Ark of Noah

ARK OF NOAH (תֵּבָה, H9310; LXX κιβωτον, meaning chest, box, or boat, or a vessel to float). A vessel that God ordered Noah to build, for the purpose of preserving a remnant of the human race, together with two each of all animals, through the Flood (Gen 6:14-16).

It was built of gopher wood, sometimes rendered “pine,” but usually “cypress,” a material resistant to decay. The specifications called for a size of 300 cubits in length, 50 in width, and 30 in height. It was to have rooms (or “nests”) and was to be caulked with bitumen or asphalt. The length of a cubit is unknown, but is commonly believed to be eighteen inches. If the short cubit of 17.5 inches is used, the displacement can be shown as 19,940 tons, and if the 22.5 inch cubit is used, as much as 43,000 tons. The dimensions are entirely practical for good capacity and stability. Nothing is said concerning its shape, but it must be visualized as only a floating craft, with no propulsion or control. The door had to be sufficiently large for embarking animals, and the window description is somewhat ambiguous, but is usually taken to be a continuous feature, running around the vessel, under the roof. A parallel description is found in the Sumerian-Babylonian story of Utnapishtim. At the conclusion of the Flood, the Ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat (Gen 8:4).

Warning of the Flood was given 120 years beforehand, with directions to construct the Ark (Gen 6:3, 13, 14; 2 Pet 2:5—in which it was shown as an example of God’s long-suffering and final judgment). Christ used the Ark and Flood as examples of coming judgment and salvation of a remnant (Matt 24:38, 39; Luke 17:27), while Hebrews 11:7 uses it as an example of faith.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ark, no’-a: A structure built by Noah at the command of God to preserve from the Flood a remnant of the human race and of the animals associated with man. It was constructed of "gopher wood" (Ge 6:14)--very likely the cypress used extensively by the Phoenicians for ship-building. It was divided into rooms or nests, and was three stories high, pitched within and without with bitumen or "asphalt," of which there are extensive deposits at Hit, in the Euphrates valley, a little above Babylon. It was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits broad, 30 cubits high, which according to Petrie’s estimate of a cubit as 22.5 inches would make it to be 562 1/2 ft. long, 93 2/3 ft. wide, 56 1/4 ft. deep, which are natural proportions of a ship of that size. The dimensions of the "Great Eastern," built in 1858, were 692 ft. long, 83 ft. broad, 58 ft. deep; those of the "Celtic" built in 1901 are 700 ft. long, 75 ft. wide, 49 1/3 ft. deep. It is extremely improbable that such reasonable dimensions should have been assigned to the Ark except they were based on fact. Unrestrained tradition would have been sure to distort the proportions, as is shown by what actually occurred in other accounts of the Ark. The cuneiform tablets represent it as six stories high, with the length, width, and depth, each as 140 cubits (262 ft.), and having a mast on top of all, and a pilot to guide the impossible craft (see Deluge Tablet, ll.22, 23, 38-41). Berosus, the Greek historian, represents it to have been five stadia (3,000 ft.) long and two stadia (1,200 ft.) broad, while Origen, in order to confound Celsus (Against Celsus 4.41) gave the figures an interpretation which made the Ark 25 miles long and 3/4 of a mile wide.

It is needless to speculate upon the capacity of the Ark for holding absolutely all the species of animals found in the world, together with the food necessary for them, since we are only required to provide for such animals as were native to the area to which the remnants of the human race living at that time were limited, and which (see Deluge of Noah) may not have been large. But calculations show that the structure described contained a space of about 3,500,000 cubic feet, and that after storing food enough to support several thousand pairs of animals, of the average size, on an ocean voyage of a year, there would remain more than 50 cubic feet of space for each pair.

No mention is made in the Bible of a pilot for the Ark, but it seems to have been left to float as a derelict upon the waters. For that purpose its form and dimensions were perfect, as was long ago demonstrated by the celebrated navigator, Sir Walter Raleigh, who notes it had "a flat bottom, and was not raised in form of a ship, with a sharpness forward, to cut the waves for the better speed"--a construction which secured the maximum of storage capacity and made a vessel which would ride steadily upon the water. Numerous vessels after the pattern of the Ark, but of smaller dimensions, have been made in Holland and Denmark and proved admirably adapted for freightage where speed was not of the first importance. They would hold one-third more lading than other vessels, and would require no more hands to work them. The gradual rise and subsidence of the water, each continuing for six months, and their movement inland, render the survival of such a structure by no means unreasonable. According to Ge 6:3; 1Pe 3:20; 2Pe 2:5, warning of the Flood was given 120 years beforehand, and during that time Noah, while preparing the Ark, became a preacher of righteousness. For evidence that there was a gradual destruction of the race previous to the Flood, see nodetitle.