Genesis 9

This chapter highlights two extremes: God’s great goodness and man’s persistent sinfulness. John MacArthur said, “One thing didn’t drown in the flood, and that was sin. Sin was riding in the ark, in the nature of Noah and his family…when they walked off the ark, sin walked off the ark.” But God’s grace had preceded the ark and was waiting to meet the sinners.

I count four gifts of grace that God gave to Noah and his family in this chapter. First, He gave them the blessing of repopulating the earth (v.1). Imagine what it must have been like to know that you were one of only eight human beings on the planet. Noah’s three sons and three daughters-in-law had their work cut out if they were going to “fill the earth.” But they did it because God blessed them with amazing fertility, longevity, and reproductive health (v.19). The survival of humanity (and your existence) prove that!

The second gift God gave was the promise of dominion. Verse 2 is God’s guarantee that humans would dominate the planet. Sure enough, people began to tame animals and use them for their own benefit. Families moved out to settle new land and to build homes and towns and cities. All this fulfilled God’s plan of man’s dominion.

Third, God gave the provision of nourishment (v.3). God declared “open season” on every living thing that man wanted to eat, including all plants and animals. Why anyone would want to eat squid or cauliflower I’ll never know — but they are gifts of God to nourish humanity.

Fourth, and most importantly, God gave man a covenant of grace (v.8-17). God promised that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. The visible sign of the covenant was the rainbow. It is significant that rainbows appear after it has stopped raining. Every time you see a rainbow it ought to remind you of two things: the deadly consequences of sin in the flood, and the grace of God in withholding judgment.

This covenant was given with two caveats that point to the sanctity of human life. First, verses 4-6 tell us that man is made in the image of God, and so his blood (“lifeblood”) is precious. It cannot be shed without consequence. Second, there is a sanctity to God-ordained sexuality that must not be violated. There is level of modesty and decency that is missing in both Noah and Ham in verses 20-27, and the consequences were disastrous to Ham’s son, Canaan.


The drunken exhibitionism of Noah, the sinful ogling of Ham, and the cursing of Canaan (Ham’s fourth son) is a bizarre incident. It is one of those scenes we wish had been left out of Scripture. So why is it there? Why would the Bible record something as seemingly minor as a son walking in and seeing his father undressed? Why such major, far-reaching repercussions from such a minor sin? And exactly what was Ham’s sin?

We must begin with Noah’s sin: he became drunk (a sin which is often a gateway to all kinds of stupidity) and took off his clothes, losing his sense of decency and modesty.

As for Ham, when the Bible says he saw his father in that state in v.22, the word “saw” translates the Hebrew word ra’ah, meaning to look at, gaze, stare with intensity and interest. Whether Ham’s thoughts as he stared were perverted or judgmental, the Bible doesn’t say and we don’t know. Whatever it was, Noah awaked knowing that something had been “done to him” (v.24). And whatever it was, it was wicked — and the wickedness was compounded when Ham shared it with his brothers. Shem and Japheth had an appropriate sense of shame in regard to their father, as shown in the careful way they covered him.

Noah did not curse Ham, but rather one of his sons. I do not know why. I do know that our sin often has consequences that affect others and outlive us. After Ham was gone, Canaan had to live with the consequences of his father’s — and grandfather’s — sins.