God is the giver of life. Human life is sacred because God created humans in His image. Consequently, humans are to value human life from the womb to the tomb.
God valued human life so much He initiated a covenant with all mankind in which God affirmed the sacredness of human life and placed obligations upon humans.
The Blessing (1–4)
Genesis 9 describes a new beginning for humanity after the judgment of the flood. God blessed Noah and his sons.
A key blessing God gave them is similar to the command He gave Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth …”
God also commands Noah and his sons to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. But there is a significant difference in humanity when God commands Adam and Eve to multiply and when He commands Noah and his sons to multiply.
Adam and Eve were potential sinners. In Noah’s day, all men and women were sinners. The sin of Adam and Eve resulted in a disruption in God’s plan and purpose. After the flood, God restarted His plan, so to speak.
The Warning (5–7)
To protect human life, God enabled a principle of retribution. God would require a penalty for anyone who murders a fellow human being.
Since humans are created in the image of God, an attack upon a fellow human being is an attack upon God. Three times in Genesis 9:5, God states that He will “require” the penalty of death for the taking of a person’s life.
God permitted capital punishment for two reasons. Capital punishment reminds people of the high value God places upon humans as image bearers of God. Image bearers of God should be fruitful, multiply and spread out over the earth.
The Mosaic law expanded Genesis’ affirmation of the sacredness of human life even to the unborn (see Ex. 21:22). We live in a culture in which human life is cheap. God requires a penalty for the taking of a human life.
The Covenant (8–15)
God declared a covenant with Noah prior to the flood (Gen. 6:18). Yet God waited to initiate the covenant until after the flood.
After sin enters the world due to the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God’s creation appears to be falling apart.
Yet God preserved a believing minority by commanding Noah and his family to prepare and enter an ark.
A biblical covenant includes both responsibilities and privileges. God set forth a visible reminder of His covenant relationship through the sign of a rainbow (v. 16).
Scripture affirms that all humans are created in the image of God. We do not work toward achieving significance. We have significance from the moment of conception. The significance of all humans became a reality to me when I served as a chaplain at a state school for mentally challenged adults.
God calls believers to stand up for the sacredness of human life.
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida