Wives aboard Noah's Ark
In Genesis 6:18, God says to Noah, "But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you" (ESV). Additionally, 1 Peter 3:20 states that there were exactly eight people on the Ark. Although the Bible does not give any further information about the four women who were aboard Noah's Ark during the Flood, there are substantial extra-Biblical traditions regarding these women and their names.
- 1 Book of Jubilees
- 2 Book of Tobit
- 3 Sibylline oracles
- 4 Christian writers
- 5 Jewish Rabbinic literature
- 6 Islamic traditions
- 7 Irish and Anglo-Saxon traditions
- 8 Mandaeism
- 9 Gnostic literature
- 10 Képes Krónika
- 11 Pseudo-Berossus
- 12 Comte de Gabalis
- 13 Miautso traditions
- 14 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- 15 Other
- 16 Modern popular fiction
- 17 See also
- 18 References
Book of Jubilees
In the Book of Jubilees, which is considered one of the pseudepigrapha by the Protestants, Roman Catholic Church, and Eastern Orthodox Church. known to have been in use from the late 2nd century BC, the names of the wives of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth are as follows:
- Wife of Noah – Emzara, daughter of clarify], son of Methuselah [
- Wife of Shem – Sedeqetelebab
- Wife of Ham – Ne'elatama'uk or Na'eltama'uk
- Wife of Japheth – 'Adataneses
It adds that the three sons after some years struck out in different directions from the original camp near Mount Ararat and founded three villages bearing the names of these three mothers of the human race.
Book of Tobit
According to the Sibylline Oracles the wives of Shem, Ham and Japheth enjoyed fantastically long lifespans, living for centuries, while speaking prophecy to each generation they saw come and go. According to the preface of the Oracles, the Sibyl author was a daughter-in-law of Noah: the "Babylonian Sibyl", Sambethe — who, 900 years after the Deluge, allegedly moved to Greece and began writing the Oracles. The writings attributed to her (at the end of Book III) also hint at possible names of her family who would have lived before the Flood — father Gnostos, mother Circe; elsewhere (in book V) she calls Isis her sister. Other early sources similarly name one of the Sibyls as Sabba (see Sibyl in Jewish Encyclopedia).
The early Christian writer St. Hippolytus (d. 235 AD) recounted a tradition of their names according to the Syriac Targum that is similar to Jubilees, although apparently switching the names of Shem's and Ham's wives. He wrote: The names of the wives of the sons of Noah are these: the name of the wife of Sem, Nahalath Mahnuk; and the name of the wife of Cham, Zedkat Nabu; and the name of the wife of Japheth, Arathka. He also recounts a quaint legend concerning the wife of Ham: God having instructed Noah to destroy the first person who announced that the deluge was beginning, Ham's wife at that moment was baking bread, when water suddenly rushed forth from the oven, destroying the bread. When she exclaimed then that the deluge was commencing, God suddenly cancels his former command lest Noah destroy his own daughter-in-law who was to be saved.
An early Arabic work known as Kitab al-Magall or the Book of Rolls (part of Clementine literature), the Syriac Book of the Cave of Treasures (c. 350), and Patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria (c. 930) all agree in naming Noah's wife as "Haykêl, the daughter of Namûs (or Namousa), the daughter of Enoch, the brother of Methuselah"; the first of these sources elsewhere calls Haikal "the daughter of Mashamos, son of Enoch", while stating that Shem's wife is called "Leah, daughter of Nasih".
Furthermore, the Panarion of Epiphanius (c. 375) names Noah's wife as Barthenos, while the c. 5th-century Ge'ez work Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan calls Noah's wife "Haikal, the daughter of Abaraz, of the daughters of the sons of Enos" — whom some authors have connected with Epiphanius' Barthenos (i.e., Bath-Enos, daughter of Enos). However, Jubilees makes "Betenos" the name of Noah's mother. The word haykal is Syriac for "temple" or "church"; in the Georgian copy of Cave of Treasures, we find instead the name T'ajar, which is the Georgian word for the same.
Armenian tradition give the name of Noah's wife as Nemzar, Noyemzar or Noyanzar.
Patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria, writing in Arabic, also states that Shem's wife was Salit, Ham's Nahlat and Japheth's Arisisah, all daughters of Methuselah. The theologian John Gill (1697–1771) wrote in his Exposition of the Bible of this tradition "that the name of Shem's wife was Zalbeth, or, as other copies, Zalith or Salit; that the name of Ham's Nahalath; and of Japheth's Aresisia."
