Noah

Noah

The earth being filled with violence, God resolved on its destruction, but Noah, the just, He purposed to save alive.

On the words of Genesis, “All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth,” the Rabbi Johanan taught that not only was the race of men utterly demoralized, but also all the races of animals.182

Noah and his family, and one pair of all the beasts of earth, were to be saved in the ark, but of every clean beast seven were to enter in. Falsehood hastened to the ark and asked to be admitted; Noah refused. “I admit the animals only in pairs,” said he.

Then Falsehood went away in wrath, and met Injustice, who said—

“Why art thou so sad?”

“I have been refused admittance into the ark, for I am single,” said Falsehood; “be thou my companion.”

“See, now,” answered Injustice, “I take no companionship without prospect of gain.”

“Fear not,” said Falsehood, “I will spread the toils and thou shalt have the booty.”

So they went together to the ark, and Noah was unable to refuse them admission. And when the Flood was passed and the beasts went forth out of the ark, Falsehood said angrily, “I have done my work and have caused evil, but thou hast all the plunder; share with me.”

“Thou fool!” answered Injustice, “dost thou forget the agreement? Thine it is to spread the net, mine alone to take the spoil.”183

At the time of the Deluge the giants were not all drowned, for Og planted his foot upon the fountains of the great deep, and with his hands stopped the windows of heaven, or the water would have risen over his head. The Rabbi Eliezer 184  said that the giants exclaimed, when the Flood broke out, “If all the waters of the earth be gathered together, they will only reach our waists; but if the fountains of the great deep be broken up, we must stamp them down again.” And this they did, but God made the waters boiling hot, and it scalded them so that their flesh was boiled and fell off their bones.185  But what became of Og in the Deluge we learn from the Talmud.186  He went into the water along with a rhinoceros 187  beside the ark, and clung to it; now the water round the ark was cold, but all the rest was boiling hot. Thus he was saved alive, whereas the other giants perished.

According to another authority, Og climbed on the roof of the ark; and on Noah attempting to dislodge him, he swore that, if allowed to remain there, he and his posterity would be the slaves of the sons of Noah. Thereupon the patriarch yielded. He bored a hole in the side of the vessel, and passed through it every day the food necessary for the giant's consumption.188

It is asserted by some Rabbinic writers that the Deluge did not overflow the land of Israel, but was partial; some say the Holy Land was alone left dry, and a rhinoceros had taken refuge on it and so escaped being drowned. But others say that the land of Israel was submerged, though all agree that the rhinoceros survived without having entered the ark. And they explain the escape of the rhinoceros in this manner. Its head was taken into the ark, and it swam behind the vessel. Now the rhinoceros is a very large animal, and could not be admitted into the ark lest it should swamp it. The Rabbi Jannai says, he saw a young rhinoceros of a day old, and it was as big as Mount Tabor; and Tabor's dimensions are forty miles. Its neck was three miles long, and its head half a mile. It dropped dung, and the dung choked up Jordan. Other commentators object that the head was too large to be admitted into the ark, and suppose that only the tip of its nose was received. But as the ark swayed on the waters, Noah tied the horn of the rhinoceros to the side of the vessel, lest the beast's nose should slip off in a lurch of the ark, and so the creature perish.

All this is from the Talmud.

Let us now turn to some of the Mussulman legends of Noah. His history is briefly related in the Koran, in the chapter entitled “Hud.”

“Noah built the ark with our assistance and that of the angels, following the knowledge we revealed to him, and we said to him: Speak no more in behalf of the sinners; they shall all be drowned.

“Whilst Noah was building his ark, all those who passed by mocked him; but he said to them: Though you rail at me now, the time will come when I shall rail at you; for you will learn to your cost, Who it is that punishes the wicked in this world, and reserves for them a further punishment in the world to come.”

In the annals of Eutychius of Alexandria, who wrote in Egypt in the tenth century, and who probably quoted from apocryphal documents now perished, we read that, before the Flood broke out, Noah made a bell of plane wood, about five feet high, which he sounded every day, morning, noon, and evening. When any one asked him why he did so, he replied, “To warn you that God will send a deluge to destroy you all.”

Eutychius adds some further particulars.

