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Deeper Commentary

9:1 God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, Be fruitful- Remember that Noah had only produced three children in 600 years, and his sons had not had any children.

And multiply- Clearly we are being invited to see this as a new creation, with the implication that they were to obey where Adam failed. The "earth" they were to multiply in was the eretz promised to Abraham, and so in chapter 10 we have a list of the nations within that area- as evidence of obedience to this commandment.

Most of the flood myths claim that human overpopulation led the gods to destroy man. But the Genesis record instead stresses the value of human life, even if that life must be surrendered in judgment for sin. The focus is upon human sin. But God's encouragement of man to multiply stands in stark contrast to the idea that the gods didn't like man multiplying, and for that reason alone- destroyed him or reduced the human population through a flood. 

The invitation to be fruitful and multiply is exactly that given to Adam. Note the similarities with Adam in Eden- replenish the earth (9:1 = Gen. 1:28); have dominion over animals (9:2 = Gen. 1:28); commanded what to eat (9:3 = Gen. 1:29); prohibition of some things which they were not to eat (9:4 = Gen. 2:16,17). Adam's sin, resulting in cursing, is matched by Noah's sin and the pronouncing of cursings. Yet again, the great potential for the Kingdom of God was spoilt by human weakness. We have noted that the wind / Spirit upon the face of the waters is reminiscent of the Genesis creation. Here too, we have a new world emerging on the ruins of an old one. But like Adam, Noah goes out and soon fails [in that he gets drunk and has perverted sex with his own relative, rather than multiplying]. The tragedy of man's consistent failure stands writ large. And we marvel at God's amazing patience, His attempts to work with men; and it throws into relief the victory and perfection of the Lord Jesus, through whom we can in fact become the creation God wished for throughout human history.  After all the false starts and wasted potentials, He finally was the One in whom all the potentials were fulfilled and became enabled for a new race of people in Him.

And replenish the earth- This is the same word as in Gen. 6:11,13, where the earth was “filled” with violence. Is the implication that Noah’s family were to fill the world with righteousness in place of the evil that had filled it? In this case, the subsequent failure of the family with sexuality and alcohol is a sad response to such a fine calling.

9:2 The fear of you and the dread of you will be on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the sky- This part of the promise seems only made to Noah and his sons in the context of the animals with whom they had contact in their work of replenishing the land / earth area which had been flooded. There are animals which don’t fear people, and God brings this to our attention in the later chapters of Job. Thus the ostrich is “without fear… she scorns the horse and his rider” (Job 39:16,18); the horse “goes on to meet the armed men. He mocks at fear, neither is affrighted (Job 39:21-24); behemoth and leviathan [the hippopotamus and crocodile?] are portrayed as fearless of men, indeed it is men who fear them (Job 40,41). The “fear and dread” of humans which fell on the animals after the flood is clearly linkable with the “fear and dread” which was to come upon the inhabitants of Canaan due to the Israelites (Gen. 9:2 = Dt. 1:21; 3:8; 11:25).

Everything that the ground teems with, and all the fish of the sea, are delivered into your hand- This may not be a general promise to all humanity. Rather it may mean that the effects of the curse in Eden were greatly reduced for Noah and his family when they left the ark. It is hardly so that all fish and animals are given into the hand of every man, worldwide. We can assume that Noah and his family failed to make good of the potential given them; and his drunkenness reflects that. The Hebrew phrase "delivered into your hand" will later be used of how the tribes of the eretz were all delivered into Israel's hand (Ex. 23:31; Num. 21:34; Dt. 2:24 etc.). And like Noah's family, Israel failed to make good use of that potential power. The worshipping of animals "that the ground teems with" (Dt. 4:18 s.w.) was therefore a refusal to accept that these things had been delivered into the hand of the faithful.

9:3 Every moving thing that lives will be food for you- There was no distinction between clean and unclean animals, which could be eaten and which couldn’t. There are therefore no animals unclean of themselves; the Mosaic laws concerning them were therefore only to teach an object lesson, rather than being a reflection upon any intrinsic uncleanness of any specific animals.

As the green herb, I have given everything to you- This would imply that Noah's family didn't eat animals but only "the green herb" before the flood. The concept of clean and unclean animals which was known to them therefore referred only to sacrifice and not to diet.

