The concluding words of last week’s Torah portion read “but Noah found grace in the eyes of Yahweh.” (Gen 6:8) We arrive this week at the building of the ark and the salvation of one family from a worldwide calamity. Encompassed in the “secret place of the Most High. . . in the shadow of the Almighty,” Noah’s family rode out the mother of all storms.
Yeshua identifies His family as those who DO the will of His Father: “For whoever does the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50). Psalm 91 declares the righteous will be protected, although, perhaps, in very uncomfortable, even dark and dangerous, circumstances. Though “ten thousand shall fall at [their] right hand; it shall not come near [them].” The obedient will be directed through the chaos, pestilence, terror, and death which shall most certainly threaten at every turn. Yet, it shall not come near them, for He will deliver the faithful “from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover them with His pinions, and under His wings they will find refuge. His faithfulness is their shield and buckler.”
Noah’s family is a picture of the Bride. Set apart from the wicked and perverse generation of their day, the grace of God was poured out upon them.
“Noah walked with God.” (Gen 6:9)
We should stop to ponder what that means. This phrase is used twice in regard to Noah’s great-great grandfather, Enoch, of whom it is also written that he “walked with God…and then God took him” (Gen 5:24).
Enoch was the seventh generation of Adam. The number seven in Hebrew thought denotes perfection and completion, as in the seven days of Creation. Enoch, according to Jewish literature, set himself apart from the culture, spent long years studying the Word of God in seclusion, and then, at God’s instruction and in His timing, went out into the world to teach others and was rewarded with many converts. Thus, in traditional Jewish thought, Enoch was the light of the world in his day, and, to the Jewish people, is a type of Messiah.
The Scripture declares “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations.” The Hebrew word for “just” is tzaDEEK, which also, according to bible dictionaries, can be translated as both righteous and lawful. The word translated as “perfect” is tawMEEM, which means to be without spot, blameless, whole, undefiled, sound, and complete. This same word is used to describe the requirements for the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:5), as well as numerous offerings in the book of Leviticus (see: 1:3, 1:10, 3:1, 3:6, 3:9, 4:3, 4:23, 4:28, 4:32, 5:15, 5:18, 6:6, 9:2-3, 14:10, 22:19-21, 23:12, etc.), all of which point to the sinless Yeshua. The idea of being blameless is what Paul means to convey when he exhorts us to be “living sacrifices.”
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
When we view the story of Noah only as a cute children’s bible story, we miss this important point altogether. In God’s eyes, Noah was just, righteous, lawful, without spot, blameless, whole and complete, in stark contrast to the rampant lawlessness of his day. God’s description of Noah is the polar opposite of “lawless,” which, as we concluded last week, is to live outside of Yahweh’s commandments, His Torah of life and blessing.
Luke points to the parents of John the Baptist as shining examples of people who understood how to walk in the righteousness of God.
“There was in the days of Herod…a certain priest named Zachariah… and his wife…Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.” (Luke 1: 5-6)
In Hebrew, they would have been described as tzadeek and tawmeem, just like Noah. Does it mean they were sinless? Certainly not! It means they pursued holiness by “walking with God.” This is a euphemism for keeping His commandments, in other words, doing what is right in God’s eyes and, thereby, reflecting His righteousness.
Let me quickly insert for the naysayers that the commandments are not now nor have ever been for salvation. They are simply instructions in righteousness.
Paul’s letters are infused with the injunction for the churches to strive to be tawmeem or blameless. Writing to the church at Corinth, he exhorts them to be blameless by walking in the unity of the Torah and not dividing into sects (denominations).
“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless [tawmeem] in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.” (1 Cor. 1:4-11 NKJV)
Reminiscent of Israel in the wilderness, Paul rebuked the church at Philippi for their murmuring and complaining, lest they fail to be tawmeem or blameless.
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain (Phil 2:14-16 KJV).
