Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:28–29

Genesis 9:28–29
After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 The entire lifetime of Noah was 950 years, and then he died.
(NET Bible)

A man who honored God and lived

However long we may live, our lives have significance only to the degree that they connect with God first and then with humanity.

Someone will write your epitaph; someone will stand over your grave and declare what your life was about. What will they say?

Our verses today close the history of Noah and the great flood. Gordon Wenham observes that the flood story has numerous dates (Genesis 7:11; 8:4; 8:5; 8:13; 8:14) and carefully defines the length of various episodes. Then he adds:

No other event in Genesis is dated at all (excluding births and deaths)?not creation, the fall, the tower of Babel, nor the call of Abram [later Abraham]?and usually only the vaguest indications are given as to how long particular episodes lasted. The flood story is unique.[1]

Perhaps you have wondered where the ancient myths arose, the ancient stories that may be found in every culture. It seems likely that they developed from stories told by Noah and his family after they survived the deluge. Of course, the stories became twisted out of shape in many cultures, but the human race has a collective memory of the ancient world before the flood.

Looking back, we may realize that little has been said about Noah; he has spoken rarely and been presented generally as a man obedient to God. From this silence we may learn that the story is more about God than about Noah. Wenham says: “In Genesis there is but one God who plans and executes the flood and delivers Noah. . . . The God of Genesis is portrayed as loyal and a rewarder of the righteous.”[2] Wenham adds that God is moral and just in dealing with his creation; humanity was destroyed for its depravity and not for some trivial cause.

When Noah and his family came out of the ark, Noah offered sacrifices to God. Afterward, the Lord “said to himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, even though the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on’” (Gen. 8:21, emphasis added). This was a profoundly important decision in light of Ham’s sin, which amounted to a new fall in a new world. Wenham insightfully says, “Were it not for the changed logic of God, in that he now cites man’s depravity as a ground for his mercy rather than for judgment, the descendants of Noah would be heading for extinction in another deluge.”[3]

At the end of the story of the flood, what shines through the gathering clouds of sin is the abundant grace of God.

As a footnote to the life of Noah, most Christians do not realize that Noah was like a rock star in ancient Asia Minor. Karen Jobes describes his fame:

Noah was nevertheless the most prominently known biblical figure in Asia Minor even among the Gentiles. His enduring fame is attested by an amazing series of Noah coins minted over the reigns of five Roman emperors from Septimus Severus (A.D. 193–211) through Trebonianus Gallus (A.D. 251–53). The coins depict Noah and his wife on one side, with the image of the Roman emperor on the other.[4]

Fame is a popular goal, but it does not surpass the profound fact that “after the flood Noah lived” (Genesis 9:28).

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



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 204.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1-17, 205.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 206.

[4] Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005) 245.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:26–27

Genesis 9:26–27
He also said, “Worthy of praise is the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem!  27 May God enlarge Japheth’s territory and numbers! May he live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave!”
(NET Bible)

 Prayer and long-range consequences

Perhaps we are too timid in prayer. So many people express rules for how prayer is to be done that it can become a memory exercise to follow the formula. Is that what God intended?

And, of course, we are told never to pray selfishly. But what if we found a prayer in the Bible that would affect all humanity, and it was affirmed by God? And what if we found that the man who prayed it did so because he was angry about how he had been treated? Do we need to rethink prayer?

Perhaps Noah sees that the Lord stands behind Shem’s worthy behavior in limiting the damage of sin. Noah praises Shem indirectly by praising his God, and then he becomes more direct in asking that Canaan become slave to Shem.

Kenneth Mathews speaks about all the verbs in Genesis 9:25–27 when he says: “Noah’s words held no magical powers that destined the fates of future generations. His appeal was to God, whose will alone counted for what would become of the nations.”[1] When Mathews mentions “nations,” he is looking ahead to the prolific expansion of humanity that will take these individuals and make their many descendants into nations (Genesis 10). Noah was praying for things of momentous significance for the entire human race.

Contemporary people seldom realize that ancient names morphed into things that are more familiar to us today. The name Shem came to refer to Semitic peoples in the Arabian Peninsula and in ancient Mesopotamia, where many descendants of Shem settled. It was from the area that is now Iraq that Abraham migrated, at God’s direction, back to Canaan. In time the concept of Semitism came to mean the culture and ideas originating with the Jews, the descendants of Shem. Anti-Semitism is persecution of or discrimination against Jews, who are Semites. Note that since Abraham descended from Shem, the Jews consider themselves Semites.

