Genesis 8:13-9:17.
A Blessed Beginning

American Journal of Biblical Theology, www.biblicaltheology.com
Copyright © 2015, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter     Scripture quotes from KJV


When God created the heavens and the earth, He did so with purpose.  He created mankind as a unique creature who, unlike any other life on earth, was given an eternal spirit that empowers every individual to know God and to be able to communicate with him, and by so doing, establish a relationship with Him.  In this manner, people were created “in His image.”[1]

Another attribute that separates people from every other creature on earth is moral agency:  God created man with the capacity to clearly know and understand the difference between good and evil.[2]  God communicated to Adam and Eve the grave danger of obtaining this knowledge, because by so doing, people always choose evil.  When Adam and Eve disobeyed in the garden they failed to ask for forgiveness or repent of their rebellion, passing their character on to their children.  One child, Abel, chose to love the LORD and diligently sought obedience to Him.  However, his brother Cain despised him for his faith, and in a jealous rage, murdered him.  This behavior set the tone for the beginning of the population of the earth by man.

Though God has always revealed Himself to all people through a variety of forms, including what we observe in nature, and through the still-small voice[3] of our hearts, we always choose a path that fails to honor God and we fail to establish a faith relationship with Him without intervention.  God’s promise to man has never changed:  if we would place our faith and trust in Him, He will forgive us of our sin, and bring us to Himself for an eternal relationship with Him.  However, if we choose to reject His offer, and choose to live lives apart from Him, He will also honor that desire and separate us from Himself for eternity.  This contrast between an eternal relationship with God and eternal separation from God is the very essence of what we refer to as heaven and hell, respectively.

Be starting the population of the earth through Adam and Eve, the sin that entered the world through them[4] that sin permeated all of society until there was only a single line of faithful people left: the family of Enoch, his son Lamech, and his son, Noah.  When Noah’s was the only righteous family remaining, the LORD brought the great flood, and by so doing, He gave humanity a new start, a new beginning that had some dramatic differences, differences that would shape the very form of human interaction with God for the remainder of the age.

Genesis 8:13-14.  And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried.

From the day that the great flood began and the door of the Ark was closed to the day that Noah removed the covering from an opening at its top was a year and eleven days.  We might note that the narrative of the flood contains many very detailed numeric figures, particularly concerning dates and years.  The biblical content that we find from the narrative of the creation up to the introduction of Abraham was passed down through the generations as spoken lore.  Such figures were necessary to preserve the accuracy of the account until the history was written. 

This is not the first time that Noah opened the “hatch.”  There are at least two other occasions when at the end of the 40-day deluge Noah released birds, a raven and twice a dove, to see if they would find dry land.  It is now nearly a year after releasing the doves, and several months since the end of steady rains.  Noah removed the covering over the opening and looked, possibly for the first time since releasing the birds, to find that the ark was now resting again on dry land.  The word, “behold” carries the intent of marked surprise.  Noah was amazed by what he was seeing as he looked around the ark.

It might be interesting to note that the word for “covering” is the same as that used to describe the covering of the tabernacle that was built by the young nation of Israel under instructions given of the LORD to Moses.  Remembering this, we will find many parallels between this new beginning of human population and the new beginning of Israel.

Genesis 8:15.  And God spake unto Noah, saying, 16Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee.

The command that the LORD gave to Noah to exit the ark is a reverse parallel to His command to enter it.  Noah entered the ark at the command of God, and did not make any effort to leave it until he was given the command to do so.  There is no indication that the LORD spoke any specific commands to Noah during their time on the ark, but considering that Noah was a man of faith, he would have maintained a relationship with God through prayer during their “voyage.”

God’s command uses a form that emphasizes the importance of family.  The command was not for Noah to exit the ark, it was a command for his entire family to exit as a family unit.  This theme of familial relationship continues.

Genesis 8:19.  Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. 18And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: 19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.

 

When the animals came to Noah for the safety of the ark, Noah and his family led them to their “nests.”  Likewise in reverse fashion, Noah and his family would lead the animals out of the ark onto the dry land where they could disperse, two by two, male and female, where they could now replenish the earth with their numbers.  When God populated the Garden of Eden, He provided a literal garden of plants from which both people and animals would eat.  There was no enmity between man and animals or between animals, allowing them to quickly reproduce and fill the earth. 

It is evident that this same pattern took place on the ark and immediately following the departure of the animals.  Also, as the animals passed “in front” of Adam and Eve as they were to name them, a metaphor for the authority and stewardship that Adam and Eve had concerning them, the same pattern would now take place as the animals, two-by-two, male and female would pass them on their way to their new home.

