The History of Biblical Catastrophes

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Александр Моисеенков

The Fall of Man and Expulsion from Eden

The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, by Luca Giordano, 2nd half of the XVII century

The Bible describes how the first people, seduced by the devil, disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit from a tree in Eden. Upon an unsuccessful attempt to call Adam and Eve to repent, God cast them out from the Paradise.

During the Fall, turmoil occurred in the soul of man. Adam and Eve started perceiving God as a stranger to them, and they began to see Him not as the loving Father, but as a threatening tyrant, wishing to enslave them. The first consequence of the Fall was that the man broke away from God.

There was also a change of relations between the people in Eden, they no longer perceived each other as an integral whole. The man began to look at the other person, even a loved one, as at an object of desires and passions and as at a source of danger at the same time. Disconnection of people was the second consequence of the Fall.

The third consequence of the catastrophe in the Garden of Eden was discord within the man. The man, combining a spiritual and a material part, after the Fall could no longer balance these elements out. But the most damage was probably done to the will of man — it started drifting to darkness and had trouble telling good from evil.

The Fall of Adam and Eve was the event, which changed the course of the world history dramatically. Through man evil came into the world as well, and the world, according to Paul the Apostle, since the disaster in Paradise has been feeling the total burden of the aftermath of the fall together with us.

The Flood

The world flood. Artist Ivan Aivazovsky, 1864

This global drama was a consequence of the universal moral decay and total degradation. Human ethics devolved into so primitive that they brought people very close to animals. Seeing no other way to rectify the situation, God allowed destruction of the earthly creatures and saved the family of a righteous man named Noah.

Overall, the Flood went on for about a year. It came after an unparalleled swelling of rivers and bodies of water due to relentless rains and rising groundwater levels. The disaster took lives of all people, terrestrial animals and birds. Only Noah, his wife, their three sons and three daughters-in-law were saved. The righteous family went into a giant ark, which had been built for almost one hundred years and accommodated not only Noah with his family, but also living beings, selected by God in advance. They were the ones to restore biological diversity on the planet.

Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

The Last Day of Pompeii, Artist Karl Bryullov, 1833

Until recently, pedophilia, incest, bestiality and many other things of the kind have been known under the common name of “sodomy”. This phrase is closely related to Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities where various sexual perversions were widely practiced. Now the place of the notorious cities is covered by lifeless expanse of the Dead Sea, reminding us of still another major catastrophe.

The ancient cities of depravity were buried under the hail of fire and brimstone, which left only smoking and scorched earth. Today it is hard to say what this was, but most likely it was a quake, followed by an active spew of ash, gases and molten rock. Research of the cataclysm of Sodom is very complicated, and excavations near the Dead Sea did not yield any positive results.

But for believers the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is something bigger than just a disaster. On this planet there were, there are and there will be cities where the level of sin is off the charts, but unlike Babylon, Ancient Rome or modern Amsterdam, sodomites did not idealize their lifestyle. The depravity of the destroyed biblical cities was blatant, flashy and presented itself in the ugliest forms. The catastrophe on the shores of the Dead Sea is an example of a fate could be suffered by a society when it degrades to the level of animals. And it does not have to be death under rocks and pouring brimstone, it could be plain self-destruction by ultimately descending into animal existence.

The 10 plagues of Egypt

"The Ten Plagues of Egypt: the Death of the Pharaoh's Firstborn", Artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1872

It is always hard to imagine a natural disaster until you see it with your own eyes. And it is even harder to imagine a whole string of disasters, falling upon a country over a short period of time. But the hardest thing to imagine is the terror of the ancient Egyptians, who went through as many as ten cataclysms over a few weeks.

The refusal of the pharaoh to set his Hebrew slaves free made God send “plagues” at the country through Moses. First the water in all Egyptian rivers and bodies of water turned blood red and remained clean only in vessels of Hebrews. Then the foul mess burst out with frogs and lizards, then came gnats, attacking cattle and transmitting various infections. This led to mass death of livestock and people. Survivors suffered from boils and bites. The next plague was unprecedented hail, which destroyed crops in the fields. What had been left after the hail was finished by locusts, which came upon Egypt in unprecedented numbers. Locusts were followed by three days of darkness, which covered all residents but did not affect Hebrews. And the last plague was the death of all firstborn sons in every family.

The death of the elite army of the pharaoh under the water of the Red Sea stands apart from these ordeals, after which the pharaoh set the Hebrews free. The sea parted, allowing the fugitives to walk across the bay on dry land, and then came crashing down on the pursuing units.

The ten plagues are also viewed not only in historic, but in philosophic aspect as well. If we take a closer look at details of the plagues, we would see that the plagues came down on the things and phenomena, which were deified by the Egyptians. For example, the plague of frogs was a blow to the famous Egyptian squeamishness, which prevented free residents from even touching unclean things. The pitch darkness was a blow to the “prestige” of god Ra, considered the patron of sun. By His “plagues” God destroyed everything the Pharaoh and the people of Egypt relied upon. These disasters were the price the Egyptians paid for their arrogance and pride, and also a reminder to any developed civilization that any economic and military power could crash overnight.

 Unfulfilled Prophecy

Jonah and the Whale, by Peter Lastman, 1621

There are some prominent catastrophes in the Bible which can hardly be called cataclysms, but which in terms of culture and history were actual tragedies. This is about destruction of the largest cities of the Ancient world. During different times God’s prophets predicted destruction of almost all states that had oppressed the Jewish people. Over time all these megalopolises and countries perished in fires, and not a single stone was left in their place. The most horrible fate befell the capital of Assyria — the ancient city of Nineveh. Archeologists keep finding traces of the cruelest destruction and merciless massacre in the ruins of the beautiful capital, which was razed to the ground by Babylonians in the year of 612 BC.

However, there is a prophecy in relation to the city, which never came true by the grace of God. Around the year of 800 BC prophet Jonah was sent by God to Nineveh to warn its residents of the wrath of God to be set upon them. Over a few days, at risk of being captured, the prophet carried out the commission of God and preached of imminent death of the megalopolis. It all came to an end, unexpected by the prophet: the ruler and his subjects repented of their wickedness, and God canceled his decision.

Despite the fact that Nineveh still fell two hundred years later, the story of Jonah’s unfulfilled prophecy is very illustrative. It shows that any potential disaster (no matter which, political, technology-related or social) could be avoided by sincere repentance and change.


Armageddon, Artist Joseph Paul Pettitt (1812-1882)

All the disasters described in the Bible had already happened long ago, but for just one. This catastrophe is described in the Book of Apocalypse and called Armageddon. This word is translated from Hebrew as “Megiddo hill” and refers us to the ancient Palestine city of Megiddo, near which the first precisely dated battle in the history of mankind took place in the XV century before Christ.

Armageddon literally means the ultimate war between forces of good and evil. Details of the battle are hidden from us, but the general mood of the Book of Revelation indicates that the Judgement Day will be truly horrible and catastrophic. This day will affect the fate of each resident of the planet and will be the last moment in the history of the world. Events of the end of the world will be finished by the Last Judgement and the final victory of light over darkness, God over devil and good over evil.

Still another catastrophic aspect of Armageddon is that the universe of today will cease to exist after it. However, this is the most joyful disaster for believers, since the world, damaged by sin and death, will be replaced by a new world, the world, initially conceived by God but twisted by the fall of the first people. Armageddon is the ultimate cataclysm, the most destructive and the most massive, but unlike the Fall of Eden it will lead not to shame, but to the eternal glory and the eternal life.

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