The New World
The Establishment of Human Government
In the ninth chapter of Genesis, following God's resolution "in his heart" (Genesis 8:21)
not to destroy the earth again with a further curse in spite of the fact that
every "imagination of man's heart" is evil, God spoke again openly to Noah.
The first seventeen verses of this chapter contains a detailed quotation of God's own words,
given to Noah in response to his believing sacrifice after leaving the Ark.
These verses contain the basic provision for human governments among men,
exercised on behalf of God.
They also contain the great Noahic covenant with post-Flood man, which is still in effect
as far as God is concerned, though thousands of years have passed since it was made.
Genesis 9:1, 2: "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them,
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth,
and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth,
and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered."
These verses constitute essentially a renewal (with slight modifications) of the original
divine mandate given to man by God in Genesis 1:26, 28.
Just as Adam and Eve had been told to "be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth"
(not "refill the earth," as the King James Version misleadingly suggest),
so Noah and his three sons were now commanded once again to multiply rapidly
and fill the earth.
It was God's design that mankind should quickly spread over the entire habitable earth,
in order to exercise proper dominion over it, under His sovereignty.
Actually, the specific command to "have dominion over the earth and subdue it,"
as given to Adam (Genesis 1:28) is omitted here, possibly an intimation that, despite
the destruction of many of his hosts in the Flood, Satan still retained at least proximate
domination on the earth (1 John 5:19).
So, man no longer was to exercise direct authority over the animal creation as had apparently
once been his prerogative; rather, there was to be fear manifests by animals,
rather than obedience and understanding.
The word "dread" in the King James could better be rendered "terror."
If it were otherwise, the animals, since they would be multiplying much more rapidly
than man, might quickly have exterminated mankind.
It is significant that the animals that were to be characterized by fear of man included
the "beast of the earth, the fowl of the air, all that 'crawls upon the ground,'
and the fish of the sea."
The "cattle," seem not to have been included in this category.
The domesticated animals, which apparently are those meant by this latter term
would not shun man's presence and companies; but all the others, insofar as possible
and normal, would seek to flee at the approach of man.
They were delivered into man's hand, in the sense that he was free to do as he would
with them, though, of course, always as a responsible steward under God's jurisdiction.
Genesis 9:3, 4: "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you;
even as the green herb have I given you all things.
But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."
Furthermore, animals were for the first time authorized for use as food (although quite possibly
this had been done before the Flood without authorization).
The reason for this change is not obvious; perhaps a more rigorous environment in the New World required the animal protein in meats for man's sustenance to a degree not normally available
in other foods.
Possibly the Lord also desired to show the great gulf between man and the animals,
anticipating the dangers implicit in the evil doctrine of the evolutionary continuity of life
of all flesh, which ultimately equates man with the animals and denies the Creator,
in whose name is man alone was made.
The fact is, that doctrine had already begun to make its appearance in the early forms
of paganism and polytheism.
Apparently no restrictions as to which animals man could eat were made at this point,
through in the special economy of Israel only a few animals were later denominated by God
as "clean" for this purpose.
Mankind in general, both before the call of Israel and after the formation of the Church,
incorporating believers of every nation, was free to put take as freely
of "every moving thing that liveth" as he had been previously free to partake
of every green herb (Genesis 1:29, 30).
Of course he was also free to refrain from eating any creature or any herb
which he did not want.
But with this permission, there was also the restriction: "flesh with the life thereof,
which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."
The flesh was given for meat, but the life of the flesh was given for sacrifice.
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar
to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement
for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).
The words "life" and "soul" in these verses are the same word (Hebrew nephesh).
Of course, the blood performs the physiological function of conveying the necessary chemicals
from the air and food to sustain and renew the physical flesh, and particular to maintain
the consciousness and the ordinary thought processes of the brain.
All of this complex of marvelous operations is called the "life" or the "soul," the consciousness
which distinguishes animal life from plant life.
The "life" of an animal, spilled on the sacrificial altar, was accepted by God in substitutionary
death for the life of a guilty sinner, who deserve to die but who was permitted to live
because of the sacrifice, whose blood "covered" his sins.
The blood of animals could only figuratively cover sins, of course.
The reality represented by the figure was the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ,
who "now once in the end of the world hath appeared to put away sin
by the sacrifice of himself." (Hebrews 9:26)
Genesis 9:5, 6: "And surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast
will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother
will I require the life of man.
Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed:
for the image of God made he man."
So the blood of animals, representing their life, was sacred and not to be eaten,
since it was accepted in sacrifice in substitution for the life of man.
Also involved was the simple matter of reference to the life principle, as a specially created
entity by God (Genesis 1:21), not merely something to satisfy man's appetite.
There is also a possible divine warning here against the pagan notion that drinking the blood
of a slain enemy, either animal or human, would allow the life characteristics of that creature
to be incorporated in the life of its vanquisher.
Man's blood, representing his life, was even more sacred than that of animals,
for "in the image of God made he man."
Though animals share the possession of of soul and body with man, it was only man
who had an eternal spirit, the image of God.
Neither beast nor man was therefore permitted to spill man's blood.
From any animal or any man who shed human blood, God would require satisfaction;
and that would be nothing less than the very blood of their own lives.
The word "require" is a judicial term, God here appearing as a judge who exacts a strict
and severe penalty for infraction of a sacred law.
If a beast kills a man, the beast must be put to death (note also Exodus 21:28).
If a man kills another man (willfully and culpaby, it is assumed), then he also must be
put to death by "every man's brother."