Paul re-assured the congregation at Thessalonica that the Day of the LORD (the Great Tribulation) will not come upon them as a thief in the night because they are “sons of light” (a euphemism for those who study and walk in the instructions of Torah), who understand the times and the seasons due to their keeping Yahweh’s holy days, who do not walk in darkness (lawlessness) like the pagans, who are asleep, who are impervious to what is happening around them, and who will, therefore, be suddenly overtaken by calamity because they are not blameless. Note that Messiah returns as a “thief in the night” ONLY to those who walk in darkness, who do not keep God’s commandments, which the Scripture declares as LIGHT (Ps 119:105, Prov 6:23).
For when they say, “peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light [Torah] and sons of the day. We are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath; but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore, comfort each other and edify one another, just as you are doing. And, we urge you , brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless [tawmeem] at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:3-23)
The subject of blamelessness is at the forefront of Paul’s instruction to Timothy in regard to appointing overseers and deacons for congregations.
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. (I Timothy 3:2-10 ESV)
To Titus, my child in the faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. For this cause I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that were lacking, and appoint elders in every city, as I charged you; men who are blameless, the husband of one wife, having children that believe, who are not accused of riot or rebellion. For the overseer must be blameless, as God’s steward; not self-willed, not quick to get angry, not brawler, nor striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled; holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict those who oppose the faith. (Titus 1:4-9)
Paul is NOT issuing new commandments. He, like Yeshua, he is teaching believers how to follow God’s commandments. From these exhortations concerning overseers, we can envision the character that Noah must have had for God to label him “tzadeek” and “tawmeem,” and for him to be chosen as the father of all who would be born on the earth after the flood. Unlike us, he had lots of years to grow in grace and knowledge of God. Remember, he was over 500 years old when God told him to build the ark.
We should stop here to take into consideration that Adam, who lived for 930 years, was alive until Noah’s father, Lamech, was 56 years old and until Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah, was 243 years old. These men had direct testimony from Adam of the first 1000 years of human history and, no doubt, poured their knowledge into Noah. Further, Methuselah’s father was Enoch, who, as we mentioned, according to tradition was an outstanding Torah teacher.
God instructed Noah to build a big rectangular box that would float on top of the waters. Without sail, rudder, or motor, Noah and his family and the animals inside would be utterly at the mercy of God. According to commentary, the capacity of the ark exceeded that of 500 railroad stock cars, providing ample room for its inhabitants and their food supply.
Comprised of three decks, the ark alludes to the Torah/Messiah (the foundation and cornerstone), the prophets, and the apostles. The ark had a window for light and a door, “set in its side.” Messiah referred to Himself as “the door.”
“I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved…” (John 10:9).
God told Noah to cover (Hebrew: kawfar) the ark inside and out (Gen 6:14). This is an interesting word, which also means to make atonement, to cover, to cleanse, to be merciful, and to pardon. Noah was to cover the ark with “pitch” or “bitumen” (Hebrew: kofer) which in addition to being a thick, waterproof glue-like substance, also means in Hebrew a ransom, cost of redemption, and satisfaction.
So, as a picture of Messiah, Noah, by painting the ark inside and out with “pitch” made atonement for his family, mercifully cleansing and pardoning their sin by pointing to a ransom, the cost of redemption, that would satisfy Torah’s demands for sin. The kofer enabled the ark to withstand the wrath of God that came upon the whole earth. Selah, dear children.
Most of us remember from Sunday School that Noah brought two of every kind of animal into the ark. But, in fact, God commanded Noah to take two of the unclean animals, and seven pairs of the clean animals to come into the ark (Gen. 7:2-3).
We have to ask, of course, how Noah knew the difference. The answer, most certainly, is that he was taught these things and much more by his father and grandfather. Noah did not learn in a vacuum. Noah was well prepared for his preeminent assignment. Had he failed, you and I would not be alive today.
“Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” (Gen 6:22 KJV)
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.“ (Hebrews 11:7 ESV)
Approximately 1600 years after Creation the flood arrived with a vengeance. The sages of Israel teach that all who were righteous, except Noah and his family, died before the deluge so as not to suffer the knowledge of the fate of their neighbors and loved ones. It must have been a frightful thing. Some teach that the flood was the first time in history that men experienced rain; that until then “a mist” (Gen. 2:6) still watered the earth. According to this theory, the entire atmosphere was violently rent by God’s wrath and has been greatly diminished ever since, to the detriment of mankind. Certainly, man’s lifespan after the flood was dramatically reduced, though some attribute this shortening to God’s permission for man to consume animals after the flood.
God said, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” (Gen. 9:3). But, I must hasten to insert that, in my opinion, God who “change(s) not” (Malachi 3:6), surely did not imply that His people were to eat unclean animals. Just as Peter was repulsed at the thought of putting the unclean in his mouth when he had the vision of the sheet let down from heaven (Acts 10:11), so I believe it would have been unconscionable for Noah to do so.
Noah, and for that matter, Peter, far more than we who exist today, understood that God’s purpose in creating some unclean animals was to design scavengers, the housekeepers of the earth and sea, so to speak, to continually consume carcasses and waste products. He made others to demonstrate characteristics such as cunningness, woeful neglect, fierce brutality, and unmitigated evil, which He uses in Scripture to picture unfaithful shepherds, greedy leaders, ruthless rulers, and Satan. The clean animals are generally those found in peaceful flocks, grazing on green grasses and chewing their cud, which pictures His people devouring the Word of God and meditating on it. The clean sea creatures are those with fins and scales, which portray putting on “the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6: 11-13) and, thus, being well able to dart quickly from temptation, as did Joseph when Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him.
It will be a great shock to some in the church family who await the resurrection to wake and find no Easter ham or shrimp cocktails in the kingdom. God who “change(s) not” (Mal. 3:6) does not call something an abomination in one place in Scripture and then allow His people to eat it in another. Like most of you, I used to eat these things and “loved” them. But, once I learned that to do so is an abomination in Yahweh’s eyes, I stopped. The result was that soon I found I did not want them. Now I am as repulsed by them as was Peter.
The Father gave us these commands for good health, as well as for a spiritual picture. As one begins to obey out of love for God, the commandments are written on one’s heart and obedience becomes second nature–thus we are not “under the law;” but, led by the Spirit. For me, it was the same in learning to sanctify the Sabbath. At first, it seemed very strange and I even felt guilty for resting. But soon it became a great delight. Now, if something hinders me from having the peaceful rest I have come to look forward to each week, I greatly miss it in both body and soul.
“And the LORD shut him in.” (Gen 7:16)
Can you imagine it? The animals entered the ark, then Noah and his family, and then the door was closed from the outside and sealed. During the long years that Noah, the “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) had warned them, urged them to repent and to accept God’s salvation, the mockers and scoffers would not hear. Now, God would not hear—and Noah could do nothing more.
At once, “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of Heaven were opened” (Gen 7:11). When the Heavens poured down and water spewed up from the earth there must have been a great panic outside the ark followed by a pounding at the door. Surely, the cries for mercy of the lost and doomed were heard by those inside the ark, along with the frantic and futile scratching at the door. Messiah warns us,
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27)
“…He did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly. ” (2 Peter 2:5).
For forty days and forty nights it rained. To say that Noah and his family were sorely tested is obviously an understatement. The ark was lifted upon the waters, tossed this way and that. Noah had no idea where he was physically located. He had to content himself with being “in the secret place of the Most High.” After the rains ceased, the ark drifted for five months with no land in sight, until the waters abated.
The ark eventually landed on the mountains of Ararat (Gen 8:4) on the 17 day of Aviv, the very same day that Messiah would rise from the dead. Interestingly enough, Ararat means “the curse reversed.”
