Genesis 9:1-17 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 “And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 “And surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
by man his blood shall be shed,
for in the image of God He made man.
7 “And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”
8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11 “And I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 “And it shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 “When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Like last week, this is a sweet passage. For all who love God, long for His presence and blessing, and delight in the fact that He is King of kings, this part of Noah’s story truly is worship fuel. I find myself so thankful to God every time I encounter passages like this—passages describing God sovereignly working for His glory and the good of His people; passages with straight lines to Jesus. I hope you do too; especially this morning.
There are two key features to this section of scripture. The first is that everything in it is the result of God’s initiative. God is the only actor Genesis 9:1-17. Every sentence is a declaration of what God did, what God promised to do, what God commanded, and what God determined. God is always the initiator. Though we cannot always see that clearly (in the bible or in the world around us), in this passage we cannot miss it.
The second key feature is that this is a passage of remarkable blessing. God initiates to bless Noah, his family, and even the entire world in staggering ways. Just as we were in the Garden immediately after Adam and Eve were created, we’re presented here with a scene that is teeming with sweet, divine love and hope and promise.
There are also two clear sections to this passage. The first, 1-9, describes five specific blessings of God. And the second, 8-17 (there’s a little overlap between the sections), expands on the last of those divine blessings—God’s covenant with Noah. This sermon focus mostly on the first section. Beginning next week I’ll unpack the second section as a part of a larger explanation of covenants in the bible.
Grace, our God is a God of initiative and blessing and we see both in exciting ways in this passage. Let’s pray that God would grant us the ability to see those things clearly in the text, believe them deeply in our hearts, and act fully in light of them in our lives.
GOD BLESSED NOAH (1-9)
I vividly remember a story a pastor told of his time as a guest speaker at a conference. The gist of the story was that from beginning to end his hosts showed a kind of hospitality that he’d rarely experienced. From handling the logistics, to picking him up from the airport, to filling his room with gifts of his favorite things (favorite candy, sports team’s hat, author’s books, music, etc.), to their genuine kindness and love, it seemed that the man’s hosts had thought of everything. He described a kind of blessing that was virtually unparalleled in his life.
Having someone so pleased with us that they delight to throw all of their creativity into coming up with the best ways to bless us is a rare and unforgettable experience. While it really is remarkable to receive that kind of treatment from a friend or parent or spouse, to receive it from God is on another level entirely. Well, that’s exactly where Noah found himself at this point in the Genesis story.
In the last sermon we saw that upon exiting the ark, Noah worshiped God and it pleased God. In His pleasure God determined to bless Noah. We find that out in the very first words of chapter 9.
1 And God blessed Noah and his sons…
Perhaps you remember something else from last week’s sermon. In it I mentioned that the greatest words you can hear in your distress are “God remembered” you and the greatest words you can hear in your worship are that they are a “pleasing aroma” to God. Here we find that the greatest words you can hear in your faithful obedience are “God blessed” you.
But what form would God’s blessing take? What would it look like? In our passage we find five explicit blessings.
God Made Noah’s Line Fruitful (1, 7)
The first blessing is fruitfulness.
1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
7 “And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”
In 8:17 God command to Noah, upon leaving the ark after the Flood, to be fruitful and multiply. In our passage, for a second and third time, God repeated this charge to Noah (1, 7). The key for us to see is that these commands were also promises. That is, God not only told Noah to be fruitful and multiply; insodoing He also promised fruitfulness and multiplication as a blessing to Noah and his family.
Unless you’ve struggled to have a child, you probably don’t think as much in these terms as they did in the days of Genesis. For most, modern medicine changes the way we think about fertility. What’s more, we tend to have children simply because we want them, not because we need them. In ancient times, however things were quite a bit different.
If Noah and his family did not experience biological fruitfulness that would have meant the end of the human race. Of course none of us feel that burden. Further, when your charge is to build civilization out of a completely uncivilized world and to provide for your needs exclusively through working the ground, you need a lot of help. And in ancient civilizations that help came almost exclusively from your offspring. Again, I don’t know anyone who has felt that kind of pressure to have children—who needed children in those ways.
My point is this: given God’s commands to Noah and given what life would be like for Noah from this point forward, having lots of descendants was absolutely necessary. Thus, God’s promise to make Noah fruitful was truly a blessing indeed—one that echoed God’s promise to Adam and Eve when they stood in Noah’s place.
