God’s Covenant with Humankind through Noah
1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 Every living creature of the earth and every bird of the sky will be terrified of you.#tn Heb “and fear of you and dread of you will be upon every living creature of the earth and upon every bird of the sky.” The suffixes on the nouns “fear” and “dread” are objective genitives. The animals will fear humans from this time forward. Everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea are under your authority.#tn Heb “into your hand are given.” The “hand” signifies power. To say the animals have been given into the hands of humans means humans have been given authority over them. 3 You may eat any moving thing that lives.#tn Heb “every moving thing that lives for you will be for food.” As I gave you#tn The words “I gave you” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. the green plants, I now give#tn The perfect verb form describes the action that accompanies the declaration. you everything.
4 But#tn Heb “only.” you must not eat meat#tn Or “flesh.” with its life (that is,#tn Heb “its life, its blood.” The second word is in apposition to the first, explaining what is meant by “its life.” Since the blood is equated with life, meat that had the blood in it was not to be eaten. its blood) in it.#tn The words “in it” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.sn You must not eat meat with its life…in it. Because of the carnage produced by the flood, people might conclude that life is cheap and therefore treat it lightly. But God will not permit them to kill or even to eat anything with the lifeblood still in it, serving as a reminder of the sanctity of life. 5 For your lifeblood#tn Again the text uses apposition to clarify what kind of blood is being discussed: “your blood, [that is] for your life.” See C. L. Dewar, “The Biblical Use of the Term ‘Blood,’” JTS 4 (1953): 204-8. I will surely exact punishment,#tn The word “punishment” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarification. The verb דָּרָשׁ (darash) means “to require, to seek, to ask for, to exact.” Here it means that God will exact punishment for the taking of a life. See R. Mawdsley, “Capital Punishment in Gen. 9:6,” CentBib 18 (1975): 20-25. from#tn Heb “from the hand of,” which means “out of the hand of” or “out of the power of” and is nearly identical in sense to the preposition מִן (min) alone. every living creature I will exact punishment. From each person#tn Heb “and from the hand of the man.” The article has a generic function, indicating the class, i.e., humankind. I will exact punishment for the life of the individual#tn Heb “of the man.” since the man was his relative.#tn Heb “from the hand of a man, his brother.” The point is that God will require the blood of someone who kills, since the person killed is a relative (“brother”) of the killer. The language reflects Noah’s situation (after the flood everyone would be part of Noah’s extended family), but also supports the concept of the brotherhood of humankind. According to the Genesis account the entire human race descended from Noah.
6 “Whoever sheds human blood,#tn Heb “the blood of man.”
by other humans#tn Heb “by man,” a generic term here for other human beings.
must his blood be shed;
for in God’s image#sn See the notes on the words “humankind” and “likeness” in Gen 1:26, as well as J. Barr, “The Image of God in the Book of Genesis – A Study of Terminology,” BJRL 51 (1968/69): 11-26.
God#tn Heb “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity. has made humankind.”
7 But as for you,#sn The disjunctive clause (conjunction + pronominal subject + verb) here indicates a strong contrast to what has preceded. Against the backdrop of the warnings about taking life, God now instructs the people to produce life, using terms reminiscent of the mandate given to Adam (Gen 1:28). be fruitful and multiply; increase abundantly on the earth and multiply on it.”
8 God said to Noah and his sons,#tn Heb “to Noah and to his sons with him, saying.” 9 “Look! I now confirm#tn Heb “I, look, I confirm.” The particle הִנְנִי (hinni) used with the participle מֵקִים (meqim) gives the sense of immediacy or imminence, as if to say, “Look! I am now confirming.” my covenant with you and your descendants after you#tn The three pronominal suffixes (translated “you,” “your,” and “you”) are masculine plural. As v. 8 indicates, Noah and his sons are addressed. 10 and with every living creature that is with you, including the birds, the domestic animals, and every living creature of the earth with you, all those that came out of the ark with you – every living creature of the earth.#tn The verbal repetition is apparently for emphasis. 11 I confirm#tn The verb וַהֲקִמֹתִי (vahaqimoti) is a perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive and should be translated with the English present tense, just as the participle at the beginning of the speech was (v. 9). Another option is to translate both forms with the English future tense (“I will confirm”). my covenant with you: Never again will all living things#tn Heb “all flesh.” be wiped out#tn Heb “cut off.” by the waters of a flood;#tn Heb “and all flesh will not be cut off again by the waters of the flood.” never again will a flood destroy the earth.”
