the name of two persons in the Bible.
I. (Heb. No'aich, נח, the same as נוֹתִ, consolation or peace; Sept. and N.T. Νῶε, as Mt 24:37; Josephus, Νώεος.) The tenth in descent from Adam; son of Lamech, and second father of the human family; born B.C. 3115, A.M. 1058. In the following account of this patriarch we largely follow the Scripture narrative with modern illustrations.
1. Lamech, no doubt, named his son thus in allusion to the promised deliverer from sin (Ge 5:29), and the conduct of the latter corresponded to the faith and hope of his father (Ge 6:8-9). In marked contrast with the simplicity and soberness of the Biblical narrative is the wonderful story told of Noah's birth in the book of Enoch. Lamech's wife, it is said, "brought forth a child, the flesh of which was white as snow and red as a rose; the hair of whose head was white like wool, and long; and whose eyes were beautiful. When he opened them he illuminated all the house like the sun. And when he was taken from the hand of the midwife, opening also his mouth, he spoke to the Lord of righteousness." Lamech is terrified at the prodigy, and goes to his father Methuselah, and tells him that he has begotten a son who is unlike other children. On hearing the story, Methuselah proceeds, at Lamech's entreaty; to consult Enoch, "whose residence is with the angels." Enoch explains that in the days of his father Jared, "those who were from heaven disregarded the word of the Lord . . . laid aside their class and intermingled with women;" that consequently a deluge was to be sent upon the earth, whereby it should be "washed from all corruption;" that Noah and his children should be saved, and that his posterity should beget on the earth giants, not spiritual, but carnal (Book of Enoch, ch. 105, p. 161-3).
During the long period of six hundred years (Ge 7:11), the age of Noah at the time of the flood, we learn little more than that he was a just and pious man, and that at the age of five hundred he had three sons (v. 32; 6:10). On the relative ages of his sons, SEE SHEM. But the wickedness of the human race had long called upon the wisdom and justice of God for some signal display of his displeasure, as a measure of righteous government and an example to future ages. For a long time, probably for many centuries, the better part of men, the descendants of Seth, had kept themselves from association with the families of the Cainite race. The former class had become designated as "the sons of God," faithful and obedient; the latter were called by a term evidently designed to form an appellation of the contrary import, "daughters of men," of impious and licentious men. SEE SONS OF GOD. These women possessed beauty and blandishments, by which they won the affections of unwary men, and intermarriages upon a great scale took place. As is usual in such alliances, the worse part gained the ascendency. The offspring became more depraved than the parents, and a universal corruption of minds and morals took place. Many of them became "giants, the mighty men of old, men of renown" (Heb. nephilim [q.v.], apostates, as the word implies), heroes, warriors, plunderers, "filling the earth with violence." God mercifully afforded a respite of one hundred and twenty years (6:3; 1Pe 3:20; 2Pe 2:5), during which Noah sought to bring them to repentance. Thus he was "a preacher of righteousness," exercising faith in the testimony of God, by the contrast of his conduct condemning the world (Heb 11:7): and perhaps he had long labored in that pious work. SEE SPIRITS IN PRISON.
At last the threatening was fulfilled. All human kind perished in the waters, except this eminently favored and righteous man, with his three sons (born about a hundred years before) and the wives of the four. SEE DELUGE. At the appointed time this terrible state of the earth ceased, and a new surface was disclosed for the occupation and industry of the delivered family. In some places that surface would be washed bare to the naked rock, in others sand would be deposited, which would be long uncultivable; but by far the larger portion would be covered with rich soil. With agriculture and its allied arts the antediluvians must have been well acquainted. The four men, in the vigor of their mental faculties and bodily strength, according to the then existing scale of human life, would be at no loss for the profitable application of their powers.
2. Noah's first act after he left the ark was to build an altar, and to offer sacrifices. This is the first altar of which we read in Scripture, and the first burnt sacrifice. Noah, it is said, took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. Then the narrative adds with childlike simplicity: "And Jehovah smelled a smell of rest (or satisfaction), and Jehovah said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every living thing as I have done." Jehovah accepted the sacrifice of Noah as the acknowledgment on the part of man that he desires reconciliation and communion with God; and therefore the renewed earth shall no more be wasted with a plague of waters, but so long as the earth shall last seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. SEE RAINBOW.
Then follows the blessing of God (Elohim) upon Noah and his sons. They are to be fruitful and multiply; they are to have lordship over the inferior animals; not, however, as at the first, by native right, but by terror is their rule to be established. All living creatures are now given to man for food; but express provision is made that the blood (in which is the life) should not be eaten. This does not seem necessarily to imply that animal food was not eaten before the flood, but only that now the use of it was sanctioned by divine permission. The prohibition with regard to blood reappears with fresh force in the Jewish ritual (Le 3:17; Le 7:26-27; Le 17:10-14; De 12:16,23-24; De 15:23), and seemed to the apostles so essentially human as well as Jewish that they thought it ought to be enforced upon Gentile converts. In later times the Greek Church urged it as a reproach against the Latin that they did not hesitate to eat things strangled (sufocata in quibus sanguis tenetur). SEE DECREES.
Next, God makes provision for the security of human life. The blood of man, in which is his life, is yet more precious than the blood of beasts. When it has been shed God will require it, whether of beast or of man: and man himself is to be the appointed channel of divine justice upon the homicide: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man." Here is laid the first foundation of the civil power. Just as the priesthood is declared to be the privilege of all Israel before it is made representative inlcertain individuals, so here the civil authority is declared to be a right of human nature itself, before it is delivered over into the hands of a particular executive. SEE MAN- SLAYER.
Thus with the beginning of a new world God gives, on the one hand, a promise which secures the stability of the natural order of the universe, and, on the other hand, consecrates human life with a special sanctity as resting upon these two pillars — the brotherhood of men, and man's likeness to God.
Of the seven precepts of Noah, as they are called, the observance of which was required of all Jewish proselytes, three only are here expressly mentioned: the abstinence from blood, the prohibition of murder, and the recognition of the civil authority. The remaining four — the prohibition of idolatry, of blasphemy, of incest, and of theft — rested apparently on the general sense of mankind. SEE NOACHIAN PRECEPTS.
3. Noah for the rest of his life betook himself to agricultural pursuits, following in this the tradition of his family. It is particularly noticed that he planted a vineyard, and some of the older Jewish writers, with a touch of poetic beauty, tell us that he took the shoots of a vine which had wandered out of Paradise wherewith to plant his vineyard. Armenia, it has been observed, is still favorable to the growth of the vine. Xenophon (A nab. 4:4, 9) speaks of the excellent wines of the country, and his account has been confirmed in more recent times (Ritter, Erdk. 10:554, 319, etc.). The Greek myth referred the discovery and cultivation of the vine to Dionysus, who, according to one version, brought it from India (Diod. Sic. 3:32); according to another, from Phrygia (Strabo, 10:469). SEE BACCHUS. Asia, at all events, is the acknowledged home of the vine. SEE GRAPE. Whether in ignorance of its properties or otherwise we are not informed, but he drank of the juice of the grape till he became intoxicated, and shamefully exposed himself in his own tent. One of his sons, Ham, mocked openly at his father's disgrace. The others, with dutiful care and reverence, endeavored to hide it. Noah was not so drunk as to be unconscious of the indignity which his youngest son had put upon him; and when he recovered from the effects of his intoxication, he declared that in requital for this act of brutal, unfeeling mockery a curse should rest upon the sons of Ham, that he who knew not the duty of a child should see his own son degraded to the condition of a slave. With the curse on his youngest son was joined a blessing on the other two. It ran thus, in the old poetic or rather rhythmical and alliterative form into which the more solemn utterances of antiquity commonly fell:
Cursed be Canaan A slave of slaves shall he be to his brethren.
On the other hand: Blessed be Jehovah, God of Shem, And let Canaan be their slave.
May God enlarge Japhet, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem, And let Canaan be their slave.
Of old a father's solemn curse or blessing was held to have a mysterious power of fulfilling itself. And in this case the words of the righteous man, though strictly the expression of a wish (Dr. Pye Smith is quite wrong in translating all the verbs as futures; they are optatives), did in fact amount to a prophecy. It has been asked why Noah did not curse Ham instead of cursing Canaan. It might be sufficient to reply that at such times men are not left to themselves, and that a divine purpose as truly guided Noah's lips then as it did the hands of Jacob afterwards. But, moreover, it was surely by a righteous retribution that he, who as youngest son had dishonored his father, should see the curse light on the head of his own youngest son. The blow was probably heavier than if it had lighted directly on himself. Thus early in the world's history was the lesson taught practically which the law afterwards expressly enunciated, that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children. The subsequent history of Canaan shows in the clearest manner possible the fulfillment of the curse. When Israel took possession of his land he became the slave of Shem: when Tyre fell before the arms of Alexander, and Carthage succumbed to her Roman conquerors, he became the slave of Japhet: and we almost hear the echo of Noah's curse in Hannibal's Agnosco fortunanma Carthaginis, when the head of Hasdrubal, his brother, was thrown contemptuously into the Punic lines. It is uncertain whether in the words "And let him dwell in the tents of Shem," "God" or "Japhet" is the subject of the verb. At first it seems more natural to suppose that Noah prays that God would dwell there (the root of the verb is the same as that of the noun Shechinah). But the blessing of Shem has been spoken already. It is better, therefore, to take Japhet as the subject. What, then, is meant by his dwelling in the tents of Shem? Not, of course, that he should so occupy them as to thrust out the original possessors; nor even that they should melt into one people; but, as it would seem, that Japhet may enjoy the religious privileges of Shem. So Augustine: "Latificet Deus Japheth et habitet in tentoriis Sem, id est. in Ecclesiis quas filii Prophetarum Apostoli construxerunt." The Talmud sees this blessing fulfilled in the use of the Greek language in sacred things, such as the translation of the Scriptures. Thus Shem is blessed with the knowledge of Jehovah, and Japhet with temporal increase and dominion in the first instance, with the further hope of sharing afterwards in spiritual advantages.
4. After this prophetic blessing we hear no more of the patriarch but the sum of his years. "And Noah lived gfter the flood three hundred and fifty years. And thus all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died." Some have inferred, from the fact that he lived so long after the flood, and is nowhere mentioned in the history of that period, that he must have gone to some distant land, and have even identified him with the Chinese Fohi (Schuckford, Connect. 1:99), or the Hindû Menu (Sir William Jones, Works, 3:151 sq.). Others, referring to the deluge in Genesis the various traditions which many ancient nations preserved of a similar early catastrophe, have thought Noah to be the same with Xisuthrus of the Chaldees (Alex. Polyhist. Chronicle of Eusebius); the Phrygian ANo of the celebrated Apamean medal, which, besides Noah and his wife with an ark, presents a raven, and a dove with an olive-branch in its mouth (figured in Bryant's Anc. Myth. vol. iii); the Manes of the Lydians (W. J. Hamilton's Asia Minor, 3:383); the Deucalion of the Syrians and the Greeks, of whose deluge the account given by Lucian is a copy almost exactly circumstantial of that in the book of Genesis (Dea Syria; Luciani Opp. 3:457 [ed. Reitz]; Bryant, 3:28), and have referred to him many statements in the Greek mythology respecting Saturn, Janus, and Bacchus; the traditions of the aboriginal Americans, as stated by Clavigero in his History of Mexico; and many others. SEE FLOOD. Mr. Geo. Smith has lately brought to light the Assyrian account of the deluge.
About two miles east of Zakhle is the village of Kerak, not far from which, on the last declivity of Lebanon, there is a round mosque. This is erected over still older relics, which are held in great reverence by Moslems and Christians, as being the reputed tomb of the patriarch Noah (Thomson, Land and Book, 1:353). The structure is evidently the remains of an ancient aqueduct, but popular credulity has invested it with a character of eminent sanctity; walls have been built around it, and at a certain season of the year the Maronites, in particular, perform pilgrimages to visit it. In his old age, they relate, Noah entreated of God, as a peculiar favor, that he might be allowed to end his days on Mount Lebanon, and there to prepare his place of sepulcure. The patriarch's prayer was granted; but shortly before his death he committed some transgression, and God cut off a part of his tomb, by severing a huge mass from the mountain Noah had chosen. He could not be buried at full length, and it was necessary to double his legs under his thighs, to fit his remains to their diminished bed. Now this so-called tomb is at least sixty feet long.
See Demistorff, De auctoritate prceceptorum Nvoach. (Lips. 1711); Eisenberg, De doctrina sub Noacho (Hal. 1754); Frischmuth, De Noachi prcecept. (1646-7); Maitland, — History of Noah's Day (Lond. 1832); Olmsted, Noah and his Times (Bost. 1854).
2. (Heb. Noah', נֹעהֹ, motion; Sept. Νουά.) The second named of the five daughters of Zelophehad, son of Hepher, of the half-tribe of Manasseh (Nu 26:33). B.C. cir. 1618. As their father had no son, the daughters applied for, and Moses, under divine direction, promised them an inheritance in the Promised Land in their father's right (Nu 27:1 sq.). This promise was redeemed by Joshua in the final apportionment (Jos 17:3). SEE HEIR.