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God spoke a blessing over Noah and his sons.

Eternal One: Be fruitful, multiply, and populate the earth! All the animals on the earth, all the birds in the sky, all the creatures that creep along the ground, and all the fish of the sea will now be afraid and run from you; they have been handed over to you. Every living thing that moves will be available to you as food. Just as I once gave you the green plants to eat, I now give you everything. But listen carefully: Do not eat any meat with its life-blood still in it. More than that, do not spill the blood of any human. If anyone spills your blood, I will hold him responsible. It makes no difference whether it is a man or an animal, both will be accountable to Me! If someone murders a fellow human being, then I will require his life in return.

    Whoever sheds the blood of a human,
        that person’s blood will be shed in return by another
        for God made humanity in His own image.
    Now all of you, be fruitful and multiply; spread out and populate the earth.

All life is sacred. Human life is especially so. Protecting it is of utmost importance to God. He takes this so seriously and personally because He made humanity to reflect Him. We are His earthly representatives, made in His image. To murder another person is to mount an attack on the One who created him.

But God was not finished. He had more to say both to Noah and his sons.

Eternal One: Look, for I am now going to make a pact, a special covenant, with you and all your descendants. 10 This covenant also extends to every living creature in the world—the birds, the domesticated animals, and every wild animal on the earth—as many as emerged with you from the ark. 11 As part of this covenant, I promise you I will never again wipe out all living flesh by means of flooding waters. Never again will a flood destroy the earth. 12 As a sign of this perpetual covenant I now make between Me and you and all living creatures along with you, as well as all future generations, 13 I will hang a rainbow among the clouds. It will serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 And from now on, whenever a cloud rises over the earth and a rainbow appears in the sky, 15 I will remember My covenant—My promise I have made between Me and you and all living creatures. No waters will ever again turn into a flood powerful enough to destroy all living creatures. 16 When that rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember this eternal covenant I have made with all living creatures.

17 Look for the rainbow, and remember My promise. With it I sign the covenant I have made between Me and all the living creatures residing on the earth.

18 Now Noah’s sons who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham, by the way, was the father of Canaan.) 19 Yes, these three, Noah’s sons, went on to populate the entire earth.

20 Now Noah became a farmer and decided to plant a vineyard. 21 One day he drank too much of the wine he had made and fell into a deep, drunken sleep in his tent. As he lay there stark naked, 22 Ham (the father of Canaan) peeked in and saw his father’s exposed body. After leaving the tent, he told his two brothers what he had seen. 23 So Shem and Japheth took a large cloak and laid it across their shoulders, and they walked backward into the tent. They never looked behind, as they covered their father’s nakedness. Out of respect, they purposely kept their faces turned away, so they wouldn’t see their father lying there naked. 24 When Noah regained consciousness and realized what his youngest son had done, 25 he uttered this curse:

Noah: A curse upon your son, Canaan!
        May he become the lowest of servants to his brothers.
26     May the Eternal One, the God of Shem, be blessed,
        and let Canaan be his slave!
27     May God make plenty of room for Japheth’s family
        and give them homes among Shem’s tents.
        And let Canaan be his slave also!

Noah’s words are not idle words. As the story unfolds, the importance of this curse becomes clear. But as the ancients knew, and we now have forgotten, words have power. It was with a word that God created the heavens above and the earth below. Now Noah’s words create a new reality, a harsh reality for Ham and his children.

28 From the time the flood was over, Noah lived another 350 years. 29 In all, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

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