Genesis 8:20.  And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

The requirement for sacrifice to the LORD was established as early as the family of Adam and Eve and their sons.  It was a conflict over sacrifices that enraged Cain to the point that he murdered his brother.  From the very beginning of creation, God made it clear that forgiveness of sin comes with a price.  When one would witness the loss of life that takes place in a blood sacrifice, they would realize that this animal “died for me.”  This death would not have been necessary had sin not been committed.  The idea is simple:  all who sin deserve death, and the blood sacrifice serves as a substitute that God is allowing when that sacrifice is given freely from the heart, recognizing the tremendous privilege of grace that the sacrifice represents.  Understanding this, we may come to recognize the grave error we make when we withhold for ourselves the sacrifices that the LORD deserves.

Though the system of sacrifice was available to people of faith from the very beginning, the building of altars was not.  This is the first mention in scripture of the building of an altar, and we will not see another reference to this altar until Abram, who like Adam now entered a new land for a new start, also built an altar with which to honor the LORD.[5]

These initial altars would have simply been made by the piling of earth and unhewn stone.  However, as simple as they might be, they would serve as a continual reminder of the grace of the LORD for those who built them, and for those who would follow.   They would also serve as a reminder that the LORD is present with them in their new place.

Noah chose from the “clean” animals, those that would be sacrificed.  Seven pairs of clean animals were taken into the ark so that such sacrifices could be made.  Though the giving of a sacrifice to the LORD is always from our own means, (or it would not be a sacrifice), God still always provides it.[6]

Genesis 8:21-22.  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. 22While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

The biblical narrative often refers to the “savor” that the LORD would “smell,” an anthropomorphism that refers to the simple fact that God is pleased by the faithful obedience of His people.  This faithfulness that is demonstrated by the entire family of Noah is a stark contrast to the unfaithfulness of the family of Adam. 

Having restarted the population of the earth with a family of faith, the character of the world will be different.  Though “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” starting with the family of Noah there will be a growing remnant of faithful people among the world-wide population that will grow into the millions, if not billions over the next several millennia.  Where the garden and the ground were cursed following the sin of the first Adam,[7] the LORD removed that curse as the Noahic family would continue.

Furthermore, the LORD made another promise that, as long as the earth remains, He will never again destroy all life on earth.  However, this is not a promise that the earth will remain.  His plan to bring the age to an end, as violent as it will be, is not abrogated by this promise.  His plan is to end the age after bringing the entire family of faith to Himself, saving the entire faith-progeny of Noah from its violent end.

God also promised that, as the earth remains, people need not fear another cataclysm.  The changes of seasons, as well as the changes in weather, and the cycle of night and day will continue.  Weather that is quite violent from our point of view will still take place as a natural response to the interactions between the heat of the sun and the earth.  However, as we may experience torrential rains and violent storms, we are reminded that none of these is the beginning of another world-wide death judgment by God. 

Genesis 9:1.  And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

The wording here is virtually identical to the blessing given to the Adamic family.[8]  However, there is a dramatic difference in context.  The first blessing was given to all people who God had created, knowing that virtually that entire creation would rebel against Him, and He would ultimately destroy them all, save one faithful family.  This blessing is given, not to mankind in general, but specifically to the family of Noah, a family of faith.  As the fathers of Noah had passed their faith down to them, Noah and his sons had the opportunity to continue this legacy, restarting the human experience in harmony with the LORD.  As violent as the world has become, and as small as the faithful remnant seems to be on this earth, Noah’s progeny was far more successful than that of Adam as the faith community is now, though a small percentage of this vast world-wide population, still a very significant number.

Genesis 9:2-3.  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.

This proclamation by God marks a significant change in the relationship between mankind and the animals.  It appears that, prior to the flood, there was no reason for animals to fear and respect humans.  Initially, the Edenic covenant included a relationship of peace with the animals as all would initially eat plants.  However, this changed.  After the flood, the LORD would put into the instinctive hearts of all animals both a fear of mankind, and a respect for what man can do to them.  The period of peace between man and animals was declared to be over.  This is by no means a declaration that mankind did not kill and eat animals prior to the flood, as the wickedness and violence of mankind had become paramount.  However, at this point the fear of man was given as a preservative for them for the coming millennia.

Genesis 9:3.  Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

If mankind had been eating animals prior to the flood, those animals had been taken.  Now, the LORD is giving them to mankind for food.  Note that this proclamation includes all animals for all people.  There is no stated limitation on the choice of animals for food.  However, where in the past animals may have been freely taken, now it would be necessary to do some hunting. 

