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Noah's Ark

In the Bible, Noah's ark was a boat that God commanded Noah to build to keep him, his family and a core breeding stock of the world’s animals safe from the impending flood. The phrase Noah’s Ark is also used as the title of the story of Noah and the Ark, found in Genesis chapters 6-9.

Table of contents
1 The Ark
2 The Flood
3 After the Flood
4 The Flood Under Scrutiny
5 Many Flood Accounts

The Ark

The ark was built of cypress wood and covered with pitch, 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. However, the actual size of the ark cannot be fully ascertained, as we do not know the size of the cubit meant. If it were like the varying Egyptian cubit, its dimensions could be as little as 129m × 21.5m × 12.9m or even as much as 165m × 27m × 16.5m. Or if it were more like the strict Sumerian cubit, it would be 155.2m × 25.9m × 15.5m.

Traditional pictures of the ark typically show something shaped like a boat, though the Hebrew word, "tebah", meaning "box", may suggest the actual shape of the ark, which would seem more practical for stability and volume as consistent with the narrative, considering the nature of the deluge.

The directions given by God appear to be for an oblong three-storey structure, with a door in the side and a window in the roof. Though, just what the window was, is debated, as there is only one dimension given to the window. The Hebrew word for window, "tsohar", merely indicates a "light aperture", giving no indication of its size or shape. God gave him the direction to "complete it to the extent of a cubit upward". The use of the words "extent" and "upward" seem to indicate much work and raising rather than building the window, which suggest the possibility that the window may have extended around the whole of the roof, which would act as an exhaust and make fresh air more available to the family and animals aboard. Though no certainty on the subject can be determined. There is no mention of a cover or door for the window.

The Flood

The rains that fell, in the account, should not be taken lightly. The word in the Hebrew, "mabbuwl", often translated as "deluge", literally means "storehouse of water" or "heavenly ocean", indicating that a massive amount of the earth's store of water was held aloft in the atmosphere until the figurative "springs" of the earth's ocean were somehow "broken open", and the figurative "floodgates" of the heavens were opened, letting the water cover "all the tall mountains" "up to fifteen cubits."

In the ark were Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives. They also took seven pairs of each kind of clean animal, two pairs of each kind of unclean animal and seven pairs of each kind of bird. The ark kept them safe for the forty days of rainfall and about another year until the flood waters receded.

After the Flood

Gen. 8:4 reads, in the KJV, "And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat." (And modern Christian translations, and the old JPS, are similar.) Ararat is a region in Armenia, according to Biblical scholars, so the verse So the widespread traditional belief that the Book of Genesis identifies Mt. Ararat as the resting place of Noah's Ark must be described as a misconception.

When the Earth was dry again, God commanded Noah to take his family and all the animals out of the ark and concluded a covenant with him, in which he promised never to flood the Earth again, and imposed a basic set of laws on humanity.

The Flood Under Scrutiny

Critics of the account, however, suggest that the flood was, though quite large, just a local one that affected the Red Sea region when it was possibly first flooded by means of the breaking of a natural barrier or sea wall that originally prevented the water from flooding the area. Though, the detail of how Noah knew to build an ark to preserve his family alive is explained as simple legend built around a momentous event in the early expansion of the human race.

Many Flood Accounts

Although many cultures have stories of a great flood, the story of Noah’s Ark is probably the best-known of these. The next most notable is the Sumerian story of Utnapishtim (found in the Epic of Gilgamesh) which has broadly the same structure and plot as Noah’s Ark, suggesting the possibility that the Biblical account has drawn influence from the archaeologically older Sumerian depiction. Noah also has a counterpart in Greek mythology, Deucalion. In Indian scriptures, a terrible flood was supposed to have left only one survivor - a saint named Manu, who was saved by the god Vishnu in the form of a fish. Many hundreds more extra-biblical variations of the flood account exist in cultures around the world.