The Ark and the Tent:
Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah

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Abstract: Jeffrey M. Bradshaw compares Moses’ tabernacle and Noah’s ark, and then identifies the story of Noah as a temple related drama, drawing of temple mysticism and symbols. After examining structural similarities between ark and tabernacle and bringing into the discussion further information about the Mesopotamian flood story, he shows how Noah’s ark is a beginning of a new creation, pointing out the central point of Day One in the Noah story. When Noah leaves the ark, they find themselves in a garden, not unlike the Garden of Eden in the way the Bible speaks about it. A covenant is established in signs and tokens. Noah is the new Adam. This is then followed by a fall/Judgement scene story, even though it is Ham who is judged, not Noah. In accordance with mostly non-Mormon sources quoted, Bradshaw points out how Noah was not in “his” tent, but in the tent of the Shekhina, the presence of God, how being drunk was seen by the ancients as a synonym to “being caught up in a vision of God,” and how his “nakedness” was rather referring to garments God had made for Adam and Eve.

[Editor’s Note: Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article is reprinted here as a service to the LDS community. Original pagination and page numbers have necessarily changed, otherwise the reprint has the same content as the original.

See Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, “The Ark and the Tent: Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah,” in Temple Insights: Proceedings of the Interpreter Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference, “The Temple on Mount Zion,” 22 September 2012, ed. William J. Hamblin and David Rolph Seely (Orem, UT: The Interpreter Foundation; Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2014), [Page 94]25–66. Further information at https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/temple-insights/.]

It has long been recognized that the story of Noah recapitulates the Genesis accounts of the Creation, the Garden, and the Fall of Adam and Eve. What has been generally underappreciated by modern scholarship, however, is the nature and depth of the relationship between all these stories and the liturgy and layout of temples, not only in Israel but also throughout the ancient Near East. And this relationship goes two ways. Not only have accounts of primeval history been included as a significant part of ancient temple worship, but also, in striking abundance, themes echoing temple architecture, furnishings, ritual, and covenants have been deeply woven into scripture itself.

In this chapter I will outline some of the rich temple themes in the biblical account of the great flood, highlighting how the scriptural descriptions of the structure and function of the ark and the tent within the story of Noah anticipate the design and purpose of the later tabernacle of Moses.

Structural Similarities Between the Ark and the Tabernacle

It is significant that, apart from the tabernacle of Moses1 and the temple of Solomon,2 Noah’s ark is the only man-made structure mentioned in the Bible whose design was directly revealed by God.3

Like the tabernacle, Noah’s ark “was designed as a temple.”4 The ark’s three decks suggest both the three divisions of the tabernacle and the threefold layout of the Garden of Eden.5 Indeed, each of the three decks of Noah’s ark was exactly “the same height as the Tabernacle and three times the area of the Tabernacle court.”6 Strengthening the association between the Ark and the Tabernacle is the fact that the Hebrew term for Noah’s ark, tevah, later became the standard word for the ark of the covenant in Mishnaic Hebrew.7 In addition, the Septuagint used the same Greek term, kibotos, for both Noah’s ark and the ark of the covenant.8 The ratio of the width to the height of both of these arks is 3:5.9

Marking the similarities between the shape of the ark of the covenant and the chest-like form of Noah’s ark, Westermann describes Noah’s ark as “a huge, rectangular box, with a roof.”10 The biblical account makes it clear that the ark “was not shaped like a ship and it had no oars,” “accentuating the fact that Noah’s deliverance was not dependent [Page 95]on navigating skills, [but rather happened] entirely by God’s will,”11 its movement solely determined by “the thrust of the water and wind.”12

Consistent with the emphasis on deliverance by God rather than through human navigation, the Hebrew word for “ark” reappears for the only other time in the Bible in the story of the infant Moses, whose deliverance from death was also made possible by a free-floating watercraft — specifically, in this case, a reed basket.13 Reeds may have also been used as part of the construction materials for Noah’s ark, as will be discussed below.

Besides the resemblances in form between the Ark and the Tabernacle, there is also the manner by which the Ark was entered and exited. For example, scholars have noted in the Mesopotamian flood story of Gilgamesh a similarity of the loading of the ship to the loading of goods into a temple.14 Morales discusses the centrality of entering and leaving the Ark as reason “to suspect an entrance liturgy ideal at work,”15 with all “‘entries’ as being via Noah,”16 the righteous and unblemished priestly prototype.17

As for the material out of which the ark was constructed, Genesis 6:14 reads, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.”

The meaning of the Hebrew term for “gopher wood” — unique in the Bible to Genesis 6:14 — is uncertain.18 Modern commentators often take it to mean cypress wood.19 Because it is resistant to rot, the cypress tree was used in ancient times for the building of ships.20

There is an extensive mythology about the cypress tree in cultures throughout the world. It is known for its fragrance and longevity21 — qualities that have naturally linked it with ancient literature describing the Garden of Eden.22 Cypress trees were also sometimes used to make temple doors — gateways to Paradise.23

The possibility of conscious rhyming wordplay in the juxtaposition of the Hebrew terms gopher and kopher (“pitch”) within the same verse cannot be ruled out. As Harper notes, the word kopher might have evoked for the ancient reader, “the rich cultic overtones of kaphar ‘ransom’ with its half-shekel temple atonement price,24 kapporeth ‘mercy seat’ over the Ark of the Covenant,25 and the verb kipper ‘to atone’ associated with so many priestly rituals.”26 Some of these rituals involve the action of smearing or wiping, the same movements by which pitch is applied.27 Just as God’s presence in the tabernacle preserves the life of His people, so Noah’s ark preserves a righteous remnant of humanity along with representatives of all its creatures.

[Page 96]In Mesopotamian flood stories, the construction materials for the building of a boat were obtained by tearing down a reed-hut. The basic construction idea of such huts is that poles of resinous wood would have framed and supported woven reed mats.28 The reed mats would be stitched to the hull and covered with pitch to make them waterproof.29 These building techniques are still in use today.

Although reed-huts may sometimes serve as secular enclosures, references to them in Mesopotamian flood stories clearly point to their ancient use as divine sanctuaries.30 Seated in his rectangular sanctuary made of reeds, Enki presided both as the god of wisdom and of the Abzu, the freshwater ocean that existed under the land.31 In some parts of the ancient Near East, mortal kings and priests entered into reed sanctuaries in order to commune with the gods, just as Israelite high priests entered their temples.

In a Mesopotamian account of the flood story, Ziusudra enters into a “reed-hut … temple,”32 where he stands “day after day” listening to the “conversation” of the divine assembly.33 Eventually, Ziusudra hears the deadly oaths of the council of the gods following their decision to destroy mankind by a devastating flood. Regretting the decision of the divine assembly, the god Enki contrives a plan to warn Ziusudra and to instruct him on how to build a boat that will save him and his family. Evoking ancient Near East parallels where the gods whisper their secrets to mortals standing on the other side of temple partitions or screens separating the divine and human realms,34 Enki conveys his warning message privately through the thin wall of Ziusudra’s reed sanctuary.35 Related accounts tell us that Enki instructed Ziusudra to tear down the reed-hut temple and to use the materials to build a boat.36

Three kinds of boat-building materials are listed in the Mesopotamian flood stories — wood timbers, reeds, and pitch.37 The biblical list is identical, except that the second item is given as “rooms” rather than “reeds.” Concluding “that the apparent lack of the reed-hut or primeval shrine in the Genesis flood account demands closer inspection,”38 Jason McCann observes39 that re-pointing the Hebrew vowels would lead to an alternate translation signifying an ark that was “woven-of-reeds.” Thus, the New Jerusalem Bible translation of Genesis 6:14:40 “Make yourself an ark out of resinous wood. Make it with reeds and caulk it with pitch inside and out” (emphasis added).

By a translation that recognizes “reeds,” not “rooms,” as the second element in the building materials for Noah’s ark, a puzzling inconsistency [Page 97]between the Bible and the Mesopotamian accounts is resolved while at the same time further connecting the scriptural ark with the temple.

Let’s now turn our attention to the Creation and temple themes in the story of the Flood, where we will find temple parallels not only to the structure of the Ark but also in its function.