Genesis 9:4.  But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

However, permission to eat meat comes with a very important restriction:  man is not to eat animals without killing and preparation, and the blood is not to be eaten.  This prohibition is an indication of the reverence that man should have with the taking of life.  Early man easily understood that if man or animal were to be cut and lose their blood, they would die.  The word that is translated “blood” in the KJV is often translated “lifeblood” because of the common usage the Hebrew term has for both “life” and “blood.”  They equated blood with life.  To take the blood is to take the life. 

Genesis 9:5.  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.

This, often overlooked proclamation of the LORD, establishes the importance that God places upon life, the life that He has created and ordained with purpose.  Literally, this passage states, “Thou shalt not kill,” and reinforces it with a judgment that the blood of one who kills will be required.  If an animal kills a person, the animal is to be killed.  If a person needlessly sheds the blood of man or animal, they are to be killed.  Life is to be treated responsibly, with respect, and the knowledge that to kill is an act of rebellion against the LORD who created life.

This world has wandered far from the respect for life that God demanded of Noah and his progeny.  Hunting has been a blood-sport for as long as man has had the capacity to kill, and though a small remnant of environmentalists now stands against this behavior, it is not influential in the world at large.  The value of human life has been reduced to little more, or even less, than that of animals as sin promotes the genocide of peoples, both established and unborn.

Genesis 9:6.  Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Furthermore, God repeats the judgment for murder with a significant reason:  when one unnecessarily takes any human life, he/she has despised the image of God that is in that individual.  This begs the question, when is the image of God present in the life of a human?  One cannot argue that the spirit enters at birth, simply because a baby can be taken prematurely, and the spirit is still there.  It is the opinion of this author that, since the spirit that God has imparted in each person is eternal, that spirit is imparted at conception.  Taking the life of an unborn child is a violation of the imperative of this verse.

Some have argued that the murderer is not to be put to death because the murderer also has that image of God in them.  However, the logic and plan of mankind will never supersede the Word of God.  The prohibition that God has placed against the killing of another is in itself greater than the life of the murderer.  To disobey God’s command is to fail to hold the murderer responsible, to promote his/her evil behavior, and diminish or destroy the meaning behind the proclamation of God. 

Because of this the respect that we are to hold for life is to include that of the murderer, so taking that life must be done with proper godly judgment and respect for God, for His Word, and for the individual who is accused.  Because of this, when the LORD does give later instruction to Israel on the process of capital punishment the execution is to be carried out by a formal judgment of the people, and requiring multiple witnesses to do so.  Execution is always to be carried out by the courts.  For example, in modern courts the murderer is confronted not, by the family of the victim, but by a prosecutor who represents the State.  There is no place in scripture one will find any defense for the practice of vigilantism or personal revenge. 

The command of God concerning life points to the great value that God holds for all life.  To minimize or disregard the value of life, whether human, fauna, or flora, is to minimize and disregard the LORD and His word.  Consequently, people of faith should be at the forefront of those who respect life.

Genesis 9:7.  And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

It may be of interest that the LORD repeats the imperative to be fruitful and multiply immediately following the commands concerning the value of life.  However, this serves to add reason behind the imperative:  the LORD loves life, holding it more important than any other part of His creation.  It is He who created the miracle of life, and His plan is that the earth would be populated with billions of people.  The earth’s population has doubled every 40 years since we have had the ability to make reasonable estimates.  The following chart illustrates this…

     History                 Projection

Year  Population        Year    Population  
1400  0.35 Billion      2040    12 Billion
1500  0.43 Billion      2080    24 Billion
1600  0.50 Billion      2120    48 Billion
1700  0.60 Billion      2160    96 billion
1800  0.89 Billion      2200   192 Billion
1900  1.56 Billion      2280   768 Billion
2000  6.00 Billion      2360  3072 Billion

It is a relatively simple exercise to determine the mathematical progression (function) of population growth given the known figures from the year 1400 through 2000.  If this function continues at its current rate of doubling every 40 years, it correctly estimates a population of 7.0 Billion by 2015, and continues with population figures indicated in the table to the right of the graph.  Obviously, the command to “be fruitful and multiply” is facing a serious future challenge as the earth will not be able to support this kind of population growth.  

Genesis 9:8-10.  And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.

The LORD has presented His purpose to us through the years, often doing so in the form of covenants, or promises.  We tend to think of a covenant as a deal between two parties with each coming to some form of agreement.  The word that is rendered covenant in the biblical narrative has a slightly different meaning.  Sometimes referred to as a “suzerain covenant” or “suzerain treaty” it is a covenant where the one declaring the details of the agreement has all of the authority, and the one receiving the covenant has none.  Man is not in a position to bargain with the LORD over His covenants.  God simply states through covenants the details of His plans and purposes.  When we observe the covenants, or promises, of God we will always find that they are entirely for the benefit of His creation.  We will also find that God is always true to His covenants.