The latter phrase is not intended to initiate family revenge slayings, of course, but rather
to stress that all men are responsible to see that this justice is executed.
At the time these words were first spoken, all men indeed were literally brothers;
for only the three sons of Noah were living at the time, other than Noah himself.
Since all future people would be descended from these three men and their wives,
in a very real sense all men are brothers, because all wore once in the loins
of these three brothers.
In essence this is a command to establish a formal system of human government,
in order to assure that justice is carried out, especially in the case of murder.
The authority to execute this judgment of God on murderer was thus delegated to man.
"Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed:
for in the image of God made he man."
The anarchistic conditions that had developed before the Flood – man slaying whom
they would and defending themselves as they could – were not to be permitted to recur.
Before the Flood, there was evidently no formal arrangement of human government,
save perhaps the patriarchal authority of the father.
There was no formal mechanism for the punishment of crime, or a crime prevention,
even for the capital crime of murder, as evident in the individual histories
of Cain and Lamech.
Evidently each person was able to act quite independently of all restraints
except those of his own conscience and self-interest.
This eventually led to a universal state of violence and anarchy.
To prevent the development of similar conditions after the Flood, God established
the institution of human government, including especially the authority
for capital punishment.
It is clear that the authority for capital punishment implies also the authority
to establish laws governing those human activities and personal relationships
which if unregulated could soon lead to murder (e.g., robbery, adultery,
usurpation of property boundaries).
So, the simple instruction to Noah is the fundamental basis for all human legal
and governmental institutions.
The instructions given here in no way refers merely to vengeance; the emphasis is rather
on justice and on careful recognition of the sacredness of the divine image in man,
marred by sin though it be.
Obviously some means of impartial verification of guilt prior to execution of the judgment is assumed, though no formal legal system is outlined here.
Evidently the particular form of government might vary with time and place;
but the fact of human government, exercised under God, is clearly established.
The modern "liberal" objections to capital punishment are insufficient to warrant
setting aside this decree of God.
The prohibition in the Ten Commandments against killing plainly applies only to murder,
not to judicial executions; in fact, the Mosaic laws themselves establish capital punishment
as the penalty not only for murder but also for breaking any one of the 10 Commandments.
(Note Hebrews 10:28)
Similarly, the Christian dispensation in no way sets aside these provisions
of the Noahic covenant.
The eating of meat (1 Timothy 4:3, 4), the abstinence from blood (acts 15:19, 20),
and the authority of the governmental "sword" (Romans 13:4; acts 25:11) are reaffirmed
in the New Testament, by way of emphasizing to the early Christians that these were not
merely a part of the Jewish law, but were integral components in God's original
covenant with all men.
In fact, Christ seemed almost to echo God's words to Noah when He said:
"All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." (Matthew 26:52)
The above observations are not to suggest that there is never to be an exception
to the punishment of execution for the crime of murder.
With God, justice may be tempered with mercy, especially in response to genuine repentance.
Though David, for example, was guilty of a capital crimes of adultery and murder
in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah, God forgave him when he repented.
And so David rather than dying by the sword or by stoning, as he may strictly have deserved,
"died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour" (1 Chronicles 29:28).
Although the woman taken in adultery was guilty by the Mosaic law of a crime punishable
by death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), the Lord Jesus, seeing her heart
of repentance, was moved to forgive her and to see that she was set free. (John 8:3-11)
In like manner, a judge (or the particular governmental structure has established) is no doubt
warranted in taking such mitigating factors as may exist in a given situation into consideration
in determining a sentence, even though he would also be fully warranted in carrying out
the strict legal penalty of capital punishment.
The essential point is that man is hereby given the responsibility of human government
and that this responsibility entails first of all the recognition of the sacredness of human life
and the recognition of capital punishment as the just and legal penalty for murder.
The Hebrew word shaphak is interesting.
It is translated "sheddeth" here in Genesis 9:06, where it is used for the first time in Scripture.
It is often translated also as "poured out" or "poured forth" or "shed forth."
It is frequently use of the "pouring out" of the wrath of God (Psalm 69:24),
but also of the pouring out of His Spirit (Joel 2:28).
Many times it refers to the pouring out of the blood of the animal sacrifices
at the base of the altar (Leviticus 4:30).
It is the word use prophetically by Christ on the cross, when He cried:
"I am poured out like water" (Psalm 22:14).
Its first mention, here in Genesis 9:6, thus stresses not only the sacredness of human life,
but also points us forward to the One who was most perfectly and eternally
"in the image of God," and whose blood would be shed judically, though utterly unjustly,
by human governmental authority – but who, in the marvelous counsels of God,
thereby "made his soul an offering for sin" (Isaiah 53:10).
Genesis 9:7: "And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth,
and multiply therein."
In concluding these commands, God repeated His injunction to multiply and the earth.
Literally, man was to "bring forth in swarms."
As a matter of fact, and perhaps a little over four thousand years, man's population
has increased from eight people to all moles 4 billion.
This amounts to an average of 2. 5 children per family, or an increase of 1/2% annually.
The Rainbow Covenant
God's covenant with Noah involved a number of elements, several of which have just been
discussed, as far as the responsibilities of Noah and his descendants were concerned.
However, the word itself is first used in verse 9, in connection with God's promise
not to send the mabbul again to destroy the earth, so that the emphasis is on God's promises
rather than man's obligations.
As a matter of fact, man's obedience to these commands was not a condition determining
whether God would keep His part of the bargain.
