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 2.6% 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 102 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 102 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 and Youtube channel.


  • Claude

    It is extraordinary that there is so much blind faith.
    The period between what is supposed to be the 1st day of Adam and Noah is totally fictitious, as that 1st day is a total fabrication. As for the multi-century lifetime of the main protagonists in this fable, no DNA study has ever been able to reproduce that.
    Furthermore, to extrapolate to a population of billions on earth without considering their distribution by migration on all the planet’s continents is to not understand that the earth was populated across all its surface and not only in the small area of Mesopotamia.
    And WHY did whoever created the origins of the human species chose such a minor planet in a minor solar system in one of the billions of galaxies and then place humans on a minute piece of geography, when all the continents were at disposal?
    Your article is total typical biblical nonsense which ignores all the scientific work done by archaeology, palaeontology and anthropology, along with all the other sciences.
    Good luck to you all.

    • Thomas

      The point is there were millions of not billions of people living on earth during Noah’s time. God destroyed the world because of humankind’s wickedness and EIGHT people were saved . The Bible says a remnant will be saved. How many is a remnant? EIGHT. So how many people today think they are saved but actually very few are? Are you one of the few who are saved from hell? How do we know? Jesus gave us His all and HE requires our ALL. We are 100% in or not in at all. How many are saved? Very few. I want to be one do you?

      • Jason Green

        Thomas, I totally agree! Only a few were saved because of the flood and when we look at the world today I ask myself “who then can be saved?”

        Am grateful for the scriptures and for those who are humble and teach and preach and practice it!

        Would love to make contact with you and look though the scriptures together if you want to.
        Much love

    • Arelia V Pendergrass-Betts

      And your ignorance is astounding. As if we should take the word of a man with a finite mind, over the word of the One that created mankind. Without the Bible, there would be no science. Science confirms what God wrote, and for you to insult the writer with your pompous attitude, and snobbish response, makes you the prime example written in scripture…You fit the Bible definition of “a fool” perfectly. 🙄

      “But God has selected [for His purpose] the foolish things of the world to shame the wise [revealing their ignorance], and God has selected [for His purpose] the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong [revealing their frailty].

      God has selected [for His purpose] the insignificant (base) things of the world, and the things that are despised and treated with contempt, [even] the things that are nothing, so that He might reduce to nothing the things that are.” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭27‬-‭28‬)

    • Bryce Johnson

      1987 Rebecca Connn Mark Stoneking and Alen Wilson published a paper on the mitochondrial Eve, and y-chromosomal Adam, which all humans come from. Modern science agrees with their findings. While a pier reviewed paper by Douglas L T Rohde, Steve Olson JosephT Chang. Modeling the recent common ancestors of all living humans. Scientist state all living humans have the same ancestor pair dating 5,000-7,000 years ago!

    • David K McCabe

      Darwins theory has never been proven,quite the opposite is true.The entire world was transformed during the flood,in which case your geology and it’s timeline is severely questioned.Our modern technology has discovered more recently,that only a “higher intelligence” could have designed all the individual lifeforms and the incredible information contained in our chromosomes alone.
      You have been misled.
      God is the creator of all things.

  • Curt

    It is amazing at how foolish certain people are about things they aren’t studied in, and even then, they weren’t there, so 99 % of the so called expert information is hypothetical and conjecture. An honest and good person will keep their eyes wide open, listen to all things, measure all things, not only against their own knowledge and experience but that of others that is proven and reasonable in theory. Haughty, arrogant people scoff and put down others in their self elevating attempt to project their supposed intelligence. For what end. All will die in a normal life span, and end up in the ground eaten by worms. King or slave, all end the same. Humility serves all well, and learns well, to become wise. History and what was is very interesting. We will all know the answers in an instant when we die. Whether you believe it or not, you will be confronted by that infinite and awesome eternity, that many call God. Be prepared, you will be asked, what did you do in His name.

  • 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?

    • William Wei

      I am Chinese. Through reading Genesis many times, I have come to the conclusion that all the major events recorded in the first 11 chapters of Genesis are engraved in Chinese words. I just give you one example regarding the Flood. Chinese word flood “洪“ confirms that the flood was of global nature with eight survivors. In details, the left part means water and the right part means altogether, and the right bottom “八” means eight. Other Chinese words such as ship “船” and cave “穴“ have ”八“.

    • G, Gibson

      All of your questions are logical and true. All the events you mapped out are absolutely absurd and ridiculous and it’s hard to believe anyone with even a medium amount of intelligence would sign off on it…. and to bring the point home… god (if he is beleived to exist) is by FAR the single worst mass murderer in the history of history… let that sink it.

