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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Genesis 9

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. IX.

God blesseth Noah and his sons: permits them to eat flesh: forbids blood: constitutes the rain-bow the sign of his covenant: Noah is drunk and uncovered in his tent; he blesseth Shem and Japheth, and curseth Canaan.


Verse 1

Genesis 9:1. God blessed Noah, &c.— The primitive benediction upon Adam is here renewed, Be fruitful, &c. as well as the dominion conferred over all creatures; while a larger grant is given to Noah than to the former, namely, of animal food. For (according to our interpretation, see ch. Genesis 1:29.) it was not allowed before the deluge. In this grant, the eating of the blood is forbidden; a restraint which, I conceive, has never been taken off. See Acts 15:20; Acts 15:41.


Verse 5

Genesis 9:5. And surely your blood of your lives, &c.— The reason given in the 4th verse for the prohibition of blood is, that "the blood is the life;" and, accordingly, they are used for each other, not only in sacred but profane writers*. And, upon this declaration, the Lord goes on to prohibit murder: "blood is the life;" and certainly I will require your blood for your lives; לנפשׁתיכם lenapshotikem; i.e.. I will make solemn inquest, in order to punish and exact blood for blood, life for life, at the hand of every beast, see Exodus 21:28 and at the hand of every man will I require it: at the hand of every man's brother (a name used to shew our common relationship, and to give us the greater abhorrence of murder) will I require the life of man. And, to make this prohibition the more clear, and at the same time the more forcible, it is added, Exodus 21:6. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man: whence, as Philo observes, homicide becomes the most heinous sacrilege; because, of all things in the world, nothing is more sacred, nothing stamped with more lively characters of the Divinity, than man: murder therefore is not only the most inhuman, foul, and monstrous of crimes, but it is an act of high treason against the Divine Majesty, whom man represents in this lower world.

* Virgil says, AEn. 9. v. 349.—Purpuream vomit ille animam; ——Pours forth his purple life.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here God's gracious dealings with Noah, and the great gifts bestowed on him.

1. He blessed him. This is worth all the rest, and what makes every gift truly valuable: for the blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich. They should increase and multiply. There were few men left, but in virtue of this, one shall quickly become a thousand. Children and the fruit of the womb are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord.

2. He bestows the property of, and gives them dominion over, the creatures. If the ox and horse serve us with their strength, we must remember who put them under our feet. If the wild beasts, when unprovoked, rather fly from, than pursue us, it is because God hath put the dread of us upon them. Were God only to let loose the brute creation upon us, we should quickly be destroyed.

3. He permits us flesh for our sustenance. Before we partake of the mercy at our tables daily, let us not forget to acknowledge the gift, and to adore the gracious Giver.


Verse 9

Genesis 9:9. And I, behold, I establish my covenant, &c.— Before Noah entered the ark, ch. Genesis 6:18. we read, that the Almighty declared his purpose of "establishing his covenant with him;" which he here fulfils, and takes into it Noah's seed after him, as well as all living creatures. Now, that the covenant certainly implies the promise of the future preservation of the earth from destruction by a deluge, is plain from Genesis 6:11. See also Isaiah 54:9. And that the rainbow was appointed a sign or token of this part of the covenant, is equally certain, from Isaiah 54:13-16. But the question is, whether more, much more than this, is not comprehended in this covenant established by God with Noah and his seed after him? To which it may justly be replied, that as Noah was not only the restorer of the human race, but one of the progenitors of the promised seed, it may well be conceived, that this covenant refers to that original promise and seed; a covenant which afterwards was renewed with Abraham, in whose seed, that is, Christ, all nations of the earth were to be blessed: and, as that covenant contained a temporal as well as a spiritual part, the former referring to the possession of the land of Canaan, the latter to the Messiah; so here we may observe, the covenant is two-fold; 1st, regarding the earth and all its inhabitants, which the Lord promises to bless; and 2nd, referring to that promised seed, which was to descend from Noah, and to bless all mankind: and the rainbow (which we find round about the throne of the promised Redeemer, Revelation 4:3.) may well be understood as a sign or token of both parts of the covenant. And thus we may fully understand the passage: 1st, The term covenant need not be received in the sense of a mutual contract or agreement, but only of a promise, a gracious and voluntary promise, necessary for Noah in his state, and comfortable to all mankind: but 2nd, This covenant may well comprehend the general promise relating to the seed of the woman, which God remembered, and for that purpose preserved Noah, through whom that seed was to descend.


