Son of Lamech and the ninth in descent from Adam. In the midst ofabounding corruption he alone was "righteous and blameless in his generations" and "walked with God" (Gen. vi. 9). Hence, when all his contemporaries were doomed to perish by the divine judgment in punishment for their sins, he "found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (ib. vi. 8). When he was about five hundred years old his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, were born (ib. v. 32). One hundred years after this the command came to him from God to make a great vessel or ark, three hundred cubits in length, in which he and his family were to find safety from the waters of a great flood. This deluge was to destroy all living things except such as should be brought into the ark before the coming of the waters. Hence, besides his wife, and his sons and their wives, eight persons in all, a pair of every species of living thing was taken into the ark (ib. vi. 13-21). Another account (ib. vii. 1-3) states that of the clean animals seven of each kind were thus preserved.
Noah fulfilled the command, and on the tenth day of the second month of the six hundredth year of his life he and his family and the living creatures entered into the vessel. Seven days thereafter "all the fountains of the abyss were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened" (ib. vii. 6-11, 13-16). For forty days the rain fell; the ark floated and drifted in fifteen cubits of water; the high mountains were covered; and every living thing not sheltered in the vessel perished from the earth. For one hundred and fifty days the waters prevailed (ib. vii. 17-24). At the end of that period the vessel rested upon the "mountains of Ararat" (ib. viii. 3, 4).Noah Sends Forth the Dove.
Noah waited during the slow ebbing of the waters till the tenth day of the eleventh month. Then he sent forth a raven which flew from hilltop to hilltop and did not return. Next he sent forth a dove which found no resting-place and returned to the ark. After seven days more he sent forth the dove again, and at evening she returned with an olive-leaf in her beak. Soon the waters disappeared entirely, and in the six hundred and first year, in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, that is, three hundred and sixty-five days after the oncoming of the deluge, the earth was seen to be entirely dry (ib. viii. 5-14).
Noah's first duty, after the general disembarkation, was to erect an altar to
After the Flood Noah engaged in vine-growing. He became drunk with the wine, and, uncovering himself in his tent, he was seen in his shame by his eldest son, Ham, who informed his two brothers of the exposure. They modestly covered their father with a garment, and received from him a blessing, while Ham, through his son Canaan, received a curse. Noah died at the age of nine hundred and fifty years. He was the second father of the race, since only his descendants survived the Flood. His traditional renown is attested by his being named with Job and Daniel, in the days of the Exile (Ezek. xiv. 14, 20), as a type of a righteous man.
Apocryphal legend represents Noah at his birth as having a body white like snow, hair white as wool, and eyes like sunbeams. As soon as he opened his eyes, with the light of which the whole house was illumined, he stood upright between the midwife's hands and addressed a prayer to God. His father, Lamech, frightened at this sight, went to consult Methuselah, telling him that his grandchild resembled an angel more than a child. Lamech further informed his father that he foresaw some accident would befall the earth during the lifetime of his son; he therefore asked Methuselah to consult Enoch, who was then among the angels, and who consequently would know what was to happen. Methuselah, accordingly, went to the ends of the earth to confer with Enoch, who announced to him that a flood would destroy the world, that only the new-born son and his future sons, three in number, would survive. Enoch also told him to name the child "Noah," inasmuch as he would console the earth for its destruction (Enoch, cvi.-cvii.).His Name.
According to Midr. Agadah on Gen. v. 29, Noah obtained his name, which means "rest," only after he had invented implements for tilling the ground, which, owing to the lack of such implements, had yielded only thorns and thistles (comp. Gen. iii. 18). In this manner Noah really brought rest to mankind and to the earth itself. Other reasons for this name are given by the Rabbis; e.g., Noah restored man's rule over everything, just as it had been before Adam sinned, thus setting mankind at rest. Formerly the water used to inundate the graves so that the corpses floated out; but when Noah was born the water subsided (Gen. R. xxv. 2). The apparent discrepancy in Gen. v. 29, where it is said that Lamech "called his name Noah, saying, This shall comfort us," is explained by the "Sefer ha-Yashar" (section "Bereshit," p. 5b, Leghorn, 1870), which says that while he was called in general "Noah," his father named him "Menahem" (= "the comforter"). Noah was born circumcised (Midr. Agadah on Gen. vi. 9; Tan., Noaḥ, 6).His Marriage.
