Moses’ Ark

No, I don’t mean Noah’s ark. I’m talking about Moses’ ark.

Did you know that Moses had an ark of his own? It’s true. The Hebrew word tebah is translated as “ark” in the story of Noah. But, although the infant Moses floats down the Nile in Exodus 2:1-10 in what most English translations render as a “papyrus basket,” in fact tebah is the word used here as well. So Moses’ “papyrus basket” could just as readily be called his “ark.”

Use of this word seems to be a deliberate choice by the author or redactor of the Pentateuch. After all, there are at least two other Hebrew words used more commonly in the Hebrew scriptures to describe baskets that would have worked just as well. See, for example, Amos 8:1-2 (kəlub), and Leviticus 8:2-3 (sal). Remarkably, Exodus 2:1-10 is the only passage in the Bible that uses the word tebah at all outside of the story of Noah! So why did the author or redactor choose this odd word?

Many churches, such as this one in Italy, are built with rooves that resemble an inverted ark, symbolizing God’s salvation of His people

I believe it has to do with what we learned yesterday in Sunday School: that the Pentateuch is to be regarded as a composite whole, rather than five separate books. The use of tebah in Exodus 2:1-10 would have inevitably conjoured up memories of the story of Noah earlier in Genesis among the Pentateuch’s original audience, and thus ensured that the reader would see the many parallels between the narratives.

The reader is supposed to understand the thematic connections of Noah’s childlike faith and the women’s childlike faith, Noah’s waterborne deliverance from death and Moses’ waterborne deliverance from death; God’s faithfulness to Noah demonstrated in a rainbow and God’s faithfulness to Moses demonstrated in his royal adoption. The message is this: God does not change from generation to generation, He is faithful, and He will always take care of His people.

Even today, we are saved from death by the waters of baptism, and we have the security of God’s ark, the church. Thanks be to God.


About andyoftheway

looking for a new/old way
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2 Responses to Moses’ Ark

  1. Nancy K. says:

    I just want to say “thank you” for teaching this class. It is a lot to cover in such a short time but, we can do this together and perhaps re-visit it at a slower pace another time. Thanks again. Nancy

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