It could be argued that it was God's original intention that man should not eat animals. But in line with His increased recognition of the moral weakness of man and promise to be more accommodating of it (see on Gen. 8:21), now God allows killing of animals by man. Possibly part of the corruption of all flesh recorded in Gen. 6:11,12 was that man had begun killing and eating animals anyway, when this was contrary to the intention at the time of the Genesis 1 creation. "All flesh" in Gen. 6:11,12 refers to the entire animal creation; it was 'corrupted' by man. Presumably in that man began killing, eating and perhaps having sex with the animals.  How else was the "all flesh" corrupted by man? And now God makes some partial concessions to man (see on Gen. 8:21), in allowing him to kill and eat animals, although not to consume their blood. After the Lord's death, the prohibition of blood was relaxed. So we see God becoming increasingly accomodating to people, His grace increases, and yet culpability to judgment also increases.

9:4 But flesh with its life, its blood, you shall not eat- Much meat could never have totally been made free of blood. Here therefore we have an example of where a commandment was given, but 'best effort' was looked for rather than complete technical obedience. Likewise the stipulation that only unblemished animals be offered; for most animals have some blemish if scrutinized closely. But as noted on :5, the "flesh" in view may specifically refer to human flesh.

The whole logic of the command and principle behind it [that life is God's] requires that the forbidden blood was actually giving life to the body. So the reference is surely to blood whilst it is pulsating, and not to "blood" per se. And as in some remote parts today, to eat live animals was not uncommon especially in worship rituals. The eating of live locusts is quite common still in many areas. All the arguments about 'kosher' food are therefore misplaced. For "blood" doesn't keep a dead body alive and is not therefore "the life". Blood is not magic; blood poured on a dead body will not revive it, and bodies die with blood in them- having blood in your body doesn't mean you cannot die. It is a beating heart and pulsating blood that is a sign of life. And it is that life, that beating heart and pulsating blood, whilst we have it, that is to be given to God. And to not do so requires us to forfeit life (:5). It's a very powerful choice- to totally give life to God because we have it, or lose it. We are driven thereby to recognize that our very life is God's exclusive property and not our own. The strict commands to pour out blood to God first in Lev. 17 are distinctively Israelite- no pagan system has this feature. Because God alone places this supreme meaning upon human life. So whilst God judges sin, as seen in the flood, this must be balanced against the huge importance God places upon human life. For it is actually His life. And this is why :5 will make the point that to take life is wrong, because it is actually taking life from God. And the Lord taught that to curse is to murder; and we should not curse man, because he is made in the image of God, and has God's life within him. Gen. 9:6 LXX makes the point: "He that sheds man's blood, instead of that blood shall his own be shed, for in the image of God I made man". 'Taking' extra life, another life, through murder... means that your life is to be taken from you and returned to God. Man does not have the right to dispose of his own blood or life; suicide is likewise ruled out here. If a man takes another man's life, the blood of the slain cries out for deliverance (Gen. 4:9; Job 16:18; Ez. 24:7), i.e. that that life is no longer with the murderer, but should be delivered back to God, through the death of the murderer. This is why God becomes the avenger of blood; for the shed blood cries out for vengeance, for the return of life to God through the death of the murderer (Is. 1:15; 59:3). This is why a murderer is a thief (Job 24:14). And animals who take human life are likewise to be slain, to have their lives returned to God (a principle repeated in Ex. 21:28,29 about the necessary death of an ox who gores a man). But the principle has far wider and more personal application, for the life we have been entrusted with is God's and must be lived for Him and given back to Him. 'Living for ourselves', in the chasing of careers, wealth and relationships in this life is therefore outlawed. It is a selfish taking of life, and is logically on the same level as suicide. The law of Moses forbad the use of money as compensation for taking life. If you give your life to making yourself wealthy, then you have taken away your life from God; you have stolen life from Him, and that cannot be compensated for by your acquired wealth. Once we accept this absolute sovereignty of God over human life, including my life, then we find a kind of freedom- freedom from the perceived need to achieve, to make something out of 'our' life, to 'succeed', to 'make a living', to 'make it' in life. And freedom from the fear of losing life or having life constrained, by health or economic issues. Because as we see in this context of the flood, God has sovereign power to create and de-create, to give and take life and then multiply it again. And we are to acknowledge His absolute claim over human life. "It's my life!" is totally wrong. The important thing is that our lives are His and surrendered totally to His loving and eternal care.

