NOAH straightened his back and stretched his aching muscles. Picture him seated on a broad wooden beam, taking a moment’s rest from his work as he looked out over the immense structure of the ark. The pungent smell of hot tar was in the air; the sounds of woodworking tools reverberated. From where he sat, Noah could see his sons hard at work on various parts of the great network of timbers. His sons, their wives, and his own dear wife had all been laboring with him on this project for decades now. They had come a long way, but they had a long way to go!
The people of the region thought that all of them were fools. The more the ark took shape, the more the people laughed at the very thought of a deluge that would cover the whole earth. The disaster that Noah kept warning them about seemed so far-fetched, so preposterous! They could hardly believe that a man would waste his life—and the lives of his family—in such a foolish endeavor. However, Noah’s God, Jehovah, saw the man in a very different light.
God’s Word says: “Noah walked with the true God.” (Genesis 6:9) What did that mean? Not that God walked on earth, nor that Noah somehow went to heaven. Rather, Noah obeyed his God so closely and loved him so dearly that it was as if he and Jehovah walked together as friends. Thousands of years later, the Bible said of Noah: “Through [his] faith he condemned the world.” (Hebrews 11:7) How was that so? What can we today learn from his faith?
A FAULTLESS MAN IN A TWISTED WORLD
Noah grew up in a world that was rapidly going from bad to worse. It had been bad in the days of his great-grandfather Enoch, another righteous man who walked with God. Enoch had foretold that a day of judgment was coming upon the ungodly people of the world. Now, in Noah’s day, the moral climate was far worse. In fact, from Jehovah’s viewpoint, the earth was ruined, for it was filled with violence. (Genesis 5:22; 6:11; Jude 14, 15) What had happened to make things so much worse?
A terrible tragedy unfolded among God’s spirit sons, the angels. One of them had already rebelled against Jehovah, becoming Satan the Devil by slandering God and luring Adam and Eve into sin. In Noah’s day, other angels began to revolt against Jehovah’s just rule. Forsaking their God-given station in heaven, they came to earth, assumed human form, and took beautiful women as their wives. Those proud, selfish rebel angels were a poisonous influence among humans.—Genesis 3:1-5; 6:1, 2; Jude 6, 7.
Further, the unnatural unions between materialized angels and human women produced hybrid sons of extraordinary size and strength. The Bible calls them Nephilim, which literally means “Fellers”—those who cause others to fall. Vicious bullies, the Nephilim intensified the world’s brutal, ungodly spirit. Little wonder that in the view of the Creator, “the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” Jehovah determined that he would wipe out that wicked society within 120 years.—Genesis 6:3-5.
Imagine trying to raise a family in such a world! Yet, Noah did so. He found a good wife. After Noah turned 500 years of age, his wife bore him three sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth.* Together, the parents had to protect their boys from the vile influences surrounding them. Little boys tend to be filled with awe and admiration for “mighty ones” and “men of fame”—and the Nephilim were just that. Noah and his wife could hardly shield the children from every report about the exploits of those giants, but they could teach the appealing truth about Jehovah God, the one who hates all wickedness. They had to help their boys see that Jehovah felt hurt by the violence and rebellion of the world.—Genesis 6:6.
Parents today may well sympathize with Noah and his wife. Our world is likewise poisoned by violence and rebelliousness. Even entertainment directed at children may be saturated with such themes. Wise parents do all they can to counter such influences by teaching their children about the God of peace, Jehovah, who will one day bring all violence to an end. (Psalm 11:5; 37:10, 11) Success is possible! Noah and his wife succeeded. Their boys grew up to be good men, and they married wives who were likewise willing to put the true God, Jehovah, first in their lives.
“MAKE FOR YOURSELF AN ARK”
One day, Noah’s life changed forever. Jehovah spoke to this beloved servant and told him of His purpose to bring the world of that time to an end. God commanded Noah: “Make for yourself an ark out of wood of a resinous tree.”—Genesis 6:14.
This ark was not a ship, as some assume. It had neither bow nor stern, keel nor rudder—no bends or curves. It was basically a great chest, or box. Jehovah gave Noah the precise dimensions of the ark, some details regarding its design, and directions to coat it inside and out with tar. And he told Noah why: “Here I am bringing the deluge of waters upon the earth . . . Everything that is in the earth will expire.” However, Jehovah gave this direction to Noah: “You must go into the ark, you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.” Noah was also to bring representatives of all kinds of animals. Only those aboard the ark could survive the coming Deluge!—Genesis 6:17-20.
Noah faced a gigantic task. This ark was to be enormous—some 437 feet (133 m) long, 73 feet (22 m) wide, and 44 feet (13 m) tall. It was far larger than the largest seagoing wooden ships built even in modern times. Did Noah back off from this assignment, complain about its challenges, or alter the details to make it easier on himself? The Bible answers: “Noah proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.”—Genesis 6:22.