“Before they entered the ark,” says he, “Noah and his sons went to the cave of Elcanuz, where lay the bodies of Adam, Seth, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech. He kissed his dead ancestors, and bore off the body of Adam together with precious oblations. Shem bore gold; Ham took myrrh; and Japheth incense. Having gone forth, as they descended the Holy Mount they lifted their eyes to Paradise, which crowned it, and said, with tears, ‘Farewell! Holy Paradise, farewell!' and they kissed the stones and embraced the trees of the Holy Mount.”189

Ibn Abbas, one of the commentators on the Koran, adds, that Noah being in doubt as to the shape he was to give to the ark, God revealed to him that it was to be modelled on the plan of a bird's belly, and that it was to be constructed of teak wood. Noah planted the tree, and in twenty years it grew to such a size that out of it he was able to build the entire ark.190

To return to the Koran.

“When the time prescribed for the punishment of men was arrived, and the oven began to boil and vomit, we said to Noah: Take and bring into the ark two couples of every kind of animal, male and female, with all your family, except him who has been condemned by your mouth, and receive the faithful, and even the unbelievers; but few only will enter.”

The interpreters of the Koran say that the ark was built in two years. They give it the dimensions mentioned in Genesis:—three stages, that on the top for the birds, the middle one for the men and the provisions, whilst the beasts occupied the hold. The sign of the outburst of the Flood was that water flowed out of the burning oven of Noah's wife. Then all the veins and arteries of the earth broke and spirted out water. He who was excluded was Canaan, the son of Ham, whom he had cursed. But Abulfeda says that it was Jam, a fourth son of Noah, who was excluded from the ark.191  The Persians say that Ham incurred his father's malediction as well, and, for that, he and his posterity became black and were enslaved; but that Noah, grieved for his son's progeny, prayed God to have mercy on them, and God made the slave to be loved and cherished by his master.

The Koran says, “Noah having entered the ark with his wife (Noema, daughter of Enoch, according to the Yaschar, Noria, according to the Gnostics; Vesta, according to the Cabbalists), and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives, the three daughters of Eliakim, son of Methuselah, he said to those who dwell on the earth, ‘Embark in the name of the Lord.'

“And whilst he thus spake, the ark advanced or halted, according to his order, in the name of God.”

But the Yaschar says that the ungodly dwellers on the earth, finding the Flood rising, hastened in such crowds to the ark, that they would have overfilled it, had not the lions and other animals within defended the entrance and repulsed them.192

According to some Oriental traditions, Noah embarked at Koufah; according to others, near where Babylon was afterwards erected; but some say in India; and some affirm that in the six months during which the Deluge lasted, the ark made the circuit of the world.193

Noah, seeing that his grandson Canaan was not on board, called to him, and said, “Embark, my child, and do not remain among the ungodly.”

But Canaan replied, “I will ascend the mountains, and shall be safe there.”

“Nothing can save thee to-day but the mercy of God,” said Noah.

Whilst thus speaking, a wave rushed between them and submerged Canaan.

After forty days, the ark swam from one end of the earth to the other, over the highest mountains. Over Mount Kubeis, chosen by God in which to preserve the sacred black stone of the Kaaba, the ark revolved seven times.194

Tabari says that Noah had four sons, and that of these Canaan was the youngest, and that the three elder believed in his mission, but his wife and Canaan laughed at his predictions. The animals that were brought into the ark were collected and wafted to it by the wind. When the ass was about to enter, Eblis (Satan) caught hold of its tail. The ass came on slowly; Noah was impatient, and exclaimed, “You cursed one, come in quick.”

When Eblis was within, Noah saw him, and said, “What right have you in here?”

“I have entered at your invitation,” answered the Evil One. “You said, ‘Cursed one, come in;' I am the accursed one.”

When six months had passed, the ark rested on the surface of the water above Djondi,195  and the rain ceased to fall, and God said to the earth, “Suck in the water;” and to the sky, “Withhold thy rains.” The water abated; and the ark lodged on the top of the mountain.

“There left the ark two sorts of animals which had not entered it—the pig and the cat. These animals did not exist before the Deluge, and God created them in the ark because it was full of filth and human excrements, which caused a great stench. The persons in the ark, not being able to endure any longer the smell, complained to Noah. Then Noah passed his hand down the back of the elephant, and it evacuated the pig. The pig ate all the dung which was in the ark, and the stench was no more.

“Some time after the rats gave great annoyance. They ate the food, and befouled what they did not eat. Then the voyagers went to Noah, and said to him, You delivered us in our former difficulty, but now we are plagued with rats, which gnaw our garments, eat our victuals, and cover every thing with their filth. Then Noah passed his hand down the back of the lion, who sneezed, and the cat leaped out of its nose. And the cat ate the rats.

“When Noah had left the ark, he passed forty days on the mountain, till all the water had subsided into the sea. All the briny water that is there is what remains from the Flood.

“Noah said to the raven, Go and place your foot on the earth and see what is the depth of the water. The raven departed; but, having found a carcase, it remained to devour it, and did not return. Noah was provoked, and he cursed the raven, saying, May God make thee contemptible among men and let carrion be thy food!

“After that Noah sent forth the dove. The dove departed, and, without tarrying, put her feet in the water. The water of the Flood scalded and pickled the legs of the dove. It was hot and briny, and feathers would not grow on her legs any more, and the skin scaled off. Now, doves which have red and featherless legs are of the sort that Noah sent forth. The dove returning showed her legs to Noah, who said, May God render thee well-pleasing to men! For that reason the dove is dear to men's hearts.”196

Another version of the story is this. Noah blessed the dove, and since then she has borne a neck-ring of green feathers; but the raven, on the other hand, he cursed, that its flight should be crooked, and never direct like that of other birds.197  This is also a Jewish legend.198

After that, Noah descended the mountain along with the eighty persons who had been saved with him, and he found that not a house was left standing on the face of the earth. Noah built a town consisting of eighty houses,—a house apiece for all who had been saved with him.199

Fabricius, in his collection of apocrypha of the Old Testament, has published the prayer that Noah offered daily in the ark, beside the body of Adam, which he bore with him, to bury it on Golgotha.

“O Lord, Thou art excellent in truth, and nothing is great beside Thee; look upon us in mercy; deliver us from this deluge of water for the sake of the pangs of Adam, the first man whom Thou didst make; for the sake of the blood of Abel, the holy one; for the sake of just Seth, in whom Thou didst delight; number us not amongst those who have broken Thy commandments, but cover us with Thy protection, for Thou art our deliverer, and to Thee alone are due the praises uttered by the works of Thy hands from all eternity.” And all the children of Noah responded, “Amen, O Lord.”200

Noah is said to have left the ark on the tenth day of the first month of the Mussulman year, and to have instituted the fast which the Mahommedans observe on that day, to thank God for his deliverance.

According to the Book of Enoch, the water of the Flood was transformed by God into fire, which will consume the world and the ungodly, at the consummation of all things.201

The Targum of Palestine says that the dove plucked the leaf she brought to Noah from off a tree on the Mount of Olives.202

The Book Jasher supplies an omission in Genesis. In Genesis it is said of Lamech, on the birth of Noah, “He called his name Noah; saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed ;”203  but Noah signifies rest, not comfort. The Book Jasher says that the Methuselah called the child Noah, rest, because the land rested from the curse; but Lamech called him Menahem, comfort, for the reason given in the text of Genesis. The sacred writer has given one name with the signification of the other.204

The Planting of the Vine

Bowed under his toil, dripping with perspiration, stood the patriarch Noah, laboring to break the hard clods. All at once Satan appeared and said to him,—

“What new undertaking have you in hand? What new fruit do you expect to extract from these clods?”

“I plant the grape,” answered the patriarch.

“The grape! proud plant, most precious fruit! joy and delight to men! Your labor is great; will you allow me to assist you? Let us share the labor of producing the vine.”

The patriarch in a fit of exhaustion consented.

Satan hastened, got a lamb, slaughtered it, and poured its blood over the clods of earth. “Thence shall it come,” said Satan, “that those who taste of the juice of the grape, shall be soft-spirited and gentle as this lamb.”

But Noah sighed; Satan continued his work; he caught a lion, slew that, and poured the blood upon the soil prepared for the plant. “Thence shall it come,” said he, “that those who taste the juice of the grape shall be strong and courageous as the lion.”

Noah shuddered. Satan continued his work; he seized a pig and slaughtered it, and drenched the soil with its blood. “Thence shall it come,” said he, “that those who drink of the juice of the grape in excess, shall be filthy, degraded, and bestial as the swine.”246

The Mussulman tradition is somewhat similar.

“When Ham had planted the vine, Satan watered it with the blood of a peacock. When it thrust forth leaves, he sprinkled it with the blood of an ape; when it formed grapes, he drenched it with the blood of a lion; when the grapes were ripe, he watered it with the blood of a swine.

“The vine, watered by the blood of these four animals, has assumed these characters. The first glass of wine makes a man animated, his vivacity great, his color is heightened. In this condition he is like the peacock. When the fumes of the liquor rise into his head, he is gay, leaps and gambols as an ape. Drunkenness takes possession of him, he is like a furious lion. When it is at its height, he is like the swine; he falls and grovels on the ground, stretches himself out, and goes to sleep.”247

Mohammed, to justify his forbidding his disciples to drink wine, cites the history of the two angels, Arot and Harot.

“God,” says he, “charged them with a commission on the earth. A young lady invited them to dinner, and they found the wine so good that they got drunk. They then remarked that their hostess was beautiful, and they were filled with love which they declared to her. This lady, who was prudent, replied that she would only listen to their protestations when she knew the words by which they were enabled to ascend to heaven. When she had learned these words, she mounted to the throne of God, who, as a reward for her virtue, transformed her into a shining star (the Morning Star), and condemned the two drunken angels to await the day of judgment, suspended by their heels in the well of Babel, near Bagdad, which Mussulman pilgrims visit.”

According to Tabari,248  Ham, for having laughed at his father's drunkenness, was cursed by Noah, that his skin should become black, as well as all the fruits which were to grow in the land he should inhabit, and thus the purple grape arose. It was the white grape that Ham transplanted, but it blackened in his hands.

Abulfaraj relates that after the Deluge, Noah divided the habitable world between his sons. He gave to Ham the country of the Black, to Shem that of the Brown, and to Japheth that of the Red.249  Noah also, he continues, said to his son Shem, “When I am dead, take the bier of our father Adam from the ark, and, together with your son Melchizedek, who is a priest of the Most High, go with the body of Adam whither an angel shall guide you.”

This they did; and an angel directed them to mount Breitalmakdes (Jerusalem), where they deposited the bier on a certain hill, and instantly it sank out of their sight into the ground. Then Shem returned to his home, but not so Melchizedek, who remained to guard the body of Adam: and he built there a city called Jerusalem, and he was called Melek Salim, the King of Peace, and there he spent the rest of his life in the worship of God; he touched not women, nor shed blood, but offered to God oblations of bread and wine.250

Eutychius, the Egyptian patriarch of Alexandria, in his Annals, which are rife with Oriental traditions, gives a fuller account of the same incident.

When Noah was near his death, he bade Shem take the body of Adam, and go with Melchizedek, son of Peleg, whither the angel of the Lord should lead. “And,” said he, “thou shalt enjoin on Melchizedek to fix his habitation there, to take to him no wife, and to spend his life in acts of devotion, for God has chosen him to preserve His true worship. He shall build himself no house, nor shall he shed blood of beast, or bird, or any animal; nor shall he offer there any oblation save bread and wine; and let the skins of lions be his only vesture; he shall remain alone there; he shall not clip his hair, or pare his nails; for he is a priest of the Most High. The angel of God shall go before you, till ye come to the place where ye shall bury the body of Adam, and know that that place is the middle of the world.” Now Noah died on Wednesday, at the second hour, in the second month of Ayar, which is the same as Bashnes, in the nine hundred and fiftieth year of his age. And this year Shem was aged forty-five. The sons of Noah buried him, and bewailed him forty days.251

The wife of Noah is said by some to have been called Bath-Enos, or the daughter of Enos; but the Rabbi Gedaliah says her name was Noema; others say it was Tethiri, or Tithœa, the nurse of men, as Eve was the mother of men. The Gnostics called her Noria. She is, however, generally supposed by the Rabbis to have been Naamah, the sister of Tubal-cain.252  But Eutychius, of Alexandria, says she was called Haical, and was the daughter of Namus, son of Enoch; and that the wives of Shem, Ham, and Japheth were the three daughters of Methuselah. Shem's wife was named Salith; the wife of Ham, Nahlath; and the wife of Japheth, Arisivah.253

The nurse of Noah was an important personage, and must not be forgotten. She was named Sambethe, and was the first Sibyl. Suidas, the grammarian, says, “The Chaldee Sibyl, named Sambethi by the Hebrews, and identified with the Persian Sibyl, was of the race of Noah. She foretold those things which were to befall Alexander of Macedon. She also predicted the coming of the Lord Christ, and many other things, through divine inspiration.”254

The Sons of Noah

Ham, the accursed, the third son of Noah, was the inventor or the preserver of magic. As we have already seen, he buried the books of magic which existed in the world, before the Deluge swept over the globe; and when it abated he exhumed them. Cerco d'Ascoli, in the fourth chapter of his “Commentary on the Sphere of Sacrabosco,” declares that he had seen a book of magic which had been composed by Ham, “which contained the elements and practice of necromancy.” Certain it is that apocryphal books of alchemy and conjuration of spirits existed in the Middle Ages, which purported to have been composed by Ham.

Ham was turned black, according to the Talmud, because he did not maintain himself in perfect continence whilst in the ark;255  other authorities say his skin became sooty in consequence of his scoffing at his father's drunkenness; and Japheth, for having smiled, says the Mussulman lost the gift of prophecy from his family.256

Berosus supposed that Ham was the same as Zoroaster.

Japheth, according to Khondemir, was given by his father all the land to the east and north of Ararat; he was the progenitor of the Turks, the Sclaves, of Gog and Magog, says Tabari. Before he started with his family to people these countries, Noah gave him a stone, on which was written the great name of God. The Turks say that, by means of this stone, Noah was able to guide the course of the ark without sail or oars. The Turks have similar stones, which, they pretend, came by a process of generation from the parental stone given to Japheth.257  He is said by the Mussulmans to have had eleven male children: Sin or Tchin, the father of the Chinese; Scklab, the ancestor of the Sclavonian races; Manschug or Magog, the parent of the Scythians and Kalmuks; Gomari, the father of the Franks; Turk and Khalos, the ancestors of the Turks; Khozaz, from whom the Khozarans trace their pedigree; Rus, father of the Russians; Souffan, Ghoy, and Tarag, from whom the Turcomans derive.

Ilak, son of Turk, discovered the use of salt by having let fall a piece of meat he was eating on the ground covered with saline deposit.

Of Shem the Rabbis have somewhat to say. “I have found in the Midrash that the Rabbi Johanan, son of Nuri, said: ‘The holy, ever-blessed God took Shem, son of Noah, and consecrated him priest of the Most High, that he should minister before Him: and He let his Majesty dwell with Him, and He gave him the name Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God, king of Salem. His brother Japheth learnt the law of him in his school, till Abraham came, who learnt it in the school of Shem. For this Abraham obtained, praying to God that his Majesty should remain and dwell in the house of Shem, wherefore it was said of him, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.'”258

Shem learned his knowledge from the Book of Wisdom which Raphael, the holy angel, gave to Adam; but Shem's instructor was the angel Jophiel.259

The Rabbi Gerson writes in his book called “Sepher geliloth erez Israel,” that having travelled through the lands of Og, king of Bashan, he saw there a grave which measured eighty ells, and it was indicated to him as the sepulchre of Shem.260  A curious tradition that Shem, Ham, and Japheth fell asleep in a cave, and woke up at the Nativity of Christ, and that they were themselves the three wise men who came to adore Him, shall be mentioned more fully when we treat of the legends connected with the New Testament characters.

Shem is said to have received the priesthood instead of Noah, because Noah was bitten by the lion as he was leaving the ark, and, being suffused with blood, became incapable of receiving the priesthood.

Shem is believed to have written many books, and apocryphal writings of his exist.


