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Old Testament Study - Genesis 8:13-9:29

Noah Returns to the World

13By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. 14By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

15Then God said to Noah, 16"Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you--the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground--so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it."

18So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives. 19All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds--everything that moves on the earth--came out of the ark, one kind after another.

20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

22"As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease."

God's judgment was complete, so was His salvation. Noah was safe at rest on the mountain. The water was receding and the earth was drying up. These waters symbolize baptism, as Peter informs us: "In [the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism" (I Peter 3:21). There are many parallels between Noah's journey and baptism. Noah's journey was the external evidence of his saving faith, just as baptism is for us. Noah's baptism separated him from the world, and so does ours. Noah emerged from the ark into a new creation, we emerge from our baptism as a new creation (cf. I Cor. 4:17). "Destruction ministers to preservation, immersion to purification, death to new birth; the old corrupt earth is buried in the flood, that out of this grave a new world may arise."[Footnote #1]

Noah, obedient to the last, waited for God's command to finally exit the ark. Noah was on Ararat quite a long time--over six months--but he did not leave the ark until he received the clear guidance of God to do so. Does this mean that we must wait for the direct voice of God before we do anything? Not necessarily. The method that God used to guide Noah to leave the ark (that is, by directly speaking to him) was commensurate with the method He used to initially guide Noah. It was also commensurate with the great work that God had given Noah. Moreover, it was commensurate with the great amount of faith that Noah demonstrated. For these reasons, it was appropriate for Noah to wait for the direct voice of God. For the same reasons, you and I would not wait for the direct voice of God to speak to us unless He had spoken to us in this way previously, or the work we were to embark on was a magnificent work (as the building of the ark was), or our God-given faith was such that we truly expected to hear from God in this way.

We can apply these principles to the setting out of "fleeces" (see Judges 6:36-40) when trying to determine the will of God. In general, we would not literally set out a fleece, as Gideon did, and expect a miracle to happen. It was appropriate for Gideon to do so because he was confirming the prophecy of a direct visitation of the angel of the Lord. So, Gideon's method of confirming the will of the Lord (that is, by setting out the fleece) was commensurate with the initial communication of that will to him, for the visitation of the angel of the Lord was accompanied by miracles (see Judges 6:21). Normally, our guidance by God is more subtle and natural; and so, such guidance should be confirmed by "fleeces" that are natural and less miraculous than Gideon's setting out of the fleece.

Noah's first act after leaving the ark was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God. So, Noah started his new beginning cleansed from his sins through the sacrifices he offered to God. Notice that the aroma of the sacrifice was "pleasing" to God. God desires that we accept the salvation He offers us; God desires to exercise His mercy on our behalf. In fact, the greatest gratitude that we can show to God for His providence is to accept His salvation. David says, "How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord" (Psalm 116:12-13). Noah accepted God's salvation through burnt offerings; we, of course, accept God's salvation through Christ, who "loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph. 5:2).

In response to Noah's sacrifice, God by His grace removed the curse on the ground that He pronounced after Adam's sin in the garden (cf. Gen. 3:17): "Never again will I curse the ground because of man." This fulfilled the prophecy that Lamech (Noah's father) made when he named Noah: "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed." (Gen. 5:29). Even nowadays, to bring forth food from the ground is hard work. Life must certainly have been difficult for the first men as they labored under the curse of the ground, especially since they were not given animal life to eat at that time.

God's removed the curse despite the fact that "every inclination of [man's] heart is evil from childhood." God's view of man is different than many people's view of man. Many see man as basically good. The truth is that, in God's sight, we are depraved. But God is merciful, and full of grace. He blesses man despite man's depravity. His grace upon us is purely unmerited on our part.

God then promised: "Never again will I destroy all living creatures...as long as the earth endures." The earth's time is limited. For now though, God has appointed a time of grace. God will not again judge the world in entirety, as He did during the flood, until the final judgment. As Peter teaches: "By [the floodwaters] the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (II Pet. 3:6).

