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.

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  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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  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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  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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