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.

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53 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much.Now I understand a part of the Bible .Believe,faith and hope like Noah has done is the way of safe and rest in the love of God at seventh day.Praise God.God bless you

  2. Thank you. That was very interesting. Dr Schaser, I really want to know if we the Gentile Christians, should observe the Sabbath? Or is it only for the Jews? The observance of the Sabbath in the OT, was it not a foreshadow of the Sabbath that we were to get in Christ, meaning we are resting eternally from our worldy works, just as God rested. Please help me out.

    • This is a wonderful (and complex) question, Xolani. Since there is no direct mandate in the New Testament for Gentiles to observe the Sabbath, and because the command to do so was given to Israel (cf. Exod 20:10-11; Deut 5:12-15), Gentile Christians don’t *need* to observe the Sabbath. Colossians notes that Gentiles shouldn’t let anyone pass judgment on them with regard to festival or Sabbath observance (see Col 2:16), which seems to imply that one doesn’t need to observe Sabbath (but also that choosing to observe Sabbath is okay too). While Paul is certainly against Gentiles engaging in what he calls “works of the Law” — that is, Jewish identity markers such as circumcision, dietary restrictions, and particular modes of dress — festival observance doesn’t seem to be among the works of the Law restricted for Gentiles (note Paul’s call for Gentiles to observe the Passover festival in 1 Cor 5:7-8), and the Sabbath may fall into the unrestricted category. Finally, Isaiah alludes to Gentile Sabbath observance (see Isa 56:6-7), but this seems to be an eschatological picture that is yet to be realized, rather than a command for Gentiles in the present. Upshot: Gentiles can observe the Sabbath if they want to (setting aside a day of rest is a grand idea), but Gentiles shouldn’t feel *compelled* to keep the Sabbath, since the actual command is given to Israel (i.e., Jews) in their Torah.

      • From one of your students; In my opinion, I would differ from your interpretation. 1st) When the salves left Egypt there a mixed multitude, including slaves from the nations. I believe there were included in YHWH instruction to rest on the sabbath. 2nd. While Israel occupied the land, the stranger, and non Israelite’s was to rest on the sabbath including their animals. 3rd. Paul ; The apostle to the pagan’s, wrote to the Ephesian congregation that pagan, non-pagans were no longer strangers or foreigners. 4th.) I believe that those regenerated from high believers in God met on the sabbath.

        • Thanks for commenting, James. While I understand the desire that non-Jews might have to observe the Sabbath, there is no command for them to do so in the New Testament. I think it’s perfectly fine for Gentiles to observe Sabbath (and I would recommend that everyone have a day of rest), but we just don’t have any explicit indication from the New Testament that Sabbath observance was understood as a necessity for non-Jews. On the “mixed multitude” point, (1) it’s unclear to what ערב רב (erev rav) refers in Exodus 12:38; (2) the rabbis associate the “mixed multitude” with those who rebelled with Korah in Numbers 16. This is only one rabbinic speculation, but from this prominent ancient Jewish interpretational perspective, the “mixed multitude” didn’t remain with Israel; (3) according to Nehemiah, when the people hear the Torah read after returning from Babylon, “they separated the mixed [i.e., non-Jews] (ערב; erev) from Israel” (Neh 13:3). This is the only other place in the Hebrew Bible in which we get the word ערב referring to people among Israel outside of Exod 12:38, and the text explicates that “they were separated” (yavdilu; יבדילו) from Israel — i.e., they would not be expected to keep Sabbath with the Jews. From a New Testament perspective, I can find no reason why a Gentile should feel that they *cannot* observe Sabbath, but I also can’t find anything saying that they *must* observe the Sabbath. Thus, I don’t see how modern Christians would be justified in asserting that Gentile Sabbath observance is mandatory.

        • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

          • Jesus said: Man is not made for sabbath but sabbath for Man. (FR) L’homme n’est pas fait pour le sabbat mais le sabbat pour l’Homme. Which clearly means that there is nothing compulsory in practising sabbath* but that sabbath is a good thing for Man, I would add, if God is put at the centre of our mind** on that day. The same way God did not need to “rest”, but he took pleasure in considering what he created in six days, the same way we take time to consider and enjoy our work(s), but remaining teachable about correction, counsel.

          • ‘There is no command for them to do so in the New Testament.’ If there is ‘no command’ for the so-called ‘non-Jews’ in the NT, then does this suggest there’s a vacuum with respect to the guidelines on worship as well? If a principle is defined in the Old Testament, but there’s no repeat thereof in the NT, what do we do, do we stay with the former or do we devise our own?

