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Noach: The Descent of the Dove

Updated: Jun 20

The 153 verses of Parashat Noach (Genesis 6:9–11:32) speak of a cataclysmic flood upon a sinful world, and the salvation of humanity. As such, they serve as a prototype of the chelvei Mashiach, the birth pangs of Messiah. While many scholars regard the Flood story as a mere myth, there are over 500 stories in ancient mythologies with remarkably significant parallels. From the most famous Epic of Gilgamesh, to lesser known accounts of Eridu Genesis and the Greek story of Deucalion, the similarities are summarized as follows,

Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh

“Of the flood traditions which have survived up to the present time, about 95% describe a global cataclysmic deluge, 88% tell of a favored family of humans saved from drowning to reestablish the human race after the deluge, 66% say the family was forewarned of the coming cataclysm, 66% blame the wickedness of man for the deluge, and 70% record a boat as being the means by which the chosen family (and animals) survived the flood. More than one third of these traditions mention birds being sent out from the boat.”, Did the Bible Copy the Flood Account from Other Myths and Legends? [1]

The Book of Jubilees places the sighting of the rainbow on Shavuot,

“And He gave to Noah and his sons a sign that there should not again be a flood on the earth. He set His bow in the cloud for a sign of the eternal covenant that there should not again be a flood on the earth to destroy it all the days of the earth. For this reason it is ordained and written on the heavenly tablets, that they should celebrate the feast of weeks in this month once a year, to renew the covenant every year.” Jubilees 6:15-18

In modern thought, the rainbow is a symbol of God’s grace and mercy. While this is true, there is another side to the coin. A rainbow is a reminder of God’s grace despite mankind’s sinful actions. The word of ‘rainbow’ in Hebrew is קשת (qeshet), which can apply to a bow (and arrow). Hence God’s “bow” is pointed upward, never to shoot the arrows of the judgment of water down toward the earth. Whenever one sees a rainbow, it is a reminder that the world deserves Divine Judgment, yet He relents. It forms a lower dimensional reflection of the Throne of God (Ezekiel 1:28, Revelation 4:3). The blessing when one sees a rainbow is as follows:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֶלוֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם זוֹכֵר הַבְּרִית וְנֶאֱמָן בִּבְרִיתוֹ וְקַיָם בְּמַאֲמָרוֹ

“Blessed are you HaShem, King of the Universe, who remembers His Covenant and is faithful to His covenant and keeps His word.”


Noach was the tzaddik (righteous one) of his generation. The righteousness of Noach is a subject of considerable debate among the rabbis, since Scripture uses the qualifier “in his generation.” One opinion says he was a righteous person, but the other says it he was only relatively righteous when compared to the people of his generation. They say that if he lived in the days of Abraham, he would not have been an outstanding tzaddik. Despite the fact that Noach was a “preacher of righteousness”[2], the real contrast between two lies in the fact that Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah, whereas Noach did not pray for his generation. This teaches us that it is not enough to merely “preach” the word to people, but we also must pray and intercede for our generation. Although Noach did not merit to pray for his generation, he nonetheless became the instrument of God’s salvation, as Genesis says,

 וְנֹחַ מָצא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי יי

“But Noah (נח) found favor (חן) in HaShem’s eyes.” Genesis 6:8

The name of Noach (nun-chet) is the word “favor” reversed (chet-nun). The word grace and Noach, with a gematria of 58, form a mirror image of each other,

חן = נח = 58

Interestingly, our Parashah doubles his name,

“This is the history of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man…” Genesis 6:9

Genesis 5:29 tells us of the significance of the name of Noach,

יִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמֹו נֹחַ לֵאמֹר זֶה יְנַחֲמֵנוּ מִמַּעֲשֵׂנוּ וּמֵעִצְבֹון יָדֵינוּ מִן־הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר אֵרְרָהּ יי

“… he named him Noach, saying, ‘This same will comfort us (יְנַחֲמֵנוּ, yenachameinu) in our work and in the toil of our hands, because of the ground which HaShem has cursed.” Genesis 5:29

The Shelah, R’ Yeshayahu Horowitz writes,

“…the Torah reminds us that נח, whose name is half of that of חנוך, is referred to by the words זה ינחמנו, “This one will comfort us” (Genesis 5:29). His name also amounts to half the name of the angel מטטרון, Mattatron, since the first three letters in that name equal 58, i.e. the same as the numerical value of נח. The remaining letters in the name of that angel spell נור, a burning light, to signify that חנוך had been turned into a flame of fire and become that angel. What had remained of חנוך after the חן =58 had been removed is וך i.e. 26, a number equaling the numerical value of the Ineffable name of G’d.” Shelah, Shnei Luchot HaBrit on Parashat Noach, Translated by Eliyahu Munk, pg. 52

