“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” (Genesis 6:14)
Details surrounding the story of Noah and the Flood have long caused laymen and theologians alike to stumble and compromise.
None could argue that the wording was not clear. God had commanded Noah to build a wooden boat of huge dimensions and to take on board representatives of land-dwelling, air-breathing animals. The Flood, Scripture reveals, devastated the entire world. But 19th-century theologians, pressed on by James Hutton, Charles Lyell, and others proposing the new uniformitarian interpretation of Earth history, became convinced that the scriptural account must be understood in a figurative sense. Their later counterparts repeat this error, promulgating the non-biblical idea that the Flood was only local.
Some have wondered how Noah could gather all the animals, but the Bible simply says they “went in two and two unto Noah into the ark” (7:9), evidently migrating to the location on God’s command.
Their care while on the Ark has also been raised as a problem. But, in all likelihood, the animals entered a state of semi-dormancy, as nearly all of their descendants do today when faced with danger over which they have no control and from which they cannot flee.
Scripture supports this idea in our text: The word “rooms,” which is more properly translated “nests” everywhere else in Scripture, implies a small place to sleep or nestle rather than a large cage. The job of caring for the animals may have been difficult, but our gracious God would have seen to it that it was possible. Questions like these are no cause for compromise. JDM