Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Ark Of Moses

Lifesize Noah's ark -Ark of Noah [1]
An old joke goes like this.

Q. How many animals did Moses take onto the ark?
A. None, it was Noah who built the ark.

If a person answered anything else, you could Bible shame them. Ah, good times.

Ark of the Covenant
Some people might try to save face by pointing out that is was Moses who built the ark of the covenant, but the problem is that only works in English. In Biblical Hebrew, the ark of the covenant is the word "aron", the word for Noah's ark is "tevah". They both mean box, so close.

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The word tevah is only used in two stories in the Bible, Noah's ark, and Moses' ark. Yes, Moses had an ark. Remember the story of baby Moses in Exodus 2?
1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
That "wicker basket" was a tevah, that is, an ark.

Moses being "drawn out" of his ark - JW [2]

A Bible study principle that I learned from Grant Luton of Beth Tikkun [3] is to look for words, names, places that only occur twice. The idea is that the two passages are related somehow. And each helps to explain the other. As this example shows, you wouldn't guess that the ark and the wicker basket were both tevah, nor that Noah's ark and the ark of the covenant weren't the same word unless you examined the Hebrew.

What can we learn by comparing and contrasting these two uses of tevah? How are Noah and Moses alike? different? And what theme connects the two?


They both saved the occupants from a watery death.

They were both covered with waterproofing, "pitch" in English.

They were both boxes.

Both carried saviors.

Neither ark had propulsion or steering.

Mankind was given 120 years to repent before Noah's ark, Moses lived 120 years after his ark. "He was allowing even the most evil people of Noah’s time 120 years to repent of their sin before he would judge them with a global flood" - Longevity or Countdown [4].


Noah saved all who had the "breath of life", man and animals, Moses saved Israel (and eventually all mankind).

Noah’s ark was “a huge, rectangular box, with a roof" - Westermann,  LDS [5], it had three levels and rooms (nests), Moses' ark was a small basket that fit one baby.

Noah's ark was made of wood, probably cyprus, Moses' ark was made of papyrus.

While both arks were covered with pitch, the words used are different. Noah's ark was covered inside and out with "kopher",meaning cover or ransom - If I Could Teach the Bible [6], the same word as in Yom Kippur. Moses' ark was covered outside with "chemar", which the King James calls slime. The only other place chemar is used is the story of the tower of Babylon. Another double. What is the connection between Moses' ark and the tower?

Noah and family were in the ark over a year, Moses less than a day.

Noah and perhaps his sons built his ark, Moses' mother Jochebed built his ark, Miriam followed it, and the Egyptian princess and her maidens drew him out of the water. Four men versus three women.

Noah was a very old man (600 years), Jochebed was a young mother, and Moses was three months old.

Noah's ark floated during a worldwide flood, Moses' ark floated down a river.

Specific dimensions are given for Noah's ark, not for Moses' ark, we don't even know if it had a cover.

Noah knew what was coming, Jochebed did not, but she gave up her son to God in a very literal way, without knowing the outcome. I wonder how she came up with this plan, which did fulfill the literal word of Pharoah's decree to cast the Hebrew baby boys into the Nile.

So What?

The similarities and differences help us to see what characteristics of arks do and don't matter. The builder, size, dimensions, materials, and length of stay don't seem to matter. A tevah could be described as a waterproof box for people.

Water is obviously important in both stories. Normally water is associated with life, but here water means death. Note that the flood waters were bloody from the men that drowned, and the Nile was bloody from the Israelite boys Pharoah ordered drowned. God's first plague on Pharoah and Egypt was to turn the Nile to blood.  "From the first, then, the waters of Egypt are the waters of death; the Nile is a river of blood long before Yahweh makes this visible in the first plague." - Exegetica [7]. And Pharoah himself drowned in the Red Sea pursuing Israel (not the same Pharoah who ordered the boys be drowned however).

Moses strikes the rock

Speaking of water, Moses' name (Moshe) means drawn out, so named because the princess drew him out of the river. Moses later draws water out of a well for seven sisters in Midian, one of which, Zipporah, became his wife. Later still, Moses draws water out of a rock in the wilderness. And he drew Israel out of Egypt, by passing them through the Red Sea.

The arks (tevah) picture Jesus Christ. He is the one that saves from the watery death. Noah and Moses picture Jesus as well inasmuch as they are both saviors of mankind, but they also picture all of us. We need saving from the waters of death, just like Noah, Moses, and Israel. We need to be inside Jesus.

The Third Tevah

When Israel left Egypt, they were hemmed in by mountains and the Red Sea. God opened a completely new way for them through the Red Sea. Here is the description from Exodus 14

22 The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Dry land beneath them, walls to the right and left. To me, that sounds like a box, a tevah if you will. It protected them from a watery death like Noah's tevah and Moses' tevah. All Israel passed through the Red Sea via a tevah to the wilderness. The Bible doesn't call the opening in the Red Sea a tevah, but it served the same purpose.

The Fourth Tevah

Tevah has two other meanings. It can mean "word". Since a tevah pictures Jesus, and Jesus IS the Word, it is very fitting. If you're in Jesus, you're safe, if you're outside Jesus, you're not.

The Hebrew word tevah not only means “ark,” but it also means “word.” Thus a student of the Torah is prompted to “go into the word,” the sacred task of discovering hidden meanings enfolded into each tevah. - Worlds Within Words - [8].
Tevah can also mean "coffin" - Noah Had a Tevah [9]. Here the symbolism is reversed, coffins normally carry the dead, but in these cases, the coffin (tevah) carries the living, the dead are the ones outside the tevah. For an individual believer, the coffin carries us across the waters of death to the kingdom of God.

A New Life

People enter a tevah, people exit a tevah. And they exit to a new life. Noah entered the ark from one world, and exited to build a new world. Moses entered as a Hebrew baby, and exited an Egyptian prince. Israel entered the Red Sea as slaves, and exited as free men. At baptism, we enter as slaves to sin, and exit as slaves to God, which is freedom. And we enter the coffin at death, and exit in a whole new world. We all pass through the waters of death to a new life.

It's all about deliverance.


  1. Nice post John. When you told me at the Hoffart's you liked arks I had no idea. Very interesting.

  2. Tony, after hearing you today, it seems to me you like arks too.

  3. I was in Cairo Egypt at the museum in the area of the gold plated tombs, where a small basket caught caught my eye. I took a picture of it, and our Muslim guide came up to me and asked if I knew what it was. I did not. She told me it was a poor man's casket followed with many believe this is what Moses was put in, covered with tar and floated down the river. Interesting if you apply Moses as a type of Christ.

  4. Email me and I can send you the picture.

    1. Will you send me your email address? It's not automatically included when you comment.