Introduction: After ending the Flood, God formed a new covenant with mankind. In Genesis chapter 9, He reveals seven blessings from His new covenant that Christ would later fulfill.
First, God blessed Noah’s family with fertility and commanded them to fill the Earth. Today, Jesus will also bless and multiply you when you help to fulfill his command to fill the Earth with believers. Second, after the Flood, God blessed Noah’s family and humanity by providing abundant animals and plants to eat. Christ will also bless you by providing for your needs when you trust Him. Third, God blessed mankind with a new blood covenant that would allow for the atonement of sins. This in turn would allow God to withhold judgment from the Earth. In exchange, mankind had to respect God’s symbol for life, the blood of both humans and animals. Mankind could not kill each other by spilling innocent blood. It also had to respect all God-given life by abstaining from any foods or drinks with blood. This blood covenant foreshadowed Christ’s death at the cross. His blood atones for all mankind’s sins. Believers are also called upon to respect His blood sacrifice at the cross through their actions. Fourth, another part of God’s blessing was His covenant of the rainbow. The rainbow was an inverted bow of divine judgment that God had turned away from the Earth. It symbolized God’s mercy in withholding the judgment that mankind deserved. This mercy came as a result of Jesus’ future death at the cross. Today, the rainbow has become a symbol of open defiance for God’s standard of morality. In the end times, Jesus’ divine bow will be turned back upon the Earth, and those who refuse to repent will face His judgment. Fifth, God saved eight individuals on the ark. In the Bible, the number eight symbolizes new beginnings. Here, God showed His grace in offering mankind a new beginning. Jesus also offers believers a new beginning. Sixth, Noah cursed his son Ham after he defiled him. Dishonoring parents brings about a curse. By contrast, when you honor your parents, God promises to prolong your life. Finally, God blessed Noah’s son Shem, which included the Sematic peoples. God would later dwell with them. Yet, He offered to expand this blessing to the descendants of Japheth. This was God’s promise to expand His blessings to include the gentiles. You are also grafted into this covenant when you have faith in Jesus. Jesus in turn calls upon you to expand His tent of believers to include the unsaved.
God’s blessing of fertility to Noah’s family and His command for them to fill the Earth. After showing His faithfulness in delivering Noah’s ark through the Flood, God showed His desire to restore mankind: “1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Gen. 9:1). He repeated this command six verses later (Gen. 9:7). He also gave this blessing and command when Noah exited from the ark: “17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” (Gen. 8:17). This also repeated God’s command to Adam to be fruitful and fill the Earth: “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Gen. 1:28). He later repeated this blessing to Abraham, yet without stating it as a command (Gen. 17:6; 12:2; 15:5; 22:17; Heb. 11:12). He also repeated this blessing and command to Jacob: “God also said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you.” (Gen. 35:11; 28:3). Joseph later recognized that he had inherited this blessing when he named his second son Ephraim (Gen. 41:50). These verses also contain a spiritual meaning for believer today.
God’s command to fill the Earth with believers. With the Earth already filled with people, some might think that there is no longer any relevance to verses. Yet, Christ commands His believers to fill the Earth with believers by making disciples of the nations: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”’ (Matt. 28:18-20). Are you helping to fulfill Jesus’ command to make believers throughout the Earth?
God will bless you with the fruit of the Spirit when you walk in faithful obedience. Just as He did with Noah, God also promises to bless you when you faithfully obey Him. He can bless you with all the blessings listed in the Bible. This includes all the fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23). Is the fruit of the Spirit missing in your life?
God’s provision for mankind. After blessing Noah’s family with the fertility to occupy the entire Earth, He showed His faithfulness in providing for mankind by expanding mankind’s diet to include meat: “2 The 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. 3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.” God previously gave to mankind a vegetarian diet: “Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;’” (Gen. 1:29). Noah had just shown faith by sacrificing one of each of the clean animals on board the ark. God rewarded Noah’s faith by giving mankind the clean animals to eat. The message for you is simple. When you trust Him, He will provide for you.
God provides for all His creatures. Part of trusting God is having faith that He will provide for you when you let Him guide you. He provides for all His animals: “Who gives food to all flesh, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Ps. 136:25). “He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Ps. 147:9). The animals, however, must sometimes wait for their proper season for God’s provision: “They all wait for You to give them their food in due season.” (Ps. 104:27). People must also wait for their right season. Like the animals that obeyed Him and came to the ark, you must also let Him guide you.
