Genesis 9


God blesses Noah and his sons, 1.

The brute creation to be subject to them through fear, 2.

The first grant of animal food, 3.

Eating of blood forbidden, 4.

Cruelty to animals forbidden, 5.

A man-slayer to forfeit his life, 6.

The covenant of God established between him and Noah and the

whole brute creation, 8-11.

The rainbow given as the sign and pledge of this covenant, 12-17.

The three sons of Noah people the whole earth, 18, 19.

Noah plants a vineyard, drinks of the wine, is intoxicated,

and lies exposed in his tent, 20, 21.

The reprehensible conduct of Ham, 22.

The laudable carriage of Shem and Japheth, 23.

Noah prophetically declares the servitude of the posterity of

Ham, 24, 25;

and the dignity and increase of Shem and Japheth, 26, 27.

The age and death of Noah, 28, 29.


Verse 1. God blessed Noah] Even the increase of families,

which appears to depend on merely natural means, and sometimes

fortuitous circumstances, is all of God. It is by his power and

wisdom that the human being is formed, and it is by his providence

alone that man is supported and preserved.

Verse 2. The fear of you and the dread, &c.] Prior to the fall,

man ruled the inferior animals by love and kindness, for then

gentleness and docility were their principal characteristics.

After the fall, untractableness, with savage ferocity, prevailed

among almost all orders of the brute creation; enmity to man seems

particularly to prevail; and had not God in his mercy impressed

their minds with the fear and terror of man, so that some submit

to his will while others flee from his residence, the human race

would long ere this have been totally destroyed by the beasts of

the field. Did the horse know his own strength, and the weakness

of the miserable wretch who unmercifully rides, drives, whips,

goads, and oppresses him, would he not with one stroke of his hoof

destroy his tyrant possessor? But while God hides these things

from him he impresses his mind with the fear of his owner, so that

either by cheerful or sullen submission he is trained up for, and

employed in, the most useful and important purposes; and even

willingly submits, when tortured for the sport and amusement of

his more bruitish oppressor. Tigers, wolves, lions, and hyaenas,

the determinate foes of man, incapable of being tamed or

domesticated, flee, through the principle of terror, from the

dwelling of man, and thus he is providentially safe. Hence, by

fear and by dread man rules every beast of the earth, every fowl

of the air, and every fish of the sea. How wise and gracious is

this order of the Divine providence! and with what thankfulness

should it be considered by every human being!

Verse 3. Every moving thing-shall be meat] There is no positive

evidence that animal food was ever used before the flood. Noah

had the first grant of this kind, and it has been continued to all

his posterity ever since. It is not likely that this grant would

have been now made if some extraordinary alteration had not taken

place in the vegetable world, so as to render its productions less

nutritive than they were before; and probably such a change in the

constitution of man as to render a grosser and higher diet

necessary. We may therefore safely infer that the earth was less

productive after the flood than it was before, and that the human

constitution was greatly impaired by the alterations which had

taken place through the whole economy of nature. Morbid debility,

induced by an often unfriendly state of the atmosphere, with sore

and long-continued labour, would necessarily require a higher

nutriment than vegetables could supply. That this was the case

appears sufficiently clear from the grant of animal food, which,

had it not been indispensably necessary, had not been made. That

the constitution of man was then much altered appears in the

greatly contracted lives of the postdiluvians; yet from the deluge

to the day of Abraham the lives of several of the patriarchs

amounted to some hundreds of years; but this was the effect of a

peculiar providence, that the new world might be the more

speedily repeopled.

Verse 4. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood]

Though animal food was granted, yet the blood was most solemnly

forbidden, because it was the life of the beast, and this life was

to be offered to God as an atonement for sin. Hence the blood was

ever held sacred, because it was the grand instrument of

expiation, and because it was typical of that blood by which we

enter into the holiest. 1. Before the deluge it was not eaten,

because animal food was not in use. 2. After the deluge it was

prohibited, as we find above; and, being one of the seven Noahic

precepts, it was not eaten previously to the publication of the

Mosaic law. 3. At the giving of the law, and at several times

during the ministry of Moses, the prohibition was most solemnly,

and with awful penalties renewed. Hence we may rest assured that

no blood was eaten previously to the Christian era, nor indeed

ever since by the Jewish people. 4. That the prohibition has been

renewed under the Christian dispensation, can admit of little

doubt by any man who dispassionately reads Ac 15:20, 29; 21:25,

where even the Gentile converts are charged to abstain from it on

the authority, not only of the apostles, but of the Holy Ghost,

who gave them there and then especial direction concerning this

point; see Ac 15:28; not

for fear of stumbling the converted Jews, the gloss of

theologians, but because it was one τωνεπαναγκεςτουτων, of those

necessary points, from the burden (βαρος) of obedience to which

they could not be excused. 5. This command is still scrupulously

obeyed by the oriental Christians, and by the whole Greek Church;

