Commentary on Genesis 6:9-9:29

Last updated: September 28, 2010

English Translation (ESV)

6:9These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

7:1Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. 2Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, 3and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. 4For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” 5And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.

6Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. 7And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.

11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.

17The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

8:1But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

6At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.

13In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15Then God said to Noah, 16“Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh — birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth — that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.

20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

9:1And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6“Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image.

7And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”

8Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

18The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

20Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25he said,

“Cursed be Canaan;

a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

26He also said,

“Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem;

and let Canaan be his servant.

27May God enlarge Japheth,

and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,

and let Canaan be his servant.”

28After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.

Notes

6:9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

One is either blameless or he is not. Therefore the phrase “in his generation” does not mean Noah would appear less outstanding in a more moral generation. It is a credit that he was blameless even in his corrupt generation1. Walking with God indicates righteousness (cf. 5:22, 24). However, these terms do not mean that Noah was perfect2.

6:11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.

The term “earth” refers to dry land. Sea creatures are not destroyed in the flood. Animals and men were to fill the earth (1:22, 28) but instead violence fills it. “’Violence’ denotes any antisocial, unneighborly activity. Very often it involves the use of brute force, but it may just be the exploitation of the weak by the powerful or the poor by the rich (e.g., Amos 6:1-3), or the naive by the clever (Prov 16:29)”3.

6:12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

The phrase “And God saw” echoes 1:31 where God saw that creation was very good. This echo “heightens our sense of the tragedy that has overtaken the world since its creation”4. Both humans and land animals had corrupted their way. This is why land animals do not escape judgment.

6:13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Unlike in the Mesopotamian flood stories, the deity speaks directly to the hero5. The Hebrew word for “destroy” (mashitam) has the same root as the word for “corrupted” (hishit) in verse 12. This wordplay is meant to show that the punishment fits the crime6.

6:14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.

An ark is a box and not a boat. The inhabitants of the ark would be cast about in the waters without any control over their fate7. It is God alone who saved Noah and his family8. The word for “rooms” (qinnim) usually refers to bird nests9. It is unclear what gopher wood is. A likely candidate is cypress, which was widely used in shipbuilding in ancient times10. The baby Moses is saved in an ark covered with pitch in Exodus 2:3-5.

6:15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits.

A cubit is the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, about 18 inches. Thus, the ark is about 450 x 75 x 45 feet.

6:16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks.

Hebrew tsohar is another unique word. It is either the “window” of 8:6, or it means “a roof.” Depending on which meaning is adopted, the unclear directive to “terminate it within a cubit of the top” (lit. “from above”) could variously mean that a space of one cubit is to be left between the top of the window and the roof, that the window itself is to be a cubit in height, or that the slanting roof should project one cubit beyond the side of the ark.11

6:17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.

The purpose of building the ark is now made perfectly clear. It is to save Noah and his family from the flood. Prior to this verse the means of destroying of all flesh was unstated.

6:18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

This verse shows that God planned to make a covenant with Noah before the flood waters were sent. The covenant was not an afterthought once the waters receded.

6:22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

Noah’s obedience and trust in God is stressed (7:5, 9, 16). Moses builds the tabernacle with similar obedience (Exodus 40:16).

7:2-3 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

Clean animals are fit for sacrifice. Noah takes extra pairs of these animals so that these species are not wiped out when he offers sacrifices after the flood (8:20).

This chapter presupposes Noah’s completion of the ark. Now, just prior to entering the vessel, Noah is given a final and more detailed set of instructions. Earlier he had been told to take aboard a pair of every kind of living thing (6:19-20, senayim, a word that is dual in form). On this occasion he is told to take aboard seven pairs (sib’ a sib’ a) of all of the clean animals and one pair (senayim) of each of the unclean animals.

Just as critical scholars appeal to the two names for deity to support two Flood accounts, so they find further support for their position in the fact that two different numbers of animals are cited here. One has Noah taking aboard a pair of animals, without reference to clean/unclean (P). The other tradition has Noah taking aboard seven pairs of the clean and one pair of the unclean (J).

The contradiction disappears, however, if we read senayim in 6:19-20 as a collective for “pairs”; one cannot form a plural of a word that is dual. Thus Gen. 6:19-20 is the general statement. Noah is to bring aboard pairs of animals. Specifically the animal population is to consist of seven pairs of clean and one pair of unclean.12

7:4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

Noah is given more specific details concerning the timing of the flood.

