Thursday, June 22, 2006

Genesis 9

Genesis 9: God’s covenant with Noah (and, by extension, with us).


I’ve been saying that the flood story took place in Genesis 6–8, although I guess you could consider Chapter 9 to be part of the story as well. Oh well, too late now. I’m not going back and editing my posts for the last three chapters.

Once Noah is out of the ark, in addition to telling him and his family to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (verse 1), God gives out some rules: do not eat meat with its lifeblood still in it, and do not murder. In verse 6 He says:
Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made man.
We read in Genesis 8:21–22 that God decided never to destroy the world again, as He had done with the flood. In Chapter 9, we read about his promise to Noah to that effect. He even gave us a sign of that covenant: the rainbow.

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

(verses 12–17)
Next comes a story which seems a bit bizarre to me: Noah plants a vineyard, drinks some of its wine, gets drunk, and falls asleep inside his tent, naked. His son Ham sees him in the tent, and goes and tells his brothers; his brothers, however—who are named Shem and Japheth—get a “garment”, and walk into the tent backwards, holding the garment, and lay it over their father, being careful not to see him naked. When Noah wakes up, and finds out what Ham had done, he curses Canaan—Ham’s son—because of what Ham has done, and blesses Shem and Japheth.

Finally, the chapter ends by telling us that Noah lived another 350 years after the flood, meaning that he was 950 when he died.


It’s interesting to note that the reason God gives, when He commands us not to murder, is that we are made in His image. Meaning that murder is a crime not only against the murdered human, but also against the God who made that human.

As I’m re-reading verses 1–4, I’m having a thought:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.”

Does this mean that mankind had been purely vegetarian, before the flood? The sentence I’m just now noticing is: “Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” If that is the case, it explains why God goes to the trouble of telling Noah not to eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it; if mankind is only now being given meat to eat, then it explains why they are also given this additional rule about it.

When we read in verses 12–17 that God will “remember” His covenant, when He sees a rainbow, we should not take this too literally, in the sense that He will not keep forgetting about His covenant, and be about to destroy the Earth, and then go “Hey, a rainbow! Oh yeah! My covenant! I guess I can’t destroy them with a flood again…” This language is figurative. What we should take away from this, however, is that the only reason God doesn’t destroy us is because of His own covenant; it’s not because we don’t deserve to be destroyed, but because He promised not to do it, and He is true to His own promise.

Finally, aside from the fact that I find the story about Noah’s sons and his nakedness to be strange—there are definitely some cultural issues with nudity happening here—you should also note that Noah’s curse against Canaan was definitely fulfilled. The Israelites had problems with the Canaanites—Canaan’s descendants—for much of their Old Testament history. We’ll be reading about wars and issues between the two nations for quite a while, as we get into subsequent Old Testament books.

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