Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 9

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Genesis 9:1. God blessed Noah and his sons — He assured them of his good- will to them, and his gracious intentions concerning them. The first blessing is here renewed, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and repeated, Genesis 9:7; for the race of mankind was, as it were, to begin again. By virtue of this blessing mankind were to be both multiplied and perpetuated upon earth; so that in a little time all the habitable parts of the earth should be more or less inhabited; and though one generation should pass away, yet another generation should come, so that the stream of the human race should be supplied with a constant succession, and run parallel with the current of time, till both should be swallowed up in the ocean of eternity.

Verse 3
Genesis 9:3. Every moving thing — Which is wholesome and fit for food, shall be meat for you: That liveth — This may be added to exclude the use of those creatures which died of themselves, or were killed by wild beasts. These, which were afterward expressly forbidden to be eaten, (see Exodus 22:31, Leviticus 22:8,) may here be forbidden implicitly. Hitherto man had been confined to feed only upon the products of the earth, fruits, herbs, and roots, and all sorts of corn and milk; such was the first grant, Genesis 1:29. But the flood having perhaps washed away much of the virtue of the earth, and so rendered its fruits less pleasing, and less nourishing, God now enlarged the grant, and allowed man to eat flesh, which perhaps man himself never thought of till now. The Jewish doctors speak so often of the seven precepts of Noah, which they say were to be observed by all nations, that it may not be amiss to set them down here.

The first was against the worship of idols: the second against blasphemy; and requires to bless the name of God: the third against murder: the fourth against incest and all uncleanness: the fifth against theft and rapine: the sixth required the administration of justice: the seventh was against eating flesh with life. The Jews required the observation of these from the proselytes of the gate. But the precepts here given, all concern the life of man. Man must not prejudice his own life by eating that food which is unwholesome and prejudicial to his health.

Verse 4
Genesis 9:4. But flesh with the blood thereof shall ye not eat — One meaning of this may be, Ye shall not cut off, tear away, or take any member or part of any creature for your food, while it is yet alive; but ye shall first spill its blood, and thereby put it to death in the way most easy to it. This is the sense which the Jews give the words, and, thus understood, they contain a prohibition of all cruelty toward those animals which are killed for food. And the prohibition, in this point of view, was not unnecessary, the practice here condemned being not unusual in ancient nor even in modern times, in many parts of the East. The principal meaning, however, of the passage, is to prohibit the eating of blood in any way, the eating of which seems to have been forbidden especially for two reasons: 1st, To be a token to mankind in all ages, that they would have had no right to take the life of any animal for food, if God had not given them that right, and who, therefore, to remind them of it, and impress it on their minds in all generations, denied them the use of blood, and required it to be spilled upon the ground: 2d: In honour of the blood of atonement, Leviticus 17:11-12. The life of the sacrifice was accepted for the life of the sinner, and blood made atonement for the soul, and therefore must not be looked upon as a common thing, but must be poured out before the Lord, 2 Samuel 23:16. And it ought to be observed, that this prohibition of eating blood, given to Noah and all his posterity, and repeated to the Israelites, in a most solemn manner, under the Mosaic dispensation, has never been revoked, but, on the contrary, has been confirmed under the New Testament, Acts 15.; and thereby made of perpetual obligation.

Verse 5
Genesis 9:5. And surely your blood of your lives will I require — The sense is, If I am thus careful of the blood of beasts, be assured I will be much more solicitous for the blood of men, when it shall be shed by unjust and violent hands. Our own lives are not so our own that we may quit them at our own pleasure; but they are God’s, and we must resign them at his pleasure. If we any way hasten our own deaths, we are accountable to God for it. Yea, At the hand of every beast will I require it — To show how tender God was of the life of man, he will have the beast put to death that kills a man. This was confirmed by the law of Moses, Exodus 21:28, and it would not be improper to observe it still. And at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man — I will avenge the blood of the murdered upon the murderer. When God requires the life of a man at the hand of him that took it away unjustly, as he cannot render that, therefore he must render his own in lieu of it, which is the only way he hath of making restitution.

Verse 6
Genesis 9:6. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood — Whether upon a sudden provocation, or premeditated, (for rash anger is heart-murder, as well as malice prepense, Matthew 5:21-22,) by man shall his blood be shed — That is, by the magistrate, or whoever is appointed to be the avenger of blood. Before the flood, as it should seem by the story of Cain, God took the punishment of murder into his own hands; but now he committed this judgment to men, to masters of families at first, and afterward to the heads of countries. For in the image of God made he man — Man is a creature dear to his Creator, and, therefore, ought to be so to us: God put honour upon him, let us not then put contempt upon him. Such remains of God’s image are still even upon fallen man, that he who unjustly kills a man, defaceth the image of God, and doth dishonour to him. And what then shall we say of those who commit wilful and deliberate murder in duels? And what shall we say of the magistracy in any country that does not suppress this diabolical practice?