Verse 13

Genesis 9:13. I do set my bow in the cloud If the covenant, as we suppose, had a two-fold reference, the bow was also a two-fold sign; and its temporal or natural respect must then, and ought now, to remind us of its much more important spiritual and gracious design. God hath always been pleased to appoint some outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace conferred by his covenants with man: thus, circumcision was appointed to Abraham, &c.


Verse 14

Genesis 9:14. When I bring a cloud—the bow shall be seen in the cloud It is not meant here, that the bow shall be always seen, but at certain times, often enough to put men in mind of the promise, and to stir up their belief of it. And when it is said, Genesis 9:16. I will look upon it, that I may remember, it is easy to observe, that this is spoken only after the manner of men: He, who cannot forget, needs no token or sign to put him in mind of his promise. This sign was for the comfort of man, not for the admonition of God: the meaning therefore is, that men might consider this bow as a signification that God had obliged himself to this promise, and would certainly fulfil it. The opinions of expositors have been much divided, respecting the original of this sign. Bishop Warburton, whose opinion in this instance I conceive to be just, observes, "The bow was not then first set in the clouds, but then FIRST set as a token." In the case before us, the most novel, or most supernatural, appearance could add nothing to their assurance arising from the evidence of God's veracity. As, on the contrary, had the children of Noah been ignorant of that attribute of the Deity, such a phaenomenon could have given no assurance at all. For what then served the rainbow? For the wise purpose so well expressed by the sacred writer, for the token of the covenant; that is, for a memorial or remembrance of it throughout all generations.

The heathens, I doubt not, borrowed many of their fables from this sacred record concerning the rainbow. Homer says, Il. Genesis 11:28. that Jupiter established the rainbow, τερας μεροπων ανθρωπων, "a sign to man amidst the skies." And very probably, from some tradition of this original covenant, the ancient poets feigned Iris, or the rainbow, to be the daughter of Wonder, θαυμαντος, and the messenger of Jupiter and Juno, the heaven, or air and clouds.

REFLECTIONS.—The covenant is now signed and sealed by a visible token, the rainbow; a glorious object, and a constant assurance of God's remembrance of us, and of our security from the descending waters. Observe, 1. As we are apt to be affected with visible objects; God therefore, not only in the covenant of nature, but of grace, hath instituted visible signs for our greater comfort and confidence. 2. The cause of the bow in the clouds, is the refraction of the beams of the sun. Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, sits with the rainbow round about his throne, and therefore his people are safe from fear of evil. 3. The sign of our security in the cloud, should ever awaken our thankfulness, and lead up our minds from temporal promises thus fulfilled, to conclude the certainty of the eternal promises, which are yet in hope.


Verse 18

Genesis 9:18. The sons of Noah, &c.— Japheth, though named last, was, as we have before observed, the eldest of Noah's sons, as appears from ch. Genesis 10:21. Shem, whom some would make the eldest, appears, says Shuckford, to have been two years younger than Japheth; for Noah was five hundred years old at the birth of his eldest son, that is, a hundred years before the flood. See Genesis 5:32 compared with Genesis 7:6. But Shem was but a hundred years old two years after the flood, namely, at the birth of Arphaxad, ch. Genesis 11:10. and consequently he must have been two years younger than Noah's first-born. Canaan, the son of Ham, is mentioned here to introduce the following account, in which the origin of that people is marked out, who became so detestable afterwards, as to be destroyed for their enormities by the hand of the Israelites, under the immediate direction of God.


Verse 19

Genesis 9:19. Three sons—of them was the whole earth overspread Three things may be observed from this. 1. That though Noah lived three hundred years after he came out of the ark, yet he begat no more children; or, if he did, none of them lived to have any posterity. 2. That the deluge was universal, as the whole earth was re-peopled by these three sons of Noah and their wives; an event which, doubtless, gave rise to the fable of the partition of the world between the three sons of Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto. 3. That the divine promise and benediction, in Genesis 9:1; Genesis 9:7. was fully and admirably accomplished.


Verse 21

Genesis 9:21. He drank of the wine, and was drunken Became inebriated, not knowing, perhaps, the nature and strength of the liquor; or being, through age, incapable of bearing it; and Moses is so faithful an historian, that he records the failings and imperfections of the most venerable patriarchs, as well as their excellencies. This remark is from Dr. Newton, the learned Bishop of Bristol; whose judicious exposition of the subsequent passage we shall follow, from his useful dissertations on the prophecies.


Verse 22

Genesis 9:22. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness, &c.— The loose dress of those times, made it easy for any slight accident to produce that nakedness, which Ham seeing, wantonly and tauntingly exposed to his brethren, instead of concealing it, as a dutiful son ought to have done. In this, perhaps, consisted his great fault, that, instead of covering his aged father, he went and ridiculously exposed him to his brethren without in a public manner. But Shem and Japheth, more compassionate to the infirmities of their aged father, took a garment, and went backward, with such decency and respect, that they saw not the nakedness of their father, at the same time that they covered him.


Verse 24

Genesis 9:24. Noah awoke—and knew what his younger, &c.— Noah when awaking would find the garment upon him, which Shem and Japheth had brought, and would thence, doubtless, be led to inquire whence and how it came, and so would know, by information, what his younger son had done unto him: words which plainly intimate more than bare seeing, and shew, that something irreverent and disrespectful had been done by that younger son.


Verse 25

Genesis 9:25. And he said, cursed, &c.— In consequence of this different behaviour of his sons, Noah, as a patriarch, was enlightened, and as a father of a family, who is to reward or punish his children, was empowered to foretel what should happen to their respective families: for this prophecy relates not so much to themselves as to their posterity, the people and nations descended from them. He was not prompted by wine, or resentment; for neither the one nor the other could infuse the knowledge of futurity, or inspire him with the prescience of events, which happened hundreds, if not thousands, of years afterwards. This, like most of the ancient prophecies, was delivered in metre:

"Cursed be Canaan, A servant of servants shall he be to his brethren: Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem; And Canaan shall be their servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, And shall dwell in the tents of Shem, And Canaan shall be their servant."

Canaan was the fourth son of Ham, ch. Genesis 10:6. "And for what reason can you believe, that Canaan was so particularly marked out for the curse? for his father Ham's transgression? But where would be the justice, or equity, to pass by Ham himself, with the rest of his children, or to punish only Canaan for what Ham had committed? Such proceedings are contrary to all our ideas of the divine perfections." The truth is, the curse is to be understood not so properly of Canaan, as of his descendants to late generations. It is thinking meanly of the ancient prophecies, and having very imperfect and unworthy conceptions of them, to limit their intention to particular persons. We must affix a larger meaning to them; and understand them not of single persons, but of whole nations. The curse of servitude pronounced upon Canaan, and the promise of blessing and enlargement made to Shem and Japheth, extend to their whole race for many generations: as afterwards the prophecies concerning Ishmael, Esau, and Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs, were not so properly verified in themselves, as in their posterity. The curse therefore upon Canaan was, properly, a curse upon the Canaanites. God foreseeing the wickedness of that people, (which began in their father Ham, and greatly increased in this branch of his family,) commissioned Noah to pronounce a curse upon them, and to devote them to the servitude and misery, which their more than common vices and iniquities would deserve. And this account was plainly written by Moses for the encouragement of the Israelites, to support and animate them in their expedition against a people, who, by their sins, had forfeited the divine protection, and were destined to slavery from the days of Noah.

Cursed be Canaan Having seen in the foregoing note the purport of the prophecy, let us attend to the completion of it. Cursed be Canaan: let us observe, there is nothing in the Hebrew for be: it is only cursed Canaan, and may be understood either as an apostrophe, Ah, devoted, wretched

Canaan! or Canaan shall, or will, be cursed. In whatever sense you understand it, certain it is the Canaanites were an abominably wicked (and so a cursed) people. The sin and punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah are well known: and as for the inhabitants of the land which was promised to Abraham and his seed, God bore with them till their iniquity was full, ch. Genesis 15:16. We are told, that every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters have they burnt in the fire to their gods. Deuteronomy 12:31. Their religion was bad, and their morality (if possible) worse; for corrupt religion and corrupt morals usually generate each other. Read the 18th and 20th chapters of Leviticus, and you will find, that unlawful marriages, and unlawful lusts, witchcraft, adultery, incest, sodomy, beastiality, and the like monstrous crimes, were frequent among them. And was not a curse, in the nature of things, as well as by the just judgment of God, deservedly entailed upon such a people and nation as this? See Deuteronomy 9:4.

A servant of servants shall he be to his brethren It is very well known, that the word brethren, in the Hebrew, comprehends more distant relations. (See Deuteronomy 9:5 of this chapter.) The descendants, therefore of Canaan were to be subject to the descendants of Shem and Japheth: and the natural consequence of vice in communities, as well as in single persons, is slavery. The same thing is repeated again and again in the two following verses, so that this is, as it were, the burden of the prophecy. A servant of servants, is a phrase of the same turn with Holy of holies, Song of songs, King of kings, and imports, that they should be the lowest and basest of servants.

We cannot be certain as to the time of the delivery of this prophecy. If it was delivered soon after the transactions which immediately precede in the history, it was soon after the deluge; and then Canaan was prophesied of before he was born, as it was prophesied of Esau and Jacob, Genesis 25:23 compared with Romans 9:11. If the prophecy was delivered a little before the transactions which immediately follow in the history, it was a little before Noah's death; and he was then enlightened, as Jacob was, to foretel what was to befal his posterity in the latter days, Genesis 49:1. However this matter may be determined, it was several centuries after the delivery of this prophecy, when the Israelites, who were the descendants of Shem, under the command of Joshua, invaded the Canaanites, smote above thirty of their kings, took possession of their land, slew vast numbers of the inhabitants, and made the Gibeonites and others servants and tributaries. Solomon afterwards subdued the rest. See 2 Chronicles 8:7-8. The Greeks and Romans too, who were the descendants of Japheth, not only subdued Syria and Palestine, but also pursued and conquered such of the Canaanites as were any where remaining, as for instance, the Tyrians and Carthaginians; the former of whom were ruined by Alexander and the Grecians, and the latter by Scipio and the Romans. And ever since, the miserable remains of that people have been slaves to a foreign yoke; first to the Saracens, who descended from Shem; and afterwards to the Turks, who descended from Japheth; and they groan under the dominion of the latter to this day.

Hence you see, that this prophecy was not to take place immediately, but was to be fulfilled in process of time, when the descendants of Canaan should forfeit their liberties by their wickedness. Ham at first subdued some of the posterity of Shem, as Canaan sometimes conquered Japheth: the Carthaginians, who were originally Canaanites, did so particularly in Italy and Spain: but in time they were to be subdued, and to become servants to Shem and Japheth; and the change of their condition from good to bad would render the curse still more visible. AEgypt was the land of Ham, and, for many years, a great and flourishing kingdom; but it was subdued by the Persians, who descended from Shem, and afterwards by the Grecians, who descended from Japheth: and, from that time to this, it hath constantly been in subjection to some or other of the posterity of Shem or Japheth. The whole continent of Africa was peopled principally by the children of Ham: and for how many ages have the better parts of that country lain under the dominion of the Romans, and then of the Saracens, and now of the Turks? In what wickedness, ignorance, barbarity, slavery, and misery live most of the inhabitants? And of the poor negroes, how many thousands every year are sold and bought like beasts in the market, and are conveyed from one quarter of the world to do the work of beasts in another? These circumstances have led some eminent commentators to think, that the curse contained in this prophecy extended to the other branches of the posterity of Ham, as well as particularly to the posterity of Canaan. But, I conceive, the text will not justify this interpretation. However, if it do, nothing can be more complete than the execution of the sentence upon Ham, as well as upon Canaan. Let us next consider the promises made to Shem and Japheth.