9:5 I will surely require your blood of your lives- God was the ultimate avenger of blood (Gen. 9:5); in setting up a way of escape from the avenger of blood, He surely indicates how He recognizes the rightness of His own principles, and yet sought a way for humanity to not perish because of them. In this we see an exquisite prophecy of His provision in Christ, and of the tension between the justice and grace within God’s character, the tension Hosea spoke of as God’s internal struggle about whether to destroy or redeem Israel when they repeatedly sinned against Him. By all means compare the account of such a case in 2 Sam. 14:7, where it was recognized that God ‘devises means’ to preserve people from the avenger of blood- a reference to the cities of refuge. In all this we see the tension within God's person, as He so earnestly seeks to work through our failure to bring about His glory.

Their lives would be required of them if they presumed to take the symbol of life to themselves. It was to be critically important to recognize that all life is God's, and to assume that we can live life for and to ourselves is punishable by losing the life we have.

At the hand of every animal I will require it- Does this mean that animals which ate meat with blood were to be killed? That would be hard to operate in practice, and would have led to the distinction of all carnivores. Or is the "flesh" of :4 human flesh? In this case, any animal which ate human flesh was to be killed, just as murderers were to be put to death.

At the hand of man, even at the hand of every man’s brother, I will require the life of man- This could mean that the duty of killing those who shed human blood fell upon the person's "brother", and if this were not done, then God would require it of the "brother". Or the idea may just be that the blood or life of our brother will be required from us if we slay him. In all this we see foreshadowed the idea that we are responsible for our brother, and cannot answer as Cain, that we are not our brother's keeper. If we take or hinder his life, as Cain did to Adam, then it will be required of us, as it was of Cain. This means that we must be especially careful not to make our brother lose eternal life by making him stumble.

God's judgment is ongoing, He has not as it were switched off and will only open the books at the last day. Ps. 9:10-12 says that when God makes “inquisition [s.w. ‘require’] for blood, He remembers those who “seek” [s.w. ‘require’] for Him. He seeks and searches us out, holding us accountable for actions; and yet we are to seek after Him. And thus we meet… The verse means that God requires life from us- the Lord Jesus alludes here when He spoke of how the soul of a man would be "required" at the day of his death (Lk. 12:20), and woe to us if we have only 'bigger barns', petty materialistic acquisition, to show for it. If we take another's life, that life will be required of us- because of the general principle, that God 'requires' human life from us. So the principle is that we should not merely avoid taking the life of another; we should give our lives back to God, knowing that life is required of us.

9:6 Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man- This is not a command to shed the blood of murderers. The Lord seems to allude to it when commenting that he who takes the sword shall perish with the sword (Mt. 26:52). It appears to be more of a warning, an observation as to what happens to those who shed blood, even if they consider they are doing it in justified vengeance for the shedding of blood. We must give full weight to the incident in 2 Samuel 14, where we learn that there is a higher principle than revenging blood- that of grace and forgiveness. God now continues to explain why man's blood shouldn't be shed- because we are made in God's image. That reasoning is such that any shedding of blood, even in vengeance, ought to be avoided.

We can also look at this commandment as a way of outlawing the murder / execution of others for minor matters. We see a contrast with how Lamech boasted of killing a young man for offending him. Tyrannical bullying and abuse of power is therefore clearly abhorrent to God. We must consider the fact that Cain and Lamech didn't die for their murders, committed before the flood. But it seems that now the death penalty for murder is being introduced. We see here how God's plan with man develops. He apparently more generously accepted the sinfulness of man after the flood (see on Gen. 8:21). But His judgment of sin actually increased at the same point, at least in this matter. And we can see a further extension of this in the Lord's work- which brought about even greater acceptance of man, and forgiveness of human sin. But the judgment level increased, with even hateful thoughts now being judged as murder. This comes to its full term as we face the cross. There was and is "the judgment of this world", the comfort of total forgiveness and grace; and yet an associated higher level of judgment for those who refuse it. And that has a seamless logic to it; a love like that cannot just be refused without consequence. 

For God made man in His own image- As James 3:9; the fact humans are made in God's image means we should perceive the value and meaning of persons, from not killing to holding the door open for people... Defacing God’s image earns death. In what ways can we destroy the image of God in others apart from by killing them? Any form of dehumanizing surely does the same. Because we are made in God's image, we should therefore not kill other humans (Gen. 9:6). James says the same, in essence, in teaching that because we are in God's image, we shouldn't curse others. To curse a man is to kill him. That's the point of James' allusion to Genesis and to God as creator. Quite simply, respect for the person of others is inculcated by sustained reflection on the way that they too are created in God's image.