Creation

In considering the role of Noah’s ark in the Flood story, it should be noted that it was, specifically, a mobile sanctuary,41 as were the tabernacle and the ark made of reeds that saved the baby Moses. Arguably, each of these structures can be described as a traveling vehicle of rescue designed to parallel in function God’s portable pavilion or chariot.

Scripture makes a clear distinction between the fixed heavenly temple and its portable counterparts. For example, in Psalm 1842 and D&C 121:1, the “pavilion” of “God’s hiding place” should not be equated with the celestial “temple” to which the prayers of the oppressed go up43 but rather as a representation of a movable “conveyance”44 in which God could swiftly descend to rescue His people from mortal danger.45 The sense of the action is succinctly captured by Robert Alter: “The outcry of the beleaguered warrior ascends all the way to the highest heavens, thus launching a downward vertical movement”46 of God’s own chariot.

Despite its ungainly shape as a buoyant temple, the Ark is portrayed as floating confidently above the chaos of the great deep. Significantly, the motion of the ark “upon the face of the waters”47 paralleled the movement of the Spirit of God “upon the face of the waters”48 at the original creation of heaven and earth. The deliberate nature of this parallel is made clear when we consider that Genesis 1:2 and 7:18 are the only two verses in the Bible that contain the phrase “the face of the waters.” In short, scripture intends to make us understand that in the presence of the Ark there was a return of the same Spirit of God that had hovered over the waters at the Creation — the Spirit whose previous withdrawal had been presaged in Genesis 6:3.49

The motion of the Ark “upon the face of the waters,”50 like the Spirit of God “upon the face of the waters”51 at Creation, was a portent of the (re)appearance of light and life. Within the Ark, a “mini replica of Creation,”52 were the last vestiges of the original Creation, “an alternative earth for all living creatures,”53 “a colony of heaven”54 containing seedlings for the planting of a second Garden of Eden,55 the nucleus of a new world — all hidden within a vessel of rescue described in scripture, like the tabernacle, as a likeness of God’s own traveling pavilion.

[Page 98]Just as the Spirit of God patiently brooded56 over the great deep at the Creation and just as “the longsuffering of God waited … while the ark was a preparing,”57 so the indefatigable Noah endured the long brooding of the ark over the slowly receding waters of the deluge58 until, at last, the dry land appeared.59

There are rich thematic connections between the emergence of the dry land at the Creation, the settling of the Ark atop the first mountain to emerge from the Flood, New Year’s Day, and the temple. In ancient Israel, the holiest spot on earth was believed to be the foundation stone in front of the ark of the covenant within the temple at Jerusalem:60 “It was the first solid material to emerge from the waters of Creation,61 and it was upon this stone that the Deity effected Creation.” The depiction of the ark-temple of Noah perched upon Mount Ararat would have evoked similar temple imagery for the ancient reader of the Bible.

Note that it was “in the six hundred and first year [of Noah’s life] in the first month, the first day of the month” that “the waters were dried up.”62 The specific wording of this verse would have hinted to the ancient reader that there was ritual significance to the date. Note that it was also the “first day of the first month”63 when the tabernacle was dedicated, “while Solomon’s temple was dedicated at the New Year festival in the autumn.”64

Garden

Nothing in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden can be understood without reference to the temple. Neither can the story of Noah and his family in the garden setting of a renewed earth be appreciated fully without taking the temple as its background.

Allusions to Garden of Eden and temple motifs begin as soon as Noah and his family leave the ark. Just as the book of Moses highlights Adam’s diligence in offering sacrifice as soon as he entered the fallen world,65 Genesis describes Noah’s first action on the renewed earth as being the building of an altar for burnt offerings.66 Likewise, in each account, God’s blessing is followed by a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.67 Both stories also contain instructions about what the protagonists are and are not to eat.68

Notably, in each case a covenant is established in a context of ordinances and signs or tokens.69 More specifically, according to Pseudo-Philo,70 the rainbow as a sign or token of a covenant of higher priesthood blessings was said by God to be an analogue of Moses’s staff, a symbol of kingship.71

[Page 99]Both the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Noah prominently feature the theme of nakedness being covered by a garment.72 Noah, like Adam, is called the “lord of the whole earth.”73 Surely, it is no exaggeration to say that Noah is portrayed as a new Adam, “reversing the estrangement” between God and man by means of an atoning sacrifice.74

Fall and Judgment

In Genesis, the Fall and judgment scenes are straightforwardly recited as follows:75

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.

And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

Looking at the passage more closely, however, raises several questions. To begin with, what tent did Noah enter? Although the English translation says “his tent,” the Hebrew text features a feminine possessive that would normally mean “her tent.”76 The Midrash Rabbah explains this as a reference to the tent of Noah’s wife,77 and both ancient and modern commentators have often focused on this detail to imply that Ham intruded on his father and mother during a moment of intimacy.78

A very intriguing alternative explanation, however, is offered by Rabbi Shim’on in the Zohar, who takes the he of the feminine possessive to mean “‘the tent of that vineyard,’ namely, the tent of Shekhinah,”79 the term for “the divine feminine”80 that was equated to the presence of Yahweh in Israelite temples. In a variant of the same theme, at least one set of modern commentators takes the he as referring to Yahweh, hence reading the term as the “Tent of Yahweh,”81 the divine sanctuary.

[Page 100]In view of the pervasive theme in ancient literature where the climax of the Flood story is the founding of a temple over the source of the floodwaters, Blenkinsopp82 finds it “safe to assume” that the biblical account of “the deluge served … as the Israelite version of the cosmogonic victory of the deity resulting in the building of a sanctuary for him.” Lucian reports that “the temple of Hierapolis on the Euphrates was founded over the flood waters by Deucalion, counterpart of Ziusudra, Utnapishtim, and Noah.”83 Consistent with this theme, Psalms 29:10 “speaks of Yahweh enthroned over the abyss.”84

Given the many allusions in the story of Noah to the tabernacle of Moses, it would have been natural for the ancient reader to have seen in Noah’s tent, at the foot of the mount where the ark-temple rested, a parallel with the sacred “tent of meeting” at the foot of Mount Sinai, at whose top God’s heavenly tent had been spread.

How are we to understand the mention that Noah “was drunken”? Most rabbinical sources make no attempt to explain or justify but instead roundly criticize Noah’s actions.85 The difficulty with that explanation is the fact that the scriptures offer no hint of condemnation for Noah’s supposed drunkenness.

Is there a better explanation for Noah’s unexpected behavior?86 Yes. According to a statement attributed to Joseph Smith, Noah “was not drunk, but in a vision.”87 This agrees with the Genesis Apocryphon which, immediately after describing a ritual drinking of wine by Noah and his family, tells of a divine dream vision that revealed the fate of Noah’s posterity.88 Koler and Greenspahn89 concur that Noah was enwrapped in a vision while in the tent, commenting that “this explains why Shem and [Japheth] refrained from looking at Noah even after they had covered him, significantly ‘ahorannît [= Hebrew “backward”] occurs elsewhere with regard to avoidance of looking directly at God in the course of revelation.”

Noah’s fitness to enjoy the presence of God is explored in detail by Morales.90 “In every sense,” he writes, “Noah is defined as the one able ‘to enter’”91 into the presence of the Lord. He concludes:92

As the righteous man, Noah not only passes through the [door] of the Ark sanctuary,93 but is able to approach the mount of Yahweh for worship…. Noah stands as a new Adam, the primordial man who dwells in the divine Presence … As such, he foreshadows the high priest of the Tabernacle cultus who alone will enter the paradisiacal holy of holies….

