Genesis 8:5, Where is Noah’s Ark?

And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.

//Whatever happened to Noah’s gopher-wood Ark? Expeditions to Ararat have tried to find it, but so far, nothing very convincing has been discovered.

Today’s verse tells how the ark ran aground, presumably on Mount Ararat, the tallest mountain in Turkey. It was another three months before the “tops of the mountains” were seen. This would refer to the remaining, lower-elevation mountains in the range, right? But no green vegetation could be seen yet.

Another forty days’ wait and Noah starts sending birds out to scout the land. In time, a dove returns with an olive branch in its mouth, evidence that the waters had receded down to the green stuff, so Noah knows it’s time to exit the ark. But whatever happened to the ark?

Maybe the answer is in plain sight. 

And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. –Genesis 8:20

One estimate of the number of clean animals would be 192 species, plus about a comparable number of now-extinct species. Many of them quite bulky. Atop the glacier-capped mountain of Ararat, way above the tree line, where did Noah get the wood for all these burnt offerings? Would gopher wood work?



  1. A possible answer, indeed. Another might be found in the term “mountains”, plural. There is no absolute indication that the ark was on Mount Ararat, just on that mountain range somewhere and searchers could be off by hundreds of miles.

    Why do you say “glacier covered” though? While the mountain may be covered in thick ice today it might not have been so at the time of Noah. If it were so for Noah, and he landed far above the tree line, it would have been a major problem to get him, his family and cargo down the glacier alive and uninjured.

  2. How to get down the mountain? Maybe they didn’t sacrifice the mountain goats.

  3. Or turned the ark into a giant sled. It would take a big one to slide an elephant down a glacier without falling into a crevasse.

  4. That makes so much sense I suspect it would have to be right. Even if Noah could somehow find dry wood from large trees mere weeks after the great flood, it would be absurd to start chopping down half a forest when he already had a source of wood that was not only sufficient, but also happened to be a vessel that could conveniently house all of the necessary victims.

    Also, using the ark would give a nice sense of closure to the whole episode, and would carry some weighty and very apt symbolism: you gave me this ark, God, and now I return it to you; You spared me from the flood, and now I trust you to provide for me to on dry land, with the ark no longer being necessary, so I burn it to show you that trust.

    Though I’m confused about the burnt offerings. After condemning 99.999% of the world’s land-dwelling creatures to a slow and terrifying death by drowning, God’s bloodlust still wasn’t quite quenched, so a few hundred more had to be rounded up to be burnt at the stake? Wow.

    The fact that a story as vile as the Noah’s Ark tale has found its way into children’s books as some kind of sweet fable about faith is testament to the incredible power of spin, selective thinking and bullshit.

    Though I’m also confused about how these animals could be sacrificed without causing their species to go extinct, since there were only two of each. Surely many would not have had time to conceive, gestate, and give birth to children, especially as animals often struggle to conceive in captivity (and we’re talking about animals who presumably had some drastic interruptions to their regular diet)? And of those children that did manage to get born, surely many would have been snapped up by the carnivores, who were probably a bit hungry after fasting on a boat for several months?

    Are these the [about 192] “now-extinct” species you refer to? Animals that are extinct because Noah sacrificed the last ones of them?

    On a side note, I think your new blog design/system has broken pre-existing RSS subscriptions. Until I came here to write this comment, I thought you hadn’t posted anything for weeks, as nothing was coming up on my feed. I believe the “what type of bread” post is the last one I’ve been notified of.

  5. Lee Harmon

    Hi Dave, I admit I don’t know a lot about RSS, but so far as I know when I switched from blogger to wordpress I couldn’t carry it forward, since I had never set up a 3rd-party feed service. Yeah, I broke the feeds, and I’m hoping people find their way back to me!

    About Noah, there are actually two different flood stories in the Bible, (they are spliced together) and the one where he sacrifices animals, he carries seven (not two) of the sacrificable animals onboard. :)

    Finally, drowning is a pretty humane way to die IMO! I think that would be my choice!

  6. I trust you remember the South East Asian Tsunami footage that brought the world to a standstill as we all watched in horror? That’s the sort of thing we’re talking about, only on a MUCH larger scale. Those are the sort of deaths we’re talking about…..but only for the lucky ones.

    The unlucky ones wouldn’t die straight away by falling into a pool of water or being smashed against a rock by a big wave. Instead, they would just watch the rain coming and coming, day after day, week after week, as they fled daily for higher ground. First, their homes would be damaged, and then washed away. Soon after, their communities and food infrastructure would start to break down, as people started panicking and forming into hordes of refugees looking for higher ground. Eventually, they’d get separated from some of their loved ones. For days on end, they’d witness people and animals drowning around them, and though themselves exhausted and starving, and by now probably physically ill, they’d frantically keep fleeing to higher ground out of sheer terror and survival instinct.

    Towards the end of this horrible journey, they’d finally reach a dead-end on one kind or another: the highest hilltop, structure, or mountain in their area, turned into an ever-shrinking island. From here, there’d be nothing left to do but sit and let dread set in as they watched their doom slowly creep up upon them.

    Yet even this might take days. Just watching and waiting, hungry, traumatised and sick, as the water slowly rises and rises. Some would just jump in to kill themselves, but others would be to scared to. Their final hours would be spent waist-high in water, ever-scrambling for a better foothold. Then neck high, watching their last few remaining comrades succumb to death around them. Then treading water. Only then, after weeks of misery and terror, would they finally drown.

    What exactly about this process strikes you as humane?

    • Lee Harmon

      :) You do paint a pretty bleak picture! Given that we have no idea what sort of ancient event spawned the various flood stories, if any, I choose to ignore the evil and stick with the children’s version: a sweet fable of faith. I figure if the authors wanted me to dwell on the horror, they would have given more attention to the horror.

      • But are these not, generally speaking, the same authors who portrayed the brutal genocide of Canaanites as an act of salvation? or the stoning to death of a rape victim as an act of divinely-sanctioned justice?

        The Nazi Holocaust was portrayed by its creators as a wonderful program of cleansing that would eradicate forever the parasites and dregs of society and would elevate humanity to a new Golden Age of prosperity, strength, and peace.

        Sometimes the intentions of the storyteller are best ignored, as they can get in the way of understanding the actual heart of the story.

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