God promised unconditionally – evidently as a result of Noah's faith and his sacrificial offerings
– that He would never again send a worldwide flood, or destroy all flesh,
as long as the earth remained.
Also God graciously gave Noah and his descendants a beautiful "sign"
that He would keep His word.
As His assurance that, despite the clouds in the sky, and the prospects of more rain,
and perhaps occasional local floods in the future, that would never again be a universal flood,
God established the rainbow.
The "bow in the cloud" (verse 13), of course, requires both sunlight and "the cloud"
– that is, liquid water droplets in the air – before it can form.
Before the Flood, the upper air contained only invisible water vapor,
and therefore no rainbow was possible.
With the new hydrological cycle following the Flood, the former vapor canopy is gone;
and it is physically impossible now for enough water ever to be raised into the atmosphere
to cause a universal flood.
When a storm has done its worst and the clouds are finally exhausted of most of their water,
then there always appears the rainbow, and so God would have us remember again His promise
after the great Flood.
Genesis 9:8-10: "And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle,
and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark,
to every beast of the earth."
Apparently, there was a pause in God's communication with Noah and his sons
after He finished giving His instructions to them concerning the future responsibilities
of them and their offspring.
Then, once again God began speaking this time to convey the gracious promises
of His rainbow covenant.
There are many important covenants in Scripture – with Moses, with the nation of Israel,
with David, and, especially, the "new covenant" (Hebrews 8:8).
However, in these verses is the first use of the actual word (except for its promise,
in Genesis 6:18).
Presumably, then, this was the first covenant.
Some writers do speak of an Edenic covenant and an Adamic covenant, but the word itself
(Hebrew berith) was not used in connection with God's dealings with Adam.
The protevangelic promise of Genesis 3:15 might be understood as such a covenant,
but Scripture itself does not use that term in connection with it.
It is significant that the Noahic covenant was not only with Noah and his descendants,
but also with the animals going out of the Ark and their descendants, even though animals
do not possess an eternal soul and spirit, as men do, they are God's creatures;
and He is concerned about them (note Matthew 6:26; 10:29; John 4: 11).
Perhaps, it is especially significant that the wild beasts are mentioned twice by God,
as though to emphasize that even that portion of the animal kingdom which might
superficially seem to be of least concern to the Creator is also under His providential care.
Floods may be especially destructive to those animals which can either fly
or depend on man for assistance, and so God makes a special point that these will
never have to fear another worldwide flood.
Note the description of those animals with whom His covenant was made:
"all that go out of the Ark."
Here is another incidental reference to the universality of the Flood, since otherwise
all land animals surviving a mere local flood would not have come under the terms
of God's covenant.
Genesis 9:11, 12: "And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh
be cut off anymore by the waters of a flood; neither shall there be any more a flood
to destroy the earth.
And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you,
and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:"
In this verse God again employs the term "covenant," as had been done in sentences 6:18,
as well as here in verses 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, and 17 – a total of no less than eight times!
Evidently, God regarded it as important that "perpetual generations" should continually
remember this tremendous unconditional covenant which He made with all men
right at the very beginning of this age.
The tragedy is, that though all men admire the beautiful rainbow, few any longer associate it
with God's promise; nor do many even believe that that ever was such a Flood!
Nevertheless, God did make His promise that never would the "mabbul", again
(the definite article before "Flood" is justified in the original).
Here also is another verse that indicates the earth, as well as man,
had been destroyed by the Flood.
It is obvious, of course, that if the Flood were only a local flood, then the great promise
in this verse is meaningless.
There have been many destructive local floods throughout history.
God not only made His covenant with man, but also proceeded to tell him that
He will give a perpetual token, or sign, by which he is to be reminded
perpetually of his covenant.
The word for "token" (Hebrew oth) is the same word translated "sign" in Genesis 1:14
in connection with the promise of the heavenly bodies, and translate "mark"
in connection with God's protection of Cain (Genesis 4:15).
Genesis 9:13-17: "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant
between me and the earth.
And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow
shall be seen in the cloud:
And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature
of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember
the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh
that is upon the earth.
And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established
between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”
For the "token of the covenant," God established the beautiful rainbow in the clouds.
Just as the fossil-bearing rocks of the earth's crust would continue to remind us
that God once destroyed the earth with a Flood, so the rainbow after the rain would remind us
that He will never do so again,
in fact, regardless of the latter-date threats of thermonuclear bombs, death rays, germ warfare,
pollution of the atmosphere and hydrosphere, and other fearful things,
we have God's promise that, at least until the end of the millennium – "while the earth remaimeth"
– He will never again "smite any more everything living" (Genesis 8:21, 22).
It is not only that man himself would see the rainbow, God also would "look upon it,"
whenever he would "bring a cloud over the earth," and would "remember his covenant."
This was peculiarly "my bow," according to the Lord, probably referring to the fact
that it had just now been formed as a result of the great Flood
which He had brought on the earth.
In these verses, the Lord seems to be repeating, over and over in various ways,
His great promise and covenant with all flesh.
Such repetition was no doubt a great comfort and assurance to those who had been through
such traumatic experiences during the awful year of the Flood and who, apart from God's promise,
would have had little hope for the future.
But the same Lord who had seen them safely through the Flood would also protect
and provide for them in the future; and in the month and years to come,
they would often remember these promises.
There would be many devastating local floods, continuing earthquakes and volcanism,
cold winters and even a long Ice Age, and many other disturbances in the physical earth,
all a part of the "residual catastrophism" resulting from the upheavals of the great Flood.
