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Noah or Nóach ("Rest", Standard Hebrew נוח Nóaḥ, Tiberian Hebrew נח Nōªḥ; Arabic نوح Nūḥ) is a character from the Bible story that describes him building the ark to save the people and animals from the Deluge, the universal flood. Noah was the son of Lamech and the grandson of Methuselah. His name means "rest".

According to the account in Genesis, he lived five hundred years, and then he and his wife had three sons, first Ham, then Sem or Shem, and Japheth (Gen. 5:32). Noah's wife is not named in the Bible; according to later Jewish traditions as expressed in the Book of Enoch her name is Naamah.

According to the Bible, Noah was a "just man and perfect in his generation", and "walked with God" (comp. Ezekiel 14:14,20). The descendants of Cain and of Seth began to intermarry, and then there sprang up a race distinguished for their ungodliness. Men became more and more corrupt, and God determined to sweep the Earth of its wicked population (Gen. 6:7). But with Noah God entered into a covenant, with a promise of deliverance from the threatened deluge (18). He was accordingly commanded to build an ark (6:14-16) to save himself and his family. An interval of one hundred and twenty years elapsed while the ark was being built (6:3), during which Noah tried to convince the people to repent so they could avoid the wrath of God. (Christian interpretations, as seen from Rome in the 2nd century CE, are preserved in the First Epistle of Peter 3:18-20 and the Second Epistle of Peter 2:5).

When the ark of "gopher-wood" (a wood mentioned only here) was at length completed according to the command of the Lord, the living creatures that were to be preserved entered into it; and then Noah and his wife and sons and daughters-in-law entered it, and the "Lord shut him in" (Gen.7:16). The judgment of God then fell on the guilty world, "the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (2 Pet. 3:6). The ark floated on the waters for one hundred and fifty days, and then rested on the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:3,4); but not for a considerable time after this was he given divine permission to leave the ark, so that he and his family were in the ark for a whole year (Gen. 6-14).

On leaving the ark Noah's first act was to erect an altar, the first of which there is any mention, and offer the sacrifices of adoring thanks and praise to God, who entered into a covenant with him, the first covenant between God and man, granting him possession of the earth by a new and special charter, which remains in force to the present time (Gen. 8:21-9:17). As a sign and witness of this covenant, the rainbow was adopted and set apart by God, as a sure pledge that never again would the earth be destroyed by a flood. See also Noahide Laws.

The Jewish tradition, however, gives Noah less credit as to his righteousness. Noah's being "perfect in his generation" implied to some Jewish scholars that his perfection was only relative. Moreover, his late entry into the ark (Gen. 7, 12-16) can be seen as an act of one who is of little faith. Later commentaries find two degrees of righteousness, which they demonstrate as a metaphor for a man who is cold: the fully righteous person would set up a fire - that is, help the others. A person who is not absolutely righteous would only get himself a coat - and be warm while others are cold, just like Noah was safe while all other men besides his family died.

Historicity of the Deluge

Biblical fundamentalists assert that the story of Noah is a true story, and some claim that there is evidence for Noah's ark at what they describe as the Biblical Mount Ararat. Some have also claimed that the biblical story of the descent of mankind from Noah's sons is also literally true: see sons of Noah for a discussion of this idea.

Historians, however, are agreed that there is no evidence that Noah was a historical figure. They are divided on the question of whether the great flood, which reflects an oral legend tradition older than writing, was based on an actual historical event that truly occurred. Some historians point out that the story of Noah's ark closely parallels that of the much earlier Sumerian Utnapishtim, and scores of other universal deluge myths, and dimiss it as deep-rooted myth. Others, on largely the same evidence argue that such a traumatic cataclysm happened. Biblical literalists see the breadth of the mythic tellings as confirmation of the detailed truth of the single authentic version, the Noah story.

Detailed analysis of evidence for a historical Great Flood, identification of the area and controversy is at the entry Deluge (mythology).

Christian applications of Noah

(this is the right place to use the Epistles of Peter quoted above, and follow with later allegorical interpretations)

Islamic traditions of Noah

In Islam Noah ("Nūḥ") is considered one of the Prophets of Islam. Though many elements of the legend derive from the Hebrew Bible, the rabbinic tradition and Jewish folk religion in South Arabia, the tradition was transmitted orally rather than in manuscripts. Consequently separate Noah figures developed, who should not be merely identified as Biblical Noah under a variant name. See syncretism for the practice of conflating mythological figures under the rubric of the most familiar one. For details see Nuh.

See also

Noah (Standard Hebrew נועה Noʿa, Tiberian Hebrew נעה Nōʿāh) was one of Zelophehad's daughters.