A manuscript of the 8th-century Latin work Inventiones Nominum, copies of which have been found at the Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland, and in a library at Albi, SW France, lists as Noah's wife Set, as Shem's wife Nora, as Ham's wife Sare, and as Japeth's wife Serac.
Jewish Rabbinic literature
The Persian historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (c. 915) recounts that Japheth's wife was Arbasisah, daughter of Marazil, son of al-Darmasil, son of Mehujael, son of Enoch, son of Cain; that Ham's wife was Naḥlab, daughter of Marib, another son of al-Darmasil; and that Shem's wife was Ṣalib, daughter of Batawil, another son of Mehujael. He says Noah's wife was Amzurah, daughter of Barakil, another son of Mehujael.
(According to George Sale's Commentary on the Quran (1734), some Muslim commentators asserted that Noah had had an infidel wife named Waila, who perished in the deluge, and was thus not aboard the Ark.)
Irish and Anglo-Saxon traditions
Irish folklore is rich in traditions and legends regarding the three sons and their wives. Here the wives are usually named Olla, Olliva, and Ollivani (or variations thereof), names possibly derived from the Anglo-Saxon Codex Junius (c. 700 AD), a Bible paraphrase written in the fashion of Germanic sagas, and often attributed to the poet Cædmon. The wife of Noah is given as Percoba in Codex Junius.
The Anglo-Saxon "Solomon and Saturn" dialogue gives for Noah's wife Dalila, for Ham's, Jaitarecta, and for Japheth's Catafluvia, while giving Olla, Ollina and Ollibana as alternatives. The name of Shem's wife is missing. Some versions of the Gaelic Lebor Gabala also name Shem's, Ham's and Japheth's wives as Cata Rechta, Cata Flauia and Cata Chasta respectively. Similar traditions seem to have endured for several centuries in some form, for in Petrus Comestor, we read that the wives of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth are Phuarpara, Pharphia, Cataflua and Fliva respectively, and in a 15th-century Middle English catechism, we find written "What hicht Noes wyf?" "Dalida; and the wif of Sem, Cateslinna; and the wif of Cam, Laterecta; and the wif of Japheth, Aurca. And other 3 names, Ollia, Olina, and Olybana."
Ælfric of Eynsham's Anglo-Saxon translation of the Heptateuch (c. 1000) included illustrations with the wives' names recorded in the captions. One such illustration (fol. 17) names Noah's wife as Phiapphara, Shem's as Parsia, Ham's as Cataphua, and Japheth's as Fura. Another (fol. 14) includes one wife, presumably Noah's, named Sphiarphara. A Middle English illustrated version of Genesis dating to the 13th century also gives Puarphara as Noah's wife.
Mandaean literature, of uncertain antiquity, refers to Noah's wife by the name Nuraita (or Nhuraitha, Anhuraita, various other spellings).
Gnostic literature of the first few centuries AD calls Noah's wife Norea, including texts ascribed to her, as reported by Epiphanius, and confirmed in modern times with the discovery of these texts at Nag Hammadi.
According to the 15th-century monk Annio da Viterbo, the Hellenistic Babylonian writer Berossus had stated that the sons' wives were Pandora, Noela, and Noegla, and that Noah's wife was Tytea. However, Annio's manuscript is widely regarded today as having been a forgery.
Nonetheless, later writers made use of this "information", sometimes even combining it with other traditions. The Portuguese friar Gaspar Rodriguez de S. Bernardino wrote in Itinerario da India por terra ate a ilha de Chypre in 1842 that the wives of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth were named Tytea or Phuarphara, Pandora or Parphia, Noela or Cataflua, and Noegla, Eliua or Arca. In Robert Southey's Common-place Book from around the same time, similar names are given, with the information attributed to the "Comte de Mora Toledo": Titea Magna; Pandora; Noala or Cataflua; and Noegla, Funda or Afia, respectively.
