, leaving not a ripple in the long saga of shipbuilding.

  • Timothy Bateman

    Rather than a percentage figure which isn’t very informative (except for comparison) I considered how many children they might have who would live long enough to have children. If they had two then the number would stay stable. If more then it would increase.
    The other thing though to bear in mind is the age at which we have children, and the age they had children.
    This means the percentage doesn’t really work – rather we need to consider how many generations there were. As Gen 6 and Luke 4 have 9 generations from Adam to Noah then if each generation had 4 children, then the multiplication is by 2 (as you have two people to make one baby), which is 2 to the power of 9 (assuming no deaths) so only 1024 people. Increase this to having 6 children and you move this to 3 to the power of 9 which equals 19,683 people. Increase this to 8 children and this goes to the power of 4 which equals 262,144 people. As you can see if you increase this to 10 children (Gen 11 has roughly this figure assuming one girl for each boy mentioned) and this becomes the power of 5 or a total population of around 2 million people (1,953,125).
    This is a more realistic figure based on the lack of remains of people who would otherwise have been buried in the Flood (like the dinosaurs).

    • Alexander Krause

      Your calculation is a more reasonable number, in my opinion. I still think 2 mil. is way too high. My evidence relies on the American Continent’s colonization. There were hardly any animals that were out of balance as today, such as deer. The historical accounts speak of many instances of near starvation if bad conditions occurred or from mismanagement of resources. Remember animals threatened humans during that time is another factor which would keep the population down. The advancement of agriculture today is unprecedented compared to the low yields and climate losses of yesterday. Coupled with the lack of mechanization, feeding one’s family was a challenge, one must conclude.
      Scant evidence exists for large families in Antediluvian times, they probably struggled due to the curse on the ground. Human sinfulness and infant mortality undoubtedly also took it’s toll. Noah’s three children was probably the norm and only real piece of evidence of family size.

  • Sagenge Jackson

    Iam confusing concerning your thought , a middle East by that time can not hold such number of people , this means people were scattered everywhere around the globe , how did noah managed to reach all people during his sermon of preaching warning people to escape incoming flood , ?? How did noah managed to reach , China , Africa , Europe , America etc ? For which technology,? Did noah arc was big enough to hold even 200 mil peole ??

    • Peter Goeman

      (1) I think we can assume the pre-flood world was pristine and very capable of supporting great populations in one area. But, there is no reason to restrict everything to the current day Middle East (although, I think the present day geological makeup of the present day middle east is less conducive to larger populations than in the pre-flood world).

      (2) No reason to think Noah had to talk to every individual before the flood came.

      (3) No reason Noah’s ark had to be big enough for 200 mil people–he built the ark according to the specifics God gave him, who knew only Noah’s family would need it.

    • Ws

      Watch Video The Days of Noah: Parts 1-4. There is evidence of the flood on different continents. The flood caused destruction in vast areas of the earth that are no livable by humans (I.e Grand Canyon).

  • Frank R Allen

    Your thought process of what the population of the earth was at the time of the flood is excellent. There is no prefect way of knowing, but the different methods you used gives excellent possibilities of why and what the population may have been. I personally believe the population of the earth of the earth at the time of the flood was about 7 billion, close to what it is today. I wonder if that may have something to do with our Father again is about to say enough is enough, and come and remove his children from all the chaos here on earth and take us home, just as he removed Noah and his family.

    • Mark Aubart

      World population before the flood will equal the world population just before the end.
      I say just before the end because God will take his Church just before the Day of the Lord, but the body will, of course, be with Christ when he returns to earth on the Day of the Lord. God’s Word says every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
      God’s Word is heptadic, but keep in mind Jesus is the living Word, Christ’s number is 8 and I believe mankind is octadic as is Christ. There is but one body, the body of Christ, I believe it was 8,888,888,888 cells, but millions, perhaps billions of those cells are cancerous and will be removed from the body in order to save the body.

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