Although Noah is styled "a just man and perfect in his generations" (Gen. vi. 9), the degree of his righteousness is, nevertheless, much discussed by the Rabbis. Some of the latter think that Noah was a just man only in comparison with his generation, which was very wicked, but that he could not be compared with any of the other righteous men mentioned in the Bible. These same rabbis go still further and assert that Noah himself was included in the divine decree of destruction, but that he found grace in the eyes of the Lord (comp. ib. vi. 8) for the sake of his descendants. Other rabbis, on the contrary, extol Noah's righteousness, sayingthat his generation had no influence on him, and that had he lived in another generation, his righteousness would have been still more strongly marked (Sanh. 108a; Gen. R. xxx. 10). In like manner, the terms "wise" ("ḥakam") and "stupid" ("ba'ar") are applied to Noah by different rabbis (Ex. R. l. 2; Num. R. x. 9). Still, it is generally acknowledged that before the Flood, Noah was, by comparison with his contemporaries, a really up-rigḥt man and a prophet. He was considered as God's shepherd (Lev. R. i. 9; "Yalḳ. Ḥadash," "Mosheh," No. 128). Two different reasons are given why Noah begat no children until he had reached the advanced age of 500 years, while his ancestors had families at a much younger age (comp. Gen. v.). One explanation is that Noah, foreseeing that a flood would destroy the world on account of its corruption, refused to marry on the ground that his offspring would perish. God, however, ordered him to take a wife, so that after the Flood he might repeople the earth (Tan., Bereshit, 39; "Sefer ha-Yashar," section "Noaḥ"). The other explanation is that God rendered him impotent till he reached the age of 500, saying: "If his children be wicked, he will be afflicted by their destruction; and if they be upright like their father, they will be troubled with making so many arks" (Gen. R. xxvi. 2). The "Sefer ha-Yashar" (l.c.) and Gen. R. (xxii. 4) both agree that Noah's wife was called Naamah. According to the latter, she was the sister of Tubal-cain (Gen. iv. 21); according to the former, she was a daughter of Enoch, and Noah married her when he was 498 years old. In the Book of Jubilees (Hebr. transl. by Rubin, iv. 46-47) Noah's wife is referred to as "Emẓara, daughter of Raḳi'el." Emẓara was his niece, and two years after their marriage bore him Shem.Making of the Ark.
Noah once had a vision in which he saw the earth sinking and its destruction drawing near. Like his grandfather, Methuselah, Noah, too, went to the ends of the earth to consult Enoch. Noah cried out sadly three times: "Hear me!" Then he said: "What has happened to the earth that it is so shaken? May I not go down with it?" An earthquake took place; a voice descended from heaven; and Noah fell with his face toward the ground. Enoch appeared before him, foretelling that the end of the dwellers upon the earth was near because they had learned the secrets of the angels, the misdeeds of Satan, and all the mysteries of the world which should have been hidden from them. But as Noah was innocent of any attempt to learn these secrets, Enoch foretold his deliverance from the Flood, and the descent from him of a righteous race of men (Enoch, lxv. 1-12). On being informed of the end of the world, Noah exhorted his contemporaries to repentance, foretelling them that a flood would destroy the earth on account of the wickedness of its people. According to a tradition, Noah planted cedar-trees and felled them, continuing to do so for the space of one hundred and twenty years. When the people asked him for what purpose he prepared so many trees, he told them that he was going to make an ark to save himself from the Flood which was about to come upon the earth. But the people heeded not his words, they mocked at him, and used vile language; and Noah suffered violent persecution at their hands (Sanh. 108a, b; Pirḳe R. El. xxii.; Gen. R. xxx. 7; Lev. R. xxvii. 5; "Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.; see also Flood in Rabbinical Literature). According to one legend, God showed Noah with His finger how to make the ark (Pirḳe R. El. xxiii.); but according to the "Sefer Noaḥ" (Jellinek, "B. H." iii. 155-160), Noah learned how to build it, and mastered as well the various sciences, from the "Sefer Razi'el" (the book from which the angel Raziel taught Adam all the sciences), which had been brought to him by the angel Raphael. The construction of the ark lasted fifty-two years; Noah purposely working slowly, in the hope that the people would take warning therefrom and would repent (Pirḳe R. El. l.c.). The "Sefer ha-Yashar" (l.c.), however, assigns only five years for the construction of the ark. Noah could distinguish between clean and unclean animals inasmuch as the ark of itself gave admittance to seven of the clean animals, while of the unclean ones it admitted two only (Sanh. 108b). The "Sefer haYashar" describes another method for distinguishing them: the clean animals and fowls crouched before Noah, while the unclean ones remained standing.
