Chapter 9

Submitted by admin on Thu, 2019-11-21 15:16.

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With God’s blessing upon Noah and his sons, the family was to repopulate the earth or land. Although Noah and his family were permitted to add meat to their diet, land and marine creatures and birds would continue to have a natural fear of them. This suggested that wild animals would not pose a threat to the deluge survivors. To the present time, even predators commonly avoid contact with humans. (9:1-3)

When killing an animal for food, Noah and his family were not to eat the blood. A creature’s life depended on the blood. Seemingly for this reason, the blood is referred to as “its soul” or its life. Targum Jonathan (thought to probably date from the second century CE) does not include the prohibition against eating blood. It rules out eating flesh that is torn from an animal that is still alive or from a slaughtered animal while there yet remains breath in it. (9:4)

God revealed that he would require an accounting from any beast or human responsible for shedding the lifeblood of any person. This accounting authorized capital punishment for murder and killing any animal that killed a human. The taking of human life showed disregard for the reality that man was made in the “image of God” and so was a unique creation with the capacity to love, to manifest wisdom, justice, and compassion, and to value and appreciate beauty and order. (9:5, 6) According to Targum Jonathan, “the judges, by witnesses,” were to condemn the murderer to death. If there were no witnesses, God himself would “bring punishment on him in the day of the great judgment.”

The family of Noah was to increase greatly in numbers, and God assured Noah and his sons that they and all the other occupants of the ark would never again experience a deluge. “For all future generations,” God made a covenant or solemn agreement with all the deluge survivors that never again would “all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood.” The rainbow was to serve as a sign of this covenant. Whenever the rainbow appeared “in the clouds,” God would remember the “everlasting covenant” between himself and every living soul of all flesh [or every mortal creature] that is upon the earth.” (9:7-17)

Of Noah’s three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth (the ancestors of the post-flood human family), Ham, the father of Canaan, became the focus on account of a disrespectful act toward his father. Noah became intoxicated from the fermented juice of the grapes he obtained from the vineyard he had planted. In his drunken state, he lay exposed in his tent. Ham witnessed his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers about it. Shem and Japheth then took a garment, placed it on their shoulders and, walking backwards, covered their father’s nudity without looking upon it. (9:18-23)

In Leviticus chapter 18, the expression “to uncover nakedness” refers to illicit sexual relationships. This has provided the basis for a conjecture that Canaan may have been involved in a perverse act toward his intoxicated grandfather and that Ham failed to respond with appropriate corrective action. When Noah woke up from the effects of the wine he had drunk, he learned what his “youngest son had done to him.” It seems somewhat unusual that Ham would be called the “youngest son,” for he is always mentioned in the second place (Shem, Ham, and Japheth). Possibly, therefore, the designation “youngest son” applies to the grandson Canaan. (9:24) The comments of Josephus do not support this conjecture. He understood the “youngest son” to be Ham and wrote that the “youngest son” saw sleeping Noah in his intoxicated state lying “naked in an unseemly manner.” “When his youngest son saw this, he came laughing, and showed him to his brothers; but they covered their father’s nakedness.” As to the reason Noah did not curse Ham, Josephus wrote that it was on account of “his nearness in blood” or because Ham was a closer blood relative to Noah than his offspring would have been. “When the rest of [the offspring of Ham] escaped that curse, God inflicted it on the children of Canaan.” (Antiquities, I, vi, 3)

Upon coming to know what had happened, Noah pronounced a curse on Canaan, indicating that he would become “a slave of slaves to his brothers.” Noah also said, “Blessed [or praised be] YHWH, the God of Shem, and let Canaan be his slave.” Seemingly, the prophetic curse on Canaan pointed forward to the time when the descendants of Shem, the people of Israel, would subjugate the Canaanites and make the survivors of the conquest of the land of Canaan their slaves. It is noteworthy that the Canaanites were known for engaging in abhorrent sexual practices, and the earliest sign of this may have already been in evidence in the case of Ham’s son Canaan. (9:25, 26)

Noah continued, “May God enlarge Japheth,” either greatly increasing the number of his descendants or expanding the boundaries of the territory in which they would reside. Let Japheth “dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his slave.” The form of the Hebrew word for “enlarge” or “expand” consists of the same consonants as does the proper name “Japheth” and, therefore, the verb and the proper name constitute a wordplay. Descendants of Japheth (Persians, Greeks, and Romans) did conquer Canaanite territory in later centuries, and this may be regarded as fulfillment of the prophetic words that Canaan would become a slave of Japheth. As for Japheth dwelling “in the tents of Shem,” this could mean that the descendants of Japheth would at a future time derive benefits from the descendants of Shem. (9:27) One great benefit was the translation of the sacred writings from Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek and the associated spread of the knowledge about the one true God, YHWH. Targum Jonathan indicates that the sons or descendants of Japheth would become proselytes and “dwell in the schools of Shem.”

After the deluge, Noah lived an additional 350 years and died at the age of 950. (9:28, 29) Commenting on the long lives of Noah and others, Josephus (Antiquities, I, iii, 9) wrote: “Let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives, and with the few years which we now live, think that what we have said of them is false; or make the shortness of our lives at present an argument that neither did they attain to so long a duration of life, for those ancients were beloved of God, and [lately] made by God himself; and because their food was then fitter for the prolongation of life, might well live so great a number of years: and besides, God afforded them a longer time of life on account of their virtue and the good use they made of it in astronomical and geometrical discoveries.”