In the story of the Mabul, the Torah's description of the overall disorder is very vague - "The Earth was corrupted and filled with Hamas".

THe outcome is clear - the whole of humanity was judged. However, I can not imagine a situation where completely every one of them - men, women, children sinned was constantly engaged in sin.

What percentage of sinners might justify the total extermination of humanity?

  • 1
    Are you asking what percentage did justify it, or what might?
    – msh210
    Nov 2, 2019 at 20:43
  • @msh210 If there's a difference between theoretical and practical ruling, please provide both, but I'm OK with this case only. What was the percentage of sinners in Dor Hamabul to justify the extermination?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 2, 2019 at 20:54
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    I agree with the Q. that is is an exaggeration when it says the whole sinned or the whole world was flooded. G-d agrees with Abraham that if ten people are righteous, He will not destroy the city.
    – Jonathan
    Nov 2, 2019 at 21:27
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    וירא אלקים את הארץ והנה נשחתה כי השחית כל בשר את דרכו על הארץ
    – Rish
    Nov 2, 2019 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


10 righteous people (or 9, rounding up) were required to prevent the destruction of humanity. Noach and crew were only 8, therefore they could not save the world. Clearly, by the standard that G-d was using to judge righteousness, no one else in the world was considered righteous.

This number can be found in Rashi, Bereishis 18:32:

אולי ימצאון שם עשרה. עַל הַפָּחוּת לֹא בִקֵּשׁ, אָמַר דוֹר הַמַּבּוּל הָיוּ ח', נֹחַ וּבָנָיו וּנְשֵׁיהֶם, וְלֹא הִצִּילוּ עַל דּוֹרָם; וְעַל ט' עַל יְדֵי צֵרוּף כְּבָר בִּקֵּשׁ וְלֹא מָצָא: אולי ימצאון שם עשרה

PERADVENTURE THERE SHALL TEN BE FOUND THERE — For a smaller number he did not plead because he knew already of two instances where less than ten had failed to save the wicked. He said to himself: In the generation of the Flood there were eight righteous people, viz., Noah, his sons and their wives, and they could not save their generation (Genesis Rabbah 49:13), and for nine in association with God he had already pleaded but had found no acceptance.

As crazy as the world is nowadays, I would like to think that there are at least 10 righteous people, and we will never (again) reach the point where there are less than 10 righteous people in the world...

Edit: I sort of meant that last line as a throwaway, but as @JoshK mentioned in the comments, most of this discussion is not practical for future instances, but rather a historical view of the pre-flood generations. However, as is written in Genesis 9:11 (with the explanation of the Sforno), G-d promises that there will never again be a worldwide extinction level event that destroys all of humanity. Therefore, the question of how many righteous people are needed to prevent the destruction of the world nowadays is no longer applicable.

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    We have an explicit everlasting promise (berit olam) that even if chas v'shalom the number if righteous people on earth dips below 10 there will not be another flood Nov 3, 2019 at 3:05
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    @JoshK 100% correct, thanks for pointing that out. I added that in to my answer to account for that. Note also that (I believe many commentators, but the one that I saw when I went to confirm was) the Sforno says it's not limited to flood events, but rather G-d promised that there will be no further worldwide extinction events, regardless of the method. Nov 4, 2019 at 1:07

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