These statements at this point in Genesis 9 all reflect the extreme value and dignity God places upon human life. For man is made in the image of God. At first blush, this may seem to jar against the record we have just read of God's destruction of most human life in judgment for their sins. But the juxtaposition is intentional. We are being warned not to view the judgment of the flood as meaning that God doesn't value human life. He does, intensely so. Those who read the account of the flood but fail to reflect upon Genesis 9... will be left with a totally wrong impression of God. The gift of His Son for the salvation of man proves that for all time. The conclusion is therefore that the flood was absolutely necessary judgment for sin; and it was a judgment that was made with full awareness of the value of human life. The reminder that man was made in God's image also serves to highlight God's pain and loss in judging man at the flood. It was as if He had cut off His own image, His own face; His personal loss was huge. But He 'had' to do this in order to preserve a line of believers who were willing to become in His moral image, and through whom His Son would come. For in Him we would see the image of God in human form.

The command not to murder has its basis in the fact that human life is not for us to use as we will (Ex. 20:13; Lev. 17:11; Gen. 9:6). It is God's life within those other people around us. Others, therefore, are not for us to use as we will. Gentleness and sensitivity to the life of others, in family life, the workplace, on the road... is therefore an outcome of our belief that the 'other' person likewise has been created by God and has life from Him. To drive in an unkind way, to act in a thoughtless way to others’ detriment, is therefore the same basic error as taking human life in murder. It is worth reflecting that nearly all other usages of the word "image" or 'making something after an image...' have a literal sense to them. An image was made which was a literal, physical representation of something else. Idols were "images" of the gods thought to be elsewhere, e.g. "in heaven". If the god was believed to have three heads, then so did the "image" of it have three heads. The word is used in 2 Kings 16:10 of a "replica" being made of an altar. The literal, physical sense of "image and likeness" is shown by how the term is used in Gen. 5:3, where Adam "begot a son after his own form, and after his own image". The idea of man being in God's image would therefore have been understood in a literal sense; all men are representations, or images, of God. How we treat men is how we treat God. God exists in human form, far grander and greater than us; but we are in His image. And there is a clear connection with the making of images of the gods, i.e. idols. If man is in God's image- then all idolatry is ruled out. The total focus of man is therefore upon his relationship with his God and creator. And the body, being in the image of God, is highly significant and important. This is a stark contrast with the Greek view, that the [supposed] "soul" was all important, and the body was a mere casing. The human body, and how it is used and related to in others, thus becomes of huge significance. Paul several times argued with the Corinthians against the idea that usage of the body was irrelevant. 

9:7 Be fruitful and multiply. Increase abundantly in the earth, and multiply in it- As Adam and Eve were to "be fruitful and multiply" in the land / Garden of Eden (Gen. 1:28), so Noah and his sons were to do just the same in the same land after the flood (Gen. 9:7); and the children of Abraham were promised that they would do likewise in the very same land (Gen. 35:11). I suggested on Gen. 3 that perhaps the first sin was one of omission- Adam and Eve omitted to go forth and multiply as commanded. This would explain the emphasis upon this commandment, in this attempt to restore Eden. On the figurative level, it is the Lord Jesus who brings forth much fruit in us due to His resurrection out of the earth, as Noah came out of the ark (Jn. 12:24).

9:8 God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying- Again, the family are addressed by God as being "with [Noah]"; just as salvation is predicated upon our being counted as together with Christ. The new covenant is likewise made primarily with the Lord Jesus, the singular "seed"; and thereby with us, insofar as we are in Him.

9:9 As for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you, and with your offspring after you- Covenants were two way agreements, with conditions for both parties and a token of the covenant. All the elements of a covenant are present- apart from the conditions for the other party, i.e. Noah. This is the force of the words "As for Me, behold...". It was unilateral. God's covenant is of grace- He binds Himself to certain things, without any corresponding demands upon Noah. See on :10. "With you" is repeated in 9:11. The covenant wasn’t with humanity generally but to the children of Noah.

