Ark Encounter - May 2018

The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology, and Theology – Part 8

This entry is part 8 of 21 in the series The Bible Book of Genesis - Geology, Archaeology and Theology

The History of Shem and the Cataclysm of Noah’s Day (Genesis 6:9b – Genesis 11:10)

Genesis 6:10 – Genesis 7:5 – Instructions for Preservation of Life

Genesis 6:9b tells us that “Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless [blameless[1]] among his contemporaries. Noah walked with the [true] God.” Blameless is a better translation, as faultless implies no fault or error which is impossible for imperfect sinful men, however righteous. On the other hand, a righteous, imperfect person could be blameless, in that any faults or errors would not be deliberate and could be accounted for by weakness due to imperfection. It was also in comparison to his contemporaries (or multiple generations). In contrast to Noah, his contemporaries were wicked according to Genesis 6:5, because “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart [mans] was only bad all the time”.

The result was that according to Genesis 6:11 “the earth came to be ruined in the sight of the true God and the earth became filled with violence”. The word translated as ruined, ”shachath”[2] can also mean “spoiled, marred, perverted, corrupt”. As the account in Genesis 6:1-4 informs us mankind had been “corrupted”, both morally and physically by wicked angels, perverting mankind by unnatural sexual relations, between materialized spirit creatures and humans.

The account also possibly implies polygamy, and immorality, as these materialized spirit creatures took all the human women they desired. (The Hebrew word used for wives[3] “ishshah” can also mean women, females according to context. The context here could be taken as either meaning wives or women). This state of affairs was certainly not as God had intended and as he had set in motion when creating Adam and Eve.

Instruction for Construction of the Ark

God then communicated to Noah that to survive what God intended to do to the earth and the wicked humans he had to make an ark. The instructions were precise and clear. Just what an ARKitect would need! In fact, all the instructions you would need today to create an engineering design specification are included in the ARKhives of Genesis 6-8.

Laid out with references as follows:

Engineering Design Specification for Noah’s Ark

  1. Ship Construction Specifications:
    1. Construction Materials: (Genesis 6:14)
      1. Resinous Wood.
      2. Tar.
    2. Hull Size Parameters: (Genesis 6:15)
      1. Length: 300 cubits.
      2. Breadth: 50 cubits.
      3. Depth\Height: 30 cubits.
    3. Ventilation\ Light Source: (Genesis 6:16)
      1. A “Tsohar”, a cubit high.
    4. Loading Access: (Genesis 6:16)
      1. A door in the side of the ark.
    5. Superstructure and Cargo Capacity:
      1. Compartments (Genesis 6:14)
      2. Three Decks (Genesis 6:16)
        1. Lower Deck
        2. Second Deck
        3. Third Deck
  2. Ship Cargo Specifications:
    1. Animals
      1. At Least two of every kind.
      2. 1 male, 1 female (Genesis 6:19)
    2. Humans
      1. Noah,
      2. Noah’s wife, (Joan of Ark)? (Genesis 6:18)
      3. Son – Shem and his wife. (Genesis 6:18)
      4. Son – Ham, and his wife. (Genesis 6:18)
      5. Son – Japheth and his wife. (Genesis 6:18)
    3. Food Supply:
      1. Every sort of food for the animals. (Genesis 6:21)
      2. Every sort of food for the humans. (Genesis 6:21)
  3. Ship Operation Specifications
    1. Launching Operations:
      1. Rainwater to lift up and launch the Ark. (Genesis 7:17)
    2. Foul Weather Specifications:
      1. Able to withstand 40 days and 40 nights of rainfall. (Genesis 7:4,17)
      2. Able to withstand associated turbulence. (Genesis 7:4,17)
      3. Waterproof hull: Genesis (6:14)
        1. 3 Layers
          1. Tar
          2. Resinous wood
          3. Tar
      4. Able to stay afloat if the hull is damaged.
        1. Compartments. (Genesis 6:14)
      5. Stability
        1. The Ratio of Length, Width, Depth 6:1:0.6
    3. Steering Operations: (Genesis 7:17-18)
      1. None required.
      2. Just able to be able to drift safely.
    4. Docking \ Landing Operations:
      1. Capable of Grounding without damage. (Genesis 8:4)
    5. Navigation and Surveying Operations:
      1. Supply of autonomous flying creatures.
        1. Raven (Genesis 8:7)
        2. Doves (Genesis 8:8)

What an amazingly technical specification, covering all main requirements and in a logical order too!

