Noah is one of the most important patriarchs in the Bible. He is remembered for his righteousness and reverence for God. When man’s sins became unbearable in God’s eyes, God decided to punish them with flood water but Noah was the hope of humanity. God asked him to build an ark in which he would be preserved with his family until the floods had subsided. Even though Noah is remembered as a righteous man, there is a lot of mystery around his personal life. One of the questions that elicits debate is the number of wives he had.
So, how many wives did Noah have?
From the Genesis account of the flood (Genesis 7:13), we know that Noah had only one wife. That’s because only 8 people entered the ark. These were Noah’s three sons and their wives plus Noah and his wife to make a total of 8.
There is some speculation that Noah possibly had another wife who did not enter the ark. But there is no scriptural basis for such an assertion. Throughout the book of Genesis, only one wife of Noah is mentioned. From the very onset, God instructed Noah to build the ark and then take his wife, his sons, and their daughters into the ark.
But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. Gen. 6:18
Once Noah completes the ark, we see him entering the ark with his wife.
In the same day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark Genesis 7:18
In both of these scriptures, as well as all other places in the Bible, the wife of Noah is mentioned in the singular form which means Noah had only one wife.
Like most matriarchs in the Bible, Noah’s wife played a huge role in the story of Genesis. Just like Abraham, Noah was called to do something that was seemingly impossible. His peers must have thought he was mad and they even mocked him. And just like Sarah, Noah’s wife stood by her husband and even went into the ark with him when there was no physical sign of any flood.
Who Was Noah’s Wife?
Even though it is easy to say from the scriptures we have referenced above that Noah had only one wife, it opens another line of questions to the curious mind. More precisely, who was Noah’s wife?
The presence of Noah’s wife is quite crucial in the story of Genesis. For starters, she was one of the few survivors of the flood which means she played a pivotal role in populating the new earth. The voice of Noah’s wife is not heard in the scripture but the importance of her role is undeniable. She was the mother of the three sons of Noah, namely, Shem, Japheth, and Ham. It is therefore safe to infer that Noah’s wife goes down in history as one of the most important matriarchs in the Bible.
The Bible does not give the name of Noah’s wife. However, there are some Jewish texts that offer some interesting ideas on who Noah’s wife was. For instance, a 5th-century midrash (Genesis Rabba), which is a collection of several rabbinical thoughts on Genesis, says that Noah’s wife must have been Naamah. Naamah was a sister to Tubal-Cain and a daughter to Lamech and is mentioned in
Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal . . . his brother’s name was Jubal . . . And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain . . . and the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah. (Genesis 4:19–22)
The reason why Naamah was proposed as Noah’s wife is because her mention in the above scripture is believed to be an indication that she was an important person. However, the Bible doesn’t say much about her apart from just mentioning her name and those of her immediate family members. Naamah lived in the eighth generation while Noahl lived in the tenth so it is plausible that they were married.
Another reason for Naamah being said to be Noah’s wife is the idea that she was mentioned as Noah’s wife in the book of Jasher. This book is referred to in 2 Samuel 1:18 as well as Joshua 10:13. However, some scholars believe that the original book of Jasher was lost and the current one is a forgery.
Naamah is however not the only possibility. Sefer haYovelim, also referred to as a Book of Jubilees is a Jewish literary piece that dates back to the second century and it has a different idea on the identity of Noah’s wife. According to this text, the wife of Noah was named Emzara. Emzara was the daughter of Rake’el, who was the daughter of Methuselah. Some second temple literature that was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls also identifies Emzara as Noah’s wife.
John Gill, a 17th-century theologian, disagreed with the Sefer haYovelim view on the identity of Noah’s wife. He agreed with the Genesis Rabba views which identified Noah’s wife as Naamah.
Another more radical idea is the one promoted by Eastern Orthodox Churches which believe Noah’s wife to be Saint Barthenos.
So which of these names refers to the real Noah’s wife? The simple answer is we have no way of knowing. That’s because there is no scripture evidence that supports any of those ideas. We can accept them as possibilities but it is also possible that none of them was Noah’s wife.
In conclusion, the question of how many wives Noah had remains a topic of debate and mystery. While the Bible’s Genesis account clearly mentions only one wife for Noah, her identity is not revealed. Various historical texts and traditions propose different names, such as Naamah, Emzara, or Saint Barthenos, but none of these can be confirmed by scriptural evidence. Nevertheless, what is clear is that Noah’s wife played a significant role in the story of Genesis as one of the few survivors of the flood and the mother of Noah’s three sons, Shem, Japheth, and Ham. Her name may forever remain a mystery, but her importance as a matriarch in the Bible is undeniable.