2.5 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland. Churches are helping but the financial burden is too much.
Consider helping today!

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


Additional Links


is used in the Bible to designate three vessels of special importance.

1. NOAH'S ARK (תֵּבָה, tebah'; Sept. κιβωτός, a chest; Josephus λάρναξ , a coffer; Vulg. area, Genesis 6:14), different from the term אָרוֹן, aron', applied to the "ark" of the covenant, and other receptacles which we know to have been chests or coffers, but the same that is applied to the "ark" in which Moses was hid (Exodus 2:3), the only other part of Scripture in which it occurs. In the latter passage the Septuagint renders it θίβη, a ship; but the truth seems to be that aron denotes any kind of chest or coffer, while the exclusive application of tebah to the vessels of Noah and of Moses would suggest the probability that it was restricted to such chests or arks as were intended to float upon the water, of whatever description. The identity of the name with that of the wicker basket in which Moses was exposed on the Nile has led some to suppose that the ark of Noah was also of wicker-work, or rather was wattled and smeared over with bitumen (Auth. Vers. "pitch," Genesis 6:14). This is not impossible, seeing that vessels of considerable burden are thus constructed at the present day; but there is no sufficient authority for carrying the analogy to this extent.

The boat-like form of the ark, which repeated pictorial representations have rendered familiar, is fitted for progression and for cutting the waves; whereas the ark of Noah was really destined to float idly upon the waters, without any other motion than that which it received from them. If we examine the passage in Genesis 6:14-16, we can only draw from it the conclusion that the ark was not a boat or ship; but, as Dr. Robinson (in Calmet's Diet. s.v.) describes it, "a building in the form of a parallelogram, 300 cubits long, 50 cubits broad, and 30 cubits high. The length of the cubit, in the great variety of measures that bore this name, it is impossible to ascertain and useless to conjecture. So far as the name affords any evidence, it also goes to show that the ark of Noah was not a regularly-built vessel, but merely intended to float at large upon the waters. We may, therefore, probably with justice, regard it as a large oblong, floating house, with a roof either flat or only slightly inclined. It was constructed with three stories, and had a door in the side. There is no mention of windows in the side, but above, i.e. probably in the flat roof, where Noah was commanded to make them of a cubit in size (Genesis 6:16). That this is the meaning of the passage seems apparent from Genesis 8:13, where Noah removes the covering of the ark in order to ascertain whether the ground was dry-a labor unnecessary, surely, had there been windows in the sides of the ark." The purpose of this ark was to preserve certain persons and animals from the deluge with which God intended to overwhelm the land, in punishment for man's iniquities.

The persons were eight-Noah and his wife, with his three sons and their wives (Genesis 7:7; 2 Peter 2:5). The animals were, one pair of every " unclean" animal, and seven pairs of all that were "clean." By "clean" we understand fit, and by "unclean" unfit, for food or sacrifice. Of birds there were seven pairs (Genesis 7:2-3). Those who have written professedly and largely on the subject have been at great pains to provide for all the existing species of animals in the ark of Noah, showing how they might be distributed, fed, and otherwise provided for. But they are very far from having cleared the matter of all its difficulties, which are much greater than they, in their general ignorance of natural history, were aware of. These difficulties, however, chiefly arise from the assumption that the species of all the earth were collected in the ark. The number of such species has been vastly underrated by these writers, partly from ignorance, and partly from the desire to limit the number for which they imagined they were required to provide. They have usually satisfied themselves with a provision for three or four hundred species at most. "But of the existing mammalia considerably more than one thousand species are known; of birds, fully five thousand; of reptiles, very few kinds of which can live in water, two thousand; and the researches of travellers and naturalists are making frequent and most interesting additions to the number of these and all other classes. Of insects (using the word in the popular sense) the number of species is immense; to say one hundred thousand would be moderate: each has its appropriate habitation and food, and these are necessary to its life; and the larger number could not live in water. Also the innumerable millions upon millions of animalcules must be provided for, for they have all their appropriate and diversified places and circumstances of existence" (Dr. J. Pye Smith, 0n the Relation between the Holy Scriptures and some Parts of Geological Science, p. 135). Nor do these numbers form the only difficulty; for, as the same writer observes: "All land animals have their geographical regions, to which their constitutional natures are congenial, and many could not live in any other situation. We cannot represent to ourselves the idea of their being brought into one small spot, from the polar regions, the torrid zone, and all the other climates of Asia, Africa, Europe, America, Australia, and the thousands of islands, their preservation and provision, and the final disposal of them, without bringing up the idea of miracles more stupendous than any which are recorded in Scripture." These are some of the difficulties which arise on the supposition that all the species of animals existing in the world were assembled together and contained in the ark..

