“These are the generations of Noah. Noah was in his generations a man
righteous and whole-hearted. Noah walked with God.”
Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
offering enduring interpretations of the Bible. In Genesis chapter 6, the Bible focuses on an exemplary personality: Noah.
In glowing terms, the Bible extols Noah as righteous and whole-hearted. Abravanel takes a deeper dive
into this survivor’s stout soul, showing ways in which Noah exceled in an era when a world tottered and
tanked. Indeed, as Noah’s neighbors corrupted their ways and wallowed in morass, “Noah walked with
Abravanel quotes a rabbinic epigram that best contrasts the values of virtuous Noah from his
unscrupulous contemporaries. The translation of the witticism goes like this: While mankind gorged
their bodies and starved their souls, Noah nourished his soul, and starved his body.
In what ways did Noah please his Maker? “Righteous” refers to Noah’s interpersonal relationships. With
his fellow man, Noah was honest. He took pains to treat each person fairly, courteously. This is in
marked contrast with those around him. The generation was more than inconsiderate to others; they
were mean-spirited and deceitful.
There was a second aspect that distinguished Noah from his contemporaries. Decency defined him.
His attitude toward the physical world and its pleasures came without misplaced hype. Noah
displayed steely self-discipline to material things. As for the rest of the planet, moderation was not in
their lexicon. Nor was fair play.
Whim ruled. Bigtime. Gluttony proved their undoing. Man and animal alike acted out unnaturally in
pursuit of perversion.
Abravanel adds something else about Noah. Despite a dystopian culture of sin, Noah stood apart. For
him, crisp demarcation lines divided right from wrong. Smut held no sway over him, let alone blur God’s
ethos. From youth until old age, Noah’s swerved not an iota from divine service. Through hell and high
water, “Noah walked with God.” Literally.
Readers will find that Abravanel details, and heaps, more praise for Noah in Abravanel’s World.
However, before concluding this blog, let us share one aspect of Heaven’s favor and divine providence
for loyal Noah, as per Abravanel’s understanding.
Genesis’ first chapters record a meteoric population growth trajectory, with early man begetting and
begetting and begetting. Yet, Noah’s family was, to be colloquial, nuclear in size. He fathered only three
sons. Abravanel learns that, typically, a father of many children cannot fully devote himself to his kids’
education. Had Noah’s family waxed many, undoubtedly, some of the sons would have been influenced
by a wayward world. However, because Noah’s number of children was small, he kept a keen eye out for
creeping unacceptable attitudes and behavior. A vigil dad will nip trouble in the bud.
Abravanel says more. He understands that Noah did not father daughters. Had he, then, perforce the
daughters would have married men – all rotten to the core. Noah’s grandchildren would have followed
the despicable ways of their fathers. As a case in point, Abravanel brings an example from Lot’s
daughters. When Sodom and Gomorrah fell to fire and brimstone, so too did Lot’s married daughters.
Based on Abravanel’s World of Torah, by Zev Bar Eitan