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Genesis 7:1 New International Version

The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.

New King James Version

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.

New American Standard Bible

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this generation.

Was the presence of God inside or outside the ark when he said this?

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The text does not indicate where the presence of God is. That is not the focus, nor is it related to the meaning. The word in question, "בֹּֽא", can mean enter, go in, come in, or even bring or attain. If one thinks about it, the first three are essentially equivalent in meaning.

"Enter" may be the least confusing translation in this case simply on account of having a neutral aspect with respect to God's relative position. I can tell you to enter your house from any position--it means the same whether I am inside your house or outside of it, or even if I were on the phone talking to you from some unknown location.

A secondary clue as to how this word should be understood is also somewhat ambiguous in this case. The preposition "אֶל", translated as "into" in the KJV, i.e. "into the ark," can mean in, into, among, against, toward, at, by, in between, etc. Hebrew prepositions are often sort of multipurpose, one-size-fits-all, connecting words. Hebrew is very context-related. Sometimes it is not intended to be so specific or precise as an English reader might like.

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  • English is of course very context dependent too, but in different ways, so that there's no one-to-one match of prepositions or verbs.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 14:32
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The operative verb in Gen 7:1 is בּוֹא (bo) which means "come in, come, go in, go" (BDB).

That is, movement is described. Thus, "enter" or "move" might be the best neutral translation. This is reflected in the quoted versions in the OP.

Therefore, the use of this verb makes no comment whatever about where the presence of God might be, whether inside or outside the Ark. My personal view suggests that since God is omnipresent, this question is moot.

The HUGE number (2573) of times and varieties of ways this word is used shows how much more versatile it is compared to English prepositions of translocation. See BDB.

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  • I would say that "come into the ark" is the best translation, because it parallels Rev.4:1 and Rev.11:12, where a voice in Heaven says to the saint(s), "Come up here!" God calls down from his secure holy dwelling to rescue and bring his saints into his protection from the wrath that is unleashed beneath him.
    – Joshua B
    Commented Feb 24 at 23:49
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Exodus 10:1 uses the same phrase בֹּ֖א אֶל when God commands Moses to "come to Pharaoh".

I think you are asking this because in modern English we say to go somewhere rather than "come" unless you mean come to where I am. But in biblical speak come can mean go.

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Hermeneutically, I would say that "come into the ark" is the best translation.

This is because it parallels Rev.4:1 and Rev.11:12, where a voice in Heaven says to the saint(s), "Come up here!" God calls down from his secure holy dwelling to rescue and bring his saints into his protection from the wrath that is unleashed beneath him.

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