Psalms about Noah

Noah's arkThe following text is quoted from the Soncino edition of the Midrash Genesis (Bereishis) Rabbah, beginning of Chapter XXVI (p. 209-210).

1. “AND NOAH WAS FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OLD; AND NOAH BEGOT SHEM, HAM AND JAPHETH” (Genesis 5:32)

It is written, “Happy is the man that has not walked [in the counsel of the wicked, neither stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of of the scornful]” (Ps. 1:1):

Happy is the man” refers to Noah; “that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked,” – [the Talmudic Sages] Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Nehemiah differ on this. Rabbi Judah said: It means through three generations, [namely], of Enosh, the Flood, and the Separations [of languages at the Tower of Babel].[1] Rabbi Nehemiah said: During the generation of Enosh he was but a child.[2]

According to Rabbi Judah’s view, [the verse is to be interpreted thus:] “in the counsel of the wicked” refers to the generation of Enosh; “nor stood in the way of sinners“, to that of the Flood; “nor sat in the seat of the scornful,” to that of the Separation [of languages]. “But his delight was in the law of the L-rd…” (Ps. 1:2) alludes to the seven precepts [Noahide Commandments] which he was commanded.[3] “…but in His law does he meditate” (Ps. 1:2): he inferred one thing from another, arguing, “Why did the Holy One, blessed be He, order more pure animals [to be saved] than impure ones? Sure because He desires that offerings should be made to Him of the former.  Forthwith, “He took of every pure beast etc. (Gen. 8:20). “And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water…” (Ps. 1:3): the L-rd planted him [i.e. saved] in the ark. “…that brings forth its fruit in its season” (Ps. 1:3): this alludes to Shem; “…and whose leaf does not wither“: to Ham; “…and in whatsoever he does he shall prosper” (Ps. 1:3): to Japeth. Thus it is written, “AND NOAH BEGOT SHEM, HAM AND JAPHETH”.

2. “Planted in the house of the L-rd, they shall flourish in the courts of our G-d” (Ps. 92:14).

Planted in the house of the L-rd” alludes to Noah, whom the Holy One, blessed be He, planted in the ark; “…they shall flourish in the courts of our G-d“, as it is written, “AND NOAH BEGOT, etc.”; “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age…” (Ps. 92:15) alludes to Noah.[4] “…they shall be full of sap and richness” (Ps. 92:15), as it is written, “AND NOAH BEGOT SHEM, HAM AND JAPHETH”.

“AND NOAH WAS FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OLD, etc.” (Gen. 5:32). [The Sage] Rabbi Judan observed: all his contemporaries begot at a hundred or two hundred years, while he begot at five hundred years! The reason, however, is that the Holy One, blessed be He, said: “If they [Noah's sons] are to be wicked, I do not desire them to perish in the Flood [5]; while if they will be righteous, am I to put him to the trouble of building many arks?” [6] Therefore the L-rd stopped his fountain [of his seed] and he begot at five hundred years. Rabbi Nehemiah said in the name of Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Jose the Galilean: Even Japheth, who was the eldest [7], was not at the time of the Flood a hundred years old so as to be liable to punishment.[8]

Footnotes:

[1] Noah lived through these, yet did not imitate the evil ways of his contemporaries.

[2] Hence Scripture cannot refer to this.

[3] He was given an additional precept [beyond the 6 given to Adam], [namely], the injuction not to eat a limb torn from a living animal. [See The 7 Noahide Commandments – An Introduction]

[4] Who begot children when 500 years old (Gen. 5:32).

[5] For their father’s [Noah's] sake.

[6] Had he begotten children at the normal age, there would have been too many by the time of the Flood for one ark. [Note that this shows that G-d assigned the building of the ark specifically to Noah.]

[7] Though he always come last [when Noah's three sons are listed in Genesis].

[8] It was a tradition that before the Flood, the Heavenly Court did not punish for sins committed before that age [i.e. the age of majority in the judgment of Heaven was 100 years].

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