Smith’s Bible Dictionary
“Noah” means rest
Noah: the tenth in descent from Adam, in the line of Seth was the son of Lamech and grandson of Methuselah. (B.C. 2948-1998.) We hear nothing of Noah till he is 500 years old when It is said he begat three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. In consequence of the grievous and hopeless wickedness of the world at this time, God resolved to destroy it. Of Noah's life during this age of almost universal apostasy we are told but little. It is merely said that he was a righteous man and perfect in his generations (i.e. among his contemporaries), and that he, like Enoch, walked with God. St. Peter calls him "a preacher of righteousness." (2 Peter 2:5) Besides this we are merely told that he had three: sons each of whom had married a wife; that he built the ark in accordance with divine direction; end that he was 600 years old when the flood came. (Genesis 6:7) The ark . --The precise meaning of the Hebrew word (tebah) is uncertain. The word occurs only in Genesis and in (Exodus 2:3) In all probability it is to the old Egyptian that we are to look for its original form. Bunsen, in his vocabulary gives tba , "a chest," tpt , "a boat," and in the Coptic version of (Exodus 2:3,5) thebi is the rendering of tebah . This "chest" or "boat" was to be made of gopher (i.e. cypress) wood, a kind of timber which both for its lightness and its durability was employed by the Phoenicians for building their vessels. The planks of the ark, after being put together were to be protected by a coating of pitch, or rather bitumen, both inside and outside, to make it water-tight, and perhaps also as a protection against the attacks of marine animals. The ark was to consist of a number of "nests" or small compartments, with a view, no doubt, to the convenient distribution of the different animals and their food. These were to be arranged in three tiers, one above another; "with lower, second and third (stories) shalt thou make it." Means were also to be provided for letting light into the ark. There was to be a door this was to be placed in the side of the ark. Of the shape of the ark nothing is said, but its dimensions are given. It was to be 300 cubits in length, 50 in breadth and 30 in height. Taking 21 inches for the cubit, the ark would be 525 feet in length, 87 feet 6 inches in breadth and 52 feet 6 inches in height. This is very considerably larger than the largest British man-of-war, but not as large as some modern ships. It should be remembered that this huge structure was only intended to float on the water, and was not in the proper sense of the word a ship. It had neither mast, sail nor rudder it was in fact nothing but an enormous floating house, or rather oblong box. The inmates of the ark were Noah and his wife and his three sons with their wives. Noah was directed to take also animals of all kinds into the ark with him, that they might be preserved alive. (The method of speaking of the animals that were taken into the ark "clean" and "unclean," implies that only those which were useful to man were preserved, and that no wild animals were taken into the ark; so that there is no difficulty from the great number of different species of animal life existing in the word. --ED.) The flood . --The ark was finished, and all its living freight was gathered into it as a place of safety. Jehovah shut him in, says the chronicler, speaking of Noah; and then there ensued a solemn pause of seven days before the threatened destruction was let loose. At last the before the threatened destruction was flood came; the waters were upon the earth. A very simple but very powerful and impressive description is given of the appalling catastrophe. The waters of the flood increased for a period of 190 days (40+150, comparing) (Genesis 7:12) and Genesis7:24 and then "God remembered Noah" and made a wind to pass over the earth, so that the waters were assuaged. The ark rested on the seventeenth day of the seventh month on the mountains of Ararat. After this the waters gradually decreased till the first day of the tenth month, when the tops of the mountains were seen but Noah and his family did not disembark till they had been in the ark a year and a month and twenty days. Whether the flood was universal or partial has given rise to much controversy; but there can be no doubt that it was universal, so far as man was concerned: we mean that it extended to all the then known world . The literal truth of the narrative obliges us to believe that the whole human race , except eight persons, perished by the flood. The language of the book of Genesis does not compel us to suppose that the whole surface of the globe was actually covered with water, if the evidence of geology requires us to adopt the hypothesis of a partial deluge. It is natural to suppose it that the writer, when he speaks of "all flesh," "all in whose nostrils was the breath of life" refers only to his own locality. This sort of language is common enough in the Bible when only a small part of the globe is intended. Thus, for instance, it is said that "all countries came into Egypt to Joseph to buy corn and that" a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed." The truth of the biblical narrative is confirmed by the numerous traditions