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“Why do we call Noah’s big boat an ‘ark’ because there is also the ‘ark’ of the covenant?” — Hunter
Your question opens the lid on an interesting discussion concerning boxes, boats and baskets.
To get to the bottom of it, you have to consider the meaning of various words in at least four different languages — Hebrew, Greek, Latin and English.
In the Hebrew Bible, there are three different words to explore. The one most commonly used for “ship” (such as the vessel Jonah sailed in) appears often.
A second, more specific term, used only twice, refers to Noah’s boat and to the basket used to float Moses on the Nile River.
It has a meaning of something like “life boat.”
A third Hebrew word refers to the container that held the Ten Commandments. It means “chest” or “box.”
This is the same word used for the special cabinet, which holds the Torah in modern synagogues.
When the Greeks translated the Hebrew Bible into their language, they used one word for all three of the Hebrew words. Their word referred both to Noah’s boat and the ark of the covenant.
Later, when Latin became the language of the church, the word “arca” was used to translate this single Greek word. The connection to the English “ark” is obvious and explains why one word is used for both vessels in our translation.
Here is the important point: the purpose of the “ark” of Noah (and baby Moses) was to preserve life.
The ark of the covenant, which held the two tablets, Aaron’s budding rod and the jar of manna, held and protected the central, iconic symbols of the ancient Israelite culture.
Even though “ark” does not capture the fine nuance of the Hebrew, it is nevertheless adequate to refer to containers all of which held precious cargo important to the life and faith.
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To send questions or to communicate with Pastor McCullough, write to wrbc-pastor