In The Beginning

Genesis Chapter Nine

I

"Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The 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'" (Genesis 9:1-2). 

In saying that that God "blessed" Noah in these verses, the Scriptures use a word that involves the idea of granting or bestowing a benefit upon someone. (1) Since the world had basically started all over again now that the Flood was over, God gave Noah the same kind of blessing that He originally gave to Adam earlier in Genesis chapter one: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28 NKJV).  

Now when God says, "Be fruitful..." the obvious connection is that God wants Noah's family to have children and get the Earth's population going again. But this concept of "fruitfulness" is also found in the Scriptures in a different sense as well. For instance, just as tree can be indentified by the fruit it produces, a person can also be identified by the result or "fruit" that his or her actions produce. 

If we could rephrase this idea in Biblical terms, we might say that the results or "fruit" that your life produces will always have some kind of effect in the lives of others for better or worse. This is important because everyone has some degree of influence with others, even if it's only just among a few people. 

For example, someone's circle of influence might include his or her friends at school. It could include the people that someone works with. It may include a girlfriend or boyfriend or teammate or a member of someone's family. 

The point is that everyone has relationships that allow them to have some degree of influence with someone else. This means that everyone is a peer leader to some extent and everyone constantly influences others by the things they say and do. 

Because of this, you should never underestimate the impact that you can have on people by living a God-honoring lifestyle. You may think that that you're not really having an impact for God in your school or in your neighborhood but you might be having more of an effect than you think. You never know what God may be doing behind the scenes with your example and just because you don't see any fruit doesn't necessarily that God isn't working to make good things happen.

(1) "barak" OT:1288 Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary

II

But this idea of "fruitfulness" is also true in an opposite sense as well.  For instance, there are definite consequences that are sure to follow anyone who makes a choice to abuse alcohol or drugs or get involved in an inappropriate physical relationship, just to name a few examples. The "fruit" or result of those choices and their consequences are sure to have a negative impact and influence in the lives of others. 

It's important to remember that these choices don't only affect the person who is directly involved- they also affect that person's friends, family members, and maybe even people that he or she doesn't even know. The fruit that your life produces will always have some kind of impact on others for better or for worse. Now this is not to say that you can't learn a good lesson from someone's negative example, but it's certainly better to watch and learn from a positive influence rather than a negative one.

So how can you make sure that your life produces the right kind of fruit? Well, here's what Jesus had to say on that subject to His followers in John 15:1-8: 

 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. 

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Jesus is the vine that supplies what we need to produce the right kind of fruit (or consequences) in our lives. If we get cut off from Him, then nothing that's ultimately useful or meaningful will ever be produced from our lives.

III

"Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And 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. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it" (Genesis 9:3-7).

These verses talk about a concept that's known as "capital punishment." This term refers to a death penalty that's given to someone who has committed a crime. For example, Genesis 9:6 identifies murder as one type of crime that's worthy of capital punishment when it says, "Whoever takes a man's life, by man will his life be taken; because God made man in his image" (BBE)

This may be surprising to anyone who is familiar with the Bible because it seems to conflict with one of the Ten Commandments that we read later on in the Old Testament book of Exodus. For example, Commandment number six tells us, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13 KJV). So if Genesis 9:6 says, "If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands" (NLT) but Exodus 20:13 tells us, "You shall not kill" (RSV), then what should we do with these apparent conflicts?

Well, the first thing we should note is that the Old Testament word for "kill" in Exodus 20:13 is really more accurately translated as "murder" and that's the way this word appears in many modern Biblical versions. (1)  This means that the sixth commandment ("Thou shall not kill") is best understood as, "Thou shall not murder" or, "Do not terminate someone's life without just cause." 

This means that the Bible makes a distinction between killing and murder. "Killing" is not always murder because there may be situations when there is just cause for killing someone else. Those situations may include things like self-defense or a situation where a soldier kills another soldier in a time of war. It can also include those situations where someone has committed a crime that's worthy of the death penalty, just as we see above.

Murder (or the unlawful killing of one human being by another) is a crime that shows a disregard for human life and contempt for God because people are made in God's image. Because of this, God says that all murderers are subject to the death penalty and will have to answer directly to Him for what they have done.

(1) The New King James (NKJV), New Living Translation (NLT), New International Version (NIV), and Contemporary English Version (CEV) are a few examples

IV

"Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 'I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and 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. I 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" (Genesis 9:8-11).

What is this "covenant" that God sets up with Noah in these verses? Well, a "covenant" is something like a contract or agreement that we might see between two people or groups today. A covenant is like a contract in the sense that it involves legal promises that are made between two parties. 

You can see this idea in action today whenever one person or company agrees to provide a certain amount of goods or services to another in exchange for a specified amount of money. Once the negotiations are finished, the two parties will then sign a contract to make their agreement official and legally binding.

In a similar way, God's covenant with Noah represents a legal and official promise to do what He says. However there are some big differences between the covenants that God establishes with people (like the one we see here with Noah) and the agreements that people often negotiate with each other. For example, God always takes the initiative in establishing a covenant and He never bargains or negotiates the terms. Instead, God decides on the terms and conditions of each covenant and then calls on people to accept them. 