          • Observance of Torah commands for Gentiles is dependent on whether a command was given only to Israel or not. Thus, for non-Jews, the legal material needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, since following “thou shalt not murder” doesn’t make someone Jewish or non-Jewish, a Gentile can and should follow it. However, since wearing tassels (tzitzit; Num 15:38) would mark a person as Jewish, a Gentile should not follow this command (at least according to Paul).

          • I tend to agree with Anne. God does not require “rest”, but had, and still has, the desire for dedicated fellowship with His creation. The Sabbath provides this opportunity. The key lies in “dedicated fellowship”, and not tokenism (by just going to church for instance.) A though provoking article! Blessings!!!

      • Thank you for replying Doc. When Jesus invited the people in Matthew 11:28-30,to come and find rest (Sabbath) in him, it’s clear that he wasn’t talking about the 7th day Sabbath but an eternal one. Isaiah 28:9-12 talks of this rest, and Hebrews 4:3-10 clearly clarifies it. So I believe once we’re in Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we’re in the Sabbath. I always thought of the father of our faith, Abraham, if he ever did observe the Sabbath? His life was about faith and grace. Please reply back Doc. Shalom Aleichem.

        • I appreciate your citations of the NT texts, Xolani; I agree that the NT writers were pointing to trust in Jesus as an analogue for resting in the Sabbath. On Abraham, since the command for Sabbath observance was given at Sinai (some 400 years after Abraham), we have no evidence that Abraham would have kept a seventh-day Sabbath. Of course, this does not preclude doing things that would one day be called “works of the Law”; that is, “Law” and “grace” are not mutually exclusive. For instance, Abraham practiced circumcision (see Gen 17:1-14), which would also be commanded in the later Torah. Thus, for Abraham, “faith and grace” went hand in hand with doing the works that God commanded. Thank you for your comments and questions.

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          • God richly bless you Doc, I appreciate you. I am kinda feeling sorry for you as you have to reply to a lot of questions and comments from people who want a closer and a deeper walk with God, and having a desire to understand the Holy Bible. Of which you’re doing a great job at it. But it seems you don’t have time to “rest”.?

          • Thanks, Xolani! And it’s okay: it’s my job to respond to everyone, and what better job could there be than reading and discussing the Bible with people? 🙂

          • The Bible teaches not to desire, but I think I”ll be forgiven for stating that I am slightly envious of your knowledge and occupation! I pray that your efforts carries God’s favour and the rewards for your dedication be plentifull!! Amen

          • Thanks, Riaan. And thank you for reading (and contributing to) our articles and discussions 🙂

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      • Dr. Schaser,
        Although I wholeheartedly disagree with you in general about torah observance, I believe Paul’s point, in 1 Cor 5:7-8, was metaphorical. In fact, I would say that metaphor was the most significant feature of his writings. If literal here, then the timing was decades too late.

      • I wholeheartedly agree. The Sabbath DAY according to the Law was an instruction under (in that sense applicable to) the Old Testament. All who are in Christ (the Lord of the Sabbath) have entered into His Sabbath (rest) and are no longer under the Sabbath of the Law.

        • Please understand me correctly, I don’t mean to say that the Law has been abolished (it hasn’t and never will be), but fulfilled in Christ. The Sabbath still stands, it just looks different to those who abide in the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28).

      • In regard to whether or not Gentiles should observe the Sabbath, was it only given to Israel and is it optional to regarding it as Holy? God said he made the Sabbath Holy at creation. Believers are grafted into Israel. It is a sign between God and Israel.

        • Thanks for your question and comment, Cynthia. The command for Sabbath observance was only given to Israel — God rests on the seventh day of creation, but does not institute a command for others to do so until Moses receives the commandments on Sinai.

        • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  3. As a practicing Jew with a Grandson named Noah, this article was sent to me by a very dear Christian friend. It is beautifully written and accurate and I have printed it off and will read it to him when he visits this weekend. Thank you for your wonderful research.

    • Thanks for letting us know, Faith! I’m really glad that you enjoyed the article. All the best to you and your grandson Noah 🙂

  4. hi, I’m grateful for your insight. Col 2:16 is being misunderstood. Paul was telling the Gentiles sabbath keeping observers to not to be distracted by criticizing them for doing so. The Gnostics were the culprits in this regard; please research. Jesus kept and the early church kept sabbath. Also and very importantly, the establishment of the Sabbath at creation before any Jew was identified was meant for whole world. True Christians ought to observe the Sabbath.

