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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

28 March 2006

Arks and Tabernacles

Q: We are studying The Tabernacle of Moses, and I would like to know the difference between the shittim wood that was used for the ark in the tabernacle and the gopher wood use that God told Moses to use to build the ark.

Noah's ArkA: I see that you’re probably reading from an older English translation — probably the King James (Authorized) Version. However, before we continue, we need to agree upon which Ark we’re going to discuss. The “gopher” wood was for Noah’s Ark (Genesis 6:14), the huge boat designed to save life during the flood. The Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle both used “shittim” wood in their construction.

While some newer translations retain “gopher” in Genesis 6, few have preserved “shittim” in their texts. That’s because we’re reasonably certain that the material the Lord called for in Exodus 25 and following was acacia wood, which Israel could have found in the surrounding wilderness.

The reason that many translations keep “gopher” is that it only appears once in all the Bible and we have no idea what it is, save that it was appropriate for building a large boat. Thus, some scholars say “cypress”; others mention “pitch-pine” or “resinous wood”; Martin Luther used “fir” in his German translation. Still others hold the opinion that gopher wasn’t a type of tree but rather a type of finished lumber product. It may also be that whatever type of tree it was just didn’t survive the Flood and the subsequent climate changes on earth.

Ark of the CovenantShould some wonder why a big boat and a much smaller worship icon are both called arks, we get the term via earlier Latin translations of Scripture. Arca means “box” or “chest.” While different Hebrew words are used in Genesis 6 and Exodus 25, both have root meanings suggesting boxes or containers. Note that when Moses’ mother hid him, the same word was used for the “basket of bullrushes (Exodus 2:3)” as later with the Ark of the Covenant.

Finally, let’s touch on “Tabernacle.” This word means “dwelling place” often a temporary structure such as a tent. Israel’s place of worship moved with them — or, technically, Israel moved with the Ark and Tabernacle &mdash witnessing not only to the pilgrimage of the Exodus but also showing all mankind’s transient nature. Thus, it continues to remind us that we await a permanent dwelling place not of this earth.

Besides referring back to Israel’s Tabernacle, the New Testament equivalent shows up in the booths or tents Peter wanted to erect following the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:4) and also is used for the mortal, temporary human body (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The wood if I recall correctly, there is a reason why researchers don't know what type of wood it was because it either was a wood not grown in the area or it was most definately a manufactured wood. I believe that is why it can still exist under a glacier in the mountains today the Bible states that Noah was 500 years old and the time he entered the ark he was 600 years old. About the ages of many of the Genesis account the earlier passages , if somehow creationists are right about a canopy over the earth that would account for dinoraurs not living far enough into Noahs days to survive such a change. in a similar way the book of revolation says a number of things will happen wiping out one third the earth. also that would explain why the ages listed on family lines shrink to around 100-200 years. I feel that someone should build some kind of safe energy source driven geosphere/home...community for natural/man disasters such as neucular or natural earthquakes such as the due 400 year earthquake as well as magnetic pulses.

06 January, 2008 17:34  

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