[chest, box, vessel].
1. Noah’s ark was the provision by which forefathers of all mankind survived the global deluge of 2370-2369 B.C.E. (See DELUGE; NOAH No. 1.) Detailed instructions were given to Noah by Jehovah as to its size, shape, design for light and ventilation, and materials to be used for its construction.—Gen. 6:14-16.
DESIGN AND SIZE
The ark was a rectangular chestlike vessel presumably having square corners and a flat bottom. It needed no rounded bottom or sharp bow to cut rapidly through the water; it required no steering; its only functions were to be watertight and stay afloat. A vessel so shaped is very stable, cannot be easily capsized, and contains about one-third more storage space than ships of conventional design. The roof was likely flat or perhaps angled slightly if at all.
In size the ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. Conservatively calculating the cubit as 17.5 inches (some think the ancient cubit was nearer twenty-two or twenty-four inches), the ark measured 437 feet 6 inches by 72 feet 11 inches by 43 feet 9 inches (133.5 meters by 22.3 meters by 13.4 meters), less than half the length of the ocean liner “United States.” Incidentally, this proportion of length to width (6 to 1) is used by modern naval architects. This gave the ark over one and a fifth million cubic feet in gross volume. It is estimated that such a vessel would have a displacement nearly equal that of the mighty 882 1⁄2-foot Titanic of this twentieth century. No cargo vessel of ancient times even slightly resembled the ark in its colossal size. Internally strengthened by adding two floors, the three decks thus provided gave a total of more than 91,000 square feet of space.
“You will make a tsoʹhar (roof; or, window) for the ark,” Noah was told. (Gen. 6:16) Just what this was or how it was constructed is not altogether clear. Some authorities think tsoʹhar is related to light and translate it “window” (AV, Mo), “light” (AS, JP), “a place for light” (Ro). Other scholars, however, associate tsoʹhar with a later Arabic root meaning “back (of the hand),” “back (of a beast),” that is, the part away from the ground, hence the top of a ship (the part away from the water), and for this reason translate it “roof.” (AT, RS, JB) This tso’har, Noah was told, was to be completed “to the extent of a cubit upward.” (Gen. 6:16) It is, therefore, thought that the tsoʹhar provided for adequate light and ventilation, not just a single cubit-square “peephole,” but a cubit in height near the roof, and extending around the four sides to give an opening of perhaps 1,400 square feet (130 square meters). The rain was no doubt kept out of the ark by the roof’s overhanging eaves. In addition, there was a door provided in the side of the ark for loading and unloading the cargo.
Of what this huge ark was to be built was made plain by the Master Designer: “Make for yourself an ark out of wood of a resinous tree [literally, “of the goʹpher tree”].” (Gen. 6:14) This resinous wood here prescribed is thought by some to be cypress or a similar tree. In that part of the world what today is called cypress was in abundant supply; it was particularly favored for shipbuilding by the Phoenicians and by Alexander the Great, as it is even down to the present time; and it is especially resistant to water and decay. Doors and posts made of cypress are reported to have lasted 1,100 years. In addition, Noah was told not merely to caulk the seams but to “cover [the ark] inside and outside with tar.”—See BITUMEN.
AMPLE CARRYING CAPACITY
The passenger list of this boat was quite formidable. Besides Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives, living creatures “of every sort of flesh, two of each,” were to be taken aboard. “Male and female they will be. Of the flying creatures according to their kinds and of the domestic animals according to their kinds, of all moving animals of the ground according to their kinds, two of each will go in there to you to preserve them alive.” Of the clean beasts and fowls, seven of each kind were to be taken. A great quantity and variety of food for all these creatures, to last for more than a year, also had to be stowed away.—Gen. 6:18-21; 7:2, 3.
The “kinds” of animals selected had reference to the clear-cut and unalterable boundaries or limits set by the Creator, within which creatures are capable of breeding “according to their kinds.” It has been estimated by some that the more than 750,000 species of animals today could be reduced to a comparatively few family “kinds”—the horse kind and the cow kind, to mention but two. The breeding boundaries according to “kind” established by Jehovah were not and could not be crossed. With this in mind some investigators have said that, had there been as few as forty-three “kinds” of mammals, seventy-four “kinds” of birds and ten “kinds” of reptiles in the ark, they could have produced the variety of species known today. Others have been more liberal in estimating that seventy-two “kinds” of quadrupeds and less than two hundred bird “kinds” were all that were required. That the great variety of animal life known today could have come from inbreeding within so few “kinds” following the Flood is proved by the endless variety of humankind—short, tall, fat, thin, with countless variations in the color of hair, eyes and skin—all of whom sprang from the one family of Noah.
