How Many Years Did Noah Spend Building the Ark?
Sunday, May 23, 2021
When we think of Noah and the construction of the Ark, we tend to think he worked on it for 120 years. But is this the case?
The only mention of 120 years is in Genesis 6:3. "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." Some think this is a reference to the age of men after the Flood. Many people lived to be much older than this after the new world started multiplying again. Even after 16 generations, to the time of Moses, people were living over 120.
Outside the Genesis text, the only other scripture that speaks of Noah's preparing the Ark is found in 1 Peter 3:20. Peter said, "...when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water." Nothing here indicates the timeframe for the construction of the Ark.
A logical conclusion of 120 years could serve as the countdown to the Flood. From the time God announced the coming Flood to the time Noah entered the Ark was 120 years. This is quite profound as God would be telling these wicked and rebellious people they had time to repent. "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them" (Genesis 6:5–7). The very next verse says, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD" (6:8). Again we are reminded of God's plan (6:13). "The end of all flesh has come before Me…"
The Bible does not explicitly say how long it took Noah to build the Ark, but several passages indicate it was not 120 years. For example, Noah was 500 years old when he started having children (Genesis 5:32). Shem had his first son (Noah's grandson) two years after the Flood when he was 100 (Genesis 11:10). This means Shem was 98 years old when the Flood came. When we do the math, Shem was born when Noah was 502. So Japheth must have been the oldest and Ham was Noah's younger son (Genesis 9:24).
When God gave Noah instructions to build the Ark, it was not at the beginning of the 120-year countdown. At this same time, God told Noah that he, his wife, and his three sons and their wives would go aboard the Ark (Genesis 6:14–18). It is reasonable to assume, Noah's sons were already born and old enough to have wives. There were only 100 years from the time Noah's first son was born until he entered the Ark (Genesis 7:6, 7). If we allow 20-25 years or so for his sons to grow up and get married, Noah would have about 65-75 years to complete construction on the Ark. Some may argue differently, but it wouldn't be unreasonable for Noah to have the help of his sons and some local hired hands to do the job. —Chris