There are many events that transpire in this chapter. You will remember that the conclusion of chapter 8 found Noah and his family leaving the ark onto dry land. God promised that He would never again destroy every living thing as he had done. In the beginning of chapter 9, God blesses Noah and his sons, telling them to be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.
Verses 1-7: Fresh off the Boat
As Noah and his sons are blessed by God, He tells them that all living things on the earth will fear them. This is a strengthening of the statement from early on when God instructed Adam that he would have dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:26. But there are three new directives that God gives Noah and his sons as they leave the ark and multiply the world:
- Meat may now be eaten in addition to plants
- Blood is not to be eaten with the meat
- Taking a life must now be repaid with the life that took it
There are a lot of unknowns with these three concepts. First, it cannot be said definitively that man did not eat meat prior to the flood. Also, I do not think that we can interpret that it is sinful to eat rare meats, as blood occurs naturally in the muscles; I believe the directive implies drinking or eating the liquid blood. And finally, the command to not take a life, lest it be paid for, is a precursor to one of the Ten Commandments, which of course have not been delivered yet from Mount Sinai to Moses.
After the flood, God in His wisdom evidently saw the need to establish some new parameters for mankind.
Verses 8-17: Covenant of the Flood
Although previously mentioned (albeit in much less detail), in chapter 8 and verses 21-22, God makes a firm covenant with man that He will never again destroy all life on the earth with a flood. The sign of the covenant is a rainbow. It will not only be seen by us as a reminder, but will also allow God to remember this covenant as He looks upon the rainbow.
We should not go so far as to interpret that God needs a reminder to keep His covenant, although the passage could be read in that way: “It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” This is less of a reminder to God and more of a memorial. Simple as that.
Verses 18-29: Noah’s Nakedness
Early in this passage, Noah’s son Ham is mentioned as having a son named Canaan, and indeed from the sons of Noah, “the whole earth was populated.” Noah plants a vineyard, produces wine and becomes drunk from his wine. As he is drunk in his tent, Ham comes in and sees his father, yet instead of covering up his father’s shame and nakedness, he tells his brothers, seemingly so that they could see too, perhaps even to laugh at their father’s expense. Yet Shem and Japheth do not find humor or entertainment at their father’s condition, instead they cover him. Once Noah awakes, he knows how Ham treated him and he curses Ham’s son Canaan, saying that Canaan will be a servant to the sons of Shem and Japheth, who are blessed with prosperity.
There are two primary applications for us from this series of events:
- Folly, foolishness, shame and sin follow drunkenness
- Honoring one’s parents is valued and rewarded
- The theme of honoring the father is another precursor to the Ten Commandments
After the events of this chapter, Noah dies at 950, only 19 years younger than the eldest man recorded, Methuselah.