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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 9

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 9:1-29


Covenant of the RainbowGod's Covenant with CreationGod's Covenant with NoahGod's Covenant with NoahThe New World Order
(Genesis 8:20-17)
Genesis 9:1-7Genesis 9:1-7Genesis 9:1-7Genesis 9:1-6Genesis 9:1-7
(vv. Genesis 9:6-7)(vv. Genesis 9:6-7)(vv. Genesis 9:6)Genesis 9:7(vv. Genesis 9:6)
Genesis 9:8-17Genesis 9:8-17Genesis 9:8-17Genesis 9:8-17Genesis 9:8-11
Genesis 9:12-16
Genesis 9:17
Noah and His SonsNoah's Curse upon CanaanNoah and His sonsNoah and His Sons
Genesis 9:18-19Genesis 9:18-19Genesis 9:18-19Genesis 9:18-19Genesis 9:18-19
Genesis 9:20-27Genesis 9:20-23Genesis 9:20-27Genesis 9:20-27Genesis 9:20-27
(vv. Genesis 9:25-27)Genesis 9:24-27(vv. Genesis 9:25-27)(vv. Genesis 9:25-27)(vv. Genesis 9:25-27)(vv. Genesis 9:25-27)
Genesis 9:28-29Genesis 9:28-29Genesis 9:28-29Genesis 9:28-29Genesis 9:28-29

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 9:1-7 1And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2The fear of you and the terror of you will 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. 3Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5Surely 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. 6Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. 7As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”

Genesis 9:1 “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” Notice the three Qal IMPERATIVES: “be fruitful” (BDB 826, KB 963), “multiply” (BDB 915, KB 1176), “fill the earth” (BDB 569, KB 583). This is a second beginning for mankind (cf. Genesis 1:28), but notice that sin has caused a change in the command, “subdue and have dominion” is left out.

Genesis 9:2 “fear. . .terror” Mankind has a new relationship with the animals, not peace and friendship as in Eden and the eschaton (Isaiah 11:0), but fear (BDB 432) and terror (BDB 369). The Septuagint adds “cattle” to the verse but domestic animals are not affected.

Genesis 9:3 “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you” Mankind was originally a vegetarian (at least in the garden of Eden) but since the fall and since no crops could be produced for a while, meat was made available. Also notice that there was no distinction between clean and unclean animals as far as consumption was concerned (very different from Leviticus 11:0), but there was a distinction in sacrifice (cf. Genesis 7:2ff).

Genesis 9:4 “you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” This is the theological foundation for the sacrificial system (cf. Leviticus 17:10-16; Deuteronomy 12:16, Deuteronomy 12:23; Acts 15:29) and the significance of the death of Christ. Sin costs a life. God mercifully substituted an animal life.

Genesis 9:5-6 “By man his blood shall be shed” This is the first statement of “eye for eye” justice. It shows God's ordaining government the right of capital punishment. In the OT, this was accomplished by the “go'el” (kinsman redeemer). For possible NT references see Acts 25:11 and Romans 13:4.

Verse Genesis 9:5 is prose while Genesis 9:6 is printed in poetic parallel lines.

There is a possible Hebrew word play which may even affect etymology between blood (dam) and man (adam). In Assyrian the term man (adamu) is related to sanctuary (adman). Therefore, there may be a link between blood-worship-mankind (cf. Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 45).

“For in the image of God He made man” This shows the priority of humankind (cf. Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27; Genesis 5:1, Genesis 5:3). What an awesome privilege and responsibility.

Genesis 9:7 “Populate the earth abundantly” This is parallel to Genesis 1:22, Genesis 1:24, Genesis 1:28. Chapters 8-9 form a re-initiation of God's expressed will and actions in Genesis 1:0. This verse has four Qal IMPERATIVES, while Genesis 9:1 has three. The rabbis say that because of the context of murder (Genesis 9:5-6) those who refuse to have children also violate this command.

Verses 8-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 9:8-17 8Then 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; 10and 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. 11I 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.” 12God 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; 13I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, 15and 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. 16When 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.” 17And 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 9:9 “I Myself do establish” This covenant is unconditional and totally from God's grace. (cf. Genesis 9:11, Genesis 9:12, Genesis 9:17). Other covenants including the Adamic and the Abrahamic covenants had conditions. See SPECIAL TOPIC: Covenant.

Genesis 9:12 “all successive generations” “All” (olam), as in Genesis 9:16, means “ever-lasting.” See SPECIAL TOPIC: Forever ('olam). Also Rashi mentions that “generations” is misspelled in the Hebrew text. He interprets that as meaning that the covenant is only for generations with faulty faith.

Genesis 9:13 “bow. . .a sign” The rainbow may first have appeared here. Genesis 2:5-6 implies that initially watering took place in a different way from rain (i.e. mist from the ground). It is just possible that the bow (BDB 905) was a weapon that God put down (i.e. will not destroy mankind in judgment). In ancient times hanging up the bow was a symbol for peace. It is also possible that God put a new meaning to a common physical occurrence.

