God did a remarkable thing. He promised He would never bring another worldwide flood. He said, “You can trust that I will never do this again.” He made a special covenant, or promise, with Noah and his sons. Humanity did not need to fear with every fall of rain that it was the beginning of judgment. God was tending to the heart of His people. What an amazing Lord.
There is no record in the ancient histories of any other god ever doing this before. Many kings of the ancient nations made covenants and promises with their own people or with the nations they conquered. Many kings made covenants with other kings to keep the peace. But there is nothing in history that man has discovered that shows a god binding himself to his people. It cannot be found in any other ancient religion. But the living God over all creation-Who can do all things at any moment by His overwhelming power-chose to bind Himself to this sinful race of humans by making a promise. He told them;
“‘I now establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you-the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you, every living creature on earth. I establish My covenant with you. Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood, never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth…this is the sign of the covenant I am making between Me and you…I have set My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and all living creatures of every kind.’”
This promise was not only made to the human race. It was made to every living creature on earth. It was the home of the creatures that He had made, and He would protect them from that judgment. The soft and gentle rainbows that we see when the rain falls in the sunshine are be the sign of His protection.
Noah’s three sons and their wives had spent a year on the ark with Noah. Their names where Shem, Ham, and Japheth. It was through their children that God would rebuild the human race. The Bible can trace whole nations and civilizations that came from each of Noah’s sons! Every human on the earth today is a descendant of Noah and of one of his sons! These three men watched their father live righteously in the midst of a violent and sinful world. They had seen the power and might of God, and they knew that their father was of supreme character and worth in the Lord’s eyes. It was his righteousness that saved them from drowning with the rest of humanity! Their whole lives were lived in the most dramatic moments of the story of humanity’s curse and God’s work to save it. They had a year on the ark to think through the work of God and their future on the newly cleansed earth. What would they do with their amazing opportunity to be the fathers of all human society?
As they began life again on the earth, the work of humanity began, too. Noah was a man of the soil, subduing the earth and growing things just as Adam had been called to do. He became the first man to plant vineyards and make wine.
One night, he drank too much of his wine and got drunk. He lay in the privacy of his tent in a drunken stupor, totally naked. His son Ham came into the tent and saw him, gazing at his father in his shamed state. He looked on and on with filth and impurity in his eyes when he should have turned immediately and respectfully away. Then he went outside and told his brothers about their father’s state. A righteous son would have loyally protected his father, who was a man of great honor. But Ham shamed and exposed Noah in his weakness and vulnerability.
Now, this may seem like a quick and simple mistake. But the Bible tells us this story as a way to show the reader that there was a much bigger problem. Ham’s behavior towards his father showed the evil thoughts and plans of his heart. Disrespectful leering at a father can turn into a whole new set of powerful, perverse sins.
Whole generations can be effected by the evil that begins as a small, satanic seed. Ham would powerfully influence his own children. Just as with Cain, they would grow to be like him, and their children would grow to be like them. Fathers pass the patterns and weaknesses of their sins onto their children, and the sin grows on from there in the family. If the father does not repent and allow God to transform him, he is damaging far more than his own life. He is a destructive force in the life of everyone he loves. That is a very great shame.
Noah’s other two sons, Shem and Japtheth were so protective and concerned for their father’s dignity that they took a garment into the tent. They walked backwards inside so that they would in no way see Noah, and they lay the garment over him. They honored him with their modesty and protection.
When Noah slept off his drunkenness, he found out what Ham had done. He learned what his two older sons had done as well, and he made a proclamation;
“‘Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.
“‘He also said,
“‘Blessed by the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
May God extend the territory of Japheth;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be his slave.’”
Once again, the first family of the human race was divided between those who would choose a life dependent on the ways of God and those who would rebel. What a grief for Noah. What a grief to know that his own son would reintroduce sin into the world that the flood had come to wash away. All of the descendants of Cain had died in the flood, but now it was clear that the spirit of rebellion was reawakened on earth. Noah condemned it totally and completely with his curse. Perhaps future generations would listen to his words.
The Bible makes sure that we know that Ham would become the father of the Canaanite nations. They were a group of nations whose horrific perversion and sin would offend God for hundreds of years. Their unrepentant rebellion would fill up the cup of God’s mighty wrath so intensely that it would finally pour out on them, utterly destroying their cities.
Yet there was reason for great hope. The faithfulness of Abel and Seth was alive in Shem and Japheth. Shem would receive the wide and great blessings of God, and Japheth would be invited to share in those blessings with his brother. As Noah’s blessing said, somehow the generations that came from Japheth would be invited into the tents of Shem.
The great divide between Noah’s descendants would play out in the histories of whole nations. It will be interesting to read on and see how the blessings and curses of Noah, a man appointed by God, came true. For you see, blessings and curses are not mere words. They hold some kind of genuine, prophetic power when spoken by the servants of the Lord.
After the flood, Noah lived on another three hundred and fifty years. He died when he was nine hundred and fifty years old. We aren’t sure how the ancient people lived such long lives. We do know at the beginning of time, the earth was new and everything in it was full of God’s perfection. Many believe that a special kind of deterioration of earth comes with the sin of humans. As they sin, their wickedness pollutes and contaminates everything they come near. Perhaps there was a time when the bodies of humankind were stronger and more whole because evil had not worked centuries of destruction in them. Adam and Eve had no genetic history of cancer or heart disease or alcoholism to pass on to their children! But after centuries of murder and deception, the spiritual disease of sin may have worked its way into physical diseases in the body. Each family is marked by forms of disease their family line has invited through their sins of choice.
These are interesting ideas, but we can’t be sure about them because the Bible does not teach those things directly. What we do know is that God’s Word is true, and we can trust that Noah and his ancestors lived to ripe old ages.