An Old Testament KnoWhy
for Gospel Doctrine Lesson 6:
“Noah … Prepared an Ark to the Saving of His House”
(Moses 8:19-30; Genesis 6-9; 11:1-9) (JBOTL06A)
[See the link to the video supplement for this lesson at the end of this article under “Further Study.”]
Question: In the Bible, Noah’s ark is described as a huge, rectangular box with three floors and a roof, which makes it sound more like a building than a boat. Was Noah’s ark designed as a floating “temple”?
Summary: In the Bible, God reveals the design of three manmade structures: two of these are temples and one is Noah’s ark. To ancient Israelites, the dimensions, shape, layout, materials, and function of the Ark would have immediately suggested that it, too, had been designed as a “temple.” In addition, the story of the Flood explicitly echoes the scenes of Creation and Eden found in the story of Adam and Eve, including the Ark’s final destination on the heights of a mountain.
How did people in ancient times read scripture? The Prophet Joseph Smith held the view that scripture should be “understood precisely as it reads.” In saying this, however, it must be realized that what ancient peoples understood to be a literal interpretation of scripture is not the same as what most people think of today.
To those who recorded Bible history, it was not enough to describe events in photojournalistic fidelity to the sights and sounds that might have been picked up “objectively” by a camera (if one had been available in their day). Rather, an inspired author would want to write a history that acknowledged the hand of God within every important occurrence. To the ancients, important events in history were part of “one eternal round.” They took pains to help the reader detect that current happenings were consistent with divine patterns seen repeatedly within scriptural “types” at other times in history —past and future. A simple description of the bare “facts” of the situation, as we are culturally conditioned to prefer today, would not do for our forebears.
Consider, as a more recent example, Joseph Smith’s description of the Book of Mormon translation process. Modern readers are usually interested in the detailed, “literal” accounts given by some of the Prophet’s contemporaries about the size and appearance of the instruments he was supposed to have used and the exact procedure by which the words of the ancient text were made known to him. This kind of account appeals to us — the more physical details the better — because we think this kind of history will help us best understand what “actually happened” as Joseph Smith translated.
However, we should realize that Joseph Smith himself declined to relate the specifics about how he translated, even in response to direct questioning while he was meeting with a small group of believing friends. The only explicit statement he made about the translation process is his testimony that it was accomplished “by the gift and power of God,” a description that avoids reinforcing the misleading impression that we can understand “what really happened” through detailed accounts of observers.
Of course, there is no reason to throw doubt on the idea that instruments and procedures such as those described by Joseph Smith’s contemporaries were used in translation. However, by wisely restricting his description to the statement that the translation was accomplished “by the gift and power of God,” the Prophet resisted the effort to describe this sacred process in a way that would appeal to modern standards and sensibilities. Instead, he pointed attention to what mattered most: that the translation was accomplished by divine means.
How should this lesson be applied to the story of Noah? As we will see, the story provides plenty of physical details, such as the size of the Ark, the place where it landed, and the date of its debarkation. All these details are important to the story — indeed they are crucial to our understanding. However, in most cases, you can be sure that small details of this sort are not included merely to add a touch of “realism” to the account for the sake of moderns such as you and me. Rather, they are there to help readers make mental associations with scriptural stories and religious concepts found as “types” elsewhere in scripture. In the case of Noah, for example, those who wrote the Bible seem to have wanted to highlight themes that would tie back to the story of Creation and would anticipate the Tabernacle of Moses. A photorealistic description of the Flood would not have accomplished the aims of its author. What readers needed most was not a modern historical account, but rather some help to recognize the backward and forward reverberations of Noah’s story elsewhere in scripture.
With these considerations in mind, we are ready to begin to answer the question posed at the beginning of this article: Was Noah’s ark designed as a floating temple?
Resemblances between the Ark and the Tabernacle. It is significant that, apart from the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon, Noah’s ark is the only man-made structure mentioned in the Bible whose design was directly revealed by God. In this image, God shows the plans for the Ark to Noah just as He later revealed the plans for the Tabernacle to Moses. The hands of Deity hold the heavenly curtain as Noah, compass in his left hand, regards intently.
Layout and size of the Ark. There is no doubt among Bible scholars that, like the Tabernacle, Noah’s Ark “was designed as a temple.” The Ark’s three decks suggest both the three divisions of the Tabernacle and the threefold layout of the Garden of Eden. Indeed, each of the three decks of Noah’s Ark was exactly “the same height as the Tabernacle and three times the area of the Tabernacle court.” Strengthening the association between the Ark and the Tabernacle is the fact that the Hebrew term for Noah’s Ark, tevah, later became the standard word for the Ark of the Covenant in Mishnaic Hebrew. In addition, the Septuagint used the same Greek term, kibotos, for both Noah’s ark and the Ark of the Covenant. Signaling another resemblance is that the ratio of the width to the height of both of these arks is 3:5.
Rectangular shape and free-floating nature of the Ark. Going further, the shape of Noah’s ark was very un-boat-like. Westermann describes it as “a huge, rectangular box, with a roof.” Thus, like the Ark of the Covenant, it was shaped like a chest. Not only was the Ark “not shaped like a ship,” it also lacked oars, “accentuating the fact that Noah’s deliverance was not dependent on navigating skills, [but rather happened] entirely by God’s will.” Its movement was solely determined by “the thrust of the water and wind.” This reminds us of the story of the infant Moses, the only other place in the Bible where the Hebrew word for ark appears. As you recall Moses’ deliverance from death was also made possible by a free-floating watercraft — specifically, in this case, a reed basket. Reeds also seem to have been used as part of the construction materials for Noah’s Ark, as we will now discuss.
Temple allusions in the materials used to build the Ark. Genesis 6:14 reads: “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” Each of these three types of materials seem to have had temple connotations:
- Gopher wood. The referent for the term “gopher wood” — unique in the Bible to Genesis 6:14 — is uncertain. Modern commentators often take it to mean cypress wood. Because it is resistant to rot, the cypress tree was used in ancient times for the building of ships. There is an extensive mythology about the cypress tree in cultures throughout the world. It is known for its fragrance and longevity — qualities that have naturally linked it with ancient literature describing the Garden of Eden. Cypress trees were sometimes used to make temple doors — gateways to Paradise.
- Pitch. There is a possibility of wordplay in the rhyme between gopher and kopher (“pitch”) within the same verse. As Harper notes, the word kopher might have reminded the ancient reader of “the rich cultic overtones of kaphar ‘ransom’ with its half-shekel temple atonement price, kapporeth ‘mercy seat’ over the Ark of the Covenant, and the verb kipper ‘to atone’ associated with so many priestly rituals.” Some of these rituals involve the action of smearing or wiping, the same movements by which pitch is applied. Just as God’s presence in the Tabernacle preserves the life of His people, so Noah’s Ark preserves a righteous remnant of humanity along with representatives of all its creatures.
- Reeds. Although reed-huts may sometimes serve as secular enclosures, references to them in Mesopotamian flood stories clearly point to their ancient use as divine sanctuaries. In a Mesopotamian account of the flood story, Ziusudra enters into a “reed-hut… temple,” where he stands “day after day” listening to the “conversation” of the divine assembly. Eventually, Ziusudra learns that the council of the gods have decided to destroy mankind by a devastating flood. Regretting the decision, the god Enki warns Ziusudra and instructs him on how to build a boat. Similar to ancient Near East parallels where the gods whisper their secrets to mortals standing on the other side of temple veils separating the divine and human realms, Enki conveys his message privately through a thin wall of the sanctuary. Related accounts tell us that Enki instructed Ziusudra to tear down the reed-hut temple and to use the materials to build a boat.
Concluding “that the apparent lack of the reed-hut or primeval shrine in the Genesis flood account demands closer inspection,” Jason McCann observes that reinterpreting the Hebrew for the description of “rooms” in the Ark would lead to an alternate translation describing it as “woven-of-reeds.” Thus, the New Jerusalem Bible translation of Genesis 6:14: “Make yourself an ark out of resinous wood. Make it with reeds and caulk it with pitch inside and out.”
Let’s now turn our attention to Creation and Garden themes in the story of the Flood, where we will find temple parallels not only to the structure of the Ark, but also in its function.
Creation. In considering the role of Noah’s ark in the flood story, it should be remembered that it was, specifically, a mobile sanctuary, as were, of course, the Israelite Tabernacle and the ark made of reeds that saved the baby Moses.
Despite its ungainly shape as a buoyant temple, the Ark is portrayed as floating confidently above the chaos of the great deep. Significantly, the motion of the Ark “upon the face of the waters” paralleled the movement of the Spirit of God “upon the face of the waters” at the original creation of heaven and earth. The deliberate nature of this parallel is made clear when we consider that these are the only two verses in the Bible that contain the phrase “the face of the waters.” In short, we are made to understand that in the presence of the Ark there has been a return of the same Spirit of God that had hovered over the waters at Creation — the Spirit whose previous withdrawal had been predicted in Genesis 6:3.
The motion of the Ark “upon the face of the waters,” like the Spirit of God “upon the face of the waters” at Creation, was a portent of the appearance of light and life. Within the Ark, a “mini replica of Creation,” were the last vestiges of the original Creation, “an alternative earth for all living creatures,” “a colony of heaven” containing seedlings for the planting of a second Garden of Eden, the nucleus of a new world — all hidden within a vessel of rescue described in scripture, like the Tabernacle, as a likeness of God’s own traveling pavilion.
Just as the Spirit of God patiently brooded over the great deep at Creation, and just as “the longsuffering of God waited… while the ark was a preparing,” so the indefatigable Noah endured the long brooding of the Ark over the slowly receding waters of the Deluge. At last, the dry land appeared.
The settling of the Ark at the top of the first mountain to emerge after the Flood would have reminded ancient readers of the emergence of the dry land at Creation. In ancient Israel, the Foundation Stone in front of the Ark of the Covenant: “was the first solid material to emerge from the waters of Creation, and it was upon this stone that the Deity effected Creation.”
Note also that it was “in the six hundred and first year [of Noah’s life] in the first month, the first day of the month” that “the waters were dried up.” The wording of this verse would have hinted to ancient reader that there was special significance to the date. They would have remembered that it was also the “first day of the first month” when the Tabernacle was dedicated, and that “Solomon’s temple was dedicated at the New Year festival in the autumn.”
Garden. Allusions to Garden of Eden and temple themes begin as soon as Noah and his family leave the Ark. Just as the book of Moses highlights Adam’s diligence in offering sacrifice as soon as he entered the fallen world, Genesis describes Noah’s first action on the renewed earth as being the building of an altar for burnt offerings. Likewise, in both accounts, God’s blessing is followed by a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. Both stories contain instructions about what the protagonists can and cannot eat. Notably, in each case, a covenant is established in a context of ordinances and signs or tokens. More specifically, according to Pseudo-Philo, the rainbow as a sign or token of a covenant of higher priesthood blessings was said by God to be as an analogue of Moses’ staff, a symbol of kingship. Both the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Noah prominently feature the theme of nakedness being covered by a garment. Noah, like Adam, is called the “lord of the whole earth.” Surely, it is no exaggeration to say that Noah is portrayed as a new Adam, “reversing the estrangement” between God and man by means of an atoning sacrifice.
Having outlined some of the Creation and Garden themes within the story of Noah, the next article will discuss a “fall” and consequent judgment.
Given their status as targets of humor and caricature, it is sometimes difficult to be taken seriously when discussing the well-worn stories of Adam, Eve, and Noah. Hugh Nibley described the problem this way:
The stories of the Garden of Eden and the Flood have always furnished unbelievers with their best ammunition against believers, because they are the easiest to visualize, popularize, and satirize of any Bible accounts. Everyone has seen a garden and been caught in a pouring rain. It requires no effort of imagination for a six-year-old to convert concise and straightforward Sunday-school recitals into the vivid images that will stay with him for the rest of his life. These stories retain the form of the nursery tales they assume in the imaginations of small children, to be defended by grown-ups who refuse to distinguish between childlike faith and thinking as a child when it is time to “put away childish things.” It is equally easy and deceptive to fall into adolescent disillusionment and with one’s emancipated teachers to smile tolerantly at the simple gullibility of bygone days, while passing stern moral judgment on the savage old God who damns Adam for eating the fruit He put in his way and, overreacting with impetuous violence, wipes out Noah’s neighbors simply for making fun of his boat-building on a fine summer’s day.
