The story of Noah is one of the most incredible stories in Genesis. In short, God got fed up with man’s sinful ways and decided to wipe out sinful man from the face of the earth through floods. But before he sent the floods, he gave Noah time to build an ark through which Noah would be saved from the flood waters. Noah was to board the ark with his family as well as with different animal species that would be needed to repopulate the earth.
So how long did Noah take to build the ark? The Bible doesn’t give the exact time that it took for Noah to construct the ark. However, we can estimate from the genealogy records that Noah started building the ark when he was 500. The Bible then tells us that the flood started when Noah was 600 years old. This would mean that it took him around 100 years to complete the Ark project.
The Timeline in Genesis
The Bible hints at the timeline of constructing Noah’s Ark in the Book of Genesis. In Genesis 6:3, God tells Noah that he was planning to flood the earth because “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.”
This passage is often interpreted as God giving humanity 120 years to repent before sending the flood. But that is not an accurate interpretation of the verse. From genealogical records, Noah is estimated to have been around 500 years old when he started building the ark. This was after he had already gotten his three sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth. We also know from Genesis 7:6, that Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters started.
Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came upon the earth. Genesis 7:6
Since Noah was 500 years old when he was instructed to build the temple and the floods began when he was 600 hundred, we can guestimate that the construction of the ark took Noah around 100 years.
The Meaning of 120 Years in Genesis 6:3
Some people often confuse the scripture in Genesis 6:3 with the period it took Noah to build the ark. But that is not what that scripture says. Here is what it says:
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.” Gen. 6:3
Some people believe this verse was God imposing an age limit on humanity. While there is some truth in that, it is hardly the whole truth. We know this because there are lots of people who lived beyond 120 years after this statement was made. For starters, Noah lived for 950 years, Shem lived for 600 years, Abraham lived for 175 years, and Isaac lived for 180 years.
So, even though this scripture was an imposition of the timeframe for man, it was not mankind in general. God was specifically addressing the people who were wiped out by the flood of Noah. Their sin had become too much for him to bear and so he gave them 120 years from then until the time the flood would come.
The scripture above was God setting a time limit for man’s age and not the period Noah built the ark as some purport. Before this scripture, people would live for centuries. For instance, Methuselah, who was Noah’s grandfather, lived for 969 years. But after this scripture, the lifespan of mankind began to reduce drastically and it is now no longer common for someone to reach a hundred years of age.
Why It Took So Long to Build the Ark?
Building the ark was anything but easy. It was the hugest vessel that had ever been built. God gave Noah specific dimensions that he needed to adhere to.
This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. 16 Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle, and upper decks. Genesis 6:15-16
Cubits were units of measurement in Bible time that were roughly the same length as a man’s forearm. We can therefore estimate a cubit to be approximately 18 inches (45 centimeters). By this conversion, we can estimate the ark to have been approximately 450 feet long (137 meters), 75 feet wide (23 meters), and 45 feet high (14 meters). Even by modern standards, this was a huge undertaking. The reason for the huge vessel was to create enough room to host all the animals that Noah was told to bring aboard. Noah also needed enough room for his family for the entire period they would be on the ark.
As you may imagine, building such a huge ship requires lots of planning and effort. Given that Noah didn’t have access to the sophisticated tools that we do today, it makes sense that it took him approximately a century to complete building the ark. What further complicated the process is the fact that he probably had very little help. Sourcing the materials must have also been a huge undertaking especially since no one had built such a massive ship before. To put it plainly, building the ark was labor and resource intensive and it needed lots of time to complete.
In conclusion, the story of Noah and the construction of the Ark is a remarkable tale of faith, obedience, and dedication to a divine mission. While the Bible doesn’t provide an exact timeframe for building the Ark, it’s estimated that it took Noah approximately 100 years to complete this colossal project. The 120-year period mentioned in Genesis 6:3 is not directly related to the construction time of the Ark but rather signified a divine timeframe for humanity’s spiritual probation before the flood.