The Tower of Babel incident following the great flood may indicate that the flood was a localised phenomenon
The story of the great flood contains a number of references to “the earth”. That this may not be intended to refer to the whole world, but rather to the whole of the then inhabited world is borne out by the contents of verse 1 of chapter 11, which relates events occurring after the flood, and reads:
“And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.”
The ensuing verses make clear that all the then existing people congregated together to build a city. Verse 9 states in effect that G-d created different languages and then scattered the people “...upon the face of all the earth”.
It appears that this may hitherto not have happened. The context of Parshat Noach, which includes the incidents of the flood and the Tower of Babel, indicates that the expression “the earth” may have been intended to refer only to the portion of the earth inhabited by human beings, and may have to be distinguished from the expression “the face of all the earth”.
If we postulate that the flood was confined to the then human-inhabited world, the narrative becomes more probable, including such elements of it as Noah’s ability to accommodate all the animals, the limited area of the ark and the fact that the animals were able to get to it.
A further alternative point worth making is that the revelation at Sinai and the Divine authorship of the Five Books are clearly established. That authorship includes a flood narrative and how we are to understand it may be debatable.
Perhaps we have to view it simply as a miracle – one well within the capability of the Creator not only of our unimaginably huge and magnificent universe, but also of all its billions and billions of detailed material including the smallest particles of matter science tells us of, but which we cannot see - the quarks inside an atom.
Podcast ChaiFM - Insight 12