Who was Noah’s Wife?

Joan of Arc – not Noah’s wife!

The first time that Noah’s wife is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 7:7, “Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood“. She is mentioned by implication before that though, when the Bible tells us that Noah had three sons. Personally, the only time that I had heard a name associated with Noah’s wife was in the movie ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’. In the movie, Ted’s school teacher asks him, “Who was Joan of Arc?“, to which Ted replies, “Noah’s wife?“. After school, Ted’s friend Bill says to him, “One thing I know, is that Joan of Arc is not Noah’s wife“, Ted replies, “Well then who is Noah’s wife?” Bill’s response is pretty much the response of most people when asked who Noah’s wife was – it was certainly my response. Bill simply says, “I dunno, Ted“. However, in studying the Chumash, Stone Edition (Jewish commentary on the Torah) some light has been shed on the subject. In Genesis 4, the descendants of Cain are listed. Verses 19-22 read, “Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah…..and Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah“. The Chumash makes note of Naamah, who I had hardly even noticed before. It says, “Naamah. Her name, which means ‘lovely’, is mentioned because she was the wife of Noah, and her deeds were lovely and pleasant“. So there you have it, apparently Noah’s wife was called Naamah and she was a lovely, pleasant person. From the title of this post, you may be thinking, “That’s fascinating, but what about Abraham? We know that Sarah was Abraham’s wife“. But let me ask you: Do we really know that?

There’s nothing obvious there about who exactly Sarah was…..

Yes of course we do! It’s the part about Sarah being Abraham’s half sister that may not be exactly correct. In Genesis 20:12 Abraham said, “Indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife“. This seems pretty straightforward – Sarah was Abraham’s half sister. However the Chumash notes on this verse say, “Although Sarah was his [Abraham’s] brother’s daughter, not his father’s [daughter], so that she was not his sister in the literal sense of the word, Abraham’s statement was justified since grandchildren are considered as children; thus he could call Sarah his sister in the accepted sense of the word“. But let’s take a step back, why do the Jewish commentators say that Sarah was Abraham’s niece and not his half sister? For the answer to that we need to go back to Genesis 11:28-29, “Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah“. There’s nothing obvious there about who exactly Sarah (or Sarai) was, although it is stated that Abraham’s brother Nahor did marry his niece, Milcah (to carry on the memory of Haran). But who is this Iscah that is mentioned? The Chumash gives this revelation: “Iscah was Sarah. She was called Iscah, meaning to see / gaze, because she could see the future by holy inspiration, and because everyone gazed at her beauty. Also Iscah denotes aristocracy, as does her name Sarai, which means princess“.

Abraham and the fiery furnace.

Let’s stay with Abraham for some more startling revelations from the rabbis. You have no doubt heard the account of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego and the fiery furnace; but the chances are you have never heard about Abraham and the fiery furnace. The account in Daniel talks of a fiery furnace in Babylon, in the land of the Chaldeans, into which Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego were thrown, and miraculously survived. But the Chumash notes on the death of Haran, Abraham’s brother and the father of Sarah (Iscah), speak of another fiery furnace in the land of Chaldea. Apparently Terah (Abraham’s father) who made & sold idols, was not very happy when Abraham smashed his idols. So Terah complained to Nimrod (the first king, see Genesis 10:8-9). Nimrod promptly had Abraham thrown into a fiery furnace; just like his descendants, Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego. And just as Abraham’s descendants miraculously survived the fiery furnace, so did Abraham – which you probably guessed, since we know that Abraham died at a very old age, not in a fiery furnace! But what does that have to do with the death of Haran? Well, according to the rabbis, whilst the confrontation between Abraham & Nimrod was occurring, Haran was challenged to take a side. Haran wasn’t sure which side to pick, so he decided to wait and see who emerged victorious. When Abraham miraculously emerged unscathed from the fiery furnace, Haran sided with him and Nimrod had Haran thrown into the furnace. But because Haran only sided with Abraham due to the fact that he saw that Abraham had miraculously survived, rather than because of his belief that Abraham was right, Haran was not worthy of a miracle and died in Ur Kasdim, literally ‘the fire of the land of Kasdim (Chaldea).

At this point I will conclude this post by stating that the information that I have given here is not from the Bible and therefore you can choose to accept it or reject it. I have written about it here because it provides a fascinating, deeper insight into some Bible verses which we normally just read over without a second thought.

If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.

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