“The LORD then said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation'” (Genesis 7:1).
We said earlier that to be “righteous” means that someone has “right standing” with God. Noah was just such a person. Noah was someone who listened to what God said and then acted on it even when no one else would. That’s one reason why the New Testament book of Hebrews says this about Noah…
“Noah was another who trusted God. When he heard God’s warning about the future, Noah believed him even though there was then no sign of a flood, and wasting no time, he built the ark and saved his family. Noah’s belief in God was in direct contrast to the sin and disbelief of the rest of the world-which refused to obey-and because of his faith he became one of those whom God has accepted” (Hebrews 11:7 TLB).
So Noah was someone who had faith in God and because of this, God accepted him and declared him to be righteous.
“Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth” (Genesis 7:2-3).
Whenever you see an illustration of Noah and the animals on the ark, you can usually expect to find a portrayal of the animals entering the ark in pairs. This was done to allow the animals to repopulate the land after the floodwaters had gone away, just as we read in the verse quoted above. But these verses also tell us that an additional number of animals were brought into the ark as well. So why were all these other animals also taken into the ark?
Well, we can say that some of these additional animals probably went on to become breakfast, lunch, and dinner for Noah and his family. However, the next chapter also tells us that once the floodwaters had gone away, “…Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it” (Genesis 8:20-21). So it seems that Noah also sacrificed some of these additional animals as an offering to God once he safely left from the ark.
But this brings up a question: since all of the details about the Old Testament animal sacrifices were not put into place until well after Noah’s time, how did he know anything at all about animal sacrifices or which animals were OK to sacrifice and which ones weren’t?
Genesis 8:20-21 tells us that Noah offered an animal sacrifice to God after He had safely brought Noah and his family through the flood. But how did Noah even know anything about animal sacrifices or which animals were OK to sacrifice and which animals weren’t?
Well, this is a circumstance where the Bible has given us some of the information, but not all of the information necessary to give a definite answer. Since Noah didn’t have the Old Testament book of Leviticus to explain all the details about the right way to offer animal sacrifices, the only answer is that God must have communicated this information to him in some other way. That may not be the most satisfying answer, but it’s probably the best we can do with the information that we have.
But what was the point of sacrificing an animal, anyway? What was the benefit of killing an innocent animal and then burning it up? And why would God even want someone to do something like that in the first place?
Well, we should first remember that whenever there is wrongdoing (or sin), the punishment is death (see Genesis 2:17, Ezekiel 18:4, and Romans 6:23 for more on that). But during the days of the Old Testament, God graciously agreed to accept the death of an innocent animal instead of the life of the person who did wrong. Today, we refer to this agreement as the “Old Covenant” that’s detailed within the pages of the Old Testament.
Under this Old Covenant, the Scriptures tell us that the person who offered an animal as a sacrifice had to personally identify with that animal by placing his hand on it’s head (see Leviticus 1:4). The animal would then be put to death in place of the person who brought it in order to atone for (or “make up for”) the wrong things that person had done.
While this allowed people to receive forgiveness, the limitation was that, “…it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Another portion of the book of Hebrews explains why: “…under the old system, gifts and sacrifices were offered, but these failed to cleanse the hearts of the people who brought them” (Hebrews 9:9 TLB). In other words, these animal sacrifices didn’t do anything to change people internally where it really counted.
Something better was needed- a new agreement (or a “New Covenant”) had to be set up between God and humanity. This new agreement was eventually fulfilled through Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Instead of an innocent animal suffering the punishment of death for someone’s sin, Jesus offered His own life once for everyone (see 1 Peter 3:18 and Hebrews 10:1-18) and works to straighten out our thoughts and attitudes as well (see John 16:7, 13-15 and 1 Corinthians 2:9-16).
For more on these Old and New Covenants, take a look over here.
“Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made. And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him” (Genesis 7:4-5).
So Noah was heading into the last few days before the great flood, but why did God provide him with this final week countdown anyway? Well, this is another good example of God’s patience and graciousness with people.
Let’s step back and think about this scene for a moment. Let’s say that you were someone who lived in Noah’s neighborhood during this time. You’ve watched Noah spend decades building this gigantic barge. Because Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), you’ve heard him tell people about God and about their need to get right with Him. You’ve also heard Noah’s warnings about a massive flood that was on the way. Now as you look out your window, you begin to see all kinds of animals wander up and get inside Noah’s giant boat totally on their own without anyone forcing them to do it (we’ll see that part next).
