Noah’s Commission and Failure
Genesis 9

Dispensational Changes for the Earth (9:1-17)

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. v.1 Man to fill the earth. The first command was a repetition what God had given to Adam in Genesis 1:28. It was given again to Noah after the flood, because it was still God’s mind for mankind to fill the earth.
2 And let the fear of you and the dread of you be upon every animal of the earth, and upon all fowl of the heavens: upon all that moveth on the ground; and upon all the fishes of the sea: into your hand are they delivered. v.2 Animals given a Fear of Man. God intended man to be in close with the animals, as the head of creation. Sin degraded the relationship. It could be that, before the flood, animals were attacking humans (Gen. 6:12). To preserve man, God puts a fear of man into the animals. Generally speaking, wild animals run away from people. But also, man would have dominion over the animals, for the purposes of hunting, beasts of burden, and also for personal protection. This fear of man was necessary, now that sin had entered, for man to have dominion over the animals.
3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you: as the green herb I give you everything. 4 Only, the flesh with its life, its blood, ye shall not eat. vv.3-4 Animal’s allowed for food, blood prohibited. All moving creatures were now permitted for man to eat. Before the flood man was permitted to eat only the herb of the field (Gen. 1:30). What about Jabal (Gen. 4:20) who was the father of “such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle”? We do not know what Jabal and others used the cattle for; it doesn’t say for food. But also, Jubal was part of Cain’s family and false system. It would be in keeping with the character of that family to take for food what God had not permitted. Now people were permitted to eat meat. This is a great example of a dispensational change (see chart). However, the life of the flesh (the blood) was prohibited, because that was for God alone.
A change in God’s economy.

For a great example of how the "house rules" have changed, look at the restrictions God has put on eating meat and blood. Previous to the flood, God had only approved a vegetarian diet. Then, coming off the ark, Noah was told that man could now eat meat, but not the blood. In the Law, God told Moses that animals were divided into two classes; clean and unclean (Leviticus 11). The added restriction was that Israel couldn't eat the unclean animals. In Acts 10, God told Peter that the restriction on unclean animals had been repealed, but in Acts 15 we find that the prohibition against eating blood still remained. In the Millennium, hunting of animals will be completely eliminated (Hos. 2:18) with the exception of fishing (Ezek. 47:10)! So we can clearly see how the "house rules" changed with regard to meat, and yet the prohibition of blood remained constant!

