An Exposition on the
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
First published in 1691, by Charles Doe.
An unfinished commentary on the Bible, found among John
Bunyan's papers after his death, in his own handwriting.
er. 1. "And God blessed Noah, and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth."
Noah having thus waded through these great temptations, and being made also to partake of the mercy of God, in preserving and saving him from the evil thereof, and being brought to partake of the beginning of a new world, while the ungodly that were before the flood were perished for their iniquity: he receiveth now from the mouth of the Lord, before whom he walked before the flood, laws and ordinances, as rules by which he should still govern his life before him. But mark, Before he receiveth these rules and commandments, he receiveth blessing from God; blessing, I say, as that which should yet fore-fit him to do his will.
"And God blessed Noah." Blessed him with spiritual and special grace; for without that, no man can walk, with God's acceptance before him. He blessed him with grace suitable to the work he was now to begin; to wit, for the replenishing and governing the new world God had brought him to: so that Noah did not without precedent qualifications take this work upon him. God also gave Caleb and Joshua another spirit, and then they followed him fully. That of David is for this remarkable, "Who am I, [said he] and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee." "O Lord our God, saith he, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name, cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own" (1 Chron 29:10-16). So is faith, love, strength, wisdom, sincerity, and all other good things wherewith and by which we walk with God, worship him, and do his will: all which is comprised in these words, "I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God; for they shall return unto me with their whole heart" (Jer 24:7). "A new heart also will I give them" (Eze 36:25-29). And again, "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me" (Jer 32:37-40).
"And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." After he had blessed him, then he tells him what they should do; namely, "Be fruitful, and multiply." This he spake with respect to the seed that he and his sons should beget, therewith to people the world; which was now the remaining part of his work, and he had three arguments to encourage him thereto. First, He was delivered from the wicked and sinners of the old world: 2. He was made the heir of a new world; and 3. Was to leave it as an heritage to his children.
This therefore should teach us, who are brought into the kingdom of Christ, that new world that hath taken its beginning in the word of the gospel, not to be idle, but to be fruitful, and to labour to fill the world with a spiritual seed to God: for as Noah, so are we made heirs of this blessed kingdom; and shall also, as that good man, leaven, when we sleep in Jesus, this spiritual seed to possess the kingdom after us.
Ver. 2. "And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered." These words seem to be a promise of what shall be a consequence of their putting into practice what was commanded in the verse before; namely, of their being fruitful, and of their "multiplying in the earth." Hence note, That the faithful observation of God's word, puts majesty, and dread, and terror upon them that do it: Therefore it is said, that when the church is "fair as the moon, and clear as the sun, she is terrible as an army with banners" (Cant 6:4,10). The presence of godly Samuel made the elders of Bethlehem tremble; yea, when Elisha was sought for by the king of Syria, he durst not engage him, but with chariots and horses, and an heavy host (2 Kings 6:13,14). Godliness is a wonderful thing, it commandeth reverence, and the stooping of the spirits, even of the world of ungodly ones (Acts 5:13).
"And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast." This is true in the letter; for because there is upon man, as man, more of the image and similitude of God, than there is upon other creatures; therefore the beasts, and all the creatures, are made to stoop and fall before them; yea, though in themselves they are mighty and fierce. Every kind [or, nature] of birds, and of serpents, and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind (James 3:7).
But to allegorize the word, for by the word, ungodly men are beasts; then, as I said before, godliness puts such a majesty and dread upon the professors of it, that their enemies are afraid of them; yea, even then when they rage against them, and lay heavy afflictions upon them. It is marvellous to see in what fear the ungodly are, even of godly men, and godliness; in that they stir up the mighty, make edicts against them; yea, and raise up armies, and what else can be imagined, to suppress them; while the persons thus opposed, if you consider them as to their state and capacity in this world; they are most inconsiderable; but as a dead dog, or a flea (1 Sam 24:14). O but they are clothed with godliness! The image and presence of God is upon them! This makes the beasts of this world afraid. One of you shall chase a thousand.
"Into your hands are they delivered." That is, the beasts, birds, and fish of the sea (as David saith) to be for the service of man. But again, This is also true in a higher nature; for taking these beasts, &c. for men, even they are delivered into the hand of the church, by whose doctrine, power and faith, they are smitten with severest judgments (2 Cor 2:15,16). Laying all that reject them even in the depth of death, and smiting them "with all plagues as often as they will" (Rev 11:6). The world is therefore in our hand, and disposed of by our doctrine, by our faith and prayers, although they think far otherwise, and shall one day feel their judgments are according.
