(אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת נֹחַ נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה בְּדֹרֹתָיו אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים הִתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹחַ׃ (בראשית ו:ט
"This is the line of Noah. Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his age; Noah walked with God" (Genesis 6:9).
An ancient debate focuses on how righteous Noah was. Was he considered righteous only because he lived in a wicked generation? If he had lived in better times might he have reached even greater heights? The issue remains unresolved. However, we do know that Noah responded to God’s call, and this determined the continued existence of the world, although in a different format than before.
The important moment comes after the flood, when Noah reestablishes human civilization: “Noah removed the cover from the ark and saw that the land was dry (Hebrew root: Ḥ-R-B); (Gen. 8:13).
What did Noah see? That the land was dry? Yes, but he saw more, he saw destruction (Hebrew, ḥurban). Forget about pretty children’s books with a smiling sun and butterflies. That will come but not yet. Instead, think about a tsunami. Water has tremendous power. Everything was devastated.
God needs to command Noah to leave the ark and continue living. Noah obeys. What is the first thing he does? He built an altar and thanks God for saving him. This scene is also familiar from the news: for example, a family standing next to a pile of wood and brick that was their home before a storm hit. They wipe away a tear; say, “Thank God, we’re alive;” and promise to rebuild.
God promises not to destroy the earth again and withdraws from the scene. In Noah’s world, which is our world, divine intervention is extremely rare. We have to manage by ourselves.
Noah plants a vineyard. He begins with productive work that requires a long-term commitment. He is successful; the vines flourish and give fruit. Noah harvests his grapes and makes wine successfully, perhaps too successfully. He gets drunk. He succeeds and stumbles. Sound familiar? We are all Noah.
His son, Ḥam also gets in trouble. The details aren’t important. What is important is Noah’s response. In the morning, he sobers up and opens his eyes. He knows what happened and takes action to remedy matters. He judges and punishes-curses the sinner, by himself without heavenly involvement. No less important, he also blesses his other sons, Shem and Yafet, because they responded correctly to the situation that had been created.Noah left the ark, saw the destruction and began to build. From my perspective, this is the essence of his righteousness, in his generation and for all generations ever after.