These estimates may seem too restrictive to some, especially since the noted zoologist Theodosius Dobzhansky (based on the work of taxonomist Ernst Mayr) says there are one million species of animals. (Genetics and the Origin of Species, 3d ed., 1957, pp. 6, 7) However, about three-fourths of the one million are insects. Breaking his figures down further, of the 17,600 vertebrate animals other than fishes, 8,600 are birds, 5,500 are reptiles and amphibians, many of which could have survived outside the ark, and only 3,500 are mammals, including whales and porpoises, which would have also remained outside the ark. Other authorities estimate that there are only about 290 species of land mammals larger than sheep and nearly 1,400 smaller than rats. (The Deluge Story in Stone, B. C. Nelson, 1949, p. 156; The Flood in the Light of the Bible, Geology, and Archaeology, A. M. Rehwinkel, 1957, p. 69) So, even if estimates are based on these expanded figures, the ark could easily have accommodated a pair of all these animals.
Five months after the Deluge began, “the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat,” not likely, however, atop the uppermost 17,000-foot peak, but on suitable terrain where everyone aboard lived comfortably for some months more. Finally, after a year and ten days from the time the Deluge began, the door again was opened and all aboard disembarked.—Gen. 7:11; 8:4, 14.
EFFORTS TO LOCATE REMAINS
Just where the remains of the ark are today in “the mountains of Ararat” is not certain. (Gen. 8:4) Berossus and Abydenus, both of the third century B.C.E., are quoted by Josephus and Eusebius respectively as reporting that part of the ark remained in their time. During the past century many expeditions have probed the Ararat range in search of it, and some returned with what are purported to be samples of that ancient craft. In the early 1880’s the Turkish government sponsored an expedition that claims it found a vessel and inspected its chambers. Another deduced in 1892 that the vessel lay partly exposed in summer months, covered with ice and snow the remainder of the year. A Russian flier claimed to have seen the ark from the air during the first world war; an ascent followed, by a team that is said to have inspected many of the interior chambers, made pictures and found some of the walls to be two feet thick. The report was filed with the Czarist government, which was soon overthrown by the Communist revolution. It was not until 1942 that one man published the account and five years later the Moscow radio broadcast the story. Some, however, have discounted this whole account.
During World War II several aerial glimpses were reported. In 1956 a Frenchman and his son succeeded in bringing back some wood. In the 1950’s and 1960’s searches have been almost continuous. Timbers brought down from Ararat in 1955 and 1958 were figured to be 4,000 to 5,000 years old. Wide publicity was given to a 1959-1960 investigation of an unusual topographical feature about twenty miles from Ararat, but this proved to be attributable to a landslide—no ark there. The year 1962 yielded more wood. In 1964 four expeditions from various nations were organized. The year 1965 saw, among others, a quarter-million-dollar expedition sponsored by a scientific organization. In 1966 it was reported that a team of archaeologists were still drilling through the ice, hoping to make “one of history’s greatest discoveries.” Modern electronic equipment has joined picks and shovels in the search. However, the truthfulness of the Bible’s account does not depend on their finding a vessel that corresponds with the Biblical description of the ark. The ark itself could possibly have been dismatled over a period of time after the Flood, and the materials used for other construction.
2. The small chest in which Jochebed concealed her three-month-old “good-looking” baby later named Moses, and which was found by Pharaoh’s daughter among the reeds by the bank of the Nile, in 1593 B.C.E. It was made of papyrus and was waterproofed with a coating of bitumen and pitch.—Ex. 2:2-4, 10; 6:20.
3. The container made of acacia wood in which the second set of stone tablets of the law given Moses on Mount Sinai were temporarily kept until the ark of the testimony was constructed some months later.—Deut. 10:1-5.
See ARK OF THE COVENANT.