Ver. 3. "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things."
From these words some would insinuate, that before the flood men lived only upon herbs, not eating flesh; as here they have authority granted to do: but, in mine opinion, such should be mistaken, for this reason, if there were no other: because they offered sacrifice before; sacrifices, I say, as types and representatives to the church, of the death and sufferings of Christ. Now, of such sacrifices the offerers used to eat, as is clear by the lamb of the passover, and many other offerings: so that these words seem to be but a renewing of their former privileges, not a granting new liberty to the world.
"Every moving thing." This must be taken with this restriction, That is wholesome and good for food: for by the law of nature, nothing of that is forbidden to man, though for some significations many such creatures were forbidden us to use for a time (Deu 14).
"Even as the green herb." For which they expressly had liberty granted them, in the first chapter of this book (v 29). And this liberty might afresh be here repeated, from some scruple that might arise in Noah, &c. He remembering that the world before might, for the abuse of the creatures of God, as well as for the abuse of his worship, be drowned with the flood; for sometimes the abuse of that which is lawful to one, may be a snare, abuse and stumbling to another (1 Cor 7:1; 8).
Ver. 4. "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof shall ye not eat."
This law seems to be ceremonial, although given long before Moses was; as also some sacrifices and circumcision were (John 7:22). Wherefore we must seek for the reason of this prohibition. "Whatsoever man [saith God] there be of the house of Israel, - that eateth any manner of blood, I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people." Why? "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood" (Lev 17:10-12). Again, As here the prohibition is only concerning blood; so in another place, the word is as well against our eating the fat; "It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations, throughout all your dwellings, that ye neither eat fat nor blood." And the reason rendered, is, For "all the fat is the LORD'S" (Lev 3:16,17).
So then the meaning, the spiritual meaning, seems to be this, That forasmuch as the blood is the life, and that which maketh the atonement; and the fat, the glory, and the Lord's; therefore they both were to be offered to the Lord. That is, we ought always to offer the merit of our salvation to God, by a continual acknowledgment, that it was through the blood of Christ; and we ought always to give him the glory thereof, and this is the fat of all our performances (Isa 25:6). Now this is so blessed a thing, and calleth for that grace, that every professor hath not, every one cannot ascribe to the blood of the Lamb, the whole of his reconciliation to God; nor offer up the fat, the glory, which is God's, to the Lord for so great a benefit: this is the benefit of a peculiar people, even of "the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, [or they that are justified, or just thereby; (For so Zadok signifies)] that kept the charge of my sanctuary, when the children of Israel went astray from me; they shall come near to me, to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God" (Eze 44:15).
Wherefore, for men to ascribe to their own works the merit of their salvation, or to take the glory thereof to themselves; it is as eating the blood and the fat themselves, and they shall be cut off from the people of God.
Ver. 5. "And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother, will I require the life of man."
These words are spoken to the church, which then resided in this family: Not but that God will avenge the blood that is wrongfully shed, though the person murdered be most carnal and irreligious. "A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person, shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him" (Pro 28:17).
But I say, these words respect the church in a more special and eminent way. "Surely [saith God] your blood of your lives will I require." Thus also David insinuates the thing: "when he maketh the inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: [the saints and godly in special,] he forgetteth not the cry of the humble," the afflicted (Psa 9:12).
"At the hand of every beast will I require it." The beasts are here also to be taken for men, to whom they are frequently likened in scripture; and that because they have cast off human affections; and, like savage creatures, make a prey of those that are better than themselves. Ignorance therefore or brutishness, O thou wicked man! will not excuse thee in the day of judgment; all the injuries that thou doest to the people of God, shall for certain be required of thee.
"At the hand of man will I require it." By man here, we may understand, such as have greater placed and shew of reason wherewith they manage their cruelty, than those that are as the natural beast: for all persecutors are not brutish alike; some are in words as smooth as oil; others can shew a semblance of reason of state, why they should see "the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes" (Amos 2:6). These act, to carnal reason, like men, as Saul against David, for the safety of his kingdom; but these must give an account of their cruelty, for blood is in their hands.
"At the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man." This word brother may reach to all the apostatized hypocrites that forsake or betray the godly, for brother shall betray the brother to death (Matt 10:21). Such are spoken of in Isaiah, "Your brethren that hated you, [saith God,] and that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed" (Isa 65:5). So that let them be as vile as the brute, or as reasonable in appearance as men, or as near in relation as a brother; neither their ignorance, nor their reason, nor their relation to the saints, shall secure them from the stroke of the judgment of God. Ver. 6. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."
In these words we have both a threatening and a command; and the same words carry both: "By man shall his blood be shed," there is the threatening; "By man shall his blood be shed," there is the command. For as they threaten, so they instruct us, that he is worthy of the loss of his own blood, that doth wickedly shed the blood of another (Matt 26:52; Rev 13:10). Blood for blood, equal measure: As he also saith elsewhere, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exo 21:24), wound for wound, burning for burning (Lev 24:20; Deu 19:21).
"For in the image of God made he man." This seems as the reason of this equal law; because no man can slay his neighbour, but he striketh at the image of God. It is counted a heinous crime for a man to run his sword at the picture of a king, how much more to shed the blood of the image of God? "He that mocketh, or oppresseth, the poor reproacheth his Maker; but he that honoureth him, hath mercy on the poor" (Pro 14:31; 17:5). And if so, how much more do they reproach, yea, despise and abhor their Maker, that slay and murder his image! But most of all those do prove themselves the enemies of God, that make the holiness, the goodness, the religion and sobriety that is found in the people of God, the object of their wrath and hellish cruelty. Hence murder is, in the New Testament, imputed to that man that hated holy and godly man: "He that hateth his brother, is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15).
Ver. 7l. "And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein." Thus he doubleth the blessing and command, of multiplying and increasing the church in the earth, for that is the delight of God, and of Christ.
Ver. 8, 9. "And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you."
God having thus blessed them, and given them laws and judgments to walk by, for the further confirmation of their hope in God, he propoundeth to them the immutability of his mind, by the establishing of his covenant with them; for a covenant is that, which not only concludeth the matter concerned between the persons themselves; but it provideth remedy against after temptations, and fears, and mistrusts, as to the faithful performance of that which is spoken of. As Laban said to Jacob, "Now therefore [said he] come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee" (Gen 31:44). Thus also the apostle insinuates; where making mention of the promise and oath of God, he saith, this promise and oath are both immutable, that "we might have a strong consolation, [or always ground for great rejoicing] who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Heb 6:18).
This covenant therefore, it was for the encouragement of Noah and his sons, that they might walk before God without fear. Yea, it was to maintain their hope in his promise of forgiveness, though they should find their after-performances mixed with infirmities; for so he had told them before, namely, "That he would not again destroy the earth for man's sake, albeit the imagination of man's heart be evil from his youth. I will establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you."
Ver. 10. "And with every living creature that is with you: of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth." These words respect the whole creation (see chapter 8); for all the things in the world, devils only excepted, have a benefit by this covenant of God. And hence it is, that not man only, but "every thing that hath breath," is commanded to "praise the Lord" (Psa 150:6): But observe it; as for the sin of man, they before were destroyed by the flood; so now by reason of the mercy of God to man, they are spared, and partake of mercy also. This is intimated by these words: "Every creature that is with you; every beast of the earth with you."
Ver. 11. "And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth."
This is the sum of the covenant, as it respecteth the letter, and the type, and the whole creation in general. But yet as to the spirit and gospel of it, the Holy Ghost must needs have a further reach, an intention of more glorious things, as may further be shewed anon.
"And I will establish my covenant with you." For you that are men, and especially the members of the church, have the most peculiar share therein.
"Neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood." For because of my covenant which I establish with you, I will spare them also, and give them the taste of my mercy and goodness.
"Neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth." This covenant therefore, is not of that nature as the covenant was which was made with Adam, to wit, a covenant of works, as the only conditions of life; for by that was the ground, for man's sin, accursed, accursed, and accursed again. But now the Lord goeth another way, the way of grace, and forgiveness of sins: Wherefore now, not the curse, but the mercy of God, comes in on the back and neck of sin, still sparing and forgiving man, the great transgressor, and the beast, &c. and the earth, for the sake of him.
Ver. 12, 13. "And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations. I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and all the earth."
So then, the way to find out the covenant, what that is, it is to see if we can find out this token of it; to wit, the BOW, of which the rainbow is but a type. I find then by the scriptures, where this BOW is mystically spoken of, that the Lord Jesus Christ himself is encompassed with the bow. The first is this:
"And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness, as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw, as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness
round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD" (Eze 1:26-28), the man, the Lord's Christ, &c.
