One of the most repeated bible myths is that Noah took 120 years to build the Ark. I have heard many Christians and even bible teachers and Pastors state this without bothering to check if it’s true. Yet it is easily disproven, not by speculation or guesswork, but by the very bible text itself.
The truth is, Noah only spent a few years building the ark, far fewer than 120 and probably around five years or less. How do I know that? The bible tells me!
How has this myth developed, what started it, and how is it supported amongst those who repeat it?
The one verse that is quoted as support (misquoted as it turns out) is where the Lord sees the condition of the earth and its people, and realises that giving them such a long time-span to live (up to 1000 years) is only providing time for increased evil to develop.
And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
Thus, God proposes to limit man’s existence to 120 year at most. “His days” means, how long his lifespan will be. That fact can be proven by comparing the lifespans of those living before the flood, and those born afterwards.
For example Adam lived 930 years, Jared lived to 962, and Jared’s grandson Methuselah lived the longest in history at 969 years. After the flood, however, the lifespan rapidly decreased for all, until we see that Abraham’s lifespan was 175 and Moses died at 120.
In the present world very few have reached 120 years of age, indeed that is the exception.
A Thousand Years
Interestingly, in the renewed earth after the return of the Lord, during the millennium (the thousand years of peace), people once again live a longer lifespan, being destined to live almost 1000 years. This is only because wickedness, in the presence of the Lord as king of the earth, is being suppressed and not allowed to become the problem it was in Noah’s day.
And furthermore, when the NEW earth and heaven is created, those who are created and born as humans during that time will have the original lifespan of the pre-flood era, a thousand years; those who have died and been resurrected previous to the New Earth will of course have eternal life and never die again.
Isaiah refers to the Millennium and the age of the people at that time.
Is 65:20 “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,—
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”
So instead of an infant death at a few days old, 100 years will be considered mere childhood! If the span of life is 1000 years, then at age 100 you would be the equivalent of ten years old!
The Days of Noah
To return to the matter in hand, the time Noah spent in building the ark, let’s briefly review what Genesis tells us.
Firstly, we are told that Noah was 500 years old when he had his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth. “Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” (Genesis 5:32)
Secondly, Noah was 600 years old when the flood came. (Immediately ruling out the 120 years for building the Ark.)
“Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth. So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood.” [Gen 7:6]
From the above we see that there are 100 years between the birth of Noah’s sons and the flood. Therefore, again, some claim that Noah spent 100 years building the Ark.
However, importantly, when God issued the command to build the Ark, Noah’s sons were grown men with wives! In those days, the age of around 100 was normal for getting married. (Gen 6:18)
Furthermore, we know from Genesis 11:10 that Shem was 100 years old when his first son was born – and when was that? TWO YEARS after the flood. Often, the first child arrives around a year after marriage, so to be conservative we might say that Shem – as with others of his day – married his wife at the age of (let’s say) 95?
Now, notice that God spoke of Shem’s WIFE when he commanded Noah to build the Ark. Unless what he said was a pure prophecy, God already knew that Noah’s three sons were married. – “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark — you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” [Genesis 6:18]
The Timing of the Years
Therefore, the sequence of events must have been as follows:
- Noah born – [year 0]
- Noah’s sons born – year 500
- Shem married – year 595 approx
- Noah’s father died year 595 approx
- God spoke to Noah – year 595-9 (?)
- Flood came – 600
- Shem’s first child born – 602 (Shem aged 100)
From the biblical record we can see that between the command to build the ark and the coming of the flood there was probably a period of about five years!! NOT 100, not 120.
It may even have been less than five years in the building, since Shem and his brothers were all newly married but there were as yet no children born to them. This must have been the early years of their marriages, and that is why I am guessing at around five years. It could have been much less.
Another bible myth, leading to many images, movies, songs and so forth, is that ALL the “animals went in two by two”.
But reading the actual verses, we see that only the UNCLEAN animals were in pairs, but the CLEAN animals and the birds were in sevens, not twos. This was to make sure the balance of nature after the flood was in preference towards the clean animals, so that nature itself would be cleansed as well as the earth and mankind.
See Genesis 6:19 “And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.”
BUT further explained in Genesis 7:1-3
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.”
Genesis 5:28–31 Noah’s Father
“And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed. And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died.”
Lamech is the son of Methuselah, and the father of Noah (Genesis 5:29), and Genesis 5:28–31 records that Lamech was 182 (according to the Masoretic Text; 188 according to the Septuagint) years old at the birth of Noah and lived for another 595 years, attaining an age at death of 777 years, five years before the Flood.