Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Gopher Wood and Noah's Ark

Something that has puzzled readers of the sixth chapter of Genesis is the use of the term gopher wood. Footnotes often say that the "Hebrew term is uncertain", and Bible translations differ —

"I know what that means, Cowboy Bob! Noah commanded his sons, "Shem, you gopher water, Ham can gopher more pitch, and Japheth can gopher wood".


Anyway, Bible translations differ. Many use the term gopher wood, and using the translations in my copy of theWord Bible Software, Coverdale (1535,) Geneva (1587), and Tyndale (1526) translated it as pine. The NIV translates it as cypress and adds the "uncertain" reference. The KJV, NKJV, NASB, HCSB, ESV, WEB all render the term as gopher wood.

Noah built the Ark out of gopher wood. What was it? The answer may not be what you would expect, and has biblical implications as well as science.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Cimerondagert (CC by-SA 4.0)
An excellent possibility is that God was not specifying a particular tree that has disappeared since then, but that Noah was to use hardwood. Getting into the Hebrew language, we see the root word that is used with brimstone, which is now called sulfur. This makes the plant material strong. The Ark, the wood, the pitch used to coat it all foreshadow the work of Jesus Christ. We can gain not only construction insight here, but also some theological principles!
Scientific facts can sometimes yield surprising biblical insight. For example, lignins make hardwood trees hard. They are a complex group of organic compounds found in the cell walls of plants that give structural rigidity to the plants’ overall growth and architecture. One type of plant lignin contains sulphur, while the other is sulphur-free. It’s the sulphur-bearing lignins that form the fundamental structural basis of all hardwood trees used for lumber products.

This botanical fact casts an interesting theological light on Genesis 6:14, where God instructs Noah to build a large ship. The Ark allowed him and his family (eight people total) and various representatives of the animal kingdom to survive the impending global Flood and repopulate the earth. Specifically, Noah is commanded, “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.”
To read the rest of the article, click on "Scientific and Biblical Truth Converge for Gopher Wood".