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Noah's Horrific Ordeal: The Ark Is Not a Feel-Good Story

Christian educator, former librarian, and mother of three, Claire Abraham proclaims the Word of the Lord in gratitude and love.

Noah's Ark as Children's Toy

 Exhibit in the Museum für Sächsische Volkskunst, Dresden, Germany

Exhibit in the Museum für Sächsische Volkskunst, Dresden, Germany

Available in a Toy Box Near You

Oh, my! Isn't this ADORABLE? Here's a toy Noah's ark! There's Noah, and his wife, and check out all the precious animals! Let's act out all the parts, and don't forget to make all the animal sounds! What a fun activity! And even better - this particular toy Noah's ark is a masterpiece - a piece of fine art, now over a hundred years old and lovingly enshrined in the Museum für Sächsische Volkskunst in Germany.

Of course, if this is too rich for your blood, you can always check out more contemporary Noah's Ark toys. Put them right next to your toy farm.

I actually played with the Fisher-Price Noah's Ark when I was little, but I'd have a hard time giving it to my grand-niece with a straight face now. I've actually thought this through.

Noah's Ark is About the End of the World

Genesis tells us that God saw evil in the all the people of the world, and He decided to wash it all away and start over with only one single extended family - Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives. Everybody else - including all the relatives of Noah's daughter-in-laws - were toast. Or, in this case, possibly they were flotsam and jetsam.

These are the People God Washed Away

This 16th - century drawing shows Lamech, Noah's father, pointing at children in the streets. In the background we can see various people doing immoral acts of one kind or another. Lamech didn't get a ticket on board the Ark; maybe he was too old to withstand the journey, or maybe he died before the deluge began. Since immoral behavior continued after the Flood was over - and the Bible is quite thorough in covering all of it - it's enough to make me wonder if the Flood actually solved any problems.

How Big Was the Ark?

According to Genesis, the Ark was to be "three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high." That comes out to it being 510 feet long and 50 feet tall. Now, that's as tall as a four-story house, but it's dwarfed by many of the largest cruise ships available today. But more importantly - was it really up for the job? What was the job?

This boat was assigned to house eight people for over a year, PLUS at least two of every single kind of animal on the planet. This means Noah not only had to build this huge boat with a tiny crew of helpers, but he also had to capture, tame, and care for hundreds of thousands of animals.

Including predators.

Including predators that almost certainly wanted to eat the other captured animals. And... this is important. Every single one of these animals poops. Daily. Including the elephants. Where did they put the elephants?

Now, how on earth are eight people going to feed and water thousands upon thousands of animals daily while also scooping up their refuse and keeping them from killing each other? I wonder if God dispensed tranquilizers and the Bible decided not to mention it. (No, really, that thought actually occurred to me.)

How on earth did they deal with the SMELL?

Who Was Left Behind?

There Must Have Been Much Mourning on the Ark

Millions of people - all of Noah's friends, relatives and neighbors - perished on the Ark. You have to feel for Noah's daughter-in-law, Sedeqetelebab. She's safe - well, comparatively safe - on board the ark, but everybody she's ever known is dead.

Her mother.

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Her father.

Her brothers and sisters.

Her closest friends.

The women she met at the marketplace.

As they heaved and buffeted through the storm, they must have seen faces in the waters. Terrified faces, faces in agony.

Faces of children.

Possibly the bodies of dead babies.

This is not a cute story about animals.

Possible Explanations (That Are Not Entirely Literal)

Did This Really Happen?

There are two things you must understand about my view on this story going forward.

1. I do not believe that every single event in the Old Testament literally happened exactly as it was written.

2. I absolutely do believe in an infinite and benevolent God who inspired most of what is written in the Old Testament.

So, if there seems to be a lot of hyperbolic or nonsensical information in Noah's Ark story, what should we make of it?

The Black Sea

A Scientific Theory: The Black Sea Deluge

Many scientists believe that the Black Sea was flooded with seawater from the Mediterranean about 8,000 years ago. Melting glaciers from the last ice age had filled the seas and caused the sea level to rise throughout Eastern Europe and parts of Asia. This may have greatly influenced the settlements throughout Israel and Northern Turkey. Noah's flood may have actually happened - but it might not have been the whole world, and there might not have been a huge boat involved.

Noah's Not-So-Big Flood

Epic of Gilgamesh - Hey, We Told This Story First!

It turns out that Israel wasn't the only ancient country that had a Flood story. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest human story ever written down, and it contains the narrative of a man named Utnapishtim who was warned by the great god Ea that he must destroy his house and build a boat.

The story went much the same way. Utnapishtim built his boat, which was 120 cubits long, and filled it with - guess what! - animals! More elephant poop!

Then he filled the boat with ALL of his relatives and friends, and they survived seven days of storms while the humans all turned to clay. They ended up on top of a mountain, and he sent out two birds before disembarking.

So. Same flood? Or did the story of Gilgamesh wander over to Israel through means of the oral tradition?

Come to think of it... the Flood story can be found in many different versions all over the world. Was there one Flood? Or were big floods so common that every culture has a story that shows how they mythologized their collective fear?

And what DID everybody do with all the elephant poop?

Noah vs. Gilgamesh

Flood Myths Throughout the World

ContinentMyth Name

South America

The Unu Pachakuti

North America

Choctaw Flood Myth


"Great Yu Who Controlled the Waters"


Yima and the Vara


Matsya and Manu



Here's a smattering of the many different Flood narratives from around the world

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