Answers from Genesis - Part 6

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Answers from Genesis - Part 6

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Can people eat anything they want? Genesis 9:3 says, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs."

Within the context of this section of Scripture, we find three key points:

After the Flood, God reiterates to Noah's family His previous instruction to mankind to multiply and fill the earth (9:1).

God says animals will fear man, and man is given dominion over them (9:2-3).

Man can eat the meat of the animals, but he must not eat the blood (9:4).

From previous instruction, it is evident that Noah already knew of the distinction between clean and unclean animals. Before the Flood God had told him, "You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female [that is, seven pairs]; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female" (Genesis 7:2, emphasis added throughout). Other passages explain that "clean" and "unclean" refer to animals that should and should not be eaten (Leviticus 11:1-4).

The implication in Genesis 7 is that they were to take these extra pairs of clean animals aboard because they would be raised to provide food for Noah's family as well as replenish the earth. Only one pair of each of the unclean animals was needed for species replenishment since these were not fit to eat.

Moreover, after the Flood, Noah sacrificed only clean animals before God (Genesis 8:20). Throughout Genesis, we see the men and women of God eating only clean animals (Genesis 18:7; 27:9). Later, the food laws of clean and unclean animals would be spelled out more explicitly—in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

Jesus Christ—our perfect example and the One whose example we follow—ate only clean meat.

Similarly, after Christ's death and the start of the New Testament Church, Peter, who had spent more than three years sharing meals with Jesus, declared, "For I have never eaten anything common or unclean" (Acts 10:14). The context of this statement is a vision given to Peter so he would not again call any gentile "common or unclean" as Jewish people of that time often did (verse 28).

Although these verses are focusing on the equality of man, they do reveal Peter's eating habits at that time. And clearly, he did not then begin to eat unclean meat! We know this because he later told the church members in Jerusalem what he had learned from the vision. No discussion about actually consuming unclean meat is brought up.

He said, "'If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?' When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life'" (Acts 11:17-18). So the lesson was not to call any gentiles "unclean" but to fellowship with them.

Had the lesson been that now they could all start eating pork and other unclean meat, a lengthy discussion on this vital and controversial subject would have ensued and would surely be mentioned in the book of Acts. Yet again, only the issue of gentile repentance is mentioned.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives a good summary of the topic, showing that Genesis 9:3 wasn't the first time God allowed people to eat meat and that Noah already knew which meat he could eat:

"Though some scholars infer from a comparison between Genesis 1:29 and 9:3 that divine permission to eat the flesh of animals was first given after the Deluge [Flood], it is more probable that mankind from the beginning made use of both animal and vegetable food.

"The dominion given to humans over animals (Gen. 1:26) included the eating of them, as dominion over fish at least cannot mean anything else. Abel's sacrifice (4:4) supposed the eating of mutton: mankind offered to the Divinity what he himself ate. The distinction between clean and unclean animals in the ark has no meaning if meat was not eaten (7:2).

"Prehistoric findings point to primitive man as an omnivore [eater of meat and vegetables]. It is only after settling down as an agriculturist that humans became chiefly eaters of vegetable food. Seminomads like the patriarchs combined both categories (18:5-8)" (1982, Vol. 2, p. 327).

Why was Canaan cursed instead of Ham in Genesis 9:25?

The Bible tells us: "And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: 'Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren'" (Genesis 9:20-25).

Who committed the wrong here? It must have been Canaan, as he was the one punished. Yet the wording has confused many. Many see "his younger son" as a reference to Noah's son Ham, who had seen Noah's nakedness.

The term "younger" is translated as "youngest" in several Bible versions (see New International Version, American Standard Version, Bible in Basic English). Yet Ham was not Noah's youngest son. Japheth was (Genesis 5:32; 10:1). Canaan, though, was Ham's youngest son (Genesis 10:6). This is sometimes resolved by considering the "his" in "his youngest son" as meaning "Ham's." Yet Noah is the last person mentioned. Could Canaan be described as Noah's youngest son? Yes, if the term "son" is understood in its broader sense of descendant.

Hebrew scholar Tayler Lewis concurs: "The Hebrew rendered 'his younger son,' cannot refer to Ham, who was older than Japheth, but means the least or youngest of the family, and hence is descriptive of Canaan. The words, 'had done unto him' means something very shameful had been done to the old man in his unconscious state, and of such a nature that it becomes manifest to him immediately on his recovery...

"Thus regarded, everything seems to point to some wanton act done by the very one who is immediately named in the severe malediction that follows: 'Cursed be Canaan.' He was the youngest son of Ham, as he was also the youngest son of Noah, according to the well-established Semitic peculiarity by which all the descendants are alike called sons" (Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Genesis, p. 338).

Therefore, it appears Canaan was cursed because he took advantage of Noah's unconsciousness to commit a perverse act. Ham merely saw his father's nakedness and reported it to his brothers. Shem and Japheth then walked with their backs to their father out of respect for him and covered him. VT