The meanings of the Bible’s Hebrew names can reveal aspects of God’s character or will, highlight important theological truths, and provide insights into the biblical narrative. Scripture’s original Hebrew readers would have noticed that Noah’s name both forecasts the Lord’s plan of salvation from the flood, and also underscores the divine desire for humans to rest in the security of God.
According to Genesis, although the vast majority of humanity had become exceedingly wicked, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (6:8). In Hebrew, the name “Noah” (נֹחַ; Noach) comes from a word that means “to rest” (נוּחַ; nuach). Thus, even before we read about Noah building an ark in order to escape a coming deluge, Noah’s name foreshadows the fact that God will use the ark to save him. After the flood, the text reads, “At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest (נוּחַ; nuach) on the mountains of Ararat” (Gen 8:4). Insofar as Noah’s name means “rest,” and the ark comes to “rest” after the flood, the biblical author provides a Hebrew wordplay that underscores God’s ability to provide Noah and his family with salvific respite.
The ark’s rest on the “seventh month” recalls God’s rest at the conclusion of creation, and the institution of the Sabbath on the seventh day: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…. For in six days the Lord made the skies and the land, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested (נוּחַ; nuach) on the seventh day.” (Exod 20:9, 11). Noah’s name reaffirms God’s initial rest at creation — the basis for God’s command for Israel’s own rest — and offers a glimpse into how God will bring salvation out of destruction when Noah’s ark finds its final rest.