By Yehuda Shurpin
We read in the Bible how, at the end of the Great Flood, the Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (which some identify as the Armenian Highlands). Since the Torah doesn’t ascribe any intrinsic holiness to Noah’s Ark, it is not at all surprising that once Noah left it, there isn’t any real discussion about what happened to it. Yet, throughout the ages, the location of Noah’s Ark has been a subject of fascination, with some even claiming to have found it.
While the Ark may not have survived until the present day, the Talmud and Midrash assert that it was still in existence thousands of years after the Great Flood.
In the Book of II Kings we read that Sennacherib, King of Assyria, dwelt in Nineveh after is armies were destroyed in the siege of Jerusalem: “He was prostrating himself in the temple of Nisroch, his god, and Adramelech and Sharezer, his sons, slew him with a sword, and they fled to the land of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon reigned in his stead.”1
Expounding upon this, the Talmud explains that “Nisroch” is linked to the word neser, “beam,” and refers to a beam from Noah’s Ark. When Sennacherib found a beam from the Ark, he proclaimed, “This must be the great god that saved Noah from the Flood!” He then addressed the beam-deity and pledged, “If I go to war and am victorious, I will offer my two sons as a sacrifice before you!” His sons overheard this and decided to kill him.
Interestingly, Josephus, in his work Antiquities of the Jews, claimed to have known the whereabouts of Noah’s Ark and quoted earlier historians (including the 3rd century BCE Berosus the Chaldean) as saying that people would take parts of the Ark to use as amulets to ward off evil.
A little less than 200 years after Sennacherib, during the story of Purim, Haman built a gallows “50 cubits high” (approximately 75 feet) with the intention of hanging Mordechai upon it. One tradition in the Midrash tells us that one of Haman’s children was the governor of the province where Noah’s Ark was located, and he provided Haman with a beam from the Ark, which was 50 cubits wide.
Why Did the Ark Survive?
David sings in Psalms that G‑d makes “a memorial for His wonders” so that people remember His miracles and sing His praise. The commentaries explain that this is why remnants of the Ark were preserved.
It was divinely orchestrated that Haman use wood from the Ark to build the gallows that he himself would ultimately be hung on. For the same wood that was used to save the remnants of humanity was once again used to save the Jewish people.