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Bible Dictionaries

People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Ark. The vessel constructed by Noah at God's command, for the preservation of himself and family, and a stock of the various animals, when the waters of the flood overflowed the inhabited earth. If the cubit be reckoned at 21 inches, the dimensions of the ark were 525 feet in length, 87 feet 6 inches in breadth, 52 feet 6 Inches in height. The proportions are those of the human body; and they are admirably adapted for a vessel required, like the ark, to float steadily with abundant stowage. This is proved by modern experiments. The ark was made of "gopher-wood," probably cypress; and it was to be divided into "rooms" or "nests," that is, furnished with a vast number of separate compartments, placed one above another in three tiers. Light was to be admitted by a window, not improbably a sky-light, a cubit broad, extending the whole length of the ark. If so, however, there must have been some protection from the rain. A "covering" is spoken of. Genesis 8:13; but several writers have believed that some transparent or translucent substance was employed, excluding the weather and admitting the light. It is observable that the "window" which Noah is said to have opened, Genesis 8:6, is not in the original the same word with that occurring in 6:16. Perhaps one or more divisions of the long sky-light were made to open. There was a door also, through which the persons and the animals would enter and pass out. Many questions have been raised, and discussed at great length by skeptics and others, respecting the form and dimensions of the ark; the number of animals saved in it—whether including all species then existing in the world, except such as live in water or lie dormant, or only the species living in the parts of the world then peopled by man; and as to the possibility of their being all lodged in the ark, and their food during the year. Some of these questions the Bible clearly settles. Others it is vain to discuss, since we have no means of deciding them. It was by miracle that he was forewarned and directed to prepare for the flood; and the same miraculous power accomplished all that Noah was unable to do in designing, building, and filling the ark, and preserving and guiding it through the deluge. 2. Moses's ark was made of the bulrush or papyrus, which grows in marshy places in Egypt. It was daubed with slime, which was probably the mud of which their bricks were made, and with pitch or bitumen. Exodus 2:3. 3. Ark of the covenant. The most important piece of the tabernacle's furniture. It appears to have been an oblong chest of shittim (acacia) wood, two and a half cubits long, by one and a half broad and deep. Within and without gold was overlaid on the wood; and on the upper side or lid, which was edged round about with gold, the mercy seat was placed. The ark was fitted with rings, one at each of the four corners, and through these were passed staves of the same wood similarly overlaid, by which it was carried by the Kohathites. Numbers 7:9; Numbers 10:21. The ends of the staves were visible without the veil in the holy place of the temple of Solomon. 1 Kings 8:8. The ark, when transported, was covered with the "veil" of the dismantled tabernacle, in the curtain of badgers' skins, and in a blue cloth over all, and was therefore not seen. Numbers 4:5; Numbers 4:20. The chief facts in the earlier history of the ark, see Joshua 3:1-17; Joshua 6:1-27, need not be recited. Before David's time its abode was frequently changed. It sojourned among several, probably Levitical, famines, 1 Samuel 7:1; 2 Samuel 6:3; 2 Samuel 6:11; 1 Chronicles 13:13; 1 Chronicles 15:24-25, in the border villages of eastern Judah, and did not take its place in the tabernacle, but dwelt in curtains, i.e., in a separate tent pitched for it in Jerusalem by David. When idolatry became more shameless in the kingdom of Judah, Manasseh placed a "carved image" in the "house of God," and probably removed the ark to make way for it. This may account for the subsequent statement that it was reinstated by Josiah. 2 Chronicles 33:7; 2 Chronicles 35:3. It was probably taken captive or destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Ark'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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