Genesis (Part 38)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find the previous posts HERE.

Genesis 9:1-7

1And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

__________________________________

In verse 1, we revisit the phrase “be fruitful and multiply.” We saw it previously in Genesis 1:22, 28, and in Genesis 8:17.

פָּרָה pârâh, paw-raw’; a primitive root; to bear fruit (literally or figuratively):—bear, bring forth (fruit), (be, cause to be, make) fruitful, grow, increase.

רָבָה râbâh, raw-baw’; a primitive root; to increase (in whatever respect):—(bring in) abundance (× -antly), archer (by mistake for H7232), be in authority, bring up, × continue, enlarge, excel, exceeding(-ly), be full of, (be, make) great(-er, -ly, × -ness), grow up, heap, increase, be long, (be, give, have, make, use) many (a time), (any, be, give, give the, have) more (in number), (ask, be, be so, gather, over, take, yield) much (greater, more), (make to) multiply, nourish, plenty(-eous), × process (of time), sore, store, thoroughly, very.

From the Pulpit Commentary on Verse 1.

Genesis 9:1And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.Verse 1. – And God – Elohim, not because belonging to the Elohistic document (Block, Tuch, Colcnso); but rather because throughout this section the Deity is exhibited in his relations to his creatures – blessed – a repetition of the primal blessing rendered necessary by the devastation of the Flood (cf. Genesis 1:28) – Noah and his sons, – as the new heads of the race, – and said unto them, – audibly, in contrast to Genesis 8:21, 22, which was not addressed to the patriarch, but spoken by God to himself in his heart, as if internally resolving on his subsequent course of action, – Be fruitful, and multiply. A favorite expression of the Elohist (cf. Genesis 1:28Genesis 8:17Genesis 9:1, 7Genesis 17:20Genesis 28:3Genesis 35:11Genesis 47:27Genesis 48:14), (Tuch); but

(1) the apparently great number of passages melts away when we observe the verbally exact reference of Genesis 8:17Genesis 9:1, 7 to Genesis 1:28; and of Genesis 48:4 to Genesis 35:11;

(2) the Elohist does not always employ his “favorite expression” where he might have done so, as, e.g., not in Genesis 1:22Genesis 17:6Genesis 28:14;

(3) the Jehovist does not avoid it where the course of thought necessarily calls for it (videLeviticus 26:9), (Keil). And replenish the earth. The words, “and subdue it, which had a place in the Adamic blessing, and which the LXX. insert here in the Noachic (καὶ κατακυριεύσατε αὐτῆς), are omitted for the obvious reason that the world dominion originally assigned to man in Adam had been forfeited by sin, and could only be restored through the ideal Man, the woman’s seed, to whom it had been transferred at the fail Hence says Paul, speaking of Christ: “καὶ πάντα ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ (Ephesians 1:22); and the writer to the Hebrews: νῦν δὲ οὔπω ὀρῶμεν αὐτῷ (i.e. man) τὰ πάντα ὑποτεταγμένα, τὸν δὲ βραχύτι παρ ἀγγέλους ἠλαττομένον βλέπομεν Ἰησοῦν διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου δόξη καὶ τιμῆ ἐστεφανωμένον (i.e. the world dominion which David, Psalm 8:6, recognized as belonging to God’s ideal man) ὅπως χάριτι θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου (Genesis 2:8, 9). The original relationship which God had established between man and the lower creatures having been disturbed by sin, the inferior animals, as it were, gradually broke loose from their condition of subjection. As corruption deepened in the human race it was only natural to anticipate that man’s lordship over the animal creation would become feebler and feebler. Nor, perhaps, is it an altogether violent hypothesis that, had the Deluge not intervened, in the course of time the beast would have become the master and man the slave. To prevent any such apprehensions in the future, as there was to be no second deluge, the relations of man and the lower creatures were to be placed on a new footing. Ultimately, in the palingenesia, they would be completely restored (cf. Isaiah 11:6); in the mean time, till that glorious consummation should arrive, the otherwise inevitable encroachments of the creatures upon the human family in its sin-created weakness should be restrained by a principle of fear. That was the first important modification made upon the original Adamic blessing.

This section of the commentary is a bit dense but it draws attention again to the idea that sections of Genesis are written by an Elohist while others are written by a Jehovist. The Elohist section are those passages where God is referred to as Elohim (plural) rathan that Yahweh/Jehovah (singlular.) The passages here are Elohist as God comes from the Hebrew word ‘elohiym. A more direct translation, then, would be “the Gods” rather than “God” singular.

The Matthew Henry Commentary breaks down the specifics of what is happening in these verses in admirably great detail.

He describes the first set of verses in Genesis 9 as a charter of sorts. I will outline his notes below.