In English, this may appear innocuous, but this doubling is significant in Midrashic thought. Interestingly, we find a parallel where the word grace (chen) is doubled, thus connecting these verses,

מִי־אַתָּה הַר־הַגָּדֹול לִפְנֵי זְרֻבָּבֶל לְמִישֹׁר וְהֹוצִיא אֶת־הָאֶבֶן הָרֹאשָׁה תְּשֻׁאֹות חֵן חֵן לָהּ׃ וַיְהִי דְבַר־יי אֵלַי לֵאמֹר

“Who are you, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? You shall become a plain; and he shall bring forth the top stone with shouts of Grace, grace, unto it.’ Zechariah 4:7

According to Midrash Tanchuma, this passage is a Messianic prophecy,

“What does it mean, “Who are you O great mountain?” This is King Messiah. And why does he call him great mountain? Because he is greater than the Fathers…loftier than Abraham…more elevated than Moses…and higher than the ministering angels…and from whom will he issue? From Zerubbabel…” Midrash Tanchuma, Toledot 14, ed. Buber 1:139, cited in the Messiah Texts by Raphael Patai, pg. 41

Accordingly, Noach is a prototype of Mashiach, as he is the Tzaddik HaDor, the righteous one of his generation,

“…This Noach is the Messiah. . . the two musical accents on the word “zeh [this one]” (Gen 5:29) are a clue to the first and last redemption; “from our work” – from the generation of the Flood, “and from the toil of our hands” – from this long exile. Furthermore, why is his name doubled, Noach Noach? This is hinted at the haftorah “Shout for joy” [Zech 2:14-4:7), which concludes “chen, chen.” This is the secret of Noach. Had his name been chen, we would not be sitting in exile.” Sefer Chizyonot, R’ Hayyim Vital, Jewish Mystical Autobiographies, pg. 256

The Ark

The word of “ark” in Hebrew is Teivah. The Baal Shem Tov comments,

“The Hebrew word for “ark,” teivah, also means “word.” “Come into the word,” says G‑d; enter within the words of prayer and Torah study. Here you will find a sanctuary of wisdom, meaning and holiness amidst the raging floodwaters of life.” Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov cited at [3]

The Teivat Noach was to be coated with pitch (black tar),

“Make a ship of gopher wood. You shall make rooms in the Ark, and shall seal it inside and outside with pitch.” Genesis 6:14

It appears that the basket that carried Moshe to safety was a microcosm of Noach’s ark, as the word for “basket” is teivah, which is also coated with pitch,

“When she could no longer hide him, she took a papyrus basket (teivah) for him, and coated it with tar and with pitch. She put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the rivers bank.” Exodus 2:3

Both arks brought salvation to the world. The Shelah comments on the link between the Ark and the Temple,

“G’d hinted to Noach that this would be his real task in building the ark. The ark was to be as much a spiritual sanctuary as a physical sanctuary…According to the Tziyoni, the instruction to Noach to build an ark meant that he was to employ combinations of the letters in G’d’s Name to do so and to build what could become the equivalent of a Holy Temple.” Shelah, Shnei Luchot HaBrit, R’ Isaiah Horowitz, translated by Michael Munk

The Dove

In the account of the Ark, Noach sent forth a raven, who did not return,

“It happened at the end of forty days, that Noach opened the window of the ship which he had made, and he sent out a raven (orev). It went back and forth, until the waters were dried up from the earth.” Genesis 8:6-7

The Hebrew word for raven is עֹרֵב (orev), which is the same as evening. Noach then sent out a dove “from himself”, which not only returned, but returned with a sign of hope,

“He sent out a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from the surface of the ground, but the dove found no place to rest her foot, and she returned to him into the ship; for the waters were on the surface of the whole earth. He put out his hand, and took her, and brought her to him into the ship. He stayed yet another seven days; and again he sent the dove out of the ship. The dove came back to him at evening, and, behold, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off. So Noah knew that the waters were abated from the earth.” Genesis 8:8-11

The contrast between the raven and the dove is literally a contrast between black and white. The Dove represents the Light,

“. . . just as the dove brought light to the world, so you bring light to the world, as it says, ‘And nations shall walk at your light’  (Isa. 60:3). When did the dove bring light to the world? In the days of Noah, as it says, ‘And the dove came in to him at eventide; and lo in her mouth an olive leaf freshly plucked’ (Gen. 8:11)” Song of Songs Rabbah 1:66, 4:2, Soncino Press Edition

This dove brought light to the world via the Olive Leaf. The Midrash Tanchuma reveals why olive oil is so important,

למה לא שמן אגוזים ולא שמן צנונות ולא שמן דגים או שאר שמנים אלא שמן של זית? לפי סהזית סימן אורה לעולם

“Why not nut oil, radish oil, fish oil or any other oil, but only olive oil? Because olive oil symbolizes the light for the world.” Midrash Tanchuma

The Targum comments on the origin of the Olive Branch,

“And the dove came to him at the evening time, and, behold, a leaf of olive gathered, broken off, she brought in her mouth, and which she had taken from the Mount of the Meshiha.” Jerusalem Targum

Incredibly, the gematria for “Light of the World” and Mashiach are the same,

אור העולם = משיח = 358

Ohr HaOlam = Mashiach = 358 Light of the World = Messiah = 358

Yeshua said,

“I am the Light of the World. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Hovering Over the Waters

Noach’s dove flying over the waters symbolizes a new beginning. This episode echoes Parashat B’resheet,

“The Spirit of G-d was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

Rashi, R’ Shlomo Yitzhaki, comments,

“The Throne of Glory was suspended in the air and hovered over the face of the water with the breath of the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He and with His word, like a dove, which hovers over the nest . . . ” Rashi, cited at [3]

Rashi connects the Spirit of God to a dove. Genesis Rabbah says,

"AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD HOVERED: this alludes to the spirit of Messiah, as you read, And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (Isaiah 11:2). In the merit of what will [this spirit] eventually come? [For the sake of that which] HOVERED OVER THE FACE OF THE WATERS, i.e. in the merit of repentance which is likened to water, as it is written, Pour out your heart like water (Lamentations 2:19).” Genesis Rabbah 2:4, Soncino Press Edition

Rebbe Nachman says,

“…[Mashiach’s] “breathing” will have a very positive effect upon mankind.  . . The breath that Mashiach will breathe will emanate from the Torah and its 613 mitzvot. This is “The spirit of God [that] hovered over the waters.” The spirit is Mashiach and the waters are the Torah. Mashiach’s spirit is embedded in the Torah and he will draw his breath, the awe of God, from it. With this spirit, he will be able to “breathe into others” filling them with an awe and respect for God.” Mashiach, Who, What, Why, How, Where, When, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 63

As the dove hovered over the waters, the Torah says the Ark “walked” upon the waters,

וַיִּגְבְּרוּ הַמַּיִם וַיִּרְבּוּ מְאֹד עַל־הָאָרֶץ וַתֵּלֶךְ הַתֵּבָה עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם

“The waters prevailed, and increased greatly on the earth; and the ship floated (vateilech) on the surface of the waters.” Genesis 7:18

The Gospel of John echoes the mastery of the Spirit of the Messiah, represented by a Dove, as being above the chaos of primordial waters,

“…The sea was tossed by a great wind blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles they saw Yeshua walking on the sea, and drawing near to the boat; and they were afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” They were willing therefore to receive him into the boat. Immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.” John 6:15-21

This echoes the book of Job where it says he “walks on the waves of the sea”,

“He alone stretches out the heavens, and walks on the waves of the sea. He makes the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the rooms of the south. He does great things past finding out; yes, marvelous things without number.” Job 9:8-10

The Septuagint translation of this passage reads,

"He alone has stretched out the heavens, and walks on the sea as if on firm ground." Job 9:8, LXX

Mashiach transcends the natural order and forces of the world, and is the vivifying force in all of Creation.

New Creation

The Gospel of Matthew’s account fuses all of these elements into a powerful secret,

“Yeshua, when he was immersed, went up directly from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him. Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

As Mashiach comes up out of the waters, it is describing the beginning of a New Creation. The spirit of Mashiach hovered over a New Creation, the Dove flew over the waters of Noach, and the Dove descended and found its ultimate rest on the Mashiach. As the apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews says,

“And it came to pass when the Lord was come up out of the water, the whole fountain of the Holy Spirit descended upon him and rested on Him and said to him: “My Son, in all the prophets was I waiting for you that you should come and I might rest in you. For you are my rest. You are my Firstbegotten Son that reigns forever.” Gospel of the Hebrews, cited by Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 4 The OTHER Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone, HarperCollins, pg. 335



  1., Did the Bible Copy the Flood Account from Other Myths and Legends?

  2. Rashi comments, “G-d has many ways to save someone — why did he make Noah toil to build the ark? In order that the people of his generation should see him occupied with the task for 120 years, and they should ask him, “Why are you doing this?” and he would tell them that G-d is bringing a flood upon the world. Perhaps this would cause them to repent.” Rashi; Midrash Tanchuma cited at, cf. Chagiga 15a

  3. Rashi on Genesis 1:2, cited at

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