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 was happening down deep in the Earth.
The darkness grew worse. The rumblings became so strong that the ground quivered. Then, just seven days after God had told Noah to go into the ship, 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 roaring from the seas were spreading 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 directions. No one could live without shelter, and even the best shelters were soon flooded by the torrent of water.
Rivers quickly overflowed, covering the valleys where most people lived. The people soon realized that a they would have to go up into the mountains or drown. But climbing to the highest elevations wasn’t easy. Because of heavy cloudbursts, water thundered down in swift, muddy torrents from the hills and mountains above. 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 the inside of the ship 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 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 ship came up off its 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 one hundred and twenty years to heed His warnings through Noah. And for one hundred and twenty 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 tips of the highest mountains. People and animals who were 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 forty days and forty 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. By this time the blanket of water covering Earth was several miles deep in many places. But Noah and his family and cargo safely floated above Earth’s sunken surface as high as some of our passenger planes now fly above the clouds!
For a hundred and fifty 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 ship.
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 mountain 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 ship 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 was 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. 8:11).
The men opened the top of the ark. The only eight people left on 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 ship 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 where 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 ship 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.
Probably more creatures left the ark when Noah let them out than went into the ship 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 planet,” 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 four thousand three hundred years ago!