Question: 
Why would God have Noah spend 120 years building a huge boat when, in a year, he and his family could simply have hiked out of the region with some supplies and camped out until the flood was over? This view makes nonsense of the story.
 
Answer: 
 

One bad habit young-earth creationism fosters is turning speculation about the flood of Noah into assumed biblical fact. Repeated over and over enough times, people accept the speculative theories about the flood as the very words of God. Nowhere does the text tell us how long it took to build the ark. Genesis 6:3 mentions a period of 120 years, but there is nothing in this text that says Noah spent this amount of time to construct the ark.

According to a plain literal reading of Genesis, the flood occurred when Noah was 600 years old (Gen. 7:11). Noah’s sons weren’t born until he was 500 years old (Gen. 5:32), but when God told him to build the ark it was for the purpose of saving his household, including his sons’ wives (Gen. 6:14-18). This would seem to imply that Noah’s sons were grown adults and married when they began to build, but it is impossible to know how long it took to build the ark from the text. The time has come to separate what our traditions tell us about the flood from what the Bible actually teaches.

The substance of this question seems to hold some merit on the surface. This objection is very popular in young-earth creationist literature. Why would God need to tell Noah to build an ark when Noah could have walked out of the region affected by the flood?

Rather than presenting a problem for a local flood view, this question exposes how young-earth creationism’s plain literal priority in reading the account entirely misses the biblical emphasis of the account. God planned the events to picture judgment and salvation. There is a spiritual dimension to the story, because the ark is a picture of Christ. What young-earth creationists often miss in their zeal to defend a plain-literal reading of the story of Noah’s ark is that it is not about the geological history of planet Earth. It is about the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is made plain by how Peter uses the flood event in 1 Peter 3:21-22.

In God’s plan it was important that Noah enter the ark as an “incarnation” of the gospel; Noah rested in Jesus Christ for salvation. Noah was figuratively “in Christ” while he was “in the ark.” God has a plan whenever he gives his servant a mission, whether it is Noah, Abraham, Ezekiel, or Hosea. Any speculation that wanders from the redemptive purposes of God has lost touch with the biblical emphasis. Once we understand the redemptive purpose God has revealed, the answer to this question is clear. To tell Noah to hike over there where he would be safe from God’s judgment is to teach that man must get up and save himself by his own two feet. Christians should focus on the example of faithful obedience Noah sets rather than speculate on how God would have acted if the flood had been a localized event.

This argument against a local flood also hinges on the escapism and retreatism so prominent in many forms of global futurism. Noah was not called to escape from the evil culture of his day by some sort of proto-rapture scheme – beating a quick retreat. By faith, he was protected in the midst of a wicked covenant world which reaped God’s judgment. Noah ultimately inherited the land [erets] through covenant faithfulness. The flood took the wicked away (Matt. 24:39). Preterists committed to the first century victory of Christ over all His enemies will recognize the escapism behind this objection to a local flood.

There may be a physical need for the ark as well, even with a local flood. No matter how you read the biblical text, it appears the flood was a serious event. Boats were used in biblical times not only for travel, but also to transport bulky cargos. Is it possible to carry everything on a camping trip that will last a long time? Could Noah and his family carry with them all that they and the animals would need for many months? On the ark, however, there is plenty of cargo room for what Noah’s household, animals and all, would need for the duration of the flood and for rebuilding afterwards. This objection to a local flood is very weak once the theological design and historical context of the Genesis flood are understood.

 

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