Noah or Noach was the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs, best known for the Deluge which came in his time. His story is contained in the Hebrew Bible (or, as it is called, the Torah)’s book of Genesis, chapters 5-9.

While the Deluge and Noah’s Ark are the best-known element of the story of Noah, he is also mentioned as the “first husbandman” and the inventor of wine, as well as in an episode of his drunkenness and the subsequent Curse of Ham. Some analyses of the text of the story have suggested that its present form combines two originally separate sources, possibly relating to two separate stories, and that it contains elements of earlier Mesopotamian mythology, although both of these points are disputed and controversial.

The story of Noah was the subject of much elaboration in the later Abrahamic traditions, and was immensely influential in Western culture.


  • 1 In the Hebrew Torah
  • 2 Rabbinic perspectives
  • 3 Christian perspectives
  • 4 Islamic perspectives
  • 5 Contemporary academic perspectives
    • 5.1 Documentary hypothesis
    • 5.2 Mythological connections
    • 5.3 Curse of Ham
  • 6 Popular culture
  • 7 See also
  • 8 Notes and references
  • 9 External links

In the Hebrew Torah

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The Deluge, by Michelangelo

This is the story of Noah according to chapters 5Չ€“9 of the book of Genesis.

Noah was the son of Lamech, and the tenth generation after Adam. “And [Lamech] called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.” From Noah’s sons, Shem, Japheth and Ham, all the peoples of the world would be descended.[1]

When Noah was six hundred years old, God decided to send a great flood to destroy all life, for He was angered at the wickedness of humankind. But He saw that Noah was a righteous man, and warned him to build a vessel for himself and his family, “And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.”[2] And so the Flood came, and all life was extinguished, except for those who were with Noah, “and the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.”[3] “But God remembered Noah,” the waters receded, and the Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.

There Noah built an altar to God (the first altar mentioned in the Bible) and made an offering. “And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odour, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease’.”[4]

Then God made a covenant: Noah and his descendants would henceforth be free to eat meat (“every moving thing that lives shall be food for you, and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything”), and the animals would fear man; and in return, man would be forbidden to eat “flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” And God forbade murder, and gave a commandment: “Be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.” And as a sign of His covenant, He set the rainbow in the sky, “the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”[5]

The story of Noah concludes: “Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and became drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent.” Noah’s son Ham saw his father naked and informed his brothers, who covered Noah while averting their eyes. Noah awoke and cursed Ham’s son Canaan with eternal slavery, while giving his blessing to Shem and Japheth: “Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave. God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.”[6]

Noah died 350 years after the Flood, at the age of 950,[7] the last of the immensely long-lived antediluvian Patriarchs. The longevities of humans rapidly diminish from generation to generation after this flood. Longevities before the flood are often as much as 900 years. Longevities afterwards approach about 100 years within just a few generations.

Rabbinic perspectives

According to a Jewish apocryphal legend, Noah was born with a body white like snow and hair white as wool; light shone forth from the newborn baby’s eyes the moment he opened them and illuminated the entire house, and he immediately stood and addressed a prayer to God. His grandfather Methuselah, afraid of what this might mean, journeyed to the end of the earth to consult Enoch, who gave the child the name Noah and foretold that in his days the earth would be destroyed.

The righteousness of Noah is the subject of much discussion among the rabbis. The description of Noah as “perfect 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 tzaddik 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. 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.

The planting of a vineyard and his drunkenness caused Noah to lose much if not all of his former merit. He was one of the three worthless men that were eager for agricultural pursuits; he was the first to plant, to become drunken, to curse, and to introduce slavery. God blamed Noah for his intemperance, saying that he ought to have been warned by Adam, upon whom so much evil came through wine. The vine had been cast out with Adam from paradise, and it was Noah who took it into the Ark. According to several midrash, Satan assisted in the planting of the first vineyard, first sacrificing a sheep, a lion, an ape, and a hog, for 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.

According to Sefer NoaلԴ( and the Book of Jubilees (considered deuterocanonical in Eastern-rite and apocryphal in Western-rite churches), Noah was taught by the archangel Raphael how to cure the diseases sent to punish his grandchildren for their sins. He recorded in a book all the herbs and plants 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 derived therefrom their medical knowledge.

Yalkut Hadash tells that Noah should have lived 1,000 years; but that he gave Moses fifty years, which, together with the seventy taken from Adam’s life, constituted Moses’ hundred and twenty years. According to Jubilees, Noah was buried on Mount Lubar, where he had settled after the Flood. But Ibn YaلԴ(ya records that Noah after the Deluge emigrated to Italy, where he became Janus, deriving the name from the Hebrew yayin (wine). Others identify Noah with Melchizedek, and declare that he founded Jerusalem.