[Page 101]How does wine play into the picture? It should be remembered that a sacramental libation was an element in the highest ordinances of the priesthood as much in ancient times as it is today. For example, only five chapters after the end of the Flood story, we read that Melchizedek “brought forth bread and wine”94 to Abraham as part of the ordinance that was to make him a king and a priest after Melchizedek’s holy order.95 Just as Melchizedek then blessed the “most high God, which had delivered thine enemies into thine hand,”96 so Noah, according to the Genesis Apocryphon, partook of the wine with his family and blessed “the God Most High, who had delivered us from the destruction.”97 The book of Jubilees further confirms that Noah’s drinking of the wine should be seen in a ritual context, not merely as a spontaneous indulgence that occurred at the end of a particularly wearying day. Indeed, we are specifically told that Noah “guarded” the wine until the time of the fifth New Year festival, the “first day on the first of the first month,” when he “made a feast with rejoicing. And he made a burnt offering to the Lord.”98

We find greater detail about an analogous event within the Testament of Levi. There we read that as Levi was being made a king and a priest, he was anointed, washed, and given “bread and holy wine” prior to his being arrayed in a “holy and glorious vestment.” Note also that the themes of anointing, the removal of outer clothing, the washing of the feet, and the ritual partaking of bread and wine were prominent in the events surrounding the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. Indeed, we are told that the righteous may joyfully anticipate participation in a similar event when the Lord returns: “for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth.”99

How do we make sense of Noah’s being “uncovered” during his vision? Perhaps the closest Old Testament parallel to this practice is when Saul, like the prophets who were with him, “stripped off his clothes … and prophesied before Samuel … and lay down naked all that day and all that night.”100 Jamieson101 clarifies that “lay down naked” in this instance meant only that he was “divested of his armor and outer robes.” In a similar sense, when we read in John 21:7 that Peter “was naked” as he was fishing, it simply meant that “he had laid off his outer garment, and had on only his inner garment or tunic.”102

How do we understand the statement that Ham “saw the nakedness of his father”? Reluctant to attribute the apparent gravity of Ham’s misdeed to the mere act of seeing, readers have often concluded that Ham in addition must have done something.103 For example, a popular proposal [Page 102]is that Ham committed unspeakable crimes against his mother104 or his father.105

Wenham, however, wisely observes that “these and other suggestions are disproved by the next verse” that recounts how Shem and Japheth covered their father: 106

As Cassuto107 points out: “If the covering was an adequate remedy, it follows that the misdemeanor was confined to seeing.” The elaborate efforts Shem and Japheth made to avoid looking at their father demonstrate that this was all Ham did in the tent.108

All this is consistent with the proposal that the misdeed of Ham was intrusively entering the tent of Yahweh and seeing Noah in the presence of God while the latter was “in the course of revelation.”109 While Noah, the righteous and blameless — an exception to those in his generation110 — was in a position to speak with God face-to-face, Ham was neither qualified nor authorized to see, let alone enter into, a place of divine glory.

Figure 1. Zones of Sacredness in Eden and in the Temple (adapted from G. A. Anderson, Perfection, p. 80).114

Is this a parallel to the story of Adam and Eve? A parallel to this incident might be seen by reading the story of the transgression of Adam and Eve in the context of its many temple allusions. Consistent with recent scholarship that sees the Garden as a temple prototype,111 Ephrem the Syrian, a fourth-century Christian, called the tree of knowledge “the veil for the sanctuary.”112 A similar Jewish tradition about the two special trees in the Garden of Eden holds that the foliage of the tree of knowledge, as an analogue to the temple veil, hid the tree of life from direct view: “God did not specifically prohibit eating from the Tree of Life because the Tree of Knowledge formed a hedge around it; only after one had partaken of the latter and cleared a path for himself could one come close to the Tree of Life.”113

In describing his concept of Eden, Ephrem cited parallels with the division of the animals [Page 103]on Noah’s ark and the demarcations on Sinai separating Moses, Aaron, the priests, and the people, as shown in Figure 2. Ephrem pictured Paradise as a great mountain, with the tree of knowledge providing a boundary partway up the slopes. The tree of knowledge, Ephrem concluded, “acts as a sanctuary curtain [i.e., veil] hiding the Holy of Holies which is the Tree of Life higher up.”

Figure 2. Ephrem the Syrian’s Conception of Eden, the Ark, and Sinai
(adapted from Brock in Ephrem the Syrian, Paradise, p. 53).115

Recurring throughout the Old Testament are echoes of such a layout of sacred spaces and the accounts of dire consequences for those who attempt unauthorized entry through the veil into the innermost sanctuary. By way of analogy to the situation of Adam and Eve and its setting in the temple-like layout of the Garden of Eden, service in Israelite temples under conditions of worthiness was intended to sanctify the participants. However, as taught in Levitical laws of purity, doing the same “while defiled by sin, was to court unnecessary danger, perhaps even death.”116

If this understanding of the situation in Eden is correct, the sin of Ham would be a striking parallel to the transgression of Adam and Eve.117 Noah was positioned directly in front of, or perhaps even seated on, a representation of the throne of God.118 Without proper invitation, Ham approached the curtains of the “tent of Yaweh”119 and looked at the glory of God that was “uncovered within”120 — literally, “in the midst of”121 — the tent, just as Eve “cleared a path” for herself so she could “come close to the Tree of Life”122 that was located “in the midst of”123 the Garden. Emerging from the tent, Noah cursed Canaan,124 who is likened [Page 104]in the Zohar to the “primordial serpent”125 that was cursed by God in Eden.

By way of contrast to Ham and Canaan, Targum Neofiti asserts that the specific blessing given by Noah to his birthright son Shem is to have the immediate presence of the Lord with him and with his posterity:126 “[M]ay the Glory of his Shekhinah dwell in the midst of the tents of Shem.”

What is meant by the “nakedness” of Noah? As with Noah’s drinking of the wine, some readers see his “nakedness” as shameful. However, as an alternative, what has just been outlined about Ham’s having intrusively looked at the divine Presence within the sanctuary might be sufficient explanation for the description.

Going further, however, Nibley127 argued from the interpretations of some ancient readers128 that the Hebrew term for “nakedness” in this verse, ‘erwat, might be better rendered as “skins,” or ‘orot — in other words, an animal skin garment corresponding, in this instance, to the “coats of skins”129 [kuttonet ‘or] given to Adam and Eve for their protection after the Fall. The two Hebrew words ‘erwat and ‘orot would have looked nearly identical in their original unpointed form. Midrash Rabbah specifically asserts that the garment of Adam had been handed down to Noah, who wore it when he offered sacrifice.130

In the current context, the possibility signaled by Morales131 that “the ‘covering [mikseh] of the Ark’132 establishes a link to the [skin] ‘covering of the Tabernacle’”133 is significant.134 The idea that not only the Ark and the Tabernacle but also Noah himself might have been covered in a priestly garment of skins is intriguing when we consider Philonenko’s observation that “the temple is [itself] considered as a person and the veil of the temple as a garment that is worn, as a personification of the sanctuary itself.”135 Could it be that just as it is specifically pointed out in scripture that Noah “removed the [skin] covering of the Ark” in Genesis 8:13, he subsequently removed his own ritual covering of skins? This “garment of repentance”136 — which, by the way, was worn in those times as outer rather than inner clothing — was taken off by Noah in preparation for his being “clothed upon with glory.”137

The tradition of the stolen garment. Some ancient readers went further, stating that Ham not only saw but also took the “skin garment” of his father, intending to usurp his priesthood authority. In one of the earliest extant sources for this idea, Rabbi Judah said, “The tunic that the Holy One, blessed be His Name, made for Adam and his wife was with Noah [Page 105]in the Ark; when they left the Ark, Ham, the son of Noah, took it, and left with it, then passed it on to Nimrod.”138

Rabbi Eliezer, among others, continues the intrigues of the stolen garment forward to the time of Esau, who murdered Nimrod for it, and to Jacob, who had been enjoined by Rebekah to wear it, as she supposed, in order to obtain Isaac’s blessing.139 In turn, Nibley traces the theme backward to traditions telling of how Satan conspired to get the garment from Adam and Eve140 and to accounts of the premortal fight in heaven for the possession of the garment of light.141

Summary and Conclusions

The story of Noah not only repeats the stories of the Creation,142 the Garden,143 and the Fall of Adam and Eve144 but also replays the temple themes in those accounts. These themes are especially apparent in the stories of the Ark and the tent, both of which foreshadowed the later tabernacle of Moses.

While unequivocal confirming evidence in reliable ancient sources of certain details in the account of Noah is likely to remain elusive, unmistakable allusions throughout the stories in Genesis and in other Flood accounts from the ancient Near East make clear that we must regard them as temple texts that have been written at a high degree of sophistication. Without modern revelation, we might have continued “all at sea” in our understanding of Ark and the tent. However, with the additional light of the revelations and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we are on solid ground.

