God’s Covenant with Noah
God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in
number and fill the earth. 2 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. 3 Everything that
lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green
plants, I now give you everything.
you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 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.
sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.
for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase
God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “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.”
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.”
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
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
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.
Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to
him, 25 he said,
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.”
be to the Lord, the God of
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.”
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
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:
- 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’?