Throughout the Torah, we meet many outstanding personalities. Certain events surrounding their lives famously display great obedience to God. The overwhelming majority, if not all, were the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The only person ever to be called a righteous man in the entire Torah was not a part of this family. His name was Noah. (Gen.6:9)

Yet it was not Noah, but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that were privileged to be the founders of God’s ancient people Israel. Even though the nations of the world as represented by Noah are very important in God’s redemptive plan, it was Israel that was chosen to be the holy nation of priests (Ex. 19:6). So why is it that while Noah was the only one who was called righteous, he was not part of God’s ancient chosen people Israel? I think the answer has to do with how Noah approached God when he heard of the coming judgment.

Let us compare Noah’s and Abraham’s obedience in the situations when they heard the news about God’s judgment.

Noah was told by God that judgment was coming to his sinful generation and he needed to build a large boat to save his family and animals. He obeyed without an argument (Gen.6:22).

The word Israel (Yisrael) itself comes from the Hebrew word לשרות  (lesrot), which means to wrestle/exercise influence. Jacob’s new name commemorates the foundational event in Jewish history when Jacob wrestled with someone, whom he later identified as God himself (Gen. 32:28).

Abraham’s response to God when he was told that the blatantly sinful towns of Sodom and Gomorrah would be judged differed markedly from Noah’s. Abraham argued with God and interceded on behalf of the desert settlements, hoping until the very end that he will be able to convince God not to do as He intended. Abraham spoke to God in the most challenging way possible, risking divine displeasure for the possibility of the salvation of others (Gen.18:16-33). Abraham too accepted God’s will just as Noah did, but not without a fight and not before he acted as a priest on behalf of others.

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66 COMMENTS

  1. Friends, let’s get a thoughtful conversion going about this topic (please, register to begin your certificate program and come back to engage with this post). Who would go first? (Please, don’t write about how Noah is not a Jew, because Israel’s family begins with Abraham/Isaac/Jacob trio and not before. We know that, but there is more to that than just chronology).

  2. Very interesting ! Moses ALSO chatted with G-d and he ALSO discuused many, many times with G-d .

  3. Abraham Issac and Jacob were not Jews either the word Jew is only a few hundred years old and it is on Christian origin just like the word nigger is of Christian origin and it has pretty much the same hatful intent. There are no Jews in the Bible! Ya Huss was one of 12 children of Israel’s but you all know this and attempt to deceive. I would love to discuss these and other issues Thank u so very much. Shalom

  4. God used a rare good man like Noah to fulfill His purpose to cleanse the earth of wickedness. Just as equally God used Abraham and his descendents years later to present God’s moral righteous Laws to the worlds inhabitents like the 10 Commandments whom Noah obeyed generations before by living righteously in the midst of a very wicked generation. This example contrasts how God is no respecter of persons whether Jew or Greek (gentile) and is not willing that any perish.

  5. The title of this page is “What makes prayer Jewish” but I don’t see that addressed at all in the paragraphs here. Are people aware that Noah was, in fact, Abraham’s grandfather and that Abraham was sent to live with him because his father feared that he was the one prophecied about which sent the King of Egypt into a tizzy and ordered all male children under two to be killed (seems to be the thing back then). So even though the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob’s sons) commenced with Jacob, Noah was, in fact, Jacob’s ancestor through Shem. TBC

  6. Hello Dr. Eli, Thank you so much for your daily insight. I feel like I learn something new every day. I have a few thoughts, please correct me if I’m wrong. The genealogies seem to indicate that Noah was still alive when Abraham was born. Is it possible that Abraham learned righteousness at the knees of his great great great, etc …grandfather Noah. After witnessing such loss of life perhaps Noah regretted not speaking up and passed this urgency on to Abraham. Was Abraham chosen because he learned righteousness from Noah? Pure speculation but delightful to ponder. Thanks again!

    • Yolanda, you are right on every point. If you read my first comment above you will see that Abraham was sent to live with Noah to avoid being killed as an infant. This is where he was taught the ways of God and ordained into the Holy Priesthood. You can read a beautiful account of Abraham in one of the books that were left out when the Bible was put together but quoted by the other Holy Prophets and Apostles – the Book of Jasher – easy to find and download PDF from the net.

  7. Thank you Dr Eli for this insight about Noah and Abraham. I actually always wondered about this. This makes perfectly sense. I love it . God loves obedience but he loves compassion even more. This is why King David also was called the beloved; he had compassion on Saul. He had the opportunity to kill him , but he decided not to, accepting him as an annointed of God, who simply failed.

