Noah's Ark - the Flood - Bible Stories
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Noah's Ark

St. Mark's Noah story
The rain falling on the drowning people/
Noah lets go a dove to see if the waters have gone down/
He sends out the dove again/He lets the animals off the boat/
Noah sacrifices to God on an altar
(Mosaic from St. Marks, Venice, 1200s AD)

According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, things went on more or less peacefully for a long time after Cain and Abel, and Seth's children and grandchildren populated the earth so that there were people all over the place. But these people got to be bad, and did not live the way God wanted them to, and so He decided to kill them all. But there was one good man, Noah, and so God decided to save him and just kill all the others. God told Noah to build an enormous boat, and inside it put his stuff and two of each kind of animal, a girl one and a boy one, and then he and his wife and his sons and their wives should all get in. So Noah did that, and then God sent a huge flood which wiped out every person on earth except Noah and his family, and all the houses and animals and everything as well. It rained for forty days! That's more than a month!

Noah letting the dove go
Noah letting the dove go (closeup)
When the flood was over, Noah and his wife and his sons and their wives got out of the boat and began a new society that would listen more to what God wanted. God set a rainbow in the sky as a sign that he would never send such a flood again.

Though here is a story that didn't make it into the Child's Bible: after Noah got off the Ark, he planted grapes, and when the grapes were finally ripe (which must have been years later), he made wine with some of them, and he got drunk. He went into his tent and he fell asleep on his bed, naked and drunk.

Noah drunk
Noah drunk (St. Mark's, Venice, 1200s AD)

When his youngest son Ham came to get him, he found him there, and he went and told his brothers that Dad was drunk and naked, but Noah's older sons were sorry for Noah and covered him up, walking backwards so they wouldn't see their dad naked, which God said was the right thing to do (Genesis 9).

Most ancient cultures have a story about a big flood. Compare the Sumerian story and the Greek story. Archaeology suggests that there really was some sort of terrible flood in Mesopotamia about this time (say about 3000 BC), though not as big as the story says.

The part about Noah getting drunk is another example of the fights between nomads and farmers: wine is something only farmers have, so mainly farmers drink it. You have to be settled somewhere to grow grapes for wine, and it takes years between when you plant the grapevines and when they yield any decent grapes. So nomads, like the Jews, tend to think of wine as an evil farmer's thing, which gets decent people in trouble.


Here's a video of the Noah story that some kids made for English class:


To buy a wooden ark and animals, click on the picture:


Noah's Ark Picture

To buy a Child's Bible:


Children's Bible

The tower of Babel
Main Judaism page
Main religion page


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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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