Have faith that Jesus will also provide for you. If God provides for His animals, you can trust Him as well. Jesus advised: “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matt. 6:26). When you worry about your provision you are showing a lack of trust in God (Matt. 6:27). When times are tight as they were for Noah when He stepped off the ark, will you show your trust in God by making a tithing sacrifice to Him? (Mal. 3:10). When He does provide for you, do you thank Him with gratitude?
God’s blood covenant with Noah. Part of God’s new covenant required that mankind respect the value of all God-given life. This is symbolized by both a prohibition against consuming blood and a prohibition against murder: “4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 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 ‘As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.’ ” (Gen. 9:4-6). A covenant was a legal contract. Yet, unlike a human contract, a covenant with God has no ending. Parts of the covenant were conditional and parts were unconditional. God’s offer to never destroy humanity again through water was unconditional. Yet, parts of the covenant were conditional. His blessing for mankind to be fruitful and multiply formed bookends to the covenant in verses one and seven. If mankind honored God’s blood covenant with Noah, God could bless it with fertility and new lands across the vast planet: “After establishing the stipulations regarding animal and human life, the exhortation to Noah and his sons, ‘be fruitful and increase,’ is repeated (vv. 1,7). Here it serves as an inclusion with v.1, closing the unit. Society can thrive, and the blessings of procreation can be achieved but only if human life is protected from the kind of unbridled wickedness that pervaded society in the days of the Nephilim (6:4).”1 These lessons still apply today. When mankind engages in murder, it steps outside of God’s protections and His blessings of the Holy Spirit.
God’s prohibition against consuming blood in both the Torah and New Testament. God’s prohibition against drinking blood is one of the most repeated rules in the Bible. Moses repeated this rule eight additional times in the Torah. The rule further applied to both Jews and gentiles: ‘“It is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or any blood.’” (Lev. 3:17). “You are not to eat any blood, either of bird or animal, in any of your dwellings.” (Lev. 7:26). “And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people.” (Lev. 17:10, 14; 19:26; Dt. 12:16, 23; 15:23). When it came time for the disciples to decide what laws from the Torah would apply to believers in Christ, the disciples repeated the prohibition against drinking blood two times in the book of Acts. Moreover, aside from the Ten Commandments, this was one of only three laws from the Old Testament that Christians were commanded to keep. Because this rule was part God’s covenant with Noah (and not just the Jews) it was considered a universal covenant with all mankind: “but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.” (Acts 15:20, 29). Thus, believers should give serious thought before casually ignoring this prohibition. Yet, with the exception of the Greek Orthodox Church, most Christians across the world freely eat foods made with blood. Examples include: “black pudding” (U.K.) “blood sausage” (Sweden & Finland) “blutwurst” (Germany), “dinuguan,” pig’s blood and seasoned with chili (Philippines), goose blood (Sweden), and pig’s blood (Finland). By tradition, a hunter also drinks the blood of his or her first kill. Many who currently eat foods with blood rely upon Paul’s later writings where he said that no one should judge you about what you eat or drink. (Col. 2:16). Yet, when interpreting the Bible, normally the specific exceptions are not negated by the general rules. The disciples repeated twice the rule against drinking in the book of Acts because they wanted believers to see blood as a holy symbol of Jesus’ blood covenant.
Blood is a symbol of life and atonement. Another reason why the blood cannot be consumed is that it is a symbol of God-given life: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” (Lev. 17:11). It also symbolizes God’s unique ability to cleanse your sins: “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22). Throughout nature, God’s hand in creation is present (Rom. 1:20). Through modern science, we now know that blood carries oxygen throughout the body. It also carries anti-bodies to any place where toxins are found in the body. It also removes toxins and takes them to the liver and kidneys where the toxins can be filtered from the body. Thus, when you abstain from blood, you are called upon to remember that God alone creates life and cleanses your sins.
Blood also lets you see how gross sin is in God’s eyes. The image of spilled blood at a sacrifice would be revolting to look at. Yet, that is also how your sins appear to God: “Though your sins are as scarlet,” (Is. 1:18). Thus, God used the blood as a symbol for three things. First, it reminds believers of the life that only He could create. Second, it reminds believers of the sin that separates believers from Him. Third, it reminds believers of the blood that Christ spilled to restore your fellowship with Him.
Drink only the blood of Christ. There is only one type of symbolic blood that you are still allowed to drink. That is the blood of Christ that you symbolically drink during communion. (Jo. 6:54-56). A person who does not believe that Christ is their Lord and Savior cannot drink His symbolic blood sacrifice. Such persons drink damnation upon themselves (1 Cor. 11:29; Heb. 10:29). When you drink communion, you are called upon to bring your life into alignment with Christ’s will. Is there unrepentant sin in your life?
Using blood to save lives honors God. For the early Church, the continued prohibition on drinking blood (Acts 15:20, 29) solved two purposes: (1) it prohibited pagan worship and (2) it forced the Christian to respect Christ’s blood sacrifice. Yet, based upon the prohibition found in the book of Acts and in Leviticus, Jehovah Witnesses object to the use of another person’s blood for a blood transfusion. A blood transfusion, however, can save a life after a serious accident, injury, or surgery. God never intended to prohibit medically required blood transfusions when He told the Christians not to “drink” blood. To the contrary, saving a life with blood is exactly what God intended for blood to represent. This is what Christ did for all believers when He shed His blood at the cross. For this same reason, every believer should be encouraged to give blood to help save lives.
God’s prohibition against the unauthorized taking a life. Another part of God’s blood covenant with Noah was His prohibition against the spilling of an innocent person’s blood. All mankind is made in God’s image and therefore precious in His eyes (Gen. 1:26-7; 9:6). Protecting human life from an unauthorized killing is so important that He repeated His prohibition against murder in His Sixth Commandment (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17). This part of God’s law is written onto every person’s heart (Ro. 2:14-15). That is why murder is prohibited across cultures as a universal value of all mankind. Satan was the first to sow the seeds of murder and hatred within mankind (Ez. 28:14-16). According to Jesus, whoever murders or even hates another is under Satan’s influence and is guilty of murder in God’s eyes (Matt. 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15). Moreover, if you break even one of His laws, in His eyes you have broken them all: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (Jam. 2:10). Thus, even if you have never murdered another person, you are in need of a savior if you have merely hated another person.
The punishment for intentional murder is capital punishment. The “wages of sin are death” (Ro. 6:23). Although some Christians believe that capital punishment is immoral, it is the punishment that God proscribed for intentional murder: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” (Gen 9:6). “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” (Ex. 21:12). “If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.” (Lev. 24:17). “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death . . . .” (Nu. 35:30). Failing to judge murders pollutes the land with sin and brings judgment upon all the inhabitants (Nu. 35:33). All unsaved murderers and people filled with anger and hatred towards others: “shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matt. 5:22; 15:18-19; Gal. 5:21; 1 Jo. 3:15). Furthermore, there is nothing that you can pay to absolve yourself of this sin: “Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” (Nu. 35:31). Yet, God’s standards for capital punishment contained safeguards that few societies follow. This included a trial with at least two witnesses (Nu. 35:30; Dt. 17:6).
Jesus’ new blood covenant with you. Thankfully, part of God’s blood covenant with His people included a means for atonement when someone violates His blood covenant. This included animal blood sacrifices. Jeremiah, however, later revealed that God would make a new covenant, just as He did with Noah: ‘“Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,”’ (Jer. 31:31). The Jews carefully followed the sacrificial laws for generations before God revealed that they all foreshadowed Jesus (Heb. 8:4-5; Col. 2:16-17). Jesus came to fulfill not destroy the law (Matt. 5:17). He shed His blood to pay the penalty you owe for your sins. Without the shedding of blood, sins cannot be forgiven: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22; Lev. 17:11). The blood also had to be from an animal “without defect.” (Lev. 1:3, 10; 3:1; 22:20; Ex. 12:5; Dt. 15:21; 17:1). Jesus met this requirement because He was without sin (1 Pet. 2:22; 1:18-19). He offered a one-time blood sacrifice for all mankind’s sins. “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). It is His sinless blood alone that can restore your broken covenant with God and bring you peace (Col. 1:20; Rev. 1:5). The new covenant that was foreshadowed with Noah and predicted with Jeremiah was Jesus’ new covenant with His believers. “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”’ (Lk. 22:20; Mk. 14:24; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:13). “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,” (Heb. 13:20). Jesus offers this hope to any who believe (Jo. 3:16). If God was willing to accept the sacrifice of animals on our behalf, we have no reason to doubt Christ’s ability to atone for even the worst sinners, including murders: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). Are you sharing the hope of Christ’s new covenant with those in need of hope or comfort? (Matt. 28:16-20).
Jesus’ covenant runs throughout Scripture. Pastor David Guzik points out that this covenant spans from Genesis to Revelation: “The importance of the idea of blood in the Bible is shown by how often the word is used. It is used 424 times in 357 separate verses (in the New King James Version). Blood was the sign of mercy for Israel at the first Passover (Ex. 12:13). Blood sealed Gods covenant with Israel (Ex. 24:8). Blood sanctified the altar (Ex. 29:12). Blood set aside the priests (Ex. 29:20). Blood made atonement for Gods people (Ex. 30:10). Blood sealed the new covenant (Matt. 26:28). Blood justifies us (Ro. 5:9). Blood brings redemption (Ep. 1:7). Blood brings peace with God (Col. 1:20). Blood cleanses us (Heb. 9:14; 1 Jo. 1:7). Blood gives entrance to Gods holy place (Heb. 10:19). Blood sanctifies us (Heb. 13:12). Blood enables us to overcome Satan (Rev. 12:11).” Does your life reflect gratitude for all His blood did for you at the cross?
God’s covenant of the rainbow with Noah. As part of God’s many blessings to mankind through Noah, He gave the rainbow as a symbol of His new covenant of mercy and peace: “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 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.’ 12 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 It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will 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.’” (Gen. 9:8-17). This covenant repeated God’s promise from the prior chapter to never again destroy the Earth with water: “The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.”’ (Gen. 8:21). Just like the prior chapter (Gen. 8:1(a)), the Hebrew word “zakar” or “remember” does not mean that God is forgetful. Instead, the term signifies His faithfulness to His covenant (e.g., Gen. 19:29(b); Ex. 2:24; Ps. 105:42). Do you trust in His faithfulness to keep His promises to you?
The shadow of Jesus’ mercy. The Jews understood that the rainbow symbolized an inverted divine bow of judgement that God had turned away from the Earth. It symbolized His mercy in saving humanity from the judgment it deserved: “The rainbow is God’s bow, a sign of divine judgment. When we see the rainbow, it reminds us that we are worthy of the same fate as the generation of Noah. According to the sages a generation that does not merit destruction does not see the rainbow in the sky.”2 “The NIV’s ‘rainbow’ is simply ‘bow’ (qeset), which is the term for the bow used in war and hunting. It may also refer anthropomorphically to the Lord, who defeats his foes with weaponry, including flashes of lightning bolts as arrows flung by his bow. . . The Lord in Hebrew tradition is depicted as a divine Warrior who subjugates his foes (e.g., Ex. 15:3; Is. 42:13; Zeph. 3:17).”3 Because God has shown you mercy, you are commanded to be merciful to others (Matt. 6:12).
Jesus’ mercy will not last forever. To most people, the rainbow no longer symbolizes God’s mercy. Instead, to many it symbolizes the celebration of a life style that is contrary to God’s standard of morality. God, however, is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). During the end times, His divine bow will be inverted, and the Earth will face His judgment. The Jews understood that the Messiah will wield in His mouth a mighty sword and arrow to strike down the sinners who celebrate in their rebellion against Him. “He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; and He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver.” (Is. 49:2; Rev. 2:12, 16; Matt. 24:30). Do you use His mercy as a license to sin? “[D]o you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Ro. 2:4).
The shadow of Jesus’ grace. Jesus’ new covenant also includes His promise to forgive you and to never leave you or forsake you: “For this is like the days of Noah to Me, when I swore that the waters of Noah would not flood the earth again; so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor will I rebuke you.” (Is. 54:9). “Then you will say on that day, ‘I will give thanks to You, O LORD; for although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.”’ (Is. 12:1). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. . .” (Eph. 1:7). “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:14). If you are grateful for the forgiveness of your sins through Christ’s death, how are you thanking Him? (Ro. 12:1).
