Genesis 9


וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת נֹחַ וְאֶת בָּנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ  9:1

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

God repeats the command that He first gave to Adam (Gene. 1:28).  Although the Hebrew is identical to its first appearance, it gets altered in the English.

וּמוֹרַאֲכֶם וְחִתְּכֶם יִהְיֶה עַל כָּל חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ וְעַל כָּל עוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּרְמֹשׂ הָאֲדָמָה  9:2

וּבְכָל דְּגֵי הַיָּם בְּיֶדְכֶם נִתָּנוּ

Gene. 9:2      “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every fowl of the air, on everything that might creep the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.”

God explicitly imparts earthly dominion to humanity.  In this verse and the next few following, it’s worth noting that all the second-person pronouns are in the plural.  That is, God is addressing all present.  But as I read these verses, I see that while God is speaking to all of them, Noah and his sons, He is addressing them individually.  The fear of every beast would be for every human, not just the sum of them.  When God says animals “into your hand are … delivered,” He is referring to the hand of every human. 

If I am correct in my understanding, this observation will prove its importance throughout much of the bible, as to whether something is applicable to the community as a whole or to the individuals of the community.  I will address this matter frequently in many of the chapters of the books following Genesis.

כָּל רֶמֶשׂ אֲשֶׁר הוּא חַי לָכֶם יִהְיֶה לְאָכְלָה כְּיֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם אֶת כֹּל 9:3

Gene. 9:3      “Every moving thing that lives shall be for food for you; as the green grass, have I given you all.”

In combining the unclean with the clean, this permission is intended for the nations, not for the Jews.

אַךְ בָּשָׂר בְּנַפְשׁוֹ דָמוֹ לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ  9:4

Gene. 9:4      “Only the flesh with its blood, it shall you not eat.”

Remarkable!  This appears to be a so-called Noahide law, meant for all of humanity.  No humans are to eat of the blood of an animal.                                                                                     [Return to Levi. 7:27]

וְאַךְ אֶת דִּמְכֶם לְנַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם אֶדְרֹשׁ מִיַּד כָּל חַיָּה אֶדְרְשֶׁנּוּ וּמִיַּד הָאָדָם מִיַּד אִישׁ אָחִיו אֶדְרֹשׁ  9:5

אֶת נֶפֶשׁ הָאָדָם

Gene. 9:5      “As I shall surely require your blood of your lives; from the hand of every beast shall I require it; and from the hand of humanity, from the hand of everyone’s brother, shall I require the life of the human.”

This is ominous.  Does this mean that meat eaters, human or animal, who consume the blood must suffer dire consequences?  Is this a curse born of our refusal to be vegetarians?  Or is it merely a statement of reality informing us that those who seek the blood of their prey become prey themselves in turn?

In v. 9:2, God tells us that the fear of humans was put into every animal.  To a limited extent, this has not proven to be true.  Many animals have little fear of humans.  Could their fear have been diminished because of our eating flesh and its blood?

שֹׁפֵךְ דַּם הָאָדָם בָּאָדָם דָּמוֹ יִשָּׁפֵךְ כִּי בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים עָשָׂה אֶת הָאָדָם  9:6

Gene. 9:6     ”Whosoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made the human.”

These words appear to be those of the scribe, not of God.  It may be an attempt to explain or clarify God’s words.  In fact, this seems to be a partial answer to my questions relating to the previous verse.

וְאַתֶּם פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ שִׁרְצוּ בָאָרֶץ וּרְבוּ בָהּ  9:7

Gene. 9:7      “But you be fruitful and multiply.  Teem throughout the earth and multiply on it.”

It’s difficult to know if this is God speaking again, or if the scribe is continuing his observation of the previous verse.  I am assuming that it is God speaking again, as this verse seems to flow smoothly from v. 9:5.  Incidentally, this verse seems to suggest that the inhabitants of the ark did not multiply during their occupation of the ark.  The sages seem to agree that there was no copulation on the ark.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל נֹחַ וְאֶל בָּנָיו אִתּוֹ לֵאמֹר  9:8

Gene. 9:8      And God spoke to Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,

וַאֲנִי הִנְנִי מֵקִים אֶת בְּרִיתִי אִתְּכֶם וְאֶת זַרְעֲכֶם אַחֲרֵיכֶם  9:9

Gene. 9:9      “And I, behold, I will be establishing My covenant with you and your seed after you,

וְאֵת כָּל נֶפֶשׁ הַחַיָּה אֲשֶׁר אִתְּכֶם בָּעוֹף בַּבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ אִתְּכֶם מִכֹּל יֹצְאֵי הַתֵּבָה  9:10

לְכֹל חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ

Gene. 9:10    and with every living soul that is with you, with the fowl, with the cattle, and with every beast of the earth with you, from all going out of the ark, according to every beast of the earth.”

