Thursday, January 28, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #6 "Noah...Prepared an Ark to the Saving of His House"

(Moses 8:19-30; Genesis 6-9; 11:1-9)


In June of 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith followed the command of the Lord to re-translate the King James Bible (see D&C 35:20).  He did this by studying the Bible prayerfully, and making notes and additions through inspiration as he read, in order to restore what had been corrupted or removed through the ages as the Bible made its winding way through civilization.  Most of the work was done by July of 1833, but he kept revising and editing it until his death (Garr,, Encyclopedia of Latter-day History, p. 589).  The entire Book of Moses was revelation received by Joseph Smith as he read the Book of Genesis, the first chapter being completely new material, and the rest being revisions on the Genesis narration.  After the Book of Moses, the story resumes with Genesis 6:14, but there are still some very enlightening changes which have been put in the footnotes of the LDS Bible, or in the Appendix.

Here are some interesting insights about Noah and the ark, most of which come as a result of JST changes and additions:

  • He was the great-grandson of Enoch (Gen. 5:18-32), whom Enoch saw in vision (Moses 7:41-43); the grandson of Methuselah; and the son of Lamech. 
  • He was the prophet of the next major dispensation after his great-grandfather's.
  • He had a very short priesthood line of authority:  "Methuselah was one hundred years old when he was ordained under the hand of Adam...Noah was ten years old when he was ordained under the hand of Methuselah" (D&C 107:50-52).
  • Noah was born as the child of promise who would save civilization.  Methuselah, his grandfather, was left behind when the City of Enoch went up to Heaven, for the purpose of bringing Noah into the world.  "And it came to pass that Methuselah, the son of Enoch, was not taken, that the covenants of the Lord might be fulfilled, which he made to Enoch; for he truly covenanted with Enoch that Noah should be of the fruit of his loins" (Moses 8:2). 
  • At his birth and naming, his father, Lamech, prophesied that he would "comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed" (Gen. 5:29).  
  • He was righteous (Moses 8:13).
  • In an incident about which we have no details, he was saved from murderous giants by the hand of the Lord (Moses 8:18).
  • Noah's sons were also righteous men:  "And thus Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord; for Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation; and he walked with God, as did also his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth" (Moses 8:27).  They weren't saved from the flood just by being related to Noah.
  • For 120 years (!) Noah warned the people about the flood (Moses 8:17).
  • Noah was commanded to build an ark, which he obediently did, without hesitation or argument, despite what Bill Cosby says in his famous comedy routine :)  "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he" (Gen. 6:22).
  • At the end of the warning period, Noah was 600 years old, his grandfather Methuselah finally died (sparing him the whole ark ordeal), and Noah's family entered the ark with the animals.
  • The Hebrew root for "ark" is the same as that used for baby Moses' floating basket.
  • Cubits varied by region, but the Egyptian cubit of 18 inches was most likely Noah's measure, making the ark 450 feet by 76 feet by 45 feet, equal to an icebreaker, double a man o' war, half an oceanliner.  (See picture from Institute Old Testament Student Manual below.)
  • It had 3 decks, enclosed of course, with 15-foot ceilings, if they were equal.  There was over 100,000 square feet of floorspace all told: over 30 times the square footage of a 1970s ranch-style American home.


The ark hosted two of a kind of unclean animals (to repopulate the earth) (Gen. 6:19-20), and seven of a kind of clean animals (two to repopulate the earth; five as food storage for the year-long journey on the water) (Gen. 7:2-3).


  • The number 40 in the Bible is almost always symbolic.  Saying that some ordeal lasted 40 days or 40 years was a way of stating that it was a long period of trial, of testing, of preparation, which would be followed by a reward or a restoration. The specific phrase "40 days and 40 nights" occurs three other times in the Bible:  Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exo. 24:18), Elijah traveling to Horeb (1 Kings 19:8), and Jesus fasting in the wilderness (Matt. 4:2).  In fact, the journey of the ark lasted a lot longer than 40 days and 40 nights.

  • The flood began on the 17th day of the 2nd month of the 600th year of Noah's life (Gen. 7:11). That day, the family boarded the ark (Gen. 7:13).
  • The waters covered the earth for 150 days, and the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat on the 17th day of the 7th month (Gen. 8:3-4).

  • The waters decreased continually until the mountains became visible on the 1st day of the 10th month (Gen. 8:5).