7:10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.

Noah and his family did not live in the ark for a week before the flood waters came. The following verses make it clear that Noah’s family entered the ark on the same day the flood began. This verse makes it clear that God’s promise from verse 4 came true.

7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

The flood is caused by both subterranean waters and water from the sky. This recalls the waters above and below in 1:6-7.

7:16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.

God himself shuts the ark. Noah is saved by divine grace and not his own efforts.

7:17-20 The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.

The repetition of the Hebrew words for “water” (5x), “increased” (2x), “rose” (3x), and “greatly” (3x) in these verses highlight the rising waters13.

7:21-23 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.

The repetition of the words “all” and “every” highlight that no one survived the flood except Noah and his family.

7:24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

This verse states that the waters maintained their crest for 150 days14. After this period of time they began to withdraw (8:3).

8:1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.

The wind recalls 1:2 and signals the restoring of order.

8:2-4 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.

The Hebrew behind the phrase “had abated” refers to the start of a process. This is why verse 5 says the waters continued to abate15. The word “rest” is a play on the word Noah16. The mountains of Ararat refers to the “mountain country of Urartu in NW Iraq – to the biblical writer, the highest part of the world”17.

8:5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

Seventy-three days after the ark grounded the mountains became visible.

8:6-7 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth.

The raven is pictured returning sporadically throughout the drying process18. Sailors used to use birds to determine if land was close19.

8:9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him.

The phrase “place to set” is a play on the name Noah20.

8:11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.

The dove returned in the evening, suggesting it had found resting places during the day21. The word “plucked” (taraf) connotes that it was a freshly plucked olive leaf and not flotsam22. The olive leaf is a proverbial symbol of peace and flourishing life23.

8:15-16 Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.

God’s command to exit the ark parallels his command to enter the ark (7:1-5).

8:17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh — birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth — that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”

“Be fruitful and multiply” recalls 1:22.

8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

Noah’s first action after the flood indicates his faith in God. “Burnt offerings” (olah) were completely consumed by the fire on the altar and not eaten by the worshipers24.

8:21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.

The word “pleasing” (nihoah) is a play on the name Noah25. That God “smelled the pleasing aroma” connotes his acceptance of the sacrifice (Leviticus 26:31). God will not further curse the ground despite the evil intentions of man’s heart though the curse of 3:17 is still in effect26. That the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth, not from birth or conception, may suggest his tendency for evil can be curbed through discipline. Also, unlike the description of Noah’s evil generation in 6:5, this verse omits the words “every”, “only”, and “all”.

8:22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

The phrase “while the earth remains” implies that the earth is not eternal. The regularity of these natural cycles “denies the dynamics of the fertility cult by stressing that man’s actions for good or evil have no impact on the patterns of the season”27.

9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.

This blessing recalls 1:28. In the Atrahasis Epic the gods try to limit the human population.

9:2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.

The phrase “The fear of you and the dread of you” is military terminology28. The phrase “Into your hand they are delivered” implies that man has the power of life and death over animals29.

9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

Humans may now consume meat (cf. 1:29; 2:16; 3:18). The phrase “that lives” means that humans are not to eat animals that die of natural causes.

9:4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

Man is to drain the blood before eating a slaughtered animal30. In the ancient Near East some cultures thought you could renew or reinforce your vitality through consuming blood31.

9:5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

This verse is forbidding murder, not all killing32. Beasts are also held accountable for murdering humans (cf. Exodus 21:28-32). “Obscured by the modern rendering ‘fellow man’ is the Hebrew idiom ‘his brother,’ which possesses a double entendre. Here it echoes the first human murder, the fratricide of Cain and Abel, ‘his brother’ (4:2, 8)”33.

9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

The first three Hebrew words of this verse are reversed when proclaiming the penalty34. Murderers are to be executed (cf. Exodus 21:12-14; Numbers 35:16-32). “Shall his blood be shed” is a phrase that must refer to capital punishment administered by humans, not God35. That man is created in the image of God recalls 1:26. The image of God has not been lost through sin.

9:7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”

By repeating parts of verse 1 this speech is brought to a close. Noah and his sons are to produce life, not take it away.

9:8-10 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.

This covenant is a fulfillment of the promise made to Noah in 6:18. That the covenant is extended to animals, who cannot accept the covenant, proves that the covenant is valid regardless of whether its recipients accept it.

9:11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Future judgment is not ruled out, only a future universal flood.

