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Genesis study & commentary

Genesis 9

By Doug Ford
Post flood changes; the covenant of the rainbow

Genesis 9:1-3

God blessed Noah and his family and told them to be fruitful and multiply.  They were starting all over again.  This is one father, his wife, 3 sons and their wives.  They all stood there that day by the divine providence of God.  He had brought them to that point in time.  God started them in their new life by blessing them and directing them to fill the earth.  God was blessed with Noah's sacrifice and now the Lord offers a blessing for them.  God graciously blesses those who sincerely bless him.

25 A generous person will prosper;

whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Prov 11:25)


It seems that mankind had a different relationship with the animals prior to the flood.  Imagine being able to walk up to any animal and pet it. That's apparently the way it had been prior to the flood. The eating of the flesh of animals is linked to the flood.  The authority given to mankind to rule and subdue the earth gave them a different relationship with animals.  To protect them, the animals were instilled with a fear of man.  In his commentary, Adam Clarke noted that the animal kingdom doesn't understand their power and strength, if they did, they could easily resist, overpower or harm men.  The horse doesn't understand that it's a hundred times stronger than its rider.  Imagine a world where animals had no fear of man.  It could turn out bad when your dog or cat got hungry or had a bad day!


Part of this new relationship between man and animal is that every animal, bird and fish is now classified as food.  Before the flood, man was apparently vegetarian.


Genesis 9:4-7

With the tremendous loss of life in the flood, man might have seen life as cheap and justify killing in all kinds of ways.  In addition to having the 'breath of life' every creature has a lifeblood flowing through them.  The word translated to 'lifeblood' also has the sense of soul, inner self and life and is translated to many different words that point to life, the soul, person, heart being and so on.  The very life of a person is in the blood.  While they were given sovereignty over the animals, there was to be a respect for the animal's life. 


In many of the cultures of that day, to consume the blood of another was to acquire their lifeforce, their strengths and attributes.  In some cases, parts were cut from live animals; or animals were eaten alive.  God's people were not to do these things.  They were to understand that it is only God who bestows life.  As it pertains to animals, they were to steward it a certain way. 


This respect for the life blood started with mankind.  There would be an accounting for shedding the blood of an imager of God.  To kill another man was to kill God in effigy.  When the law was given to Moses it called for capital punishment.  That accounting could be against an animal or person (if an ox gored a man to death, the ox had to die.)  While man could eat the flesh of animals, they were not to consume it with the lifeblood in it.  There would be an accounting of this. 


And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.' 12 Therefore I said to the children of Israel, 'No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.'(Leviticus 17:10-12)


Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life; you may not eat the life with the meat. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it on the earth like water. (Deuteronomy 12:23)


We know how important the blood is, don't we?  Blood was the sign of mercy for Israel at the first Passover (Exodus 12:13).  This was the blood of the Passover lamb painted on the doorframe.  It was a protection from death.  Blood sealed God's covenant with Israel (Exodus 24:8).  When Moses came down from the mountain, he stood between the mountain of God and the people.  Acting as a priest, he sacrificed 2 bulls and sprinkled half the blood on the altar.  Then he read the law to them.  When the people agreed, he sprinkled the other half of the blood on them.  Blood sanctified the altar (Exodus 29:12).  It set aside the priests as well(Exodus 29:20); made atonement for God's people (Exodus 30:10).  We are sealed within the new covenant by the blood of Christ (Matthew 26:28); It is blood that justifies us (Romans 5:9) and brings redemption (Ephesians 1:7).


It is by the blood of Christ we find peace with God (Colossians 1:20); blood cleanses us (Hebrews 9:14 and 1 John 1:7); gives us entrance to God's holy place (Hebrews 10:19); sanctifies us (Hebrews 13:12); and enables us to overcome Satan (Revelation 12:11).


Genesis 9:8-11

In speaking to Noah and his sons, he was speaking to all of mankind at the time.  His covenant with them, would then be the covenant to their offspring, all of mankind.  In addition, this covenant extends to every living creature.  Only God can say 'never' and truly stand true to it.  He would never again destroy the earth with water.  This was a covenant that required nothing of man, only the faithfulness of God.  It is known as the Noahic covenant. 


God promised He would never again destroy everything with a flood.  God cleansed the world with judgments of water the first time.  He will burn it in the purifying fires of judgment the second.


Genesis 9:12-17

God called the rainbow "My rainbow"; He set it in the cloud and it is a sign of the covenant.  The word used is 'qeset' that usually describes an archer's bow.  The bow in the clouds may be intended to be a play on words.  The bow in the hanging in the sky represents God's wrath would not come upon the earth by flood again.  Similar imagery exists in at least one of the many other flood stories among civilization.  Others see the bow as if it were a barrier holding back the flood waters of the firmament. 


