Genesis (Part 29)

Welcome back my study of Genesis. Prior studies can be found by clicking on the menu tab in the upper right corner of my page at and from there click on “Books” in the drop-down menu. You will see a link to Genesis at that tab.

Genesis 6:14-17

14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.

Gopher wood?

Gopher wood?
  • The exact meaning of “gopher wood” is unknown though it is widely believed that this refers to cypress wood.
  • The word “ark” comes from תֵּבָה têbâh, tay-baw’; perhaps of foreign derivation; a box:—ark.
  • “Pitch” comes from כֹּפֶר kôpher, ko’-fer; from H3722; properly, a cover, i.e. (literally) a village (as covered in); (specifically) bitumen (as used for coating), and the henna plant (as used for dyeing); figuratively, a redemption-price:—bribe, camphire, pitch, ransom, satisfaction, sum of money, village.

Look at that definition for “pitch” again. This word is an example of deeper meaning lost in translation. The ark is covered in a “redemption price.”

  • How long is a cubit? אַמָּה ʼammâh, am-maw’; prolonged from H517; properly, a mother (i.e. unit of measure, or the fore-arm (below the elbow), i.e. a cubit; also a door-base (as a bond of the entrance):—cubit, + hundred (by exchange for H3967), measure, post.

    * cubit – a measure of distance (the forearm), roughly 18 in (.5m). There are several cubits used in the OT, the cubit of a man or common cubit (Dt 3.11), the legal cubit or cubit of the sanctuary (Eze 40.5) plus others. See a Bible Dictionary for a complete treatment.

So let’s convert those measurements.

  • 300 cubits long = (roughly) 150 meters or 450 feet. (Now let yourself imagine a 450 ft tall building.)
  • 50 cubits wide = (roughly) 25 meters or 75 feet.
  • 30 cubits high = (roughly) 15 meters or 45 feet.

This is a large vessel, but it is not so large that someone has not built a replica.

  • In verse 17, we are met with the word “flood” which comes from מַבּוּל mabbûwl, mab-bool’; from H2986 in the sense of flowing; a deluge:—flood.
  • BlueLetterBible includes a note below the definition here that I want to include:

Some think Noah’s flood was only local. However the description of it found in Gen 6-8 makes this patently absurd. If it were local, Noah had 120 years to migrate out of the area to safe ground! Why waste all that effort building a ship? He only had to move less than 1500 feet a day to reach the farthest point on the globe! With the possible exception of Psa 29:10, this word always refers to Noah’s flood. The real reason for insisting on a local flood is the acceptance of evolution with its long geological ages. Most holding that view are not willing to allow a global world wide flood to have happened less than 5000 years ago. To admit such eliminates the need for the geological ages for most of the geological column would have be rapidly laid down by Noah’s flood.

  • With respect for the writer of the note, I want to point out that they are making assumptions regarding God’s intentions. If it were a local Flood – even one covering the bulk of the Middle East, then could Noah have left? It seems likely. Might God have known that Noah had the ability to leave but wanted him to survive the flood in an Ark instead of by leaving? That also seems plausible. Perhaps putting regional animals on an ark made more sense to God, for helping them to survive, than Noah leading an animal menagerie across the desert? Who can say? I think we run into trouble sometimes when we make assumptions regarding God’s plans.
  • The text itself says that everything under the heavens/sky (shamayim) on the ‘erets, will die. As we discussed in the last post, ‘erets *might* mean the globe in the sense that we understand it as a modern reader. However, at the time of the writing, there was no understanding of the earth as being a globe. ‘erets was more widely thought of as something akin to “every place that we know about.” The boundaries of “every place we know about” would not have extended far beyond the Middle East at the time of Moses.
  • I will get into this some more in the next few posts but the scientific record suggests that there were a couple of global floods near the end of the last Ice Age as well as long periods of global rain. We also know about several enormous regional floods.

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