Noah & Babel

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The Birth of Noah

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 500 words.

The Biblical story of Noah was tremendously popular, and like all great stories, it spawned more and more stories (kind of like sequels and spinoffs in the movies and on TV). People wanted to know more about Noah, more about his sons, more about Nimrod and Babel - so they told more stories, building on tiny details found in the Bible, or associating the characters in the Bible with other traditional types of stories. The next pages you will read are extra-Biblical legends that Louis Ginzberg collected froma wide variety of Jewish sources. The Bible tells us nothing about the birth of Noah, but people apparently decided that he deserved a miraculous birth story befitting a hero. So, here is the story of Noah's birth!

Methuselah took a wife for his son Lamech, and she bore him a man child. The body of the babe was white as snow and red as a blooming rose, and the hair of his head and his long locks were white as wool, and his eyes like the rays of the sun. When he opened his eyes, he lighted up the whole house, like the sun, and the whole house was very full of light. And when he was taken from the hand of the midwife, he opened his mouth and praised the Lord of righteousness.

His father Lamech was afraid of him, and fled, and came to his own father Methuselah. And he said to him: "I have begotten a strange son; he is not like a human being, but resembles the children of the angels of heaven, and his nature is different, and he is not like us, and his eyes are as the rays of the sun, and his countenance is glorious. And it seems to me that he is not sprung from me, but from the angels, and I fear that in his days a wonder may be wrought on the earth. And now, my father, I am here to petition thee and implore thee, that thou mayest go to Enoch, our father, and learn from him the truth, for his dwelling place is among the angels."

And when Methuselah heard the words of his son, he went to Enoch, to the ends of the earth, and he cried aloud, and Enoch heard his voice, and appeared before him, and asked him the reason of his coming. Methuselah told him the cause of his anxiety, and requested him to make the truth known to him.

Enoch answered, and said: "The Lord will do a new thing in the earth. There will come a great destruction on the earth, and a deluge for one year. This son who is born unto thee will be left on the earth, and his three children will be saved with him, when all mankind that are on the earth shall die. And there will be a great punishment on the earth, and the earth will be cleansed from all impurity. And now make known to thy son Lamech that he who was born is in truth his son, and call his name Noah, for he will be left to you, and he and his children will be saved from the destruction which will come upon the earth."

When Methuselah had heard the words of his father, who showed him all the secret things, he returned home, and he called the child Noah, for he would cause the earth to rejoice in compensation for all destruction.


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what did Noah look like when he was born?
  • why was Noah's father afraid when he saw his new-born son?
  • what kind of prophecy does Enoch (Noah's grandfather) pronounce when Noah is born?

Source: The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg (1909). Weblink. The material has been abbreviated and some sections have been omitted; you can read the complete version online at the weblink provided.


Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM