How Long Were Noah and His Family on the Ark?

For a span of 40 days and nights, torrents of rain poured, with Noah and his family surviving on the ark for a period extending to 370 days – more than a year! Given the colossal scale of the flood, it took several months before the water levels dropped sufficiently, allowing Noah and his family to set foot on dry land once again.

The Bible gives us a historical account of Noah, complete with details, dimensions, and timelines. The typical children’s version of Noah and the Ark in Bible storybooks mentions the 40 days and 40 nights of rain. But the reality recorded in the scriptures describes a much, much longer experience. Let’s take a closer look at how long Noah and his family spent on the ark.

When Did Noah Enter the Ark?

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark…

Genesis 7:11-13 (ESV)
noah's ark

Noah entered the massive ark on the day the rain started—the first rain mankind had ever seen. This took place on the 17th day of the second month of Noah’s 600th year.

NOTE: Some people argue that Noah entered the ark a week before the flood (Gen 7:10) but the verses in this section of Scripture are most likely not in chronological order (poetical Hebrew). It is more likely that the flood waters came 7 days after Noah put the clean animals on the ark.

When Did Noah Exit the Ark?

In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you…

Genesis 8:13-16 (ESV) 

Noah and his family walked out of the ark when God called them to on the 27th day of the second month in Noah’s 601st year—one year and 10 days after they boarded it. In ancient times, a year was made up of twelve 30 day months (360 days)— different from today. With that in mind, we can confidently say that Noah and his family lived on the ark for 370 days—give or take a few hours.

A Timeline of Noah’s Time on the Ark

Noah’s 370 days spent on the ark can be divided into three parts:

  1. The Rain (2/17-3/27 – 40 days)

Noah and his family entered the ark on the first day of the rains. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights – one month and 10 days (Gen 7:12).

  1. Floating on the Water after the Rain (3/27-7/17 – 110 days)

When the rain stopped, the entire earth was covered in water and the ark bobbed on the water for a long time – 110 days (after the initial 40 rainy days) (Gen 8:3-4) before it came to rest on the top Mt Ararat.

  1. Resting on Mt Ararat (7/17-2/27- 220 days)

The ark settled on the top of Mt Ararat, and there she sat for the longest part of it’s journey while the water slowly receded. After two months and 14 days the tops of mountains could be seen by Noah (Gen 8:5). 

40 days later, Noah sent out a raven but it returned to him, a week later a dove came back too, a week later she returned with an olive leaf, and one week later she didn’t return (61 days in all) (Gen 8:6-12).

A month later (Gen 8:13), Noah opened the door of the ark. Then he and his family left the ark 1 month and 26 days later, when the ground had dried. 

Noah’s Faith in God’s Sovereignty through the Ark

One thing really stands out about Noah, and that is his unwavering faith in God. His faith is shown through various aspects of the account of the flood.

Noah’s Faith in God’s Plan

God chose to save Noah and his family inside the ark (Gen 7:16). Noah, the builder of the ark, a project that likely took over 100 years, was well aware of the fact that God’s design didn’t allow for man to seal the vessel. But Noah knew that God would take care of it—and He did! Noah understood that God is faithful. He had faith in God’s plan.

Noah’s Faith in God’s Timeline

Noah could see dry land for almost two full months (Gen 8:13) before God instructed him and his family to leave the ark—Noah’s faith and obedience did not falter. He had full confidence in the wisdom of God. He waited for God’s call before he left the ark.

Noah’s faith and obedience are a wonderful example to us today. We don’t always know what God will do, or how long He will take to act, but we can have complete confidence, just like Noah, that God is sovereign and His plan and timing are perfect.

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