ARK OF NOAH.
The vessel occupied by Noah and his family during the Deluge (Gen. vi. 14, vii., viii.).
The English name should not be confounded with the Ark of the Covenant. The Hebrew name, , is the same as that of the chest in which the infant Moses was placed on the banks of the Nile. It was a box-like structure made of gopher-wood, a species of pine-tree not found in Babylonia, but brought, as was frequently done, from the Mediterranean coast land. It had three stories and a roof. In the parallel Babylonian flood-story no mention is made of the material; but in the main the descriptions agree. In either case the vessel was made water-tight with bitumen and provided with cells or rooms. The proportions, as given in Genesis, show regard for safety and rapid movement under steering. The huge dimensions of the Ark—300 cubits long, 50 cubits broad, and 30 cubits high—were never reached in the construction of ancient vessels, but would have been necessary for the accommodation of all the animals that survived the Deluge. It was really a great house set afloat, and was so called in the Babylonian version ("Flood Story," line 91). Its purpose, according to both accounts, was to accommodate Noah and his family and the animals of every kind that were to populate the earth after the waters subsided. In the Babylonian account the Ark rested on Mount Nisir, east of the Lower Zab river, therefore not far from the starting-point; and the high water lasted but a week. Noah's Ark, after tossing about for a year, rested in the highlands of Ararat or Armenia, and stories have been current at various times to the effect that remains of it had been found in that region, as; for example, in Josephus, "Ant." i. 3, § 6 (see Ararat and Flood). See Schrader, "Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament," i. 46-60.
One hundred and twenty years before the Deluge, Noah planted cedars from which he afterward made the Ark (Gen. R. xxx. 7; compare Christian parallels; Ginzberg, "Monatsschrift," xliii. 411). This lengthy period was requisite, partly in order to urge the sinful people to amend their ways, and partly to allow sufficient time for the erection of the Ark, which was of very large proportions. According to one view the Ark consisted of three hundred and sixty cells, each ten yards long by ten yards wide; according to another it consisted of nine hundred cells, each six yards long by six yards wide (Gen. R. xxxi. 11; compare commentaries on the passage for the exact mathematical computations). The lowest of thesestories was used as a depositary for refuse; in the second the human beings and the "clean" beasts were lodged, and the uppermost was reserved for the "unclean" beasts. A differing opinion reverses the order, so that the refuse was deposited in the third story, from which it was shoveled into the sea through a sort of trap-door (καταράκτης; Gen. R. l.c.). For purposes of illumination, Noah used precious stones, bright as the sun at noonday (Sanh. 108b; Yer. Pes. i. 27b; Gen. R. l.c.), which shone by night and were dull by day. The stones were the sole light in the Ark, since the stars and planets did not fulfil their functions during the Deluge (Gen. R. xxxiv. 11). Another miracle witnessed by the occupants of the Ark was the entrance of the animals. They were not led in by Noah, a task which would have been impossible for any human being; but God caused them, as well as the spirits of those whose bodies were yet uncreated, to gather there from all sides (Gen. R. xxxi. 13, xxxii. 8; Zeb. 116a; for Christian parallels see Ginzberg, "Monatsschrift," xliii. 414). Another Midrash says that the angels appointed over the various species of animals brought each his allotted animal with its necessary fodder (Pirḳe R. El. xxiii.). In regard to the feeding of the animals, the greater number of Haggadot say that each received suitable food at the usual time (Tan., ed. Buber, NoaḦ ii.; Gen. R. xxxi. 14); and since Noah was constantly employed in feeding them, he did not sleep for a moment during the year in the Ark. As Noah was an exception among his contemporaries, so also were the animals that were destined to be saved. They were the best of their species, and, unlike the other animals of the time, they remained true to their proper natures, without overstepping the limitations which nature had prescribed for them (TanḦuma, l.c. v.; Gen. R. xxviii. 8; Sanh. 108a). Besides the regular occupants, the Ark supported Og, king of Bashan, and the immense animal "Reëm," neither of whom, owing to their enormous size, could get into the Ark, but held fast to it, remaining alongside (Pirḳe R. El. xxiii.; Gen. R. xxxi. 13). In order that Noah on his entrance into the Ark might not be molested by the wicked people, lions and other wild animals were placed to guard it. A beam of the Ark was found by Sennacherib, and he made an idol of it (Sanh. 96a). Another beam of the Ark was used as the gallows for Haman, according to Midrash Abba Gorion, iv.; ed. Buber, 19a (see
Mohammed's conception of the Ark of Noah was of an ordinary ship. He refers to it frequently in speaking of Noah, and in all but two cases uses the word "fulk," which is elsewhere his usual word for a ship. In one passage (sura liv. 14) he calls it "a thing of boards and nails"; in another (xxix. 14), "safinah," which he also uses elsewhere of a ship.
There is, therefore, little Koranic material that need be considered under this rubric. A curious expression in the Koran (xi. 43), "And he said, 'Ride ye in it; in the Name of God it moves and stays,'" probably means only that at all times it was under the care of God. But some commentators (Baidawi, ad loc.) have thought the meaning to be that Noah said, "In the Name of God !" when he wished it to move, and the same when he wished it to stand still.
It is mentioned (xi. 46) that it settled on al-Judi. This name must go back to a flood-legend current among the Syrians of the east Tigris, in which the Ark settled on the mountains of Gordyæa. But in Moslem tradition this has become a specific mountain, lofty and long in shape, near the town called Jazirat ibn 'Umar, on the east bank of the Tigris, in the province of Mosul. So Yaḳut (s.v. ii. 144), and Ibn Batuta passed it on his travels (ii. 139). Mas'udi ("Golden Meadows," i. 74) states that the place where the Ark grounded could be seen to his day, but there do not seem to be current among Moslems any of those tales so common in Jewish and Christian legend of remains found by adventurous travelers. Probably the Moslem al-Judi was much too accessible. According to Yaḳut a mosque built by Noah was still to be found there.
On the dimensions and plan of the Ark there was much difference of opinion. It is evident that Mohammed's conception of a simple ship had been changed by outside influence. Baidawi (l.c.) gives the Biblical dimensions of 300 cubits by 50 by 30, and expands only in explaining that in the first ofthe three stories wild and domesticated animals were lodged, in the second were human beings, and in the third the birds. But other professed legendgatherers go much farther. Al-Tha'labi in his "Ḳisaḳ al-Anbiyya" (pp. 31 et seq.) and al-Diyarbakri in his "Khamīs" give stories of how Noah, under the direction of Gabriel, built a "house" of teak-wood—after having first grown the trees for the purpose—with dimensions of 80 cubits by 50 by 30; or, according to others, 660 by 330 by 33; or, again—and this on the authority of Jesus, who raised up Shem to give the information to his disciples—1,200 by 600. On every plank was the name of a prophet, and the body of Adam was carried in the middle to divide the men from the women. When Noah came near the end of his building, he found that three planks, symbolizing three prophets, were missing, and that he could not complete the "house" without them. These planks were in Egypt and were brought from there to Noah by Og, son of Anak, the only one of the giants who was permitted to survive the Flood. The last of the Ark seems to have been that Noah locked it up and gave the key to Shem (Ibn WaḍiḦ, i. 12).