In seeking to understand what is going on in the account of the flood and why the waters that came upon the earth, we must understand the Ancient Near East cosmology. That is, what they thought about how the world worked, and what connections existed between the spiritual realm and the physical realm.
The Waters in the Ancient Near East Cosmology
In reference to the flood, one of the most important points to grasp is that in ancient Middle Eastern cosmology, the waters of the world—especially large bodies of water such as the ocean and the sea—were considered to be the dwelling places of powerful deities.
Though he goes by different names in different cultures one of the more prominent pagan deities was Yamm, the god of the sea. As such, when we read in numerous places in the Bible about the raging waters, and God’s control of them, it is not that God is fighting the waves of the ocean, but that God is viewed to be at war with Yamm, the god of storms and chaos (cf. Ps 69:1-2; 74:13; 77:16).
In his book, God at War, Greg Boyd shows the depth and breadth of this imagery throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. In reference to Genesis 1, he says that all ancient Near Eastern people would have understood the imagery of the “the deep” and “the waters” which covered the earth.
Such imagery was prevalent in ancient creation myths, and typically, when the gods of these myths set out to bring order to the chaotic waters, they did so through war, battle, and violence (Greg Boyd, God at War, 159-164). The Hebrew God of Genesis 1, however, needs no violence. He brings order to the chaos with nothing more than His voice (Greg Boyd, God at War, 86). He simply commands the anticreation chaotic waters to retreat, and they do! Yamm is shut up behind closed doors by the command of God.
At the end of the creation account, God gives dominion over the earth to mankind—the pinnacle of His creation. The dominion over the earth is understood as the rulership, control, or authority over the earth. But when Adam and Eve sinned, when they fell to the temptation of the serpent, they forfeited their dominion over the earth, and gave that authority to a different “god of this world.”