The Biblical Account of The Story of Noah
We come to the end of the story of Noah. The Noahic Covenant begins a new dispensation in God’s plan for mankind, one that lasts until God’s call of Abraham and the patriarchs. Like all covenants, this agreement came with certain features to help set the agreement apart and mark its establishment. And we also want to consider a question: what did the Flood ultimately accomplish on Earth? It came in response to the extreme nature of man’s sin on Earth, but what did the Flood achieve toward that end?
Genesis 9:12-17 (NKJV)
12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 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. 16 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.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Covenants usually include certain features to help mark or denote the covenant’s existence and remind the parties to observe its terms. Some Bible covenants highlight these features more clearly while other examples given in Scripture skip over the details. Rest assure that every covenant included at least a few common, basic elements. One of the those basic elements was a sign or token. Signs could be compared to a receipt or a signature. Likewise, covenants use signs to remind the parties that an agreement existed between them. Signs are not the substance of the covenant, but it pointed to it. And these signs served the same purpose as signatures
on modern contracts. The parties respected the sign of a covenant as a solemn
guarantee from the other party like a signature on a contract. We can see this in another example, when Abraham receives his covenant and when Israel receives the Law. These covenants also had sign. First, Abraham’s sign was circumcision and secondly, Israel’s sign was the Sabbath Day. Both circumcision and the weekly Sabbath were reminders given to mark their respective covenants.
Now in verse 12, the Lord declares the sign for the Noahic covenant will be a rainbow in keeping with the nature of the covenant itself. The Lord selected an appropriate sign to communicate to every member of Creation, And therefore, signs should share certain characteristics if they are to mark a covenant properly. First, a sign should last as long as the terms of the covenant itself. So it does no good if the chosen sign disappears before the covenant itself runs it’s course. Secondly, the sign should be visible to every party of the covenant, so that all who participate can see the reminder and understand its meaning. Finally, a sign must stand out from the normalcy of everyday. It serves no purpose to select as a sign something that doesn’t draw attention to itself. If we select an everyday, normal event as a sign, then it does not and cannot communicate that something new has come into existence.
The rainbow meets these requirements perfectly. The rainbow is everlasting as long as the Earth remains and water falls from the atmosphere, rainbows will exist. The rainbow is universal on every continent and every location on Earth sees rainbows. Every person and even every animal has opportunity to see this sign and by God’s word understand its meaning. Finally, the rainbow is uniquely associated with the end of a rain storm and the appearance of the sun. Whereas, we know the arrival of rain was the cause of the Flood. And we understand the promise of this covenant is that rain will never again bring a worldwide flood. The rainbow is a perfect way to communicate that the covenant is still at work, God relenting from ever bringing too much water upon the Earth again. This also leads us to conclude that rainbows were entirely new in Noah’s day, probably since rain itself was new. With verse 17 we reach the end of the covenant.
What has this Flood event accomplished in God’s plan for the Earth and for men? We get the answer in the course of the rest of chapter 9, in a story of what happens immediately after the Flood.
Genesis 9:18-19 (NKJV)
Noah and His Sons
18 Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.
Moses reminds us of the men who left the Ark – Shem, Ham and Japeth were Noah’s sons. And Moses adds that Ham was the father of Canaan. This statement serves two purposes. First, it tells us that enough time had passed since the Flood that the first of Noah’s grandchildren have now been born. Remember there were no grandchildren around when they entered the Ark. Consider how merciful God was to ensure that no children were forced to endure the Ark adventure. Secondly, it sets the scene for the rest of the story of Noah, since Canaan becomes a focus in the story. From these three men, the whole Earth was populated.
We can safely assume that Noah’s children looked very similar. One wasn’t Caucasian, the other Oriental and the other Black skinned. And yet these variations emerged from these families. As we contemplate this fact, we find the Bible challenging us on our deeply held prejudices toward other people groups. Race is not a biological distinction.
