Genesis 9:18–10:32: Dispersal of the Nations
At this point in Genesis, God has sworn that he will never again destroy the world with a Flood. There will be no more do-overs, so the people who exist will continue on, generation after generation, for as long as the earth remains—that is, until God destroys the world with fire to usher in a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:1–13). Between the first Flood of water and the final Flood of fire, God will never again hit the reset button on his creation. Instead, he will redeem creation in and through creation’s curse, sin, and brokenness.
After the first Flood, the people who exist are extremely small in number, since God brought only eight people safely through the waters of judgment. From here, we need to see how the sons of Noah will reproduce into the heads of the clans, languages, and nations that will disperse to fill every land across the entire face of the earth. That, at least, is what we would expect to read as the very next story; however, we will not see that “table of nations” until Genesis 10. Between the record of the covenant with Noah and the first genealogies of the people groups descending from that first family, we discover a shocking, despicable story in Genesis 9:18–29. What are we to make of the patriarch Noah’s becoming drunk and lying naked in his tent? Why is the sin of Ham so heinous, and why does Noah curse Canaan, the son of Ham? How does this influence the rest of the history recorded for us in the Bible from this point forward?
1. Why is Noah and his family unable to benefit from the fresh start God gives them? What does the doctrine of original sin teach us about the pervasiveness of sin, even among seemingly innocent children? How deep does the problem of our depravity go? Who can possibly deliver us from this body of sin and death that we inherited from Adam (Rom. 7:24)?
2. What does the Bible teach about alcohol? Why does Ham sin in seeing the nakedness of his father? Why do you think that the sins of drunkenness and sexual exploitation often go together? What role does alcohol play in your life? What role does sexual exploitation through seeing forbidden nakedness (e.g., pornography) play in your life? Where do you need to repent?
3. What does the curse against Canaan set up the coming judgment of God against the Canaanites? Why does God judge and expel the Canaanites from the land of Canaan (cf. Gen. 15:16; Deut. 7:1–5)? In what ways do the Canaanites inherit the sins of their forefather, Ham? What role does this passage play in justifying God’s righteous judgment against the Canaanites?
4. What do we learn from the promises that God makes to Shem? What do we learn to the promises that God makes to Japheth through Shem? Whom does God raise up from the line of Shem as the Redeemer of the world? How clearly do the themes of salvation through Jesus Christ for the Gentiles appear all the way back here in Genesis 9–10?