Genesis 9:5
And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
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(5) Your blood of your lives. . . . —This verse should be translated: “And surely your blood, which is for your souls, will I require (i.e., avenge); from every beast will I require it, and from man: even from a man’s brother will I require the soul of man,” as from Cain. “Your blood, which is for your souls,” means that it is the means for the maintenance of the animal life within them. As it is, then, the support of man’s life, au animal which sheds it becomes guilty, and must be slain; and still more must those animals be destroyed which prey upon man. Thus there is a command given for the extirpation of the carnivora at the time when the more peaceful animals had just been saved. The last clause literally is . . . at the hand of man, at the hand of one that is his brother, will I require the soul of man. This has nothing to do with the avenger of blood. The near kinsman is here the murderer, and the commandment requires that even such an one should not be spared.

Genesis 9:5. And surely your blood of your lives will I require — The sense is, If I am thus careful of the blood of beasts, be assured I will be much more solicitous for the blood of men, when it shall be shed by unjust and violent hands. Our own lives are not so our own that we may quit them at our own pleasure; but they are God’s, and we must resign them at his pleasure. If we any way hasten our own deaths, we are accountable to God for it. Yea, At the hand of every beast will I require it — To show how tender God was of the life of man, he will have the beast put to death that kills a man. This was confirmed by the law of Moses, Exodus 21:28, and it would not be improper to observe it still. And at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man — I will avenge the blood of the murdered upon the murderer. When God requires the life of a man at the hand of him that took it away unjustly, as he cannot render that, therefore he must render his own in lieu of it, which is the only way he hath of making restitution.

9:4-7 The main reason of forbidding the eating of blood, doubtless was because the shedding of blood in sacrifices was to keep the worshippers in mind of the great atonement; yet it seems intended also to check cruelty, lest men, being used to shed and feed upon the blood of animals, should grow unfeeling to them, and be less shocked at the idea of shedding human blood. Man must not take away his own life. Our lives are God's, and we must only give them up when he pleases. If we in any way hasten our own death, we are accountable to God for it. When God requires the life of a man from him that took it away unjustly, the murderer cannot render that, and therefore must render his own instead. One time or other, in this world or in the next, God will discover murders, and punish those murders which are beyond man's power to punish. But there are those who are ministers of God to protect the innocent, by being a terror to evil-doers, and they must not bear the sword in vain, Ro 13:4. Wilful murder ought always to be punished with death. To this law there is a reason added. Such remains of God's image are still upon fallen man, that he who unjustly kills a man, defaces the image of God, and does dishonour to him.The second restriction guards human life. The shedding of human blood is sternly prohibited. "Your blood of your lives." The blood which belongs to your lives, which constitutes the very life of your corporeal nature. "Will I require." I, the Lord, will find the murderer out, and exact the penalty of his crime. The very beast that causes the death of man shall be slain. The suicide and the homicide are alike accountable to God for the shedding of man's blood. The penalty of murder is here proclaimed - death for death. It is an instance of the law of retaliation. This is an axiom of moral equity. He that deprives another of any property is bound to make it good or to suffer the like loss.

The first law promulgated in Scripture was that between Creator and creature. If the creature refuse to the Creator the obedience due, he forfeits all the Creator has given him, and, therefore, his life. Hence, when Cain murdered his brother, he only displayed a new development of that sin which was in him, and, being already condemned to the extreme penalty under the first transgression, had only a minor punishment annexed to his personal crime. And so it continued to be in the antediluvian world. No civil law is on record for the restriction of crime. Cain, indeed, feared the natural vengeance which his conscience told him his sin deserved. But it was not competent in equity for the private individual to undertake the enforcement of the penalties of natural law. So long as the law was between Creator and creature, God himself was not only the sole legislator, but the sole administrator of law.

The second law is that between creature and creature, which is here introduced on the occasion of giving permission to partake of animal food, as the first was published on that of granting the use of vegetable diet. In the former case, God is the administrator of the law, as he is the immediate and sovereign party in the legal compact. In the latter case, man is, by the express appointment of the Lord of all, constituted the executive agent. "By man shall his blood be shed." Here, then, is the formal institution of civil government. Here the civil sword is committed to the charge of man. The judgment of death by the executioner is solemnly delegated to man in vindication of human life. This trust is conveyed in the most general terms. "By man." The divine legislator does not name the sovereign, define his powers, or determine the law of succession. All these practical conditions of a stable government are left open questions.

The emphasis is laid solely on "man." On man is impressively laid the obligation of instituting a civil constitution suited to his present fallen condition. On the nation as a body it is an incumbent duty to select the sovereign, to form the civil compact between prince and people, to settle the prerogative of the sovereign and the rights of the subjects, to fix the order of succession, to constitute the legislative, judicial, and administrative bodies, and to render due submission to the constituted authorities. And all these arrangements are to be made according to the principles of Scripture and the light of nature.