You would think that somebody would notice these things and think, “Hey, maybe Noah’s been telling the truth all along- maybe we should start taking him seriously.” But no one did. And even though no one else was willing to listen, Noah still did everything that God told him to do (Genesis 7:5). So God is giving people one final week to think things over and change their minds.
“Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah” (Genesis 7:6-9).
Notice that Noah didn’t have to go out and capture these animals. He didn’t have to force them into the ark or shoot them with a tranquilizer dart and then drag them inside. According to Genesis 7:9, these animals just showed up and got in the boat. And once again, there is no one who seems to think that there is anything special or unusual about this.
The sad thing about this whole scene is that it looks like God had an easier time getting these animals to listen to Him than He did with the other human beings who lived during Noah’s time.
And now the day that Noah had spent years preparing for has finally arrived…
“And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month–on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:10-12).
Genesis 7:11 is another one of those Scriptures that is more important than it may appear at first glance. Remember that this verse begins by saying, “On the seventeenth day of the second month of the six hundredth year of Noah’s life…” These sixteen words are important because they tell us that Noah’s flood wasn’t just something that occurred at some unknown time in ancient history- it was an authentic historic event that happened in real time and started on an actual, literal day.
Noah’s flood isn’t a myth, story, or legend; it was a genuine event that happened to a real human being on the seventeenth day of the second month in the six hundredth year of his life.
This verse also gives us a clue about what actually began happening on that day. For instance, it’s probably safe to say that most people believe that Noah’s flood was entirely caused by the 40 days and nights of rain that fell as described in Genesis 7:12. But that’s not all that happened during the flood. You see, Genesis 7:11 also says that, “…on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth…” Another translation of this verse says, “…all the underground waters erupted from the earth” (NLT).
This tells us that there must have been large underground reservoirs of water that existed prior to the flood. If each of these large pockets of water beneath the earth somehow all opened up at once, it would surely cause an environmental catastrophe- and that’s exactly what Genesis 7:11 says happened.
The term “floodgates of the heavens” also suggests that there was some sort of large collapse in the earth’s atmosphere like a dam that suddenly breaks and lets water rush forth. According to one source, the term “floodgates (or windows) of heaven” is, “certainly… intended to convey the idea of great quantities of water, formerly restrained in the sky, suddenly released to deluge the earth.” (1) So it wasn’t only the rain from above that was responsible for the Great Flood- it was the rain from above along with the water from below.
(1) Henry M. Morris The Genesis Record pg.197
“On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in” (Genesis 7:13-16).
We shouldn’t move on without looking at something important that shows up at the end of Genesis 7:16. This “something” is so brief that it’s easy to miss- and here it is: “…Then the LORD closed the door behind them” (NLT).
You see, inside Noah’s Ark were eight people who respected God and took Him seriously. It was God who then took the responsibility of protecting those eight people by shutting them into the ark and personally making sure that they were in a place of safety.
But while Noah and his family were safely locked inside the ark, this also meant that those people who didn’t want anything to do with God were also locked outside. Unfortunately, that decision eventually cost those people their lives.
This idea from the Bible’s first book is something that’s also repeated in the Bible’s last book when it says, “Outside are dogs, sorcerers, sexual sinners, murderers, idolaters, and all who lie in what they say and what they do” (Revelation 22:15). So anyone who wants to follow the bad example of the people who lived in Noah’s day is also in danger of being shut out from God’s safety and protection as well -and that’s a dangerous place to be.
“For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet” (Genesis 7:17-20).
The word picture that illustrates these verses is one of a flood that was relentless and unstoppable. These verses carry the idea of a deluge that just kept pounding again and again and again because “the flood kept coming on the earth…” (Genesis 7:17).
“For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth…” (Genesis 7:17).
Why did Noah’s Flood last for forty days? Why not 43 or 37 or 52 days? Well, as you read through the Bible, you’ll often find that numbers carry special meanings.
This idea of “numbers and meanings” is easy to understand today because people often use numbers to represent things in a similar way. For instance, if someone says to another person, “You’re number one!” that person certainly doesn’t mean that the second person is an actual number. In this case, “number one” means that someone else is the first or best.
Numbers are often used in a similar way in the Scriptures as well. One example would be the use of the number seven in the Bible, a number that’s often used to represent things like completion, fulfillment, or perfection. So what’s the significance behind the number forty? Well, the number forty is often associated with a period of testing or judgment in the Scriptures.
