All posts by Mick Bullen

Genesis 9

God’s Covenant with Noah

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 on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about 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. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

“Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
    has God made mankind.

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12 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: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 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. 16 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.”

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

The Sons of Noah

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!
    The lowest of slaves
    will he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
    May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s territory;
    may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
    and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.


So far in Genesis we have seen the good creation of God and that God made the world for the benefit of people, who were made to be his people in his image and to rule the world under God.  In Genesis 3 we saw sin enter the world and infect every single human afterwards.  In Genesis 6 and 7 God judges the world for the evil which has consumed all of his creation and the participation of every human being.  But in his mercy, he saves Noah, making a promise that if Noah is faithful, God will be faithful to his promises.  In Genesis 8 we see that God faithfully fulfils his promises and we saw that Noah waited faithfully on God and then rightly thanked God, offering sacrifices in response to God’s goodness to them.  God promises to restrain his judgement and not to wipe out humanity until the earth passes away.

And we are left asking plenty of question as we enter into Genesis 9:  How will things be different after the flood?  Will humans restrain their sin like God restrains his judgement?  How will God relate to Noah, his family and ongoingly to humanity?



Genesis 9 begins with God reaffirming the instructions of Genesis 2 which he gave to humanity: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (and again it is repeated in verse 7, demarcating this section).  However the next instruction is new.  God permits humans to eat animals.  Now this firstly needs to be seen as the blessing of God – God is doing good to his people by providing for them new delicious things (read: bacon).  It also further serves to demonstrate the distinctive dominion of humanity over the animals of the earth under God’s ultimate authority.  It brings with it a changed relationship with animals.  Where the animals considered Noah friendly on the ark, now there is fear, because they are food. 

Additionally, there is a prohibition against eating blood (4-5) and against killing other humans (5b-6).  The prohibition against eating blood is to do with the blood being understood as the essence of life.  Many neighbouring cultures (who rejected God after Genesis 11) had blood festivals and the drinking of blood was considered valuable as it gave you the life of the creature whose blood was spilled.  This was not to be so for God’s people, even right back at the point of Noah.  Life was to be valued.  Animals could be eaten, but life was given dignity.

And this is especially so for humanity.  Again we see the reaffirmation that humanity is made in the image of God and therefore to kill a human was a statement against God. (side comment: some in your group who are particularly persuaded, might attempt to draw a bow to make statements like ‘all killing of humans in all circumstances is evil’; I would press against this to say that this should formulate a key foundation of our ethic around killing of others, but that there are other things within the bible to grasp also is drawing together our ethics on this topic)

But also importantly here, humanity are required to given an account of themselves.  How will God’s restrained judgement work?  Well, it will work as people stand before God and are held to account for their actions (v5).


And having reaffirmed the instructions to humanity – God then offers a new covenant.  This covenant is different to what we saw prior to the ark.  Humanity is not expected to do anything – it is a 1 sided covenant – and so it functions more like a promise from God.  And it is a promise which is to Humanity, but also to all living things.  And the promise is that God will not destroy life on earth as he did so in the flood.  God is not saying he made a mistake in the flood – he made clear the point that sin deserves judgement.  But God is promising that he will not wipe out humanity in such a way – that he will actively preserve life.

And the sign that he gave to affirm this promise is the rainbow.


But, like so many times in the Old Testament, the crescendo of Noah’s faithfulness and the reaffirmation of the promises of God is followed by abject failure on the part of God’s people.  Noah plants a vineyard and gets drunk – a behaviour deserving of shame.  Ham (aptly named after the joyfulness of verse 2) tells his brothers with the implication being that he failed to honour his father and instead humiliated him.  Shem and Japheth respond by honourably covering up their father.

When Noah finds out about this – he responds angrily and curses Canaan, the son of Ham.  This might strike us as odd – we are used to thinking about individual responsibility.  But in this period of time, you are considered to be representative of your Father and your Father representative of you.  That is, the line of Cain inherited the name of Cain and the reputed wrongdoing he did.  In the same way, the line of Ham inherits the name of Ham and the reputation of how he treated his Father.

The curse of Ham and the subsequent blessings of Japheth and Shem (and the naming of Canaan – whom Israel would be soon to invade if this was all written in the time of Moses) gives us clarity about where we might find the continuity of the promises from: Shem and Japheth.

But it also leaves us with a sour note.  Sin continues – in the heart of Noah, and in the heart of his sons.  And the chapter concludes… finishing off the story from chapter 5.  Noah lived for 950 years and then he died.  Even after the flood, death is still the present reality for all of humanity.

