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Genesis 9 Study Notes

9:1-2 This blessing fortifies the parallels between Noah and Adam (1:28), as both blessings began with the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. However, in Noah’s day the blessing is altered. Mankind is still to take dominion over creation (1:28), but due to the presence of sin, the harmony that existed in the garden of Eden had ended; now animals were filled with the fear and terror of humans. Terrorized animals can be dangerous; even so, God placed the animals under people’s authority, ensuring that humans would prevail over the animal kingdom.

9:3 The original dietary regulations given to Adam and Eve (1:29) were now expanded. Animal proteins would join green plants within the human diet. The phrase referring to animal food sources can be translated literally as “every creeping/gliding animal” and would normally be understood to refer to smaller animals on land or sea, but it is usually understood here to mean every creature that moves. Israelites would later be limited to eating only clean animals (Lv 11).

9:4 Though meat would be permissible as food, blood would not. God required Noah and his offspring to drain the lifeblood from any animal before eating it. This guideline would be expanded and clarified in Israel’s Sinai law code (Lv 7:26-27; 17:10-14; 19:26; Dt 12:16,24; 15:23). To avoid offending Jewish Christians, first-century Gentile Christians were also encouraged not to eat blood (Ac 15:20,29).

9:5-6 Because God made humans in his image, the taking of a human life by either an animal or another person was not treated like the death of an animal. Any animal and any human who killed a human was to have its own blood . . . shed . . . by humans as a just punishment. This verse establishes that unauthorized taking of a human life is a capital offense and implicitly authorizes properly credentialed authorities to execute murderers. Other verses in the law of Moses reinforced this concept (Ex 20:13; 21:23; Dt 19:21). No such law exists for the killing of animals; the Bible consistently teaches that humans are of superior worth to animals.

9:7 God’s blessing of humanity in Noah’s day begins (v. 1) and ends with the command to be fruitful and multiply. This repetition underscores the sacredness and desirability of human reproduction within God’s plan.

9:8-11 These verses are the formal conclusion of the covenant first mentioned in 6:18. The initial expression of the covenant unconditionally offered safety in the ark to Noah’s family and many classes of animals. In the style of a royal grant or unilateral agreement, this portion of the Noahic covenant unconditionally promises that there will never again be a flood of the same destructive scale as Noah’s flood.

9:12-17 Accompanying the covenant was a visible confirmation of the agreement between God and the earth that would continue for all future generations: God’s bow in the clouds represented his promise that he would never again send a flood to destroy every creature. From this point forward the rainbow would have profound significance as an affirmation of God’s grace and peace. Elsewhere in the Bible the rainbow is associated with the presence of God or his angelic representative (Ezk 1:28; Rv 4:3; 10:1). This covenant is one of three in the Bible that were accompanied by a sign; the other signs were circumcision (Gn 17:11) and the Sabbath (Ex 31:16-17).

9:18-19 Beginning with repeated material (5:32; 6:10), the writer launches into a new narrative designed to prepare readers for God’s judgment on the nation of Canaan. The familiar genealogy is extended with the note that Ham was the father of Canaan. At the same time v. 19 prepares readers for chap. 10.

9:20 The parallels continue between Noah and Adam as Noah is now shown to be a farmer (lit man of the soil [Hb ’adamah]) in the new world prepared for him by God.

9:21 As Adam had sinned through the consumption of fruit (3:6), so Noah drank some of the wine and became drunk. After sin entered the world, shattering innocence, nakedness was associated with shame (cp. 2:25; 3:10). In this case Noah brought the shame on himself through his sinful drunkenness. A minimum of two years likely elapsed between vv. 20 and 21 since grapevines must grow that long before they can produce grapes.

9:22 Noah “uncovered himself,” and Ham saw Noah naked. This passage does not say that Ham “uncovered the nakedness of Noah,” which would be a euphemism for perverted sexual activity (Lv 18:6-19). A parent’s sin often becomes a child’s stumbling block (Ex 34:7). In this case, Ham dishonored his father and thus sinned (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16) in two ways: First, he dishonored his father by staring at his nakedness (Hab 2:15). Second, he increased both his sin and his father’s shame by reporting his father’s condition to others. Later, the law stipulated curses for dishonoring a parent (Ex 21:17; Dt 27:16).

9:23 Shem and Japheth demonstrated their nobler natures by reacting to their father’s condition far differently from Ham. First, they did not look upon their father’s shameful condition. Second, they covered their father’s nakedness, thus ending his shame. Their action parallels God’s clothing of Adam following Adam’s sin (3:21).

9:24-27 When Noah learned what his youngest son had done, he placed the curse on Ham’s son, Canaan, who would be the lowest of slaves to his brothers, that is, the slave of the descendants of Shem and Japheth. This curse on Canaan had prophetic implications. In later centuries the Canaanites, the descendants of Canaan, were pressed into slavery by the Israelites (Jos 17:13; Jdg 1:28-35; 1Kg 9:20-21). This curse does not refer to the descendants of Ham who settled in Africa.

9:28-29 Noah’s 950 years mark him as the third-oldest human in biblical history, behind Methuselah (969 years) and Jared (962 years).

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