“Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” Many elites today claim the world is overpopulated and seek to reduce the population down to 1/10th of what it is now. What is the ideal size and does the population keep growing? Mathematicians claim the population naturally levels off at a certain point. The issue threatening nature today is industrial farming, a monocultural form of farming, which pushes nature to the margins. God gave us an integrative form of living, with lower levels of industrial urbanisation, to steward natural life in sustainability. “Imperial industrialisation” (rather than population) is the greatest threat to nature. With local forms of industry, that made products to last and not with built in obsolescence, and land ownership for everyone (as in the Torah), resource management would be perfectly sustainable. This would also build a much greater and holistic form of wealth for all.
“The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth…” This is very different to the relationship between humanity and the animal kingdom in Genesis two. Here there is an acknowledgement of the predatorial and “survival of the fittest” behaviour that had taken over nature. Humanity, and presumably this extends to all the natural world, killing and eating of meat is now meant to sustain nutrition. This might reflect the reducing levels of nutrition in the soil and plant life, due to the total disruption of earlier ecosystems.
But God forbids the eating of animal blood. This is due to the value God puts on life. An animal killed was first offered to God, that is, the animal’s blood was poured out to the Lord. Then the animal was eaten. This was meant to show value for creation, respect for animal life, and to restrict killing to need only. God has taken the rap for this, with people claiming that he loves blood and sacrifice. Not at all. Instead God brings killing “into his sanctuary” to make killing a hallowed thing, not because he loves it, but to make it solemn, to protect nature from excessive human greed and destruction. The killing of animals before the Flood was likely very excessive, with violence taking over every human thought.
God also seeks to limit the violence that humans commit against each other. He demanded capital punishment for murder. This can be understood in the background of Lamech’s comment about demanding 70 x 7 retribution against anyone who murdered him. Knowing mankind’s bloodlust, God limits the vengeance to the actual murderer only, to restrict wider killing in extended vengeance. So capital punishment here wasn’t because God wanted it, but it was a measure to restrict human violence. We see this level of violence in Genesis 34, when Dinah’s brothers wiped out the males of a whole town for raping their sister, and when the Levites wiped out 3,000 brothers for the sin of the golden calf. This is human vengeance, that God sought to stem, with the “tooth for tooth” law from Moses. But Jesus later taught “turn the other cheek.” This is to be the guidance for our lives and communities. As God steps into relationship with Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, and finally through Christ, he moves humanity back to being a community of peace, and not bloodshed.
The rainbow was given as a sign of the covenant that God made with humanity and with the animals, that he would never again destroy the world with water. Just like in the original creation, God is seen here as the one who loves and protects his creation, not the destroyer of it. This rainbow is also evidence of the very different natural world after the Flood. The atmosphere before the Flood did not display rainbows, but since the Flood it has. We live in a different kind of weather ecosystem since the Flood. This would likely have very significant implications for plant and animal life and for our soils and farms.
This is also the chapter that has the curse of Ham’s son, Canaan. Ham “looked upon the nakedness of his father.” Some commentators believe this statement was a euphemism for sexual abuse, which Canaan emulated in his own behaviour. The curse of Noah would make sense in this context. Canaan and his culture filled the land west and east of the Jordan before Israel entered after the Exodus. It was a culture of male and female prostitution. This kind of culture can be prevalent when life is easy, as it was in the fertile regions that Lot later chose. It’s the same today in Western cultures. “Ease” and gross self-centredness were factors Ezekiel pointed to in the demise of Sodom. Noah’s curse and blessings pointed to the outcome of the characters, rather than a kind of magic. Canaan would bring upon himself his own demise.