9:10 And with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the livestock, and every animal of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ship, even every animal of the earth- God is in covenant relationship with the animals. But such a covenant was obviously unilateral. Perhaps the information about the animals was added in order to underline how God's covenant with man was likewise unilateral; it was what God wanted to do for man, rather than a demand from man. This is grace. And although we have no contractual duty to respond, yet we do respond; we cannot be passive to such grace; see on :9.

Those within the ark represented those saved in Christ. It's difficult to work out the difference in symbology between the animals, and Noah and his family. But the animals also were finally included in the new covenant made after the ark had performed its saving purpose. So we are led to speculate that there is a class of people other than those secured "in Christ" who will somehow be finally saved, having been preserved from the latter day judgments which the flood waters represent. This same teaching is found in the way that the blood of the Passover lamb seems to have secured the salvation of the firstborn of both Israel and the animals who were brought [by others] within the blood covered houses (Ex. 11:8).

9:11 I will establish My covenant with you: all flesh will not be cut off any more by the waters of the flood, neither will there ever again be a flood to destroy the earth- "Ever again" or "any more" (AV) sounds as if destruction of the earth by flooding had happened several times before. It's almost as if the God of all grace is showing Himself progressively gracious to earth's inhabitants: 'I've done it before several times, but now I promise you humans, you new race of inhabitants upon whom my special love is to be shown through My Son, that I'll never do it again'. 2 Peter 3 alludes to the flood, but says that the agent that will be used to destroy the eretz or land of the last days will be fire. A similar level of destruction is coming, but by fire and not water.

9:12 God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations- Covenants of those days had a token or material symbol associated with them. But they also featured requirements from both sides; as noted on :9, God's grace is such that the covenant He now made was simply a requirement on His side. The covenant was with the animals too- and clearly that too was a one-sided agreement. The token of the new covenant would be the blood of God's Son, just as the blood of the lamb was a "token" (Ex. 12:13), perhaps memorialized in the communion bread and wine, just as circumcision was the token of the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17:11 s.w.).

9:13 I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it will be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth- The sign of the rainbow is described as God hanging up ['setting'] His bow. To hang up your bow was an idiom for ceasing from conflict (Hab. 3:9-11; Ps. 7:13). It was as if Yahweh the warrior was laying aside His bow, ending His conflict with mankind. The contemporary flood myths articulate all this in terms of there being a dispute amongst the gods; some wanted to destroy mankind, others wanted to show mercy; some regretted the earlier judgments against mankind, others didn’t; some wanted to assure mankind that he wouldn’t be destroyed; others argued that he must face the consequences of his sin. Here the Biblical record is so amazingly different. All these emotions are portrayed as occurring within the one and only God. As humanly incomprehensible as it is, that an all powerful, all knowing Being could have such conflicting emotions, this is without doubt the God whom the Bible reveals to us.


The Babylonian Epic Of Creation (6.82) claims that after Marduk's victory, he set his bow in the sky and it became a constellation. He also supposedly used his bow to shoot arrows at the clouds which caused the deluge. "So, too, the pagan Arabs related of one of their gods that after discharging arrows from his bow, he set his bow in the cloud". These myths are alluded to and corrected by the statement that God's bow is simply the rainbow, a purely natural phenomenon which is merely an optical feature and certainly not a literal bow of any god. Yahweh's bow, the rainbow, is a symbol of His grace and love towards His creatures. The later Old Testament repeatedly uses the idea of the true God shooting His arrows as a figure of His judgment of His enemies and salvation of His people (Hab. 3:9,11; Zech. 9:14; Ps. 38:2; 64:8; 77:17; 144:6; Job 6:4; Lam. 2:4; 3:12). The whole mythical, pagan idea of a god having a literal bow and arrows is thereby deconstructed. The question arises, however, as to why Moses is alluding to Babylonian myths which were current only centuries after his time. My response is threefold. Firstly, God could have inspired Moses to speak in terms which would later take on relevance to the myths which God foresaw would arise. Secondly, the Babylonian myths may well have developed from myths which were current in Moses' time. A third possibility is that the Pentateuch was re-written under Divine inspiration whilst Judah were in captivity in Babylon, and the historical accounts presented in such a way as to have relevance to the Marduk worship and other Babylonian mythology which surrounded God's people in Babylonian captivity. 

