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The Covenant with Noah


God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. 3Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.


Whoever sheds the blood of a human,

by a human shall that person’s blood be shed;

for in his own image

God made humankind.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.”

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and 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. 11I 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.” 12God 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: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I 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. 16When 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.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Noah and His Sons

18 The sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. 19These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled.

20 Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. 21He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent. 22And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23Then 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 away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25he said,

“Cursed be Canaan;

lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Blessed by the L ord my God be Shem;

and let Canaan be his slave.


May God make space for Japheth,

and let him live in the tents of Shem;

and let Canaan be his slave.”

28 After the flood Noah lived three hundred fifty years. 29All the days of Noah were nine hundred fifty years; and he died.

3. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you. The Lord proceeds further, and grants animals for food to men, that they may eat their flesh. And because Moses now first relates that this right was given to men, nearly all commentators infer, that it was not lawful for man to eat flesh before the deluge, but that the natural fruits of the earth were his only food. But the argument is not sufficiently firm. For I hold to this principle; that God here does not bestow on men more than he had previously given, but only restores what had been taken away, that they might again enter on the possession of those good things from which they had been excluded. For since they had before offered sacrifices to God, and were also permitted to kill wild beasts, from the hides and skins of which, they might make for themselves garments and tents, I do not see what obligation should prevent them from the eating of flesh. But since it is of little consequence what opinion is held, I affirm nothing on the subject.286286     The question which Calvin here dismisses as one of little importance has, in modern controversy, assumed a very different position; and most commentators have come to a decision, the reverse of that to which he inclines. His arguments appears chargeable with the want of firmness, which he imputes to others. The inference that the flesh of sacrifices was eaten, since otherwise it must have been wasted, is of no force, if we suppose the first sacrifices to have been all holocausts, or whole burnt offering unto the Lord. The garments or tents referred to as made from the skins of animals were, in all probability, those of the very animals which were thus sacrificed; so that there is no reason hence to conclude, that flesh was eaten before the deluge. But let the reader refer to Magee on the Atonement, Dissertation, No.li2 — Ed. This ought justly to be deemed by us of greater importance, that to eat the flesh of animals is granted to us by the kindness of God; that we do not seize upon what our appetite desires, as robbers do, nor yet tyrannically shed the innocent blood of cattle; but that we only take what is offered to us by the hand of the Lord. We have heard what Paul says, that we are at liberty to eat what we please, only we do it with the assurance of conscience, but that he who imagines anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean, (Romans 14:14.) And whence has this happened to man, that he should eat whatever food he pleased before God, with a tranquil mind, and not with unbridled license, except from his knowing, that it has been divinely delivered into his hand by the right of donation? Wherefore, (the same Paul being witness,) the word of God sanctifies the creatures, that we may purely and lawfully feed on them, (1 Timothy 4:5.) Let the adage be utterly rejected which says, ‘that no one can feed and refresh his body with a morsel of bread, without, at the same time, defiling his soul.’ Therefore it is not to be doubted, that the Lord designed to confirm our faith, when he expressly declares by Moses, that he gave to man the free use of flesh, so that we might not eat it with a doubtful and trembling conscience. At the same time, however, he invites us to thanksgiving. On this account also, Paul adds “prayer” to the “word,” in defining the method of sanctification in the passage recently cited.

And now we must firmly retain the liberty given us by the Lord, which he designed to be recorded as on public tables. For, by this word, he addresses all the posterity of Noah, and renders this gift common to all ages. And why is this done, but that the faithful may boldly assert their right to that which, they know, has proceeded from God as its Author? For it is an insupportable tyranny, when God, the Creator of all things, has laid open to us the earth and the air, in order that we may thence take food as from his storehouse, for these to be shut up from us by mortal man, who is not able to create even a snail or a fly. I do not speak of external prohibition;287287     By external prohibition, is probably meant such as might be enjoined by the magistrate during a time of scarcity, or for any purely civil purpose. — Ed. but I assert, that atrocious injury is done to God, when we give such license to men as to allow them to pronounce that unlawful which God designs to be lawful, and to bind consciences which the word of God sets free, with their fictitious laws. The fact that God prohibited his ancient people from the use of unclean animals, seeing that exception was but temporary, is here passed over by Moses.

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