We do an injustice, both to these marvelous records and to ourselves, when we fail to pursue scriptural understanding beyond the initial level of cartoon cut-outs drummed into the minds of young children. To understand the stories of Adam and Eve and Noah for what they are, we need to bring our best: the powerful tools of modern scholarship, the additional light shed by modern revelation, and, of no less importance, the consecrated dedication of inquiring minds and honest hearts diligently seeking divine inspiration. The simple fantasies of a “fanciful and flowery and heated imagination” will not suffice.
As a video supplement to this lesson, see Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, "The Ark and the Tent: Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah" at https://interpreterfoundation.org/jeffrey-bradshaw-on-the-ark-and-the-tent-temple-symbolism-in-the-story-of-noah/. For additional material on temple symbolism in the story of Noah, see J. M. Bradshaw, Ark and Tent, available as a free pdf download at www.TempleThemes.net.
For a verse-by-verse commentary on the story of Noah in Genesis and the book of Moses, see J. M. Bradshaw, et al., God’s Image 2, pp. 199-294. The book is available for purchase in print at Amazon.com and as a free pdf download at www.TempleThemes.net.
For a scripture roundtable video from The Interpreter Foundation on the subject of Gospel Doctrine lesson 6, see https://interpreterfoundation.org/scripture-roundtable-56-old-testament-gospel-doctrine-lesson-6-noah-prepared-an-ark-to-the-saving-of-his-house/.
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Sparks, Jack Norman, and Peter E. Gillquist, eds. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008.
Tissot, J. James. The Old Testament: Three Hundred and Ninety-Six Compositions Illustrating the Old Testament, Parts 1 and 2. 2 vols. Paris, France: M. de Brunhoff, 1904.
Walton, John H. Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011.
Wenham, Gordon J., ed. Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary 1: Nelson Reference and Electronic, 1987.
Westermann, Claus, ed. 1974. Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary 1st ed. Translated by John J. Scullion. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994.
Wevers, John William. Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1993.
White, Clayton M., and Mark D. Thomas. "On balancing faith in Mormonism with traditional biblical stories: The Noachian flood story." Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 40, no. 3 (Fall 2007): 85-110.
Widtsoe, John A. "22. Did the flood cover the highest mountains of the earth?" In Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day, edited by John A. Widtsoe. 2nd ed, 109-12. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1943.
Wintermute, O. S. "Jubilees." In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. Vol. 2, 35-142. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.
Wyatt, Nicolas. "’Water, water everywhere…’: Musings on the aqueous myths of the Near East." In The Mythic Mind: Essays on Cosmology and Religion in Ugaritic and Old Testament Literature, edited by Nicholas Wyatt, 189-237. London, England: Equinox, 2005.
Zlotowitz, Meir, and Nosson Scherman, eds. 1977. Bereishis/Genesis: A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources 2nd ed. Two vols. ArtScroll Tanach Series, ed. Rabbi Nosson Scherman and Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1986.
… that if each deck were further subdivided into three sections (cf. Gilgamesh’s nine sections (A. George, Gilgamesh, 11:62, p. 90), the Ark would have had three decks the same height as the Tabernacle and three sections on each deck the same size as the Tabernacle courtyard.
Regarding similarities in the Genesis 1 account of Creation, the Exodus 25ff. account of the building of the Tabernacle, and the account of the building of the ark, Sailhamer writes (J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 82, see also table on p. 84):
Each account has a discernible pattern: God speaks (wayyo’mer/wayedabber), an action is commanded (imperative/jussive), and the command is carried out (wayya’as) according to God’s will (wayehi ken/kaaser siwwah ‘elohim). The key to these similarities lies in the observation that each narrative concludes with a divine blessing (wayebarek, Genesis 1:28, 9:1; Exodus 39:43) and, in the case of the Tabernacle and Noah’s Ark, a divinely ordained covenant (Genesis 6:8; Exodus 34:27; in this regard it is of some importance that later biblical tradition also associated the events of Genesis 1-3 with the making of a divine covenant; cf. Hosea 6:7). Noah, like Moses, followed closely the commands of God and in so doing found salvation and blessing in his covenant.
The sentence “and the ark went on the face of the waters” (Genesis 8:18) is not suited to a boat, which is navigated by its mariners, but to something that floats on the surface of the waters and moves in accordance with the thrust of the water and wind. Similarly, the subsequent statement (Genesis 8:4) “the ark came to rest… upon the mountains of Ararat” implies an object that can rest upon the ground; this is easy for an ark to do, since its bottom is straight and horizontal, but not for a ship.
Atonement translates the Hebrew kpr, but the meaning of kpr in a ritual context is not known. Investigations have uncovered only what actions were used in the rites of atonement, not what that action was believed to effect. The possibilities for its meaning are “cover” or “smear” or “wipe,” but these reveal no more than the exact meaning of “breaking bread” reveals about the Christian Eucharist…. I should like to quote here from an article by Mary Douglas published… in Jewish Studies Quarterly (M. Douglas, Atonement, p. 117. See also M. Douglas, Leviticus, p. 234: “Leviticus actually says less about the need to wash or purge than it says about ‘covering.’”):
Terms derived from cleansing, washing and purging have imported into biblical scholarship distractions which have occluded Leviticus’ own very specific and clear description of atonement. According to the illustrative cases from Leviticus, to atone means to cover or recover, cover again, to repair a hole, cure a sickness, mend a rift, make good a torn or broken covering. As a noun, what is translated atonement, expiation or purgation means integument made good; conversely, the examples in the book indicate that defilement means integument torn. Atonement does not mean covering a sin so as to hide it from the sight of God; it means making good an outer layer which has rotted or been pierced.
This sounds very like the cosmic covenant with its system of bonds maintaining the created order, broken by sin and repaired by “atonement.”
