NOAH and his family huddled together as the rain came down in torrents. Just picture them, their features outlined in the gloom by the flickering light of an oil lamp, their eyes wide as they listened to the water cascading down onto the roof and lashing against the sides of the ark. The noise must have been overwhelming.
As Noah looked at the faces of his beloved family—his faithful wife and his three stalwart sons along with their wives—his heart no doubt swelled with gratitude. In that dark hour, he likely found comfort in seeing the people he loved the most right there with him. They were all safe and sound. Surely he led his family in a prayer of gratitude, raising his voice so that they could hear him above the din.
Noah was a man of great faith. It was because of Noah’s faith that his God, Jehovah, was moved to protect him and his family. (Hebrews 11:7) But did their need for faith end when the rain began to fall? On the contrary, they would urgently need that quality in the challenging days ahead. The same can be said of us in these tumultuous times. So let us see what we can learn from the faith of Noah.
“FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS”
Outside, the downpour continued “for forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:4, 11, 12) The water kept rising and rising and rising. As it did, Noah could see that his God, Jehovah, was simultaneously protecting righteousness and punishing wickedness.
The Flood checked a rebellion that had broken out among the angels. Influenced by Satan’s selfish attitude, many angels had forsaken their “proper dwelling place” in heaven to cohabit with women, producing hybrid offspring called Nephilim. (Jude 6; Genesis 6:4) Satan no doubt was filled with glee as that rebellion unfolded, for it further debased mankind, the pinnacle of Jehovah’s creation on earth.
However, as the floodwaters rose, the rebel angels were forced to shed their material bodies and return to the spirit realm, never again to assume fleshly form. They left their wives and their offspring behind to die in the floodwaters, along with that society of humans.
From the days of Enoch, almost seven centuries earlier, Jehovah had warned mankind that He would destroy wicked, ungodly people. (Genesis 5:24; Jude 14, 15) Since that time, people had only got worse, ruining the earth and filling it with violence. Now destruction was upon them. Did Noah and his family rejoice in those executions?
No! Nor did their merciful God. (Ezekiel 33:11) Jehovah had done everything to save as many as possible. He had commissioned Enoch’s warning, and he had ordered Noah to build the ark. Noah and his family had been laboring on that massive project for decades, in full view of the people. What is more, Jehovah directed Noah to serve as “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5) Like Enoch before him, he warned people about the judgment that was coming upon the world. And how did they respond? Jesus, who witnessed events from heaven, later recalled the people of Noah’s day: “They took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.”—Matthew 24:39.
Imagine what it must have been like for Noah and his family during those first 40 days after Jehovah shut the door to the ark. As the torrential rains kept drumming down on the ark day after day, the eight of them likely settled into some kind of routine—caring for one another, tending to their home, and seeing to the needs of the animals in their enclosures. At one moment, though, the whole immense structure shuddered and lurched. The ark was moving! Cradled on the rising waters, the ark was lifted up, higher and higher, until “it was floating high above the earth.” (Genesis 7:17) What an amazing demonstration of the power of the Almighty God, Jehovah!
Noah must have been thankful—not only for his safety and that of his family but also for Jehovah’s mercy in using them to warn the people who perished outside the ark. Those years of hard work may have seemed unrewarding at the time. People were so unresponsive! Think of it—Noah likely had brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces alive before the Flood came; yet, no one except his immediate family listened to him. (Genesis 5:30) Now, as those eight souls clung to safety in the ark, they surely drew comfort from thinking back on all the time they had spent giving people a chance to survive.
Jehovah has not changed since Noah’s day. (Malachi 3:6) Jesus Christ explained that our times today are much like “the days of Noah.” (Matthew 24:37) Ours is a marked era, a time of great trouble that is due to end in the destruction of a corrupt world system of things. Today, God’s people are likewise delivering a warning message to all who will listen. Will you respond to that message? If you have already accepted the truth of that lifesaving message, will you join in sharing it with others? Noah and his family set the example for us all.
“CARRIED SAFELY THROUGH THE WATER”
As the ark drifted on that surging ocean, those within surely heard a symphony of squeaks and groans from the massive timbers. Was Noah worried about the size of the waves or the structural integrity of the ark? No. Such concerns may arise among skeptics today, but Noah was no skeptic. The Bible says: “By faith Noah . . . constructed an ark.” (Hebrews 11:7) Faith in what? Jehovah had made a covenant, a formal agreement, to bring Noah and all those with him safely through the Deluge. (Genesis 6:18, 19) Could not the One who created the universe, the earth, and all the living things on it keep that vessel intact? Of course! Noah rightly trusted in Jehovah to keep His promise. And, indeed, he and his family were “carried safely through the water.”—1 Peter 3:20.
