Many times in Scripture, we see that personal names have meanings that relate to the character of the people who bore them or to the times in which they lived. Noah’s name means “rest” or “consolation” and is related to a Hebrew word meaning “comfort.” Genesis 5:28–29 says, “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, ‘He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.’”
So, Lamech named his son Noah. Genesis 5:29 provides the basic idea regarding Lamech’s thought process. He specifically mentions that the ground had been cursed as part of God’s judgment (cf. Genesis 3:17–19). The birth of Noah when Lamech was 182 years old would have provided “comfort” or “rest” from some of the work of subsistence farming. A son would one day be able to join in the labors of farming, giving Lamech some relief from his many years of manual labor.
But Noah would provide more than physical rest. It appears that Noah’s name is also an inspired prediction regarding his life. The word Noah is taken from the Hebrew word for “rest,” nuakh (see 2 Samuel 14:17). Lamech lived in an evil time, before the Flood (Genesis 6:1). Noah’s father predicted that, in contrast to the world’s evil, Noah would represent righteousness and bring rest and peace in the midst of God’s judgment.
Later in Genesis, Noah was indeed used as God’s agent of peace. He was called by God to build an ark that would save himself, seven of his family members, and enough land animals and birds to keep the species alive. The dove used by Noah to help determine if the flood waters had receded would later become known as a symbol of peace. In Genesis 9:12–15 God promised that the earth would never again be covered by water, and the sign of this covenant of peace was a rainbow.
The New Testament affirms Noah’s role as one who brought comfort. Second Peter 2:5 calls Noah a preacher of righteousness. No others are mentioned as believing his message, and no one joined Noah’s family in the ark, but Noah had peace with God. He lived according to God’s ways and obeyed His commands in preparing for the Flood. If anyone had heeded Noah’s preaching, he or she could have found “rest” in the ark along with Noah, the man of rest.
In both a literal and prophetic sense, Noah lived up to his name as one who would bring comfort. To this day, Noah is seen as a man of peace who led people and animals through a time of judgment and into a new world.
Noah’s life was used as an illustration by Jesus in the Gospels: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26). There is coming a time that will be like Noah’s time when God’s judgment will come upon the earth. The proper response is to be like Noah and obey the Lord’s call for salvation now, while time remains (2 Corinthians 6:2; John 3:16; Acts 4:12).