וַהֲקִמֹתִי אֶת בְּרִיתִי אִתְּכֶם וְלֹא יִכָּרֵת כָּל בָּשָׂר עוֹד מִמֵּי הַמַּבּוּל וְלֹא יִהְיֶה עוֹד מַבּוּל לְשַׁחֵת  9:11


Gene. 9:11    “And I shall establish My covenant with you:  I shall not cut down all flesh again by the waters of the flood, and there shall not again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

This is a more limited promise than the one God made in Gene. 8:22 because it refers only to destruction by flood.  In Gene. 8:22, God promises that planting and harvesting will never be interrupted.

                                                                                  [Return to Psal. 24 notes]

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים זֹאת אוֹת הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם וּבֵין כָּל נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה אֲשֶׁר  9:12

אִתְּכֶם לְדֹרֹת, עוֹלָם

Gene. 9:12    And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for the generations of the world.”

אֶת קַשְׁתִּי נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץ  9:13

Gene. 9:13.    “I  set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.”

There is a Jewish blessing to be recited upon seeing a rainbow.  “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who remembers the covenant, keeps His promise, and fulfills His word.”  Were there rainbows before this, or is this the first appearance?  I would imagine that at least one rainbow might have appeared during the period since the rain had stopped.  From the Hebrew one can’t determine whether the Lord is setting the rainbow at that moment or if He had set the rainbow from soon after creation as a future sign.

וְהָיָה בְּעַנְנִי עָנָן עַל הָאָרֶץ וְנִרְאֲתָה הַקֶּשֶׁת בֶּעָנָן  9:14

Gene. 9:14    “And it shall be, on my bringing a cloud over the earth and the rainbow is seen in the cloud,

וְזָכַרְתִּי אֶת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם וּבֵין כָּל נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה בְּכָל בָּשָׂר וְלֹא יִהְיֶה עוֹד הַמַּיִם לְמַבּוּל  9:15

לְשַׁחֵת כָּלבָּשָׂר

Gene. 9:15    that I will “remember” My covenant that is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh, that there will not be again the waters for a flood to destroy the earth.”

Very interesting!  According to this verse, the rainbow is for God to “remember” His covenant.

וְהָיְתָה הַקֶּשֶׁת בֶּעָנָן וּרְאִיתִיהָ לִזְכֹּר בְּרִית עוֹלָם בֵּין אֱלֹהִים וּבֵין כָּל נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה בְּכָל בָּשָׂר  9:16

אֲשֶׁר עַל הָאָרֶץ

Gene. 9:16    “And the rainbow shall be in the cloud and I will see it,” to remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.

Seems the scribe thought it necessary to repeat the fact of the covenant.  He must have thought it was very important.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל נֹחַ זֹאת אוֹת הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר הֲקִמֹתִי בֵּינִי וּבֵין כָּל בָּשָׂר אֲשֶׁר עַל  9:17

Gene. 9:17    And God said to Noah, “This is a sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”

And apparently God “sees” it as important.

וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי נֹחַ הַיֹּצְאִים מִן הַתֵּבָה שֵׁם וְחָם וָיָפֶת וְחָם הוּא אֲבִי כְנָעַן  9:18

Gene. 9:18    And the sons of Noah, Shem and Ham and Japheth, were emerging from the ark; and Ham, he is the father of Canaan.                           [Return to Gene. 10:1]

שְׁלֹשָׁה אֵלֶּה בְּנֵי נֹחַ וּמֵאֵלֶּה נָפְצָה כָל הָאָרֶץ  9:19

Gene. 9:19    These were the three sons of Noah, and from these the entire earth was overspread.

וַיָּחֶל נֹחַ אִישׁ הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּטַּע כָּרֶם  9:20

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

A vineyard can be grown from dried seed or from vine cuttings.  Nowhere does it say that Noah took seeds or cuttings on the ark. If he used seeds, we might assume that he got the seeds from the grapes he probably brought aboard with the rest of the food.

וַיֵּשְׁתְּ מִן הַיַּיִן וַיִּשְׁכָּר וַיִּתְגַּל בְּתוֹךְ אָהֳלֹה  9:21

Gene. 9:21    And he drank of the wine and was drunk and was uncovered within his tent.

