Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.
God had already determined that the wicked human population had to be destroyed and rebuilt through the family of Noah. Here we read of the means by which God would save eight individuals from destruction. He would save them through an “ark.”
The word “ark” is a translation of the Hebrew word tebah, which means “a vessel” (The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon). Expositor’s Bible Commentary notes that the word “focuses on the structure as an abode rather than its shape or size” (Vol. 2, p. 83). This floatable vessel was specifically designed to be living quarters for the eight human beings and the many animals that God would save.
God specifies that the ark was to be constructed of “gopherwood.” It is not known exactly what kind of wood this was, since there is no modern wood known as gopherwood. It would have been a very strong wood that would be resistant to water. Some speculate that this was an ancient name for cypress wood, since cypress was often used to make ships in the ancient world.
The ark was to be covered in pitch to make it watertight. It is interesting that a similar description is made in Exodus 2:3 of the “ark” used to preserve the life of Moses from the Egyptian Pharaoh’s mandate (Exodus 1:22). It is hard not to compare the two “arks” as the means of saving human beings (Noah’s family and the Israelite nation in captivity) and the work of Jesus Christ—through whom salvation of all humanity is ultimately made possible (Acts 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:9). The apostle Peter makes the analogy of Noah’s family being saved through the water of the Flood and baptism being a necessary prerequisite for salvation.
To learn about the deep spiritual significance of baptism, read “Do You Have to Be Baptized to Be Saved?”