Foundations - 7 Questions about the ark and the flood (Genesis 6:11-8:12)

Series: Foundations

Genesis 6:11-8:12 - We now come to a section of the Bible that has drawn much scrutiny over the years: Noah’s Ark and the flood. This is a section that is extremely familiar in our culture. Noah’s ark is all around us in children’s books, movies, historical documentaries, and more. However, Noah’s Ark and the flood are common targets for people who do not believe the Bible and take this story as a fairy tale. Because we affirm that this is a true account, inevitably there will be lots of questions and maybe even some mocking that we could believe this.

Today, we’re going to walk through some of these questions and dig into some of the details of this account. This will help skeptics understand our position, it will help reaffirm our confidence in scripture, and help give us some tools for answering questions.

We might be tempted to think it’s not important to believe this story as written. But, if we do that we run into some immediate challenges. If we can’t take Genesis 6-9 as written, why should we take any other part of scripture as written? Further, if we believe this is a fairy tale, what are we going to do with accounts like Jesus in the gospels (Matthew 24:37-38) and other writings of the new testament (Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 2:5, 3:1-14) that affirm the reality of Noah and the flood, and how that is a model for the future? See, if we deny biblical authority here and we can’t believe the Bible, it starts to break down other key areas.

However, if we start with the concept that God’s word is believable and true, then we can give answers to those skeptical questions. And further, it will help us to live faithful and obedient lives because we trust God and his word, both in the past and in the future.

How large was Noah’s ark?

Genesis 6:14-16 gives us the measurements for the ark: 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits in breadth, and 30 cubits in height. Now, some translations may give you current day measurements, but they are based on the length of a cubit. A cubit was measured from your elbow to the tips of your fingers, so it was between 18-21 inches. But the most likely cubit used was the royal cubit which would have been about 20.4 inches. That puts us about a length of 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. This is enormous - it’s longer than one and a half football fields and about four stories high. Noah’s ark could fit 480 school buses. Inside there were rooms that were built and it was sealed inside and out.

Immediately a number of things become obvious: First, this is not like the depiction in children’s story books. This is an enormous vessel. We have to be careful with those depictions because children are very impressionable and they can be given the idea it’s a fairy tale.

Second, we are only given the dimensions of the ark, we are not given a description of what it looked like. We do not have the detailed plans like the tabernacle, temple, etc. For various reasons, the common box shape that is seen at times would not be a very good sea worthy vessel. For example, at the ark encounter, their ship has a fixed rudder to help steady the ship. Pieces like this would improve the travel of the ship.

How could Noah build the ark?

Genesis 6:22 - Since this is such an enormous boat, the logical question is how did Noah do this? First, there was quite a bit of time available for Noah. It is estimated that he had between 55-75 years to work on the ark. Further, the people were very intelligent and had metal working available to them. In (Genesis 4:22) we read where Tubal-Cain was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The idea that there were simple ignorant cave dwellers without technology is based on the evolutionary model. The biblical idea is that Adam was made essentially perfect and their mental and physical abilities would be greater than ours, not less.

Further, there are lots of kinds of ancient technology that are extremely sophisticated. Some of that technology has actually been lost and we have struggled to recreate what they had formerly. That speaks to the intelligence of past human beings.

Also, we don’t know much about Noah’s background, but Noah would have had the ability to hire out additional help for completing the project. It’s also possible that God had given more details to Noah on the design of the ark that are not recorded for us. Regardless, while we don’t have the answer to every detail, there are reasonable possibilities to our questions.

Notice, there are some specifics - gopher wood and dimensions that he had to use. But many things are general and would have been open to his judgment - just like today. This is how authority and following God’s word has been since the beginning.

What animals were on the ark?

Now let’s transition to questions regarding the animals on the ark. (Genesis 7:1-16) give us more details about God’s directions for the animals. Notice, that this ark was meant to preserve all human beings and all animals that lived on the earth (Genesis 6:20). God was going to have them come to Noah. God loves his creation and wants it to continue on.

Immediately we have questions then about how many animals were on the ark, what kind of animals were on the ark, and how they were put onto the ark. The text tells us that there were 7 pairs of clean animals, 1 pair of each unclean, and 7 pairs of the birds of the heavens and that Noah did according to what God said. But notice, the text mentions twice that this was according to kind (Genesis 6:20, 7:14), like in Genesis 1. A kind is generally defined as being able to reproduce, based on (Genesis 1:11-25). In our classification it is about the family level.

This means that Noah did not have to take every species of animal, all he had to do was take representative kinds on the ark. Dogs are a good example, he didn’t have to bring a bull dog, coyote, lab, etc - all he had to do was bring a representative kind with the genetic information.

Research has been done on the number of kinds and there are under 1398 different land animal kinds, which puts about 6744 animals on the ark. And over time that number may go down because the researchers wanted to make sure that if they could not make a direction connection for a kind, they separated them into their own kind. Further, it was only the land dwelling animals that were on the ark. The enormous sea creatures were not on the ark, such as the whales, sharks, etc. Most species in the world are fish, invertebrates, and non-animals.

