GENESIS 9:1-29


This is a chapter of new beginnings.  The destruction of the flood is past.  The judgment of God has come and gone.  Those who were in the ark were spared; all else was destroyed.  Now we come to a new beginning.  That new beginning has echoes of the first beginning.




Adam was the father of the human race.

Noah is the new father of the human race.

Adam was told to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.

Noah is told to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.

Adam was to rule over the animals and God brought them to him to be named.

The fear of Noah and his descendants will be on all the animals.  They are given into his hand.

God gave to Adam the herbs and fruit of the ground as food.

God adds to Noah’s choice of food the flesh of animals.


As Noah and his family come out of the ark, it is possible that they were a bit apprehensive.  God had just destroyed the world because of its wickedness in an awesome display of power.  Perhaps they begin to wonder if God might not send another flood if they step out of line.  I can imagine their fears escalating when the first thunderstorm strikes.  To alleviate their fears, God established His covenant with Noah in which He will promise never again to destroy the world with a flood.





            1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. 6 Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. 7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it." (Genesis 9:1-7).

Noah is to be the new Adam for the human race.  Accordingly, to his is given the same mandate that was first given to Adam.  It is the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.  However now there is a difference.


1.         Mankind to Rule by Fear:  And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given (9:2).


The relationship between mankind and the animal kingdom was not previously described as involving fear or terror.  Man exercised a rulership over the earth, but it seems to have been a benign rulership.  This now changes in the new age.  This does not give us carte blanch to treat animals in a cruel manner.  The Proverbs remind us of this:


A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast,

But the compassion of the wicked is cruel. (Proverbs 12:10).


On the other hand, this is not a call for mankind to become vegetarians or to disallow the possibility of taking the life of an animal.  Rather it is a call to refrain from needless cruelty toward animals.


2.         Mankind to Live by Eating Animals:  Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant (9:3).


This also seems to reflect a change from the previous age.  In Genesis 1:29 God gave to man plants and the fruit of trees for food.  This is expanded to include the flesh of animals as a part of the diet of mankind.


3.         A Prohibition against Blood:   Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood (9:4).


The exception to man’s diet in the including of the flesh of animals is that he was not to eat flesh with its life.  On the one hand, this means that the eating of an animal must necessarily cause the death of that animal prior to the eating.  But more specifically, it is a prohibition against the drinking of blood.


Blood was to be special and sacred.  Why?  Because blood represented life.  That is seen in both the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.  When we speak of the blood of Jesus being shed, we are not speaking about some magic quality in His hemoglobin, but the fact that He gave His life for us.


4.         Capital Punishment:  Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man (9:6).


Some have seen the institution of capital punishment as the basis for human government.  The phrase by man his blood shall be shed suggests, not the actions of a vigilant or seeker of vengeance, but of an organized governing body.  Capital punishment has two results:


           It eliminates the offender.


This is rather obvious.  One way to stop murder is to get rid of the murderer.  Those who argue against the effectiveness of capital punishment have to admit that, at the very least, it stops repeat offenders.


           It demonstrates the high value of human life.


That is the point being made in this passage.  It is underscored by the explanation that reminds us that in the image of God He made man.  The point is that, when a man is murdered, a being who is in the image of God is killed.  This is such a terrible crime that it calls for a terrible punishment -- the death of the murderer.


At the same time, we must remember that capital punishment was not to be lightly or carelessly administered.  The Mosaic Law recognized the difference between premeditated murder versus accidental manslaughter and judged accordingly.





            8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 "Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11 And I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth." (Genesis 9:8-11).


God establishes His covenant with Noah and with his descendants.  This same covenant was promised prior to the flood in Genesis 6:18, but it is here that the covenant is established.


1.         The Covenant Concept.


The term “covenant” is translated from the Hebrew word Beryth.  Some have suggested that this word comes from the terms for "eating" and "binding."  Noth suggests that it derives from the Akkadian birit, which relates to the Hebrew term meaning "between."  A third suggestion points to the Akkadian root baru, "to bind or fetter."  It is used in the Bible as that which binds two people together.  It involves a verbalized commitment, but it is more than that.  It is a relationship of life and of death.  This is seen in the fact that you did not write a covenant; you always CUT a covenant.  The making of a covenant was always sealed with the death of an animal.  This was so ingrained in the ancient culture that, at a later date, the word “covenant” sometimes disappears entirely as you read of two parties “cutting together.”