But over and over again, after a period of such storms and convulsions, they would see
the beautiful rainbow traversing the heavens, and remember that God was still on His throne
and the world was safe from destruction.
Furthermore, they had His word that His covenant was an everlasting covenant.
It was valid for them and for their children to "perpetual generations," until God's great
promised time of consummation and restoration of all things.
The rainbow, spanning from one end of heaven to the other, would remind them
that God's promises were from eternity to eternity, from beginning to end.
So, the rainbow demonstrates most gloriously the grace of God.
The pure white light from the unapproachable holiness of His throne (1 Timothy 6:16)
is refracted, as it were, through the glory clouds surrounding His presence (1 Kings 8:10, 11),
breaking into all the glorious colors of God's creation.
In wrath, He remembers mercy.
The glory follows the suffering; and where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!
The rainbow reappears only three more times in Scripture.
Once, in Ezekiel 1:28, the rainbow is seen surrounding the throne of God as He prepares
to visit judgment on His people Israel.
Again, the rainbow is seen around His throne just before the coming Great Tribulation,
in Revelation 4:3.In both these cases, the picture is one of imminent judgment and suffering,
but only limited judgment and suffering, with God's grace ruling over all.
Finally, when the mighty angel of Revelation 10:1, who can be none other than
the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, comes to claim dominion over the world, which He had created
but which had long been under the dominion of the wicked one, He is accompanied
by the same "seven thunders" of judgment which apparently had once cried forth
at the time of the Flood (Revelation 10:3, 4, compared with Psalm 29:3-10).
And instead of a crown of thorns, which once He wore as He bore the Curse for us, t
he Word says there will be "the rainbow upon his head."
The definite article is in the original: the rainbow.
This can hardly refer to any other rainbow than to "my bow," the token of the
everlasting covenant between God and all flesh (Genesis 9:16, with Revelation 10:6).
Furthermore, it is in this glorious apparel that we will see our Lord Jesus Christ
"crowned with glory and honour, that he had by the grace of God should
taste death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9).
The Sons of Noah
These so-called race question has certainly been one of the most important issues of our time.
The same is true for the issue of nationalism versus internationalism.
The existence of distinctive races and nations and languages is obviously a fact of modern life,
in spite of the efforts of many modern sociologists and politicians to breakdown
all racial and national barriers.
The problems created by these issues often seem almost insurmountable.
The true origin of the world's various races and nations, and the events associated with it,
must be clearly understood and placed in the right perspective before these problems
can never be adequately resolved.
The Genesis record gives us the only fully reliable account of these matters,
and it is thus urgently important that we understand and believe what it says.
In the world today there seem to be several major "races" (3 to 6 or more, depending on
the particular system of classification), perhaps 150 or so nations of some significance,
and well over 3000 tribal languages and dialects.
Yet this diversity of peoples and tongues must have come from a common ancestor,
because all of these are true men, capable of physical relationships, capable of learning
and education, and even capable of spiritual fellowship with the Creator,
through faith in Christ.
The origin of races and nations is still a mystery to most scientists, determined as they are to explain man in his cultures in an evolutionary framework.
There are numerous contradictory theories on these matters among anthropologists
and ethnologists, but the only fully reliable record of the true origin of races, nations,
and languages is found here in Genesis 9 through 11.
Genesis 9:18, 19: "And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark,
were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread."
Although the "sons of Noah" have been referred to several times throughout the Flood narrative,
they are here actually once again identified by name.
Although, when listed, their names are usually given in the order "Shem, Ham, and Japheth"
(Genesis 5:32; 6:10; 7:13; 9:18), it is not certain as to what chronological order
actually applies to them.
In any case, it was from these three, and their wives, that "the whole earth was overspread."
Scripture is quite explicit in teaching that all men now living in the world are descended
from Noah through his three sons (see also Genesis 10:32; Acts 17:26).
All the physical characteristics of the three different nations and tribes must, therefore,
have been present in the genetic constitutions of the six people who came through
the Flood in the Ark.
Somehow, by the regular mechanisms of genetics – variation, recombination –
all the various groups of nations and tribes must have developed from this beginning.
It is interesting that in this summary verse, Ham is identified particularly as the one
of Noah's sons who was the father of Canaan.
Canaan seems to have been Ham's youngest son (Genesis 10:6), and was no more
prominent in history than his other sons.
Presumably, he is singled out for special mention because of his being the ancestor
of the Canaanites, who were the wicked inhabitants of the land promised to Abraham
and to the children of Israel, at the time when Moses was later editing this narrative
and leading his people there.
Genesis 9:20, 21: "And Noah began to be a husband-man, and he planted a vineyard:
and he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent."
Noah and his family, according to ancient traditions at least, lived for a goodly number of years
after the Flood on the lower slopes on the northern side of Mount Ararat.
Although Noah lived for 300 years after the Flood, he never had any other sons.
Shem, Ham, and Japheth lived near him and soon began to raise families of their own.
All three of these sons had been born after Noah 500 years old (Genesis 5:32)
and before he was, say, 575 years old (since they were all grown and married before
his 600th year, when the Flood came).
The Adamic nature was, of course, still up part of the Noahic heredity.
This fact, coupled with a terrible moral environment of the antediluvian world, was bound
to leave Noah and his sons still subject to Satanic temptation.
Ham, specially, seems to have been secretly rebellious and carnally minded, even though
a real believer in God.