The most wonderful thing about Jerusalem the Holy City is its mobility: at one time it is taken up to heaven and at another it descends to earth or even makes a rendezvous with the earthly Jerusalem at some point in space halfway between. In this resepect both the city and the temple are best thought of in terms of a tent, … at least until the time comes when the saints “will no longer have to use a movable tent” [Origen, John, 10:23, p. 404. “The pitching of the tent outside the camp represents God’s remoteness from the impure world” (H. W. Nibley, Tenting, p. 79 n. 40)] according to the early Fathers, who get the idea from the New Testament… [E.g., “John 1:14 reads literally, ‘the logos was made flesh and pitched his tent [eskenosen] among us’; and after the Resurrection the Lord ‘camps’ with his disciples, Acts 1:4. At the Transfiguration Peter prematurely proposed setting up three tents for taking possession (Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33)” (ibid., p. 80 n. 41] It is now fairly certain, moreover, that the great temples of the ancients were not designed to be dwelling-houses of deity but rather stations or landing-places, fitted with inclined ramps, stairways, passageways, waiting-rooms, elaborate systems of gates, and so forth, for the convenience of traveling divinities, whose sacred boats and wagons stood ever ready to take them on their endless junkets from shrine to shrine and from festival to festival through the cosmic spaces. The Great Pyramid itself, we are now assured, is the symbol not of immovable stability but of constant migration and movement between the worlds; and the ziggurats of Mesopotamia, far from being immovable, are reproduced in the seven-stepped throne of the thundering sky-wagon.
Some Christians came to view Psalm 18 as foreshadowing the Incarnation of God’s son (J. N. Sparks et al., Orthodox Study Bible, p. 691 n. 17). Noah’s Ark was sometimes seen in a similar fashion: “The ark was a type of the Mother of God with Christ and the Church in her womb (Akath). The flood-waters were a type of baptism, in which we are saved (1 Peter 3:18-22)” (ibid., Genesis 6:14-21, p. 12).
Consistent with this reading that understands this verse as a period of divine preparation, the creation story in the Joseph Smith’s book of Abraham employs the term “brooding” rather than “moving” as we find in the King James Version. Note that this change is consistent with the English translation given Hebrew grammar book that was studied by Joseph Smith in Kirtland (see J. Seixas, Manual, p. 31). John Milton (J. Milton, Paradise Lost, 1:19-22, p. 16; H. J. Hodges, Dove; cf. Augustine, Literal, 18:36; E. A. W. Budge, Cave, p. 44) interpreted the passage similarly in Paradise Lost, drawing from images such as the dove sent out by Noah (Genesis 8:6-12), the dove at Jesus’ baptism (John 1:32), and a hen protectively covering her young with her wing (Luke 13:34):
[T]hou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dovelike satst brooding on the vast abyss
And mad’st it pregnant.”
“Brooding” enjoys rich connotations, including, as Nibley observes (H. W. Nibley, Before Adam, p. 69), not only “to sit or incubate [eggs] for the purpose of hatching” but also:
… “to dwell continuously on a subject.” Brooding is just the right word—a quite long quiet period of preparation in which apparently nothing was happening. Something was to come out of the water, incubating, waiting—a long, long time.
Some commentators emphatically deny any connection of the Hebrew term with the concept of brooding (e.g., U. Cassuto, Adam to Noah, pp. 24-25). However, the “brooding” interpretation is not only attested by a Syriac cognate (F. Brown et al., Lexicon, 7363, p. 934b) but also has a venerable history, going back at least to Rashi who spoke specifically of the relationship between the dove and its nest. In doing so, he referred to the Old French term acoveter, related both to the modern French couver (from Latin cubare—to brood and protect) and couvrir (from Latin cooperire—to cover completely). Intriguingly, this latter sense is related to the Hebrew term for the atonement, kipper (M. Barker, Atonement; A. Rey, Dictionnaire, 1:555).
Going further, Barker admits the possibility of a subtle wordplay in examining the reversal of consonantal sounds between “brood/hover” and “atone”: “The verb for ‘hover’ is rchp, the middle letter is cheth, and the verb for ‘atone’ is kpr, the initial letter being a kaph, which had a similar sound. The same three consonantal sounds could have been word play, rchp/kpr” (M. Barker, June 11 2007). “There is sound play like this in the temple style” (ibid.; see M. Barker, Hidden, pp. 15-17). In this admittedly speculative interpretation, one might see an image of God, prior to the first day of Creation, figuratively “hovering/atoning” [rchp/kpr] over the singularity of the inchoate universe, just as the Ark smeared with pitch [kaphar] later moved over the face of the waters “when the waters cover[ed] over and atone[d] for the violence of the world” (E. A. Harper, You Shall Make, p. 4).
7 days of waiting for flood (7:4)
7 days of waiting for flood (7:10)
40 days of flood (7:17a)
150 days of water triumphing (7:24)
150 days of water waning (8:3)
40 days of waiting (8:6)
7 days of waiting (8:10)
7 days of waiting (8:12)
The description of God’s rescue of Noah foreshadows God’s deliverance of Israel in the Exodus. Just as later “God remembered his covenant” (Exodus 2:24) and sent “a strong east wind” to dry up the waters before his people (Exodus 14:21) so that they “went through… on dry ground” (Exodus 14:22), so also in the story of the Flood we read that “God remembered” those in the ark and sent a “wind” over the waters (Genesis 8:1) so that his people might come out on “dry ground” (Genesis 8:14).
From where he was, “the whole earth” (Genesis 8:9) was covered with water as far as he could see; after things had quieted down for 150 days and the ark ground to a halt, it was still three months before he could see any mountaintops. But what were conditions in other parts of the world? If Noah knew that, he would not have sent forth messenger birds to explore. The flood as he described it is what he saw of it. “He sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground” (Genesis 8:8). Couldn’t he see for himself? Not where the dove went. It was not until seven days later that he sent it out again; and after flying all day, the bird came back with a green leaf fetched from afar; “so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth” (Genesis 8:11). Still he waited another seven days. When the dove did not return, Noah had his answer. In some distant place, trees were bearing and there was birdfood to be found. But not where Noah was. All that time he had not dared to open up.
Note that the author does not fall into the literary trap of telling where the birds went and what they saw. That became a standard theme of early Oriental literature, faithfully reflected in the classical stories of the sea-eagle and the hoopoe. All Noah tells us is what he saw of the birds and the flood. The rain continued at least in spots, for there was that magnificent rainbow. Why do Christians insist on calling it the first rainbow, just because it is the first mentioned? Who says that water drops did not refract light until that day? Well, my old Sunday School teacher, for one, used to say it. The rainbow, like the sunrise, is strictly the product of a point of view, for which the beholder must stand in a particular place while it is raining in another particular place and the sun is in a third particular place, if he is to see it at all. It is a lesson in relativity.
Of course, Nibley also took issue with skeptics who believed that there was no historical antecedent for the kinds of events reported in the Bible. As Parley P. Pratt wrote about such views in his day (P. P. Pratt, Voice, p. 4):
It was well for Noah that he was not well-versed in the spiritualizing systems of modern divinity; for under their benighted influence he would never have believed that so marvelous a prophecy would have had a literal meaning and fulfillment. No, he would have been told that the Flood meant a spiritual flood, and the Ark a spiritual ark, and the moment he thought otherwise he would have been set down as a fanatic, knave, or fool. But it was so—that he believed the prophecy literally. Here then is a fair sample of foreknowledge, for all the world who did not possess it perished by the Flood.
Truman G. Madsen further explains (T. G. Madsen, Essay, p. xv):
Mormons seem to be biblicistic and literalistic. But it is the recognition that the Bible is in central parts clear narrative, an account of genuine persons involved in genuine events, that is characteristic … Creation was an event; the Resurrection occurred. The religious experiences chronicled in the book of Acts are acts in a book. The Bible, the point is, becomes thus a temporal document just as much as it is spiritual. And the same can be said for other Mormon scriptural writings. They too are “time-bound”; they cannot be understood in a non-historical way. They arise from and, it is hoped, return to the concrete realities of the human predicament.
For more about LDS perspectives on historicity of the scriptures, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Excursus 13: Some Perspectives on Historicity, pp. 552-553. See D. E. Jeffery, Noah’s Flood and C. M. White et al., Noachian Flood Story for considered LDS perspectives on reconciling current scientific findings with the Genesis flood story. See also J. A. Widtsoe, Flood; M. S. Petersen, Earth, p. 432.
Thanks for raising this important question. See the last four paragraphs before the “The Why” section of next article in the series (6B-Was Noah Drunk or in a Vision?) for a few thoughts about why we should be careful to not carry forward incorrect traditions about race in the stories of Cain, Ham, and Canaan.
In footnote 110 in that article, I refer readers to the “Gospel Topics” essay on “Race and the Priesthood,” which you seem to have already read. With respect to various traditions about the “mark of Cain” and related issues, see, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 386-388; God’s Image 2, M6:17-c, p. 54; M7:6-a, p. 130; M7:8-c, p. 131; M7:22-b, p. 140; G9:25-a, pp. 322-323. There are available as free pdf downloads from http://www.templethemes.net. Related footnotes and references give further detail.
If you have further questions, just let me know.
Just one last post on this subject to see if I have it right. In order for Noah’s flood to be a local flood:
1. Earth must be a local land.
2. From the Lord’s point of view, “All flesh from off the earth” means only those in a limited land area.
3. The Great Deep is an inland body of water.
4. It took five months for the Ark to drift to a shore of this inland body of water.
5. No indication in the scriptures as to what was the geological division that is to be corrected at the coming of the Savior.
6. In the age of man, the waters that receded off the face of America had nothing to do with the flood of Noah but was some other flood. (see Ether 13:2).
7. All the families of earth did not descend from Noah as seen by Enoch (see Moses 7:45)
By the way, I loved your presentation on the comparison of the Ark to the Temple.
Glad you enjoyed the piece on the ark and the temple. Hopefully the subject will be taken up in more depth someday by others.
I respectfully submit my thoughts on the points you raise. If you would like to continue the dialogue, I would be interested in your response to the answers I gave in the immediately preceding message. I have enjoyed the good questions and thoughtful arguments you have raised.
1. “Earth must be a local land.” This is a misleading way of summarizing the view of current scholarship regarding the Hebrew language underlying the Genesis Flood account. What they point out is not that the English word “earth” means “local land,” but that the Hebrew word “eretz” can mean either “earth” or “land” depending on the context. You cannot use Genesis to make your point that the flood was necessarily worldwide without claiming to know more than modern scholarship about biblical Hebrew.
Interestingly, modern scripture sometimes seemingly carries over this style of expression. For example, in the Book of Mormon, we read passages like: “But he repented not, neither his fair sons nor daughters; neither the fair sons and daughters of Cohor; neither the fair sons and daughters of Corihor; and in fine, there were none of the fair sons and daughters upon the face of the whole earth who repented of their sins” (Ether 13:17). Would you say that this passage about the “fair sons and daughters of Cohor” who refused to repent applies to individuals “upon the face of the whole earth” (understanding this phrase to mean everywhere on the planet) or rather only to “all the people upon the face of the land” (Ether 13:31) as the similar phrase appears a few verses later?
2. “‘All flesh from off the earth’ means only those in a limited land area.” Again, this is a misleading way to summarize the view of those who have concluded differently from you. We are not in disagreement about the meaning of the English phrase, but rather about the meaning of the underlying Hebrew in Genesis. There is nothing in the original language of the Bible that requires us to believe that the Lord intended this phrase to apply to everyone everywhere on the planet. With respect to the last part of the phrase you mention, we have already discussed the meaning of “eretz,” which can have a more limited meaning than the entire world. With respect to the first part of the phrase, we have other scriptural examples to support the usage of the term to mean “all [kinds of] flesh” (i.e., a variety of living creatures). For example, in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great tree in Daniel 4:12, when the king says “all flesh was fed of it,” he refers specifically to both “the beasts of the field” and “the fowls of the heaven.” Likewise Jeremiah 45:4, when the Lord says he will “bring evil upon all flesh,” He makes it clear that he is referring to “this whole land,” not necessarily to all the peoples of all the earth.
