It’s not the size of the box that matters…

They shall make an ark of acacia wood; it shall be two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. -Exodus 25:10 

Dear members and friends,

In the Bible, there are two famous arks: the ark of Noah in Genesis and the ark of covenant in Exodus. The English word “ark” originated from the Latin word “arca,” meaning chest. However, the two arks in the Bible are not the same word in Hebrew. The ark of Noah in Hebrew is “tebah,” meaning box or basket such as in the story of Moses (Exodus 2:3) where his mother made a papyrus basket (tebah) and put him inside. Meanwhile, the ark of the covenant in Hebrew is “aron,” meaning chest or coffin such as in the story of Joseph (Genesis 50:26) where his body was embalmed and placed in a coffin (aron). This is quite an interesting difference, because Noah’s ark was built to contain and protect Noah’s family with every kind of animal in the world, while the ark of the covenant was built to contain only two stone tablets. 

According to Genesis, the size of Noah’s ark was three hundred cubits in its length, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. The size of the ark of the covenant was two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. In this literal implication, the ark of Noah is 80,000 larger than the ark of the covenant. Yet linguistically, Noah’s ark – a tebah – indicates a smaller box than the ark of the covenant, an aron. There are two apparent and noticeable differences between the two arks: 1. One is built for all living beings, while another is built for something that is not alive; 2. One is built to protect what is contained within, while the other is built to protect from what is outside. According to Swedenborg, the ark of Noah symbolizes the people of the ancient church, who were in need of divine protection while undergoing spiritual temptation. The ark of the covenant symbolizes the innermost heaven, within which is the presence of God. Spiritually speaking, the ark of the covenant has a much deeper significance than Noah’s ark even though physically, Noah’s is significantly more spacious. Essentially, the difference depends on who is describing it: God or humans.  

My brothers and sisters in God, let us take a moment of reflection. What appears to be larger may not be more significant than what appears to be smaller. The true value is essentially in how they lead us to God. Whatever it is, if it takes us away from God, it is not important. However, if it takes us closer to God, it is important. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee