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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Genesis 9

 

 

Verse 1

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

And God blessed Noah and his sons. In the now expurgated world Noah sustained the character and held the position of a second representative father of the human race. Since the economy of Providence was henceforth to be developed on a different plan from that of the antediluvian world, another covenant was made for the preservation of man in the new order of things. A new charter of privileges was given to him, embodied in a brief and simple but majestic code of fundamental laws, for the authoritative guidance of all future generations; and this legislative enactment is most appropriately represented as proceeding from God ( 'Elohiym (Hebrew #430)), the supreme ruler. Here is republished the law of nature that was announced to Adam, consisting, as it originally did, of several parts.

Be fruitful, ... The first part relates to the transmission of life, the original blessing being re-announced in the very same words in which it had been promised at first.


Verse 2

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.

And the fear of you and the dread of you. The second re-establishes man's dominion over the inferior animals. It was now founded, not as at first, in love and kindness, but in terror. This dread of man prevails among all the stronger as well as the weaker members of the animal tribes, and keeps away from his haunts all but those employed in his service. It is partly the result of his reason and superior intelligence (for knowledge is power). But there is a natural sense of dread impressed on all classes of the lower creation which is greatly increased by the fears inspired by the steadfast piercing glance of man's eye, and the special accents of his voice. No sound, however loud, when produced by a cannon or a gun, carries the same amount of terror among wild beasts and wild birds as the human voice. Even in the thickest jungles the lion and the tiger will often skulk away if they hear him speak. This dominion, as granted anew to Noah, though expressed in stronger terms than to Adam, probably to inspire him and his family with confidence to spread over the earth, was restored only in the imperfect degree in which it was possessed after the fall, when, through his own fierce passions and cruel tyranny, man's supremacy over the inferior creation was much impaired. Still it continues great. But the coercive rule which he now exercises, and which is often successfully resisted, is not to be confounded with that benign and complete dominion which was his critical prerogative, and which having been conferred on Christ (Psalms 8:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:7-8), will in due time be the imparted privilege of His people in the restored condition of humanity.


Verse 3

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

Every moving thing ... meat for you. The third part concerns the means of sustaining life: man was for the first time, it would seem, allowed the free and unrestricted use of animal food. It has been stated in a previous part of the commentary (see the note at Genesis 1:29-31, pp. 9-22) that, in all likelihood, this was not the first grant of animal food, and that power to use it might be included in the general declaration made to Adam (Genesis 1:28); because it is difficult to conceive what could be the practical benefit to man of being invested with power "over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air," except that he was warranted to take them as means of sustenance. At all events, various considerations create a presumption that portions of the beasts offered in sacrifice were eaten; but as these were confined only to a few classes, which were considered 'clean,' prejudices must in the course of time have been entertained by religious people, like Noah and his family, against all other animals, as 'common' or 'unclean,' for food as well as for sacrifice. Here, then, an explicit declaration was made, that "every creature of God is good" (1 Timothy 4:4).

Every moving thing , [ kaal (Hebrew #3605) remes (Hebrew #7431)], a word of extensive signification, pointing, not with scientific precision to any particular class, but used once for aquatic animals (Psalms 104:25), commonly for reptiles and the smaller mammals (see the note at Genesis 1:26; Genesis 6:20), and here for all inferior creatures. The use of this indefinite word, conjoined with a reference to "the green herb," was evidently designed to show in an emphatic manner the universality of the grant. But it is accompanied with a special restriction which deserves to be well observed.


Verse 4

But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

But flesh ... the blood. The intention of this prohibition was to prevent those excesses of cannibal ferocity, in eating flesh of living animals, to which men in the earlier ages of the world were liable, which is still practised in Abyssinia, as well as in drinking blood, which was frequently done by the pagan. The reason assigned, "the blood is the life thereof," embodies a fact which ranks among the most remarkable discoveries of modern science, that the blood is the circulating principle of life, and therefore, being sacred to Him who is the giver of life, must be carefully poured out of every animal used for human food. This injunction was re-enacted by the Mosaic law, which forbade the eating of blood (Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:20; Leviticus 19:25; Deuteronomy 12:16), and recommended the blood of the sacrifices to be sprinkled on the altar (Leviticus 17:11; Deuteronomy 12:23). The interdict applied to strangers as well as Israelites; and it was enforced also among the primitive Christians (Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29; Acts 21:25).