and why? because the reasons still subsist. No blood was eaten

under the law, because it pointed out the blood that was to be

shed for the sin of the world; and under the Gospel it should not

be eaten, because it should ever be considered as representing the

blood which has been shed for the remission of sins. If the

eaters of blood in general knew that it affords a very crude,

almost indigestible, and unwholesome ailment, they certainly would

not on these physical reasons, leaving moral considerations out of

the question, be so much attached to the consumption of that from

which they could expect no wholesome nutriment, and which, to

render it even pleasing to the palate, requires all the skill of

the cook. See Le 17:10.

Verse 5. Surely your blood-will I require; at the hand of every

beast] This is very obscure, but if taken literally it seems to

be an awful warning against cruelty to the brute creation; and

from it we may conclude that horse-racers, hare-hunters,

bull-baiters, and cock-fighters shall be obliged to give an

account to God for every creature they have wantonly destroyed.

Instead of chaiyah, "beast," the Samaritan reads [Sam. Yod

Kaph] chai, "living," any "living creature or person;" this makes

a very good sense, and equally forbids cruelty either to men or


Verse 6. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood]

Hence it appears that whoever kills a man, unless unwittingly, as

the Scripture expresses it, shall forfeit his own life.

A man is accused of the crime of murder; of this crime he is

guilty or he is not: if he be guilty of murder he should die; if

not, let him be punished according to the demerit of his crime;

but for no offence but murder should he lose his life. Taking

away the life of another is the highest offence that can be

committed against the individual, and against society; and the

highest punishment that a man can suffer for such a crime is the

loss of his own life. As punishment should be ever proportioned to

crimes, so the highest punishment due to the highest crime should

not be inflicted for a minor offence. The law of God and the

eternal dictates of reason say, that if a man kill another, the

loss of his own life is at once the highest penalty he can pay,

and an equivalent for his offence as far as civil society is

concerned. If the death of the murderer be the highest penalty he

can pay for the murder he has committed, then the infliction of

this punishment for any minor offence is injustice and cruelty;

and serves only to confound the claims of justice, the different

degrees of moral turpitude and vice, and to render the profligate

desperate: hence the adage so frequent among almost every order of

delinquents, "It is as good to be hanged for a sheep as a lamb;"

which at once marks their desperation, and the injustice of those

penal laws which inflict the highest punishment for almost every

species of crime. When shall a wise and judicious legislature see

the absurdity and injustice of inflicting the punishment of death

for stealing a sheep or a horse, forging a twenty shillings'

note, and MURDERING A MAN; when the latter, in its moral

turpitude and ruinous consequences, infinitely exceeds the

others?* * On this head the doctor's pious wish has been realized

since this paragraph was written-PUBLISHERS

Verse 13. I do set my bow in the cloud] On the origin and

nature of the rainbow there had been a great variety of

conjectures, till Anthony de Dominis, bishop of Spalatro, in a

treatise of his published by Bartholus in 1611, partly suggested

the true cause of this phenomenon, which was afterwards fully

explained and demonstrated by Sir Isaac Newton. To enter into

this subject here in detail would be improper; and therefore the

less informed reader must have recourse to treatises on Optics for

its full explanation. To readers in general it may be sufficient

to say that the rainbow is a mere natural effect of a natural

cause: 1. It is never seen but in showery weather. 2. Nor then

unless the sun shines. 3. It never appears in any part of the

heavens but in that opposite to the sun. 4. It never appears

greater than a semicircle, but often much less. 5. It is always

double, there being what is called the superior and inferior, or

primary and secondary rainbow. 6. These bows exhibit the seven

prismatic colours, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and

violet. 7. The whole of this phenomenon depends on the rays of

the sun falling on spherical drops of water, and being in their

passage through them, refracted and reflected.