2.         The Parties of the Covenant:  I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth (9:9-10).


A covenant is always between at least two parties.  One of these parties is the Lord.  He is making this covenant.  God makes this covenant with Noah, his descendants and with every living creature.


The Lord

Noah and his descendants and every living creature


This is generalized even further when we come to verse 13 where God establishes the covenant between Himself and the entire earth.


3.         This is an Everlasting Covenant:  All flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood (9:11).


God promises that there will never be another flood to destroy all flesh from the earth.  This is a message of comfort to Noah and to his family who had been witnesses to the terrible wrath of the judgment of God.  They can believe this promise and be at rest.





            12 And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 And it shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." 17 And God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth." (Genesis 9:12-17).


God gives a sign to remind man of His promise never to destroy the world again by a flood.  The rainbow will serve as His divine signature to His everlasting covenant with man and the earth.


1.         The Nature of the Sign:  I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth (9:13).


The bow was one of the modern weapons of war for that day.  It served to the armies of antiquity what guided missles do for armaments of today.  It allowed death to be delivered from a distance.  The bow of God represents His weapon of warfare that had been utilized in bringing the destruction of the flood.


That bow is to be set in the cloud in the way a man might take his weapon of war and place it over the fireplace mantle.  It is to be set on display for all to see that it is no longer in use.  It serves now, not as a weapon of present warfare, but as a reminder of the conflict that once took place.


2.         The Uniqueness of the Sign.


Some have suggested this to be the first rainbow that man had ever seen.  Genesis 2:5-6 speaks of how it had not previously rained upon the earth and that a mist would come and water the earth.  On the other hand, we need not read into this sign the idea that a rainbow had never before been seen.  It is just as possible for the Lord to take existing phenomenon and to invest it with new meaning and significance.


3.         The Sign as a Reminder:   I will remember My covenant (9:15).


Just as rain upon the earth during this present age reminds man of God’s former judgment in bringing the flood, so the rainbow is to serve as a reminder of God’s promise never to flood the earth again.  The sign is an assurance to us that God is remembering His covenant.


The rainbow as the sign of the covenant is appropriate when we contrast it to the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.


Noahaic Covenant

Abrahamic Covenant

The sign is the rainbow.

The sign is circumcision.

The sign reaches out to all creation because it is a covenant with all living things.

The sign is private and personal because it marks an individual as one of God’s covenant people.


Circumcision is a sign in man’s body.  This was appropriate because man alone is involved in the covenant with God.  It marked that individual as being one of God’s covenant people.


By contrast, the Noahic Covenant involves all created life.  As a result, the sign is not given in the body of Noah, but in the sky where it is identified, not just with Noah, but with all of creation.


The rainbow is mentioned only three more times in the Bible.  It always indicates the presence of the Lord in judgment over mankind.


           Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of the Lord:  As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. (Ezekiel 1:28).


           The Apostle John’s vision of the Lord:  And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance (Revelation 4:3).


           The Great Messenger from Heaven:  And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire (Revelation 10:1).





            18 Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was populated. (Genesis 9:18-19).


This is the fourth time we have been given the names of all three of the sons of Noah (Genesis 5:32; 6:10; 7:13).  This time there is a difference.  This time we are told that Ham was the father of Canaan.  The mention of Canaan foreshadows the events in the following section.


We are inclined to read over this and barely take note of the reference to Canaan, but the effect of his name in the narrative would have had an electrifying effect upon the original recepients of this book.  The Israelites in the wilderness for whom Moses writes this account knew they would soon be facing the people of Canaan.  They would soon be entering into the land of Canaan and fighting against the Canaanites who were the present inhabitants of the promised land.




            20 Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21 And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. (Genesis 9:20-21).


Noah had stood steadfast against the attacks of those mighty men of old who set themselves up against God.  He had demonstrated his faith during the flood while he was in the ark.  Now that it was over, there comes a failure on his part.  This serves as a reminder that it is possible for one who is strong in faith to be tempted and to fall into reproach.


