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. 2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. 4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” 5 And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.
6 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. 8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the Lord shut him in.
17 The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. – Genesis 7:1-24 ESV
For the second time in his narrative of Noah’s life, Moses asserts that he “did all that the Lord had commanded him.” And while it is easy to take this statement at face value, it’s sometimes difficult to understand just how remarkable a feat Noah’s obedience really was. So, three times in chapter seven alone, Moses attempts to emphasize the incredible nature of Noah’s faithful adherence to the far-from-simple assignment given to him by God.
In chapter six, Moses recorded the detailed instructions given by God to Noah for constructing a massive ark.
Make for yourself an ark of cypress wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and out. This is how you should make it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Make a roof for the ark and finish it, leaving 18 inches from the top. Put a door in the side of the ark, and make lower, middle, and upper decks. – Genesis 6:14-16 NET
It has been estimated that, when completed, this giant boat contained 1 million cubic feet of space. It was as long as 1-1/2 football fields and as tall as a 4-story building. It was less a navigable vessel than a floating shipping container. Having no rudder or sail, this boat was designed to weather the coming floodwaters and provide shelter for Noah, his immediate family, and all the pairs of living creatures God was commanded Noah to collect and protect.
The scale of this project was massive and, even by today’s modern construction standards, it would have posed an impossible feat for one man to pull off. Yet, Noah did it. And nowhere along the way does Noah balk at God’s far-fetched and seemingly impossible assignment. At no point does he question God’s wisdom, second-guess God’s plan, or express doubt in his own ability to pull off such a strange and seemingly impossible task. Noah simply did as he was told.
Moses described Noah as a righteous and blameless man who “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). This was a man who lived his life in keeping with God’s will. Over his lifetime, Noah had developed an intimate relationship with God and had learned to trust God for all his needs. Unlike his peers, Noah’s life was not marked by unbridled wickedness and unrighteousness. He was far from perfect, but when compared to the rest of humanity, he was blameless in his generation. It seems that Noah had developed a track record of obeying God. Even the author of Hebrews points out Noah’s penchant for taking God at His word and faithfully following His command.
He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. – Hebrews 11:7 NLT
The sheer scale of this project would suggest a rather lengthy construction timeline. The number of trees that had to be harvested and milled would have been staggering. There is no way to ascertain how Noah managed to accomplish a project of this magnitude, even with the help of his three sons. Perhaps God intervened and miraculously provided the materials required to construct the ark. But the text doesn’t seem to indicate any kind of divine superintendence. Even the collecting of the creatures was left up to Noah and his family.
This entire project took time, patience, and years of dogged determination on Noah’s part. And it’s important to remember that Noah was motivated by what he believed to be God’s pending judgment. The whole reason he was building a giant boat far from any body of water was that God had declared His plan to destroy the earth.
“Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die.” – Genesis 6:17 NLT
He believed God and, as a result, he obeyed God. And for however many years it took Noah to complete his assignment, he labored faithfully and unceasingly. And the apostle Peter indicates that, while Noah worked, God withheld His judgment.
God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. – 1 Peter 3:20 NLT
But the day finally came when Noah put the finishing touches on the ark. His work was done and now it was time for God to fulfill His covenant commitment.
“Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.” – Genesis 7:1 ESV
Noah had proven his faith in God. Against all odds and contrary to human reasoning, Noah had taken God at His word and obeyed. And the author of Hebrews includes Noah among those who are enshrined in his great “Hall of Faith.”
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. – Hebrews 11:7 ESV
While Noah’s ungodly neighbors continued to live in open rebellion to God, he faithfully submitted his life to the will of God. He demonstrated his complete reliance upon God by hearing and obeying the word of God. And, because of his faith, Noah was declared righteous by God. Even before commending Noah for his faith, the author of Hebrews declared the non-negotiable role that faith plays in mankind’s relationship with God.
…without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11:6 ESV
Noah had spent his life drawing near to God. The building of the ark was just the latest and greatest example of his complete reliance upon God. And because Noah trusted God, he was rewarded with the gift of life while everyone else around him was experiencing the judgment of death.
God did not spare the ancient world—except for Noah and the seven others in his family. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. So God protected Noah when he destroyed the world of ungodly people with a vast flood. – 2 Peter 2:5 NLT
For 150 days, Noah and his family weathered the storm that deluged the earth. They floated safely above the waters, as the rest of sinful humanity perished. This faithful man and his family were protected and preserved by God. They were graciously spared the judgment that had come upon the earth. But everything and everyone else was subjected to God’s righteous and holy wrath.
Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. – Genesis 7:22-23 ESV
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.