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 F3, and other Heathen writers, call it (larnax) , "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 F4, Bochart F5, and others F6 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 F7 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 F8 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 F9 places in Assyria. How long Noah was building the ark is variously conjectured: a Jewish F11 writer says fifty two years; and an Arabic writer F12 an hundred years; others think Noah was building it the whole one hundred and twenty years F13, 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" F14; 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" F15; 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 F16?
F3 De Dea Syria.
F4 Miscellan. Sacr. l. 4. c. 5.
F5 Phaleg. l. 1. c. 4. col. 22, 23.
F6 Vid. Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 1. p. 35.
F7 Geograph, l. 16. p. 510.
F8 Ut supra. (Phaleg. l. 1. c. 4. col. 22, 23.)
F9 Ib. p. 508.
F11 Pirke Eliezer, c. 23.
F12 Elmacinus, p. 11. apud Hottinger, Smegma, l. 1. c. 8. p. 249.
F13 Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 1, 2.
F14 (Kl) "tibi", Pagninus, Montanus
F15 (Mynq) "nidos", Pagninus, Montanus.
F16 Vid. Scheuchzer. p. 35.