When Did the Animals Exit the Ark?

Stepping Back in Time

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In our previous article, we discovered that Noah took just a few thousand creatures on board the Ark. They survived a year at sea and then bid farewell to Noah and his family.

When did this occur?

If you search the first eleven chapters of Genesis, you won’t find an explicit time stamp for the disembarking event. The Bible doesn’t report events as BC or AD. So when did the Ark land? When did animals restart their lives?

Once again, the context for these passages traces an outline by which we can approximate the details. In the very first chapter of the Bible, God creates the universe and everything in it in six days. Because of four verses in Exodus 20 (and because of many other reasons), we know these days were normal-length days like the ones we experience. Specifically, when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, God justified the fourth commandment with an explicit reference to Genesis 1.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8–11)

In Hebrew, the word translated as day in the Exodus passage above is the same as in Genesis 1—in other words, the linguistic link in English also exists in the Hebrew text. In addition, the Hebrew phrase translated the heavens and the earth is the same as Genesis 1:1. In Exodus, the obvious meaning of day and days is the normal meaning we assign to these words today—24-hour periods of time. No one interprets these verses to mean that Israel was to work six million years or eons and then rest one million years or eons. Since Israel’s days directly parallel the days of Genesis 1, the passage from Exodus 20 implies that the events of Genesis 1 happened in six normal days. No textual basis exists for treating the Hebrew word for day any differently in Exodus 20 versus Genesis 1; thus, God created everything in six normal days.

The creation of Adam and Eve on Day Six provides a link to the present.

The creation of Adam and Eve on Day Six provides a link to the present. Moving forward in the narrative from Day Six in Genesis 1, chapter 2 fills in more details on Day Six, and Genesis 3 records the tragic events that followed. At the beginning of Genesis 4, two of Adam and Eve’s sons are born, and by Genesis 5, we have an explicit time span recorded. “And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5:3). Thus, since Seth was the third named son, the events of chapters 2–4, including Adam and Eve’s initial time spent in the Garden of Eden, could not have taken more than 130 years.

The rest of Genesis 5 and much of Genesis 11 traces Adam’s line through Noah to Abraham. Similar to Genesis 5:3, the age of each father in these genealogies is explicitly recorded when his son is born. Adding these ages together, almost 2,000 years elapsed between the creation of Adam and the birth of Abraham.1

The first chapter of the New Testament provides an estimate of how much time passed between the birth of Abraham and the birth of Christ. Though not as detailed as Genesis 5 and Genesis 11, Matthew 1 reports the number of generations (e.g., 42 generations total) between Abraham and Christ. Using an estimate of the average generation time, about 2,000 years separate the births of these two men.2

From the birth of Christ until the present, another 2,000 years have elapsed. Adding these three sets of 2,000 years together, we find that God created Adam from the dust of the ground about 6,000 years ago.

Noah, his family, and the animals survived the yearlong Flood in the early part of this history. In Genesis 5, about 1,660 years pass from the creation of Adam until the Flood. As the above calculations show, dating this from the present requires a little bit of rounding and estimation. Hence, the Flood happened roughly 4,500 year ago.3

Returning to the animals on board the Ark, we can now say that they disembarked a very long time ago—around 4,500 years ago.

After that, Scripture is largely silent on their fate.

Footnotes

  1. Chris Hardy and Robert Carter, “The Biblical Minimum and Maximum Age of the Earth,” Journal of Creation 28, no. 2 (2014): 89–96, http://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j28_2/j28_2_89-96.pdf.
  2. Assuming that the father in each generation was around 50 years old when his descendant was born, about 2,000 years pass in 42 generations (e.g., 2,000/50 = 40 generations = ~42 generations). Actually, Matthew lists only 40 names—so 40 generations is a fair estimate. See “Problems with Basic Math?” for an explanation of the 40- versus 42-generation count.

    Conversely, while 50 years per generation is high by today’s standards, Abraham was very old when Isaac was born, and some of the men listed in Matthew 1 were not direct father-son links.

  3. 6,000 – 1,660 = 4,340. Rounding this number to the nearest 500 (to compensate for some of the uncertainty in calculating the timespan from Abraham to Christ) yields an answer of 4,500. See Chris Hardy and Robert Carter, “The Biblical Minimum and Maximum Age of the Earth.”

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