Scriptural Inspirations: Genesis 6-9, Exodus 26:15-30, 1Kings 2:11. Leviticus 12:1
Luke 3:21-23, Matthew 24: 37-44, John 10:9, 1Peter 3: 18-22

"The Ark of Salvation"

 

"As were the days of Noah,
so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
For as in those days before the flood
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
until the day when Noah entered the ark,
and they did not know until the flood came
and swept them all away,
so will the coming of the Son of Man be."
(Matthew 24:37-39)

"I am the door;
if anyone enters by Me,
he will be saved..."
(John 10:9)

When I started to create graphic images of Moses' Tabernacle, I was struck by the visual similarities between the boards of the Tabernacle and Noah's ark. The more I thought about this curious connection, it occurred to me that it may be much more than coincidental, especially when I realized the unique mathematic relationship that may exist between the two objects.

Moses gives detailed descriptions and dimensions for the Tabernacle items, but for some reason he refrained from giving us the length of the two tenons and the depth of the boards. If the tenons were 1 cubit tall and the board depth was 0.9 cubits, the viewable portion (not covered by the silver bases) of the Tabernacle's boards would be exact miniaturized replicas of Noah's ark at a scale of 1 to 33.333.... (Click here for a technical study of the Tabernacle I developed, in which I more fully develop the logic behind these dimensions).

33 is an interesting number, Scripturally speaking. Consider the following:

When the Angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she was to become the Mother of the Christ, he underscored the Davidic promise, saying, "And the Lord God will give to him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever." King David reigned in Jerusalem (the City of Peace) for exactly 33 years, according to 1Kings 2:11. Poetically, the long awaited "Son of David" picks up where His "father" (by lineage) left off after 33 years, beginning His reign from the wood of His Cross.

Following the precise instructions of Leviticus 12, the Blessed Mother presented her first (and only) Son at the Temple exactly 33 days after His circumcision. On that day she was told by Simeon that the Child would be opposed, and a sword would pierce her heart as a result. Interestingly, the Law prescribed 66 days of purification for the birth of a girl and 33 for a boy before a child was presented. Go figure. Does God really think little boys are "two times cleaner" than little girls, or does He want us to scratch our heads and ask, "What's the significance of these 33 days?" It seems to me that this presentation of the 33-day-old Jesus in the Temple is a foreshadowing of what was to come 33 years later. Mary's heart was pierced as she stood at the foot of the cross, completely abandoned to the will of God, watching her precious Son breathe His final agonizing breaths to accomplish our Redemption.

Finally, Jesus was crucified at the age of 33, after 3 years of ministry which followed his baptism at age 30. As I point out in the image, between Christmas (December 25) and the latest possible Easter (April 25, determined by lunar phases) there is exactly 4 months or 1/3 of a year, which brings the fullest possible "liturgical age" of Jesus at the time of His crucifixion to 33.333.

Could the Holy Spirit be indicating that after 33.333 years the Messiah's side would be pierced, providing a doorway into the Ark of Salvation?

Many will object, saying that this is purely speculative. After all, I have no archeological "proof" that the tenons were 1 cubit in length. Of course, neither does the objector have "proof" to the contrary. And even if you can't accept my 1-cubit-tenon hypothesis, the length of the entire board (including tenons) IS known, producing a relationship of 1 to 30 in the length and 1 to 33.333 in the width. Since Jesus was baptized at age 30 and crucified at age 33, the connection is still very strong. Christian baptism, according to Saint Paul, is associated with death, burial and resurrection. And Saint Peter clearly ties the Sacrament of Baptism to Noah's ark, saying, "God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight, persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you..." (1Peter 3:18-22)

More connections exist between the Tabernacle and Noah's Ark. Consider the following:

The Tabernacle boards are made to form a house around the "ARK" of the Covenant. Why did God call this sacred box an "ark"? It's a fair question. Could it be that the Lord intends for us to ponder some connection between the Tabernacle and Noah's boat? I think so.