  8. You are right on the money this time. Who would hire a lawyer to defend them selves that just agreed with the prosecutions position even if they were right. I want someone to go to bat for me no mater how guilty I am.

  9. So, thinking along the same lines, why is the nation called the children of Israel and not just the children of Abraham (or of Jacob, for that matter). After all, they often referred to these THREE as their “fathers”.

    • In Genesis 32:22-32 Jacob’s name-meaning deceiver, is changed to “Israel” after wrestling with a man during the night. The name Israel means-one who struggles with God. The “tribes of Israel” were named after Jacobs 12 sons, except for Levi and Joseph, Genesis 29:31-30:24, with Benjamin born Gen. 35:18.The Levites were the priestly tribe and were instructed to live throughout all the other tribes. Joseph wasn’t given a tribe because his 2 sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, that were born to him while in Egypt, were the other 2 names that Isaac claimed as his own that were given tribe names.

  10. Is not Enoch a part of the Torah? Because I read in Genesis that Enoqhe walked with God and therefore He took it for Himself … (Gen.5: 24) In my version this is equal to Gen. 6: 9 when it refers to Noah. Is there a difference?

  11. Abraham pleaded with his God to be merciful principally to save his relatives. Only a few. Jacob wrestled with someone with no reason given for it. A playful wrestle? How can the opponent be God if Jacob could overcome the opponent then demand a blessing in exchange for letting go of the opponent? The contents of the blessing was not revealed. Blessings are not the prerogative of God alone. Prayer is not only a raising up of the mind and heart to God but also a conversation, as Yeshua did in Gethsemane. These not peculiar only to Jews.

    • Jacob wrestled for his blessing and was not going to stop at day light. So the Angel had to return to Worship the Creator. Shalom

  12. I have been and “in-depth” student and teacher of the Bible for over fifty years. I do have a question about what you mentioned here about Noah being the only person in scripture whom God called righteous. What about these scriptures? 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. Genesis 15:6 (KJV) And also in Galatians 3:6.

  13. Dr. Eli, I purchased your book on the Gospel of John as soon as it was available. I must say this was one of the most enlightening books I have read in a long time. Great job with John’s Gospel!

  14. Prayer? Perhaps, the question is how to be closer to God. In that closeness, righteousness can be found. Noah was so close to God that there was no need to wrestle. God made a covenant with Noah long before any covenant was made with Abram. Noah was a righteous ‘man’, who did the will of God because he understood the will of God so clearly. Abram was less developed, more childlike, and argued with the Lord God. It was this capacity for adolescent rebellion and contrariness that helped Abram leave home, strain against the establishment. Both men served God appropriately.

    • Prayer is not about wrestling with God; it is about embracing God. Noah was a man much like Jesus (or the teachings of Jesus). Because he was righteous, there was no need for him to cry out (like David). God simply had mercy on him. It is similar to Job, a man who was also ‘with God’, despite his troubles. In the end, it wasn’t his wrestling with God that meant anything. It was his success at embracing God (no matter what) that resulted in his maturity and advancement. Joseph was a similar ‘righteous man’. With God!

  15. Shema Y’srael Adonai “EHAD”. One True God, The God of Abraham, Y’saac and Y’srael (Y’acob). This Prayer sums it up and as we bend our knees and bow our heads we Confess that our God is One. Blessed be He. Baruk Habah B’Shem Adonai Y’SHUA Hamoshiah.

  16. If a man be righteous, his prayer is righteous regardless of whether he is Jewish or not. Isaac, being symbolic of Jesus as the living sacrifice in whom the seed of Abraham is called, (genesis 21:12). These are the children of promise who are counted as seed, through Sarah (his wife), Rom 9:8-9. Therefore, jewish prayer, gentile prayer, matters not if we are not ‘One in Christ’. These are the chosen ones.

  17. Possibly it is that Abraham shared the heart of G-d, in that he was able to be moved with compassion and pity towards fallen humanity. On the one hand there is the Torah that requires righteousness under the law but on the other hand there is the compassionate understanding that humanity has fallen short of this righteous requirement due to inherent weaknesses and there is a provision by G-d, out of His great love, mercy, pity, and compassion for humanity, to provide the sacricial lamb offering (Yeshua) to cover human weaknesses. Abraham acted as an intercessor between God and man.

  18. Love righteousness and God will hear your cries (Psalm 34:15), the favour of the Lord will and does fall upon the righteous. But it is through intercession in prayer that touches the heart of God. (Exodus 32:9-14) Moses intercedes for the Israelites after the golden calf incident. (Verse 14) the Lord relented/repented taken from the Hebrew verb “nacham” i.e. He changed His mind. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, but when we are selfless put others first, then through the power of intercession in prayer as in the cases of Abraham and Moses we can touch God’s heart.

