Make thee an ark - תבת tebath, a word which is used only to express this vessel, and that in which Moses was preserved, Exodus 2:3, Exodus 2:5. It signifies no more than our word vessel in its common acceptation - a hollow place capable of containing persons, goods, etc., without any particular reference to shape or form.
Gopher wood - Some think the cedar is meant; others, the cypress. Bochart renders this probable, 1. From the appellation, supposing the Greek word κυπαρισσος, cypress, was formed from the Hebrew גפר , gopher ; for take away the termination ισσος, and then gopher and κυπαρ will have a near resemblance. 2. Because the cypress is not liable to rot, nor to be injured by worms. 3. The cypress was anciently used for ship-building. 4. This wood abounded in Assyria, where it is probable Noah built the ark. After all, the word is of doubtful signification, and occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. The Septuagint render the place, εκ ξυλων τετραγωνων, "of square timber;" and the Vulgate, de lignis laevigatis, "of planed timber;" so it is evident that these translators knew not what kind of wood was intended by the original. The Syriac and Arabic trifle with the passage, rendering it wicker work, as if the ark had been a great basket! Both the Targums render it cedar; and the Persian, pine or fir.
- Section VI - The Deluge
- XXIII. The Ark
9. דור dôr “age, time from birth to death,” applied either to an individual or the whole contemporary race, running parallel with some leading individual. Hence, the “race” or “generation” living during that time.
14. תבה tēbâh “chest, ark.” It is used only of this vessel of Noah‘s construction, and of the little vessel in which Moses was put Exodus 2:3, Exodus 2:5. The root, according to Furst, means “to be hollow.” אבה 'ēbeh a cognate word, signifies “a reed;” κιβωτός kibōtos Septuagint. גפר goper α . λ ., perhaps “fir, cypress, resinous wood.” קן qēn “nest, room; related: prepare, rear up.”
16. צהר tsohar “shining, light;” not the same as the חלון chalôn Genesis 8:6, or the aperture through which Noah let out the raven.
18. ברית berı̂yt “covenant; related: cut, eat, choose, decide.”
The close of the preceding document introduces the opening topic of this one. The same rule applies to all that have gone before. The generations of the skies and the land Genesis 2:4 are introduced by the finishing of the skies and the land Genesis 2:1; the generations of man in the line of Sheth Genesis 5:1, by the birth of Sheth Genesis 4:25; and now the generations of Noah, by the notice that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. The narrative here also, as usual, reverts to a point of time before the stage of affairs described in the close of the preceding passage. Yet there is nothing here that seems to indicate a new author. The previous paragraph is historical, and closely connected with the end of the fourth chapter; and it suitably prepares for the proceedings of Noah, under the divine direction, on the eye of the deluge. We have now a recapitulation of the agent and the occasion, and then the divine commission and its execution.
Here are the man and the occasion.
The generations of Noah. - In the third document we had the generations of man; now we are limited to Noah, because he is himself at peace with God, and is now the head and representative of those who are in the same blessed relation. The narrative, therefore, for the first time, formally confines itself to the portion of the human family in communion with God, Noah is here characterized by two new and important epithets - “just” and “perfect.” It is to be remembered that he had already found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Adam was created good; but by disobedience he became guilty, and all his race, Noah among the rest, became involved in that guilt. To be just is to be right in point of law, and thereby entitled to all the blessings of the acquitted and justified. When applied to the guilty, this epithet implies pardon of sin among other benefits of grace. It also presupposes that spiritual change by which the soul returns from estrangement to reconciliation with God. Hence, Noah is not only just, but perfect. This attribute of character imports not only the turning from darkness to light, from error to truth, from wrong to right, but the stability of moral determination which arises from the struggle, the trial, the victory of good over evil, therein involved. The just is the right in law; the perfect is the tested in holiness. “In his ages;” among the men of his age. This phrase indicates the contrast between Noah and the men of his day. It is probable, moreover, that he was of pure descent, and in that respect also distinguished from his contemporaries who were the offspring of promiscuous intermarriage between the godly and the ungodly. “Noah walked with God,” like Henok. This is the native consequence of his victory over sin, and his acceptance with God. His sons are mentioned, as they are essentially connected with the following events.
And the land was corrupt. - In contrast with Noah, the rest of the race were corrupt - entirely depraved by sin. “It was filled with violence” - with the outward exhibition of inward carnality. “And God saw this.” It was patent to the eye of Heaven. This is the ground of the following commission.
The directions concerning the ark embrace the purpose to destroy the race of man Genesis 6:13, the plan and specification of the ark Genesis 6:14-16, the announcement of the deluge Genesis 6:17, the arrangements for the preservation of Noah and his family, and certain kinds of animals Genesis 6:18-21.
The end of all flesh. - The end may mean either the point to which it tends, or the extermination of the race. The latter is the simpler. All flesh is to be understood of the whole race, while yet it does not preclude the exception of Noah and his family. This teaches us to beware of applying an inflexible literality to such terms as all, when used in the sense of ordinary conversation. “Is come before me,” is in the contemplation of my mind as an event soon to be realized. “For the land is filled with violence.” The reason. “I will destroy them.” The resolve. There is retribution here, for the words “corrupt” and “destroy” are the same in the original.
The ark. - Reckoning the cubit at 1.8 feet, we find the length to be about 540, the breadth 90, and the height 54 feet. The construction of such a vessel implies great skill in carpentry. The lighting apparatus is not described so particularly that we can form any conception of it. It was probably in the roof. The roof may have been flat. “And to a cubit shalt thou finish it above.” The cubit is possibly the height of the parapet round the lighting and ventilating aperture. The opening occupied, it may be, a considerable portion of the roof, and was covered during the rain with an awning מכסה mı̂ksēh Genesis 8:13. If, however, it was in the sides of the ark, the cubit was merely its height. It was then finished with a strong railing, which went round the whole ark, and over which the covering, above mentioned, hung down on every side. The door was in the side, and the stories were three. In each were of course many “nests” or chambers, for animals and stores. It may be curious to a mechanical mind to frame the details of this structure from the general hints here given; but it could not serve any practical end. Only the animals necessary to man, or unusual to the region covered by the deluge, required to be included in the ark. It seems likely that wild animals in general were not included. It is obvious, therefore, that we cannot calculate the number of animals preserved in the ark, or compare the space they would require with its recorded dimensions. We may rest assured that there was accommodation for all that needed to be there.
The method of destruction is now specified. A water flood shall cover the land, in which all flesh shall perish. I, “behold,” I. This catastrophe is due to the interposition of the Creator. It does not come according to the ordinary laws of physics, but according to the higher law of ethics.
The covenant with Noah. Here is the first appearance of a covenant between God and man on the face of Scripture. A covenant is a solemn compact, tacit or express, between two parties, in which each is bound to perform his part. Hence, a covenant implies the moral faculty; and wherever the moral faculty exists, there must needs be a covenant. Consequently, between God and man there was of necessity a covenant from the very beginning, though the name do not appear. At first it was a covenant of works, in regard to man; but now that works have failed, it can only be a covenant of grace to the penitent sinner. “My covenant.” The word “my” points to its original establishment with Adam. My primeval covenant, which I am resolved not to abandon. “Will I establish.” Though Adam has failed, yet will I find means of maintaining my covenant of life with the seed of the woman. “With thee.” Though all flesh be to perish through breach of my covenant, yet will I uphold it with thee. “Go into the ark.” This is the means of safety. Some may say in their hearts, this is a clumsy way to save Noah. But if he is to be saved, there must be some way. And it is not a sign of wisdom to prescribe the way to the All-wise. Rather let us reflect that the erection of this ark was a daily warning to a wicked race, a deepening lesson of reliance on God to Noah and his household, and a most salutary occupation for the progenitors of the future race of mankind. “And thy sons, etc.” Noah‘s household share in the covenant.
And of all the living. - For the sake of Noah, the animal species also shall be preserved, “two of each, male and female.” They are to come in pairs for propagation. The fowl, the cattle, the creeping thing or smaller animals, are to come. From this it appears that the wild animals are not included among the inmates of the ark. (See Genesis 7:2-3, Genesis 7:8.) The word “all” is not to be pressed beyond the specification of the writer. As the deluge was universal only in respect to the human race, it was not necessary to include any animals but those that were near man, and within the range of the overwhelming waters. Fodder and other provisions for a year have to be laid in.
The obedience of Noah and the accomplishment of his task are here recorded. The building of so enormous a fabric must have occupied many years.