These covenants typically feature a list of good things that God promises to do for His people and then specifies how they should respond. This list is then often followed by another list of bad things that will happen if people don't do what they should. 

A good example of this is found in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy where chapters 28-30 talk about all the good things that God wants to do for His people and a list of all the bad things that will happen if they reject His covenant. Right near the end of that passage, God sums up His desire for people regarding His covenant promises...

"I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live" (Deuteronomy 30:19 GW).

V

"I 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" (Genesis 9:11).

If you read through the Scriptures (especially in the Old Testament), you can find that God made a number of covenants with people. For example, the Scripture quoted above tells us about God's covenant with Noah and His promise to never destroy the world again by way of a flood. 

We'll see an example of another important covenant later in the book of Genesis when God makes a promise to a man named Abraham to bless his descendants and make them as numerous as the stars in the sky. We'll take a closer look at that covenant when we get to Genesis chapter 15.

In saying, "I am making my promise to you. Never again will all life be killed by floodwaters. Never again will there be a flood that destroys the earth" (GW), God makes an important promise to Noah. You see, without this promise from God, every new rainfall carried the possibility of another big flood. But Noah didn't need to worry about that because of God's promise and covenant with him. In other words, Noah had God's absolute promise and agreement to never flood out the world again.

God then went on to give Noah a visible and recognizable sign to back up that promise...

"And 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: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth." 

"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. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever 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.' So God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth'" (Genesis 9:12-17).

So a rainbow is like God's signature on His agreement (or covenant) with Noah. It validates and confirms His promise to never to destroy the world with a flood ever again.

VI

"The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth. Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent" (Genesis 9:18-21).

Because there aren't any breaks in this record of events, this passage may seem to imply that Noah walked off the ark and got drunk right away. But remember that it takes some time to plant a vineyard, grow some grapes, harvest them, squeeze out the juice, ferment it, and then bottle everything up. 

This means that there must have been a significant passage of time involved in these verses, and it's likely that 3-5 years went by between the events of Genesis 9:18 and Genesis 9:21.  

Anyway, there's no question that Noah is certainly viewed as a great man of God today. For instance, Noah has a listing in the Bible's "faith hall of fame" that's found in Hebrews chapter 11. The New Testament book of 1 Peter also identifies him as a preacher of righteousness (3:20). Besides that, let's not forget that Noah was the man who -humanly speaking- basically saved humanity from the destruction caused by the Flood. 

So how does a guy like this end up getting so drunk that he passes out? This situation would be like going to a well known and respected church leader's house today and finding that person so drunk that he or she had lost consciousness. What would your reaction be if you came upon something like that? 

Well, Noah's experience tells us that even the most Godly people can still mess up very badly. This passage also reminds us that people can get into a lot of trouble and end up doing things they thought they'd never do because of alcohol. 

You see, the Bible speaks very strongly against alcohol abuse. For example, the Biblical book of Ephesians 5:18 tells us this...

"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit."

"Debauchery" (pronounced "de-baw-cha-ree") is a word that people don't really seem to use much anymore. This word means "to corrupt morally" (1) and it was used in the past to describe unmarried people who were living a very sexually active lifestyle. Today, we would would probably use words like "immoral," "loose," or "promiscuous" instead of a word like debauchery to describe such people. 

(1) "Debauch" The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

VII

"Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent" (Genesis 9:21).

In speaking of alcohol abuse, another version of Ephesians 5:18 says this: "Don't get drunk on wine, which leads to wild living..." (GW)

To get a better understanding of what this verse is talking about, let's say that a friend invites you to go to a party. So you go to this party with your friend but once you arrive, you start to feel a little awkward because you don't know a lot of people there. 

At this point, the ideal solution for many people is to have a few drinks so they can "loosen up" a little. So let's say that you have a few drinks and start "loosening up" and feeling more comfortable. And then maybe you have a few more drinks and loosen up some more. And then you have a few more drinks after that.

Sooner or later, you're bound to start feeling so loose that its only a matter of time before you end up doing some things that you weren't expecting to do at this party. Or maybe some people end up doing things with you that you weren't expecting to do. Or maybe a few other people end up doing some things to you that you weren't expecting them to do. Of course, you probably won't remember all those things, but that's OK- your "friends" will have them all recorded on their cell phones and soon everyone else will know them too. 

That's one reason why we get this warning from Ephesians 5:18: "Do not be drunk with wine, which will ruin you..." (NCV).

Listen, real life is not the way that you see it portrayed in beer commercials on TV. Many beer commercials try to imply that if you drink the right kind of beer then you can spend all your time on the ski-slopes or at the beach and party all night without having to sleep and that beautiful women or gorgeous guys will throw themselves at you- but those things will only happen if you drink their beer.

Of course, a beer commercial will never show anyone throwing up in the ladies room because they drank enough to make them sick. You'll never see anyone in a beer commercial being arrested for drunk driving after a traffic accident. You'll never see someone get so drunk that they pass out, or get date-raped, or urinate in the sink, or get into a drunken brawl in a beer commercial. But all these things happen in real life because of alcohol abuse

Unfortunately, Noah made this same type of mistake- and that decision lead to some other not-so-good things.

