How Long Did it Take Noah to Build The Ark?

By Charalampos •  Updated: 01/27/23 •  6 min read

When thinking about the Biblical Story of the Flood and Noah’s Ark, people usually imagine a huge ship, but how many years did it take for Noah to create such a vessel?

Many say that it took a hundred years or even more to make this, which seems excessive even for such a large ship. In this article, we will figure out how many years it took for Noah to carry out God’s order.

The History of The Flood

The events described in the Old Testament tell us about the moral decline of mankind, as a result of which God orders the righteous Noah to build a special large ship.

«So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.» (Genesis 6:13)

God describes exactly what the ship should be like, and also commands to take Noah’s family and a couple of all animals with him. 

God also informs that after 120 years there will be a worldwide flood that will wash away all living beings. The Bible mentions 120 years in the story of Noah, in Genesis, chapter 6, verse 3:

The Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

Could Noah Have Built The Ark For 120 Years?

How Long Did it Take Noah to Build The Ark

The popular version says that Noah was building a ship for 120 years. However, there is no indication in the Bible that would show us the duration of the building process. 

According to Scripture, the above quote shows the countdown to the flood. Based on this we can’t say that Noah was building the ark all this time, on the contrary, in the New Testament, in the first epistle of the Apostle Paul, we can find words that Noah preached to the population at that time and asked them to repent.

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32)

Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber. (Genesis 10:21)

What Do We Know About The Biography of Noah?

Noah was born in 2913 BC. He also had a wife and three sons who were also married, that is, overall 8 people.

About 20 years after God announced the flood, Noah’s eldest son Japheth was born. At that moment he was 500 years old, that is, he learned about the future flood in 480 years.

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32)

Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber. (Genesis 10:21)

2 years later, a Shem was born. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t say when the youngest son Ham was born, but we know that he was on board the Ark, that is, he was born before the Flood.

When God asked Noah to build the ark, all the sons were adults and had wives, because God ordered them to take their sons along with their wives.

It’s also known that Shem turned 100 years old 2 years after the flood. It was when Shem was a hundred years old, and he gave birth to Arphaxad two years after the flood: «Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad.» (Genesis 11:10)

This means that Shem was 98 years old when the flood began, and also that Noah was 502 years old when Sim was born.

It can be assumed that Ham was born 96 or 95 years before the flood, considering that he could have a difference of two years with Shem just like the other two sons.

Noah was 600 years old when the flood happened: «Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth.» (Genesis 7:6)

What Conclusions Can We Draw?

icon of noah and ark

We can assume that the family helped build the ship, although nothing is written about it in the Bible. We know for sure that God helped Noah build the ark, but most people didn’t take it seriously.

It’s important to remember that the announcement of the deadline of 120 years before the flood and the request to build a ship didn’t happen at the same time. Noah started building the ship only when his sons were adults.

If we take into account the fact that Shem was born 98 years before the flood, then we can’t say about building an ark for 120 years, because at the time when God informed Noah about the flood, Ham wasn’t even born.

We can also assume that the sons needed time to grow up and find wives. The first two sons could reach the age of 20-40 years, and the Ham should have been at least 16.

This is a very approximate calculation, but based on logic, we can calculate the time range. Of course, it all depends on the age at which each of the sons got married.

Thus, we get 55-75 years to build an ark, or even less.

What Else Should We Consider?

We must remember that the animals were loaded onto the ark only after its construction, and Noah also needed time to collect fresh food and load it on board. “You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.” (Genesis 6:21).

All this makes the number of years for building and preparing a ship for the flood inaccurate, but this time couldn’t be more than 75 years.

Why Did Noah Have Such An Old Age?

When reading the Old Testament, it can be noticed that many of the heroes were of excessive age. Genesis, chapter 7, verse 6 says, “Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth” The fact is that in the Old Testament times the age of people was greater than in the present time.

What is even more striking, Noah lived 350 years more after the flood and died at 950 years old.

“Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.” (Genesis 9:29)

Other Versions

According to a Jewish legend, Noah planted trees 120 years before the flood in order to keep the wood fresh during construction. This legend has no confirmation, we can only assume that Noah understood the need to build a large ship in the future 120 years before the flood.

A Jewish book published in the 17th century Sefer haYashar tells that Noah built the ark in five years. Other sources claim that Noah built the ship in 52 years with God’s help, which is closer to a realistic option.

Final thoughts

It can be concluded that Noah took 55-75 years to build the ark since all of his sons had to be old enough and have wives at the time of construction.

We also found out that the time of 120 years was God’s warning about a future flood, and the construction of the ark started much later.


Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

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