Genesis chapter 9

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What does Genesis chapter 9 mean?

Genesis 9 describes God's dealings with Noah and his sons in a world remade by the flood. It can be divided into three sections.

First, God gives blessings and commands to Noah and his sons which very closely echo His words to Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28), but with significant differences. God once again blesses mankind with both ability and responsibility to reproduce and fill the earth. This time, however, God's instruction to subdue the earth includes the fact that all animals would be fearful of humanity.

In Eden, God explicitly gave plants as a food source (Genesis 1:29–30). Now, after the flood, in addition to plants, humanity is given overt permission to eat animals. However, they are not permitted to eat the blood of those animals. In addition, if a person kills another person—or an animal kills a person—God will now require the killer's life to be taken, as well, as a protection against the kind of violence that raged on the earth before the flood (Genesis 9:3–6).

In the second section, God expands on His promise from chapter 8: to never again kill every creature on the earth with a flood. God establishes a universal covenant with humanity and the animals, and declares that He will make a sign of this covenant; He will set His bow in the clouds. God will cause the rainbow that appears in conjunction with a storm to remind Him of this promise. It serves as a reminder of God's grace and mercy to humanity, as well (Genesis 9:7–17).

The final section of chapter 9 tells an awkward story. Noah gets drunk on the wine from a new vineyard. He passes out naked in his tent. One of his three sons, Ham, walks into Noah's tent, sees his father naked, leaves the tent, and tells his brothers what He has seen. Noah's other two sons go to great lengths to cover their father's nakedness without looking at him. While vague on details, this passage makes it explicitly clear that Ham has somehow dishonored his father (Genesis 9:24-25). This story also demonstrates a common theme of Scripture: that all people, even those used by God, are fallible and prone to masking mistakes.

When Noah wakes up, he curses Ham's son Canaan, declaring that Ham's descendants will be subservient to the descendants of his brothers Shem and Japheth. Noah's curse on Canaan includes blessings on both Shem and Japheth with the first hint that the line of Shem will lead to the creation of God's chosen people: Israel (Genesis 9:18–29).

Chapter 9 ends with a simple report: Noah lived 350 years after the start of the flood for a total lifespan of 950 years. He will be the last of the patriarchs of Genesis to live nearly a millennia. The genealogies of Genesis 11 show a rapidly-decreasing maximum to the duration of human life.
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