We have received so many questions about the Ark Encounter based on misconceptions about the project itself. Some come from people who are supporters and others come from critics and skeptics. These types of questions give us an opportunity to correct these misunderstandings, so we’ll devote several posts to addressing these issues.
In Genesis 6:14, the Lord told Noah, “‘Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.’”
We have received several inquiries of this nature. Some are genuinely curious to find out if we will be able to use the same type of wood that Noah did, while others are more skeptical in nature and are simply trying to mock Scripture and our efforts.
Are we going to build the Ark Encounter out of gopher wood? The real answer is that we don’t know, because we don’t know what gopher wood is (or was). So there is a small possibility that our Ark will be constructed from the same type of wood.
“Gopher” is not named for the animal of the same name, but it is simply a transcription of the Hebrew word גֹּפֶר. Some Bibles translate the word as “cypress,” but this is really just a guess based on what translators believed may have been available to Noah. Since the pre-Flood world perished (2 Peter 3:6) and earth’s geography was completely reworked in the Flood, we cannot merely assume that the pre-Flood flora available to Noah for construction was the same as the plants in and around the Middle East after the Flood.
Identifying certain plants and animals mentioned in the Old Testament is often difficult since the Bible often does not describe the plant or animal for us. The difficulty is compounded when the word in question refers to an item from the pre-Flood world and when the word appears only one time in all of Scripture (these types of words are called hapax legomenon).
Short of finding the actual Ark, it may not be possible for us to determine what type of wood Noah used to build it. Gopher may refer to the type of tree that was used or to some sort of process or treatment that the lumber underwent. If it was a type of tree, there’s also the possibility that it is now extinct. Any wood suitable for building a large ship is a plausible candidate for the true identity of gopher wood.
Whatever gopher wood was, we know that Noah was faithful to use it in constructing the Ark. We also know that God faithfully protected all of the Ark’s inhabitants.
To find out how you can partner with us to build Ark Encounter—a colossal reminder of God’s judgment on sin and His mercy toward those who receive His grace—please visit ArkEncounter.com}.