3. “The Great Deep is an inland body of water.” Again, this is a misleading summary. What I said is that the Hebrew term “great deep” is a poetic way of talking about a large body of water. I agree with you that in some contexts it clearly applies to the ocean, but in other cases it is not as clear. You did not reply to the examples I gave showing that in many of its scriptural appearances it is clear that it replies to a specific body of water (i.e., as in the crossing of peoples from one place to another), showing that “the great deep” does not necessarily refer to all bodies of water everywhere, as you seem to be arguing in the case of a worldwide flood. Or have I misunderstood?
4. “It took five months for the Ark to drift to a shore of this inland body of water.” Again, “inland body of water” is your phrase not mine. We do not disagree on this point. I have no problem with the idea that it may take months for a large flood to dry up.
5. “No indication in the scriptures as to what was the geological division that is to be corrected at the coming of the Savior.” Other than difficult-to-substantiate claims about the verse about Peleg, I have not seen any evidence to support this point either. I do not claim to understand exactly what will happen geologically or otherwise when the Savior comes, but if indeed the continents of the world are to become one again, science has a good explanation for how the division took place, long before Noah could have lived.
6. “In the age of man, the waters that receded off the face of America had nothing to do with the flood of Noah but was some other flood. (see Ether 13:2).” The phrase used in Ether 13:2 “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land” likewise does not specify whether the waters that receded were from the flood of Noah or from some other flood, nor the geographical extent of that flood.
7. “All the families of earth did not descend from Noah as seen by Enoch (see Moses 7:45).” As in other places in scripture we have discussed previously, the term “earth” in English does not necessarily have the same meaning and scope for us as it did for the ancients. Thus, the reference to “all the families of the earth” seems to me to refer to whatever families and “nations” (Moses 7:23) that God showed Enoch in his vision.
That said, I take comfort from the fact that a scholar as faithful and learned as Hugh Nibley was comfortable with the many currently unanswered questions about scripture and science related to the ancestry and descendance of Adam and Noah (passage below excerpted from my chapter on Science and Genesis, pp. 141-142):
In light of what scripture tells us, how do we account for the results of genetic
studies indicating that every person who has ever lived on earth is descended from
a common population of, perhaps, 10,000 founders who lived 100,000 to 150,000
years ago — long before Adam and Eve entered mortality?48 Drawing on the richer
sources of scripture produced through modern revelation, Nibley raises a series of
questions with an eye to finding scriptural support for surviving non-Adamic and
non-Noachian lineages that might help explain such findings:
“What about those people who lived before Cain and Abel?49 What about those
who disappeared from sight?50 What about those who were not even warned of
the Flood?51 … What about the comings and goings of Enoch’s day between the
worlds?52 Who were his people … ?53 … What about the creatures we do not see
Speaking of Noah, … “the Lord said: Blessed is he through whose seed Messiah
shall come.”55 Methuselah boasted about his line as something special.56 Why
special if it included the whole human race? These blessings have no meaning if all
the people of the earth and all the nations are the seed of Noah and Enoch. What
other line could the Messiah come through? Well, there were humans who were
not invited by Enoch’s preaching.”57
Nibley no doubt was wondering whether some of these shadowy peoples described
in scripture might be neither descendants of Noah nor of Adam but rather distantly
related contemporaries whose descendants may have mixed at various times with
the Adamic lineage.58 Of relevance is the reminder by Ryan Parr that promised
blessings from patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are of necessity
driven by covenant and lineal descent, not by genetics, since specific “nuclear DNA
finding its way from any one of these progenitors to any descendant of today is
extremely unlikely from a biological perspective.”59 Happily, the promises made to
the faithful covenant posterity are not about inheriting fragments of Abrahamic
DNA but rather about receiving a fulness of Abrahamic blessings, assured through
faithfulness. Otherwise, the doctrines that describe the possibility of adoption into
the Abrahamic lineage would be meaningless.60
Clearly we still have much to learn on these subjects. I am grateful that we share the same desire to do what we can to learn from the “great treasures of knowledge” we have already been given so that we can merit such answers when they are eventually revealed.
Thank you so so so much for these roundtables, lessons, lectures, notes and knowhys. Thank you for sharing your get knowledge in such a humble way. Could you please speak to the references in the Noah readings about being black? To me the scriptures carry a negative connotation, yet in the lectures/ essays on our lds history tab, we learn that the church has disavowed any past theories of blacks being denigrated. The information on Noah being in vision instead of drunk was helpful, but can you please help me to better understand those references to ‘black”.
See my reply to your latest comments below:
1. “All flesh from off the earth.” As mentioned previously, most biblical scholars interpret the Hebrew of “all flesh” as meaning “all [kinds of] flesh,” in other words, both man and animals will perish in the Flood. Joseph Smith’s change clarifies the referent to “them,” making the wording consistent in the two parts of the verse.
2. Genesis 10:32. Genesis 10:32 (“nations divided in the earth”) is an explanatory expansion of the briefer description in the Peleg verse (“earth divided”) which occurs just a few verses earlier. The context of the verse as part of the “Table of Nations” in Genesis 10 is a discussion about the division of the families of the earth, not about geography. Note that the dividing line between these families falls between the two sons of Eber, that is, Peleg and Joktan. Significantly, one line leads to the building of Babylon and the other to the family of Abraham. Observe also that the Joseph Smith Translation reads “Peleg was a mighty man, for in his days was the earth divided.” The wording of the JST seems to posit a causal connection between Peleg’s might and the division of the earth — he certainly did not singlehandedly create a continental rift, but rather contributed to the social and religious divisions among his father’s descendants. There is nothing in the context of the chapter that implies that a geophysical division took place.
3. “Parallel progression of the earth and its people.” The idea may be interesting, but it is not found in scripture. As scholars and scriptures Smoot and Hoskisson, among others, point out, despite what seems the likelihood of geophysical changes in the last days, the idea that the earth “must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness” refers primarily to the sanctification of the peoples of the earth, not the earth itself. The people of the earth are the cause of the earth’s “defilement.”
