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Understanding Genesis 9: Imperfect People Saved by Grace

Updated on August 19, 2015
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Read the entire chapter 9 of Genesis on your own. You can read a variety of versions, from contemporary English to literal translations. You can download bible apps, websites (blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com) or buy one from your local bookstore. I will use King James Version because some of the nuances are missing from other translations. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.

Provisions for Noah

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. Genesis 9:1-3

When God first created the world, animals and humans lived with each other; Adam and Eve took care of the animals and tended the Garden. "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Genesis 2:25 But after they sinned, their relationship with the world changed. Instead of all animals living peacefully; driven by hunger and scent of spilled blood, animals got a taste for each other and humans got a taste for animals.

Contrary to popular culture, God did not save all animals in two, but saved seven of the clean animals. "Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female." Genesis 7:2 From the beginning, God had given them only fruits and herbs to eat, but knowing that after the flood, vegetation would take time to grow, God gives Noah permission to eat the clean animals and no longer curses of the ground. "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." Genesis 1:29 "And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done." Genesis 8:21

When God says, every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you, He didn’t allow them to eat every moving thing. He already designated some animals clean and others unclean. He clearly outlines the list in the book of Leviticus. When God tells of the future, He doesn’t tell it because He causes it—He tells us because He knows the future but He is not always the cause of it. It’s often a warning of consequence, and it’s our free will to listen to Him or disregard Him. "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" Isaiah 46:10 He sent Jonah to Nineveh and warned them of their destruction, and because of their repentance, God did not destroy them. God does not tell us prophesies just to show us the future, He tells us the consequences IF we do not listen to His warnings.

So He saw that humans would eat all and any moving thing: from grubs to other humans, humans have dominated other creatures. Even before giving his dietary rules in the book of Leviticus, God established which are clean and unclean, based on the diets and anatomy of the animals. Any animals that were scavengers or omnivores were prohibited to the humans. As time passed, our bodies and environment have grown worse. Disease and natural disasters are becoming frequent and expectant by season. God knew what would be happening to us and He recommended a healthy lifestyle even from the time of Creation.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. Genesis 9:4-6

Allowing Noah and his family to eat the clean animals that are saved, He warns them not to eat the animals raw or the blood of them. Even before science studies the human anatomy, Noah and his family understand the importance of the blood. Blood signifies the life source. Blood signifies death and life. The blood that is spilled during a sacrifice or for a meal—reminds them that death was not part of God’s plan. Each drop is a reminder that life is precious to God. "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Matthew 26:28

God warns them not to take a life lightly, whether it is an animal or a human. Noah and his family knew the sins of the previous world. They have a chance to make things right with their new beginning. God warns them not to take a life lightly and kill each other. All humans are God's children and precious in His sight. "For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother." Mark 3:35

God Makes a Promise

And 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: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. Genesis 9:12-13

God does not need to remember, God is omniscient. But the rainbow is a reminder for us. God makes this covenant with Noah’s family that He will not flood the world again, but Noah’s family doesn't need to do anything. God makes the promises and we just have to believe Him. This rainbow appears not just on earth, but is also in heaven, above His throne. "And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald." Revelations 4:2,3 A rainbow isn’t just light reflecting off mist, but a promise that God is gracious and loving.

Undeserved Grace

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. Genesis 9:20-25

Unlike Adam and Eve, who did not know the consequence of sin, Noah’s family endured a sinful world, and saw the destruction of the human race. They heard the death of their friends and family, in the midst of raging water. They spent a year inside a rocking boat, taking care of the animals. It was noisy, smelly; and even in a Godly family, there must have been personality clashes. It must have been fearful, but also gratifying that God had saved them. They learn patience while inside the ark, but uncertain of what they will see when the ark’s door opens. After any tragedy, an individual’s relationship with God is affected. While some asks for understanding and submits to God’s will, others are fearful and angry. "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Romans 1:20 "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

Unfortunately, Ham leaves the ark angry and distrustful of God. The new family settles, have children and rebuild their home. But Ham forgets what God has done for him, or becomes selfishly unsatisfied with his life. He disrespects his father, and correspondingly Noah’s God. His father’s drunkenness is ridiculed and his brothers go in to cover their father. This disrespect is shown repeatedly throughout the generations, that God has to create a commandment telling people to honor their parents. If God’s law of “love God, love others” were practiced widespread, God would not have to tell them, “do not…commit murder, steal, etc.”

While Noah’s curse seems harsh, it was again, not so much a prophecy, but a warning of consequence. Ham’s descendants leave God’s family and continue to live in sin. His descendants become selfish and ungodly. The sins of the father are not visited unto the 3rd or 4th generation because of a curse, but again God shows the consequence of their influence. Children of alcoholics are more likely to become alcoholics themselves. Children from an abusive family, grow up to be abusers or victims themselves. Not because of a curse, but because these sins have imprinted into what they know. Only through the power of God, are they able to break this chain of sin and be healed. "For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you." 2 Corinthians 13:4 God loves all his creatures and rejoices over one sinner repenting, rather than desiring to condemn them. "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." Luke 15:7 "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:17 God saved Ham, knowing what Ham would do later. Ham took the gift of salvation and wasted it.

In like manner, Noah who was perfect and walked with God, became drunk and a stumbling block to his family. We are all sinners, no one is perfect—not one. How many times have we had good days: days of fervent faith and joy, and then the next moment, have a sinful thought or anger towards someone. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" Romans 3:23 But thank God for His mercy and grace. That He would forgive us and help us to have faith in the love of God again. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1,2

To get a deeper understanding of the Bible, read along with Patriarchs and Prophets, written by Ellen G. White. The book is available on AdventistBookCenter.com and amazon.com

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