Grants:

1. God grants man land. (Gen 9:1)
2. God grants man power over inferior creatures. (Gen. 9:2)
3. God grants man the freedom to eat animals. (Gen. 9:3)

Precepts:

  1. Man must not prejudice his own life by eating unwholesome food (food with blood still in it) (Gen. 9:4)
  2. Man must not take away his own life (Gen. 9:5)
  3. Beasts must not be suffered to harm the life of man (Gen. 9:6)
  4. Willful murderers must be put to death (Gen. 9:7)

Verses 1-7

We read, in the close of the foregoing chapter, the very kind things which God said in his heart, concerning the remnant of mankind which was now left to be the seed of a new world. Now here we have these kind things spoken to them. In general, God blessed Noah and his sons (v. 1), that is, he assured them of his good-will to them and his gracious intentions concerning them. This follows from what he said in his heart. Note, All God’s promises of good flow from his purposes of love and the counsels of his own will. See Eph. 1:11, 3:11, and compare Jer. 29:11. I know the thoughts that I think towards you. We read (ch. 8:20) how Noah blessed God, by his altar and sacrifice. Now here we find God blessing Noah. Note, God will graciously bless (that is, do well for) those who sincerely bless (that is, speak well of) him. Those that are truly thankful for the mercies they have received take the readiest way to have them confirmed and continued to them.

Now here we have the Magna Charta—the great charter of this new kingdom of nature which was now to be erected, and incorporated, the former charter having been forfeited and seized.

I. The grants of this charter are kind and gracious to men. Here is,

1. A grant of lands of vast extent, and a promise of a great increase of men to occupy and enjoy them,. The first blessing is here renewed: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth (v. 1), and repeated (v. 7), for the race of mankind was, as it were, to begin again. Now, (1.) God sets the whole earth before them, tells them it is all their own, while it remains, to them and their heirs. Note, The earth God has given to the children of men, for a possession and habitation, Ps. 115:16. Though it is not a paradise, but a wilderness rather; yet it is better than we deserve. Blessed be God, it is not hell. (2.) He gives them a blessing, by the force and virtue of which mankind should 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, while the world stands, 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 delivered up together into the ocean of eternity. Though death should still reign, and the Lord would still be known by his judgments, yet the earth should never again be dispeopled as now it was, but still replenished, Acts 17:24–26.

2. A grant of power over the inferior creatures, v. 2. He grants, (1.) A title to them: Into your hands they are delivered, for your use and benefit. (2.) A dominion over them, without which the title would avail little: The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast. This revives a former grant (ch. 1:28), only with this difference, that man in innocence ruled by love, fallen man rules by fear. Now this grant remains in force, and thus far we have still the benefit of it, [1.] That those creatures which are any way useful to us are reclaimed, and we use them either for service or food, or both, as they are capable. The horse and ox patiently submit to the bridle and yoke, and the sheep is dumb both before the shearer and before the butcher; for the fear and dread of man are upon them. [2.] Those creatures that are any way hurtful to us are restrained, so that, though now and then man may be hurt by some of them, they do not combine together to rise up in rebellion against man, else God could by these destroy the world as effectually as he did by a deluge; it is one of God’s sore judgments, Eze. 14:21. What is it that keeps wolves out of our towns, and lions out of our streets, and confines them to the wilderness, but this fear and dread? Nay, some have been tamed, Jas. 3:7.

3. A grant of maintenance and subsistence: Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you, v. 3. Hitherto, most think, man had been confined to feed only upon the products of the earth, fruits, herbs, and roots, and all sorts of corn and milk; so was the first grant, ch. 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 that God directed him to it, nor had any more desire to than a sheep has to suck blood like a wolf. But now man is allowed to feed upon flesh, as freely and safely as upon the green herb. Now here see, (1.) That God is a good master, and provides, not only that we may live, but that we may live comfortably, in his service; not for necessity only, but for delight. (2.) That every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, 1 Tim. 4:4. Afterwards some meats that were proper enough for food were prohibited by the ceremonial law; but from the beginning, it seems, it was not so, and therefore is not so under the gospel.

II. The precepts and provisos of this character are no less kind and gracious, and instances of God’s good-will to man. The Jewish doctors speak so often of the seven precepts of Noah, or of the sons of Noah, which they say were to be observed by all nations, that it may not be amiss to set them down. The first against the worship of idols. The second against blasphemy, and requiring 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 requiring the administration of justice. The seventh against eating of flesh with the life. These the Jews required the observance of from the proselytes of the gate. But the precepts here given all concern the life of man.

1. Man must not prejudice his own life by eating that food which is unwholesome and prejudicial to his health (v. 4): “Flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof (that is, raw flesh), shall you not eat, as the beasts of prey do.” It was necessary to add this limitation to the grant of liberty to eat flesh, lest, instead of nourishing their bodies by it, they should destroy them. God would hereby show, (1.) That though they were lords of the creatures, yet they were subjects to the Creator, and under the restraints of his law. That they must not be greedy and hasty in taking their food, but stay the preparing of it; not like Saul’s soldiers (1 Sa. 14:32), nor riotous eaters of flesh, Prov. 23:20. (3.) That they must not be barbarous and cruel to the inferior creatures. They must be lords, but not tyrants; they might kill them for their profit, but not torment them for their pleasure, nor tear away the member of a creature while it was yet alive, and eat that. (4.) That during the continuance of the law of sacrifices, in which the blood made atonement for the soul (Lev. 17:11), signifying that the life of the sacrifice was accepted for the life of the sinner, blood must not be looked upon as a common thing, but must be poured out before the Lord (2 Sa. 23:16), either upon his altar or upon his earth. But, now that the great and true sacrifice has been offered, the obligation of the law ceases with the reason of it.