Verse 5

And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.

Surely your blood of your lives will I require. "Your blood of your lives," literally, 'for your lives'-for their advantage, for the preservation and security of your lives (cf. Deuteronomy 4:15; Joshua 23:11, where the Hebrew word is used with the same construction), "will I require," Hebrew 'edrosh (Hebrew #1875), with the preposition min (Hebrew #4480), will punish bloodshed, avenge murder (cf. Psalms 9:12).

At the hand of every beast - rather, of every living creature (cf. Exodus 21:28-29).

At the hand of every man's brother - literally, of man his brother; the brother of the murdered, i:e., fellow-man. The import of the passage obviously is, that the Supreme Ruler, setting a high value upon human life, will constantly and vigorously exact a penalty for wilful murders; and that penalty is, blood for blood, life for life;-not, indeed, by an immediate stroke of Almighty vengeance, but by the delegation of His power to men in authority, who are "ministers of God for good." The fourth part establishes a new power for protecting life-the institution of the civil magistrate (Romans 13:4), armed with public and official authority to repress the commission of violence and crime. Such a power had not previously existed in patriarchal society.


Verse 6

Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Whoso sheddeth man's blood. The Hebrew verb denotes not to commit homicide, but to kill from premeditation or malice (cf. Genesis 37:22; Ezekiel 14:19). The verb being in the participial form, is to be taken in the widest sense, as denoting every murderer of whatever condition.

By man shall his blood be shed. "By man" is emphatic, and therefore is placed in the beginning of the clause. The Septuagint and the Vulgate omit this word entirely. An attempt has been made, by a learned writer against capital punishment, to translate the passage, 'whoso sheddeth man's blood among men, his blood shall be shed,' thus considering the words as containing not a command, but a warning-a denunciation against the taking away of human life (1 Thessalonians 4:6). But our translators have properly rendered the Hebrew preposition by-all the best versions render it in the same way; and the most eminent scholars consider it as used here to denote the agent by whom the blood is shed, and the authority to take the life of the murderer is given by God to those, whether patriarchal or regal persons, who possess the character of public or recognized magistrates. That this law was designed to be universal, is evident from the reason annexed, which is applicable to all ages and parts of the world.

For in the image of God made he man. The human nature reflects the divine image-ruthlessly to mutilate or destroy that image, as a murderer in effect does, is to commit a daring outrage against the majesty of the Creator. It is true, that in a moral and spiritual point of view, that image has been injured by the fall, but it is not lost. At least, what theologians call the natural image of God, consisting of reason and intelligence, remains in man still, otherwise what is the use of subjoining it here as the ground of the preceding command? (cf. James 3:9.) In this view a high value is attached to the life of every person, even the poorest and humblest, and an awful criminality is involved in the destruction of it.


Verse 7

And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply. The Noachidae were the seed by which the world was to be repopulated. They were about to enter upon a new career in the history of human progress; and there can be little doubt that, warned by the very terrible effects of unrestrained sensuality and violence, the early post-diluvians would be distinguished generally as a pious and virtuous, consequently a vigorous and a prolific race. Accordingly, considering the long life of the ancients who lived within 300 years after the flood - i:e., until the time of Abraham-according to the Hebrew chronology, and consequently their co-existence with those that descended from them, it may be concluded that, without the help of a miraculous fertility, mankind, descended from Noah and his three sons and their wives, might, in that period, arise to a stupendous multitude by that arithmetical progression that would be found in their generations.


Verse 8

And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 9

And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;

I, behold, I establish my covenant , [ meeqiym (Hebrew #6965) 'et (Hebrew #854) b


Verse 10

And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.

And with every living creature, ... We are taught in Scripture that the most ordinary of God's creatures are always the objects of His watchful providence, and that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without our heavenly Father knowing about it. So far is this merciful regard of the lower animals carried, that in the covenant with Noah they are specially mentioned. This passage, and others of a similar import, open new views of the divine government undiscoverable by reason (Psalms 113:4; Psalms 113:6). Such considerations may hurt the pride of man; but no one who believes the Bible to be a true revelation of the will of God can reflect on the fact without acquiring higher views of the duties of that relation in which he stands to the lower animals, and being inspired with the benevolence which is thus widely diffused over the creation.