The shadow of Jesus’ peace. The covenants and laws of the Old Testament all foreshadowed Jesus (Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 10:1). This includes God’s symbol of the rainbow covenant with Noah. In heaven, Jesus’ glory shines around Him like a rainbow: “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. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.” (Ez. 1:28). Yet, His future rainbow of glory will have an emerald tone: “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.” (Rev. 4:3). In Greek, the rainbow (“iris”) is not just an arc, but a halo or radiance that completely encircles the throne. The rainbow is a fitting symbol of Jesus’ mercy and peace. God shows completeness through the number seven. The rainbow has seven colors that span the visible spectrum, including: (1) red, (2) orange, (3) yellow, (4) green, (5) blue, (6) indigo and (7) violet. When you look at a rainbow, you instinctively feel peace looking at it beauty. In heaven, there will be one color of green as a symbol of eternal life. His arc will also have only one color to symbolize that all believers will be as one before Him.4 People will no longer define themselves by their differences. Today, when you are one with Jesus, will also grant you the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). If you are feeling stressed out, have you turned to Jesus to restore your peace in Him?
God’s blessing of a new beginning for all mankind. As part of His new covenant, God blessed each of the persons inside the ark with a new beginning through Him: “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.” (Gen. 9:18-19). “Noah had his sons when he was 500 years old (Gen. 9:18). His three sons and their wives later populated the entire Earth with their descendants: “These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.” (Gen. 10:32).
The new beginnings offered through Jesus. There were exactly eight persons on the ark. “[E]ight souls were saved by water.” (1 Pet. 3:20 (b)(KJV)). In the Bible, eight is also a symbol of new beginnings. After a seven-day ordination, a priest’s duties began on the eighth day (Lev. 9:1). A male child is also circumcised on the eighth day (Lev. 12:3). After the seven-day festival of Tabernacles, the people got together to celebrate a new beginning on the eighth day (Lev. 23:36). Christ also rose on a Sunday, the first day after the Passion Week or the eighth day after it began. Like Noah’s family, Christ offers you a new beginning. When you accept Him as Savior, you become a “new creation”: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 4:24). Are you living as a new creation?
Canaan’s curse for defiling his father Noah. Even though God wiped the evil people out of Noah’s world with the Flood, mankind remained wicked. Even Noah, the righteous preacher who walked with God, allowed himself to get drunk. His son Ham, the father of the Canaanites, then revealed the evil is his heart be defiling his drunk father: “20 Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22 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. 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.’” (Gen. 9:20-25). What exactly did Ham do to bring about Noah’s curse? There are three possibilities. First, most believe that Ham sodomized Noah. Second, some Jews believe that he castrated Noah to prevent him from having more children who could share in the blessings. Third, others believe that he merely examined his father in his nakedness.5 Yet, only the first two possibilities would seem serious enough to have made Noah angry enough to curse him. Moreover, the Bible makes clear that Noah knew what Ham had done to him when he woke up. There would be no way for Noah to know what Ham had done if he had merely looked at Noah. There is also no way that Noah would have slept through a castration. Even in a drunken state, he would have awoken and screamed out in pain. The sexual sin is made clear by the prophetic connection to Canaan. The Canaanites were known to engage in the worst possible sexual sins, including temple prostitution and child sacrifices. God later warned Abraham that He would punish them after being given 400 years to repent (Gen. 15:16). Thus, Ham’s curse included Canaan because the two would share similar sins.
Honor your parents and you will be blessed with a longer life. Whatever Ham did, it is clear that he dishonored Noah. In the Torah, anyone who dishonored a parent brought a curse upon him or herself: ‘“Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.”’ (Dt. 27:16; Ex. 21:17; Lev. 20:9). Jesus later repeated this commandment: “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death’” (Mk. 7:10). Conversely, those who honored their parents are promised a longer life than they would normally live: “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.” (Dt. 5:16; 4:40; 11:9). The promise of a longer life for honoring your parents is also repeated in the New Testament: “Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the Earth.” (Eph. 6:2-3). God protected parents from dishonor because He expected parents to teach their children to love Him and live according to His Word (Dt. 11:19; 4:9-10; 6:7; Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4). If you honor your parents, God might bless you with an extra day, month, or even years on your life. Yet, He never wants your kindness to be motivated by a reward. If you honor your parents with the right motives, you will find out in heaven how much extra time He blessed you with. Have you honored your parents? If you are a parent, are you teaching your children His Word and living a life worthy of His honor?