Verse 9
Genesis 9:9. Behold, I establish my covenant, &c. — We have here the general establishment of God’s covenant with this new world, and the extent of that covenant.

Verse 11
Genesis 9:11. There shall not any more be a flood — God had drowned the world once, and still it is as provoking as ever; yet he will never drown it any more, for he deals not with us according to our sins. This promise of God keeps the sea and clouds in their decreed places, and “sets them gates and bars: Hitherto they shall come,” Job 38:10-11. If the sea should flow but for a few days, as it doth twice every day for a few hours, what desolations would it make! So would the clouds, if such showers as we have sometimes seen, were continued long. But God, by flowing seas and sweeping rains, shows what he could do in wrath; and yet by preserving the earth from being deluged between both, shows what he can do in mercy, and will do in truth.

Verse 13
Genesis 9:13. I set my bow in the clouds — The rainbow, it is likely, was seen in the clouds before, but was never a seal of the covenant till now. Now, observe, 1st, This seal is affixed with repeated assurances of the truth of that promise, which it was designed to be the ratification of; I do set my bow in the cloud, Genesis 9:13. It shall be seen in the cloud, Genesis 9:14, and it shall be a token of the covenant, Genesis 9:12-13. And I will remember my covenant, that the waters shall no more become a flood, Genesis 9:15. Nay, as if the Eternal Mind needed a memorandum, I will look upon it that I may remember the everlasting covenant, Genesis 9:16. 2d, The rainbow appears when the clouds are most disposed to wet; when we have most reason to fear the rain prevailing, God shows this seal of the promise that it shall not prevail. 3d, The rainbow appears when one part of the sky is clear, which intimates mercy remembered in the midst of wrath, and the clouds are hemmed, as it were, with the rainbow, that they may not overspread the heavens; for the bow is coloured rain, or the edges of a cloud gilded. As God looks upon the bow that he may remember the covenant, so should we, that we also may be ever mindful of the covenant with faith and thankfulness.

Verse 20
Genesis 9:20. And Noah began to be a husbandman — (Hebrews a man of the earth,) a man dealing in the earth, that kept ground in his hand and occupied it. Some time after his departure out of the ark he returned to his old employment, from which he had been diverted by the building of the ark first, and probably after by the building a house for himself and family. And he planted a vineyard — And when he had gathered his vintage, probably he appointed a day of mirth and feasting in his family, and had his sons and their children with him, to rejoice with him in the increase of his house, as well as in the increase of his vineyard; and we may suppose he prefaced his feast with a sacrifice to the honour of God. If that were omitted, it was just with God to leave him to himself, to end with the beasts that which did not begin with God: but we charitably hope he did. And perhaps he appointed this feast with design, in the close of it, to bless his sons, as Isaac, Genesis 27:3-4, “That I may eat, and that my soul may bless thee.”

Verse 21
Genesis 9:21. And he drank of the wine, and was drunk — It is highly probable he did not know the effect of it before. And he was uncovered in his tent — Made naked to his shame.

Verse 22
Genesis 9:22. And Ham saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren — To have seen it accidentally and involuntarily would not have been a crime. But he pleased himself with the sight. And he told his brethren without — In the street, as the word is, in a scornful, deriding manner.

Verse 23
Genesis 9:23. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, &c. — They not only would not see it themselves, but provided that no one else might see it; herein setting an example of charity with reference to other men’s sin and shame.

Verse 24
Genesis 9:24. Noah knew — Either by the information of his sons, or by divine inspiration, what his younger son, (Hebrews his son, הקשׂן, the younger, or little one,) had done unto him. Canaan is thought by many to be chiefly intended. 1st, Because the following curse is appropriated to him; and, 2d, Because the title of younger, little son, does not seem so properly added if Ham be meant, it not being probable that he was the youngest of Noah’s sons; for when they are mentioned together, he is never named last, but always second. Be this as it may, it is very likely he partook of his father’s sin, and probably first saw the situation which his grandfather was in, and told it to his father, who then told it to his brethren.

