“And of every living creature of all flesh, thou shalt bring two of a sort into the ark, that they may live with thee: of the male sex, and the female. Of fowls according to their kind, and of beasts in their kind, and of every thing that creepeth on the earth according to its kind; two of every sort shall go in with thee, that they may live. “ Genesis 6:19-20.
According to calculations, on this day Noah was commanded by God to fill the ark with living creatures, male and female, which kept him very busy for the next seven days.
[Unfortunately, when it came to dinosaurs, he picked up two males (rather rough work lifting their tails to see which was what) and so died out the species. Would that he had done the same with rattlesnakes.]
John Wilkins, a 17th century Church of England bishop, expended a good deal of thought upon the size of the ark, as well as its occupants, and proposed that of the non-human denizens, the quadrupeds did not amount to one hundred different kinds, of which only seventy-two species needed housing in the ark; of the birds, he calculated that, leaving aside ducks and other such web-footed critters who could live on water, less than one hundred and ninety five needed to be aboard.
[Note to bishop: ducks may be comfortable in water, but they don’t live there 24/7/365. And it would be a year before even the top of a tree was visible.]
Wilkins then went on to determine that 1,825 sheep would be sufficient to feed the carnivores for a year (or roughly five sheep per day) and 109,500 cubits of hay for the omnivores, all of which could be comfortably accommodated on the bottom two decks of the ocean liner, with the birds living above them in one part of Deck 3, and the Noah family living in another part of the same deck. There was also ample room for their baggage, and seeds and farming tools they would need to start life afresh.
Of course the best thing about the story (besides the Rainbow and the Covenant) was that eventually toymakers invented the toy Noah’s ark, like the one pictured here. Those who could not afford to buy the sets were encouraged to paste prints of animals (keeping in mind their relative sizes so as not to confuse little minds) to heavy card or thin blocks of wood. For Christians of a puritanical bent, who frowned on all worldly thoughts, actions, and amusements (especially on the Lord’s Day), the biblical ark was an acceptable pastime for quiet Sunday play, in some instances becoming a toy totally reserved for Sunday alone. As a wholesome activity, however, this did not go unchallenged; there were those adults (who have a tendency to over-think things) who deplored the idea that children might actually grow up believing that animals from all over the world – bears, kangaroos, alligators, moose, penguins and buffalo among them – were marched into the ark along with the usual cows and sheep.
Thankfully, they’ve always been in the minority; children have continued to march the odd assortments across the table and over the carpet for over two hundred years, and Noah’s Arks are still available today.