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The order of nature, destroyed by the flood, being restored by God's promise, he particularly blessed Noah and his children, commanding them to multiply and fill the earth; appointed man lord over all the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and fishes of the sea : And whereas hitherto men had lived upon vegetables, God having at first' appointed herbs and fruits for their food ; after the food, their fare was enlarged, and they were allowed to eat flesh. Only he excepted blood, and meats strangled, from which the blood * had not been drawn. They were therefore first to take away the life, by letting out the blood, and then to dress and eat the flesh. But when he thus permitted them to kill all sorts of animals, he strictly charged them not to shed the blood of man, threatening those, whether men or beasts, that should shed it, with vengeance. In short, God ratified the promise he had made to Noah, not to destroy men and beasts any more by an universal deluge; and to render it more solemn, confirmed it by a covenant and alliance between himself and man, placing the rainbow-t as a sign of it in the sky:-Not as an instrument of terror, but a bow unstrung :-not in his hand, but suspended in the clouds ;-—an emblem of his covenant, that he would no more suddenly shoot forth the arrows of his wrath, though never so justly provoked,
the sacred Author speak quite contrary to what he designed, and is an affront to the justice, goodness, and wisdom of God.
* Blood. The blood of animals was strictly prohibited, because devoted to a sacred use.
It was the life of the animal ; and being shed in sacrifice, denoted that the life of the sinner was forfeited, but that God accepted the blood of another in the sinner's stead, even of “the Lamb of God," (typified by the clean animal,) “ who taketh away the sin of the world."
In sacrifice, which was daily to be repeated, as the highest act of devotion, man had the strongest memorandum of his fall; of the forfeiture thereby of that life, for which the blood, the life of the victim, was shed ! of the anger of God, which must have consumed him, if what was represented by the burnt-offering had not interposed. Reflections on this symbolical act must prepare the mind for prayer and praise. Probably, for many ages, no animal food was eaten, but that of the creatures offered in sacrifice, so that all animal food was originally sacramental; the body and mind were thus mutually gratified.
+ Rainbow. This beautiful phenomenon is caused by the refraction of the sun's rays in the drops of descending rain, and consequently was seen before, as well as since the deluge ; the difference is, that it was constituted, after the flood, by divine appointment, to be a token of God's covenant that he would no more deluge the earth.
And now the whole race of Cain being cut off by the flood, it might reasonably have been expected, that the new world would have been planted with better people : but as in the ark there were unclean beasts preserved, as well as clean, so in Noah's family there was a wicked Ham, as well as a pious Shem and Japheth. For of the three sons of Noah, who had been so wonderfully preserved with him in the ark, to repeople the world, there was one of them who drew the curse of God upon himself; and instead of being the head of a holy race, was the father of so wicked a posterity, as to become the object of God's anger and reprobation. And this was Ham :-for the first instance of man's impiety, after the deluge, was that of his discovering his father's nakedness, in a very rude and profane manner ; which happened thus: · Noah, having in a most devout and solemn manner offered a sacrifice of praise to God for his preservation, received the establishment of God's covenant with himself and his posterity for a perpetual security, and a command to multiply and replenish the earth, applied himself to hus. bandry; and amongst other improvements which he made of the ground, he planted a vineyard. Natural curiosity invited him to taste of the fruit of his labour, but not aware of the inebriating quality of the wine, he fell into a state of intoxication; during which he lay in an indecent posture, his body being uncovered,' in his tent. Graceless Ham was the first that discovered his father in this condition ; who instead of concealing his weakness, betrays him to his brethren, and made him the subject of ridicule and derision. But Shem and Japheth, abhorring their brother's conduct, and blushing at their father's situation, took a garment, and laid it on their shoulders, and so went backwards and covered him. Noah being recovered from his wine, and understanding how his younger son had treated him, pronounced a curse on his posterity in the person of Canaan. “ Cursed, (said he)
“ be Canaan,* a servant of servants shall he be to his bre. “ thren.” But when he found how commendably his other sons had behaved, he rewarded their respectful attention with this blessing : “Blessedt be the Lord God of “ Shem, God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in “ the tents of Shem;f and let Canaan be his Servant.”
We have no mention of any other children Noah had, but these three sons; from each of whom descended a numerous offspring, which afterwards peopled many countries, and in process of time, the whole inhabited world. And now there was but one language used and known among men; who hitherto dwelt at the foot of the mountains of Armenia, not far, it is likely, from the place where the ark rested. Their offspring, multiplying by degrees, spread themselves into the neighbouring countries, as Syria and Mesopotamia : And the number still increasing, they took their course westward, till finding an inviting plain in the lard of Shinar, * they sat down in order to settle there.
There is some difficulty in this passage ; but if we suppose (with Bishop Newton,) the omission of a word or two by the transcriber, the whole will be easy. " And Noah said,
Cursed be (Ham, the father of) Canaan;
A servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,
Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem,
And Canaan shall be their Servant." By this prophecy the whole race of Ham is devoted to servitude; not that this was to take place immediately, but was to be fulfilled in process of time, when they should forfeit their liberties by their wickedness. The continent of Africa was peopled by the Children of Ham; and for how many ages have the better part of that country lain under the dominion of the Romans, then of the Saracens, and now of the Turks? and of the poor negroes, how many thousands are an. nually bought and sold, like beasts in the market, and conveyed from one quarter of the world to do the work of beasts in another? See Bishop Newton on the Prophecies.
+ Blessed. The blessing of God had effect; for the worship of the true God continued in the race of Shem, and the posterity of Japheth possessed a vast extent of land, peopling all Europe, and part of Asia ; for which reason it is said, He shall dwell in the tents of Shem, that is, among the progeny of the jatter.
| Shem. Sbem is called the Father of all the children of Eber. Gen. x, 21. Eber was great grandson, or the fourth from Shem: and from him, both the people of Israel were called Ebrews, (or Hebrews) and the language they spake was called the Hebrew tongue ; so that from Shem came the Jews, besides many other people that inhabited Asia. This part of the world, which is called Europe, is generally held to have been peopled by the posterity of Japheth.
And now those two unruly passions, ambition and fear, began to possess the minds of men. They were desirous to perpetuate their name, and no less afraid that they should be scattered abroad. Toeffect the one, and prevent the other, they agreed to build themselves a city, and a tower, of such extraordinary height, that it is said, they designed the top thereof should reach to heaven.t. The projected height of this vast structure hath been the occasion of a conjecture in some, that they not only intended it as a monument of their power, but as a place of refuge, in case of another flood; which shewed their distrust of God's veracity in keeping his covenant, that he would not bring a general deluge over the earth again. But whether pride or fear put them upon this project, it is certain they undertook this vast work, and being unanimous, they were not discouraged at the greatness of the undertaking ; but, in order to it, began to make brick, which they burnt; and
Sbinar. This is by some supposed to have been the place where the Garden of Eden was: afterwards called Chaldea.
+ We cannot suppose architects like these so stupid as to imagine they could reach the seat of the gods, or become immortal by getting thither. The plain meaning is, that when they had finished this lofty tower (500 feet high) its Top (a temple or altar on the summit) should be dedicated to the Heavens—the heavenly bodies, or powers, by which they intended to honour the gods. The words might reach, are added by the translators. Till now the earth was of one Lip, or Confession, acknowledging the only living and true God; but now a grand attempt was made to establish idolatry, in the worship of the heavens, and to make a Name above every other name, for the purpose of worship. But, by the divine interference, they fell into innumerable disputes; they were ultimately scattered abroad, their scheme failed, and the place was called Babel, (Confusion.) The variation of language was the natural result of their wide separation from each other.
instead of mortar, they made a cement of Bitumen, a pitchy substance which flows out of the earth in the plains of Mesopotamia.
Thus they began, and for some time proceeded in their intended work, but God, who saw their arrogance and presumption, resolved to disappoint them, and shew them that they were not out of the reach of his Providence and Justice. The Almighty therefore looking on their vanity with indignation, expostulates thus with himself: “Behold
they are all one, and have but one language, and this
they begin to do; Shall* they not be restrained in all “ that they have imagined to do? Yes 3 we will go down “ and confound their language, that they may not under“ stand one another.” Thus the great Creator took council with his own wisdom and power, and which he immediately put in execution ; for he stopped their proceedings by confounding their tongues, so that they spake several languages, and could not understand each other. Their confused dialects produced different ideas in the minds of the men of each family, which, for want of understanding each other's meaning, they applied to improper objects. This occasioned so great a disorder, that they were forced to relinquish the building : and being hereby rendered incapable of carrying on their intended work, and of conversing one with another, and so deprived of the conforts and pleasures of mutual intercourse, they willingly parted and dispersed themselves; they who were of one language one way, and those who were of another going another way. Thus God, by scattering them abroad upon the face of the earth, at once both disappointed their design, and accomplished his own; which was to repeople the earth more generally and speedily, than it is
* Sball, &c. Gen. xi. 6. The versions say of the builders of the tower of Ba. bel, “ And now nothing shall be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do." But this is untrue ; for God soon put a stop to their design by confounding them, and scattering them abroad. We should therefore translate the text, with the Flemish revisers and Leusden, thus : “ Shall they not be restrained in all that they have imagined to do ?" Which was soon executed accordingly.