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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 9

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7


Verses 1-7:

God, Elohim, gave specific instructions to Noah and his offspring regarding their role in the earth following the flood. Man is to "be fruitful - multiply - replenish" the earth. This is similar to God’s commission to Adam, with one important exception, Ge 1:28. To Adam God added, "and subdue it (the earth)." He omitted this in His commission to Noah. Sin forfeited the original dominion over the earth which man enjoyed, and this dominion can only be restored in the work of the Second Adam, Christ. This will be realized during the reign of Jesus on earth, the Millennium, see Re 20:4, 6; Isaiah 2:1-5; Isaiah 11:4-9; Isaiah 65:17-25.

In the new role of man on the post-flood earth, the relationship with the animal world changed. God implanted instinctive fear of man in ail the animal world. Given the choice, and under normal conditions, even the fiercest of wild beasts will run from man. And man is able to impose his will upon even the strongest (as the elephant) and the most fierce (as lions, tigers, leopards, etc.)

God instituted certain important changes in man’s role and relationships, in this commission to Noah. Ge 1:29, 30 implies that from Adam to the flood, man was essentially vegetarian. For the first time, God affirms that man may become carnivorous, with meat added to his diet. It is suggested that prior to the flood, the fruits and herbs and vegetables supplied all the necessary proteins and vitamins and minerals necessary for complete health. It is suggested that the conditions upon the earth and in the atmosphere following the flood altered in such a way that this was no longer true. After the flood, man needed the additional nutrients which meat could supply. The distinction between the clean and unclean creatures (Le 11:1-31) is not here mentioned. However, it is likely Noah was aware of this, even prior to the flood, Ge 7:2.

Verse 4 affirms a biological principle which medical science only recently discovered. As late as the mid-19th Century, people were "bled" by doctors to rid their bodies of diseases. But God said long ago that the life is in the blood. Throughout the Scriptures, the blood is regarded as the seat of the soul or the life-principle, see Le 17:11, 14; La 2:12; Isa 53:12; Jer 2:34; Pr 28:17, et. al. The Divine provision is that the blood must be drained from the carcass before eating it, and that blood is not to be eaten under any circumstances. This was strictly enforced in the Mosaic code. And it is advised for the well being of the Christian community, see Ac 15:20, 29; 21:25.

Medical research in the 20th Century has established that not only does the blood carry the life, it also carries death. A blood transfusion can be fatal to the recipient, if the donor is diseased. Thus the Divine prohibition of the eating of blood. is both esthetically and medically sound.

In verses 5, 6 God institutes the principle of capital punishment. As a Divine mandate, this was apparently not true from the time of Cain to the flood. However, since that time God’s specific command is the judicial sentence of death for the sin (crime) of willful murder. This is God’s requirement of justice, whether the one who takes life be a human or a beast. This statute was later incorporated into the Mosaic Law, Ex 21:28-32. It applies to the willful, unwarranted, deliberate act of murder, and not to "accidental" manslaughter.

Many today, even in the religious world, argue that the death penalty is "morally wrong," that it is but a form of "legalized murder." They contend that under the Christian "law of love" capital punishment no longer applies. But there is no evidence in the Scriptures to support this claim. God Himself instituted capital punishment, to show the sanctity of human life. And He has never repealed this principle.

Those who say the death penalty no longer applies today quote the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," to support their view. However, a literal translation of this is, "Thou shalt do no murder." In Ex 20:13, the verb "kill" is ratsach. This is the word Elijah used (1 Kings 21:19) when he confronted Ahab with his complicity in the death of Naboth. Nine other Hebrew verbs are translated "kill" and each has a meaning different from ratsach. Thus, the Sixth Commandment does not prohibit the judicial sentence of capital punishment; rather, it defines and strengthens this mandate. It is an Hebrew-Christian axiom that "he who in malice aforethought takes the life of another forfeits his own right to live."

Verses 8-17

Verses 8-17:

God established with Noah and all his offspring the covenant which He had purposed in Himself when He saw Noah’s sacrifice after he left the ark, Ge 8:21, 22. The covenant applied not only to humanity, but to the entire earth and all its creatures. "Establish" denoted that this covenant was not at this point made for the first time. God promised to cause it to stand permanently so it could never be abrogated. The covenant guarantees the stability of the earth and the safety of mankind. It is God’s promise never to destroy the earth and its life by means of a flood of waters.

God provided a visible token, oth (see Ge 1:14; 4:15), with man, earth, and its creatures. This token is the God’s "bow" or rainbow. There are only three other places in the Scripture which mention the rainbow: Eze 1:28; and Re 4:3; 10:1. This feature of the Bible account of the flood is unique in the annals of history. It is not mentioned in the Babylonian accounts, as the Gilgamesh Epic, nor the account from any other nation.

The rainbow consists of an arc of successive bands of polarized light. It is produced by reflection and refraction of the sun’s light passing through the spherical raindrops The outer ring is red, the inner violet, and the various colors of the spectrum lie between these. It is suggested that this phenomenon did not occur prior to the flood, due to atmospheric conditions which then existed. Since the flood, however, the appearance of the rainbow is quite common, and may be caused by either the sun or the moon. Every sighting of a rainbow is God’s reminder of His faithfulness to man. He took a part of the glory with which He clothes Himself (Eze 1:28; Re 4:3) as the token of His faithfulness.

Verses 18-27

Verses 18-27:

The sons of Noah appear in their role as the heads of the nations into which mankind developed. The name of Ham’s fourth son (Canaan) is inserted, likely because of the role he played in the development of God’s chosen people.