There is no race gene in DNA as all men came from the same family. Paul says it this way:
Acts 17:26 (NKJV)
26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,
So our attitudes toward other men must be entirely blind to differences in physical attributes, since these differences are incidental. They came as a result of how these men migrated away from each other and their physical isolation eventually caused their
genetic differences to concentrate into different races or nations of people. But at the end of it all, we are no different to God nor should we be to one another. Now that life is beginning to return to normal, Noah returns to farming.
Genesis 9:20-23 (NKJV)
20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.
Noah plants a vineyard, and eventually it produces grapes and from the grapes, Noah makes wine. Clearly some time has passed since the Flood, several years at least. And it’s from that vantage point that we gain enough perspective to assess the impact and purpose of the Flood. In enjoying the harvest of his vineyard, Noah becomes drunk one night. This is the first mention of wine in Scripture, and it is not a coincidence that drunkenness follows closely. Suffice to say that wine itself is never cast as the enemy in
the Bible. Drunkenness is the evil we are told to avoid and the story of Noah is a great testimony to this truth. If we cannot enjoy wine (or any alcohol) without drunkenness, then we should refrain from it altogether.
Noah’s drunkenness leads him to pass out in his tent with his robes open or otherwise exposes him to his children. In his nakedness, Noah is exposed in a shameful and
sinful way. The sons eventually cover their father’s body to lessen his shame. But not before one of the sons increases the shame through his own sinful response. This should be a reminder of an earlier moment in Genesis in the story of Adam in the Garden. At the beginning of Adam’s time on the new Earth, his life was simple and solitary, living only with his wife. He enjoyed God’s provision, and Adam had a testimony of blamelessness and innocence before God. But he wasn’t to remain that way. In a moment of weakness and influenced by the Enemy, Adam took a fruit of the field and through its abuse brought himself to shame before God and men. In response to his shameful state, Adam and Woman tried to cover themselves, though their efforts couldn’t satisfy God. And by his fall, men suffered a lasting penalty.
Now returning to the story of Noah, the parallels jump out at us as we immediately see that God orchestrated these events to reinforce the basic story of man’s sin and God’s plan for redemption. Noah has become a farmer in the post-Flood age, though he was
not a farmer before. Obviously, farming would have been a necessity for Noah and his family after the flood wiped out so much. Just as Adam was given the responsibility to tend the Garden in his day. Then Noah makes an uncharacteristic mistake: he becomes
drunk. Noah’s mistake was to partake of a fruit in excess. Obviously, this is similar to Adam’s taking of a fruit in the Garden. And both are sins in that both are acts prohibited by God’s standards. Drunkenness is a sin, according to the Bible, and it’s a particularly
insidious one. It breaks down the barriers erected by our conscience which God gave us to protect us from sin. Drunkenness overrides our willingness to hear and follow the Spirit of God as He directs us. It tempts us into further sin. And its consequences extend far beyond ourselves and into the lives of others. Noah’s experience reflects all these Biblical truths.
One son, Ham, sees Noah naked. Nakedness in our culture today is losing its sense of shame. People glory in showing their bodies, especially to an inappropriate degree. It’s the ultimate sign of Christian immaturity and selfishness when we see a man or woman wearing revealing clothing, especially to gathering of believers. Because it tempts others into lust and gains the person nothing with respect to their testimony. But in the day of Noah and even into this day, revealing the body was/is a particularly sinful and shameful act. To be seen naked brought shame on the person and upon the one who witnesses the indiscretion. For Noah, his son Ham will never look at him the same way again and should Noah learn of the Ham’s discovery, the shame is magnified for both of them. So it’s particularly horrifying to hear that Ham goes outside the tent and tells his brothers what he saw, that his father is naked. Ham had a choice when he discovered his father. Having seen him, the damage had been done for Ham, but he still could have preserved his father’s dignity and he could have avoided drawing his brothers into the
event. Instead, Ham gloats in what he finds and he tells his brothers what he saw, which spreads the father’s shame deeper into the family. Secondly, by not covering his father, he invites his brothers to see it for themselves. Fortunately for Noah, the remaining brothers do all they can to preserve what little dignity remains for Noah. They walk backwards into the tent and lay a coat on Dad. Though they knew of their father’s shame, they didn’t choose to see it themselves.
