Ark of Noah and Ark of the Covenant. Related Words?

Continuing the discussion from David Kwon and the Genealogical Adam and Eve:

So, is that linguistic connection visible in Hebrew or is it entirely an artifact of the English translation?


Excellent question. They are totally different words in Hebrew. This gets interesting:

Noah’s ark is a TEVA/TEVAH (sometimes TAVA), a vessel, and the Hebrew word appears virtually identical to a Babylonian word for oblong boat, although there’s a very similar Egyptian word which may actually be the loan-word which led to the Hebrew word. In other words, Moses may have used TEVAH to describe Noah’s salvific vessel—just as he chose that same word to describe the floating basket which he was put in as an infant in order to save his life—because he was influenced by his Egyptian education in the house of Pharaoh! Yes, indeed, TEVAH is the Hebrew word for both Noah’s ark and Moses’ ark. I intentionally used the English word ark for both contexts because that helps people see the very important salvation connection. Lives were saved in both situations.

The ark of the covenant is an ARON, a chest somewhat like that English word today in contexts like “treasure chest” or a woman’s “hope chest.” I suppose it could also be translated as box but in American English that has mundane connotations, such as a “cardboard box” or “toy box”—while much more substantive and important things might be stored in a chest. ARON is probably yet another Egyptian loan word—which helps explain why the Book of Genesis says that Joseph died and was placed in an ARON, a coffin. Of course, a coffin is just another kind of chest or box.


Noah’s ark: TEVAH
Moses’s ark/basket: TEVAH

Ark of the Covenant: ARON
Joseph’s coffin: ARON


To describe this another way, traditional translations in English have sometimes tended to connect in reader’s minds things which should NOT be connected (Noah’s ark and Ark of the Covenant) while failing to connect things which SHOULD be connected (Noah’s Ark and Moses’ papyrus basket.)

Also, Noah’s ark has long be considered a type of Christ, and this explains the description of Jesus Christ as “the ark of our salvation.” He is considered by Christ-followers to be the ultimate vessel of salvation, an escape from disaster and judgment, just as Noah’s ark had a similar purpose in the Genesis pericope. I have heard Messianic Jewish preachers call YESHUA their TEVAH.

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be too hard on Bible translators. They have to weigh so many conflicting factors as they aim for clarity, concise expression, and respect for tradition—among other many other goals. Meeting all of those goals is a difficult and delicate art. And somewhat impossible. (Those who mock and say that an omniscient and omnipotent God should be able to author a Bible that is not subject to the limitations of human language and the complexities of translation are largely ignorant of those fundamental linguistic realities. It is like a person ignorant of basic physics and the Laws of Thermodynamics claiming that a good inventor should be able to create a car which never needs refueling or maintenance.)

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That would seem to imply a Calvinist reading, Noah and his family as the Elect, limited to a very small percentage of the population, and the rest doomed with no appeal.

Could God create a car that never needs refueling or maintenance?

Arminians and Molinists teach election and judgment as well. They all agree that all humans have free will and can choose to make decisions which escape doom. (Obviously, an examination of the differences in Calvinist, Arminian, and Molinist perspectives on these topics is complex and has occupied many pages of many tomes.)

I don’t know for certain but probably not in this universe. The Laws of Thermodynamics seem to apply everywhere and consistently in the universe we know. The internal combustion engine works because the LOTs do apply. To define a scenario where a car never needs refueling or maintenance is to demand a situation where the Laws of Thermodynamics simultaneously do and do not apply. That’s much like expecting 2+2=4 and 2+2=5 at the same time.

In this context it is worth mentioning that a lot of people completely misunderstand the doctrine of divine omnipotence. The Bible never claims “God can do everything and anything.” Instead, it claims that God is all powerful, never lacking the ability to do whatever he wills to accomplish. As William Lane Craig likes to say, “The Bible never claims that God can create a married bachelor.”

Of course, this brings to mind the old questions, “Can God create a rock so big that even he can’t lift it?” or “What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?” Both questions simply use the flexibility of human language to create mutually contradictory, nonsense questions. I once knew a philosophy professor, an adamant atheist among his circle of friends, who used to make a joke in the first lecture of his freshman philosophy course, “If you don’t want to make yourself look like an idiot, do not ask any questions about big rocks and what God can or can’t do with them.”

