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by Wayne Blank
The reason for the flood was that humanity's behavior had become so hopelessly evil that God could no longer tolerate them:
"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart. So The Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." (Genesis 6:5-7 RSV)
There was however one exception:
"But Noah found favor in the eyes of The Lord ... Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God." (Genesis 6:8-9 RSV)
Noah was given the task of building a great boat, an ark, to save a remnant of life on earth. The contents of the ark would serve as the seed from which life would begin again.
Noah spent decades constructing the ark. It was certainly a labor-intensive task, since there were no power tools or cranes available like today. All of the cutting and lifting would have been done by hand. Noah would not have had to worry about the design because God had provided that to him.
During the entire time spent building the ark, Noah would very likely have been subjected to continuous taunts and ridicule from the people who saw that he was building a huge boat on dry land, far from water. It's certain that none of them believed any explanation that he provided. If any of them had believed him, and repented, God would have put them on the ark as well. There is even some suggestion that Noah's own family did not fully believe, but were included out of necessity - only Noah is recorded as righteous and believing, none of the others.
The ark was huge, even by modern standards. It was 450 feet / 137 meters long, 75 feet / 23 meters wide, and 45 feet / 14 meters high. It had upper, lower and middle decks, with a roof over the top. The sides of the ark were open for 18 inches / 45 centimeters all along the top for light and ventilation. The type of wood used is not known for certain, but it may have been cypress or some other type of evergreen. It was coated inside and out with pitch (readily available where Noah built the ark - somewhere in the oil-rich area of what is today southern Iraq) to make it waterproof. Pitch is still used in modern times for uses including the manufacture of waterproof roofing materials.
To put the capacity of the ark into perspective, each deck measured 75 by 450 feet, which totals 33,750 square feet. The 3 decks would therefore total 101,250 square feet. An average-size automobile today measures about 6 by 16 feet, or 96 square feet. 101,250 square feet of deck space divided by 96 square feet per car means that 1,054 cars could have been parked onboard the ark. The illustration below is a scale drawing of the ark's size in comparison to a modern-day Boeing 747 airliner.
The ark would of course have had no engines, and is very unlikely to have had a sail. But then, all it really needed to do was to float. God would have been keeping a very close watch on the ark, and guided it wherever He wanted it to go. Could it really have been just an accident that it found the first point of dry land over the vast area of the flood as soon as it became available?
Inside the ark was Noah, his wife, their 3 sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth), and their wives. From those 8 people humanity began again. We are all descended from Noah and his wife.
The animals inside the ark included 7 pairs of clean creatures and 2 pairs of unclean creatures. "Clean" and "unclean" were determined according to God's dietary laws that observant Jews and some Christian groups still observe today. The definitions were later recorded in Leviticus chapter 11 (see Clean and Unclean)
Many are surprised when they first read of how long the flood lasted, and the amount of time that the ark was occupied. The chronology of the flood, using the Biblical calendar of months (with the approximate Roman calendar equivalents in brackets) is:
Beginning on the 10th day of the second month of the Hebrew calendar (April/May) - The Lord ordered Noah to enter the ark with his family and all the animals. On the 17th day of the month (just after the full moon - the Biblical calendar months begin at new moon, see Bible Calendar and Bible Months) the 40 days of rain began.
Upon exiting the ark, The Lord said to Noah:
"Behold, I establish My covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish My covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh." (Genesis 9:9-15 RSV)
Fact Finder: After the Judgment has been completed, will the earth again be completely flooded, not with water, but with fire?