First, Noah sent out a raven, an unclean bird which could survive on the flesh of the dead. The raven came back and forth to the ark until finally it did not return (Gen 8:7), indicating that its food supply, the carcasses, were exposed. Then, Noah sent out a dove; picturing the Holy Spirit; but there was no place for her to rest, so he drew her back into the sanctuary of the ark. The Holy Spirit cannot reside with death, which is why the concept of “clean” and “unclean” are expounded upon in the book of Leviticus. Those who would enter the tabernacle in the wilderness (or later, the Temple) must have no association with death.
After seven days, Noah sent the dove out again, and, this time, she returned with a fresh olive leaf in her beak. The olive tree was the supplier of oil for the lamps of the ancient world and is emblematic of the Torah.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105 KJV)
The doors to Solomon’s Temple were constructed of olive trees. Before the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, Isaiah said of the formerly united kingdom of Israel:
“The LORD once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ ” (Jer. 11:16)
Hosea promises a restored olive tree.
“His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:6).
Paul talks about the olive tree in Romans 11:
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. they were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:17-25)
The freshly plucked olive leaf contained God’s promise to once again provide light (instruction in righteousness) for the inhabitants of the world. That it came directly into Noah’s hand, I believe, was God’s stamp of approval on the tzadeek who had overcome the disappointment of years of seemingly fruitless teaching, the years of laborious toil on the ark, the sound of his neighbors begging for mercy, and his utter helplessness to grant it, as well as more than a year in the ark with a bunch of stinky humans and animals. Noah would go forth from the ark to be the light of the world to a freshly cleansed earth, as well as to us today.
Noah lived for 350 years after the flood. Thank you, Noah. Thank you, God, for the man who set himself apart for Your sake.
When the dove came with the olive leaf, Noah knew that the waters had receded (Gen 8:11). Yet, Noah waited for God’s instruction:
“Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark. (Gen 8:16-19)
We must stop here to introduce the Hebrew word mishpachah [MISH paw kah], which means family. At this first mention in Scripture, we see God’s intent to build families of husbands and wives on the cleansed earth of men and women. My friends who practice homosexual behavior fail to understand that God cannot bless what He calls an abomination. God designed earthly families to reflect His family: a man (Yeshua) and His Bride (Israel) who birth and raise children who in turn bear much fruit and are the light of the world by keeping His commandments. Sexual activity was designed for the purpose of intimacy in this context only. Any other sexual conduct, whether sex before marriage (fornication) or adultery, or pornography, or pedophilia, or bestiality, or homosexuality is prohibited by Torah because it does not fall inside of God’s pattern. Therefore, no matter how it feels, no matter that any authority may sanction it, any variety of forbidden sex is an abomination to God; and, therefore, is cursed.
To my readers who are involved in illicit sexual activity of any nature, please know that while God hates the sin, He loves the sinner, and so do I. Before my eyes were opened, I was guilty of sexual sin. Thank God for the blood of Yeshua that washed me white as snow and restored me to a virgin in His eyes. That is the beauty of justification by the blood of the Lamb. It washes away the sin, removes it as far as the east is from the west, and, in God’s eyes, it is just as if you never sinned. This is grace, my friend. It cannot be obtained by keeping the commandments. It is simply free for the asking. But, we must remember Yeshua’s warning, “Go, and sin no more!” (John 5:14, 8:11).
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:20-26)
Once you have accepted Yeshua’s sacrificed for your sin, you are righteous in the sight of God. But, to keep yourself in that state, you must go and sin no more. In other words, you must “walk with God” by keeping His commandments.
The concept of sin was introduced last week in the opening chapters of Genesis. Before Cain murdered Able, God said to him, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen. 4:6-7) In other words, you must overcome your desire to sin. God is the only one who determines what is “sin.”
John the Apostle is quite clear:
“Everyone who sins breaks God’s law, because sin is the same as breaking God’s law.” (1 John 3:4 CEV)
The ECV calls sin lawlessness.
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.“
The King James Version states it another way.
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
Sin is disobeying God’s instructions and is therefore lawlessness. Lawlessness can only be cursed. Repent and sin no more, my friend.
