Noah & the Ark (Bible Study)
Those who like to put together jig-saw puzzles or work cross word puzzles, can more easily understand how interesting it can be for those searching out details revealed in the Bible. Purposefully analyzing points or details from the Bible, even just points of right knowledge on any given subject, can sometimes reveal to us much more than just a surface reading does. This can be very exhilarating and strengthen our Spiritual relationship with God, while seeing more of the intended picture. That is why we need Bible Studies that help us focus on one particular point or subject and its details. The whole picture can be changed when small details are overlooked or ignored and left out of their intended place. Sometimes this requires good common sense along with meditation on what we read and study. David meditated to come to a better understanding (Ps.119:15) and understood the need to focus diligently (V.4) on the precepts found in the Word of God.
(We have to be resourceful and search out things, perhaps even in word meanings, the context, another passage or even chapters and books and style of writing, where & how more is revealed on the same subject and so-on.)
This is also true for just an overall understanding; “knowledge” of various things, such as Noah and his time frame in building the ark to save humanity and animal life; when Noah was called on by God to do this, how old he was then, and when he went into the ark, etc.; all of this needs to be compared with context, scattered detail, words made clear and then brought into focus. Carelessness or half-hearted research can get us into trouble and lead us down a wrong path. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to some passages of the Bible, simply because people add in their own ideas (lean to their own understanding) instead of letting the Scriptures interpret themselves. Let us take just a moment to clarify some of this in our minds, before actually beginning this study and getting into the two main points to be resolved by this study.
There are many passages that help us to know how we are to learn from God, thru His word, and we must wisely use them. By using the method found in the Bible, being led by the Holy Spirit, which is the most important key, (John 16:13 & 1Cor.2:9-14) we can truly come more quickly to a right understanding, as we are being called and taught by the Father. We see this aspect in John 6:44-45. Let us note these other examples from various translations (emphasis mine throughout); Prov.4:20 “My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words.” (NIV) Doing this with every unclear point may bring us to the point of getting a better understanding from every word written. (Matt.4:4 & Luke 4:4) Peter tells us: “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” (1 Pet 2:2-NKJ) Physical newborn babies NEED the pure milk from the mother to begin to grow and we see this as an analogy for the newly begotten Christian, growing in Spiritually understanding from the Word of God.
We also find this question and answer in Isa.28:9-10; (RSV) "Whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? (The meaning here are those who have already grown enough to handle more knowledge and “solid food”, in the Spiritual sense.) V.10 For it (the word of God) is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little." So a lot of it has to be searched out, either by the clear details in the context and at other times by going somewhere else where more is revealed on the subject. Many fail to do this and get off into human reason and error, even in the COG today.
Peter tells us the word of God is not to be interpreted apart from what other Scriptures reveal (2Pet.1:20) and that we are to grow in grace and Knowledge, (2Pet.3:18) as we walk the Christian way of life. So most in the COG that are converted have learned over the years to let any clear Scripture explain unclear ones or the harder ones to understand. We have to let the Spirit lead us, along with common sense and understanding the pattern of revelation.
We must also be teachable and humble enough to learn, in order to be in the kingdom, as Christ reveals in Matt 18:3-4 -- "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (NKJ) We only have two main questions to try and answer and I will give some quotes from others dealing with these two questions;
(1) Noah took 120 years to build the ark. (2) Noah was in the ark seven days before the flood came.
So now we will get the quotes where these two points are seen somewhat explained or talked about, which went to many others in times past as what the COG taught; This deals with our point # 2, which we will get into far more thoroughly later on. Quoting from a COG Bible Study; Verse 7, “So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood.” (This is what the NKJ has, but the rest of this is speculation nowhere seen in Scripture, based on what he assumes the Scriptures may present. bolding emphasis mine:) “When Noah entered the ark, it wasn’t raining. Noah went in the ark in faith. He probably went in on the Sabbath; then seven days later, God would start it. Noah spent a week on the ark before the rain came (vv. 1, 4, 10).
That is our point # 2 and now more speculation comes, but also based on previous COG literature and earlier COG teaching) “He (Noah) preached during this 120-year period of time. (Goes to our #1)
Let us think about this; where is any Scripture that says Noah preached for a 120 years? This is a classic example of how anyone can mix truth with error (using human reason) and yet be totally sincere, not realizing their error because of failure to be diligent in studying the subject matter. We must be paying close attention to what is actually being said in the Word of God. (2Tim.2:15—KJV & NKJ—1Thess.5:21)
In my nearly 40 years of being a baptized member in the COG, I have heard these two points and many others mentioned over and over from various ministers, in this case, specifically saying Noah was 120 years in building the ark. This has been in both sermons and written literature. Being involved in the old WCG Y.E.S lessons in my younger years as an instructor using those printed lessons that taught various Biblical points to Church children—I began to study this more in-depth, as my own children were in those classes at the time as well. We would discuss certain points of those lessons at home and a lot of things would come to my attention when going over those and studying the Scriptures. (Acts 17:10-11) So let us continue with these quotes from past COG teachings;
Verse 11, “…on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” (Note; Does not explain what day that was nor verse 13 thru 16=??? What is the context? He skips on to;) –Genesis 7:17, “Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.”