The formation of the primary and secondary rainbow depends on

the two following propositions; 1. When the sun shines on the

drops of rain as they are falling, the rays that come from those

drops to the eye of the spectator, after ONE reflection and TWO

refractions, produce the primary rainbow. 2. When the sun

shines on the drops of rain as they are falling, the rays that

come from those drops to the eye of the spectator after TWO

reflections and TWO refractions, produce the secondary rainbow.

The illustration of these propositions must be sought in treatises

on Optics, assisted by plates. From the well-known cause of this

phenomenon It cannot be rationally supposed that there was no

rainbow in the heavens before the time mentioned in the text, for

as the rainbow is the natural effect of the sun's rays falling on

drops of water, and of their being refracted and reflected by

them, it must have appeared at different times from the creation

of the sun and the atmosphere. Nor does the text intimate that

the bow was now created for a sign to Noah and his posterity; but

that what was formerly created, or rather that which was the

necessary effect, in certain cases, of the creation of the sun and

atmosphere, should now be considered by them as an unfailing token

of their continual preservation from the waters of a deluge;

therefore the text speaks of what had already been done, and not

of what was now done, kashti nathatti, "My bow I have

given, or put in the cloud;" as if he said: As surely as 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 my promise as the

rainbow is of the shining of the sun during a shower of rain.

Verse 17. This is the token] oth, The Divine sign or

portent: The bow shall be in the cloud. For the reasons above

specified it must be there, when the circumstances already

mentioned occur; if therefore it cannot fail because of the

reasons before assigned, no more shall my promise; and the bow

shall be the proof of its perpetuity.

Both the Greeks and Latins, as well as the Hebrews, have ever

considered the rainbow as a Divine token or portent; and both of

these nations have even deified it, and made it a messenger of the


Homer, Il. xi., ver. 27, speaking of the figures on Agamemnon's

breastplate, says there were three dragons, whose colours were



"like to the rainbow which the son of Saturn has placed in the

cloud as a SIGN to mankind," or to men of various languages, for

so the μεροπωναντρωπων of the poet has been understood. Some

have thought that the ancient Greek writers give this epithet to

man from some tradition of the confusion and multiplication of

tongues at Babel; hence in this place the words may be understood

as implying mankind at large, the whole human race; God having

given the rainbow for a sign to all the descendants of Noah, by

whom the whole earth was peopled after the flood. Thus the

celestial bow speaks a universal language, understood by all the

sons and daughters of Adam. Virgil, from some disguised

traditionary figure of the truth, considers the rainbow as a

messenger of the gods. AEn. v., ver. 606:��

IRIM de caelo misit Saturnia Juno.

"Juno, the daughter of Saturn, sent down the rainbow from

heaven;" and again, AEn. ix., ver. 803:-

�����aeriam caelo nam Jupiter IRIM


"For Jupiter sent down the ethereal rainbow from heaven."

It is worthy of remark that both these poets understood the

rainbow to be a sign, warning, or portent from heaven."

As I believe the rainbow to have been intended solely for the

purpose mentioned in the text, I forbear to make spiritual uses

and illustrations of it. Many have done this, and their

observations may be very edifying, but they certainly have no

foundation in the text.

Verse 20. Noah began to be a husbandman] ish haadamah,

A man of the ground, a farmer; by his beginning to be a husbandman

we are to understand his recommencing his agricultural operations,

which undoubtedly he had carried on for six hundred years before,

but this had been interrupted by the flood. And the transaction

here mentioned might have occurred many years posterior to the

deluge, even after Canaan was born and grown up, for the date of

it is not fixed in the text.

The word husband first occurs here, and scarcely appears

proper, because it is always applied to man in his married state,

as wife is to the woman. The etymology of the term will at once

show its propriety when applied to the head of a family. Husband,

[A.S. husband], is Anglo-Saxon, and simply signifies the bond of

the house or family; as by him the family is formed, united, and

bound together, which, on his death, is disunited and scattered.

It is on this etymology of the word that we can account for the

farmers and petty landholders being called so early as the

twelfth century, husbandi, as appears in a statute of David II.,

king of Scotland: we may therefore safely derive the word from

[A.S. hus], a house, and [A.S. bond] from [A.S. binben], to

bind or tie; and this etymology appears plainer in the orthography

which prevailed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, in

which I have often found the word written house-bond; so it is in

a MS. Bible before me, written in the fourteenth century. Junius

disputes this etymology, but I think on no just ground.

