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Noah or Nóach ("Rest", Standard Hebrew נוֹחַ Nóaḥ, Tiberian Hebrew נֹחַ Nōªḥ; Arabic نوح Nūḥ), is a character from the Book of Genesis and the Qur'an who builds an ark to save his family and the world's animals from the Deluge, the universal flood. Noah was the son of Lamech and the grandson of Methuselah. His name means "rest".

Table of contents

Life of Noah

According to the account in Genesis, he lived five hundred years, and then he and his wife had three sons, Sem or Shem, Ham, 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 "sons of god" (Hebrew elohim) and "the daughters of men" began to intermarry, and from there sprang up a race of giants. Men became more and more corrupt, and God determined to sweep the Earth of its wicked population (Gen. 6:7). But God entered into a covenant with Noah, 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 EV, 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 in Genesis) 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 Noah 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.

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.

Christian applications of Noah

Apart from the "Christian" application by way of scripture both in the Old and New Testaments, there is a source of verification, by way of a Greek Philopsopher, Plato, and is given thus:

According to Digenes Laertius, a Greek author of the third century A.D., Epimenides, a certain Cretan hero, responded to a request borne to him from Athens by a man called Nicias, asking him to advise the city of Athens in the matter of a plague. Arriving in Athens, Epimenides obtained a flock of black and white sheep and released them on Mars Hill, instructing men to follow the sheep and mark the places where any of them lay down. Epimenides' apparent purpose was to give any god concerned in the matter of the plague an opportunity to reveal his willingness to help by causing sheep that pleased him to lie down to rest as a sign that he would accept those sheep if they were offered in a sacrifice.
Since there would be nothing unusual about sheep laying down apart from one of their usual grazing periods, presumably Epimenides conducted his experiment early in the morning, when the sheep would be at their hungriest. A number of sheep rested, and the Athenians offered them in sacrifice upon unnamed altars built especially for the purpose. Thus the plague was lifted from the city. According to a passage in Plato's laws, Epimenides at the same time also prophesied that 10 years in the future a Persian army would come against Athens. He assured the Athenians, however, that their Persian foes "will return back again with all their hopes frustrated, and after suffering more woes than they inflict." This prophecy was fulfilled. The council, for its part, offered Epimenides a talent of coins for his services, but he refused to accept payment. "The only reward I desire," he said, "is that we here and now establish a treaty of friendship between Athens and Knossos." The Athenians agreed. Ratifying a treaty with Knossos, they gave Epimenides safe transport back to his island home. (Plato in the same passage, pays tribute to Epimenides as "that inspired man," and credits him as one of the great men who helped rediscover inventions lost during "The Great Flood") Diogenes Laertius does not mention that the words "to the Unknown God" were inscribed on Epimenides' altars. He states only that "altars may be found in different parts of Attica with no name inscribed upon them, which are memorials of this atonement." Two other ancient writers, Pausanias in his "Description of Greece" (vol 1, 1:4) and Philostratus in his "Apollonius of Tyana" -- refer to "altars to an unknown god" implying that an inscription to that effect was engraved upon them. According to Luke at least one altar in Athens bore this inscription. In Acts 17:28, Paul makes the connection between this story by quoting from the Greek poet, Epimenides.
(Pg 20, 21; "Eternity in Their Hearts", Don Richardson, Regal Books, 1982).

Islamic traditions of Noah

نوح Nūḥ (the Arabic form of Noah) is a prophet in the Qur'an.

Because the Qur'an is more poem than prose, references to him are scattered throughout the Qur'an, but no historical account of the entire flood is given. Generally speaking, the references in the Qur'an are consistent with Genesis and Islamic tradition generally accepts the Genesis account as historical. However, degree of detail varies between the two accounts.

Generally, the Qur'anic account emphasizes Noah's preaching of the monotheism of God, and the ridicule heaped on him by idolators.


We sent Nuh to his people: He said, "O my people! worship Allah! Ye have no other god but Him. Will ye not fear (Him)?"
The chiefs of the Unbelievers among his people said: "He is no more than a man like yourselves: his wish is to assert his superiority over you: if Allah had wished (to send messengers), He could have sent down angels; never did we hear such a thing (as he says), among our ancestors of old."
(And some said): "He is only a man possessed: wait (and have patience) with him for a time."
(Nuh) said: "O my Lord! help me: for that they accuse me of falsehood!"

God later instructed Nuh to build the ark:

But construct an Ark under Our eyes and Our inspiration, and address Me no (further) on behalf of those who are in sin: for they are about to be overwhelmed (in the Flood). (Surah Hud: 37) (Surat al-Mumenoon: 23-26)

The Qur'anic account contains a detail not included in the Biblical account, a reference to another son who chose not to enter the ark:

So the Ark floated with them on the waves (towering) like mountains, and Nuh called out to his son, who had separated himself (from the rest): "O my son! embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers!" The son replied: "I will betake myself to some mountain: it will save me from the water." Nuh said: "This day nothing can save, from the command of Allah, any but those on whom He hath mercy!" And the waves came between them, and the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood. (Surah Hud: 42-43)

Also, the Qur'anic account lacks several details of the Genesis account, including the crime of Noah's son Ham in seeing his father naked, and the resultant cursing of his grandson Canaan.

Some Muslims assert that the flood during Noah's time was a local event, in contrast to the Biblical account which asserts that it was global. They infer this from several Qur'anic verses, and their understanding that a global flood would be impossible. [1] ( Other Muslims, however, hold that the flood was indeed global. The Qur'an is not explicit on the point, allowing for some variety of interpretation.

See also

External links


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