  • After having sent out the raven and the dove, the waters were finally dried off the earth on the 1st day of the 1st month of the 601st year of Noah's life (Gen. 8:13).

  • The earth itself was dry on the 27th day of the 2nd month, and the family disembarked (Gen. 8:14-16).
150 days afloat + 73 days anchored with no land in sight + 90 days until the water receded + 57 days until the land dried out = 370 days total, but this was calculated figuring months of only 30 days, so add about 5 days for the longer months = 375 days!!!


(This beautiful photo showing the Rainbow Covenant 
over the place of covenants was taken by my friend,
Laurie Hendricks Fifield)

Are not all revelations given in answer to questions or requests, as Joseph Smith said?  The Joseph Smith Translation reveals that the rainbow was the sign of a covenant answering the heartfelt prayer of Noah's great-grandfather, Enoch, when he saw the devastating flood in a vision.

"And when Enoch heard the earth mourn, he wept, and cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, wilt thou not have compassion upon the earth? Wilt thou not bless the children of Noah? And it came to pass that Enoch continued his cry unto the Lord, saying: I ask thee, O Lord, in the name of thine Only Begotten, even Jesus Christ, that thou wilt have mercy upon Noah and his seed, that the earth might never more be covered by the floods" (Moses 7:49-50).

Three generations later, after the flood had come and gone, and his family had safely disembarked, Noah built an altar, offered thanks with an animal sacrifice (there were animals born during the long journey on the ark, of course, and so there were "firstlings" to offer) and made the self-same request, undoubtedly passed down through the generations from his great-grandfather: 

"And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar; and gave thanks unto the Lord, and rejoiced in his heart.  And the Lord spake unto Noah, and he blessed him.  And Noah smelled a sweet savor, and he said in his heart; I will call on the name of the Lord, that he will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; and that he will not again smite any more every thing living, as he hath done while the earth remaineth" (JST Gen. 9:4-6).

God blessed Noah and his sons and gave them counsel (Gen. 9:1-8), and made the promise symbolized by the rainbow (Gen. 9:9-16).  The JST clarifies (again) that the covenant was originally made with great-grandfather Enoch (see the footnote to verse 9).  In the JST in the Appendix, comes this beautiful passage linking Noah back to the city which left his grandfather Methuselah behind (changes/additions made by Joseph Smith are noted in italics):

"And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself.  And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness and the earth shall tremble with joy;  And the general assembly of the church of the first-born shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come.  And this is mine everlasting covenant, which I made with thy father Enoch.  And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will establish my covenant unto thee, which I have made between me and thee, for every living creature of all flesh that shall be upon the earth.  And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and thee; for all flesh that shall be upon the earth" (JST Gen. 9:21-25, p. 798 of the LDS Bible).


The Primary song "When I Am Baptized" begins, "I like to look for rainbows."  Believers in the Bible recognize rainbows as symbols of the Lord's promise to never again flood the entire earth.  The Latter-day Saints, however, should have a deeper love for and understanding of rainbows.  The Joseph Smith Translation adds the beautiful truth that the rainbow also symbolizes the covenant that the day will come when the inhabitants of the earth will embrace the truth, and the City of Enoch will return and rejoin them.  As we "look upward" at rainbows, we can envision the heavenly city "looking downward" upon us, and anticipate the time when "the heavens will shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy" as the Zion people on earth are joined by the city of Zion from heaven.


LeLouden said...
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Linda said...

I love reading the lessons you give. This year the OT has come alive like never before for me. your lessons enhance my studies and i love that you have them posted before they are scheduled to be given on sunday. i finally feel like i might know more than a few of the others in class. thank you for all the prep you do. it is truly great.

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

Linda, thanks!! Comments like this make it totally worthwhile.

Meg said...

I just came across this blog and love it! Thanks for sharing your incredible insights. I have a bible podcast and I used this post to help explain some stuff (because you just do it so well!). Hope that's ok :) It's (April 3)

Unknown said...

The insight of your blog has been for helpful to me. Thank you for sharing this. I hope you will continue to do so.

Carla said...

In my study of "Preach my Gospel" I was led to this blog sight to read up on Moses 8:19-30. When I can read about Noah in a more personal way it enriches the scriptures as I study. Thank you for the time you spend in posting.

Gaye said...

Never ending insights . Thank you so much I absolutely love your lessons and certainly appreciate the effort put in by you - Thankyou Thankyou.