Rainbows being experienced worldwide doesn't mean that the flood was therefore global. Moses under inspiration wrote for the Israelites, to enable them to make sense of their world, and he explained to them that they were to understand that the world wouldn't be destroyed by water again. However 2 Peter 3 seems to say that the heavens and earth of Peter's time would be destroyed not by water but by fire, after the pattern of what God did at Noah's time. This passage has some relevance to AD70- which was a destruction of the Jewish system in the land of Israel, not worldwide.

There's another way to read Gen. 9:13-17 which I offer not in any dogmatism but for reflection. It may not mean that God intends us to look at rainbows and remember His covenant; it may be that God sealed the covenant He made at that time by bringing a cloud over the earth and displaying in it a bow or arrow [the Heb. translated "bow" also means an arrow and is thus translated in places]. God set or "hung up" [the Hebrew is translated that way elsewhere] His bow- as if to say, 'My bow and arrows are now hung up. I'm through with judgment by this flood. It's over. I've hung up My bow / arrows'. YHWH shooting arrows is a figure for His judgment in later Scripture. So it's a bit of an assumption that God's talking about rainbows here. A Divine covenant was typically sealed by a one-time token, e.g. His covenant with Abraham by the token of passing between the animal pieces. The token of a covenant was therefore a one-time act, not something like rainbows which are ongoing. The covenant was between God and Noah and also all animal flesh on the earth at that time. The token of that covenant was therefore relevant to Noah not humanity generally. So it would make sense if there was some theophany to Noah involving awesome clouds and a special display of God's now hung up bow / arrow over it. God set His bow in that cloud, the record states. But rainbows don't exist at any location in the clouds; they are an optical phenomenon in the eye of the observer.

God did this so as to "remember" His covenant; but "remember" carries the idea of God marking it, this is what He did to mark the covenant He had just made as a one time demonstration to Noah. Surely it can't mean that whenever God sends rain, He sees the rainbow and remembers in the sense of "Ah yes, now I remember, I'm not supposed to use rain to kill people". People still die by flooding today and I guess some of them drown within sight of rainbows... and the survivors likely watch rainbows as they mourn their dead. The literalistic readings of the rainbow seem to create more questions than they solve. They also depend upon the assumption that there were no rainbows before the flood, and this was a special creation; but rainbows are observed in mist [e.g. over waterfalls or wave spray] as well as rain clouds so I somewhat doubt there were no rainbows seen before the flood. It's also an assumption that there was no rain before the flood- Gen. 2:5 simply states that before the creation of Adam there was no rain, possibly implying that the created plants didn't grow until Adam was created to tend them.

9:14 It will happen, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud- The Hebrew doesn't have to mean 'whenever'. As suggested on :13, this could have been a one time event. Perhaps it was some foreshadowing of the bringing of a cloud at the crucifixion?
The idea of the rainbow being a ‘reminder’ to God not to destroy the earth again with a flood is rather hard to understand when applied to God. But if this is a reminder to the Angels, who brought the flood in the first place, this makes more sense (Gen. 9:16).


9:15 And I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh- "To destroy" is Heb. 'to cut off'. Having crossed the Red Sea, God sealed His covenant with Israel at Sinai. After emerging from the ark, God made a covenant with Noah. And circumcision was the entry point of covenant relationship with God. The record of these Old Testament occurrences also brings out the converse- what happened to all those who were not in covenant with God, who had not received the typical 'baptism'. The unbaptized Egyptians were "cut off"" (Ex. 9:15); "all flesh" that was not baptized into the Christ-ark was "cut off" (Gen. 9:15 AV). "The uncircumcised man child... that soul shall be cut off" (Gen. 17:14). The New Testament matches this by the oft repeated teaching that outside of Christ, there can be no salvation.

9:16 The rainbow will be in the cloud. I will look at it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth- The rainbow is to remind men of the essential salvation and patience of God. And yet He describes it as reminding Him of His promise of salvation- as if He might forget. This is the kind of language of limitation which is so common in the Bible. It could be explicable by referring it to Angels; or it could be that God presents Himself in human terms, without strict attention to who He actually is. For by nature He does not "forget" or need reminding. This would mean that those who may misunderstand God in some theological areas can still have a legitimate relationship with Him; just as God presented Himself here as 'needing a reminder'.

God set the rainbow in the sky so that when He looks upon it, He will remember His covenant with Noah. The pronouns seem wrong; we would expect to read that the rainbow is so that when Noah looked upon it, he would remember... but no. God condescends to man to such an extent that He invites Noah to understand that when he remembered the covenant with Him, God does likewise.  

