The ark (Heb: tebah) was a large craft measuring 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits tall. It was built by Noah in the midst of the epic period known as "the days of Noah." It was designed by the Creator of the universe to preserve life through the Great flood sent as judgment upon sinful mankind.
The word "ark" is an English word that came down from the ancient Hittite language via the Latin arca, meaning "chest or coffer." The Latin verb form is arcere, meaning "to safeguard." The Hebrew word tebah is a loan word from the Egyptian language known by Moses, holding the meaning of "chest" (thus the "ark" into which Moses was put). Another Hebrew word is used for the Ark of the Covenant, which was a common term for "box, or container."
Building the Ark Edit
When mankind was on the verge of destroying itself through violence, God determined to save a remnant, along with specimens of every species that would be destroyed in a cataclysmic flood. This would require a large structure designed to survive floating upon the destructive floodwaters.
At what was "middle age" for a fortunate long-lived human-being of the day, the Creator called on Noah, son of Lamech, to build a large barge-like vessel that would have three stories approximately 15 feet in height, each about 45 feet wide and 450 feet long. The measurements were in "cubits" -- the distance from the tip of a man's middle finger to his elbow. This is between 18 and 24 inches, with the lower measurement used for convenience (being 1.5 feet) as well as guarding against exaggeration.
After the LORD had determined that mankind's long lives would diminish to 120 years rather than the average of over 900 years, the search for a savior among a degenerate generation found that Noah was worthy of the task. Though 500 years old, Noah would sire three sons who would then acquire wives that would assure the continuation of the human race. It is not clear whether the building started when Noah was 500 years old. It is possible that contractors, or relatives, could have begun the work as Noah's sons were coming of age. Given the time frame, it is wholly possible that Noah and his three sons were all the labor needed for the task.
The surface area of the wood used for the ark would be a factor of the surfaces of the rectangular structure: twice for the sides, twice for the ends and four times the floor/ceiling. Working from the cubit of only 1.5 feet, this would be 182,250 square feet. This would allow for 18,225 living animals and birds of 10 square feet each (about 3.16 feet per side without any stacking of cages. With 15 foot ceilings, the number of cubic cages of this size would increase the capacity by fourfold to around 72,900 kinds of animals in compartments averaging about a cubic yard/meter each. A vast majority of air breathing animals would need a lot less space. With the size of a cubit ranging up to 24 inches, this estimate of the number of cages and enclosures could be as much as 25% larger, giving space for up to over 90,000 creatures when arranged efficiently.
Gopher Wood Edit
The vessel was to be made of "gopher wood." Though the species is not known for certain, the modern cypress tree, has been supposed by many. Given the similarity in sounds (g and k/c and the p/f of ancient languages), "GPR" and "KPR" lend credence to this supposition. Even in the original account, the use of "pitch" to prepare the wood makes this same connection. The "pitch" is kypher, a word that sounds a lot like its English translation of "cover." This term is also used for "atonement" (the covering of sins). Later history shows the use of processed birch resin and bark to make a "super glue" that was unbreakable after drying. If the wood took its name from the processing, it could have been any sort of wood, including birch, known for the process (that is, "gophered" wood)!
If the birch tree, which grows to about 90 feet in 60 years, was the wood, it would take about 1200 such trees to build the ark using 12 x 12 beams and the "pitch" made from the bark and charcoal made from the trim. Only the outside, about 46% of the structure, would have to be so treated, leaving plenty of split and planed boards for the interior work (mostly the floors/ceilings for the interior living and storage areas). From the time of Tubalcain, a probable contemporary of Noah's grandfather Methuselah, the technology for using metal tools had been developing. With this being the case, the cutting of the wood, from felling trees to splitting and planing beams and boards, would not be a problem. Whatever the case, building the ark in a forest would provide materials to be at hand with no long distances to transport the large logs needed.