And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. (Genesis, Chapter 7: 17)

What does "bare up" mean in here? And why?

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    You should be very careful to avoid thinking of this source (the KJV Bible) as "English" today, since it's peppered with archaic usages. For example, unless they go in for wholesale rephrasing, any modern rendition of this passage would use the regular verb form ...and it was lifted up... rather than the irregular / archaic / poetic form lift. Aug 2, 2017 at 16:16
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    N.B. The Hebrew here uses two verbs in sequence: נשׁא to bear, carry and רומ to lift, raise. So that "bare up" really is trying to get the sense of "bear the weight of, carry", while the elevation comes from the second verb, which the KJV aptly renders "lift up". Translators seeking to reproduce both verbs (as opposed to analyzing this as the duplication typical of Hebrew style) might thus choose "carry" for the first (or whatever water does to an ark) and reserve "lift" for the second, or some similar arrangement. Aug 3, 2017 at 3:16
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    Indeed - as far as I'm aware (someone correct me if I'm wrong) the language used in the KJV translation doesn't even match the language in use generally at the time when that translation was written. It was basically a translation done by a bunch of nerdy linguists, where said nerdy linguists tried to capture as much of the nuance as possible from the Hebrew by borrowing archaic structures in English, or ones used for different purposes, to try to match them up as closely as possible to the structures they were trying to translate from Hebrew.
    – Muzer
    Aug 3, 2017 at 8:56

3 Answers 3


This is an archaic construction; here, bare is used as the past tense of bear, to carry (or, in this case, to lift).

  • 9
    I thought past tense of bear was cub. (pun intended) Aug 3, 2017 at 12:44

This is from the King James version of the Bible, known for many archaic constructions and translations. Another version says:

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth.

And another:

And the waters became powerful, and they increased very much upon the earth, and the ark moved upon the waters.

In your version "bare" is an old and unused spelling of "bore", the past tense of the transitive verb, "to bear", meaning "to carry". Example:

Although she was elderly and the child was no longer small, she bore his weight easily as she rocked him to sleep.


According to Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary, "bare" is the archaic past tense of "bear". In turn "to bear" means to carry. So, the expression "bare up the ark" means that the water supported the weight of the ark.

Note that in the expression "bare up" the word "up" does not mean "upward". It simply means that the waters did not let the ark sink. Compare: "He is falling, hold him up." There are two verbs in this sentence. The first (bare up) means that the waters bore the weight of the ark, the second (lift up) means that the ark rose as the waters which were holding it up rose. This corresponds with the Hebrew original as explained by user @LukeSawczak.

Today we do not use "bear up" in the literal sense of supporting weight. But, we do use it in the figurative sense of enduring difficult situations without giving up. Such uses are intransitive (do not name a direct object). For example: "He bears up well under stress."

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    It's probably worth adding that, in today's English, the past tense of your final example would be "He bore up well under stress" (and, correspondingly, the flood "bore up the ark"). Aug 3, 2017 at 18:29

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