The second scripture is this. "I was in the Spirit: and, behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald" (Rev 4:2,3). In these two texts there is mention of the rainbow, that was, not to be the covenant, but the token or sign thereof. Now then the covenant itself must needs be the man that was set in the midst of the bow upon the throne; for so he saith by the prophet, "I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people" (Isa 42:6). The covenant therefore is Jesus Christ the Saviour, whom the bow in the clouds was a sign or a token of. So then the sum of the text is this, That God, for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ, will not again all the days of the earth, bring an universal judgment upon the creature, as in the days of Noah, and of the old world he did; for Christ by the worth of his blood and righteousness hath pacified the justice of the law for sin. So then the whole universe standeth not upon a bottom of its own, but by the word and power of Christ (Heb 1:2,3). "The earth [said he] and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it" (Psa 75:3).
Quest. But how must Christ be reckoned of God, when he maketh him the poize against all the sin of the world.
The prophet tells us thus: He shall be the covenant of the people, or he shall be accounted the conditions and worth of the world; He shall be the covenant, or works, or righteousness of the people; for, He as the high-priest under the law, is set for the people to Godward; that is, he standeth always in the presence of God, as the complete obedience of the people. So then, so long as the Lord Christ bears up his mediatorship, God in justice will neither destroy the world, nor the things that are therein.
In this covenant therefore, the justice as well as the mercy of God is displayed in its perfection, inasmuch as without the perfection of the mediator Christ, the world could not be saved from judgment.
Ver. 14. "And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud."
By these words the Lord looks back to the flood that before had drowned the earth; for in these clouds there was no bow, no token of Christ, or of the mercy of God. But now, saith God, I will do far otherwise; from henceforth when I bring a cloud, and there be showers of rain on the earth, these clouds shall not be as the other. But "my bow shall be therein."
The cloud then that here is spoken of, must be understood of the judgment of God for sin, like those before, and at the overthrow of the world; only with this difference, they were clouds, judgments without mercy, but these judgments mixed therewith; and often the clouds are thus to be understood. Job when he curseth his day, saith, "Let a cloud dwell upon it" (3:5). So the judgments of God upon Zion, are called the covering of a cloud (Lam 2:1). So in Joel also, to the darkness of clouds, are the judgments of the church compared (2:2); yea, that pillar that went before the children of Israel, it being a judgment to the people of Egypt, goes under this epithet, as a term most fit to express this judgment by, "it was a cloud and darkness to them" (Exo 14:20).
And now to the cloud in hand, the cloud in which is the bow, the cloud of rain, although by the mercy and grace of God it is so great a blessing as it is, yet it sometimes becomes a judgment, it comes for correction, as a rod to afflict the inhabitants of the world withal (Job 37:13). Thus it was in the days of Ezra, and very often both before and since (10:12-14).
"The bow shall be seen in the cloud." This is the mercy of God to the world, and that by which it hath been hitherto preserved; "The bow shall be seen in the cloud." You know I told you of the bow before, that it was a sign or token of the covenant of God with the world, and that the covenant itself was Christ, as given of God unto us, with all his good conditions, merit, and worth. So then, in that, God "set this bow in the cloud," and especially in the clouds that he sends for judgment, he would have the world remember, that there comes no judgment as yet on the world, but it is mixed with, or poized by the mercy of God in Christ.
"The bow shall be seen in the cloud." This may respect God, or the world, that is, the seeing of the bow in the cloud; if it respect God, then it tells us he in judgment will remember mercy; if it respect the world, then it admonisheth us not to despond, or sink in despair under the greatest judgment of God, for the bow, the token of his covenant, is seen in the judgments that he executeth.
When the vision of the ruin of Jerusalem was revealed to the prophet Ezekiel, he saw that yet Christ sat under the bow (1:28).
When antichrist was to come against the saints of God, the commission came from Christ, as he sat "under the bow" (Rev 4:3). This John did see and relate, of which we should take special notice: for by this token God would have us to know that these clouds, though they come for correction, yet not to destroy the church. My bow shall be seen in the cloud.
Ver. 15. "And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you, and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh."
"And I will remember my covenant." Much like this is that of the Lord to Israel, when they are under all, or any of those forty judgments mentioned (Lev 26). If they shall confess their iniquity, [saith he,] and the iniquity of their fathers, &c., "Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land" (Lev 26:40-42). His usual way in other sayings is, to begin with Abraham, but here he ends with him; and the reason is, because there, as it were, the great promise of the Messiah to that people began, "Saying, in thy seed shall all nations be blessed."
"And I will remember my covenant which is between me and you." We read not here of any compact or agreement between Noah and God Almighty; wherefore such conditions and compacts could not be the terms between him and us. What then? why that covenant that he calls his, which is his gift to us, "I will give thee for a covenant," this is the covenant which is between God and us: "There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." This then is the reason why all the waters, why all the judgments of God, and why all the sins that have provoked those judgments, cannot become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Ver. 16. "And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth."
"And the bow shall be in the cloud." this is a kind of a repetition; for this he had told us before, saying, "I do set my bow in the cloud," and "the bow shall be seen in the cloud": which repetition is very needful, for it is hard for us to believe that Christ and grace are wrapped up in the judgments of God (1 Peter 1:12). Wherefore it had need be attested twice and thrice. "To write the same things to you," saith Paul, "to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe"(Phil 3:1).
"And I will look upon." A familiar expression, and suited to our capacity, and spoken to prevent a further ground of mistrust; much like to that of God, when he was to send the plague upon Egypt:
"The blood, saith God, [of the Lamb,] shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you, to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt" (Exo 12:13).
"And I will look upon it that I may remember." Not that God is forgetful, "He is ever mindful of his covenant." But such expressions are used to shew and persuade us that the whole heart and delight of God is in it. "That I may remember the everlasting covenant." This word covenant is also the sixth repetition thereof; my covenant, the covenant, a covenant, and the everlasting covenant. O how fain would God beat it into the heads of the world, that he hath for men a covenant of grace.
"The everlasting covenant." Because the parties on both sides are faithful, perfect, and true; the Father being the one, and the Son of his love the other; for this covenant, as I said before, is not a compact and agreement betwixt God and the world, but his Son, as his gift to men, is set for them to Godward (Zech 9:11). So that what conditions there are, they are perfectly found in Christ, by whose blood the covenant is sealed and established, and indeed becomes everlasting, hence it is called "the blood of the everlasting covenant" (Heb 13:20). And again, the New Testament is said to be in this blood. Besides, the promises are all in Christ, I mean the promises of this covenant; in him they are yea, and in him amen, to the glory of God the Father: now they being all in him, and yea and amen no where else, the covenant itself must needs be of pure grace and mercy, and the bow in the cloud, not qualifications in us, [but] the proper token of this covenant.
Ver. 17. "And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth."
Behold a repetition of all things that were essential either to the covenant itself, or to our faith therein, the making of the covenant, the looking on the covenant, and the token of the covenant; how often are they mentioned, that we might be more fully convinced of the unchangeable nature of it. As Joseph said unto Pharaoh, "For that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice, it is because the thing is established by God" (Gen 41:32).
"And God said unto Noah." Where God loveth, he delighteth to apply himself to such, in a more than general way; he singleth out the person, Noah, Abraham, and the like. "I know thee by name," saith he to Moses, and "thou hast found grace in my sight."
"This is the token of the covenant." It still wants beating into people's heads, where they should look for the covenant itself, to wit, the throne which the rainbow compasseth round about; for that is the token of the presence of the Messias, and thither we are to look for salvation from all plagues, and from all the judgments that are due to sin: The Lord for Christ's sake forgave you, this is the token of the covenant.
"Of the covenant which I have established."
This word "I," as also hinted before, doth intimate that this covenant is the covenant of grace and mercy, for a covenant of works cannot be established; that is, settled between God and men, before both parties have either by sureties, or performance ratified and confirmed the same. Indeed it may be so established, as that God will appoint no other; but to be so established, as to give us the fruits thereof, that must be the effects of his being well pleased with the conditions of those concerned in the making thereof. But that is not the world, but the Son of God, and therefore it is called his covenant, and he "as given to us of God," is so reckoned our condition and worth (Zech 9:11).
"Which I have established." To wit, upon better promises than duties purely commanded, or than the obedience of all the angels in heaven. I have established it in the truth and faithfulness, in the merit and worth of the blood of my Son, of whom the rainbow that you see in the cloud is a token.
Ver. 18. "And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan."
By these words Moses is returned again to the history of Noah. "And the sons of Noah that went forth of the ark." If these words, "that went forth of the ark," bear the emphasis of this part of the verse, then it may seem that Noah had more children than these; but they were not accounted of; for they being ungodly, as the rest of the world, they perished with them in their ungodliness. These only went in, and came out of the ark with him; to wit,
"Shem, and Ham, and Japheth." The names thus placed are not according to their birth; for Japheth was the elder, Ham the younger, and Shem the middlemost of the two.
