Noah's sacrifice by Daniel Maclise
Antediluvian Patriarch, Prophet, Holy Forefather, Constructor of the Ark, 'Grateful Servant of God', 'Preacher of Righteousness'
Born Mesopotamia (?)
Honored in Judaism
Baha'i Faith
Influenced Many Jews, Christians and Muslims

Noah (or Noé, Noach; Hebrew: נֹחַ, נוֹחַ, Modern Noaẖ Tiberian Nōăḥ; Arabic: نُوح Nūḥ; Greek: Νωέ) was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family (his wife, three sons, and their wives) and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark.[1] He is also mentioned as the "first husbandman" and in the story of the Curse of Ham. Noah is the subject of much elaboration in later Abrahamic traditions. Noah is also mentioned several times in the Quran.


Noah in Genesis

Mosaic depiction of Noah sending the dove
The following section is a summary of the Book of Genesis, chapters 6–9.

Noah was the son of Lamech who named him Noah, saying, "This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which cometh from the ground which the LORD hath cursed."[2] In his five hundredth year Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. In his six hundredth year God, saddened at the wickedness of mankind, sent a great deluge to destroy all life, but instructed Noah, a man "righteous in his generation," to build an ark and save a remnant of life from the Flood.

After the Flood, "Noah was the first tiller of the soil", he is depicted as a husbandman who "planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine." Noah's son Ham saw his father naked in his father's tent, and told his brothers, and so Noah cursed Ham's son Canaan, giving his land to Shem.[3]

Noah died 350 years after the Flood, at the age of 950,[4] the last of the immensely long-lived antediluvian Patriarchs. The maximum human lifespan, as depicted by the Bible, diminishes rapidly thereafter, from as much as 900 years to the 120 years of Moses.

Biblical critical methods

Source criticism

According to the documentary hypothesis, the first five books of the Bible (Pentateuch/Torah), including Genesis, were collated during the 5th century BC from four main sources, which themselves date from no earlier than the 10th century BC. Two of these, the Jahwist, composed in the 10th century BC, and the Priestly source, from the late 7th century BC, make up the chapters of Genesis which concern Noah. The attempt by the 5th century editor to accommodate two independent and sometimes conflicting sources accounts for the confusion over such matters as how many pairs of animals Noah took, and how long the flood lasted.[5][6]

Etymology of Noah

Noah’s father, Lamech, named him and declared that his son would bring “comfort” (nāḥam), by saying “he will comfort us”. In determining the etymology of the name “Noah” (nōaḥ), it seems more related to the Hebrew word “rest” (nûaḥ). However, in the phrase “he will comfort us” (yĕnāḥamēnû), nōaḥ sounds very similar to the verb nāḥam.[7] Therefore, “Noah” serves more as a play on words for the expression “he will comfort us”, rather than the phrase being a true etymology.[8] Additionally, “rest” (nûaḥ) and “comfort” (nāḥam) are not that far apart in meaning as determined by Ezekiel 5:13: “Thus My anger will be spent, and I will satisfy (nûaḥ) My wrath on them, and I shall be appeased (nāḥam)” [9]- NASB Therefore, by Lamech making the statement: “He [Noah] will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed,”[10] he was expressing hope for the human family through his offspring.[11]

Narrative criticism

Noah is described by three phrases: “a righteous man”, “blameless” and “walked with God”. He stands out from his contemporaries as a man of right conduct.[12] who forewarned doom, by preaching. However, the people sneered at Noah and called him demented, a man gone mad.[13] The use of the word “Righteous” (saddiq), in 7:1, is the first occurrence in the Hebrew Bible. The antagonism between Noah and his generation parallels the antagonism, of the first prophesy of Genesis, between “the serpent” and “the woman”.[3:15][14]

Redaction criticism

In terms of Julius Wellhausen's critiquing, the story of Noah is categorized as an ethnological tradition that emerges from the conflict between Israel and Canaan. The passage “Canaan will serve Shem” reflects Israel’s conquest of the promised land.[15]

According to Randall Bailey, the curse against Canaan was as a direct result of Ham performing a suspicious sexual act against his father, Noah. He suggests that the purpose for this redaction was to keep Israel from adopting sexual practices linked with Egypt and Canaan (Lev 18:3) and to demean the ancestor of Africans because Israelite custom regarded Africa as a standard of valuation.[16]

According to Umberto Cassuto, Ham’s transgression is an allegory that represents the Canaanite people. The Canaanites were to suffer the curse not because of Ham’s sin, but because they acted like him by their own transgressions. The passage of Canaan serving Shem refers to the children of Canaan who served under Chedorlaomer, king of Elam,[Gen 14:4] son of Shem.[17]