An account of a vision which Noah had in the five-hundredth year of his life, on the fourteenth day of the seventh month, is given in the Book of Enoch (lx. i. 25), which probably refers to the beginning of the Flood. Noah witnessed the heaven of heavens quake so violently that all the heavenly hosts were disquieted. Noah was prostrated with fear, and Michael sent an angel to raise him and to tell him of the impending judgment. Then the angel that accompanied Noah told him of the spirits which control the thunder, lightning, snow, rain, and hail.
A difference of opinion concerning Noah prevails also with regard to his entering into the ark. According to some rabbis, Noah's faith was so small that he did not enter the ark until he stood ankledeep in water (Gen. R. xxxii. 9); others declare, on the contrary, that Noah waited for God's directions to enter the ark, just as he awaited His permission to leave it (ib. xxxiv. 4; Midr. Agadat Bereshit, in Jellinek, "B. H." iv. 11).Within the Ark.
When Noah and his family and everything that he had taken with him were inside the ark, the people left outside asked him to admit them too, promising repentance. Noah refused to admit them, objecting that he had exhorted them to repent many years before the Flood. The people then assembled in great numbers around the ark in order to break into it; but they were destroyed by the lions and other wild animals which also surrounded it (Tan., Noaḥ, 10; Gen. R. xxxii. 14; "Sefer ha-Yashar," l.c.). Noah was constantly occupied in the ark; for he had to attend to all the living things which were with him and which fed at different times. One of the lions, having become enraged at Noah, attacked and injured him, so that he remained lame for the rest of his life. Noah, during the twelve months that he was in the ark, did not sleepone moment (Tan., Noaḥ, 14; Gen. R. xxx. 6). Noah had also to feed Og, who, being unable to enter the ark, sat upon it, taking hold of one of its timbers. Noah made a hole in the side of the ark through which he passed food to Og; the latter thereupon swore to be Noah's servant eternally (Pirḳe R. El. l.c.).
Being in great distress, Noah prayed to God to shorten the time of his suffering. God answered him that He had decreed that the Flood should last twelve months and that such decree might not be changed (Tan., Noaḥ, 17; Midr. Agadat Bereshit l.c. iv. 12). The mountain on which the ark rested, and on which Noah afterward settled, is called in the Book of Jubilees (v. 38) and "Sefer Noaḥ" (l.c.) "Lubar," which Delitzsch supposes to be the Elbruz. When Noah sent the raven to see whether the waters were abated, it refused to go, saying: "Thy Lord hateth me; for, while seven of other species were received into the ark, only two of mine were admitted. And thou also hatest me; for, instead of sending one from the sevens, thou sendest me! If I am met by the angel of heat or by the angel of cold, my species will be lost." Noah answered the raven: "The world hath no need of thee; for thou art good neither for food nor for sacrifice." God, however, ordered Noah to receive the raven into the ark, as it was destined to feed Elijah (Sanh. 108b; Gen. R. xxxiii. 6). When Noah, on leaving the ark, saw the destruction wrought on the world, he began to weep, saying: "Lord of the world, Thou art merciful; why hast Thou not pitied Thy children?" God answered him: "Foolish shepherd! Now thou implorest My clemency. Hadst thou done so when I announced to thee the Flood it would not have come to pass. Thou knewest that thou wouldest be rescued, and therefore didst not care for others; now thou prayest." Noah acknowledged his fault, and offered sacrifices in expiation of it ("Zohar Ḥadash," p. 42a, b). It was because Noah neglected to pray for his contemporaries that he was punished with lameness and that his son Ham abused him (ib. p. 43a).His Lapse.