Application (in Jesus) Options:

  1. The cross and the lifeblood of Christ. (Matthew 26:27-29)

As we see the significance of blood in Genesis 9 – how does that impact how we understand the last supper?  In what way are we given ‘the life’ of Jesus as he was killed on the cross?

2. Salvation and the restraint of God. (Romans 3:21-26)

In Genesis 9 – God makes a covenant to withhold his judgement of humanity until the final day.  How does Romans 3:21-26 help us to see how God’s restraint of sin’ judgement, enables salvation?

Additional option: how does the restraint of God help us to better understand the ‘fruit of the Spirit attribute: gentleness’?

Genesis 6:-7:22


Genesis 1 set the foundation for us to think about the character and nature of God.  Genesis 2 zoomed in on the relationship between God and humanity and sharpened our understand of what it is to be human.  In Genesis 3, the first humans sinned – breaking their relationship with God, the earth and each other.  God judges, but his judgement is also merciful (he clothes, he still speaks with people, death is not immediate) and there is the promise of the serpent crusher, who will defeat Satan to one of Eve’s offspring.

In Chapter 4 we meet Cain and Abel and we should be asking ‘will one of these be the Serpent crusher’… but instead we see evil increases – and the generation of Cain continues and evil increases all the more.  It is a dead line… ending with multi-murderer Lamech.  But the promise continues in Seth.

In Chapter 5 we are introduced to a different line… the line of the promise.  There is death, but there is the continuation of generations finishing open-endedly for the story of Noah.  In Chapter 6, we get a mini-insight into the perspective of God.  We sin is rampant in the lives of human (every person, all the time).  We see God’s sorrow at the evil which is unfolding inhis declaration that he will judge evil.  The question we should be asking is: what about the serpent crusher?  Will God preserve his plan and promise, or will he destroy all of humanity once and for all.

And we are left with just a glimmer of hope. Vs 8: “But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.”


Verses 9-10 function a bit like a title summarising what will follow.  It has a summary heading of the account; Adescription of Noah; and highlights the continuance of the promise by highlighting the continuation of the lineage after Noah.

The zoomed in description should stand out to us in verse 9, showing 3 attributes:  he is righteous and blameless (legally upright before God) and he walked faithfully with God – which is the same description which is used to describe Enoch (5:24).  What we don’t see here, like with Enoch, is a description of ‘sinlessness’ which has slipped into some explanations of why these extraordinary events happen to them.  Noah is human and so is caught up in the sinful nature which has infected every facet of being human.  But as a sinner, Noah is one, like Enoch, who called on the name of the LORD (4:25) and so desired to walk faithfully with God (5:24, 6:9).

Verse 11-13 remind us of what we had already heard in 6:1-8.  God speak to Noah, declaring that the earth is full of violence and evil and that God will judge.  Note: there is judgement against both humanity and the earth.  The sin of humanity is not just to uproot the way that people relate to other things, but it brings with it a radical reshaping of the way that creation works as a whole and so the whole of creation is subject to judgement.

Verse 14 – 21 introduce the covenant between God and Noah.  Verse 18 is worth focusing on and especially the introduction of the word covenant.  The word itself is the word of a treaty agreement.  On Noah’s side of the bargain, he has to build an ark with the specifications that God has given.  On God’s side, his promise is to keep Noah and his family safe from his judgement on the earth.  This language of covenant is incredibly significant, as it shapes the relationship between God and humanity for the future – beginning with Abraham in Genesis 12, 15.

The repetition in 6:22 and 7:5 that Noah did all that the Lord commanded him is significant.  Noah fulfilled his end of the covenant promises.  It contributes to how we read the descriptions of Noah in verse 9 – he was righteous and blameless and walked faithfully with God in his obedience to God’s covenantal promises.

Genesis 7:5 signals a shift in the story – moving away from the conversation between Noah and God and Noah’s responses and instead focussing on the action of God’s judgement. Verse 5-16 focusses on the gathering of Noah, his family and the animals into the ark.  Verse 16 significantly shows God ‘shutting them in’ affirming his promise to uphold his end of the covenant and to protect them.

Verse 17-24 move away from Noah’s protection to focus on the judgement of God.  The repetition in verse 21-23 should highlight the magnitude of the judgement of God and the ‘undoing’ of creation that is happening here. Every living creature and all “mankind” (same word as used in 5:1) are wiped out.  Everything that had “God breathing his spirit into their nostrils” (remember chapter 2:7).  Everything that moved along the ground and birds that flew in the air (allusions back to chapter 1 and 2).  We need to be slow and sober about the impact of this judgement – God is wiping out all of the good creation that he has made, because it has become corrupted by evil.

