So why was Noah supposed to put a window on the ark? Seems pretty weird considering the purpose.
This matter of the window on the ark is not a cut-and-dried one. First, we have Genesis 6:16.
16. You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.
The word translated “window” here is the Hebrew word tsohar, and means “noon” or “midday.” It occurs next in Genesis 43:16, where it is translated as “noon.”
16. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me at noon.”
The King James Version translates this word as “noon” 11 times, “noonday” 9 times, “day” 1 time, “midday” 1 time, “noontide” 1 time (along with a second word,) and “window” just this one time. The word means “noon,” not “window.” But of course, the question is how one would make a “noon” for the ark.
The same window is mentioned again in Genesis, but this time it is a different Hebrew word. The reference is Genesis 8:6.
6. So it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made.
This time, the Hebrew word translated “window” is challown, which is the common word for a “window,” but literally means a “piercing” in the wall. It occurs 31 times, and is translated “window” all 31 times in the King James Version. This is the only time that it is used for a “window” on a boat, however.
Therefore, we are left with two words to figure out what exactly this “window” was that Noah made in the ark, and opened to let the birds out. It is on a ship, it is pierced through the ship, and it can be described as a “noon.” This last fact would seem important to guide us. The American Standard Version translates it “A light shalt thou make to the ark.” The Amplified Bible suggests, “You shall make a roof or window [a place for light] to the ark,” and this seems to point out the obvious fact that this opening was in the roof of the ark, not the wall, where we would normally think of a window as being located. The New Century Version is interesting, saying, “Make an opening around the top of the boat that is eighteen inches high from the edge of the roof down.”
After studying it out, I would suggest that this “noon” Noah was to make, this “piercing” in the ark, was actually a hatch located in the top of the ark. A hatch, being straight overhead, could easily be called a “noon.” It is not a window, but it certainly is a “piercing” in the ark, just one straight overhead rather than to the side, as a window would be. A hatch would be an obvious thing to open in order to let a raven or a dove out of the ark, and to receive it back in.
As you pointed out, a window would make little sense in a ship created to ride out the worst storm in history. From a window, Noah could have surveyed the earth’s surface himself, not needing a bird to do it. But a hatch, about 18 inches around, would be much safer than a window, and would be the kind of thing one would expect to find on a ship like the ark.