9:12-13 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

The rainbow, with its association with rain, is a natural sign that God will never again flood the earth. In the ancient Near East the bow was the symbol of divine bellicosity and hostility but here it is transformed into a symbol of reconciliation36. The phrase “I have set my bow in the cloud” does not imply that there were no rainbows before the flood37.

9:14-16 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Verse 14 connects the sign’s appearance with the forbidding clouds brought about by the Lord. With the coming of the storm clouds, the bow would prompt his assent to the vow. “Remember” (zakar) is the language of covenant promise, as God “remembered” his oath to Abraham in behalf of Lot (19:29) and his promise for Israel (e.g., Exod 6:5; Ps 106:45; cf. Mal 3:16). Here it recalls the turning point of the flood narrative, “God remembered [zakar] Noah” (8:1a). Thus the assurance of future security for the earth’s families has its root in the character of God himself and the precedent of Noah’s salvation. The Passover event for later Israel was also marked by a “sign,” the smearing of blood above the doorposts of the Hebrew homes (Exod 12:13). For both Noah and the Hebrews, God “saw” the “sign,” which averted disaster and results in his salvific favor.

Verse 15 rehearses all that has gone before of the promissory prohibition, once more reversing the language of the antediluvian threat to “destroy all life” (cf. 6:17). Verse 16, concluding this speech, is highly repetitive of the former verses, though not stereotyped. Here God as speaker refers to himself in the third person, “between God [Elohim] and all living creatures,” thus indicating a formal declaration of his unilateral obligation. The promise as “everlasting” (cf. 8:22) reinforces the unconditional and certain commitment of God. The recurring covenant terminology of “remember” is sprinkled throughout the narrative to describe God’s fidelity. The NJB’s rendering, “I will call to mind,” captures the anthropomorphic intention of the language.38

9:19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

The dispersal of mankind is picked up in chapters 10-11.

9:20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.

As in 4:17-22, cultural achievements are the works of men, not gods. Noah is a kind of second Adam. Both men share the same profession (2:15; 9:20), the language of curse and blessing (1:28; 3:14, 17; 4:11; 5:2, 29; 9:25-26), the shame of nakedness (3:7, 10-11; 9:22-23), and familial strife as a result of their transgression (4:8; 9:25-26).

9:21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.

It is unclear, based on the Hebrew of verse 20, whether Noah was the first viticulturist or not39. If he was then it may excuse his drunkenness. But the narrative’s primary focus is on the curse and blessing.

9:22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.

Ham broadcasts his father’s nakedness instead of covering him up. This shows contempt for his father.

9:23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

Shem and Japheth respectfully cover their father without looking at his nakedness.

9:24-25 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

The text is silent as to why Canaan, not Ham, is cursed. The curse points forward to future generations of Canaanites who were cursed not because of what Ham did, but because they acted like Ham in committing their own transgressions40.

9:26 He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.

Noah blesses God, not Shem. Noah’s words are prayers of invocation41. Only God can determine the destinies of nations. Shem is the ancestor of the Israelites.

9:27 May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”

The word “enlarge” (yapt) is a play on Japheth. To dwell in the tents of Shem would mean that Japheth was sharing in the blessings bestowed on Shem42.

9:28-29 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.

Verses 28-29 conclude the genealogy of Noah begun in 5:32.

Structure

The structure of this passage can be seen a number of ways. B. W. Anderson sees an extended chiasmus from 6:9 to 9:1943:

  • (A) Transitional introduction (6:9-10)
  • (B) Violence in God’s creation (6:11-12)
  • (C) First divine address: resolution to destroy (6:13-22)
  • (D) Second divine address: command to enter the ark (7:1-10)
  • (E) Beginning of the flood (7:11-16)
  • (F) The rising flood waters (7:17-24)
  • (G) God’s remembrance of Noah (8:1a)
  • (F*) The receding flood waters (8:1b-5)
  • (E*) The drying of the earth (8:6-14)
  • (D*) Third divine address: command to leave the ark (8:15-19)
  • (C*) God’s resolution to preserve order (8:20-22)
  • (B*) Fourth divine address: covenant blessing and peace (9:1-17)
  • (A*) Transitional conclusion (9:18-19)

One can also see a chiasmus when looking at the time spans mentioned44:

