INCREASED UNDERSTANDING THROUGH JOSEPH SMITH'S "TRANSLATION"
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, et.al, 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 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).
"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).
LOOK FOR RAINBOWS
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.