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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Genesis 9

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God’s Covenant with Noah and Creation

A. God’s covenant and instructions to Noah.

1. (Gen 9:1-4) Instructions for living in a new world.

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”

a. Be fruitful and multiply: The world Noah entered from the ark was significantly different from the world he knew before. God gave Noah the same kind of mandate He gave Adam in the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:28), since Noah essentially began all over again.

b. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you: And, even as Adam received instructions for eating (Genesis 1:29-30, 2:15-17), so does Noah. Yet now, Noah receives specific permission to eat animals, permission Adam was not given (as far as we know).

i. Perhaps this was because the earth was less productive agriculturally after the flood, because of the ecological changes. Therefore God gave man permission to eat meat.

c. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth: If man now ate animals, then God would help the animals. For their protection God put in them a fear of mankind.

i. Again, presumably before the flood, man had a completely different relationship with the animals. God did not put this fear in animals because man did not look to them as food.

ii. “Did the horse know his own strength, and the weakness of the miserable wretch who unmercifully rides, drives, whips, goads, and oppresses him, would he not with one stroke of his hoof destroy his tyrant possessor? But while God hides these things from him he impresses his mind with the fear of his owner, so that … he is trained up for, and employed in, the most useful and important purposes.” (Clarke)

d. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood: God also commands Noah that if animals are eaten, there must be a proper respect for the blood, which represents the life principle in the animal (Leviticus 17:11, 17:14 and Deuteronomy 12:23).

i. The importance of the idea of blood in the Bible is shown by how often the word is used. It is used 424 times in 357 separate verses (in the New King James Version).

· Blood was the sign of mercy for Israel at the first Passover (Exodus 12:13)
· Blood sealed God’s covenant with Israel (Exodus 24:8)
· Blood sanctified the altar (Exodus 29:12)
· Blood set aside the priests (Exodus 29:20)
· Blood made atonement for God’s people (Exodus 30:10)
· Blood sealed the new covenant (Matthew 26:28)
· Blood justifies us (Romans 5:9)
· Blood brings redemption (Ephesians 1:7)
· Blood brings peace with God (Colossians 1:20)
· Blood cleanses us (Hebrews 9:14 and 1 John 1:7)
· Blood gives entrance to God’s holy place (Hebrews 10:19)
· Blood sanctifies us (Hebrews 13:12)
· Blood enables us to overcome Satan (Revelation 12:11)

2. (Gen 9:5-7) God gives to man the right and responsibility of capital punishment.

“Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man. And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it.”

a. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning: According to God’s command, when a man’s blood is shed there must be an accounting for it, because in the image of God He made man. Because man is made in the image of God, his life is inherently precious and cannot be taken without giving account to God.

i. By man his blood shall be shed means because life is valuable, when murder is committed the death penalty is in order.

ii. In its original languages the Bible makes a distinction between killing and murder. Not all killing is murder, because there are cases where there is just cause for killing (self-defense, capital punishment with due process of law, killing in a just war). There are other instances where killing is accidental. This is killing, but not murder.

iii. The Bible also consistently teaches that the punishment of the guilty is the role of human government (Romans 13:1-4) so as to restrain man’s depravity. It also teaches that the guilt of unpunished murder defiles a land (Numbers 35:31-34). As Luther said, “God establishes government and gives it the sword to hold wantonness in check, lest violence and other sins proceed without limit.” (Boice)

b. From the hand of every beast I will require it: To see the strength of God’s command, He even requires a reckoning for the life of man from every beast. God does not condone unlawful killing of any kind.

c. Be fruitful and multiply: This point was repeated because it needed emphasis. The earth badly needed repopulating.

3. (Gen 9:8-11) God makes a covenant with man and with all of creation.

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

a. I establish My covenant: This covenant was made with mankind (you and your descendants after you), and even with the animals (every living creature that is with you). God promised He would never again destroy all with a flood or cover the earth with a flood.

b. Never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth: God did not believe He did something wrong or too harsh in the flood. He made the promise because He did things in the post-flood world to guarantee that the exact evil conditions of the pre-flood world would never be precisely duplicated. These things included the imprisonment of the angels who sinned with human women (Jude 6) and shortening the life span of man.

i. However, when things again become similar to the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37), God will destroy the earth – but by fire, not by flood (2 Peter 3:1-7).

4. (Gen 9:12-17) The sign of God’s covenant.

