Covenant and Curse

Text: Genesis 9

Proposition: In Covenant and Curse God provides both insight into His intentions and man’s future which directs us to lead holy lives.

Introduction: What do red meat, rainbows, risqué behavior and electric chairs have in common? The answer is that they are all directly connected to you, they are part of your future and also key points of instruction that are meant to keep you living a life that is both healthy and holy. There are two terms that we are going to look at this morning that summarize the entire chapter of Genesis 9, Covenant and Curse. Turn to Genesis 9 and let’s have a look at it.

I. Covenant, the Sure Promises of God to Man.

There are a series of Covenants in the Bible that mark points of new beginning. There was the covenant with Adam, with Noah, with Moses, with David and there was the great covenant that we call the New Covenant made through the blood of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Covenants mark the point where God issues a new set of instructions and promises to man, they were agreements that God struck with people so that they would know the boundary of what was expected and would grow in an understanding of the person and character of God. In Genesis 9 there is the new beginning of Noah and his family as they leave the ark and enter into this new world so God sets before them this covenant.

1. The blessing to be fruitful and multiply. From these eight people would come the peoples of the whole earth. The three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth would become the fathers of many people groups. Japheth is considered to have been the father of the groups that moved north into Europe. Ham was the father of the peoples along the coastal regions of the Mediterranean and of the Jebusites who founded the city of Jerusalem. Shem was the father of the peoples from the inland areas of Iran, Iraq, Arabia and through Eber, Shem’s great grandson, was the father of the Hebrew people. Both Arabs and Jews are from the line of Shem. There was but one race, one ethnicity and one language as these began from the ark and were blessed to move out over the face of the whole earth. (see appendix)

2. There was a new relationship established between man and all creatures of flesh, it was a relationship that had fear at it’s core. The animals would move from man whereas before the flood there was a much greater harmony between all creatures with man.

3. The nature of man’s diet changed. It is inferred that since now man was to eat the meat of animals that this was not normal before the flood. Perhaps the nature of the plant nutrition changed due to the flood, perhaps the need for protein increased, whatever the case God now included this as part of what man was permitted to due, namely to kill in order to eat. The sanction in this was to be careful as to how they handled the blood of the animal. They were to respect the fact that the blood was where the life came from. They could consume the flesh, but the blood, the life-source, that was not theirs to consume. It belonged only to God.

4. The sanctity of human life was ordered. If any animal killed a human being, it was to be put to death. If any human being killed another person, they were to be put to death. The reason for this severity was not revenge, it was to amplify the truth that man was made in the image of God, an assault on him was an assault on God. The degrees of godlessness before the flood likely manifested an absolute ungodliness which treated human life casually and contemptuously. Now the way that man treated others would mark the way he was to revere God. This is what we now call capital punishment and it infers the establishing of some form of government that would carry this responsibility.

5. The covenant of God was with man and every living creature. Never again would God destroy the earth by flood. The sign that God gives to Noah and to all generations after him is that of a rainbow. Though this can seem like a sentimental myth to some, what it infers is that there weren’t rainbows before the flood, which may also infer that there weren’t clouds nor rain before the flood. The significance of the rainbow to Noah was likely huge, when the first clouds again gathered, when rain again fell on the earth there may have been a great terror that seized them as the memory of the flood was still fresh.

The rainbow requires sun and cloud, it’s arch or bow is always pointed upwards away from the earth. The rainbow is refracted light, light broken down so that you can see what it is made up of. It points us to the way that God shows us Who He is even through the person of Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God. Rainbows surround the very throne of God it tells us in Revelation 4:3. And yet, as beautiful as the rainbow is for our eyes, it’s real purpose was for God’s eyes. He made it so that when He sees it will serve as a remembrance. It is His seal on this covenant, as long as you still see rainbows…that is how long this covenant is in effect.

II. Curse, the Prophetic Assurances of God Through Man. Now comes this peculiar portrait of human foolishness, even with a patriarch like Noah whom God called a righteous man. The details of why Noah was drunk and naked seem to catch our attention more than the issue of what resulted, namely shame. The nature of shame is that it can be like a two edged sword. On the one side is a conviction of conscience that is meant to direct us away from sin. On the other edge of the blade is the ability of shame to lacerate a soul so deeply that its scars never heal. When Ham entered Noah’s tent and saw his father drunk and passed out, the issue was whether to honor and cover over the failure of a father or to further expose his father through ridicule and humiliation. You read about how Shem and Japheth stayed outside the tent, how they heard the account of Ham and of how they responded walking backwards into the tent laying a garment over Noah to cover him. In verse 24 it tells us that Noah awoke and knew what his younger son had done. How did he know that, likely it was because Ham had made it the talk of the camp. Shame can be used like a weapon to ruin the truth, the truth of who we are. It can be used like a set of handcuffs to bind us to a time or event in our past when we were hasty, short sighted or foolish. So toxic is shame at this early stage in mankind’s history that God speaks through Noah in a prophetic way. We call it the curse of Noah, in actuality it was a prophecy of what this way of treating people would lead to. Noah pronounces a curse upon Canaan, the son of Ham. He declares that Canaan would one day be a servant of servants, the lowest of the low. He would be the father of a people who would one day serve the descendents of Shem and Japheth. About 700 years later this prophecy was fulfilled when Joshua led the armies of Israel into the land of Canaan, conquering them into servitude.

In Luke 3:35 the genealogy of Jesus Christ is traced back to Shem, leaving us to conclude that Abraham and Moses and the Jewish peoples are of this same line. It tells us that Japheth would be enlarged and would dwell in the tents of Shem, a likely reference to the way that the Gentile people, the people of Europe, Asia, India, Africa, from all languages and nations and races will have opportunity to be  included into this prophetic blessing through, the Jewish people of Israel and ultimately in Jesus Christ As long as the rainbow occurs so the grace of God extends to man the invitation to turn to Him through the revealed light of His Son, Jesus Christ. 


Appendix :

The Line of Noah


(France, Spain,
Germany, Wales)

(Romania, Ukraine)





(Macedonia, Yugoslavia)
















:Heth (Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites)




















:Eber: Hebrew
:Joktan: Arabia





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