A vineyard won’t produce grapes for at least two years after planting.  So some time must have passed between the last verse and this one.  How much time?  Your guess is as good as mine.

וַיַּרְא חָם אֲבִי כְנַעַן אֵת עֶרְוַת אָבִיו וַיַּגֵּד לִשְׁנֵי אֶחָיו בַּחוּץ  9:22

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

וַיִּקַּח שֵׁם וָיֶפֶת אֶת הַשִּׂמְלָה וַיָּשִׂימוּ עַל שְׁכֶם שְׁנֵיהֶם וַיֵּלְכוּ אֲחֹרַנִּית וַיְכַסּוּ אֵת עֶרְוַת אֲבִיהֶם  9:23

וּפְנֵיהֶם אֲחֹרַנִּית וְעֶרְוַת אֲבִיהֶם לֹא רָאוּ

Gene. 9:23    And Shem took, with Japheth, a gown and placed it over the shoulders of both of them, and they went backward and covered the nakedness of their father, and their faces were backward so they did not see the nakedness of their father.

וַיִּיקֶץ נֹחַ מִיֵּינוֹ וַיֵּדַע אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לוֹ בְּנוֹ הַקָּטָן  9:24

Gene. 9:24    When Noah awoke from his wine imbibing, then he knew what his youngest son had done to him.

Then Ham was the youngest son.  So if the men were triplets, he must have emerged from the womb last.  But more important, how did Noah know what had happened?  How did he know that Ham had been the one who saw him naked?  And what does the expression “… had done to him” mean?  Had Ham done something other than merely see his father’s nakedness?  Is the phrase “… saw the nakedness of his father…” in v. 9:22 a euphemism for a sexual act?                           [Return to Gene. 19:36]

וַיֹּאמֶר אָרוּר כְּנָעַן עֶבֶד עֲבָדִים יִהְיֶה לְאֶחָיו  9:25

Gene. 9:25    And he said, “Cursed be Canaan!  A servant of servants shall he be to his brethren.”

Why does Noah curse his son’s descendants?  Did he assume that Ham had deliberately looked at or spied on him?  If it was accidental, why should Ham’s descendants be cursed?  Is this situation similar, in some respects, to that of Adam and Eve?  Cursed, though innocent?  What is to be learned from this episode?  What was Noah thinking, and what was his motivation?  And what had Ham done! 

This verse inspires even more questions.  It appears that uncovering or seeing the nakedness of one’s father was already a sin in Noah’s time.  Did Noah have the same kind of precognition that Abraham and Jacob would seem to exhibit later, thereby recognizing the commandment that was to be instituted centuries later?  Is this another Noahide law?

וַיֹּאמֶר בָּרוּךְ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי שֵׁם וִיהִי כְנַעַן עֶבֶד לָמוֹ 9:26

Gene. 9:26    And he said, “Blessed is the Lord, God of Shem, that Canaan is a servant to him.”

Now why does Noah say Blessed is the Lord, God of Shem, and not Blessed is Shem?  A strange phrase, unless it means that Noah is asking God to assure that Canaan is a servant to Shem.

יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת וְיִשְׁכֹּן בְּאָהֳלֵי שֵׁם וִיהִי כְנַעַן עֶבֶד לָמו 9:27

Gene. 9:27    “God enlarges for Japheth, as he dwells in the tents of Shem, and Canaan is a servant to him.”

In v. 9:26 and v. 9:27 the verb form וִיהִי is almost universally translated as and shall be or and let be, making the vavs non-inverting.  I translate them as inverting so the verbs are translated in the present tense.  The same is true for the verb וְיִשְׁכֹּן in v. 9:27, which comes out as as He dwells.  Tradition has it that it is God Who dwells in the tents of Shem, not Japheth, although it seems as if the he really refers to Japheth.  But the assumption is that Japheth didn’t dwell in Shem’s tents.  Can this be true?  Among the descendants of Japheth were the Greeks, Romans, and Medes, even the Babylonians.  Certainly some of them dwelled in the tents of Shem.

וַיְחִי נֹחַ אַחַר הַמַּבּוּל שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה וַחֲמִשִּׁים שָׁנָה  9:28

Gene. 9:28    And after the flood Noah lived three hundred and fifty years.

וַיִּהְיוּ כָּל יְמֵי נֹחַ תְּשַׁע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה וַחֲמִשִּׁים שָׁנָה וַיָּמֹת  9:29

Gene. 9:29    So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years when he died.


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