    • Thanks for your comments, Carlton. I would caution against being too dogmatic about Col 2:16 — the extent to which the verse responds to “Gnosticism” is a highly debated issue in the academic world, in which everyone is doing their research. You’re right that God’s seventh-day rest after creation is very important, but what’s even more important is that God never commands people to keep any Sabbath until the Mosaic covenant (Exod 20; Deut 5), and then God only gives this command to Israel, not to Gentiles. I agree that Jesus and his disciples (all Jews) kept the Sabbath, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Gentile Christians must do so; after all, Jesus was circumcised (Lk 2:21) and Paul demands that Gentiles do not get circumcised. Since the New Testament never commands Gentile Christians to keep the Sabbath, it’s probably best that modern Christians don’t command this either. If a Gentile wants to observe a Sabbath that’s completely fine, but making Gentile Sabbath observance a point of Christian dogma or duty is overstepping the bounds of the New Testament data.

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      • Hello Dr. Schaser,

        Can you elaborate on why you separate out Sabbath observance from the rest of God’s instruction (torah)?

        • It’s a good question, Neville, with a complex answer. There are certain laws that Paul calls “works of the law,” which constitute Jewish identity markers — things that, if performed, mark one as Jewish rather than Gentile. Since God only gave the Sabbath command to Israel, Sabbath observance is one of these Jewish identity markers. For Paul, if Gentiles do “works of the law,” they become Jews, which ruins the prophets’ end-time vision of Gentiles remaining Gentiles in their worship of the God of Israel (e.g., Isa 2:1-3; Zech 8:23). I will post an article on this soon.

          • Thank you. I will look forward to your article. As for me, I do not see that distinction between torah re Sabbath and, say, torah re restitution of lost/damaged goods. Others make distinctions/categories: Decalogue vs all-torot, moral vs civil, etc., implied in NT vs not directly expressed .

  5. It is extremely interesting to read about the different Biblical names, but why does it seem that, for example, “Noah” is authentic when it is a scientific fact that:
    Noah, the ark and the Flood, is found as an analogue story in the Epic of Gilgame, which has its roots in the Akkadian epic “Atra-Hasis”, which has its roots in “the Eridu Genesis”, a fact that among others The Smithsonian magazine also writes.

    It seems to me as if you want to keep the believers in some form of ignorance.

    • I’m glad you found the article interesting, and I appreciate your comments. You’re right that there are many similar flood stories from ancient Mesopotamia that predate the biblical narrative. To my mind, all of these flood accounts from the same part of the world argue *for* the historicity of an ancient flood, not against it. The Noah story is told from a Hebrew perspective (rather than a Babylonian or Sumerian one), but that does not discount the facticity of an historical flood. The biblical account records an Israelite retelling of this event, and the reasons for it. Whereas other flood stories say that the gods sent the flood for petty reasons — for example, one version says that the noise people were making on earth angered the gods — Genesis asserts that human violence caused the flood (6:13), and that the God of Israel isn’t “angry,” but rather “regretful” and “grieved” (6:6). The biblical account makes moral, anthropological, and theological assertions over against those of Israel’s neighbors. Thus, rather than being in a state of “ignorance,” modern religious readers must decide which of the flood accounts they find most compelling, and which god they want to believe in based on such accounts. Those who follow the Bible’s account have decided to put their trust in the God of Israel, rather than the gods reflected in these other flood narratives.

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      • The background for my reaction was:
        As I understood it, did some of the respondents responded to Noah and thus the worldwide Flood as an authentic history

        It’s possible, that the reason is my lack of English skills, (I’m Danish and using Google translate to help), and my knowledge of, that a lot of Christians are conviced, that the content of the entire Bible is nearly 100% scientifically proven, that apply.

        And if one believes the Bible is scientifically proven, the following is of cause also authentic:
        Adam, Noah and their descendants, the flood and devil/Satan and with him of cause hell.
        But in Matthew 11:23, eg, is Hell translated from the pagan name: ᾅδου (86) Hadou/Hades – a bit strange),
        But, as with Noah and the Flood, several older religions contains analog stories about Adam, Eve and the Devil, which, ia, have an analogy in the Ugaritic religion.

        • As far as I can see, none of the respondents have brought up the topic of historical authenticity. I would reiterate, though, that there’s no reason not to take a Mesopotamian flood as historical, based on the abundance of ancient sources that attest to it. I don’t think that most Christians would argue that 100% of the Bible is scientifically proven, since there’s all sorts of stuff in the Bible (like the appearances of God and angels, miracles, etc.) that science can’t “prove” one way or the other — that is, science can’t access or assess spiritual or theological events. Yes, the biblical texts sometimes pick up earlier Ancient Near Eastern stories and rework them to reflect an Israelite theology, but the Israelite writers knew they were doing this — they do it purposefully, in order to make theological points about the superiority of their God over other gods. Certainly, not all modern Christians are aware of this literary relationship between the Bible and earlier texts, but most would know that other religions have their own narratives of creation and primordial history.