This article adapts and abridges material previously published in:

  • Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen, Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel. In God’s Image and Likeness 2. Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014;
  • Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, “The tree of knowledge as the veil of the sanctuary.” In Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament, edited by David Rolph Seely, Jeffrey R. Chadwick and Matthew J. Grey. The 42nd Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (26 October, 2013), pp. 49-65. Provo and Salt Lake City, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, 2013.

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1. Exodus 25:8-40.
2. 1 Chronicles 28:11-12, 19.
3. Genesis 6:14-16. Cf. E. A. Harper, You Shall Make, pp. 55-56; L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, pp. 147-149.
4. C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, Glory, p. 41. See also Wyatt’s discussion of the arks of Noah and Moses, the ark of the Covenant, and the story of Utnapishtim in Gilgamesh (N. Wyatt, Water, pp. 214-216).
5. J. M. Bradshaw, Moses Temple Themes, pp. 77-87. Cf. Ephrem the Syrian, Paradise, p. 53; A. S.-M. Ri, Caverne Syriaque, p. 208. See the discussion in E. A. Harper, You Shall Make, p. 50 of readings of Genesis 6:16 in the Targums and the Septuagint, and for a description of parallels in 1 Kings 6:6 and Ezekiel 41:7.
6. J. D. G. Dunn et al., Commentary, p. 44. Following B. Jacob, Wenham further explains:

… that if each deck were further subdivided into three sections [cf. Gilgamesh’s nine sections (A. George, Gilgamesh, 11:62, p. 90)], the Ark would have had three decks the same height as the Tabernacle and three sections on each deck the same size as the Tabernacle courtyard. Regarding similarities in the Genesis 1 account of Creation, the Exodus 25ff. account of the building of the Tabernacle, and the account of the building of the ark, Sailhamer writes (J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 82, see also table on p. 84): Each account has a discernible pattern: God speaks (wayyo’mer/wayedabber), an action is commanded (imperative/jussive), and the command is carried out (wayya’as) according to [Page 118]God’s will (wayehi ken/kaaser siwwah ‘elohim). The key to these similarities lies in the observation that each narrative concludes with a divine blessing (wayebarek, Genesis 1:28, 9:1; Exodus 39:43) and, in the case of the Tabernacle and Noah’s ark, a divinely ordained covenant (Genesis 6:8; Exodus 34:27; in this regard it is of some importance that later biblical tradition also associated the events of Genesis 1-3 with the making of a divine covenant; cf. Hosea 6:7). Noah, like Moses, followed closely the commands of God and in so doing found salvation and blessing in his covenant.

7. V. P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, p. 280. See Exodus 27. Cf. J. W. Wevers, Notes, Genesis 6:14, p. 83. In other words, the dimensions of the Tabernacle courtyard “has the same width [as the Ark] but one-third the length and height” (Hendel in H. W. Attridge et al., HarperCollins Study Bible, p. 14 n. 6:14-16).
8. C. Dogniez et al., Pentateuque, p. 150 n. Genesis 6:14, pp. 314-315 n. Exodus 2:3.
9. See Genesis 6:15 and Exodus 25:10.
10. C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, p. 418. Cassuto further observes (U. Cassuto, Noah to Abraham, p. 60):

The sentence “and the ark went on the face of the waters” (Genesis 8:18) is not suited to a boat, which is navigated by its mariners, but to something that floats on the surface of the waters and moves in accordance with the thrust of the water and wind. Similarly, the subsequent statement (Genesis 8:4) “the ark came to rest … upon the mountains of Ararat” implies an object that can rest upon the ground; this is easy for an ark to do, since its bottom is straight and horizontal, but not for a ship.

11. R. M. Zlotowitz et al., Bereishis, p. 230; cf. U. Cassuto, Noah to Abraham, pp. 60-61; L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, pp. 146-147.
12. U. Cassuto, Noah to Abraham, p. 60. This recalls the ancient Sumerian story of Enki’s Journey to Nibru, where the boat’s movement is not directed by its captain, but rather it “departs of its own accord” (J. A. Black et al., Enki’s Journey, 83-92, p. 332).
13. Exodus 2:3, 5. See U. Cassuto, Noah to Abraham, p. 59. Note, however, that the Greek Septuagint translates the Hebrew word (tevah) differently in Genesis 6:14 (kibotos) and Exodus 2:3 (thibis) [Page 119](C. Dogniez et al., Pentateuque, pp. 314-315 n. Exodus 2:3). See C. Cohen, “Hebrew tbh” for a discussion of the difficulties in explaining why the same Hebrew term tevah was used in the story of Noah’s ark and the ark of Moses.
14. N. Wyatt, Water, p. 215. Cf. S. W. Holloway, What Ship, p. 346. See A. George, Gilgamesh, 11:81-85, p. 91.
15. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, p. 170.
16. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, p. 174.
17. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, pp. 179-189.
18. See, e.g., U. Cassuto, Noah to Abraham, p. 61.
19. R. Alter, Five Books, Genesis 6:14, p. 41; K. L. Barker, Zondervan, Genesis 6:14, p. 14. Cf. A. Chouraqui, Bible, Genesis 6:14, p. 27: “Fais-toi une caisse en bois de cyprès” (= “Make a coffer of cypress wood”). See also A. Kaplan, La Torah Vivante, p. 17 n. 6.14 cyprès.
20. J. Feliks, Cypress.
21. For example, a 4500-year-old Cypress tree stands on the grounds of the Grand Mosque of Abarqu, near the village Shiraz in Iran’s southeastern province of Yazd (Abarqu’s cypress tree). Cf. A. V. W. Jackson, Cypress of Kashmar.
22. See, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Figure E25-2, p. 593, Endnote E-111, p. 729.
23. E.g., 1 Kings 6:34 (kjv mistranslates the wood as “fir”).
24. Exodus 30:11-13.
25. Exodus 25:17-22.
26. Exodus 29-30; Leviticus and Numbers passim.
27. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Endnote 3-57, p. 211; E. A. Harper, You Shall Make, pp. 3-4. Of the meaning of kpr, Margaret Barker writes (M. Barker, Atonement):

Atonement translates the Hebrew kpr, but the meaning of kpr in a ritual context is not known. Investigations have uncovered only what actions were used in the rites of atonement, not what that action was believed to effect. The possibilities for its meaning are “cover” or “smear” or “wipe,” but these reveal no more than the exact meaning of “breaking bread” reveals about the Christian Eucharist …. should like to quote here from an article by Mary Douglas published’ … in Jewish Studies Quarterly (M. Douglas, Atonement, p. 117. See also M. Douglas, Leviticus, p. 234: “Leviticus actually says less about the need to wash or purge than it says about ‘covering.’”):

[Page 120]Terms derived from cleansing, washing and purging have imported into biblical scholarship distractions which have occluded Leviticus’ own very specific and clear description of atonement. According to the illustrative cases from Leviticus, to atone means to cover or recover, cover again, to repair a hole, cure a sickness, mend a rift, make good a torn or broken covering. As a noun, what is translated atonement, expiation or purgation means integument made good; conversely, the examples in the book indicate that defilement means integument torn. Atonement does not mean covering a sin so as to hide it from the sight of God; it means making good an outer layer which has rotted or been pierced.

This sounds very like the cosmic covenant with its system of bonds maintaining the created order, broken by sin and repaired by “atonement.”

28. See discussion of the hypothesis that analogous structures in First Dynasty Egypt were adopted from Mesopotamian temple architecture in J. M. McCann, Woven, p. 117.
29. Cf. R. A. Carter, Watercraft, p. 364:

These boats are … best understood as composite wooden-framed vessels with reed-bundle hulls. Such a boat would have been cheaper to build than one with a fully planked hull and stronger than one without a wooden frame … The use of wooden frames with reed-bundle hulls conforms to the archaeological evidence …

Both wooden and composite boats were covered with bitumen. The RJ-2 slabs also suggest that matting was stitched onto the reed hull prior to coating.

See also D. T. Potts, Mesopotamian Civilization, pp. 122-137.

