God looked down with sorrow on these human creatures He loved. It so displeased Him that they would not abide by His rules of happy living that he decided to do an awesome thing.
He would blot them out of the world by a mighty flood (Gen. 6:7)! He knew that if human beings were to go on and on in their evil ways they would soon destroy themselves in all kinds of cruel, painful ways – and without any hope of living again.
It was a loving and merciful thing God planned, because He would be bringing them back to life thousands of years later when Jesus Christ would be ruling Earth. Then they would be brought to see how much wiser, safer and happier they could be by obeying their Creator.
At the time when God decided to do away with the people of the Earth by a mighty flood, there was one man who lived according to God’s laws. His name was Noah (Gen. 6:8).
Noah knew that the growing misery among men was due to their disobedience (Gen. 6:8). He told the people who lived around him that they should feel sorry for doing the wrong things, and start living according to God’s ways. But people wouldn’t take him seriously.
One day Noah was startled to hear the eternal speaking to him. Said God, “Because man has disobeyed me and become so evil, and because people’s lives are so miserable and unhappy in all their violence and fighting I am going to take away their lives for now. But I shall bring them all back to life again in the future when my Son Jesus will be ruling the earth, and when people will live by My rules and be happy.”
At first Noah could hardly believe what he had heard. He wondered if God really meant to strike him dead in the next instant along with every other human being on Earth. But God is neither harsh nor cruel. He is far more loving and merciful than any human being.
“I am going to spare you and your family,” God told Noah. ‘You have learned how to enjoy a happy and healthy life by obeying me. Therefore you shall keep on living. All other people will be drowned in a great flood that will cover the whole planet.” “But if the world is to be flooded, how shall my family and I escape?” Noah asked. “You must build a large ship,” God replied. “It must be large enough to hold at least one pair of every kind of creature on Earth. I shall tell you just how to build the ship” (Gen. 6:14-16).
Although Noah was about 480 years old at this time, he-- and some years later his three sons-- obediently began the great task (Gen. 5:32). You see, people who lived back in the early time of human beings generally lived to be much older than we do now because their bodies were closer to being as perfect as were the bodies of Adam and Eve.
It wasn’t long before people found out what Noah and his sons were doing. They came from many miles round to watch the laying of the keel of the great boat. “Who ever heard of building a boat that size?” most of them laughed. “They must be crazy,” others said. “There’s no water to float it in for miles and miles.”
“They think there will be a great flood that will cover the Earth,” others scoffed. “Now where would so much water come from?”
Years passed. The ship, or ark, grew larger. The closer it came to being finished, the more people jeered. Today, people build large ships in only a few months. But that is with many men and powerful machines. Probably only Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, worked on the ark at the start, though there may have been other men helping from time to time. For nearly 100 years they carefully carried out the ship plans by which God directed them!
Meanwhile, Noah patiently kept on telling those who made fun of him that the flood would come in due time. He believed God without asking God for proof. “It will come because you have been paying no attention to God,” Noah told them. “However, if you will turn from your wrong ways and obey God’s rules, He will spare you from the flood.” But no one outside of Noah’s family believed what he said.
“You have been saying that for 100 years, and there still isn’t the slightest sign of a flood,” people sneered. “You are only a religious crackpot who wants to create a lot of attention!”
Twenty years more passed (Gen. 6:3) while Noah and his sons listened to the scoffing of onlookers. At last the ship was finished. God had given people 120 years to think about their sins and decide to live differently (II Peter 2:5). No one could say that God wasn’t patient.
People must have admired Noah and his sons, however, for their ability to build such a ship. It was higher than a four-story building, and ten times as long as it was high!
Inside, it was divided into stables and cages for the many creatures that would go into it. It was to be a huge, floating zoo. There were many rooms for supplies. There were stairways, ventilator shafts, feeding troughs and everything that would be needed for the strangest live cargo ever to ride a ship.
When at last the ship was smeared inside and out with pitch to make certain it would not leak, Noah was almost 600 years old! His sons were then older than most people are today when they die.
But the work wasn’t over yet. There was the big task of gathering food for the animals that would be aboard the ship. Tons and tons of hay, grain, dried fruit and dried meat were hauled from the surrounding country and stowed aboard the ark. Huge tanks of fresh water were also stored.
