According to the Book of Genesis, Noah saved his family and representatives of every animal from a flood by constructing a boat. So since all of humanity should be descended from Noah, does that mean everyone is Jewish?

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    Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for bringing your question here!
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 15:06
  • Weirdly related (no pun intended).
    – Seth J
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 18:44

2 Answers 2


As David Perlman stated in his answer, Biblical Noah was not Jewish. Depending on how you define Judaism, the first "Jew", or rather, the first person to recognize the G-d that Jews worship as the Creator and Master of the universe, was Abraham.

If you are interested in nationality, it goes something like this: Noah and his children were the only survivors of the Biblical flood. This means that everyone alive today stems from them. Nationality, then, as outlined in Genesis, stems from them as well. Noah had three sons: Shem (or Sem in English), Ham, and Yefeth (or Japheth in English). See here for a more extensive, but pretty clear, treatment of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_of_Noah

Abraham was a 10th generation descendant from Noah through his son Shem. Jews and Muslims believe they are descended from Abraham via his sons Isaac and Yishmael, respectively. These are the only two groups (that I know of) that identify as Semites, and thus the reason "anti-semitism" has, since the 19th Century, been the name given to hatred of Jews, and the reason Muslims in the latter half of the 20th Century began to object to this term.

So, if you are not descended from Abraham, you are most likely not descended from Shem, but one of the other two sons. Traditionally, Europe is descended from Yefeth and Africa is descended from Ham, but some have viewed this as racist theory because Ham was cursed due to some impropriety that involved his embarrassing his father (Noah) and not treating him with proper respect.

But without getting into all of that, the short answer to your question, based on the additional comments you made to David Perlman's answer, is no, not everyone is Jewish. Only the Jews are Jewish, but we're all cousins.

It's kind of like if Johnson has three kids, and they each have kids, and 9 generations later there's a Johnson daughter who marries a Smith, and they have kids, not everyone who descended from Johnson is automatically a Smith just because one set of Johnson's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren are Smiths.

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    +1. I wonder where the chinese fits in. After all, we grow more numerous than the jews. Also Noah doesn't worship the same God as Abraham? Hmm.. Interesting. What about Adam. He worship a different God too.
    – user4951
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 11:08
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    Jim, I'm not following you at all...?
    – Seth J
    Commented Dec 25, 2011 at 2:40
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    @moses, The question of what defines a "Jew" has been asked and answered elsewhere on this site, both philosophically and semantically. While this was earlier than most of those questions, I was trying to avoid that issue altogether and focus solely on the Asker's core question, which was basically, "If the Jews stemmed from Noah, did that make everyone in the family line (going backwards to Noah) Jewish, since Jews are a nation as well as a religion?" My answer attempted to focus on the development of (different) nationhood(s) from the family line of humanity stemming from Noah. Make sense?
    – Seth J
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 19:48
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    It is not true though that if you are not descended from Abraham you are not descended from Shem as Shem had loads of other descendents, including all the 13 sons of Yoktan who were the original "Arabs" mentioned in the Tanach according to sources. (They lived around Yemen).
    – CashCow
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 16:42
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    @user6591 Shem's sons (e.g. Arpachshad) wouldn't have married their sisters so presumably they married Ham's or Japhet's daughters etc. so using your logic we are all "mixed" descendents
    – CashCow
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 16:44

Biblical Noah was not Jewish. The first Jew was Abraham. Abraham came along ten generations after Noah.

From a Jewish perspective all people are children of Noah. All children of a maternal descent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are Jewish.

So no, not everyone is Jewish.


Thanks to Seth's comment I did a bit more research on the topic.

The question of who is a Jew is a halachic question. Halacha states (Even Haezer 44) that Jews are those men and women born to a Jewish mother. This is based on the Tamlud Kidushin 68b.

The keeping of halacha began with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. From that point on Jewish nationality became based on maternal descent.

However, the original question relates to the time of Noah, some four hundred years before the giving of the Torah. To generalize the question we could ask to whom was the Torah given? Who were the people who stood at Mount Sinai and were declared the people of Israel?

I could not find a halachic source for this, and the number of Midrashim that deal with this period seem to contradict one another. There must have been some criteria ... and this seems like a good question to post on it own ...

  • Do you know who he was? Or it's unknown?
    – user711
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 11:12
  • @Templar What does the term "Jewish" mean to you? Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 11:25
  • I think like nationality, you can be english, you can be chinese
    – user711
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 11:30
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    @Templar Judiasm is unique in its being at the same time a nationality and a religion. If you you wish to delve deeper into this issue see paragraph 95 here: shechem.org/torah/kuzari . This is from the Kuzari (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuzari) Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 11:34
  • David, I'm going to note that maternal descent was not used until much, much later than Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When it started is a source of debate that I won't get into, but, needless to say, Abraham was not female, so technically maternal descent did not begin with him, at least. May I suggest an edit either specifying when maternal descent began, or, alternatively, generalizing simply that "descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are Jewish" (if you want to stick with Abraham as the first "Jew" for purposes of your answer).
    – Seth J
    Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 16:45

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