Conclusion: Surely this description of the Ark must be of a real boat\vessel, not something fictitious.

God’s Arkitect Instructions

In plain language, the instructions given to Noah were:

  1. The wood was to be of a resinous tree.
  2. There were to be compartments inside.
  3. The Ark was to be covered outside and inside with tar.
  4. Its length was to be 300 cubits, its width was to be 50 cubits, and its height was to be 30 cubits.
  5. There was to be a ‘tsohar’, thought to be a window a cubit high.
  6. The entrance would be on the side.
  7. Internally it would be divided into 3 floors.
  8. To take into the Ark, a male and female of every living creature, birds, domestic animals, etc according to their kinds.
  9. To take into the Ark food of every kind to serve as food to the creatures and Noah and his family.
  10. Noah, his wife, 3 sons, and their wives were to be the Ark’s crew.

Genesis 6:22 records that “Noah proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so”.

Was the Ark a real vessel or a description of a fantasy vessel?

A review of the evidence from the instructions and the scientific facts that support that such instructions were given, reveals a resounding conclusion that the Ark had to have been a real boat. Given its large size, it is difficult to understand how someone, whether Moses or someone else would have the knowledge to build such a large seaworthy boat. Meanwhile, the detail provided and the accuracy of that, would indicate (a) it was intended to be built and (b) was actually built just as the Bible account says it was.

In addition, to go to all this length, when the Ark probably took years of hard work to build, just for a mere local flood would seem totally unnecessary. It would have easily been possible within that timeframe for Noah and his family and the animals to move beyond the reach of even a large local flood if that is all the flood was. However, if the flood was global as the scriptures indicate then other than miraculous intervention on God’s part, that would be the only option available to achieve the required results.

Why the wood from a resinous tree?

According to Scientific American “… resinous timber will withstand the action of heat and moisture, where other kinds will soon decay …”. Resinous timber “owes its usefulness greatly to the quantities of resin secreted in its tissues … rendering it impermeable to water …”.[4] This makes the resinous wood ideal for constructing boats and vessels requiring good resistance to water.

Why compartments inside?

If the compartments are made watertight this would assist the vessel to remain afloat even with a leak filling one or more of the compartments. The famous Titanic, claimed before her disastrous voyage to be unsinkable, had 16 major watertight compartments, and was designed to stay afloat with any two compartments flooded, and even with certain combinations of three or four compartments. Unfortunately for the Titanic, the ice ripped open 6 compartments. (There were other factors in play as well)[5]. The compartments would also add strength to the hull structure. There was also the need to put various kinds of animals separately, store food, and provide living quarters for Noah and his family, etc.

Why cover with tar inside and outside?

Tar is still used today to make wooden boats and their fittings waterproof. Tar outside on the resinous wood, and on the inside, would have filled any holes or cracks where water could seep in between the timbers, and protected the timbers as well. It is also flexible, so the movement of the timbers under stress would not open up large gaps for water to penetrate if well covered with tar and for good measure, a coating of tar between all timber joints, as the tar could flex too, rather than crack or break. Additionally, “Tar has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that protects the wood or fibre it coats”. [6]

Maths: Dimensions – Why 300 x 50 x 30 cubits?

Length of a cubit

When is a cubit not a cubit? When it is a royal cubit!

First, we need to establish, if possible, how long was the cubit that Noah used? A cubit is nominally the length from the elbow to the fingertips, but of course, that can vary according to the size of a person. It is interesting to find that the Hebrews, Egyptians, and Babylonians had both short and long cubits. The short cubits were typically between 17.5”-18” and the long cubits between 19.8”-20.6”. For large-scale construction, the longer cubit, sometimes called a royal (older) cubit was commonly used. (See 2 Chronicles 3:3-4 “ … cubits, by the former measurement”). Ezekiel 43:13 defines the cubit used in the vision of the Temple as “a cubit being a cubit and a hand breath”, the longer royal cubit. Today a cubit is taken as 18” for the rule of thumb calculations, but it, therefore, appears more likely that the Ark was constructed using the royal, older, longer cubit perhaps around 20.5” (Hebrew Royal cubit) or 20.6” (Egyptian Royal Cubit) or about 52 centimeters.