Noah took up farming.  In the course of his labors, he planted a vineyard and, when harvest came, he produced wine.  The sin of Noah was not that he drank the wine, but that he kept on drinking in an immoderate manner until he became drunk.


           Drunkenness is always condemned in Scripture:  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; see also Isaiah 5:22; 28:7-8; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:11).


           The drinking of alcoholic beverage is permitted and even advised under certain circumstances.  Jesus demonstrated this at a wedding when He changed water into wine (John 2:1-11).  Paul told Timothy to utilize wine for medicinal purposes. [1]


           Paul instructed believers in the church not to associate with drunkards who were claiming to believe in Christ (1 Corinthians 5:11).  The point is that being drunk is inconsistent with being a Christian.





        22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness. (Genesis 9:22-23).


When we read that Ham saw the nakedness of his father and then read of the extreme curse that is placed upon Canaan, we are left with one of two possibilities.


1.         This could merely be the impious action of a son looking disrespectfully upon the nakedness of his father.  By contrast, his two brothers take care not to allow they eyes to even see the nakedness of their father, holding a garment and walking backward with gaze averted as they move to cover their father’s nakedness.


2.         This language could be a euphemistic reference to a homosexual act.  There are several places in the Old Testament where we see examples of this. [2]


A further hint that this may have been the case is seen in verse 24 where Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son HAD DONE unto him.  This seems to refer to more than Ham seeing his father’s nudity and then speaking about it in an improper manner.


The magnitude of the curse would seem to suggest a greater sin involved than the immodest look or the ill-advised communication of what had been seen.


Whichever interpretation is chose, Ham's actions are seen in contrast to his two brothers who are careful not even to look upon their father's nakedness.  He has looked and then he has spoken in what apparently has been a dishonorable manner.  They resolve that they will do neither.  Instead they show their respect for their father’s privacy by taking care not to see him in this condition.





                        24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25 So he said,

"Cursed be Canaan;

A servant of servants

He shall be to his brothers."

26 He also said,

"Blessed be the LORD,

The God of Shem;

And let Canaan be his servant.

27 "May God enlarge Japheth,

And let him dwell in the tents of Shem;

And let Canaan be his servant." (Genesis 9:24-27).


Adam sinned and became naked.  Noah does the same thing.  He becomes drunk and he lies naked within his tent.  We are reminded that the last Adam became naked as He hung upon the cross in our place.




Placed into a Garden

Plants a garden

Eats the fruit of the tree

Drinks of the fruit of the vine

Results in recognizing his nakedness

Results in lying naked in his tent

                                     Results in a curse

                                     Results in a lasting division of the seed

                                     Followed by a genealogy to demonstrate the division

His eyes were opened and he knew he was naked.

He awoke from his wine and knew what his younger son had done.

He was judged and cursed by God.

He placed a curse upon Canaan.


The prophecy comes in three parts, dealing with each of the three sons of Noah.  On the one hand, there is a cosmological significance to this prophecy, since all mankind is descended from these three men.


On the other hand, it should be remembered that this prophecy had a special meaning to the original recipients of the book of Genesis.  The Israelites in the wilderness will soon be given the directive to enter the promised land and destroy all of the Canaanite inhabitants who are there.  This curse is a part of the reason for that destruction.


1.         The Curse against Canaan:  Cursed be Canaan (9:22).


Just as Noah's youngest son (Ham) had committed the sin, so now Ham's youngest son (Canaan) is cursed.  This brings us to a question.  Why is Canaan cursed instead of Ham?  We are not told.  One suggestion is that Noah would not curse Ham because he had been blessed by God (Genesis 9:1) and you don’t curse someone whom God has blessed.


It should be noted that the Canaanite race was noted for its moral decadence.

           Sex worship.


           Child sacrifice.



Thus, the judgment would not be upon an “innocent” people merely on the basis of the sin of a past ancestor.  Instead, the words of Noah become a prophecy that foretells what kind of people will come from the descendants of Canaan.  The Israelites need to know this because they will be given the mission of entering the land of Canaan and bringing God’s judgment against that people.  It should be noted that the descendants of Canaan went on to show the highest level of sinfulness and this curse would not take effect until that sinfulness reached its zenith (Genesis 15:16).


