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A NEW BEGINNING FOR MAN
The earth itself having been purged by water, furnishing a totally new condition of circumstances for mankind and animals, now God establishes man in a new dispensation of things, blessing Noah and his sons with the promise of fruitfulness and of their multiplying to fill the earth that had been so reduced in the number of its inhabitants. God had told Adam and his wife to "have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Genesis 1:28). The same cannot be said to Noah because the entrance of sin spoiled this dominion.
Rather, Noah is told (v.2) that the fear and dread of man would be on beasts, birds and fish. It is a great mercy that this is so, for if the beasts, with their superior physical strength, had no fear of man, they could practically destroy all human population. But God has implanted that fear within them, though they no longer have the nature of spontaneous subjection to man as was true in the garden of Eden.
Besides this, mankind was no longer limited to a vegetarian diet (v.2). Animals, birds and fish were allowed him as food, just as fully as herbs and fruits. There were no restrictions such as were later introduced for Israel under law (Leviticus 11:1-47), and again abrogated after the death of the Lord Jesus (Acts 10:11-16; 1 Timothy 4:4-5). Of course it is evident that if one finds any food causing him physical difficulty, it is only wise to avoid that food, but God does not forbid the use of any.
However, when the meat of animals was eaten, God firmly prohibited the blood being eaten with it (v.4). From this time, the time that the eating of meat was first allowed, blood has been always forbidden. In every dispensation this has been true. The reason is that the blood is said to be "the life" of the creature, and life belongs exclusively to God. In refraining from eating blood then, we recognize the rights of the Creator. On the other hand, the rights of human beings were to be recognized. If a man or a beast shed human blood, then proper government demanded the death of that man or beast (v.6). This also remains true throughout history.
The Lord's instructions to Noah in verses 3-6 indicate that this is the beginning of human government being established on earth. Man being left to his conscience after Adam had sinned, totally broke down and the flood came. Therefore, something more than conscience must be necessary to meet man's need, so that at this point the dispensation of human government was introduced. This was necessary in order to restrain evil and to maintain order. God, however, leaves man with a minimum of legislation for government, only the two laws, involving the rights of God and the rights of mankind. Today governments have become extremely top-heavy with legislation. No individual can possibly know all the laws that are on the books in his own state or city. Government has certainly not proven to be the answer to the need of man occasioned by his own sin.
The encouragement of verse 1 to multiply on the earth is repeated in verse 7 with even more emphasis. Though multiplying would bring more sinners into the world, yet God would not be defeated by this: by His own pure grace He is able to save sinners. People today try every method of keeping the population of the world down, but God has not told them to do this. He knows how to take care of this problem and will do so in His own way. The world worries over a "population explosion," but God will relieve this very soon when the Lord Jesus comes to rapture Home to heaven all who have received Him as Savior. Then the following judgments of the tribulation will further drastically reduce earth's population!
At this time also God announced a covenant with Noah and his sons, also including all his descendants, as well as birds and animals, all who had been in the ark, therefore not fish. The covenant was to the effect that God would not again send a flood to destroy the earth (vs.10-11). When a flood of this kind had occurred once, then people would be apprehensive of another, but God's word is absolute in this matter. Sadly, because another has not come, people deny that the first ever happened! Such is the perversity of human sinful nature!
Six verses are then devoted to God's establishing the sign of the covenant (vs.12-17). The rainbow was this sign, not seen during the flood, but after it was over. God set His bow in the cloud. the scientific explanation of the rainbow is that the raindrops act as the prismatic medium that causes a refraction of the rays of the sun. The pure white light is thus divided into seven distinct visible colors, always seen in the same order, each color of the spectrum having a beauty of its own. This is a lovely picture of God's glory, for "God is light," and each color is symbolical of some particular aspect of God's many attributes, -- supremacy, power, authority, grace, righteousness, holiness, love and others that are implied in the various shades of every color also. Therefore all the glory of God is involved in His promise that He will not again judge the world by means of a universal flood. This beautiful display following judgment is also anticipative of the fact that after God judges the world by that Man whom He has ordained (Acts 17:31), the glory of His grace will again be displayed in wonderful blessing to mankind. The book of Revelation therefore is not merely a book of judgments, but "the revelation of Jesus Christ," for all the beauty of the glory of God will be displayed in Him who conquers every enemy and shines forth in His eternal brightness for the purest blessing of mankind.
EARLY FAILURE OF HUMAN GOVERNMENT
The names of Noah's sons are given us in verse 18, -- Shem, Ham and Japheth, -- then the positive declaration is made that "from these the whole earth was populated. Shem is the father of the Semitic, swarthy races, Ham of the darker races, and Japheth of the fairer white races. However obscure some races have been, they have become obscure since Noah's time. How they were scattered through the world, -- even into North and South America, -- we have no clear knowledge, but all are the descendants of Noah.
Noah's occupation of farming was of course commendable, but anything may be abused and cause trouble. The man who was given the dignity of authority in government allowed himself an excess of wine and became drunk, and in this state was unclothed in his tent This illustrates the weakness of human government from its very beginning. Why is human government doomed to fail? Because those in authority fail to exercise self-government. If one does not properly rule himself, how can he be trusted to rule others?
This weakness also leads to another evil, as we see in Ham, the son of Noah. He showed serious disrespect for his father. Instead of covering Him when he saw him uncovered, he went and told his two brothers (v.22). This is the evil of despising government, which has become most prevalent in the day in which we live (Jude 1:8). Though governments often fail sadly, this gives us no right to reject or disobey proper authority (Romans 13:1-7).
Ham's brothers, Shem and Japheth, at least showed the respect that was due to their parent, by going backwards into the tent and covering their father. Whether it is a question of parental authority or of governmental authority, the same principle holds true, proper respect will seek to cover failure rather than to expose it. But it must be emphasized that this is in cases of failure, not in cases of wicked abuse of authority. Even in such cases, however, a believer is not given permission by God to fight against government.
When Noah awoke he knew that Ham had shown this disrespect toward him, though we are not told how he found out (v.24). Then he pronounced a curse, not upon Him, but upon his son Canaan. It may be that this would hurt Ham more than if the curse had been on him. Canaan would be "a servant of servants" to his brethren. How far this curse would extend to Canaan's children we do not know. But Shem was blessed, or rather, the Lord God of Shem was blessed (v.26). Of course we know that Israel came from Shem. From Shem have come the more introspective, contemplative races which tend toward mysticism, if not kept in check. Japheth is the father of the energetic, practical races whose tendency is materialistic. If both are controlled and kept in proper balance, all would be well, but it has not been so. God would enlarge Japheth, and it is true that the white races have multiplied greatly on earth. Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem. His practical energy was not enough. He would need a dwelling of contemplative faith too. This may also have reference to the present age of grace, when Israel had rejected their Messiah and the Gentiles are "grafted in" to Israel's stock, virtually dwelling in Israel's tents until Israel is restored. In both cases Canaan would be their servant.
Though this is no doubt prophetic, it does not infer that anyone has the right to subjugate others as slaves to themselves. That is, God is not giving authority to anyone to put the descendants of Canaan under servitude to them. But since Ham was not properly subject to government, then his descendants would learn by experience what obedience to authority means. In fact, we may all take a lesson from this, that we should willingly bow to authority that God has allowed to be over us. Not only Canaan's seed, but all mankind has been put under a curse, that of not continuing in obedience to all that the law commands (Galatians 3:10). Therefore, let us not think we are better than Ham.
Noah continued to live 300 years after the flood, attaining an age of 950 years, only 19 short of Methuselah. He lived long enough to see a large population of his own descendants.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 9". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19