The Story of Noah and the Flood Bible Study Guide

Noah set a righteous example for his entire generation

After the Flood 19th-Century Print
After the Flood, Illustration mid-19th century copy of Grand Catechisme des Familles (Christian Doctrine for Families).

Stefano Bianchetti / Getty Images

The story of Noah and the flood plays out in Genesis 6:1-11:32. Over the course of history, as the children of Adam populated the earth, humans continued to overstep the limits God had placed on them. Their increasing disobedience caused God to reassert his lordship by engineering a fresh start that would give the human race another opportunity at obedience.

The consequence of humankind's widespread corruption was a great flood that effectively ended all but a remnant of life on earth. God’s grace preserved the lives of eight people—Noah and his family. Then God made a covenant promise to never again destroy the earth by flood.

Question for Reflection

Noah was righteous and blameless, but he was not sinless (see Genesis 9:20-21). The Bible says Noah pleased God and found favor because he loved God and obeyed him with his whole heart. As a result, Noah set an example for his entire generation. Although everyone around him followed the evil in their hearts, Noah followed God. Does your life set an example, or are you negatively influenced by the people around you?

The Story of Noah and the Flood

God saw how great wickedness had become and decided to wipe humankind off the face of the earth. But one righteous man among all the people of that time, Noah, found favor in God's eyes.

With very specific instructions, God told Noah to build an ark for him and his family in preparation for a catastrophic flood that would destroy every living thing on earth. God also instructed Noah to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, both male and female, and seven pairs of all the clean animals, along with every kind of food to be stored for the animals and his family while on the ark. Noah obeyed everything God commanded him to do.

After Noah and his family had entered the ark, rain fell for a period of forty days and nights. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days, and every living thing was destroyed.

As the waters receded, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Noah and his family continued to wait for almost eight more months while the surface of the earth dried out.

Finally, after an entire year, God invited Noah to come out of the ark. Immediately, Noah built an altar and offered burnt sacrifices with some of the clean animals to give thanks to God for deliverance. God was pleased with the offerings and promised never again to destroy all the living creatures as he had just done.

Noah's Sacrifice on Leaving the Ark
Noah's Sacrifice on Leaving the Ark (Photo by © Historical Picture Archive). Historical Picture Archive / Getty Images

Later God established a covenant with Noah: "Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." As a sign of this everlasting covenant, God set a rainbow in the sky.

Historical Context

Many ancient cultures around the world record a story of a great flood from which only one man and his family escaped by building a boat. The accounts closest to the biblical narrative originate in Mesopotamia from texts dating around BC 1600.

Noah was the grandson of Methuselah, the oldest person in the Bible, who died at 969 years old in the year of the flood. Noah's father was Lamech, but we are not told his mother's name. Noah was a tenth generation descendant of Adam, the first human being on earth.

Scripture tells us Noah was a farmer (Genesis 9:20). He was already 500 years old when he fathered three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Noah lived 350 years after the flood and died at 950 years old.

Major Themes and Life Lessons

The two major themes in the story of Noah and the flood are God's judgment of sin and his good news of deliverance and salvation to those who trust in him.

God's purpose in the flood was not to destroy people but to destroy wickedness and sin. Before God decided to wipe the people from the face of the earth, he first warned Noah, making a covenant to save Noah and his family. The whole time Noah and his family labored constantly to build the ark (120 years), Noah also preached a message of repentance. With the coming judgment, God provided plenty of time and a way of escape for those who would look to him in faith. But the wicked generation ignored Noah's message.

Noah’s story serves as an example of righteous living and enduring faith in the face of completely immoral and faithless times.

It's important to note that sin was not wiped out by the flood. Noah was described in the Bible as "righteous" and "blameless," but he was not sinless. We know that after the flood, Noah drank wine and became drunk (Genesis 9:21). However, Noah did not behave as the other wicked people of his day, but rather, "walked with God."

Points of Interest

  • The book of Genesis regards the flood as a great dividing line in world history, as though God was hitting the reset button. The earth was returned to the primeval watery chaos that existed before God began speaking life in Genesis 1:3.
  • Like Adam before him, Noah became the father of the human race. God told Noah and his family the same thing he told Adam: "be fruitful and multiply." (Genesis 1:28, 9:7).
  • Genesis 7:16 interestingly points out that God shut them in the ark, or "closed the door," so to speak. Noah was a type or forerunner of Jesus Christ. Just as Christ was sealed in the tomb after his crucifixion and death, so was Noah shut in the ark. As Noah became the hope for humanity after the flood, so Christ became the hope for humanity after his resurrection.
  • With more detail in Genesis 7:2-3, God instructed Noah to take seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, and two of every kind of unclean animal. Bible scholars have calculated that approximately 45,000 animals might have fit on the ark.
  • The ark was exactly six times longer than it was wide. According to the Life Application Bible study notes, this is the same ratio used by modern shipbuilders.
  • In modern times, researchers continue to look for evidence of Noah's Ark.

Sources

  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, general editor
  • New Unger's Bible Dictionary, R.K. Harrison, editor
  • Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor