How Was it Possible for Noah and His Family to Actually Build the Ark?

In a previous Q&A “How Long Did it Take Noah to Build the Ark?” it was shown, applying several assumptions, that it could not have taken more than 75 years to build the ark – not the 120 years that some have assumed.   Nevertheless, that is a considerable amount of time.

In Genesis 6:15, we read about the specific dimensions that God gave to Noah: “And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.” Wikipedia states that “The Near Eastern or Biblical cubit is usually estimated as approximately 457.2 mm (18 in).” Therefore, applying this to the ark, the length would be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high.

A newspaper report in July 2016 gave details about a project that had recently completed in the USA. It read: “A $100 million representation of Noah’s Ark opened to ticket holders Thursday in Williamstown, Kentucky, but critics say the religious enterprise shouldn’t have received government tax breaks.

“The massive exhibit, claimed to be the largest timber frame structure in the world, sits on the grounds of a Christian theme park, Ark Encounter, a for-profit enterprise founded by Ken Ham. He said the park is an evangelical tool aimed at teaching creationism, a literal interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Genesis. The ark is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high, constructed based on dimensions derived from scripture, Ham said. Its three decks span more than 120,000 square feet. ‘It is much more than you can ever imagine,’ Ham said. ‘When you see the architectural algorithms you need, engineering diagrams … and all the supporters, thousands upon thousands of supporters who financially made this possible … I mean it’s amazing.’”

It can be seen from this report that they have used a cubit slightly larger than 18 inches. It is 510 feet (155 m) long, 85 feet (26 m) wide, and 51 feet (16 m).

The entire ark project took 18 months to complete. To meet the deadline, additional workers and specialists were required and about 1,000 people worked on the project overall, with more than 300 people working on site at one time.   If that was the case, how could Noah and his family have built this in 75 years or less, and without all of the modern equipment that man has at his disposal today?

It is important to keep in mind, that however large or difficult an assignment might be, God would not ask anyone to do something that was impossible to do.

One online commentator has made an assumption that if only Noah and his three sons were available to work, the situation would be as follows: He has worked out the overall volume of the ark, and applied a worst case scenario that 20% of the ark’s volume was worked, lumber that the four men had to gather, transport to the construction site and do the necessary shaping and install.  He further states: “An experienced crew of four could have installed, we assume, an average of 15 cubic feet of wood per day. If anything, this estimate seems low, but this is the worst case and it would take sixty-five years under this worst case scenario!  A big job, yes, but Noah was a faithful man, and accomplished the task. By applying these calculations, it can be seen that it is entirely possible to complete the task as required.”

Even if more than the four men were needed to do all of the work, maybe the four wives could have helped and Noah could have employed local workers, who may well have been sceptical but who may have taken the opportunity to work and get paid for their work. The Bible simply does not make any reference to whether or not there were others who might have helped or not. It only says that God told Noah to build the ark—but not, that he had to do it alone.

What about the necessary equipment to make such a large boat?  We must never forget that Noah was told by God to do this job under His divine direction.

On a website about ancient technology, we find these selected comments:

“(In addition to Egypt,) high levels of manufacturing and building technology are evident in ancient cultures of China, India, South America and many other places. Obviously most has been lost over the years, so we must assume there was even more on offer than we are aware of.

“History demonstrates that technology usually takes a few centuries to mature. For example, the development of the Greek trireme (an ancient Greek or Roman war galley with three banks of oars) in the climate of competing marine empires resulted in the huge ships over 100m long. History also shows technology is easily lost when a civilization changes or crumbles, such as the demise of the huge Chinese junks due to a change of government policy. With this in mind, it should be safe to presume that the pre-flood manufacturing expertise was higher than the best Egyptian culture (which had to regain momentum after the flood). This is quite a high level of technology, in many ways challenging even the much later Greek and Roman civilizations.”

This website also covers timber processing: “Noah, a healthy 500-year-old with an extremely Godly heritage, should be smart and capable. How about a simple, low tech animal powered saw? For working with timber, Noah might have had some sort of milling saw, a variety of smaller hand-saws for detail work, chisels, the axe and/or adze (a tool similar to an axe), and hand drills for dowels and spike/nail pilot holes, metal wedges for splitting timber, and the good old hammer.”

Also covered by this website is a piece about ovens, as follows: “The working of steel implies very high temperatures were achievable. This requires purpose-built furnaces.  Firing of pottery is trivial compared to melting or producing steel. Metal spikes may have been used to join structural timbers in certain critical areas of the hull of Noah’s Ark.  Steel tools are permitted; Tubal-Cain was doing this long before Noah came on the scene. Bronze or other copper based alloys could be the prominent metal, although the short working life of the ark and pitch coating would make steel acceptable. Heat was probably required for production or preparation of the pitch coating – although a much lower ‘cooking’ temperature.”

In a National Geographic piece, titled, “Unconventional ideas of Egyptian lifting methods”, they state the following: “Rope is valid, like the Egyptian ropes of grasses, papyrus etc. Wooden pulleys are very effective and easily fabricated, no problem for the Egyptians either. Methods of lifting were obviously employed in the raising of 300 tonnes obelisks in Egypt. For example, ‘the Vatican in 1586 moved a 330-ton Egyptian obelisk to St. Peter’s Square. It is known that lifting the stone into vertical position required 74 horses and 900 men using ropes and pulleys.’”

We must also remember that the ancient pyramids in Egypt were built without the aid of all of the modern equipment that enables such wonders to be built today.

Not too long after the flood, we read in Genesis 11:6: “And the LORD said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.’” The indication is that unless they were stopped, mankind would move ahead quickly to do great things, and so God took the appropriate action at that time by confusing the language.

If Noah building the ark is still considered impossible by some, thinking that it didn’t, or couldn’t happen, then the veracity of God’s Word is questioned.   As we have said on so many occasions, if one part of the Bible is wrong, then the rest cannot be trusted either!   Noah and his family (perhaps with the help of hired workers) did build the ark because God commanded them to do so and we have the biblical record of this.

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)