The tragic story of Noah's drunkenness and the sudden unveiling of Ham's rebellious heart
provides graphic evidence that, despite the cleansing judgment of the Flood,
man was still a sinner and Satan still "the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience"
But the behavior of Shem and Japheth, as well as that of Ham, in this time of sudden
family crisis, provides the clue to their characters and the occasion
for Noah's remarkable prophecy.
The first time "wine" is mentioned in the Bible occurs here in connection with the drunkenness
and shame of Noah.
Undoubtedly the nature of the wine was well known for the antediluvians,
and there is no intimation in Scripture that Noah was not fully aware of what he was doing
when he made and drank his wine.
Scripture does not hesitate to call attention to the failures of even the most saintly of man.
Noah, having stood strong against the attacks of evil man for hundreds of years,
remaining steadfast in the face of such opposition and discouragement as few men
have ever faced, now let down his guard, as it were, when it seemed that all would be peace
and victory from now on.
After everything he had been through, what harm could there be in a little relaxation
and a little provision for the comforts of the flesh?
But the Scripture warns: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil,
as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan had been unable to corrupt family of Noah before the Flood although he had succeeded
with all other families; and now he seized his opportunity.
The formation of intoxicating wine from the pure, healthful juice of grapes is a perfect symbol
of corruption and decay.
The process of fermentation is a decay process and the effect of drinking the alcoholic product
of this decay is likewise, in several respects, a "breaking down," both physically and morally.
It is essentially the same process as that of "leavening," which is everywhere in Scripture
symbolic of corruption.
Probably, Noah had no intention of drinking to excess, but he did.
The artificial heat induced by the wine compelled him to throw off his clothing
and finally he lay down in his tent in a drunken sleep.
Noah cannot be excused for this on the basis of his ignorance that the new wine will decay
into intoxicating wine (some writers have suggested that the different atmospheric conditions
before the Flood somehow inhibited the decay process, but there seems to be no reasonable
scientific basis for this idea), but this seems to have been his only significant moral lapse
in a long life of faithful obedience to God under the most difficult of circumstances.
Genesis 9:22, 23: "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father,
and told his two brethren without.
And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward,
and covered the nakedness of their fathers; and their faces were backward,
and they saw not their father's nakedness."
As Noah lay sleeping on his couch, his robe fallen on the floor where he had dropped it
when he, only half aware of what he was doing, threw it off,
Ham happened to enter his tent.
This event took place probably many decades after the Flood, because Canaan,
the youngest of Ham's four sons, was at least sufficiently mature for the bent of his character
to be well known to his grandfather Noah.
Ham, along with Shem and Japheth, had undoubtedly each established his own independent
residence at some distance from that of Noah, but maintained contact with him
by occasional visits.
Noah thought he was alone while he was savoring the wind he had made,
and thus had no idea that anyone would see him that day.
If he had been anticipating such a visit, he would certainly have been more careful.
But he was not careful, and Satan seized on this rare opportunity, implanting somehow
within Ham's mind the desire to call unexpectedly on his father at that particular time.
As Ham entered the tent, he was surprised to see his father lying there,
naked and in a drunken sleep.
But he did more than see him.
The word "saw," in this context implies "gazed at" – evidently with satisfaction.
Some commentators have interpreted this account as Ham experiencing homosexual lust
and perhaps even a homosexual act on his father (because of the phrase "done to him"
in verse 24).
The passage does not say this, however, and therefore such an interpretation is unwarranted.
Ham was a believer, after all, and had entered the Ark voluntarily to escape the moral corruption
in the old world.
A much more probable interpretation of Ham's actions here is that they expressed
a long-hidden resentment of his father's authority and moral rectitude.
There was apparently a carnal and rebellious bent to Ham's nature, thus far restrained
by the spiritual strength and patriarchal authority of his father.
However, now beholding the evidence of his father's human weakness before his very eyes,
he rejoiced, no doubt feeling a sense of release from all the inhibitions which had until now
suppressed his own drives and ambitions.
Thinking his brothers would share his satisfaction, he hastened to find them
and tell them the savory news.
Literally, the text means "he told with delight."
Shem and Japheth, however, reacted quite differently than Ham.
They did rush to Noah's tent, but not to revel in his weakness and shame.
Instead, they refused even to look at their father.
Doing what they could to help him, they covered him with a garment he had discarded.
Apparently they did not rebuke Ham verbally, but their actions were a stronger rebuke
than anything they could have said.
Ham's sin was not so much one of immoral lust or prurient pleasure in what he saw,
though there may have been an element of this present.
Rather it was one of rebellion against his father's authority, plus resentment against
the entire moral standard and been taught and enforced by Noah in his family
for well over 100 years.
Fundamentally, his act revealed an attitude of resentment against God Himself,
a character trait which was bound to crop out explosively someday, if not in Ham,
then in his children.
Genesis 9:24: "And Noah awoke from his wine,
and knew what his younger son had done unto him."
Eventually Noah awakened "from his wine" – that is, from his wine stupor.
He noticed the robe that had been placed on him.
Obviously, someone had placed it there.
Perhaps he vaguely remembered throwing it off the evening before; but in any case,
it was not on him in the same fashion as if he had merely lain on the couch
fully clothed to take a nap.
He must have inquired, first from his wife (if she was still living) and then from his sons,
until he learned fully what had transpired.
As ashamed as he must have been of his own moral lapse, he realized that the sin of Ham
was far greater, since it revealed a heart of rebellion and unbelief – not only against his father
but also against his father's God.