That anecdote also reminds me of one of George Carlin’s early comedy albums where he talks about his experiences attending a Roman Catholic elementary school. (@Patrick probably loves that famous routine.) Carlin said that the nuns would tell the children to prepare their theological questions for the weekly classroom visit by the parish priest. So he said that he and his friends would knock themselves out concocting the most bizarre and convoluted scenarios. They started with the classic heavy-rock question and progressed to something like: “Father, let’s suppose you haven’t done your Easter duty yet, and it’s Sunday. The last day. And you’re on a ship at sea. And the chaplain goes into a coma. And you wanted to receive, Father. But then it’s Monday. Too late. But then you cross the International Date Line. Would that still be a sin, Father?”


This was so atrocious when it came out. Today it seems so mild. Still hilarious.

While it’s true that Noah could be said to have made a decision by being the only righteous man in the world, his family just seems to have been included willy-nilly. Much more Calvinist than otherwise. And the small size of the Elect relative to population fits the Calvinist idea too.

So God can’t perform miracles? So much for loaves and fishes. And why couldn’t he make a car that’s much closer to the ideal than we can? How about a futuristic car powered by anti-matter, made from advanced composites? You show a failure of imagination.

Back to the subject, why couldn’t he produce a text that, while not perfect, was at least much clearer than what we see? And why couldn’t he inspire translators so as to preserve his intended message? You seem quite unimpressed with his power.

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Non sequitur.

Now you are moving the goalpost. In any case, why would God need to make such a car?

Or a lack of interest in non sequitur hypotheticals.

Perhaps God considered your standard of “clearness” unnecessary. I do. The “clearness” I see in the scriptures appears to be quite sufficient for God’s purposes.

Translators already preserve God’s “intended message”, even without “inspiration.” They generally do a pretty good job of that.

Why couldn’t he inspire inerrant PS forum posts? Why couldn’t he create three day weekends? Why couldn’t he . . . ? I don’t answer for God.


A miracle is a violation of some physical law, right? You are saying that God can’t violate the laws of thermodynamics. (And creating loaves and fishes would appear to violate the first law.)

Nobody says he would need to. The question is whether he could. Why couldn’t he?

This is a change from your previous claim that greater clarity was not possible. I welcome that change. But if greater clarity was not his goal, there seems no purpose in arguing about what the text means. So why is anyone here? He could have made Genesis clearly state the GAE, but he didn’t. Therefore he must not care about that. Why should we?

This assumes that you know the intended message.

Yes, that’s the usual fallback position. Mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. “Shut up,” he explained.

Or…clear evidence of hyperbole.

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What hyperbole? Please clarify.

The clearness you see in the scriptures is illusory, since others see different contents as ‘clearly’ as you do.

There is, for example, no widespread agreement on major topics such as salvation depending on works, the nature of the trinity, church accumulation of wealth, slavery, transsubstantiation, and even what works are scriptural.

There’s no sensible way to claim that scripture is clear if you might be wrong about what constitutes scripture.

Here’s a quick quiz:

  1. How many Psalms are there?
  2. How many books of Maccabees are there?
  3. How many chapters are in the Book of Daniel?
  4. How long is Mark chapter 16?
  5. How many epistles are canonical?
  6. Which comes first - the epistle of James or the epistles of John?

I’m about to leave for some dental surgery so I may not have opportunity to respond until late tonight or even tomorrow. Meanwhile, perhaps some aspiring apologists would like to have some fun and get a little bit of batting cage PRATT-ice. (My apologies, @Dan_Eastwood and @Michael_Callen for another shameless pun—but in this context it was way too easy.)

@DaleCutler, you might enjoy a few swats.


That’s cold, wishing Dale on people.


Thanks anyway. For someone who was asking genuine questions, maybe, but then it wouldn’t be swatting.


I am well know for my ruthlessness.

I hear ya. I totally cracked up when I came to Roy’s “How many chapters are in the Book of Daniel?” Why would the much later convenience of dividing the Biblical text into chapters (for easier reference/citation) constitute some kind of burning question about the Bible’s integrity? Face-palm.

As with so many other PRATTs and elephant hurls on this and other forums, if there is a value to addressing such silliness, it is in educating the many silent visitors to the forum who might be curious about such topics (rather than rewarding shallow mockery with undeserved attention.)

