Noah Character Bible Study Background and Lessons
Meaning of name: Comfort/Rest.
Ancestry and family life: Noah was the tenth of the pre-flood patriarchs. His father was Lamech (a different Lamech than the murderer in Genesis 4:19-24). His grandfather was Methusaleh, who lived longer than anyone in recorded history. His great-grandfather was Enoch, who was a righteous man, so righteous that God took him straight to heaven without having to face death like Elijah. See Hebrews 11:5. Abraham was born 1046 years after Adam had his first son. Adam lived about 800 years after he had his first son, so Noah was actually born only 200 years after Adam died. At this point about 8 of the generations from Adam to Noah would have still been alive at the same time. In Noah’s own family, he had three sons, each of which had married by the time the ark was built and launched.
When and where he lived: Noah lived in the pre-flood era, also known as the dispensation of conscience. Genesis 6:1-8 tells us the condition of the world at the time of Noah. It was exceedingly evil and corrupt. There was a heavy demonic influence that tainted and twisted God’s natural order. Murderers like Lamech apparently went unpunished. There were no human governments, or at least limited ones, to act as restraints towards sin. The result was people acted according to what was right in their own eyes. Here and there a righteous person would pop up such as Seth, Enoch, and Noah. But by and large humans were living under the influence of demons and rebelling against God.
See that “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was evil continually.” There was no break from sin. There were no Scriptures, prophets, or the church to act as restraints. The world had descended into a cess pot of evil and filth. It was so evil God grieved in His heart and felt regret and remorse at man’s pitiful condition. As a holy and righteous God, God could not tolerate this kind of behavior.
We can see it would have been extremely difficult to live righteously in this corrupt environment.
While the Bible does not say where Noah lived before the flood it tells us that the Ark landed somewhere in the mountains of Ararat (modern day Turkey) after the flood. He likely lived somewhere in that general area after the flood while his descendants migrated to different areas to populate the earth.
Events surrounding birth: We don’t really know of any special events surrounding Noah’s birth. His father did give him his name hoping that somehow Noah would bring rest to a race that was weary with living because of the effects of the curse on the world. Lamech was placing his hope in the wrong thing, however.
Training and occupation: Noah lived a total of 600 years before the flood. One hundred and twenty of those years would have largely been consumed with building the Ark. So for much of his life, his occupation was ship builder. It is no wonder it took that long since he probably didn’t have power tools, modern cranes, or other important construction tools. At the same time, men at that time were not cave men. They were very clever and had a high IQ and lots of culture. Therefore he would have been able to design some types of tools as well as ways to move and cut the large quantities of wood. The fact that he was able to finish this mammoth project with likely very little help outside of his own family is a testament to the abilities God has given man at all times and ages. We don’t know his occupation that provided for his family during this time. Either he built the Ark part time or God supernaturally provided food for his family during this time.
After the flood, Noah planted a vineyard. He or his own sons would have likely planted many other kinds of fruits and vegetables as well. Noah either discovered the process of fermentation or copied it from others before him since he would become drunk with the fruits of his vineyard.
Place in history: Noah obviously has a very important place in history. He is the ancestor of all humans on earth. He was also the person God used to save all life on earth and thus could be called a hero. In fact he is listed as one of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:7. Our DNA comes from Noah. Also human culture would have been heavily influenced by Noah and whatever culture he carried onto the ark with him. At the time he lived, he had the distinction of being called righteous and of walking with God. This portrays a very close and intimate relationship between Noah and Abraham.
The first thing most people will notice when reading the earlier chapters of Genesis is the extremely long age of the patriarchs who lived then. They will naturally have great doubt as to the truth of these stories and view them as myths or exaggerations because it is not what they are used to today. While the Bible itself does not directly answer the question as to why they lived so long compared to today, we can infer the likely cause.
You can see that the ages of people began to decline very sharply after the flood. They declined very steadily and very quickly, much like the decaying of life on a curve when exposed to gas or other deadly poisons. We can see from Genesis 6:13 and other verses that God was not only destroying man, but destroying the earth. The earth wouldn’t be completely destroyed, but it would never be the same. Explain about the expanse collapsing to cause the flood and the change of the earth’s climate as well as exposure to additional harmful rays from the sun. Pre-flood conditions were very stable, safe, and healthy, kind of like a baby in the womb. Post-flood with the spread of additional sicknesses, diseases, and other changes was a whole different story. The Bible is not the only book that talks about such long ages for the earth’s earliest people. Many other ancient books do the same.
Hebrews 11:7 – Noah, a man of faith.
2 Peter 2:5 – Noah, a preacher of righteousness.
1 Peter 3:20 – Compares the ark to baptism. Noah’s preaching was unable to convince anyone outside of the eight members of his immediate family to board the ark.
Matthew 24:37-39 – The coming of the Son of Man will be just like in the days of Noah.
