Problem: Accounts conflict on when Noah entered the ark
Verses: Genesis 7:7-10, 11-14; Status: Weak

There's a tension between two passages of Genesis, regarding when Noah and his family entered the ark. Genesis 7:7-10 seems to indicate that they entered a week before the flood started:

And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth. (ESV)

However, we are then told that they entered the ark on the very day that the rain started. This is Genesis 7:11-14:

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, they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. (ESV)

Looking Unto Jesus makes one weak response and one stronger response. Firstly, it might seem odd that the author of Genesis would write two conflicting passages right next to each other - but it's by no means clear that there was only one author of Genesis. A more impressive response is to note that the first passage refers to the flood, whereas the second passage refers to the rain. So, it's possible that the order of events is as follows:

This seems a reasonable enough interpretation. Floods don't necessarily start the same day as the rain starts.

On the other hand, I don't think this passage is particularly well written, and it's one piece of evidence amongst many that Genesis had several authors. Indeed, there is a surprising amount of repetition in the flood story, and scholars have tried to tease apart the two versions of the story. Particularly telling is the fact that the two authors use different names for God ("Elohim" versus "YHWH"). Says the Oxford Bible Commentary:

When the whole story is analysed, one is left with two substantially complete accounts of the Flood, one showing affinities (including the name YHWH) with the second creation account and the other showing affinities with the first.

Updated: 2009-03-04

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