Still people came to laugh and make fun of Noah. They could not and would not believe that world-wide disaster was coming upon them. Instead, they felt there was a glorious future for man as he spread out to conquer the whole Earth.
It was much as it is today, when a few men chosen by God are warning all nations of great calamity that will sweep the whole world within only a few years. Instead of heeding these warnings, people are looking forward to a push-button life in which there will be less work and more money and marvelous trips to the Moon, or Mars or some other planet. And just as man’s hopes were shattered in Noah’s time, so will they be shattered again. Even a little child who will heed the warnings is wiser than the college professor who shakes his head at them.
It wasn’t easy for Noah and his family to listen to the unkind remarks scoffers made. No one likes to be sneered at by other people.
“Where are all the animals you are going to take for a boat ride?” was the question jeeringly put to Noah so often. Then the scoffers would add, “It will take you another 120 years to round up enough animals to fill that thing you’ve built!”
Nevertheless, Noah believed God. He built a road up to a large door in the side of the ark, so that animals could walk right into it.
We don’t realize how great a test this was of Noah’s belief in God. Noah had spent 120 years of his life preaching and preparing the ship. He was a man who was well-known and had been highly respected in his part of the world. It took courage to stand up for what seemed foolishness in the minds of the other people.
One day those who came to scoff suddenly failed to scoff. They just stood and stared at what they saw. All kinds of animals and birds were gathering around the ark (Gen. 7:8-9)!
If they expected Noah and his men to have a lot of trouble getting the creatures into the ark, they were wrong. God gave the creatures an impulse to seek out the ark, and they came obediently, though many of them were wild and very ferocious by nature.
Of all creatures on Earth clean enough to be eaten, seven pairs entered the ark. Of all unclean creatures, one pair entered – a male and female of each. Soon they were safe within the cages and stables that would be their homes for many months.
After this great throng of creatures had entered the ark Noah and his wife and their three sons and their wives took a last look at the world that was to be drowned. Most of the people who had gathered to see what was happening were still jeering. A few were so amazed to see the animals entering the ark that they began to wonder if Noah’s warnings from God were true. But most of them were like the people of today who will not believe what the Bible itself tells about how our very own America will be destroyed or be taken captive. People then, like people now, could not recognize the truth because they did not want to obey God.
A day passed. Then another and another. Still there was no sign of a flood. Almost a week went by (Gen. 7:4). Many of the onlookers went away laughing. Others joined the crowd for the first time, for news of this great ship had spread everywhere, and people were curious.
Noah and his sons had prepared a door to close up the opening in the side of the ark. God caused it to be closed and sealed (Gen. 7:16). If there were people around at the time to see this happen, they must have been very startled.
“A week in there, and they’ll be yelling for us to bring axes and chop them free!” some one yelled, and there were shouts of laughter.
The door of the ark was now closed for the last time. Outside were hundreds of curious people – some jeering, some just waiting to see what would happen next.
Perhaps no one noticed that on that particular morning the wind was a little stronger than usual. By noon there were violent gusts that later grew into a gale. People were forced to shelter. Strong winds weren’t very unusual, but when a swift-moving mass of dark, awful clouds boiled up over the horizon people began to worry.
To add to their growing concern, there were strange rumblings within the ground, as though something terrible were happening down deep in the Earth. The darkness drew worse. The rumblings became so strong that the ground quivered. Then, just seven days after God had told Noah to go into the ark, Earth’s crust broke open here and there, and giant streams of water shot out of the ground (Gen. 7:11). At the same time, huge waves roared in from the seas and spread over the coastal areas. Lightning flashed and cracked, followed by horrible roars of thunder. Torrents of water burst from the black skies. This, at last, was just the start of the terrible thing Noah had said would come upon the world!
It was the most awful thing that had happened to the world since Satan’s sin had resulted in the whole surface of the planet being torn up so that nothing could live on it.
By now most people were becoming crazed with fear. No matter what they did or where they went, water came at them from all direction. No one could live without shelter, and even the best shelters were soon flooded by the torrents of water.
Rivers quickly overflowed, covering the valleys where most people lived. It was plain to all that they would have to go up into the mountains or drown. But climbing to higher elevations wasn’t easy, because of heavy cloudbursts, water thundered down in swift, muddy avalanches from the hills and mountains. Brush, trees, rocks, mud and people – all were swept down into the rising waters below.
Only the strongest people were able to battle their way up the slopes around the walls of water and tons of matter that came crashing down through every ravine.