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Noah to Moses   The Law   The Church   The Millennium
All meat allowed
No blood
Only clean animals
No blood
All meat allowed
No blood
Only fish allowed
No blood
5 And indeed your blood, the blood of your lives, will I require: at the hand of every animal will I require it, and at the hand of Man, at the hand of each the blood of his brother, will I require the life of Man. 6 Whoso sheddeth Man’s blood, by Man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God he hath made Man. vv.5-6 Government (Capital Punishment) Committed to Man. Life is not cheap. God would require the blood of man, at the hand of every animal and at the hand of man. If an animal killed a person, that animal was to be put to death. If a person committed murder, the murderer was to be put to death. This is the institution of government.1 Government was given to restrain evil, and it has been used by God for that purpose until the present day. All we need to do is look at countries were they don’t have an organized government… and we see that chaos reigns. This was a new principle on the earth. Before the flood, a mark was put on Cain (the murderer) so that no one would kill him to avenge his brother’s blood (Gen. 4:15). We then see the way Lamech (another murderer) took what God did for Cain and twisted it for his own use (Gen. 4:24). This was all brought to an end with the dispensation of government. The reason that the murderer must be punished is plainly given; “for in the image of God he hath made Man”. Murder disfigures the image of God, because God alone has the prerogative to give and take life. Hence, men set in a position of government (magistrates) are called “gods” in Psalm 82, because they are responsible to honor God in the issues of judgment. Western governments are rapidly digressing from these principles. As the death penalty is ruled unacceptable, abortion is legalized. The value for human life continues to deteriorate. (Note: the fact that governments are corrupt and careless, resulting in innocent men being executed, does not absolve man of the responsibility to govern righteously.) This responsibility was given to man before there were any nations.
Government invested in Israel, then Transferred to the Gentiles. After Noah, government continued on, and when Israel became a nation, God centered his earthly government in Jerusalem. When Israel sinned and refused to return to Jehovah, the sword of God’s government was transferred to the Gentiles, beginning what is called “the Times of the Gentiles”. Read more… It was committed initially in its purest form to Nebuchadnezzar the Head of Gold; “whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down” (Dan. 5:19). Nebuchadnezzar abused that power (Dan. 3-4), as have all the Gentile powers that have followed the Head of Gold. Those in government, the very ones that were responsible to guard the sanctity of human life, are the ones responsible for the greatest loss of human life. Rivers of blood have flowed from the sword of governments who desire wealth and power, and seek to expand their empire at the expense of any and all who stand in their way. The responsibility for the wars and genocides down through the history of man, often lies at the feet of human government, fallen into a state of corruption. At the appearing, the Lord Jesus Christ, will smash the great Gentile power-structure, and in its place will set up His kingdom, characterized by righteousness and peace, and which will last for 1000 years. In these verses, Noah is given the responsibility to govern, and becomes a type of Christ, who will administer the Millennial government after the tribulation judgments have cleansed the earth. We see at the end of this chapter, that Noah fails almost immediately in his responsibility.
7 And ye, be fruitful and multiply: swarm on the earth, and multiply on it. v.7 Command to Swarm (Spread Out) Upon a Cleansed Earth. It was God’s desire that mankind would “swarm” or spread out on the earth, and fill it. In a large way, man has fulfilled this desire of God. On every continent, and in every climate except the most extreme, humans live and flourish. It was not God intention for men to stay together in large groups. We find in ch.11 that men refused this commandment when they built the tower of Babel, saying; “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).

The Noahic Covenant: the Rainbow Given as a Sign (9:8-17)

8 And God spoke to Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 and with every living soul which is with you, fowl as well as cattle, and all the animals of the earth with you, of all that has gone out of the ark — every animal of the earth. 11 And I establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood, and henceforth there shall be no flood to destroy the earth. vv.8-11 The Covenant. We read first of a covenant with Noah in Gen. 6:17-21, where God said “but with thee will I establish my covenant”. Now we have the substance of the covenant. Naturally, man would expect for the judgment of the flood to be repeated again and again, as the iniquity of man and the righteousness of God required it. But God here promises never again to destroy all flesh by a flood. It was a tremendous comfort to the whole creation, to know that such a catastrophe would not occur again. This is one of the covenants mentioned in scripture.
12 And God said, This is the sign of the covenant that I set between me and you and every living soul that is with you, for everlasting generations: 13 I set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be for a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass when I bring clouds over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living soul of all flesh; and the waters shall not henceforth become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living soul of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17 And God said to Noah, This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth. vv.12-17 The Sign of the Covenant. As with other covenants, this covenant was accompanied by a sign from God, to give reassurance that God had not forgotten His promise. Whether the rainbow had been seen before or not, we are not told. It could be that God prevented the optical phenomena for occuring before the flood, even with a mist rising from the earth. It could also be that God assigned a special significance to the rainbow at this time. The point is that when clouds came over the earth, and fear the natural reaction, the rainbow would be an abiding witness that those clouds would not result in a catastrophic flood. It was the goodness and mercy of God to mankind to give this covenant, and its sign. When we get to Revelation 4, we have God setting up to judge the earth again. There the rainbow is seen, round about the throne (Rev. 4:3), showing that God will not forget His promise, even in the heat of His wrath!

Noah’s Failure and the Characteristics of His Sons (9:18-29)

18 And the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem [‘a name’], and Ham [‘warm’ or ‘hot’], and Japheth [‘may he spread’]. And Ham is the father of Canaan. 19 These three are the sons of Noah; and from these was the population of the whole earth spread abroad. vv.18-19 Noah’s Three Sons. In this section of the chapter we have the three sons of Noah introduced to us. These verses show that the whole earth was populated from these three sons, and therefore the moral character of each is important. Ham is closely connected with Canaan; a name that figures prominently in the Old Testament. The three sons have been mentioned three times before (Gen. 5:32, Gen. 6:10, Gen. 7:13), but now Canaan in mentioned. Of the three sons, Shem becomes the father of the chosen people, and of the Messiah. Ham becomes marked by either progress in civilization or degeneracy into barbarism. Japheth becomes the head of the indo-European peoples. The details of this are given in ch.10. Chapter 9 gives us the moral character of these sons.
20 And Noah began to be a husbandman, and planted a vineyard. 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken, and he uncovered himself in his tent. vv.20-21 Noah’s Failure. Noah was given the responsibility of the patriarchal government (vv.1-7). Almost immediately, we find that Noah fails to govern himself. He breaks down in the very point on which he was responsible before God to uphold. Noah was prophesied to “comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands” (Gen. 5:29). Relief from hard toil came at the end of ch.8, but what does Noah use this relief for? He turns to leisure. Noah plants himself a vineyard, and makes wine. Why did Noah make wine? It was not for medicinal purposes (1 Tim. 5:23). It was for leisure. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with making or drinking wine. But we see that Noah’s focus on getting natural pleasure ended up in sin and shame. Noah failed to take wine in moderation, and became drunk. Drunkenness is a sin (Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:11, 11:21; Gal. 5:21). Sin leads to shame. Noah uncovered himself, and became a stumbling block to his sons.
22 And Ham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren outside. v.22 Ham’s Sin. Ham saw the nakedness of his father. He made a mockery of his father, having no sense of the honor that was due his father. Ham told his two brothers, to get them to join in the mockery. We see how the carelessness of Noah became the trigger for the irreverence of his son. So it is with governments today. Corruption and foolishness in the courts and parliaments of this world become the fuel for the rebellious masses to “despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities” (Jude 8). 
23 And Shem and Japheth took the upper garment and both laid it upon their shoulders, and went backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father. And their faces were turned away, that they saw not their father’s nakedness. v.23 The Action of Shem and Japheth. Shem and Japheth did not join in the mockery. Together, they covered their father’s nakedness, with their faces turned away. What honor they showed their father, in spite of his failure! How different from Ham, who exploited the failure. This is a nice example of covering sins. We read in the New Testament that “charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). They knew their father was in a compromising position. Rather than allow one sin to lead to another, they covered it. It was love and respect for their father that compelled Shem and Japheth to act, and perhaps their disgust with Ham’s irreverence. This righteous and gracious action condemned both the carelessness of Noah, and the impudence of Ham.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and learned what his youngest son had done to him. 25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; Let him be a bondman of bondmen to his brethren. 26 And he said, Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem, And let Canaan be his bondman. 27 Let God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, And let Canaan be his bondman. vv.24-27 The Blessing and Cursing of Noah’s Sons. When Noah emerged from his stupor, he learned of Ham’s mockery, and of the other brothers’ actions. God was able to restore Noah such they he could be used to utter a prophecy. Noah pronounced upon each son, and the utterances were recorded by Divine inspiration as prophetic. Remarkably, Noah never mentions the name of Ham. He pronounces the curse on Ham’s son, Canaan. Why? God had blessed each son in v.1, and He did not desire to pronounce a curse on the same name. Ham would reap the results of his mockery in his son. Just as Ham his mistreated his father Noah, Ham would be punished through the cursing of his son. Note: it is possible that Canaan was involved with Ham’s sin. Ham is called “the father of Canaan” in v.22, when the sin takes place. However, we cannot be certain of this.
