Noah’s Ark as Temple

Adam with Eve was to expand the borders of the Garden to the whole earth, filling it with offspring, subduing the wild regions as well as the serpent, completing the Cosmic Temple which God had made. Instead, they failed and their firstborn Cain’s descendents spread moral corruption throughout the earth to the point where God was “sorry” for making humanity (“it grieved Him to his heart, 6:6). This does not mean that God made a mistake, or that He was incapacitated with grief and remorse as with human sorrow. This is an anthropomorphism to indicate that the transcendent God is, in fact, “emotionally” immanent as well as spatially immanent. This world’s pathos is God’s pathos; human tears are a symbol of something deeper and profound that goes on inside of the Godhead. His grieving heart is in direct contrast to the evil heart of mankind in 6:5.

The phrase “And God saw the earth and behold it was corrupt” (or “rotten,” Hebrew šāḥat, vv. 12-13) is set against Gen. 1:10 where He saw that “it was good.” There is a point known to God when judgment must come. Here He chose to wash the face of the earth clean by flood. Noah is to build an ark and fill it with animals. It is clear that the ark connects to the garden where Adam named the animals. What is also significant is all the detail that is given to its construction. The only other structure that is given such detail is the tabernacle and the Temple, both Solomon’s and Ezekiel’s vision. The ark therefore connects the Garden “Holy of Holies” of primal origins with the future tabernacle/temple in the mind of the ancients.

The ark is a temple, the remnant of creation goodness bobbing in the angry waves of the watery deep, the symbol of death and chaos. (That is why the long isle of the cruciform church where people sit/stand is called a “nave,” a word derived from the Latin “novis,” meaning “ship.”) Within is Noah, whose name means “rest,” thus associating him with the seventh day. He is, like Adam, a “first man,” and as such the priest of the temple. Outside the watery deep overcomes even the tops of the mountains, indicating that all boundaries of creation are broken, taking it back to its pre-created state where the Spirit/wind of God “hovered” over the face of the deep.

At the apex of all this drama is the significant phrase “And God remembered Noah and all the beasts …” (8:1). “Remember” does not mean that God had forgotten Noah; the word here means that at the right moment God intervened to save him and the temple-ark. The wind blowing over the waters takes us back to Gen. 1:2 with the spirit/wind of God “hovering” over the face of the deep. The word “to hover” is used elsewhere in reference to bird activity (Deut. 32:11). This connects naturally with the sending out of the birds, especially the dove twice, the second time after 7 days, again a reference to the 7 days of creation (8:6-12).

That the ark lands on “the mountains of Ararat” (8:4) is significant, for in the mind of the ancients, temples were built upon a mountain, or high place. When the doors of the ark are opened (8:13-19), the scene described is jubilant like Genesis 1with all the animals processing out into the world to “be fruitful and multiply.” Noah builds an altar completing the temple scene before the ark (8:20-22). Indeed, Noah is blessed himself with the same creation blessing given to Adam: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (cf. 9:1 with 1:28). As the Garden in Eden was the temple out of which Adam and his descendents were to spread out and subdue the earth, so now the ark was the temple out of which Noah and his descendents were to reclaim the earth.

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