Did you know that more than three hundred cultures, on every continent, have passed down legends of the ancient world being flooded with water?
A legend from Cuba tells the tale of an old man who knew a flood was coming, so he built a great ship and brought his family on board along with a host of animals.
A Mexican legend talks about a man who saved himself, his family, and some animals by floating on a raft. As the waters began to subside, he sent a vulture out to find land. When the vulture didn’t return, he sent out a hummingbird, which came back carrying a branch with green leaves on it.
In Alaska, the legend is told of an ancestor who was warned in a dream that a flood would destroy the earth. So, he built a raft by which he saved himself, his family, and all kinds of animals. The animals could talk in those days, and they soon complained about the long journey. They probably kept asking Noah if they were there yet! After the water subsided, they all climbed off the raft, but the animals lost their ability to talk as punishment for complaining.
You might tell that one to your kids.
The Hawaiians repeat the legend of a man named Nu-U who built a canoe to escape a mighty flood, filling his canoe with plants and animals.
These legends sound familiar, don’t they?
Beloved, the Bible didn’t borrow from all these religions and traditions; mankind simply passed down bits and pieces of what actually happened. Over the centuries, the facts became distorted by human imagination, even as some kernels of truth remained.
Well, the original, undistorted account is unerringly recorded in the Book of Beginnings. We’re in Genesis chapter 6, where the Spirit of God directs Moses the prophet to write down what actually happened. And let me tell you, a global flood actually happened!
But the name of God’s chosen man wasn’t Nu-U, but Noah.
Beginning in verse 13 of Genesis 6, God says to Noah:
I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. (Verses 13-17)
What you have here are the diagrams—the blueprints—for the ark. It’ll be around 500 feet long and 85 feet wide and 50 feet high. It will be the size of a modern-day oil tanker or container ship, large enough to “contain the equivalent of 450 semi-trailers of cargo”—we’re talking 1.88 million cubic feet.
This wouldn’t be a little canoe; this would be the largest vessel mankind had ever seen. And it needed to be, because it wasn’t meant to carry just Noah and his wife and their three sons and their wives. It was designed to carry a lot of people—if they had decided to follow after God, which they didn’t—and it was designed to carry a lot of animals too.
Werses 19-20 make it clear Noah is going to have to prepare for bringing on board a male and female of every land animal. As chapter 7 specifies, this means all land animals that breathe through their nose (7:22).
Noah wasn’t told to build an aquarium for the marine animals; they’ll survive outside the ark in God’s global aquarium.
Land animals were going to be arriving before the rain started to fall. And they would come in the four categories or groups that we still have today: amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. By the way, insects take in oxygen through spiracles in their skin, and there is no mention of them being on the ark. They could have survived the flood by floating on debris or on carcasses of the dead.
Skeptics will be quick to tell you that there are more than one million species of life in the world and that’s a lot more than could ever fit on the ark. But 98 percent of these species are fish, invertebrates, and nonanimal life-forms, such as plants and bacteria. Check it out—there are less than 34,000 species of land animals in the world today.
And you can reduce that number even more, because God specifically tells Noah here in Genesis 6:20 that he’ll be carrying on the ark birds after their kind, land animals after their kind, and creeping things of the earth after their kind.
A “kind” is a broader category than species. A kind can include several different species. For example, horses, zebras, and donkeys are three different species within the same [equid] kind, and all of them developed after the flood.
God built into the DNA of His animal creations the ability for amazing diversity and adaptation and development. Think of all the variety of human beings—different colors, sizes, shapes, and physical features—and yet we all descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve.
Calculations have been made that there are less than 1,400 land animal kinds on earth. Even after adding all the additional clean animals Noah took on the ark, according to God’s command in Genesis 7:2-3, there would be less than 7,000 animals on the ark. And this three-story ark had room to spare for 7,000 animals.
Finding room for all the animals doesn’t require a miracle. Gathering them and herding them into the ark is another story. In fact, Noah isn’t going to gather all these pairs of animal kinds; they’re going to arrive two by two.
Some people can’t even imagine animals arriving two by two. Frankly, I can’t imagine that either! This, and getting these wild animals walking in pairs up a gangplank and through the door of the ark, is a miraculous work.
I can’t keep my dog in the yard.
Listen, this is God at work. If He created the animals, He can control them.
- God called the animals to that ark. Many of them traveled for days, weeks, or months to reach the ark.
- God called them, and He controlled them up that gangplank, and then He calmed them throughout the duration of that turbulent flood.
God could have miraculously re-created the entire animal kingdom after the flood and spared Noah all this trouble. But He didn’t. He chose to rescue from judgment Noah and all who entered the ark. And in the New Testament we’re told why. God intended salvation to look a lot like entering the ark (1 Peter 3:18-22).
You had to walk through the only door on that ark to be saved from the judgment of God. There was no other option. Jesus says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). The ark becomes a picture of God’s miracle of rescue and redemption in Christ.
So, have you booked passage? Have you entered through that one and only door? Have you found safety and refuge in Jesus Christ? There is no other way.