      • Peter Goeman

        Hi! Thanks for reading, but I think you are conflating murder and judgment. Those are two different categories. Crimes deserve penalties (I’m assuming you agree), and the penalty of sin is death because God created the world for perfection. All deserve death, but God is merciful to not destroy the planet but to offer salvation to any who want it! So rather than being the worst mass murderer in history, God is the most loving savior ever!

        • Dennis Edwards

          Knives, If you are using an evolutionary worldview as your baseline of thinking, the Bible will seem like foolishness. And yet it seems foolish to believe that the universe created itself since things that come into existence have a cause or creator. That’s the law of causation. It also seems foolish to believe life created itself since Pasteur in 1859-60 proved that spontaneous generation does not happen. There is no known law, or process by which matter can produce the specified information we find in life. Information does not evolve from matter. What is more the motors of evolution, mutations and natural selection, cannot produce new genetic information which they would need to do to change one life form or kind of animal into another. On the chemical level the proteins, the DNA and RNA, etc, do not form naturally. A “simple cell” is anything but simple and mathematically impossible to arise by the “evolutionary process.” Knives, the first step toward understanding the Bible is to believe there is a creator. The Biblical worldview has more satisfactory answers to the questions I posted. Evolution cannot explain how life began, nor how the universe began. A Biblical Supernatural worldview starts with God and is able to answer the big questions: Where we came from? Why we are here? Where we are going? How we should live our lives? Jesus has the answers to all your questions. But you need to seek Him. You might start by reading the Gospel of John in the New Testament. If we get our initial assumptions right, like in the beginning God, it changes how we see things and frees us from the systematic brain washing we are bombarded daily. Seek, with all your heart, and you will find. That’s what Jesus asks, a full-scale investigation into truth. Hoping you’ll take up the challenge and seek.

    • Servenet

      Guy, no one here cares what you think about the Christian faith. You’re an unbeliever and as such you simply make up your own “faith.” It’s false, of course, as even crude logic would tell you. To simply believe or not believe WHAT YOU PREFER, EITHER WAY is on it’s face a false “truth” claim. Get it?

    • David K McCabe

      You have been misled by blind people.The timelines you mention are wrong..and everything on earth was effected by the flood,making it impossible to put a date on anything pre flood.

  • 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?

    • Amanuel T. Hunde

      Dear commentator, all whä you think as History, Science, Archeology and so forth are a fair tell. they cannot be true. rather the Bible is proved true. turn to the Bible andyou will find it life. not only that, the time we’re living is a typical time of Noah. may be the history will repeat itself. to reject tge truth is futile. open your mund and study.

  • 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).

      • jose j torres

        wow ther bible its a little bit right not on time or names floods where created by melting of the ice sheats from the ice age nothing to do with god unless he blew them up so the lakes behind would flood the part od the wold the stories told by the summerians the jews copy them and told them there way

  • 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…

    • Ja ' Kwan Goldberg

      First the Math is way off. Even if Eve was able to have a kid every year for 800 + years her vagina would be the Size of the Suez Canal.

      So say they had roughly 40 kids it still puts the mark at maybe 100’000 people at best in their life time. It’s an exponential function not linear. If you use your model of 1.5 % growth rate on smaller population size that increases over time. There’s no way you get to billions of people in 1656 years.

      it’s absurd. God’s promise to Abraham to multiply his descendants started with two offspring. He ultimately only had 8 kids total. Given his age much younger than Adam when he had Seth.

      Your numbers are way off. Use a different model.
      Just my evaluation

  • 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.

      • Chi

        Hi. Please note that Noah was not 120 years building the ark. He was 100 when he entered the ark and 101 plus when he exited the ark, he and all the creatures 7 pairs of clean creatures, and 2 pairs of unclean creatures, male and female. Also, there is gopher wood found in Kerala of India. In addition, Noah was instructed of God to build the ark within and without with pitch. Pitch is tar or what was called then “slime.” The gopher wood itself was locked within and without as one would lock two fingers together, one this way and one that way, a scenario is common among men, that is making bets locking the pinky finger.

        It is also thought that the grand canyon is “ledged” by a previous flood. Finally, if there was no Adam and Eve, we would not be here on this planet to say the least. No one has been able to disprove the holy script God has given us. It is better and easier to believe God than to perish. Judgement is coming at the end time. Certainly there was a flood, next time, I hope we are all in the resurrection, wouldn’t want to be here then, it will be far worse than the flood of Noah. Enjoy your evening everyone.

  • 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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