30. A. L. Oppenheim, Mesopotamian Temple, p. 158.
31. J. A. Black et al., Literature of Ancient Sumer, p. 330. Continuing, Black, et al. write that Enki’s:

… primary temple was … at Eridug deep in the marshes in the far south of Mesopotamia. Eridug was considered to be the oldest city, the first to be inhabited before the Flood … Excavations at Eridug have confirmed that ancient belief — and a small temple with burned offerings and fish bones was found [Page 121]in the lowest levels, dating to some time in the early fifth millennium bce.”

Eridug or Eridu, now Tell abu Shahrain in southern Mesopotamia, is associated by some scholars (e.g., N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 36) with the name of the biblical character “Irad” (Genesis 4:18), and the city built by his father Enoch, son of Cain (Genesis 4:17).

32. J. M. McCann, Woven, p. 113.
33. T. Jacobsen, Eridu, 89-92, p. 158.
34. Cf. H. W. Nibley, Babylonian Background, p. 362: “The manner in which [Utnapishtim] received the revelation is interesting: the will of father Anu, the Lord of Heaven, was transmitted to the hero through a screen or partition made of matting, a kikkisu, such as was ritually used in temples.” See also J. M. Bradshaw, Tree of Knowledge.
35. T. Jacobsen, Eridu, 93-96, p. 158.
36. E.g., S. Dalley, Atrahasis, 3:21-22, p. 29; A. George, Gilgamesh, 11:22-24, p. 89.
37. S. Dalley, Atrahasis, 3:2, p. 30:

The carpenter [brought his axe,]
The reed worker [brought his stone,]
[A child brought] bitumen.

A. George, Gilgamesh, 11:53-55, p. 90:

The young men were … ,
the old men bearing ropes of palm-fibre
the rich man was carrying the pitch

38. J. M. McCann, Woven, pp. 131-32.
39. See J. M. McCann, Woven, pp. 124-134 for an extended discussion of this translation issue.
40. R. De Vaux, Bible, Genesis 6:14, p. 25.
41. Recognizing that even the most seemingly permanent temple complexes are best viewed only as way stations, Nibley generalized the concept of mobile sanctuaries to include all current earthly structures (H. W. Nibley, Tenting, pp. 42-43):

The most wonderful thing about Jerusalem the Holy City is its mobility: at one time it is taken up to heaven and at another it descends to earth or even makes a rendezvous with the [Page 122]earthly Jerusalem at some point in space halfway between. In this respect both the city and the temple are best thought of in terms of a tent, … at least until the time comes when the saints “will no longer have to use a movable tent” [Origen, John, 10:23, p. 404. “The pitching of the tent outside the camp represents God’s remoteness from the impure world” (H. W. Nibley, Tenting, p. 79 n. 40)] according to the early Fathers, who get the idea from the New Testament … [e.g., “John 1:14 reads literally, ‘the logos was made flesh and pitched his tent [eskenosen] among us’; and after the Resurrection the Lord ‘camps’ with his disciples, Acts 1:4. At the Transfiguration Peter prematurely proposed setting up three tents for taking possession (Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33)” (ibid., p. 80 n. 41)] It is now fairly certain, moreover, that the great temples of the ancients were not designed to be dwelling-houses of deity but rather stations or landing-places, fitted with inclined ramps, stairways, passageways, waiting-rooms, elaborate systems of gates, and so forth, for the convenience of traveling divinities, whose sacred boats and wagons stood ever ready to take them on their endless junkets from shrine to shrine and from festival to festival through the cosmic spaces. The Great Pyramid itself, we are now assured, is the symbol not of immovable stability but of constant migration and movement between the worlds; and the ziggurats of Mesopotamia, far from being immovable, are reproduced in the seven-stepped throne of the thundering sky-wagon.

42. Cf. 2 Samuel 22.
43. Psalm 18:6; D&C 121:2. J. F. McConkie et al., Revelations, p. 945 mistakenly identifies the “pavilion” of D&C 121:1 as God’s heavenly residence, while S. E. Robinson et al., D&C Commentary, 4:151 correctly identifies the “pavilion” as a “movable tent.”
44. Appropriately translated from the Greek as “Tabernacle” (J. N. Sparks et al., Orthodox Study Bible, Psalm 17(18):12, p. 691). Eden surmises: “No doubt the historical model closest to this is the apadâna of the Persian sovereign, the pavilion of the royal palace in which the King of kings sat in his throne to receive his subjects. In some texts of the Jewish tradition, the link which ties the description of the divine audience room to the earthly royal one is clearly shown. For instance, in the Pirkei De Rebbe Eliezer, an early medieval Midrash, we can read (G. B. Eden, Mystical Architecture, p. 22; cf. M.-A. Ouaknin et [Page 123]al., Rabbi Éliézer, 12, p. 82): ‘[God] let Adam into his apadâna, as it is written: And put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it’ (Genesis 2:15).”
45. K. L. Barker, Zondervan, p. 803 n. 18:7-15. Some Christians also came to view this Psalm as foreshadowing the Incarnation (J. N. Sparks et al., Orthodox Study Bible, p. 691 n. 17). Noah’s ark was sometimes seen in a similar fashion: “The ark was a type of the Mother of God with Christ and the Church in her womb (Akath). The flood-waters were a type of baptism, in which we are saved (1 Peter 3:18-22)” (ibid., Genesis 6:14-21, p. 12).
46. R. Alter, Psalms, p. 53 n. 8.
47. Genesis 7:18.
48. Genesis 1:2. The singular rather than the plural term for “water” appears in jst ot2, the source of Moses 2:2 (S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, p. 595). However “waters” (Hebrew mayim) the original term in Genesis, is used in jst ot1 as well as in the later translation of the book of Abraham. This raises the possibility that the change in ot2 was made erroneously or on John Whitmer’s initiative rather than the Prophet’s (see K. P. Jackson, Book of Moses, p. 10).
49. V. P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, p. 267. Though differing in detail, a number of Jewish sources describe the similar process of the removal of the Shekhinah — representing God’s presence — in various stages, and its return at the dedication of the Tabernacle. See, e.g., H. Schwartz, Tree, p. 51, see also pp. 55-56.
50. Genesis 7:18.
51. Genesis 1:2.
52. E. A. Harper, You Shall Make, p. 54. Cf. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, pp. 151-54. Morales argues that the “building and filling of the Ark … exhibit a correspondence with the ‘building’ and filling of the cosmos” at the time of Creation (ibid., p. 152).
53. E. A. Harper, You Shall Make, p. 54.
54. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, p. 154.
55. Cf. H. W. Nibley, Treasures, p. 185, where he argues from Mandaean and Gnostic sources describing the process of creating new worlds through a “colonizing process called ‘planting.’” “[T]hose spirits that bring their treasures to a new world are called ‘Plants,’ more rarely ‘seeds,’ of their father or ‘Planter’ in another world [cf. Adam’s “planting” (E. S. Drower, Prayerbook, #378, pp. 283, 286, 290)]. Every planting goes out from a Treasure House, either as the essential [Page 124]material elements or as the colonizers themselves, who come from a sort of mustering-area called the ‘Treasure-house of Souls.’”
56. The word describing the agent of divine movement is expressed in the beginning of the story of Creation and in the story of the Flood using the same Hebrew term, ruach (in Genesis 1:2, the kjv translates this as “spirit,” while in Genesis 8:1 it is rendered as “wind”). In the former, the ruach is described as “moving” using the Hebrew verb merahepet, which literally “denotes a physical activity of flight over water” (M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision, p. 55), however Walton has argued that the wider connotation in both the Creation and Flood accounts expresses “a state of preparedness” (J. H. Walton, Genesis 1, p. 149): “ruach is related to the presence of the deity, preparing to participate in Creation” (ibid., p. 149). Consistent with this reading that understands this verse as a period of divine preparation, the creation story in Joseph Smith’s book of Abraham employs the term “brooding” rather than “moving” as we find in the King James Version. Note that this change is consistent with the English translation Hebrew grammar book that was studied by Joseph Smith in Kirtland (see J. Seixas, Manual, p. 31). John Milton (H. J. Hodges, Dove; J. Milton, Paradise Lost, 1:19-22, p. 16; cf. Augustine, Literal, 18:36; E. A. W. Budge, Cave, p. 44) interpreted the passage similarly in Paradise Lost, drawing from images such as the dove sent out by Noah (Genesis 8:6-12), the dove at Jesus’ baptism (John 1:32), and a hen protectively covering her young with her wing (Luke 13:34):

[T]hou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dovelike satst brooding on the vast abyss
And mad’st it pregnant.”

