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by Wayne Blank
The Waterproofer and Adhesive Of Ancient Times
Noah's ark (see The Flood) was waterproofed with pitch, and therefore we know that it was black or dark brown in color.
"And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of Gopher Wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits [see How Big Was Noah's Ark?]. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and set the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you." (Genesis 6:13-18 RSV)
The Tower of Babel used sticky pitch as mortar:
"Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:1-4 RSV)
Prior to the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah, the area of the Dead Sea had open bitumen pits:
"Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, that is, Zoar, went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the mountain." (Genesis 14:8-10 RSV)
"Now a man from the house of Levi went and took to wife a daughter of Levi [see Levites]. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could hide him no longer she took for him a basket made of bulrushes, and daubed it with bitumen and pitch; and she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds at the river's brink. And his sister stood at a distance, to know what would be done to him." (Exodus 2:1-4 RSV)
Fact Finder: What was the name of Moses' sister who followed her infant brother's basket along the Nile river to see what happened to him?