God instructed His faithful servant, Noah to build the ark as follows:

Genesis 6:14-16, NASB: "Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits [~450'], its breadth fifty cubits [~75'], and its height thirty cubits [~45']. 16You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks."

I'm unable to find any other mention of airways besides this "window". Do we know how so many forms of life could have breathed in the ark under such restricted conditions? (Perhaps it was larger than I imagined?)

  • Just because there are no other windows mentioned doesn't mean the ark didn't have them. It would seem logical that the animals would have been kept in different stalls, but the biblical record doesn't mention it. Some details are probably not listed because they are probably not important.
    – agarza
    Aug 22 at 3:26
  • @agarza Well, I wasn't going to read anything into the text since the directions seem so specific. One wonders if it would be safe to light a match from inside such a vessel. :-)
    – Xeno
    Aug 22 at 3:31
  • I’m convinced that given they were far superior intellectually and were also given directives from God Himself no less, the vessel had proper ventilation to circulate air and prevent it from overheating or resulting in asphyxiation. The “window” did not serve the purpose of ventilation. And God didn’t instruct Noah to build a submarine. So it wasn’t supposed to be airtight above water, just below water and on top. Aug 22 at 4:07
  • Xeno: The window was all around the ark, one cubit below the roof. Agarza has the right answer. Aug 22 at 6:11
  • @NihilSineDeo I think you're right. God would have provided, otherwise the conditions in the ark would have been too severe. But, I also doubt this qualified as a luxury cruise either.
    – Xeno
    Aug 22 at 13:24

Is it the case that Noah, his family, and all the animals had but one small window to breathe through (Gen. 6:16)?

In the article "Ark" under the heading "Design and Size", the Insight on the Scriptures gives another alternative:

“You will make a tsoʹhar [roof; or, window] for the ark,” Noah was told. (Ge 6:16) Just what this was or how it was constructed is not altogether clear. Some scholars think tsoʹhar is related to light and so they translate it “window” (KJ, Mo), “light” (AS, JP), “a place for light” (Ro). Others, however, associate tsoʹhar with a later Arabic root meaning “back (of the hand),” “back (of a beast),” “deck (of a ship),” that is, the part away from the ground or water, and for this reason translate it “roof.” (AT, RS, JB) This tsoʹhar, Noah was told, was to be completed “to the extent of a cubit upward.”​—Ge 6:16.

It could be, therefore, that the tsoʹhar provided for adequate light and ventilation, not just a single cubit-square “peephole,” but an opening a cubit in height near the roof and extending around the four sides to give an opening of nearly 140 sq m (1,500 sq ft). On the other hand, while still allowing an ample opening for ventilation under the roof or elsewhere, the roof could have had slightly angled sides. Regarding this possibility James F. Armstrong wrote in Vetus Testamentum (Leiden, 1960, p. 333): “‘Unto a cubit upward you shall finish it’ is difficult to understand when sohar is translated either ‘light (= window)’ or even ‘(flat) roof’. If, however, a gable-type roof be postulated, the ‘one cubit upward’ can refer to the elevation of the crease of the roof above the level of the tops of the walls. In modern architectural terms, the ‘one cubit’ would be the height of the kingposts between which the ridgepiece is laid. . . . According to the argument that has been presented, the roof of Noah’s ark was conceived as having a four per-cent pitch (1 cubit elevation — 25 cubits from wall to ridge), quite adequate to permit the water of the rains to flow off.” [bold mine]


Gen 6.14-16 (LEB)

Make for yourself an ark of cypress wood; you must make the ark with rooms, then you must cover it with pitch, inside and outside. And this is how you must make it: the length of the ark, three hundred cubits; its width fifty cubits; its height, thirty cubits. You must make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above. And as for the door of the ark, you must put it in its side. You must make it with a lower, second, and a third deck.

This passage is describing the ark having a single roof (or possibly a single skylight), not a single window. The underlying word, tsohar, is a hapax legomenon and can mean roof or skylight/hatch.


צֹהַר. hapax legomenon Gn 6:16; meaning uncertain, two possibilities: —a. from Akk. ṣēru (AHw. 1093b; CAD Ṣ: 138) back, top, hinterland, open country, steppe; Canaanite ṣuʾru, ṣūru back (AHw. 1115a; CAD Ṣ: 261b, gloss zuḫru, El Amarna letter 232:11; VAB 2:1544 zuḫru); Ug. ẓr (Gordon Textbook §19:1047; Aistleitner 2378; Driver Myths2 147b) back, top; Soq. ṭhar over; OSArb. ẓhr (Conti Chrest. 160a) and Arb. ẓahr back; JArm. *טהרא roof tt, MHeb. (Mish. Yoma 5:6; Tosefta Yoma 4:2):

roof, with many modern (scholars), including THAT 1:647; perhaps particularly a gabled roof (:: גָּג flat roof, see Armstrong VT 10 (1960) 328-333; TOB; NRSV; REB: make a roof for the ark;

. —b. from root צהר: skylight, hatch cf. Akk. nappašu small window, loophole (Gilgamesh xi:135; AHw. 740; CAD N: 311), so e.g. A. Dillmann Die Genesis6 (1892) 141; König Wb. 383a, cf. Vulg. fenestra, Tg. nēhōr opening for light; Sept., Pesh. otherwise. †

Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1994–2000). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 1008). Leiden: E.J. Brill.

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