As hinted when the ark settled on the mountains of Ararat, which, as we saw, means “the curse reversed,” God entered into covenant with Noah. But, first, Noah offered sacrifices to God.
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And…the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma… (Gen 8:20-21a)
The concept of sacrifices was also introduced last week. Able’s sacrifice was accepted while Cain’s was not. Here, we see that Noah’s sacrifice was pleasing to God.
We must stop to ask, what is the purpose of sacrifices and is this concept applicable to us today?
When we get to the book of Leviticus, the acceptable sacrifices will be explained in great detail. But for now, to briefly overview, some are sin offerings, either for individual sin or the sin of the nation of Israel; some are thanksgiving offerings; some are first-fruits offerings; and others are symbolic offerings for holy days. The bottom line significance of all of them is the grace of God that has provided not only forgiveness for sin by the perfect sacrifice of Yeshua, but, we have the opportunity to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, in addition, for His abundant provision for our livelihood and protection over us.
Peter enjoins believers to offer “spiritual sacrifices” acceptable to God.
If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good, as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:3-5)
One might ask what these “spiritual sacrifices” might be. The writer of Hebrews provides insight:
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, and will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. (Hebrews 13:16-18)
So, we can conclude that doing “good” (i.e., keeping the commandments: loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself), includes being charitable, being obedient to those in authority over us and praying for them, not murmuring and complaining, and acting honorably in all things. These spiritual sacrifices will most certainly not be refused.
Most assuredly, Noah was taught how to offer an acceptable sacrifice by his father and grandfather. The LORD was very pleased with Noah’s offering. He blessed Noah and entered into covenant with him.
And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Gen 8:21-9:17)
Without this promise and sign to never again destroy all flesh by flood, any future storm or downpour would have caused undue alarm for Noah’s family. Note also, the language of creation, “be fruitful and multiply.” God was starting over with this family, and, reminiscent of Cain and Able, reminded Noah that He will require a reckoning for the shedding of innocent blood.
We come now to an ugly chapter of Noah’s life. The wicked destroyed, the tzadeek apparently let down his guard. Ah, but the enemy still prowled around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he might destroy. The account begins with the statement in our English bibles “Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.” (Gen 9:20 ESV) Some versions say he became a farmer or a husbandman. But, the Hebrew word translated as “began” is in Hebrew kawLAL, and actually means to wound, dissolve, to break one’s word, to profane, to pollute, to prostitute. The Stone Tanach renders this word debased. “Noah, the man of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard.”
After all that Noah had been through, after the accolades of being called tzadeek and tawmeem, after offering a pleasing sacrifice and entering into covenant with the Most High God, Noah debased himself. This is a strong warning that even the mighty are in danger of the snare of the fowler.
He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant” (Gen 9:21-27)
The exact nature of Ham’s sin is the subject of much commentary. Some think Ham mocked Noah’s drunken state and nakedness. Some are of the opinion that he had sex with Noah or even with Noah’s wife. Some even think it was Canaan who did these things, since he ended up with the curse. Whatever the case, it seems to me that instead of Noah cursing his grandchildren, it is more likely that he woke up to find his house on fire, so to speak, and yelled for help. I submit that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan!” he was actually declaring the results of sin. This man knew the Torah backward and forward. He knew that one of God’s strongest deterrents to sin is the promise to curse one’s offspring. “…for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 20:6)
This principle has not been taught to modern believers. Most church-goers have no idea that when we lie, steal, commit sexual sin, or practice idolatry that our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren will suffer as a result. They have no idea that “genetic” disease can be traced to the sin of parents and grandparents, etc. and would be shocked to learn that that a child’s propensity to addiction, abuse, and sexual sin can be traced to the sins of their parents, grandparents, etc. In my own case, Mom and I were informed by an aunt on her deathbed that my grandfather, a well-known businessman and faithful church-goer, was known for fondling women. My mother admitted to me that she and my father were sexually active before they married. Without knowing it, my siblings and I all followed in their footsteps.
