Could the Ark Hold the Animals?

Children as well as adults find their imaginations stirred by the Old Testament’s account of Noah building an enormous ark and gathering the animals, and of the great Flood that covered the earth.

Many have often wondered whether such an ark could really have held so many animals. Encyclopedias tell us that there are about 500,000 species of animals on earth, yet Noah brought the animals into the ark by pairs and sometimes groups of seven. Imagine the space required to contain them and their food supply for a year!

The Bible tells us the ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. The cubit was a common unit of measurement in ancient times, but the length of a cubit was determined differently by each nation. Some considered a cubit the distance from the elbow to the middle finger; others thought it to be the distance of the entire arm; while still others measured it as the length of a newborn baby. A cubit could vary in length from about 45 to 58 cm. (18 to 22 1/2 inches). Using the cubit’s lower standard of 45 cm., we find that the ark measured 221/2 by 135 meters (75 by 450 feet) with a height of 131/2 meters (45 feet). That would make the ark considerably larger than a football field and about three stories high. The ark was divided into three floors, providing a total of 3,037 square meters (101,250 square feet) of living area. All this space was usable, since the ark did not require engines to propel it through the water.

Even with such a tremendous capacity, could the ark have housed the animals described in the Bible? To answer that question, we must determine what Genesis means by the term kind (Genesis 3:7). Some scholars feel that kind approximates our modern classification of “family,” which would put the maximum number of animals on the ark at about 700. But other scholars feel that kind refers to species instead of animal “families.” There are approximately 1,072,300 animal species (a figure provided by the American taxonomist Ernst Mayer), and many did not need to be aboard. Fish, sponges, many insects, and amphibians would have survived the flood waters. But even if we assume that as many as 50,000 animals were on the ark, there was sufficient room to accommodate them.

Source: The Land of the Bible, J.I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney, Willian White, Jr

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