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Genesis: God’s Book of Beginnings (9)

SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 9

Key verse: “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” (Genesis 9:11).

This is a clear promise regarding God’s government of the world while the earth exists. This was of great reassurance to Noah and his family when future rain descended. Rain was no longer God’s judgment but a mercy, especially when attended by a rainbow.

Summary

Genesis chapter 9 gives information on the distance between animals and humans. It sets out man’s commission to replenish the earth and lay a foundation for human government to protect human life.

VERSES 1-17 RECORD GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS TO NOAH AND HIS CHILDREN:

1. The command to repopulate the earth
2. The distance between man and animals
3. The freedom to use animals as a source of food
4. The basis of human government 5. The covenant of mercy symbolized in the rainbow

VERSES 18-29 RECORD EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE WORLD-WIDE FLOOD:

1. The first acts of husbandry in planting a vineyard
2. The depravity of man in Noah’s drunkenness and Canaan’s sexual perversity
3. The consequences of sin dividing men in the new world

Observations

GOD’S BLESSING ON NOAH AND HIS SONS WAS LINKED TO THE ALTAR WHICH NOAH BUILT.

Chapter 9 begins with “and”, which directs the reader back to the closing event in chapter 8. (We must not be distracted by chapter divisions in our study of the Bible, for they can be arbitrary). It is significant that Noah’s first act after exiting the ark was to build an altar unto the Lord (Genesis 8:20). Clean animals and birds had been preserved for this act of sacrificing. God accepted the offering as a “sweet savor,” which led to a decree of mercy toward sinners (Genesis 8:21). The formulation of the covenant recorded in Genesis 9:9-17 is premised on the blood offering that was accepted by God. Every covenant made by God is ratified by blood. The sacrifice of Christ was no different. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that made atonement to turn away God’s wrath, and it is the blood of Christ “that cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:9).

GOD GAVE MAN DOMINION OVER THE EARTH.

Man is called to repopulate the world and to have dominion over all the creatures in the earth (Genesis 9:1). God put a greater degree of fear between Noah and the animals than was the case before the flood (Genesis 9:2). They would no longer act friendly to man; they would be controlled by fear, and so needed to be hunted and domesticated. They were to become a source of food to eat (Genesis 9:3). God made man to have dominion over all living things in the earth. This truth is another argument against evolution, pantheism, and reincarnation. Animals are not moving in a cycle toward humanity. They do not have souls, and are not of eternal value, but were created by God for man’s survival and pleasure. These instructions to Noah were important as man’s dependence on animals for food and the necessities of life increased after the flood, due to a harsh climate.

Note that the selection of animals for man to eat was not limited to clean animals. That distinction came later under Levitical laws, and was abrogated in the New Testament. Think of Peter’s vision of unclean beasts and creeping things and the command, “Arise Peter, slay and eat” (Acts 11:7) and Paul’s statement, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5). These New Testament instructions further establish this truth.

BY FORBIDDING MEN TO EAT BLOOD, GOD ESTABLISHED THE PRINCIPLE OF LIFE WITHIN THE BLOOD.

The principle of life within the blood relates to the work of atonement. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). This fundamental principle contains a gospel lesson on the absolute necessity of blood atonement in a sinner’s reconciliation to God. Dr. Henry Morris, commenting on Leviticus 17:11 stated, “The flesh was given for meat, but the life of the flesh was given for sacrifice” (Morris, “The Genesis Record,” p. 223).

On this principle rests the doctrine and practice of substitutionary atonement. God accepted the life of a sacrifice offered up to Him in the place of the life of a guilty sinner. This principle was daily before the eyes of worshippers in the morning and evening sacrifices offered in Old Testament worship. By its visible and continual ministration in their midst Israelites were constantly schooled in the principle of substitutionary atonement. Through the Levitical sacrifices, God intended to teach all Israelites and all Bible readers to apply the principle of “the life of the flesh is in the blood” to the death of Christ. Christ’s life was poured out when He shed His blood for His people. When a sinner exercises faith in the blood of Christ he or she is saved from the penalty of sin, which is death, by the value and vitality of the life of Christ. This gospel principle is clearly expounded to New Testament believers in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 9:13-28). Substitutionary atonement, therefore, is at the heart of the gospel and must be preached by every gospel preacher and delighted in by every congregation that would honor the Lord in worship.

GENESIS 9:5-6 LAYS THE FOUNDATION FOR HUMAN GOVERNMENT.

Up until this chapter, there was no death penalty for manslaying. Cain was cursed and banished, but not punished with death. Likewise Lamech, though guilty of shedding human blood, did not face death for his crimes. But in Genesis 9 God gave the command, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed…” (Genesis 9:6). The words “by man” call for human government, for it is man who is to put to death the manslayer. When an earthly government puts to death a manslayer it is not murder, it is capital punishment. The apostle Paul taught that the magistrate who beareth the sword “is the minister of God” (Romans 13:1-6 ).

The principle also applies to animals which cause the death of men (Genesis 9:5). The animal that is guilty of taking human life is to be put to death. This principle is practiced in most societies today.

“It is clear, of course, that the authority for capital punishment also implies the authority to establish laws to govern human activities and personal relationships, which, if unregulated, could soon lead to murder (e.g., robbery, adultery, usurpation of property boundaries). Thus, this simple instruction to Noah is the fundamental basis for all human legal and governmental institutions” (Morris, “The Genesis Record”, p. 225).

MAN’S UNIQUE CREATION IN THE IMAGE OF GOD IS THE REASON THAT HIS BLOOD IS TO BE AVENGED.

God’s argument for revenging the murder of man is based on the fact that His own image is stamped upon man, “for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:6). This issue rests on much more than revenge. It rests upon justice. It is God who demands the death of the murderer. This is because an attack upon man is an attack upon God, for man bears God’s image. To hate your brother is not only a crime against a human figure; it is against the character of God. Man’s body may be made of clay, but his soul comes from God. His greatest value is in the eternal nature of his soul. His destiny in eternity, whether it be heaven or hell, may be determined by the manslayer’s hand. When a murderer takes another’s life, he has little consideration for that person’s soul.

Application

While this world continues, worship by the blood of Christ is required by God. Liberalism leads worshippers away from the doctrine of Christ’s blood-atonement, whereas biblical orthodoxy leads worshippers to declare and defend the substitutionary nature of Christ’s sacrifice for sin.

The second part of the royal law sets forth our duty to love our neighbor as ourselves. This includes his or her physical and spiritual good. Our evangelism should be based on the fact that men are made in God’s image. It is our duty to warn them of sin’s destruction, aiming to bring them to salvation through faith in Christ’s atoning blood.

To Do

Read the Westminster Larger Catechism questions and answers 135 and 136 on the duties required and the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment.

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Ian Goligher

By Ian Goligher

Rev. Ian Goligher is the pastor of Cloverdale FPC, Vancouver, BC. He was Editor of Current from 2014 to 2019.