Verse 26

Genesis 9:26. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem, &c.— The old patriarch doth not say, Blessed be Shem, as he said, Cursed be Canaan; for men's evil springeth of themselves, but their good from God: and therefore, in a strain of devotion, he breaketh forth into thanksgiving to God, as the author of all good to men. Neither doth he say the same to Japheth; for God certainly may dispense his peculiar favours according to his good pleasure, and salvation was to be derived through Shem and his posterity in the promised seed. God prefers Shem to his elder brother Japheth, as Jacob was afterwards preferred to Esau, and David to his elder brothers: but we shall say more on this subject in due place. The Lord being called the God of Shem, it is plainly intimated thereby, that the Lord would be his God in a particular manner: and of Shem, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. And Canaan shall be HIS servant, should rather be, their servant, or servant to them; that is, to his brethren. This, as we before observed, is the main part of the prophecy, and therefore so frequently repeated.


Verse 27

Genesis 9:27. God shall enlarge, &c.— Some render the word (it is so rendered in the margin of our Bibles) God shall persuade, or allure, Japheth, so that he shall come over to the true religion, and dwell in the tents of Shem. But the best critics in the language have remarked, besides other reasons, that they who translate the word by persuade, or allure, did not consider that when it is so taken, it is used in a bad sense, and governs an accusative case, not a dative, as in this place. God shall enlarge Japheth, is the best translation; and, in the original, there is a manifest allusion to Japheth's name, such as is familiar to the Hebrew writers: see our note on ch. Genesis 4:1. see ch. Genesis 5:29. Genesis 49:8; Genesis 49:16; Genesis 49:19, &c. for Japheth signifies enlargement. Was Japheth then more enlarged than the rest? He was, both in territory and in children. The territories of Japheth's posterity were indeed very large; for, besides all Europe, great and extensive as it is, they possessed the Lesser Asia, Media, part of Armenia, Iberia, Albania, and those vast regions towards the north, which anciently were inhabited by the Scythians, and now by the Tartars: and it is nearly, if not quite certain, that the New World was peopled by some of his, or their, descendants, passing thither by the Straits of Anian. The enlargement of Japheth may also denote a numerous progeny, as well as ample territory: and if you consult the genealogies of the three brothers, comprised in the following chapter, you will find that Japheth had seven sons, whereas Ham had only four, and Shem only five. And the northern hive was always remarkable for its fecundity, and hath been continually pouring forth swarms, and sending out colonies into the more southern parts, both in Europe and in Asia, in former and in latter times.

He shall dwell in the tents of Shem This passage is capable of a double construction: for thereby may be meant, either that God, or that Japheth, shall dwell in the tents of Shem: tents, speaking according to the simplicity of those times. They who prefer the former construction, seem to have the authority of the original text on their side; for there is no other noun to govern the verbs in the period, but God; there is no pronoun in the Hebrew answering to the HE, which is inserted in our translation: the whole sentence would run thus, "God will enlarge Japheth, and will dwell in the tents of Shem." And the Chaldee of Onkelos also thus paraphraseth it, "and will make his glory to dwell in the tabernacles of Shem." They who prefer the latter construction, seem to have done it, that they might refer this 27th verse wholly to Japheth, as they refer the 26th wholly to Shem; but the other appears to me the more natural and easy construction (especially if you refer to the metrical division we have given above, and not to the modern division of verses). Taken in either sense, the prophecy has been most punctually fulfilled. In the former sense, it was fulfilled literally, when the Shechinah, or Divine Presence, rested on the ark, and dwelt in the tabernacle and temple of the Jews: and when the Word, who was with God, and was God, (John 1:1.) εσκηνωσεν, pitched his tent, and dwelt among us, John 1:14. In the latter sense, it was fulfilled, first, when the Greeks and Romans, who sprung originally from Japheth, subdued and possessed Judea and other countries of Asia, belonging to Shem: and again, spiritually, when they were proselyted to the true religion; when they who were not Israelites by birth, became Israelites by faith, and lived as we and many others of Japheth's posterity do at this day, within the pale of the church of Christ. We cannot help observing in conclusion, what is memorable enough, that though Ham hath, in some instances, and upon some occasions, been superior, yet of the four famous monarchies of the world, the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman; the two former were of the descendants of Shem, as the two latter were of the sons of Japheth!

