Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
gen 9:1And God blessed Noah and his sons - He assured them of his good - will to them, and his gracious intentions concerning them. The first blessing is here renewed, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and repeated, Gen 9:7; for the race of mankind was as it were to begin again. By virtue of this blessing mankind was to be both multiplied and perpetuated upon earth; so that in a little time all the habitable parts of the earth should be more or less inhabited; and tho' one generation should pass away, yet another generation should come, so that the stream of the human race should be supplied with a constant succession, and run parallel with the current of time, 'till both be swallowed up in the ocean of eternity.
gen 9:2He grants them power over the inferior creatures. 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, Gen 1:28, only with this difference, that man in innocency ruled by love, fallen man rules by fear. 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. 2. Those creatures that are any way hurtful to us are restrained; so that tho' now and then man may be hurt by some of them, yet they do not combine together to rise up in rebellion against man.
gen 9:3Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you - Hitherto man had been confined to feed only upon the products of the earth, fruits, herbs and roots, and all sorts of corn and milk; so was the first grant, Gen 1:29. But the flood having perhaps washed away much of the virtue of the earth, and so rendered its fruits less pleasing, and less nourishing, God now enlarged the grant, and allowed man to eat flesh, which perhaps man himself never thought of 'till now. The precepts and provisos of this charter 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 flesh with the life. These the Jews required the observation of, from the proselytes of the gate. But the precepts here given, all concern the life of man. Man must not prejudice his own life by eating that food which is unwholsome, and prejudicial to his health.
gen 9:4But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat - Blood made atonement for the soul, Lev 17:11. 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, Sa2 23:16. Mr. Henry indeed has a strange conceit, That this is only a prohibition to eat flesh. This does such apparent violence to the text, that to mention it, is sufficient.
gen 9:5And surely your blood of your lives will I require - Our own lives are not so our own, that we may quit them at our own pleasure; but they are God's, and we must resign them at his pleasure. If we any way hasten our own deaths, we are accountable to God for it. Yea, At the hand of every beast will I require it - To shew how tender God was of the life of man, he will have the beast put to death that kills a man. This was confirmed by the law of Moses, Exo 21:28, and it would not be unsafe to observe it still. And at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of a man - I will avenge the blood of the murdered upon the murderer. When God requires the life of a man at the hand of him that took it away unjustly, he cannot render that, and therefore must render his own in lieu of it, which is the only way left of making restitution.
gen 9:6Whoso sheddeth man's blood - Whether upon a sudden provocation, or premeditated, (for rash anger is heart - murder as well as malice prepense, Mat 5:21-22), by man shall his blood be shed - That is, by the magistrate, or whoever is appointed to be the avenger of blood. Before the flood, as it should seem by the story of Cain, God took the punishment of murder into his own hands; but now he committed this judgment to men, to masters of families at first, and afterwards to the heads of countries. For in the image of God made he man - Man is a creature dear to his Creator, and therefore ought to be so to us; God put honour upon him, let us not then put contempt upon him. Such remains of God's image are still even upon fallen man, that he who unjustly kills a man, defaceth the image of God, and doth dishonour to him.
gen 9:9We have here the general establishment of God's covenant with this new world, and the extent of that covenant.
gen 9:11There shall not any more be a flood - God had drowned the world once, and still it is as provoking as ever; yet he will never drown it any more, for he deals not with us according to our sins. This promise of God keeps the sea and clouds in their decreed place, and sets them gates and bars, Hitherto they shall come, Job 38:10-11. If the sea should flow but for a few days, as it doth twice every day for a few hours, what desolations would it make? So would the clouds, if such showers as we have sometimes seen, were continued long. But God by flowing seas, and sweeping rains, shews what he could do in wrath; and yet by preserving the earth from being deluged between both, shews what he can do in mercy, and will do in truth.
