Genesis chapter 9 narrates a fresh beginning in human history. Noah stands at the headwaters of a new humanity on the face of a new world. And yet some things have not changed at all – namely, mankind and sin. Man is still a sinner. To be sure there remains the distinction between those who treasure their sin and those who strive for godliness – there remains the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent – but all are still born sinners.
Genesis chapter 9 preserves its emphasis on the unity of mankind by tracing the origins of all human life back to Noah who himself descended from the first man Adam. As the sons of Noah disperse throughout the earth and give rise to families and nations so too will rise “specializations within that unity. But racial roles are superseded in the New Testament, where ‘there cannot be Greek and Jew,…barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all’ (Colossians 3:11). Any attempt to grade the branches of mankind by an appeal to verses 25-27 is therefore a re-erecting of what God has demolished” (Kidner, 103).
The growing human family must seek to deal faithfully with the creation mandate while remaining sinful in a world that is broken by the fall. The moral insanity of sin is seen both in Noah’s drunkenness and Ham’s far worse degrading disrespect for his father; a sin which will contribute to the rise of the wicked Canaanites. How is it that those who saw first-hand the terror of God’s judgement now enter into sin so flagrantly? Of course, similar questions could be asked of us who have drunk so deeply of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Noah was a paragon of virtue, despite his remaining sin. He was a godly and righteous man who stood alone in a violent and immoral generation. But he was still just a man as verse 21 displays. In Noah’s failure we are reminded that no matter how virtuous some of our fellows may be, we must ultimately look to God, not man, for salvation. Noah needed the same Savior as we do.