Beginning in verse 14 of Genesis chapter six, we begin to read God’s instructions to Noah regarding the building of the ark. It says, “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark and cover it inside and out with pitch.” Four things are most frequently commented on: 1) What’s an Ark? 2) Gopher wood, 3) Make rooms, and 4) cover inside and out with pitch. Regarding God’s instructions to Noah to make an “Ark,” the only other time in the Bible that this word is used refers to Moses’s basket when set adrift in the Nile River to be found by Pharaoh’s daughter. “Just as Moses was preserved in dangerous circumstances and was saved out of the Nile, Noah was preserved from a larger body of water and brought safely out by God. The original readers, Israel on the edge of entering the promised land, would undoubtedly make this connection.”[1] Commentators will also attempt to align the construction of the Ark by Noah with God’s instructions to build the tabernacle. But the two words are different.

Gopher wood was used to make coffins in Old Testament times because of its density and strength. The commentators will argue about what kind of wood this was, and many think it was cedar. We do not know what wood is referred to in this passage. The New International Version calls it “cypress” because of its strength and durability. But cedar is also a possibility. Cedar is mentioned as precious wood of Lebanon several times in the Bible, and it is of similar quality. Driver suggests that it was “Probably some kind of resinous tree, either pine or cypress”[2] As a type of Jesus, the one thing we can be sure of is that it was of a material sufficient for the salvation of Noah and his family.

 The word for “rooms” is literally “nests.” We can’t be sure whether there were three or four or five decks. The commentators can argue this forever. But the point is that God ensured that there would be room enough for all. Unlike the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who will say that only 144 thousand will be in heaven, I’d say that there is room for all. Anyone who believes in Jesus will never perish but have everlasting life (See John 3:16). The pitch, or caulk, was used inside and out to guarantee water could not get in and sink the means of salvation for Noah and the crew. Courson connects this with Christ well, “This is the only time in the Old Testament where the Hebrew word kapher is translated ‘pitch.’ In the seventy other passages this word is used, it is translated ‘atonement’—a wonderful word that essentially means ‘at-one-ment.’ Just as the salvation God provided Noah was surrounded by the pitch of atonement, so God provided us ‘at-one-ment’ with Him by sending His Son to die for our sin.”[3]

[1] Kissling, Paul J. 2004–. Genesis. The College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

[2] Driver, S. R. 1904. The Book of Genesis, with Introduction and Notes. Westminster Commentaries. New York; London: Edwin S. Gorham; Methuen & Co.

[3] Courson, Jon. 2005. Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume One: Genesis–Job. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.