Genesis 9:1-4 (NIV) 1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. 4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.
On verses 1-4: In verse 1 God gives Noah and his sons a near identical commission to the one God gave Adam in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth”. God also gave humans authority over the entire animal kingdom (“they are given in your hands” – v2b). Meat is now explicitly okay to eat in addition to vegetables (v3), although God demands that special respect be paid to the lifeblood of the animal.
Genesis 9:5-6 (NIV) 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.
On verses 5-6: The reason God demands an accounting from people who shed the blood of others is because every person is made in the image of God and is precious to God. To God there is something precious about blood. If our blood is precious to God, how much more precious to God is the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, which is able to cleanse us from our sins and grant us forgiveness (see 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Genesis 9:7-17 (NIV) 7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” 8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you–the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you–every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” 17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
On verses 7-17: Here God establishes a covenant with Noah, his descendants (v9) and every living creature (v10). What is a covenant? The Holman Illustrated Bible contains an excellent discussion of covenants, including specific covenants you can find in the Bible. Generally speaking, a covenant is a promise, usually confirmed with an oath, where one person solemnly agrees to do something for another person. In the Bible, God makes several covenants with specific individuals. In some cases God’s covenant is on the condition that the other person does something in return, and sometimes God’s covenant is not based on any condition at all. Covenants you can find in the Bible include:
– God’s covenant with Adam (see Hosea 6:6-7) whereby God would give Adam eternal life if Adam did not eat from the forbidden trees.
– God’s covenant with Abraham where He promises to make Abraham into a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3).
– God’s covenant with Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai, where God promised to treat Israel as His special possession on the condition that the Israelites obey His Word (see Deuteronomy 7:12-16).
– God’s covenant with David, where God promises that David’s kingdom will last forever (2 Samuel 7:16).
– The new covenant that Jeremiah would prophesy about (Jeremiah 31:27-34) and that Jesus would institute where God promised to make forgiveness, salvation and restoration to God’s presence available to people through Jesus’ death on the cross (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:6-9:15).
Here in verse 9 is the first time the word “covenant” (in Hebrew berit) actually appears in the Bible. As we see in verses 8 to 17, God makes a covenant with Noah not to destroy the earth with a flood ever again. The covenant is not based on any condition; it does not require Noah or anyone else to make any promise to God in return. The sign of the covenant to confirm that God would keep this promise is a rainbow.
What can we learn from this? God is a covenant making God. God does not owe us any promises, and yet in love God makes these covenants with His people to give them hope, security, assurance and protection.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You call people to be fruitful, to increase in number on the earth and to rule over creation. Thank You for being a covenant making God, a God who makes covenants with His people because You love us and want to bless us. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!