Verse 11

And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

Neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood. Josephus, who says that Noah accompanied his offering with an earnest prayer that God, having destroyed all the wicked, would deal mercifully to the small remnant who were spared, and not expose them to the punishment of another deluge, represents the words in this verse as an answer to that prayer, assuring the pious patriarch that the course of nature would be allowed to go on in the same peaceful order as previously, and that if extraordinary showers of rain should at any time fall, they would not be a judicial infliction on mankind.


Verse 12

And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 13

I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

I do set my bow in the cloud , [ naatatiy (Hebrew #5414)] - I appoint, or constitute, since the word is used elsewhere (Numbers 14:4; 1 Samuel 12:13; 1 Kings 2:35). the rainbow, being the natural effect of the refraction and reflection of the sun's rays falling upon drops of water, must have been a phenomenon familiar to the minds of Noah and his antediluvian contemporaries; but it now for the first time had a symbolic signification attached to it, which must have rendered its appearance exceedingly welcome to the first ages after the flood. It was not the covenant itself, but only the token of that covenant; and just as the baptismal application of water, and the use of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, both of which were adopted from existing usages, were constituted the symbols of spiritual blessings, so the rainbow was now consecrated by God to be the sign and seal of that covenant by which He pledged Himself that the water 'should not be any more a flood to destroy the earth,' and that upon the sight of it 'He would remember His covenant.' No external sign could have been chosen for this purpose more suitable, from its natural properties, than the rainbow; because its elevated position renders it visible to all; and it never appears but when there is a gentle rain with the sun shining-which kind of rain is never known to do any harm, but much good.

Moreover, 'its rundle or part which should look toward the object aimed at, is always FROM the earth, showing thereby that it does not aim AT men. And it has no string, which shows that the Master will not shoot; so that a bow unbent, or without a string, is a proper symbol of peace and friendship.' In short, its appointment as a sign seems to intimate that, since the rainbow is a necessary effect of sunshine in rain, and must continue such as long as the sun and atmosphere endure, so surely shall this earth be preserved from destruction by water; and its preservation shall be as necessary an effect of God's promise as the rainbow is of the shining of the sun in a shower of rain.


Verses 14-17

And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 18

And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.

The sons of Noah ... were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth (see the note at Gen. ).

And Ham (is) the father of Canaan. The only conceivable reason why this fourth son of Ham is mentioned here in so particular a manner, was to show the Hebrews, for whose instruction, in the first instance, this history was written, that the race who were in possession of the land on which they were about to enter as their promised inheritance, had been accursed from the days of their father.


Verse 19

These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.

These are the three sons of Noah. It is here expressly affirmed that the whole population of the world, in all subsequent ages, radiated from one center, sprang from one family, the members of which were the only survivors of the pre-Noachidae, who to a man were destroyed by the flood.

And of (from) them was the whole earth overspread - literally, dispersed itself. The "earth" here means the inhabitants of the earth (cf. Genesis 10:25; Genesis 11:1).


Verse 20

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And Noah began to be an husbandman - literally, And Noah began a man of the ground. It is not implied in this phraseology that he was the first cultivator of the soil; because Cain had engaged in agricultural pursuits long before him (Genesis 4:2).

Moreover, the fact of his being a tiller of the ground is not stated in the form of a distinct and independent proposition, but is mentioned merely as introductory to what follows, with which it is so closely connected that the two clauses of the verse may be combined in one sentence thus: 'in the course of his field operations he commenced planting a vineyard.' The valleys of the Gordyaean range, or Jebel Judi, are well adapted for the rearing of the vine, which is still much cultivated among the Nestorians, and frequently abused also by too free indulgence amid the festivities of the vintage season.


Verse 21

And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

And he drank of the wine, and was drunken. This unhappy incident has been viewed in two ways:

(1) As the result of ignorance. Vines were grown in the antediluvian world, as may be inferred from Matthew 24:38. But Noah, it is alleged, having been hitherto accustomed to express the juice directly from the grape, and to use it in that form as a delicious and wholesome beverage, like the peasants in vine-growing countries at the present day, did, probably from a superabundance of the liquor, reserve a portion of it for another occasion, when, drinking it as water or milk, he was overpowered by its potent influence. But the sacred narrative says nothing either of wine-making being a novelty, or of Noah's becoming inebriated the first time of his tasting it.