“Brooding” enjoys rich connotations, including, as Nibley observes (H. W. Nibley, Before Adam, p. 69), not only “to sit or incubate [eggs] for the purpose of hatching” but also: … “to dwell continuously on a subject.” Brooding is just the right word — a quite long quiet period of preparation in which apparently nothing was happening. Something was to come out of the water, incubating, waiting — a long, long time. Some commentators emphatically deny any connection of the Hebrew term with the concept of brooding (e.g., U. Cassuto, Adam to Noah, pp. 24-25). However, the “brooding” interpretation is not [Page 125]only attested by a Syriac cognate (F. Brown et al., Lexicon, 7363, p. 934b) but also has a venerable history, going back at least to Rashi, who spoke specifically of the relationship between the dove and its nest. In doing so, he referred to the Old French term acoveter, related both to the modern French couver (from Latin cubare — to brood and protect) and couvrir (from Latin cooperire — to cover completely). Intriguingly, this latter sense is related to the Hebrew term for the atonement, kipper (M. Barker, Atonement; A. Rey, Dictionnaire, 1:555). Going further, Barker admits the possibility of a subtle wordplay in examining the reversal of consonantal sounds between “brood/hover” and “atone”: “The verb for ‘hover’ is rchp, the middle letter is cheth, and the verb for ‘atone’ is kpr, the initial letter being a kaph, which had a similar sound. The same three consonantal sounds could have been word play, rchp/kpr” (M. Barker, 11 June 2007). “There is sound play like this in the temple style” (ibid.; see M. Barker, Hidden, pp. 15-17). In this admittedly speculative interpretation, one might see an image of God, prior to the first day of Creation, figuratively “hovering/atoning” [rchp/kpr] over the singularity of the inchoate universe, just as the Ark smeared with pitch [kaphar] later moved over the face of the waters “when the waters cover[ed] over and atone[d] for the violence of the world” (E. A. Harper, You Shall Make, p. 4).

57. 1 Peter 3:20.
58. In the following chiastic structuring of the account, Wenham demonstrates the pattern of “waiting” throughout the story, as well as the centrality of the theme of Genesis 8:1: “But God remembered Noah” (G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 157):

7 days of waiting for flood (7:4)
7 days of waiting for flood (7:10)
40 days of flood (7:17a)
150 days of water triumphing (7:24)
150 days of water waning (8:3)
40 days of waiting (8:6)
7 days of waiting (8:10)
7 days of waiting (8:12)

59. J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 89 observes:

The description of God’s rescue of Noah foreshadows God’s deliverance of Israel in the Exodus. Just as later “God [Page 126]remembered his covenant” (Exodus 2:24) and sent “a strong east wind” to dry up the waters before his people (Exodus 14:21) so that they “went through … on dry ground” (Exodus 14:22), so also in the story of the Flood we read that “God remembered” those in the ark and sent a “wind” over the waters (Genesis 8:1) so that his people might come out on “dry ground” (Genesis 8:14).

60. J. M. Lundquist, Meeting Place, p. 7. Ancient temples found in other cultures throughout the world also represent — and are often built upon — elevations that emulate the holy mountain at the starting point of Creation (see, e.g., E. A. S. Butterworth, Tree; R. J. Clifford, Cosmic Mountain; R. J. Clifford, Temple).
61. E.g., Psalm 104:5-9.
62. Genesis 8:13.
63. Exodus 40:1, emphasis added.
64. N. Wyatt, Water, pp. 215-216, emphasis added. See 1 Kings 8:2. Wyatt remarks that the expression about the New Year festival comes from S. W. Holloway, What Ship, noting that “[m]any scholars regard the search for the New Year festival to be something of a futile exercise” (N. Wyatt, Water, p. 235 n. 129).
65. Moses 5:5-8.
66. Genesis 8:20.
67. See Moses 2:28; Genesis 9:1, 7.
68. See Moses 2:28-30, 3:9, 16-17; Genesis 9:2-4.
69. See Moses 5:5, 59; Genesis 9:9-17.
70. See Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities, 19:11, pp. 129-130.
71. See J. M. Bradshaw et al., Investiture Panel, pp. 38-39 for a brief summary of the symbolism of the staff, and B. N. Fisk, Remember, pp. 276-281 for Pseudo-Philo’s identification of the staff with the rainbow. Just prior to his equating of the rainbow and the staff as a “witness between me and my people,” Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities, 19:12, pp. 130 has the Lord showing Moses “the measures of the sanctuary, and the number of the offerings, and the sign whereby men shall interpret (literally, begin to look upon) the heaven, and said: These are the things which were forbidden to the sons of men because they sinned” (cf. jst Exodus 34:1-2).
72. See Moses 4:27; Genesis 9:21-22.
73. G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 198.
74. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, p. 197. Cf. O. S. Wintermute, Jubilees, 6:2, p. 66: “And he made atonement for the [Page 127]land. And he took the kid of a goat, and he made atonement with its blood for all the sins of the land because everything which was on it had been blotted out except those who were in the ark with Noah.” See also F. G. Martinez, Genesis Apocryphon, 10:13, p. 231: “I atoned for the whole earth.”
75. Genesis 9:20-25.
76. I.e.:”In the biblical text the final letter of oholoh, his tent, is a he, rather than the normal masculine possesive suffix (vav). The suffix he usually denotes the feminine possessive, her” (D. C. Matt, Zohar 1, 1:73a-b, p. 434 n. 700).
77. J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 2, 36:3, p. 30: “The word for ‘his tent’ is written as if it were to be read ‘in her tent,’ namely , in the tent of his wife.”
78. For example, Cohen, having explored the “symbolic meaning of wine in ancient cultures,” concludes that Noah’s actions in this regard have been completely misunderstood, the result of “biblical scholarship’s failure” in explaining the meaning of the enigmatic incident. Summarizing Cohen’s view, Haynes writes (S. R. Haynes, Curse, pp. 188-189; see H. H. Cohen, Drunkenness, pp. 8, 12): Cohen explores Israelite and other traditions to elucidate a complex relationship between alcohol, fire, and sexuality. Drawing on this connection, he surmises that Noah’s drunkenness is indicative not of a deficiency in character but of a good-faith attempt to replenish the earth following the Flood. Indeed, Noah’s “determination to maintain his procreative ability at full strength resulted in drinking himself into a state of helpless intoxication.” How ironic, Cohen notes, that in acceding to the divine command to renew the earth’s population, Noah suffered the opprobrium of drunkenness. In Cohen’s view, he “deserves not censure but acclaim for having played so well the role of God’s devoted servant.”
79. D. C. Matt, Zohar 1, 1:73a-b, p. 434 n. 700. Cf. related references in the Zohar to the same concept in the story of Abraham (ibid., 1:80a, p. 18, 184a, p. 34).
80. D. C. Matt, Zohar 2, 1:84a, p. 34.
81. Koler and Greenspahn, as discussed in W. Vogels, Cham Découvre, pp. 566-567. Cf., e.g., D. C. Matt, Zohar 2, 1:80a, p. 18 n. 128: “Rabbi Shim’on interprets the final he … as an allusion to the divine, because Shekhinah is symbolized by the final he of the name yhvh, or because the letter he stands for ha-shem, “the [divine] name.” See also ibid., 1:84a, p. 34.
[Page 128]82. J. Blenkinsopp, The structure of P, p. 285.
83. J. Blenkinsopp, The structure of P, p. 285. See Pseudo-Lucian, De Dea Syria, 13, p. 34.
84. J. Blenkinsopp, The structure of P, p. 285. See also S. W. Holloway, What Ship, p. 334-335, which cites Patai’s account of related rabbinic legends about the capping of the Deep with the foundation stone of the temple, on which was written the forty-two letters of the ineffable Name of God.
85. E.g., M. J. B. bin Gorion et al., Mimekor, 1:24; J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 1, 36:3, pp. 28-29.
86. Remarking on the odd inconsistency implied by the common understanding of Noah’s actions, G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 198 n. 21 writes:

So striking is the contrast between Noah the saint who survived the Flood and Noah the inebriated vintner that many commentators argue that the two traditions are completely incompatible and must be of independent origin.

87. Joseph Smith, Jr., as reported by William Allen to Charles Lowell Walker (C. L. Walker, Diary, 12 May 1881, 2:554).
88. J. A. Fitzmyer, Genesis Apocryphon, 13:8-15:20, pp. 89-93.
89. Koler and Greenspahn, quoted in W. Vogels, Cham Découvre, p. 567 n. 31.
90. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, pp. 171-203.
91. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, p. 185.
92. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, pp. 171, 203.
93. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, p. 185 writes:

Given the analogy between the Garden [of Eden] and the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle/temple, and that between the Ark and the Tabernacle/temple, Noah’s entrance may be understood as that of a high priest … ascending the cosmic mountain of Yahweh — an idea “fleshed out,” as it were, when Noah walks the summit of the Ararat mount. The veil separating off the Holy of Holies served as an “objective and material witness to the conceptual boundary drawn between the area behind it and all other areas,” a manifest function of the Ark door.

94. Genesis 14:18.
95. jst Genesis 14:25-40. Cf. Genesis 14:17-24. See J. M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Oath, pp. 53-58.
[Page 129]96. Genesis 14:20.
97. J. A. Fitzmyer, Genesis Apocryphon, 12:17, p. 87.
98. O. S. Wintermute, Jubilees, 7:2, p. 69. Cf. J. A. Fitzmyer, Genesis Apocryphon, 12:13-17, p. 87. In the same scene, the Genesis Apocryphon has Noah saying: “I blessed the Lord of Heaven, God Most High, the Great Holy One, who had delivered us from the destruction” (ibid., 12:17, p. 87). Ostensibly, Noah is referring to his preservation in the Flood (cf. O. S. Wintermute, Jubilees, 7:34, p. 71), but J. A. Fitzmyer, Genesis Apocryphon, p. 163 notes that there are multiple OT connotations to the Hebrew term used for “destruction.”
99. H. C. Kee, Testaments, Levi 8:4-6, p. 791; John 13:4 (see J. M. Smith, She Hath Wrought, pp. 32-35 for a discussion of the royal and priestly context of this and related biblical anointings); John 13:4-17 (cf. John 12:3); Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:14-20; and D&C 27:5.
100. 1 Samuel 19:24.
101. R. Jamieson et al., Commentary, pp. 219-220 n. 24. Cf. D. T. Tsumura, 1 Samuel, p. 499.
102. E. Robinson, Dictionary, p. 302 s.v. Naked.
103. Cf. G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 200: “Westerners who are strangers to a world where discretion and filial loyalty are supreme virtues have often felt that there must be something more to Ham’s offense than appears on the surface.”
104. I.e., maternal incest, drawing on the prohibition in Leviticus 18:7-8 that equates the act of uncovering “the nakedness of [one’s] mother” with the idea of having uncovered the nakedness of one’s father. See, e.g., J. S. Bergsma et al., Noah’s Nakedness. For related precedents for such actions, see the incident of Reuben with his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22, 49:3-4), and Absalom’s attempt “to secure his hold on the kingdom by going in to his father’s concubines (2 Samuel 16:20-23)” (G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 200).
105. I.e., castration or homosexual relations. On the former, see, e.g., M.-A. Ouaknin et al., Rabbi Éliézer, 23, p. 142. On the latter, see, e.g., J. L. Kugel, Traditions, p. 222; D. Steinmetz, Vineyard, pp. 198-199.
106. G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 200.
107. U. Cassuto, Noah to Abraham, p. 151. Cf. C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, p. 488 n. 9:22: “All … conjectures [of a graver sin] have missed the point. They have not seen that Ham’s outrage consists in not covering his father.”
[Page 130]108. After having reviewed the evidence for the various views, Embry vigorously argues against proponents of the idea that Ham committed a “sexually deviant act” and produces evidence for the assertion that the “voyeuristic position is the likely explanation for Noah’s reaction against Ham: it was simply the act of seeing Noah uncovered that warranted the cursing from Noah” (B. Embry, Naked Narrative, p. 417). W. Vogels, Cham Découvre, p. 568 likewise concludes that there is “nothing in the statement that Ham ‘saw the nakedness of his father’ that hints at a sexual act.”
109. Koler and Greenspahn, quoted in W. Vogels, Cham Découvre, p. 567 n. 31.
110. See Genesis 7:1.
111. 111. See, e.g., G. K. Beale, Temple, pp. 66-80; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 146-49; R. N. Holzapfel et al., Father’s House, pp. 17-19; J. M. Lundquist, Reality; J. Morrow, Creation; D. W. Parry, Garden; D. W. Parry, Cherubim; J. A. Parry et al., Temple in Heaven; T. Stordalen, Echoes, pp. 112-116, 308-309; G. J. Wenham, Sanctuary Symbolism.
112. Ephrem the Syrian, Paradise, 3:5, p. 92.
113. R. M. Zlotowitz et al., Bereishis, p. 101, cf. p. 96. See also L. Ginzberg, Legends, 1:70, 5:91 n. 50.
114. Brock in Ephrem the Syrian, Paradise, p. 53. See Ephrem the Syrian, Paradise, 2:9-13, pp. 88-89, 3:1-5, pp. 90-92. See also C. Buck, Paradise, pp. 259-288; A. S.-M. Ri, Commentaire de la Caverne, p. 208.
115. Brock in Ephrem the Syrian, Paradise, p. 52.
116. G. A. Anderson, Perfection, p. 129; cf. C. R. A. Morray-Jones, Divine Names, pp. 372-373. Morray-Jones, following Chernus, notes however that, at least in some cases, “underlying these traditions is a theme of ‘initiatory death,’ … leading to rebirth” (C. R. A. Morray-Jones, Transformational, p. 23).
117. J. M. Bradshaw et al., Mormonism’s Satan, pp. 18-19.
118. By analogy to the layout of the Garden of Eden. For those who take the Tree of Life to be a representation within the Holy of Holies, it is natural to see the tree itself as the locus of God’s throne (Revelation 22:1-3, G. A. Anderson et al., Synopsis, Greek 22:4, p. 62E). “[T]he Garden, at the center of which stands the throne of glory, is the royal audience room, which only those admitted to the sovereign’s presence can enter” (G. B. Eden, Mystical Architecture, p. 22).
[Page 131]119. Koler and Greenspahn, as discussed in W. Vogels, Cham Découvre, pp. 566-567. Cf., e.g., D. C. Matt, Zohar 1, 1:73a-b, p. 434 n. 700: “‘the tent of the vineyard,’ namely the tent of Shekhinah.”
120. Genesis 9:21.
121. Compare Moses 3:9; 4:9, 14.
122. R. M. Zlotowitz et al., Bereishis, p. 101, cf. p. 96. See also L. Ginzberg, Legends, 1:70, 5:91 n. 50.
123. Genesis 3:9.
124. T. L. Brodie, Dialogue, p. 192.
125. D. C. Matt, Zohar 1, 1:73a, p. 431. A. J. Tomasino, History, p. 130 elaborates on the role of the “serpent” in the Garden of Eden and in Noah’s garden:

When he saw his father’s nakedness, Ham went and told (wayyagged) his brothers about it (Genesis 9:22). When Adam and Eve told Yahweh God that they had hidden because they were naked, God asked, “Who told (higgid) you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:1). The source of this information turned out to be the serpent. Furthermore, when Ham told his brothers about their father’s nudity, he was undoubtedly tempting them with forbidden knowledge (the opportunity to see their father’s nakedness). Finally, for his part in the Fall, the serpent was cursed (‘arur) more than any of the other creatures (Genesis 3:14). His offspring were doomed to be subject to the woman’s offspring (Genesis 3:15). Ham’s offspring, too, became cursed (‘arur), doomed to subjugation to the offspring of his brothers (Genesis 9:25).

