Hebrew Word Study from Noah

Yesterday I posted about why God flooded the earth, because it’s a question that’s “out there” right now.

Today I’m posting about the Hebrew words in the Noah story… for the sole reason that I am an irremediable Word Nerd, and if I suppress that too long, it erupts to the surface in a volcanic display, like you are about to see. In a few moments you will be able to collect this igneous outflow, make yourself a lava lamp, and have a tiny bit more light in your life (even if it is tinted in 1970’s tie-dye hues and isn’t really from a volcano).

Come into the light, man. 😉

Now that I’ve fully earned your confidence in my exegetical competence…

Most of my word studies are done through:
www.blueletterbible.org (includes Strong’s and TWOT numbers) and
– the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
I check with a couple commentaries, too. This is fun for me. Don’t try to suppress it. Suppression leads to rambling about lava lamps.

Today’s victims for dissection are the words “Noah” and “ark” and the amazing phrase “coat it with pitch.”


Noah sounds like the Hebrew words “nuah” and “naham.”
nuah = rest
naham = comfort

Like many Old Testament people, Noah is a prefigure of Jesus. This means some of the things in his life foreshadow Jesus’ life and ministry (as it matches the rest of Scripture).

“Lamech… had a son. He named him Noah and said, ‘He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.’” (Genesis 5:28-29)

The curse on Adam in the Garden of Eden had included painful toil:
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it…”
(Genesis 3:17))

Jesus gives rest from the “painful toil” of never being good enough. Jesus is the one who did all the work of being good enough, in our place. When we enter into life “in Jesus” (our saving ark), we are also counted as good enough for God – and our lives begin to change.

That is comfort and rest!

The future rest from literal toil is coming… God unfolds His plan one layer at a time. The current layer gives us clues about the next layer, as redemption unfolds.


ark = teba in Hebrew

The word “teba” is used in one other story in the OT:
– the little “basket” (ark) that saved baby Moses’ life as he rocked down the Nile River.
(The “ark” of the covenant is not a related word.)

“In both cases [of Noah and Moses] there is to be saved from drowning one who is worthy of salvation and is destined to bring deliverance to others.”
– U. Cassuto, quoted in TWOT

Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, confirms that we are connected to the Noah story: The flood water symbolizes our baptismal waters! (1 Peter 3:20-21)

We are carried in the ark of belief, symbolized when we are lifted up out of the waters of baptism.

Putting it together with Cassuto’s quote above… Are we saved because we are each also “destined to bring deliverance to others?” Jesus is the only source of salvation, but a life “in Christ” means being part of His purposes.

Coat it with Pitch

This is my favorite Hebrew word study from Noah.

“So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.”
(Genesis 6:14)

Coat = kaphar
Pitch = kopher (a Hebrew derivative of kaphar)

Where “kaphar” appears in the OT, the overwhelming majority of times, it is translated “atonement” (as in “make an atonement”).

“Kopher” really means “covering.” Pitch is understood as the covering, so the NIV goes ahead and translates it “pitch.” But where “kopher” appears in the OT, it is most often translated “ransom” – the ransom for a human life!

Put that together…
“Coat it with pitch” sounds exactly the same in Hebrew as:
“atonement with the ransom of a life.”

Coincidental? Maybe, if this were the only place in the OT where double meanings occurred. But the OT is saturated with examples like these, many of them very deliberate.

Take-home point: God is really a Word Nerd, too, and I’m just fulfilling my part of being made in His image. 😉

Just kidding.

A covering makes our salvation water-tight, just as the ark was made watertight through its covering of pitch. When Jesus offers salvation to us, He “coats it with pitch,” or “makes atonement with the ransom of a life.” His own life was the ransom, the atonement for sin.

In other words, our salvation in Jesus is watertight. Even though we’ve done wrong, we’re covered.

I’ll leave you with these amazing Old Testament passages about ransom:

“No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom [kopher] for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay…
But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
He will surely take me to Himself.” (Psalm 49:7-9, 15)

“If there is an angel at their side,
a messenger, one out of a thousand…
and he is gracious to that person and says to God,
‘Spare them from going down to the pit;
I have found a ransom [kopher] for them’
…they will see God’s face and shout for joy;
He will restore them to full well-being.
And they will go to others and say,
‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right,
but I did not get what I deserved.
God has delivered me from going down to the pit,
and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’” (Job 33:23-24, 26-28)

From the New Testament (written in Greek):
“…the Son of Man [Jesus] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

2 Responses to “Hebrew Word Study from Noah”
  1. Barbara Greenstein says:

    What a great sense of humor! As a fellow word nerd, I loved this! Keep blogging girl. You have a gift!

    • mulberrytreehouse says:

      Thank you so much for your replies!! Having you for a neighbor is an amazing gift! 🙂

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