We remember Noah and the Ark as a Bible story from Sunday School. The cute little ark in the shape of a bathtub and animals that barely fit on the boat. But as we look into God’s Word, the Bible reveals a much different picture. The epic journey of Noah and his family was not just a bedtime story, but a real event involving a real boat.
In 1961, The Genesis Flood was written. This book was a turning point in how Christians viewed the story of Noah, the Ark and the Flood. Henry Morris and John Whitcomb gave a scientific explanation for a worldwide flood and the Ark that survived that global disaster. Dr. Whitcomb still continues to lecture and teach on this subject. The Genesis Flood has been powerful in taking something that seems too hard to believe and making you say, “That’s not so far-fetched.”
Whitcomb and Morris showed the world that the Biblical Ark was large enough to hold all the land-dwelling, air-breathing animals. They also established that the dimensions of the Ark given in the Bible gave the Ark the needed proportions to make it a truly sea-worthy craft. The dimensions of the Ark are recorded in Genesis, in cubits.
“This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.” Genesis 6:15
From those three dimensions, you get a rectangular shape. God didn’t record in the text what the Ark looked like. That is left for us to figure out. We don’t know the exact shape. We just know it’s size. There are statements that the Bible plainly says, things that we stand by that we don’t change and other things that we need to be prepared to be flexible about man’s models that are built on the Bible.
The ark in the shape of a box gained popularity in 1976. There was a documentary called In Search of Noah’s Ark. This film presented the shape of the Ark as box-like and there were unsubstantiated eye-witness accounts of a structure on Mt. Ararat. It’s important to understand that there is no solid evidence to support the claim that Noah’s ark has been found and that it is box shaped. There are many who believe that the Ark still remains unfound.
“…Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29
The design was exactly what was needed for the destruction it survived. The ark delivered Noah, his wife, their sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth) and their wives. When they left the ark and entered a whole new world, imagine the exciting stories they passed down to their children and the generations that followed. The stories were told over many generations But sometimes the stories were distorted.
Flood Myths and Legends
There are stories recorded all over the world of a great flood. They fall under the category of ancient myths and legends even though they are partial descriptions of the actual event. The bits of truth they do contain, match dramatically with the real story. The Australian Aborigines have Dream time Legends of a man who built a boat. He had three sons on the boat and there is a rainbow at the end of a global flood. The reason you see so many different legends in so many different cultures around the world is because they have a basis in truth. Noah’s ark happened before Genesis was written.
The Babylonians wrote about a great flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh. It was discovered on cuneiform tablets. Those tablets say that the ark was built in seven days by Utnapishtim. It was a cube, 180 cubits on each side. There is a contradiction when you claim that the Bible got its Noah story from these other legends, because these other legends have lots of mistakes in them. The Ark proportions in the Bible are very realistic. So realistic that the proportions happen to match modern cargo ships.
You wouldn’t expect a made up story to accidentally choose 300 x 50 x 30 as the proportions of this imaginary vessel. Cargo ships have a typical proportion of 50 x 30, because it give the right stability. The Bible is specific on the ark’s dimensions, but it doesn’t go into detail about its shape. The only description in the Bible is the Hebrew word Tevah. Some say the definition of the Tevah is “box,” but that’s not necessarily true. Tevah only appears in the Bible twice. There is Noah’s Tevah and then there is the Tevah for Moses’s baby basket. In any language, the meaning of a word is understood the more it’s used in different contexts but when it’s only mentioned a couple of times like that, it’s difficult to know for sure.
We can be thankful for a God who gives us imagination to fill-in details for words we don’t understand. So Tevah doesn’t necessarily mean “box,” because Moses’s baby basket was a little basket. If it’s not a box, what should we picture? How would the ark even be built? What was the technology like before the flood? There are clues in the Bible.
First of all, the long lifespans of the people who built the ark give us a better understanding of the feasibility of taking on such an enormous project. If a person lives for centuries, they are going to be very experienced and skilled in a lot of different areas. Also, they were very healthy. To live that long it implies that you were very healthy. With a healthy body, you are very capable and able to do a lot of work.
The Bible also makes it clear that the first people on this Earth were brilliant. Even when technology was not like it is today, we see how Tubal-cain, long before the flood was a brilliant in creating tools to do difficult work.
“Tubal-cain, who is the father of every maker of cutting instruments of brass and iron” Genesis 4:22
God gave Noah technology, tools and help to build this ark over 120 years.
Noah was perfectly capable of building a gigantic ark that wasn’t just any shape. The dimensions, 300 x 50 x 30 is a big clue. Those dimensions look like a ship with a long hull. That is not what you would expect. If you’re going to build something that floats on the water, you wouldn’t make it so long. It takes more work to build it long and it takes more wood. It is in more danger as it crosses over waves too. The fact that they built it at that size means the ark was built for comfort, strength and stability. A balance of those three things comes in a vessel that is 300 x 50 x 30.
