In chapter 9, the text moves from relating God’s speech within his own heart to relating his speech to Noah. The blessing that God first relates is a reiteration of the creation blessing of Genesis 1:28. Verse 1 of chapter 9 is an exact quote of 1:28a except for the alteration of the persons to whom God is speaking. Verse 7 of chapter 9 is similar to 1:28a except for the replacement of וּמִלְאוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ (“and fill the earth”) with שִׁרְצוּ בָאָרֶץ (“swarm on the earth”). The word שׁרץ is used in Genesis 1:20, 21 of living creatures that swarmed in the waters and in 7:21 of creatures that swarm on the land. Thus the blessing of being fruitful, multiplying and filling or increasing greatly on the earth is reiterated in 9:1 and 9:7, forming an inclusio (Matthews, NAC, 1:397).
Missing from this quotation of the creation blessing is the phrase “and have dominion over” (1:28).* That aspect of the creation blessing is taken up in 9:2. The phrases in the statement “over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” from 1:28b or close analogues all appear in 9:2. In place of “and have dominion” (1:28b) are the statements “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be . . .” and “into your hand they are delivered” (9:2b). The concept of dominion is not absent but is placed into the context of the Fall.**
Verse 3 quotes 1:29 and expands on the liberty to eat plants given there. One of the effects of the Fall is the death of animals, and man is now permitted to eat them. Verse 5 then places a limitation on this new liberty—no animal blood may be eaten. The mention of blood raises the issue of the shedding of human blood. The reason given for this is the image of God born by man (1:6).
Thus 9:1-7 is a reaffirmation of the creation blessing in a fallen world. All of the same elements are found in 9:1-7 as are found in 1:26-29: the image of God in man, the blessings of fruitfulness and dominion, and the provision of man’s needs, specifically food, by the creation.
In 9:8-17 God covenants with Noah what he had purposed in 8:21-22. The heart of the covenant is that God will never again destroy the earth with a flood. Great emphasis is placed on the earth in this passage. Animals are identified as being “of the earth” or “on the earth.” The covenant is even said to be made with the earth itself (9:13). The covenant therefore guarantees that the earth will remain a stable place for God to work out his plan of redemption, despite the continuing sinfulness of man which deserves God’s judgment.
Land, important in creation, is reaffirmed as important in 8:20-9:17. It remains the sphere of mankind’s rule. In addition it is the platform on which the plan of redemption is worked out (McKeown, Genesis, THOTC, 61-62).
Genesis 9:26-27 also has land promise implications. Cain will become the servant of Shem when Israel conquers the land of Canaan and makes it her own. Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem*** could refer to the salvation of the Gentiles and the special role that Israel will have in the coming kingdom. Though there is an equality of all believers in Christ, Israel is given a special role relative to the nations in the future (see Ex 4:22; Dt 26:19; Isa 11:14;14:2;49:22-26; 60:12; Jer 31:7-9).
*The LXX adds καὶ κατακυριεύσατε αὐτῆς (“have dominion over it”) to 9:1, using the exact words found in 1:28a. Some interpreters also wish to emend the repetitive וּרְבוּ־בָהּ (“and multiply in it”) at the end of 9:7 to וּרְדוּ־בָהּ (“and rule it”). Jeremy Cohen, "Be Fertile and Increase, Fill the Earth and Master It": The Ancient and Medieval Career of a Biblical Text (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), 26-27. Both the LXX and the emendation reveal a lack of understanding of verse two. See above.
**Some might claim that God is limited dominion in this passage to rule over the animals whereas in Genesis 1 his rule extends to all the earth. It is unlikely that a limitation on the creation blessing is intended here. Furthermore, rule over the animal world alone implies extensive dominion over the earth. Gootjes notes this in his discussion of Klaas Schilder’s view of culture: “The cow has been created; it exists in the created world. But it wanders around freely. Man is given the right to domesticate it and to use its milk. The horse too has been created; it is galloping about in Eden. Man has the right and the ability to catch it, to tame it, to bridle it, and to ride it. Imagine what a development this means to created man. He can go more quickly than he could on his own feet, and he can carry heavier loads. But also imagine how much man has to invent to do this, even in a sinless world. He has to invent the bridle, reins, the wheel and a cart, stables, and fences. All this belongs to having dominion over a horse. Man can also use sheep. They can be shorn, and the wool can be used for making cloth. The dominion over the animals undoubtedly involves a cultural task. Man’s dominion becomes even more impressive when we realize that God also gave mankind dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. They too have to serve man (after their own fashion). But in order to have dominion over fish and birds, man has to extend his influence to the sea and to the air. He has to develop the means to reach fish and birds. In other words, this dominion requires cultural development.” N. H. Gootjes, "Schilder on Christ and Culture," in Always Obedient: Essays on the Teaching of Dr. Klaas Schilder, ed. J. Geertsema (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1995), 45.
***Scholars disagree over who inhabits Shem’s tents. For an argument in favor of God dwelling in Shem’s tents, see Kaiser, Toward and Old Testament Theology, 82. For an argument in favor of Japheth dwelling in Shem’s tents, see Hamiltion, NICOT, 1:362.