1. Lack of self control in drinking incident – There is some speculation as to why or how Noah got drunk. I read some ideas that perhaps the climate change caused this fermentation process so Noah was caught by surprise by it and therefore became drunk. Based just on the context, I would have to say this is unlikely. There is really no reason to think this is the case except putting Noah up on a perfection pedestal. But all people are sinners, even the great patriarchs like Noah. Maybe this was a time of despair or loneliness, who knows? But he did get drunk, which shows a clear lack of self control at this point in time. Notice that being drunk causes people to do things they wouldn’t normally do, like Noah being naked in his tent. There is no reason to think Noah was doing anything perverse, it could have been the heat or just a cloudy mind. Regardless, his sin was followed up by a greater son by his son who leered at him and disrespected him. We should learn from Noah that no one is immune to sin, even the most righteous people. We need to show self control at all times. This is why the Bible commands us not to get drunk. When we are drunk, we will lose control over our actions and words.
1. Righteous – We learn from the text that Noah was righteous and blameless before God. Out of all the people on earth, he alone for favor before God. Compare him to the rest of the world. They were so evil and so corrupt even loving, patient God could not bear it anymore. His justice demanded that he punish them. I believe this time period before the flood was the most wicked in all of human history perhaps only to be matched by the final years of the tribulation before Jesus’ second return. Imagine how difficult it is to be righteous in this kind of environment. There is no restraint against sin. EVERYBODY else is engaging in it shamelessly and egging on others to commit more and more vile deeds. Violence would be running rampant. Immorality, cheating, lying, murdering, etc.
But Noah, just like Enoch and Seth before him stood out. He was different. He didn’t do the same things others did. He shone like a star in a dark world. No one else outside of his own family truly trusted God. Fewer and fewer even pretended to. The story of creation and the fall gradually and conveniently faded from their memories.
We should think how about us? We live in a dark world as well, but it is not nearly as dark as at that time. And we still also have the immense benefit of fellowship and other believers to help us where Noah and his family were truly alone. Do you think you would find favor in God’s sight. If God were to build another ark (not going to happen), would he choose you? Would you stand out as being righteous or are you basically the same as everybody else? Romans 12:1-2.
2. Obedient – We learn that Noah walked with God. Interestingly enough, we never see Noah talking to God like Abraham or Moses did. Always he is listening to what God is telling him to do. But Noah didn’t just listen, he obeyed. He obeyed whatever God told him to do, no matter how difficult it was. The things God told him to do weren’t of the “clean your room”, “go to bed”, “wash the dishes”, “go to church” or “do your homework” variety. List all the commandments God gave to Noah? God told him to make an ark and to cover inside and out with pitch. God gave Noah very specific sizes and measurements for the ark. See verse 22. Noah did; according to ALL that God had commanded him so he did. Also 7:1. Enter the ark, you and your household. Then take with you … animals. See verse 5. Noah did according to ALL that the Lord had commanded him. See 8:15. Go out of the ark. 8:18. So Noah went out.
Again and again God gave commands to Noah and again and again Noah was obedient to do what God said. Notice that he didn’t complain. He didn’t question God. He did what God said fully and completely. He didn’t cut corners in building the ark (or the ark may not have survived the flood.) He didn’t just get most animal creatures into the ark. He did everything God said to do. Except for the task Jesus was given, I can’t think of any bigger tasks given to any human than what God gave to Noah. He did it. What would the results be if Noah disobeyed God? Hypothetically speaking, there would be no more humans or land animals alive in this world. I would say it was a pretty important task.
3. Faith – Why was Noah able to obey like this? Faith. What would the reaction be of most people if they were given this kind of command from God? I think there would be a lot of doubt and skepticism. I have never seen anything like that before. Where is all of the water going to come from anyway? How can we keep so many animals alive? How can we catch all of the animals and get them to go into the ark? Each step of building the ark would bring more questions. Where can we get all of these materials? There isn’t even any gopher wood available in this area. How can we support ourselves and build the ark at the same time? What are our friends going to say when we start building this big boat in the middle of nowhere? Sixty years later, we’ve been working on this for 60 years and can’t even see the end in sight, and for what? When commanded to get in the boat, how are we going to close the door? Why get in, I don’t see anything? Etc. Etc.
This task needed immense faith to complete from the very beginning when Noah agreed although to the very end of entering the ark and then even leaving the ark again. This is why Noah is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:7. There is no record of Noah arguing or doubting or asking questions. He simply obeyed because of his faith.
I personally think having faith would have gotten progressively more difficult over the one hundred plus years until this prophecy came true. For the vast majority of that time until perhaps the last couple of weeks until the animals started arriving, there would have been no signs that this was coming. Life would have gone on exactly like it did before God told Noah he would destroy the world. Friends and maybe even family would have gone from questioning Noah to laughing at him to public ridicule. You can imagine some of the names they called him and the ark. “Noah’s Folly”. “That old fool.” And so on. Yet Noah didn’t waiver. He trusted that what God told him would happen would. He didn’t need to see proofs or evidences or signs. God’s Word was enough. How wonderful is this faith! It is just like the faith described in Hebrews, the essence of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen.
4. Diligent – We have already covered this some in listing out Noah’s strengths as being obedient and having faith. Would a lazy person be able to accomplish this task? No. What kind of excuses might a lazy person have come up with? I have one hundred and twenty years to finish this project, no need to start yet! A lazy person would likely delay delay delay until it was too late to finish, but not Noah. There are a lot of things Noah would have had to think about and plan for. Its not only the actual construction, but also the aquiring of materials, providing for his family during this time period, security from vandalism or theft, getting/purchasing food to stock the ark, creating ways for waste removal and food dispersion, etc. If he neglected any one of these areas, disaster would have been waiting. Noah did it all. He did it well and he didn’t slack off.
5. Preacher – 2 Peter 2:5. From this verse we learn that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Building the ark certainly gave Noah many opportunities to tell people why he was doing it and the doom that was coming. He likely preached just like many other OT prophets. It is likely that Noah’s project was famous. Everyone in the area knew about it. Reporters, if there were any at that time, would have come around to get the scoop on just what he was doing. Noah used these opportunities to preach to the people about the need for repentance. We know that God is a patient and loving God. These character qualities don’t change throughout history. I believe that Noah could give an invitation to anyone who wanted to believe in what God said would happen to get on the ark together with his family. But he didn’t have any takers.
A few people might have respected Noah for his integrity and care for others. A few people might have became more interested when the animals started showing up on their own. A few people might have felt guilt when Noah cried out against the evil and corruption in his society. But no one had enough faith to step on the ark with him. They all rejected the invitation and refused to repent from their evil thoughts and ways. Even those who might have been interested were unwilling to step out on that room for fear of ridicule from their own friends.
This preaching was a sad and tough task for Noah. He knew that it would be fruitless to keep preaching, but he did anyway. He knew they would mock him, but he did it anyway. In this aspect his ministry was much like Isaiah or Jeremiah’s. He would keep preaching, but with no fruit. What can we learn from this? We should keep preaching/sharing even when people mock and even when we can’t see any positive response.
6. Worshipful – After the whole episode was done with, Noah’s first recorded action was what? Build and alter and offer a sacrifice to God. He didn’t have a bitter or angry heart. He was grateful God spared Him and made this covenant with him. Noah showed his gratitude to God by an act of worship, sacrificing of every clean animal. This was actually quite a sacrifice. There were very few animals at that time and it would have been easy for Noah to rationalize and think that he needed to save them so that they could repopulate the earth. Yet he demonstrated faith in God. He wanted to worship this great God that he had come to know even better. He also didn’t seem to react negatively and blame God for judging the sinners. He would leave the ark and enter a much harsher world, one with much shorter longevity, extreme temperatures, new diseases, and natural disasters.
Important acts and events:
How he died: He apparently died of old age at the age of 950.
Lessons from his life:
1. God is just – God could no longer tolerate even looking down at man’s sinfulness. The earth was so corrupt and evil, God’s own holy nature obligated him to take action. We see in this story all the elements of the gospel, and they all start with God’s hatred of sin. He cannot allow it to go unpunished. There is a stern warning here we should take to heart when we evaluate our own lives and the sin there. Repent before it is too late.
2. God is loving – God’s justice and lovingkindness go hand in hand. Whenever God judges He provides a way out, or in this case a way in. Noah and his family entered the door of the ark and God closed the door. There was only door. There was only one means of salvation for Noah and his family. If he wanted to be saved he had to go by the way that God commanded. Any effort of his own self would surely have failed. God wasn’t going to destroy the entire human race. He lovingly provided a way for our preservation and He lovingly provided a way for Noah who was faithful to Him. We see God’s punishment at Sodom and Gomorrah, Ninevah, etc. For each of these cases, those who believed in Him would be spared. God doesn’t punish the righteous along with the wicked. If we belong to Him, we can take great comfort in this.
3. God will keep His promises and care for His people – God said 120 years ahead of time there was going to be a flood. 120 years later, and with virtually no warning, it came. What God says He will do, He will do. Also, He gave the command to Noah and He enabled Noah and his family to finish the task. He didn’t abandon Noah in the middle of the project. Although there were surely difficulties along the way, He made sure Noah got through it. Notice to that no volcanoes erupted onto the ark, no mountains pierced the whole, no gangs of humans set fire to it and sank it, He protected it even during the flood and made sure that Noah and his family got through it safely.
4. People were not ready for the flood and won’t be ready for the second coming. Take seriously God’s warnings – Matthew 24:37-39. Read and discuss and compare to the attitude of the world now.
5. God will take care of the faithful person even if there is only one – Like I said before, God will not destroy the righteous together with the wicked. If you repent, even if no one else does, God will save you.
6. We should stand firm in obedience to God even when there is great pressure/mocking not to – God always has a reason for what He tells us to do. Its important to obey. Many times we will feel like an island in middle of the ocean because of the strong opposition we face, but we must not give in to the pressure.