Now before moving forward, let us answer a couple of obvious questions some long-time members in the COG may have at this point. Would God allow any of His faithful servants, led by the Holy Spirit, to make any mistakes with His word? Do we have any credible proof that any did? The answer is yes, God would allow it and did—found in their own writings in the Bible, for us to learn from. Any human being can make mistakes, especially in our time when not paying close attention to detail, as seen in Prov.4:20 in the introduction.
We have in Scripture a perfect example of brethren misinterpreting what was said by Christ, that we can learn from. After the resurrection and a little while before Christ went back up to heaven, He met and spoke with His disciples several times. On one of those occasions, we find this recorded by John; Chapter 21:21-23 “Peter, seeing him, (John) said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me." 23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. (They did not pay as close attention to detail of words as John did, so they spread something that was misleading, as John reveals here!) “Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?" (NKJ)
Another easy point to learn from is where Paul included himself as those who would be alive when Christ returns, found in 1Thes 4:17 “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”--- So Paul was recording something in His writings that he assumed, that would not come to pass, yet God allowed it to be recorded, because Paul did it in ignorance of God’s time-table, which he did not grasp until much later on. We can learn from these things! HWA made several mistakes and some of those mistakes have not yet been fully noted and corrected by the COG as a whole, even though some individuals have seen and even recorded some of these corrections and shared that information with others, for their own personal benefit, such as I am doing on this web-site. So now let us deal with the first point of this study.
#1. Noah took 120 years to build the ark. (NKJ throughout, unless otherwise noted)
Again, where does Scripture actually say that? Let us note what the Scripture says; the only passage that everyone goes to for backing up their statement that Noah took 120 years to build the ark. The actual verse used for this is; Gen 6:3 “And the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."
But now let us examine the context of the verse; the first thing said is “My Spirit” ---“not strive” “he is flesh” (both men and women) “his days”. They were living long lives of hundreds of years at that time.
Going back to previous details and the genealogy in Chapter 5, one can see this is being brought down to this time of Noah and then to the flood, with sketchy details of those who were of a mind to be righteous. Gen.6:9 in the RSV and other translations shows that in Noah’s line, He was considered righteous in his generations, which is not said of others. This is the line from Seth, who also is said to be a replacement for Abel. We see this in Gen 4:25 “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, "For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed." We can also verify from Christ’s words and the book of Hebrews that Abel was considered righteous, whereas Cain was not. (Matt.23:35 & Heb.11:4) Adam also had many other children who produced sons and daughters but God is dealing with the linage of Seth down through Noah.
So now back to our verse; note it from the RSV translation; Gen 6:3 “Then the LORD said, "My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years." This is clearly the first place we see God has determined to shorten the life span of man from the hundreds of years the majority were then living. But why would He do that, some may wonder? The same reason God decided to start over with Noah, noting this passage in Gen 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (RSV) The longer they lived the more evil they produced.
Does the 120 year time frame have anything to do with building the Ark? Do we see any connection in the wording of this verse to the time Noah would be building the ark? No, as we can see the context is not on Building the ark, but on God’s spirit in man and the shortening of his days going forward. Another point to note in the context of Noah in Scripture, he appears to be over 500 years of age when being called to build the ark, and already has his three sons. Gen 5:32 “And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” He went into the ark at the age of six hundred. (Gen 7:6) God inspired this to be written and Titus 1:2 says God cannot lie, so He could not have determined Noah would be building on the Ark for 120 years, when obviously it did not take that long, when these numbers and Scriptures are properly examined. It is on speculation only and not Scriptural text, that one can conclude this theory, as there is no supporting passage to confirm this. When diligent study is applied, the theory of Noah building the ark for 120 years is found to be false.
(I have even heard it preached that God gave mankind 120 years to repent—but there is absolutely no evidence of that found anywhere in Scripture. God had inspired it to be written that He would only save 8 people—so previsions for repentance at that time were not granted. We have to think about these details and what is revealed.)
If what has been taught were true, it would mean that God had actually called Noah over 20 years before Scripture records it and at 480, or else 20 years elapsed before God made known to Noah what he was going to do. When he was called is when he would have begun work on the ark; which there is no Scriptural evidence thereof, anywhere in the Bible he was called at 480 years of age! It has to be assumed. However, that very careless error of speculation was recorded and was being taught to the children, from COG literature! Here is an example of what I am saying and have been full witness of; one example that sparked me to study this out on my own, apart from church literature already produced! (This is just one example)
Below is given a direct quote, word for word, from “The Bible story” series (Vol.1) that was produced by the WCG and then reprinted again with a cover change in the early 1980’s. (I still have my copies and how many other families read these to their Children and grandchildren over the years?) It says on page 24; “Although Noah was four hundred and eighty years old when he and his three sons later started the task of ship-building, old age wasn’t a drawback”--- so as you can see there is no Scriptural truth in these words the way they are presented—(more on this later) in fact they actually contradict the Scriptures! (Gen.5:32, previously given)
The 120 years most likely deals with the “Spirit of man” God had given and the length of time it would be allowed to remain, because man was only evil continually under the influence of Satan the devil. (Eph.2:1-3) As time progressed after the flood; as the earth was beginning to be repopulated, the life span of man did very rapidly decline. Noah lived long, like the people from the other side of the flood did, but his children did not live that long and even before Noah’s death, Abram was born. God called Abram, this same linage from Seth and Noah, now thru Shem. Abram was already about seventy five, (Gen.12) and only lived another 100 years. (Gen.25:7) Jacob and Joseph both died in Egypt—Joseph was 110 years old. God then began dealing with Israel, through Moses, (Jacob’s name was changed to Israel) His “called out ones”. (called out of Egypt) No one is recorded to have lived past 120 years, not even Moses who led them out. (Gen.50:26 & Duet. 34:7) Later on David is recorded as giving the normal span of life in man as “three score & ten” some by strength, four score, which is around 80 years of age. Some today surpass this, but do not live beyond 120 years. So when all of these facts are considered, the 120 years is not a time frame designated for the building of the ark, as the ark is not even mentioned in that context. This is a misconception when used in that sense, as diligent study reveals and the lifespan of man and history reveals.
So now to the #2 point of our study: Noah was in the ark seven days before the flood came.
The conclusion drawn that Noah was in the ark all seven days of the week prior to the flood has also been concluded from a surface reading of some passages and the reasoning of men. Gen 7:1, 4-5 in the KJV says, as we saw quoted above; “And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” (V. 4 & 5, given below were not in the study I quoted from, but we have given them here;)
V.4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. 5 And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him.” (KJV)
Once again for clarity, let us notice some details of wording here drawn from other translations that help to reveal a little better about what is going on. This comes from the Revised Standard Version or RSV;
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.”
So from this and at this point, clearly we should be able to determine that Noah had not already moved his and his families household possessions into the ark. Did he do that all in part of one day? We will come back to this later, but given here now is another quote from “The Bible Story” (Vol.1) that matches the quote from the bible studies series quoted from above, on how long Noah was in the ark; “Then Noah and his wife and Noah’s sons and their wives entered the ark---(next page, #34) A day passed. Then another and another. Still there was no sign of a flood. Almost a week went by. (Gen.7:4)”
So now let us try and get some clarity from Scripture;
Back in chapter 6 is where God first begins to give Noah the details of how to build the ark—they are not recorded before this point, but we have already seen that Noah had three sons and it was after he was 500 hundred years old. (Gen.5:32 & 6:10-RSV) Then we see details recorded that man was becoming more evil with each passing day; (Ch.6,V.5) V.7 brings us to the point where God has decided to wipe them all out but Noah and his family. (V.8-10) More details of the corruption in man are revealed and God begins to speak to Noah, as we see in V.13. Here, He begins giving instructions for the ark and what Noah is going to have to do. These instructions continue through the chapter and the last verse says; Gen 6:22 “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” But now this is a crucial point to note, for a proper understanding as we move into chapter 7; how long did it take Noah to do all that God had commanded, at that point?
We see a pattern of how this is being written, which was by Moses & hundreds of years later as God revealed it to him. So now let us move forward with Scripture.
We find ourselves at Ch.7:4, the passage given by the quotes and previous teaching that is supposed to help us understand Noah was in the ark seven days before it rained or that a week has gone by with him and all the animals inside the ark. But let us note the wording from the NKJ in Gen 7:4 “For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights”,---
Here again we see this same pattern as before, how long did it take Noah to do all this? If the pattern is the same in both accounts, then God gave Noah the instructions and then time for getting it done, which as we see here was seven days.