God’s blessings to the Shem and Japheth. Unlike Ham, Shem and Japheth received Noah’s blessing for honoring their father: “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.’” (Gen. 9:26-27) Being naked was form of dishonor in the culture of that time (e.g., 2 Sam. 10:4; Is. 20:4; 47:3; Mic. 1:11). Shem and Japheth received Noah’s blessing because they turned the other way and covered Noah in his nakedness (Gen. 9:23). In a similar way, God clothed Adam and Eve when they felt shame from their nakedness (Gen. 3:21). God will also bless you when you comfort others.
God’s promise to dwell in the tents of Shem. Shem was the ancestor of the Semitic peoples, which includes the Jews. The Jews believe that the wording in the blessing suggested that God would bless the Semitic peoples by later dwelling with them: “The Torah hints toward that destiny when Noah blessed the LORD as ‘the God of Shem.’” (Gen. 9:26).6 The promise to dwell with in the tents of Shem also prophetically spoke to the time when God tabernacled or dwelled with the Jews (Ex. 25:8; Lev. 16:16). The prophetic statement that Canaan would be his servant spoke first the conquest by Joshua and later the reign of King David when the Jews would finally subjugate the Canaanites and make them servants.
God’s promise to offer His blessing to the gentiles as well. To the Jews, God’s promise to “enlarge Japheth” also suggested that they too would be followers of the Messiah: “According to the Targum, this means that the descendants of Japheth will become proselytes in the days of the Messiah, ‘His sons shall be proselytes and dwell in the schools of Shem, and Canaan will be a slave to them.’”7 The descendants of Japheth later settled in Asia Minor and in Europe (Gen. 10:2-5). The Jews later interpreted these verses as applying to the Greek proselytes.8 They further understood that during the Messianic era the believers amongst the descendants of Shem and Japheth would be gathered together under the Messiah’s perfect government. “19 I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: . . And they will declare My glory among the nations. 20 Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the Lord, ‘just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.’” (Is. 66:19-20). It was this prophesy that allowed Paul’s contemporary named Shimon ben Gamli’el to authorize the Greek Septuagint version of the Torah.9 The early Church writers and the reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin also saw the coming together of the descendants of Shem and Japheth as referencing the Messianic era of Christ.10 Both Jews and Gentiles are offered to share in the blessings offered to Abraham when you believe in Christ: “in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal. 3:14). As part of Jesus’ tent of believers, He is also ready to “enlarge” your tent when you labor to expand the numbers who will dwell with Him. What are you doing to serve His Kingdom?
God’s blessing to Noah. Finally, God blessed Noah as one of the ten righteous descendants through Adam. Noah was also the last person with an extended life: “28 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.” (Gen. 9:28). God promises that He will never forget the righteous: “For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever.” (Ps. 112:6; Prov. 10:7). When you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, your name is also forever written in the Lamb’s book of life. Like Noah, you will always be remembered in heaven. Moreover, you can give thanks that your evil deeds will be forgotten (Heb. 8:12; Is. 43:25). Noah sinned when he got drunk. Yet, he is not remembered for his sins or for being a hypocrite. Instead, He is remembered as a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5) who walked with God (Gen. 6:9). Thus, your thanks to Christ should include gratitude that (unlike what Ham did to Noah) your shame will never be exposed to others in heaven.
Kenneth Mathews, “The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture” Genesis 1-11:26, Vol. 1A, (B&H Publishing Group Nashville Tenn. 1996) p. 406.↩︎
First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club, Vol. Shadows of the Messiah Noach, p. 36.↩︎
Mathews, p. 410-11.↩︎
Commentary on the Apocalypse 4.1-3, Ancient Christian Commentary: New Testament XII: Revelation, Intervarsity, 2005).↩︎
Id., p. 414-421.↩︎
First Fruits of Zion, at 38.↩︎
Id.; Genesis 9:27; Targum Pseudo-Yonatan.↩︎
Mathews, p. 424, quoting Targum Pseudo-Jonathan.↩︎
First Fruits of Zion, at 38; b.Megillah 9b.↩︎
Mathews, p. 424, at 424-425.↩︎