Part E. The Great Flood (6:1—9:29)
E7. God’s covenant with Noah (9:1-17)
E8. Noah’s drunkenness (9:18-29)
† After the Flood, the world was renewed. Mankind too was renewed. Now, only the family of the righteous Noah was left. Furthermore, God made an important covenant with man. All seemed well. Yet, in a short time, the sinful nature of man was revealed, just as what God declared: “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Gen 8:21)
9:1 be fruitful and multiply: the original blessing in Gen 1:28 was renewed. This passage describes the details of God’s covenant which was anticipated in Gen 6:18. There are 5 parts in the covenant. [Noahic Covenant Part 1: transmission of life]
o Children are the universal evidence of God’s creation blessing.
fill the earth: occupy the whole Earth, not just one part.
9:2 fear and dread: 2 words to emphasize the fear by animals toward man, the fear of being hunted by man. It is used to describe the soldier’s fear against the enemy during a battle (Dt 11:25). This is also a promise that the wild animals were being restrained so that they do not combine together to rise up in rebellion against man. Calvin describes this as “a secret bridle to restrain their violence.”
into your hand they are delivered: As commanded by God, we have dominion over all animals. Man can use them either for service or for food. [Noahic Covenant Part 2: dominion over animals]
9:3 every moving thing: God allowed man to start eating meat probably because: [a] man’s weakened body after the Flood required proteins from both animals and plants, [b] the cursed ground could not produce sufficient food (although the productivity of the ground increased with human ingenuity).
9:4 shall not eat flesh with its life, that
is, its blood: In
o God did not prohibit the eating of meat and it is possible that man ate meat before this point in time. In any case, the permission to eat meat was formally given here.
o God’s prohibition against meat with blood could have the following reasons: [a] It is unhealthy because the blood can carry bacteria. [b] Blood is life (v.4), representative of the life force; blood is a gift from God to man for his atonement (Lev 17:11). [c] Not eating blood is a symbol for the respect of life which is under the sovereignty of God (1Sa 2:6; Ps 36:9).
Question: Can Christians eat rare steak (which contains not fully cooked blood)? What about consuming cooked animal blood?
[a] Literally, the phrase is “flesh whose blood is in its soul” or “flesh with its life breath, its blood.” According to Jewish interpretation, as long as an animal is alive, its blood is seen as being attached to its soul (Dt 12:23). That is why some interpret this verse as only prohibiting the consumption of flesh from a living animal. If this is true, then there is no prohibition eating a rare steak or cooked blood. However, such an interpretation describes a situation which almost never occurs.
[b] The objectives of the prohibition is because of sanitary reason (blood containing bacteria) and attitudinal reason (respect for life). According to this interpretation, if we are satisfied that the meat is clean and we have a proper respect for life, then consuming a rare steak is permissible.
[c] The prohibition possibly refers to uncooked blood because all beef (as well as other red meats) contains some blood. According to this interpretation, consuming food with fully cooked blood such as a welldone steak is permissible. Otherwise, all red meats will be prohibited. [Even OT Jews consumed beef.]
[d] If the consumption of a rare steak (or any other food) violates our conscience, then it should be avoided (Ro 14:23).
9:5 for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: Some Jews believe that this is a commandment against suicide. The verse is again introduced by the strong word “but” or “surely” (Heb. ’ak).
from every beast: The beast that kills a man must be put to death. This was confirmed by the law of Moses (Ex 21:28).
require a reckoning: The second prohibition is against murder. Those who murder (including man and animals) will face the judgment of God.
o The word “reckoning” or literally “accounting” (Heb. daras) is repeated 3 times in this verse. It indicates an exacting or calculation and is found in the sense of vengeance.
from his fellow man: Hebrew for “brother”, reminding about the murder of Abel by his brother. It also implies that all human beings are to some degree brothers and sisters.
ESV: From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
NIV: And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
Literal: At the hand of man’s brother will I seek out the life breath of the man.
o The reckoning is before God and before man.
o The two prohibitions are similar in the respect for life.
9:6 sheds the blood of man: emphatic play on blood (Heb. dam) and man (Heb. adam). “Shedding blood” is used of premeditated murder (Gen 37:22; 1Ki 2:31; Eze 22:4).
by man: Man in the form of human institutions is God’s instrument of retribution against the criminal. NT interpreted capital punishment as a necessary function of society, where the state is defined as the divinely-designated “servant” that administers retribution (Ro 13:1-5; 1Pe 2:13-14). In our contemporary justice system, the prosecutor represents the people of the State.
shall his blood be shed: As shown above, blood is life; a murderer shall be killed as the result of the reckoning. The justice principle is that the punishment must fit the crime to the same degree (Ex 21:24-25). [Noahic Covenant Part 4: protection of life]
o Note that the command here is not part of the Mosaic Law but a command to all mankind. Therefore, one cannot argue that capital punishment is prescribed only in the Jewish Law.