VIII

"When (Noah) drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside" (Genesis 9:21-22).

So Noah got so drunk that he somehow ended up being naked inside his tent. It was at that point that Noah's son Ham came along and saw what happened. Ham then went and reported what he saw to his brothers named Shem and Japeth. 

Now you might be thinking, "So what? He saw what happened and then told his brothers- what's the big deal about that?" Well, the first problem is that the context implies that Ham didn't just "see" Noah. The wording used here implies that Ham "gazed at" his father in his drunken state- evidentially with satisfaction, as one scholar-type puts it. (1)  

Another problem is that when Ham went back to talk to his brothers about what he had seen, the text also suggests that he "told with delight" the fact that his father had gotten drunk and passed out. (2) In other words, Noah's son Ham apparently got some sort of enjoyment or satisfaction from seeing his father in this condition. At the very least, Ham didn't do anything to help protect his father's dignity or allow him to maintain some self-respect.

In any event, Ham apparently took this situation as an opportunity to do some damage to his father's reputation and it seems that he wanted to encourage his brothers to do the same thing. But Noah's other sons were a lot more honorable and they decided to handle this situation in a different manner... 

"But 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" (Genesis 9:23).

Instead of following Ham's example and telling other people about what they knew, Shem and Japheth chose instead to deal with the situation in a way showed love, honor, and respect for their father. They didn't ignore the situation, or deny it, or try to pretend that nothing was wrong. Instead, they recognized that this was something that was clearly out of character for a Godly man like Noah and then helped him recover from it with dignity and respect. 

In doing so, Shem and Japeth became living examples of something that the Apostle Peter would write about later on as part of the New Testament...

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).

(1) Henry M. Morris The Genesis Record pg. 235

(2) David Guzik Commentary on Genesis http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0109.htm

IX

"But 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" (Genesis 9:23).

While Shem and Japeth certainly recognized that Noah had done something wrong, they chose to deal with the situation in a way that showed honor and respect for their father. Instead of making sure that other people knew about what they had seen, they took steps to help protect their father's dignity and make sure that other people didn't have the opportunity to find out what they knew (see Proverbs 17:9).

This incident with Noah and his sons also gives each of us something to think about as we interact with our parents and families. You see, your parents and other members of your family are also imperfect human beings who make mistakes, just like Noah. 

Hopefully, there won't be any family members who follow Noah's example in this situation and drink so much that they pass out. However, we can say that there will certainly be times when your parents or other family members will somehow fail to live up to standards that they should. 

When that happens, (as it does for everyone), does it imply that your parents or other family members are hypocrites who are not the people that they really claim to be? Well, the answer is no, not necessarily, but it does mean that your family consists of human beings who sin, make mistakes, and have to repent and ask forgiveness- just like you.

For example, many of you have the opportunity to live with one or both of your parents on a daily basis. This close relationship means that you are likely to be in a position to know things about your parent's character that most other people don't know. And unlike most people, the chances are also pretty good that you've seen one or both of your parents at their best, but also at their worst as well. 

The truth is that you've probably seen your parents at times when they were not acting very Godly. For example, everything in your family may look great to other people at church on Sunday mornings, but those people at church didn't live with your parents for the rest of the week- you did. If your parents were not everything that they should have been during that time, then you will probably be the one who will know. 

X

"Honor your father and mother. This is the first of God's Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: that if you honor your father and mother, yours will be a long life, full of blessing" (Ephesians 6:2-3). 

If your parents have done something out of character for a God-honoring person, you will have to make a choice: "Am I going to follow Ham's example with Noah or am I going to follow Shem and Japheth's example? Am I going to tell other people about how my parents didn't act in a Godly manner or am I going to help them to maintain some dignity and respect in front of others?

Now this does not mean that if there is a serious disagreement or problem in your family that you can't tell anyone about it. Matthew 18:15-17 tells us that the right thing to do in that situation is to start by discussing the matter with your parents first and then bring other God-honoring people into the picture if the problem can't be resolved. 

This also doesn't mean that you can't talk to someone else if there is something illegal, immoral, or unethical going on at home. Depending on the circumstances, it would be right to speak privately with law enforcement and/or your Pastor, Youth Pastor, or other church leader about the matter as soon as possible. 

In Noah's situation, his sons chose to demonstrate a Biblical principle that we also see in the New Testament book of Galatians...

"Dear brothers, if a Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help him back onto the right path, remembering that next time it might be one of you who is in the wrong"  (Galatians 6:1 TLB).

Remember that God is honored when you treat your parents with respect, even in situations where you know that they have messed up. 

"When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers." He also said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave"  (Genesis 9:24-27).

It seems strange that Ham's son Canaan was the one who was cursed as a result of this incident. It may be that Canaan was somehow involved in this situation in a way that the Bible doesn't mention. Or it could mean that since Ham chose not to honor his father, he will be destined to have a son of his own who will eventually bring dishonor to him.

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