World History

Surviving Noah’s Flood

Noah's Ark illustration

Who Survived the Cataclysm?

How Did They Survive?

Description of an Ark

The Disappearance of Dinosaurs

Description of Noah’s Ark

What Noah’s Ark Was Not

What Happened During the Voyage?

Post-Cataclysm Changes

The Rainbow

Surviving Noah’s Flood

In almost all cultures, there were survivors of the cataclysm. When humans did not survive, a god would throw stones that turned into people or use other means to restart the human race.

Following the rule of the majority, we must ask who survived and how.

Who Survived the Cataclysm?

The most and oldest reports describe a Noah-like character who survives with his family. Some cultures even specify three sons.

The next most popular legend is that a brother and sister survive. After the flood they must get a special dispensation from the gods to marry. Otherwise, there will be no more humans.

The odd stories include the survival of two men (how does that work out?) or a group of people larger than one family.

How Did They Survive?

Legends describe a variety of survival strategies.

In legends that say one mountain peak remained above water, the survivors fled there.

There are a variety of escape crafts.

One legend says people escaped in wooden houses that floated on the flood. It sounds to me like they would not remain upright in a storm.

In two tales, people escaped sealed in a gourd. That sounds like asphyxiation to me.

Three times the survivors are described as escaping sealed in a tree or log. There’s little air there either.

Four times, people are described as escaping by raft. Can you imagine surviving many days in the storm we talked about last time? Maybe the raft would, but people would surely be washed overboard.

Now, let’s look at the more sensible ideas.

Two sources state the survivors escaped in a chest or box. As long as they have air holes and the box is made of wood, it’s possible. The size and shape of the box would be big factors in success.

Eleven tales say people escaped in a boat, ship, or canoe. Sorry, but a canoe is not going to make it through a cataclysm. A boat is a general term. A ship is large and made for traveling seas and oceans.

Surprisingly, four legends use the same word: ark.

Description of an Ark

I was sixty-nine years old and had heard the story of Noah’s Ark all of my life when I thought to ask myself, “Does the word ‘ark’ mean anything specific?”

To my surprise, it does!

An ark is a strongbox or sturdy chest in which one’s most precious treasures are protected.

Noah’s ark was a ship-sized treasure chest whose purpose was to protect God’s greatest treasures from the cataclysm. Those treasures were the righteous Noah and his family!

For the family’s survival after the flood, animals were invited onto the ship also.

I must admit that tales trying to be both “biblical” and “scientific” slip into ridiculousness, as is often the case. In one, the mammoth was too big to enter the ark so it sat on top. That’s not going to work.

In another story, the dinosaur swam behind. That was a very long swim.

The Disappearance of Dinosaurs

Let’s digress a moment and answer a question that has been nagging at us: What happened to dinosaurs?

Here’s a theory. Remember that Noah could only bring two of each kind of unclean animal into the ark. Whatever “kind” meant in Moses’ Egyptian classification of living things, it seems to be between species and family in ours. Therefore, not all species of dinosaurs would be included in the ark.

Reptiles are “unclean” animals, so one male and one female of each kind would be chosen.

Also, consider that most dinosaurs were smaller than today’s horse, even as small as a chicken. Wouldn’t it be logical to choose, say, the crocodile and Komodo dragon instead of Tyrannosaurus Rex?

The rest drowned with other animals we have never seen.

Description of Noah’s Ark

As an Egyptian prince, Moses surely was interested in building, architecture, and engineering. He probably studied those arts. His description of Noah’s Ark is specific.

  1. Make it of wood. (Wood floats easily.)
  2. Put rooms in it.
  3. Waterproof it with pitch inside and outside.
  4. The dimensions are to be 450 feet by 75 feet by 45 feet. (That’s half as long as the Titanic!)
  5. Three stories.
  6. One door in the side.
  7. One window at the top.

What Noah’s Ark Was Not

Noah’s Ark was not designed for navigation. It was designed only for floating.

It lacks these parts: a pointed bow, a pointed stern, an anchor, a propeller and rudder or oars, slanted sides, and one or more masts.

Those were invented for navigation and cruise efficiency. It’s not as stable as a flat bottomed craft. Also, any structure under the water line could be damaged by hidden aquatic dangers.

The picture above does not represent Noah’s ark.

The blueprint describes a three story enclosed barge. Because of the straight sides, the enclosed volume of Noah’s Ark was roughly the same as the Titanic! Who says there isn’t room for every “kind” (not species) of animal?

What Happened During the Voyage?

We don’t know.

That’s right. No legend tells us what happened on board during the flood. Neither does Genesis. Apparently, Moses didn’t think it important.

The next thing we know is that the cataclysm was over, the waters receded considerably, and Noah was at the window.

Is it just Moses’s minimalistic style, or is it fact that there was nothing on board but the humans and the animals? Noah was not commanded to bring food or any other supplies on board.

Could it be that in God’s mercy He put the passengers of the ark into suspended animation, saving them the trauma of the cataclysm?

That would be my choice!

The fact is, we don’t know. Period.

Post-Cataclysm Changes

The earth Noah saw when he left the ark was as bizarre and astonishing as if he had landed on the moon.

God told Noah there would be changes between humans and animals. The Dream Time was finished. First, animals would be afraid of people. Second, “every living thing that moves will be meat for you.”

Humans are no longer to be vegetarians. That’s a good reason for animals to be afraid!

But why the change? God doesn’t say. It’s logical, however, to suggest that the change is related to the vastly altered earth.

The Rainbow

I was surprised how many legends included a rainbow at the end of the story as a sign of hope and peace. One story had four rainbows: one in each direction!

Of course, there are always outliers, such as the story with the Rainbow Serpent.

In Genesis, God says, “I will set my bow in the clouds” as a sign (think seal or signature) of the covenant between myself and the earth that I will never do this again.

This ceremony of the bow survives today in some places. When two tribes or clans have been warring but meet to create a peace treaty, each leader hangs his (war) bow on the wall, signifying he comes in peace and trusts not to be attacked.

The bows are always hung curved side up…just like the one in the sky.

Photo credit: Javiare_Art_Photography on