9:17 God said to Noah, This is the token of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth- I have suggested above that the bow was displayed at just one time, or just in the experience of Noah and his sons, as a token of the covenant God had made with them. The covenant was between God and "all flesh that is on the earth / eretz", at that time. God is not in covenant relationship with literally all people upon the planet. This leads us to again conclude that the idea is not that whenever rainbows appear anywhere on earth, this is a reminder that God is in covenant relationship with all people on earth. Rather was the bow [which may not have been a rainbow as we now understand them] revealed in some kind of special theophany to assure Noah and his family that there would never again be a flood.

9:18 The sons of Noah who went out from the ship were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham is the father of Canaan- This may be in order to emphasize that Canaan was born after the exit from the ark; and therefore the incident involving him and Noah's drunkenness would have occurred quite some years afterwards.

9:19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these, the whole earth was populated- This makes more sense when understood as referring to the eretz promised to Abraham. Genesis 10 provides the details; all the listed descendants of Noah refer to peoples dwelling within the eretz promised to Abraham.

9:20 Noah began to be a farmer, and planted a vineyard- It could be argued that Gen. 9:2 was commanding Noah to cease being a crop farmer and instead dominate and eat animals. One disobedience, or taking of a lower spiritual level, often leads to greater temptation in other areas. And this is what happened with Noah.

The Gilgamesh Epic specifically records that Utnapistim gave the workmen wine to drink whilst they built the ark (Tablet 9, lines 72-73). The Biblical account appears to consciously contradict this by stating that Noah was the first to make wine- and he did this after the flood.

9:21 He drank of the wine and got drunk. He was uncovered within his tent- See on Gen. 8:10. There's a juxtaposition here between God's wonderful covenant being followed by Noah getting drunk in response to it. Despite having been given a wonderful, one sided covenant of Divine grace. We too find it hard to cope with the huge import of God’s grace. It’s not something we merely accept with a smile, thinking “Oh how sweet”. The enormity of it is riveting and very demanding. And Noah couldn’t handle it. Surely Noah knew all about alcohol, for his generation were partying right up until the flood came. If they had developed iron smelting technology by Gen. 5, they surely knew about alcohol. It is stressed that only Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives entered and left the ark. By the time Noah gets drunk, Canaan had been born to Ham and was at least a young adult. So we cannot think that Noah got drunk from ignorance as to the effect of wine, nor that it happened immediately after leaving the ark. Noah maybe had weaknesses which aren't recorded in the record of his earlier life. Peter reasons that God saved Noah by the flood (1 Pet. 3:20,21); God saved Lot by destroying Sodom and Noah by destroying his surrounding world, because He knows how to deliver the godly from temptations (2 Pet. 2:5-9). It could be that had God not done this, they too would've been caught up in the evil around them, so powerful was it. Hence Is. 54:9 speaks of the flood as "the waters of Noah". It was Noah's flood, the flood required for him, as well as to judge the world. HE was saved by grace rather than his good works (Gen. 6:8). The Mesopotamian myths speak of how the hero of the flood (cp. Noah in the Biblical account) was raised to divine, immortal status. Gen. 9:29 comments simply upon Noah: "And he died". In the myth of Utnapishtim, the one who survives the flood  is turned into a hero and becomes a god. But of course Moses’ inspired record is different. The flood story ends with Noah dying- not becoming a god. And Noah not only remains human, but he remains very human- because he goes out and gets blind drunk after he comes out of the ark. Moses’ point is surely to show that real human lives really do intersect with Almighty God’s work, words and actions.

9:22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside- The sin of Ham in relation to Noah's drunkenness included the fact that he told his brothers about Noah's shame (Gen. 9:22). This incident seems to be alluded to by Paul when he says that it is a shame to speak of what sinners do in secret (Eph. 5:12). A large amount of the communication which would be called 'gossip' includes the communication of sinful things which would be better not entering the minds of saints in any case- one tends to gossip about a neighbour's adultery rather than his lost cat. The sin of Ham is presented as telling his brothers about their father's sin. The word "outside" gives the impression of seeing something in privacy, and then going outside and telling it to others.