gen 9:13I set my bow in the clouds - The rainbow, 'tis likely was seen in the clouds before, but was never a seal of the covenant 'till now. Now, concerning this seal of the covenant, observe, This seal is affixed with repeated assurances of the truth of that promise, which it was designed to be the ratification of; I do set my bow in the cloud, Gen 9:13. It shall be seen in the cloud, Gen 9:14. and it shall be a token of the covenant, Gen 9:12-13. And I will remember my covenant, that the waters shall no more become a flood, Gen 9:15. Nay, as if the eternal Mind needed a memorandum, I will look upon it that I may remember the everlasting covenant, Gen 9:16. The rainbow appears when the clouds are most disposed to wet; when we have most reason to fear the rain prevailing, God shews this seal of the promise that it shall not prevail. The rainbow appears when one part of the sky is clear, which imitates mercy remembered in the midst of wrath, and the clouds are hemmed as it were with the rainbow, that it may not overspread the heavens, for the bow is coloured rain, or the edges of a cloud gilded. As God looks upon the bow that he may remember the covenant, so should we, that we also may be ever mindful of the covenant with faith and thankfulness.
gen 9:20And Noah began to be an husbandman - Heb. a man of the earth, a man dealing in the earth, that kept ground in his hand and occupied it. Sometime after his departure out of the ark he returned to his old employment, from which he had been diverted by the building of the ark first, and probably after by the building an house for himself and family. And he planted a vineyard - And when he had gathered his vintage, probably he appointed a day of mirth and feasting in his family, and had his sons and their children with him, to rejoice with him in the increase of his house, as well as in the increase of his vineyard; and we may suppose he prefaced his feast with a sacrifice to the honour of God. If that was omitted, 'twas just with God to leave him to himself, to end with the beasts that did not begin with God: but we charitably hope he did. And perhaps he appointed this feast with design in the close of it to bless his sons, as Isaac, Gen 27:3-4. That I may eat, and that my soul may bless thee.
gen 9:21And he drank of the wine and was drunk - 'Tis highly probable, he did not know the effect of it before. And he was uncovered in his tent - Made naked to his shame.
gen 9:22And Ham saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren - To have seen it accidentally and involuntarily would not have been a crime. But he pleased himself with the sight. And he told his two brethren without - In the street, as the word is, in a scornful deriding manner.
gen 9:23And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father - They not only would not see it themselves, but provided that no one else might see it; herein setting an example of charity, with reference to other men's sin and shame.
gen 9:25A servant of servants - That is, the meanest and most despicable servant shall he be, even to his brethren. Those who by birth were his equals, should by conquest be his lords. This certainly points at the victories obtained by Israel over the Canaanites, by which they were all either put to the sword, or put under tribute. Jos 9:23; Jdg 1:28, Jdg 1:30, Jdg 1:33, Jdg 1:35, which happened not 'till about eight hundred years after this. God often visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, especially when the children inherit the fathers wicked dispositions, and imitate the father's wicked practices.
gen 9:26The God of Shem - All blessings are included in this. This was the blessing conferred on Abraham and his seed, the God of heaven was not ashamed to be called their God, Heb 11:16. Shem is sufficiently recompensed for his respect to his father by this, that the Lord himself puts this honour upon him to be his God; which is a sufficient recompense for all our services and all our sufferings for his name.
gen 9:27God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem - His seed shall be so numerous and so victorious, that they shall be masters of the tents of Shem, which was fulfilled when the people of the Jews, the most eminent of Shem's race, were tributaries to the Grecians first, and after to the Romans, both of Japhet's seed. This also speaks the conversion of the Gentiles, and the bringing of them into the church; and then we should read it, God shall persuade Japheth; (for so the word signifies) and being so persuaded, he shall dwell in the tents of Shem - That is, Jews and Gentiles shall be united together in the gospel - fold: after many of the Gentiles shall have been proselyted to the Jewish religion, both shall be one in Christ, Eph 2:14-15. When Japheth joins with Shem, Canaan falls before them both: when strangers become friends, enemies become servants.