A vineyard mosaic

Psychological criticism

Noah and wine

Commentators, as early as the Classical era, on Genesis 9:20-21 have excused Noah’s excessive drinking because he was considered to be the first wine drinker, the first person to discover the soothing, consoling, and enlivening effects of wine.[18] John Chrysostom, a church father, writes that Noah’s behavior is defensible: as the first human to taste wine, he would not know its aftereffects: “Through ignorance and inexperience of the proper amount to drink, fell into a drunken stupor”.[19]

Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher also exonerates Noah by noting that one can drink in two different manners: (1) to drink wine in excess, a peculiar sin to the vicious evil man or (2) to partake of wine as the wise man, Noah being the latter.[20]

In Jewish tradition, Rabbis blame Satan for saturating the vine with intoxicating properties from the blood of certain animals, thus Noah behaved not knowing what he was doing.[21]

Noah and Ham

In the field of Psychological biblical criticism, J. H. Ellens and W. G. Rollins address the narrative of Genesis 9:18-27 that narrates the unconventional behavior that occurs between Noah and Ham. Because of its brevity and textual inconsistencies, it has been suggested that this narrative is a “splinter from a more substantial tale”.[22][23] A fuller account would explain what exactly Ham “had done to” his father; or why Noah directed a curse at Canaan for Ham’s misdeed; or how Noah came to know what occurred. The narrator relates two facts: (1) Noah became inebriated when he “uncovered himself within his tent” and (2) Ham “saw his father’s nakedness.” Thus, these passages revolve around sexuality and the exposure of genitalia as compared with other Hebrew bible texts, such as Habakkuk 2:15 and Lamentations 4:21.[24]

Religious views

Jewish views

A Jewish depiction of Noah

The righteousness of Noah is the subject of much discussion among the rabbis.[25] The description of Noah as "righteous in his generation" implied to some that his perfection was only relative: In his generation of wicked people, he could be considered righteous, but in the generation of a tzadik like Abraham, he would not be considered so righteous. They point out that Noah did not pray to God on behalf of those about to be destroyed, as Abraham prayed for the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, Noah is never seen to speak; he simply listens to God and acts on his orders. This led such commentators to offer the figure of Noah as "the man in a fur coat," who ensured his own comfort while ignoring his neighbour. Others, such as the medieval commentator Rashi, held on the contrary that the building of the Ark was stretched over 120 years, deliberately in order to give sinners time to repent. Rashi interprets his father's statement of the naming of Noah (in Hebrew נֹחַ) “This one will comfort (in Hebrew– yeNaHamainu יְנַחֲמֵנו) from our work and our hands sore from the land that the Lord had cursed”,[26] by saying Noah heralded a new era of prosperity, when there was easing (in Hebrew – nahah - נחה) from the curse from the time of Adam when the Earth produced thorns and thistles even where men sowed wheat and that Noah then introduced the plow.

Christian views

An early Christian depiction showing Noah giving the gesture of orant as the dove returns

According to 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is considered a "preacher of righteousness". Of the Gospels in the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke compares Noah's Flood with the coming Day of Judgement: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man.”(Luke17:26)

The First Epistle of Peter compares the saving power of baptism with the Ark saving those who were in it. In later Christian thought, the Ark came to be compared to the Church: salvation was to be found only within Christ and his Lordship, as in Noah's time it had been found only within the Ark. St Augustine of Hippo (354-430), demonstrated in The City of God that the dimensions of the Ark corresponded to the dimensions of the human body, which corresponds to the body of Christ; the equation of Ark and Church is still found in the Anglican rite of baptism, which asks God, "who of thy great mercy didst save Noah," to receive into the Church the infant about to be baptised.

In medieval Christianity, Noah's three sons were generally considered as the founders of the populations of the three known continents, Japheth/Europe, Shem/Asia, and Ham/Africa, although a rarer variation held that they represented the three classes of medieval society - the priests (Shem), the warriors (Japheth), and the peasants (Ham). In the 18th and 19th centuries the view that Ham's sons in general had been literally "blackened" by the curse of Noah was cited as justification for black slavery.

In Latter-day Saint theology, the angel Gabriel lived in his mortal life as the patriarch Noah. Gabriel and Noah are regarded as the same individual; Noah being his mortal name and Gabriel being his heavenly name.[27]

Islamic views

An Islamic depiction of Noah

Noah is a highly important figure in Islam, and is seen as one of the most significant prophets of all. The Qur'an contains 43 references to Noah in 28 chapters and the seventy-first chapter, Chapter Noah, is named after him. Noah's narratives largely consist around his preaching as well the story of the Deluge. Noah's narrative lays the prototype for many of the subsequent prophetic stories, which begin with the prophet warning his people and then the community rejecting the message and facing a punishment, Noah is not the first prophet sent to mankind according to Quran, Infact Qura'n did not name the first prophet to mankind. Noah has several titles in Islam, based primarily on praise for him in the Qur'an, including True Messenger of God (XXVI: 107) and Grateful Servant of God (XVII: 3). The Qur'an further states that God chose Adam, Noah, the family of Abraham and the family of Amram above all mankind (III: 33).

