The Building of the Ark

This lesson contains many details concerning the dimensions and building of the Ark as well as its use as a "type" for the church.
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We have looked at the generations of Noah's sons and the record written by the survivors of the flood. They confirm that 120 years after God's final warning to man that if he did not repent He would destroy them. We saw, however, that man continued to be wicked and unrepentant.

In the following section the writers describe the terrible judgment that came upon the world and a close-up view of how their father, Noah, prepared for the catastrophic flood that was to take place.

It is interesting to note that the Bible record has provided us with specific details of the way these people were saved.

The Ark

14Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.
- Genesis 6:14-16

These verses not only give us a picture of the physical dimensions of the vessel that Noah was to build but also announces how God is going to carry out His promise to destroy the world. Up until this time, God has not told them how He would punish them.

Some interesting statistics on the ark itself:

  1. The term ark simply means a box and it is the same word used for the basket into which Moses was placed when he was a baby. A different word is used for the Ark of the Covenant which meant to gather, a kind of chest, or coffin.
  2. Modern measurements (conservative estimations) would put the ark at 438 ft. long, 73 ft. wide and 44 ft. high. That is about 1½ football fields long and 4 stories high.
  3. Impossible to tip over. The ark was not built for speed or direction. Without sails or a rudder it was simply a floating box. However, it was nearly impossible to tip over and sink. A vessel this size and shape could be tilted to any angle short of 90 degrees and would still able to right itself. This was important, given the nature of the disaster that was to take place.
  4. A box this size contained 1,400,000 cubic feet of space. This would be the equivalent of 522 box cars on a train or the capacity to hold 125,000 sheep.
  5. Multi-storied. The ark had three stories with each one divided into different rooms or stables for animals.
  6. Construction materials. We do not know what gopher wood was but probably some dense kind of wood and "pitch" means to "cover". It is the same word used for "atonement" in other passages. We do not know its exact composition either, only that the wood was covered with a water resistant material.
  7. Windows and door. The term for window in Hebrew is literally "opening for light". This term suggests several openings around the ark to let in light and air. There was, however, only one door by which the people and animals would enter and leave.

This construction must have seemed strange to the people of this era because they had never seen rain or a flood and this tremendous construction was being built where there was no water. Once complete it must have seemed ridiculous:

  • no way to get it to water,
  • too big to be useful,
  • no sails or rudder to steer it,
  • built to protect against a flood.

To the unbelievers the ark was a useless, irrelevant box in the middle of nowhere. To those who believed, it was the way of salvation.

God's Judgment and Promise to Noah – vs. 17-22

Now we see God describing what judgment He will be bringing on the world for its sinfulness.

17Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.

The judgment and who it affects are very specific.

  1. God is the one bringing judgment, not an act of nature attributed to God, but God Himself purposefully acting against man through natural forces.
  2. Flood of waters is the Hebrew words "MABBUL MAYIM". The word for flood "MABBUL" is only used to describe this catastrophe. Other floods or water disturbances are described using other words. This word literally means destruction and is not used anywhere else other than Psalms 29:10 where it is describing this same thing in a poetic way. Even in the New Testament, when the flood is mentioned, the Greek word used is "KATACLUSMOS" which means cataclysm, denoting the immensity of the flood. I say all this because many people today claim that the flood was just a regional flood that ancient writers embellished and parlayed into a worldwide flood for the sake of the story. But the language used in both the Old and New Testaments is quite specific in describing a once-in-history event.
  3. The flood or destruction will destroy all that has the breath of life. This includes mankind and animal life, but not marine life. Again, the Bible establishes the fact of complete worldwide destruction and not just a localized flood. If it is not a worldwide flood we have trouble explaining so much evidence pointing to the fact that one did occur.
18But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons' wives with you.

We see the promise that God makes to Noah. It is the first time the word covenant appears in the Bible. The idea of covenant is different than the idea of agreement or contract.

  • In an agreement or contract:
    • Both parties contribute to the details and conditions of the contract.
    • Either party can, under certain conditions, opt out of the contract.
    • It takes the agreement of both to put the contract into effect.
    • Benefits both parties equally
    • Used to guarantee fairness and honesty.
    • Can be annulled.
  • In a covenant with God:
    • God establishes all the conditions in the covenant.
    • God never opts out of the covenant. He honors it no matter what man does.
    • The covenant exists and is in force based on God's word. God cannot lie.
    • The purpose of the covenant is to benefit man.

And so, God makes a covenant with Noah, it will be elaborated when the flood is over and God will describe it in detail then but for now God invites Noah to enter into the covenant with Him by building the ark and entering into it when the time comes.

19And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. 21As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them."

In the warning, God also provides information concerning the use of the ark and how the animals were to come to him. Two of every species or kind in Biblical terms probably covers a wider range than division types used today.

There are many who are skeptical about this but it is all quite possible:

  • Most animals are small.
  • Scientists estimate that there are approximately 18,000 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in the world today.
  • Double this amount to account for extinct species and there are approximately 40,000 species.
  • Two of each brings you to 80,000 creatures.
  • The ark could easily accommodate this number.
  • Insects (1M of them in types) do not take much room and no need to make special provision for marine life.
  • The important factor is that God is the One who brought the animal life to Noah (he did not have to capture them – we learn that later on).
  • These animals were under God's care and control and so their needs, and temperament for such an experience could easily be controlled by God. The One who created them could sustain them while in the ark. (For example, He took care of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years and their clothes or shoes did not wear out!)
  • Noah also loaded provisions.
22Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.

The record shows that Noah chose to enter into the covenant with God and did so by obeying God's command by building the ark and preparing it for its yearlong voyage.


The story of the ark is full of types and lessons for us today.

1. The ark is a "type" for the church

The first type is that of the church. There are many similarities.

  • There is only one ark/one church.
  • There is safety only in the ark/only in the church.
  • There is only one way into the ark, and only one way into the church: Christ.
  • Those in the ark are alive through the water. Those in the church are alive through the water of baptism.
  • The ark carries them to the next life, the re-created earth. The church carries us to the new heavens and new earth.
  • Only believers are in the ark. Only believers are in the church.
  • The ark was laughed at and seemed irrelevant before the flood. The church seems irrelevant before the judgment.
  • The ark was built by those who believed and obeyed God's promises. The church is built by those who believe and obey God's promises.
  • God provided for those in the ark, to build it and to live in it. God provides for the establishing of His Church and the preservation of it through the catastrophes of this life.
  • The ark was absolutely necessary because the flood did come. The church is absolutely necessary because the judgment will surely come with Jesus' return.

2. You need to be in the ark and stay in it.

The story impresses upon us the importance of the church and the fact that it is the vessel through which we will be saved when the next catastrophe occurs.

Discussion Questions

  1. Summarize Genesis 6:14-16 and answer the following questions:
    1. Why did God provide the details for building the Ark?
    2. What was Noah's reaction and the final result?
    3. What is the implication of this passage for us?
  2. Genesis 6:9 states that Noah walked with God. This is the same language in Genesis 5:27 that describes Enoch. Why was Noah not taken as Enoch was?
  3. What are some lessons we can learn from Genesis 6:17-22.
  4. How is the Ark a type for the Church today?
  5. How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?
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