When we talk about “The Ark” in the Bible, we could either be talking about the Ark of the Covenant, or Noah’s Ark. The funny thing is that even though we use the same word in English, the words in Hebrew are different. And yet, the description of detailed instructions that God gave Noah about how to build the ark feels decidedly similar to the intricate description that God gave Moses about how to construct the Ark of the Covenant. Like so many important themes in scripture, the echoes we hear from story to story should alert us to a deliberate parallel. The theme of salvation resonates between the two ark-building enterprises. But there’s more. The word for Noah’s Ark, “ta-va”, is used only one other time in the Bible, and it’s interesting to see where we find the other ta-va…
Are there more than two “Arks” in the Bible?
The floating zoo is a “ta-va” in Hebrew, but the Ark of the Covenant is an “aron”, which means chest. In Hebrew today an “aron” can refer to a cupboard – essentially a storage container for a collection of items. But here is the other thing: The word ta-va (like Noah’s ta-va) is used twice in the Bible: Not only did it refer to the enormous boat, but also to the small cradle, in which a vulnerable but priceless baby was laid, and sent off on the water to an unknown destiny. Moses’ basket is called an “ark” in Hebrew. A ta-va. You can see the similarities between the ark that carried the remains of humanity that were worth saving along with the bare essentials to reestablish the animal kingdom, and the “ark” that carried Moses, who was to be a saviour figure – a prelude to the ultimate Messiah, both floating perilously off into the future. Both were absolutely critical for the future of humanity, and both carried great treasures.
So far we have Noah’s Ark (ta-va), made according to the master’s specific dimensions, and a considerably smaller ark (ta-va) carrying no less important cargo. Then we have the parallel prescriptively made Ark (aron) of the Covenant, nestled in the tabernacle, which also was a focal point of salvation. Noah’s ark was salvation from judgement and death, Moses’ basket / ark was deliverance from slavery and death; the Ark of the Covenant and tabernacle of meeting was a place where the people could be saved from the wages of sin, and be put right with God through the elaborate Mosaic covenant. It was a temporary, primary, initial stage of salvation from sin and judgement with working parts and tangible items that each represented something of God’s grand scheme of redemption. Each item and detail pointed to the ultimate Saviour, who, funnily enough, arrives on planet earth, presented in a manger – another form of casket – not unlike Moses’ entrance in his “ark”.
Echoes of the salvation story
When we find these echoes, these similarities, our mind should jump back and forth to the places where the echo sounds. These stories are all linked. God’s detailed instructions recorded there for us in the Bible are written to indicate to us his foreknowledge and deliberate plan. Noah’s ark is very much supposed to be linked in our minds with the Tabernacle and all its accoutrements, including the essential Ark of the Covenant. Equally, Moses’ appearance in his “ark” or basket foreshadows Yeshua’s presentation in a manger, because Moses was a prelude to the saviour to come. Moses received the Covenant at Sinai by which the people of Israel could know salvation from sin, and Yeshua introduced the New Covenant in his blood for all peoples, finally defeating the very power of sin and death when he gave his life as the ultimate sacrifice, and proved the success of his victory by rising again from the dead.
Another word that could be translated instead of ark is chest. The meaning of the words are very close, but the word chest automatically takes my mind to a pirate’s chest, dripping with gold coins and jewels! Even the anatomical choice of the word “chest” in English refers to the enclosed area of the body that contains the heart – the word chest has connotations of a container of precious items. Noah’s Ark, Moses’ “Ark”, the Ark of the Covenant and the manger containing the Messiah of the world were all wooden receptacles, containing priceless treasures beyond anything we could conjure up in our wildest dreams. Four treasure chests that have been given to us from God. His precious gifts of salvation after salvation, deliberately delivered to us with great love.