In the Bible’s account of Noah and the Flood (read Genesis 6-9), we see the dreadful outcome of mankind’s wickedness, the plan of God to rescue and restore humanity, and the faithfulness of God’s chosen servant, Noah.
Genesis chapters 4 and 5 set the stage, taking us from the Fall of man in chapter 3 through the tragedy of the first murder, when Cain slew his brother Abel. This brutal act of senseless violence is only a glimpse of what we find in chapter 6, where God sees that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” and decides to “blot out man … from the face of the land … for I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:5,7). The corruption of the human heart was on full display.
Noah Stands Alone
In the midst of the evil and violence of his day, we read that Noah was a “righteous man” who received God’s approval: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8-9). He descends from the “godly” line of Seth, from whom the lineage of Jesus is traced in Luke 3:23-38. An interesting note: if you compare the genealogies given in Genesis 4-5 with those in Genesis 10 and 25, you will notice that the “ungodly” lines (Cain, Japheth, Ham, Ishmael) are exhausted first, then the “godly” lines of promise (Seth, Shem, Isaac) are detailed later.
Judgment and Promise
After God finds His man, He shares His plan. God described to Noah the judgment that would befall the earth and its inhabitants. He also makes sure to encourage Noah for the task ahead. Looking beyond the years of hard work, rejection, upheaval and destruction, God promises to bless Noah and his family: “I will establish My covenant with you” (Genesis 6:18).
When God makes the plan, all we have to do is follow it. Sounds easy, right? Noah had lots of building to do, but he didn’t have to calculate the volume of his vessel, or test the seaworthiness of different materials—God specified all those details. God knew how much space would be required for the crew and cargo, and how to design a sturdy, stable ship. Depending on which standard you use for a “cubit” (ancient cubits ranged from 18 to 21 inches), Noah’s ark was about 500 feet long, 50 feet high, and 85 feet wide. The interior space probably held as much as 450 semi-trailers!
Another thing God took care of was bringing the animals to Noah: “two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive” (Genesis 6:20). The Bible doesn’t say exactly how many different animals went into the ark, but it’s likely that the number was significantly lower than the total count of “species” found today. The Hebrew word translated “sort” or “kind” may equate more to our modern “genus” or “family” taxonomic ranks. For example, the genetic variation found in one pair of animals from the canine “kind” likely produced the wide variety of wolves, foxes, and domesticated dogs we have today. It is thought that 16,000 animals (which could have easily fit on the ark) would have been sufficient to preserve animal life.
The text in Genesis describes the flood as a unique, one-time event. Listen to the language used: “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (Genesis 7:11). The world that existed when Noah entered the ark was completely destroyed and reshaped by the cataclysm of the flood. Psalm 104:7-9 describes in part how the earth’s new topography was formed at God’s command: “At your rebuke [the waters] fled … the mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that You appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.”
After more than a year in the ark, Noah and his family (his three sons, his wife, and his son’s wives) emerged from the ark. God gave them the same command He issued to Adam and Eve: “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 9:7). He also established a universal covenant with Noah and every living creature: a promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood. When we see a rainbow in the sky, we can remember God’s promise.
—T. Don Johnson