|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
9:24-29 Noah declares a curse on Canaan, the son of Ham; perhaps this grandson of his was more guilty than the rest. A servant of servants, that is, The meanest and most despicable servant, shall he be, even to his brethren. This certainly points at the victories in after-times obtained by Israel over the Canaanites, by which they were put to the sword, or brought to pay tribute. The whole continent of Africa was peopled mostly by the descendants of Ham; and for how many ages have the better parts of that country lain under the dominion of the Romans, then of the Saracens, and now of the Turks! In what wickedness, ignorance, barbarity, slavery, and misery most of the inhabitants live! And of the poor negroes, how many every year are sold and bought, like beasts in the market, and conveyed from one quarter of the world to do the work of beasts in another! But this in no way excuses the covetousness and barbarity of those who enrich themselves with the product of their sweat and blood. God has not commanded us to enslave negroes; and, without doubt, he will severely punish all such cruel wrongs. The fulfilment of this prophecy, which contains almost a history of the world, frees Noah from the suspicion of having uttered it from personal anger. It fully proves that the Holy Spirit took occasion from Ham's offence to reveal his secret purposes. Blessed be the Lord God of Shem. The church should be built up and continued in the posterity of Shem; of him came the Jews, who were, for a great while, the only professing people God had in the world. Christ, who was the Lord God, in his human nature should descend from Shem; for of him, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. Noah also blesses Japheth, and, in him, the isles of the gentiles that were peopled by his seed. It speaks of the conversion of the gentiles, and the bringing of them into the church. We may read it, God shall persuade Japheth, and being persuaded, he shall dwell in the tents of Shem. Jews and gentiles shall be united together in the gospel fold; both shall be one in Christ. Noah lived to see two worlds; but being an heir of the righteousness which is by faith, he now rests in hope, waiting to see a better than either.
Verse 27. - God. Elohim. If vers. 18-27 are Jehovistic (Tuch, Bleek, Colenso, et alii), why Elohim? Is this a proof that the Jehovistic document was revised by the Elohistic author, as the presence of Jehovah in any so-called Elohistic section is regarded as an interpolation by the supplementer? To obviate this inference Davidson assigns vers. 20-27 to his redactor. But the change of name is sufficiently explained when we remember that "Jehovah, as such, never was the God of Japheth's descendants, and that the expression would have been as manifestly improper if applied to him as it is in its proper place applied to Shem" (Quarry, p. 393). Shall enlarge Japheth. יַפְתְּ לְיֶפֶת; literally, shall enlarge or make room for the one that spreads abroad; or, "may God concede an ample space to Japheth" (Gesenius). "Wide let God make it for Japheth" (Keil). "God give enlargement to Japheth" (Lange). So LXX., Vulgate, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic. The words form a paronomasia, both the verb and the noun being connected with the root פָתָה, to spread abroad; Hiph., to cause to lie open, hence to make room for, - and refer to the widespread diffusion and remarkable prosperity of the Japhetic nations. The familiar interpretation which renders "God will persuade Japheth, the persuadable," i.e. incline his heart by the gospel so that he may dwell in the tents of Shem (Junins, Vatablus, Calvin, Willet, Ainsworth), is discredited by the facts
(1) that the verb never means to persuade, except in a bad sense (cf. 1 Kings 22:20), and
(2) that in this sense it is never followed by לְ, but always by the accusative (vide Gesenius, sub. nom.; cf. Bush, p. 109). The fulfillment of the prophecy is apparent from the circumstance that "praeter Europam (εὐρώκη - wide, extensive) "maximam Asiae pattern, totum demique novum orbem, veluti immensae maguitudinis auctarium, Japheto posterique ejus in perpetuam possessionem obtigisse" (Fuller, ' Sac. Miscel., lib. 2. c. 4, quoted by Glass); cf. Genesis 10:2-5, in which Japheth is given as the progenitor of fourteen peoples, to which are added the inhabitants of the lands washed by the sea. The expansive power of Japheth "refem not only to the territory and the multitude of the Japhethites, but also to their intellectual and active faculties. The metaphysics of the Hindoos, the philosophy of the Greeks, the military prowess of the Romans, and the modern science and civilization of the world are due to the race of Japheth" (Murphy). And he - not Elohim (Philo., Theodoret, Onkelos, Dathe, Baumgarten, et alii), which
(1) substantially repeats the blessing already given to Shem, and