2.         The Blessing of Shem:  Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant (9:26).


By virtue of this phrase, it is indicated that the spiritual leadership of the world is to come through the line of Shem.  It is from Shem that the nation of Israel would be descended.  This prophecy indicates that the promised seed would come through Shem.


3.         The Enlargement of Japheth:  "May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant." (Genesis 9:27).


There is a play on words off the name "Japheth."  His name means “to enlarge” or “be wide” and this blessing calls for God to enlarge Japheth.


                        May God YAPHETH Japheth...


The other nations of the world are promised a blessing which shall come through Shem.  This promise will be explained in more detail as the Lord reveals Himself to Abraham.


Promise to Japheth: “God will enlarge him.”

Promise to Abram:  "In you all of the families of the earth shall be blessed."


Is there a particular way in which God has enlarged Japheth?  When we consider that the descendants of Japheth are largely made up of the Indo-European peoples, we can think of several ways in which this prophecy might have seen fulfillment.


           A physical enlargement can be seen as the descendants of Japheth have been the rulers of some of the greatest empires of the world.


           A mental enlargement can be suggested as Japheth has produced great philosophers and scientists.


           A spiritual enlargement has been seen throughout most of church history as the world of Japheth is largely the world of Christendom.  The Orthodox Catholic and Protestant churches have been the legacy of the descendants of Japheth.


However, there is some question as to who the pronoun refers to in the middle of verse 27.


                        May God enlarge Japheth,

                        And let HIM dwell in the tents of Shem;

                        And let Canaan be his servant. (Genesis 9:27).


Most people think that this is Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem.  But there is another possibility.  It is GOD Himself who shall dwell in the tents of Shem.


Think of it!  The God of the universe, Creator of heavens and earth, taking residence in a tent!  Preposterous!  And yet, that is exactly what God did.  As Moses was writing this book, he could look to the center of the Israelite camp and see the tabernacle ‑ the tent of meeting.


This is also a Messianic prophecy.  God tabernacled with us, taking upon Himself a Jewish “tent.”  He who was from the beginning and who was without beginning became flesh.  Forever He shall dwell in the Tent of Shem.





            28 And Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. 29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died. (Genesis 9:28-29).


We tend to think of Noah’s ministry as that which took place prior to the flood and in the survival through the flood, but Noah continued to live another 350 years after the flood.  Though we are not told the details of his post-flood ministry, I have little doubt that a ministry did continue to take place.


We have already mentioned several points of comparison between Adam and Noah.  This parallel suggests that Noah played the part of a second Adam in guiding the human race.


           Both were commended to fill the earth and to exercise control over it.  In such a manner, Jesus sent His followers into the world to make disciples of all the nations.


           Both were blessed by God.  By contrast, Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God that was our due.


           Both sinned by the taking of a fruit; Adam by eating of the forbidden fruit and Noah by drinking of the fruit of the vine until he became drunk.  By contrast, Jesus was without sin, yet drank the cup of God’s wrath for us.


           As a result, each was naked and then covered by someone else; Adam was naked and given coverings of skin by God while Noah was naked and covered by two of his sons.  By contrast, Jesus became naked upon the cross in order to provide the covering for our sins.


           In each case, their sin resulted in the giving of a curse; Adam’s sin brought a curse upon all of his progeny while Noah’s sin brought a curse upon Canaan.  By contrast, Jesus became a curse for us so that we might receive the blessings of God.


           Both had three sons mentioned in Scripture, one of whom headed the Messianic line.  Jesus is the Second Adam and the One who gives eternal rest.


Both of these men looked forward to the coming of the promised Seed of the woman who would come to earth to destroy the works of Satan.


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[1]  No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments (1 Timothy 5:23).

[2]  To "look" on or "uncover" a person's nakedness was sometimes used in the Old Testament as a euphamism for various sorts of sexual interaction.  None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD (Leviticus 18:6).  The context makes it very clear that this is speaking of sexual intimacy.  "Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans. For you shall no longer be called tender and delicate.  Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, Uncover the leg, cross the rivers.  Your nakedness will be uncovered, Your shame also will be exposed; I will take vengeance and will not spare a man.” (Isaiah 47:1‑3).  In you they have uncovered their fathers' nakedness; in you they have humbled her who was unclean in her menstrual impurity (Ezekiel 22:10).