|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:12-21 God told Noah his purpose to destroy the wicked world by water. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, Ps 25:14. It is with all believers, enabling them to understand and apply the declarations and warnings of the written word. God chose to do it by a flood of waters, which should drown the world. As he chooses the rod with which he corrects his children, so he chooses the sword with which he cuts off his enemies. God established his covenant with Noah. This is the first place in the Bible where the word 'covenant' is found; it seems to mean, 1. The covenant of providence; that the course of nature shall be continued to the end of time. 2. The covenant of grace; that God would be a God to Noah, and that out of his seed God would take to himself a people. God directed Noah to make an ark. This ark was like the hulk of a ship, fitted to float upon the waters. It was very large, half the size of St. Paul's cathedral, and would hold more than eighteen of the largest ships now used. God could have secured Noah without putting him to any care, or pains, or trouble; but employed him in making that which was to be the means to preserve him, for the trial of his faith and obedience. Both the providence of God, and the grace of God, own and crown the obedient and diligent. God gave Noah particular orders how to make the ark, which could not therefore but be well fitted for the purpose. God promised Noah that he and his family should be kept alive in the ark. What we do in obedience to God, we and our families are likely to have the benefit of. The piety of parents gets their children good in this life, and furthers them in the way to eternal life, if they improve it.
Verse 14. - Make thee an ark. תֵּבַת, constr. of תֵּבָה, etymology unknown (Gesenius); of Shemitic origin, from תָּבָה, to be hollow (Furst); of Egyptian derivation, a boat being called tept (Keil, Kalisch, Knobel); from the Sanskrit pota, a pot or boat (Bohlen); "a peculiar archaic term for a very unusual thing, like מַבּוּל, the term for the Flood itself" (T. Lewis); translated κιβωτός θίβη (LXX.), area (Vulgate), λάρναξ (Nicolas Damaseenus), πλοῖον (Berosus); not a ship in the ordinary acceptation of the word, but a box or chest (cf. Exodus 2:3) capable of floating on the waters. "Similar vessels, generally, however, drawn by horses or men, were and are still used in some parts of Europe and Asia" (Kalisch). Of gopher wood. Literally, woods of gopher (גֹפֶר: ἅπαξ λεγ.., the root of which, like כפר, seams to signify to cover (Kalisch); ligna bituminata (Vulgate); pitch trees, resinous trees, such as are used in ship-building (Gesenius); most likely cypress, κυπάρισσος (Bochart, Celsius, Keil), which was used "in some parts of Asia exclusively as the material for ships, in Athens for coffins, and in Egypt for mummy cases" (Kaliseh). "It is said too that the gates of St. Peter's Church at Rome (made of this wood), which lasted from the time of Constantine to that of Eugene IV., 1. a 1100 years, had in that period suffered no decay" (Bush). Rooms - kinnim, nests, applied metaphorically to the chambers of the ark - shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. וְכָפַרְתָּ בַּכֹּפֶר: literally, shalt cover it with a covering. The substance to be employed was probably bitumen or asphalt (ἄσφαλτος, LXX.; bitumen, Vulgate). The root (cf. English, cover) signifies also to pardon sin, i.e. to cover them from God's sight (Psalm 65:3; Psalm 78:38; 2 Chronicles 30:18), and to make expiation for sin, i.e. to obtain covering for them (Genesis 32:20; Daniel 9:24); whence gopher is used for a ransom (Exodus 21:30; Exodus 30:12), and cap-poreth, the covering of the ark (Exodus 25:17), for the mercy-seat (ἱλαστήριον, LXX.; propitiatorium, Vulgate).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Make thee an ark of Gopher wood,.... It is not called a ship, for it was not made for sailing to any distant parts, but an ark or chest, being like one, flat bottomed, and ridged and sloping upwards, and was made for floating on the waters for a little way. So Lucian (c), and other Heathen writers, call it "an ark" or "chest": this was made of "Gopher wood", which all the Targums, and the more ancient Rabbins, understand of cedar wood; some the box tree, as the Arabic version; others, the pine; others, fir; the Mahometans say it was the Indian plane tree; and others, the turpentine tree: but the cypress tree bids fairest to be the wood of which, the ark was made, as Fuller (d), Bochart (e), and others (f) have shown; that being nearest to "Gopher" in sound, and being a wood very durable and incorruptible, and fit for shipping. Alexander made a navy of cypress trees in the groves and gardens about Babylon, as Strabo (g) relates: where this ark was made, is not easy to say: some think in Palestine; others, near Mount Caucasus, on the borders of India; others, in China: but it is most likely it was near the garden of Eden, where Noah lived, and not far from Ararat, where the ark rested. Bochart (h) conjectures, that "Gopher" is the name of the place where it was made, as well as of the wood of which it was made; and that it might be Cupressetum or Cyparisson, which Strabo (i) places in Assyria. How long Noah was building the ark is variously conjectured: a Jewish (k) writer says fifty two years; and an Arabic writer (l) an hundred years; others think Noah was building it the whole one hundred and twenty years (m), the time of God's longsuffering and forbearance, which some conclude from 1 Peter 3:20 but though it would require not a few years to build such a vessel, and prepare everything necessary for the use of it, yet one would think it should not take so many years as the least account gives unto it: it may be observed, the order is, "make thou", or "for thyself" (n); for thy use and benefit, for the saving of thyself and family, as well as for the preservation of the several creatures which were for the service of him and his posterity:
rooms shalt thou make in the ark; or "nests" (o); little apartments, and many of them for the several creatures, and for their provisions, as well as for Noah and his family. The Targum of Jonathan gives us the number of them, paraphrasing the words thus,"one hundred and fifty cells shalt thou make for the ark on the left hand, and ten apartments in the middle to put food in, and five cabins on the right, and five on the left:"
and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch; it was pitched without to keep out the waters, and that they might more easily slide off, and to preserve the ark from being eat with worms, or hurt with the wind and sun; and it was pitched within, to take off the ill smell that might arise from the several creatures, as well as for the better security of the ark. Some take it to be bitumen, a sort of clay or slime like pitch, such as was used at the building of Babel, and of the walls of Babylon. De Dieu conjectures it was that kind of bitumen which the Arabs calls Kaphura, which agrees in sound with the word here used; but why not the pitch of the pine tree, or the rosin of the cypress tree, and especially the latter, if the ark was made of the wood of it (p)?
(c) De Dea Syria. (d) Miscellan. Sacr. l. 4. c. 5. (e) Phaleg. l. 1. c. 4. Colossians 22, 23. (f) Vid. Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 1. p. 35. (g) Geograph, l. 16. p. 510. (h) Ut supra. (Phaleg. l. 1. c. 4. Colossians 22, 23.) (i) Ib. p. 508. (k) Pirke Eliezer, c. 23. (l) Elmacinus, p. 11. apud Hottinger, Smegma, l. 1. c. 8. p. 249. (m) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 1, 2.((n) "tibi", Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (o) "nidos", Pagninus, Montanus. (p) Vid. Scheuchzer. p. 35.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. Make thee an ark—ark, a hollow chest (Ex 2:3).
gopher wood—probably cypress, remarkable for its durability and abounding on the Armenian mountains.
rooms—cabins or small cells.
pitch it within and without—mineral pitch, asphalt, naphtha, or some bituminous substance, which, when smeared over and become hardened, would make it perfectly watertight.
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