"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease." This promise must have been reassuring to Noah's family. After the flood, the stability of nature must have been suspect in their minds. But God here promises to sustain nature by giving us "seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night." All of mankind depends on these promises, and God has kept them since the time of the flood. The world attributes these things to nature, but nature in itself could not sustain the days, seasons and years over thousands of years. God is man's provider; God has given us "seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night" all these years.

Again, mankind depends on this promise. We depend on the sun rising in the morning; we depend on the winter snow and the spring thaw; we depend on the rain of the seedtime and the bounty of the harvest. We plan our lives around these promises, and so we also should plan our lives around God's other promises, such as: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isa. 43:2) and "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3).

God's Covenant with Noah

9:1Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

"4But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.

"6Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made man.

"7As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it."

8Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9"I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10and with every living creature that was with you--the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you--every living creature on earth. 11I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."

12And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

17So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth."

God went on to bless Noah and his family and to give them instructions for living in the renewed creation. These instructions paralleled the ones that God gave to Adam in the garden; however, the instructions to Noah were slightly different due to the fact that Noah lived in a fallen world, whereas Adam, at the time of the instructions, had not yet fallen. Both Adam and Noah were told, "Be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen. 1:28; 9:1). Both were told that they have dominion over the animals. Adam was told to "rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Gen. 1:28). Noah was told that "the fear and dread of you will fall upon the beasts of the earth" etc. Before the fall, man lived in dominion, but was also at peace with the animals. Since the fall of creation, man's dominion over the animals has been based on fear; man is no longer at peace with nature, rather at odds with it. Later, when Christ rules, the creation will again live in peace. Then, as Isaiah says, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them" (Isa. 11:6).

In addition, both Adam and Noah were given instructions relating to their provisions. God said to Adam, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food" (Gen. 1:29). Noah, however, was told: "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." Here men, for the first time, were allowed by God to eat meat. Before the fall, all animals were vegetarian, since at that time there was no death. And later, when Christ rules, all animals will again be vegetarian: "The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox" (Isa. 11:7).

In addition to these things, God instructed Noah concerning the sacredness of life (Adam, of course, did not need such instruction before the fall because there was no death then). Blood was established as a sacred symbol of life. We are not to "eat meat that has its lifeblood in it." This prohibition was a precursor to the same prohibition in the Mosaic law: "Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood--I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people. For the life of a creature is in the blood" (Lev. 17:10-11) and "But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life" (Deut. 12:23).

Human life is most sacred, above the sacredness of animal life, for "in the image of God has God made man." While men are given permission to eat animals, God "will demand an accounting from every animal" for the shedding of man's lifeblood. Moreover, God here institutes capital punishment. He says, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed." This is a command. Human governments, according to God's command, are to see that murders are paid by the death of the offender. Note that this command was given before the Mosaic law; thus, it was not a law that was solely given to the Jews. Therefore, this command is universal and binding for all human governments until the end of time. The law of capital punishment, as stated by God, is simple and contains no exceptions. If a man murders, he is to be put to death, regardless of social status, race, eloquent lawyers, and man-perceived value of the one who was killed. The unambiguous statement of this command illustrates that each and every human life has the same value in God's sight.

These verses concerning the lifeblood, and others throughout the Bible, can be seen to answer the question, "When does life begin?" The Bible says, as cited above, "For the life of a creature is in the blood" (Lev. 17:10). So, by this guideline, life begins no later than when the cardiovascular system is established. Therefore, a human should be considered alive no later than four weeks after ovulation. Encyclopedia Britannica says, "At three weeks the heart is a straight tube that is beginning to beat"[Footnote #2] and "A bilaterally symmetrical system of [blood] vessels is well represented in embryos four weeks old."[Footnote #3]

The Lord went on to make an unconditional covenant with Noah, his descendants, and even every living creature on earth: "Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." We take for granted the significance of this covenant. If mankind got what they deserve, there would be a daily deluge. This covenant is a manifestation of God's patience with us in our sin. He does not judge right away, but gives us an opportunity to repent. This covenant, however, does come at a cost to us. Because God is long-suffering and desires that all be given a chance to repent, evil continues to exist in the world. Ironically, many fault God for allowing evil to exist in the world; but He allows it to exist so that we would have an opportunity to turn to Him in repentance. As Peter informs us: "Bear in mind that God's patience means salvation" (II Peter 3:15).

