Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:8–11

Genesis 9:8–11
God said to Noah and his sons, 9 “Look! I now confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that is with you, including the birds, the domestic animals, and every living creature of the earth with you, all those that came out of the ark with you– every living creature of the earth. 11 I confirm my covenant with you: Never again will all living things be wiped out by the waters of a flood; never again will a flood destroy the earth.”
(NET Bible)

The only source of stability

We take far too much for granted. Global warming gives us a sense of how impossible life would be if our average temperature were five degrees higher during certain random years. What if gravity ceased for five minutes at unpredictable intervals? The outcome of both scenarios is that soon we would all be dead! The only reason we are not dead is the constancy of God’s care.

In the spiritual realm we also rely on the predictability of God — something we rarely consider. What if prayer was sometimes rewarded and at other, unpredictable times punished? Fortunately for us, God is not whimsical, nor does his character change.

How does God’s constancy allow us to function as Christians? How does knowing God is dependable allow us to build a life with him year after year? How does the faithfulness of God lead us to rely on his promises about heaven and to act accordingly?

Victor Hamilton explains the structure of this section by saying, “We note again the two subunits within verses 1–17: what man must and must not do (verses 1–7); what God will do (verses 8–17).”[1]

The term “fresh off the boat” makes us think of an immigrant just entering America and being bewildered by culture shock. Perhaps that image can serve as a metaphor for what Noah’s family must have felt emerging from the ark after the awesome flood.

Even more daunting, there had to be uncertainty about what God was planning to do with Noah’s family. Our understanding of their thoughts and feelings is blunted by our knowledge of how much human history has occurred since that day. Look at things from Noah’s vantage point. God had just destroyed all except the tiniest fraction of life on earth. Would they too be found wanting and be destroyed? What incentive could grow in them to build a new society when the threat of divine destruction was so fresh? How would they feel the first time a thunderstorm moved in on them?

God immediately and firmly answers all these concerns with his statement to Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:9. Kenneth Mathews says, “God’s declaration is emphatic in the Hebrew construction: ‘Now I—behold—I am establishing my covenant’ (v. 9).”[2] The word “covenant” is used seven times in Genesis 9, and that fact demonstrates its centrality to God’s dealings with Noah and his descendants. The covenant with Noah and his sons provides the stability needed to begin the world again. The Lord had mentioned a future covenant with Noah in Genesis 6:18, and now it is time to establish its details.

But before we examine the details of the covenant, pause to consider that Noah did not know what to expect until the moment the information was needed. We might call this just-in-time revelation. God often does the same with us, calling on us to trust in him even though the future is largely uncertain. In a similar way, Jesus told his disciples: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).

In Genesis 9:10, the covenant protection is extended to all creatures that still live after leaving the ark. So, the scope of the covenant is as broad as the scope of the destruction declared against the original creation.

Since the mention of “every living creature” immediately reminds Noah of the terrible judgment, God next adds reassurances about divine judgment. In Genesis 9:11, God says, “I confirm my covenant with you,” and the “you” is plural, including every human being who had been on the ark. (English “you” is ambiguous as to singular or plural, a fact you should always remember during Bible study.)

After establishing the scope of the covenant partnership, God makes two powerful promises: (1) he will never again exterminate life with a flood, and (2) he will never again destroy the earth with a flood. Together with the limits God has set on violence, these assurances provide the peace of mind to allow a new start for humankind.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 319.

[2] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 408.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.