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Noah

NOAH

Son of Lamech and the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gn 5:2832). In the Flood story in Genesis 6:19:19, God preserves Noah and his family, so that Noah is the ancestor of all humankind after the Flood. Following God's directions, Noah preserves some from each species of animals and birds to repopulate the earth in a renewed creation after the flood. Following the flood another story describes Noah as the first to plant a vineyard and make wine (Gn 9:2028). Outside Genesis, Noah is referred to or mentioned three other places in the Old Testament, twice in the Deuterocanonical Books, and six times in the New Testament.

Noah and the Flood. The account of Noah in Genesis has long been recognized as a composite woven from two of Israel's ancient oral traditions, often designated the Priestly source (P) and the yahwist source (J). A narrative from J in 6:18 has the Lord resolve to destroy all living things because of what has become of the world, but then "Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord." This is seconded by a P affirmation: "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God" (v. 9). The P source continues with its account of how the sorry state of conditions on earth brings God to announce to Noah his intention to make an end of all living things (v. 1113). But God tells Noah to build an ark, and gives specific instructions for its materials, dimensions, and layout. Noah is to enter the ark with his family and a male and female pair of all living creatures, along with appropriate food for them and the creatures. "Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him" (v. 1422). In a section from J, the Lord commands Noah to enter the ark with his family, "for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation." And he is to bring seven pairs of each clean animal and bird, but single pairs of the unclean creatures. "And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him" (7:15). After Noah entered the ark as "God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in" the flood came and continued forty days and nights in J or 150 days in P until all living things were dead and "only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark" (7:624). Then "God remembered Noah" and the waters began to recede. After 150 days, the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat (8:15). An account from J tells how Noah opened the window of the ark and sent out a raven, then three times a dove to determine when the waters had subsided (v. 612). The P source then tells how Noah removed the cover from the ark and saw that the earth was drying. When the earth is dry, God tells Noah to leave the ark and begin live again on the earth (vv. 1319). From J, Noah's first act was to

build an altar and to sacrifice some of the clean animals and birds. The odor pleased the Lord, who then promises never again to destroy all living creatures (v. 2022). The P account describes Noah and his sons as the ancestors of all subsequent humanity. Like the first humans of Genesis 1:26, humans continue to have authority over animals. God repeats the blessing given to humanity in Genesis 1:28. But now, humans are permitted to eat animals, and humans are responsible for punishing the crime of murder. And God promises in a covenant with Noah and all creation, never again to destroy life and the created order (9:119).

Noah's Vineyard. Another story from the J source, not originally connected to the flood account, describes Noah as the first to plant a vineyard and the first to make wine. Noah's sons are not married and share Noah's tent. In the story Noah drinks the wine and becomes drunk in his tent. Noah's son Ham, the father of Canaan, then "saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside." Shem and Japheth then respectfully cover the nakedness of their father, without seeing it. The story is thought to be a euphemistic account of how Ham or Canaan took advantage of Noah's drunkenness to sexually violate Noah's wife (see Lv 18:8). When Noah awakes and learns what has happened, he curses Canaan and blesses Shem and Japheth. The curse and blessing are the only spoken words attributed to Noah in the Bible (9:2027).

The placement of this story after that of the flood shows how the inclination of human hearts continues to be evil after the flood (8:21). The alienation of humans, even within a family, as a consequence of sin, continues. But now it is Noah, not the Lord, who pronounces the curse because of human sin. The three sons in the original story were Shem, Japheth, and Canaan. Ham was introduced to harmonize the story with the names of Noah's sons in the previous flood account and with the account of the nations descended from Noah that follows in chapter 10.

Noah's Name. The J story of Noah's vineyard originally followed the folk etymology about Noah's name at Genesis 5:29. Lamech named his son Noah saying, "Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of out hands." Lamech alludes to a consequence of the first sin in Genesis 3:17 where the Lord declared that the ground is now cursed and only by "toil" and "labor" will it yield food for humans. Lamech's pun associates Noah's name nōah with the verb nhm, "to provide relief." Noah then became "a man of the soil," planted a vineyard, and produced wine that provides humans relief from their work and toil. The Septuagint, however, translated the verb in 5:29, διαναπαύσει, "he will bring rest," reflecting an understanding that Noah's name is derived from the verb nwh, "rest." In the various ancient Near Eastern flood stories, the heros have various names (see gilgamesh epic). The connection of Noah from the vineyard story with the hero of Israel's version of the Flood story probably occurred during the developing oral stages behind the J source. This is reflected in several puns in the J flood story related to the concept of "rest." For example, "then the ark came to rest, wattānah " (8:4), "the dove found no resting place, mānōah " (8:9), "then the Lord smelled the pleasing (literally, 'restful'), hannîhōah, aroma" (8:21). In the Latin Vulgate and its derivative translations the name appears as Noe, from the Septuagint's Ν[symbol omitted]ε.

Other Biblical References to Noah. The prophet Ezekiel identified Noah, along with Daniel and Job, as righteous (Ez 14:1420). Ben Sira included Noah among Israel's great ancestors, noting that it was Noah's righteousness that led God to preserve life on earth (Sir 44:1718). Second Isaiah compared God's decision to no longer be angry with Israel with God's promise that "the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth" (Is 54:9). The Gospel according to Luke lists Noah among Jesus' ancestors (Lk 3:36). In the Gospel according to Matthew, the lifestyles of Jesus' contemporaries is said to be like those of Noah's contemporaries prior to the flood (Mt 24:3738). In 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is "a herald of righteousness," while in Hebrew 11:7 Noah is "an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith" because he heeded God. God's patience while Noah was building the ark was being built is the focus of 1 Peter 3:20.

Bibliography: w. brueggemann, Genesis (Atlanta 1982). a. f. campbell and m. a. o'brien, Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations (Minneapolis 1993). n. cohn, Noah's Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought (New Haven 1996). a. dundes, ed., The Flood Myth. (Berkeley 1988). j. w. rogerson, Genesis 111 (Sheffield 1991). g. j. wenham, Genesis 115 (Waco, Texas 1987). c. westermann, Genesis 111 (Minneapolis 1984).

[j. e. jensen]

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