The other thing that seems far-fetched, is the construction of the ark. How could such a large wooden boat hold together in rough seas? It bothers people when they wrap their mind around how large the ark was. One argument against the authenticity of the Bible is that you can’t build a wooden ship that big and in the same breath they usually pick ships from 100 years ago and say, “They had trouble building ships longer than 300 feet so it’s impossible for ancient people to build Noah’s ark.”
Ancient ships were constructed different than modern sailing vessels. The edge jointed planking design that is seen in ancient ships takes claims that it can’t be done and blows them out of the water. It’s not so far-fetched.
That’s a lot of work and not a quick way to build a ship. In the 18th or 19th century, they did not bother with that extensive construction. That’s why ships would loosen up. The phrase “a tight ship” comes from a newly built ship that had tight joints. Over time those joints became looser. The ancient Greeks had much higher quality of hull. They built the hull with planks that were mortice and Tenon The hull was strong enough to ram another ship, and light enough to be carried onto a beach by the crew. It doesn’t take more technology, it just took more labor.
The Bible teaches that the flood was a real historical event. Often when you open up a children’s book and see the ark, it looks like an overloaded bathtub with giraffes sticking their head out the chimney. It looks as if it could sink at any moment. It makes sense in a children’s room to paint Noah’s ark in a cartoon style, but there is a dark side. These children grow into adults and if all they can remember is this cartoon picture of the ark, we have whole generations who have grown up in the church looking at everything they’ve been taught in the Bible as a group of stories.
The Bible describes the flood account as the time God saved humanity so that you could be born.
“The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.” Genesis 7:18
Was it really a global flood? Sadly, there are many Christian colleges that teach that it was only a local flood. We’ve seen lots of localized floods. What we haven’t seen again is a global flood. The rainbow isn’t a reminder that God will not send another localized flood, it’s a reminder of a promise that God will never flood the entire earth again.
Wikipedia says this about the Grand Canyon: “Nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While some aspects about the history of incision of the canyon are debated by geologists, several recent studies support the hypothesis that the Colorado River established its course through the area about 5 to 6 million years ago.”
That’s one hypothesis.
Is there another way the Grand Canyon could have formed? Is there an observable way the Grand Canyon could have formed?
Mount St. Helens erupted in the 1980s. It was a small volcano in Washington state. A tiny mountain, in a small location. Nothing compared to a global event and it had a huge destructive force that changed the landscape. The result of that eruption formed miles and miles of what they call a little grand canyon.
So what do you do when it comes to the flood not being so far-fetched? You can:
Read up: We don’t have all the information about Noah, the Ark and the flood in one blog post, so you need to read more so you’re educated. When you educate yourself, you can make better decisions and help your friends wrestle through difficult questions too.
Listen up: Listen to what teachers are saying or what your friends are talking about. The Bible makes it clear that God wants us to question things that we are being taught. Figure out if what you are being taught lines up with God’s Word.
Speak up: Be willing to share your opinion with other people. Ask questions that show the other side of the coin a little bit. If you’ve read up and you’ve been listening, you can speak up with a little bit more confidence.
Be willing to speak up when God gives you those opportunities.
Check back on what you discussed last week. Does anyone have any more thoughts on God being real after reflecting further on that message? Were there any conversations with others about existence of God?
Hear the Word
This week we looked at why the biblical account of Noah and the Flood is not so far-fetched. This message can be heard at rockbrook.org or on the Rock Brook Church podcast.
The full account of Noah and the flood is found in Genesis chapters 6-9. Now would be a great time to pause and read those chapters together.
- What stood out to you in the message or as you read the Genesis account?
- The account of Noah and the flood has been wildly misunderstood and misrepresented in our culture. Was there anything in the sermon, or in Genesis 6-9, that surprised you? (Maybe you’ve forgotten it said a specific thing… or never heard an accurate account of the flood before.)
- What’s been your experience with the topic of Noah and the flood? Have you ever had a conversation about it? Ever studied it in school? Ever watched anything about it? What did they say?
- The account of the flood ended with a promise to never flood the whole earth again. God’s promises are true. There are many of them. What promise are you relying on from God right now?
- Pastor Andrew challenged us to read up, listen up and speak up. “Be willing to speak up when God gives you those opportunities.” A great resource for more information about this topic is http://www.answersingenesis.org
Tell Someone Else
Who can you share this practical message with about a major part of your faith? You could send them to rockbrook.org/sermons. More importantly, who do you need to encourage with these truths? How can you lovingly “speak up?”