  • (A) 7 days of waiting for flood (7:4)
  • (B) 7 days of waiting for flood (7:10)
  • (C) 40 days of flood (7:17a)
  • (D) 150 days of water triumphing (7:24)
  • (D*) 150 days of water waning (8:3)
  • (C*) 40 days’ wait (8:6)
  • (B*) 7 days’ wait (8:10)
  • (A*) 7 days’ wait (8:12)

Chronology of the Flood

Two kinds of time reckoning are used in the Flood narrative. That based on precise dates informs us that the Flood lasted exactly twelve months and eleven days, including the first and last days. That based on intervals of days is not a complete system in itself; it does not tell us how many days elapsed after the ark rested on Ararat before the mountain tops became visible or how many days elapsed after the dove finally failed to return for the earth to be fully dried out. The two modes of calculation are meant to be integrated.

If we now make a calculation taking into account the day formulas, the same result is achieved, provided a month is reckoned as exactly thirty days. This we may conclude since 7:11 and 8:4 state precisely that five months elapsed between the onset of the rains and the grounding of the ark, while 7:24 and 8:3 specify that period to be one hundred and fifty days.

The following computation thus emerges: To the 150 days just mentioned must be added 74 days between the seventeenth of the seventh month (8:4) and the first day of the tenth month, when the mountain tops first became visible (8:5), another 40 days before the release of the raven (8:6-7), and a further 21 days for the three forays of the dove (8:10-12). This makes a total so far of 285 days, bringing us to the second day of the twelfth month.

On New Year’s day, 29 days later, the waters on the earth had begun to dry up (8:13), and it took another 57 days for the ground to be completely dried out by the twenty-seventh day of the second month (8:14). The addition of 29 and 57 to the 285 gives a grand total of 371 days. Taking 30 days to a month, this figure yields twelve months and eleven days, identical with the conclusion based solely upon the date system.

Of course, a calendar of the type presupposed here is eccentric, but in the ancient Egyptian calendar the year was, in fact, divided into twelve months of thirty days each, yielding 360 days exactly, with five extra days intercalated at the end of the year. In Babylon, too, in addition to the true lunar calendar, there was a schematic calendar composed of twelve months of thirty days.45

Bibliography

Barker, Kenneth L. NIV Study Bible. Zondervan Publishing Company, 1995.

Brown, Raymond. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1990.

Friedman, Richard E. Commentary on the Torah. HarperOne, 2003.

Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament 1A. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990.

Mathews, Kenneth A. Genesis 1- 11:26. The New American Commentary Volume 1A. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.

Mays, James L. HarperCollins Bible Commentary – Revised Edition. Rev Sub. HarperOne, 2000.

Sarna, Nahum M. JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis. 1st ed. Jewish Publication Society of America, 1989.

Walton, John H. Genesis. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary 1. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987.

1Friedman, Commentary on the Torah, 35.

2Walton, Genesis, 311.

3Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 171.

4Ibid.

5Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 51.

6Friedman, Commentary on the Torah, 36; Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 172.

7Friedman, Commentary on the Torah, 39.

8Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 52.

9Numbers 24:1; Deuteronomy 22:6; 32:11; Job 29:18; 39:27; Psalm 84:3; Isaiah 10:14; 16:2; Obadiah 4; Habakkuk 2;9

10Ibid.

11Ibid.

12Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, 287.

13Mathews, Genesis 1- 11:26, 379.

14Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, 298.

15Ibid., 300.

16Mays, HarperCollins Bible Commentary – Revised Edition, 89.

17Brown, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 16.

18Mays, HarperCollins Bible Commentary – Revised Edition, 14.

19Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 186.

20Mays, HarperCollins Bible Commentary – Revised Edition, 14.

21Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 58.

22Ibid.

23Mays, HarperCollins Bible Commentary – Revised Edition, 14.

24Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 59.

25Ibid.

26Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 190.

27Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, 311.

28Deuteronomy 1:21; 11:25; 31:8

29Deuteronomy 19:12; 20:13

30Leviticus 3:17; 7:26-27; 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16-24; 1 Samuel 14:32-34

31[JPSTCGen] 61

32Friedman, Commentary on the Torah, 42.

33Mathews, Genesis 1- 11:26, 404.

34Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 61.

35Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 62; Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, 315.

36Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 63.

37Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 196.

38Mathews, Genesis 1- 11:26, 411-412.

39Walton, Genesis, 416-417.

40Mathews, Genesis 1- 11:26, 422.

41Ibid.

42Barker, NIV Study Bible, 20.

43Mathews, Genesis 1- 11:26, 352.

44Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 157.

45Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, 376.

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