Meanwhile, water swirled up around the ark, and slowly lifted it off the ground (Gen. 7:18). Many who had jeered at Noah now realized that inside of the ark was the only safe, dry place left. A few who hadn’t been able to escape elsewhere waded up to the ship and screamed for Noah to let them in. But with the rain falling in torrents on the ark, probably Noah and his family couldn’t even hear the frantic yells of those about to drown just outside. As the water grew higher and the ark came up off it resting place, desperate hands clawed feebly at the pitch-smeared planks. Then the hands disappeared in the muddy water, and there were no more screams.
In His great mercy, God had given the people 120 years to heed His warnings through Noah. And for 120 years people ignored Noah, which was, in a way, the same as ignoring their own Creator. Now it was too late for people to change their evil ways. It was too late even for earnest, frantic prayer – just as it is so often too late to expect God to help us if we wait too long to seek help.
Hour after hour, day after day, the water kept on rumbling out of the ground and out of the gloomy sky. It swelled to the tops of the highest mountains. People and animals that was strong enough to fight their way that far, fought among themselves for the last gasp of air before they were swallowed up.
Within a few weeks the water was so deep that even the highest mountain peaks were below the water (Gen. 7:20). Every person on Earth was drowned except the eight in the ark. Every land animal and bird was drowned except those in the ark.
For 40 days and 40 nights water gushed from inside the Earth and from the huge cloud layer. Then the rain stopped and water ceased coming out of the ground. But this time the blanket of water covering the Earth was several miles deep in many places. But Noah and his family and cargo safely floated above the Earth’s sunken surface as high as some of our passenger planes now fly above the clouds!
For 150 days the water stayed at its deepest (Gen. 7:24). During this time, the people in the ark weren’t idle. Perhaps God caused some of the animals to fall into a kind of sleep like bears go into during winter months. But even if that did happen, there was much work to do inside the ark.
Whatever the tasks, they must have been hard to perform. For several weeks the ark pitched and rolled through the great waves pushed up by the wind. God, you see, had caused a strong wind to blow over the water, so that it would evaporate into the air.
Then one day the tops of the highest mountains began to appear above the water. The ark drifted up against one of the mountains (Gen. 8:5).The water kept on getting lower, leaving the ark stuck high on the side of the mountain!
Noah waited more than two months while the level of the water continued to drop. After that he sent out birds to see if the distant land below were still flooded. At last one of the birds returned with a green leaf in its beak, after which it flew away and did not come back. This proved to Noah that the water had already drained off and evaporated to the point where plant life had started developing, and that the valleys were ready to live in again (Gen. 8:1`1).
The men opened the top of the ark. The only eight people left on the Earth came out on the top deck to view land for the first time in more than a year (v. 13). After being cooped up in the ark for so many months, the mere sight of dry ground was a wonderful and welcome thing to Noah and his family.
But it must have seemed strange to look down on a silent world. There was no living thing to meet them or no one to scoff at them as people had done for so many years.
“Come out of the ark,” God told Noah, “Bring the creatures with you. I want all living things to spread out over the Earth and produce families (v. 17).
The large door in the side of the ark was broken open, and a runway was built from the opening to the ground. Then all the creatures in the ark were freed from their stables and cages.
Possibly more creatures left the ark when Noah let them out than went into the ark more than a year before, because it is likely that many baby animals were born and many baby birds hatched. Whatever the number, they were happy to be free again to return to a new life in the new fields and forests!
But Noah didn’t set all the animals and birds free. He kept some of the clean beasts and fowl. He was so thankful to his Creator for sparing him and his family that he built an altar on one slope of the mountain , and sacrificed some of the clean creatures as an offering to God (v. 20).
God was pleased with Noah. He blessed him and his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth. God told them to rebuild their homes and raise children, so that many people would again live in the world from which the disobedient had been washed away.
“I shall never again bring a flood over the whole earth,” God told them (Gen. 9:11). “As a promise to you that it will not happen again, look at this sign that will be seen in the sky” (vs. 12-17)! Thereupon the Eternal caused a beautiful arc of light of many colors to appear from horizon to horizon. Whenever you see this colorful arc, which we call a rainbow, you are seeing the sign of the promise God made to Noah and all people more than 4,300 years ago!
Don’t miss the next Part of The Story of the Bible. Be watching for Part 4.