4. “Consensus has never been convincing evidence to me.” Nor to me. But in this case, the consensus we have been discussing is not based on thoughtless prejudice against divine revelation found in ancient and modern scripture, but rather is based on careful consideration by faithful believers of all the evidence — scriptural, doctrinal, and scientific — in an attitude that humbly embraces both study and faith.
5. “Great deep.” “Great deep” is a poetic term that refers to a large body of water. Which body of water the term is referring to depends on the context (e.g., flood waters of Noah, waters crossed by the Nephites or Jaredites, waters that it seems some of the ten tribes will cross). Certainly the use of the term “great deep” does not necessarily imply a reference to all waters worldwide.
6. “I remain convinced that the flood at the time of Noah was universal and that it covered the entire earth.” Though with brotherly respect for your faith, your friendship, and your right to believe as you think best, I do hope that no Latter-day Saint will come away from a study of the story of Noah and the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 thinking they are compelled to accept that belief because it is required by scripture, by authoritative pronouncements of current church leaders, or by science.
Hope we can continue the dialogue, dear friend!
You raise three questions in your most recent comment. I appreciate that you take the scriptures seriously, as I do, and respect the sincerity of your questions. I will respond to each of your general points one by one:
1. Did the flood cover the whole earth? Many faithful Latter-day Saints, including Church leaders, have not been concerned with the idea that Noah’s Flood seems not to have covered the entire earth. For example, Hugh Nibley observes (H. W. Nibley, Lehi 1988, pp. 173-174):
Just as “son” and “descendant” are the same word in Hebrew and so may easily be confused by translators (who have no way of knowing, save from context, in which sense the word is to be understood), so “earth” and “land” are the same word, the well-known eretz. In view of the fact that the book of Ether, speaking only of the Jaredites, notes that “there were none of the fair sons and daughters upon the face of the whole earth who repented of their sins,” it would seem that the common “whole earth” (kol ha-aretz) of the Old Testament need not always be taken to mean the entire globe.
Note that the reference in Ether is from modern scripture. Is it reasonable to suppose that he meant that there was no one, anywhere, who repented of their sins at that time?
Addressing the question of the Flood, Elder John A. Widtsoe, writing in 1943, stated (J. A. Widtsoe, Evidences, p. 127):
We should remember that when inspired writers deal with historical incidents they relate that which they have seen or that which may have been told them, unless indeed the past is opened to them by revelation. [For example, t]he details in the story of the Flood are undoubtedly drawn from the experiences of the writer. … The writer of Genesis made a faithful report of the facts known to him concerning the Flood. In other localities the depth of the water might have been more or less.
2. The question of the earth being divided in the days of Peleg is a modern misunderstanding. The verse refers to a political and social division, as the related wording in the Joseph Smith Translation implies. Scripture does not make any connection between the short verse on Peleg and prophecies of future events (e.g., D&C 49:22-23; 133:40; Isaiah 40:4; 54:10; D&C 133:22-24). They refer to different kinds of events. The idea that “in the days of Noah the mountains were low and valleys were not found” is not found in scripture.
3. Did the earth need a complete “baptism”? On that topic, a recent article by Stephen O. Smoot and Paul Hoskisson, two faithful LDS scholars, concludes that this is also a misunderstanding with no warrant in scripture. Geologists have shown that the fact that “Sea fossils can be found on the tops of the highest mountains” does not mean that the mountains were covered by water at the time of Noah, but at a much earlier time they were lifted up. A universal geological event in which all mountains would have been made low and the earth entirely covered by water again in Noah’s time is in contradiction to the honest findings of scientists (including believing LDS scientists, not the lead of whom were Elder James E. Talmage and Elder John A. Widtsoe).
1. I did not quote Genesis, I quoted the Book Moses, which was received by revelation in English, where the Lord said, “The end of all flesh is come before me.” I don’t see how this can be misunderstood.
2. D&C 133:22-24 is definitely referring to geophysical movements not political when it states that, “the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.” The only other reference to the earth being divided is “in the days of Peleg.” That is the connection.
3. I noted that the sea fossils on the tops of the mountains were from the creation, and therefore “it is not unreasonable the Lord could immerse the land a second time.”
4. As I mentioned previously, I am aware that current interpretations of geological conditions do not include a Universal Flood during the age of man. Those interpretations are always subject to revision.
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Here are a few of my personal thoughts:
1. “The end of all flesh – I don’t see how this can be misunderstood.” Most scholars interpret the term “all flesh” to mean that the destruction will include
both mankind and land animals. With regard to Genesis vs. the book of Moses: The book of Moses is Joseph Smith’s translation of Genesis. The wording reflects the underlying Hebrew except in cases where Joseph Smith made a change. In an earlier article in the series, I discuss the evidence that Joseph Smith did not include all the changes he eventually intended to include in his translation.
2. Connection between D&C 133 and Peleg. It is true that the wording is similar, but there is no explicit connection to Peleg in D&C 133. It is true that most scholars believe that a very long time ago (long before Peleg) the earth’s continents formed one land mass. D&C 133 is a prophecy of the future and may refer to geophysical changes in the earth at that time. However, with respect to the nature of the division in former times, there is a reference in Genesis 10:32 you may have forgotten: “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.” This (along with other evidence) implies that the division was social not geophysical.
3. Fossils on tops of mountains. Thanks for clearing that up. It seems that we are in agreement that fossils were not left on mountaintops by a universal flood.
4. A universal flood? What I hope you will consider is not only that there is an overwhelming consensus among scientists against a worldwide flood, but that neither scripture (e.g., eretz = land vs. earth), nor doctrine (e.g., the idea that the earth had to be baptized), nor definitive statements by current prophets and apostles requires it. I hope sincere and well-informed Latter-day Saints like yourself will no longer feel a necessity to continue to defend a universal flood, since there are no longer any scriptural, doctrinal, prophetic, or scientific imperatives to do so.
1. Joseph Smith did make a significant and relevant change to Genesis 6:13:
“And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
“And God said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence, and behold I will destroy ALL FLESH FROM OFF THE EARTH.” (emphasis added)
That is, ALL mankind and animals. This cannot be a local event.