In a similar way the word “Hebrew” (Gen. 14:13) is thought to derive from Shem’s great-grandson Eber (Gen. 10:21).[2]

Ham’s children, except for Canaan, settled in the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, notably in what is now Egypt. Canaan, of course, settled in what is now Israel, but it was called “Canaan” for millennia.

Genesis 9:27  May God enlarge Japheth’s territory and numbers! May he live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be his slave!” (NET Bible)

The descendants of Japheth initially settled what is now Turkey and Europe. In its open way, the NET Bible Notes say concerning Genesis 9:27, “The words ‘territory and numbers’ are supplied in the translation for clarity.”[3]

Apparently, Noah asks for a situation which includes Shem worshipping the Lord in peaceful alliance with Japheth and under terms of oppression for Canaan. In the context of Genesis 10 (the Table of Nations) and especially Genesis 9:19 (“from them the whole earth was populated”), Shem, Japheth and Canaan represent peoples who would descend from them.

After saying that God is under no obligation to comply with Noah’s prayer, John Walton adds:

Nevertheless, such pronouncements were accepted with utmost gravity and confidence by the people of Israel, and there are numerous occasions where the statements do end up being fulfilled as the plan of God unfolds. In such cases their significance has been seen in retrospect.[4]

The exact fulfillment of Noah’s requests is debatable. Gordon Wenham quotes a notable Old Testament scholar with one interpretation: “Gentile Christians are for the most part Japhethites dwelling in the tents of Shem.”[5] In retrospect, it seems clear that Japheth and Shem have prospered considerably in comparison to Canaan. But the Canaanite poison of sexual depravity has penetrated all of humankind to our universal harm.

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) 422.

[2] ESV Study Bible, notes for Genesis 10:21.

[3] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 9:27.

[4] John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 350.

[5] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 203, quoting Delitzsch, 1:298.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:24–25

Genesis 9:24–25
When Noah awoke from his drunken stupor he learned what his youngest son had done to him. 25 So he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves he will be to his brothers.”
(NET Bible)

Sin brings a curse

All actions have consequences. For that reason, the Bible says: “Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows” (Gal. 6:7). But the collateral damage may last for generations and eventually affect a large number of people.

What do we learn from a cautionary tale such as the drunkenness of Noah? Who is affected by the consequences of sin? How long do the consequences last? What can be done to halt the damage done by sin?

Since the Bible does not shrink from telling graphic details when relevant, there is no reason to imagine anything more than an irreverent, dishonoring glance in the words “what his youngest son had done to him” (Gen. 9:24). “However, the phrase ‘his youngest son,’ literally, ‘his little son,’ is a surprising [name] for Ham, since the usual order of names, ‘Shem, Ham, Japheth’ leads to the supposition that Ham was the second in the family.”[1] But we have to believe Noah knows which son is youngest, and there is some evidence that Israelite names were often listed with the shortest first.

Genesis 9:25  So he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves he will be to his brothers.”

Noah’s first recorded words are “Cursed be Canaan!” Compare this to Adam’s first words: “This one at last is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh . . .” (Gen. 2:23). Adam’s delight with Eve contrasts with Noah’s contempt for Ham. This contrast provides an example of a principle: the farther one gets from creation, the lower humankind sinks into the degradation caused by sin. By the time we arrive at the end of Genesis, the story has moved from humankind as rulers of the earth, under God (Genesis 1), to the Israelites on the verge of slavery in Egypt (Genesis 50).

It is puzzling at first to see that Noah curses Canaan, the son of Ham, rather than Ham himself. Gordon Wenham says, “Here Noah’s youngest son, Ham, sinned against him; therefore it was appropriate that Ham’s youngest son, Canaan, should be punished for his father’s wickedness.”[2]

The word curse means: “hem in with obstacles, render powerless to resist.”[3] One way to understand the word is that it is used as the reverse of the verb “to bless.” But Noah does not have the power to carry out this action, so we may understand his words as either a prophecy or a request. In any event, the curse comes to pass during the conquest of Canaan and the Israelite monarchy.

The last sentence of Genesis 9:25 can be challenging. In Mark 10:44–45, Jesus told the disciples: “And whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus clearly envisioned voluntary, sacrificial service based in love. That is not what we see in the phrase “lowest of slaves” (literally “slave of slaves,” a construction like “holy of holies”). Canaan’s slavery is involuntary and comes as a consequence of the degradation caused by sin.

The ESV Study Bible correctly states, “This passage was wrongly appealed to in past centuries to justify the enslavement of African people, resulting in a grievous abuse, injustice, and inhumanity to people created in the image of God.”[4]

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



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 201.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1-17, 201.

[3] TWOT, ‘arar, to curse, q.v.

[4] ESV Study Bible, notes for Genesis 9:25.