And is not this a must extraordinary prophecy: a prophecy which was delivered near four thousand years ago, and yet hath been fulfilling through the several periods of time to this day! It is both wonderful and instructive. It is the history of the world, as it were, in miniature.


Verse 29

Genesis 9:29. And all the days of Noah, &c.— "It is strange," Saurin remarks, "that the torrent of interpreters should suppose, that Noah was one hundred and twenty years building the ark, when the scripture gives no intimation to that purpose, but sufficient reason to believe, that he was not near so long as is imagined. It is plain from scripture, that he was five hundred years old, when he beget Shem, Ham, and Japheth, ch. Genesis 5:32. and that, when he received the command for building the ark, the same sons were married; for the text says so expressly, (see Genesis 6:18.) So that all the time between the birth and marriage of the said sons, must, at least, be supposed to intervene before the command to build the ark was given; and between the command and the execution of it could not be so long as is imagined, without a concurrence of miracles, to prevent that part of it which was first built from being rotten and decayed, before the last part of it was finished." But let us just ask, might not the first declaration of God's intention be given, as we have supposed on Genesis 6:3 ch. 6:? Might not Noah then be appointed to declare this solemn truth to the men of those times; and consequently to get in readiness, in due time, the proper materials for building the ark?

Let us now pause a while,

"Betwixt the world destroy'd and world restor'd," and consider the history of Noah as typical of our Great Redeemer, and of the salvation wrought by him.

That Noah was a figure of Jesus Christ, seems not obscurely hinted in his very name given him by his religious father, not without prophetic instinct. It signifies, as we have already observed, rest, comfort. So Christ is our consolation, and our rest. Of him we may truly say with the strictest propriety, "This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands." Noah "was a just man, and perfect in his generations, and walked with God," when the wickedness of men was grown to the most exorbitant height, and all flesh had corrupted their way. He dared to be good, when all were turned degenerate; and, fearless of reproach or violence, he admonished them of their wicked ways, preaching righteousness in their assemblies. So Christ preserved his integrity in every the smallest instance, in an evil and adulterous generation, preaching what he practised, with not unlike success to Noah. For it is written of him in the Psalms, "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest." Psalms 40:9. In some seasons of the Almighty's vengeance, we are informed, that the righteousness of Noah, Daniel, and Job, could not deliver a sinful people, nor yet their nearest relations, from the lifted stroke. Ezekiel 14:14. Truly Noah, though righteous, could not by his righteousness avert the waters of the flood. But the righteousness, the meritorious obedience unto the death of the cross of our adorable Redeemer, is of such infinite value, as to deliver from death an innumerable multitude of transgressors.

But let us chiefly consider that memorable part of Noah's history, his preparing an ark for the saving of his house; the antitype of which remarkable event, we are informed by St. Peter, is, "our being saved by baptism (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 3:21. The long-suffering of God was now tired out, and his Spirit ceased to strive with rebellious men, whom all means had proved ineffectual to reclaim. The time was come, when the threatened vengeance was to descend with resistless fury. Noah being long before warned of God, had prepared an ark against the approaching deluge: for he believed God; and being moved with reverential fear, he obeyed the commandment of the Lord. He despised the jeers of the unbelieving world; and considered not the huge difficulties he had to surmount, before he could get a vessel constructed, of such bulk as would contain in its capacious hold, all sorts of beasts and birds, together with their necessary provisions, for so long a time as he was to be there a prisoner. That God who commanded him, that God in whom he believed, and whom he feared, enabled him also both to begin and finish. The ship is built; the cargo is taken in; the flood comes; and the waters prevail above the tallest trees and loftiest mountains. The sinful race of men is buried in a watery grave. But the ark, the peculiar care of Heaven, though without helm or mast, rides triumphant over the foaming billows. At length a dove, fetching in her mouth an olive-leaf, informs the inhabitants of the ark, that the waters were abated. They are at last released from their tedious confinement. The venerable patriarch, overwhelmed with gratitude for such a wonderful preservation amidst the howling waste, sacrifices unto the Lord, who smells a savour of rest, and renews with him his gracious covenant, that he will no more curse the ground for man's sake. A glorious rainbow is seen over his head stamping the clouds, which from that time became a peaceful sign, that the waters shall never more cover the face of the earth; and that, though the waves should toss themselves against the sandy shores, they shall never prevail.—Who sees not in this whole transaction, a lively picture of the method of our salvation by Jesus Christ, from a far more dreadful flood, that shall, sooner or later, descend upon the head of every impenitent sinner? In Jesus Christ we have the antitype of Noah, both floating in the ark, standing at the altar, and compassed with the rainbow. Indeed he is at once the ark that saves us from the floods of divine wrath, the sacrifice that atones the incensed justice of God, and the rainbow which makes our clouds of every sort to wear sweet smiles. Though Noah's ark, and sacrifice, and rainbow, were things different from himself, and from one another, in Jesus Christ they are all conjoined.