Genesis 9:15 “I will remember” The bow was a sign for God and mankind. This is a physical item symbolizing the fact that God does not forget (similar to the concept of “the book of life” and “book of deeds”).

“never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh” This does not mean no floods at all, but no universal flood that destroys all mankind and animal kind.

Verses 18-19

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

Genesis 9:18 “Shem” The etymology of this name can be “renown” or “name” (BDB 1028 II).

“Ham” This name can mean “hot” (KB 325II). It may have reflected an ancient name for Egypt (i.e. “hot lands”).

“Japheth” The etymology of this name can be “extender” or “enlarged” (BDB 834, see Hebrew word play in Genesis 9:22).

“Canaan” He (BDB 488) is mentioned for possibly two reasons: (1) Noah's drunkenness and resulting curse will affect Canaan or (2) the Canaanites became Israel's major theological problem in later years (i.e. Moses' lifetime).

Genesis 9:19 This was the repeatedly stated purpose of God (i.e. fill the earth). The tower of Babel was in direct deviance to this.

It is interesting that modern mitochondrial DNA studies have concluded that the original humans came from north Africa while modern philology has determined that all human languages started in northern India. Notice how geographically near this is to the biblical account.

Apparently all the different races of humans are direct descendants of these three brothers. Modern DNA research has shown that humans of all races are genetically the same!

Verses 20-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 9:20-27 20Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23But 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. 24When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.” 26He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant. 27May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant.”

Genesis 9:20 “Noah began farming” The NASB and RSV translations seem to read too much into the Hebrew wording; Noah was not the first farmer-what about Cain (Genesis 4:2) or Lamech (Genesis 5:29)? The NRSV has “Noah, a man of the soil.”

Genesis 9:21 “became drunk” Drunkenness (BDB 1016 I, KB 1500) is deplored over and over again in Scripture (cf. Proverbs 23:29-35). Yet wine is not the problem, but mankind's misuse of it (cf. Deuteronomy 14:26; Psalms 104:15; Proverbs 31:6-7). See Special Topic below.


Genesis 9:22 “saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside” Ham's sin was (1) his irreverence for his father or (2) some type of sexual act (cf. Leviticus 18:6, Leviticus 18:7). Hebrews were very conscious of nakedness.

In a theological sense, this shows the continuing downward pull of the fall. Noah drunk! Ham intensely enjoying both his father's folly and nakedness! This propensity towards irreverence and abuse of sexuality becomes so evident in Canaan's descendants! The tendencies must have been evident to Noah who curses Canaan, not Ham.

As a postscript, this episode has nothing, nothing to do with a biblical depreciation of the black race. Africans surely came from Ham but Canaanites were not black (i.e. wall pictures in Egypt)!

Genesis 9:24 “Noah. . .knew” He possibly knew because he asked, but probably it was by the covering that Shem and Japheth placed on him.

“youngest son” Ham is always listed second in the list of Noah's sons. This Hebrew word can be a superlative “youngest” or comparative “younger.”

Genesis 9:25 “So he said” Remember the Hebrew concept of the power of the spoken word, Genesis 1:0, as well as the importance of the parental blessing, Genesis 49:0.

“Cursed be Canaan” This VERB (BDB 76, KB 91) is a Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE. The rabbis say Canaan saw Noah's nakedness first and told his father, Ham, but probably Noah saw this evident disrespectful character in Ham's youngest son, or Canaan, the youngest son, is a way of referring to all of Ham's descendants. See Special Topic below. Notice that this is not a curse by God but by an alcohol abusing Noah!

It is obvious from Israel's later history that Canaanites are viewed as evil idolatrous people that must be totally destroyed. It is in their lands that the giants still live. It is their fertility worship that is forbidden in the book of Leviticus.


“servant of servants” This is a Hebrew superlative meaning “lowest servant.” This was fulfilled in Joshua's conquest of Palestine!

Genesis 9:26-27 The “let's” of these two verses are JUSSIVES, three specific forms and one contextually implied.

Genesis 9:26 “the LORD” “YHWH” seems to be the special use of the covenant name (see note at Genesis 2:4) to recognize Shem as the Messianic line (cf. Luke 3:36).

“the God of Shem” Shem means “name” and may be a play on God's special name, YHWH (BDB 1028 II). The line of Shem is the Messianic line. This is in opposition of Genesis 11:4!

Genesis 9:27 “let him dwell in the tents of Shem” Some see this (1) in a political sense like the domination of Roman or European culture or (2) in a spiritual sense of the inclusion of the Gentiles with the blessings of the Jews, which was also part of the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Genesis 12:3; Ephesians 2:11-13).

Verses 28-29

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

Genesis 9:29 Death still reigned (cf. Genesis 5:0)!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How did the fall affect God's covenant with Noah?

2. Is capital punishment a biblical precept (cf. Genesis 9:6)?

3. Did Noah curse the black race?

4. To what does Genesis 9:27 refer?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 9". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-9.html. 2021.
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