Christology of the Old Testament: And a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions, v. 1
by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg
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Transcriber's Note: Images taken from the 1868 edition, found at, is the source of the text used for this ebook.

Unclear or missing punctuation marks were corrected by reference to the 1854 edition of this work.

The Latin diphthong oe is expressed by [oe]; superscripts are preceded by a caret (^), e.g. 2^a, 2(superscript "a").

Greek words are directly transliterated using the English equivalents of the Greek; the Greek eta is transliterated as e and omega as o. Diacritic marks are omitted with the exception of the initial hard breathing mark which is indicated by an "h" before the initial vowel of the word.

Hebrew words, which in this book are mainly represented without the vowel and pronunciation points, are transcribed as follows:

Alef = a Lahmed = l Bet = b Mem = m (final = M) Gimel = g Nun = n (final = N) Dalet = d Samekh = s He = h Ahyin = i Vav = v Peh = p (final = P) Zayin = z Tsadi = c (final = C) Het = H Qof = q Tet = T Resh = r Yod = i Shin = w Kahf = k (final = K) Tav = t]

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Hengstenberg's Christology of the Old Testament. VOL. I.



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Translated from the German, BY THE REV. THEODORE MEYER.




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Translator's Preface, 7 Author's Preface, 9 The Messianic Prophecies in the Pentateuch, 11 The Protevangelium, 14 The Blessing of Noah upon Shem and Japheth, Gen. ix. 18-27, 30 The Promise to the Patriarchs, Gen. xii. 1-3, 46 The Blessing of Jacob upon Judah, Gen. xlix. 8-10, 57 Balaam's Prophecy, Num. xxiv. 17-19, 98 Moses' Promise of the Prophet, Deut. xviii. 15-19, 104 The Angel of the Lord in the Pentateuch and Book of Joshua, 115 Gen. xvi. 13, 117 Gen. xviii. and xix., 119 Gen. xxxi. 11 seqq., 122 Gen. xxxii. 24, 123 Gen. xlviii. 15, 16, 125 Exod. xxiii. 20, 21, 126 Exod. xxxii. and xxxiii., 127 Joshua v. and vi., 128 The Promise in 2 Sam. vii., 130 Messianic Psalms, 149 2 Sam. xxiii. 1-7, 152 The Song of Solomon, 159 Messianic Predictions in the Prophets, 162 The Prophet Hosea. General Preliminary Remarks, 165 The Section, Chap. i.-iii., 184 Chap. i.-ii. 3, 197 Chap. ii. 4-25, 230 Chap. iii., 273 The Prophet Joel. General Preliminary Remarks, 291 Chap. i.-ii. 17, 302 On chap. ii. 23, 325 Chap. iii., 331 The Prophet Amos. General Preliminary Remarks, 352 Chap. ix., 363 The Prophecy of Obadiah, 399 The Prophet Jonah, 407 [Pg 6] The Prophet Micah. General Preliminary Remarks, 413 Chap. i. and ii., 424 Chap. iii. and iv., 440 Chap. v. 1, 479 History of the Interpretation. 1. Among the Jews, 490 2. Among the Christians, 499 The Quotation in Matt. ii. 6, 504 Chap. v. 2-14, 513 Chap. vi. and vii., 521

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The Translator avails himself of his privilege of offering a few prefatory words, chiefly in order to express the deep obligation under which he lies to the Rev. JOHN LAING, Librarian in the New College, Edinburgh, for the valuable assistance which he afforded to him in the translation of this work. Any observation on the work itself or its Author would be superfluous, if not presumptuous, considering the high position which Dr HENGSTENBERG holds as a Biblical Scholar. High, however, as this position is, the Translator feels confident that it will be raised by the present work, the Author's latest and first; and not only revering Dr HENGSTENBERG as a beloved Teacher, but being under many obligations to him for proofs of personal kindness and friendship, the Translator sincerely rejoices in this prospect.

As regards the translation itself, it was the Translator's aim to bring out fully the Author's meaning. This object, which ought to be the first in every translation, has been kept steadily in view, and preferred to all others. In rendering Dr HENGSTENBERG'S translation of Scripture-passages, the expressions in our Authorized Version have, as far as possible, been retained. Wherever the division of the text in the latter differed from that of the original text, it has been added in a parenthesis; an exception in this respect having been made in quotations from the Psalms only, in which this difference is almost constant, the inscriptions not being counted in our English Version, while they are in the Hebrew Text.

Edinburgh, January 1854.

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The first edition of the Christology, although the impression was unusually large, had been for years out of print. It was impossible that the work could appear a second time in its original form. The first volume of it—written twenty-five years ago—was a juvenile performance, to which the Author himself had become rather a stranger; and the succeeding volumes required references to, and comparisons with, a large number of publications which subsequently appeared. But for the remodelling and revising which these circumstances rendered necessary, the Author could not find leisure, because new tasks were ever and anon presenting themselves to him; and these he felt himself, as it were, involuntarily impelled to undertake. But now he is led to believe that he could no longer delay. A powerful inclination urges him to comment on the Gospel of St John; but he thinks that the right to gratify this inclination must first be purchased by him by answering a call which proceeds from the more immediate sphere of his vocation, and which he is the less at liberty to disregard, as manifold facts give indication that the Christology has not yet completed its course. The Author dislikes to return to regions which have been already visited by him. He prefers the opening up to himself of paths which are new. It cost him therefore, at first, no little struggle to devote himself for years to the work of mere revision and emendation; but very soon, even here, he learned the truth of the proverb: "If there be obedience in the heart, love will soon enter."

The arrangement in the present edition differs from that which was adopted in the former. It bears a closer resemblance to that which has been followed in the Commentaries on the Psalms, Revelation, and the Song of Solomon. The work opens with a discussion and commentary on the particular Messianic prophecies, in their historical order and connection. The general investigations with which, in the first edition, the work commenced, are, in the present edition, to appear in the form [Pg 10] of comprehensive treatises, at the close. The latter have thus obtained a more solid foundation; while the objections which might be raised against this arrangement will have force only until the completion of the whole, which, if it please the Lord, will not be very long delayed. The reader will then, of course, be at liberty, before he enters upon the particular portions, to go over, cursorily in the meantime, the closing treatises,—the proper study of which will be appropriate, however, only after he has made himself acquainted with the particular portions of the main body of the work.

The matter of the two sections of the first part has been entirely rewritten. That of the two last parts appears more as a revisal only,—so executed, however, that not a single line has been reprinted without a renewed and careful examination.

The Author shall take care that the new edition shall not exceed the former one in size. The space intended to be occupied by the enlarged discussions, and by the new investigations, will be gained by omissions. These, however, will be limited to such matters as now clearly appear to be superfluous; so that the old will not retain any value when compared with the new edition. The Author, had he pursued his usual method of representation, would have curtailed many points, particularly the history of the interpretation. But the mode of treating the subject which he had previously adopted, is not without its advantages, and has a certain right to be retained. The former character of the work, in so far as the avoidance of everything properly ascetic is concerned, has been, in the present edition, also retained.

Scientific Theology is at present threatened by serious dangers in our Church. Works of an immediately practical interest more and more exclusively occupy the noblest minds, since the problems which present themselves in this field are indeed unfathomable. But the Lord of the Church will take care that an excellent gift, which He has bestowed upon German Christendom especially, shall not, for any length of time, continue to be neglected. If such were to be the case, a more general decay would be gradually brought on; and even those interests would be injured to which at present, with a zeal, noble indeed, but little thoughtful, solid theological learning is sacrificed.

"Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Thy name give glory."

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In the Messianic prophecies contained in Genesis we cannot fail to perceive a remarkable progress in clearness and definiteness.

The first Messianic prediction, which was uttered immediately after the fall of Adam, is also the most indefinite. Opposed to the awful threatening there stands the consolatory promise, that the dominion of sin, and of the evil arising from sin, shall not last for ever, but that the seed of the woman shall, at some future time, overthrow their dreaded conqueror. With the exception of the victory itself, everything is here left undetermined. We are told neither the mode in which it is to be achieved, nor whether it shall be accomplished by some peculiarly gifted race, or family of the progeny of the woman, or by some single individual from among her descendants. There is nothing more than a very slight hint that the latter will be the case.

After the destruction of a whole sinful world, when only Noah with his three sons had been left, the general promise is, to a certain extent, defined. Deliverance is to come from the descendants of Shem; Japhet shall become a partaker of this deliverance; Ham is passed over in silence.

The prophecy becomes still more definite when the Lord begins to prepare the way for the appearance of this deliverance, by separating from the corrupt mass a single individual—Abraham—in order to make him the depositary of His revelations. The Lord, moreover, according to the good pleasure of His will, further specifies which of the descendants of Abraham, to the exclusion of all the rest, is to inherit this dignity, with all its accompanying blessings. From among the posterity of Shem, the Lord sets apart first the family of Abraham, then that of [Pg 12] Isaac, and lastly that of Jacob, as the family from which salvation is to come. Yet even these predictions, distinct though they be when compared with those previously uttered, are still very indefinite when compared with those subsequently given, and when seen in the light of the actual fulfilment. Even in these, the blessing only is foretold, but not its author. It still remained a matter of uncertainty whether salvation should be extended to all the other nations of the earth through a single individual, or through an entire people descended from the Patriarchs. The former is obscurely indicated; but the mode in which the blessing was to be imparted was left in darkness.

This obscurity is partially removed by the last Messianic prophecy contained in Gen. xlix. 10. After what had previously taken place, we might well expect that the question as to which of Jacob's twelve sons should have the privilege of becoming the source of deliverance to the whole earth, would not be left undetermined; nor could we imagine that Jacob, when, just before his death, and with the spirit of a prophet, he transferred to his sons the promises which had been given to his ancestors and himself, should have passed over in silence the most important part of them. On the contrary, by being transferred to Judah, the promise of the Messiah acquires not only the expected limitation, but an unexpected increase of clearness and precision. Here, for the first time, the person of the Messiah is brought before us; here also the nature of His kingdom is more distinctly pointed out by His being represented as the peaceful one, and the peacemaker who will unite, under His mild sceptre, all the nations of the whole earth. Judah is, in this passage, placed in the centre of the world's history; he shall obtain dominion, and not lose it until it has been realized to its fullest extent by means of the Shiloh descending from him, to whom all the nations of the earth shall render a willing obedience.

The subject-matter of the last four books of the Pentateuch would naturally prevent us from expecting that the Messianic prophecies should occupy so prominent a place in them as they do in Genesis. The object contemplated in these books is rather to prepare effectually the way for the Messiah, by laying the theocratic institutions on a firm foundation, and by establishing the law which is intended to produce the knowledge of sin, and [Pg 13] to settle discipline, and by means of which the image of God is to be impressed on the whole national life. If the hope of the Messiah was to be realized in a proper manner, and to produce its legitimate effect, it was necessary that the people should first be accustomed to this new order of life; that, for the present, their regards should not be too much drawn away from this their proximate and immediate vocation. Yet, even in the last four books there are not wanting allusions to Him who, as the end of the law, was, from the very beginning, to be set before the eyes of the people.

In Num. xxiv. 17-19, Balaam beholds an Israelitish kingdom raised absolutely above the kingdoms of the world, extending over the whole earth, and all-powerful; and he sees it in the form of an ideal king, with reference to Jacob's prophecy contained in Gen. xlix. 10, according to which the kingdom rising in Judah shall find its full and final realization in the person of one king—the Messiah.

We have here the future King of the Jews saluted from the midst of the heathen world, corresponding to the salutation of the manifested one by the wise men from the East: compare Matt. ii. 1, 2.

From the whole position of Moses in the economy of the revelations of God, it is, a priori, scarcely conceivable that he should have contented himself with communicating a prophecy of the Messiah uttered by a non-Israelite. We expect that, as a prefiguration of the testimony which, in the presence of the chief among the apostles, he bore to the Messiah after He had appeared (compare Matt. xvii. 3), he should, on his own behalf, testify his faith in Him, and direct the people to Him. This testimony we have in Deut. xviii. 15-19. It is natural that Moses' attestation should have reference to Christ in so far as He is his antitype. He bears witness to Christ as the true Prophet, as the Mediator of the divine revelation—thus enlarging the slender indications of Christ's prophetical office given in Gen. xlix. 10. A new and important feature of Messianic prophecy is here, for the first time, brought forward; and because of this, the character of the prophecy is that of a germ. Behind the person of the future Prophet, which is as yet ideal, the real person of Him who is the Prophet in an absolute sense, is, in the meantime, concealed. It is reserved for the future development [Pg 14] of the prophetic prediction to separate that which is here beheld as still blended in a single picture.

Finally, the doctrine of the Divine Mediator of the unseen God, of the Angel of the Lord, or of the Logos, which forms the theological foundation for the Christology, is already found pervading the Books of Moses.

After this survey, we now proceed to an exposition of the particular passages.


As the mission of Christ was rendered necessary by the fall of man, so the first dark intimation of Him was given immediately after the fall. It is found in the sentence of punishment which was passed upon the tempter. Gen. iii. 14, 15. A correct understanding of it, however, can be obtained only after we have ascertained who the tempter was.

It is, in the first place, unquestionable that a real serpent was engaged in the temptation; so that the opinion of those who maintain that the serpent is only a symbolical signification of the evil spirit, cannot be admitted.[1] There must be unity and uniformity in the interpretation of a connected passage. But the allegorical interpretation of the whole is rendered impossible by the following considerations:—The passage stands in a book of a strictly historical character; it is connected with what follows, where the history of the same pair who, in this section appear as actors, is carried forward; the condition of mankind announced to them in this passage as a punishment, actually exists; there is the absence of every indication from which it might be inferred that the author intended to write an allegory, and not a history; there exist various passages of the New Testament (e.g., 2 Cor. xi. 3; 1 Tim. ii. 13, 14; Rom. v. 12), in which the context of the passage before us is referred to as a real historical fact;—and there are the embarrassment, ambiguity, and arbitrariness shown by the allegorical interpreters whenever they attempt to exhibit the truth intended to be conveyed; whereas perspicuity is a characteristic essential to an allegory.—The subtlety of the [Pg 15] serpent, pointed out in chap. iii. 1, is a natural attribute of that animal; and the comparison, in this respect, of the serpent with the other beasts, clearly indicates that a real serpent is spoken of. To such an one the denunciation of the punishment must necessarily, in the first instance, be referred. The last two reasons also exclude the opinion that Satan assumed merely the semblance of a serpent.

The serpent itself cannot, however, have acted independently; it can only have served as an instrument to the evil spirit. The position which the serpent would occupy, in the event of our considering it as the self-acting, independent seducer, would be in direct contradiction to the position assigned to the animal creation throughout Holy Scripture—especially in the history of the creation—and would break down the limits which, according to it, separate man and beast. By such an assumption we should be transferred from the Israelitish territory—which is distinguished by the most sharply defined limitations of the respective spheres of God, angels, men, and beasts—to the heathenish, were these are all mixed up together, and where all the distinctions disappear in the confusion. Such a fact would be altogether isolated and without a parallel in Holy Scripture. Nor is it legitimate to adduce the argument, that the conditions and circumstances of the paradisaic period were different from those of subsequent times. It is indeed true, according to the statements contained in the Mosaic account itself, that the animal world of that time was different from that of the present; but whatever, and how great soever, this difference may have been, it had no reference to the fundamental relation of the beasts; and hence we cannot, from it, explain the high intellectual powers with which the serpent appears endowed, and by the abuse of which it succeeded in seducing men. Man, as the only being on earth created in the likeness and image of God, is, in Gen. i., strictly distinguished from all other living beings, and invested with the dominion over them. Into man alone did God breathe the breath of life (ii. 7); and, according to ii. 19, 20, man recognises the great gulf which is fixed betwixt him and the world of beasts. This gulf would be entirely filled up, the serpent would altogether step beyond the sphere appointed by the Creator to the world of beasts, if there were no background in Gen. iii. 1-5. Further, The words [Pg 16] of the serpent are an effect of wickedness: they raise in man doubts as to the love of God, in order thereby to seduce him to apostasy, and bring about the execution upon him of the fearful threatening, "On the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." The serpent does not stand in the truth; it speaks lies; it represents to man as the highest good, that which in truth is the highest evil. Such language cannot proceed spontaneously from a being, the creation of which falls within the work of the six days during which the whole animal creation was made. For everything created within this space of time was good, according to the remark constantly repeated in the history of creation. To this we must add the nature of the curse itself, in which a higher reference to an invisible author of the temptation shines clearly through the lower reference to the visible one; and, further, the remark in iii. 1, "Now the serpent was more subtle," etc., evidently points to something beyond the natural subtlety of the serpent, as the result of which the subsequent words cannot be understood, but behind which we may discover the intimation: let him who reads, understand.