God confirmed this covenant by giving man an everlasting symbol of it: the rainbow. The rainbow is a reminder to God of this covenant. God said: "Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind." That God established a reminder for Himself of this covenant expresses His faithfulness in keeping His promises and covenants. The covenant reflects God's patience with man in his sin and shows God's desire that all would repent and come to know Him. So, rainbows should also be a reminder to us of this covenant. Whenever we see a rainbow, we should give thanks for God's patience in judging us. We should confess our sins and, in gratitude, redouble our efforts to live pure lives, pleasing to God.

Again, the rainbow is a visible sign to confirm the covenant and remind us of it. This is one of many visible signs and symbols of God's covenants with man: the Passover Lamb, the Brazen Serpent, the Stone Tablets of the Law, the Ark of the Covenant, the Communion Table, etc. God knows how much emphasis we put upon the visible for our faith, and He supports us in this by establishing visible signs and symbols for us.

The rainbow is an appropriate symbol for this covenant. Man has no control over the appearance of rainbows, they are entirely God-given; so also, this covenant is one-sided and unconditionally given by God. As long as the seasons exist, rainbows will exist; so also the covenant is everlasting. Whereever the rain falls (which is everywhere on earth), rainbows appear; so also, the covenant is universal. Rainbows appear during times of blessing, after a light, refreshing rain, just as the sun is emerging; so, they are appropriate symbols for a covenant that establishes peace between God and man. Rainbows appear when there is a break in the clouds, an opening in the partition that separates the earth from the heavens; so, they are appropriate symbols for a covenant that expresses God's reaching out to man and His desire that man be reconciled to Him. "Springing as it does from the effect of the sun upon the dark mass of clouds, it typifies the readiness of the heavenly to pervade the earthly; spread out as it is between heaven and earth, it proclaims peace between God and man; and whilst spanning the whole horizon, it teaches the all-embracing universality of the covenant of grace."[Footnote #4]

Noah's Shame

9:18The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.

20Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father's nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father's nakedness.

24When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25he said, "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers."

26He also said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. 27May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave."

28After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

The world and mankind were given a new start. All was well. Given God's blessings upon Noah and his family, one would have thought all would have been well for a long time. Nevertheless, so soon, sin reared its head; so soon, spiritual warfare resumed; so soon, the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent again manifested itself. Despite the new world and new start, sin had not disappeared. God, of course, was correct in saying: "Every inclination of [man's] heart is evil from childhood" (Gen. 8:21). Noah fell, just as Adam did. This all goes to show that a new start in external things is not sufficient. Our sin nature is always with us, even when corrupt external influences are removed. This is why Jesus taught: "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3).

This episode concerning Noah is an evidence that the Bible is true. The Bible does not dress up the events in the lives of its heroes; rather, the Bible tells it like it was: Adam fell, Noah fell, David fell; Solomon became idolatrous, Elijah lost confidence in God, Peter denied Christ. We are all sinners, prone to fall, even the most holy.

After the flood, Noah was a husbandmen, tending a vineyard. Then, "When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent." Noah's sin was two-fold: drunkenness and immodesty. The language used indicates that the immodesty was not, as one might suppose, due to the drunkenness; rather, they were separate sins. Of the immodesty, "the Hebrew clearly indicates a deliberate act, and not a mere unconscious effect of drunkenness."[Footnote #5] As is so often the case, the drunkenness revealed an aspect of the sinner's true character.

