on Genesis 9 :26
on Genesis 9 :26
And he said. - The prediction concerning the other two brothers is a distinct utterance of Noah. "Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem." The characteristic boon of Shem is that Yahweh, the one true, living, known God, is his God. The knowledge and worship of the Creator is preserved in the family of Shem, when it is lost or fatally obscured among the other descendants of Noah. The prophet is so conscious of the unspeakable blessing of knowing and loving the true God, that he breaks out into thanksgiving in the very act of announcing the transcendent privilege of Shem. There is a dark side, however, to this prophetic thought, as it implies that the two other families of mankind, at least for part of the period under the prophet's view, were estranged from the true and living God. History corroborates both aspects of this prophetic sentence for the space of two thousand four hundred years. During the most part of this long period the Holy Yahweh Omnipotent was unknown to the great mass of the Japhethites, Hamites, and even Shemites. And it was only by the special election and consecration of an individual Shemite to be the head of a special people, and the father of the faithful, that he did not cease to be the God of even a remnant of Shem.
Then follows the refrain, "And Kenaan shall be servant unto them." The phrase "unto them" proves that Shem here comprehends the race descended from him, and consisting of many individuals. Scripture sees the race in the father, traces up its unity to him, discerns in him the leading traits of character that often mark his remotest posterity, and identifies with him in destiny all those of his race who continue to take after him. Thus, Adam denotes the whole race, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, its three great branches. Attention to this law of the unity, continuity, and identity of a race, will aid us much in understanding the dealings of Providence with the several branches of the human family. We learn also from the same phrase that this solemn sentence is no mere ebullition of the personal feelings of Noah. He is not speaking of Shem and Kenaan merely, but of the future races that are to spring from them. This appears still more plainly from the fact that Japheth, as well as Ham, is described as long estranged from the true God. And now that we are on spiritual ground, it ought to be observed that Kenaan's curse is not exclusion, either present or prospective, from the mercy of God. That is an evil he brings on himself by a voluntary departure from the living God. The curse merely affects the body - the personal liberty. It is a mere degradation from some of the natural rights of our common humanity; and does not of itself cut him off from any offer of mercy, or benefit of repentant faith.
God shall enlarge Japheth. - God is here spoken of by his generic name. This intimates, or at least coincides, with the fact that Japheth did not continue that nearness of approach to him which is implied in the use of the personal name. There is in the original a play upon the word "Japheth", which itself signifies enlargement. This enlargement is the most striking point in the history of Japheth, who is the progenitor of the inhabitants of Europe, Asia, and America, except the region between the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, the Euxine, the Caspian, and the mountains beyond the Tigris, which was the main seat of the Shemites. This expansive power refers not only to the territory and the multitude of the Japhethites, but also to their intellectual and active faculties. The metaphysics of the Hindus, the philosophy of the Greeks, the military prowess of the Romans, and the modern science and civilization of the world, are due to the race of Japheth. And though the moral and the spiritual were first developed among the Shemites, yet the Japhethites have proved themselves capable of rising to the heights of these lofty themes, and have elaborated that noble form of human speech, which was adopted, in the providence of God, as best suited to convey to mankind that further development of Old Testament truth which is furnished in the New.
And he shall dwell in the tents of Shem. - We regard Japheth as the subject of this sentence; because, if God were its subject, the meaning would be substantially the same as the blessing of Shem, already given, and because this would intermingle the blessing of Shem with that of Japheth, without any important addition to our information. Whereas, when Japheth is the subject of the sentence, we learn that he shall dwell in the tents of Shem - an altogether new proposition. This form of expression does not indicate a direct invasion and conquest of the land of Shem, which would not be in keeping with the blessing pronounced on him in the previous sentence: it rather implies that this dwelling together would be a benefit to Japheth, and no injury to Shem. Accordingly, we find that when the Persians conquered the Babylonian empire, they restored the Jews to their native land; when Alexander the Great conquered the Persians, he gave protection to the Jews; and when the Romans subdued the Greek monarchy, they befriended the chosen nation, and allowed them a large measure of self-government. In their time came the Messiah, and instituted that new form of the church of the Old Testament which not only retained the best part of the ancient people of God, but extended itself over the whole of Europe, the chief seat of Japheth; went with him wherever he went; and is at this day, through the blessing of God on his political and moral influence, penetrating into the moral darkness of Ham, as well as the remainder of Shem and Japheth himself. Thus, in the highest of all senses, Japheth is dwelling in the tents of Shem.
Again comes the refrain, "And Keenan shall be servant unto them." A portion of Japheth still holds a portion of Ham in bondage. But this very bondage has been the means of bringing some of the sons of Ham to dwell in the tents of Shem; and the day is not far distant when Japheth will relinquish altogether the compulsory hold upon his brother, and consecrate his entire moral influence over him to the revival in his race of the knowledge and love of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus, it appears that the destiny of these three great branches of the Noachic family, during the time of their separation on the high question of their relation to God, is traced out with great fidelity in this remarkable prediction. Ham is aptly represented by Kenaan, the slave, who is seized, enslaved, and sold even by his kinsmen to one another, and to the descendants of Shem and Japheth. Shem includes within his posterity the select family who know God as the Lord, the God of promise, of mercy, of salvation. Japheth is enlarged by God, and at length becomes acquainted with him whom he once ignorantly worshipped. The historian recognizes these as salient points in the experience of the three races, so long as they continue apart. The time is approaching when this strange intermediate development will come to a happy issue, in the reunion of all the members of the human family, according to clearer and further-reaching prophecies yet to be delivered.
on Genesis 9 :26
9:26 The 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.