  1. Canaan is simply cursed. The Spirit of God sees a link between the twisted immorality of Ham and that of the descendents of Canaan, who came under the infamous judgments of Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities of the plain. He would be not only a servant, but “a bondman of bondmen” to his brethren. It speaks of abject slavery. As we will see in ch.10, the first 2000 years of man’s history after the flood made this prophecy appear very unlikely; Ham’s descendents dominated the world. But they eventually succumbed to the spreading of Japheth. Throughout the course of history, the family of Ham has been subjected to many forms of slavery at the hands of other descendants of Ham, and at the hands of the descendants of Japheth. This verse has even been wrongly used by Christians to justify the slave trade. Prophecy is not given for us to fulfil, but to have a moral affect on our lives. The final fulfillment of this prophecy will be in the coming tribulation judgments, and in the Millennial day; “And in that day there shall be no more a Canaanite in the house of Jehovah of hosts” (Zech. 14:21).
  2. Shem is not exactly blessed, but Jehovah is designated as “the God of Shem”. This is especially remarkable because through this whole series of verses Elohim is used. The the royal line of the Messiah came through Shem, and the chosen people of Israel. It was the portion of Shem’s family to judge the wicked families of Canaan, and to take their place in the earth. “And let Canaan be his bondman” was partially fulfilled in the reign of David and Solomon, when the Canaanite nations were subdued for less than a hundred years. But the final fulfillment will come to pass in the Millennium when Israel will again be the head, and the nations the tail (Deut. 28:13).
  3. Japheth is blessed with enlargement, according to the meaning of his name ‘may he spread’. The European peoples are known precisely for this. W. Kelly called Japheth “the great coloniser of the earth” in contrast with Shem. Japheth spread across Europe, Northern Asia, North and South America, and Austrailia. Even then with most of the earth’s landmass, Japheth was not content; he began to encroach on the tents of Shem, and continues to this day. The prophecy “he shall dwell in the tents of Shem” has only partially come to pass. The descendents of Japheth have conquered and colonized Shem, and profited materially. But spiritually, the company of believers in the Christian period are dwelling in the tents of Shem in a moral sense (Rom. 11:11-12).2 However, this will be completely fulfilled in the Millennium when the nations are blessed under the Messiah, in subservience to Israel.
So we see this fixed principle in the dealings of God; “for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam. 2:30). God delights to bless those who seek to do right by His name. We see it with Shem and Japheth the sons of Noah (Gen. 9), with Phinehas the son of Eleazar (Num. 25), with Jonadab the son of Rechab, (Jer. 35), and beyond comparison with Christ, the Son of God, who could say “the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (Psa. 69:9). Conversely we see the opposite with Eli (1 Sam. 3) and Saul (1 Sam. 15).
Misconceptions about Canaan’s Curse. The errors concerning the curse of Canaan are numerous. It has been taught that Canaan’s curse was dark skin. This is totally false. First, the Canaanites settles in the Middle East, and therefore were light-skinned. Secondly, darker skin became prevalent where the climate demanded it; e.g. Africa. Dark skin is no more a curse than lactose tolerance among herdsmen.3
28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. 29 And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died. vv.28-29 The Death of Noah. Noah dies, and earth passes into a new era. Before the flood there was no government, only the line of Seth and the line of Cain; one preserved in Noah, the other destroyed in the flood. After the flood, we have a new world established on new principles. We have government (ch.9), families, nations (ch.10), and languages (ch.11).


  1. Details were not given; but God established government, as a root-principle, in man’s hand, responsible to him as from Him he received the charge. – Kelly, Kelly, William. In the Beginning. New Edition, Revised 1894.
  2. Have they not dwelt, too, in the tents of Shem, not as mere conquerors, but, among other ways perhaps, as sharers in that blessing which was shadowed so finely in Israel’s “own olive-tree.” – Kelly, W. Early Chapters of Genesis.
  3. As to the colour, especially black, I do not pretend to account for it in mankind. The Egyptians were not black; they are always painted red in the hieroglyphics. Their pictures in Nubia are seen with prisoners all black. What Livingstone found in Africa was, that if there was a wet country along with heat, there the people got black. The Portuguese are black in certain hollow islands. As to what people have stated about races, I have no hesitation in saying that there is nothing solid about it whatever. – Darby, J.N. Hints on the Book of Genesis.

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