12 And God said, “This is the guarantee#tn Heb “sign.” of the covenant I am making#sn On the making of covenants in Genesis, see W. F. Albright, “The Hebrew Expression for ‘Making a Covenant’ in Pre-Israelite Documents,” BASOR 121 (1951): 21-22. with you#tn Heb “between me and between you.” and every living creature with you, a covenant#tn The words “a covenant” are supplied in the translation for clarification. for all subsequent#tn The Hebrew term עוֹלָם (’olam) means “ever, forever, lasting, perpetual.” The covenant would extend to subsequent generations. generations: 13 I will place#tn The translation assumes that the perfect verbal form is used rhetorically, emphasizing the certainty of the action. Other translation options include “I have placed” (present perfect; cf. NIV, NRSV) and “I place” (instantaneous perfect; cf. NEB). my rainbow#sn The Hebrew word קֶשֶׁת (qeshet) normally refers to a warrior’s bow. Some understand this to mean that God the warrior hangs up his battle bow at the end of the flood, indicating he is now at peace with humankind, but others question the legitimacy of this proposal. See C. Westermann, Genesis, 1:473, and G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:196. in the clouds, and it will become#tn The perfect verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive here has the same aspectual function as the preceding perfect of certitude. a guarantee of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever#tn The temporal indicator (וְהָיָה, vÿhayah, conjunction + the perfect verb form), often translated “it will be,” anticipates a future development. I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 then I will remember my covenant with you#tn Heb “which [is] between me and between you.” and with all living creatures of all kinds.#tn Heb “all flesh.” Never again will the waters become a flood and destroy#tn Heb “to destroy.” all living things.#tn Heb “all flesh.” 16 When the rainbow is in the clouds, I will notice it and remember#tn The translation assumes that the infinitive לִזְכֹּר (lizkor, “to remember”) here expresses the result of seeing the rainbow. Another option is to understand it as indicating purpose, in which case it could be translated, “I will look at it so that I may remember.” the perpetual covenant between God and all living creatures of all kinds that are on the earth.”
17 So God said to Noah, “This is the guarantee of the covenant that I am confirming between me and all living things#tn Heb “all flesh.” that are on the earth.”
The Curse of Canaan
18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Now Ham was the father of Canaan.)#sn The concluding disjunctive clause is parenthetical. It anticipates the following story, which explains that the Canaanites, Ham’s descendants through Canaan, were cursed because they shared the same moral abandonment that their ancestor displayed. See A. van Selms, “The Canaanites in the Book of Genesis,” OTS 12 (1958): 182-213. 19 These were the sons of Noah, and from them the whole earth was populated.#tn Heb “was scattered.” The verb פָּצָה (patsah, “to scatter” [Niphal, “to be scattered”]) figures prominently in story of the dispersion of humankind in chap. 11.