We can learn many things from Noah's sin. First, drunkenness is a shameful evil; it is condemned as such many places in the Bible.[Footnote #6] Second, drunkenness breaks down defenses and often leads to other sins. Third, Noah's sin resulted from his daily occupation, and so we must be on guard against temptation, even as we go about our normal business. Fourth, even the strongest believer is susceptible to new temptations and new sins (not to mention the old ones). Fifth, our sins can cause the downfall of others, as we shall see that Noah's sin caused his son Ham's downfall. Finally, our sins will haunt us, as this sin has Noah, even to the present day.

There were two ways for the onlookers to respond to Noah's shame. Ham chose to ridicule and advertise Noah's sin. Noah's drunkenness and immodesty was certainly shameful, but Ham's ridicule of it was more shameful. In doing so, Ham dishonored his father. Next to God, one's parents are to be most honored. In addition to this, we might speculate on a motive for Ham's ridicule. Quite possibly, he sought to blacken the name of his righteous father so as to excuse his own sins. The devil and the world seek to tear down the reputation of the godly. "We see many such at this day, who most studiously pry into the faults of holy and pious men, in order that without shame they may precipitate themselves into all iniquity; they even make the faults of other men an occasion of hardening themselves into a contempt for God."[Footnote #7]

On the other hand, Shem and Japheth showed respect for their father and hatred for his shame. Rather than make light and trivialize Noah's sin, they treated it with the gravity it deserved. They sought immediately to cover him so that he would be shamed no further. They did not seek to tear down his righteous reputation, but sought to uphold righteousness. They showed not only respect for their father, but also respect for what he stood for as a righteous servant of God.

When Noah realized what Ham had done, he pronounced a curse upon Ham. Noah's curse was not so much in anger as it was in prophecy. His curse was not so much a punishment for Ham's sin, as it was a prophecy of the evil that results in a family that hates righteousness and has no respect for the established order of God (that is, in honoring one's parents). The depravity the Canaanites (Ham's descendants) was not so much due to this one sin of Ham's, as to his sinful attitude and nature. The attitudes that are displayed in Ham's disrespect for his father and his trivializing of Noah's sin were no doubt passed on to his descendants. Noah realized this and, through the gift of prophecy, cursed the line of Canaan.

We can see Noah's prophecies fulfilled later in the Bible. Noah prophesied, "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers." In fulfillment of this, in the book of Judges, we read: "When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor" (Judges 1:28). Noah also prophesied that the Lord would be "the God of Shem." Abraham and, in turn, the Israelites were descendants of Shem. The Lord, of course, became known as the God of the Israelites. Noah also prophesied, "May Japheth live in the tents of Shem." Many see this as being fulfilled through Christ, as the Gentiles dwell with the Jews in the house of God.

This episode in Noah's life can also be viewed typologically with Noah as a type of Christ. Noah here planted a vineyard, and so the Lord also planted a vineyard: "The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel" (Isa. 5:7). Just as Noah partook of his vineyard, so Christ partook of His vineyard by choosing to humble Himself and become a Jew. Noah was the minister of salvation to the world, and, of course, so was Christ. Both were brought to shame in their vineyards: Noah through his own sin, Christ by taking upon Himself our sin. Both were mocked by their own sons: Noah by Ham, Christ by the children of Israel. And finally, a curse came upon Ham for showing contempt for Noah's shame, so also, a curse will come upon all those who show contempt for Christ's shame, His death on the cross.

Closing Prayer

Father, we thank You for sending Your Son and allowing Him to suffer for sin in our place. Help us, by Your Spirit, to treat with the proper respect His death on the cross by giving our lives to Him. We praise You for the covenant that You made with Noah. We thank You for Your patience with us in our sin, patience that gives us time to repent and, through Christ, be at peace with You. We thank You for Your providence, for day and night, seedtime and harvest, summer and winter. Be glorified in our lives. In Christ's name we pray these things, Amen.


1. Delitzsch, cited in Keil and Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. I, pg 141.

2. Encyclopedia Britannica, Article entitled "Growth and Development"; 15th Edition; Vol. 20; pg. 463b.

3. Ibid., pg. 463a.

4. Delitzsch, cited in Keil and Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. I; pg. 155.

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