Launching the Ark      Home   Menu     Copyright Tim Lovett Jan 2004

 

Noah's ark is launched in Genesis Chapter 7. A launch unlike any boat in history. In headline summary form, the Biblical account gives hardly a glimpse at the launch conditions. The rest  is common sense, interpretations based on flood models and geological evidence such as current velocity estimations.  

 

 

An eerie sunset lights up churning waters as a fresh mountain range crumbles like a sand castle. 

The unstoppable, silent sculptor makes quick work of the late flood terrain as it rushes off the rising continental plate.

Tim Lovett April 2004. 

(Not the sort of place one would like to navigate in a large timber vessel. Better to wait until it settles down a bit...)

 


The Launch Account (Genesis Chapter 7)

This chapter contains quite a bit of repetition, which means things are not always in chronological order. Remember that repetition is an indication of emphasis, especially when a new aspect is being highlighted. . 

 

God's instruction about boarding the ark: (Before the event take place)

1  Then the LORD said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.
2 "You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female;
3 "also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.
4 "For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made."

 

A summary of Noah doing all of the above: (After the event)
5  And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him.

 

A general date for this event, (not his birthday)
6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth.

 

(Verse 7 to 16 is not quite chronological.)

V7 to 10  is a general summary regarding ark boarding. The animals began to board 7 days before the flood was to arrive (in accord with V4)
7 So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood. 
8 Of clean animals, of animals that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth,
9 two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.
10 And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth. 

An accurate date, and flood source description.  

11  In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
12 And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.

 

Repetition: Noah and his family had boarded the ark the SAME DAY that the flood came (the 7th day after the animals arrived). Obviously they would have been busy all week during the boarding operation, but the final day was their last time they stepped foot on the the old world. V14 does not say all the animals came on board that day, but that Noah's family joined all the animals. Note that the flood 'came' but the ark is not yet buoyed.
13  On the very same day Noah and Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark--
14 they and every beast after its kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort.

 

This is another repetition - how many and what type of animal is being emphasized.
15 And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life.
16 So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.

The flood account continues...watch out for the KJV mistake with the "high mountains". Verse 19 has "high hills" but verse 20 gets "mountains". If this makes you think "mountains" are bigger than "high hills" then you are a long way from the Hebrew. It actually says the OPPOSITE. More info here.

17  Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.
18 The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters.
19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered.
20 The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered.
21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man.
22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died.

 

Repetition - specifically about death of all animals and man.

23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.


24 And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.

 

Let's see if we can put this chapter into chronological order

1  Then the LORD said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.
2 "You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female;
3 "also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.
4 "For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made."

5  And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him. (Summary)
6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth.
(Summary)

 

8 Of clean animals, of animals that are unclean, of birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth,
9 two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.

10 And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth. (Summary)

7 So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood.
13  On the very same day Noah and Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark--
14 they and every beast after its kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort.
15 And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life.
16 So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.
11  In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

12 And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.

17  Now the flood was on the earth forty days. (Summary)

 The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.

18 The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters.
19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered.
20 The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered.
21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man.
22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died.

23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.

24 And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.

 

Summary of a likely interpretation of Genesis Ch 7.

Noah reaches his 600th year. Seven weeks later the animals start arriving. He and his family spend the next week setting them up inside the ark in their appropriate cages. On the seventh day, (2 months after his 600th birthday) Noah and his family (8 people) officially board the ark as passengers. God shuts the door and the flood begins.  Rain and water from underground continues unabated, and the ark begins to float. The waters continue to rise until every mountain is submerged. The rain stops after 40 days, but the earth remains submerged for a total of 150 days.  


Comparison of Construction Site Locations and Related Launch Conditions.

Common sense would rule out high currents during the launch of the ark. 

The question as to when the ark was buoyed by the rising floodwaters has a major influence on the site selection - anything from a site by the coast to a far-away mountain-top. Certain factors - especially the risk of shipwreck, must be considered here. The bible does not specifically say the ark was divinely cushioned from impact with mountaintops - so the site is likely to be a naturally safe one. However, mountains were probably visible (Gen 7:19-20). Three options will be considered - low, medium and high altitude. 