Shem therefore takes the place, because of his eminency in godliness (9:24); also, because from him went the line up to Christ (10:2). For which cause also the family of the sons of Judah, though he was but the fourth son of Israel, was reckoned before the family of Reuben, Jacob's first born; or before the rest of the sons of his brethren (1 Chron 2:3). Sometimes persons take their place in genealogy, from the fore-sight of the mightiness of their offspring. Thus was Ephraim placed before Manasseh; for "truly [said Jacob] his younger brother shall be greater than he" (Gen 43:17-20). And he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
Ham is the next in order; not for the sake of his birthright, or because he was much, if anything, now for godliness; but for that he was the next to be eminent in his offspring, for opposing and fighting against the same.
Shem and Ham therefore the two heads, or chief, from whence sprang good and evil men, by way of eminency. "Ham is the father of Canaan," or of the Canaanites, the people of God's curse, whom the sons of Shem who afterwards sprang from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were to cut off from the earth, for their most high abominations.
Japheth comes in, in the first place, as one that at present was least concerned either in the mercy or displeasure of God; being neither, in his offspring, to be devoutly religious, nor yet incorrigibly wicked, though afterwards he was to be persuaded to dwell in the tents of Shem.
Ver. 19. "These are the three sons of Noah; and of them was the whole earth overspread."
Thus though Noah's beginning was small, his latter end did greatly increase.
Ver. 20, 21. "And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:—And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent."
This is the blot in this good man's scutcheon; and a strange blot it is, that such an one as Noah should be thus overtaken with evil! One would have thought that Moses should now have began with a relation of some eminent virtues, and honourable actions of Noah, since now he was saved from the death that overtook the whole world, and was delivered, both he and his children, to possess the whole earth himself. Indeed, he stepped from the earth to the altar; as Israel of old did sing on the shore of the red Sea: But, as they, he soon forgat; he rendered evil to God for good.
Neither is Noah alone in this matter: Lot also being delivered from that fire from heaven that burnt up Sodom and Gomorrah, falls soon after into lewdness with the children of his body, and begetteth his own two daughters with child (Gen 19:30-36).
Gideon also, after he was delivered out of the hands of his enemies, took that very gold which God had given him, as the spoil of them that hated him, and made himself idols therewith (Judg 8:24-27). What shall I say of David? and of Solomon also, who after he had been twenty years at work for the service of the true God, both in building and preparing for his worship, and in writing of Proverbs by divine inspiration; did, after this, make temples for idols; yea, almost for the gods of all countries? Yea, he did it when he was old, when he should have been preparing for his grave, and for eternity. "It came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods:—For Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians; and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites.—He did also build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem; and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods" (1 Kings 11:4-8).
All these sins were sins against mercies; yea, and doubtless against covenants, and the most solemn resolutions to the contrary. For who can imagine, but that when Noah was tossed with the flood, and Lot within the scent and smell of the fire and brimstone that burnt down Sodom, with his sons, and his daughters; and Gideon, when so fiercely engaged with so great an enemy, and delivered by so strange a hand; should in the most solemn manner both promise and vow to God. But behold! now they in truth are delivered and saved, they recompense all with sin. Lord, what is man! "How - abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water" (Job 15:16). Let these things learn us to cease from man, "whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isa 2:22). Indeed, it is a vain thing to build our faith upon the most godly man in the world, because he is subject to err; yea, far better than He, was so.
If Noah, and Lot, and Gideon,and David, and Solomon, who wanted not matter from arguments, and that of the strongest kind; as arguments that are drawn from mercy and goodness be, to engage to holiness, and the fear of God; yet after all, did so foully fall, as we see: let us admire grace, that any stand; let the strongest fear, lest he fearfully fall; and let no man but Jesus Christ himself be the absolute platform and pattern of faith and holiness. As the prophet saith, "Let us cease from man." But to return:
"And Noah began to be an husbandman." This trade he took up for want of better employment; or rather, in mine opinion, from some liberty he took to himself, to be remiss in his care and work, as a preacher. For seeing the church was now at rest, and having the world before them, they still retaining outward sobriety, poor Noah, good man, now might think with himself, "I need not now be so diligent, watchful and painful in my ministry as formerly; the church is but small, without opposition, and also well settled in the truth; I may now take to myself a little time to tamper with worldly things." So he makes an essay upon husbandry. "He began to be an husbandman." Ha, Noah! it was better with thee when thou wast better employed! Yea, it was better with thee, when a world of ungodly men set themselves against thee! Yea, when every day thy life was in danger to be destroyed by the giants, against whom thou wast a preacher above a hundred years! For then thou didst walk with God; Then thou wast better than all the world; but now thou art in the relapse!
