The story of Noah’s ark is probably the clearest example of biblical history shown in kanji characters.
Humanity became increasingly corrupted from the time of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he made man on the earth and it grieved him to his heart (Genesis 6:5-8). But God was gracious and gave favor to a man named Noah; he became a righteous and blameless man in the generation he lived (Genesis 6:8-9). It is important to note that Noah did not earn God’s favor, Noah found favor (grace) in the eye’s of the Lord. Before then he was just as corrupted as the rest of mankind.
God determined to flood the earth and told Noah to build an ark, a large boat, 450 feet (140 m) long, 75 feet (23 m) wide, and 45 feet (14 m) high. (Genesis 6:14-16)
Once completed the boat was large enough to fit a male and female pair of every living creature on the earth as well as Noah’s family. Genesis 7:13 says that Noah’s family consisted of Noah, his wife, his three sons, and the three wives of his sons… eight people total entered the boat. This amazingly is reflected in the kanji character for ship.
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 (Genesis 7:7). Eight people total would survive the flood together. (below, the radical 一 can be used for one, first, and earth)
Once they all entered the large boat, the foundations of the deep burst forth… and rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:11-12). Genesis 7:18-24 says the flood rose higher than the highest mountain tops and lasted for 150 days. Needless to say, all human and animal life that was not on the ark with Noah and his family drowned.
I am grateful for ‘The Discovery of Genesis ‘ by Kang and Nelson for their explanation of the kanji for drown 渰. It was difficult to find a digital text copy of this kanji because it is not used in Japanese today and barely used in Chinese.
Because of God’s grace to Noah and his family, eight people total survived the flood waters.
When the earth had dried out God spoke to Noah to leave the boat. So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark (Genesis 8:18). God promised that there would never again be a flood to destroy the earth and he blessed Noah and his family, the eight survivors of the flood waters, to continue humanity.
God could have let humanity destroy itself as they got continually more corrupted, or he could have just destroyed everyone when the evils of humanity grieved God’s heart so that he was sorry that he ever made man on the earth (Genesis 6:5-6). But God showed himself faithful and loving to preserve humanity and patiently bear with us that we may be restored to him in loving relationship… Ultimately God’s love for humanity would require a great sacrifice of him.