Verse 25
Genesis 9:25. Cursed be Canaan — Canaan may be here put, by a well-known figure termed ellipsis, often used in Scripture, for the father of Canaan, the title given to Ham in Genesis 9:22. And although Ham had more sons, he may here be described by his relation to Canaan, because in him the curse was more fixed and dreadful, reaching to the utter extirpation of his seed, while many of the other nations descended from Ham were, in after ages, blessed with the knowledge of the true God and the gospel of his Son. A servant of servants shall he (namely, the father of Canaan, Ham) be to his brethren — That is, in his posterity; whose condition in every age has remarkably coincided with the prediction. “The whole continent of Africa was peopled principally by the descendants of Ham, and for how many ages did the better parts of that country lie under the dominion of the Romans, and then of the Saracens, as they do now under that of the Turks! In what wickedness, ignorance, barbarity, slavery, misery, live most of the inhabitants! And of the poor negroes how many hundreds, nay thousands, have been annually sold and bought, like beasts in the market, and conveyed from one quarter of the world to do the work of beasts in another!” — Newton on the Prophecies. “There never has been a son of Ham who hath shaken a sceptre over the head of Japheth. Shem hath subdued Japheth, and Japheth subdued Shem, but Ham never subdued either.” — Mede. The curse, however, principally respects the posterity of Canaan, the devoted nations whom God destroyed before Israel, and is here recorded for the encouragement of the Israelites, who, it is probable, when Moses wrote these words, were about to march against them and to take possession of their country, about eight hundred years after the words were uttered by Noah. The Phœnicians and Carthaginians are also included in the curse denounced on Canaan; for they were descended from him, and were, at length, subdued with dreadful destruction by the Greeks and Romans, and made tributary to them both.

Verse 26
Genesis 9:26. Blessed be the Lord God of Shem — Abraham and all his posterity were included in the descendants of Shem, as appears from the next chapter. Our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, in whom all the nations of the earth are to be blessed, sprang from him. Well, therefore, might Jehovah be called the Lord God of Shem. Most of the worshippers of the true God, before the coming of the Messiah, were of his seed, and afterward the descendants of Shem were the chief instruments of bringing other nations to join in God’s worship, and to partake of the blessings of his salvation. Thus Shem is well recompensed for his respect to his father, and the being thus informed of the blessings that awaited his posterity, must have been a great consolation to him, as it, no doubt, was afterward to the truly pious of his seed.

Verse 27
Genesis 9:27. God shall enlarge Japheth — Most of the inhabitants of Europe, termed in the next chapter, the isles of the Gentiles, and those of the northern parts of Asia, were descended from Japheth; and if, as is generally supposed, America was peopled from the north-east of Asia, the original inhabitants of that country also were his offspring. And he shall dwell in the tents of Shem — His seed shall be so numerous, and so victorious, that they shall be masters of the tents of Shem. This was fulfilled when the people of the Jews, the most eminent of Shem’s race, were subjected and made tributaries, first to the Grecians, and afterward to the Romans, both of Japheth’s seed. This also signifies the conversion of the Gentiles, and the bringing of them into the Church of God; and with a reference to this, the words should be rendered, as they properly may, God shall persuade Japheth; and being so persuaded, he shall dwell in the tents of Shem: that is, the Jews and Gentiles shall be united together in the church of God. And after many of the Gentiles shall be proselyted to the Jewish religion, both Jews and Gentiles shall be one in Christ. And Canaan shall be his servant — Servant to Shem, and servant to Japheth; for it is affirmed with respect to both. And a very slight acquaintance with ancient or modern history will be sufficient to convince any serious inquirer of the exact accomplishment of the prediction. For the descendants of Canaan have been under subjection to those of Shem and Japheth through many generations. In this wonderful prophecy, therefore, which includes an outline of the history of all nations and ages, we have a demonstration of the divine inspiration of him who uttered it, as well as of him who recorded it, as Bishop Newton has shown in his most admirable Exposition of the Prophecies: a decisive proof this, of the certainty and importance of these records of eternal truth!

Verse 28
Genesis 9:28. Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years — Which period, as the Jews observe, reaches to the fifty-eighth year of Abraham’s age. So that we need be under no difficulty in accounting for the transmission of the original revelation made to Adam, and of other branches of divine truth, from the beginning of the world to the time of Abraham. Noah received these from his parents, who had the account from Adam’s own mouth, and transmitted it to Abraham. And its communication and descent from him to the Jews, and from the Jews to us, is sufficiently known. Within this time also Noah saw the building of the tower of Babel, the horrid wickedness and idolatry of his children, and the bloody wars which even then began to arise between some of them.

Verse 29
Genesis 9:29. All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years — Here the clause, and he begat sons and daughters, is omitted, whence we may infer that he had no more than the three sons already mentioned.