The Genesis Flood for kids: Noah’s Ark
Published in Creation 45(2):32–35, 2023
Genesis chapters 6–8 are all about God sending a worldwide Flood to destroy very wicked people. Almost all people and vertebrate land animals were wiped out. The only surviving ones were on a huge boat, Noah’s Ark (Genesis 7:22–23). What made the Ark so special and able to protect its passengers from a year-long Flood?
The Ark was huge!
God told Noah to make the Ark 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high (Genesis 6:15). A cubit is an ancient unit of length. It is the length of a man’s forearm from the elbow to the middle finger’s tip (see Activity). ‘Cubit’ comes from cubitum, Latin for ‘elbow’.
Different people have different forearm lengths. Mine is 48 cm (19 inches). A typical cubit was 46 cm (18 inches), but large ones measured 53 cm (21 inches). Considering the smaller cubit of 46 cm, the Ark would have been 138 m × 23 m × 14 m (450 ft × 75 ft × 45 ft), so the volume would have been about 44,400 m3 (1.57 million cubic feet). That is massive!
For comparison, you might see semi-trailer (or tractor-trailer) trucks (lorries) on the road. Sometimes they haul animals. Each can carry 300 full-grown sheep—55 kg (120-pounds) each. But the Ark could carry as much as 340 semi-trailers, over 100,000 sheep-sized animals.
Fitting all the animals
The Ark’s purpose was to save the humans and animals. God told Noah to take on board one male and one female of each kind of land animal and bird, plus enough food for them (Genesis 6:19–21). A few of the animals, the ‘clean’ ones, had seven pairs each (Genesis 7:2). Noah didn’t need to fetch them; God made the animals come to Noah (Genesis 6:20).
Even though the Ark was massive, could it really hold all the animals? Actually, it didn’t need to. Sea and river creatures didn’t need rescuing! The only animal passengers were those that breathed through nostrils. That means animals with backbones, called vertebrates. This excluded insects that instead breathe through holes in their sides.
Many insects and other small non-vertebrate creatures would have survived outside. How? The Flood would have torn up bushes and forests. Some branches and leaves would form natural rafts that could stay afloat. Very small creatures could survive on these rafts.
God specified animals in kinds, not ‘species’. God created kinds with lots of genetic variation so that they could produce many different varieties. For example, Noah didn’t need to take poodles, dachshunds, spaniels, collies, coyotes, or jackals. Instead, he probably took one pair of a dog kind, which probably looked a lot like wolves. Also, there was no need for separate horses, donkeys, and zebras—just one pair of a horse kind. Probably only about 16,000 animals at most, much less than the 100,000 sheep-sized animals that the Ark could carry.
Also, most animals are much smaller than sheep, including most rodents, shrews, rabbits, birds, and lizards. Only about a tenth of all animal kinds were much larger than sheep. So there was plenty of room for storing food and water for the occupants for many months.
The Ark was stable
To protect those on board, the Ark had to withstand the fast winds and huge waves of the Flood. Wind is most dangerous: catching a mast or sails can turn a ship over, but the Ark had neither. Rather, it had a low profile, so even 390 km/hr (210-knot) winds—three times as strong as a hurricane—would have tipped it only slightly (3°).
Waves hitting the side (‘breaching’) is the biggest danger. However, the Ark avoided most breaching by its great length. So the waves turned the Ark to be aligned with waves’ direction. The Ark was also very wide compared to its height, making it hard to tip over. Design engineers using computers and scale models have shown how stable the Ark was. It could withstand waves 150 m (500 ft) high!
For comparison, one of the deadliest natural disasters in history was the Indian Ocean Earthquake of 26 December 2004. This underwater quake caused enormous waves called tsunamis to crash into coastal areas, killing about 228,000 people. At the coast these waves were exceptionally large—30 m (100 ft) high. However, even such huge waves were far too small to topple the Ark. Also, tsunamis are large only over shallow water, just before they crash onto the shore. They are hardly noticeable in deep water where the Ark mostly floated.
God told Noah to coat both the interior and exterior of the Ark with pitch. This is a sticky black substance, often made by boiling charcoal with tree resin. Pitch waterproofed the Ark. It also would have protected it from damage when objects crashed into it.
We are not told precisely how Noah built the Ark strong enough, but we know that ancient Greeks and Chinese built and sailed wooden ships about the same size.
Taking care of animals
How would Noah and his family have taken care of thousands of animals? We can get some idea from the way farmers around the world house animals during cold winters. They don’t need to feed animals one at a time. Instead, there are troughs for both water and food, which are poured in from storage tanks.
What about waste products? Farmers sometimes use very deep clean straw to soak up the stuff. It doesn’t smell that bad—until it’s cleaned out after winter! Another method is a central gutter. Still another idea I’ve seen in sheep stations is slatted floors, where the animals walk safely but the stuff falls away. So Noah had plenty of simple and ‘low maintenance’ methods available.
What about enormous dinosaurs?
How could Noah have fitted huge dinosaurs on the Ark? First, even the biggest animals started off small. Dinosaurs hatched from eggs that were football-sized or smaller. Scientists have studied growth rings in the bones of huge dinosaurs. They found that dinosaurs went through a big ‘growth spurt’. God probably brought young dinosaurs to Noah a year before their growth spurt started. E.g., take the 25-tonne Apatosaurus. Aged only 4, it was only about 1 tonne. After a year on the Ark, it was not much bigger. But soon after it left the Ark, it grew very fast—5½ tonnes each year!
Note this key point of the Flood account: ‘God remembered Noah …’ doesn’t mean He had previously forgotten them. Instead, the expression means God began to act on their behalf again. Throughout the Flood, the Ark passengers had God’s protection. The rest of chapter 8 tells how God removed the floodwaters from the earth, making it safe for everyone to leave the Ark.