Genesis 9: God’s Covenant With Noah

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.

-I did not bring it up in my Genesis 3 study but its interesting to realize the parallel between what Adam and Eve are told when leaving the garden and what we as Christians were told when Jesus left Earth. We are told to “be fruitful and multiply” in both cases. Adam and Eve and now Noah and his sons families are told to multiply in the physical sense and Jesus tells us to multiply in the spiritual sense and make disciples. This commanded is repeated to show that despite everything that has changed about the earth, the command and mans purpose still applies.

3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

-Here we see the first mention of eating meat. There’s reason to believe that mankind were all vegetarian before the flood and this is when eating meat began. Noah was commanded to bring “every kind” of food on the ark but that does not mean any of those clean animals were consumed. If there is no mention, we can’t assume. Given mankind’s sinfulness, it is hard for me to believe people didn’t try eating meat like the animals but this might be the first time it was not considered ungodly to do so and righteous individuals like Enoch and Noah may not have desiring to walk with God.

4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

-Now its saying don’t eat meat? No, God is saying, “cook your food before you eat it!” There are certainly many health reasons to do this.

5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

-These two verses seem to be saying, whether it is a person or an animal, anyone or anything that kills a man will suffer consequences. The word “reckoning” in English essentially means “pay back” or “eye for an eye” and this is how it is written in Hebrew. Whoever sheds blood, their blood shall be shed. Some have taken these verses to mean God’s condoning of capital punishment. We find out later in the bible particularly Romans 13 when Paul writes that God has given governments authority on earth so this would seem to be a reasonable argument. Regardless, there are certainly consequences to sin and there seem to be more severe consequences to murder, death, and war than any other sins which is why it is often regarded as “the worse” sin. All sins are equally 100% offensive to God and this is no degree; however, there does seem to be a difference in the effects and God is saying the effects of this sin, even to animals, is more severe on this Earth.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

-Whenever something is repeated in scripture, its important. This is our reason for being. Being fruitful or “successful” in life which recall God measures success by our willingness to submit to him not acquiring wealth and abundance (Remember Cain’s misunderstanding?), and having children. This is of course a general command and you are not sinning by not having children, but it is God’s greater desire for all mankind as a whole.

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

-This is repeated because Moses is essentially saying, “Remember how I just said God made a promise not to do this again? Well when He said that He also did this that I did not mention earlier:”

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

As children, we probably recall a picture of a rainbow and think that God made a pretty, peaceful symbol to show this bad thing would not happened again. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and that may well be part of it but what this passage is actually saying is God “hung up His bow”. A bow is a weapon, for firing arrows. God is essentially saying that He will not go to war with mankind in this way again. God has established a “ceasefire”. Does this mean that before this there were no rainbows in the sky? A rainbow is a refraction of light and its hard to believe the very law of physics changed and there wouldn’t have been small rainbows seen in the mist that came up to water the earth. The only other explanation would be if somehow this water layer in the sky that was there effected how light came down to earth to where rainbows would not happen. Regardless, giant rainbows in the sky would not have happened until this because it had not rained. The bible is clear that there was no rainfall before the flood so no rainbows in the sky. Because not much is known about what this water layer in the sky must have been like, its difficult to answer whether literally no one had ever seen a small refraction of life before and it could not be produced until after the flood.

Noah’s Descendants

18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

-We will learn all about the Canaanites later but we find out here that they descend from Noah’s son Ham. The name Canaan means “lowlands” in Hebrew or could possibly mean “humiliated” and is a word used for a merchant or trader. In history, we know the Phoenician people are descendants of Canaan.

20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.

-Many have interpreted that the atmosphere of Earth changed so much that there was no fermentation and therefore no way to get drunk before the flood. So it is claimed here that Noah simply drank to much “grape juice” not knowing it would make him drunk. If there truly was no fermentation before the flood, its still an assumption to say Noah “accidentally” got drunk. Noah may have discovered this and he felt good so he kept drinking it, so why not? There was no law or even concept of drunkenness and what the consequences of it could be. The term “planted a vineyard” suggests he knew what it was and what it was going to be when he planted it instead of simply experimenting with grapes. In the end, it is too easy to make assumptions so I believe it is wiser to simply read the story as it is written. The account just says that this happened. Noah planted a vineyard, drank to much wine, and became drunk. This is all we need to know at this time. Whether it was intentional or an accident, we know Noah, while righteous in God’s sight, was not perfect and inclined to sin just as all of us are. I do know that if I just spent a year on a smelly boat with animals and in-laws, I’d probably feel like celebrating being free of it myself. Archaeological findings have actually discovered signs of a vineyard dated possibly near this time near Mt. Ararat:

22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

-It seems Ham was what we would call “immature”. He saw his father in this state and must have found it quite the hilarious site. If this truly was the first case of drunkenness I can only imagine. But with Shem and Japheth we see something truly beautiful. We see them showing their father the utmost respect and they never even laid eyes on their father while covering him and taking care of him. Shem and Japheth had been raised well and most likely tried to live righteously like their father. Ham was more carnal and of the world. There are some commentators that have tried to imply Ham as having some kind of homosexual tendencies but that is a lot to assume from a single sentence in the bible. We are not told anything like that and so cannot assume something like this. It just says Ham saw him. It doesn’t say “curious” or “filled with delight”. The lesson is obvious that one should show respect for their father especially in a time of need instead of humiliating and make fun of someone else, especially your own father, for one’s own pleasure.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” 26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. 27 May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”

-Many have grossly misinterpreted this passage as an explanation for why (and I’m quoting here) “black people are slaves”. This is so utterly idiotic that I feel dirty just bringing it up. Only in American and European counties in a specific period of time have “black people” been slaves. Not only that, there is an assumption that Ham or at least Canaan had darker skin given where it states Hamitic people settled. We are never told what any of these people looked like and what their genetic traits were like and skin color may have actually changed over time given the warmer regions they were traveling through. We know and can prove the concept of “micro-evolution” as fact which is simply the change in variation of a species over time. Perhaps in certain cultures, more black or more white was considered desirable and so this trait was bread depending on the culture whether intentional or not. Not only this but the Canaanites that are dealt with in the bible were more likely olive-skinned anyway and not black. Throughout all of world history, it was standard practice to enslave people that were conquered and this was considered normal. It did not matter who these people are or what they looked like, if you conquered a nation they become your slaves. When the more developed technologically Americans and Europeans went to Africa, they took the tribal people as slaves simply because they considered themselves better given their technology and education. It would not have mattered what these African people looked like. This very discussion about appearance is worldly and physical. This is part of the reason God destroyed life with a flood to begin with, because we were thinking in these terms. If what Noah stated to Ham truly was a prophesy about Canaan and his descendants then it was only that the Israelites, which are considered to be descendants of Shem, will conquerer the land of Canaan and take many of these people as slaves. It could simply be that just as Ham, Noah’s son, dishonored his father, Noah could have been cursing Canaan as one day dishonoring his father in the same way. In other words, “Like father, like son”. What kind of example was Ham setting for his son in not honoring his own father? It’s thought that descendants of Jepheth may be where “white people”come from given where his descendants settled and so its argued that’s what “enlarged” means in terms of technological success. But this has only been true more recently in world history. Babylon and Persia were the first two great empires more likely made up of descendants of Shem and we know ancient Chine had many wonders and advancements and Asians are considered more likely to be descendants of Ham. To assume this is a prophecy that Europeans would enjoy blessings in life is a stretch at best.

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.

-Noah living an additional 350 years after the flood is one of the reasons why I don’t interpret Genesis 6:3 as God declaring mankind would only live 120 years in total from now on. Otherwise, Noah would have lived a much shorter time afterwards. Being 600 years old when the oldest person lived to 969 would probably be the equivalent of Noah being 55-60 years old at the time of the flood at the youngest. So if suddenly lifespans were like they are today, Noah probably would have only lived 30 more years after the flood at most and died at 630 years old. This is why it seems more likely mankind itself was more genetically “perfect” and because of our genes lived a lot longer and it has degraded over time to the point of the oldest people only living to about 100 and very rarely beyond this today. It makes sense that we had much longer lifespans at this time so that we get multiply more and get a population on earth going much quicker. The differences with the planet before the flood still could have effected our height and other factors as well though.

Spanish words:

temor = fear
movar = to move
entregar = to deliver
legumbre = vegetable
derramar = to spill, pour
arco = arch, rainbow
señal = signal, sign
nube = cloud
embriagar = to get drunk, enebriated
hombro = shoulder


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