Hence note, That though the days of affliction, of temptation and distress, are harsh to flesh and blood; yet they are not half so dangerous as are the days of peace and liberty. Wherefore Moses pre-admonished Israel, That when they had received the land of Canaan, and had herds, and silver and gold in abundance, that then their heart be not lifted up to forget the Lord their God. Jesurun kicked when he was fat. O! When provender pricks us, we are apt to be as the horse or mule, that is without understanding (Deu 8:10-15).
"He planted a vineyard: and he drank of the wine, and was drunken." Although in the course of godliness, many men have but a speculative knowledge of things; yet it is not so in the ways of this world and sin, the practical part of these things are lived in by all the world. They are sinners indeed, "He drank of the wine."
"He drank of the wine, and was drunken." The Holy Ghost, when it hath to do with sin, it loveth to give it its own name: drunkenness must be drunkenness, murder must be murder, and adultery must bear its own name. Nay, it is neither the goodness of the man, nor his being in favour with God, that will cause him to lessen or mince his sin. Noah was drunken; Lot lay with his daughters; David killed Uriah; Peter cursed and swore in the garden, and also dissembled at Antioch. But this is not recorded, to the intent that the name of these godly should rot or stink: but to shew, that the best men are nothing without grace; and, "that he that standeth, should not be high minded, but fear." Yea, they are also recorded, for the support of the tempted, who when they are fallen, are oft raised up by considering the infirmities of others. "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience, and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Rom 15:4).
"And he was uncovered within his tent." That is, he lay like a drunken man, that regarded not who saw his shame. Hence note, how beastly a sin drunkenness is; it bereaveth a man of consideration, and civil behaviour; it makes him as brutish and shameless as a beast; yea, it discovereth his nakedness to all that behold.
"And he was uncovered." That is, lay naked, Behold ye now, that a little of the fruit of the vine, lays gravity, grey hairs, and a man that for hundreds of years was a lover of faith, holiness, goodness, sobriety, and all righteousness; shamelessly, as the object to the eye of the wicked, with his nakedness in his tent.
"He was uncovered within his tent." The best place of retirement he had, but it could not hide him from the eye of the ungodly; it is not therefore thy secret chamber, nor thy lurking in holes, that will hide thee from the eye of the reproacher: nothing can do this but righteousness, goodness, sobriety and faithfulness to God; this will hide thee; these are the garments, which, if they be on thee, will keep thee, that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear (Rev 16:15).
Ver. 22. "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without."
Ham was the unsanctified one, the father of the children of the curse of God. He saw the nakedness of his father, and he blazed abroad the matter. Hence note, That the wicked and ungodly man, is he that doth watch for the infirmities of the godly: as David says, They watched for my halting. Indeed, they know not else how to justify their own ungodliness; but this, instead of excusing them of their wickedness, doth but justify the word against them; for by this they prove themselves graceless, and men that watch for iniquity. "Let them not say in their hears [said David] Ah! so would we have it" (Psa 35:25). Ammon said, "Aha! against the sanctuary when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel when it was desolate, and against the house of Judah when it went into captivity" (Eze 25:3). The enmity that is in the hearts of ungodly men, will not suffer them to do otherwise; when they see evil befall the saint, they rejoice and skip for joy (Eze 26:2; 36:2).
"He saw the nakedness of his father." Hence note, That saints can rarely slip, but the eyes of the Canaanites will see them. This should make us walk in the world with jealous eyes, with eyes that look round about, not only to what we are and do, but also, how what we do is resented in the world (Gen 13:7). Abraham was good at this, and so was Isaac and Jacob (34:30); for they tendered more the honour and glory of God, than they minded their own concerns.
"He saw the nakedness of his father." Who was the nearest and dearest relation he had in the world; yet neither relation nor kin, nor all the good that his father had done him, could keep his polluted lips from declaring his father's follies, but out they must go; the sin of his own defiled heart must take place of the fifth commandment, and must rather solace itself in rejoicing in his father's iniquity, than in covering his father's nakedness. Wicked men regard not kindred; and no marvel, for they love not godliness. He that loveth not God, loveth not his brother, or father: nay, he "wrongeth his own soul" (Pro 8:36).
"And told his two brethren without." He told them, that is, mockingly, reflecting not only upon Noah but also upon his brethren; to all of whom himself was far inferior, both as to grace and humanity.
Ver. 23. "And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness."
Shem and Japheth did it: This is recorded for the renown of these, as the action of Ham is for his perpetual infamy.