Similarly, the act of Shem and Japheth plainly testified of both their respect for their father
and their own reverential faith in the Lord.
The Noahic Prophecy
With the deepest hearts of his own sons now laid bare before him, Noah was moved to make
the great prophetic declaration of verses 25-27.
To some extent the insight thus revealed concerning the future was no doubt based
on the insight he had gained into the character of his sons.
Knowing them, and their children, he could foresee the future course their descendants
would necessarily tend to follow, because of their respective genetic inheritances,
as well as from the teachings and example set by their fathers.
More importantly he spoke in the Spirit, prophesying as the Spirit gave utterance.
First, he had to take proper note of what "his younger son had done unto him."
It is probable, though not certain, that the adjective "younger" here actually means "youngest,"
Ham being Noah's youngest son and Japheth the "eldest" (Genesis 10:21).
It is significant that as the great prophecy of Genesis 3:15-19 was given as a result
of the fall of Adam, this prophecy was given as a result of the fall of Noah.
The parallel between the two situations is striking.
Both Adam and Noah were commanded to fill the earth and exercise control over it.
Each of them is actually the ancestor of all men in the present world.
Each sinned by partaking of a fruit – Noah of the fruit of the vine and Adam of the fruit
of the tree of knowledge.
As a result, each became naked and then was provided with a covering by someone else.
Finally the prophecy resulted in a curse which has affected mankind ever since.
Along with the curse, however, there were also a blessing and anticipation
of ultimate salvation.
According to Acts 17:26, God has a specific time and place and purpose for each nation
throughout the ages.
Although each race and nation were to contribute to the corporate life of mankind as a whole,
the overriding purpose of ever national entity was "that they should seek the Lord"
Genesis 9:25: "And he said, Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren."
Noah's prophetic words were directed first toward Ham (in the person of his son Canaan),
then Shem, then Japheth, the order probably representing the order of age
from the youngest to the eldest, as noted above.
Because of the seriousness of his offense, Ham received first attention.
While he could gladly pronounce a blessing on his son's Shem and Japheth,
Noah could not bring himself to pronounce a curse directly on his other son, Ham,
though he knew prophetically that such a curse would be the lot of his descendants.
So instead he said, as it were: "Cursed is [not 'be'] Canaan, since he, along with
his older brothers [Cush, Mizraim, and Phut], has inherited the carnal and materialistic
nature of his father Ham."
It has long been argued whether this curse applies only to Canaan
or to all the descendents of Ham.
The difficulty with applying it only to Canaan is threefold:
1. The prophecy seems intended to be symmetrical and worldwide, applying to all
of Noah's descendents.
2. If it deals solely with Canaan, it has been fulfilled only very sporadically
The descendents of Canaan included, for example, the Phoenicians and Hittites,
who constituted two of the greatest nations of antiquity for a long time
It is true that even these, as well as the other Canaanites, were eventually subjugated
or destroyed by their enemies; but the same fate befell many of the descendants
of Shem and Japheth also.
3. Finally, it was the sin of Ham (not Canaan) that had served as the occasion
for his father's curse, and it would have been inappropriate for Noah to single out only one
of Ham' s four sons as bearing the burden of the curse.
So, it seems necessary to understand this as Hamitic, rather than Canaanitic, curse,
with Canaan mentioned specifically in order to stress that the terms of the prophecy
extended to all of Ham's sons, even his youngest.
In the context of the immediate situation, it may also have been a reaction to Noah's hurt,
that is, as Noah's youngest son had brought grief to his own heart, so he especially
singled out Ham's youngest son in his prophecy.
Assuming that the curse did apply to the Hamitic peoples in general, what was its meaning
and how has it been fulfilled?
"A servant of servants shall he be to his brethren" can hardly mean "a slave of slaves,"
because such a situation has never occurred among the descendants of any
of Ham's four sons, including Canaan.
The descendants of Ham included the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Ethiopians,
and other great nations of the past; and there is a good possibility they include some
of the great Asiatic nations of the present as well.
Unfortunately, there have been some interpreters who have applied the Hamic curse
specifically to the Negro peoples, using it to justify keeping the black man
in economic servitude or even slavery.
However, it is obvious that the prophecy applies not only to black Africans
but also to all of the descendants of Ham (most of whom are not blacks),
and no more of the Hamic peoples have experience at servitude during their history
than the non-Hamitic peoples.
If "servant of servants" does not mean "lowest slave," then what does it mean?
Although the word "servant" is used frequently in the Old Testament,
this is the only place where "servant of servants" occurs.
In the next two verses, Noah predicted that Canaan would be both "servant" to Shem
and "servant" to Japheth.
In other words, the nations descended from Ham will be servants not only to one other nation
or one other group of nations, but to all of the nations.
This unique and worldwide "service" is probably in part what is meant by the superlative
"servant of servants."
However, it might be objected that the Hamitic nations have never been under worldwide
subjugation to the Japhetic and Semitic nations (neither, for that matter,
have the Canaanites alone).
In answer to this objection, it may be noted that a servant is not necessarily a slave.
In fact, the word is used much more often to refer to one who has the position of "steward,"
a very honorable position in a household, rather than to one who is a slave.
This is the first mention of the word "servant" in the Bible and, as such,
undoubtedly has special significance.
In a sense, it may be prophetic of Christ, who was in the fullest degree made to be
a servant of servants for all the world, bearing the curse for us
(Philippians 2:6-8; Galatians 3:10, 13).
There is one other possibility, which does not seem to fit all the facts of the case.
If "servant" in this case means "steward," then the prediction becomes one of material service
Man in general is God steward over the physical world and its processes,
as well as its living creatures.
Because of man's sin, the ground had already come under God's "curse" (Genesis 3:17);
and man was from then on to develop and utilize its resources for the sustenance of life
"in the sweat of his face."
However, man still had the responsibility of subduing and exercising dominion over the earth
and its creatures (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8:6-9), a responsibility which demanded
first of all that he seek to understand his dominion.
This would require intellectual effort, research, knowledge, and everything that is involved
in the term "science," as well as "philosophy."
The greatest of man's responsibility was to fill the earth, not only with physical descendants
(Genesis 1: 28; 9:1) but "with the knowledge of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14).
He was to teach men to "call upon the name of the Lord" (Genesis 4:26), preserving
and transmitting the promises of God until the coming of the world's Redeemer.
So mankind had three fundamental types of duties to perform as God steward over the world:
1. Spiritual – receiving, conserving, and teaching the knowledge of the word of God.
2. Intellectual – expanding and teaching the knowledge of the world of God.
3. Physical – providing the material means for man's bodily needs and comforts,
thus enabling him to fulfill his intellectual and spiritual functions more effectively.
These three duties correspond to the triparite nature of man: spirit, soul, and body.
To some degree every person has all three capacities, but in each person
one usually dominates.
That is, some people are dominated by physical considerations, some by intellectual,
some by spiritual.
The same generalization applies to nations; some have been historically primarily motivated
by religious considerations, some by philosophical and scientific thinking,
others by materialistic (or so-called practical) pursuits.
So, it is very significant that these first three progenitors of all modern nations
were recognized by their father to have characteristics representing these three emphasis.
Shem was mainly motivated by spiritual considerations, Japheth by intellectual,
and Ham by physical; and the same would be true (in a very general way) of the nations
descending from them, by reasons of both genetic inheritance and parental example.
Each was regarded as God's servants – Shem in spiritual service and Japheth
in intellectual service.
Ham, responsible for physical service, so was a "servant of servants,"
serving both Shem and Japheth, who were also servants.
He would provide the physical means (food, clothing, shelter, weapons, machinery,
transportation, technological inventions, and equipment of all kinds)
which would enable his brothers to carry out their spiritual and mental responsibilities
toward mankind and toward God.
In this way, Ham also would be serving God.
Since Ham would be concerned more directly than the others with the "ground
which the Lord hath cursed" (Genesis 5:29), the great Curse would be felt more directly
by him than the others.
In this sense, the Hamitic responsibility was in itself a "curse," even though his duties
were absolutely necessary for the accomplishment of God's purposes in mankind.
This prediction by Noah was a spiritually inspired prophecy (not one that was born out
of Noah's resentment), appropriate to the nature of Ham and his sons, and concerned,
as it has shown himself to be, mainly with physical considerations.
Assuming (as will be discussed more completely in the next chapter) that we can identify
very well the Semitic nations (Jews, Arabs, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, etc.)
and the Japhetic nations (Indo – Europeans), then by process of elimination
all others are Hamitic.
The Hamities, in general, have been largely unconcerned with the the science, philosophy,
or theology, and have been occupied largely with material pursuits.
They have often been great inventories and technologists, as well as hard laborers
on farms and hard fighters in battle.
Descendants of Ham included the Egyptians and Sumerians, who founded the first two great
empires of antiquity, as well as other great nations such as the Phoenicians, Hittites,
and Canaanites.The modern African tribes and the Mongol tribes (including today the Chinese
and Japanese), as well as the American Indians and the South Sea Islanders,
are probably dominantly Hamitic in origin.
Among the many ways in which the Hamites have been the great "service" of mankind
are the following:
1. They were the original explorers and settlers of practically all parts of the world,
following the dispersal at Babel.
2. They were the first cultivators of most of the basic food staples of the world,
such as potatoes, corn, beans, cereals, and others, as well as the first ones
to domesticate most animals.
3. They developed most of the basic types of structural forms and building tools and materials.
4. They were the first to develop most of the usual fabrics for clothing and the various
sewing and weaving devices.
5. They discovered and invented a wide variety of medicines and surgical practices
6. They invented most of the concepts of basic practical mathematics,
as well as surveying and navigation.
7. The machinery of commerce and trade – money, banks, postal system,
and so forth – were developed by them.
8. They developed paper, ink, block printing, movable type, and other accouterments of writing and communication.
If we can trace back far enough, we find it practically ever other basic system or device
needed for man's physical sustenance or convenience originated
with one of the Hamitic peoples.
They really have been the "servants" of mankind and the most amazing way.
Yet the prophecy had an obverse side as well.
The Hamites have usually been able to go only so far with their explorations and inventions,
and no farther.
The Japhethites and Semites have, sooner or later, taken over their territories and their inventions,
and then developed and utilized them to their own advantage in accomplishing
their own "service" to mankind.
Sometimes the Hamites, especially the Negros, have even become actual slave to the others.
Possessed of genetic character concerned mainly with mundane, practical matters,
they have often eventually been displaced by the intellectual and philosophical acumen
of the Japhethites and the religious zeal of the Semites.
These very general and broad national and racial characteristics obviously admit
of many exceptions on individual genetic basis.
It is also obvious that the prophecy is of divine description of future facts,
in no way needing the deliberate assistance of the Semites or the Japhethites
for its accomplishment.
Neither Negroes nor any other Hamitic people is intended to be forcibly subjugated
on the basis of this Noahic declaration.