Verse 21. He drank of the wine, &c.] It is very probable that

this was the first time the wine was cultivated; and it is as

probable that the strength or intoxicating power of the expressed

juice was never before known. Noah, therefore, might have drunk

it at this time without the least blame, as he knew not till this

trial the effects it would produce. I once knew a case which I

believe to be perfectly parallel. A person who had scarcely ever

heard of cider, and whose beverage through his whole life had been

only milk or water, coming wet and very much fatigued to a

farmer's house in Somersetshire, begged for a little water or

milk. The good woman of the house, seeing him very much

exhausted, kindly said, "I will give you a little cider, which

will do you more good." The honest man, understanding no more of

cider than merely that it was the simple juice of apples, after

some hesitation drank about a half pint of it; the consequence

was, that in less than half an hour he was perfectly intoxicated,

and could neither speak plain nor walk! This case I myself

witnessed. A stranger to the circumstances, seeing this person,

would pronounce him drunk; and perhaps at a third hand he might be

represented as a drunkard, and thus his character be blasted;

while of the crime of drunkenness he was as innocent as an infant.

This I presume to have been precisely the case with Noah; and no

person without an absolute breach of every rule of charity and

candour, can attach any blame to the character of Noah on this

ground, unless from a subsequent account they were well assured

that, knowing the power and effects of the liquor, he had repeated

the act. Some expositors seem to be glad to fix on a fact like

this, which by their distortion becomes a crime; and then, in a

strain of sympathetic tenderness, affect to deplore "the failings

and imperfections of the best of men;" when, from the

interpretation that should be given of the place, neither failing

nor imperfection can possibly appear.

Verse 22. - 24. And Ham, the father of Canaan, &c.] There is no

occasion to enter into any detail here; the sacred text is

circumstantial enough. Ham, and very probably his son Canaan, had

treated their father on this occasion with contempt or

reprehensible levity. Had Noah not been innocent, as my

exposition supposes him, God would not have endued him with the

spirit of prophecy on this occasion, and testified such marked

disapprobation of their conduct. The conduct of Shem and Japheth

was such as became pious and affectionate children, who appear to

have been in the habit of treating their father with decency,

reverence, and obedient respect. On the one the spirit of

prophecy (not the incensed father) pronounces a curse: on the

others the same spirit (not parental tenderness) pronounces a

blessing. These things had been just as they afterwards occurred

had Noah never spoken. God had wise and powerful reasons to

induce him to sentence the one to perpetual servitude, and to

allot to the others prosperity and dominion. Besides, the curse

pronounced on Canaan neither fell immediately upon himself nor on

his worthless father, but upon the Canaanites; and from the

history we have of this people, in Le 18:6, 7, 24, 29, 30,

Le 20:9, 22-24, 26; and De 9:4; 12:31, we may ask, Could the

curse of God fall more deservedly on any people than on these?

Their profligacy was great, but it was not the effect of the

curse; but, being foreseen by the Lord, the curse was the effect

of their conduct. But even this curse does not exclude them from

the possibility of obtaining salvation; it extends not to the soul

and to eternity, but merely to their bodies and to time; though,

if they continued to abuse their liberty, resist the Holy Ghost,

and refuse to be saved on God's terms, then the wrath of Divine

justice must come upon them to the uttermost. How many, even of

these, repented, we cannot tell.

Verse 23. See Clarke on Ge 9:22

Verse 24. See Clarke on Ge 9:22

Verse 25. Cursed be Canaan] See on the preceding verses. In

the 25th, 26th, and 27th verses, instead of Canaan simply, the

Arabic version has Ham the father of Canaan; but this is

acknowledged by none of the other versions, and seems to be merely

a gloss.

Verse 29. The days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years]

The oldest patriarch on record, except Methuselah and Jared. This,

according to the common reckoning, was A. M. 2006, but according

to Dr. Hales, 3505.

"HAM," says Dr. Hales, "signifies burnt or black, and this name

was peculiarly significant of the regions allotted to his family.