They "took a garment, and went backward, and covered their father, and saw not his nakedness." Love will attempt to do that with difficulty, that it cannot accomplish otherwise. I think it might be from this action, that the wise man gathereth his proverb from. "Hatred stirreth up strifes; but love covereth all sins" (Pro 10:12). Indeed, Ham would fain have made variance between his father and his brethren, by presenting the folly of the one, to the shame and provocation of the other. But Shem, and his brother Japheth, they took the course to prevent it; they covered their father's nakedness.
Ver. 24. "And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him."
By these words more is implied than expressed; for this awaking of Noah, not only informeth us of natural awaking from sleep, but of his spiritual awaking from his sin. He awoke from his wine. As "Ely said to Hannah, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee" (1 Sam 1:14). By which words he exhorteth to repentance. It is said of Nabal, That his wine went from him, as many men's sins forsake them, because they are decayed, and want strength and opportunity to perform them. Now this may be done, where the heart remaineth yet unsanctified: but Noah awoke from his wine, put it away, or, repented him of the evil of his doing. "A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief" (Pro 24:16). Wherefore they have cause to say to all the Hams in the world, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise" (Micah 7:8); but your fall, is a fall into mischief.
"He knew what his younger son had done unto him." Whether this was by revelation from heaven, or through the information of Japheth and Shem, I determine not; but so it was, that the good man had understanding thereof: which might be requisite upon a double account; not only that he might now be ashamed thereof; but take notice, that he had caused the enemies of God to reproach; for this sinks deep into a good man's heart, and afflicteth him so much the more.
Ver. 25. "And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren."
By these words one would think that Canaan, the grand-child of Noah, was the first that discovered his nakedness; but of this I am uncertain: I rather think that Noah, in a spirit of prophecy, determined the destruction of Ham's posterity, from the prodigiousness of his wicked action, and of his name, which signifieth indignation, or heat; for names of old were ofttimes given according to the nature and destiny of the persons concerned. "Is not he rightly called Jacob?" (Gen 27:36). And again, "As his name is, so is he" (1 Sam 25:25). Besides, by this act did Ham declare himself void of the grace of God; for he that rejoiceth in iniquity, or that maketh a mock, as being secretly pleased with or at the infirmities of the godly, he is declared already, by the Spirit of God, to be nothing (1 Cor 13).
"A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." This was accomplished when Israel took the land of Canaan, and made the offspring of this same Ham, even so many as escaped the edge of the sword, to be captives and bondsmen, and tributers unto them.
Hence note, that the censures of good men are dreadful, and not lightly to be passed over, whether they prophesy of evil or good; because they speak in judgment, and according to the tenor of the word of God.
Ver. 26. "And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant."
Shem seems by this to be the first in that action of love to his father: and that Japheth did help through his persuasion; for Shem is blessed in a special manner, and Canaan is made his servant.
Hence note, That forwardness in things that are good, is a blessed sign that the Lord is our God: Blessed be the Lord God of Shem. It is said of Hananiah, That "he was a faithful man, and feared God above many" (Neh 7:2). Now such men are provocations to good, as I doubt not but Shem's was to Japheth: As Paul saith of some, "Your zeal hath provoked very many" (2 Cor 9:2).
Ver. 27. "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem."
In the margin, it is "God shall persuade": And it looks like a confirmation of what I said before, and is a prophecy of that requital of love that God should one day give his posterity, for his kindness to Noah his father. As if Noah had said, "Well, Japheth, thou wast soon persuaded by Shem to shew kindness to me thy father, and the Lord shall hereafter persuade thy posterity to trust in the God of Shem."
"God shall enlarge." This may respect liberty of soul, or how great the church of the Gentiles should be; for Japheth was the father of the Gentiles (Gen 10:5).
If it respect the fist, then it shows that sin is as fetters and chains that holds souls in captivity and thraldom. And hence, when Christ doth come in the gospel, it is "to preach deliverance to the captives, - and to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18).
"God shall persuade." That is, God shall enlarge him by persuasion; for the gospel knows no other compulsion, but to force by argumentation. Them therefore that God brings into the tents, or churches of Christ, they by the gospel are enlarged form the bondage and thraldom of the devil, and persuaded also to embrace his grace to salvation.
Ver. 28. "And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years."
He lived therefore to see Abraham fifty and eight years old: He lived also to see the foundation of Babel laid; nay, the top stone thereof: and also the confusion of tongues. He lived to see of the fruit of his loins, mighty kings and princes. But in all this time he lived not to do one work that the Holy Ghost thought worthy to record for the savour of his name, or the edification and benefit of his church, save only, That he died at nine hundred and fifty years; so great a breach did this drunkenness make upon his spirit.
Ver. 29. "So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died."