Genesis 6:14

" Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.

There were different kinds of wood that could have served this purpose but God was specific about Gopher wood.

1) what kind of properties did the Gopher wood possess that would have caused it to be preferred for the salvation of eight souls from a flood.

2) Is there anything that this particular wood symbolises either through the etymology of its name or from other sources?

  • 1
    'Gopher' wood is not a botanical category. It is from gopthrith which is pitch. But 'gopher' wood is wood steeped in pitch so that it is waterproof.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 25, 2018 at 0:28
  • @NigelJ. what language is "gopthrith"? English? Hebrew?
    – fdb
    Feb 25, 2018 at 0:52
  • @NigelJ can you support your claim that the root of Gopher is Gophrith?
    – bach
    Feb 25, 2018 at 1:07
  • My apologies/spelling wrong from memory/ gophrith is brimstone (Young's Concordance). But it is the sulphur content that is important. I understand it to mean 'molten' whether lava (volcanic) or pitch (the result of volcanic activity). 'Molten' with high sulphur content is a matter of judgment.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 25, 2018 at 1:18
  • @NigelJ Gophrith actually means brimstone, something like that. But the phrase Gophrith is more of a derivative of gopher rather than the other way round. So why would they be required to make an ark out of brimstone when the world was being Judged by water and not fire. Brimstone is used in the final judgment which is eternal and unending. So that's what the question is centered on.
    – user20490
    Feb 25, 2018 at 13:04

5 Answers 5


"Gopher" in the KJV is simply a transcription of Hebrew גפר. There is no agreement among specialists as to what it means. It occurs only once in the Bible.


This is what the IVP Bible Background Commentary has to say on "Gopher"

Gopher is the Hebrew word translated “cypress wood” in the NIV. This is an unknown type of material, although it undoubtedly refers to some sort of coniferous tree thought to possess great strength and durability. Cypress was often used by shipbuilders in the ancient Near East. Similarly, the cedars of Lebanon were prized by the Egyptians for the construction of their barques for transport on the Nile, for instance in the eleventh century B.C. Diary of *Wenamon.


In this verse (Gen 6:14), three terms (גפר, כפר [first time], and כפר [second time]) are interconnected by a single root. They are translated, commonly, with ‘gopher (wood)’, ‘pitch (it)’, and ‘tar’ (or, ‘pitch’, again), respectively. All of these term have in common the basic ‘to cover’-centered concept (Davidson, Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon: “Gen 6. 14 גפר” i[d]. q[uod]. כפר, ‘to cover over’). From the latter variant כפר (through a consonantal commutation G > K) - with a very good chance - were derived the Greek term κυπάρισσος (cypress) and, consequently, from here, the posterior (?) Latin term cupressus, of identical meaning.

“ […] *The ἁπ. λεγ. gopher is related to כֹּפֵר, resin, and κυπάρισσος; it is no proof to the contrary that in later Hebrew the cypress is called ‘berosh’, for ‘gopher’ belongs to the pre-Hebraic times*.” (Keil&Delitzsch, *Commentary on the Old Testament*)

“[…] *the cypress tree bids fairest to be the wood of which, the ark was made, as Fuller (Miscellan. Sacr. l. 4. c. 5.), Bochart (Phaleg. l. 1. c. 4. col. 22, 23), and others (id. Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 1. p. 35.) have shown; that being nearest to ‘Gopher’ in sound, and being a wood very durable and incorruptible, and fit for shipping. Alexander made a navy of cypress trees in the groves and gardens about Babylon, as Strabo (Geograph, l. 16. p. 510) relates* […]” (John Gill)

Salvatore Garofalo, *La Sacra Bibbia - Antico Testamento - Genesi* (the translation from Italian is mine): “[…] *Bochart glimpses in* [גפר] *the same root of the Greek [term] κυπάρισσος, ‘cypress’. Its wood were used by Phoenicians to build ships, and by Egyptians to make sarcophagus (= akk[adian] giparru)*.”

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, *Commentary*: “[…] *probably cypress, remarkable for its durability and abounding on the Armenian mountains*.”

To answer your Question # 1, take account that the wood of cypress possesses two main characteristics: a) it possesses an high stamina to immersions into sea water, since it is naturally impregnated with resin (כֹּפֵר); b) it is woodworm-proof.

To answer your Question # 2, read, please the following information.

If we accept the abovementioned equivalence גפר = ‘cypress’ we will able to build a remarkable LOGICAL CIRCLE:

1 - The Noah’s Ark (made to resist to the Flood’s rains) was made of cypress.

2 - The cypress, taken as symbolic object, has - at all times - represented death, or mourning from the dead ones, and until today they are decking thousands of graveyards (artofmourning.com asserts: “Cupressus sempervirens, or the ‘Graveyard Cypress’ is one of the oldest classical mourning symbols used in Western and Eastern societies [also in Muslim world] […]. Known as the ‘mournful tree’ by the Greeks and the Romans, the tree was sacred to the Fates and Furies as well as the rulers of the underworld [like Pluto, the classical ruler of the underworld (see, for example the entry ‘Cyprès’ in the Dictionnaire des Symboles, by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant)]. […] Here, there is a great continuity of usage for the tree, as despite its cultural interchange it still remains understood for the same purposes in death.”).

3 - The very important Holiday for the Dead, related strictly to the All Saints’ Day/Halloween, falls on the identical year period of the start of Flood’s rains (some reference works: The Worship of the Dead, by J. Garnier, 1904, London, e.g. Chapt. 1 pages 3-11; along with the following WEBlink htpps://aroyking.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/the-connection-between-halloween-and-the-great-flood/)

Come away, come away, death, And in sad cypress let me be laid.”

(William Shakespeare, The Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 4)

So, the wheel has come…


It would be interesting to find out what Greek word that the 72 Jewish scholars chose for this word for the Septuagint.

The word they chose is tetragonos (τετράγωνος) or "four-cornered," which gave rise to speculation that this might actually be some early form of laminate or cross-grained plywood sheets. The same word, is used 14 times in the Bible. The last time it's used is in Revelation 21:16 "and the city four-cornered lies".

I would speculate that the original word might have sounded like the name of an antediluvian town or locale. I don't think we'll ever know for sure.


  • It can also be argued that tetragonos refers to squared-off beams of wood, but it raises the question of whether the ark might otherwise have been built like a log cabin, which would be silly.
    – Dieter
    Feb 28, 2018 at 6:08

The wood is call golnopher letter lno is missing in the word gopher wood it is s special wood we local people build our canoes its our local language same as the word Maria the bitter water that Moses touch and make it sweet Maria means ginger bitter and other word is mana bread from heaven its our local language for food call manang na na mising there are plenty words but i give only few Contact for more information

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics. Please take our Tour to find out what we look for in well-researched answers: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour
    – Lesley
    Feb 18, 2021 at 14:46
  • Welcome, Kambang kalu. From what little you have written, I detect some knowledge that is well worth sharing, but your lack of punctuation makes your comments very hard to understand. If you could use full stops and commas, then you answer would be interesting. Also, I wonder if the word for 'bitter water' in Moses' account is 'mara', and not the female name, 'Maria'? Do polish your answer up a bit!
    – Anne
    Feb 18, 2021 at 18:09

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