The view, that the serpent was the sole independent agent in this transaction, is thus refuted by internal reasons. It is set aside by the testimony of tradition also. It was an opinion universally prevalent among the Jews, that Satan himself had been active in the temptation of the first man. It is found in Philo; and in the Book of Wisdom, ii. 24, it is said, "By the envy of Satan, death came into the world." In the later Jewish writings, Sammael, the head of the evil spirits, is called [Hebrew: hnHw hqdmvni] "the old serpent," or simply [Hebrew: nHw] "serpent," because in the form of a serpent he tempted Eve. (See the passage in Eisenmenger's entdecktes Judenthum i. S. 822.) In the sacred books of the Persians also, the agency of Satan in the fall of our first parents is taught. According to the Zendavesta (ed. by Kleuker, Th. 3, S. 84, 85), the first men, Meshia and Meshianeh, were created by God in a state of purity and goodness, and destined for happiness, on condition of humility of heart, obedience to the requirements of the law, and purity in thoughts, words, and actions. But they were deceived by Ahriman, "this mischievous one who from the beginning sought only to deceive, were induced to rebel against God, and forfeited their happiness by the eating of fruits." According to the same book (Th. iii. [Pg 17] S. 62), Ahriman in the form of a serpent springs down from heaven to earth; and another evil spirit is called (Th. ii. S. 217) the serpent—Dew. (Compare Rhode, die heilige Sage des Zendvolkes, S. 392.) These facts prove that at the time when the Persian religion received Jewish elements (compare Stuhr, die Religionssysteme des Orientes, S. 373), and hence, soon after the captivity, the doctrine of Satan's agency in the temptation of our first parents was prevalent among the Jews.

But of decisive weight upon this point is the evidence furnished by the New Testament. We must here above all consider the important testimony supplied by the fact of the history of the first and second Adam being parallel (Rom. v. 12 sqq.; 1 Cor. xv. 45 sqq.),—a testimony, the weight and importance of which have, in modern times, been again pointed out by Hahn in his Dogmatik. The necessity of Christ's temptation by the prince of this world, in order that He, by His firm resistance, might deprive him of his dominion over mankind, indicates that Adam was assailed by the same tempter, and, by being overcome, laid the foundation of that dominion.

Among the express verbal testimonies of the New Testament, we must first consider the declarations of the Lord Himself; and among these the passage John viii. 44 requires, above all, to be examined. In that passage the Lord says: [Greek: humeis ek tou patros tou diabolou este, kai tas epithumias tou atros humon thelete poiein. Ekeinos anthropoktonos en ap' arches, kai en te aletheia ouch hesteken. hoti ouk estin aletheia en auto. hOtan lale to pseudos, ek ton idion lalei. hoti pseustes esti kai ho pater autou.] There is, indeed, an element of truth in the opinion, that Satan is in this passage called the murderer of men from the beginning, with reference to the murder by Cain—an opinion lately brought forward again by Nitzsch, Luecke, and others. This is evident from a comparison of 1 John iii. 12, 15, and of Rev. xii. 3. (See my commentary on this passage.) Moreover, the words in ver. 40, "Ye seek to kill Me," have a more direct parallelism in Cain's murder of his brother, than in the death which Satan brought upon our first parents; although it is altogether wrong to maintain, as Luecke does, that Satan at that time committed only a spiritual murder, which could not have come under notice. Bodily death also came upon mankind through the [Pg 18] temptation. (Compare Gen. ii. 17, iii. 19; Wisd. ii. 24; Rom. v. 12.) But when the reference to Cain's slaying his brother is brought forward as the sole, or even as the principal one, we must absolutely reject it. Cain's murder of his brother comes into consideration only as an effect of the evil principle which was introduced into human nature by the first temptation; as, indeed, it appears in the book of Genesis itself as the fruit of the poisonous tree, the planting of which is detailed in chap. iii. The same murderous spirit which impelled Satan to bring man under the dominion of death by the lie, "Ye shall not surely die," was busy in Cain also, and seduced him to slay his pious brother. The following reasons forbid an exclusive reference to the deed of Cain:—1. The murdering of man by Satan is brought into the closest connection with his lie. In connection with Cain's deed, however, there was not even the appearance of falsehood; while, in the case before us, lies, false and deceitful promises of high blessings to be attained, and the raising of suspicions against God, were the very means by which he seduced man, and brought him under the power of sin. The words of Jesus, when they are understood according to their simple meaning, carry us back to an event in the primitive times, in which murder and the spirit of falsehood went hand in hand. 2. The co-operation of Satan in Cain's deed is not expressly mentioned in Genesis. That there was any such we can with certainty infer, only if this event be viewed in close connection with what Satan did against our first parents,—if, behind the serpent, Satan be concealed. Whensoever Jesus has to deal with Jews, He does not teach any mysterious doctrines, but makes an open appeal to the events narrated in Scripture. 3. The words, "Ye are of your father the devil," point to the seed of the serpent spoken of in Gen. iii. 15. 4. The words, "From the beginning," direct to an event which happened at the first beginnings of mankind, and in which our first parents took a part. Whatever this may be, the event in question must be the first in which the devil manifested himself as the murderer of man. Now, as by the Jews of that time the temptation of the first man, in consequence of which death entered the world, was attributed to sin—and this appears not only from what has been already said, but also from a passage in the Sohar Chadash, referred to by Tholuck, in which the wicked are [Pg 19] called "The children of the old serpent which has slain Adam and all who are descended from him"—it is evident that, by "the murderer of men from the beginning," Jesus can mean only the first tempter of men. That the words, "from the beginning," refer to the fall of the first man, is also clearly shown by the parallel passages 1 John iii. 8, and Rev. xii. 9, xx. 2. 5. Jesus says: Satan stands not in the truth, does not move in its element, because there is no truth in him. This points to a well-known event, in which Satan displayed his lying nature; and such is found only in the account of man's fall. 6. Jesus calls Satan not only a liar, but, by way of emphasis, He designates him as the father of lies. But Satan can be designated thus, only with reference to a lie of his which is charged against him by Scripture, and which preceded all lies on earth. Now that is the lie of which we have an account in Gen. iii. 4, 5. The words, "and the father of it," correspond with the words, "from the beginning."

Another declaration of our Lord is found in St Matthew xiii. 38: [Greek: ta de zizania eisin hoi huioi tou ponerou] (i.e., mali, masculinum, according to Bengel), compared with ver. 39: [Greek: ho de echthros ho speiras auta estin ho diabolos.] The children of the wicked one, or of the devil, who are spoken of in this passage, are the seed of the serpent who is mentioned in Gen. iii. 15, and to whom allusion is made in the words [Greek: ho speiras auta] also. Less incontrovertible is the passage in St Matthew xxiii. 33, where the Lord addressed the Pharisees as [Greek: opheis, gennemata echidnon]. (Compare Matt. xii. 34, iii. 7.) Olshausen, in his commentary on Matt. iii. 7, gives it as his opinion that the serpent designates the diabolic nature. But, according to Matt. xii. 34, the point of comparison is only the wickedness ([Greek: poneroi ontes]), and it is quite sufficient to refer it to Ps. cxl. 4, where David says of the future enemies of his dynasty and family foreseen by him, "They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips" (compare also Ps. lviii. 5; Deut. xxxii. 33; Isa. lix. 5),—a passage to which special allusion is made in the words, [Greek: pos dunasthe agatha lalein], Matt. xii. 34, and in the connection of serpents with vipers, which would be strange when referred to the history of the fall of the first man.

Let us now turn from the Lord to His disciples. Just as is done in the account of the transaction itself, Paul, in 2 Cor. [Pg 20] xi. 3 ([Greek: hos ho ophis Euan exepatesen en te panourgia autou]), places the invisible cause of the temptation in the background, and speaks of the visible one only. But that behind the serpent he beholds Satan, appears immediately from ver. 14 and 15: [Greek: Kai ou thaumaston. autos gar ho Satanas metaschematizetai eis angelon photos. Ou mega oun ei kai hoi diakonoi autou metaschematizontai hos diakonoi dikaiosunes], where the [Greek: metaschematizetai] is explained by Bengel: "Transformat se: Praesens, i.e., solet se transformare. Fecit id jam in Paradiso." The Apostle alludes to an event narrated in Scripture, where Satan shows himself in this character. But such an occurrence is not found anywhere else than in Gen. iii. 4, 5, the only passage where Satan represents himself as the friend and saviour of men. We have here the explanation of the [Greek: exepatesen] in ver. 3.—In Rom. xvi. 20, the words, [Greek: hO de Theos tes eirenes suntripsei ton Satanan hupo tous podas humon], contain an allusion to Gen. iii. 15, too plain to be mistaken. The Apostle recognises, in the promise of the victory over the serpent given there, a pledge of the victory over Satan. The words of Paul to Elymas in Acts xiii. 10, "O thou child of the devil," likewise contain a distinct reference to that which, in the history of man's fall, is written concerning the serpent. In the charge of subtlety, mischief, and enmity to all righteousness which he brings against him, there is an evident allusion to Genesis.