(2) As a sin. If the conjecture is well founded, that Noah had in earlier years been inured to the culture of the ground, and familiar with the vine, it is scarcely possible that he could have been a stranger to the natural property of grape juice to ferment when kept for a time in a vessel; and therefore the amiable zeal evinced by some writers to remove this great blot from the character of so eminently pious a man, by attributing his intoxication to inadvertency or the weakness of age, must be considered as entirely misdirected.

At the same time there is no reason to imagine there was anything approaching debauchery or criminal excess. The Hebrew word "drank" is used in reference to Joseph's entertainment of his brethren, who, though they drank and were merry, certainly would not exceed the limits of propriety in presence of the unknown governor of Egypt (Genesis 43:34). Like them, Noah might drink freely, plentifully, until, through the influence of a warm climate, he fell asleep; and the loose form of the Oriental dress might, by a slight derangement, occasion the exposure of his person. The historian records the incident conformably to his usual manner, without either censure or apology; but the latter view we have given seems to be the correct one. 'They,' says Luther, 'who would defend the patriarch in this, wantonly reject the consolation which the Holy Spirit deemed necessary to the Church-the consolation that even the greatest saints may at times stumble and fall.'

Was uncovered within his tent. This incident could scarcely have happened until about 18 or 20 years after the flood; because Canaan, who probably discovered the disordered condition of Noah, and whose conduct in exposing it seems to have been more offensive than that even of his father, was not born for some years after exposing it seems to have been more offensive than that even of his father, was not born for some years after the deluge.


Verse 22

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 23

And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.

Shem and Japheth took a garment. The Hebrew verb "took" being in the singular, intimates that the impulse to this act of respect to their common father originated with Shem, whose pious mind recognized in Noah not only a parent, but a king and a priest, while Japheth merely acted upon his suggestion. [ hasimlaah (Hebrew #8071), the garment or outer mantle, which was also used for wrapping the person at night] (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 22:17). The characters of these two brothers, as manifested by their conduct in this transaction, stand in favourable contrast to that of Ham, whose lack of filial reverence and indecent levity indicate his strong assimilation to the gross propensities and habits of the antediluvian race with which he had allied himself by marriage (see Genesis 4:22).


Verse 24

And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

And knew what his younger son had done unto him , [Hebrew, haqaaTaan (Hebrew #6996)] - the little, small (son). Jewish writers take this expression to mean grandson; and to their view Dr. Patrick inclines, on the ground that it does not seem pertinent to the course of the narrative to mention the order of birth, but very proper if Canaan is pointed at to distinguish him from the rest. Modern scholars, for the most part, consider the term as applied to Ham, whose position, however, in his father's family is not easily defined. The Hebrew word above quoted, when used in reference to age, signifies younger.


Verse 25

And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

And he said - apparently upon awaking and learning what had happened. If we assume a connection of cause and effect between Ham's offence and the malediction which followed, Noah's words were a natural outburst of holy indignation against Ham's impiety and brutal heartlessness; and the imprecation invoked upon his youngest son was a just retribution, as Hofmann and Drechsler, quoted by Delitzsch, call it, for the outrage which the youngest son had done to his father. On this principle of interpretation, the other parts of Noah's effusion, which were addressed to his two dutiful sons, must be considered in the same light, as an expression of his earnest wishes that the filial piety of both might be equally rewarded. But this is a most inadequate view of the passage. Though the verbs are in the optative, not the future tense, they involved an oracular announcement of the destinies of Noah's sons; and though it is not expressly said, they were predictive.

The analogy of sacred history leads us to suppose that the address was not uttered at the time of the wine-taking. The Hebrew copulative conjunction and does not always indicate immediate sequence, but, on the contrary, is used to connect sentences which record events separated from each other in point of time (see Genesis 1:2). It is probable that there is a long interval included between Genesis 9:24-25, and that the following utterances, like those of Isaac and Jacob, addressed to their sons (Genesis 27:27-40; Genesis 49:1-33), were not spoken until near the close of Noah's life, when the prophetic spirit came upon him. This presumption is strengthened by the record of his death immediately after.

