Noah is remembered for building the ark and surviving the flood with his family (Gen 6-8). After the flood, God blessed Noah and his family, and then they left the ark in search of a new life. In the last recorded event of Noah’s life, he got upset with his son Ham and placed a curse on Ham’s son Canaan (Gen 9:24).
Yet we read in Gen 9:28 that Noah lived for 350 years after the flood. We don’t have additional information about the last third of Noah’s life, but we can infer from the genealogies that he lived through the events at the tower of Babel.
He must have lived a righteous life and sought to keep his sons, grandchildren, and great grandchildren faithful to God. In fact, the mercy and common grace witnessed in the punishment at Babel may have been, in part, for the sake of Noah.
In this blog post I attempt to sketch some plausible events in the life of Noah after the flood and during the period of the rebellion at Babel. I present ten events with the hope of spurring more reflection on the later years of Noah and God’s faithfulness to this faithful servant.
1. Noah led his family to the plain of Shinar
In Gen 9:20-27, we read that Noah planted a vineyard and produced wine. He got upset with his son and grandson because they acted in a disrespectful manner when he was drunk. It is possible that this event took place in the general region referred to as the “plain of Shinar” in Gen 11:2.
The migration to the plain of Shinar is usually not linked to the location of Noah’s vineyard and the families first settlement. Although the people in Gen 11:2 are not named, it is very probably that they are Noah and his family, including his first grandchildren.
2. Noah lived with his family as a community
In Gen 9:20-27, we read about an unfortunate event in Noah’s family. Noah gets drunk, and then his son Ham and possibly his grandson Canaan take advantage of the situation to make fun of the patriarch of the family.
The events recorded suggest that Noah and his sons lived together. They were all present at the time that Noah got drunk and exposed himself.
Furthermore, when Noah pronounced his blessings and curses, he refers to his sons and grandson as though they would continue to be living together. He refers to Japheth living in the tents of Shem. He also refers to Canaan being a servant to his brothers and, by extension, his uncles and the whole family.
3. Noah was the spiritual leader of those who followed the LORD
Noah was a righteous man, blameless compared to others of his time, and he walked with God (Gen 6:9). It is reasonable to assume that Noah walked with God the entirely of his life.
Furthermore, as Noah led his family, it is likely that Noah was the spiritual leader of all his descendants who followed the LORD.
With the growth of his family, Noah saw some of his family drift from the true worship of God and eventually engage in rebellion and idolatry. Nimrod may have been the first to present himself as leader in opposition to Noah. Nimrod was described as a “mighty hunter before the LORD” (Gen 10:9).
4. Noah witnessed the growth of his descendants
After Noah and his family settled in the plain of Shinar, his sons had children. We don’t know the exact number of children they had, but if we assume that they each had 16 children, the eight who left the ark would become 56.
If these grandchildren married their cousins, there would be 24 couples. And if these couples had an average of 10 children, then Noah would have had 240 great grandchildren. The next generation may have brought the population to 1500.
5. Noah opposed Nimrod and the construction at Babel
We have no record of Noah’s response to Nimrod and the building of Babel. However, we know that Noah was a preacher of righteousness and that he spoke out against the wickedness of his own generation before the flood’s destruction.
I would assume that Noah was even more burdened by the rebellion that he saw among his own descendants. He probably preached against their rebellion with even more force and urgency.
He had lived through the flood, but his descendants had only know the blessing and prosperity of Shinar.
6. Noah was shocked by the confusing of their language
When God confused the language of Noah and his descendants, Noah was no doubt shocked as much as everyone else. Noah had never experienced a day where he couldn’t communicate with his family.
He and his wife were probably the most struck by the confusion of languages. They had probably prayed for the day when their family would be united in worship of the true God, but now that day would be impossible because of the language barriers.
7. Noah was vindicated by God’s response
When Noah and his family left the ark, God blessed them and instructed them to multiply and fill the earth (Gen 9:1). Noah probably exhorted his family to multiply and fill the land. However, with time, they filled the plain of Shinar but didn’t move beyond the region.
Despite Noah’s urging, the youngest generation of his family didn’t want to leave the region they knew. As their population grew, they built Babel and other permanent dwellings.
When God finally scattered the people, Noah may have felt vindicated. Although some may have doubted him, God had moved in a miraculous way and scattered the people himself.
8. Noah renamed his great-great-great-grandson
Noah had a great-great-great-grandson who lived at the time of the tower of Babel. In Gen 10:25, we read that he was named Peleg because the earth was divided during his lifetime.
It is likely that the dividing of the earth refers to the division of Noah’s descendants and their settling in different regions, thereby dividing the earth between them.
Some have suggested that Peleg’s father, Eber, gave him his name at birth and that it was a prophetic act, since he didn’t know that God would divide the land during his son’s life. It’s also possible that Eber’s son had his name changed to Peleg later in his life.
It is an interesting thought that Peleg may have opposed Nimrod and joined Noah in preaching against the city. Then, when God responded with his judgment, Noah renamed his fellow preacher Peleg to remember how God acted. Didn’t Moses rename Joshua before he sent him and the other eleven to spy out the land of Canaan (Num 13:16)?
9. Noah saw God’s grace toward the rebellious
Noah witnessed the complete destruction of humanity, escaping with his wife and three sons. Now Noah saw God judge all of humanity again.
But this time God did not destroy the rebellious and end their lives on the plain of Shinar. Instead, God separated the people into smaller groups by confusing their language, apparently dividing them by family lines. Then God scattered them to the ends of the earth.
No flood and mass death like before. No fire like at Sodom and Gomorrah. No pestilence, starvation, or war. No, it was mercy in response to their refusal to fill the earth. And the common grace of language diversity as a barrier to communication and rebellion.
10. Noah grieved over the worship of idols
Noah may have rejoiced to see God vindicate himself and scatter Nimrod and those in rebellion, moving them beyond the plain of Shinar. Yet Noah was grieved, no doubt, to see Peleg’s family, especially Terah, worshiping idols (Joshua 24:2).
Noah died before Abram was born and was called by the LORD to follow him. Noah didn’t have the joy of seeing his faith carried forward by Abram.
Yet Noah’s desire to see his sons and their descendants worship the LORD and walk with him, just as he had done all the years of his life, was to be fulfilled.
If you haven’t read the first two posts on Babel, I would encourage you to read the first one to gain a better understanding of the mercy and common grace that God showed at Babel. It was more than a judgment on a rebellious people.
In the second blog post I explore the relationship between Babel and the confusion of languages at Pentecost. I suggest that Pentecost redeemed Babel, affirming that the diversity of languages that started at Babel should continue in the church.
This third blog post has returned to the plain of Shinar and considered the role of Noah. We don’t have a written account of how the Lord worked in and through Noah during the last years of his life. Yet we know that he was a faithful preacher of righteous and sought to walk closely with God.
It is very likely that Noah called his growing family to live in obedience to God. He may have opposed Nimrod and the work at Babel. He may have even deeply relieved when his rebellious descendants scattered from the plain of Shinar to the ends of the earth.
The most striking aspect of the judgment at Babel is the mercy and grace extended to Noah’s descendants. Could it be that God was merciful for the sake of Noah, his faithful servant?
We may never know the full account of Noah’s final years and his faithfulness in contrast to the growing rebellion of his family, but we should be encouraged all the same to be faithful to the end.
May our lives be an example to those around us and our prayers for mercy on behalf of our own generation reach the throne of our heavenly Father.