XVIII.Relics of the Ark

We have already seen that Berosus relates how in his time portions of the ark were removed, and used as amulets. Josephus says that remains of the ark were to be seen at his day upon Ararat; and Nicolas of Damascus reports the same. S. Epiphanius writes: “The wood of the ark of Noah is shown to this day in the Kardæn (Koord) country.”261  And he is followed by a host of fathers. El Macin, in his History of the Saracens, relates that the Emperor Heraclius visited the relics after he had conquered the Persians, in the city of Thenia, at the roots of Ararat. Haithon, the Armenian, declares that upon the snows of Ararat a black speck is visible at all times: this is Noah's ark.262  Benjamin of Tudela, in his Itinerary, says that all the wood was carried away by the Caliph Omar, in A. D. 640, and was placed by him in a temple or mosque he erected in an island formed by the Tigris. One of the beams is shown in the Lateran at Rome. In 1670, Johann Jansenius Strauss ascended to a hermit's cell on the side of Ararat, to bind up the cœnobite's leg which was broken. The hermit's cell, said Strauss, was five days' journey up the mountain, athwart three clouds, and above a region of intolerable cold, in a calm warm atmosphere. From the account of the hermit, Herr Strauss learnt that the old man had dwelt there twenty-five years, and that he had felt there neither rain nor winds. On the top of the mountain, fifteen Italian miles from the cell, through the clear air, was distinguishable the great vessel grounded in the snow. The hermit had reached it, and of one of its planks had cut a cross, which he exhibited to the German traveller.

In the town of Chenna, in Arabia Felix, says the traveller Prévoux, is a large building, said to have been erected by Noah; and a large piece of wood is exhibited through an iron grating, which is said to have formed a portion of his ark. There is also to be seen at Chenna a well, said to have been dug by the patriarch Jacob, of which the water is icy cold.

The Armenians say that a certain monk, Jacob, once ascended Ararat, and carried off a fragment of the ark, which he made afterwards into a cross, and this is preserved amongst the sacred relics of Etchmiadzin. When the Persian king, Abassus the great, sent to inquire about the ark, the monks replied that it was in vain for him to attempt to reach it, on account of the precipices and glaciers, and innumerable difficulties of the way.263

182  Talmud, Tractat. Sanhedrin, fol. 108, col. 1. So also the Book Yaschar, p. 1097.

183  Jalkut, Genesis, fol. 14a.

184  Jalkut Shimoni, Job. fol. 121, col. 2.

185  Eisenmenger, i. p. 385. The Targum of Palestine says the water was hot (i. p. 179).

186  Tractat. Sevachim, fol. 113, col. 2.

187  Or, a unicorn; the Hebrew word is Reém.

188  Midrash, fol. 14.

189  Eutych, Patriarcha Alex., ed. Selden, i. p. 36.

190  Tabari, p. 108.

191  Abulfeda, p. 17.

192  Yaschar, p. 1100.

193  Colin de Plancy, p. 110.

194  Weil, p. 45.

195  Ararat.

196  Tabari, c. xli.

197  Weil, p. 45.

198  Midrash, fol. 15.

199  Tabari, p. 113.

200  Fabricius, i. pp. 74, 243.

201  Ed. Dillmann, c. 67.

202  Ed. Etheridge, i. p. 182.

203  Gen. v. 20.

204  In the Midrash Rabba, this want of connection between the name and the signification is remarked upon, and Solomon Jarki in his commentary says that, for the meaning assigned, the name ought to have been, not Noah, but Menahem.

246  Jalkut, Genesis, fol. 16 a.

247  Colin de Plancy, p. 121.

248  Tabari, i. c. xli.

249  Hist. Dynastiarum, ed. Pocock; Oxon., 1663, p. 9.

250  Hist. Dynastiarum, ed. Pocock; Oxon., 1663, p. 10.

251  Eutychius, Patr. Alex., Annal., t. i. p. 44.

252  Bereschith Rabba, fol. 22, col. 4.

253  Eutych. Annal., ed. Selden, i. p. 35.

254  Suidas, Lexic. s. v. Σίβυλλα.

255  Tract. Sanhedrin, fol. 108, col. 2.

256  Tabari, i. p. 115.

257  Colin de Plancy, p. 224.

258  Eisenmenger, i. pp. 318-9.

259  Ibid., p. 376.

260  Ibid., p. 395.

261  Adv. Hæres., lib. i.

262  De Tartaris, c. 9.

263  Reliquiæ Arcæ Noæ, in Fabricius, i. art. 33.