(2) would introduce an allusion to the superiority of Shem's blessing in what the context requires should be an unrestricted benediction of Japheth; but Japheth (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Keil, Lange, Kaliseh, Murphy, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary') - shall dwell. יִשְׁכַן, from שָׁכַן, to dwell; used of God inhabiting the heavens (Isaiah 57:15), dwelling in the bush (Deuteronomy 30:16), residing, or causing his name to dwell, in the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 12:11); hence supposed to favor the idea that Elohim is the subject; but it was as Jehovah (not Elohim) that God abode between the cherubim (Exodus 40:34). In the tents of Shem. Not the tents of celebrity (Gesenius, Vater, Michaelis, De Wette, Knobel), but the tents of the Shemitic races, with allusion not to their subjugation by the Japhethites (Clericus, Von Bohlen, Bochart), which would not be in keeping with the former blessing pronounced upon them (Murphy), but to their subsequent contiguity to, and even commingling with, but especially to their participation in the religious privileges of, the Shemites (the Fathers, Targum Jonathan, Hisronymus, Calvin, Keil, Lange, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Murphy, Candlish). The fulfillment of the prophecy is too obvious to call for illustration. And Canaan shall be his servant.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
God shall enlarge Japheth,.... Or give him a large part of the earth, and large dominions in it, as his posterity have had; for, as Bochart (r) observes, to them belonged all Europe, and lesser Asia, Media, Iberia, Albania, part of Armenia, and all those vast countries to the north, which formerly the Scythians, and now the Tartars inhabit; not to say anything of the new world (America), into which the Scythians might pass through the straights of Anian:
and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; inhabit the countries belonging to the posterity of Shem: this was verified by the Medes, who were the descendants of Japheth, together with the Babylonians seizing upon the Assyrian empire and overthrowing that, for Ashur was of Shem; and in the Greeks and Romans, who sprung from Japheth, when they made conquests in Asia, in which were the tents of Shem's posterity; and who, according to the prophecy in Numbers 24:24 that ships from the coast of Chittim, Greece, or Italy, or both, should afflict Ashur and Eber, the Assyrians and the Hebrews, or those beyond the river Euphrates, who all belonged to Shem; and particularly this was fulfilled when the Romans, who are of Japheth, seized Judea, which had long been the seat of the children of Shem, the Jews; and at this day the Turks (s), who are also Japheth's sons, literally dwell in the tents of Shem, or inhabit Judea: the Targums understand this in a mystical sense. Onkelos thus:"God shall cause his Shechinah or glorious Majesty to dwell in the tents of Shem;''which was remarkably true, when Christ, the brightness of his Father's glory, the Word, was made flesh, and tabernacled in Judea: Jonathan Ben Uzziel thus;"and his children shall be proselytes, and dwell in the school of Shem;''and many Christian writers interpret them of the conversion of the Gentiles, and of their union and communion with the believing Jews in one Gospel church state, which was very evidently fulfilled in the first times of the Gospel: and they read these words in connection with the former clause thus, "God shall persuade Japheth (t), and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem"; that is, God shall persuade the Gentiles, the posterity of Japheth, by the sweet alluring voice of his Gospel, and through the power of his grace accompanying it, to embrace and profess Christ and his Gospel, and join with his churches, and walk with them in all the commandments and ordinances of Christ; and at this day all the posterity of Japheth, excepting Magog, or the Turks, bear the name of Christians: the Talmudists (u) interpret the passage of the language of Japheth being spoken in the tents of Shem; which had its accomplishment when the apostles of Christ spoke and wrote in Greek, one of the languages of Japheth's sons. Some understand this of God himself, he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, or in Israel, as Jarchi, and was verified remarkably in the incarnation of the Son of God:
and Canaan shall be his servant; the posterity of Canaan servants to the posterity of Japheth; as they were when Tyre, which was built by the Sidonians, and Sidon, which had its name from the eldest son of Canaan, fell into the hands of Alexander the Grecian, who sprung from Japheth; and when Carthage, a colony of the Phoenicians of Canaan's race, was taken and demolished by the Romans of the line of Japheth, which made Hannibal, a child of Canaan, say, "agnoscere se fortunam Carthaginis" (w), that he owned the fate of Carthage; and in which some have thought that he refers to this prophecy.
(r) Phaleg. l. 3. c. 1. col. 149. (s) This was written about 1750. Ed. (t) "alliciet", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "persuadebit", Cocceius; so Ainsworth. (u) T. Hieros. Megillah, fol. 71. 2. T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 9. 2. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 36. fol. 32. 1.((w) Liv. Hist. l. 27. c. 51.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
27. God shall enlarge Japheth—pointing to a vast increase in posterity and possessions. Accordingly his descendants have been the most active and enterprising, spread over the best and largest portion of the world, all Europe and a considerable part of Asia.
he shall dwell in the tents of Shem—a prophecy being fulfilled at the present day, as in India British Government is established and the Anglo-Saxons being in the ascendancy from Europe to India, from India over the American continent. What a wonderful prophecy in a few verses (Isa 46:10; 1Pe 1:25)!
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