2. Man must not take away his own life: Your blood of your lives will I require, v. 5. Our lives are not so our own as that we may quit them at our own pleasure, but they are God’s and we must resign them at his pleasure; if we in any way hasten our own deaths, we are accountable to God for it.

3. The beasts must not be suffered to hurt the life of man: At the hand of every beast will I require it. To show how tender God was of the life of man, though he had lately made such destruction of lives, he will have the beast put to death that kills a man. This was confirmed by the law of Moses (Ex. 21:28), and I think it would not be unsafe to observe it still. Thus God showed his hatred of the sin of murder, that men might hate it the more, and not only punish, but prevent it. And see Job 5:23.

4. Wilful murderers must be put to death. This is the sin which is here designed to be restrained by the terror of punishment (1.) God will punish murderers: At the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man, that is, “I will avenge the blood of the murdered upon the murderer.” 2 Chr. 24:22. When God requires the life of a man at the hand of him that took it away unjustly, the murderer cannot render that, and therefore must render his own in lieu of it, which is the only way left of making restitution. Note, The righteous God will certainly make inquisition for blood, though men cannot or do not. One time or other, in this world or in the next, he will both discover concealed murders, which are hidden from man’s eye, and punish avowed and justified murders, which are too great for man’s hand. (2.) The magistrate must punish murderers (v. 6): Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, whether upon a sudden provocation or having premeditated it (for rash anger is heart-murder as well as malice prepense, Mt. 5:21, 22), by man shall his blood be shed, that is, by the magistrate, or whoever is appointed or allowed to be the avenger of blood. There are those who are ministers of God for this purpose, to be a protection to the innocent, by being a terror to the malicious and evildoers, and they must not bear the sword in vain, Rom. 13:4. 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 afterwards to the heads of countries, who ought to be faithful to the trust reposed in them. Note, Wilful murder ought always to be punished with death. It is a sin which the Lord would not pardon in a prince (2 Ki. 24:3, 4), and which therefore a prince should not pardon in a subject. To this law there is a reason annexed: For in the image of God made he man at first. Man is a creature dear to his Creator, and therefore ought to be so to us. God put honour upon him, let not us then put contempt upon him. Such remains of God’s image are still even upon fallen man as that he who unjustly kills a man defaces the image of God and does dishonour to him. When God allowed men to kill their beasts, yet he forbade them to kill their slaves; for these are of a much more noble and excellent nature, not only God’s creatures, but his image, Jam. 3:9. All men have something of the image of God upon them; but magistrates have, besides, the image of his power, and the saints the image of his holiness, and therefore those who shed the blood of princes or saints incur a double guilt.

David Guzik addresses the issue of capital punishment, also, again stating that the Bible requires capital punishment in some cases:

2. (Gen 9:5-7) God gives to man the right and responsibility of capital punishment.

“Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man. And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it.”

a. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning: According to God’s command, when a man’s blood is shed there must be an accounting for it, because in the image of God He made man. Because man is made in the image of God, his life is inherently precious and cannot be taken without giving account to God.

i. By man his blood shall be shed means because life is valuable, when murder is committed the death penalty is in order.

ii. In its original languages the Bible makes a distinction between killing and murder. Not all killing is murder, because there are cases where there is just cause for killing (self-defense, capital punishment with due process of law, killing in a just war). There are other instances where killing is accidental. This is killing, but not murder.

iii. The Bible also consistently teaches that the punishment of the guilty is the role of human government (Romans 13:1-4) so as to restrain man’s depravity. It also teaches that the guilt of unpunished murder defiles a land (Numbers 35:31-34). As Luther said, “God establishes government and gives it the sword to hold wantonness in check, lest violence and other sins proceed without limit.” (Boice)

b. From the hand of every beast I will require it: To see the strength of God’s command, He even requires a reckoning for the life of man from every beast. God does not condone unlawful killing of any kind.

c. Be fruitful and multiply: This point was repeated because it needed emphasis. The earth badly needed repopulating.

My first instinct upon reading this is to wonder from what word we get the English translation of “reckoning.” What I found is that there is not a Hebrew word meaning “reckoning.” The word is added by translators to explain what is meant by the underlying Hebrew.

Directly, the Hebrew and its English equivalent is at the link HERE.:

“I will require your life blood, from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother, I will require the life of man.”

Verse 6’s direct translation is much closer to the ESV translation:

“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God he made mad.”

I am weighing internally whether I think these words command the use of capital punishment in the case of murder. My initial inclination, instead, is that they *allow* the use of capital punishment. Verse six describes something that reads to me as a cause and effect relationship. “If you murder, then executions will happen, because…”

However, I need to read more and study more on the topic. It’s too weighty to declare anything concretely without additional textual evidence, as well as historical and cultural context.

Lest we get bogged down in debates over death and punishment above, verse seven reminds us of God’s love of life. He repeats his command from Chapter 9, Verse 1 and tells the family on the ark to go and be fruitful and multiply.

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