It is impossible to determine with accuracy the span of time covered in the above verses. The sacred record is not so much concerned with chronology as with the events in time.

Noah took up the occupation of "a husbandman," a "man of the ground" or a farmer. One of his crops was a vineyard. This is by no means unusual in the mountains of Armenia, where the ark rested after the flood. Vine growing was practiced among the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and other countries in the land of the Bible.

Noah made wine from grapes of his vineyard. One day he drank too much and became drunken. Some have tried to excuse Noah’s drunkenness by suggesting that he did not know the grape juice was fermented and that it would make him drunk. They suggest that prior to the flood, the atmospheric conditions were such that fermentation could not take place. This appears unlikely, in view of Jesus’ description of conditions in Noah’s time, see Mt 24:38. There is no excuse for what Noah did. He sinned when he got drunk. And this sin led to other, deeper shame. In his drunken state, Noah exposed himself, literally made himself naked. His younger son Ham saw him. The text implies he "did" something to Noah. Instead of being grieved, Ham mocked his father and told his brothers of Noah’s shame. Shem and Japheth manifested a spirit of reverence toward their father. They covered him with a robe, and refused to scorn and mock him (see Eph 6:1-3; Pr 30:17).

Noah awoke from his drunken stupor and learned what Ham had done to him. He then pronounced a curse - not upon Ham, but upon Canaan, Ham’s fourth-born son. This curse may have been pronounced at once, or it may have been at some subsequent time. The contents, not the timing, of the curse are important.

The "curse" was not a matter of personal resentment, nor in a spirit of vindictive anger. It is under the inspiration of a prophetic spirit, in which Noah acted as the priest and prophet for his family. It was a prophecy regarding the character of those involved.

Some suggest this "curse of Ham," was placed upon Canaan rather than on Ham himself; some believe that since "Ham" may mean "dark, or swarthy," there is a curse of servitude upon all dark-skinned people, particularly the black races. The implication is that this curse condemns the Blacks to perpetual servitude.

Blacks are not descendants of Canaan, but of Cush, Mizraim, and others of Ham’s sons. There appears to be no Scriptural or historical basis of the inherent inferiority of Blacks; nor does servitude infer inferiority, Mt 20:26. Some of history’s most advanced (but corrupt) civilizations were of Blacks (Babylon, Egypt, etc.).

The "curse" was upon Canaan, son of Ham, not upon Ham. Canaan’s descendants settled in the region of Palestine, which was included in the land grant God bestowed upon Abraham and his seed, Ge 12; Ge 15. The curse was that his offspring would be "a servant of servants unto his brethren." Partial fulfillment of this is seen in Israel’s conquest of Canaan, in which some of the descendants of Canaan became "hewers of wood and drawers of water" (Jos 9:22-27). There are no Canaanites in the world today, as a separate and distinct people, known by that name.

(Some expositors hold that Noah did address the curse to Ham, and not to Canaan, based upon the similarities of the names "Cain" and "Canaan" in the Hebrew text. They suggest the name "Canaan" implies "Cain-like," and was placed on all Ham’s offspring. Thus they see Noah’s curse on Canaan as in reality a curse upon Ham’s entire lineage, because he was a "Cain-like" man. This view holds that all Ham’s descendants, which includes the black and dark-skinned races, came under the curse, including perpetual servitude, a "servant of servants”.unto his brethren."

The implication is that the curse was upon Canaan, at the same time Noah conferred the blessings upon Shem and Japheth. It was the custom that the blessings and curses were among the last words of the patriarchs (Ge 49). Thus it is reasonable to believe that a number of years intervened between Ham’s shameful irreverence, and the family blessings and curse which Noah pronounced upon his sons, as follows:

1) Noah’s prophetic blessing upon Shem identifies him with Jehovah. The prohecy was that he should not only enjoy rich blessings, but that Jehovah would be his God. The true knowledge and witness of Jehovah would be perpetuated through Shem’s descendants. The Promised Seed would be from his loins.

It is true that many Semitic peoples forsook Jehovah. For example, the Assyrians (Asshur) were idolaters. However, the "Faith-line" of righteous Seth continued through Shem’s offspring. Ge 10:21-31 lists Shem’s descendants and the areas they populated, and some of the nations which sprang from them. Among them are: Persia (Elam), Assyria (Asshur), Lydia (Lud), Armenia (Hul and Mash), and the Hebrews (Eber).

2) The prophetic blessing of Japheth and his descendants refers to the widespread diffusion and prosperity of the Japhetic nations. The prophecy does not identify Jehovah as the God of Japheth. However, Japheth’s descendants partake of the blessing of Jehovah, as they come to "dwell in the tents of Shem."

The "enlargement" of Japheth may refer to intellectual achievements as well as to territorial expansion. This is evident in the history of those nations which sprang from Japheth’s descendants. They include: Germany (Gomer), the Tartars and Mongols (Magog), Media (Madai), Greece (Javan), the Thracians (Tiras), et. al. Some historians include the Romans among Japheth’s descendants, as well as the Aryans who invaded and conquered vast regions of India and the Orient.

Verses 28-29

Verses 28, 29:

The advanced years of Noah’s life indicate that he lived to see the building of the Tower of Babel and the subsequent dispersion of mankind. Also, it is possible that Abram was fifty-eight years of age at Noah’s death. This includes the possibility that Noah may have given Abram (Abraham) first-hand information regarding the flood!

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 9". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-9.html. 1985.
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