Gopher wood

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Noah's Ark by Edward Hicks, 1846. Genesis 6:14 says that Noah's Ark was constructed from gofer wood.

Gopher wood or gopherwood is a term used once in the Bible for the material used to construct Noah's ark. Genesis 6:14 states that Noah was instructed to build the Ark of gofer (גֹפֶר), commonly transliterated as gopher wood, a word not otherwise used in the Bible or the Hebrew language in general. Although some English Bibles attempt a translation, older English translations such as the King James Version (17th century) leave it untranslated. The word is unrelated to the North American animal known as the gopher.[1]


The Greek Septuagint (3rd–1st centuries BC) translated the phrase mentioning gopher wood as ἐκ ξύλων τετραγώνων (ek xúlōn tetragṓnōn), 'out of squared timber', translating gofer as squared. [2] Similarly, the Latin Vulgate (5th century AD) rendered it as de lignis levigatis (lævigatis, in the spelling of the Clementine Vulgate), 'of timber planks'.

The Jewish Encyclopedia states that it was most likely a translation of the Babylonian gushure iṣ erini, 'cedar beams', or the Assyrian giparu, 'reeds'.[3] The Aramaic Targum Onkelos, considered by many Jews to be an authoritative translation of the Hebrew scripture, renders this word as qadros, 'cedar'. The Syriac Peshitta translates this word as arqa, 'box'.[4]

Many modern English translations favor cypress (otherwise referred to in Biblical Hebrew as berosh). This was espoused (among others) by Adam Clarke, a Methodist theologian famous for his commentary on the Bible: Clarke cited a resemblance between the Greek word for cypress, kuparisson, and the Hebrew word gophar. Likewise, the Nova Vulgata (20th century) has it as de lignis cupressinis ('out of cypress wood').[citation needed]

Others, noting the visual similarity between the Hebrew letters g (gimel ג‎) and k (kaf כ‎), suggest that the word may actually be kopher, the Hebrew word meaning 'pitch'; thus kopher wood would be 'pitched wood'. Recent suggestions have included a lamination process (to strengthen the Ark), or a now-lost type of tree, but there is no consensus.[5]


  1. ^ "gopher". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  2. ^ Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. (1986) [1851]. The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English (Reprint ed.). Peabody, Mass., US: Hendrickson Publishers. ISBN 0-913573-44-2. OCLC 1029083225.
  3. ^ Hirsch, EG; Hyvernat, H (1906). "Goper-Wood". The Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-06-27.
  4. ^ "The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon". Hebrew Union College. Archived from the original on 2013-10-18. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  5. ^ Taylor, Paul (2001). "What is 'Gopher Wood'?". Eden Communications. Retrieved 2007-06-25.

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