The planting of a vineyard by Noah and his drunkenness (Gen. ix. 20 et seq.) caused him to be regarded by the Rabbis in a new light, much to his disparagement. He lost much if not all of his former merit. He was one of the three worthless men that were eager for agricultural pursuits (Gen. R. xxxvi. 5); he was the first to plant, to become drunken, to curse, and to introduce slavery (Tan., Noaḥ, 20; comp. Gen. l.c.). God blamed Noah for his intemperance, saying that he ought to have been warned by Adam, upon whom so much evil came through wine (Sanh. 70a). According to Pirḳe R. El. (l.c.), Noah took into the ark a vine-branch which had been cast out with Adam from paradise. He had previously eaten its grapes, and their savor induced him to plant their seed, the results of which proved lamentable. When Noah was about to plant the vineyard, Satan offered him his help, for which he was to have a share in the produce. Noah consented. Satan then successively slaughtered a sheep, a lion, an ape, and a hog, fertilizing the ground with their blood. Satan thereby indicated to Noah that after drinking the first cup of wine, one is mild like a sheep; after the second, courageous like a lion; after the third, like an ape; and after the fourth, like a hog who wallows in mud (Midr. Agadah on Gen. ix. 21; Midr. Abkir, in Yalḳ., Gen. 61; comp. Gen. R. xxxvi. 7). This legend is narrated by Ibn Yaḥya ("Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," p. 75a, Amsterdam, 1697) thus: "Noah, seeing a he-goat eat sour grapes and become intoxicated so that it began to frisk, took the root of that vinebranch and, after having washed it with the blood of a lion, a hog, a sheep, and an ape, planted it and it bore sweet grapes."
The vineyard bore fruit the same day that it was planted, and the same day, too, Noah gathered grapes, pressed them, drank their juice, became intoxicated, and was abused by Ham (Gen. R. l.c.; Midr. Agadah l.c.; Tan., Noaḥ, 20). In Jubilees (vii. 1 et seq.), however, it is stated that Noah planted the vineyard in the first year of the seventh Sabbath of the twenty-sixth jubilee (see Lev. xxv. 8 et seq.), that is, the year 1268 of Creation, seven years after he had come out of the ark. It bore fruit in the fourth year. Noah gathered the grapes in the seventh month of that year, but conserved the wine till the new moon of the first month of the fifth year, on which day he made a festival and offered sacrifices on the altar. Being filled with joy, Noah drank of the wine so freely that he became intoxicated.His Testament.
According to verses 20-39 of the same chapter, Noah began in the twenty-eighth jubilee to compose his testament, in which he prescribed that future generations should observe all natural laws as well as some of those which Moses later prescribed for the children of Israel, among others the prohibition against eating the fruit of the first three years and the laws concerning the Sabbatical year. When Noah's grandchildren increased in number, they were led astray by evil spirits, and consequently were afflicted with various diseases. According to Jubilees (x. 1), this happened on the third Sabbath of the twenty-ninth jubilee, that is to say, about seventy-five years after the Flood. Noah, having been informed of the punishment visited on his grandchildren, was greatly terrified; for he knew that his descendants were stricken on account of their sins. He consequently assembled his children and grandchildren, whom he sanctified, and they together offered sacrifices on the altar and prayed to God for deliverance from the evil. God then sent the angel Raphael, who confined the demons, leaving loose, however, the tenth part of them, under their chief Masṭemah, in order that they might punish those who committed crimes.His Book of Medicinal Plants.
Noah was taught by Raphael how to cure the above-mentioned diseases, and was shown the medicinal plants and herbs. He recorded in a book all the medicaments and drugs the use of which he had been taught by Raphael; and this book was transmitted from one generation to another. Later it was translated into many languages, copies of it coming into the hands of the most famous physicians of India and Greece, who derivedtherefrom their medical knowledge ("Sefer Noaḥ," l.c.; Jubilees, x. 1-14).
Noah should have lived 1,000 years; but he gave Moses fifty years, which, together with the seventy taken from Adam's life, constituted Moses' hundred and twenty years ("Yalḳuṭ Ḥadash," "Noaḥ," No. 42). There is a tradition that Noah lived to see 14,400 of his descendants (Ibn Yaḥya, l.c.). According to Jubilees (x. 21), Noah was buried on Mount Lubar, where he had settled after the Flood. But Ibn Yaḥya (l.c.) records a tradition that Noah after the Deluge emigrated to Italy, where he learned various sciences. Ibn Yaḥya further says that Noah has been identified by some with Janus, deriving the latter name from the Hebrew "yayin" (wine); Noah, it is said, was so called because he was the first to drink wine. His wife is identified with Aricia, which name is derived from the Hebrew "ereẓ" (earth), she being so called on account of her being the mother of every living thing. After her death she was called "Vesta" (= "Eshta," from "esh," which means "fire"), on account of her ascension to heaven. Others identify Noah with Melchizedek, and declare that he founded Jerusalem.
The Book of Genesis contains two accounts of Noah. The first account (vi. 9-ix. 19) makes Noah the hero of the Flood and the second father of mankind, with whom God made a covenant; the second account represents Noah as a husbandman who planted a vineyard. The disparity of character between these two narratives has caused some critics to insist that the subject of the latter account was not the same as the subject of the former. As it appears from Gen. v. 29 that the name "Noah" refers to the fact that the bearer of the name was a husbandman, these critics must assume either that there were two Noahs or that the hero of the Flood was named differently. Cheyne (in "Encyc. Bibl.") suggests that the original name of the Noah of the Flood was "Enoch" (), and that afterward, the final ד having become effaced, the scribe transposed the two remaining letters. The scribe may have made the transposition with the idea of identifying the central figure of the Flood with the inventor of wine. This suggestion is supported by the following considerations:
In the Ethiopic text of the Book of Enoch the vision referring to the Flood (lx. 1) is stated to have taken place in the five-hundredth year of Enoch. The expression used in Gen. vi. 9 is the same as that in Gen. v. 22, 24, and in fact, in the Babylonian account of the Flood, which may have been the source of the Biblical narrative, the translation of Ẓitnapishti or Pirnapishtim (the Babylonian Noah) to heaven follows immediately after the account of the Flood. Further, the Flood lasted a solar year, 365 days, which is the number of the years of Enoch's life (comp. Gen. v. 23). Still, Gen. v. 29 ("And he called his name Noah , saying, This same shall comfort us ") remains unexplained (comp. Noah in Apocryphal and Rabbinical Literature).
The Septuagint rendering, διαναπαύσει ἡμᾶς, induced Ball ("S. B. O. T.") to change into ("he will put us at rest"). Wellhausen ("De Gentibus," p. 38, note 3), on the other hand, retains the Masoretic text, but changes the name "Noah" into "Noḥam." The two narratives, however, may well be applied to the same person and without much change in the text. Joseph Halévy remarks ("Recherches Bibliques," p. 91) that is not to be derived from ("rest"), but from , a root used in connection with sacrifices and meaning "agreeable." Noah was so called, perhaps, in allusion to the sacrifices which he offered after the Flood (comp. in Gen. viii. 21). It is worth while mentioning the opinion of Hommel, who, reading the name of the Babylonian Noah as "Nuḥnapishti" instead of "Ẓitnapishti," thinks that "Noah" is the first part of the Babylonian name. It is very likely that the redactor pointed out purposely that the man who preserved the world from destruction was also the man who introduced agriculture and made possible the abandonment of the nomadic mode of living in favor of a more settled and domestic state. The redactor emphasized also the consequences of inebriety. See Flood, Critical View.