What mortal wit could have contrived such an expedient as the ark of Noah, to save from an universal deluge? Noah was not the contriver of this project. It was wholly planned by God. Even so; if men and angels had tortured their invention to save a guilty world, they could never have so much as suggested that method which the wisdom of God has fallen upon in the mediation of Jesus Christ. It was no doubt very strange to see the wildest beasts and birds dwelling peaceably together under the same roof, in that time of common danger; but not more strange than what happens every time when sinners are converted to God, and enter into his sanctuary. For in Jesus Christ, the men of ravenous natures forget their natural ferocity, and put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercy, humbleness of mind, meekness, and long-suffering; and, to use the lofty stile of the prophet, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fat-ling together:—they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." Isaiah 6:9. Dreadful, to be sure, were the buffetings of the rolling surges on the sides of the ark, when heaven and earth seemed to conspire its ruin: but being protected by a superior Providence, the vessel, though heavy-laden, weathered the storm, preserved alive all the creatures that were within her, and at last rested upon the mountains of Ararat. So did the waves and billows of the Father's wrath go over thine head, O suffering Saviour! and the floods of ungodly men made thee afraid. Psalms 18:4. But thou wast more than a conqueror, and at last didst find thy rest on the mountains of eternal glory. "Thou art our hiding-place from the storm, and a covert from the tempest. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, the waters of God's wrath had swallowed us up quick: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; the proud waters had gone over our soul." Psalms 124:2; Psalms 124:8.—When we are told in the sacred history, that a dove alighted on the ark with the olive-leaf, what should hinder us to think of the holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, who alighted upon him in the waters of Jordan, in the likeness of that gentle bird? and who brings glad tidings of great joy to all the inhabitants of the ark, when he assures them, by the most incontestible proofs, that the winter of wrath is past, and the rain is over and gone? Song of Solomon 2:11.—The holy fire is now gone forth at the appointed season; and, beholding the dismal desolation, he offers an atoning sacrifice of every clean bird and beast; and the Lord smelled a savour of rest. This naturally leads us to think of him, who gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour. Ephesians 5:2. So well pleased is God with Jesus Christ, that with him he establishes his covenant, and with all his seed. Hear what himself declares by the mouth of his holy prophet Isaiah: "This is as the waters of Noah to me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah shall no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I will not be wroth with thee, O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted!" Isaiah 9:11. See how the frowning clouds now smile with the glorious colours of the rainbow, the cheerful token of God's covenant. Such is the glorious transformation of all your afflictions by Jesus Christ, O ye heirs of righteousness! They are clouds indeed, dark clouds; but so far from drowning, they shall even fructify your soul, and make you revive as the corn. What before was an indication of wrath, and a cause of fear, is now a token of love, and an encouragement of faith. A rainbow for ever encompasses the throne of your God. And though, like that mighty angel in the Revelation, ch. Genesis 10:1. he should be clothed with a cloud in the dispensations of his providence, his sunny face will produce a rainbow round about his head.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 9:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/genesis-9.html. 1801-1803.

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