Context of Genesis 7
Almost all of the pre-flood history documentation we have is found in the first 6 chapters of Genesis. After creation and the fall we have genealogies, one of life from Seth to Noah, and one of death from Cain. Genesis 6 provides a sketch of pre-flood life. The flood came during a time of wickedness across the earth. Finally God decides to wipe the slate clean. Noah was a good man who didn’t fall into the debauchery of his neighbors. His reward was to preach to the deaf, be the butt of endless jokes for building a ship on dry land, to become God’s chief zoologist, and to have to see everyone and everything he knew destroyed. He came through the ordeal with only what he had on his ship. He lived many years after the flood. He surely saw a decimated world akin to a soggy Martian landscape when he emerged. He would have seen the plant life rejuvenate over the years. He would have seen several generations born and dispersed. Genesis 7 deals specifically with the collection of animal life into the ark and the launch of the flood.
Gen 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. The flood happened 1650 years after God breathed life into Adam. This can be easily calculated using the pre-flood genealogy given in earlier chapters. Noah himself was 600 when the flood began. His life would have overlapped most of his ancestors except Adam and Seth. If you assume pre-flood lifespans of the documented patriarchs are typical, as well as average households of several sons and daughters, there could easily have been a billion people on earth when the flood struck. Everyone alive today, however, is a descendent of Noah.
Animal and Ark Math
Gen 7:2-3 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. God told Noah to gather 2 of every unclean and 7 of every clean animal (Gen 7:2-3). You will notice from this translation it appears there should be 14 of each clean animal, but the original language lends itself to a more likely interpretation of 7 animals. This would be more in line with keeping animals in pairs with one extra of each clean animal for the sacrifices made after Noah exited the ark (Gen 8:20).
Using the dimensions for the ark documented in Genesis 6:15, it would have easily held the requisite air breathing animal life with plenty of room for food stuffs and living quarters for the family. There is much conjecture about how the animals were gathered and kept in captivity for the duration of their stay aboard ship, but there’s no questioning the ark could have done the job. If a “cubit” were a conservative measure of 17.5 inches, the ark would have been at least 437 feet long by 73 feet wide by 44 feet tall. Since it had three decks (Gen 6:16) it would have had about 96,000 square feet of interior deck. This is equal to about 20,000 standard basketball courts. At about 14,000 tons displacement it would have been of similar size to a large modern ocean vessel of today’s shipping industry.
In other words the ark would have held about 522 standard railroad stock cars of animals. The total number of air breathing vertebrate animal species today is roughly 18,000. Double that and you have about 36,000 animals. The statistically average size of factoring all mammals, birds and other air breathing animals would be the size of sheep at most. One rail stock car will hold about 240 sheep. To hold two of every animal would require only 72 rail cars. Only a fraction of the animals were “clean,” but even if they were all clean that would still only be less than 300 rail cars. When you factor that of the unique species we have today many are sub-variants that could easily be adaptations over 4000 years. This may reduce the total number of animals on the ark by a factor of 4 or better. Regardless, the ark surely had plenty of room for all animals and people to live in relative comfort with enough food storage to last a year.
Gen 7:4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” The flood is often thought to have only lasted 40 days. Many people do not realize Noah was actually locked inside the ark for nearly a whole year. Here’s the breakdown:
Noah entered the ark on the 17th day of the 2nd month of his 600th year (Gen 7:11)
Rain fell 40 days (Gen 7:12).
The waters prevailed another 110 days (Gen 7:24 – the water prevailed 150 days including the 40 days of rain plus another 110 days).
At the end of the 150 days (17th of the 7th month) the waters abated to the point Noah’s ship began coming to rest among the peaks of the Mountains of Ararat (Gen 8:4).
On the 1st day of the 10th month (about 74 more days later; about 224 days total) the peaks of the mountains became visible as the waters continued to recede (Gen 8:5).
On the 1st day of the 1st month of his 601st year (284 days total) the earth began to dry around the ark (Gen 8:13).
On the 27th day of the 2nd month (371 days total) the earth was dry and God told Noah to open up and come on out (Gen 8:14-16).
The Good News of Genesis 7
Gen 7:1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Of an entire world of people, perhaps a billion or more men, only Noah was chosen by God to survive and repopulate the earth. This verse says Noah was found righteous.
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Noah’s righteousness was not because of the action he took, but because he had the faith to trust God and take the action in faith God would keep His word.
Gen 7:23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. The waters raged until all life was destroyed. Satan rages, seeking to devour and destroy. As he succeeds in drawing people into unbelief and thereby into unrighteousness people are doomed to condemnation (Jn 3:18). The ark carried the righteous man (and his family) through the death of the world. Jesus Christ rose from the grave on the third day by the power of God. Christ thus defeated death. Even as Noah saved his wife and children from earthly death so Jesus saves his bride (the church) and all the children of God from eternal death. The ark was the vehicle by which earthly salvation from destruction was afforded to Noah. The cross was the vehicle by which eternal salvation was made possible for all who believe in God (Heb 2:10). Noah built the ark himself. The flood could not prevail over the ark and death cannot prevail over the sinless Christ (1 Jn 5:4-5). Noah had faith in God and obeyed resulting in salvation. We are raised from the dead at the last trump (1 Th 4:16) by faith. Our faith is genuine when we love and trust God enough to obey Him and our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Jn 2:3). When our faith is genuine we are counted righteous and our sins are forgotten (Heb 10:17) and we are joined with Christ, risen incorruptible forever (1 Cor 15:42).