The Early Chapters of Genesis: Chapter 9:1-7

Genesis 9:1‑7  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
FROM the specific dealing in the last section of chap. 8., on the ground of burnt offering with its savor of rest, which necessarily brought in the name of “Jehovah,” we return in chap. 9. to the general ways of God, of “Elohim,” till the special blessing of Shem requires “Jehovah” toward the close of the chapter. The propriety of the usage in each case is apparent and undeniable. It has no reasonable connection with the fancy of distinct authors or legends, but is founded on the exigencies of the truth and the exactitude of inspiration. Interchange of the name in any, case would touch, not of course the substance of the facts, but the moral perfection conveyed by their due occurrence.
“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And fear of you and dread of you shall be upon every animal of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, with all that moveth [on] the ground, and with all fishes of the sea: into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you: as the green herb I give you everything. Only flesh with its life, its blood, ye shall not eat. And surely your blood [that] of your lives will I require: at every animal's hand will I require it; and at man's hand, at the hand of each [the blood] of his brother, will I require the man's life. [Whoso] sheddeth the man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in God's image made he the man. And ye, be fruitful and multiply; swarm on the earth and multiply on it” (chap. 9:1-7).
Such is the tenure of man and the lower creation in the world that now is, in marked distinctness from the world that then was, when Adam was set up as head of the race in Eden. It was conferred dominion then for man made in God's image, after His likeness—dominion over fish of the sea, and over bird of the heavens, and over cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Now it was a fallen world, and the fear and the dread of those blessed by God and charged to replenish the earth were to be upon every beast and bird with reptile and fish. The creatures were delivered into men's hand. Sin pervaded, and God took it into consideration as an existing fact which could not be ignored; as we saw just before in its proper place, where sacrifice intervened, spite of the evil in man's heart and its imagination from his youth.
But if God now first gave every moving thing that lives to be food for man (ver. 3), as freely as green herbage had been originally given to beast and bird and reptile (chap. 1:30), there was marked restriction put on the blood. Of this man was not to eat (ver. 4). It was the life, and this God reserved for Himself. The liberty for animal food to man's use made the divine claim more conspicuous. Life belonged to God; and woe be to those that despise or defy His rights. It is the condition of a fallen world, and God is a Preserver, or a Savior, of all men as says the apostle, especially of those that believe. He governs in His providence. It is no longer the dominion given by the Creator. Now He licenses, and He prohibits.
For this reason God stringently guards human life and death. The very governing authority placed in man's hand would soon be misused and perverted by his will without the fear of God; and rivers of blood would flow, not merely through lawless corruption and violence as before the deluge, but by ambitious kings and governors after it. Therefore does God in His prescient wisdom and considerate goodness declare from the starting point of the new tenure, “Surely your blood [that is] of your lives will I require; at every animal's hand will I require it.” Specially of course would He require the life of man at man's hand, even at the hand of each man's brother (ver. 5). And this is set on its sacred and sound principle in ver. 6; By man should his blood be shed who shed man's blood; for in God's image did He make man.
The image of God expresses man's place and responsibility of representing God. Man alone has that image generally, Christ of course specially and alone perfectly and pre-eminently. It is not His likeness; for alas! man lost this by sin and begat in his own likeness, however grace might act as it does by faith to God's glory. But His image, even when fallen as here, man retains; and the man who slays another (save by competent authority) is guilty of denying God's right in this respect; which we see here that God asserts with the utmost plainness, precision, and solemnity. The murderer meddles not merely with man and injures him to the last degree, hut he also defaces God's image by killing a man, and God sentences him to die. Murder is unwarrantable assumption of what belongs to God. In no other way but by death of the murderer is God's honor vindicated, and God's will maintained. Men may have decreed otherwise; but they that do so are flying in the face of Him from Whom1 they derive their own title to govern. For here it is laid down before separate nations began, and before His special legislation for Israel where it was guarded with minute care, and not least in the exceptional case of manslaughter. To Noah was said what binds all mankind since the deluge.
Notwithstanding all He foresaw of rebellion and bloodshed, God repeats in ver. 7 His word to men, “Be fruitful and multiply; swarm in the earth and multiply in it.” This they have assuredly done.