Rainbow: God's signature on a promise
God signs a contract1 God told Noah and his sons, “I am giving you my blessing now. I want you to fill the earth with your family; have lots of kids. 2 I’m putting you in charge of this world. All the animals will treat you with fear and respect: birds of the air, land critters, and fish of the sea. 3 I’m changing your menu. I’m giving you the animals as food. You may eat them, just as you have eaten plants in the past.
4 One exception. Do not eat meat with blood in it. Blood is the source of life. 5 That’s why I’m going to require blood for blood. If you murder someone, I will make you pay with your life. That goes for man-killing animals, too. 6 Kill a human, then by a human you’ll be killed. You can’t go around murdering people who resemble God.
7 You’re not here to end life, you’re here to start life. Make babies. Fill the earth with people.” 8 God told Noah and his sons, 9 “I’ve got a promise for you, and for everyone yet to come. 10 This includes all the animals on your boat—birds, livestock, wild animals—and every animal that will repopulate the planet.
11 This is my solemn promise to all of you: I will never do this again. I will never destroy all life on earth with a flood.” 12 God said, “I’m putting this in writing—in the sky. I’m signing this promise with a rainbow, so everyone can see it—now and in all generations to come. 13 When you see the rainbow in the clouds, remember that it is my signature on the promise I have made to you and to all life on earth. 14 When I cloak the sky in clouds and sign it with a rainbow, 15 I will remember the promise I made to you and to all life on earth. I will never again drown everyone with a flood. 16 When I see the rainbow in the sky, I will remember this promise that I make to every living creature on earth, now and forever.” 17 God told Noah, “The rainbow is my signature on the promise I have made to every living creature on earth.”
Noah gets drunk and passes out18 The sons of Noah who disembarked from the boat with him were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the ancestral father of the Canaanites. 19 Everyone on the planet came from one of these three sons of Noah.
20 Noah became a farmer. He was the first person to plant a vineyard. 21 He drank so much wine that he got drunk. Then he passed out naked in his tent. 22 Ham, the father of a son named Canaan, found Noah naked in the tent. Ham called his two brothers to come and take a look. 23 Shem and Japheth refused to look. Instead, they picked up a robe and together backed into the tent and respectfully laid it on their father to cover him up. They kept their faces turned away from Noah so they would not see him naked. 24 Noah slept through all of this, thanks to the wine. When he finally woke up and found out what Ham had done 25 he put a curse on Ham’s son, Canaan.
“I put this curse on my grandson Canaan.
He will be the relative no one wants to talk about
—and a slave to his brothers.”
“I’m asking the LORD my God to bless Shem
and make Canaan his slave.
to let him live in the tents of Shem,
and to make Canaan his slave.” 28 Noah lived another 350 years after the flood. 29 In all, Noah lived 950 years before he died.
More literally, “Swarm the earth.”
Literally “more and more,” which is a play on words. In Hebrew, that sounds like the word “Japhath.”
The meaning isn’t clear. It could be that Noah wants Japheth to lead the clan as boss of the extended family, or perhaps even to take over Shem’s territory. Or possibly he wants Japheth to enjoy a rich life, living alongside his brother and sharing the land. Yeah, let’s go with that.
For the first time in the Bible, animals show up on the menu. Many students of the Bible say they believe that before the Flood, humans were vegetarians: “God said, ‘Take a good look at all the plants that produce seeds and all the trees that fill with fruit. They are your food.’” (1:29). But after the Flood God told Noah, “I’m changing your menu. I’m giving you the animals as food. You may eat them, just as you have eaten plants in the past” (9:3). Why do you think God changed the plans, especially given that there were now fewer animals, since most died in the Flood?
Even before the laws that Moses gave the Jews, God gave this one law to Noah about kosher food: “Do not eat meat with blood in it. Blood is the source of life” (9:4). As God explained to Moses later, “There’s only one way I’ll allow you to use blood: in sacrifices. Sin is a capital offense. But I’ll let you substitute an animal’s life for yours. The blood of the animal will pay for your sin” (Leviticus 17:11 NLT). So why do Christians eat rare meat that Jews still consider not kosher and forbidden?
God seemed to be in favor of capital punishment, at least in the centuries before Jesus came: “Kill a human, then by a human you’ll be killed. You can’t go around murdering people who resemble God” (9:6). If you had to argue against the value of capital punishment today, what would you say?
For someone God thought was worthy of surviving the flood, Noah later comes across as someone you probably wouldn’t want living next door. His sons find him passed out drunk and “naked in his tent” (9:21). Instead of apologizing, he gets mad when he finds out that his son Ham disrespected him by calling his brothers to come and take a look at their dad laying there like a plucked jaybird. Instead of condemning Ham, Noah put a curse on Ham’s youngest son, Canaan. Bad Grandpa. If you had to defend Noah in Family Court, what would you say?
LIFE APPLICATION. Canaan’s descendants settled in a region that became known as Canaan, in what is now Israel. When Joshua and the Jews arrived during the Exodus, they killed as many Canaanites as they could. They got tricked into making a peace treaty with one city of Canaanites. Joshua told them this: “You are under a curse, and your people will have to send workers to cut wood and carry water for the place of worship” (Joshua 9:23 CEV). Do you think it’s okay for Israelis or anyone else to continue to treat non-Jews in what is sometimes known as the Holy Land as though they are under a curse? Or is that racist?
LIFE APPLICATION. God made a promise: “I will never again drown everyone with a flood” (9:15). It seems ironic that we humans are now capable of killing everyone with fire. Nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands is the one fear more than any other that some of our world leaders say keeps them awake at night. Some of us used to make fun of beauty pageant contestants who said their greatest wish was for world peace. And now we find ourselves wishing for that very thing—hoping it will happen, believing it can happen, and praying to God that it does happen. To many, it seems we jump so quickly into war. What do you think we can do that would help point our nation and our world on the path toward peace?