And if the object, as usually assumed, was to preserve the species of creatures which the Deluge would otherwise have destroyed, the provision for beasts and birds only must have been altogether inadequate. What, then, would have become of the countless reptiles, insects, and animalcules to which we have already referred ? and it is not clear that some provision must not also have been necessary for fishes and shell-animals, many of which cannot live in fresh water, while others cannot live in salt. The difficulty of assembling in one spot, and of providing for in the ark, the various mammalia and birds alone, even without including the otherwise essential provision for reptiles, insects, and fishes, is quite sufficient to suggest some error in the current belief. We are to consider the different kinds of accommodation and food which would be required for animals of such different habits and climates, and the necessary provision for cleansing the stables or dens. And if so much ingenuity has been required in devising arrangements for the comparatively small number of species which the writers on the ark have been willing to admit into it, what provision can be made for the immensely larger number which, under the supposed conditions, would really have required its shelter ? There seems to be no way of meeting these difficulties but by adopting the suggestion of Bishop Stillingfleet, approved by Matthew Poole, Dr. J. Pye Smith, Le Clerc, Rosenmuller, and others, namely, that, as the object of the Deluge was to sweep man from the earth, it did not extend beyond that region of the earth which man then inhabited, and that only the animals of that region were preserved in the ark. (See DELUGE).

Bishop Stillingfleet, who wrote in plain soberness long before geology was known as a science, and when, therefore, those discoveries were altogether unthought of, by which, in our day, such warm controversies have been excited, expresses his belief that the Flood was universal as to mankind, and that all men, except those preserved in the ark, were destroyed; but he sees no evidence from Scripture that the whole earth was then inhabited; he does not think that it can ever be proved to have been so; and he asks what reason there can be to extend the Flood beyond the occasion of it. He grants that, as far as the Flood extended, all the animals were destroyed; "but," he adds, " I see no reason to extend the destruction of these beyond the compass of the earth which men then inhabited; the punishment of the beasts was occasioned by, and could not but be concomitant with, the destruction of mankind. But (the occasion of the Deluge being the sin of man, who was punished in the beasts that were destroyed for his sake, as well as in himself) where the occasion was not, as where there were animals and no men, there seems no necessity for extending the Flood thither" (Origines Sacrce, bk. iii, ch. iv). The bishop farther argues that the reason for preserving living creatures in the ark was that there might be a stock of the tame and domesticated animals that should be immediately " serviceable for man after the Flood; which was certainly the main thing looked at in the preservation of them in the ark, that men might have all of them ready for use after the Flood; which could not have been had not the several kinds been preserved in the ark, although we suppose them not destroyed in all parts of the world."

As Noah was the progenitor of all the nations of the earth, and as the ark was the second cradle of the human race, we might expect to find in all nations traditions and reports more or less distinct respecting him, the ark in which he was saved, and the Deluge in general. Accordingly, no nation is known in which such. traditions have not been found. They have been very industriously brought together by Banier, Bryant, Faber, and other mythologists. (See ARARAT); (See NOAH). And as it appears that an ark- that is, a boat or chest-was carried about with great ceremony in most of the ancient mysteries, and occupied an eminent station in the holy places, it has with much reason been concluded that this was originally intended to represent the ark of Noah, which eventually came to be regarded with superstitious reverence. On this point the historical and mythological testimonies are very clear and conclusive. The tradition of a deluge, by which the race of man was swept from the face of the earth. has been traced among the Chaldseans, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Goths, Druids, Chinese, Hindoos, Burmese, Mexicans, Peruvians, Brazilians, Nicaraguans, the inhabitants of Western Caledonia, and the islanders of the Pacific; and among most of them also the belief has prevailed that certain individuals were preserved in an ark, ship, boat, or raft, to replenish the desolated earth with inhabitants. Nor are these traditions uncorroborated by coins and monuments of stone. Of the latter there are the sculptures of Egypt and of India; and it is fancied that those of the monuments called Druidical which bear the name of kistvaens, and in which the stones are disposed in the form of a chest or house, were intended as memorials of the ark. The curious subject of Arkite worship is especially illustrated by the two famous medals of Apamea. There were six cities of this name, of which the most celebrated was that of Syria; next to it in importance was the one in Phrygia, called also Κιβωτός , Kibotos, which, as we have seen, means an ark or hollow vessel. The medals in question belong, the one to the elder Philip, and the other to Pertinax. In the former it is extremely interesting to observe that on the front of the ark is the name of Noah, ΝΩΕ, in Greek characters. In both we perceive the ark floating on the water, containing the patriarch and his wife, the dove on wing, the olive-branch, and the raven perched on the ark. These medals also represent Noah and his wife on terrafirma, in the attitude of rendering thanks for their safety. The genuineness of these medals has been established beyond all question by the researches of Bryant and the critical inspection of Abbe Barthelemy. There is another medal, struck in honor of the Emperor Hadrian, which bears the inscription ΑΠΑΜΕΩΝ ΚΙΒΩΤΟΣ ΜΑΡΣΣΙΑ, "the ark and the Marsyas of the Apameans." (See APAMEA). The coincidences which these medals offer are at least exceedingly curious; and they are scarcely less illustrative of the prevailing belief to which we are referring, if, as some suppose, the figures represented are those of Deucalion and Pyrrha (Meisner, De arca Noachi, Witt. 1622). (See FLOOD).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ark'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse: