is used in the Bible to designate three vessels of special importance.
1. NOAH'S ARK (תֵּבָה, tebah'; Sept. κιβωτός, a chest; Josephus λάρναξ, a coffer; Vulg. area, Ge 6:14), different from the term אָרוֹן, aron', applied to the "ark" of the covenant, and other receptacles which we know to have been chests or coffers, but the same that is applied to the "ark" in which Moses was hid (Ex 2:3), the only other part of Scripture in which it occurs. In the latter passage the Septuagint renders it θίβη, a ship; but the truth seems to be that aron denotes any kind of chest or coffer, while the exclusive application of tebah to the vessels of Noah and of Moses would suggest the probability that it was restricted to such chests or arks as were intended to float upon the water, of whatever description. The identity of the name with that of the wicker basket in which Moses was exposed on the Nile has led some to suppose that the ark of Noah was also of wicker-work, or rather was wattled and smeared over with bitumen (Auth. Vers. "pitch," Ge 6:14). This is not impossible, seeing that vessels of considerable burden are thus constructed at the present day; but there is no sufficient authority for carrying the analogy to this extent.
The boat-like form of the ark, which repeated pictorial representations have rendered familiar, is fitted for progression and for cutting the waves; whereas the ark of Noah was really destined to float idly upon the waters, without any other motion than that which it received from them. If we examine the passage in Ge 6:14-16, we can only draw from it the conclusion that the ark was not a boat or ship; but, as Dr. Robinson (in Calmet's Diet. s.v.) describes it, "a building in the form of a parallelogram, 300 cubits long, 50 cubits broad, and 30 cubits high. The length of the cubit, in the great variety of measures that bore this name, it is impossible to ascertain and useless to conjecture. So far as the name affords any evidence, it also goes to show that the ark of Noah was not a regularly- built vessel, but merely intended to float at large upon the waters. We may, therefore, probably with justice, regard it as a large oblong, floating house, with a roof either flat or only slightly inclined. It was constructed with three stories, and had a door in the side. There is no mention of windows in the side, but above, i.e. probably in the flat roof, where Noah was commanded to make them of a cubit in size (Ge 6:16). That this is the meaning of the passage seems apparent from Ge 8:13, where Noah removes the covering of the ark in order to ascertain whether the ground was dry-a labor unnecessary, surely, had there been windows in the sides of the ark." The purpose of this ark was to preserve certain persons and animals from the deluge with which God intended to overwhelm the land, in punishment for man's iniquities. The persons were eight-Noah and his wife, with his three sons and their wives (Ge 7:7; 2Pe 2:5). The animals were, one pair of every " unclean" animal, and seven pairs of all that were "clean." By "clean" we understand fit, and by "unclean" unfit, for food or sacrifice. Of birds there were seven pairs (Ge 7:2-3). Those who have written professedly and largely on the subject have been at great pains to provide for all the existing species of animals in the ark of Noah, showing how they might be distributed, fed, and otherwise provided for. But they are very far from having cleared the matter of all its difficulties, which are much greater than they, in their general ignorance of natural history, were aware of. These difficulties, however, chiefly arise from the assumption that the species of all the earth were collected in the ark. The number of such species has been vastly underrated by these writers, partly from ignorance, and partly from the desire to limit the number for which they imagined they were required to provide. They have usually satisfied themselves with a provision for three or four hundred species at most. "But of the existing mammalia considerably more than one thousand species are known; of birds, fully five thousand; of reptiles, very few kinds of which can live in water, two thousand; and the researches of travellers and naturalists are making frequent and most interesting additions to the number of these and all other classes. Of insects (using the word in the popular sense) the number of species is immense; to say one hundred thousand would be moderate: each has its appropriate habitation and food, and these are necessary to its life; and the larger number could not live in water. Also the innumerable millions upon millions of animalcules must be provided for, for they have all their appropriate and diversified places and circumstances of existence" (Dr. J. Pye Smith, 0n the Relation between the Holy Scriptures and some Parts of Geological Science, p. 135). Nor do these numbers form the only difficulty; for, as the same writer observes: "All land animals have their geographical regions, to which their constitutional natures are congenial, and many could not live in any other situation. We cannot represent to ourselves the idea of their being brought into one small spot, from the polar regions, the torrid zone, and all the other climates of Asia, Africa, Europe, America, Australia, and the thousands of islands, their preservation and provision, and the final disposal of them, without bringing up the idea of miracles more stupendous than any which are recorded in Scripture." These are some of the difficulties which arise on the supposition that all the species of animals existing in the world were assembled together and contained in the ark.. And if the object, as usually assumed, was to preserve the species of creatures which the Deluge would otherwise have destroyed, the provision for beasts and birds only must have been altogether inadequate. What, then, would have become of the countless reptiles, insects, and animalcules to which we have already referred ? and it is not clear that some provision must not also have been necessary for fishes and shell-animals, many of which cannot live in fresh water, while others cannot live in salt. The difficulty of assembling in one spot, and of providing for in the ark, the various mammalia and birds alone, even without including the otherwise essential provision for reptiles, insects, and fishes, is quite sufficient to suggest some error in the current belief. We are to consider the different kinds of accommodation and food which would be required for animals of such different habits and climates, and the necessary provision for cleansing the stables or dens. And if so much ingenuity has been required in devising arrangements for the comparatively small number of species which the writers on the ark have been willing to admit into it, what provision can be made for the immensely larger number which, under the supposed conditions, would really have required its shelter ? There seems to be no way of meeting these difficulties but by adopting the suggestion of Bishop Stillingfleet, approved by Matthew Poole, Dr. J. Pye Smith, Le Clerc, Rosenmuller, and others, namely, that, as the object of the Deluge was to sweep man from the earth, it did not extend beyond that region of the earth which man then inhabited, and that only the animals of that region were preserved in the ark. SEE DELUGE. Bishop Stillingfleet, who wrote in plain soberness long before geology was known as a science, and when, therefore, those discoveries were altogether unthought of, by which, in our day, such warm controversies have been excited, expresses his belief that the Flood was universal as to mankind, and that all men, except those preserved in the ark, were destroyed; but he sees no evidence from Scripture that the whole earth was then inhabited; he does not think that it can ever be proved to have been so; and he asks what reason there can be to extend the Flood beyond the occasion of it. He grants that, as far as the Flood extended, all the animals were destroyed; "but," he adds, " I see no reason to extend the destruction of these beyond the compass of the earth which men then inhabited; the punishment of the beasts was occasioned by, and could not but be concomitant with, the destruction of mankind. But (the occasion of the Deluge being the sin of man, who was punished in the beasts that were destroyed for his sake, as well as in himself) where the occasion was not, as where there were animals and no men, there seems no necessity for extending the Flood thither" (Origines Sacrce, bk. iii, ch. iv). The bishop farther argues that the reason for preserving living creatures in the ark was that there might be a stock of the tame and domesticated animals that should be immediately " serviceable for man after the Flood; which was certainly the main thing looked at in the preservation of them in the ark, that men might have all of them ready for use after the Flood; which could not have been had not the several kinds been preserved in the ark, although we suppose them not destroyed in all parts of the world." As Noah was the progenitor of all the nations of the earth, and as the ark was the second cradle of the human race, we might expect to find in all nations traditions and reports more or less distinct respecting him, the ark in which he was saved, and the Deluge in general. Accordingly, no nation is known in which such. traditions have not been found. They have been very industriously brought together by Banier, Bryant, Faber, and other mythologists. SEE ARARAT; SEE NOAH. And as it appears that an ark- that is, a boat or chest-was carried about with great ceremony in most of the ancient mysteries, and occupied an eminent station in the holy places, it has with much reason been concluded that this was originally intended to represent the ark of Noah, which eventually came to be regarded with superstitious reverence. On this point the historical and mythological testimonies are very clear and conclusive. The tradition of a deluge, by which the race of man was swept from the face of the earth. has been traced among the Chaldseans, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Goths, Druids, Chinese, Hindoos, Burmese, Mexicans, Peruvians, Brazilians, Nicaraguans, the inhabitants of Western Caledonia, and the islanders of the Pacific; and among most of them also the belief has prevailed that certain individuals were preserved in an ark, ship, boat, or raft, to replenish the desolated earth with inhabitants. Nor are these traditions uncorroborated by coins and monuments of stone. Of the latter there are the sculptures of Egypt and of India; and it is fancied that those of the monuments called Druidical which bear the name of kistvaens, and in which the stones are disposed in the form of a chest or house, were intended as memorials of the ark. The curious subject of Arkite worship is especially illustrated by the two famous medals of Apamea. There were six cities of this name, of which the most celebrated was that of Syria; next to it in importance was the one in Phrygia, called also Κιβωτός, Kibotos,
which, as we have seen, means an ark or hollow vessel. The medals in question belong, the one to the elder Philip, and the other to Pertinax. In the former it is extremely interesting to observe that on the front of the ark is the name of Noah, ΝΩΕ, in Greek characters. In both we perceive the ark floating on the water, containing the patriarch and his wife, the dove on wing, the olive-branch, and the raven perched on the ark. These medals also represent Noah and his wife on terrafirma, in the attitude of rendering thanks for their safety. The genuineness of these medals has been established beyond all question by the researches of Bryant and the critical inspection of Abbe Barthelemy. There is another medal, struck in honor of the Emperor Hadrian, which bears the inscription ΑΠΑΜΕΩΝ ΚΙΒΩΤΟΣ ΜΑΡΣΣΙΑ, "the ark and the Marsyas of the Apameans." SEE APAMEA. The coincidences which these medals offer are at least exceedingly curious; and they are scarcely less illustrative of the prevailing belief to which we are referring, if, as some suppose, the figures represented are those of Deucalion and Pyrrha (Meisner, De arca Noachi, Witt. 1622). SEE FLOOD.
2. The ARK OF BULRUSHES (תֵּבָה, tebah'; Sept. θίβις). In Ex 2:3, we read that Moses was exposed among the flags of the Nile in an ark (or boat of bulrushes) daubed with slime and with pitch. The bulrushes of which the ark was made were the papyrus reed (Cyperus papyrus), which grows in Egypt in marshy places. It was used for a variety of purposes, even for food. Pliny says, from the plant itself they weave boats, and other ancient writers inform us that the Nile wherries were made of papyrus. Boats made of this material were noted for their swiftness, and are alluded to in Isa 18:2. SEE REED.
3. The SACRED ARK of the Jews (אָרוֹן or אָרֹן, aron'; Sept. and New Test. κιβωτός), different from the term applied to the ark of Noah. It is the common name for a chest or coffer, whether applied to the ark ip the tabernacle, to a coffin, to a mummy-chest (Ge 50:26), or to a chest for money (2Ki 12:9-10). Our word ark has the same meaning, being derived from the Latin area, a chest. The sacred chest is distinguished from others as the " ark of God" (1Sa 3:3), " ark of the covenant" (Jos 3:6; Heb 9:4), and " ark of the law" (Ex 25:22). This ark was a kind of box, of an oblong shape, made of shittim (acacia) wood, a cubit and a half broad and high, two and a half cubits long, and covered on all sides with the purest gold. It was ornamented on its upper surface with a border or rim of gold; and on each of the two sides, at equal distances from the top, were two gold rings, in which were placed (to remain there perpetually) the gold-covered poles by which the ark was carried, and which continued with it after it was deposited in the tabernacle. The Levites of the house of Kohath, to whose office this especially appertained, bore it in its progress. Probably, however, when removed from within the vail in the most holy place, which was its proper position, or when taken out thence, priests were its bearers (Nu 7:9; Nu 10:21; Nu 4:5,19-20; 1Ki 8:3,6). The ends of the staves were visible without the vail in the holy place of the temple of Solomon, the staves being drawn to the ends, apparently, but not out of the rings. The ark, when transported, was enveloped in the " vail" of the dismantled tabernacle, in the curtain of badgers' skins, and in a blue cloth over all, and was therefore not seen. The lid or cover of the ark was of the same length and breadth as the ark itself, and made of the purest gold. Over it, at the two extremities, were two cherubim, with their faces turned toward each other, and inclined a little toward the lid (otherwise called the mercy-seat). SEE CHERUB. Their wings, which were spread out over the top of the ark, formed the throne of God, the King of Israel, while the ark itself was his footstool (Ex 25:10-22; Ex 37:1-9). (Comp. Josephus, Ant. iii, 6, 5; Philo, Opera, ii, 150; Koran, ii, 249, ed. Marrac.; for heathen parallels, see Apulej. Asin. 11:262, Bip.; Pausan. 7:19, 3; Ovid, Ars Am. ii, 609 sq.; Catull. lxiv, 260 sq. See generally Reland, Antiq. Sacr. i, 5, 19 sq., 43 sq.; Carpzov, Appar. p. 260 sq.; Schaacht, Animadvers. p. 334 sq.; Buxtorf, Hist. arcefoed. in Ugolini Thesaur. viii; Hoffmann, in the Hall. Encycl. 14:27 sq.; Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 60 sq.; Rau, Nubes super arca ,fed. Herbon. 1757, Utrecht, 1760; Thalemann, Nubes super arcafaed. Lips. 1752, Vindic. 1771; Lamy, De tabemac. fed. p 412 sq.; Van Til, De tabernac. Mcs. p. 117 sq.)
This ark was the most sacred object among the Israelites; it was deposited in the innermost and holiest part of the tabernacle, called "the holy of holies" (and afterward in the corresponding apartment of the Temple), where it stood so that one end of each of the poles by which it was carried (which were drawn out so far as to allow the ark to be placed against the back wall) touched the vail which separated the two apartments of the tabernacle (1Ki 8:8). It was also probably a reliquary for the pot of manna and the rod of Aaron. We read in 1Ki 8:9, that "there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb." Yet Paul, or the author of Heb 9:4, asserts that, besides the two tables of stone, the "pot of manna" and "Aaron's rod that budded" were inside the ark, which were directed to be "laid up" and "kept before the testimony," i.e. before the tables of the law (Ex 40:20); and probably, since there is no mention of any other receptacle for them, and some would have been necessary, the statement of 1Ki 8:9, implies that by Solomon's time these relics had disappeared. The expression מִצִּד אָרוֹן, De 31:26, obscurely rendered "in the side of the ark" (Auth. Vers.), merely means "beside" it.
During the marches of the Israelites it was covered with a purple pall, and borne by the priests, with great reverence and care, in advance of the host (Nu 4:5-6; Nu 10:33). It was before the ark, thus in advance, that the waters of the Jordan separated; and it remained in the bed of the river, with the attendant priests, until the whole host had passed over; and no sooner was it also brought up than the waters resumed their course (Jos 3; Jos 4:7,10-11,17-18). We may notice a fiction of the Rabbis that there were two arks, one which remained in the shrine, and another which preceded the camp on its march, and that this latter contained the broken tables of the law, as the former the whole ones. The ark was similarly conspicuous in the grand procession round Jericho (Jos 6:4,6,8,11-12). It is not wonderful, therefore, that the neighboring nations, who had no notion of spiritual worship, looked upon it as the God of the Israelites (1Sa 4:6-7), a delusion which may have been strengthened by the figures of the cherubim on it. After the conquest, the ark generally (see Jg 20:27) remained in the tabernacle at Shiloh, until, in the time of Eli, it was carried along with the army in the war against the Philistines, under the superstitious notion that it would secure the victory to the Hebrews. They - were, nevertheless, not only beaten, but the ark itself was taken by the Philistines (1Sa 4:3-11), whose triumph was, however, very short lived, as they were so oppressed by the hand of God that, after seven months, they were glad to send it back again (1Sa 5:7). After that it remained apart from the tabernacle, at Kirjath-jearim (7:1, 2), where it continued until the time of David, who purposed to remove it to Jerusalem; but the old prescribed mode of removing it from place to place was so much neglected as to cause the death of Uzzah, in consequence of which it was left in the house of Obededom (2Sa 6:1-11) but after three months David took courage, and succeeded in effecting its safe removal, in grand procession, to Mount Zion (ver. 12-19). When the Temple of Solomon was completed, the ark was deposited in the sanctuary (1Ki 8:6-9). Several of the Psalms contain allusions to these events (e.g. 24, 47, 132), and Psalm 105 appears to have been composed on the occasion of the first of them. SEE PSALMS. The passage in 2Ch 35:3, in which Josiah directs the Levites to restore the ark to the holy place, is understood by some to imply that it had either been removed by Amon, who put an idol in its place, which is assumed to have been the " trespass" of which he is said to have been guilty (2Ch 33:23), or that the priests themselves had withdrawn it during idolatrous times, and preserved it in some secret place, or had removed it from one place to another. But it seems more likely that it had been taken from the holy of holies during the purification and repairs of the Temple by this same Josiah, and that he, in this passage, merely directs it to be again set in its place. Or it may have been removed by Manasseh, to make room for the " carved image" that he placed " in the house of God" (2Ch 33:7). What became of the ark when the Temple was plundered and destroyed by the Babylonians is not known, and all conjecture is useless. It was probably taken away or destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Esdr. 10:22). The Jews believe that it was concealed from the spoilers, and account it among the hidden things which the Messiah is to reveal (see Ambros. Off. iii, 17, 18; Joseph. Gorionid. i, 21; Wernsdorf, De fide Maccab. p. 183 sq.; Mishna, Shekal. 6:1). It is certain, however, from the consent of all the Jewish writers, that the old ark was not contained in the second temple, and there is no evidence that any new one was made. Indeed, the absence of the ark is one of the important particulars in which this temple was held to be inferior to that of Solomon. The most holy place is therefore generally considered to have been empty in the second temple (as Josephus states, War, v, 14); or- at most (as the rabbins allege, Mishna, Yoma, v, 2) to have contained only a stone to mark the place which the ark should have occupied (comp. Tacit, fist. v, 9). The silence of Ezra, Nehemiah, the Maccabees, and Josephus, who repeatedly mention all the other sacred utensils, but never name the ark, seems conclusive on the subject. But, notwithstanding this weight of testimony, there are writers, such as Prideaux (Connection, i, 207), who contend that the Jews could not properly carry on their worship without an ark, and that if the original ark was- not recovered after the Captivity, a new one must have been made (Calmet's Dissertation sur l'Arche d'Alliance; Hase, De lapide cui area impositafuit, Erb. and Lpz. n. d. 4to). SEE TEMPLE.
Concerning the design and form of the ark, it appears that clear and unexpected light has been thrown by the discoveries which have of late years been made in Egypt, and which have unfolded to us the rites and mysteries of the old Egyptians. (See Descr. de l'Egypte, Att. i, pl. 11, fig. 4; pl. 12, fig. 3; iii, pl. 32, 34, 36; comp. Rosenmuller, Morgenl. ii, 96 sq.; Heeren, Ideen, II, ii, 831; Spencer, Leg. rit. iii, 5, p. 1084 sq.; Bahr, Symbol. i, 381, 402 sq.) "One of the most important ceremonies was the ' procession of shrines,' which is mentioned in the Rosetta stone, and frequently occurs on the walls of the temples. The shrines were of two kinds: the one a sort of canopy; the other an ark or sacred boat, which may be termed the great shrine. This was carried with grand pomp by the priests, a certain number being selected for that duty, who supported it on their shoulders by means of long staves, passing through metal rings at the side of the sledge on which it stood, and brought it into the temple, where it was deposited upon a stand or table, in order that the prescribed ceremonies might be discharged before it. The stand was also carried in procession by another set of priests, following the shrine, by means of similar staves; a method usually adopted for carrying large statues and sacred emblems, too heavy or too important to be borne by one person. The same is stated to have been the custom of the Jews in some of their religious processions (comp. 1Ch 15:2,15; 2Sa 15:24; and Jos 3:12), as in carrying the ark to its place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, when the Temple was built by Solomon (1Ki 8:6)." ... " Some of the arks or boats contained the emblems of Life and Stability, which, when the veil was drawn aside, were partially seen; and others presented the beetle to the sun, overshadowed by the wings of two figures of the goddess Thenei, or Truth, which call to mind the cherubim of the Jews" (Wilkinson's Anc. Egyptians, v, 271, 275). The ritual of the Etruscans, Greeks, Romans, and other ancient nations, included the use of what Clemens Alexandrinus calls κίσται μυστικαί (Protrept. p. 12). The same Clemens (Strom. v, 578) also contains an allusion of a proverbial character to the ark and its rites, which seems to show that they were popularly known, where he says that "only the master (διδάσκαλος) may uncover the ark" (κιβωτός). In Latin, also, the word
arcanum, connected with area and arceo, is the recognised term for a sacred mystery. (Illustrations of the-same subject occur also in Plut. De Is. et Osi. c. 39; Euseb. Prcep. Evang. ii, 3.)
These resemblances and differences appear to us to cast a strong light, not only on the form, but on the purpose of the Jewish ark. The discoveries of this sort which have lately been made in Egypt have added an overwhelming weight of proof to the evidence which previously existed, that the "tabernacle made with hands," with its utensils and ministers, bore a designed external resemblance to the Egyptian models, but purged of the details and peculiarities which were the most open to abuse and misconstruction. That the Israelites, during the latter part of their sojourn in Egypt, followed the rites and religion of the country, and were (at least many of them) gross idolaters, is distinctly affirmed in Scripture (Jos 24:14; Eze 23:3,8,19), and is shown by their ready lapse into the worship of the "golden calf," and by the striking fact that they actually carried about with them one of these Egyptian shrines or, tabernacles in the wilderness (Am 5:26). From their conduct, and the whole tone of their sentiments and character, it appears that this stiff-necked and rebellious people were incapable (as a nation) of adhering to that simple form of worship and service which is most pleasing to God. (See an article on this subject in the Am. Bib. Repos. Oct. 1843, p. 290-312.)
The purpose or object of the ark was to contain inviolate the Divine autograph of the two tables, that " covenant" from which it derived its title, the idea of which was inseparable from it, and which may be regarded as the depositum of the Jewish dispensation. The perpetual safe custody of the material tables no doubt suggested the moral observance of the precepts inscribed. The words of the Auth. Vers. in 1Ch 13:3, seem to imply a use of the ark for the purpose of an oracle; but this is probably erroneous, and "we sought it not" the meaning; so the Sept. renders it (see Gesenius, Lex. s.v. דָרִשׁ). Occupying the most holy spot of the whole sanctuary, it tended to exclude any idol from the centre of worship. And Jeremiah (Jer 3:16) looks forward to the time when even the ark should be "no more remembered" as the climax of spiritualized religion apparently in Messianic times. It was also the support of the mercy-seat, materially symbolizing, perhaps, the "covenant" as that on which '" mercy" rested. It also furnished a legitimate vent to that longing after a material object for reverential feeling which is common to all religions. It was, however, never seen, save by the high-priest, and resembled in this respect the Deity whom it symbolized, whose face none might look upon and live. That this reverential feeling may have been impaired during its absence among the Philistines seems probable from the case of Uzzah. SEE MERCY-SEAT.