Noah’s wife is not named in Genesis. Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 4:22 (following Genesis Rabba) identifies her with Na’amah, the daughter of Tzelah and the other Lemech, the son of Methushael. Some traditions identify her as Aretitia, from the Hebrew ereل؛ (earth), on account of her being the mother of every living thing; after her death she was called “Vesta” (ie, “Eshta”, from esh, “fire”), on account of her ascension to heaven. A separate tradition in the Genesis Apocryphon from Qumran andJubilees gives her name as ճگճ‍ճ–ճևճ¢ (Ethiopic Emzara). Later Midrashic writings and the Book of Jasher give it as Naamah.

Christian perspectives

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The New Testament treats Noah as a righteous man in the same category as Abraham and Jacob, one who had absolute faith in God. The Gospel of Matthew, for example, reads: “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah; for as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark” (Matt 24:37-38). In Luke 3:36, Noah is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ through his legal father, Joseph. According to the First Epistle of Peter 3:20, “the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared.” Noah is called a “preacher of righteousness” in 2 Peter 2:5, and some have reasoned that an extended period of years elapsed while the ark was being built, during which Noah tried to convince the people to repent so they could avoid the wrath of God. Other Biblical references to Noah include Isaiah 54:9; Ezekiel 14:14,20; Luke 17:26-27; and Hebrews 11:7. In later Christian thought, the Ark came to be equated with the Church: salvation was to be found only within its walls. (See, for example, St Augustine of Hippo (354-430), who demonstrated in The City of God that the dimensions of the Ark corresponded to the dimensions of the human body, which is the body of Christ, which is the Church. 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).

Noah’s three sons were generally interpreted in medieval Christianity 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). At the same time, some European thinkers proposed that Ham’s sons in general had been literally “blackened” by sin. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this view merged with the Protestant interpretation of the curse of Ham to provide a quasi-religious justification for slavery. As late as 1964, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia read the text of the Noah story into the Congressional Record as part of a filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying, “Noah saw fit to discriminate against Ham’s descendants.”[8]. Noah is also the name of a king in the Book of Mormon.

Islamic perspectives

Noah is a prophet in the Qur’an. References to , the Arabic form of Noah, are scattered throughout the Qur’an, but no single narrative account of the entire Deluge is given. The references in the Qur’an are consistent with Genesis, and Islamic tradition generally follows the Genesis account, with one important exception: In the Bible, the deluge is a world-wide event, while in the Qur’an, it is a local event, affecting only the “people of Noah”. The Qur’an emphasizes Noah’s preaching of the monotheism of God, and the ridicule heaped on him by idolators.


We sent Noah to his people: He said, Չ€œO my people! worship God! Ye have no other god but Him. Will ye not fear (Him)?Չ€‌
The chiefs of the Unbelievers among his people said: Չ€œHe —————–is no more than a man like yourselves: his wish is to assert his superiority over you: if God 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.Չ€‌
(And some said): Չ€œHe is only a man possessed: wait (and have patience) with him for a time.Չ€‌
(Noah) said: Չ€œO my Lord! help me: for that they accuse me of falsehood!Չ€‌

God later instructed Noah to build the ark:

Build the ship under Our eyes and by Our inspiration, and speak not unto Me on behalf of those who do wrong. Lo! they will be drowned. [9] [10]

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:

And it sailed with them amid waves like mountains, and Noah cried unto his son – and he was standing aloof – O my son! Come ride with us, and be not with the disbelievers.
He said: I shall betake me to some mountain that will save me from the water. (Noah) said: This day there is none that saveth from the commandment of God save him on whom He hath had mercy. And the wave came in between them, so he was among the drowned.[11]

The Qur’anic account does not include several details of the Genesis account, including the account of Noah’s nakedness and the resultant cursing of his grandson Canaan.

Some Muslim scholars in the west assert that the flood during Noah’s time was a local event, in contrast to the Biblical account which asserts that it was global. Most Muslims (including ulema and adepts), however, hold that the flood was indeed global.

See also Similarities between the Bible and the Qur’an.

Contemporary academic perspectives

Documentary hypothesis

According to the documentary hypothesis, the first five books of the Bible, including Genesis, were collated during the 5th century BC from four main sources, which themselves date from no earlier than the 8th century BC. Two of these four, the Jahwist, composed in the 8th century BC, and the Priestly source, from the late 7th century BC, make up the bulk of those chapters of Genesis which concern Noah. Genesis 5, termed the Book of Generations, is independent of these major sources. 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. (See Noah’s Ark for a more detailed description of the documentary hypothesis as it relates to the Ark story).

More broadly, Genesis may be seen to contain two accounts concerning Noah, the first making him the hero of the Flood, the second representing him as the first husbandman. The apparent discrepancy has led some scholars to believe that Noah was originally the inventor of wine, in keeping with the statement at Genesis 5:29 that Lamech “called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.'” It has been suggested that the Flood story may originally have belonged to Enoch, Noah’s grandfather according to Genesis 5. In Hebrew the names of Noah and Enoch are somewhat similar, sharing three letters.