After the ark settled, the animals would have spread out over time, perhaps over land bridges, other bridges from the ice age - like with Australia.

Were dinosaurs on Noah’s ark?

Now, immediately people are curious about this question and it connects to the massive size of some of these animals. First, we need to understand dinosaurs were part of the living creatures that God made on day six (Genesis 1 and 2). There kinds were likely preserved to the time of the flood. Further, after the flood we have Job 40 and the description of Behemoth sounds like a Sauropod dinosaur, so its ancestor must have been on the ark.

So how did animals so large arrive on the ark? Well, again it’s not every species, it’s only a representative kind. Further, and this is true with all of the larger animals, likely, God brought the youngest of the animals for Noah. Even the largest animals start out very small, most of the dinosaurs kinds we know of are smaller and all dinosaurs start in eggs that are relatively small. There’s many practical reasons for this: 1. They take up less space. 2. They eat less. 3. They create less manure. 4. They are often easier to manage. 5. They are generally more durable. 6. They have more time for procreation.

Even with the large animals factored in, only about 15% were more than 22 pounds. The majority were about the size of a beagle. Remember, they’re only on the ark for about a year. These smaller versions make more sense for many reasons. Now, there is much, much more to discuss on how caring for these animals could have been done. But, I will refer you to information at the Ark encounter and Answers in Genesis for that information.

Was the flood global?

The next set of questions generally relate to the extent of the flood and the story. Many people claim that Noah’s flood was only local. But, this does not make sense of how the text is described. One reason people do this is because they accept the general story of history from the secular world and not from what the Bible records.

Notice how the flood is described: In Genesis 6:13, 17, 7:11, 17-24. None of that sounds like a local flood. There is no way for water to cover the mountain tops unless it is filling the entire earth. Further, if it wasn’t global, why didn’t Noah just move and take some of the animals with him? What was the point of the whole ark episode then? It doesn’t make textual sense. And if the rainbow is a sign that a flood like this won’t occur again, local floods keep occurring.

Further, it undermines the future judgment in 2 Peter 3. The point of that text is that all evil will be judged. How does Noah’s judgment compare if it was not global?

Now, the issue is not a matter of water. If you leveled out the mountains, there would be enough water to cover all the earth up to 1.7 miles deep. See, this judgment was absolute catastrophic and the world was destroyed - Moses and Peter say so. By describing the fountains of the deep beings opened, it is likely referring to earthquakes, eruptions, and the like, that eventually would have caused the realigning of the continents as they are now.

Where did all the water go?

Now, in (Genesis 1:9-10) it seems that all the dry land appeared in one place. But, with the flood the makeup of the world drastically changes. The forces we described would have impacted the movement of the various plates around the world. There was a continual rising of the water and the waters prevailed for 150 days. What seems to be happening is a churning underneath the water. Eventually there is process where the mountains rise - Genesis 8:4 mentions the mountains of Ararat after the flood - and the waters drain off like Genesis 8:2 describes. It’s possible the mountains as we understand them were not like this before the flood. Psalm 104:7-9 may refer to this event as he reflects on creation.

Is there evidence for the flood?

Inevitably then, people will ask, is there evidence in the world for this story? The challenge of our day is like that of Peter’s. In 2 Peter 3:3-6, Peter tells us there would be people in the last days - which we are in - that would ask about the Lord’s coming. They specifically are overlooking these events which happened in the past. In fact, there are over 200 flood legends that exist even in aboriginal and native cultures. Corrupted records have been passed down.

There is evidence all around us of catastrophic destruction if we are willing to look. There are enormous canyons and coal beds that show large scale destruction. Further, if we had a global flood we would expect to see billions of rapidly formed fossils (fossils usually require special circumstances of pressure, speed, etc, to form) laid down by water all over the earth. And that’s exactly what we see, even the mountain tops have fossils of water organisms.

There are also enormous swaths of sedimentary rock laid down in layers all over the world. They were initially soft like mud but became very hard. The conventional paradigm says that these were laid down over millions of years. But the problem with that is that there is no evidence of deterioration in between the layers. In fact, at times there are fossilized trees that go straight through layers. And, there are times where the layers themselves are bent - even to 90 degrees - without cracking. That can only be done when the materials are soft. Which points to the layers not being formed over millions of years and the mountains being formed by the collisions of the plates underneath them and pushing the material up.


This account was preserved for us by God. Noah was saved because of his faith in God - Hebrews 11:7. Noah obeyed all God had said and he was saved by grace. Noah was a preacher of righteous (2 Peter 2:5) and his life is preserved as a warning for our current day. Will we be saved by grace through faith like Noah? Will we live a life of righteousness that is separate from the influence of the world and one of conviction to trust and obey God?

There was only one door on the ark for Noah and his family to enter. Today the same concept is true, Jesus is the door and we must be in him to be saved (John 10:9). God’s plan is to save by grace through faith those who are in Jesus. Are you in him (Romans 6:3-4)?