The Biblical Account of The Story of Noah
As we continue the story of Noah in chapter 9 of Genesis, we see Noah entering a strange, new world. Noah’s experience continues to mirror the story of Creation and Adam in the Garden. The world has been made new out of water and Noah has come into a world with no one else, a new beginning. Not coincidentally, there are 8 people on the Ark, and the number 8 in the Bible is associated with new beginnings. But more than just looking different, Noah’s world will be different in several important and fundamental ways. God is now about to change His dispensation of grace from what
existed prior to the flood to a new order. And He does this in conjunction with a new covenant given to Noah and the world.
Genesis 9:1-7 (NKJV)
God’s Promise to Noah
9 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.
7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Bring forth abundantly in the earth
And multiply in it.”
God has determined to work with the sinfulness of men through a series of covenants or
dispensations. Each of these periods in human history have operated under a different
set of conditions, but each has been designed to teach the same principle.
- The first period was a period of innocence before the Fall. But man couldn’t remain faithful and he sinned.
- The next period was the dispensation of conscience, in which sinful man was left to his own in choosing right over wrong. But man couldn’t rule over his flesh nature, so it led to the Flood.
- And now we have come to the third period or dispensation. God will no longer rely on human conscience alone. Now He adds a new element for controlling man’s sin: His covenant with Noah.
As with His previous covenant with Adam, God’s covenant takes a certain form. First, we notice that God is issuing this covenant, not inviting Noah into it. This is a “one-way” covenant, which we call a suzerainty covenant. It is a covenant given by a greater party to a lessor party. The other type of covenant is a parity covenant, where two equal parties agree to terms. A suzerainty covenant doesn’t require the lessor party to do
anything in order for the covenant to be in force. Therefore, it remains in force strictly on the faithfulness of the strong party, in this case God. So we can be sure this covenant will remain in force forever, since God is the only party Who must remain faithful to its terms.
Speaking of its terms, God gives mankind three terms and God assigns Himself one. He begins by blessing Noah and his sons, saying be fruitful and multiply. God appoints these men to repopulate the earth, and they will have the capacity to do so. Secondly, God changes the relationship between men and animals. In verse 2 God declares that the beasts of the earth and the birds and all creeping things and all sea creatures will now instinctively fear man. Take note that there is one category of the animal kingdom missing from that list. God doesn’t mention the category of “cattle.” Remember that beasts refer to wild animals while cattle refers to domesticable animals like livestock.
All wild animals now will fear man and we see this command present in the world we know today. Wild animals will instinctively flee men, even large wild animals fear men under most circumstances even though they could overpower us.
Next we see the reason why God wanted wild animals to fear man: He wanted to level the playing field. While God instructed Adam to only eat plants, now men are told that
every beast or bird or creeping thing or sea creature is available for food. God says meat can now supplement the vegetable diet. Notice that God reiterates in verse 3 that green plants are still available. But meat is now added to man’s diet. We can’t be sure that some men didn’t try eating meat before the Flood in disobedience to God’s instructions in the Garden. But we have no evidence that animals were seen to be
food prior to this moment.
These kind of changes to life and behavior become markers to help us distinguish changes in God’s way for ruling over men. God is always showing men grace, but He dispenses His grace in various ways over human history. As an example, we know that when the Law is given to Israel, the rules for eating change again. Israel will not be permitted to eat certain animals following the giving of the Law.
Why do animals become food for men at this point? We can see one reason immediately and one for the future. Immediately, we have Noah facing a world without much food. Many of the trees will have survived and will flower and bring forth fruit in the coming months and other seeds will have been buried and will begin to grow again.
But still, during the early years after the flood, Noah’s family and those who follow will need the nutrition that eating meat will provide. Secondly, God is planning to institute feasts and other celebrations to picture important things. And in these feasts, animals will be consumed, like the Lamb at Passover. God wanted a powerful picture to communicate the power of Christ’s physical death and our need to partake of Him, like eating the lamb at Passover.
John 6:51-58 (NKJV)
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food indeed, and My blood is true drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
This is representative by our participating in the Communion Meal. Now, having given men animals that fear man and given men permission to begin eating animals, God then moves to His second term for men: they may not eat blood. God tells Noah that when eating meat, man must not eat meat with its life, that is the blood. To be specific, God is saying that the slaughter of animals must include a process of draining the blood that runs through the veins. Note, God isn’t prohibiting eating meat that’s rare or even raw. God’s concern is in slaughtering an animal in such a way that the blood remains in the veins and is consumed intentionally. Mankind has been following this rule throughout the world since the day of Noah. Slaughterhouses everywhere drain the blood of an animal as part of the process of preparing the meat. Only cults or similar groups routinely consume blood, in disobedience to God’s command.
