Author’s Note: I am preaching through Genesis on Wednesday nights. Here I will present edited notes in blog form. You can listen to the sermon below and download it here. May God be glorified and His people edified. Comments below if you like.
We have to remember that God is the God of eternity, and if the study of Genesis has shown us anything it is that the problems we face today as sinners have their root at the introduction of sin in the Garden, and the resultant curse, but that there is hope — eternal hope — found in fearing the LORD, trusting in the LORD, which necessarily entails obeying His commandments.
We’ve also seen what happens when men don’t obey God’s commandments, when they don’t fear Him, trust in Him. Most recently, we’ve seen the entire population of earth — with the exception of eight faithful men and women, represented by the head of the family, Noah — the entire population of the earth blotted out, washed away by a global, catastrophic Flood. But hope came at the end of the Flood. In chapter eight that the waters subsided, Noah and his family got off the ark, and the first thing he did was worship the LORD. The old world was dead, but by the grace and mercy of God he, his wife, his sons, and their wives had their lives preserved to forge humanity’s way — under God — in a new world. Noah makes an altar and sacrifices clean animals. All of this is pleasing to God. He smells the soothing aroma.
And then curiously, in 8:21, He says to Himself, not others, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.” He says this to Himself in chapter eight. But now, as chapter nine begins, He will once again speak to man, and specifically to Noah. We pick up in Genesis 9:1:
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
We start off with God blessing Noah, and by proxy his wife and family. The fact He is blessing Noah is significant, because Noah is unworthy of a blessing. He is a sinner, the whole world — except for Noah and the others — having been blotted out, judged for sins. But here, chapter nine opens with a reminder our God is a God of grace, that He still cares for His creation, and ultimately His mercy upon Noah has triumphed over the judgment of the world because human beings remain, and will remain, under God’s blessing.
And if the language of verse one sounds familiar to you it should, because it’s in large part a restatement of God’s instructions to the first man, Adam, in Genesis 1:28. There, “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Now off the ark Noah is commanded once again to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. So we are getting a recapitulation of sorts of creation. A new start, a new (or at least very much changed) world. Renewed instructions.
God’s desire is that they multiply rapidly in order to fill the earth, quickly spread over the habitable earth in order to exercise dominion over it, the way He originally intended for man.
However, there is a difference now. Notice what is missing when comparing what God said to Adam with what God said to Noah. Noah is not told to subdue the earth. Noah is not told, in so many words, to rule. Things have changed now. And what is that? Verse 2…
The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.
Well here we have mention of all — at least most — of the different creatures God made. Cattle is omitted here for some reason, perhaps because man has, to this day, a different relationship with the more domesticated animals than he does other animals. But the point of verse two is to point to a different relationship man now has with the rest of the animals. Recall before in chapter seven it is twice told to us that the different animals went into the ark to Noah, God providentially bringing them to where the ark was, but also there is a sense in which the animals followed the command of Noah. We get nothing in the text to suggest hostility or anything but a peaceful, even symbiotic relationship between man and the animals in that whole account.
But now things will change. As the animals come off the ark, God says now animals will be afraid, even terrified, of men. And we know that to be the case in our world today. Some animals get aggressive when you get in their way, when they sense you are a danger to them or to their young. But by and large — this is the general rule, not the universal rule — animals are fearful of human beings. They flee when humans approach.
I laugh at my daughter Hannah because when we’re out for a walk or just in the yard she’ll tell me she wants to catch a bird. But what happens when she tries? The bird flies away. It’s afraid of her. The animals… after the ark God seems to have put a fear of man into them. They have been given into our hands in that sense, in the sense they don’t generally come after us. And of course, given that God has given them into our hands, as verse two states, we are to be responsible stewards of that higher place we have in God’s economy. A higher place elaborated on in verses 3-4…
Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
Before the Flood, man was able to eat of any plant he wanted to basically, except for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 1:29 we saw, “Behold, I have given you every green plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.” So up until the Flood men were to be fruit and vegetarians.
Now that’s not to say no one took an animal’s life and ate it before the Flood. It’s quite possible, perhaps even likely, that in all the ways men sinned before the Flood, some may have become carnivores, eating meat, which God did not instruct nor ordain. Remember in Genesis 4, Jabal the son of Lamech was called the father of those who have livestock. I think that probably had something to do with eating animals. Men went beyond the word of God in many ways.
Now, though, after the ark… post-Flood… God opens up the animal world to mankind for food, and He notably places no restrictions here on which animals men could eat. Later on when God gives a certain people, Israel, His law, He will significantly restrict which animals His people can eat… only clean animals. But here, all animals were given to men for food.