The reason why retribution is exacted in the case of man is here also given. "For in the image of God has he made man." This points on the one hand to the function of the magistrate, and on the other to the claims of the violated law; and in both respects illustrates the meaning of being created in the image of God. Man resembles God in this, that he is a moral being, judging of right and wrong, endowed with reason and will, and capable of holding and exercising rights. Hence, he is in the first place competent to rule, and on his creation authorized to exercise a mild and moral sway over the inferior creatures. His capacity to govern even among his fellow-men is now recognized. The function of self-government in civil things is now conferred upon man. When duly called to the office, he is declared to be at liberty to discharge the part of a ruler among his fellow-men, and is entitled on the ground of this divine arrangement to claim the obedience of those who are under his sway. He must rule in the Lord, and they must obey in the Lord.

However, in the next place, man is capable of, and has been actually endowed with, rights of property in himself, his children, his industrial products, his purchases, his receipts in the way of gift, and his claims by covenant or promise. He can also recognize such rights in another. When, therefore, he is deprived of anything belonging to him, he is sensible of being wronged, and feels that the wrongdoer is bound to make reparation by giving back what he has taken away, or an equivalent in its place. This is the law of requital, which is the universal principle of justice between the wrongdoer and the wrong-sufferer. Hence, the blood of him who sheds blood is to be shed. And, in setting up a system of human government, the most natural and obvious case is given, according to the manner of Scripture, as a sample of the law by which punishment is to be inflicted on the transgressor in proportion to his crime. The case in point accordingly arises necessarily out of the permission to use animal food, which requires to be guarded on the one hand by a provision against cruelty to animals, and, on the other, by an enactment forbidding the taking away of human life, on the pain of death, by order of the civil magistrate. This case, then, turns out to be the most heinous crime which man can commit against his fellow-man, and strikingly exemplifies the great common principle of retributive justice.

The brute is not a moral being, and has, therefore, no proper rights in itself. Its blood may therefore be shed with impunity. Nevertheless, man, because he is a moral being, owes a certain negative duty to the brute animal, because it is capable of pain. He is not to inflict gratuitous or unnecessary suffering on a being susceptible of such torture. Hence, the propriety of the blood being shed before the flesh is used for food. Life, and therefore the sense of pain, is extinguished when the blood is withdrawn from the veins.

5. surely your blood of your lives will I require—The fourth part establishes a new power for protecting life—the institution of the civil magistrate (Ro 13:4), armed with public and official authority to repress the commission of violence and crime. Such a power had not previously existed in patriarchal society. And; or, for, as the particle is oft taken; this being the reason of the foregoing prohibition.

Of your lives; or, of your souls, i.e. of your persons; the word soul being oft put for person. Or, your blood, which is for your lives, i.e. which by the spirits it generates is the great preserver and instrument of your lives, and of all your vital actions, and the great bond which ties your souls and bodies together. The sense of the place is: If I am thus careful for the blood of beasts, be assured I will be much more solicitous for the blood of men, when it shall be shed by unjust and violent hands. I will make inquisition for the author of such bloodshed, as I did after Cain, and consequently punish him; for this phrase of requiring implies punishment. See Genesis 42:22 Deu 18:19, compared with Acts 3:23 Psalm 9:13. If magistrates neglect this duty, I myself will avenge it by my own hand.

At the hand of every beast will I require it; not for the punishment of the beast, which being under no law is not capable of sin nor punishment; but for caution to men, for whose use seeing they were made, it is no abuse of them if they be destroyed for man’s benefit. Compare Exodus 21:28 Leviticus 20:15.

At the hand of every man’s brother. This is added, either,

1. As an aggravation of the crime, because the man slain was the brother of the murderer; all men being made of one blood, Acts 17:26. And having one Father, even God, Malachi 2:10, and Adam too. Upon which account all men are frequently called one another’s brethren, as is manifest from Genesis 26:31, Genesis 29:4, Leviticus 19:17, Leviticus 25:14, Leviticus 26:37, and from many other places of Scripture. Or.

2. As an assurance of the punishment of the murderer, without any exception of the nearest relation; which, though it makes the sin greater, yet many times is a security against punishment, the murderer easily finding favour and pardon from his parents and dear friends. But the former sense seems the better.

