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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Ark

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arca, denotes a kind of floating vessel built by Noah, for the preservation of himself and family, with several species of animals during the deluge. The Hebrew word by which the ark is expressed, is תבת or תיבת , the constructive form of תבה , which is evidently the Greek θιβη ; and so the LXX render the word in Exodus 2:3 , where only it again occurs. They also render it κιβωτον ; Josephus, λαρνακα ; and the Vulgate arcam; signifying an ark, coffer, or chest. Although the ark of Noah answered, in some respects, the purpose of a ship, it is not so certain that it was of the same form and shape. It has been inconclusively argued by Michaelis and some others, that if its form had not been like that of a ship, it could not have resisted the force of the waves; because it was not intended to be conducted, like a ship, from one place to another, but merely "to float on the surface of the waters," Genesis 7:17 . It appears to have had neither helm, nor mast, nor oars; but was merely a bulky capacious vessel, light enough to be raised aloft with all its contents, by the gradual rise of the deluge. Its shape, therefore, was of little importance; more especially as it seems to have been the purpose of Providence, in this whole transaction, to signify to those who were saved, as well as to their latest posterity, that their preservation was not in any degree effected by human contrivance. The ark in which Moses was exposed bears the same name; and some have thought that both were of the same materials. With respect to the etymology of the Hebrew word, the most rational seems to be that of Clodius, who derives it from the Arabic word תאב , "he collected," from which is formed תבה , or תיבה , denoting a place in which things are collected. Foster deduces it from two Egyptian words, thoi, "a ship," and bai, "a palm tree branch;" and such ships are still to be seen not only in Egypt, but in India and other countries; particularly in some isles of the Pacific Ocean.

To the insufficiency of the ark to contain all the creatures said to have been brought into it, objections have, at different times, been made. Bishop Wilkins and others have learnedly discussed this subject, and afforded the most satisfactory answers. Dr. Hales proves the ark to have been of the burden of forty-two thousand four hundred and thirteen tons; and asks, "Can we doubt of its being sufficient to contain eight persons, and about two hundred or two hundred and fifty pair of four-footed animals, (a number to which, according to M. Buffon, all the various distinct species may be reduced,) together with all the subsistence necessary for a twelvemonth, with the fowls of the air, and such reptiles and insects as cannot live under water?" All these various animals were controlled by the power of God, whose special agency is supposed in the whole transaction, and "the lion was made to lie down with the kid."

Whether Noah was commanded to bring with him, into the ark, a pair of all living creatures, zoologically and numerically considered, has been doubted. During the long period between the creation and the flood, animals must have spread themselves over a great part of the antediluvian earth, and certain animals would, as now, probably become indigenous to certain climates. The pairs saved must therefore, if all the kinds were included, have travelled from immense distances. But of such marches no intimation is given in the history; and this seems to render it probable that the animals which Noah was "to bring with him" into the ark, were the animals clean and unclean of the country in which he dwelt, and which, from the capacity of the ark, must have been in great variety and number. The terms used, it is true, are universal; and it is satisfactory to know, that if taken in the largest sense there was ample accommodation in the ark. Nevertheless, universal terms in Scripture are not always to be taken mathematically, and in the vision of Peter, the phrase παντα τα τετραποδα της γης ,— all the four-footed beasts of the earth, must be understood of varii generis quadrupedes, as Schleusner paraphrases it. Thus we may easily account for the exuviae of animals, whose species no longer exist, which have been discovered in various places. The number of such extinct species probably has been greatly overrated by Cuvier; but of the fact, to a considerable extent, there can be no doubt. It is also to be observed that the presumptive evidence of the truth of the fact of the preparation of such a vessel, and of the supernatural circumstances which attended it, is exceedingly strong. It is, in truth, the only solution of a difficulty which has no other explanation; for as a universal deluge is confirmed by the general history of the world, and by a variety of existing facts and monuments, such a structure as the ark, for the preservation and sustenance of various animals, seems to have been absolutely necessary; for as we can trace up the first imperfect rudiments of the art of ship building among the Greeks, there could be no ships before the flood; and, consequently, no animals could have been saved. Nay, it is highly improbable that even men and domestic annuals could be saved, not to mention wild beasts, serpents, &c, though we should admit that the antediluvians had shipping, unless we should suppose, also, that they had a divine intimation respecting the flood, such as Moses relates; but this would be to give up the cause of infidelity. Mr. Bryant has collected a variety of ancient historical relations, which show that some records concerning the ark had been preserved among most nations of the world, and in the general system of Gentile mythology. Abydenus, with whom all the eastern writers concur, informs us that the place of descent from the ark was Armenia; and that its remains had been preserved for a long time. Plutarch mentions the Noachic dove, and its being sent out of the ark. Lucian speaks of Deucalion's going forth from the ark, and raising an altar to God. The priests of Ammonia had a custom, at particular seasons, of carrying in procession a boat, in which was an oracular shrine, held in great veneration: and this custom of carrying the deity in an ark or boat was in use also among the Egyptians. Bishop Pococke has preserved three specimens of ancient sculpture, in which this ceremony is displayed. They were very ancient, and found by him in Upper Egypt. The ship of Isis referred to the ark, and its name, "Baris," was that of the mountain corresponding to Ararat in Armenia. Bryant finds reference to the ark in the temples of the serpent worship, called Dracontia; and also in that of Sesostris, fashioned after the model of the ark, in commemoration of which it was built, and consecrated to Osiris at Theba; and he conjectures that the city, said to be one of the most ancient in Egypt, as well as the province, was denominated from it, Theba being the appellation of the ark. In other countries, as well as in Egypt, an ark, or ship, was introduced in their mysteries, and often carried about in the seasons of their festivals. He finds, also, in the story of the Argonauts several particulars, that are thought to refer to the ark of Noah. As many cities, not in Egypt only and Boeotia, but in Cilicia, Ionia, Attica, Phthiotis, Cataonia, Syria, and Italy, were called Theba; so likewise the city Apamea was denominated Cibotus, from κιβωτος , in memory of the ark, and of the history connected with it. The ark, according to the traditions of the Gentile world, was prophetic; and was regarded as a kind of temple or residence of the deity. It comprehended all mankind, within the circle of eight persons, who were thought to be so highly favoured of Heaven that they at last were reputed to be deities. Hence in the ancient mythology of Egypt, there were precisely eight gods; and the ark was esteemed an emblem of the system of the heavens. The principal terms by which the ancients distinguished the ark were Theba, Baris, Arguz, Aren, Arene, Arni, Laris, Boutas, Boeotus, and Cibotus; and out of these they formed different personages. See DELUGE .


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Ark'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/a/ark.html. 1831-2.

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