126. M. McNamara, Targum Neofiti, 9:27, pp. 80-81.
127. H. W. Nibley, Twilight World, pp. 169-170.
128. E.g., M.-A. Ouaknin et al., Rabbi Éliézer, 24, pp. 145-146.
129. Genesis 3:21.
130. H. Freedman et al., Midrash, 4:8 (Numbers 3:45), pp. 101-102. The Mandaean Book of John asserts that the garment of Adam was passed down to Noah, and eventually came down to John the Baptist so that he might make his ascent (M. Lidzbarski, Johannesbuch, John-Jonah, p. 83).
131. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, p. 157.
132. Genesis 8:13.
133. Exodus 40:19.
[Page 132]134. L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured, p. 157 notes that “the Ark [is] the only exception to the term’s otherwise exclusive usage in reference to the tent of meeting.”
135. Quoted in H. W. Nibley, Return, p. 81.
136. H. W. Nibley, Return, p. 126.
137. Moses 7:3. Cf. H. W. Nibley, Vestments, pp. 118-119:

Why the insistence on [the idea of being “clothed upon with glory”]? Enoch says, “I was clothed upon with glory. Therefore I could stand in the presence of God” (cf. Moses 1:2, 31). Otherwise he could not. It is the garment that gives confidence in the presence of God; one does not feel too exposed (2 Nephi 9:14). That garment is the garment … of divinity. So as Enoch says, “I was clothed upon with glory, and I saw the Lord” (Moses 7:3-4), just as Moses saw Him “face to face, … and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence (Moses 1:2). In 2 Enoch, discovered in 1892, we read, “The Lord spoke to me with his own mouth: … ‘Take Enoch and remove his earthly garments and anoint him with holy oil and clothe him in his garment of glory.’ … And I looked at myself, and I looked like one of the glorious ones” (see F. I. Andersen, 2 Enoch, 22:5, 8, 10, pp. 137, 139). Being no different from him in appearance, he is qualified now, in the manner of initiation. He can go back and join them because he has received a particular garment of glory.

It appears that the ritual garment of skins was needed only for a protection during one’s probation on earth. Ephrem the Syrian asserted that when Adam “returned to his former glory, … [he] no longer had any need of [fig] leaves or garments of skin” (Commentary on the Diatessaron, cited in M. Barker, Hidden, p. 34). Note also Joseph Smith’s careful description of the angel Moroni (JS-H 1:31): “I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.” We infer that Moroni had forever laid aside his “garment of repentance,” since he was now permanently clothed with glory. The protection provided by the garment was accompanied by a promise of heavenly assistance. In this connection, Nibley paraphrases a passage from the Mandaean Ginza: “ … when Adam stood praying for light and knowledge a helper came to him, gave him a garment, and told him, ‘Those men who gave you the garment will assist you throughout your life until [Page 133]you are ready to leave earth’” (H. W. Nibley, Apocryphal, p. 299. The German reads: “Wie Adam dasteht und sich aufzuklären sucht, kam der Mann, sein Helfer. Der hohe Helfer kam zu ihm, der ihn in ein Stück reichen Glanzes hineintrug. Er sprach zu ihm: ‘Ziehe dein Gewand an … Die Männer, die dein Gewand geschaffen, dienen dir, bis du abscheidest’” (M. Lidzbarski, Ginza, GL 2:19, p. 488)).

When this time of probation ended, the garment of light or glory that was previously had in the heavenly realms was to be returned to the righteous. As Nibley explained (H. W. Nibley, Message 2005, p. 489). See also E. Hennecke et al., Acts of Thomas, 108.9-15, pp. 498-499; B. T. Ostler, Clothed, p. 4):

 

The garment [of light] represents the preexistent glory of the candidate … When he leaves on his earthly mission, it is laid up for him in heaven to await his return. It thus serves as security and lends urgency and weight to the need for following righteous ways on earth. For if one fails here, one loses not only one’s glorious future in the eternities to come, but also the whole accumulation of past deeds and accomplishments in the long ages of preexistence.

While Noah had not yet finished his probation when he spoke with Deity in the tent, he and others of the prophets experienced a temporary transfiguration that clothed them with glory and allowed them to endure God’s presence (see, e.g., Moses 1:12-14, 31; 7:3). A conjecture consistent with this view is that Ham took the garment of skins that Noah had laid temporarily aside during his transfiguration.

138. M.-A. Ouaknin et al., Rabbi Éliézer, 24, pp. 145-146. Cf. M. M. Noah, Jasher, 7:27, p. 15, which, according to Ginzberg, derived its version of the story from Rabbi Eliezer (L. Ginzberg, Legends, 5:199 n. 78). See also M. J. bin Gorion (Berdichevsky), Die Sagen, p. 211: “Doch in der Zeit, da er die Arche verliess, stahl Ham seinem Vater jenes Kleid weg und verwahrte es vor seinen Brüdern” (= “After he left the Ark, Ham stole his father’s garment and hid it from his brothers”).
139. M.-A. Ouaknin et al., Rabbi Éliézer, 24, p. 148. See J. A. Tvedtnes, Clothing, pp. 654-659 for a discussion of Jewish traditions relating to the stolen garment. Midrash Rabbah, on the other hand, says [Page 134]that Noah’s garment was passed on to Shem and then eventually to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (H. Freedman et al., Midrash, 4:8 [Numbers 3:45], pp. 102-103). Al-Tha’labi tells of how when (A. I. A. I. M. I. I. al-Tha’labi, Lives, p. 190):

Abraham was stripped of his clothes and thrown into the fire naked, Gabriel brought him a shirt made from the silk of the Garden [of Eden] and clothed him in it. That shirt remained with Abraham, and when he died, Isaac inherited it. When Isaac died, Jacob inherited it from him, and when Joseph grew up, Jacob put that shirt in an amulet and placed it on Joseph’s neck to protect him from the evil eye. He never parted with it. When he was thrown into the pit naked, the angel came to him with the amulet. He took out the shirt, dressed Joseph in it, and kept him company by day.

Later, when Joseph learned that his aged father had lost his eyesight (ibid., p. 228):

… he gave them his shirt. Al-Dahhak said that that shirt was woven in Paradise, and it had the smell of Paradise. When it only touched an afflicted or ailing man, that man would be restored to health and be cured … [Joseph] said to them, “Take this shirt of mine and cast it on my father’s face, he will again be able to see” (Qur’an 12:93) …

140. S. C. Malan, Adam and Eve, 1:50-51, pp. 55-56, cf. 2:17, p. 128.
141. G. R. S. Mead, Pistis, 1:55:18-24, p. 89. Cf. Psalms of Thomas 2; cf. C. R. C. A. Allberry, Psalm-Book, 2:205, quoted in H. W. Nibley, Vestments, p. 128.
142. See, e.g., J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 94 n. 8:20-9:17.
143. See, e.g., A. J. Tomasino, History, p. 129.
144. See, e.g., J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 80; A. J. Tomasino, History, pp. 129-130.
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About Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (PhD, Cognitive Science, University of Washington) is a Senior Research Scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) in Pensacola, Florida (www.ihmc.us/groups/jbradshaw; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_M._Bradshaw). His professional writings have explored a wide range of topics in human and machine intelligence (www.jeffreymbradshaw.net). Jeff has been the recipient of several awards and patents and has been an adviser for initiatives in science, defense, space, industry, and academia worldwide. Jeff has written detailed commentaries on the Book of Moses and Genesis 1–11 and on temple themes in the scriptures. For Church-related publications, see www.TempleThemes.net. Jeff was a missionary in France and Belgium from 1975–1977, and his family has returned twice to live in France. He has served twice as a bishop and twice as a counselor in the stake presidency of the Pensacola Florida Stake. Jeff is currently a temple worker at the Meridian Idaho Temple and has been assigned to work on the history of the Church in Africa as a service missionary for the Church History Department. Jeff and his wife, Kathleen, are the parents of four children and fourteen grandchildren. From July 2016-September 2019, Jeff and Kathleen served missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission office and the DR Congo Kinshasa Temple. They currently live in Nampa, Idaho.

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