The message for us today is that God’s blessings for us are always what is best for us now—not for someone else or for us at some other point in our lives. Let us learn to love the good gifts God gives us and not the ones we wish He had.
God Put Fear of Noah Upon the Animals (2)
A second blessing was the fear and terror of the animals.
2 “And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.
This, along with the next three, are interesting blessings. Each was a blessing to Noah, but each was also tied (in greater and lesser ways) to the Fall. In this case, God instilling the fear of mankind in animals was a blessing because that fear would hold back the animals from eating Noah and his descendants (and that’s always a good thing), and because it would make it easier for Noah’s line to use the animals for cultivating the land.
Again, due to the thoroughness of our civilizing, we don’t think much in these terms either. Nevertheless, for Noah and his line, this was good news indeed.
But what does that have to do with the Fall? Well, by God’s design people and animals were meant to live in symbiotic harmony, not aggression or fear. It is due to the Fall that this harmony and symbiosis was replaced with violence and exploitation. And it is therefore due to the Fall that mankind needed this kind of protection from the animals.
To that point, one of the sweetest descriptions of life in the new heavens and earth, found in Isaiah 11:6-8, describes God’s design for the relationship between His creatures in truly beautiful terms.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
Again, what a sweet picture that is of the new heavens and earth where fear will no longer be needed for restraint and God’s blessing will be perfect and universal peace. In the mean time, however, it was a kind blessing of God to protect and provide for Noah and his clan in this way.
Grace, praise God for His kindness to His people—even from the beginning and eternally in the end.
God Gave Noah Meat to Eat (3)
A third blessing was the addition of meat for food (3-4).
3 “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.
In 1:29 God gave plants alone to mankind for food. Here, he adds the meat of animals. We find out later that this did not include certain animals (no bacon yet), but this was a gift nonetheless. In fact, it was a gift in greater ways than Noah or anyone before Christ could have understood. In fact, this gift, with its restriction on unclean animals, would be a placeholder for the gospel.
Consider this in light of Peter’s experience in Acts 11:5-9,
“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’
The OT distinction between clean and unclean existed in part to help us understand the gospel. Jesus Christ died to reconcile all things to God, to make all things clean. God gave plants to mankind for food at creation, plants and clean animals for food as a blessing to Noah and his line, and then all animals and bacon to us in Jesus. He is truly a God of blessing.
Once again, though, this is a Fall-based blessing. As the previous point highlights, it is likely that we will not eat meat in heaven, that we will return to our Garden diet, and so this too was a temporary blessing, pointing to salvation in Jesus until the fullness of our salvation would come.
God Gave Noah a Clear Understanding of Justice and Protection (3-6).
Fourth, God blessed Noah by giving him a clearer understanding of justice and protection. We see this in vs. 3-6.
3 “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 “And surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
by man his blood shall be shed,
for in the image of God He made man.
There’s a lot here; certainly more than we have time to cover in detail this morning. And yet, there are several (six) things that we just cannot miss.
First, mankind’s dominion over the animals was not without limit. As I mentioned a minute ago, only clean animals were for food. Here we see another pair of limits. The animal must be alive (no eating roadkill) and the animal must not have its blood still in it when eaten. Animals ultimately belong to God, not man. They are to be stewarded according to God’s design and not exploited by man.
The second thing that we cannot miss from this passage is that not only all animals, but all life belongs to God. The Flood showed that it was His to give and take and limit as He saw fit. God’s giving of animals for food and His command for Noah’s line to practice capital punishment (more in a minute) show this as well. In other words, we learn from this passage that all life is God’s to do with as he pleases.
The third thing to see is that God herein established in no uncertain terms the need for mankind to, like God, have a high, high view of life. Because life belongs to God and not man, and because all people are made in the image of God (6), God means life to be held in highest esteem among all people. This is part of the very foundation for the Christian view of life, abortion, and euthanasia among other things. In light of the Flood it may have seemed that life was of little consequence to God but His words and commands here dispel that notion.
Fourth, in this passage we find a form of justice that would carry through Noah, to Israel, and even into the New Covenant. As I mentioned earlier, God here established a form of civil government and gave it the power to execute justice on His behalf. Life is so valuable to God that He put into place certain practices to protect it. Here we find one in the form of capital punishment. If an animal were to kill a man, it would be killed by man. Blood for blood. Life for life. Likewise, and even more importantly, whenever a man would kill another man, he was to be killed by man. This was an expression of God’s high view of life, justice, and protection.
Fifth, this passage helps us to see the holiness of God. Let me explain that point by asking you a question. How do we reconcile God’s high value of life (and His requirement for man to do the same) with His sanctioning the amount of death He did in the Flood and calling for capital punishment? Truly, if God values the life of His creatures as much as He does, it must take something really remarkable for Him to destroy life. Indeed it does—the all-consuming holiness of God. Rather than signifying the insignificance of life, then, these things signify the incomparable holiness of God. Grace, let us hear this and tremble and throw ourselves upon God for help; He will give it in Christ.
And that leads to the final key to these few verses. This passage points us to Jesus. It gives us categories that the first recipients of Genesis could only begin to imagine. That is, in all of this God gave His people a category for the blood of sacrifice and atonement that was to come. This passage introduced a way of looking at life and blood that would turn into a very thorough sacrificial system for sin, and that would turn into a final Sacrifice. Ultimately, then, all of this points to the One who would spill His blood once for all. Jesus would become the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Paul spends much of Romans explaining that Jesus dying in the place of sinners had been God’s plan from the beginning and we find some of the first seeds of that here. What an awesome God!
Grace, all of this was a remarkable blessing for Noah and his descendants. It provided them with a reassurance that life was not cheap in God’s mind, a picture of God’s unrelenting justice and holiness, a means of protection from those who would not rightly value life or live justly, and categories for understanding the gospel.
God Made a Covenant with Noah (8-9)
The final blessing that we see in this passage is that God made a covenant with Noah.
8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you…
In the simplest of all possible terms, that God made a covenant with Noah meant that God had determined to have an ongoing relationship with Noah. We’ll get more into this next week, but here I simply want to mention the fact that God determining to have a relationship with Noah—which was the point of making a covenant with him—was an amazingly gracious and glorious blessing. We may never understand how gracious and glorious it is.
It saddens me to see how easily I take for granted the facts that God has chosen to love me, forgive me in Jesus, and bring me into His family. On bad days I suppose I unconsciously assume I deserve those things; or, at the very least, that my rebellion against God wasn’t that bad and so God’s love, forgiveness and adoption aren’t that big of a deal.
Oh Grace, this is so far from the truth! Whether you have been a Christian for many years or you are not sure if you are one now, would you please take a minute to pray, asking God to help you see how sweet it is that He offers Himself to you by grace through faith in Jesus, whose blood secured the New and final covenant between God and man? And would you receive by faith the blessings of this New Covenant?!
God made Noah’s line fruitful, He put the fear of Noah upon the animals, He gave Noah meat to eat, He gave Noah justice and protection, and God made a covenant with Noah. Wow. Imagine finding yourself in Noah’s position…the position of God lavishly pouring out His blessing on account of His pleasure in you, and then praise God that He does, continually, in Jesus for all who believe! Awesome!
GOD’S COVENANT WITH NOAH (8-17)
And that leads us to the second section of this passage—the establishing of the Noahic covenant. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, understanding the nature of covenants in the bible is absolutely critical to understanding the bible. And for that reason, again as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m going to spend a week or two—beginning next week—explaining covenants in the bible.
This morning, then, I simply want to point you to this text and ask you to spend some time reading over it this week. Consider the language, the “writer,” the people involved, the conditions, the promises, the responsibilities, and the sign. And then consider all of that in light of any other covenants you can find in the bible. I truly believe that as you do, and as we work through that next week, you’ll be freshly amazed by the grace of God.
Once again, this passage helps us to see that God is the Great Initiator of blessing. God blessed Noah and his descendants in awesome ways. Ultimately, God’s blessing took the form of a relationship with them defined by a covenant. In this case, again, God alone was responsible to keep all the terms. Nothing of Noah or his children was required here. And for that reason its outcome was entirely certain. It could not be broken—even to today and even into eternity.
Grace, as we will see next week, God would continue to relate to His people through covenants—even today. I can’t wait to share some of that with you, for it is truly good news for all who will, like Noah, trust in God.