The prophecy would be fulfilled because of innate genetics and divine leaning,
not by virtue of any artificial constraints imposed by man.
Genesis 9:26: "And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem;
and Canaan shall be your servant."
Having predicted Ham's primary relationship to the cursed ground, along with his material
responsibilities to mankind, Noah turned his attention to his next son, Shem.
Not only by his action of filial respect, but apparently also by the character of life
closely observed by his father, Shem had long indicated his love for the Lord God
and his faith in God's promises.
So, knowing you that God spiritual blessings was especially rest on Shem,
and so he exclaimed: "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem!
Shem knew the Lord personally, in his covenant relationship, and so knew Him
by the name Jehovah.
This strongly implies, even though it is not explicitly stated that it was through Shem
that God's greatest blessing for mankind, the promise Seed of the woman,
would eventually come into the world.
Shem would not be prevented from transmitting God spiritual blessings to mankind
through future opposition by Canaan and the other sons of Ham, for indeed Canaan
would be his "servant," helping him to accomplish it.
Genesis 9:27: "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem;
and Canaan shall be his servant"
Now coming to Japheth, Noah prophesied that Japheth would be "enlarged"
and that the Hamites would also be of service to him in this function.
Pathah, the Hebrew word used here is not the usual word for "enlarge" and is so translated
only in this one instance.
Apparently it does not refer to a geographical enlargement, or which the Hebrew rachab
would have been suited (actually both Semites and Hamites have spread geographically
as far as the Japhethities).
The word is usually translated "entice" or "persuade."
However, in this particular form in which it occurs in this verse, it occurs only this one time;
and translators have been unanimous in rendering it "be enlarged."
It is apparently derived from the word "to make open" (Hebrew pathach).
It seems most probable, putting all this together, that the thought here
is one of mental enlargement.
If one is "persuaded" or "enticed," his previous opinions have been altered,
he has changed his mind, or "opened" his mind.
Japheth was an open-minded man, and so would be his descendants.
The Japhethities would be intellectually curious, explorers in the world thought,
as Ham with the in the physical realm and Shem in the spiritual.
Not only would Japheth be intellectually enlarge, but he would also "dwell in the tents of Shem."
This is a common figure of speech meaning "have fellowship with him."
So "dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Psalm 84:10) means "live in wickedness,
out of fellowship with God."
Japheth would not literally live in the same tents (same word as (tabernacles") with Shem,
but he would come to share in Shem's inheritance – that is, his spiritual blessings,
which constituted the essence of Shem's inheritance at prophesied by Noah.
Though Shem would be the means of mankind us receiving God's great spiritual promises,
Japheth would also appropriate these blessings to himself by enjoying fellowship with Shem.
As Shem and Japheth had unitedly showed respect to their father and their fathers God,
so they would unitedly worship "the Lord God of Shem."
On the other hand, the Hamites by implication would not do so, but would presumably
follow other gods of their own devising.
Nevertheless, Ham's "service" would contribute to the purpose of the true God for all men.
Although Noah's threefold prophecy had been abundantly fulfilled in general and in principle
throughout history, it surely allows for individual exceptions.
That is, a particular descendent of Ham may be very spiritually minded and become
a fruitful servant of the true God.
A particular descendent of Japheth may be dull of mind why skilled in technological devices.
A particular Semite may be an atheist.
However, in general it has been true throughout history that the Semites have been dominated
by religious motivations centered in monotheism (the Jews, the Muslims, the Zoroastrians, etc.).
The Japhethites (especially the Greeks, Romans, and later the other Europeans
and the Americans) have stressed science and philosophy in their development.
The Hamites (Egyptians, Phoenicians, Sumerians, Orientals, Africans, etc.) have been
the great pioneers that opened up the world to settlement, to cultivation, and to technology.
Each stream of nations has influenced the other is, of course, and there has been much mixing
of peoples from different tribes and nations; so there may well be many apparent exceptions
to the general trends.
But it is possible to discern these general trends, and they do follow the prophetic pattern
outlined thousands of years ago by father Noah.
The Semites have been predominant in theology, Japhethities in science and philosophy,
the Hamites and technology.
Notice that these three streams of nations are not three "races."
Though some have thought of the Semites, Japhethities, and Hamites as three races
(say, the dusky, the white, and the black races – or the Mongoloid, Caucasian, and Negroid),
this is not what the Bible teaches, nor is it what modern anthropology and human genetics teach.
There are dusky and black people found among all the three groups of nations.
The Bible does not use the word "race" nor does it acknowledge such a concept.
The modern concept of "race" is based on evolutionary thinking.
To the evolutionist, a race is a subspecies in the process of evolving into a new species,
and this idea is the basis of modern racism.
The actual original descendents of Shem, Ham, and Japheth are identified in Genesis 10,
as we will discuss in the next chapter.
Genesis 9:28, 29: "And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.
And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died."
These verses conclude the ninth chapter of Genesis as well as the story of Noah.
Noah himself was not greatly affected by the changed atmospheric conditions following the Flood,
as were his descendants, and so lived another 350 years, dying at the advanced age of 950,
having lived longer than any of his ancestors except Jared (962) and Methuselah (969).
If there are no gaps the genealogies of Genesis 11, this means that Noah continued living
until Abraham was about 58 years old.
On the other hand, as indicated in the next chapter, there is at least a possibility
that some gaps of uncertain duration may exist in the genealogies.
However, it is at least likely that Noah lived until after the dispersion of the nations at Babel.
This concludes Genesis 9