9:23 Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it on both their shoulders, went in backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were backwards, and they didn’t see their father’s nakedness- "Covered" is a related word to the ‘covering’ of the ark (Gen. 8:13). As they had been covered by God and thus saved, so they sought to cover the sin of another. Our experience of covering in Christ should be similar, not gossiping of others’ sin but seeking to cover it (s.w. Prov. 17:9; 10:12; 11:13). There is a direct allusion to this incident in Prov. 12:16: “A prudent man covers [s.w.] shame”. What they did to Noah is what we should do in response to our covering / atonement in Christ. Covering others’ sin isn’t the same as turning a blind eye to it; it involves conscious forgiveness, but then the covering of it in the sense that God also covers sin and doesn’t mention it against us ever again.
"Their faces were backward" uses the same word as in Ex. 33:23, where God hides His face from Moses and only His "back" is seen. The verbal similarities between the two incidents are pointed. Perhaps Moses in recording this incident is suggesting that he felt like drunken Noah, and God showed the same grace to him as Noah's sons showed to their drunken father by not looking upon his sin and nakedness.

9:24 Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done to him- There is a clear similarity with Lot, who got so blind drunk that he didn't realize what was happening whilst his daughters had sexually abused him. And yet Lot, like Noah, is still presented as "righteous" overall. The similarities may suggest that there was some kind of sexual abuse of Noah by his grandson Canaan. To uncover or 'see [a relative's] nakedness' is an idiom used for sexual relations throughout Lev. 18. The fact Ham and Japheth covered his nakedness may mean that they did not 'uncover his nakedness' in the sense the idiom is used in Lev. 18; they didn't participate.

9:25 He said, Canaan is cursed- As suggested on :24, this could be because Canaan had sexually abused him. But another approach is possible. Noah thrice rails against Canaan (:26,27). Why, seeing that the shame had been done to him by Ham, Canaan's father? This seems a classic example of transference- people often focus their anger not against the one who has hurt them, but against that person's relative, family or cause. We should deal with persons directly, perceiving the value and meaning of the human person; and not deflect the relationship onto others as Noah appears to have done. The curses placed by Noah have no fulfilment [contrary to many racist and misguided attempts to force such a fulfilment]. The story ends with a huge spiritual anticlimax, although later reference to Noah shows that he was judged faithful overall.

He will be servant of servants to his brothers- If this is addressed to Canaan, then we can assume that Ham had had other children by this stage, placing the incident some time after the exit from the ark. But as noted above, Noah appears to be talking to Ham, when he is referring to Canaan; he was making the son guilty for the father's sin, and vice versa.

9:26 He said, Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem. Let Canaan be his servant- According to :25, Canaan was to be the servant of his brothers. But here he is to be servant to Shem. Again we see a confusion between Ham and his son Canaan. It could simply be because Noah was drunk and confused when he uttered these words; or he could be practicing some kind of guilt by association, making the son suffer for the father's sins, or vice versa. The Hebrew could mean 'May Shem be blessed by Yahweh, his God'. We wonder why Shem is singled out for the highest and first blessing; for Japheth is to be enlarged, but to still dwell in the tents of Shem (:27). Perhaps Noah was elevating Shem to the status of firstborn which Ham had previously enjoyed. Or maybe Shem did some specific act of kindness in trying to shield Noah's shame.

9:27 May God enlarge Japheth. Let him dwell in the tents of Shem. Let Canaan be his servant- "Japheth" means 'enlarged', so there is a play on words here. Noah wishes that Japheth experiences what his name meant. But he is still to dwell in the tents of Shem, who was to be blessed above all. To 'dwell in the tent' of someone meant to be subservient to them (Ps. 120:5). So clearly Noah is establishing a hierarchy here amongst his sons. There is nothing in the record which suggests that Shem did more than Japheth for Noah. But he is given a great blessing here; and again, Canaan was to be servant to Japheth as well as to Shem. The descendants of Japheth and Shem are listed in chapter 10, and there is no particular evidence that these blessings and cursings were actually fulfilled. They were uttered as Noah awoke from his drunken stupour. Likewise not all the blessings uttered by Jacob came particularly true for all his sons.

9:28 Noah lived three hundred fifty years after the flood- This meant he died just around the time Abraham was born. We are invited to see an unbroken line of the faithful continuing.

9:29 All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, then he died- The Mesopotamian myths speak of how the hero of the flood (cp. Noah in the Biblical account) was raised to divine, immortal status. Gen. 9:29 comments simply upon Noah: "And he died".