And surely your blood of your lives will I require,.... Or "for surely your blood", &c. (o); and so is a reason of the preceding law, to teach men not to shed human blood; or though, "surely your blood", as Jarchi and Aben Ezra; though God had given them liberty to slay the creatures, and shed their blood, and eat them, yet he did not allow them to shed their own blood, or the blood of their fellow creatures; should they do this, he would surely make inquisition, and punish them for it:

at the hand of every beast will I require it; should a beast kill a man, or be the instrument of shedding his blood, it should be slain for it; not by means of another beast, God so ordering it, as Aben Ezra suggests, but by the hands or order of the civil magistrate; which was to be done partly to show the great regard God has to the life of man, and partly to punish men for not taking more care of their beasts, as well as to be an example to others to be more careful, and to lessen, the number of mischievous creatures:

and at the hand of man, at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man; which may be reasonably supposed; for if it is required of a beast, and that is punished for the slaughter of a man, then much more a man himself, that is wilfully guilty of murder; and the rather, since he is by general relation a brother to the person he has murdered, which is an aggravation of his crime: or it may signify, that though he is a brother in the nearest relation, as his crime is the greater, he shall not go unpunished.

(o) , Sept. "enim", V. L.

{e} And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.

(e) That is, I will take vengeance for your blood.

5. your blood] The second prohibition is that of manslaughter. The thought of human bloodshed is naturally suggested by the subject of the slaying of animals. Man’s life is sacred. Neither man nor beast is to take it.

the blood of your lives] A difficult expression. Literally, “for,” or “according to, your souls,” i.e. the blood of a person for the life of each person, “blood for blood,” “life for life,” will God require (as Genesis 9:6). That “the blood of your souls” means “the blood of your own selves,” as distinguished from “the blood of the animals,” is another explanation, but not so probable.

But either of these renderings is to be preferred to that of Tuch, “for the protection of your lives.”

will I require] This thought that God Himself “will require it,” in the case of human bloodshed, appears in Psalm 9:12, “he that maketh inquisition for blood remembereth them,” and Psalm 10:13, “wherefore doth the wicked contemn God, and say in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.” See also Genesis 42:22, “behold, his blood is required.”

of every beast] e.g. in Exodus 21:28-29, the ox that gores a person to death is to be stoned.

at the hand of every man’s brother] “Brother” here denotes the brotherhood of humanity, not of a particular family. He who slays a man slays his own “brother,” although technically there is no relationship.

the life of man] i.e. “the nephesh, or vital principle, of man.” In the first clause God had said He would “require” the blood: here He says He will “require” the life. In Genesis 9:4 “the life” is “the blood.”

Verse 5. - And surely. Again the conjunction אַך introduces a restriction. The blood of beasts might without fear be shed for necessary uses, but the blood of man was holy and inviolable. Following the LXX. (καὶ γὰρ), Jerome, Pererius, Mercerus, Calvin, Peele, Willet give a causal sense to the conjunction, as if it supplied the reason of' the foregoing restriction - a sense which, according to Furst ('Hebrews Lex.,' sub nom.) it sometimes, though rarely, has; as in 2 Kings 24:3; Psalm 39:12; Psalm 68:22; but in each case אַך is better rendered "surely." Your blood of your lives.

(1) For your souls, i.e. in requital for them - lex talionis, blood for blood, life for life (Kalisch, Wordsworth, Bush);

(2) for your souls, i.e. for their protection (Gesenins, Miehaelis, Schumann, Tuch);

(3) from your souls - a prohibition against suicide (Suma-tan);

(4) with reference to your souls, - לְ = quoad (Ewald, ' Hebrews Syn.,' 310 a), - as if specifying the particular blood for which exaction would be made (Keil);

(5) of your souls, belonging to them, or residing in them (LXX., Syriac, Vulgate, A.V., Calvin, Rosenmüller (qui ad animas vestras perti net), Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary') although, according to Kalisch, לְ cannot have the force of a genitive after דּמְכֶס, a substantive with a suffix; but vide Leviticus 18:20, 23; cf. Ewald, 'Hebrews Syn.,' p. 113. Perhaps the force of לְ may be brought out by rendering, "your blood to the extent of your lives; ' i.e. not all blood-letting, but that which proceeds to the extent of taking life (cf. ver. 15: "There shall no more be waters to the extent of a flood"). Will I require. Literally, search after, with a view to punishment; hence avenge (cf. Genesis 42:22; Ezekiel 33:6; Psalm 9:13). At (literally, from) the hand of every beast will I require it. Not "an awful warning against cruelty to the brute creation!" (Clarke), but a solemn proclamation of the sanctity of human life, since it enacted that that beast should be destroyed which slew a man - a statute afterwards incorporated in the Mosaic legislation (Exodus 21:28-32), and practiced even in Christian times; "not for any punishment to the beast, which, being under no law, is capable of neither sin nor punishment, but for caution to men" (Peele). If this practice appears absurd to some moderns (Dr. H. Oort, 'The Bible for Young People,' p. 103), it was not so to Solon and Draco, in whose enactments there was a similar provision (Delitzsch, Lunge). And at (from) the hand of man; at (or from) the hand of every man's brother. Either