          • Thanks for your reply. my feeling regarding the respondents, could be due to my lack of language skills. I’m convinced, the different the floods, was real, but local disasters. I have tried to speak for the fact that the stories of flood could be the writers’ idea of the then world. No one liked the idea. Re. _scientifically proven_ Sorry, I should have written: “the dedicated Christians”. I have read about religions since the 1950s

  6. The comments were all interesting. I am a Gentile Believer. I choose to keep the Sabbath because thats the way I understand it. Israel and the strangers were all to keep the Sabbath. Thank God for the Sabbath. I need the rest and believe that Yeshua Ha Maschiach and his first followers kept the Sabbath.

    • Did God really needed to “rest”? He’s the one who restores our strength and more while we are resting. So my question is rather what is/are the (possible) meaning(s) of the word “rest” in Genesis ? What comes to mind is the following: When we stop doing things or act physically, on a normal daily basis, our mind may loose part of the MEANING of what we do. Once we think and examin the deeds and contexts in which we acted/worked/spoke a.o., we give ourselves the benefit to rejoice about it but also to correct our ways/thoughts/intentions attached to.

  7. The Old Testament is 100 percent true. There was a world wide flood according to archaeology and history and science. It doesn’t matter what you or I think or feel. HaShem said it. It is true. Amen.

    • Next to my previous comment: I would like to stress that the MEANING of whatever we “do” is vital for keeping us spiritually, mentaly, physically healthy. God is who gives meaning to our lives and all aspects of it. The same way we need to meditate his word to allow God to work/correct/change us into his likeliness, the same way we ought to stop acting/doing to meditate on it to protect us from following possible wrong tracks, and to improve what was good, in one word we need slides of “stops”: // “and God saw that it was good”.

  8. Thanks for your article. It is liberating to know that under the NT Christians are free to observe the gathering together of people to worship and to serve on one day set aside to rest, but the true sabbath for Christians is the liberating power of the blood of Jesus, paid our debt of sin against Father God and we now have the rest in our hearts that we have a future home in heaven, by Jesus our Saviour. It could be fair to say then, that every day is a sabbath for followers of Christ

  9. I am a little confused when it comes to Noah. I was reread a lesson you gave and said that Noah was gentile. I was sharing this with a study person I have and she said he was a , because of the family tree from Adam. So Can I

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  10. The ark rested in the 7th month Tishrai ? The landing would be in harmony with the end time feasts ? A new beginning ?

    • Thanks, John. The feasts weren’t instituted yet in Noah’s day, but we don’t need recourse to the feasts to know that the post-flood period constitutes a new beginning. The language of Genesis 9 recalls that of Genesis 1 (God’s blessings to humanity, etc.), so that Noah is cast as a “new Adam” figure.

  11. I appreciate these short studies, but disagree on observing the Sabbath. It was blessed and sanctified before there was a Jew; it was made for man; it is part of the Ten Commandments; and in Hebrews “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” ie, a “sabatissmos”.

    • The Ten Commandments (along with the rest of the Torah) were given to Israel, and the Sabbath command sets Israel apart from the other nations as a special people to God. Paul doesn’t want Gentiles doing the particular commands in the Torah that mark Jewish identity, because he wants Gentiles to stay Gentiles — not to become Jews. It is unclear whether Paul understood Sabbath observance to be one of these Jewish identity markers (since he doesn’t mention the issue). Paul may have understood Gentile Sabbath observance to be optional, but there’s no command in the New Testament for Gentiles to keep the Sabbath.

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  12. thinking this deep seems like work to me. In numbers a man is stoned to death for gathering sticks on the sabbath. I believe he planed to make Idols. some one said we have redone the calendar so many times who knows what day it really would be. The thing it is established that saturday is the 7th day of the week and just like man to try and change it. claiming it is Gods will all the way. I read where rest in Genesis creations 7 days should be understood as he desisted. maybe take a stroll around the garden. Fact is I have really had a couple or a few times on a sabbath when I really felt completely relaxed, refreshed, rested in the real presence of Yeshua’s peace. Great feeling. Actually on a saturday or two and a good sunday, few and far between lately for some reason. to be honest. It’s been a while. Yeshua rules

  13. Hi again Dr Schaser
    In translation from Hebrew, could ‘the ark came to rest (nuach) on the mountains of Ararat’ also be translated as the ark came to Noah (Nuach) on the mountains of Ararat?

    • The sentence can’t be translated “the ark came to Noah,” since Noah (Noach) isn’t a verb — it’s a proper noun. However, the two words are related (per the article), so that Noah’s name points to the ark’s final state of “rest” (nuach).

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  14. Thank you. I appreciate the clarification about the sabbath. It is how I did understand it, but a day of rest is still a great idea. Noah means rest was good too. 👵🏻💕👍

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