The work took decades, perhaps 40 to 50 years. There were trees to fell, logs to haul, and beams to hew, shape, and join. The ark was to have three stories, or decks, a number of compartments, and a door in the side. Evidently, there were windows along the top, as well as a roof that likely peaked in the middle with a slight pitch so that water would run off.—Genesis 6:14-16.
As the years passed and the ark took shape, Noah must have been so glad to have the support of his family! There was another aspect to the work that might have been even more challenging than ark building. The Bible tells us that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5) So he courageously took the lead in trying to warn the people of that wicked, godless society about the destruction that was heading their way. How did they respond? Jesus Christ later recalled that time, saying that those people “took no note.” He said that they were so caught up in the affairs of daily life—eating, drinking, and marrying—that they paid no heed to Noah. (Matthew 24:37-39) No doubt many ridiculed him and his family; some may have threatened him and violently opposed him.
Yet, Noah and his family never quit. Even though they lived in a world that was geared toward making their primary pursuit in life, building the ark, seem trivial, misguided, or foolish, they still kept at it faithfully. Christian families today can thus learn a great deal from the faith of Noah and his family. After all, we live in what the Bible calls “the last days” of this world system. (2 Timothy 3:1) Jesus said that our era would be just like the era in which Noah built the ark. If the world reacts to the message about God’s Kingdom with apathy, ridicule, or even persecution, Christians do well to remember Noah. They are not the first to face such challenges.
“GO . . . INTO THE ARK”
Decades passed, and the ark gradually assumed its final shape. As Noah neared his 600th year, he dealt with losses. His father, Lamech, died.* Five years later, Lamech’s father, Noah’s grandfather Methuselah, died at the age of 969—ending the longest human life in the Bible record. (Genesis 5:27) Both Methuselah and Lamech had been contemporaries of the first man, Adam.
In that same year, the patriarch Noah received a new message from Jehovah God: “Go, you and all your household, into the ark.” At the same time, God told Noah to take all the varieties of animals into the ark—by sevens in the case of the clean ones, fit for sacrificial use, and the rest by twos.—Genesis 7:1-3.
It must have been an unforgettable sight. From the horizon they streamed in by the hundreds—walking, flying, crawling, waddling, lumbering—all in a dizzying variety of sizes, shapes, and dispositions. We need not imagine poor Noah trying to corral, wrangle, or somehow cajole all those wild animals into entering the confined space of the ark. The account says that “they went in . . . to Noah inside the ark.”—Genesis 7:9.
Some skeptics might ask: ‘How could such a thing happen? And how could all those animals coexist peacefully in a confined space?’ Consider this: Is it really beyond the power of the Creator of the universe to control his animal creations, even render them tame and docile if needed? Remember, Jehovah is the God who parted the Red Sea and made the sun stand still. Could he not carry out every event described in Noah’s account? Of course he could, and he did!
Granted, God could have chosen to save his animal creations in some other way. However, he wisely chose a way that reminds us of the trust that he originally placed in humans to take care of all the living things on this earth. (Genesis 1:28) Many parents today thus use Noah’s story to teach their children that Jehovah values the people and the animals he has created.
Jehovah told Noah that the Deluge would come in a week. It must have been a hectic time for the family. Imagine the work of getting all the animals and their foodstuffs placed in an orderly fashion and hauling the family’s belongings aboard. Noah’s wife and the wives of Shem, Ham, and Japheth may have been especially concerned about making a livable home aboard that ark.
What of the community? They still “took no note”—even in the face of all the evidence that Jehovah was blessing Noah and his endeavors. They could not help but notice the animals streaming into the ark. But we should not be surprised at their apathy. People today take no note of the overwhelming evidence that we are now living in the final days of this world system of things. And as the apostle Peter foretold, ridiculers have come with their ridicule, mocking those who heed God’s warning. (2 Peter 3:3-6) Likewise, people surely ridiculed Noah and his family.
When did the ridicule end? The account tells us that once Noah brought his family and the animals inside the ark, “Jehovah shut the door behind him.” If any ridiculers were nearby, that divine action no doubt silenced them. If not, the rain surely did—for down it came! And it kept coming and coming and coming—flooding the world, just as Jehovah had said it would.—Genesis 7:16-21.
Did Jehovah take delight in the death of those wicked people? No! (Ezekiel 33:11) On the contrary, he had given them every opportunity to change their ways and do right. Could they have done so? Noah’s life course answered that question. By walking with Jehovah, obeying his God in all things, Noah showed that survival was possible. In that sense, his faith condemned the world of his day; it cast the wickedness of his generation in a clear light. His faith kept him and his family safe. If you imitate the faith of Noah, you may likewise do yourself and those you love a world of good. Like Noah, you can walk with Jehovah God as your friend. And the friendship can last forever!
People in those early days lived far longer than we do today. Their longevity evidently had to do with their being closer to the vitality and perfection that Adam and Eve once had but lost.
Lamech had given his son the name Noah—probably meaning “Rest; Consolation”—and had prophesied that Noah would fulfill the significance of his name by leading mankind to a rest from toiling on cursed ground. (Genesis 5:28, 29) Lamech did not live to see this prophecy fulfilled.