Noah was told of the flood 120 years before it occurred; this gave him more than plenty of time to build the ark. It also gave him and his family plenty of time to warn others – and yet no one took up their offer to enter the ark. Interestingly it is untrue that the animals all entered the ark two by two. Even at this early stage there was a difference between clean and unclean animals. The unclean animals entered the ark in pairs, but the clean animals entered in sevens. Seven is the number of completeness, but it also enabled Noah to use the surplus clean animals not only for food after the flood, but also for sacrifice.
There was plenty of opportunity for people to wonder what was happening, decide that perhaps Noah had a point and to make the decision to enter the ark. But they didn’t. When all was ready, God shut the door of the ark (verse 16). Then the judgment on the earth came. This is reminiscent of salvation. God would accommodate anyone in the ark who accepted the offer. In the event, there were only eight people who answered this call. A remnant. Today the offer of salvation is freely available to anyone who chooses to accept it.
Matthew Henry compares the ark with the Garden of Eden. God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, but didn’t shut him in – so Adam threw himself out. God shut Noah and his family into the ark so that they were safe. In the same way, when we are saved we are shut into the ark of God’s salvation. We are safe forever. Outside of God’s salvation there is nothing but uncertainty. Just like the ark, there is a finite opportunity for salvation – after the Tribulation, when Jesus returns to earth there will be the time when those who are still living will be judged with the dead. No one will be able to claim they have not received a fair chance to accept God.
The rains lasted for 40 days, but the water continued to rise for a further 110 days, peaking at 150 days. The water took a further 150 days to recede. By the time Noah and his family were able to leave the ark, they had been inside for a year and 10 days.
Was the flood universal or was it just in the area that Noah was familiar with? We know that God sent the flood in judgment and to destroy all living creatures over the face of the earth that were not contained within the ark. That means as far as the creatures had spread at least, there was flood. Also, considering people had over a hundred years of warning, they could collect their belongings and leave for areas that would be unaffected by flooding. Noah could have done this himself – and negated the need for an ark.
Not only this, but if the flood was a local one, then God has proved to be a liar – he said there would never be a flood like this one ever again – and yet how many local floods have there been since?
The ark can be seen as a type of God’s will. Noah and his family were safe in God’s will and they survived – those who were outside God’s will didn’t.
With thanks to my spiritual uncles: Uncle Warren Wiersbe, Uncle Chuck Missler, Uncle Matthew Henry, Uncle Jacob Prasch and Uncle Arnold Fruchtenbaum.