Noah is regarded by the Arabs as one of the six principal prophets sent to reclaim mankind from its wickedness; hence his cognomen "al-nabi" (prophet). He is mentioned in the Koran, often with Ad and Thammud, in connection with foreshadowings of the fate of those who would not listen to Mohammed. The fullest account is found in sura xi. 27-51, entitled "Hud."Building the Ark.
The main points of the Arabic tradition are based on the Biblical narrative. Thus, Noah is the son of Lamech and lives to be nine hundred and fifty years old. According to some, however, he lives to be a thousand and receives the gift of prophecy in his fiftieth year (Ṭabari, "Chronique," i. 106). It is said that the people used to jeer at him for always prophesying evil, and pointed him out to their children as a madman. Finally the people become so wicked that Noah prays to God to destroy them. God directs him to plant a plane-tree which will require forty years to grow and warns him that at the end of that time a flood will destroy all living things on the earth. The sign presaging this event will be water boiling up out of his oven. This oven, mentioned in the Koran narrative, is placed by the commentators in various places. According to one tradition it was Eve's oven, which had been handed down from patriarch to patriarch. (D'Herbelot, "Bibliothèque Orientale"). Others say that the tree took only twenty years to grow and that during this time no children were born, so that only adults were destroyed by the Flood (ib.). After the tree has grown God sends Gabriel to show Noah how to build the ark. Most of the commentators on the Koran assign the same dimensions to it as those found in the Bible, although some writers greatly exaggerate them. It took Noah two years to build the ark (Ṭabari says only forty days), during which time the unbelievers around him mocked at him for building a boat so far away from the water and for suddenly becoming a carpenter after having been a prophet (Baiḍawi, on sura xi. 40).
When the ark was completed God told Noah toput into it one pair (or, according to some renderings of the words in the Koran, two pairs) of every species of living thing and to take with him his family and those who believed. According to the Arabic story Noah had a fourth son named Canaan (or, according to some, a grandson, as in the Bible), who was an idolater and would not enter the ark when Noah called to him, declaring his intention to climb a mountain out of reach of the water. But even as he was speaking a wave came and destroyed him. Noah had also another wife, named Waila, who was likewise an infidel and who perished with her son; she and Lot's wife are symbols of unfaithfulness (sura lxvi. 10).Noah's Companions in the Ark.
Besides Noah's family the Arabs suppose that seventy-two other persons were saved in the ark. These were persons who had been converted by Noah's preaching. However, they did not beget children after leaving the ark, and hence all mankind descended from Noah's three sons. Gabriel brought Adam's body in a coffin to be placed in the ark; it served to separate the men from the women in the middle story of the ark; the beasts were placed in the lowest story and the birds in the top (Baiḍawi). Pigs and cats were created in the ark to consume the filth and the rats (Ṭabari, l.c. p. 112). Noah was five or six months in the ark. He embarked at Kufa, after which the ark proceeded to Mecca and circled around the Kaaba, and finally settled on Mount Judi in Armenia, in the district of Mosul (Mas'udi, "Les Prairies d'Or," i. 74). Noah first sent out a raven to explore, and cursed it because the bird stopped to feast on a carcass; he then sent out a dove, and blessed it because it returned to him. Hence doves have always been liked by mankind. God commanded the earth to absorb the water, and certain portions which were slow in obeying received salt water in punishment and became dry and arid; the water which was not absorbed penetrated into the depths of the earth and formed the seas, so that the waters of the Flood still exist (Mas'udi, l.c. p. 75).
Noah left the ark on the tenth day of Muḥarram. He and his companions built at the foot of Mount Judi a town which received its name, Thamanim ("eighty"), from their number. Noah is said to have written ten books of prophetic teachings, which have been lost.
- Baidawi, Commentary on the Koran;
- D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale;
- Hughes, Dict. of Islam;
- Koran, xi. 27-51 et al.;
- Mas'udi, Les Prairies d'Or, Paris, 1861;
- Ṭabari, Chronique, Paris, 1867;
- Z. D. M. G. xxiv. 207.