In 1 John iii. 8, [Greek: hO poion ten hamartian, ek tou diabolou estin. hoti ap' arches ho diabolos hamartanei], allusion is made to a most heinous sin committed by Satan at the first beginnings of the human race. But of such a sin there is no account, unless Satan be concealed behind the serpent.—In Rev. xii. 9 (comp. xx. 2), Satan is called the great dragon, and the old serpent; the last of which designations refers to the passage now under consideration.

The agency of Satan in the fall of man has been controverted, on the plea that, had such been in operation, it ought to have been mentioned. But the absence of any such mention may be explained on the ground that it is not the intention of the holy writers to give any information respecting the existence of the devil, but rather to give an account of his real manifestation, to which, afterwards, the doctrine connected itself. The judgment of the reader should not, as it were, be [Pg 21] anticipated. The simple fact is communicated to him, in order that, from it, he may form his own opinion.

Further,—It has been asserted that, in the entire Old Testament, and until the time of the Babylonian captivity, no trace of an evil spirit is to be found, and that, hence, it cannot be conceived that his existence is here presupposed. But this assertion may now be regarded as obsolete and without foundation. Closely connected with the affirmation, to which allusion has just been made, is the opinion which assigns the Book of Job to the time of the captivity, an opinion which is now almost universally abandoned. This book must necessarily have been written before the time of the captivity, because Jeremiah refers to it, both in his Prophecies (e.g., Jer. xx. 15 sq., which passage evidently rests on Job iii.) and in his Lamentations. (Compare, for a fuller discussion of this subject, Kueper's "Jeremias libror. Sacrorum interpres atque Vindex") The reference in Amos iv. 3 to Job ix. 8, and several allusions occurring in the Prophecies of Isaiah (e.g., chap. xl. 2 and lxi. 7, which refer to the issue of Job's history, which is here viewed as a prophecy of the future fate of the Church; the peculiar use of [Hebrew: cba] in xl. 2, which alludes to Job vii. 1; chap. li. 9, which rests on Job xxvi. 13), lead us still farther back. The assertion of those also who feel themselves compelled to acknowledge the pre-exilic origin of the book, but who maintain, at the same time, that the Satan of this book is not the Satan of the later books of the Old Testament, but rather a good angel who only holds an odious office, is more and more admitted to be futile; so that we must indeed wonder how even Beck (Lehrwissenschaft i. S. 249) could be carried away by it, and could make the attempt to support this pretended fact by the supposition, that the apostasy of part of the angels from God, and their kingdom of darkness, are ever advancing and progressing. The principal evil spirit is, in Zech. iii. 1, introduced as the adversary of the holy ones of God; and this very name is sufficient to contradict such a supposition, for the name is descriptive of the wickedness of the character. He who, under all circumstances, is an "adversary," must certainly carry the principle of hatred in his heart. He moves about on the earth for the purpose of finding materials for his accusations, and grounds on which he may raise suspicions. It is a characteristic [Pg 22] feature, that he whose darkness does not comprehend the light, knows of no other piety but that which has its origin in the hope of reward. It is quite evident that it is the desire of his heart to destroy Job by sufferings. The only circumstance which seems to give any countenance to the supposition is, that he appears in the midst of the angels, before the throne of God. But this circumstance is deprived of all its significancy, if the fact be kept in view—which, indeed, is most evident—that the book is, from beginning to end, of a purely poetical character. The form of it is easily accounted for by the intention to impress this most important thought: that Satan stands in absolute dependence upon God; that, with all his hatred to the children of God, he can do nothing against them, but must, on the contrary, rather subserve the accomplishment of the thoughts of God's love regarding them.—Isaiah likewise points to evil spirits in chap. xiii. 21, xxxiv. 14. (Compare my Comment. on Rev. xviii. 2.)—But even in some passages of the Pentateuch itself, the doctrine regarding Satan is brought before us. It is true that it has been erroneously supposed to be contained in Deut. xxxii. 17 (compare on this opinion, my Comment. on Ps. cvi. 37); but only bigotry and prejudice can refuse to admit that, under the Asael, to whom, according to Lev. xvi., a goat was sent into the wilderness, Satan is to be understood. (The arguments in support of this view will be found in the author's "Egypt and the Books of Moses," p. 168 ff.)[2]

But we must advert to two additional considerations. First,—To every one who is in the least familiar with the territory [Pg 23] of divine revelation, and who has any conception of the relation in which the Books of Moses stand to the whole succeeding revelation, it will, a priori, be inconceivable, that a doctrine which afterwards occupies so prominent a position in the revealed books should not have already existed, in the germ at least, in the Books of Moses. Secondly,—We should altogether lose the origin and foundation of the doctrine concerning Satan, if he be removed from, or explained away in, the history of the fall. That the first indication of this doctrine cannot by any means be found in the Book of Job, has already been pointed out by Hofmann, who remarks in the Schriftbeweis i. S. 378, that Satan appears in this book as a well-known being, as much so as are the sons of God. Nor is Lev. xvi. an appropriate place for introducing, for the first time, this doctrine into the knowledge of the people. The doctrinal essence of the symbolical action there prescribed is this:—that Satan, the enemy of the Congregation of God, has no power over those who are reconciled to God; that, with their sins forgiven by God, they may joyfully appear before, and mock and triumph over, him. The whole ritual must have had in it something altogether strange for the Congregation of the Lord, if they had not already known of Satan from some other source. The questions: Who is Asael? What have we to do with him? must have forced themselves upon every one's mind. It is not the custom of Scripture to introduce its doctrines so abruptly, to prescribe any duty which is destitute of the solid foundation of previous instruction.

If thus we may consider it as proved, (1) that the serpent was an agent in the temptation, and (2) that it served only as an instrument to Satan, the real tempter,—then we have also thereby proved that the curse denounced against the tempter must have a double sense. It must, in the first place, refer to the instrument; but, in its chief import, it must bear upon the real tempter, for it was properly he alone who had done that which merited the punishment and the curse. Let us now, upon this principle, proceed to the interpretation of our passage.

It is said in ver. 14: "And Jehovah Elohim said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou shalt be cursed above all cattle and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust thou shalt eat all the days of thy life."—If we do not [Pg 24] look beyond the serpent, these words have in them something incomprehensible, inasmuch as the serpent is destitute of that responsibility which alone could justify so severe a sentence. There is no difficulty attached to the idea that the serpent must suffer. It shares this fate along with all the other irrational earthly creation, which is made subject to vanity (Rom. viii. 20), and which must accompany man, for whose sake it was created, through all the stages of his existence. But the question here at issue is not about mere suffering, but about well-merited punishment. The serpent is not, like the whole remaining earth, cursed for the sake of man (Gen. iii. 17), but it is cursed because "it has done this." Punishment presupposes being created in the image of God, and, according to chap. i., such a creation is peculiar only to man. But as soon as we assume the co-operation of an invisible author of the temptation, by whom the serpent was animated, everything which is here threatened against the visible instrument acquires a symbolical meaning. The degradation inflicted upon the latter,—the announcement of the defeat which it is to sustain in the warfare with man,—represent in a figure the fate of the real tempter only. The instrument used by him in the temptation is at the same time the symbol of the punishment which he is destined to endure.

Although it be said that the serpent should be "cursed above all cattle," etc., this does not necessarily imply that the other animals are also cursed, any more than the words, "subtle above all the beasts," imply that all other beasts are subtle. It is certainly not always necessary that the whole existing difference should be pointed out. The sense is simply: Thou shalt be more cursed than all cattle. In a similar manner it is said, in the song of Deborah, concerning Jael, "Blessed above women shall Jael be," Judges v. 24; for this does not imply that all other women are blessed, but means only that, whether they be blessed or not, Jael, at all events, is the most blessed.

The eating of dust must not be interpreted literally, as if the serpent were to feed upon dust; but, since it is to creep on the ground, it cannot be but that it swallow dust along with its food. Thus we find in Ps. cii., in "the prayer of the afflicted," ver. 10, "For I have eaten ashes like bread," used of occasional swallowing of ashes. As an expression of deepest humiliation, the [Pg 25] licking of dust is used in Mic. vii. 17, where it is said of the enemies of the Church, "They shall lick dust like the serpent." In Is. xlix. 23, compared with Ps. lii. 9, the licking up the dust of the feet is likewise inflicted upon the humbled enemies. If, undoubtedly, there be, even in these passages, a slight reference to the one before us, the allusion to it is still plainer in Is. lxv. 25, where it is said, "And dust shall be the serpent's meat." Of the denunciation in Gen. iii. 14, 15, the eating of dust alone shall remain, while the bruising of the heel shall come to an end. And while all other creatures shall escape from the doom which has come upon them in consequence of the fall of man, the serpent—the instrument used in the temptation—shall, agreeably to the words in the sentence of punishment, "All the days of thy life," remain condemned to a perpetual abasement, thus prefiguring the fate of the real tempter, for whom there is no share in the redemption.

The opinion which has been again of late defended by Hofmann and Baumgarten, that the serpent had before the fall the same shape as after it, only that after the fall it possesses as a punishment what before the fall was its nature, stands plainly opposed to the context. Even a priori, and in accordance with Satan's usual mode of proceeding, it is probable that he, who loves to transform himself into an angel of light, should have chosen an attractive and charming instrument of temptation. This view loses all that is strange in it, if only we consider the change of the serpent, not as an isolated thing, but in connection with the great change which, after the fall of man, affected the whole nature (comp. Gen. i. 31, according to which the entire animal creation had, previously to the fall, impressed upon it the image of man's innocence and peace, and the law of destruction did not pervade it, Gen. iii. 17; Rom. viii. 20); and if only we keep in mind that, before the fall, the whole animal world was essentially different from what it is now, so that we cannot by any means think of forming to ourselves a distinct Image of the serpent, as Luther and others have done.

The serpent is thus, by its disgusting form, and by the degradation of its whole being, doomed to be the visible representative of the kingdom of darkness, and of its head, to whom it had served as an instrument. But the words, when applied to the head himself, give expression to the idea: "extreme contempt, [Pg 26] shame, and abasement shall be thy lot." Thus Calmet remarks on this passage: "This enemy of mankind crawls, as it were, on his belly, on account of the shame and disgrace to which he is reduced." Satan imagined that, by means of the fall of man, he would enlarge his kingdom and extend his power. But to the eye of God the matter appeared in a totally different light, because, along with the fall, He beheld the redemption.

Ver. 15. "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; and it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise its heel." In the two other passages where the word [Hebrew: wvP] occurs (Ps. cxxxix. 11 [compare my commentary on that passage] and Job ix. 17), it undeniably signifies: "to crush," "to bruise." This signification, therefore, which is confirmed by the Chaldee Paraphrast, and which Paul also follows in Rom. xvi. 20 ([Greek: suntripsei], whilst the LXX. have [Greek: teresei]), must here also be retained. It is only in appearance that, in the second passage referred to, the signification "to crush" seems to be inappropriate; for there, "to crush" is used in the sense of "to destroy," "to annihilate," just as in Jonah iv. 7, "to strike" is used of the sting of an insect, because its effect is similar to that produced by a stroke. The words [Hebrew: raw] and [Hebrew: eqb] are a second accusative governed by the verb, whereby the place of the action is more distinctly marked out. That by "head" and "heel"—a majus and a minus—a victory of mankind over the seed of the serpent should be signified, was seen by Calvin, who says, "Meanwhile we see how graciously the Lord deals even in the punishment of men, inasmuch as He does not give the serpent power to do more than wound the heel, while to man is given the power of wounding its head. For the words 'head' and 'heel' point out only what is superior and what is inferior." That these words are by no means intended to describe the mutual antipathy between men and serpents, is rendered evident by the consideration, that, if such were the intention, no special punishment would be denounced against the serpent, while, according to the context, such denunciation is certainly designed by the writer. The words treat of the punishment of the serpent; it is only in ver. 16 that the sentence against man is proclaimed. It is true that the bite of a serpent is dangerous when it is applied even to the heel, for the poison thence penetrates the whole body; but to this fact in natural history there is here [Pg 27] no allusion, nor is the biting of the serpent at all the point here in question. The contrast between head and heel is simply that which exists between the noble and less noble parts,—those parts of which the injury is commonly curable or incurable. The objection: "The serpent creeps, man walks upright; if then an enmity exists between them, how can it be otherwise than that man wounds its head, and that it wounds his heel?" entirely overlooks the consideration, that, according to ver. 14, it is in consequence of the divine curse that the serpent creeps in the dust. In this degraded condition—a condition which is not natural, but inflicted as a punishment—it is implied that the serpent can attack man at his heel only. This plain connection between ver. 15 and 14 is evidently overlooked by those who hold the opinion, that this mutual enmity is pernicious equally to man and serpent. The very circumstance that the serpent is condemned to go on its belly, and to eat dust, whilst man retains that erect walk in which the image of God is reflected, paves the way for the announcement of the victory in ver. 16.

Experience bears ample witness to the truth of the divine sentence, that there shall, in future, be enmity between the seed of the serpent and mankind, in so far as this sentence refers to the instrument of the temptation; for abhorrence of the serpent is natural to man. Thus Calvin remarks: "It is in consequence of a secret natural instinct that man abhors them; and as often as the sight of a serpent fills us with horror, the recollection of our apostasy is renewed."

But, in the fate of the serpent which is here announced, there is an indication of the doom of the spiritual author of the temptation. It has been objected that any reference to Satan is inadmissible, because the "seed of the serpent" here spoken of cannot designate wicked men, who are "children of the devil;" for these, too, belong to the seed of the woman, and cannot, therefore, be put in opposition to it. But against this objection Storr, in his treatise, de Protevangelio, remarks: "We easily see that many of the seed of the woman likewise belong to the seed of the serpent; but they have become unworthy of that name, since they apostatized to the common enemy of their race." It is quite true that, by the seed of the woman, her whole progeny is designated; but they who enter into communion [Pg 28] with the hereditary enemy of the human race are viewed as having excommunicated themselves. Compare Gen. xxi. 12, where Isaac alone is declared to be the true descendant of Abraham, and his other sons are, as false descendants, excluded. Moreover, not only wicked men, but also the angels of Satan (Matt. xxv. 41; Rev. xii. 7-9), belong to the seed of the serpent.

The greater number of the earlier Christian interpreters were of opinion that, by the seed of the woman, the Messiah is directly pointed at. But to this opinion it may be objected, that it does violence to the language to understand, by the seed of the woman, any single individual; and the more so, since we are compelled to understand, by the seed of the serpent, a plurality of individuals, viz., the spiritual children of Satan, the heads and members of the kingdom of darkness. Further,—As far as the sentence has reference to the serpent, the human race alone can be understood by the seed of the woman; and to this, therefore, the victory over the invisible author of the temptation must also be adjudged. The reference to the human race is also indicated by the connection between "her seed" in this verse, and the words, "Thou shalt bring forth sons," in ver. 16. Finally,—As the person of the Messiah does not yet distinctly appear even in the promises to the Patriarchs, this passage cannot well be explained of a personal Messiah; inasmuch as, by such an explanation, the progressive expansion of the Messianic prophecy in Genesis would be destroyed.

If, however, by the seed of the woman we understand the entire progeny of the woman, we obtain the following sense: "It is true that thou hast now inflicted upon the woman a severe wound, and that thou and thine associates will continue to assail her: but, notwithstanding thine eager desire to injure, thou shalt be able to inflict on mankind only such wounds as are curable; while, on the contrary, the posterity of the woman shall, at some future period, vanquish thee, and make thee feel all thy weakness."

This interpretation is found as early as in the Targum of Jonathan, and in that of Jerusalem, where, by the seed of the woman, are understood the Jews, who, at the time of the Messiah, shall overcome Sammael. Thus, too, does Paul explain it in Rom. xvi. 20, where the promise is regarded as referring to Christians as a body. It has found, subsequently, an able defender [Pg 29] in Calvin[3] and, in modern times, in Herder.[4] The treatise of Storr, too (in the Opusc. ii.), is devoted to its defence.

Even according to this interpretation, the passage justly bears the name of the Protevangelium, which has been given to it by the Church. It is only in general terms, indeed, that the future victory of the kingdom of light over that of darkness is foretold, and not the person of the Redeemer who should lead in the warfare, and bestow the strength which should be necessary for maintaining it. Anything beyond this we are not even entitled to expect at the first beginnings of the human race; a gradual progress is observable in the kingdom of grace, as well as in that of nature.

It is certainly, however, not a matter of chance that the posterity of the woman is not broken up into a plurality, but that, in order to designate it, expressions in the singular ([Hebrew: zre] and [Hebrew: hva]) are chosen. This unity, which, in the meanwhile, it is true, is only ideal, was chosen with regard to the person of the Redeemer, who comprehends within Himself the whole human race. And it is not less significant, and has certainly a deeper ground, that the victory over the serpent is assigned to the seed of the woman, not to the posterity of Adam; and though, indeed, [Pg 30] the circumstance that the woman was first deceived may have been the proximate cause of it, yet it cannot be exclusively referred to, and derived from, it. By these remarks we come still nearer to the view of the ancient Church.

Footnote 1: So, e.g. Cramer in the Nebenarbeiten zur Theologischen Literatur, St. 2.

Footnote 2: The positive reasons by which I there proved the reference to Satan, have not been invalidated by the objections of Hofmann in his Schriftbeweis i. 379. He says: As an adjective formed in a manner similar to [Hebrew: qlql] (Num. xxi. 6) must have an intransitive signification, it cannot mean "separated," but according to its derivation from [Hebrew: azl] = [Hebrew: ezl], it means: "altogether gone away." But this argument has no force. The real import of the form of the word is gradation, and frequent repetition. Instances of a passive signification are given in Ewald's Lehrbuch der Hebr. Sprache, Sec. 157 c.: compare, e.g., Deut. xxxii. 5. There is so much the stronger reason for adopting the passive signification, that in Arabic also,—which alone can be consulted, as the comparison with the Hebrew [Hebrew: azl] has no sure foundation on which to rest,—the root has the signification: remotus, sepositus fuit, and the participle: a ceteris se sejungens. Compare Egypt and the B. M., p. 169.

Footnote 3: He says,—This, therefore, is the sense of the passage: "The human race, whom Satan had endeavoured to destroy, shall at length be victorious. But, meanwhile, we must bear in mind the mode in which, according to Scripture, that victory is to be achieved. According to his own pleasure, Satan has, through all centuries, led captive the sons of men, and even to this day he continues that sad victory. But, since a stronger one has come down from heaven to subdue him, the whole Church of God shall, under her Head, and like Him, be victorious."

Footnote 4: Briefe das Studium der Theologie betr. ii. S. 225 (Tueb. 1808): "The serpent had injured them; it had become to them a symbol of evil, of seduction, and at the same time of God's curse, of contempt and punishment. To men the encouraging prospect was held out, that they, the seed of the woman, were stronger and nobler than the serpent, and all evil. They should tread upon the head of the serpent, while the latter should be able to avenge itself only by a slight wound in their heel. In short, the good should gain the ascendancy over the evil. Such was the prospect. How clear or how obscure it was to the first human pair, it is not our present purpose to inquire. It is enough that the noblest warrior against evil, the most valiant bruiser of the serpent's head from among the descendants of Eve, was comprehended in this prospect, and indeed pre-eminently referred to. Thus, then, only an outline, as it were, was given to them in a figure, the import of which only future times saw more clearly developed."


Ver. 20. "And Noah began and became an husbandman, and planted vineyards."—This does not imply that Noah was the first who began to till the ground, and, more especially, to cultivate the vine; for Cain, too, was a tiller of the ground, Gen. iv. 2. The sense rather is, that Noah, after the flood, again took up this calling. Moreover, the remark has not an independent import; it serves only to prepare the way for the communication of the subsequent account of Noah's drunkenness. By this remark, a defence of Noah on account of his drunkenness is entirely cut off. Against such a defence Luther expressed himself in very strong terms: "They," says he, "who would defend the Patriarch in this, wantonly reject the consolation which the Holy Ghost considered to be necessary to the Church—the consolation, namely, that even the greatest saints may, at times, stumble and fall."[1]

Ver. 21. "And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent."

Ver. 22. "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without."—David is reproved in 2 Sam. xii. 14, for having given occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme. The same reproof might justly be administered to Noah also. Ham rejoiced to find a nakedness in him whose reproving earnestness had often been a burden to his sinful soul. Luther remarks: "There is no doubt [Pg 31] that he (Noah) must have done much which was offensive to his proud, high-minded, and presumptuous son.... For this reason we must not regard this deed of Ham as mere child's play, as an action destitute of all significance; but as the result of the bitterest hatred and resentment of Satan, by which he prepares and excites his members against the true Church, and specially against those who are in the ministry. Let them, therefore, give earnest heed as to whether, either in their persons or in their offices, they give any occasion for blasphemy. We have in this history an example of divine terrors and judgment, that we may take warning from the danger of Ham, and not venture to be rash in judging, though we should see that a secular or ecclesiastical authority, or even our parents, do err and fall."

Ver. 23. "And Shem and Japheth took the garment."—Luther says: "Such an outward and lovely reverence they could not have shown to their father, if they had not, inwardly and in their hearts, been rightly disposed towards God, and had not considered their father as a high priest and king set over them by divine appointment." The mode of expression indicates that the real impulse proceeded from Shem, and that, as a prefiguration of what was to take place, Japheth only showed susceptibility for the good, and a willingness to join with him. It is true that the singular [Hebrew: viqH] is not, by itself, decisive. When the verb precedes, it is not absolutely necessary that it should agree with the subject in gender and number; but the use of the singular is, nevertheless, remarkable. If Shem and Japheth had been equally active, the latter also would, at once, have been present to the mind of the writer. Under these circumstances, there is the less reason for supposing that the use of the singular can be merely accidental, especially as the words, "and he told his two brethren without," immediately precede. But all doubt is removed by a second allusion, which goes hand in hand with the first, and which is contained in the following verse.

Ver. 24. "And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him."—That Ham was older than Japheth, appears from the circumstance that the order in which the sons of Noah are introduced is uniformly thus: Shem, Ham, Japheth; or, beginning, as in chap. x., from the youngest, [Pg 32] Japheth, Ham, Shem,—where, however, in ver. 21, the words added immediately after Shem—"the elder brother of Japheth," expressly indicate that, for a certain purpose, the writer has proceeded in order from the youngest to the oldest. It is altogether in vain that some have attempted to prove from chap. xi. 10 (according to which Shem was, two years after the flood, only a hundred years old), compared with chap. v. 32 (according to which Noah began to beget when he was five hundred years old), that Shem was not the first-born. The words in chap. v. 32 are: "And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth." That the chronology can here be determined in a way which only approximates to the truth, is implied, as a matter of course, in the statement, that all the three sons were begotten when Noah was five hundred years of age; nothing more is meant than that Noah begat them after he had finished his fifth, or at the beginning of his sixth, century. (Compare Ranke's Untersuchungen.) It is just an indefinite statement of time which points forward to another genealogy, in which the details will be given with greater precision. Ham everywhere stands between the two; but that, nevertheless, he is, in this passage, called the younger son, can be explained only on the ground that, in the case before us, Shem and Ham are the two more especially noticed—Shem as positively good, and Ham as positively evil, while Japheth only takes part with Shem. We have thus laid an excellent foundation for the right understanding of the subsequent prophetic utterance of Noah—for the announcement, namely, of Japheth's dwelling in the tents of Shem.

Ver. 25. "And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren."—Luther says: "Good old Noah, who is regarded by his son as a foolish and stupid old man, deserving only of mockery, appears here in truly prophetic majesty, and announces to his sons a divine revelation of what shall come to pass in future days; thus verifying what Paul says in 2 Cor. xii., that God's strength is made perfect in weakness."

According to the opinion now current, Canaan is said to mean "lowland," and to be transferred from the land to the people, and from the people to the pretended ancestor. But this opinion is shown to be untenable by the considerations, that, according to historical tradition, Canaan appears first as [Pg 33] the name of the ancestor;—that the verb [Hebrew: kne] is never used of natural lowness, but always of humiliation;—that in our passage, where the name first occurs, it stands in connection with servitude;—that the masculine form of the noun (on the adjective termination an, compare Ewald's Lehrb. d. Heb. Spr. Sec. 163, b.) is not applicable to the country;—that the country Canaan is so far from being a lowland, that it appears, everywhere in the Pentateuch, as a land of hills (see Deut. xi. 2, iii. 25, where the land itself is even called, "that goodly mountain");[2]—and, finally, that, from all appearance, Canaan is primarily the name, not of the country, but of the people—the former being called [Hebrew: arvr kneN], the land of Canaan.

The real etymology of the name is almost expressly given in Judges iv. 23; [Hebrew: vikne], "and God bowed down, or humbled, on that day Jabin the king of Canaan." Compare also Deut. ix. 3, where, in reference to the Canaanites, it is said, [Hebrew: hva iknieM], "He will humble or subdue them;" and Nehem. ix. 24: "Thou bowedest down before them the inhabitants of the land—the Canaanites." Our passage also proceeds upon this interpretation of the name. We are the rather induced to assume a connection betwixt the name "Canaan," and the words, "a servant of servants shall he be," as in the case of Japheth also there is certainly an allusion to the signification of the name, and probably in the case of Shem also. Perhaps even the name Ham, i.e., "the blackish one," may be connected with the character which he here displays—a suggestion which we do not here follow up. We refer, however, for an analogy, to what has been remarked in our Commentary on the Psalms, in the Introduction of Ps. vii.

Canaan means: "the submissive one." It is a name which the people themselves, on whose monuments it appears, would never have appropriated to themselves (just as in the case of the Egyptians also, on which point Gesenius in the Thesaurus, and my work Egypt, etc., p. 210, may be compared), unless it had been proper to them from their very origin. Ham gave this name to his son from the obedience which he demanded, but [Pg 34] did not himself yield. The son was to be the servant of the father (for the name suggests servile obedience), who was as despotical to his inferiors as he was rebellious against his superiors. When the father gave that name to his son, he thought only of submissiveness to his orders; but God, who, in His mysterious providence, disposes of all these matters, had another submissiveness in view.

But why is Canaan cursed and not Ham? For an answer to this question, we are at liberty neither to fall back upon the sovereign decree of God, as Calvin does, nor to say with Hofmann: "Canaan is the youngest son of Ham (Gen. x. 6); and because Ham, the youngest son of Noah, had caused so much grief to the father, he, in return, is to experience great grief from his youngest son." This latter view rests upon false historical suppositions. We have already proved that Ham was not the youngest son of Noah; and it by no means follows from Gen. x. 6, that Canaan was the youngest son of Ham. Canaan's name is mentioned last among the sons of Ham, because the whole account of Ham's family was to be combined with the detailed enumeration of Canaan's descendants, who stood in so important a relation to Israel. The boundary line as regards Shem is formed, quite naturally, by that branch of Ham's family which stood in so important a relation to the main branch of the family of Shem. But, as little reliance can be placed upon the theological grounds of that conjecture; for the question at issue is not the withdrawal of outward advantages. Canaan is cursed, and it is just the sting of his servitude that it is the consequence of the curse. It would indeed sadly affect the biblical doctrine of recompense, if cursing and blessing were dependent upon such external reasons as, in the case before us, upon the circumstance that Canaan was so unfortunate as to be the youngest son.

The right answer to the question is without doubt this:—Ham is punished in his son, just as he himself had sinned against his father. He is punished in this son, because he followed most decidedly the example of his father's impiety and wickedness. To this view we are led by the whole doctrine of Holy Scripture concerning the visitation of the guilt of the fathers upon the children. (Compare the author's "Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch," vol. ii. p. 373.) [Pg 35] To this view we are also led by the passage in Gen. xv. 16: "But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." According to this passage, the curse on Canaan can be realized upon him, only when his own iniquity has been fully matured. This his iniquity is presupposed by his curse. If he were to be punished on account of the guilt of the father,—a guilt in which he had no share,—then indeed no delay would have been necessary. To this view we are farther led by what is reported in Genesis concerning the moral depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah, which, in the development of the sinful germ inherent in the race, had outrun all others, and were, therefore, before all others, overtaken by punishment. (To this view we are further led by what is reported in Genesis concerning the moral depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah, which, in the development of the sinful germ inherent in the race, had outrun all others, and were therefore, before all others, overtaken by punishment) To this view we are led, further, by Lev. xviii. and the parallel passages, where the Canaanites appear as a nation of abominations which the land spues out; and, finally, by what ancient heathen writers report regarding the deep corruption of the Ph[oe]nicians and Carthaginians.

The remainder of Ham's posterity are passed over in silence; it is only in the sequel that we expect information regarding them. But the foreboding arises, that their deliverance will be more difficult of accomplishment than that of Japheth, although the circumstance that Canaan is singled out from among them affords us decided hope for the rest.

But not even the exclusion of Ham is to be considered as an unavoidable fate resting upon him. Heathenism alone knows such a curse. The subjective conditions of the curse imply the possibility of becoming free from it. To this, there is an express testimony in the circumstance, that the promise to the Patriarchs is not limited. David received the remnant of the Canaanitish Jebusites into the congregation of the Lord. (Compare remarks on Zech. ix. 7.) And, in the Gospels, the Canaanitish woman appears as a representative of her nation, and as a proof the possibility, granted to them, of breaking through the fetters of the curse. (Compare also the remarkable passage, Ezek. xvi. 46.)

[Pg 36]

"The curse is contrasted with the blessing pronounced on Shem and Japheth, and the second member of ver. 25 is, in vers. 26, 27, used as a repetition in reference to each of the two brethren, who were, in it, viewed together."—(Tuch.)

Ver. 26. "And he said: Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem; and Canaan shall be a servant to them."—The Patriarch Noah,—a just man, and one who walked before God (Gen. vi. 9),—a man raised on high, as David says of himself in 2 Sam. xxiii. 1,—a man whose utterances are not mere individual wishes, but, at the same time, prophecies,—sees such rich blessings in store for his son, that, instead of announcing them to him, he immediately breaks out into the praise of God, who is the Author of them, and from whom the piety of Shem,[3] the foundation of this salvation, was derived, just as Moses, in Deut. xxx. 20, instead of blessing Gad, blesses him by whom Gad is enlarged. The manner in which God is here spoken of indicates, indirectly, what that is in which the blessing consists. First,—God is not called by the name Elohim (which is expressive of merely the most general outlines of His nature), but by the name Jehovah, which has reference to His manifested personality, to His revelations, and to His institutions for salvation.[4] Secondly,—Jehovah is called the God of Shem,—the first passage of Holy Scripture in which God is called the God of some person. Both these circumstances indicate that God is to enter into an altogether peculiar relation to the descendants of Shem; that He will reveal Himself to them; establish His kingdom among them, and make them partakers of both His earthly and His heavenly blessings. Thus Luther says: "This is indeed perceptible and clear, that he thus binds closely together God and his son Shem, and, as it were, commits the one to the other. In this, he indeed indicates the mystery of which Paul treats in Rom. xi. 11 sq., and Christ, in John iv. 22, that salvation cometh from the Jews, but that, nevertheless, the heathen shall become partakers of it. For [Pg 37] although Shem alone be the real root and trunk, yet into this tree the Gentiles are, as a strange branch, graffed, and enjoy the fatness and sap which are in the elect tree. This light Noah, through the Holy Spirit, sees, and although he speaks dark words, he yet prophesies very plainly, that the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be planted in the world, and shall grow up among the race of Shem, and not among that of Japheth." As yet Shem and Japheth were on an equal footing. In the preceding part of the narrative, nothing had been communicated by which God had, in His relation to Shem, given up His nature as Elohim, and had become his God. It is only by anticipation, then, that God can, in His relation to Shem, be designated as Jehovah, and as the God of Shem. The thought can, when fully brought out, be this alone: "Blessed be God, who will, in future, reveal Himself as Jehovah, and as the God of Shem."

If it be overlooked that, in this appellation of God, there is implied the indirect designation of the blessings which are to be conferred on Shem (just as in Gen. xxiv. 27 the words, "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of my master Abraham," imply the thought: because He has manifested Himself as Jehovah, and as the God of my master; which thought is then further carried out in the subsequent words: "And who hath not left destitute my master of His mercy and His truth;"—and just as it is also in the utterance of Zacharias in Luke i. 68, where the words, "Blessed be the Lord [Greek: kurios], the God of Israel," imply the thought: because He has manifested Himself as the Lord [in the New Testament, [Greek: kurios] is used where the Old has Jehovah], the God of Israel),—if this be overlooked, we obtain only a weak and inadequate thought, very unsuitable to the context, the purport of which evidently is to celebrate Shem, and to mark him out as worthy of his name. So it is according to Hofmann, who, in the words, "Blessed—Shem," finds only an expression of gratitude for the gift of this good son, and who limits the announcement of blessings to the single one—that Canaan shall be Shem's servant. Against this feeble interpretation we must adduce these considerations also: that nowhere does the gift of the good son form, even indirectly, the subject in question;—that thus we should lose the opposition of the curse and the blessing (which requires that, under [Pg 38] the "Blessed be Jehovah," we should have concealed the "Blessed be Shem"), just as we should, the contrast between Jehovah here and Elohim in the following verse;—and, lastly, that what, in the following verse, is said of Japheth's dwelling in the tents of Shem, would thus be deprived of its necessary foundation.

It is said: "Canaan shall be a servant to them." The suffix [Hebrew: -mv], which cannot be used for the singular, any more than can the suffix [Hebrew: -M], for which it is only the fuller poetical form (the instances of a different use, adduced by Ewald, Sec. 247, d., can easily be explained in accordance with the rule), indicates that the announcement has no reference to the personal relation of Shem and Ham, but that they come into view solely as the heads of families.

Ver. 27. "May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be a servant to them."—These words, in the first instance, contain the blessing pronounced upon Japheth; but they entitle us to infer from them, at the same time, a glorious blessing destined for Shem, which is the source of blessing to Japheth also. They thus complete the promise of the preceding verse, which directly refers to Shem.

The first clause of this verse has received a great variety of interpretations. The word [Hebrew: ipt], which refers to, and is explanatory of, the name [Hebrew: ipt] (i.e. Japheth), is the future apoc. Hiphil of [Hebrew: pth]. The Piel of this verb has in Hebrew commonly the signification: "to persuade, or prevail upon any one to do anything." Hence many interpreters translate with Calvin: "May God allure Japheth that he may dwell in the tents of Shem." Luther also, in his Commentary, thus explains it: "God will kindly speak to Japheth;" while, in his translation, he has: "May God enlarge Japheth."—But to this interpretation it has been rightly objected, that the verb [Hebrew: pth] is found only in Piel, not in Hiphil, with the signification "to persuade;" that, commonly, it signifies "to persuade" only in a bad sense; and that, in this sense, it is never construed with [Hebrew: l], but always with the accusative.—All interpreters now agree that (in conformity with the LXX. [Greek: platunai ho Theos to Iapheth], the Vulgate [dilatet Deus Japhet], and Onkelos) [Hebrew: ipt] must be derived from [Hebrew: pth] in its primary signification, "to be wide, large," in which it is found in Prov. xx. 19 (where [Hebrew: wptiv] [Pg 39] is accusative denoting the place), and which signification is the common one in Aramaic. But they then again disagree, inasmuch as some think of a local extension: God shall give to Japheth a numerous posterity, which shall take possession of extended territories; while others find here expressed the idea of general prosperity: God shall prosper Japheth, shall bring him into a free and unstraitened position.

Both of these views partake of alike mistake from regarding the words per se, and as disconnected from the following announcement of Japheth's dwelling in the tents of Shem. It must also be objected to them, that in the case of Shem, only one feature of the blessing is pointed out, viz., that God will be to him Jehovah, his God; and so, likewise, only one feature of the curse in the case of Ham. When those words are isolated, separated from what follows, and understood of extension, this difficulty arises, that Ham enjoys this extension in common with Japheth, as is shown by a glance at Gen. x. If, on the other hand, we understand them as expressive of prosperity (according to Hofmann: "general prosperity in the affairs of outward life"), this explanation is destitute of a sufficient foundation, and there is nothing reported in the sequel regarding the fulfilment of such a promise. To this we must further add, that the verb [Hebrew: ipt] is, on account of its immediate nearness to the proper name, too little expressive, and that, hence, we must expect to find its meaning more fully brought out in what follows.

But if it be acknowledged that the extension appears here as a blessing, in so far only as it leads to the dwelling in the tents of Shem, mentioned in the subsequent clause of the verse, and that the blessing can consist in nothing else, there is then no essential difference betwixt the two interpretations. But we decide in favour of the latter view, because the corresponding verb [Hebrew: hrHib], "to make wide, to enlarge," when construed with [Hebrew: l], is always used in the signification: "to bring into a free, unstraitened, easy, happy position." (See, e.g., Gen. xxvi. 22; Ps. iv. 2; Prov. xviii. 16; 2 Sam. xxii. 20.) Even when followed by an accusative, the verb is found with this signification in Deut. xxxiii. 20: "Blessed be He that enlargeth Gad." (In this passage, too, the word has been understood as denoting extension; and Deut. xii. 20, xix. 8, have been appealed to in support of the opinion; but this appeal is inadmissible, because [Pg 40] extension of the borders is the thing which is there spoken of. The allusion to the signification of the name Gad = good luck [Gen. xxx. 11: "And Leah said, For good luck;[5] and she called his name Gad"], is favourable to our view, as well as the circumstance, that in this case the subsequent words are only an expansion of the general thought, and more closely determine the happiness. Jehovah, who enlarges Gad, according to the words which follow, "He dwelleth like a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head," is contrasted with the enemies who wish to drive him into a strait. If room be made for him, he becomes happy, as it were, by enlargement.) To understand [Hebrew: ipt] of prosperity and happiness, is countenanced also by the consideration that, in such circumstances, the name Japheth appears much more appropriate in the mouth of Noah, by whom it was uttered at a time when extension could be but little thought of, and that it corresponds much better with the name Shem.

Elohim is to enlarge Japheth. Elohim here stands in strict contrast with Jehovah, the God of Shem. It is only by dwelling in the tents of Shem, that Japheth passes over into the territory of Jehovah,—up to that time, he belongs to the territory of Elohim. But Elohim leads him to Jehovah. It is a contrast in all respects similar to that which we have in Gen. xiv., where, in verse 19, Melchizedek speaks of "the most high God," whose priest he is, according to verse 20; while Abraham, on the contrary, speaks, in verse 22, of "Jehovah the most high God."

There is a difference of opinion regarding the determination of the subject in the second clause of the verse: "and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem." According to a very ancient interpretation, Elohim is to be supplied as such; from which the following sense would be obtained: "God shall indeed enlarge and prosper Japheth, but He shall dwell in the tents of Shem." [Pg 41] The inferior blessing of Japheth would thus be contrasted with the superior one of Shem, among whose posterity God should, by His gracious presence, glorify Himself,—first in the tabernacle, then in the temple, and lastly, should, in the highest sense, dwell by the incarnation of His Son. Thus Onkelos: "God shall extend Japheth, and His Shechinah shall dwell in the tents of Shem." The ancient book Breshith Rabba remarks on this passage: "The Shechinah dwells only in the tents of Shem." (See Schoettgen, de Messia, p. 441.) Theodoret also (Interrog. 58 in Genesin) advances this explanation, and ably brings out this sense. It has of late been again defended by Hofmann and Baumgarten. But against this view there are decisive arguments, which show that Japheth alone can be the subject. To mention only a few:—It cannot be doubted that it is on purpose that Noah, when speaking of Shem, has chosen the name Jehovah, and that, as soon as he comes to Japheth, he makes use of the name Elohim. We cannot, therefore, suppose that here, where, according to this interpretation, he would just touch upon the essential point in the peculiar relation of Jehovah to the descendants of Shem—the Israelites, he should have made use of the general name of Elohim, as in the case of Japheth. The subject—Jehovah—could not in this case have been omitted before [Hebrew: iwkN]. Further,—By such an interpretation we are involved in inextricable difficulties as regards the last clause of the verse. The words, "And Canaan shall be a servant to them," can neither be referred to Shem alone—for, in that case, they would be an useless repetition, as in ver. 25 Canaan had been doomed to be a servant to his brethren—nor can they be referred to Shem and Japheth at the same time; the analogy of the [Hebrew: lmv] in the preceding verse, where the plural referred to the plurality represented by the one Shem, forbids this. If, then, the last clause can refer to Japheth only, the clause in which the dwelling in the tents of Shem is spoken of, must likewise be referred to Japheth. To these arguments we may further add, that there is something altogether strange in the expression: "God shall dwell in the tents of Shem." There is, in Holy Scripture, frequent mention of God's dwelling in His tabernacle, on His holy hill, in Zion, in the midst of the children of Israel. Believers also are said to dwell in the tabernacle or temple of God; but nowhere is [Pg 48] God spoken of as dwelling in the tents of Israel. Further,—If we refer the second clause to Shem, the first, in its detached position, would be too general, too indefinite, and too loose to admit of the blessing of Japheth being concluded with it. We must not, moreover, lose sight of the consideration, that when we refer the second clause also to Japheth, there springs up a beautiful connection between the relation of Shem and Japheth to each other in the present, and during their future progress. As the reaction against the corruption of Ham had originated with Shem, and Japheth had only joined him in it; so in future also, the real home of piety and salvation will be with Shem, to whom Japheth, in the felt need of salvation, shall come near. Finally,—The analogy of the promise made to the Patriarch, according to which all the nations of the earth shall be blessed by the seed of Abraham, is in favour of our referring the second clause to Japheth. And if the Lord, alluding to our passage, says, in Luke xvi. 9, "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations" ([Greek: skene] = [Hebrew: ahl]), He expresses the view which we are now defending. For, in that passage, it is not God who receives, but man: they who, by their prayers, are more advanced, come to the help of those who have made less progress; those who have already attained to the enjoyment of salvation, make them partakers who stand in need of salvation.

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