It is thought, that with the changes in the world and the climate after the flood, this is probably the first time a rainbow appeared.  What a sight, what a day that must have been.  God instituted this everlasting covenant between Himself and all the living creatures on earth.  We can look at a rainbow and know that God put it there to mark his promise to us.  And we know we can always count on His promises.


Genesis 9:18-19

All the earth was to be repopulated by the families of Shem, Ham and Japheth.  We'll see the table of nations in Genesis 10.  It's interesting to see that Moses throws in this little side note that 'Ham was the father of Canaan'At the time Moses is writing all this, the Canaanite and the land of Canaan is important to them.  It is the promised land of the Abrahamic covenant.  It is inhabited by the Canaanite tribes.


Genesis 9:20-23

In his relationship with God, his instruction to rill the earth and reign over it, Noah is a type of Adam.  As the 'fruit' of the garden and free choice god Adam in trouble, it is the very same thing that causes trouble for Noah.  Some time had to have passed since leaving the ark since we see a vineyard producing.  This is the first mention of drunkenness in the Bible.  Surely this is not something Noah intended to do, yet he had not placed a guard against it.  He and his family had survived the flood, had come so far in God's care.  Had the little things escaped him?  Had the daily decisions of life seemed too small and insignificant in the shadow of the ark?  We can allow the possibility that Noah didn't understand the effects of wine.  Noah went on to live another 350 years so it seems we can eliminate the idea that it was the oversight of an old man.  Noah was still in his mid-life.  His ability to farm shows his vitality.


Noah wasn't the first, nor will he be the last man to have walked upright and blameless, keeping himself from the taint of sin while the eyes of others were on him.  Yet, when out of the spotlight, apart from the eyes of others, he finds himself shamed and uncovered.  Out spiritual disciplines can't be a kind of performance for the eyes of others.  They must be the foundation of our life. 


Note: These portions of our history show the authenticity of the bible.  Everyone would like to forget certain parts of family history and ancestry.  In the bible it's all included and done so to show the fallout of sin in latter generations. 


Noah ended up drunk and uncovered in his tent.  Ham 'saw his father naked' and 'told his two brothers'.  These are the two phrases that are debated in this incident.  Shem & Japheth were quick and careful in their remedy of their father's exposure.  They displayed grace, respect and care; all done with faithfulness. 


Noah's response upon discovering Ham's sin was to offer this curse against his son Canaan.  At the same time he blessed Shem and Japheth's offspring making Canaan's offspring their slaves.  


There is much conjecture about the sin of Ham.  What was this 101-year-old Ham doing going into the tent of his 601 year old father?  Some are of the opinion that Noah was abused sexually by Ham.  The phrase 'became uncovered' and the idea of 'nakedness' are sometimes associated with sexual relations (Leviticus 18:6-20).  This idea seems to be creating a phrase that isn't in the text by using the words of the text.  It has the feel of forcing an idea into this text.


There was no known restriction against seeing his father naked.  The text does imply that it was the sight of his father naked that became the basis for this sin.  If accidentally seeing Noah's nakedness wasn't a sin, it seems Ham's sin was that it wasn't an accident or at the very least, he did nothing to prevent seeing Noah in this state.  There is the idea that his sin was voyeurism.  However, if the sight of Noah is an obvious point made in the text, so is telling his brothers of the incident.  It may be that Ham made fun, disrespecting his father.  He was mocking his father and another imager of God.   


The cursing of Canann leaves us with the question of, "Why curse his offspring?"  The curse seemed to reflect what was in the heart of Ham.  His generations would be defined by his heart.  Adam saw his son fall to sin by exercising his moral autonomy; living his life on his terms instead of God's terms.  In a similar way, I think we see Noah, a type of Adam, see his son afflicted by sin.  Drunkenness and nakedness would become that pagan practice in generations to come, here is shows up in the tent of Noah.  Both Noah and Adam saw their sons lives afflicted by the fallout of sin, as did the lives of their children for ages to come.  As Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden to the earth that would bear thistles and thorns by the sweat of the brow, we are reminded this is that same earth.  The story serves to remind us, that man's sin-fallen nature and inclination to depravity and wickedness had not been cleansed away; it, in fact, got off the boat with mankind. 


By Noah's blessing, God blessed Shem.  Shem's name means 'Glory'.  He is the father of the Semitic people; the Jews and Arabs.  It would be by the descendant of Shem that the Sin would be cleansed away.  Many years would pass, but a day would come when Jesus would die on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind.  God Himself came as a man to do the work of repairing the damage that had been done in the relationship between God and His imagers.


The family of Japheth settled in Europe.  The descendants of Japheth end up being the geo-political rulers of the world.  The God of Shem would be the covering for the descendants of Japheth.  There would be no comfort dwelling in the tents of Japheth.  There would be no righteousness from their gods.  The Living God of Shem would be their comfort.  It is in the tent of Shem they would find hope.


Note;In earlier generations, many believed the descendants of Canaan were black people from Africa.  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.


©2019 Doug Ford