Holy Scripture provides an interesting insight into the meaning of Noah’s name:
And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son. And he called his name Noah, saying, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.” (Genesis 5:28-29)
How did Noah bring comfort?
Similar to today, Noah lived in a time of widespread wickedness:
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:5-8)
Because God is good, He promised worldwide destruction–a baptismal flood that would cleanse the world from its burden of human sin. To any righteous person, this prophecy should have been quite comforting. “Thanks be to God, wickedness will not continue unchecked. Sin will not reign forever.”
Noah was a godly man. And according to Scripture, he was a preacher of righteousness. For many years, he warned people to repent of their sinful ways, and to live in faithful obedience to God.
The only people who listened to Noah were his wife and children. When the rain poured down and judgment came upon the world, they were safe within the ark of salvation. They were comforted by this place of refuge.
The ark was a dry place of comfort for the animals who were saved. While those outside the ark were drowned, those inside the ark would live to repopulate the earth.
Noah is also a comfort to us in the Church, reminding us that there is a reward for the righteous, a divine deliverance for those who have patience and faith:
By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
By preparing the ark of salvation, Noah brought comfort to his family and to many animals. And by that same faithful preparation, Noah “condemned the world”. As with all Gospel preaching, it is a comfort to those who heed it, and it is a torment to those who hate it. Those who hate it inherit the flood, while those who heed it receive the comfort of salvation.
As Christians, we witness Christ to the world. Like Noah, we grieve over sin, we preach repentance, and we warn the world of the coming judgment. According to St. Paul,
we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.
(2 Corinthians 2:15-16)
The story of Noah is a story of comfort.
But it is only comforting to those who repent.