Mythological connections

Further information: Flood (mythology)

Many ancient flood stories share similarities to the one above:

  • Hebrew: Noah’s Ark
  • Egyptian Naunet
  • Hindu: Manu
  • China: Nuwa
  • Sumerian: Ziusudra
  • Babylonian: Atra-Hasis, Utnapishtim, Xisuthrus
  • Greek: Deucalion
  • Toltec toptlipetlocali
  • Islam: Tofan Noah ­

The mysterious figure of Enoch is the beginning of a fascinating but inconclusive web of correspondences and similarities between the story of Noah and older Mesopotamian myths. According to Genesis 5:24, at the end of his 365 years Enoch “walked with God, and was not, for God took him” – the only one of the ten pre-Flood Patriarchs not reported to have died. Where did Enoch go when God took him? In a late Rabbinic tradition, Methuselah is reported to have visited Enoch at the end of the Earth, where he dwelt with the angels, immortal. The details bring to mind Utnapishtim, a figure from the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh – the hero Gilgamesh, after long and arduous travel, finds Utnapishtim living in the paradise of Dilmun at the end of the Earth, where he has been granted eternal life by the gods. (Gilgamesh’s reason for seeking out Utnapishtim, incidentally, is to learn the secret of immortality – like Methuselah, he comes close to the gift but fails to achieve it). Utnapishtim then tells how he survived a great flood, and how he was afterwards granted immortality by the gods.

Lamech’s statement that Noah will be named “rest” because “out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands,” has another faint parallel in Babylonian mythology: the gods grew tired of working, digging the channels of the rivers, and so the god Enki created man from clay and blood and spit to do the work for them. Enki fell in love with his creation, and later warned Utnapishtim that the other gods planned to send a flood to destroy all life, and advised him on how to construct his ark.

Curse of Ham

According to the curse of Ham represents an attempt by the authors of Genesis to provide religious justification for Jewish aggression against “Canaanites”[citation needed], a term meaning not so much the genuine Canaanites of the late Iron Age, but the non-Jewish peoples inhabiting historic Judah and Samaria (Israel) at the time of the return of the Babylonian exiles in the mid-5th century BC – a return which would have provided much opportunity for disputes over land ownership. [citation needed]

Genesis 9:22 says that Ham “saw the nakedness of his father,” Leviticus 20:11 states that “The man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness.” some scholars[specify] have perceived a similarity between the two verses and have suggested that this might have been Ham’s misdeed, and the explanation of the curse falling on his son (i.e., by Noah’s wife), rather than on himself. [citation needed]

Popular culture

  • In the manga series D.Gray-man, living desendents of Noah assist the Millennium Earl by destorying Innocence.
  • In genetic genealogy, Y-chromosomal Adam is the name given to the patrilineal human most recent common ancestor from whom all Y chromosomes in living men are descended. However, according to the story as told in Genesis, the most recent common ancestor of post-diluvial humanity would be Noah, not Adam.
  • In 1998 a made-for-TV movie entitled Noah depicted a carpenter who is visited by an angel and told to build another ark so he may survive another world flood.
  • The Cradleland Chronicles trilogy’s last two books focus on Noah’s life, including training by God Himself in handling animals in Noah’s childhood. The last book in the series takes place primarily while Noah is building the Ark, and during the Flood.
  • Two books in the Dr. Doolittle series by Hugh Lofting feature Mudface, a giant turtle and acquaintance of the Doctor who lived through the Great Flood aboard Noah’s Ark. The story portrays Noah as a grumpy curmudgeon and suppresses the religious aspects of the Flood, focusing mainly instead on the fates of the various animals involved in the aftermath.
  • In Madeleine L’Engle’s 1986 novel Many Waters Sandy and Dennys are accidentally transported to antediluvian Mesopotamia and meet Noah, Lamech, and Japheth
  • Shane Johnson’s 2002 novel Ice portrays Noah in a manner consistent with the Christian tradition: as the head of a household consisting of the only kind-hearted persons on the planet, a man on a mission from God, and a leader who sometimes had to make hard, not-quite-pleasant decisions. In one memorable scene, Noah–or a simulacrum of him–orders a man left behind, not because he didn’t deserve to be taken aboard the Ark, but because God’s orders were that only eight people–Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives–board the Ark.
  • American composer and recording artist Daniel Decker has achieved critical acclaim for his song Չ€œNoahՉ€™s PrayerՉ€‌ , which is a collaboration with Armenian composer Ara Gevorgian. “Noah’s Prayer” chronicles NoahՉ€™s journey on the ark to Mount Ararat. In the shadow of Ararat, the song was debuted in 2002 in Sardarpat, Armenia to celebrate Armenian Independence day. In attendance were Armenian President Robert Kocharian, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians (head of the Armenian Apostolic Church), as well as ambassadors from countries around the world. The concert, which was broadcast live on Armenian television, and via satellite to over 30 nations, has catapulted Decker to celebrity status in Armenia. “Noah’s Prayer” is featured on the recording “My Offering” by Daniel Decker.
  • Stephen Schwartz’s musical Children of Eden’s second act focused on the story of Noah and his family, but used artistic license to add onto

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