 

EARLY LAUNCH OPTION

Low altitude with coastal mountain range

The launch site is close to the shore. This provides good access to ship transport, the floating of logs to the site and avoids the need to haul materials uphill. As the water rises the ark quickly becomes encircled before the ante-diluvians have chance to panic (they are too busy finding higher ground, and the current is inland). Unless the ark was initially anchored, it could be dragged inland by the rushing current. To minimize the flow problem, a nearby mountain range could block the current as the water rises.  form a the run aground once launched, since the current is predominantly inland, though limited by the nearby mountain range.

Strengths: Quickly isolates the ark from the fleeing masses. Construction is not an uphill battle.

Weaknesses: Shipwreck danger while any mountain protrudes during the high currents of the continental inundation, particularly assuming a non-navigable ark (free-floating vessel).  

 

LATE LAUNCH OPTION

High altitude - locally highest peak   

The highest peak in the region, (maybe 2000m) is chosen as the ark construction site. The location is a heavily wooded localised plateau with the altitude producing the typical tall forest cover of a more temperate climate, minimizing the need to drag timbers uphill. Since the ark structure takes shape fairly quickly, the ark is highly visible over distances of over 50km during most of the 100 year construction period. The relative remoteness of the site might play a part in isolating the ark from the fleeing citizens when they finally start racing for higher ground. It also requires a relatively uninhabited location so that people are not left on the same mountain as the ark (with enough time to get up on the roof and into the windows). A third aspect of the remoteness is the lack of conflict indicated in the account. Jesus said they were going about their lives as per usual - an unlikely event if the ark was built in the local dockyard. A nearby river gorge or flooded lowlands could also serve this purpose.  The river could also serve transport purposes - not that one would want to haul too much material up several kilometres. Early rise of sea level is ignored by the multitudes ("it won't come any further, it never has before"). The ark mountain is isolated well before the panic finally sets in when they realize the dry ground is disappearing. The fast flowing tide has completely destroyed any ships and just about everything else as it races inland. Eventually Noah's mountain is the last remaining island.  By the time the ark begins to float the entire continent is underwater bringing the powerful currents to a near standstill. There was now no risk of shipwreck. As for the 15 cubit clearance over the mountains, this could be interpreted to mean 15 cubits over the highest known mountain -  the one from which it was launched. The mountaintop launch is also in line with traditional illustrations (not that they have been much of a guide in terms of ark scale and proportions). 

Note 1: A rapid inundation could produce currents of hundreds of km/h (Such as Michael Oard's late flood runoff models indicate). This is instant ark destruction - either by boulders and floating debris hitting the ark, or the ark being carried at high speed and running aground. Anchorage in such a current is unthinkable. 

Note 2: The screenshots of Diluvia indicate surrounding mountain peaks higher than the ark construction site. Not so in the final version.

Strengths: Safest launching conditions (low flow velocity). High public profile (mountaintop exposure), lack of conflict more feasible (not built in heavily populated area).

Weaknesses:  A relatively minor problem of requiring a landscape that isolates the mountain fairly quickly, and a relatively uninhabited area at the time of the flood.  More significant issue is that Gen  7:17-20 would naturally be read as if the ark was lifted prior to the flood peak. Of course, this begs the question of how Noah knew the mountains were covered by 15 cubits - unless it is only an assumption based on not having run aground. (cleared at least a 15 cubit draft).

  

MID LAUNCH OPTION

Mid altitude - a smaller, isolatable peak -  e.g. peninsula

The launch site is on a hilltop at the end of a narrow peninsula. The water rises suddenly. It does not reach the ark, but almost immediately prevents access due to the strong current. The peninsula is now an island, where the flow is not so strongly directional as it would be on a large plain. In most respects, this site would be similar to the coastal mountain range scenario. Optimally, a long narrow peninsula with a heavily wooded, slightly raised area forming the ark construction site. The nearby coastline being an abrupt mountain range which blocks the high speed inland flow. The reason for the peninsula and mountain range is to isolate the ark from continental flow. The mountains (which are the highest mountains in the pre-flood world) are visible from the ark Gen 7:20, and so their submersion is a record of the flood's depth. Since the ark never hit them in the next few months, Noah knew the water must have cleared them by at least 15 cubits. (The ark kept moving around, Gen 7:18)

Strengths: A bit of both worlds. 

Weaknesses:  Requires a specific terrain layout to ensure a near-zero current at the time of launching. But site selection is a pretty simple divine revelation. Then again, at a healthy 500 years of age, Noah would have been smart enough to work this out himself.