Genesis 9

God’s covenant with all life

1 God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fertile, multiply, and fill the earth.
2 All of the animals on the earth will fear you and dread you—all the birds in the skies, everything crawling on the ground, and all of the sea's fish. They are in your power.
3 Everything that lives and moves will be your food. Just as I gave you the green grasses, I now give you everything.
4 However, you must not eat meat with its life, its blood, in it.
5 I will surely demand your blood for a human life, from every living thing I will demand it. From humans, from a man for his brother, I will demand something for a human life.
6 Whoever sheds human blood, by a human his blood will be shed; for in the divine image God made human beings.
7 As for you, be fertile and multiply. Populate the earth and multiply in it."
8 God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
9 "I am now setting up my covenant with you, with your descendants,
10 and with every living being with you—with the birds, with the large animals, and with all the animals of the earth, leaving the ark with you.
11 I will set up my covenant with you so that never again will all life be cut off by floodwaters. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth."
12 God said, "This is the symbol of the covenant that I am drawing up between me and you and every living thing with you, on behalf of every future generation.
13 I have placed my bow in the clouds; it will be the symbol of the covenant between me and the earth.
14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds,
15 I will remember the covenant between me and you and every living being among all the creatures. Floodwaters will never again destroy all creatures.
16 The bow will be in the clouds, and upon seeing it I will remember the enduring covenant between God and every living being of all the earth's creatures."
17 God said to Noah, "This is the symbol of the covenant that I have set up between me and all creatures on earth."

Shem’s blessing and Canaan’s curse

18 Noah's sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth came out of the ark. Now Ham was Canaan's father.
19 These were Noah's three sons, and from them the whole earth was populated.
20 Noah, a farmer, made a new start and planted a vineyard.
21 He drank some of the wine, became drunk, and took off his clothes in his tent.
22 Ham, Canaan's father, saw his father naked and told his two brothers who were outside.
23 Shem and Japheth took a robe, threw it over their shoulders, walked backward, and covered their naked father without looking at him because they turned away.
24 When Noah woke up from his wine, he discovered what his youngest son had done to him.
25 He said, "Cursed be Canaan: the lowest servant he will be for his brothers."
26 He also said, "Bless the LORD, the God of Shem; Canaan will be his servant.
27 May God give space to Japheth; he will live in Shem's tents, and Canaan will be his servant."
28 After the flood, Noah lived 350 years.
29 In all, Noah lived 950 years; then he died.

Genesis 9 Commentary

Chapter 9

God blesses Noah, and grants flesh for food. (1-3) Blood, and murder forbidden. (4-7) God's covenant by the rainbow. (8-17) Noah plants a vineyard, is drunken and mocked by Ham. (18-23) Noah curses Canaan, blesses Shem, prays for Japheth, His death. (24-29)

Verses 1-3 The blessing of God is the cause of our doing well. On him we depend, to him we should be thankful. Let us not forget the advantage and pleasure we have from the labour of beasts, and which their flesh affords. Nor ought we to be less thankful for the security we enjoy from the savage and hurtful beasts, through the fear of man which God has fixed deep in them. We see the fulfilment of this promise every day, and on every side. This grant of the animals for food fully warrants the use of them, but not the abuse of them by gluttony, still less by cruelty. We ought not to pain them needlessly whilst they live, nor when we take away their lives.

Verses 4-7 The main reason of forbidding the eating of blood, doubtless was because the shedding of blood in sacrifices was to keep the worshippers in mind of the great atonement; yet it seems intended also to check cruelty, lest men, being used to shed and feed upon the blood of animals, should grow unfeeling to them, and be less shocked at the idea of shedding human blood. Man must not take away his own life. Our lives are God's, and we must only give them up when he pleases. If we in any way hasten our own death, we are accountable to God for it. When God requires the life of a man from him that took it away unjustly, the murderer cannot render that, and therefore must render his own instead. One time or other, in this world or in the next, God will discover murders, and punish those murders which are beyond man's power to punish. But there are those who are ministers of God to protect the innocent, by being a terror to evil-doers, and they must not bear the sword in vain, ( Romans 13:4 ) . Wilful murder ought always to be punished with death. To this law there is a reason added. Such remains of God's image are still upon fallen man, that he who unjustly kills a man, defaces the image of God, and does dishonour to him.

Verses 8-17 As the old world was ruined, to be a monument of justice, so this world remains to this day a monument of mercy. But sin, that drowned the old world, will burn this. Articles of agreement among men are sealed, that what is promised may be the more solemn, and the doing of what is covenanted the more sure to mutual satisfaction. The seal of this covenant was the rainbow, which, it is likely, was seen in the clouds before, but was never a seal of the covenant till now it was made so. The rainbow appears when we have most reason to fear the rain prevailing; God then shows this seal of the promise, that it shall not prevail. The thicker the cloud, the brighter the bow in the cloud. Thus, as threatening afflictions abound, encouraging consolations much more abound. The rainbow is the reflection of the beams of the sun shining upon or through the drops of rain: all the glory of the seals of the covenant are derived from Christ, the Sun of righteousness. And he will shed a glory on the tears of his saints. A bow speaks terror, but this has neither string nor arrow; and a bow alone will do little hurt. It is a bow, but it is directed upward, not toward the earth; for the seals of the covenant were intended to comfort, not to terrify. As God looks upon the bow, that he may remember the covenant, so should we, that we may be mindful of the covenant with faith and thankfulness. Without revelation this gracious assurance could not be known; and without faith it can be of no use to us; and thus it is as to the still greater dangers to which all are exposed, and as to the new covenant with its blessings.

