PERHAPS few noticed on that morning the wind was a little stronger than usual. By noon there were violent gusts that grew into gales. People were forced to shelter. Strong winds weren't very unusual, but when swift-moving masses of unusually dark clouds boiled up over the horizon, residents began to worry. To add to the growing concern, there were strange rumblings within the ground. The darkness grew worse. The rumblings became so strong that the Earth quivered. Then, just seven days after God had told Noah to go into the ark, Earth's crust broke open here and there, and giant streams of water shot out of the ground. (Gen. 7:11.) At the same time, huge waves roared in from the seas and spread over the coastal areas. Lightning flashed and cracked, followed by deafening roars of thunder. Torrents of water burst from the darkened skies. This, at last, was just the start of the terrible thing Noah had warned would come upon the world! It was the most awesome thing that had happened to the planet since Satan's sin had resulted in all of Earth's surface being torn up so that nothing could live on it. By now most people were becoming crazed with fear. No matter what they did or where they went, water came at them. No one could survive without shelter, but there was no lasting shelter. Rivers flooded the valleys where most people lived. Because of the constant cloudbursts, climbing to higher elevations was almost impossible. Swift torrents of water from the hills and mountains swept brush, trees, rocks, mud and people into the rising waters below. Only the strongest were able to battle their way to higher ground, and then only eventually to lose their lives by drowning or violent injury or murder. Meanwhile, water had swirled up around the ark and slowly lifted it free of the ground. Many who had jeered at Noah had realized that the
inside of the ship was the only safe, dry place left. (Gen. 7:18.) A few who hadn't been able to flee elsewhere had waded up to the ark and screamed
to be let in. With rain pounding loudly on the ship, no one inside could hear the frantic shrieks. Hands clawed feebly at the pitch-smeared
siding, and then disappeared in the rapidly rising and turbulent water.
In His great mercy, God had given the people one hundred and twenty years to heed His warnings through Noah., The people had ignored Noah, which was the same as ignoring their Creator. Now it was too late to change or to pray for help. It is often too late to expect God to help us if we postpone asking for help beyond the long periods of mercy God extends to us. Day after day the water kept rumbling out of the sky and up from the ground. It swelled to the tops of the highest mountains. Any people or animals who were strong enough to fight their way that far must have battled among themselves for the last gasps of air before they were swallowed up. Within a few weeks the water was so deep that the peaks of the highest mountains were well below the surface of the water. (Gen. 7:20.) By then every person on Earth had been drowned except the eight in the ark. For forty days and nights water gushed supernaturally from the heavy, gloomy cloud layer. Then the rain stopped. By this time the blanket of water covering the planet was a few miles deep above the land and normal sea surfaces. But Noah and his family and cargo floated safely as high as some of our passenger planes now fly above the clouds! For a hundred and fifty days the water stayed at its deepest. (Gen. 7:24.) During this time, the people in the ark weren't idle. Whatever the tasks, they must have been hard to perform in the weeks in which the ark pitched and rolled through massive waves pushed up by the wind. God caused this strong wind to blow so that it would evaporate the water as fast as possible.
The Waters Lower
One day soon the tops of the highest mountains began to appear above the water. The ark drifted up against one of the mountains. (Gen. 8:5.) The water level kept lowering, leaving the ark stranded high on the side of the mountain. Noah waited more than two months while the water kept going down. After that he sent out birds to see if the distant land below was still flooded. At last one of the birds returned with a green leaf in its beak,
after which it flew away and failed to return. This proved to Noah that the water had drained off to where plant life had started redeveloping, and that the valleys were ready to live in again. (Gen. 8:11.) The men opened the top of the ark, then the only eight people left on
Earth excitedly came out on the top deck to view land for the first time in more than a year. (Verse 13.)
After being cooped up for so many months, the sight of dry ground was a wonderful welcome sight to Noah and his family, but it was strange to look down on a silent world where there was nobody to scoff at them.
A New Life Begins
"Come out of the ark," God told Noah. "Bring the creatures with you. I want all living beings to spread out over the Earth and produce families.', (Verse 17.) The large door in the side of the ark was broken open, and a wide ramp type of gangplank was built from the door to the ground. Then all the creatures were freed from their stables and cages to return to a new life amid the new greenery of the Earth. But Noah didn't set all of the animals and birds free. He was so thankful to his Creator for sparing him and his family that he built an altar on the mountain, and sacrificed some of the clean creatures as an offering to God. (Verse 20.) God was pleased with Noah. He blessed him and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. They were told to rebuild homes and raise children, so that many people would again live in the world from which the disobedient had been purged. "I shall never again bring a flood over the whole planet", God told Noah and his sons. (Gen. 9:11.) "As a promise to you that it will not happen again, look at this sign that will sometimes be seen in the sky." (Verses 12-17.) Thereupon the Eternal caused a beautiful arc of many colors to appear from horizon to horizon. Whenever people see this colorful arc, called a rainbow, they are seeing the sign of the promise God made to man more than four thousand, three hundred years ago!