20 Noah, a man of the soil,#sn The epithet a man of the soil indicates that Noah was a farmer. began to plant a vineyard.#tn Or “Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard”; Heb “and Noah, a man of the ground, began and he planted a vineyard.” 21 When he drank some of the wine, he got drunk and uncovered himself#tn The Hebrew verb גָּלָה (galah) in the Hitpael verbal stem (וַיִּתְגַּל, vayyitggal) means “to uncover oneself” or “to be uncovered.” Noah became overheated because of the wine and uncovered himself in the tent. inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan,#sn For the second time (see v. 18) the text informs the reader of the relationship between Ham and Canaan. Genesis 10 will explain that Canaan was the ancestor of the Canaanite tribes living in the promised land. saw his father’s nakedness#tn Some would translate “had sexual relations with,” arguing that Ham committed a homosexual act with his drunken father for which he was cursed. However, the expression “see nakedness” usually refers to observation of another’s nakedness, not a sexual act (see Gen 42:9, 12 where “nakedness” is used metaphorically to convey the idea of “weakness” or “vulnerability”; Deut 23:14 where “nakedness” refers to excrement; Isa 47:3; Ezek 16:37; Lam 1:8). The following verse (v. 23) clearly indicates that visual observation, not a homosexual act, is in view here. In Lev 20:17 the expression “see nakedness” does appear to be a euphemism for sexual intercourse, but the context there, unlike that of Gen 9:22, clearly indicates that in that passage sexual contact is in view. The expression “see nakedness” does not in itself suggest a sexual connotation. Some relate Gen 9:22 to Lev 18:6-11, 15-19, where the expression “uncover [another’s] nakedness” (the Piel form of גָּלָה, galah) refers euphemistically to sexual intercourse. However, Gen 9:22 does not say Ham “uncovered” the nakedness of his father. According to the text, Noah uncovered himself; Ham merely saw his father naked. The point of the text is that Ham had no respect for his father. Rather than covering his father up, he told his brothers. Noah then gave an oracle that Ham’s descendants, who would be characterized by the same moral abandonment, would be cursed. Leviticus 18 describes that greater evil of the Canaanites (see vv. 24-28).sn Saw the nakedness. It is hard for modern people to appreciate why seeing another’s nakedness was such an abomination, because nakedness is so prevalent today. In the ancient world, especially in a patriarchal society, seeing another’s nakedness was a major offense. (See the account in Herodotus, Histories 1.8-13, where a general saw the nakedness of his master’s wife, and one of the two had to be put to death.) Besides, Ham was not a little boy wandering into his father’s bedroom; he was over a hundred years old by this time. For fuller discussion see A. P. Ross, “The Curse of Canaan,” BSac 137 (1980): 223-40. and told his two brothers who were outside. 23 Shem and Japheth took the garment#tn The word translated “garment” has the Hebrew definite article on it. The article may simply indicate that the garment is definite and vivid in the mind of the narrator, but it could refer instead to Noah’s garment. Did Ham bring it out when he told his brothers? and placed it on their shoulders. Then they walked in backwards and covered up their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned#tn Heb “their faces [were turned] back.” the other way so they did not see their father’s nakedness.
24 When Noah awoke from his drunken stupor#tn Heb “his wine,” used here by metonymy for the drunken stupor it produced. he learned#tn Heb “he knew.” what his youngest son had done#tn The Hebrew verb עָשָׂה (’asah, “to do”) carries too general a sense to draw the conclusion that Ham had to have done more than look on his father’s nakedness and tell his brothers. to him. 25 So he said,
“Cursed#sn For more on the curse, see H. C. Brichto, The Problem of “Curse” in the Hebrew Bible (JBLMS), and J. Scharbert, TDOT 1:405-18. be Canaan!#sn Cursed be Canaan. The curse is pronounced on Canaan, not Ham. Noah sees a problem in Ham’s character, and on the basis of that he delivers a prophecy about the future descendants who will live in slavery to such things and then be controlled by others. (For more on the idea of slavery in general, see E. M. Yamauchi, “Slaves of God,” BETS 9 : 31-49). In a similar way Jacob pronounced oracles about his sons based on their revealed character (see Gen 49).
The lowest of slaves#tn Heb “a servant of servants” (עֶבֶד עֲבָדִים, ’eved ’avadim), an example of the superlative genitive. It means Canaan will become the most abject of slaves.
he will be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Worthy of praise is#tn Heb “blessed be.” the Lord, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem!#tn Heb “a slave to him”; the referent (Shem) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
27 May God enlarge Japheth’s territory and numbers!#tn Heb “may God enlarge Japheth.” The words “territory and numbers” are supplied in the translation for clarity.sn There is a wordplay (paronomasia) on the name Japheth. The verb יַפְתְּ (yaft, “may he enlarge”) sounds like the name יֶפֶת (yefet, “Japheth”). The name itself suggested the idea. The blessing for Japheth extends beyond the son to the descendants. Their numbers and their territories will be enlarged, so much so that they will share in Shem’s territories. Again, in this oracle, Noah is looking beyond his immediate family to future generations. For a helpful study of this passage and the next chapter, see T. O. Figart, A Biblical Perspective on the Race Problem, 55-58.
May he live#tn In this context the prefixed verbal form is a jussive (note the distinct jussive forms both before and after this in vv. 26 and 27). in the tents of Shem
and may Canaan be his slave!”
28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 The entire lifetime of Noah was 950 years, and then he died.