And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

a. I set My rainbow in the cloud: Because the blanket of water vapors was broken up in the flood and the water cycle of the earth changed after the flood, this may be the first occurrence of a rainbow. God used the rainbow as a sign to Noah and all generations that He would be faithful to His covenant.

b. It shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth: Every time we see a rainbow, we should remember the faithfulness of God and every one of His promises. He even says His covenant of peace with us is just as sure as His covenant with Noah and all generations.

i. For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:9-10)

c. I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant: The other mentions of a rainbow in the Bible are set in the context of God’s enthroned glory (Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 4:3 and 10:1). It is staggering to see God, in His glory, setting so close to Himself a reminder of His promise to man.

i. In Revelation 4:3, God’s throne is surrounded by a green-hued rainbow. The rainbow is a reminder (in the midst of such supreme sovereignty) of God’s commitment to His covenant with man.

ii. One the same principle, the believer glories in the sovereignty of God, because he knows God’s sovereignty is on his side. It means no good purpose of God relating to the believer will ever be left undone.

B. Noah and his sons.

1. (Gen 9:18-19) The sons of Noah.

Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.

a. The whole earth was populated: From these three sons of Noah came the nations as we know them. The descendants of these three sons are listed in the “table of nations” provided in Genesis 10.

2. (Gen 9:20-23) The sin of Ham, Noah’s son.

And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

a. He drank of the wine and was drunk: This is the first mention of drunkenness in the Bible. Some think it was only after the flood that man made (or was able to make) intoxicating drink.

i. Noah’s own sinful and shameful actions show the foolishness of drunkenness. Well the Proverbs say, Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise …. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. (Proverbs 20:1, 23:29-33)

ii. It also shows the foolishness of those who claim God’s desire is to make people “drunk in the spirit” through the work of a “Holy Ghost Bartender.” When Ephesians 5:18 says, And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, it contrasts the work of the Spirit with the effects of drunkenness.

iii. Alcohol is a depressant. It “loosens” people because it depresses their self-control, their wisdom, their balance and judgment. The filling of the Holy Spirit has an exactly opposite effect. He is a stimulant, and He influences every aspect of our being to better and more perfect performance.

b. And became uncovered in his tent: It may be Noah was abused sexually by one of his sons or relatives. The phrase became uncovered and the idea of nakedness are sometimes associated with sexual relations (Leviticus 18:6-20).

i. This is repulsive, but not terribly surprising. Many people who get drunk become victims of abuse, sexual and otherwise. 75% of the men and 55% of the women involved in date-rape situations were drinking or taking drugs just before the attack. The FBI says 50% of all rapes involve alcohol.

ii. There are more costs to drunkenness. In the United States 100,000 people die each year in alcohol-related deaths, while alcohol abuse costs the nation hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Still, the average American television viewer sees 90,000 incidents of drinking on television by age 21 and 100,000 beer commercials by age 18.

c. Saw the nakedness of his father: Others think Ham’s only sin here was in seeing Noah’s drunken, uncovered state, and that he made fun of him, mocking him as a father and as a man of God.

i. Literally, the ancient Hebrew says that Ham “told with delight” what he saw in his father’s tent. He determined to mock his father and underminine his authority as a man of God.

3. (Gen 9:24-27) Noah’s curse upon Canaan.

So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.” And he said: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.”

a. Knew what his younger son had done to him: This seems to indicate that whatever happened to Noah, it was more than one of his sons or grandsons seeing his nudity. This explains the strength of the curse.

b. Cursed be Canaan: It seems strange that if Ham sinned against Noah, that Canaan (Ham’s son) is cursed. Perhaps Canaan was also involved in this sin against Noah in a way not mentioned in the text. Perhaps the strongest punishment against Ham was for Noah to reveal prophetically the destiny of his son Canaan.

i. We can trust God is not punishing the son (Canaan) for the sin of the father (Ham). This goes against the heart and justice of God (Ezekiel 18:2-3). However, through Noah’s prophecy, God tells Ham what will happen to his son.

c. May Canaan be his servant: In earlier generations, prejudiced people regarded the descendants of Canaan as black people from Africa, and they used the curse on Canaan to justify slavery. But black people did not come from Canaan. Canaan was the father of the near-eastern peoples, most of who were conquered by Joshua when Israel took the Promised Land.

4. (Gen 9:28-29) The end of Noah’s days.

And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.

a. Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years: Noah was a remarkable man who served God in his own generation. Yet his last years do not seem to match the glory of his first years.

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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