God has prohibited consumption of blood because blood is both the literal and figurative representation of life. Literally, blood carries the nutrients that keep our flesh alive. It carries energy for muscles, carries away waste products from metabolism. It transports hormones and other essential chemical agents and it delivers oxygen and fuel to the brain, without which our mental activity ceases in a matter of seconds. Spiritually, God uses blood to picture the pouring out of life, just as blood loss leads to death. When blood is poured out on the altar, the symbolism communicates that life is leaving the body and is returning to God. And that’s the point of God’s prohibition…He is the One Who gives life and takes it away. Therefore, we can’t direct life by our own power. We can’t take it from another apart from God’s decree. And we can’t gain it for ourselves by our own efforts. When a person drinks another’s blood, the symbolism is clear: we are trying to acquire life in some sense. But this is not possible, and it offends the Life
Giver Who alone gives life.
Finally, God gives mankind a third mandate: human and animal life may now be required as justice for taking a life. God decrees that He now requires that a life be taken, whether of beasts or of men, when man’s blood is shed. In verse 6 God gives His reason behind the decree. God is the one Who made man, and therefore God is the
life-giver. As the One who gives life, God is also the One Who has the right to end life. And if a person should step in and assume God’s authority over life and death, that person must be put to death. Simply put, God is instituting capital punishment. Now, since there is so much controversy today over the practice of capital punishment, let’s take a moment to be sure we understand God’s instructions. First, we have to begin where God begins: God says He requires this be done. In verse 5 God “requires” this action (literally: calls for). Capital punishment isn’t contrary to our belief and values as God’s people. On the contrary, it was God Himself who required this step be taken. Secondly, God’s principle is that taking a life has only one punishment: giving a life for a life.
As we see in this section on the story of Noah, if we look ahead to the Gospel story, we can see why God wanted to draw this connection in our understanding. The sin we all have requires that a life be given for our life of disobedience. That’s where the life of Christ came in, His life given so that we might gain our lives. Third, God decrees in verse 6 that this punishment will be carried out by the hand of man.
If man is going to carry out this decree, he must establish rules and processes for executing this decree. Obviously, it starts small, but as government was meant to
do, it grows over time. And this structure is something God puts in place at
this point. Remember this is the beginning of a new dispensation: the dispensation of
government. Where before God ruled men through their conscience directing them
in judging right from wrong. But that dispensation only served to prove that men’s conscience is incapable of taming the evil of men’s hearts. So God stepped in and brought the flood and a fresh start. But that fresh start didn’t cure sin, nor was it intended to do so. So, God brings a new control for sin: human government with
the power of the sword. Paul elaborates on this truth in Romans.
Romans 13:1-4 (NKJV)
Submit to Government
13 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Paul confirms the principles we see established here in Genesis 9. Paul says that there is no authority on earth except those established by God. And if we resist – meaning act in defiance – to authority, we are resisting God Himself. Then Paul says government doesn’t bear the sword for nothing. He’s saying that God has given government the right to take life for a reason: to punish evil doers and to encourage law keeping. Here’s our confirmation that the arrival of government coincided with the arrival of capital punishment. And they were both given as checks on man’s sin, to help control the evil of men’s hearts. They are new dispensations of God’s grace. But as before, they are not solutions for man’s sin. Government is not the solution to the evil of men’s hearts. And no government is good enough to solve a problem that only finds it’s solution in a spiritual change. God is at work teaching mankind over and over again
that the only solution is found with God Himself. Having given men the three decrees, God now turns to Himself and obligates Himself to one important promise.
Genesis 9:8-11 (NKJV)
8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. 11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
God states plainly that He is making this agreement by His own hand, a suzerainty agreement. And the agreement is between Noah and all Noah’s descendants. Under these circumstances, this means all mankind. Remember, like Adam, every human being descends from Noah. God even goes a step further and obligates Himself to every creature in Creation, not just man. This is the last covenant in Scripture made between God and all mankind or creation. Thereafter, God’s promises of grace begin to narrow and become exclusive to a portion of humanity (Israel). God’s dispensation of grace to mankind will become a function of His work with a single people group. But at this point, God offers His word of promise to all humanity. He will never again cut off life with a flood of water. The earth will never see such a destruction again. But God leaves open the option of destroying the world other ways. In Isaiah and 2 Peter, we hear that the world is destined for another destruction. And this time, the destruction isn’t merely for the purpose of ending sinful life. In the next worldwide destruction, God puts an end to the physical Earth itself. And He replaces it with something completely new and different and by faith we are assured to be a part of that new world. As we will survive that coming judgment just as Noah survived this one: secure inside the Ark of Christ.
Next week we wrap up the story of Noah in this ten part series. I hope this in-depth look at Noah brought greater understanding to the truth of God’s Word.
“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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