How would your child draw Noah’s Ark?
(2 free Noah’s Ark colouring-in pages included)
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in my native Northern Ireland, all children are conducting their school work from home. My wife and I recently received some school homework for our daughter which included a colour-in Noah’s Ark worksheet. While we greatly appreciate the Christian teaching and ethos at our children’s school, unfortunately it was a colour-in bathtub Ark that had been sent home. I have written before on the cartoonification of Noah’s Ark and the implications for how such ‘delightful depictions’ drastically downplay the Flood as a real event in biblical history.
Trying to find a biblical Ark
In order to ensure that my daughter was colouring in a biblically faithful image of the Ark, I quickly took to image-searching on the web to try and find one; that is, a line drawing for colouring in. Using a variety of search engines, I tried keyword terms like, ‘Biblical Ark colouring in’, ‘Colour in Noah’s Ark’ and so on. I was unable to find a single colour-in Noah’s Ark that matched the description in Genesis 6:15, either in scale or shape—in other words, something like this:
Rather, numerous cutesy and unbiblical bathtub arks showed up, which would not suffice. Due to the problem I was having, I asked a talented local Christian artist to draw two colour-in images of Noah’s Ark, enabling my daughter to do her school homework properly.
My plan was also that parents, teachers, pastors, and others could easily access and use them, ensuring that many other children would be able to see the true shape and scale of the biblical Ark. The finished products are at the foot of the article, available for you to download.
However, the problem of people encountering unbiblical bathtub Arks is worse than this one incident might suggest.
What Ark would your child draw?
A number of years ago I was asked to take a children’s teaching session which included Noah’s Ark. It was intermingled with teaching, and hands-on experiments. The very first task was for the kids to draw Noah’s Ark; they were given no other instruction or prompting. All of the children, to my knowledge, were from a church background. I was presented with a wide range of shapes and sizes of Ark when they had finished their drawings. The majority had drawn small bathtub-style Arks.
Next, I asked the ones who had drawn a bathtub Ark where they had got the idea for their image. The responses were mostly: from a book, a toy, the internet, TV, and Sunday School. Then I asked the children who had drawn an Ark that more closely compared to proportions of the biblical Ark where their idea had come from. All resolutely answered: the Bible!
I have had the opportunity to conduct this session on a further three occasions. From my limited sample and results, it is very clear to me that images of bathtub Arks have had a wide societal impact on children’s minds. Even within our churches, far too many are clueless as to the real size and shape of Noah’s Ark.1
When my family has been given children’s books with bathtub Arks in them we make sure we use them as a teaching point, explaining what Noah’s Ark was really like. When they have asked further questions about Noah’s Ark—such as: Were dinosaurs on the Ark? How did all the different kinds fit on? How were they able to store all their food?—it is the biblically-inspired image that they have in mind, and which we refer to when answering. This actually makes the answers much more realistic and easier to give. There is no trying to squeeze elephants or dinosaurs in through the door of a tiny Ark. Or big cats resting precariously on the edge of the deck, ready to be washed overboard due to the next big wave as there is no room down below! Rather they have in mind a huge vessel, more than able to carry all of the animals and food required for their time on board.
Suggested task—Why not try the ‘Drawing Noah’s Ark’ exercise with your own kids, Sunday School, or youth group; see what result you get, and use it as a fun teaching session! (Feel free to let me know the results by sending me an e-mail at CMI’s contacts page).
The importance of true biblical imagery
In CMI, we believe passionately that biblical history is true. And what is described by God in His word is vitally important. He has carefully ensured that what He wants us to know about the past is recorded for our instruction (Romans 15:4). This includes the full dimensions and shape of Noah’s Ark in Genesis 6 (see box below). Why, then, would any Christian want to distort the size and shape of Noah’s Ark?
It was very important for the parents, pastors, and Sunday school teachers who were present at my teaching sessions to witness first-hand how the worldly influences around children can clearly affect them, and harm their understanding of what the Bible really teaches; a bath-tub Ark conveys a fairy tale, not a real historical event. Scripture does not portray the Ark as a cute story, but as a tragic episode of God’s judgment “when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5).
