I'm a little confused here: in contemporary Hebrew the difference is simple - a box that opens on the side [and has a door] is called a cabinet (ארון) while a box that opens on the top is called a box (תיבה).

Even-Shushan dictionary holds a similar opinion. It is pretty much consistent with the Mishnaic use of those words (Masechet Shabbos, Kelim and more), but in the Torah, it is hard to tell, for example, Aron Habrit that was a box or Yosef's coffin is also called Aron vs Tevat Noah or Moses' Tevah.

Do the interpreters address this difference?

1 Answer 1


I don't know about the "interpreters", but I definitely noticed the word switch. I wrote about this in an essay a few years ago.

Essentially, I argued that based on the contexts in which these two words are invoked, that the difference between them is in where the arks are used. The word teivah is only used for a storage device kept afloat on the water, while the word aron refers to storage place that need not necessarily involve floating on water. So, it seems that the difference between the types of containers meant by teivah and the types meant by aron is that the former is only used for storing something atop a body of water, while the latter is not. Alternatively, I suggested that the distinction between these two forms of storing lies in what is being stored. In the Biblical examples the word teivah refers specifically to “storing” a live person, i.e. Noah and his family or the baby Moshe. The word aron, on the other hand, refers to other types of storage — even storing inanimate articles like the Tablets or Joseph’s corpse.

SOURCE: What's in a Word?, "Hark! Two Arks!"

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    Have you considered that while like you say, 'teivah' relates to something which floats on/over the water, the 'aron' passes through the water, like the aron of Yosef in regard to the river Nile and the Yam Suf, or the Aron HaBrit as it was brought into the land of Israel by Yehoshuah? Interestingly, the teivah of Noach was distinctive in that it contained the 'Tzohar', which is analogous to the luchot HaBrit contained in the aron HaBrit. May 16, 2019 at 14:06
  • @YaacovDeane Definitely interesting. Never thought about that. May 16, 2019 at 19:07
  • Something for you to reflect upon over Shabbat. May it be a true Yom Menucha (in the same sense as Sefer Brit Menucha) for you. May 16, 2019 at 20:37

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