Series on Genesis,II God's Family, C The Promotion of the Family, Text:9:1-11:9, Title:A New Start and an Old Problem.


We now enter the post-diluvian period. As we looked last time at the final hundred years before the flood, during which Noah was building the ark, we now look at the first hundred years after the flood. The climax of this century was the building of the Tower of Babel, 11:1-9. According to Genesis 10:25, Eber, a descendent of Shem from which we get the word semitic, had two sons. The name Eber is the source of the word Hebrew. One of Eber's sons was named for the scattering of mankind that took place at Babel. He is called “division.” As we read on in chapter 11 past our text we discover that Eber and Peleg were ancestors of Abraham. From the birth of Peleg we can date the Tower of Babel approximately a century after the flood. God had purified the earth with the flood, but it rapidly returned to its old ways. In all of this God was promoting his family. we see this in five ways in our text. The problem of sin, the precepts of the covenant, the promise of God, the punishment of Babel, and the prophecy of blessing.

I The Problem of Sin

The story of Noah's drunkenness in Genesis 9:20-25 reminds us of the pervasive and persistent presence and pollution of sin. Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” It was the custom of ancient conquerors to prevent the escape of their prisoners by tying a dead body to their backs.  With such gruesome burdens, these poor wretches could not run away. Paul may have had this in mind in Romans 7:24 Oh, wretched man that i am!  who shall deliver me from this dead body? This is a reminder of the persistence of sin. We are also reminded of the way sin manifests itself in the family. God has provided a new world for Noah and he proceeds to abuse it. In his drunken stupor he is destroying the fabric of the only family God has saved. Remember Paul's admonition, Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled by the spirit. The excess of drunkenness is the exact opposite of spiritual leadership. The second son of Noah, Ham, follows his father's bad example and makes light of the sin, but I want you to notice two things. First the faith of Noah has had an effect. Shem and Japheth cover their father. they want no part of Ham's folly. In spite of his fall into sin, Noah had nurtured his family by his faith. Some genealogist researched the families of Jonathon Edwards and a contemporary Max Jukes. He learned that Edwards’ 1384 descendants produced 13 college presidents, 65 professors, 60 prominent lawyers, 32 noted authors, 90 physicians, 200 ministers of the gospel, and 300 good farmers. Max Jukes was a very unprincipled and notorious crook. The life histories of 903 of his offspring showed he spawned 300 delinquents, 145 confirmed drunkards, 90 prostitutes, 285 with STD’s, and over 100 spent an average of 13 years in prison. The crimes and care of that one family cost the state of New York over one million dollars. in 18th and 19th century money. Jonathan Edwards’ family cost the government nothing. And, when Noah recovers, he pronounces a curse on Ham's descendants. righteousness prevails and it prevails because of God's grace and the issue of it is the promotion of a righteous believing family.

II The Precepts of the Covenant

In the second place the family of God is promoted by the precepts of the covenant. as Noah embarks in a new world God gives him instructions in 9:1-7, Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands.  Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” In many ways these resemble the mandate given to Adam, however the heart of the stipulation is the sanctity of human life because man is made in the image of God. The prohibition of eating the blood of the animals, what today is called kosher, has less to do with animals than with man’s need for redemption from sin and death. The lion and the lamb lie down together in paradise, but in a fallen world their lives become subservient to the salvation of man. The law protecting human life, and capitol punishment, are part of the covenant because respect for life is essential to God’s plan of redemption. Remember the first murder occurred in the bosom of the family. I think of India where girl babies are still being murdered, and of America where millions of unborn children are murdered. In spite of the sensational news coverage of murders by strangers, the fact is most murders occur within a close circle of friends and particularly in families.

III The Promise of God

In 9:8-17 we see the promise of God promoting the family, Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “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.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 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. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” Of course the covenant is made with the family of man through Noah who is now the progenitor of us all and thereby the precepts concerning the sanctity of human life are universal. But the purpose of the covenant is to secure the development of the holy seed, the family of God. The rainbow is a sign that God will secure the development of his family from which the Savior will be born and through whom a vast multitude will be saved.

IV The Punishment at Babel

In like manner the holy family is promoted by the punishment that occurs at Babel. 11:1-9, Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.  As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.  They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. The fact is that human sin is always magnified by cooperation. People sin better in groups. History bears witness to the decline and fall of numerous societies precisely because people encourage one another in evil as it says in verse 6. it is likely that the Tower of Babel was  the new age movement of that century. Many have speculated that this was a tower built to read the signs of the heavens, astrology. In our own time people go to church for what they can get out of it, rather than to worship and glorify their creator. Chuck Colson says, “If you're going to compete with God-Shirley McLaine does it much better. For 300 dollars you can go to one of her seminars and be God. God scattered the people with a confusion of languages so that evil would be minimized, and there would be a greater opportunity for the development of a holy seed. It also needs to be said that Babel is reversed in the New Testament. The day of Pentecost is the opposite, when people from different nations and places all heard the Word of God preached in their own language and understood. The implication of this is that in Christ there is a unity which is not destructive. The unity of His body promotes holiness, not sin; a holy seed, not a Godless humanity.

V The Prophecy of Blessing

The final way in which God promotes his family is in the prophecy of Noah in 9:26-27 after he has cursed Ham and Canaan, He also said, “Blessed be 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.” Shem is the father of all the semitic peoples and consequently it is from Shem that the Hebrews, and the children of Abraham are descended. They are the chosen people and are therefore greatly blessed. Japheth represents the Gentiles to the north, and they take refuge in the tents of Shem. This is an enormously important prophecy because it foretells the inclusion of the Gentiles in the covenant with the coming of the promised seed, Jesus Christ. The descendants of Ham are cursed. Canaan is singled out because these are the peoples that lived in Palestine when the children of Abraham came out of Egypt and cast them out of the promised land in judgment. But many other traditional enemies of Israel are included in the list of Ham’s descendants: Egypt, Philistia, Babylon and Assyria. The sad history of men's warfare and unfounded prejudice goes back to this prophecy. It is true. it has been fulfilled and even in the twentieth century we live with the effects of it. But it is important to understand that the fulfillment of this prophecy does not legitimize the enslavement of or prejudice against other peoples. It happened. But the gospel changes all of that. It places all nations, Jew and Gentile, Semitic, Hamitic, or Japhethic on the same footing. The point I am making is that this prophecy reflects God's providential control of history to effect the formation of a holy seed and bring a redeemer. Since that redeemer has come God outwardly forms his family in a new way, a spiritual way, through faith in Christ, but he is still promoting that family.  This is Paul’s point in Ephesians 3:14-19  For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.