For example, one New Testament biography of Jesus tells us that Jesus went without eating for forty days while Satan tried to tempt Him to do something wrong (see Mark 1:13). Then there is the example of the people of Israel after God rescued them from slavery in Egypt. The Scriptures tell us that the people of Israel had to walk around in the desert for forty years before they could get into the land that God had promised to give them because of their bad attitude towards God (see Numbers 14:26-34). So when you see the number forty in the Scriptures, it usually means that some sort of testing, judgment, or unusual encounter with God is involved.
“They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet” (Genesis 7:19-20).
Did you notice how Genesis chapter seven repeats the intensity of the flood over and over again for emphasis…
- Verse 17: “the waters increased…”
- Verse 18: “The waters rose and increased greatly…”
- Verse 19: “They rose greatly on the earth… all the high mountains… were covered…”
- Verse 20: “The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet” (about 15m).
These details give us an idea of the tremendous force and intensity of the flood. These verses also tell us that Noah’s flood was not something that only happened in one place. Noah’s flood was a catastrophe that affected the entire earth because verse 19 tells us all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered by the waters of the flood.
“(The waters) rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet” (Genesis 7:19-20).
Does this mean that the floodwaters described in Genesis chapter seven were deep enough to carry Noah’s Ark over every mountain that exists on earth? Such a thing would seem to be impossible when you stop to think about it. After all, Mount Everest is over 29,000 feet (8839m) tall and Genesis 7:20 appears to say that the floodwaters covered even that mountaintop by an additional twenty feet (six meters). How could anyone on the ark possibly breathe at such a tremendous elevation?
Well first, we shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that the earth’s geography and landscape remains exactly the same today as it was before the flood. In other words, we shouldn’t automatically assume that the surface features that exist on earth today are identical to the surface features that existed prior to the events that occurred in Genesis chapter seven. In fact, one surface feature that may have changed greatly as a result of the flood is the height and size of the earth’s various mountains.
For example, it’s possible that some of the really large mountain ranges that we know today were actually brought into existence as a result of the flood. This could happen if a land area that existed prior to the flood shifted to a point below where it had been previously. If this shift put pressure on an adjoining land mass, it would result in the elevation of a surrounding area that had not been elevated before the floodwaters had gone away.
Another source provides an explanation that talks about how this process may have taken place…
“Creationist scientists currently think that mountains such as the Himalayas were probably built by catastrophic movement of the Earth’s continental plates during and after the Flood. (1) The catastrophic plate tectonics model gives a mechanism for the deepening of the oceans and the rising of mountains at the end of the flood… The collision of the tectonic plates would have pushed up mountain ranges also, especially toward the end of the flood… In support of this, the layers that form the uppermost parts of Mount Everest are themselves composed of fossil-bearing, water-deposited layers. This uplift of the new continental landmasses from under the Flood waters would have meant that, as the mountains rose and the valleys sank, the waters would have rapidly drained off the newly emerging land surfaces.” (2)
(1) Christian Answers Network Did Noah need oxygen above the mountains? http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/noah-above-mts.html
(2) Christian Answers Network Where did the Flood waters go? http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-floodwater.html
“Every living thing that moved on the earth perished–birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days” (Genesis 7:21-24).
So the entire human race was now reduced to eight people. Every land animal was totally wiped out with the exception of those animals that were riding along with these eight people inside this wooden barge. How could something so devastating like this actually happen?
Well, the answer is that choices bring consequences. The people of Noah’s day people decided that they wanted to enjoy the benefits of living in God’s creation while totally ignoring Him. But it wasn’t only the fact that these people wanted nothing to do with their Creator- they were also living in a way that was totally opposite to His character. Remember what we read earlier in Genesis 6:5…
“The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”
Noah’s flood was the worst environment disaster that has ever occurred on this planet and it happened because people turned their backs on their Creator to pursue a lifestyle that was wicked, evil, and self-absorbed. Now someone may read this and think, “OK, I understand the wicked and evil part but what do you mean by ‘self-absorbed?'” To answer that, let’s listen to something that Jesus had to say as recorded in Matthew 24:37-39…
“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes” (NLT).
In Noah’s day, people were living their normal, self-absorbed, everyday lives without any concern or acknowledgement of God until the flood came and wiped them out. Because these people were so absorbed with whatever they were into, they weren’t looking at what God was planning to do. And because they weren’t looking, they weren’t prepared- and that choice cost them their lives. Unfortunately, Jesus says that many people in the future will still have this very same mindset at the time of His return.