May 3, 2021
Clouds and darkness are round about him; Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about, his lightening enlightened the world; the Earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord. Psalm 97: 2 – 5
St Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354 – 28 August 430) and many others have interpreted the above Psalm to represent a fiery and vengeful God. No matter how the passage has been twisted by the Roman Catholic Church, a church that continues to have no understanding of its own subject matter; the passage is nonetheless Ark related, most notably in Exodus 20: 18 – 19. This of course takes place at Mt Choreb, where Moses builds the Ark of the Covenant. The word “Ark” stems from the word arcane (adj) 1540s, from Latin arcanus “secret, hidden, private, concealed,” from arcere “to close up, enclose, contain,” from arca “chest, box, place for safe-keeping,” from PIE root *ark- “to hold, contain, guard” (source also of Greek arkos “defense,” arkein “to ward off; Armenian argel “obstacle;” Lithuanian raktas “key,” rakinti “to shut, lock”). Ark (N) Old English earc, Old Northumbrian arc, mainly meaning Noah’s but also the Ark of the Covenant, from Latin arca “large box, chest” (see arcane), the word used in the Vulgate. Also borrowed in Old High German (arahha, Modern German Arche). From the Noachian sense comes extended meaning “place of refuge” (17c.). As the name of a type of ship or boat, from late 15c. In 19c. U.S., especially a large, flat-bottomed riverboat to move produce, livestock, etc.
The two arks that we are interested in are of course, Noah’s (the above image), and the Ark of the Covenant. The structure of the Ark (and the chronology of the flood) is homologous with the Jewish Temple and with Temple worship. Accordingly, Noah’s instructions are given to him by God (Genesis 6:14–16): the ark is to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. Common believed is the notion that a ‘cubit’ is equal to 18 inches, or the length of a man’s arm from elbow to fingertip. Scripture, on the other hand, in conformity with its parallel to the Temple, prescribes unique measurements for such a ‘sacred,’ or ‘long,’ cubit. In Ezekiel 43:13, the dimensions for the sacred altar are noted to be in such cubits as “that cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth,” or 21 to 25 inches. This would result in ark dimensions of 525-624 ft. x 87.5-104 ft. x 52.5-62.4 ft. Or roughly the size of the aircraft carrier USS Independence. Some assert that these dimensions are based on a numerological preoccupation with the number sixty,(the Annunaki sexgesimal number system) the same number characterizing the vessel of the Babylonian flood-hero Its three internal divisions reflect the three-part universe imagined by the ancient Israelites: heaven, the earth, and the underworld.
Each deck is the same height as the Temple in Jerusalem, itself a microcosmic model of the universe, and each is three times the area of the court of the tabernacle, leading to the suggestion that the author saw both Ark and tabernacle as serving for the preservation of human life. It has a door in the side, and a tsohar, which may be either a roof or a skylight. It is to be made of Gopher wood, a word that appears nowhere else in the Bible – and divided into qinnim, a word that always refers to birds’ nests elsewhere in the Bible, leading some scholars to emend this to qanim, reeds. The finished vessel is to be smeared with koper, meaning pitch or bitumen: in Hebrew the two words are closely related, kaparta (“smeared”) … bakopper
For well over a century, scholars have recognized that the Bible’s story of Noah’s Ark is based on older Mesopotamian models. Because all these flood stories deal with events that allegedly happened at the dawn of history, they give the impression that the myths themselves must come from very primitive origins, but the myth of the global flood that destroys all life only begins to appear in the old Babylonian period (20th–16th centuries BCE). The reasons for this emergence of the typical Mesopotamian flood myth may have been bound up with the specific circumstances of the end of the 3rd dynasty of Nippur around 2004 BCE and the restoration of order by the First Dynasty of Isin
There are nine known versions of the Mesopotamian flood story, each more or less adapted from an earlier version. In the oldest version, inscribed in the Sumerian city of Nippur 1600 BCE, the hero is King Ziusudra. This story, the Sumerian flood story, probably derives from an earlier version. The Ziusudra version tells how he builds a boat and rescues life when the god (Enlil) decides to destroy it. This basic plot is common in several subsequent flood-stories and heroes, including Noah. Ziusudra’s Sumerian name means “He of long life.” In Babylonian versions, his name is Atrahasis, but the meaning is the same. In the Atrahasis version, the flood is a river flood.
The version closest to the biblical story of Noah, as well as its most likely source, is that of Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh. A complete text of Utnapishtim’s story is a clay tablet dating from the 7th century BCE, but fragments of the story have been found from as far back as the 19th-century BCE. The last known version of the Mesopotamian flood story was written in Greek in the 3rd century BCE by a Babylonian priest named Berossus. From the fragments that survive, it seems little changed from the versions of two thousand years before.
The parallels between Noah’s Ark and the arks of Babylonian flood-heroes Atrahasis and Utnapishtim have often been noted. Atrahasis’ Ark was circular, resembling an enormous quffa, with one or two decks Utnapishtim’s ark was a cube with six decks of seven compartments, each divided into nine sub compartments (63 sub compartments per deck, 378 total). Noah’s Ark was rectangular with three decks. There is believed to be a progression from a circular to a cubic or square to rectangular. The most striking similarity is the near-identical deck areas of the three arks: 14,400 cubits2, 14,400 cubits2, and 15,000 cubits2 for Atrahasis, Utnapishtim, and Noah, only 4% different. Professor Finkel concluded “the iconic story of the Flood, Noah, and the Ark, as we know it today certainly originated in the landscape of ancient Mesopotamia, modern Iraq.
Linguistic parallels between Noah’s and Atrahasis’ arks have also been noted. The word used for “pitch” (sealing tar or resin), in Genesis is not the normal Hebrew word, but is closely related to the word used in the Babylonian story. Likewise, the Hebrew word for “ark” (tevah) is nearly identical to the Babylonian word for an oblong boat (ṭubbû), especially given that “v” and “b” are the same letter in Hebrew: bet (ב)
However, the causes for God or the gods sending the flood differ in the various stories. In the Hebrew myth, the flood inflicts God’s judgment on wicked humanity. The Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh gives no reasons, and the flood appears the result of divine caprice. In the Babylonian Atrahasis version, the flood is sent to reduce human overpopulation, and after the flood, other measures were introduced to limit humanity.