Taking 20.6 inches (Egyptian royal cubit) as the length of a cubit, (in part because Moses wrote Genesis having only recently left Egypt, and being trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians according to Acts 7:22, the dimensions of the Ark would have been:

L = 300 cubits – 515 feet

B\W = 50 cubits = 85.83 feet

D\H = 30 cubit = 51.5 feet.

This made it the largest seagoing vessel before the beginning of the 20th Century.

Maths: Ratios

The Length to Beam\Width ratio is 6:1.

The Length to Depth \Height ratio is 10:1.

The Beam \Width to Depth \ Height ratio is 1.67.

Today these ratios are understood to be ideal in many conditions. Oil tankers, Passenger Vessels, and Container Vessels typically have a Length to Beam ratio of 6 or close to it.

Likewise, the Length to Depth ratio is usually between 10 and 15. The Beam to Depth Ratio is also usually between 1 and 2.[7]

The ratios of these dimensions made it the best balance of the three properties of strength, stability, and comfort (where increasing or decreasing the amount of any one of these properties has a corresponding opposite effect on the other two properties). These were the findings of a major 1993 scientific study headed by Dr. Seon Hong at the world-class ship research center KRISO, based in Daejeon, South Korea. The full technical report can be read here[8].

Other findings were that the Ark would have been able to handle 100ft waves. Also given its rating for comfort, this would allow it to handle rough seas without making life unbearable for its occupants. The Ark was also close to the limit of the maximum size known to be possible for a wooden ship. At around 515ft it would have been about 2/3 the length of the Titanic (800ft).

Maths: Phi

A paper entitled “Naval Architecture and Noah’s Ark” published in Naval Engineers Journal of May 1999 states “Naval vessels are designed with phi [not pi] in mind: it relates to minimizing water resistance for oceanic voyages, since phi is the ratio involving the least friction in nature.” For information like “pi (3.146 …)”, phi is an irrational number. It equals (1+ square root of 5)/2 = 1.6180339 …. “In nature, the phi ratio results in the spiral of least resistance”. “The inverse of phi is 0.618, while the length of the Ark (515 feet) in inches is 6,180. Thus, the ark’s length is a “phi number””.[9]

How can this be just a coincidence?

What was the shape?

It is not possible to be definitive from the detail of the description given, but it was probably pretty much a slightly rounded rectangular box perhaps with a fixed rudder and a high wind catching bow which would keep it going windward and avoid breaching the waves. A suggestion that finds favor with the author is found here, based on ancient depictions from Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean, and actual discoveries of ancient Mediterranean boat wrecks.[10]

Many large cargo boats are built to similar dimensions today, for efficient and stable large-scale transport of materials.

Why Three Floors?

The floors would have added strength to the hull from waves and external water pressure for the parts of the Ark under the waterline. It would also have enabled the most efficient use of the internal space. For example, a reasonable vertical spacing of 20ft, 20ft, and 10 ft would have allowed the best vertical distribution of weight, so that the Ark would not roll over, and at the same time accommodated quite large or tall animals, such as the Elephant and Giraffe.

Why a Window?

The Ark would need ventilation to stop the animals overheating and allow carbon dioxide from exhalation to escape and oxygen to come in.

Conclusion: The instructions are for an advanced sea-going vessel capable of holding and keeping its cargo in relative comfort, and complete safety for the length of time required. They surely cannot be the result of any myth or legend.

Could the Ark house all the creatures required?

There have been many attempts to calculate this over the years. But first, we need to examine the Bible text. Genesis 6:19-21 reads as follows: “And of every living creature of every sort of flesh, two of each, you will bring into the ark to preserve them alive with you. Male and female they will be. 20 Of the flying creatures according to their kinds and of the domestic animals according to their kinds, of all moving animals of the ground according to their kinds, two of each will go in there to you to preserve them alive. 21 And as for you, take for yourself every sort of food that is eaten; and you must gather it to yourself, and it must serve as food for you and for them.”.

Notice it was flying creatures, domestic animals, other animals. It did not include aquatic creatures, i.e. fish, whales, sharks, etc. Hence, it was a greatly reduced number of creatures.