o The long-standing principle of jurisprudence, known as lex talionis (Latin meaning “an eye for an eye”), insures that the punishment is equivalent with the weight of the crime.
for God made man in his own image: This is not part of God’s command but an interpretation by the author [because God will not call Himself “God”]. It is clear that man is different from all animals because he was made in the image of God. Animals can be killed for food (v.2) but the murder of a man deserves death.
o The statement explains why murder (killing one made in God’s image) deserves the ultimate punishment. Murder is an offense against God. To take human life unlawfully is to usurp God’s sovereignty over life and death.
o The statement also implies that the Fall of man had injured but did not wipe out the image of God. Today, man is still in God’s image.
9:7 teem on the earth: to increase the population (not wealth); a continuous step from the prolife viewpoint; demonstrating that God is prolife.
Summary of God’s commands (v.1-7)
Man and animal
Dominion over animals (1:28)
Animals afraid of man (9:2)
Food for man
Plants and animals without blood (9:3-4)
Image of God
Man made in the image and likeness of God (1:26-27)
Man or beast who kills the image of God shall be killed (9:5-6)
9:8 This passage (v.8-17) contains what God promised to do. The previous passage v.1-7 contains the commands of God so some commentators take only this part as the covenant. [However, the exposition here takes v.1-17 as the entire covenant.] There are 2 other covenants in Genesis (Gen 12:1-3; 15:17-20). The other two were for Abraham concerning God’s chosen people while this one is for the whole world.
o In the OT, there were 2 kinds of covenants between God and man: [a] Royal Grant Covenant without conditions: this is in fact a promise by God (also called promissory covenant); God alone is under compulsion by oath to uphold this promise to the favoured party; this present covenant called Noahic Covenant and the first and the second Abrahamic Covenant belong to this kind; [b] Suzerain-Vassal (dependant) Covenant with conditions: the covenant will only be fulfilled if the vassal completes some conditions, such as loyalty and obedience (Ex 19:5-8; 24:3; 34:10-28); the Mosaic Covenant belongs to this kind.
o In addition to these two, there was a third kind between men of equals, called parity covenant (Gen 21:27).
o This present covenant includes: [a] never again will a flood do such destruction; [b] as long as the Earth remains, the seasons will always come as expected; [c] a rainbow will be a visible sign to show that God will keep His promises.
9:9 I establish my covenant: The terms “establish” (Heb. qum) and “covenant” (Heb. berit) occur 3 times and 7 times respectively in this passage.
o The 3 words “establish” are in different tenses: “I now establish” in v.9 is in imminent future tense; “I establish” in v.11 is in present tense; “I have established” in v.17 is in present perfect tense. They indicate that God initiates, sustains, and completes the covenant.
you and your offspring: God promised to not destroy the world by flood again. This promise is directed to all mankind as represented by Noah and his descendants (v.9), every living creature (v.10), Noah (v.11), Noah and every living creature (v.12), all future generations (v.12), the Earth (v.13), Noah and every living creature of all flesh (v.15), every living creature and all flesh that is on the Earth (v.16), all flesh that is on the Earth (v.17). God’s protection is a universal one.
9:11 never again: twice for emphasis; no more such Flood to destroy man and animals. [Noahic Covenant Part 5: continuance of life]
9:12 for all future generations: the eternal nature of the covenant; referring to all peoples of every era.
9:13 sign of the covenant: This is the first covenant sign in the Bible. The other two covenant signs are circumcision (Gen 17:11) which signifies that Abraham was chosen by God, and the Sabbath Day (Ex 31:16-17) which signifies God’s creation of the universe.
o The sign guarantees the parties of the covenant of its perpetual validity.
my bow in the cloud: the rainbow; it is related to the “covering of clouds” (literal), that is, after the storm; here it is a sign of God’s grace after His judgment. The incomparably beautiful rainbow is a sign that the storm is over. It reminds us that God’s grace is always with us despite storms in our lives. It should stir in us both awe and thanksgiving.
o Delitzch describes: “Stretched between heaven and earth, it is a bond of peace between both, and spanning the horizon, it points to the all-embracing universality of the Divine mercy.”
o The word “cloud(s)” is associated with the bow 3 times as the brightly coloured rainbow appears to dispel the darkness of the storm clouds.
the earth: God’s promise that God will not destroy the Earth with the flood (v.11).
9:15 remember: God’s promise, once given, will never be broken. Although the sign was primarily for God, it was also reassurances to man.
9:16 everlasting covenant: like v.15, emphasizing its permanent nature.
9:17 said to Noah: In v.16, the appearance of the rainbow is directed to God. Here, the rainbow is for man to see and to remember God’s promise.
