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Discovery Magazine 6/1/2016

Was the Ark Big Enough for Its Passengers?

Genesis chapters 6-9 tell us about a time in history 4,000-5,000 years ago when the people of the world had become so disobedient to God that He decided to destroy them with a Flood. Only righteous Noah and his family were saved, since they obeyed God and built a massive wooden boat so they could survive the rising waters. Some people today refuse to believe that such an event ever happened, because they believe there are parts of the story that cannot be true. For example, it is believed that there are some 11 million living species on the planet. Some argue that if Noah was told to bring two of each species on the Ark, as well as even more of the clean animals (Genesis 7:2-3), how could the Ark be big enough to hold so many creatures—millions upon millions?

First, it is important to understand that not every “species” of animal was on the Ark. Today’s idea of a “species” did not exist when Moses wrote the book of Genesis. Instead, he used the word “kinds” when telling Noah what to bring on the Ark (Genesis 6:20)—the same word that was used to describe what God made during the Creation week (1:11,21,24). The word “kind” would be closer to our word “family” or “genus” when classifying animal groups. So Noah would have probably had representatives of the single dogkind, for example—not representatives of each dog species (the coyotes, wolves, domestic dogs, jackals, etc.).

Also, we must keep in mind that not even all of the kinds of life we find on Earth were on the Ark. For example, only those plants that were needed to feed the passengers on the Ark were brought—not representatives of all of the plant kinds. The swimming creatures were not onboard, of course, nor many insects, invertebrates, fungi, bacteria, or protozoa—all of which are included in the 11 million species that are said to be alive on the Earth.

When it’s all said and done, there were probably only a few thousand animals on the Ark, not millions nor even hundreds of thousands. The Ark was a football field and a half long, at least, and at least 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall—an enormous ship. John Woodmorappe did a study to determine whether the Ark would have been large enough to house 16,000 animals—representatives of each “kind” of creatures that would have probably been on the Ark. He took into account the space needed for food, water, waste disposal, heating, air, and lighting. He found that the size of the Ark was more than what was needed to house that many animals on such a large vessel. And what’s more, if the “cubit” (which was the unit of length that Moses used to describe the size of the Ark) was longer than 18 inches (what is often assumed to be the length of a cubit), the Ark quickly becomes even larger and more spacious.

But wait a minute…what about the dinosaurs? How could the Ark have been large enough to hold all the dinosaurs, and especially, the sauropods, like Apatosaurus? Or the large theropod dinosaurs, like T-Rex? Keep in mind two things: first, the average size of an adult dinosaur was about the size of a rhinoceros; and second, the Bible does not say how old the animals were that were on the Ark. Were you as big as you are now when you were born? It is very likely that the animals on the Ark were young, maybe even little babies. Why? Besides the fact that they would take up less space, need less food, and make less waste, it is also important to remember that the animals on the Ark would have to leave the Ark and have enough time to spread out over the Earth and reproduce after the Flood. If they were already adult animals, they would not have nearly as much time to disperse and repopulate the Earth before they died.

The bottom line is that there is no reason to disbelieve what the Bible says when it tells us the story of Noah and the Ark. The Ark was large enough to hold the passengers that God sent to Noah to put on the Ark. Obviously, since God knew what He wanted on the Ark, He knew exactly how large it needed to be to house that many animals. The dimensions He gave to Noah made sure there was enough space for everything with a ticket to board.

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