Let us go back now to verse two, this time using the NIV translation, which is similarly worded as the RSV translation; Gen 7:2 (NIV) “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,”—now let us pause and recall if Noah already had these instruction before this point. Gen.6:19-21 does not include these specific detailed instructions in the wording. Noah most likely already had much if not all of the food stuff stored on board. But here God is only now telling him the details of what animals and how many he is to “take with him”, so this could not have already been done. V.3 “and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.” Now we are back to V.4 & 5; “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." 5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.” (NIV)
So it appears that Noah had these seven days to get all these animals and birds into the ark and their separate compartments. It is obvious that God must have caused all these creatures to come to the ark—but it was still quite a task to get them all situated. Then we note the Lord “shut him in” (V.16) so was it because there was not enough time for him and his sons to do that job? Seems they would have had that done already if they were in the ark for seven days. They were command to “pitch it” inside and out, which they had apparently already done, so if they had all these animals already on board for the whole seven days, surly they could have also shut the door and sealed it. But it is clear they had not. When these details are examined, as we are doing here, it seems highly unlikely that Noah, his family and all those animals were in the ark for those seven days. Let us note just a few more things;
Gen 7:6-7 seems to indicate a possibility that they went in for the final time on the last day, when we read this in the RSV; Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth.” 7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark, to escape the waters of the flood.” (RSV) Verses 8 & 9 repeats the animals that went on board, but let us note this wording from the New American Standard translation; Gen 7:9-10 (NAS) “there went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And it came about after the seven days, that the water of the flood came upon the earth.” So it appears they were going in during the seven days, the days are now up and it begins to rain, but note the detail of when the rain came and what day it was, as is worded in the NKJ; Gen 7:11 “In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” (NKJ) “In that day” is the context of when the rains came, we see this in V.13 “On the very same day Noah and Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark”-- (NKJ) Who went in was repeated again and then concludes with V.16, which is covered in the paragraph above.
When all passages are considered on the two points that we have examined—then those are put with the overall theme of the Bible, it does not look like the 120 year time frame had anything to do with Noah’s call or the building of the ark. It seems to be more related to the life span of mankind and that God had determined to shorten it when planning the flood and calling Noah. It appears by the wording of these Scriptures we have examined that it was after Noah had passed the age of 500 and already had his three sons, when God began instructing him to build an ark. That took Noah, and whoever may have also been involved in that labor, several decades to complete, but was less than 120 years. (All things considered, it most likely was less than one hundred years.)
We find that Shem’s son was born to him at one hundred years of age, which was two years after the flood, so that would put Shem being born at around 502 in Noah’s life. (Gen.11:10) Shem was the oldest and is listed first, then Ham and Japheth. (“To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born.” Gen 10:21—RSV—which is the proper wording.)
It should also be clear that when God began giving instructions to Noah about getting his own household into the ark and then situating all of the animals into the ark as they came to him, it would have been virtually impossible for him to have done all of that in the remainder of that one day. The Scriptural text and detail of it all, with all things considered, seems to show that Noah was given seven days to carry out those last details and did so, with the help of every family member, by the last part of the last day, then the Lord shut him in the ark as the rains were beginning. The very fact that Scripture shows, in the context of when the rains are coming and the fountains are broken up, (The waters of the flood) is the “very same day” Noah and his family entered the ark; not seven days earlier to wait a week with nothing to do. When God said; “go into the ark” you and all your household and “Take with you” all of these separate pairs of clean and then unclean animals and birds; God did not expect Noah to have that all done in a matter of a few hours and then set in the ark for seven days waiting. It is only common sense, as well as the details we have seen here, that Noah and his family were in and out of the ark repeatedly, working with those animals and birds for the entire seven days. God gave Him seven days to get it done and then shut them in because the rain and fountains of water were about to start, possibly already even starting to rain.
It is our responsibility as individual Christians to be growing in grace and in knowledge, while working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, (Phil.2:12) to the very best of our ability. When we do that, then the Holy Spirit will guide us into “ALL TRUTH” not just some parts of it. We have seen we are to pay attention to the details of Scripture. If we fail to yield to God and His spirit as if we already have the right understanding without examining the details, then we will stop growing in understanding on that subject! When we are yielded to God and simply believe His word, by searching it out to be sure we have all the details, we will be coming to a better understanding of the entire Bible. I hope this study on these two points of knowledge about Noah and his time frame, dealing with building and the going into the ark has been helpful to you. These points of getting the details and facts can and should be applied to various other subjects thru-out the Bible. Be sure to check out the other pages, as well as other Bible studies seen here—it is all here as a service and for your benefit. (Feel free to use the “Mail to” at the bottom of the home page to send an email with any questions or comments you may have.)
(Editor for TCOGMSO)