9:18 Similarities between Adam and Noah: [a] both were farmers, [b] both were in an incident involving the consumption of some fruits, [c] both sins ended with curses, [d] both were covered up after the sin, [e] both had 2 good sons and 1 bad son, [f] the bad son committed a more serious sin than his father (Adam’s disobedience vs Cain’s murder, Noah’s drunkenness vs Ham’s disrespect).
9:19 from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed: Noah’s 3 sons were the origin of all the people on the whole Earth.
9:20 man of the soil: farmer, perhaps a reminder that Noah was also a corruptible man made from the dust.
vineyard: alternate reading: the first to plant a vineyard.
9:21 became drunk: drank too much wine, excessive enjoyment of a product of his own work. Some commentators believe that Noah did not know the effect of the wine; however, this was probably not the first time he drank wine.
lay uncovered: In the Bible, being naked usually has a negative connotation (Ex 20:26; 2Sa 6:16), and nakedness is often the result of drunkenness (Lam 4:21; Hab 2:15). Noah possibly stripped himself and passed out in the tent naked.
9:22 told his two brothers: Ham’s action dishonoured his father. The tent was a private place and Ham should not have entered without permission. Ham should not have looked at Noah’s nakedness. If it happened accidentally and involuntarily, that would not be a sin. After he knew what happened, he bore the responsibility of covering his father. Even worse, he told his brothers, probably delighting at his father’s disgraceful condition, thus publicly dishonouring and insulting his father.
o In Mosaic Law, insulting one’s parents was a serious offense that warranted death penalty (Ex 21:15,17; Dt 21:18-21).
9:23 garment: a long coat (covering the shoulders of both sons) that could be used as a blanket (Ex 22:26). It was used not only to cover Noah’s nakedness but also to protect him from the weather.
laid it on both their shoulders: to blind their peripheral vision.
walked backward: a great contrast with what Ham did. They not only would not see the naked Noah themselves, but provided that no one else might see. This is a good example for people who come to know the shortcomings of others—not dwelling on others’ shortcomings and trying to expose them (although reproach or admonition in love may sometimes be needed). It is also a good illustration of the sin of gossiping.
9:24 youngest son:
Ham was probably the youngest son of the three; Gen 10:21 mentioned Shem as the
elder brother of Japheth implying that Japheth was the next son. If this is
true, then why are the 3 sons always in the order of “Shem, Ham, Japheth” (Gen
6:10; 7:13; 9:18; 10:1)? In Hebrew custom, the order may not reflect the age,
e.g. Isaac was named before Ishmael (Gen 25:9). Sometimes, the order reflects
the importance of the persons. Here, it is possible that the order was used
because the descendants of Shem and Ham had more contact in later chapters of
Genesis. On the other hand, some believe that Ham was the 2nd son. He was
described as the youngest only because of his loss of privilege and importance
for the sin he committed (see
9:25 These are the first words of Noah recorded in the Bible.
It is probable that there is a long interval between v.24 and v.25 and that this prophecy, like that of Jacob on his sons, was not uttered till near the close of Noah’s life when the prophetic spirit came upon him. This presumption is strengthened by the mention of his death immediately after.
servant of servants: the lowliest servant, the meanest and most despicable servant. Some believe that this prophecy has been fulfilled in the slavery of the Africans, the descendants of Ham.
his brothers: can also refer to relatives (Gen 16:12; 27:29).
9:26 the God of Shem: a blessing for Shem’s descendants (similar to Ex 3:15). The prophecy would be fulfilled in Abraham who would be chosen to carry God’s blessing to the whole world.
9:27 enlarge Japheth: Japheth’s name means expansion; expansion indicates God’s blessing (Gen 26:22; Job 12:23). The descendants of Japheth are the white races. Their expansion to the whole world throughout history truly fulfilled Noah’s blessing.
in the tents of Shem: indicating that Shem and
Japheth (and their descendants) had better relationships than with Ham (and his
descendants), and that Shem would be the host and Japheth the guest. Some see
the fulfilment of the prophecy in European imperialism and the colonialization
9:28 These 2 verses are the continuing of the Sethite genealogy in Gen 5:1-29.
9:29 950 years: Noah had the third longest life recorded, behind Enoch’s son Methuselah (969) (Gen 5:27) and Enoch’s father Jered (962) (Gen 5:20).
As Ham’s sinful action led to
† Drunkenness is dangerous and can lead to tragedy (Pr 23:29-35; 31:4-5; Isa 5:22; Ro 13:13; Eph 5:18). Even godly people can sin and their bad influence affects their families.
† One distinctive characteristics of the Chinese culture is the special honour given to the parents (filial piety). It harmonizes with God’s command.