God looked down with sorrow on these human creatures He loved. It so displeased Him that they would not abide by His rules of happy living that he decided to do an awesome thing. He would blot them out of the world by a mighty flood! (Genesis 6:7.) He knew that if human beings were to go on and on in their evil ways they would soon destroy themselves in all kinds of cruel, painful ways — and without any hope of living again. It was a loving and merciful thing God planned, because He would be bringing them back to life thousands of years later when Jesus Christ would be ruling Earth. Then they would be brought to see how much wiser, safer and happier they could be by obeying their Creator. At the time when God decided to do away with the people of the Earth by a mighty flood, there was one man who lived according to God's laws. His name was Noah. (Genesis 6:8.) Noah knew that the growing misery among men was due to their disobedience. (Gen. 6:5.) He told the people who lived around him that they should feel sorry for doing the wrong things, and start living according to God's ways. But people wouldn't take him seriously. One day Noah was startled to hear the Eternal speaking to him. Said God, "Because man has disobeyed me and become so evil, and because people's lives are so miserable and unhappy in all their violence and fighting, I am going to take away their lives for now. But I shall bring them all back to life again in the future when my Son Jesus will be ruling Earth, and when people will live by my rules and be happy." At first Noah could hardly believe what he had heard. He wondered if God
really meant to strike him dead in the next instant along with every other human being on Earth. But God is neither harsh nor cruel. He is far more loving and merciful than any human being. "I am going to spare you and your family," God told Noah. "You have learned how to enjoy a happy and healthy life by obeying me. Therefore you shall keep on living. All other people will be drowned in a great flood that will cover the whole planet." "But if the world is to be flooded, how shall my family and I escape?" asked Noah. "You must build a large ship," God replied. "It must be large enough to hold at least one pair of every kind of creature on Earth. I shall tell you just how to build the ship." (Gen. 6:14-16.)
Noah Builds an Ark
Although Noah was about four hundred eighty years old at this time, he, and some years later his three sons, obediently began the great task. (Gen. 5:32). You see, people who lived back in the early time of human beings generally lived to be much older than we do now because their bodies were closer to being as perfect as were the bodies of Adam and Eve. It wasn't long before people found out what Noah and his sons were doing. They came from many miles around to watch the laying of the keel of the great boat. "Who ever heard of building a boat that size?" most of them laughed. "They must be crazy," others said. "There's no water to float it in for miles and miles." "They think there will be a great flood that will cover all of Earth," others scoffed. "Now where would so much water come from?" Years passed. The ship, or ark, grew larger. The closer it came to being finished, the more people jeered. Today, people build large ships in only a few months. But that is with many men and powerful machines. Probably only Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, worked on the ark at the start though there may have been other men helping from time to time. For nearly a hundred years they carefully carried out the ship plans by which God directed them! Meanwhile, Noah patiently kept on telling those who made fun of him that the flood would come in due time. He believed God without asking God for proof. "It will come because you have been paying no attention to God," Noah told them. "However, if you will turn from your wrong ways and obey God's rules, He will spare you from the flood." But no one outside of Noah's family believed what he said.
"You have been saying that for a hundred years, and there still isn't the slightest sign of a flood," people sneered. "You are only a religious crackpot who wants to create a lot of attention!"
The Ark Is Finished
Twenty years more passed (Gen. 6:3) while Noah and his sons listened to the scoffing of onlookers. At last the ship was finished. God had given people one hundred and twenty years to think about their sins and decide to live differently. (II Peter 2:5.) No one could say that God wasn't patient. People must have admired Noah and his sons, however, for their ability to build such a ship. It was higher than a four-story building, and ten times as long as it was high! Inside, it was divided into stables and cages for the many creatures that would go into it. It was to be a huge, floating zoo. There were many rooms for supplies. There were stairways, ventilator shafts, feeding troughs and everything that would be needed for the strangest live cargo ever to ride a ship. When at last the ship was smeared inside and out with pitch to make certain it would not leak, Noah was almost six hundred years old! His sons were then older than most people are today when they die. But work wasn't over yet. There was the big task of gathering food for the animals that would be aboard the ship. Tons and tons of hay, grain, dried fruit and dried meat were hauled from the surrounding country and stowed aboard the ark. Huge tanks of fresh water were also stored. Still people came to laugh and make fun of Noah. They could not and would not believe that world-wide disaster was coming upon them. Instead, they felt there was a glorious future for man as he spread out to conquer the whole Earth. It was much as it is today, when a few men chosen by God are warning all nations of great calamity that will sweep the whole world within only a few years. Instead of heeding these warnings, people are looking forward to a push-button life in which there will be less work and more money and marvelous trips to the Moon or Mars or some other planet. And just as man's hopes were shattered in Noah's time, so will they be shattered again. Even a little child who will heed the warnings is wiser than the college professor who shakes his head at them. It wasn't easy for Noah and his family to listen to the unkind remarks scoffers made. No one likes to be sneered at by other people. "Where are all the animals you are going to take for a boat ride?" was the question jeeringly put to Noah so often. Then the scoffers would add, "It will take you an other hundred and twenty years to round up enough animals to fill that thing you've built!..
Even the Animals Seek Shelter!
Nevertheless, Noah believed God. He built a road up to a large door in the side of the ark, so that animals could walk right into it. We don't realize how great a test this was of Noah's belief in God. Noah had spent a hundred and twenty years of his life preaching and preparing the ship. He was a man who was well-known and had been highly respected in his part of the world. It took courage to stand up for what seemed foolishness in the minds of other people. One day those who came to scoff suddenly failed to scoff. They just stood and stared at what they saw. All kinds of animals and birds were gathering around the ark! (Gen. 7:8-9.) If they expected Noah and his men to have a lot of trouble getting the creatures into the ship, they were wrong. God gave the creatures an impulse to seek out the ark, and they came obediently, though many of them were wild and very ferocious by nature. Of all creatures on Earth clean enough to be eaten, seven pairs entered the ship. Of all unclean creatures, one pair entered — a male and a female of each. Soon they were
safe within the cages and stables that would be their homes for many months. After this great throng of creatures had entered the ship, Noah and his wife and
their three sons and their wives took a last look at the world that was to be drowned. Most of the people who had gathered to see what was happening were still jeering. A
few were so amazed to see the animals entering the ark that they began to wonder if Noah's warnings from God were true. But most of them were like the people of today
who will not believe what the Bible itself tells about how our very own America will be destroyed or be taken captive. People then, like people now, could not recognize the truth because they did not want to obey God. A day passed. Then another and another. Still there was no sign of a flood. Almost a week went by. (Gen. 7:4.) Many of the onlookers went away laughing. Others joined the crowd for the first time, for news of this great ship had spread everywhere, and people were curious. Noah and his sons had prepared a door to close up the opening in the side of the ark. God caused it to be closed and sealed. (Gen. 7:16.) If there were people around at the time to see this happen, they must have been very startled. "A week in there, and they'll be yelling for us to bring axes and chop them free!" someone yelled, and there were shouts of laughter.