There is an old joke that things must have gotten awfully smelly on Noah’s Ark. This must have been further complicated by the fact that a covering or some kind of tarp was put over the Ark.
One could argue that this tarp protected the Ark from getting its deck and compartments flooded. But it also meant that Noah and his family rode out the flood completely blind and in the dark – for almost a year!
Besides the obvious health hazard of keeping all the stagnant air, gases, and smells contained within such a tarp, there would be extreme sensory deprivation. But at least everyone was dry.
Scripture tells us that Noah did not remove the tarp until the flood had abated and the Ark had come to a rest atop a mountain. This means the tarp stayed on long after the rain stopped. It was only when this covering was removed that Noah COULD SEE ANYTHING.
But this leaves me with a question. The Bible never mentions Noah putting this covering over the Ark at any time. We only hear about it when it is removed (Genesis 8:13).
One could say that the covering of the Ark was simply its roof. But Noah had a window, which he could have easily looked out from to see how things were. In fact, Noah released a raven and dove from out of this window. (And It would make no sense for Noah to have put a tarp or covering over the Ark after the rain stopped.) Yet despite the Ark having a window, Noah could not see anything until this strange covering was removed. I find Noah’s tarp to be both an illogical and superfluous detail.
This tarp, or covering, seems to also present problems for artists and illustrators.
I cannot recall seeing a single rendition of the Ark with its tarp on. Can you? Obviously, it is more graphically interesting for the artist to depict the Ark with all the animals and Noah’s family, looking out over the deck. But I think that this “creative license” betrays the difficulty in coming to terms with the literal interpretation of Scripture.
The details of this biblical event, including the mysterious tarp, have only been adequately explained by the theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. He discovered that everything about this story pertained to spiritual and not physical events. In other words, the efforts by God to save Noah and his family’s lives, symbolizes—on a deeper level—how God saves souls. Each detail of the Noah story reveals deeper theological and doctrinal details concerning salvation.
For instance, that God directly instructs Noah on exactly how to build the Ark represents, on a higher level, that the proper construction of a vessel that could take each of us safely over troubled waters comes only from God’s direct religious tenets and instruction. Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives, plus all the animals represent various qualities of the human heart and mind. In other words, the details of this biblical story actually refer to things about each of us, and, the state of our relationship with God. This deeper, psycho-spiritual interpretation can explain why we never hear about the tarp being put on, but only of it being taken off.
Noah was given special spiritual instructions and teachings from God. But during this initial period of instruction, what is spiritually signified is that we still have not removed all the false notions that we carry in our mind. The removal of the tarp represents the removal in our spirit of the things that keep us from seeing God’s full light and truth.
To merely know what God teaches is not the same as actually acknowledging and practicing what God teaches. When we finally acknowledge God’s instruction we take the tarp from our spirit’s eyes. Then, and only then, can we leave the Ark and put our feet on dry ground – a new spiritual foundation. This is why when the tarp is removed, God commands Noah to go forth and begin a new life of faith.
Why would God’s Holy word contain deeper levels of meaning?
God makes use of maximum efficiency. Therefore, God’s Word would never contain anything superfluous and unessential to human salvation, regardless of the period in history when men and women have their stay on earth. The only way a tarp can avoid being superfluous and unessential is if it symbolized something important concerning our spiritual growth.
Why are these deeper meanings hidden from many of us? It’s that damn tarp again!