The Tabernacle was set up, and it was covered by its curtains for the first time on the first day of the first month (Ex. 40:1), just as Noah removed the Ark's covering on the first day of the first month (Gen. 8:13). On the same day, one is uncoverd, while the other is covered, just as Christ Jesus was stripped bare at His crucifixion, so that we might be clothed with His righteousness.

God commanded Moses, whose name means "taken out of the water", to build the Tabernacle. Recall the story of Moses being placed in a basket on the Nile by his mother, and how he led the people through the waters of the Red Sea. This is, of course, reminiscent of Noah, who was commanded to build the Ark for "passing over" the flood waters. What, you might ask, did Jesus build? "Upon this Rock", He said to Peter, "I will build My Church." The Church, in turn, is the administrator of the Seven Sacraments, but particularly of baptism in this context.

The Tabernacle's 48 boards were carried, according to Numbers 7:8, by the sons of Merari and their 4 covered wagons (which would be 12 boards per wagon). Think of the poetic meaning of 12 "mini-arks" passing over the Jordan River into the Promised Land, with Joshua at the head. Remember that Jesus (Jeshua in Hebrew) was baptized in the Jordan, then crucified at the time of Passover. He is the true Paschal Sacrifice, who brings trusting souls into the Promised Land of spiritual vitality and carries them over the waters of death into eternal life!

After 40 days of the ark resting on Mount Ararat, Noah sent out doves to determine if the waters had receded. The first returned with nothing. The second returned with an olive branch. The third never returned, indicating that the earth was dry. At Jesus' baptism, John the Baptist recognized Him to be the Christ when the Holy Spirit rested upon Him in the form of a dove. Immediately after His baptism, our Lord was tempted by the devil during His 40-day fast. We may further consider the connections between Jesus and the Garden of Olives. Keep in mind also that Moses received the Covenant Tablets, which were to be placed in the Ark, after 40 days on the Mountain. It's all connected.

For those left asking, "Why would God hide these secrets in the Tabernacle like some kind of a puzzle?", consider that there seem to be "hidden" references to Noah's ark in Solomon's Temple as well. The ark was built in three stories, as were the side chambers of the Temple. In Ezekiel's vision of the Temple, he indicates other buildings that consisted of three stories. Two of these buildings, which were chambers where the priests would eat their portions of the sacrifices, measured 100x50 cubits each. Two other adjacent buildings (eating chambers for the laity) measured 50x50 cubits each. Oddly enough, if you add these 4 buildings together you end up with a 300x50 cubit building in three stories, just like Noah's ark (and both, by the way, are stocked with life-saving food). Strange but true.

I guess I shouldn't think it too strange that the God who founded the entire Universe on the mathematical principles of physics should use the language of mathematics to declare something about the very Cornerstone of that Universe, Christ Crucified.

Please Note....

It should be noted that there are elements in this image which belong to the theoretical realm, especially the mathematical relationships between the Tabernacle, Noah's Ark, and the Crucifixion. However, the theological reflections contained here are quite sound (at least to the best of my ability). Click here to read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches regarding Christian baptism, for instance, and how it was prefigured by Noah's Ark. If you don't care for my tenon-length hypotheses, that's fine; but be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Is it "dangerous" to contemplate things that are not specifically spelled out in Scripture? Not if you keep a level head and stay grounded in the foundational teachings of the Church. Saint Augustine, writing in his Enchiridion about the nature of angels, once said, "To ask such questions as these, and to guess at the answers as one can, is not a useless exercise in speculation, so long as the discussion is moderate and one avoids the mistake of those who think they know what they do not know."

In keeping with Saint Augustine's wise advice, I readily admit the hypothetical nature of some elements in this contemplative image. I can't KNOW for certain that the Tabernacle's boards were miniaturized representations of Noah's Ark. That being said, I do think a relatively strong argument can be built for this intriguing theory. Click here for a technical study of the Tabernacle I developed, in which I more fully develop the logic behind these dimensions of the Tabernacle's boards.

 

 
   

 

 

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