Noah and The Ark as Ancient Historical Narrative
The case study in Genesis 6:9–9:28, which includes the story of Noah and the Flood as well as the account of Noah’s drunkenness, Ham’s sin, and the curse of Canaan. It is impossible to give a thorough treatment to such a large passage in this essay, but it has clear indicators of historicity.
The level of detail in the account is notable. The dimensions and specifications for the Ark are precise, and modelling has shown that the Ark would be a stable vessel. This is in contrast to the vessel in Gilgamesh, which was a cube —a vastly more unstable design—or the ‘coracle’ ark.
The chronological details are precise, and not all the numbers are obviously symbolic. Noah and his family entered the Ark a week before the Flood came (7:4). The Flood came when Noah was 600, on the seventeenth day of the second month (7:11). The Flood lasted for forty days (7:12), and the water covered the earth for 150 days (7:24). The water receded for 150 days, and the Ark came to rest on The Mountains of Ararat on the seventeenth day of the seventh month (8:3–4). The tops of the mountains were visible on the first day of the tenth month (8:5), and Noah began sending the birds 40 days later. In the first day of the first month in Noah’s 601st year, the earth was dried out, and on the twenty-seventh day of the second month, they disembarked the Ark (8:13–14). This level of chronological detail is consistent with a historical narrative.
The history of Noah and the Flood is intended to be taken as a sort of second ‘origin story’. Not only is Israel (and all humanity) descended from the first man Adam, Israel (and all humanity) are also descended from Noah and his sons. The national divisions of the ancient world are explained in terms of descent from Noah’s sons (10:1–32).
The New Testament is also full of examples of Noah’s Flood as a historical precedent of God’s judgment. Jesus says, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the Ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:38–39, parallel in Luke 17:27). 2 Peter 2:5–6, discussed above, uses the Flood as a precedent that God will judge the wicked and spare the righteous, and the epistle continues this theme in 2 Peter 3:3–7. Hebrews 11:7 cited Noah as an example of faith in the unseen. Again, these sorts of uses make no sense unless the New Testament authors believed Noah was a historical man and the global Flood was a historical event. And if we say that Noah was not a historical person, or the global Flood was not a global event, we must conclude that the Apostles, and even Jesus Himself, were wrong.
The Great Flood and Noah’s Ark
as described in the Bible (Genesis 5, Jude 1 & Hebrews 11)
1. Events before the Flood:
Enoch was descendant of Adam (the 7th from Adam), he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years.
A. Enoch the first Prophet in the Bible and the great grandfather of Noah prophesied about the coming judgment on earth (destruction by water) through the global flood.
One day Enoch disappeared, because God took him.
"It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." (Hebrews 11:5-6)
B. Enoch also prophesied about the second judgment (destruction by fire) of the end times:
"Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (Jude 1:14-15)
Methuselah became the father of Lamech.
Lamech became the father of Noah, for he said, “May he bring us relief from our work and the painful labor of farming this ground that the Lord has cursed.”
Noah was the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
"It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith." (Hebrews 11:7)
2. Wickedness of Man (Genesis 6:5-8):
- The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth
- And that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually
- But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord
3. Building the Ark:
- Make yourself an ark of gopher wood
- Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch
- Make the ark 300 L X 50 W X 30 H cubits
- Cubit = 18’’
- Ark = L (449.6 ft) X W (75.2 ft) X H (44.8 ft) = 1,514,684.416 cubic feet for Ark interior
4. God’s patience (Genesis 6:3 & 1 Peter 3:20):
- My Spirit shall not strive with man forever
- For he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be 120 years
- It took Noah about 120 years to build the ark
- …God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built
5. Election (Genesis 6:17-18):
- I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes
- Everything on earth will die
- But I will confirm my covenant with you
- So enter the ark—you and your wife and your sons and their wives (total 8 people)
- Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a male and a female—into the ark with you to keep them alive during the flood
6. Separation (Genesis 7:16 & John 10:9):
- A male and female of each kind entered, just as God had commanded Noah
- Then the Lord closed the door behind them
7. Judgment / The Flood (Genesis 7:10-13):
- After seven days, the waters of the flood came and covered the earth
- …on the seventeenth day of the second month, all the underground waters erupted from the earth, and the rain fell in mighty torrents from the sky
- The rain continued to fall for forty days and forty nights
- That very day Noah had gone into the ark (...The Great Flood has been recorded by every culture: ~2348 B.C.)
8. Purification (Genesis 7:17-24):
- For forty days the floodwaters grew deeper, covering the ground and lifting the ark high above the earth
- …The water covered even the highest mountains on the earth
- …All the living things on earth died—God wiped out every living thing on the earth
- The only people who survived were Noah and those with him in the ark
- And the floodwaters covered the earth for 150 days
9. Salvation (Genesis 8 & 4):
- …At the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters decreased
- Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of ARARAT
10. Salvation through Christ (John 10:9):
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture
Biblical authors communicated actual history by recording lifespans, or measuring the amount of time between certain events
Ancient tablet reveals new details about Noah's Ark prototype
A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia -- modern-day Iraq -- reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle -- as well as the key instruction that animals should enter "two by two."