Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for January 21

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for Jan. 21, written by Douglas K. Wilson, Ph.D. professor of biblical studies, University of Mobile.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for January 21

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By Douglas K. Wilson, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical Studies, University of Mobile


Genesis 9:1–15

This Lord’s Day is designated as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, reminding Southern Baptists of the barbaric practice of pre-born human sacrifice that was legally sanctioned in the United States by the Supreme Court in January 1973. Though Roe v. Wade has been reversed after 50 years, abortion remains a legal means of birth control in many states. This Sunday is a reminder that human life bears the image of God, is worthy of dignity and needs the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Blessing (1–4)

Be fruitful. Multiply. Fill the earth. Humanity receives instruction to have children and disperse across the land, just as they did in Genesis 1. Life is a blessing from God, and bearing children is the means of being fruitful and living beyond oneself. Noah and his wife are beyond childbearing years, but their sons and daughters-in-law will be fruitful. Their sons will be the forefathers of the tribes upon the earth. (See Chapter 10).

Be feared. Evidently, animals did not fear men and women prior to the flood. The pairs of animals that entered the ark were gathered, not chased. What happened that led to fear? Did the free-range chickens become fearful of becoming cooped up again? Prior to the ark experience, humans ate plants. Afterward, God allowed humanity to eat animals as well.

Be fed. No longer will humanity eat only vegetation. Now creeping and crawling things, as well as flying and swimming things, are part of their menu. Blood, however, is not to be consumed. Eating blood is forbidden, and shedding the blood of other humans is also prohibited.

The Warning (5–7)

Be forewarned. Humans are accountable for bloodshed. Because we are made in God’s image, we are answerable to God for murder and manslaughter. These verses offer the first indication of “lex talionis” in Scripture. This may also be called “the law of just punishment” or “the punishment fits the crime.” 

Humans who take human life will be put to death, according to this passage. This may be seen as vengeful, but this directive from God is actually a warning that God is establishing capital punishment in His theocracy. Human life is sacred in that we each bear His image. 

Later, in the Mosaic law, more instructions are provided for the tribes of Israel, the holy nation set apart to preserve His words and bear His name. Those who reject God’s authority by ignoring or intentionally transgressing His commandments invite His wrath upon themselves and their families (Ex. 20:5). This includes His instructions concerning the pre-born (Ex. 21:22–25).

The Covenant (8–15)

Be forever grateful. As descendants of Noah, everyone reading this lesson is a recipient of the covenant promise that God made to Noah. Notice that the covenant is not established or ratified by Noah and his sons. The text reads “My covenant,” ”covenant I am making,” ”covenant between Me and the earth,” ”the permanent covenant between God and all the living creatures” and ”covenant that I have established.”

God-initiated covenants are laid on the foundation of God’s character. The sign of God’s covenant with Noah is a rainbow. God keeps His promises.

The better sign is the cross. This is the promise of eternal life for all who trust Jesus.