The Qur'an focuses on several instances from Noah's life more than others, and one of the most significant events is the Deluge. God makes a covenant with Noah just as with Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad later on (XXXIII: 7). Noah is later reviled by his people and reproached by them for being a mere human messenger and not an angel (X: 72-74). Moreover, the people of Noah mock Noah's words and call him a liar (VII: 62) and even suggest that Noah is possessed by a devil when the prophet ceases to preach (LIV: 9). Only the lowest in the community join Noah in believing in God's message (XI: 29), and Noah's narrative further describes him preaching both in private and public. The Qur'an narrates that Noah received a revelation to build an Ark, after his people refused to believe in his message and hear the warning. The narrative goes onto describe that waters poured forth from the Heavens, destroying all the sinners. After the Great Flood ceased, the Ark rested atop Mount Judi (Quran 11:44).

Hindu views

Hindu scriptures give similar reference to Manu (Hinduism), the very first brahman king to rule this earth, who saved mankind from the universal flood. In some text, he's been called Sraddhadeva, the King of Dravida during the epoch of the Matsya Purana. Sraddhadeva Manu once caught a talking fish who begged him to rescue it. The fish claimed a Great Flood was coming and it would wash away all living things. Manu put the fish in a pot, and then, as it grew larger, into a tank, a lake and then the ocean. While in the ocean, the fish told Manu to build a boat.

The King built a huge boat which housed his family, 9 types of seeds, and animals to repopulate the earth, after the deluge would end and the oceans and seas would recede.

Gnostic views

The tomb of Noah in the Nakhchivan area of the Azerbaijan Republic. The name Nakhchivan is believed to derive from the meaning "The place where Noah landed after the flood"

Gnosticism was an important development of (and departure from) early Christianity, blending Jewish scriptures and Christian teachings with traditional pagan religion and esoteric Greek philosophical concepts. An important Gnostic text, the Apocryphon of John, reports that the chief archon caused the flood because he desired to destroy the world he had made, but the First Thought informed Noah of the chief archon's plans, and Noah informed the remainder of humanity. Unlike the account of Genesis, not only are Noah's family saved, but many others also heed Noah's call. There is no ark in this account; instead Noah and the others hide in a "luminous cloud".

Baha'i views

The Bahá'í Faith regards the Ark and the Flood as symbolic.[28] In Bahá'í belief, only Noah's followers were spiritually alive, preserved in the ark of his teachings, as others were spiritually dead.[29][30] The Bahá'í scripture Kitáb-i-Íqán endorses the Islamic belief that Noah had a large number of companions, either 40 or 72, besides his family on the Ark, and that he taught for 950 (symbolic) years before the flood.[31]

Comparisons in mythology

Noah's first burnt offering after the Flood - relief in Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc

In Greek mythology, Noah has often been compared to Deucalion, the son of Prometheus and Pronoia. Like Noah, Deucalion is a wine maker or wine seller; he is forewarned of the flood (this time by Zeus); he builds an ark and staffs it with creatures - and when he completes his voyage, gives thanks and takes advice from the gods on how to repopulate the Earth. Deucalion also sends a pigeon to find out about the situation of the world and the bird return with an olive branch. This and some other examples of apparent comparison between Greek myths and the "key characters" in the Old Testament/Torah have led recent Biblical scholars to suggest a Hellenistic influence in the composition of the earlier portions of the Hebrew Bible.[citation needed]

In the Mesopotamian epics, Atrahasis (Utnapishtim) is glorified as a hero for his epic deeds of building and loading the ark, whereas Genesis simply says, “Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.” Obedience to God, not human courage, is the focus in the Genesis narrative.[32]

See also


  1. ^ Noah's Ark - Jewish Encyclopedia
  2. ^ Genesis 5:29
  3. ^ Genesis 9:20-27
  4. ^ Genesis 9:28-29
  5. ^ Collins, John J. (2004). Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp. 56-57. ISBN 0-8006-2991-4. 
  6. ^ Friedman, Richard Elliotty (1989). Who Wrote the Bible?. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 59. ISBN 0-06-063035-3. 
  7. ^ K. A. Mathews.The New American Commentary, Vol. 1 - Genesis 1-11 p.316
  8. ^ Sarna. Genesis p.46
  9. ^ Noted by Hamilton. Genesis, 1996, (ISBN 0805401016, 9780805401011), p. 1-17, 259
  10. ^ Genesis 5:29
  11. ^ K. A. Mathews, 1996, p.317
  12. ^ K.A.Mathews, 1996, p.357
  13. ^ J. J. Collins. Sibylline Oracles, OTP 1.213
  14. ^ K. A. Mathews, 1996, p.358
  15. ^ Stephen R. Haynes. Noah's curse: the biblical justification of American slavery, 2002, (ISBN 0195142799, 9780195142792), p. 184
  16. ^ The Girard Reader, 17, 18
  17. ^ Williams. The Bible, Violence and the Sacred, 14-15
  18. ^ Ellens & Rollins. Psychology and the Bible: From Freud to Kohut, 2004, (ISBN 027598348X, 9780275983482), p.52
  19. ^ Hamilton, 1990, p.202-203
  20. ^ Philo, 1971, p. 160
  21. ^ Gen. Rabbah 36:3
  22. ^ Speiser, 1964, 62
  23. ^ T. A. Bergren. Biblical Figures Outside the Bible, 2002, (ISBN 1563384116, 9781563384110), p. 136
  24. ^ Ellens & Rollins, 2004, p.53
  25. ^ " - Noah". 
  26. ^ Genesis 5:28
  27. ^ "Encyclopedia of Mormonism - NOAH". 
  28. ^ From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, October 28, 1949: Bahá'í News, No. 228, February 1950, p. 4. Republished in Compilation 1983, p. 508
  29. ^ Poirier, Brent. "The Kitab-i-Iqan: The key to unsealing the mysteries of the Holy Bible". Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  30. ^ Shoghi Effendi 1971, p. 104
  31. ^ From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 25, 1950. Published in Compilation 1983, p. 494
  32. ^ Dunn & Rogerson Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, p. 43

Further reading

External links

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  • NOAH — (Heb. נֹחַ), son of Lamech, father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen. 5:28–29; 6:10; I Chron. 1:4). Noah is described as a righteous and blameless man who walked with God (Gen. 6:9) and whom God decided to save from a universal flood to become the… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Noah — • A study of this Old Testament figure Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Noah     Noah     † C …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Noah — Noah,   in der Vulgata Noe, biblische Gestalt; nach 1. Mose 5, 28 f. Sohn des Lamech. In der biblischen Erzählung über Noah (1. Mose 6 9), deren Mittelpunkt die Flutsage bildet, sind verschiedene Traditionen miteinander verbunden. Noah wird als… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • NOAH (Y.) — NOAH YANNICK (1960 ) Originaire du Cameroun, Yannick Noah marque les esprits par son talent sur les courts, bien sûr, mais aussi, et peut être surtout, par son charisme. Découvert par Arthur Ashe, Yannick Noah parfait sa formation tennistique à… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Noah — masc. proper name, from Heb. Noah, lit. rest. Phrase Noah s ark attested from 1610s. The adjective Noachian, in reference to the flood legend, is from 1670s …   Etymology dictionary

  • Noah — m English form of the name of the biblical character whose family was the only one saved from the great Flood ordained by God to destroy mankind because of its wickedness. The origin of the name is far from certain; in the Bible it is implied… …   First names dictionary

  • Noah — Noah, Noa, Noe hebräischer Ursprung, Bedeutung: der Ruhe Bringende. Bekannt aus der Bibel als Erbauer der Arche. In Deutschland seit Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts sehr beliebt; auch in den USA sehr populär. Namensträger: Noah Gordon, US… …   Deutsch namen

  • Noah — [nō′ə] n. [Heb nōah, lit., rest, comfort] 1. a masculine name 2. Bible the patriarch commanded by God to build the ark on which he, his family, and two of every kind of creature survived the Flood: Gen. 5:28 10:32 …   English World dictionary

  • Noah — No ah, prop. n. [Heb. N[=o]akh rest.] A patriarch of Biblical history, in the time of the Deluge. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Noah — (eigentlich Noach, griech. Noe, so v.w. Tröster), 1) Sohn Lamechs, der letzte unter den Patriarchen des Sethischen Stammes vor der Sündfluth; führte ein frommes Leben u. wurde von Gott zum Stammvater eines neuen Menschengeschlechts erwählt, indem …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Nōah — (hebr. Noach, »Ruhe«), der Sohn Lamechs, ward nach 1. Mos. 6, 9 ff. wie der chaldäische Xisuthros, der indische Prithu, der griechische Deukalion nach der allgemeinen Sintflut (s. d.) der Stammvater eines neuen Menschen geschlechts, Vater Sems,… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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