The chapter finishes with the reality that the floodwaters went for 150 days.  Nothing could withstand the judgement of God.  The only way to survive, is (in 7:23) to be like Noah and the ark – under the protection and promises of God.


I normally give options, but I would focus in on this one today:1. The judgement of God and the response of the righteous.  Read Matthew 24:36-44.
How does the account of Noah help us to understand what a faithful response to God is, in light of his judgement?  How does a Christian ‘be prepared’ for the judgement of God?

Genesis 2


Like Genesis 1; Genesis 2 continues to tell the story of creation with a zoomed in view on the relationship between God and humanity.  Like we saw in Revelation, this is a zoomed in retelling of the story.

Again, we need to consider genre.  This is NOT a historiographical account of creation.  Between the accounts of Genesis 1 and 2 there are differences (for example ordering humans are made before animals in Gen 2).  There is limited interested in the days of Genesis 1 in the Genesis 2 account.  Rather, we see what is best described as ‘anti-myth’ genre continuing into Genesis 2.  That is, God in Genesis 1 is telling people about himself – and God, in Genesis 2, is telling people about who they are, especially in relationship to him.

This is also not to sway too far in the opposite direction – liberal scholarship would have us look at this and dismiss the notion of any factual truth of Genesis 2 all-together.  We aren’t suggesting this has any validity at all.  It is simply to say – Genesis 2 is not designed to be read as a historical account of the creation of the earth (as we might consider modern historical accounts) – and so we need to let the passage speak for itself about the topic that it wants to speak on – and be careful not to attempt to force it to speak either in the way we want it to, OR as an answer to the questions we might pose about creation as modern readers.


Verse 4 signals the shift between the first account of creation, focussed on the sovereignty of the one God who rules over all – to zoom in on the relationship between God and humanity.

Verse 5-6 set the scene: God has made a world, but he had not yet placed life on this earth.

Verse 7 zooms in to look at the pinnacle of God’s creation.  He made humanity.  Note the distinction of forming humanity out of clay and then breathing life into him.  The word for breath is also Spirit – God made humanity breathing his Spirit into him.  This foreshadows of course, what re-birth looks like… as God indwells us by his Holy Spirit.

God in the formation of humanity shows a level of care and intimacy and relationship which hints strongly at our purpose – to be in relationship with God.

Verse 8 and 9 begin to fill out the shape fo that relationship – that humans are known by God.  God here starts providing for humanity’s needs: shelter, a garden, good food including the tree of life.  Trees which were not only functional, but pleasing to the human.

In verse 10-14 We see God providing water in the shape of rivers – rivers that would sustain life not just in the garden, but with provision towards a time where God knew that they would no longer be in his place.

In verse 15-20: The relationship between God and humanity is again returned to – this time focussing on our response towards God.  God gives humans a role – to work and care for the garden.  In verse 19-20 Humanity is involved in God’s creative process by naming the animals, part of his role of ruling over the creation placed under his care by God.  But 16-17 deserve careful attention.  God speaks to his human, leaving 1 rule.  God is in authority, and part of the right relationship with God is about rightly submitting to his authority and obeying his commands and his instructions for ‘ruling over animals and caring for his creation’ all of which fall apart in chapter 3.

Verse 18,20b-25: Then focus on God’s provision of human companionship.  God again knows his human and cares for him, by making another human to share in companionship with him.  The emphasis here is important – too often we jump to marriage analogies here about romance and intimacy because verse 23 gets poetic and verse 24 talks about the uniting as one in marriage.  But we need to see first and foremost that this is about companionship.  Verse 18highlights that it is because the man is alone.  Verse 20b it is because no suitable helper was found.  The distinction of man as Spirit breathed creation (as opposed to the rest of creation who was simply ‘formed’) means that God forms the woman out of that spirit breathed human – and so she also shares in all of the dignity which is afforded Adam as God’s special creation, made to know God and be known by him – made to alongside Adam ‘help’ in ruling God’s creation together.

There is also this lovely cyclic togetherness that happens as vs 22 the woman is brought out of the man and in verse 24 the man goes to his wife to be united as one flesh.

Suggested Application Questions:

What does this passage teach us about what relationships between God and humanity are supposed to look like?

What makes a human valuable to God in this passage?  Where do we sometimes make mistakes in how we viewwhat makes us valuable?

What does this teach us about our relationship with God’s world and our role with it?

What does it look like to rule, order and care for God’s world?  Where might we make mistakes in how we might treat this relationship?

What does this teach us about relationships with other humans?  What kind of role should companionship play as we consider how we live as a community under God?