Clearly Ham’s response is very different from his brother’s. While he glories in His father’s shame, the others do what they can to preserve his dignity. Here we see more parallels to the story of Adam. In the Fall of the Garden, there were three actors so to speak. One who was responsible for the shame of the Fall, one who tried to mitigate against it, and behind the scenes one who inspired it. Here we have a similar trio. First, we have Ham playing the part of Adam as he made a conscience choice to disregard his father’s glory and brought shame to him instead. Then we have Shem and Japeth playing the part of Woman being caught up in the event and unable to avoid the sordid affair. But they do what they can to minimize their father’s shame and try to defend him as best they can. Finally, we have Satan working behind the scenes, both in the Garden and here. In the Garden he deceived the Woman and here he deceived Noah, bringing the occasion of Noah’s sin.
What is God teaching us at the end of this story? First, that the power and enormity of the Flood still wasn’t enough to wipe out the effects of sin on Earth. It will require more than a Flood of water to do away with sin. For example, remember when Noah was described as blameless and upright? Now we see vivid evidence he was anything but sinless. Secondly, the root cause of sin, that is Satan, is still present and working in the sons of disobedience. Thirdly, men cannot produce an acceptable covering to reverse the shame of sin. Even after Noah is covered by his sons, he is nevertheless still shamed by the act and the covering didn’t erase that shame. Only a spiritual covering can affect that change.
Finally, the dispensation of human governing won’t be an answer to sin any more than the period of conscience. Adam and Eve had their Cain. Noah has his Ham. The world will continue to experience men who refuse to recognize their shame before God and who celebrate their sinfulness. But each new dispensation brings a new measure of control to mitigate against man’s sinfulness. Since Noah represents the chief member of this society, he therefore represents government on Earth. So his response to Ham’s sin becomes a binding decision that God makes sure in coming generations.
Noah responds by making prophetic statements concerning the boys and the future of their respective family lines. As we read these pronouncements, remember that Noah would have understood the seriousness of what he was saying and Noah understood that his boys would repopulate the earth. He knew that each son would produce a multitude of people over time which explains why Noah chose such sweeping
pronouncements. And we must assume that Noah’s impetus to make these
statements was the Spirit’s influence and direction. So now look at Noah’s response:
Genesis 9:24-29 (NKJV)
24 So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. 25 Then he said:
“Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants
He shall be to his brethren.”
26 And he said:
“Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Shem,
And may Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth,
And may he dwell in the tents of Shem;
And may Canaan be his servant.”
As Noah awoke, he learns of his indiscretions of the prior evening. Some of us may be able to identify with Noah, perhaps as a result of past decisions and indiscretions. The sinking feeling as we replay the previous night in our memory, piecing together what was said and done. In Noah’s case, he probably noticed that he wasn’t wearing his normal sleep attire. Instead, there was a cloak thrown over him, something he
wouldn’t have done for himself under normal circumstances. Therefore, it probably didn’t require much thought to recognize that someone else had covered him and with that recognition, Noah would have been horrified and embarrassed and ashamed. Perhaps he approached the boys to apologize or to ask for an explanation.
In the course of that discussion, verse 24 says Noah knew or understood what his younger son had done. And what Ham had done was disrespect his father. More than simply disrespect, Ham had shown a willingness to enjoy and even celebrate the sin of another. And in that behavior he had shamed Noah and himself. Ham’s example is a good one for us to consider ourselves. Do we glory in another’s sin? Our first answer might be, “Of course not…” But before we rush to that answer, let’s ask ourselves a
few questions. When we learn embarrassing or shameful news of another person, do we ask ourselves who can I share this with? If we’re out with friends and one person begins engaging in mischief, do we encourage them on hoping to see them do something outlandish or risk getting into trouble? Do we look the other way when a friend breaks the rules or even the law rather than correcting them kindly and
reminding them of their Christian witness? In all these cases and others like them we repeat the mistake of Ham, certainly in manner if not in degree. We glory in another’s sin, encouraging, feeding it or at least enjoying it vicariously. Paul said he prayed that the church would act differently.
Philippians 1:9-11 (NKJV)
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s concern for the church was that we wouldn’t be a Ham, so to speak. We would abound in love in knowledge and discernment which would lead us to approve of excellent things, rather than abased things. And we would be blameless until our judgment day, filled with righteousness. Noah certainly didn’t approve of Ham’s behavior, and in response Noah pronounces a curse. The first thing we notice is that the curse is not directed against not Ham but against Canaan. Since the beginning of this chapter, we’ve noticed that any mention of Ham has included the phrase “the father of Canaan.” Here we see why Moses has been making that connection throughout the chapter. Moses was helping us understand the connection between Ham and the curse Noah gives.
Noah is upset at his son Ham, but Noah directs his curse at Ham’s son rather than at Ham himself. Why? A curse is a pronouncement of eternal damnation and when it comes from God (in this case by the power of the Spirit), it is a permanent and irrevocable verdict. Could God pronounce a curse – eternal damnation – upon Ham? Ham, remember was one of the eight on the ark. Peter testifies that all eight on the ark were righteous by faith.
2 Peter 2:4-5 New King James Version (NKJV)
4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
2 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)
9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
So if Ham is a man saved by God’s grace, then God cannot pronounce a curse upon Ham. This is the same situation as God faced with Adam and Woman in the Garden.
Adam sinned yet God pronounced curse not upon him but upon the ground, Adam’s source of creation. Similarly, here God pronounces a curse through Noah upon Ham
but indirectly. In this case it lands on Ham’s son, Canaan. Noah’s pronouncement said Canaan would be cursed, a servant of servants, the lowest servant and he would serve the people who come from his brothers, meaning the families of Shem and Japeth.
Next, Noah turns to the other brothers who protected his dignity, and Noah pronounces blessing. For Shem, Noah blesses not Shem directly but the “God of Shem.” For Shem, the meaning of this blessing is clear, he will be the line of the Seed. The promise for a Messiah will come through Shem.
Finally, Noah turns to Japeth. Noah declares that Japeth and his families will be enlarged. Enlarged refers to both the number of them and their territory and wealth.
To end this important story, Moses tells us of the end of Noah’s life:
Genesis 9:28-29 (NKJV)
28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. 29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.
Noah’s life span is 950 years, of which 350 occurred after the Flood. Noah lives long enough to see the world repopulated. Abraham is almost 100 years old when Noah dies. The world has seen people settled from Europe to Africa to East Asia. And Noah’s son Shem, another passenger on the Ark, lived until Jacob was over 100 years old. Clearly, between Noah and Shem, there was plenty of opportunity for ancient men to hear the story of the flood firsthand and record the details accurately. As news of his death spread, it must have been an important day. Noah had been born before Adam died and now Noah was gone. And it’s been 2,000 years since the Fall in the Garden.
Until this moment, we could connect human history back to the beginning of time through the lives of just two people, Adam and Noah.
After Noah’s death, the length of living drops dramatically. And in future generations, men will have lost that direct testimonial connection to the beginning of all things. And along the way languages are increased and distances grow, and men begin to create stories to fill in their gaps of understanding history. Myths develop, idols increase and so the mercy of God is revealed in His willingness to record these truths through the prophet Moses. So that even today, six thousands years or so later, we’re
still able to understand the details of how men reached living today. And more than that, we understand the hows and whys for the way things are. The source of sin, the consequences of men living apart from God. And God’s mercy to provide a promised solution, found only in the Lord Christ!
I pray that this 10 part series on the story of Noah has been insightful and a blessing. Please leave a comment to let me know if these studies have been helpful. Also, let me know what other stories about people of the Bible you like to see or other biblical studies you would be interested in. I will try to bring them to you here. You can also follow us on Facebook at Mustard Seed Faith Blog or Twitter @mustardseedfai7
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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