In Genesis 6-9, the bible gives us the story of the Great Flood, otherwise known as the story of Noah’s Ark. According to the story, God has become upset with the way humans have adopted evildoings in their daily lives, and so decides to wipe all humanity from off the face of the earth and start over again. The tale is also recounted or summarized in Isaiah 54:9 in the Old Testament, as well as in Hebrews 11:7, I Peter 3:18 and II Peter 2:5 in the New Testament.
God commands Noah, who is righteous and obeys his laws, to construct the ark (a word also used in Exodus 2:3 when an ark of bulrushes is made to support baby Moses when he is set upon the river Nile). After some time, while others wonder what on earth Noah is up to and consider him a bit looney, he completes the project. His collects family, as well as various life forms, and loads them on the vast ship.
He is told to collect 7 of each “non-clean” beast, and 2 of each “clean” beast. When the great flood takes place, it will destroy all life outside the ark, and leave the contents of the ark to repopulate the earth. When the waters recede and dry land emerges, Noah will emerge from the ark and start civilization anew.
Smart alecks and serious biblical scholars alike, have made much of what this would have entailed. Many historians have concluded that this biblical tale was largely based in metaphor by its authors, representing a great flood at the time that consumed much of the land around the Mediterranean – including modern day Israel, Palestine and Egypt – but not necessarily the entire world.
In any case, there are a few schools of thought as to how the animals on the ark could have possibly been as numerous as the amount of species we know today. And what about all the bacteria and viruses and such? People in those times didn’t know those types of life forms existed, and there’s no description of Noah wandering around collecting samples in petri dishes, getting clean filtered water for fresh water fish and marine life, and so on. So what gives?
Many point out that to this last point, that most marine life would survive a flood. They also note that bacteria, fleas, cockroaches, and other parasites could certainly have room to exist among all that animal fur, dung, hooves and hands among the people and animals of the ark.
And others suggest that anywhere from 40 to 100 “kinds” of animals that were collected (the winged fowl “kind, the cattle “kind”, etc.) would be enough to account for the wide variety of species on earth today. While this would also seem to suggest that evolution took place through inbreeding and the mixing of DNA, this idea does support the theory that all life forms that came from God passed through the ark and Noah’s family.
Like dragons and wizards and even unicorns that are mentioned through the King James bible, often our first interpretations through the modern day lens proves to be out of focus. So it might be for that first big question mark that hovers over the story of Noah and the Great Flood.