THE WORLD OF NOAH’S DAY, THE ARK, AND THE FLOOD
Noah, the ark that he built, and the flood that destroyed the world – those are familiar topics to all Bible students. In a previous article, we looked at the world of Noah’s day, noting both its wickedness as well as the righteous example of Noah. Now let us look at two more aspects of that era of time.
The Ark – Who was it that came up with the idea to build an ark? Was it someone in Noah’s family? No, it was the Lord Himself. After pronouncing that He would destroy the earth, God charged Noah, “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch” (Genesis 6:14). God gave certain specifics about how He wanted Noah to build the ark. Just as Jehovah later gave Moses and the Israelites a pattern for the tabernacle (Exodus 25:9), so He gave Noah a pattern for the ark. God’s message to Noah was, “And this is how you shall make it . . .” (Genesis 6:15). When God speaks, man needs to listen! When He gives a command, He expects humans to keep it. And, when He gives a command and at the same time says how He wants it carried out, then it is our duty to do it like He said – exactly like He said to do it! Noah understood that principle, so upon hearing God’s will for the building of the ark, “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22).
What about the size of the ark? By God’s decree, it was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. A cubit is generally thought to have been the length from a person’s elbow to the tip of his middle finger. A rough estimate would be that one cubit was about 1½ feet (45¾ cm.), making the ark’s dimensions approximately 450 feet x 75 feet by 45 feet (137.2 meters x 22.9 meters x 13.7 meters). The ark was a massive structure, with its length being considerably longer than the playing area of a football field.
But was the ark large enough to hold all of the animals, Noah’s family, and necessary supplies? Remember, God “knows all things” (1 John 3:20). He knew that an ark was needed, He knew who should build it, and He absolutely knew the proper dimensions for it. His blueprint was perfect. God does not make mistakes. He never miscalculates or misevaluates. Of course, the ark was large enough!
What was the purpose of the ark? The Bible record indicates that when the flood came, all humans outside of the ark died. “Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (Genesis 7:23). The Bible says that the eight people of Noah’s family were “saved” inside the ark (1 Peter 3:20). In this instance, “saved” does not mean saved from sin, but rather safety from physical danger. But, Noah’s personal safety was not all that was at stake. The Lord had promised the coming of a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15). In order for God to bring the Messiah into the world, He had to keep the Messiah’s ancestors alive. Thus, in the big picture of things, the ark that Noah built was an instrument to help fulfill God’s plan to save sinners through Jesus.
[Be aware of the fact that the Bible mentions more than one ark. Besides the one that Noah built, there was “an ark of bulrushes” (Exodus 2:3) in which baby Moses was placed. Also, God instructed the Israelites to build “the ark of the Testimony” and place it in the most holy place of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:22).]
The Flood – When did it occur? Using the genealogical record of Genesis 5 and the chronological data included in it, calculations indicate that the flood began 1656 years after God created the world.
How long did the flood last? The rain lasted for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:12), and the Bible says that “the flood was on the earth forty days” (7:17), but the waters continued to rise and stayed on the earth much longer. Noah’s age is given at the time the rain began and again at the time when he came out of the ark. The difference shows that from the first day of the flood until he exited the ark was one year and ten days (Genesis 7:11; 8:14-16). Wow, one year plus.
What about the scope of the flood? Was it universal, or only local? It was a world-wide deluge. Consider the facts. First, “. . . all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered” (Genesis 7:19). Second, the destruction of human life and other living things was universal (7:21-23). Third, the very fact that an ark was needed clearly shows that the flood was universal. If it had only been a local flood, Noah and his family simply could have traveled to another, higher area to wait for the flood to come to an end. Fourth, God’s own statements after the flood pointed to a world-wide catastrophe. He said the bow is a sign, a reminder that He will not repeat something: “. . . the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (9:15). Look at those words: “never again . . . all flesh.” We might also ask about the rainbow: is it only seen in a certain local area, or is it a phenomenon that can be seen throughout the whole world? Folks, the flood of Noah’s day was a world-wide event.
When we think of the effects of the flood, we think of the destruction of the earth and living things. But it also affected the terrain of the earth and its climate. In addition, the flood drastically lowered the population of the human race. We often speak about being the offspring of Adam and Eve, and we are. At the same time, though, each one of us is a descendant of Noah and his wife. The flood brought about a new beginning.
Do not miss the truth that the flood was not simply “a natural disaster.” It was a disaster alright. And, it involved nature. But, it all happened when and how God made it happen. Remember, the flood waters came not only via rain from the sky, but in addition all the fountains of the great deep were also broken up (Genesis 7:11). What caused that to occur? Not “what,” but “who.” God did.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.