Comte de Gabalis
This name for Noah's wife had earlier been found in Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa's History of the Incas (c. 1550), where the names Prusia or Persia, Cataflua and Funda are also given for Shem, Ham, and Japheth's wives respectively.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Holy Tablets, first appearing in 1996 as the sacred text of the Nuwaubian Nation (which has fewer than 500 adherents) names Noah's wives as Naama, Waala, and Mubiyna, of whom only Naama survives the flood in the Ark. The corresponding wives of Shem, Ham and Japheth are named as Faatin, Haliyma and Ifat, respectively.
Modern popular fiction
In his opera Il diluvio universale ("The Great Flood", 1830), Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti named Japhet's wife Tesbite, Shem's wife Asfene, and Cham's wife Abra. These are of course fictional names.
Amélie Louise Rives wrote a short story in 1887 called "The Story of Arnon" told in the first person by "Arnon, the fourth son of Noah", who hid his beloved, Asenath daughter of Kemuel, aboard the Ark.
In Andre Obey's 1930 play Noah, Noah's wife is given no proper name, but is called simply "Mamma" by all, even Noah. Shem's intended bride is Sella, Ham's is Naomi (or, in one English translation, "Norma"), and Japheth's is Ada.
In Clifford Odets' 1954 play The Flowering Peach, Noah's wife is Esther, Shem's wife is Leah, and Ham's wife is Rachel (These traditional Jewish names are taken from other figures in the Old Testament). In the course of the play, Ham divorces Rachel and she marries Japheth, who has always loved her from afar. Ham takes Goldie, whom Noah had intended as Japheth's wife, as his new bride, and all ends happily. (Goldie is an outsider from another tribe, hence her unusual name.) These names are also used in the Broadway musical adaptation, Two by Two (1970).
In Stephen Schwartz's 1991 musical Children of Eden, Noah's wife is given no name, but is called Mama Noah in the script or simply Mama by the characters. Ham's wife is called Aphra and is pregnant with their child at the time of the flood. The child is born after the flood and they name her Eve after the Eve in the first act. Shem's wife is called Aysha. Japheth, at the time of the flood, is in love with the family's servant, a young girl named Yonah (Dove) who is a descendant of Cain. Since God has forbidden all concourse with those of the race of Cain, Noah forbids Japheth to take Yonah on the Ark. However, Japheth hides Yonah inside a covered hold on the Ark. She escapes the flood, to be later reconciled with both the family and God when Shem discovers her after Yonah releases the dove to find dry land. (In the Schwartz musical, with script by John Caird, it is significant that after the flood, two of the wives' names become the names of the continent to which that couple migrates: Ham and his wife set out for the land later known as Africa – Aphra = Africa; while Shem and his wife set out for the land later known as Asia – Aysha = Asia. Japheth and his wife Yonah merely say their descendants will cover the world in their search for a return to the lost Eden.)
In the 2014 film Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky, Noah's wife (Jennifer Connelly) is named Naameh, Shem's wife (Emma Watson) is called Illa, and Ham's love interest is a girl called Na'el. In the film, Japheth is depicted as a boy, and as such does not have a wife/love interest.
- These were considered to be the Sibylline Books of the Greeks and Romans by Athenagoras of Athens, quoting them in a letter to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 176 AD, but modern critics believe they are rather pseudo-Oracles dating from the middle of the 2nd century BC at the earliest to the 5th century AD, composed by Alexandrian Jews and revised and enriched by later Christian editors, all adding texts in the interests of their respective religions.
- Hippolytus in the Ante-Nicene Fathers
- A strange book of poetry published in 1889 by American Charles Phifer called Annals of the Earth p. 286, in its voluminous appendix of mythographic notes, has the following statement, albeit without clear attributation: "Persian Magi hold that the first waters of the flood gushed out of the oven of an old woman named Zola Cufa." Water gushing forth from an oven (tannur) at the commencement of the Deluge, as mentioned in the Quran (11:40), is also held to be the signal for Noah in the 14th-century Stories of the Prophets by Ibn Kathir.
- A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects... p. 268
- Commentaire de la Caverne Des Trésors, p. 234
- Journal of Theological Studies p. 237, 243
- Midrash rabbah translated into English with glossary and indices under the editorship of H. Freedman and Maurice Simon p.194
- Book of Jasher (trans. Moses Samuel c. 1840, ed. J. H. Parry 1887) Chapter 5:15
- Journal of Theological Studies
- The Archaeological Album: Or, Museum of National Antiquities
- After the Flood, Bill Cooper
- The Story of Arnon