Genesis 9:26
And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
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(26) Blessed be Jehovah.—The greatness of Shem’s blessing is shown by its taking the form of a hymn of praise to Jehovah, the personal God; and the patriarch’s fervent outburst of thanksgiving was a presage of the hallelujahs that were to arise unto God from all mankind for the birth of that son of Shem in whom all nations were to be blessed. The following words should be translated, And let Canaan be their servant, the servant both of Shem and Japheth. (See margin.)

Genesis 9:26. Blessed be the Lord God of Shem — Abraham and all his posterity were included in the descendants of Shem, as appears from the next chapter. Our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, in whom all the nations of the earth are to be blessed, sprang from him. Well, therefore, might Jehovah be called the Lord God of Shem. Most of the worshippers of the true God, before the coming of the Messiah, were of his seed, and afterward the descendants of Shem were the chief instruments of bringing other nations to join in God’s worship, and to partake of the blessings of his salvation. Thus Shem is well recompensed for his respect to his father, and the being thus informed of the blessings that awaited his posterity, must have been a great consolation to him, as it, no doubt, was afterward to the truly pious of his seed.

9:24-29 Noah declares a curse on Canaan, the son of Ham; perhaps this grandson of his was more guilty than the rest.And he said. - The prediction concerning the other two brothers is a distinct utterance of Noah. "Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem." The characteristic boon of Shem is that Yahweh, the one true, living, known God, is his God. The knowledge and worship of the Creator is preserved in the family of Shem, when it is lost or fatally obscured among the other descendants of Noah. The prophet is so conscious of the unspeakable blessing of knowing and loving the true God, that he breaks out into thanksgiving in the very act of announcing the transcendent privilege of Shem. There is a dark side, however, to this prophetic thought, as it implies that the two other families of mankind, at least for part of the period under the prophet's view, were estranged from the true and living God. History corroborates both aspects of this prophetic sentence for the space of two thousand four hundred years. During the most part of this long period the Holy Yahweh Omnipotent was unknown to the great mass of the Japhethites, Hamites, and even Shemites. And it was only by the special election and consecration of an individual Shemite to be the head of a special people, and the father of the faithful, that he did not cease to be the God of even a remnant of Shem.

Then follows the refrain, "And Kenaan shall be servant unto them." The phrase "unto them" proves that Shem here comprehends the race descended from him, and consisting of many individuals. Scripture sees the race in the father, traces up its unity to him, discerns in him the leading traits of character that often mark his remotest posterity, and identifies with him in destiny all those of his race who continue to take after him. Thus, Adam denotes the whole race, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, its three great branches. Attention to this law of the unity, continuity, and identity of a race, will aid us much in understanding the dealings of Providence with the several branches of the human family. We learn also from the same phrase that this solemn sentence is no mere ebullition of the personal feelings of Noah. He is not speaking of Shem and Kenaan merely, but of the future races that are to spring from them. This appears still more plainly from the fact that Japheth, as well as Ham, is described as long estranged from the true God. And now that we are on spiritual ground, it ought to be observed that Kenaan's curse is not exclusion, either present or prospective, from the mercy of God. That is an evil he brings on himself by a voluntary departure from the living God. The curse merely affects the body - the personal liberty. It is a mere degradation from some of the natural rights of our common humanity; and does not of itself cut him off from any offer of mercy, or benefit of repentant faith.

God shall enlarge Japheth. - God is here spoken of by his generic name. This intimates, or at least coincides, with the fact that Japheth did not continue that nearness of approach to him which is implied in the use of the personal name. There is in the original a play upon the word "Japheth", which itself signifies enlargement. This enlargement is the most striking point in the history of Japheth, who is the progenitor of the inhabitants of Europe, Asia, and America, except the region between the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, the Euxine, the Caspian, and the mountains beyond the Tigris, which was the main seat of the Shemites. This expansive power refers not only to the territory and the multitude of the Japhethites, but also to their intellectual and active faculties. The metaphysics of the Hindus, the philosophy of the Greeks, the military prowess of the Romans, and the modern science and civilization of the world, are due to the race of Japheth. And though the moral and the spiritual were first developed among the Shemites, yet the Japhethites have proved themselves capable of rising to the heights of these lofty themes, and have elaborated that noble form of human speech, which was adopted, in the providence of God, as best suited to convey to mankind that further development of Old Testament truth which is furnished in the New.

And he shall dwell in the tents of Shem. - We regard Japheth as the subject of this sentence; because, if God were its subject, the meaning would be substantially the same as the blessing of Shem, already given, and because this would intermingle the blessing of Shem with that of Japheth, without any important addition to our information. Whereas, when Japheth is the subject of the sentence, we learn that he shall dwell in the tents of Shem - an altogether new proposition. This form of expression does not indicate a direct invasion and conquest of the land of Shem, which would not be in keeping with the blessing pronounced on him in the previous sentence: it rather implies that this dwelling together would be a benefit to Japheth, and no injury to Shem. Accordingly, we find that when the Persians conquered the Babylonian empire, they restored the Jews to their native land; when Alexander the Great conquered the Persians, he gave protection to the Jews; and when the Romans subdued the Greek monarchy, they befriended the chosen nation, and allowed them a large measure of self-government. In their time came the Messiah, and instituted that new form of the church of the Old Testament which not only retained the best part of the ancient people of God, but extended itself over the whole of Europe, the chief seat of Japheth; went with him wherever he went; and is at this day, through the blessing of God on his political and moral influence, penetrating into the moral darkness of Ham, as well as the remainder of Shem and Japheth himself. Thus, in the highest of all senses, Japheth is dwelling in the tents of Shem.

Again comes the refrain, "And Keenan shall be servant unto them." A portion of Japheth still holds a portion of Ham in bondage. But this very bondage has been the means of bringing some of the sons of Ham to dwell in the tents of Shem; and the day is not far distant when Japheth will relinquish altogether the compulsory hold upon his brother, and consecrate his entire moral influence over him to the revival in his race of the knowledge and love of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, it appears that the destiny of these three great branches of the Noachic family, during the time of their separation on the high question of their relation to God, is traced out with great fidelity in this remarkable prediction. Ham is aptly represented by Kenaan, the slave, who is seized, enslaved, and sold even by his kinsmen to one another, and to the descendants of Shem and Japheth. Shem includes within his posterity the select family who know God as the Lord, the God of promise, of mercy, of salvation. Japheth is enlarged by God, and at length becomes acquainted with him whom he once ignorantly worshipped. The historian recognizes these as salient points in the experience of the three races, so long as they continue apart. The time is approaching when this strange intermediate development will come to a happy issue, in the reunion of all the members of the human family, according to clearer and further-reaching prophecies yet to be delivered.

26. Blessed be the Lord God of Shem—rather, "Blessed of Jehovah, my God, be Shem,"—an intimation that the descendants of Shem should be peculiarly honored in the service of the true God, His Church being for ages established among them (the Jews), and of them, concerning the flesh, Christ came. They got possession of Canaan, the people of that land being made their "servants" either by conquest, or, like the Gibeonites, by submission [Jos 9:25]. Blessed be the Lord God of Shem.

Quest. What is this to Shem? For it is not Shem, but God who is here blessed.


1. Shem also is here blessed, and that in the highest degree, because the Lord hath here declared himself to be Shem’s God. Now for God to be said to be any man’s God, is every where mentioned as the height of blessedness: see Genesis 17:7 Psalm 144:15 Jeremiah 31:33 Matthew 22:32. But the phrase is here justly varied. The curse is fixed upon Ham, because man alone is the author of his own sin, and the cause of his ruin; but because God is the author and fountain of all the good that man either doth or receiveth, therefore the blessing is emphatically given to God, who only doth the work, and of right is to receive all the glory, yet so as it redounds to Shem also. And Shem is here peculiarly mentioned, not Japheth, both for the comfort of the Israelites, whose progenitor he was, and because this blessing was first seated and long continued in Shem’s posterity alone, Japheth’s posterity being for a long time excluded from it; and because the Lord Christ, who is often called the Lord and God in Scripture, did take flesh from Shem; and so the incarnation of Christ may be here foretold, and Shem highly honoured and blessed in this, that he should be the father of Christ according to the flesh, Romans 9:5.

Answ. 2. This may be a short and abrupt manner of speech, which is frequent in the Hebrew tongue; and it may signify that Shem should be so eminently blessed, that men beholding it should be rapt up into admiration, and break forth into the praises of that God who gave such gifts unto men, and did so great things for Shem.

Answ. 3. The words may be otherwise rendered, either thus, Blessed, O Lord God, let Shem be, i.e. Do thou bless him. So it is only the construct from Elohe, for the absolute Elohim, which is not unusual in Scripture. Or thus, Blessed of the Lord God be Shem, or shall Shem be. So here is only a defect of the Hebrew particle min, which is oft wanting.

And he said, blessed be the Lord God of Shem,.... Shem was blessed before Japheth, because he was the first and principal in advising and conducting the affair before ascribed to them, as Jarchi on Genesis 9:23 suggests; and though the words are in the form of an ascription of blessedness to God, the fountain of all good, and by whose grace Shem was influenced and enabled to do the good he did, for which the Lord's name was to be praised and blessed; yet it includes the blessing of Shem, and indeed the greatest blessing he could possibly enjoy; for what greater blessing is there, than for a man to have God to be his God? this includes everything, all blessings temporal and spiritual; see Psalm 144:15 some interpret the God of Shem of Christ, who, according to the human nature, was a descendant of Shem; and according to the divine nature the God of Shem, God over all, blessed for ever, Romans 9:4.

And Canaan shall be his servant; the posterity of Canaan be servants to the posterity of Shem: this was fulfilled in the times of Joshua, when the Israelites, who sprung from Shem, conquered the land of Canaan, slew thirty of their kings, and took their cities and possessed them, and made the Gibeonites, one of the states of Canaan, hewers of wood and drawers of water to them, or the most mean and abject servants.

And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
26. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem] The blessing invoked, not upon Shem himself, but upon Jehovah the God of Shem, is intended to convey the thought that herein will lie the true welfare of the descendants of Shem. The point of this oracle is, of course, dependent on the fact that Shem is to be the ancestor of Israel. The blessing here invoked has reference only to the Hebrews whose God is Jehovah. They are the favoured ones: the God of Redemption will manifest Himself in them. After “Cursed be Canaan,” we should expect to read “Blessed of Jehovah be Shem.” But there hardly seems to be sufficient reason for regarding the text as corrupt. Graetz, who is followed by Gunkel, with a slight alteration of the text, viz. by the transposition of two consonants and by a different reading of the vowels (which of course did not appear in early Hebrew writing), reads, “bless, oh! Jehovah, the tents of Shem” (אהלי שם for אלהי שם), so that “the tents of Shem” should end this line as well as line 2 in the next verse.

his servant] The translation of the margin, their, is to be preferred. The word in the Hebrew is a poetical form of the plural pronoun; and here the reference is to Canaan’s brethren.

Verse 26. - And he said - not "Blessed of Jehovah, my God, be Shem" (Jamieson), as might have been anticipated (this, equally with the omission of Ham's name, lifts the entire patriarchal utterance out of the region of mere personal feeling), but - Blessed - בָּרוּך when applied to God signifies an ascription of praise (cf. Psalm 144:15; Ephesians 1:3); when applied to man, an invocation of good (cf. Genesis 14:19, 20; Psalm 128:1; Hebrews 7:6) - be the Lord God - literally, Jehovah, Elohim of Shem (cf. Genesis 24:27); Jehovah being the proper personal name of God, of whom it is predicated that he is the Elohim of Shem; equivalent to a statement not simply that Shem should enjoy "a rare and transcendent," "Divine or heavenly," blessing (Calvin), or "a most abundant blessing, reaching its highest point in the promised Seed" (Luther); but that Jehovah, the one living and true God, should be his God, and that the knowledge and practice of the true religion should continue among his descendants, with, perhaps, a hint that the promised Seed should spring from his loins (OEeolampadius, Willet, Murphy, Keil, &c.) - of Shem. In the name Shem (name, renown) there may lie an allusion to the spiritual exaltation and advancement of the Semitic nations (vide Genesis 5:32). And Canaan shall be his servant. לָמו = לָהֶס (Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic), i.e. the two brothers (Delitzsch), their descendants (Knobel, Keil), Shem and Jehovah (Bush); or more probably - לו, as a collective singular (cf. Gesenius, § 103, 2), i.e. Shem, including his descendants (LXX., αὐτοῦ; Kalisch, Lange, Murphy). Genesis 9:26In contrast with the curse, the blessings upon Shem and Japhet are introduced with a fresh "and he said," whilst Canaan's servitude comes in like a refrain and is mentioned in connection with both his brethren: Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem, and let Canaan be servant to them." Instead of wishing good to Shem, Noah praises the God of Shem, just as Moses in Deuteronomy 33:20, instead of blessing Gad, blesses Him "that enlargeth Gad," and points out the nature of the good which he is to receive, by using the name Jehovah. This is done "propter excellentem benedictionem. Non enim loquitur de corporali benedictione, sed de benedictione futura per semen promissum. Eam tantam videt esse ut explicari verbis non possit, ideo se vertit ad gratiarum actionem" (Luther). Because Jehovah is the God of Shem, Shem will be the recipient and heir of all the blessings of salvation, which God as Jehovah bestows upon mankind. למו equals להם neither stands for the singular לו (Ges. 103, 2), nor refers to Shem and Japhet. It serves to show that the announcement does not refer to the person relation of Canaan to Shem, but applies to their descendants.
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