Today, of course, you have extremist groups, which at the same time are popular, like PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — who say that killing any animal for food is the moral equivalent of murder. The founder of PETA actually argued that the killing of chickens for food was equal to the Holocaust, where six million Jews were killed by the Nazis.
Those of us who hold to a Christian worldview, and even more people whose minds aren’t depraved in the same way those are, realize that’s utterly absurd. Some people think we as Christians should be under dietary laws because they were in the Old Testament. Still others like Rick Warren look to the things Daniel ate in Babylon and think that’s how our diets should be guided — which, by the way, is a completely ridiculous notion and does serious damage to real biblical interpretation. What does God say, though? Here, “Everything that moves is good for you.” And this is reiterated in 1 Timothy 4:4, “Everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.” That’s in the context of food. There were false teachers telling others they had to abstain foods and things, and Paul is saying no.
No, indeed. God gives all of the animals to men for food. Sure, you can be a vegetarian if you like, but not because the Bible says so. Meat eating would become an important part of the new world. So the next time you go to a restaurant, you can remember the blessing to Adam as you eat your salad, and then the blessing to Noah as you eat your steak. Amen.
Of course, God does put a prohibition, a restraint, upon this. Verse 4: “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” This is grace from God. Protection for sinners… and then some. When you eat meat you do what? You cook it. You don’t eat flesh with its life.
Don’t eat live meat, God says. Throughout history there have been some civilizations that would eat live meat, as a delicacy. But God says not to eat live meat, not to eat an animal while it’s alive. Don’t eat the still bleeding, uncooked flesh of an animal.
And this is common sense for us today — what, with our knowledge of bacteria, viruses, microorganisms, parasites… things animals carry which are harmful, even fatal, to men… Salmonella, other things. Today there are rules and regulations, many rules and regulations, to safeguard the public from sicknesses, diseases, and what not from animals.
But throughout history most of the world — even most of the world today — doesn’t have that kind of knowledge, much less that kind of protection. And from the beginning of the time God gave animals to man as food, this was — in part — His protection. Don’t eat animals with its life, that is, its blood.
That’s where we see there is more to this. The flesh was given to man for meat, but the life of the flesh was for sacrifice. Later on this would be explained more to the nation of Israel. Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” The life, the blood, of an animal would be sprinkled or poured on the altar. It would be accepted by God as substitution for the life of the guilty sinner, allowed to live — though he deserves to die — because of the sacrifice.
Of course, the blood of bulls and goats — as the writer of Hebrews states — was only sufficient for so much. That blood only figuratively covered sins. The blood of those animals pointed forward to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world — Jesus Christ — who, Hebrews 9:26, “now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
The blood of animals, then, representing its life, wasn’t to be eaten… or drunk… since it was accepted in sacrifice as substitution for the life of man. So then, verses 5-6…
Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.
Here we see God place a high premium on the sanctity of human life. Man’s blood represents man’s life, and so God places a high value on it.
The word require is a judicial word, a judicial term, and God being the holy and righteous Judge and the One who created both man and beast, here is saying that if an animal, a beast, kills a man then the beat must be put to death. We see this re-emphasized and codified, really, into Israel’s Law in Exodus 21:28. And even more so, if a man kills another man — willfully, culpably — then he must also be put to death by “every man’s brother.” Brother here not referring to blood relation as much as it is referring to the brotherhood of all men, all men actually being descendants of Noah’s three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. In other words, all men are responsible to see that justice is done.
This is an important moment in the history of humanity because up until now it appears there was no real human government, and this is essentially a command to establish a formal system by which justice could be carried out — especially when it comes to murder. God was giving man authority to execute judgment on murderers: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed.”
Remember that before the Flood — we saw in Genesis 6:11 — “the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.” There was practically no human government, perhaps just authority within families, but nothing to really restrain evil; thus, anarchy prevailed everywhere. The earth was filled with violence, the shedding of blood, and this had brought about the Flood, so here God institutes human government to be an agent of justice, righteousness, to stop that from happening again. And indeed, in Romans 13 Paul writes that human government — authority — is ordained by God, to be a minister to people for good.
That good includes other laws as well. The authority for capital punishment, as it’s written by one commentator, “implies also the authority to establish laws governing those human activities and personal relationships which if unregulated could soon lead to murder (such as robbery, adultery, usurpation of property boundaries). Thus, this simple instruction to Noah is the fundamental basis for all human legal and governmental institutions.”
And I do want to be clear here that God does ordain capital punishment. In the past few decades there have been objections to death sentences here in the United States. Some states have even abolished it entirely or imposed indefinite moratoriums on death sentences being carried out. In fact, there was at the very end of the most recent Supreme Court term yet another challenge to the death penalty in a case involving Oklahoma. By a 5-4 decision, the Court upheld the death penalty… at least for now. I can sympathize with the cries for justice. I can even sympathize, to a degree, with the calls against cruel and unusual punishment. To be sure, any government imposing the death penalty should take every necessary step to ensure justice is being done. However, this is of God. God takes sin seriously, and He has ordained human government to take it seriously at well.