After 40 days and 40 nights had passed, the rain finally stopped. By our calendar, it was sometime in December 2370 B.C.E. But the family’s adventure aboard the ark was far from over. That craft full of living creatures drifted alone on a global sea, well above even the tops of mountains. (Genesis 7:19, 20) We may imagine Noah organizing the heavier labor so that he and his sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—could keep all the animals fed, clean, and healthy. Of course, the same God who rendered all those wild creatures docile enough to enter the ark was able to keep them in such a state for the duration of the Flood. *
Noah evidently kept a careful log of events. That record tells when the rains started and stopped. It also reveals that the waters overwhelmed the earth for 150 days. Finally, the waters began to abate. One momentous day, the ark gently came to rest on “the mountains of Ararat,” located in modern-day Turkey. That would have been in April 2369 B.C.E. It was 73 days later, in June, that the tops of the mountains became visible. Three months later, in September, Noah decided to remove some part of the ark’s covering, or roof. Surely that heavy work was rewarded as light and fresh air poured in. Earlier, Noah also began testing the environment to see if it was safe and habitable. He released a raven, which came and went for a while, perhaps perching on the ark between flights; then Noah released a dove, which kept returning to him until it finally found a place to roost.—Genesis 7:24–8:13.
Noah’s routine no doubt focused still more on spiritual matters. We may well picture the family gathering regularly to pray together and to talk about their protective heavenly Father. Noah relied on Jehovah for every important decision. Even when Noah could see that the earth had finally “dried off”—after more than a year aboard the ark—he still did not unseal the door and lead an exodus from the confines of that vessel. (Genesis 8:14) No, he waited for word from Jehovah!
Family heads today can learn a great deal from that faithful man. He was orderly, industrious, patient, and protective of all those under his care. Above all, though, he considered the will of Jehovah God first in all things. If we imitate Noah’s faith in these respects, we will bring blessings to all those we love.
“GO OUT OF THE ARK”
Finally, Jehovah’s command came. “Go out of the ark,” he told Noah, “you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.” Obediently, the family led the way, and all the animals followed. How? In a chaotic stampede? Not at all! The record states that “according to their families they went out of the ark.” (Genesis 8:15-19) Once outdoors, breathing in the fresh mountain air and looking out over the highlands of Ararat, Noah and his family saw before them a cleansed earth. Gone were the Nephilim, the violence, the rebellious angels, and that entire wicked society! * Mankind had a chance to make a fresh start.
Noah knew what to do. He started with worship. He built an altar and used some of the animals that God viewed as clean—which they had brought aboard in “sevens”—and offered up a burnt sacrifice to Jehovah. (Genesis 7:2; 8:20) Did that worship please Jehovah?
The Bible answers in these reassuring words: “Jehovah began to smell a restful odor.” The pain that had filled God’s heart when mankind was filling the world with violence was replaced by the restful, pleasant sensation of seeing a family of faithful worshippers on earth who were determined to carry out his will. Jehovah did not expect them to be perfect. The same verse continues: “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Genesis 8:21) Consider how Jehovah further expressed his patient compassion for humankind.
God lifted the curse on the ground. Back in the days of the rebellion of Adam and Eve, God had pronounced that curse, making cultivation unusually difficult. Noah’s father, Lamech, had named his son Noah—probably meaning “Rest,” or “Consolation”—and had foretold that his son would lead mankind to a time of rest from that curse. Noah must have beamed when he learned that he would now see that prophecy fulfilled and that the earth would respond more readily to efforts to cultivate it. Little wonder that Noah soon took up farming!—Genesis 3:17, 18; 5:28, 29; 9:20.
At the same time, Jehovah gave all the descendants of Noah some clear, simple laws to guide them in life—including a prohibition against murder and the misuse of blood. God also established a covenant with mankind, promising that he would never again bring a flood to destroy all life on earth. As a sign of the reliability of his word, Jehovah gave mankind its first glimpse of a glorious natural phenomenon—the rainbow. Down to this day, every rainbow we see offers a comforting reminder of Jehovah’s loving promise.—Genesis 9:1-17.
If Noah’s story were mere fiction, it might well have ended with that rainbow. But Noah was a real man, and his life was not so simple. In those days when longevity was the norm, that faithful man had to endure another 350 years, and those centuries brought him a lot of pain. He made a serious mistake when he gave in to drunkenness on one occasion, but that error was compounded when his grandson Canaan committed a more serious sin—a sin that brought grim consequences to Canaan’s family. Noah lived on long enough to see his descendants fall into such sins as idolatry and violence in the days of Nimrod. On the brighter side, though, Noah got to see his son Shem set a strong example of faith for his family.—Genesis 9:21-28; 10:8-11; 11:1-11.
Like Noah, we need to endure in a course of faith. When others around us ignore the true God or even leave off serving him, we need to stay on course as Noah did. Jehovah greatly values such faithful endurance. As Jesus Christ said, “he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matthew 24:13.
^ par. 17 Some have raised the possibility that God kept the animals in a state of relative torpor, akin to hibernation, thus reducing their need for food. Whether he did so or not, he certainly kept his promise, ensuring the safety and survival of all aboard the ark.