Reading: Genesis 6:9-8:19
- Describe the ark (what it was made of, it's shape, and how large it was).
- How many animals were taken on the ark? How could the ark hold that much?
- When did the rains start after Noah entered the ark? How long did the rains last? Besides the rains, where else did the waters come from?
- Some say that the flood was a local flood and not world-wide. What phrases in this account makes you believe it was one or the other?
- How long did the earth remain underwater? How long did it take for the waters to recede? Where did all the water go?
- How did Noah determine when the earth was dry enough to exit the ark?
- Altogether, how long did Noah and his family stay on the ark?
Starting with verse 9, Noah's sons take over the chronicle of the events (see Genesis 10:1). The world of their time had become extremely corrupt and violent. The society of mankind was destroying itself. God decided the only solution to the problem was to wipe the world clean and start again.
God gave Noah instructions to build a giant boat, called an ark. The word ark literally means a box. The ark would be made of gopher wood. Today, we are uncertain which type of tree the ancients called gopher wood. Most scholars believe it refers to white oak, but they can't be certain. The boards would be sealed with pitch (i.e. pine tar). The combination would create a very strong, water-tight vessel. The size of the ark was to be 300 x 50 x 30 cubits (438 x 73 x 48 feet). The shape of the boat is the ideal ratio for stability. It would be nearly impossible to capsize. Tests in a wave pool have shown that a boat of this shape would not capsize even in rolls approaching 90 degrees. It would not make a fast ship, but without power that was not a concern. By the way, today's supertankers use approximately the same size ratio as the ark.
Inside the ark, there were three decks. The volume capacity of the ark would be 1,400,000 cubic feet -- the same volume as 522 livestock railroad cars. By the way, one railroad car can carry 240 sheep, so you can see that the ark could hold a large number of animals.
The ark had one door and one window. The window was one cubit (18 inches) high and ran the length of the ark.
It took Noah and his sons about 120 years to complete the building of the ark.
Prior to the flood, God sent animals to Noah to place on the ark. Noah did not gather the animals, the animals came to Noah (Genesis 6:20). Two animals of every species (kind) were placed in the ark. For example, two dogs, a male and female, were placed on the ark. However, there would not be two of each type of dog. Seven animals of every clean species were placed in the ark (Genesis 7:2-3). The clean species are the domesticated animals used to support mankind. This provided three pairs of each species which would quickly restore the flocks plus one extra animal for a sacrifice at the end of the flood (Genesis 8:20). Scholars estimate that there would be approximately 75,000 animals on the ark. If you assume that the average animal size was about the size of a sheep, the animals would only take up half the available space in the ark. The remainder of the space would be used to store food for the journey. It is possible that the animals were not full adults and therefore would take up even less space.
The flood itself was a unique event in our world. The Hebrew word mabbul, translated as flood, is only used here in Genesis and in Psalms 29:10. When the New Testament writer referred to the flood, they used the Greek word kataklusmos, from which we get our word cataclysm. The implication is that this was not a typical local flood.
The flood started seven days after entering the ark. God, himself, shut and sealed the door to the ark. The start of the flood is measured from Noah's 600th year of life, in the second month and 17th day of that year. A world-wide rainstorm began that lasted 40 days. If you think about it, that is a lot of water. In fact, in our current climate, the skies do not hold enough water to rain for 40 days. However, if the world was covered by a water canopy (i.e. a large cloud layer), then there would have been enough water. In addition, God released the water from the great deep. In other words, the waters in various underground reservoirs were released.
The record obviously discusses a world-wide flood. If this does not describe a world-wide flood, what more could the writer add to indicate such? In the flood, all human and animal life, except what was on the ark, was destroyed (II Peter 3:6). The water had to be at least 22 feet deep, because the ark floated on the water during the flood and calculations indicate the draw of the ark would be 22 feet. The description of those waters is that they "prevailed" on the earth. The meaning of the word "prevailed" is "overwhelmingly mighty." This is not the description of a small amount of water. Later we read that the waters covered the high hills and the mountains. Not just some of the mountains, but all the mountains under the heavens. This would have to include Mt. Ararat where the ark eventually came to rest upon. Mt. Ararat is 17,000 feet high! This could not have been a regional flood.
Consider this, if it was just a local flood, why would there be a need to save all the various kinds of animals? Could they not simply move to an area that the flood would not reach? The reason for carrying the animals on the ark is that there were no safe areas in the world.
The waters continued to cover the earth for 150 days. Once again, this could not happen in a local flood. The waters would have receded much sooner in a regional flood.
In Genesis 8:1, the winds began to blow. This is the first mention of winds in the Bible. It could be that it wasn't necessary to mention up to this time, but it could also mean that climate of the earth has now changed, causing non-uniform temperatures over the world, thereby producing winds. Other changes occurred as well. In Psalms 104:6-9, God mentions that the mountains rose and the valley sank. This means the mountains are higher today than they were before the flood. The valleys probably refer to the deep ocean valleys being formed to hold all the water that covered the world. It is interesting to note that the mountains of Ararat are formed of pillow lava. Pillow lava is only formed by volcanic lava flows under great depths of water.
Once the ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat, it took an additional two and half months before the other mountain peaks could be seen. Noah waited another 40 days (day 264 of the flood) and then sent out a raven through the window of the ark. The raven did not return as a raven does not mind standing on wet ground. A week later, day 271 of the flood, Noah sent out a dove. The dove returned to the ark. A dove will only roost in trees and on dry ground. Another week later, day 278 of the flood, the dove returned with olive leaves in its beak. This indicated plants had started to grow once again in the world. Notice that even after the flood had ended for four months, there still wasn't any dry ground (it still doesn't sound like a local flood). One week later, day 285 of the flood, Noah sent out a dove for the third time. This time the dove did not return.
On day 314 of the flood, 29 days after the last dove was sent out, Noah removed the roof from the ark. Fifty-seven days later, day 361 of the flood, Noah, his family, and the animals left the ark. It was over a year (53 weeks) from the time they entered the ark before the world was dry enough to permit human and animal life to live in the world again.