(For those who may be interested, if my memory hasn’t failed me, it was Archbishop Langton who created most of the chapter divisions of the Bible as used today. I think it was around the 14th century—but don’t take my word for it.)


Perhaps you’ve tripped over what you don’t know you don’t know.

Maybe when the NO wears off you could try to answer the question?

You may even educate the many silent visitors to the forum who might be curious about such topics.

No. A miracle is something which humans cannot explain in terms of the natural processes known to them at the time and a divine intervention from outside the matter-energy universe.

I’m not exactly sure what a “violation of some physical law” would be—but scientific laws and theories tend to get revised when new evidence “violates” what was previously thought to be understood.

Reread what I explained about posing mutual-contradictions and analogies like “a married bachelor.”

No. And I seriously doubt that your reading comprehension skills are that limited. You moved the goal posts again. You had asked about perfect clarity, which I explained was a presumption on your part which was grounded in a poor grasp of linguistics and the nature of human languages. Now you changed the topic to greater clarity. Did you really think that I wouldn’t notice your sleight-of-hand in trying to manipulate my words? You keep sounding like a litigator trying to twist the words of a witness.

You need to learn some linguistic basics. Just as an engineer is not concerned only with strength when designing a bridge, creating a literary text is not just a matter of achieving clarity. Both engineers and writers weigh multiple goals, many of which involve trade-offs. An engineer considers not just strength of the bridge but factors such as resilience under stress, time and resources necessary for construction, durability over time, adaptability, and ongoing maintenance demands. A writer weighs clarity, reading-level, conciseness, beauty of expression, word-count, cost of publication, and many other facts. Virtually any document can be increased in clarity by multiplying its size and belaboring every detail and nuance so as to minimize all potential for ambiguity (both now and many many centuries in the future!) One can even try to anticipate semantic-domain differences which may impact future language translations—although that would require a virtual encyclopedia sized commentary for each and every potential target language for millennia future!

In other words, expectations of texts of “perfect clarity” are much like expectations of an imagined “perfectly engineered car.” Do engineers design a perfect automobile which gets the world’s best miles-per-gallon rating even while being built like a tank so that it can withstand intensive aerial bombing while driving to the corner grocery? Will it also be perfectly economical and easily maintained? Will it also be perfectly ergonomic and perfectly environmentally-friendly? No. That’s absurd—and so is the imaginary pursuit of a text of “perfect clarity” which can undergo thousands of years and translation into countless languages for readers of very different cultures without ambiguity or unanswered questions.

As I already explained, I have little interest in “a immovable force meets an immovable object” scenarios. They are silly gotcha-games which have become popular as copy-and-paste nonsense on far too many websites.

I agree. That assumption comes with good reading comprehension skills. (I don’t buy into post-modernist nonsense about nothing being knowable, including the meaning of a text.)

You can do better, John. Try again.

This sub-thread has been a distraction from @swamidass’ very excellent question in the OP. I will leave it to a moderator to determine if this tangent deserves its own separate thread as a New Topic.


That’s a highly problematic definition. If I take you right, then before Newton, the orbits of the planets would have been miracles. What were once miracles become non-miracles when they are explained. Also, doesn’t that mean that your thermodynamic objections to the perfect car are wrong? You could just have been ignorant of the physics that make it possible. I think you have destroyed your own argument.

But a perfect car is not a logical contradiction. It merely contradicts what we know of physics, and as you have said our knowledge may not be perfect. No logical contradiction would be involved in evading the rules of thermodynamics.

Did I actually ask about perfect clarity? I don’t recall doing that, though it’s possible I did. I could claim that it would be possible for God to be clear enough in communicating his message that the message would be hard to misunderstand, even in translation. He would also be capable of inspiring the translators so they didn’t garble it.

This sort of condescending language has no business here. The fact is that a sentence, even a word, or two here and there would have greatly clarified the matters under discussion here. Suppose Genesis 2 had started, “After making people all over the world, God made a special person in a garden.” or something to that effect. Solves that problem, quickly and easily. No need for all your hyperbole about a “virtual encyclopedia sized commentary for each and every potential target language”.

You would then assume that people who disagree with you have poor reading comprehension skills, and that the intended message is quite clear?

The point is that a perfect text, as you are defining it, does contradict what we know of linguistics.