Many apostolic Christians are familiar with the idea that Noah’s Ark was a typological image of the New Covenant Church. This isn’t a very controversial position to take, given it seems rather obvious, and it’s asserted very frequently throughout the Church fathers and the liturgies and prayers of both East and West. Obviously, if we believe that there is no salvation outside of the Church, the image in Genesis of all living things outside of the Ark perishing, while only those within surviving, is a natural association to make. However, in this brief post, I want to show that this isn’t just a happy coincidence that later Christian tradition discovered, but this connection is explicitly made in the book of Genesis itself.
After the Lord caused the waters to subside and the flood to come to an end, Noah and the animals are said to exit the Ark in the following manner:
So Noah went forth, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. And every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves upon the earth, went forth by families out of the ark. (Genesis 8:18-19)
What we see is that Noah exits the Ark with his family, and then the animals themselves exit one by one, just as they entered, by family. And then, immediately after Noah, his family, and the animals have gone back on land, God does the following:
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth […] Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. (Genesis 9:1,8-10)
So what happens right after all the families (both the one human family, and many animal families) exit the Ark, is God blesses Noah and his sons, establishing a covenant with them, and through this covenant all of the families of animals too are blessed, by being promised never again to be destroyed by a flood; and this happens for as many animals “as came out of the Ark.” Thus, to bring this all together, we see that Noah and his family become blessed, and through his family, all creatures also become blessed by their association with him on the Ark.
Now, let’s compare this to the promise that was made to Abram just a few books later:
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
We see that one man (and by consequence, his family) is blessed, and it is through this blessing that the rest of the families of the earth become blessed. However it’s also worth pointing out that it is only those who bless Abram that will be blessed, while those who curse him shall be cursed. This corresponds almost directly to what was discussed above about Noah: he received a blessing from God for his obedience on the Ark, and all the families of animals were incorporated into this blessing, because they were also on the Ark. Likewise with Abram, he receives a blessing from God, and all of the families of the earth will be incorporated into this blessing, if they also bless Abram, otherwise “him who curses you I will curse.”
This creates a direct, biblical connection between the story of Noah’s Ark, and the promise given to Abram about the blessing of the human family; and because the promise of Abram is fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:7-9), there is a true typological connection between His Body the Church, and the Ark of our forefather Noah.