Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:18–20

Genesis 9:18–20
The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Now Ham was the father of Canaan.)  19 These were the sons of Noah, and from them the whole earth was populated.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, began to plant a vineyard.
(NET Bible)

 The re-development of humanity

Most of us have never given a second thought to where we came from. Perhaps that sentence makes you think of your parents or where you were born. You might even be among the small group of people who have studied their family tree. Mine goes back about 400 years to England,  near Cambridge.

But where did England come from? And how did humanity develop into what we are today? Does our identity stop with our family of origin or does it go much deeper? Why are we oblivious to how things began?

Kenneth Mathews tells us the purpose of Genesis 9:18–19 by saying, “These two verses subtly shift the narrative’s eye from Noah to the sons and their role in the future progression of God’s blessing for humanity.”[1]

Keep in mind that the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) explain the events between the creation of the world and the preparation for Israel to invade Canaan. These five books explain to the Israelites how they came to be a people and how they were chosen to be the people through whom God would reach the world.

Returning to our verses, we note that Noah and his sons are the new origin point for all humanity alive today. We must also consider that from one of these sons, Shem, will ultimately come Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. Throughout Genesis the story always contains the story of the family that will include the Messiah; the narrative about other lines ends abruptly. Genesis is not merely a history of the world; it is a theological history of the world for the period it covers.

While we are noticing things, let the name “Canaan” resonate in your mind. Before Canaan was a place-name, it was a man’s name, the man who became the ancestor of the Canaanite peoples who play such a big role in biblical history. How did they become so sexually depraved? Stay tuned!

We know that Shem is the ancestor of the Israelites (and Jesus) while Ham is the ancestor of the Canaanites. How this alignment, one people distinguished and one reviled, eventually came about is a story that will soon emerge.

Genesis 9:19 looks ahead to chapter 10 in which the author of Genesis will present the Table of Nations, showing the spread of humankind. For the moment the author merely states that Shem, Ham and Japheth are the three from whom the nations and peoples dispersed. Gordon Wenham says, “The obvious contrast with the small number who emerged from the ark shows that the command to ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’ (9:1, 7) was indeed carried out by Noah’s descendants.”[2]

Before Adam was created, the narrator observed, “There was no man to cultivate the ground” (Gen. 2:5). When Noah leaves the ark, he is the one who takes up the mantle of Adam in filling that role. He did so by planting a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). Wenham notes, “It is interesting that the vine comes originally from Armenia, which is where the biblical ark landed.”[3]

In this statement about Noah we again have a blank slate: a man and his vineyard. Will Noah improve on the record of Adam? In tomorrow’s post, the author of Genesis will give attention to a particular incident that shapes all following events.

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



[1] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 413.

[2] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 198.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 198.

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