I have a message for those standing at the head of our educational institutions. I am instructed to call the attention of every one occupying a position of responsibility, to the divine law as the basis of all right conduct. I am to begin by calling attention to the law given in Eden, and to the reward of obedience and the penalty of disobedience. FE 504.1
In consequence of Adam's transgression, sin was introduced into the fair world that God had created, and men and women became more and still more bold in disobeying His law. The Lord looked down upon the impenitent world, and decided that He must give transgressors an exhibition of His power. He caused Noah to know His purpose, and instructed him to warn the people while building an ark in which the obedient could find shelter until God's indignation was overpast. For one hundred and twenty years Noah proclaimed the message of warning to the antediluvian world; but only a few repented. Some of the carpenters he employed in building the ark, believed the message, but died before the flood; others of Noah's converts backslid. The righteous on the earth were but few, and only eight lived to enter the ark. These were Noah and his family. FE 504.2
The rebellious race was swept away by the flood. Death was their portion. By the fulfillment of the prophetic warning that all who would not keep the commandments of heaven should drink the waters of the flood, the truth of God's word was exemplified. FE 504.3
After the flood the people once more increased on the earth, and wickedness also increased. Idolatry became well-nigh universal, and the Lord finally left the hardened transgressors to follow their evil ways, while He chose Abraham, of the line of Shem, and made him the keeper of His law for future generations. To him the message came, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee.” And by faith Abraham obeyed. “He went out, not knowing whither he went.” FE 504.4Read in context »
The world was in its infancy; yet iniquity had become so deep and widespread that God could no longer bear with it; and He said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth.” He declared that His Spirit should not always strive with the guilty race. If they did not cease to pollute with their sins the world and its rich treasures, He would blot them from His creation, and would destroy the things with which He had delighted to bless them; He would sweep away the beasts of the field, and the vegetation which furnished such an abundant supply of food, and would transform the fair earth into one vast scene of desolation and ruin. PP 92.1
Amid the prevailing corruption, Methuselah, Noah, and many others labored to keep alive the knowledge of the true God and to stay the tide of moral evil. A hundred and twenty years before the Flood, the Lord by a holy angel declared to Noah His purpose, and directed him to build an ark. While building the ark he was to preach that God would bring a flood of water upon the earth to destroy the wicked. Those who would believe the message, and would prepare for that event by repentance and reformation, should find pardon and be saved. Enoch had repeated to his children what God had shown him in regard to the Flood, and Methuselah and his sons, who lived to hear the preaching of Noah, assisted in building the ark. PP 92.2
God gave Noah the exact dimensions of the ark and explicit directions in regard to its construction in every particular. Human wisdom could not have devised a structure of so great strength and durability. God was the designer, and Noah the master builder. It was constructed like the hull of a ship, that it might float upon the water, but in some respects it more nearly resembled a house. It was three stories high, with but one door, which was in the side. The light was admitted at the top, and the different apartments were so arranged that all were lighted. The material employed in the construction of the ark was the cypress, or gopher wood, which would be untouched by decay for hundreds of years. The building of this immense structure was a slow and laborious process. On account of the great size of the trees and the nature of the wood, much more labor was required then than now to prepare timber, even with the greater strength which men then possessed. All that man could do was done to render the work perfect, yet the ark could not of itself have withstood the storm which was to come upon the earth. God alone could preserve His servants upon the tempestuous waters. PP 92.3Read in context »
Noah and his family were not alone in fearing and obeying God. But Noah was the most pious and holy of any upon the earth, and was the one whose life God preserved to carry out his will in building the ark and warning the world of their coming doom. Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah, lived until the very year of the flood, and there were others who believed the preaching of Noah, and aided him in building the ark, who died before the flood of waters came upon the earth. Noah, by his preaching and example in building the ark, condemned the world. God gave all an opportunity who chose to repent and turn to him. But they believed not the preaching of Noah. They mocked at his warnings, and ridiculed the building of that immense boat on dry land. Noah's efforts to reform his fellow men did not succeed. But for more than one hundred years he persevered in his efforts to turn men to repentance and to God. Every blow struck upon the ark was preaching to the people. Noah directed, he preached, he worked, while the people looked on in amazement, and regarded him as a fanatic. 3SG 65.1Read in context »