To the Cushites, or children of his eldest son Cush, were allotted

the hot southern regions of Asia, along the coasts of the Persian

Gulf, Susiana or Chusistan, Arabia, &c.; to the sons of Canaan,

Palestine and Syria; to the sons of Misraim, Egypt and Libya, in


The Hamites in general, like the Canaanites of old, were a

seafaring race, and sooner arrived at civilization and the

luxuries of life than their simpler pastoral and agricultural

brethren of the other two families. The first great empires of

Assyria and Egypt were founded by them, and the republics of

Sidon, Tyre, and Carthage were early distinguished for their

commerce but they sooner also fell to decay; and Egypt, which was

one of the first, became the last and basest of the kingdoms,

Eze 29:15, and has been successively in subjection to the

Shemites and Japhethites, as have also the settlements of the

other branches of the Hamites.

"SHEM signifies name or renown; and his indeed was great in a

temporal and spiritual sense. The finest regions of Upper and

Middle Asia allotted to his family, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Assyria,

Media, Persia, &c., to the Indus and Ganges, and perhaps to China


"The chief renown of Shem was of a spiritual nature: he was

destined to be the lineal ancestor of the blessed seed of the

woman; and to this glorious privilege Noah, to whom it was

probably revealed, might have alluded in that devout ejaculation,

Blessed be the LORD, the GOD of Shem! The pastoral life of the

Shemites is strongly marked in the prophecy by the tents of

Shem; and such it remains to the present day, throughout their

midland settlements in Asia.

"JAPHETH signifies enlargement; and how wonderfully did

Providence enlarge the boundaries of Japheth! His posterity

diverged eastward and westward throughout the whole extent of

Asia, north of the great range of Taurus, as far as the

Eastern Ocean, whence they probably crossed over to America by

Behring's Straits from Kamtschatka, and in the opposite

direction throughout Europe to the Mediterranean Sea and the

Atlantic Ocean; from whence also they might have crossed over to

America by Newfoundland, where traces of early settlements remain

in parts now desert. Thus did they gradually enlarge themselves

till they literally encompassed the earth, within the precincts of

the northern temperate zone, to which their roving hunter's life

contributed not a little. Their progress northwards was checked

by the much greater extent of the Black Sea in ancient times, and

the increasing rigour of the climates: but their hardy race, and

enterprising, warlike genius, made them frequently encroach

southwards on the settlements of Shem, whose pastoral and

agricultural occupations rendered them more inactive, peaceable.

and unwarlike; and so they dwelt in the tents of Shem when the

Scythians invaded Media, and subdued western Asia southwards as

far as Egypt, in the days of Cyaxares; when the Greeks, and

afterwards the Romans, overran and subdued the Assyrians, Medes,

and Persians in the east, and the Syrians and Jews in the south;

as foretold by the Syrian prophet Balaam, Nu 24:24:-

Ships shall come from Chittim,

And shall afflict the Assyrians, and afflict the Hebrews;

But he (the invader) shall perish himself at last.

"And by Moses: And the Lord shall bring thee (the Jews) into

Egypt (or bondage) again with ships, &c., De 28:68. And by

Daniel: For the ships of Chittim shall come against him, viz.,

Antiochus, king of Syria, Da 11:30. In these passages

Chittim denotes the southern coasts of Europe, bounding the

Mediterranean, called the isles of the Gentiles or Nations; see

Ge 10:5. And the

isles of Chittim are mentioned Jer 2:10. And in after times the

Tartars in the east have repeatedly invaded and subdued the

Hindoos and the Chinese; while the warlike and enterprising

genius of the greatest of the isles of the Gentiles, GREAT BRITAIN

and IRELAND, have spread their colonies, their arms, their

language, their arts, and in some measure their religion, from the

rising to the setting sun." See Dr. Hales's Analysis of

Chronology, vol. 1., p. 352, &c.

Though what is left undone should not cause us to lose sight of

what is done, yet we have reason to lament that the inhabitants of

the British isles, who of all nations under heaven have the purest

light of Divine revelation, and the best means of diffusing it,

have been much more intent on spreading their conquests and

extending their commerce, than in propagating the Gospel of the

Son of God. But the nation, by getting the Bible translated into

every living language, and sending it to all parts of the

habitable globe, and, by its various missionary societies, sending

men of God to explain and enforce the doctrines and precepts of

this sacred book, is rapidly redeeming its character, and becoming

great in goodness and benevolence over the whole earth!

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