The LORD proclaimed that this covenant involves, not just the people, but all life on this planet.  This covenant speaks to His love for all of His creation and His promise to sustain it until the end of the age.[9]

Genesis 9:11.  And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

This covenant that God makes for His creation is very specific: never again will the life on this earth, or the earth itself, be destroyed by a world-wide flood.  When we observe the atmosphere today, we find there simply is not enough moisture in all of the world’s skies to create a world-wide flood.  However, this alone does not provide us with the security of knowing that a repeat of the Noahic flood is not possible since any combination of factors could cause the evaporation of the oceans and the (re?)building of a dense, cloudy, greenhouse atmosphere. 

Our security is found in God’s promise.  This promise is an important one.  When we find ourselves experiencing a dramatically violent rainfall event we can know with certainty that this is not the beginning of another world-wide cataclysm.  We know that at some point the rain will stop.  Though there is certainly a possibility of a significant amount of local damage due to the wind, rain, and flooding, we know that the opportunity to recover is coming. 

Genesis 9:12-17.  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: 13I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16And 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 creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

Ever since the Noahic flood the rainbow has been viewed as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His promises.  It is also a reminder of His mercy.  John combines these two ideas when he describes a throne in heaven that is under a rainbow of green, illustrating the authority of God in heaven (throne), one that is true to His promises (rainbow) and His mercy (green.)

As long as there is rain and there is sunshine, there will be rainbows.  A rainbow is formed when sunlight enters a raindrop, reflects off its opposite side, and travels back towards the viewer.  Because of the circular structure of the raindrop, the angle of incident and the angle of reflection add up to about 42 degrees.  Since water is denser than air, the speed of light is slower in water causing the light to “bend” (consider how an object seems to bend when placed in water at an angle).  Different colors bend at different angles, so the droplet works like a prism, the light reflected out of the rainbow is a prismatic spectrum.  The combination of multiple droplets gives the appearance of a single large colorful structure.   A dimmer second rainbow is formed when some light reflects back into the droplet and makes it out a second time, creating a prism at a more obtuse angle, 50 degrees.  The sky appears darker between two bows because of the lower reflectivity between the two angles.  This process can repeat three to four time giving the appearance of multiple rainbows, radiating outward with each one dimmer because of the continuing loss of escaping light.

Some hold that there were no rainbows prior to the flood.[11]  If this were true, the sight of that first rainbow would have been an amazing experience for Noah and his family.  They had seem some amazing and miraculous work of the LORD through this experience of salvation, and would have been quite open to understanding the promise that the LORD made to His people to never destroy the life of the world again in a flood. 

Every time we see a rainbow we can be reminded of God’s promises.  The first promise came in the form of a new beginning that comes at the end of the storm.  We go through many storms in life, those that the LORD ordains in our lives in order to bring us to a higher level of spiritual maturity, and those that we create ourselves through our own sinful behavior or the sinful behavior of those who have influence on us.  The LORD promises that those former storms, the ones the He ordains, will never be great enough that we cannot overcome them.[12]  We may forget that we can never see a rainbow while we are in the midst of the storm, but can always be encouraged to know that it will be visible when the storm passes. 

The LORD provided a new beginning for Noah and his family, one in a world was no longer characterized by sin.  The LORD is the LORD of new beginnings as He always promises a fresh start to all who will turn to Him in faith.  Storms will come, and storms will pass.  The passing of every storm is a new beginning, an opportunity to learn those lessons that the LORD has for us in the storm so that we can become closer to Him, and by so doing come to love Him more, and show more love to those around us. 


 

[1] Genesis 1:26.

[2] Genesis 2:9,17.

[3] 1 Kings 19:12.

[4] Romans 5:12.

[5] Genesis 12:7.

[6] Genesis 22:11-14.

[7] Genesis 3:19.

[8] Genesis 1:27.

[9] The end of the age may be coming soon if the above population projections are anywhere near accurate.

[11][11] Some who hold to a canopy theory as the source of the Great Flood hold that, because of a lack of direct sunlight due to world-wide thick cloud cover, no rainbows were seen prior to the deluge.  However, this is only a theory:  though the scripture makes no reference to a rainbow prior to the flood, that is not evidence that they did not exist.  That same theory holds the voracity of the promise that is represented in the rainbow simply because there is no longer a world-wide cloud cover that could collapse and create another flood.

[12] 1 Corinthians 10:13.  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.