of other nations, which have preserved the memory of a great and destructive flood, from which but a small part of mankind escaped. They seem to point back to a common centre whence they were carried by the different families of man as they wandered east and west. The traditions which come nearest to the biblical account are those of the nations of western Asia. Foremost among these is the Chaldean. Other notices of a flood may be found in the Phoenician mythology. There is a medal of Apamea in Phrygia, struck as late as the time of Septimius Severus, in which the Phrygian deluge is commemorated. This medal represents a kind of a square vessel floating in the water. Through an opening in it are seen two persons, a man and a woman. Upon the top of this chest or ark is perched a bird, whilst another flies toward it carrying a branch between its feet. Before the vessel are represented the same pair as having just, quitted it and got upon the dry land. Singularly enough, too, on some specimens of this medal the letters NO or NOE have been found on the vessel, as in the cut on p. 454. (Tayler Lewis deduces the partial extent of the flood from the very face of the Hebrew text." "Earth," where if speaks of "all the earth," often is, and here should be, translated "land," the home of the race, from which there appears to have been little inclination to wander. Even after the flood God had to compel them to disperse. "Under the whole heavens" simply includes the horizon reaching around "all the land" the visible horizon. We still use the words in the same sense and so does the Bible. Nearly all commentators now agree on the partial extent of the deluge. If is probable also that the crimes and violence of the previous age had greatly diminished the population, and that they would have utterly exterminated the race had not God in this way saved out some good seed from their destruction. So that the flood, by appearing to destroy the race, really saved the world from destruction .--ED.) (The scene of the deluge --Hugh Miller, in his "Testimony of the Rocks," argues that there is a remarkable portion of the globe, chiefly on the Asiatic continent, though it extends into Europe, and which is nearly equal to all Europe in extent, whose rivers (some of them the Volga, Oural, Sihon, Kour and the Amoo, of great size) do not fall into the ocean, but, on the contrary are all turned inward, losing themselves in the eastern part of the tract, in the lakes of a rainless district in the western parts into such seas as the Caspian and the Aral. In this region there are extensive districts still under the level of the ocean. Vast plains white with salt and charged with sea-shells, show that the Caspian Sea was at no distant period greatly more extensive than it is now. With the well-known facts, then, before us regarding this depressed Asiatic region, let us suppose that the human family, still amounting to several millions, though greatly reduced by exterminating wars and exhausting vices, were congregated in that tract of country which, extending eastward from the modern Ararat to far beyond the Sea of Aral, includes the original Caucasian centre of the race. Let us suppose that, the hour of judgment having arrived, the land began gradually to sink (as the tract in the Run of Cutch sank in the year 1819) equably for forty days at the rate of about 400 feet per day a rate not twice greater than that at which the tide rises in the Straits of Magellan, and which would have rendered itself apparent as but a persistent inward flowing of the sea. The depression, which, by extending to the Euxine Sea and the Persian Gulf on the one hand and the Gulf of Finland on the other, would open up by three separate channels the "fountains of the great deep," and which included an area of 2000 miles each way, would, at the end of the fortieth day, be sunk in its centre to the depth of 16,000 feet, --sufficient to bury the loftiest mountains of the district; and yet, having a gradient of declination of but sixteen feet per mile, the contour of its hills and plains would remain apparently what they had been before, and the doomed inhabitants would, but the water rising along the mountain sides, and one refuge after another swept away. -ED.) After the Flood . --Noah's great 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. Then follows the blessing of God upon Noah and his sons. Noah is clearly the head of a new human family, the representative of the whole race. It is as such that God makes his covenant with him; and hence selects a natural phenomenon as the sign of that covenant. The bow in the cloud, seen by every nation under heaven, is an unfailing witness to the truth of God. Noah now for the rest of his life betook himself to agricultural pursuits. It is particularly noticed that he planted a vineyard. 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 sons, Ham, mocked openly at his father's disgrace. The others, with dutiful care and reverence, endeavored to hide it. When he recovered from the effects of his intoxication, he declared that a curse should rest upon the sons of Ham. With the curse on his youngest son was joined a blessing on the other two. After this prophetic blessing we hear no more of the patriarch but the sum of his years, 950.