According to the account in Genesis, he lived five hundred years, and then he and his wife had three sons, Sem or Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen. 5:32). Noah's wife is not named in the Bible; according to Jewish tradition her name is Naamah.
Biblical fundamentalists assert that the story of Noah is a true story, and some claim that there is evidence for Noah's ark at what they describe as the Biblical Mount Ararat. Some have also claimed that the biblical story of the descent of mankind from Noah's sons is also literally true: see sons of Noah for a discussion of this idea.
Most historians, however, believe that there is no evidence that Noah was a historical figure, or that the great flood occurred. They point out that the story of Noah's ark closely parallels that of the much earlier Sumerian Utnapishtim, and scores of other deluge myths. Biblical literalists see this as confirmation of the truth of the Noah story.
According to the Bible, Noah was a "just man and perfect in his generation," and "walked with God" (comp. Ezek. 14:14,20). The descendants of Cain and of Seth began to intermarry, and then there sprang up a race distinguished for their ungodliness. Men became more and more corrupt, and God determined to sweep the earth of its wicked population (Gen. 6:7). But with Noah God entered into a covenant, with a promise of deliverance from the threatened deluge (18). He was accordingly commanded to build an ark (6:14-16) to save himself and his family. An interval of one hundred and twenty years elapsed while the ark was being built (6:3), during which Noah tried to convince the people to repent so they could avoid the wrath of God. (1 Pet. 3:18-20; 2 Pet. 2:5).
When the ark of "gopher-wood" (mentioned only here) was at length completed according to the command of the Lord, the living creatures that were to be preserved entered into it; and then Noah and his wife and sons and daughters-in-law entered it, and the "Lord shut him in" (Gen.7:16). The judgment of God then fell on the guilty world, "the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (2 Pet. 3:6). The ark floated on the waters for one hundred and fifty days, and then rested on the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:3,4); but not for a considerable time after this was he given divine permission to leave the ark, so that he and his family were in the ark for a whole year (Gen. 6-14).
On leaving the ark Noah's first act was to erect an altar, the first of which there is any mention, and offer the sacrifices of adoring thanks and praise to God, who entered into a covenant with him, the first covenant between God and man, granting him possession of the earth by a new and special charter, which Christians believe remains in force to the present time (Gen. 8:21-9:17). As a sign and witness of this covenant, the rainbow was adopted and set apart by God, as a sure pledge that never again would the earth be destroyed by a flood. See also Noahide Laws.
The Jewish tradition, however, gives Noah less credit as to his righteousness. Noah's being "perfect in his generation" implied to some Jewish scholars that his perfection was only relative. Moreover, his late entry into the ark (Gen. 7, 12-16) can be seen as an act of one who is of little faith. Later commentaries find two degrees of righteousness, which they demonstrate as a metaphor for a man who is cold: the fully righteous person would set up a fire - that is, help the others. A person who is not absolutely righteous would only get himself a coat - and be warm while others are cold, just like Noah was safe while all other men besides his family died.