  19. Thank you for this interesting insight about Noah and Abraham. But I think the question may be enlightened in another way. Why God doesn’t chose Noah, if he was righteous man and obedient to God to be the founder of Israelite people? But God has chosen Abraham and his sons. I think it’s a good question and I have the only one answer the character of Abraham was different from Noah. But this difference is need to be consider more precisely and in detail.

  20. Dr. Eli. I think I know where you are coming from. Having lived amongst Jewish people most of my life, I have observed that Jewish people do not take things said to them just on face value. Hence it is said that “if two Jews are arguing together you will have at least 3 opinions.” On the other hand” is also another expression heard a lot.

  21. The struggle lasted until the breaking of the day. This suggests to me that Jacob is wrestling with eternity (past, present, future). The past (God will do Jacob good-Gen 32:9). The present (I am not worthy of steadfast love -Gen 32:9). The blessing (His name – Gen 32:29) The future (I saw God face to face yet my life was spared- Gen 32:30).

  22. I love how so many engage with comments. It is inspiring, interesting, and educational. Thanks Dr. Eli, for your message and the invitees who leave comments. Such a blessing.

  23. Jacob was afraid and in distress this makes me think the Hebrew words day break (tomorrow) and steadfast (love) include a time perspective. I also see darkness and light working together often in scripture; so darkness (“no man can see Me and live) and light (I saw God face to face, yet I lived). This helps us to see the difference between mans work and God’s work (I think).

  24. I am not sure how the question and the text relate, but here goes: Micah 6.8 What does the LORD require of you-to do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God. Abraham and Noah did this, by faith, they simply obeyed God (Gen6.9/Gen24.40). What makes Prayer Jewish? Israel is HIS Nation, the Jews are HIS People. The Jews pray! A wise Jewish Dr recently told me, “Prayer in Israel is a local call!” That is ‘ALOT’ of prayer! The Jews walk with God-they’re HIS People! Am I still way off course?

  25. Abraham believed (trusted, relied) in God and as I’m sure we know He trusted so much that he didn’t withhold his beloved son Isaac but was willing to offer Isaac on the alter of sacrifice. Surely in this he demonstrated great faith in God believing that God would raise Isaac back to life as James reports. I wonder who displayed such love for and trust in the living God. Faith and trust is absolute in true prayer, don’t you agree. Thank you so much Dr Eli. Blessings and peace be yours.

  26. Some people believe that the human race at the time of Noah was corrupted by intermingling of angelic fallen (nephalim) ones and that only Noah was genetically pure.Not sure if I agree with that but it’s an explanation.

  27. אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה, בְּדֹרֹתָיו – it can be understood as ‘righteous (only) for his generation, based on lack of compassion like that of Abraham, who pleaded for wicked cities.

  28. Who should I turn to: The actual history of mankind as revealed by science and archaeological discoveries and literature and art of nations and the archaeological discoveries by scientists, or the story of Creation and Noah in the Bible. (No hostility intended) Sometime science is conjecture and deductive but it makes more sense, to me, than the stories in the Old Testament about The Creation and Noah and Abraham and Isaac. These are all interesting reading, exciting and good entertainment, trying to make sense of Human existence. But: Where is the truth? I am a Catholic myself. I trust science.

  29. Am I missing something here…was not Noah the ancestor of Abraham through the sin of Noah? Are not all humans on earth today the offspring of Noah? Please explain this according to the Scriptures or is your Bible different from mine? Thanks! Dr. Johnson

    • Yes, Dr. Johnson, my Bible, like yours, says that all humans after the flood are descendants of Noah, but my point was that the only person to be called righteous was not even a member of the God’s chosen people Israel. He was probably called righteous because he obeyed God without protest.

  30. Of course Noah was a founder of the nation of Israel–in the same way that Jesse was of the Messiah–as a progenitor. Perhaps Noah’s designation as righteous was both a reflection of his relationship with God and of the purity of his “generation” or, rather, his genetics. He was not a hybrid, but a pure human. And he worshipped and submitted willingly to God. Israel came from Noah, as did the rest of the human race after the flood. And perhaps his genetic “map” that facilitated his worshipfulness and tendancy trust in God finally reasserted itself in Abraham. Who knows?

  31. Noah obayed and followed God’s instructions to built and ark and save himself, his family and the creatures of the earth a righteous man indeed. Abraham who learn from Noah how to be obay and plead for his people he stood out because Noah thort him well.

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