As anyone can clearly see from the free colouring-in images (below) there is no need to cartoonify Noah’s Ark in order to make it more appealing for children. The reality is, doing so will leave a very unbiblical impression in a child’s mind. They may never have an opportunity to correct that image of Noah’s Ark in the future. And when they are older they may well relegate it, and the rest of the Bible’s history, to the realm of fiction.
The account of Noah’s Ark and the Flood is both a reminder that God judges sin, and that He provides a way of escape. The Ark was God’s provision to save Noah’s family (and representatives of all the land animal kinds) from the judgment of the Flood. So also, God sent Christ Jesus as the Saviour from sin and the judgment to come (John 5:24). Jesus used the judgment at the time of the Flood as a direct comparison to the future judgment (Matthew 24:38-39). This is a gospel issue! That being the case, which enduring image would any evangelical Christian want a child to have: a cartoonified bathtub image, or artistry of Noah’s Ark that’s consistent with the Biblical text?
Being diligent as a parent
When the nation of Israel was given the commandments of God’s Law, they were instructed to “teach them diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7). The same principle behind this command still stands, that parents should diligently (i.e. an active personal responsibility) teach their children what is in the Bible.
Although Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote the following words in 1888, they are still incredibly poignant today:
“Train your children with this thought continually before your eyes – that the soul of your child is the first thing to be considered… . Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you truly love them, then think often about their souls. Nothing should concern you as greatly as their eternal destiny… . This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all that you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, ‘How will this affect their souls?’… A true Christian must not be a slave to what’s currently in fashion, if he wants to train his child for heaven. He must not be content to teach them and instruct them in certain ways, merely because it is customary, or to allow them to read books of a questionable sort, merely because everybody reads them”.2
Trying to communicate to children what is in the Bible should not include things which might stumble them. I believe that includes using silly, unrealistic pictures of Noah’s Ark (or for that matter, any other object clearly described in Scripture), just because they are the fashion of the day. To teach in this way is only to shoot oneself in the foot, and will lead to having to re-teach the topic properly in the future. And then, of course, the next obvious question from the children might be, “What else did you teach me that was wrong?” Rather, always starting with accurate biblical imagery is an effective means of reaching children in our highly evolutionized world, one which desperately needs true, biblical historical teaching, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I’ll let the Apostle John have the last word: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth!” (3 John 1:4)
The size and shape of the Biblical Noah’s Ark
Genesis Chapter 6 very clearly sets out the dimensions, purpose and shape of Noah’s Ark. God ordered Noah to construct it as follows: 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high, with three levels, and a door on its side. All the different kinds of land animals and birds that were to come to Noah would find safety on board, along with his family. Outside, God’s judgment came upon the earth in the form of a year-long, worldwide flood. Even using the smaller common cubit, of approx. 46 cm (18 in), Noah’s Ark would have been a massive vessel: 137 m long × 23 m wide × 13.7 m high (450 × 75 × 45 ft)—more than adequate for its task.
The Hebrew word used for the Ark of Noah (which only had to float, not travel like a ship) is tebah (תבה) meaning box-shaped or chest. It is not the usual Hebrew term used for boat or ship, e.g. ’onîah (אניה) in Proverbs 30:19, or tsî (צי) in Isaiah 33:21. Its Hebrew synonym is ’arôn (ארון), used for the Ark of the Covenant, another box-shaped item or chest, emphasizing the shape of Noah’s Ark. Both words are translated as kibōtos (κιβωτός) in the Greek of the Septuagint, and also the New Testament, showing they have an overlapping semantic range. And the NT never uses kibōtos for ship or boat.
Please enjoy these free colouring-in pictures of Noah’s Ark.
You can download in pdf format as well (in ESV or KJV).
References and notes
- Of course my experience of this topic is much wider than these interactions on the educational sessions. I have listened to many testimonies of Christians whose young minds were tarnished by bathtub Arks. As I was writing this article I discussed it with a close friend who shared how he had grown up with a bathtub Ark image of Noah’s Ark, due to a book given to him in the early 1980’s. Return to text.
- Ryle, J.C., The duties of parents, WM Hunt & Co., p. 6, 1888. Return to text.