Some point to the Ten Commandments and say, “Well, God says, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’” But not exactly. The King James Version, actually, unfortunately translated this “Thou shalt not kill,” when really it’s murder — “You shall not murder.” And capital punishment is not murder. It is the carrying out of justice. It takes life so seriously that one who would dare take another life forfeits their right to life. And furthermore, keep reading in Exodus and you see that the death penalty for Israel was for more than just murder cases, but for breaking any one of the Ten Commandments. God had them carrying out the death penalty for more than just murder, but for a number of other crimes that strike at the sanctity of human life.
Now that’s not to say execution always has to be the punishment for murder. There can be more than one just punishment for any given crime. And… justice may be accompanied by mercy as well, especially when there is genuine contrition, genuine repentance. That’s why we parole criminals, sometimes well before their handed down sentences end. It’s also why we remember David as the greatest King in Israel’s history and not as the murderous adulterer. God forgave him when he repented. David wasn’t stoned. David wasn’t killed by the sword. He died, instead, at a ripe old age, we’re told in 1 Chronicles 29:28. Of course, repentance doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. There were consequences for David and Bathsheba. The son of their union died.
The point is… man has been given the responsibility of government and the first and foremost way in which this responsibility is to manifest itself is in the recognition of the sanctity of human life, with those who violate that sanctity receiving the most serious of punishments.
The word shed in verse six is noteworthy. It’s the first time the word is used in the Scriptures. We also see it translated poured out or poured forth, and it’s used to describe the pouring out of the wrath of God in the Psalms, the pouring out of His Spirit in Joel, the pouring out of the blood of an animal upon the altar in Leviticus. And prophetically, it’s a word used to describe Jesus on the cross in Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm: “I am poured out like water,” He says, before the fact.
Still in verse six, God says, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” In Genesis 1 we saw that God created man in His image, male and female He created them. We’ve talked about how that image was corrupted by the fall, how we are now born spiritually dead, how every part of us in corrupted, affected, by sin. But there is grace found in the fact that even after the Flood, even as Noah and his family step off the boat and into the new world, God makes it clear man is still made in His image. Corrupted, yes… but still His image.
So the first use of the word shed in Scripture, here in verse six, points us to the sanctity of human life, the sanctity of those made in the image of God. And ultimately it points us to the One whose blood was shed for the salvation of many made in the image of God.
As for Noah… verse seven…
As for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.
God here reiterates the command from verse one, which is a restatement of the command He gave Adam in chapter one. And indeed, the human population has increased by over 1.9 million people a year since then, if my math is correct.
Now where does that leave us? Well it leaves us needing the be the people who speak up for life — the sanctity of human life — always. Yet consider, beloved, that for the past 42 years it’s been legal to violate the sanctity of human life in the womb in this country. All because nine men in black robes said so. 55 million babies have been killed. That’s a greater number than all but 23 countries in the world today. Think about that. Greater than South Africa, Spain, Argentina, Canada. And we dare ask God to bless America!
I remember in the days after 9/11 how everyone was angry, and it seemed all of America was in one accord with the desire to take out those who were responsible. But I also remember how quickly that faded, how quickly things went back to being exactly like they were before, just with more rules when you go to the airport.
We tend to, if not forget quickly, lose our passion, our zeal, our resolve. I think we can do that with abortion. I think the numbers become just that — numbers — and we forget those numbers are lives. And it doesn’t really register with us how egregious our own culture’s war against the sanctity of human life is. We allow it to become primarily a political issues.
Beloved, as the people of God we cannot forget nor can we remain silent about how seriously the God who created life takes life, and takes those He made in His image. I think that is the overriding lesson God gave to Noah and all mankind — all eight of them — when they got off the ark, the reality of widespread death fresh in all their minds. May the evilness of death never become small to us. May the sanctity of life always be right there at the top of our thoughts. For God is glorified when we treasure that which He most treasures — life. May we be warriors for life and what is best for life — God Himself.
Father, in this age when people are having less children, and many are having their children murdered before they can even breathe, may we Your people remember Your words to Noah — be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth. May we be those who love and support children, who love and support families (real families as You define them). May we be those who speak up for life, who speak to the sanctity of life boldly in a culture of death. For You, God, are the Creator of life, and You, God, are the One who sent Your Son into the world to die, that those who believe, we Your people, might live. And may our proclamation of life be saturated in the only thing that brings life, Your Spirit working through Your gospel for Your glory. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.