Genesis 9:1-17 – Week Ten
Do you have any regrets? I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t. It’s part of life. We regret all sorts of things. Smoking a cigarette for the first time not realizing it would become a bad habit. Dropping out of college to get married. Marrying the wrong person. Not spending time with loved ones before they’re gone. Being too afraid to take risks. Holding onto unforgiveness. Not saving money. If you’re a parent, the regrets simply multiply.
The thing about regrets is that they provide opportunity. Experiencing regret can cause deep and lingering sorrow or experiencing regret can give us a chance for a do-over. When we experience regret over something, whether it be because of our actions or the actions of others, we choose how to respond. Hopefully, our regrets teach us something and prompt us to change things or make adjustments.
I am not a good cook. There are a few things I can make that are decent, but overall, I just don’t have what it takes. Many, many years ago, as a newlywed, I had this misconception that because I was a married woman at the ripe old age of 21, somehow, I was now a gourmet chef. I would spend Saturdays watching cooking shows and then try to replicate some of the recipes. I would also cut out recipes from magazines and attempt those as well. I once found a recipe for potato salad. It was somewhat like my mom’s, but this particular recipe had a secret step to it. When boiling the potatoes, this recipe called for a small amount of vinegar to be added to the salted water. I don’t recall the measurement that was given, but I do remember thinking that tripling or quadrupling the amount of vinegar would be even better. After the potatoes were cooked and cooled, I added the mayonnaise, chopped boiled eggs, pickle relish, salt & pepper. And then I thought to myself, “Hmm. I bet half of the jar of dried dill weed will make this potato salad even more delicious!” Did I mention I was making this for a big family function? We had all fixed our plates and most everyone had a huge scoop of my vinegary dill-weeded potato salad. I sat there ready to accept the compliments that I was sure would be coming once everyone tasted my potato salad. But, instead, there were just looks being exchanged. I saw my daddy make eye contact with my brother and he just shook his head. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. My newly wedded husband dug his fork into the potato salad and took a great big old bite. He chewed for about half of a second, then he grabbed his napkin, and spit it all out. He then proceeded to get up from the table and stomp into the kitchen at which point, we could all hear a scraping noise. He returned to the table with his plate that no longer contained any remnants of my potato salad. He never said a word, but it was abundantly clear that he didn’t like the potato salad so much that he threw it in the garbage before even continuing with his meal. The others around the table couldn’t hold in their laughter. As I sat there trying to figure out what had everyone in hysterics, my brother asked me, “What in the world did you do to the potato salad?” That was approximately 35 years ago. It’s still a family joke. Anytime we are planning a family meal, I’m told that the potato salad is being brought by someone else. That one instance has haunted me all these years. I regret making that potato salad; but, as a result, I’ve never used vinegar or dill again when making potato salad.
It’s okay to have regret. Scripture tells us in two separate circumstances that God had regrets. 1 Samuel 15:11 NIV “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” The other occasion is in Genesis 6:6 NIV “The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”
God’s regret is different from our regret. God doesn’t make mistakes and He isn’t surprised or unaware of how things will turn out. When God has a regret, it’s not as if God wishes He had done something differently as we do when we have regret. It’s more that God is saddened by the events that took place although He knew all along what the outcome would be. When we experience regret, what we are feeling is the desire to go back and change things because we didn’t think through our actions or consequences. “The problem is we have the wrong idea of what it means to repair, to change, our mistakes. We look back on our mistakes with sorrow that we cannot undo them. But God does not. He looks forward and sees how He can use them to change our futures. God can repair every mistake you have made. But He does not do it by turning back the clock and changing your past. He does not allow you to go back and make a different choice. No, He repairs your past by repairing your future.”[i]
It was the actions of mankind that caused God to feel sorrow and regret, so God arranged for a do-over with Noah and his family in order to change and repair the future of mankind.
As they exited the ark, God gives them some boundaries. If you recall, God had initially given Adam one restriction. Don’t eat from this one tree; everything else is yours, but do not eat from this one tree or else you will die. But that one rule was ignored, and, as a result, sin was planted. Since that time, we’re not told of any restrictions that God placed on Adam or his descendants. But now, with a do-over in place, this time with a righteous man who walked with, worshipped, worked for, and waited on God, it seems reasonable that more structure is needed.
Genesis 9:1 GNT “God blessed Noah and his sons and said, “Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth. All the animals, birds, and fish will live in fear of you. They are all placed under your power. Now you can eat them, as well as green plants; I give them all to you for food. The one thing you must not eat is meat with blood still in it; I forbid this because the life is in the blood. If anyone takes human life, he will be punished. I will punish with death any animal that takes a human life. Human beings were made like God, so whoever murders one of them will be killed by someone else.”
First off, God blesses Noah and his sons. According to the Key-Word Study Bible, “The Greek word translated blessed in these passages is makarioi which means to be fully satisfied. It refers to those receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances” (emphasis added).[ii] God is instilling in them what it takes to be completely satisfied. God tells them to have many children just as He had previously instructed Adam and Eve in Genesis 1. In fact, God will repeat this in just a few sentences in verse 7. It is clear that having children and repopulating the Earth was important to God because God values life. I read a startling fact in Warren W. Wiersbe’s book, Be Basic; a fact that is especially significant with the leak from the Supreme Court that came out this week. “In nearly 200 years of American history, starting with the Revolutionary War, 1.2 million military personnel have been killed in nine major wars.” Maybe that statistic involves a family member or a friend of yours. It’s astounding to consider that 1.2 million men and women have been killed in the last 200 years while serving their country. That’s 6,000 a year; and an average of more than 16 per day. Heartbreaking, isn’t it? “But in one year in the United States, 1.6 million babies are legally aborted.” [iii] That would average out to be more than 4,300 babies each day whose lives are taken before their first breath. More babies are killed in 1 year than all of the military personnel killed in 200 years. That’s incomprehensible. It goes to show the overall value that we place on human life.
In verse 2 of Genesis 9, God references the animals. He originally told Adam that he would have dominion or rule over the animals. With Noah, the relationship between man and animals changes. God puts the fear of man into animals. Genesis 9:2 NIV “The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.”
Why would God have done this? Some suggest that God did this in order to protect man. There are many, many animals that have the strength, the claws, the teeth, the poison with which we could be killed, or harmed at the very least. “Now the animals would fear humans and do everything possible to escape the threat of death. Since most animals reproduce rapidly and their young mature quickly, the beasts could easily overrun the human population; so God put the fear of humans into the animals.”[iv] Having an instinctual fear of man keeps us somewhat safe from an unprovoked attack. “We are, in the eyes of animals the world over, the ultimate predator.” In fact, we’re known as a superpredator. “What other superpredators are there out there? Lions? Killer whales? What? According to study co-author Liana Zanette, professor in the department of biology at Western University, there aren’t any others. There’s just humans.”[v]
In Verse 3 of Genesis 9, the fear of man that animals will now have is perpetuated because this is when God tells Noah and his sons that they may now eat animals. It’s presumed that people didn’t eat meat prior to this time. In Genesis 1 and 2, God had given to Adam and Eve fruits and plants with which to nourish themselves. Now, with Noah, God gives them permission to eat meat. This allowance gives Noah and his sons new titles. They have become hunters. But God does place limitations. No meat may be eaten that has blood in it. (Yeah, yeah. I know. Some of you think your steak has to be pink and bloody in order to eat it. I’m just telling you what God says.)
“God had put the fear of humans into the animals, but now He had to put the fear of God into the humans lest they destroy one another.”[vi]
God addresses an issue that we know has happened at least twice and that He knows will continue to occur. Murder. Cain had killed Abel. Lamech had killed someone who had harmed him. In Genesis 6:11, we are told that the Earth was filled with all sorts of violence. There’s no reason to believe that Cain and Lamech were the only two murderers up to this point. Who knows? But God, knowing the value of life, establishes punishment for the murder of humans.
Genesis 9:5 GNT “5 If anyone takes human life, he will be punished. I will punish with death any animal that takes a human life. 6 Human beings were made like God, so whoever murders one of them will be killed by someone else.”
With these verses, God is establishing the penal system; providing punishment for those who disobey the rules or laws. God is putting into place human government. “Under Old Testament law there was no police force as we know it. If a murder was committed, it was up to the family of the victim to find the culprit and bring him to justice. The Lord instructed the nation of Israel to establish six cities of refuge to which an accused murderer could flee for safety. The elders of the city would protect the accused until the case could be investigated, and if the accused was found guilty, the family of the deceased could proceed with the execution. Since the murderer had shed blood, the murder’s blood must be shed. Government was established by God because the human heart is evil and the fear of punishment can help to restrain would-be lawbreakers.”[vii]
After God has given these few instructions to Noah and his sons, He makes a promise to them. Genesis 9:8 NRSVUE “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
A covenant, of course, is an agreement. There are two types of covenants that we see with God. Conditional and unconditional. A conditional covenant is based on certain obligations that God requires someone to carry out so that God will do His part. An example of this would be God telling the Israelites to follow the commandments that God had given Moses and then, as a conditional response, God will set the Israelites above any other nation. An unconditional covenant is what God makes with Noah. Without any involvement or obligation on Noah’s part, God promises to never destroy all living things by a flood.
That promise has to bring some relief to Noah and his family. The 371 days that were spent on the ark would not have been a vacation for them. It couldn’t have been a pleasant one that they would readily agree to repeat. That time on the ark would have been a mixture of sorrow, frustration, fear, bewilderment, and confusion, along with thankfulness and humbleness that God had chosen them to be saved. And now God promises them it will never happen again.
Genesis 9:12-17 NLT “12 Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.”
It is believed that prior to the flood, there had never been any rain. There was a mist that would come up from underneath the ground’s surface. Rainbows may have appeared in the mist from the ground, but I like to think that the rainbow God showed to Noah was the first. What an incredible sight that would have been! That’s the funny thing about rainbows. We are still mesmerized by them! When rainbows appear in the sky, we stop to point them out to others. We take pictures. We comment on them. Rainbows are never ignored.
Put yourself in the position of Noah and his family. Looking up in the sky at this brilliant array of colors in a perfect formation. The original Hebrew word used for rainbow was “qesheth” which literally means a bow, as in a weapon. Think bow and arrow. In Psalms, a bow is referenced as a weapon that God uses against the wicked.
Psalm 7:12-13 ESV “If the wicked will not change,
then God is ready to punish them.
He has prepared his deadly weapons.
His sword is sharp.
His bow is strung, drawn back,
and ready to shoot its flaming arrow.”
However, a bow without an arrow is like a gun without a bullet. God, in using a bow without an arrow, is demonstrating His mercy. Although mankind from Noah and his sons to us today is deserving of God’s judgment and punishment, God sent Jesus to pay for our iniquities, our sins, and our wrongdoings. And you’ll notice that the rainbow or the bow, the weapon, is aimed towards heaven. God has set it in the clouds and has it pointed away from us.
The colors of the rainbow aren’t just beautiful; nor is their order random. Their sequence is always the same. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.
The first color is red, signifying the blood that Jesus shed for us. “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NAB
Next is orange which is the color of fire that can destroy as referenced in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 NKJV “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Or fire can refine as described in Zechariah 13:9 NLT “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” Our choice is to either know God and obey Him or not.
Yellow is the next color, the color of the sun, and it signifies the light Jesus brings to our life if we choose Him. “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV
Next up is green which symbolizes new life for those who are in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV “7 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Blue, the color of the skies, and as close as we can see of Heaven itself is next. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 NKJV “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
The final color is purple which represents royalty. 1 Timothy 6:15 NLT “For, At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.”
Rainbows serve as a beautiful reminder of God’s love, His mercy, and His unfailing promises to those who choose to serve Him. The rainbow is also a great reminder that do-overs and new beginnings are all part of God’s plan for you and for me.
[iii] Be Basic by Warren W. Wiersbe
[iv] Be Basic by Warren W. Wiersbe
[vi] Be Basic by Warren W. Wiersbe
[vii] Be Basic by Warren W. Wiersbe