There was a sacramental importance attached to the last speeches of the patriarchal priests, which, though commonly called a blessing, sometimes expressed severe judgment of the conduct of the sons (Genesis 49:3-7); and this of Noah's contained not only a benediction, but a denunciation. Actuated on these occasions by a supernatural impulse, they gave expression to their fervent thoughts in the mashal or parallelistic meter (Numbers 23:7; Numbers 23:18; Psalms 49:4; Psalms 78:2) which was appropriate to prophecy; and in like manner this of Noah bears the form of a rhythmical poem in three stanzas:

Cursed be Canaan, A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem,

And Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, And he shall dwell in the tents of Shem,

And Canaan shall be his servant.

The Arabic version has in the first line: 'Cursed be Ham, the father of Canaan:' a reading which seems, in the opinion of some commentators, to be required by the rhythm, no less than the tenor of the context; but which is not supported by sufficient manuscript authority. "Canaan," derived from a Hebrew verb, to humble oneself, to submit, is a name expressing the depressed condition of the bearer. [ `ebed (Hebrew #5650), a servant]. This word occurs here for the first time, and, according to early usage, signified labour, service of any kind; but not that specific servitude which was afterward called by the name of slavery: as employed by Noah, it meant inferiority, subjection; and the strong idiomatic expression "servant of servants," a Hebrew superlative, described a state of the most abject degradation. There is no evidence that the doom was inflicted personally on Canaan but, as in similar cases, fulfilled in the national subjection of his posterity (cf. Genesis 27:29; Genesis 27:37; Genesis 27:40; Genesis 25:23; Genesis 14:4). And accordingly this malediction took effect in the moral degradation of the Canaanites, expulsion from the land of Canaan, and in the reduction to the most abject servitude of the few who were exempted from destruction by the Israelites (Joshua 9:23).

The observant mind of Noah saw in Ham, and in his youngest son, who bore a close resemblance to him, those mental characteristics which would impress their stamp upon his posterity. Noah discerned in those feelings of filial disrespect and indecent levity which had been developed in his outrage upon his venerable father the germ of their national character already matured in his prophetic view. In short, the libertinism of the father is regarded as the type of the intellectual and moral character of his descendants; and thus connected by links of national depravity and debasement, they are viewed as one. In those early times the spiritual and moral relation subsisting between father and son possessed a direct and permanent influence, which was not interrupted or destroyed by any of those obstacles which the artificial state of society in modern times raises. Among the patriarchs, it has been well said: 'Individuality is almost lost in the stereotyped nationality, and thus the nation formed a persona moralis' (Wolfe).


Verse 26

And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

Blessed be the Lord God of Shem - rather, 'Blessed of Yahweh, my God, be Shem:' an intimation that the descendants of Shem should be specially honoured in the service of the true God, His Church being for ages established among them (the Jews), and of them concerning the flesh Christ came. "They got possession of Canaan, the people of that land being made their "servants" either by conquest, or, like the Gibeonites, by submission.


Verse 27

God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

God shall enlarge Japheth. The blessing bestowed upon Japheth is conveyed in the form of a paronomasia, suggested by his name [ Yepet (Hebrew #3315) which comes from paatah (Hebrew #6601), to enlarge, extend]. But lest the enlargement promised should be supposed limited to temporal possessions, it is added, "and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem." DeWette renders the words: 'in the tents of renown,' since the word sheem (Hebrew #8034) is used to signify in Genesis 6:4; but the context requires it to be taken here as a proper name.

Some read: 'and He,' i:e., God shall dwell in the tents of Shem - i:e., by his Shechinah; referring to the spiritual blessings to be conferred on the Israelites as a branch of the family of Shem. But the majority of intepreters consider Japheth as the subject of the verb "shall dwell," pointing to a vast increase in his posterity and possessions. Accordingly, his descendants have been the most active and enterprising, spread over the best and latest portion of the world-all Europe and a considerable part of Asia.

He shall dwell in the tents of Shem a prophecy being fulfilled at the present day as in India British He shall dwell in the tents of Shem - a prophecy being fulfilled at the present day, as in India, British government is established, and the Anglo-Saxons being in the ascendant from Europe to India, from India over the American continent. What a wonderful prophecy in a few verses! (Isaiah 46:10; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 9:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/genesis-9.html. 1871-8.

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