Is it possible to break such a curse? All things are possible with God! Remember, the purpose of Torah is to RESTORE! The God of Creation revealed in last week’s lesson that He first and foremost wants us to understand Him as Redeemer, Reconstructor, Shaper, Molder, and Conqueror of Chaos even more He wants us to see Him as the Skillful Designer, the All-Powerful, All Knowing, Most High God who created everything from nothing. He wanted us to know that like the Holy Spirit brooded over the dark and formless depths of the earth (Gen. 1:1), so He broods today and every day over every soul in captivity.
Noah woke up from his drunken stupor to find his spiritual house in flames. Ham’s name means “hot” and “to enflame self.” Too late, Noah saw that Ham’s descendants down to the third and fourth generation would personally feel the searing heat of the temptations, afflictions, and consequences of the day’s evil events, and, further, that this iniquity, left unchecked, would conceive and give birth to even greater wickedness. Pandora’s Box was open. Noah, having let down his guard, shared the blame. The Canaanites would become guilty of every type of sexual perversion known to man and, even worse, were known for sacrificing their children to idols. The only remedy for the curse, Noah knew, was to learn and practice Torah.
Noah’s son, Shem, according to Hebrew tradition, maintained yeshivas (tent schools) in which he taught Torah. This is in line with Noah’s response when he recognized the family had been overtaken in a conflagration. Foreseeing the tragic repercussions to his grandson and future descendants, the way I see it, after sounding the alarm, Noah moved to counteract the curse. Gathering the family together, Noah blessed God for the righteousness with which Shem had demonstrated by moving quickly, along with Japheth to cover Noah. Noah prayed that Canaan would likewise also become God’s servant by serving in the tents of Shem. “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be His servant.” (Gen 9:27)
Then, as I see it, Noah prayed that God would enlarge Japheth’s righteousness by giving him opportunity to dwell in Shem’s tent (school).
May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his [Shem’s] servant. (Gen 9:27)
In my view, Noah prayed that all of his offspring would come to study Torah! I believe that Noah’s deepest prayer was that God would use Shem to impart His standard of righteousness to Noah’s offspring, to counteract the curse. We must remember, everyone in the world who lived after the flood are sons of Noah. And … God so loved the WORLD!
Noah lived 350 years after the flood. I am certain he spent his time trying to undo the harm he had done by warning everyone who would listen of the effects of sin. And God mightily answered Noah’s prayer. Shem lived 502 years after the flood, until Jacob and Esau were 52 years old. Jewish tradition teaches that Jacob studied in the tents of Shem; while Esau chose to entertain himself with hunting. Of course, it is from the lineage of Jacob that we received the Torah scrolls and Scriptures.
No doubt, Shem taught Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, of whom is it written, “…Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen. 26:5). It is also written that God said of Abram, before God changed his name, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19). In Abraham as with Noah, God would start over with a man who was willing to distance himself from his culture and walk with God in His commandments.
In closing, Yeshua warned us that the day of His return will be as the day of the flood. (Mat. 24:37-38). Peter warns us to be blameless in preparation for that day:
The day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day heaven will pass away with a roaring sound. Everything that makes up the universe will burn and be destroyed. The earth and everything that people have done on it will be exposed. All these things will be destroyed in this way. So think of the kind of holy and godly [blameless, tawmeem], lives you must live as you look forward to the day of God and eagerly wait for it to come… Everything that makes up the universe will burn and melt. But we look forward to what God has promised–a new heaven and a new earth–a place where everything that has God’s approval lives. Therefore, dear friends, with this to look forward to, make every effort to have him find you at peace, without spiritual stains or blemishes [blameless, tawmeem]” (2 Peter 3:10-14 GW).
Never forget that we who have multiple copies of multiple translations of the Bible, along with Bible software of every kind, are the most blessed people who have ever lived on this planet. Until next week, shalom!