Noah Planted a Vineyard: Genesis 9:20–21

Noah vineyard (2)

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b) Gen 9:20–21: A considerable number of years have elapsed since Noah’s flood, as Ham produced four sons in the interim (Cf. Gen 8:15–18; Gen 10:6).

Moses wrote, “Then Noah, a man of the ground (adamah), began by planting a vineyard.”

He appeared to deliberately link Noah with Adam, the man whom God formed from the ground (Gen 2:7; Gen 3:17–19).[1]

With Noah, humanity (adam) received a fresh start.[2]

Lamech called his son Noah (noakh), saying, “This one shall relieve (nakham) us from our work and from the painful toil of our hands [arising] from the ground which the Lord has put under a curse” (Gen 5:29).

He created a play on words between nuakh, which means “rest” and a similar sounding term which means “comfort” (nakham).[3]

Noah produced a luxury item,[4] indicating that rain came in the right amounts to grow lush crops rather than to obliterate life (Cf. Gen 7:17–24).[5]

While the wine which Noah produced brought comfort from his toil, it yielded mixed results.[6]



Hebrew scholars disagree whether Noah was the first person to ferment wine. Some hold that “began” (khalal) implies a completely new activity.[7]

Others note that the same grammar occurs in a verse depicting the onset of the building of the temple after returning from exile (Ezra 3:8).[8]

According to the Epic of Gilgamesh, wine growing preceded the flood. The Noah figure Utnapishtim gave the men who built his boat “red wine, oil, and white wine.”[9]

The earliest archaeologic evidence for wine making comes from the Zagros Mountains in northern Iran. Six nine-liter clay jars containing wine residue date to 5400–5000 BC.[10] This area lies fairly close to the Ararat Mountains (Gen 8:4).



Concerning Noah, Moses reported, “And he drank from the wine, and he became drunk, and he uncovered himself inside his tent.”

This seems incompatible with the earlier description of Noah as “a righteous man, having integrity in his generation” (Gen 6:9).[11]

Yet, Moses neither condoned nor censured his behavior.[12]

Israelites considered wine one of God’s good gifts (Deut 14:26; Ps 104:14–15; Isa 62:8–9). In fact, the Lord compared Israel to a vineyard (Isa 5:1–7; Mark 12:1–12).[13]

Priests offered wine to God twice a day and included it with burnt sacrifices (Exod 29:38–42; Num 15:4–7).[14]

Scripture also recognizes the perils of drunkenness (1 Sam 1:12–17; Prov 23:29–35; Hos 4:10–12; Jer 25:15–16, 27–29).[15]

Inebriation and holiness cannot coexist.[16]

God threatened to kill any priest who drank wine before entering the tabernacle (Lev 10:8–11). A key aspect of the Nazirite vow of dedication to God consisted of abstention from alcohol (Num 6:1–4).[17]



The Lord particularly condemned drunkenness coupled with nakedness, employing this imagery as a sign of judgment (Lam 4:21–22; Hab 2:15–16).[18]

Two nations which later oppressed and ensnared Israel arose after Lot’s daughters plied him with alcohol (Gen 19:30–38). David tried to cover his adultery by getting Uriah drunk so that he would ignore his sense of honor and go home to sleep with his wife (2 Sam 11:10–13).[19]

One Ugaritic text describes the chief god, El, as too drunk to walk. It says, “El sits in his mrzḥ-shrine. [El] drinks [wi]ne to satiety, liquor, to drunkenness. El goes to his house, proceeds to his court. Ṭkmn and Šnm carry him.”[20]

The verb used for “carry” implies that El could no longer walk.[21]

Since the Ugaritic religion emphasized fertility rites,[22] intoxication and prostitution likely occurred in tandem.[23]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 9:20–21. How does the Old Testament depict wine? Why did nudity coupled with drunkenness carry negative associations in Israel? How do you avoid the pitfalls which exist with alcohol consumption?




Go to Ham Dishonors His Father (Gen 9:22–23)

[Related posts include The Lord Breathes Life (Gen 2:7); Thorns and Thistles (Gen 3:17–18); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Righteous and Blameless (Gen 6:9–10); The Waters Prevail (Gen 7:17–20); The Breath of Life Extinguished (Gen 7:21–24); God Reverses the Flood (Gen 8:2–5); Bring Them Out (Gen 8:15–19); The Sons of Noah (Gen 9:18–19); Ham Dishonors His Father (Gen 9:22–23); A Slave of Slaves (Gen 9:24–25); Blessed Be the God of Shem (Gen 9:26–27); Exegesis and Hermeneutics; Ancient Literature; and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Chapter 10: Noah Curses Canaan (Gen 9:18–27)]


[1]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 147.

[2]Walton, Genesis, 346.

[3]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 147.

[4]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 198.

[5]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 321.

[6]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 198.

[7]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 148.

[8]Walton, Genesis, 345–6.

[9]Speiser, trans., “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” in ANET, 11:72, 93,

[10]University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, “The Origins and Ancient History of Wine,”

[11]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 198.

[12]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 321.

[13]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 199.

[14]W. Dommershausen, “יַיִן” (yayin), TDOT 6:59–64, 63.

[15]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 148.

[16]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 199.

[17]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 321.

[18]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 199.

[19]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 148.

[20]Cyrus H. Gordon, “El, Father of Šnm,” JNES 35, no. 4 (1 October 1976) 261–2, 261,

[21]Gordon, “El, Father of Šnm,” 261,

[22]Peter C. Craigie, “The Tablets from Ugarit and Their Importance for Biblical Studies,” BAR 9, no. 5 (1 September 1983).

[23]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 322.