Verses 18-23 The drunkenness of Noah is recorded in the Bible, with that fairness which is found only in the Scripture, as a case and proof of human weakness and imperfection, even though he may have been surprised into the sin; and to show that the best of men cannot stand upright, unless they depend upon Divine grace, and are upheld thereby. Ham appears to have been a bad man, and probably rejoiced to find his father in an unbecoming situation. It was said of Noah, that he was perfect in his generations, ch. 6:9 ; but this is meant of sincerity, not of a sinless perfection. Noah, who had kept sober in drunken company, is now drunk in sober company. Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. We have need to be very careful when we use God's good creatures plentifully, lest we use them to excess, Lu. 21:34 . The consequence of Noah's sin was shame. Observe here the great evil of the sin of drunkenness. It discovers men; what infirmities they have, they betray when they are drunk; and secrets are then easily got out of them. Drunken porters keep open gates. It disgraces men, and exposes them to contempt. As it shows them, so it shames them. Men say and do that when drunken, which, when sober, they would blush to think of. Notice the care of Shem and Japheth to cover their father's shame. There is a mantle of love to be thrown over the faults of all, ( 1 Peter. 4:8 ) thrown over the faults of parents and other superiors. The blessing of God attends on those who honour their parents, and his curse lights especially on those who dishonour them.

Verses 24-29 Noah declares a curse on Canaan, the son of Ham; perhaps this grandson of his was more guilty than the rest. A servant of servants, that is, The meanest and most despicable servant, shall he be, even to his brethren. This certainly points at the victories in after-times obtained by Israel over the Canaanites, by which they were put to the sword, or brought to pay tribute. The whole continent of Africa was peopled mostly by the descendants of Ham; and for how many ages have the better parts of that country lain under the dominion of the Romans, then of the Saracens, and now of the Turks! In what wickedness, ignorance, barbarity, slavery, and misery most of the inhabitants live! And of the poor negroes, how many every year are sold and bought, like beasts in the market, and conveyed from one quarter of the world to do the work of beasts in another! But this in no way excuses the covetousness and barbarity of those who enrich themselves with the product of their sweat and blood. God has not commanded us to enslave negroes; and, without doubt, he will severely punish all such cruel wrongs. The fulfilment of this prophecy, which contains almost a history of the world, frees Noah from the suspicion of having uttered it from personal anger. It fully proves that the Holy Spirit took occasion from Ham's offence to reveal his secret purposes. "Blessed be the Lord God of Shem." The church should be built up and continued in the posterity of Shem; of him came the Jews, who were, for a great while, the only professing people God had in the world. Christ, who was the Lord God, in his human nature should descend from Shem; for of him, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. Noah also blesses Japheth, and, in him, the isles of the gentiles that were peopled by his seed. It speaks of the conversion of the gentiles, and the bringing of them into the church. We may read it, "God shall persuade Japheth, and being persuaded, he shall dwell in the tents of Shem." Jews and gentiles shall be united together in the gospel fold; both shall be one in Christ. Noah lived to see two worlds; but being an heir of the righteousness which is by faith, he now rests in hope, waiting to see a better than either.

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. LXX; MT includes for all the animals of the earth.
  • [b]. Heb sounds like Japheth.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 9

In this chapter we have an account of God's blessing Noah and his sons, being just come out of the ark, with a renewal of the blessing of propagating their species, and replenishing the earth, the dominion over the creatures, and a freedom from the fear of them; with liberty to eat flesh, only it must not be eaten with blood; with a providential care and preservation of their lives from men and beasts, by making a law that that man or beast should die that shed man's blood, Ge 9:1-6 and after repeating the blessing of procreation, Ge 9:7 mention is made of a covenant God made with Noah, his sons, and all the creatures, that he would drown the world no more, the token of which should be the rainbow in the cloud, Ge 9:8-17 the names of the sons of Noah are observed, by whom the earth was repeopled, Ge 9:18,19 and seem to be observed for the sake of an event after recorded; Noah having planted a vineyard, and drank too freely of the wine of it, lay down uncovered in his tent, which Ham seeing, told his two brothers of it, who in a very modest manner covered him, Ge 9:20-23 of all which Noah being sensible when he awoke, cursed Canaan the son of Ham, and blessed Shem and Japheth, Ge 9:24-27 and the chapter is concluded with the age and death of Noah, Ge 9:28,29.

Genesis 9 Commentaries