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.

Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 9:21-23

Genesis 9:21-23
When he drank some of the wine, he got drunk and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his fathers nakedness and told his two brothers who were outside. 23 Shem and Japheth took the garment and placed it on their shoulders. Then they walked in backwards and covered up their fathers nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so they did not see their fathers nakedness.
(NET Bible)

How the Canaanites became sexually depraved

Anyone who reads today’s story must confront the reality of our own tendencies. Events happen, and people make bad choices resulting in sin. The question is: what happens next?

What is God’s reaction to those who spread the damage of sin even further? How does God respond to those who try to limit the damage of sin? What are the long-term implications of the answers to these questions?

While the Bible takes a favorable view toward wine, drunkenness is always shown to be sin. Victor Hamilton notes, “The two incidents in Genesis describing drunkenness ([Gen. 9:21] and 19:31ff) become the occasions for sins of debauchery.”[1]

The author of Genesis reached into his literary bag and pulled out a rare Hebrew form to express the gravity of Noah’s action in uncovering himself inside his tent. Only one Hebrew verb in a hundred takes this form, and such forms occur just 38 times in the fifty chapters of Genesis. Many of these instances are dramatic events: Adam and Eve frantically hide from God amidst the trees of the garden (3:8); the flaming sword whirls about to bar the man from re-entering the garden (3:24); Enoch walks with God (5:22) and is taken away without death; God is highly offended by the violence which prevails in the earth (6:6); Noah walks with God like Enoch (6:9); drunken Noah uncovers himself in his tent (9:21).

The facts presented in the previous paragraph imply that the sin of Noah’s drunken nudity is more important than the simple words of the verse might lead us to think. This event is a big deal! The NET Bible Notes explain: “It is hard for modern people to appreciate why seeing another’s nakedness was such an abomination, because nakedness is so prevalent today. In the ancient world, especially in a patriarchal society, seeing another’s nakedness was a major offense.”[2] Noah’s drunkenness and resulting nakedness present Noah’s sons with an opportunity to show their inner qualities.

Ham sees the nakedness of his father Noah, and, instead of covering Noah, Ham spreads the problem further by telling his two brothers (Gen. 9:22). They did not need to know; that they are told increases their fathers shame and dishonor.

Shem and Japheth become part of the solution by acting to cover their father without further dishonoring him (Gen. 9:23). The fact that they go to great lengths to keep from seeing Noah demonstrates their desire to protect him. It may be this very incident that leads Peter to say, “Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

A second thought about the serious of Noah’s sin and Hams response is the context in which it happens. God has previously destroyed the world for sexual depravity and violence. With unfortunate speed, the world starts down a sinful path again. Will God again destroy what he has made? We tend to be blind to that possibility because we know how the story ends.

Before we leave this section, note that the author of Genesis again asserts that Ham is father to Canaan (Gen. 9:22). The NET Bible Notes explain, “The Canaanites, Hams descendants through his son Canaan, were cursed because they shared the same moral abandonment that their ancestor displayed.”[3] We will get to the curse in due course, but the author of Genesis wants us to see that the deep sexual sin of the numerous Canaanite peoples finds its source in this incident. Noah’s folly of drunkenness led to his nakedness. Encountering his father in this state brought out the moral abandonment in Ham; the father’s choice became the shared conviction of the son.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. 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) 321.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 9:22.

[3] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 9:18.

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.
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 narratives eye from Noah to the sons and their role in the future progression of Gods 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 mans 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 Noahs 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 tomorrows post, the author of Genesis will give attention to a particular incident that shapes all following events.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. 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.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:16–17

Genesis 9:16–17
“When the rainbow is in the clouds, I will notice it and remember the perpetual covenant between God and all living creatures of all kinds that are on the earth.” 17 So God said to Noah, “This is the guarantee of the covenant that I am confirming between me and all living things that are on the earth.”
(NET Bible)

A commitment we can count on

When God makes a commitment, he keeps it! The problems all lie on our side, because “flesh” is notoriously weak (Rom. 8:3). So, what we need to rely on first are those things God does entirely on his own. Those divine actions are often expressed in covenants between God and man.

What other forms of God’s grace may we rely on? How does prayer fit into this picture? What divine covenants cover those who have never trusted in Christ for salvation?

Today’s passage restates the message of Gen. 9:14–15 in slightly different words. The added element (as in Gen. 9:12) is the word “perpetual,” which ties the promise to us as well!

God does not have a problem with forgetfulness, so it comes as a linguistic surprise to be told God remembers something. When something comes to God’s focused attention, stand by!

It is time to learn a lesson about Hebrew words in contrast to English words. In English, when we say “remember,” it simply means that we have an event, thing or person come to mind. We might, for example, remember a book we once read or a birthday party we enjoyed as a child. But when God is the subject for the Hebrew verb “remember,” it means an event, thing or person comes to God’s mind and he does something about it. For example, in Genesis 8:1, God remembers Noah and the creatures on the ark and causes the flood waters to recede. Later God remembered Abraham and took his nephew Lot out of Sodom before destroying it (Gen. 19:29).

The same element of action also is integral to other Hebrew verbs. When God feels compassion, he shows kindness. When men turn and believe in the Lord, their lives are expected to actually change. Hebrew verbs are concrete and action-oriented, but English often stops with conceptual meanings.

When the NET Bible says that God confirmed his covenant with “all living things” (Gen. 9:17), it actually translates the phrase “all flesh.” The phrase “all flesh” occurs 13 times from Gen. 6:12 to Gen. 9:17. In Gen. 6:12 God said that all flesh had corrupted its way, and in Gen. 9:17 he confirms a covenant with all flesh after the flood. Speaking of covenants, the word “flesh” does not occur again until Genesis 17:11 when God tells Abraham what he must do to confirm the new covenant God made with him.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived fr

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.