2. Genesis 10:32 is referring to “nations.” Genesis 10:25 is referring to the “earth.”
3. My doctrinal belief does not require a baptized earth, but the parallel progression of the earth and its people is more than just interesting.
“…it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it. Therefore, it [the earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory; For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father.” (D&C 88:17-19)
4. Consensus has never been convincing evidence to me.
5. I will add another significant item of evidence. The “great deep” (Genesis 7:11, D&C 133:22, 23; 2 Nephi 4:20; Ether 7:27) is not a local body of water.
I remain convinced that the flood at the time of Noah was universal and that it covered the entire earth.
I find it perplexing that serious Latter-day Saints question the Universal Flood. There are enough scriptural and modern prophetic statements confirming it to fill a lengthy article. However, I will only quote one from the Book of Moses, which should be sufficient, as the Book of Moses was given to Joseph Smith by direct revelation. It was not a tradition handed down though the ages and subject to misinterpretation.
“And God said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence, and behold I will destroy all flesh from off the earth” (Moses 8:30).
The fact that it is the last verse in the Book of Moses should give it even greater emphasis and weight.
It appears that the doubts of a Universal Flood are based primarily on current geological theories (the philosophies of men) and the obvious absurdity that the tops of our highest mountain ranges could not be covered by be covered by a sea 29,000 feet deeper than it now is. The resolution of the paradox is revealed in other scriptures.
The Lord has been very emphatic that prior to his coming all the mountains will be “made low” (D&C 49:22-23; 133:40; Isaiah 40:4; 54:10). I assume that few Latter-day Saints doubt His word on that. Then the Lord gives His final scriptural word on the subject:
“And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found. He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land; And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided (D&C 133:22-24).
The earth was divided in the “days of Peleg” about 100 years after the Flood (Genesis 10:25). Therefore, in the days of Noah the mountains were low and valleys were not found.
Four-fifths of the earth is currently covered by seas. At the time of the flood all the fountains of the sea came up (Genesis 7:11). It wasn’t just the rain. When the rain stopped the fountains also of the deep were stopped (Genesis 8:2). The earth was originally completely covered by seas. Sea fossils can be found on the tops of the highest mountains. It is not unreasonable the Lord could immerse the land a second time.
There is definite symbolism in the earth being born of water, baptized, dying, and being renewed to its paradisiacal and then its Celestial glory.
Jeff, great round table! You alluded to references concerning the translation of Noah; I have always considered the possibility due to the writings in Daniel, however have never found even a hint. Would love to be able to look at those if that is something you think is worth share. Thanks so much for the consideration.
PS I love the site and have benefitted greatly! Shared with so many already… Keep it up and we appreciate your work.
Hi, Scott. Glad to hear you are enjoying the series. Here is an excerpt from In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel p. 202 that describes evidence for the possibility of the translation of Noah:
it is not insignificant
that, in the book of Moses, Noah’s three children are explicitly called the “sons of God.”34
Noah’s high standing in the eyes of God can be compared with that of Enoch, who was the
only other mortal in scripture said to have “walked with God”35 — meaning, some claim,
that these two patriarchs attained “eternal life” while still in mortality.36 Going further,
Litwa understands the phrase “walked with God” to signify “travel[ing] back and forth with
the gods,”37 and in the case of Enoch he associates the idea with deification.38 Likewise, in
the account of Berossus, the flood hero does not die, but like Enoch and Utnapushtim is
taken suddenly from earth and “translated to live with the gods.”39 Indeed, Enoch and Noah,
whose names are mentioned together three times in the story of the Flood,40 are the only
two included in the genealogical list of the patriarchs whose deaths are not mentioned.41
Both “found life amid the curse of death,”42 both were rescued from death by the hand of
God,43 and each in his turn a rescuer to others.44 Depictions of Noah in the catacombs show
him rising out of the Ark in a pose of resurrection, prefiguring the emergence of the Savior
from His tomb.
33 G. W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 106:2, p. 536. For a more extensive discussion of accounts of Noah’s
“angelomorphic” appearance in pseudepigrapha, see C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, Glory, pp. 33-55.
34 Moses 8:13.
35 See Endnote M8-4, p. 243.
36 See Kraeling and Bailey, cited in E. A. Harper, Glad Tidings 1, p. 14 n. 19.
37 M. D. Litwa, We Are Being, p. 104. See Endnote M8-5, p. 243.
38 Ibid., p. 105. Cf. P. S. Alexander, From Son of Adam, p. 103.
39 See C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, p. 359. See Endnote M8-6, p. 243.
40 Moses 8:2, Moses 8:19, and jst Genesis 9:21-24.
41 J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 71. In the case of Noah, however, his death is later noted in Genesis 9:29.
42 Ibid., p. 74.
43 Ibid., p. 75.
44 Enoch established a city so righteous that it could be received into God’s “own bosom” (Moses 7:69), and Noah
made an ark that saved all living creatures and a remnant of mankind from the Flood.
The translation of Noah would make sense in that he (Gabriel) appeared to Mary and Joseph prior to the resurrection. Angels before their mortality can obviously appear to mortals but I question whether they can after their death and prior to their resurrection.
Thanks, Theodore. In my opinion D&C 129:3 covers both cases you mention.
When Gabriel (Noah) appeared to Zacharias he stated:
“And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God;”
I suggest this is compelling evidence that Noah was translated because those in the world of departed spirits do not “stand in the presence of God.” (see D&C 138:12-16)
I’ve wondered, how would “the” door would have been made with lower, second, and third stories? I guess I can’t picture how it would have looked.
Good question. A lot of uncertainty about the physical appearance. The most important thing that the scriptures wanted us to realize, I think, is the connection with the temple. The physical details were less important. (This is borne out by a Babylonian version of the story that describes the “ark” in terms and dimensions reminiscent of their temples.) There are even some versions of the story that describe the ark as a building rather than a ship.
Thank you, Gale! This is an important observation and I will have something to say on the topic in the next article in the series “Was Noah Drunk Or In a Vision?” (JBOTL06B).
Verse 16 in Genesis 6 has been mistranslated in the KJV: A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
The word “window” was translated from tzohar, which is a glowing stone that lit the ark. It would be interesting to include that in the temple imagery of the ark.