The Genesis account also says “according to their kinds”. Today, living things are classified into a structure. The structure (slightly simplified) used from high to low is Domain, Kingdom, Phyla, Class, SubClasses, Orders, Families, Genus, Species. It is thought that the Biblical Kinds were more or less equal to Families, but could be equal to Orders in some cases. Families include Hominidae (man), Cats, Dogs, Horses, Lemurs, Tarsiers, Gibbons, etc. Orders include Cetacea (Whales, dolphins), Rodentia (Rodents), Chiroptera (Bats), etc.

One such calculation suggests that based on the dimensions given above, the Ark would have had a storage capacity of close to 2,300,000 cubic feet, or about 850 US railroad boxcars (2,700 cubic feet per boxcar).

First, how much space would be required?

  • There are only about 290 species of land animals larger than a sheep.
  • There are 757 species between a sheep and a rat in size.
  • There are 1,139 smaller than a rat.
  • To be added to this are 10,000 species of birds.
  • Not to be forgotten are 2,231 species of reptiles.

Each stock car would hold 240 sheep, so 850 cars would hold 204,000 sheep. One does not need to be a mathematician to see that even if each of the 290 large land animals had a boxcar of space to itself, the remaining 560 boxcars of space could easily swallow up (accommodate) the remaining approximately 15,000 species with plenty of room for food, waste (if stored!) and even room for exercise. This is also assuming that grown adults of the larger species were taken.

If there are still any doubts, above we mentioned that the Genesis account talks about the creatures being according to their kinds (Genesis 6:20), which would actually be less pairs than species. For example, a cat kind (Family) could cover Leopards, Lions, Cheetahs, Tigers, Ocelots, etc, which are species.

Did the animals on the Ark include Dinosaurs? On the understanding that they were still living then Yes. Thoughts tend to go to the large spectacular dinosaurs, like Brontosaurus, or Tyrannosaurus Rex, but the reality is that the average dinosaur was no bigger than a buffalo.

The account also does not say that Noah took the largest most mature of any particular kind, like of an elephant. The animals were taken for repopulating the earth after the Flood finished. To fulfill that role, the animals only needed to be sexually mature, able to procreate immediately, rather than full-grown. That would also reduce the space needed. For example, a breeding female African elephant can be substantially smaller than the matriarch that leads the herd (often 20 years plus older).

Take for example dogs. Today there are some 400 breeds of domestic dogs, but these are not species. The Family Canidae contains only 34 species. In fact, bred dogs belong in a Genus (below family) called Canis along with wolves, coyotes, and jackals. Domestic dogs in fact all belong to one species Canis familiaris which belongs to the Genus Canis. A large proportion of the 400 breeds did not exist 500 years ago but have since been bred by man, by selective breeding. Therefore, even if Noah took species, rather than families, he would still only have needed 1 pair of domestic dogs.

Conclusion: The Ark could comfortably house and have food for all the kinds of creatures it was required to hold and more.

Why build an Ark if only a local Flood?

We also need to ponder over this question. If it was only to be a local flood, why did God instruct Noah to build such a large sea-worthy water-tight vessel with a large carrying capacity? The time and effort expended to build and provision the Ark according to the instructions recorded would have taken years, as the account indicates.

Even modern-day human experience confirms this. An attraction in Kentucky, USA, has built a life-size partial replica of what the ark could have been built like. This took their skilled team nearly 3 years to build, although they had more than 4 people on their team, whereas Noah likely only had himself and his three sons. Based on Genesis 7:6 and Genesis 6:13-14 we can estimate that Noah potentially took up to 70 years on building the Ark. Shem was 100 years old at the flood and was married when the instructions were given, a reasonable estimate of this would be 30 years leaving 70 years to complete the project.

It would certainly have been less time-consuming for Noah and his family to move themselves and the animals out of reach of the intended Flood, than to build the Ark and provision it.


  9. Available f.o.c. if a member of an educational institute that has access, e.g. Universities, Or purchasable from Wiley online. The author Jim Erner worked spent 20 years as an Engineering Dub officer in the US Navy.
Series Navigation<< The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology, and Theology – Part 7The Bible Book of Genesis – Geology, Archaeology, and Theology – Part 9 >>
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