Who Was Noah in the Bible? Meaning and Symbols of the Story of Noah

Noah was an obedient servant of God amidst a sinful world. He is most well-known for building an ark that preserved himself and his family, as well as representatives of every land animal, from a great flood that God unleashed in judgment upon the earth.

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Updated Mar 03, 2021
Who Was Noah in the Bible? Meaning and Symbols of the Story of Noah

Noah was an obedient servant of God in the Old Testament who found favor with God amidst a sinful world. He is most well-known for building an ark that preserved himself and his family, as well as representatives of every land animal, from a great flood that God unleashed in judgment upon the earth.

What Is the Meaning of Noah?

The name Noah means “rest.” It derives from the Hebrew נוח (nuah), to rest. The name could also mean "comfort." It may seem ironic because the story of Noah involves neither of these things. After all, God floods the earth, and that doesn't seem like a whole lot of rest or comfort for its inhabitants. But perhaps this name can remind us of the feeling that Noah's family likely felt when at last the Flood waters receded and that God comforted them with a rainbow, reminding them that he would never flood the entire earth again.

What Is the Story of Noah?

When God saw how wicked and corrupt man had become, He regretted creating them and decided to destroy all of mankind (Genesis 6:7). However, God gave Noah favor because he saw that he was righteous (Genesis 6:8). God commanded Noah to build an ark to house and preserve his family, as well as every male and female species of land animal, from His punishment of a flood on the earth (Genesis 6:14-21).

The rain fell and the floodwaters rose around the ark for 40 days, however, Noah and the other inhabitants remained safe (Genesis 7:17-18).

After a dove that Noah had sent out returned with an olive leaf (Genesis 8:11), these sole survivors of the flood disembarked where God blessed Noah and his children, encouraging them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:1). He also commanded them to not eat flesh which still has blood in it (Genesis 9:4), nor to spill the lifeblood of their fellow man (Genesis 9:5-6).

Additionally, God made a covenant with Noah and his sons, promising to never destroy them, their descendants, nor any living creatures through a flood ever again (Genesis 9:9-11). As a token of His covenant, God set a rainbow in the clouds to serve as a reminder of His pledge to all living creatures on earth (Genesis 9:12-17).

What Else Does the Bible Say about Noah?

Noah is first mentioned in the Bible when his father Lamech predicted the upcoming destruction of the earth and Noah’s role in restoring mankind: “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” (Genesis 5:29).

Noah had unwavering faith and godly fear to build an ark when God warned him about a flood he had not yet seen:

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith, he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith” (Hebrews 11:7). 

Noah is numbered as being amongst three of the most righteous men in the book of Ezekiel, alongside Job, and Daniel:

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness” (Ezekiel 14:20).

Interesting Facts about Noah

  • Noah is the tenth generation descendant of Adam; Noah’s grandfather was Methuselah, who is the oldest man recorded in the Bible (Genesis 5:27). He lived to be 969 years old. Some have said that Methuselah died in the flood, but most likely he died right before the events had happened. In either case, we don't have enough details from Scripture to know.
  • Noah himself was 500 years old when he had his sons Japheth, Shem, and Ham; At the time of the flood, Noah was 600 years old (Genesis 7:6).
  • Upon stepping on dry land after the flood, Noah first built an altar to God (Genesis 8:20);  Noah planted the first vineyard after the flood, and he is the first drunk recorded in the Bible (Genesis 9:20-21).
  • When Noah’s youngest son Ham found his father drunk and naked in his tent, he went and told his brothers, instead of covering him. For this transgression, Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan to be the lowliest of servants to his brethren (Genesis 9:22-26); After the flood, Noah lived another 350 years, dying at the age of 950 years.

Bible Symbols from the Story of Noah

1. The raven (Genesis 8:7); The dove (Genesis 8:8-12) - A dove often represents peace in Scripture. Ravens, later in the Bible, provided a prophet with food. Both of these birds in this passage likely represent peace and rest to come and God's provision.

2. The ark (Genesis 6:14-16): The ark serves as a house and fortress for God's people as God floods the earth. We see similar word usage in Moses' story when his mother places him in a basket of reeds on the Nile. Because the Nile was home to vicious predators such as hippos, the "ark" kept Moses safe until he reached harbor, at the feet of Pharaoh's daughter.

3. The mountain (Genesis 8:4) - We can see mountains symbolized throughout Scripture, tending to mean different things. Places of worship, peaks in life, where Jesus transfigures, etc. In the case of this passage, it shows that God has not abandoned Noah. A mountain could represent hope that the flood waters would eventually recede.

4. The number 40 (Genesis 7:17) - The number 40 throughout Scripture tends to represent completeness or wholeness. We see this when Jesus fasts for 40 days and nights in the desert. The people of Israel also wander the wilderness for 40 years after their disobedience to God, before they can enter the Promised Land.

5. The rainbow (Genesis 9:13-17) - The passage describes this as God setting his "bow" in the sky. If you've ever looked at a rainbow, it looks like a sideways bow. Now although the meaning of rainbow has changed in our modern culture, in the Bible, symbolizes God's promise to never flood the earth again. Because the earth had never experienced rain before the Flood, this would've been the first time people saw a rainbow.

Lessons from Noah’s Ark

Noah’s family consisted of eight people: Noah, his wife, three sons, and their wives. As they were the only human survivors of the flood, they became the founders of a new and second lineage of mankind that brought about our salvation in Jesus Christ.

The events leading up to the flood can be seen as a forerunner for the second coming of Jesus (Matthew 24:37-39).

Some lessons we can learn is that God can provide a way out to salvation. People on earth had a chance to repent and go with Noah onto the ark, but they refused. We also see lessons of God's faithfulness in this passage. He does not leave Noah's family out in the floodwaters. Instead, the waters eventually recede and they find land again.


Abarim Publications,  “The amazing Noah: meaning and etymology.”

BibleStudyTools.com, Matthew Henry commentary, Genesis 6-9.

Bible tools, “Our uniqueness and time,”John W. Ritenbaugh.

The fact site, “32 Interesting Facts About Noah and His Ark,”Andrew Krehbiel.

Further Reading

5 Lessons from the Story of Noah that We Still Need Today

Noah's Ark and the Flood - Bible Story

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