(1) two persons are here described -

(a) the individual man himself, and

(b) his brother, i.e. the suicide and the murderer (Maimonides, Wordsworth, Murphy), or the murderer and his brother man, i.e. kinsman, or goel (Michaelis, Bohlen, Baumgarten, Kalisch, Bush), or the ordinary civil authorities (Kalisch, Candlish, Jamieson) - or

(2) one, viz., the murderer, who is first generically distinguished from the beast, and then characterized as his victim's brother; as thus - " at" or from "the hand of man," as well as beast; "from the hand of the individual man, or every man (cf. Genesis 42:25; Numbers 17:17 [Numbers 17:2] for this distributive use of אִישׁ) his brother," supplying a new argument against homicide (Calvin, Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil, Lunge). The principal objection to discovering Goelism in the phraseology is that it requires מִיַּד to be understood in two different senses, and the circumstance, that the institution of the magistracy appears to be hinted at in the next verse, renders it unnecessary to detect it in this. Will I require the life (or soul) of man. The specific manner in which this inquisition after Blood should be carried out is indicated in the words that follow. Genesis 9:5"Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you; even as the green of the herb have I given you all (את־כּל equals חכּל)." These words do not affirm that man then first began to eat animal food, but only that God then for the first time authorized, or allowed him to do, what probably he had previously done in opposition to His will. "Only flesh in its soul, its blood (דמו in apposition to בּנפשׁו), shall ye not eat;" i.e., flesh in which there is still blood, because the soul of the animal is in the blood. The prohibition applies to the eating of flesh with blood in it, whether of living animals, as is the barbarous custom in Abyssinia, or of slaughtered animals from which the blood has not been properly drained at death. This prohibition presented, on the one hand, a safeguard against harshness and cruelty; and contained, on the other, "an undoubted reference to the sacrifice of animals, which was afterwards made the subject of command, and in which it was the blood especially that was offered, as the seat and soul of life (see note on Leviticus 17:11, Leviticus 17:14); so that from this point of view sacrifice denotes the surrender of one's own inmost life, of the very essence of life, to God" (Ziegler). Allusion is made to the first again in the still further limitation given in Genesis 9:5 : "and only (ואך) your blood, with regard to your souls (ל indicative of reference to an individual object, Ewald, 310a), will I seek (demand or avenge, cf. Psalm 9:13) from the hand of every beast, and from the hand of man, from the hand of every one, his brother;" i.e., from every man, whoever he may be, because he is his (the slain man's) brother, inasmuch as all men are brethren. The life of man was thus made secure against animals as well as men. God would avenge or inflict punishment for every murder, - not directly, however, as He promised to do in the case of Cain, but indirectly by giving the command, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," and thus placing in the hand of man His own judicial power. "This was the first command," says Luther, "having reference to the temporal sword. By these words temporal government was established, and the sword placed in its hand by God." It is true the punishment of the murderer is enjoined upon "man" universally; but as all the judicial relations and ordinances of the increasing race were rooted in those of the family, and grew by a natural process out of that, the family relations furnished of themselves the norm for the closer definition of the expression "man." Hence the command does not sanction revenge, but lays the foundation for the judicial rights of the divinely appointed "powers that be" (Romans 13:1). This is evident from the reason appended: "for in the image of God made He man." If murder was to be punished with death because it destroyed the image of God in man, it is evident that the infliction of the punishment was not to be left to the caprice of individuals, but belonged to those alone who represent the authority and majesty of God, i.e., the divinely appointed rulers, who for that very reason are called Elohim in Psalm 82:6. This command then laid the foundation for all civil government,

(Note: Hic igitur fons est, ex quo manat totum just civile et just gentium. Nam si Deus concedit homini potestatem super vitam et mortem, profecto etiam concedit potestatem super id, quod minus est, ut sunt fortunae, familia, uxor, liberi, servi, agri; Haec omnia vult certorum hominum potestati esse obnoxia Deus, ut reos puniant. Luther.)

and formed a necessary complement to that unalterable continuance of the order of nature which had been promised to the human race for its further development. If God on account of the innate sinfulness of man would no more bring an exterminating judgment upon the earthly creation, it was necessary that by commands and authorities He should erect a barrier against the supremacy of evil, and thus lay the foundation for a well-ordered civil development of humanity, in accordance with the words of the blessing, which are repeated in Genesis 9:7, as showing the intention and goal of this new historical beginning.

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