God told Noah to build the ark out of wood and pitch. Is that because these were the best materials available in Noah’s day? Probably not.
Imagine what life would be like if Leonardo da Vinci were still alive today as a strong and healthy middle-aged man of 564 years with an expected life span of about 300 more. What progress would he have made over the last 500 years in applying the ideas we see drawn in his note pad?
Consider also that, in this scenario, everyone on the face of the earth lives an average 850 years. That would mean Leonardo has worked century after century alongside Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Franklin, Tesla, Edison, Einstein, and all of history’s other scientific geniuses born centuries before Leonardo’s birth to the present today. Think of the discovery and invention all that centuries’ long collaboration implies and its likely impact on our world.
Well, that’s a rough description of the minds at work up to the time of the flood. Yet, most of us think that these men and women plodded along with technology barely above that of a cave man. We imagine them living in tents and cooking over an open fire because there was no better way.
More than longevity
For a society of people to live on average 850 years and not advance much beyond the invention of the wheel in more than 17 centuries, they would have to be the dumbest group of humans ever to walk the earth.
Truth is, these folks were not dumb at all, maybe not a single one of them. To the contrary, the men named in the Genesis 5 genealogy and their contemporaries were the brightest and most capable people who have ever lived. The average person in that time would possess the creative and intellectual capacities of Leonardo, Newton, and Tesla combined.
This is because those living before Noah’s flood were far closer descendants to the first man, who was created perfect in his body and mind, than we are today. Although the curse of sin had befallen all of them, it had not taken the toll on the human gene pool that it would over the next thousand years. That’s also why it was O.K. for Cain to marry his sister, by the way.
Along with near-perfect genes, these impressive folk lived on an earth that, while again under the same curse of sin as our world is today, had suffered far less under the curse at that time as well as having retained the protective elements put in place at creation (which would be lost during the flood).
Common sense says all of this is true, yet many of us still doubt they could refrigerate their food.
Not a trace of it
Do we still believe that just because we cannot put our hands on something, it doesn’t or never did exist?
There is a reason why the benefactor of the Georgia Guidestones erected them in stone and not steel. That is, stone stands forever. The Guidestones are intended as a message to a future civilization, meant to be found hundreds if not thousands of years after our present civilization destroys itself. Their maker wanted them to last until then, so chose stone as his medium.
Upon the discovery of a modern society in ruins buried layers and layers under silt and such, not much of the glass, metal, wood, and other building components would remain. Chemical traces might betray its technological level, as would nuclear radiation, but those readings would not necessarily point clearly to the right conclusion.
Now, add the total destruction of the earth by water with much of what is on the surface of the land swept out to the deepest parts of the world’s seas, and it’s probably not going to be found at all.
Why would we think it all went there?
Because God is really big on faith.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
In Genesis 6:14, God tells Noah, “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.”
No one knows what ‘gopher wood’ is. Later translations of the Holy Bible, such as the New International Version, render it ‘cypress wood,’ but no one knows for certain. It could be a type of wood that no longer exists today and which has not existed for millennia.
What is certain from the text is that it is a type of wood. Most are not surprised at this when we first read it. We cannot imagine that Noah had any option besides wood, being the near-caveman he must have been. Only the type is in question.
But what if our present hypothesis is correct and far more advanced technology was available in Noah’s day? We know that vessels built to sail the world’s seas are made of iron and steel, not wood and pitch. So why was the ark built with the seemingly inferior materials?
Would you want to set sail today on a year-long cruise via a vessel the size of an ocean liner made out of wood and pitch? Probably not.
Would God prescribe wood and pitch for the ark if better methods and materials were available? We might think so, but . . .
God may have chosen wood and pitch in spite of higher technology being available because it would require of Noah exactly what it would take for us to get on such a boat today: Faith and humble obedience.
Noah first needed to believe God’s Word that a flood was coming, but he also needed to believe that God could engineer a vessel fitting both the cargo and the voyage.
Then, Noah had to build it exactly to God’s specifications – using wood and pitch.
God is big on faith. Read Hebrews 11. Recall Jesus’ words to Thomas in John 20:28-29, and how He scolded those seeking a sign in Matthew 16:1-5. Our loving Father in Heaven often chooses to relate with and reveal Himself to us in a manner that requires us to exercise – stretch and strengthen – our faith in Him. This is so that we may increasingly walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Therefore, it is not outrageous to think that Noah building his ark of wood is not necessarily evidence of the technology of his day. More likely it is evidence of God’s hand in it, requiring faith and obedience from Noah, his family, and all who would read or hear of it in the thousands of years to follow.
Would we really make an idol of the ark if we found it? You bet. From Answers in Genesis:
Ancient reports speak of the Ark as being readily accessible to certain groups of people, even describing an annual festival that supposedly took place on a mountain slope to commemorate the Ark’s landing. Pieces of the Ark were allegedly taken and used as amulets.
Another problem God knew would come up with discovery of the ark in later times is that by the time people would go looking for it, the entire Word of God would be readily available thanks to the printing press. It would be so affordable and accessible that people would own several translations in various sizes and bindings.
Today, this is the evidence for our faith — the living Word of God, “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword,” (Hebrews 4:12). It is here that God reveals Himself in His Word, written in the text and modeled in the perfect life of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
In conversations about the search for the remains of the ark, there is almost always someone who says, “I wish they would find it and then we could prove the Bible is true,” or something like that. The Holy Bible is not meant to be ‘proven’ true. The text can be proven authentic, and we can witness to its power in our lives, but it is not meant nor will God permit it to be proved true by means of physical evidence like shards from the ark.
That’s because we must come to God on faith — “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). If the ark were found tomorrow and millions of people bowed down in awe, would they be saved? I don’t think so. They may even have been robbed of the opportunity to come to God by grace through faith because they have proof and no longer think they need faith.
Believers should come to appreciate the high value God places on faith and stop looking for relics to substantiate the truthfulness of the Holy Bible to those who have yet to come to faith. God has likely committed most of what is looked for to the dust, and what we think we’ve found probably isn’t what it appears to be. He has given us His Word, and that is enough.
As to the part of this article proposing the pre-flood society reached high technological milestones, does it really matter? As it concerns one’s salvation and the carrying of the Gospel into the world so that others may be saved, no. As it goes towards helping our understanding of what is soon to come upon us in the last days? Perhaps.
If you’d like to read more on that topic, see: