Page images

Hebrew Poetry, transl. by Prof. Stowe, p. 41,) " into three distichs, and the two parallel and as it were corresponding sentiments in each distich." Thus we may translate :

Ye wives of Lamech, hear my voice

And listen to my word:

For a man I slew, because he wounded me;
A young man, because he assaulted me:

If indeed Cain be seven times avenged,
Then Lamech seventy times seven.

The circumstances commemorated here, seem to be as follows: Lamech appears to have been guilty of manslaughter, and in order to quiet the fears of his wives, he says, that he did it in self-defence; i. e. for, or on account of, wounds inflicted upon himself, and an; and if one who slays Cain, a wilful murderer, as it is said in verse 15, shall be avenged seven fold, surely he who is so much less guilty shall receive vengeance seventy and seven fold, especially as the invention of his son gives so much greater facility for its accomplishment. The hero, in his self-confident exultation, forgets that it was by the command of God himself that the life of Cain was thus protected, and for the purpose of making him an example to those among whom he dwelt.

Whether this was merely the beginning of a more extended song, or complete in itself, cannot be determined, as no further traces remain, if it existed. The fact that such popular songs were not unknown among the Hebrews is plain from such passages as Num. 21: 14, Judg. 16: 23, 24, 1 Sam. 18: 7, etc. This insertion in a genealogical record, of something indicative of individual character, is natural, especially when, as here and in ch. 5: 26 seq., two persons of the same name are mentioned.

Several philological peculiarities deserve notice in these verses. The parallelism of the several stichoi is so manifest that it cannot escape the notice of the Hebrew scholar. The use of the Praet.tense an indicates an actual occurrence and not a supposed case. The suffix pronoun "— in the words and, is to be taken objectively, i. e. the wound or stripe one inflicted upon me. See Grammar, § 5 and remark, and such passages as Jer. 51: 35. Ex. 20: 20, etc. The preposition here signifies on account of, or because of, and designates the ground or reason. So it is used in Isa. 14: 9. 15: 5 and often elsewhere.

This passage is not without interest to the Biblical scholar, as being the oldest specimen of Hebrew poetry extant. To be sure, there is much of the sublimity, the true spirit of poetry in the narrative of the


Explanation of Gen. 6: 3.

creation, but the precise form of poetical lines, which is so conspicuous here, is not found there. We are almost unavoidably led to the conclusion that poetry was very early not merely invented but cultivated among the Hebrews. For, aside from the poetical spirit which pervades their early records, one passage so perfect in form and finish cannot be supposed to have existed alone.



“And the Lord said: My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh; yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”

A more accurate version of the original, would be as follows: My spirit shall not be subject to [dwell in] man forever; on account of his transgression he is flesh, and his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. The general idea is, that the vivifying, life-giving spirit of God shall not remain with man and continue his existence on the earth, as it has previously done; for, by reason of his sinfulness, he shall be weak and his life fleeting, the boundary of his earthly existence shall be the comparatively1 short space of 120 years. But as this passage is generally misunderstood by the unlettered reader, and often misquoted in popular addresses, it may not be amiss to enter into a somewhat minute examination of the more prominent words upon which its meaning depends.

In the first place, we will inquire, what is to be understood by "my spirit" ("). The original significations of, breath, breathing, wind, etc., are of course out of question here; also the kindred meanings, corresponding to, the Greek yuz, the Latin anima, animus, life, soul, mind. In Gen. 1: 2, the Spirit of God is represented as brooding over the chaotic elements of the creation so as to bring order out of confusion, and inform with life. By it God garnisheth the heavens (Job 26: 17), and reneweth the face of the earth (Ps. civ.), and giveth life to his servants (Job 27: 3. 33: 4). So this mysterious but unseen agency of God, in creating and upholding life, is indicated in this verse, and is opposed to, flesh that soon passes away (Isa. 31: 3), that is like grass that withereth (Isa. 40: 6, 7), a breath, the wind that passeth, but never returneth. Hence the spirit of the Lord here, is the author and supporter of life, that which, according to 2: 7, breathed into the yet lifeless form, composed of the dust of the earth, constitutes man a living soul.

The verb

next comes under consideration. The ancient ver

1 The previous age of men was as follows: Adam, 930 years; Seth, 912; Enos, 905; Canaan, 910; Jared, 965; Methuselah, 969, etc.

sions vary so much as to render it not improbable that there were various readings, as 7, 7, 7. The Septuagint reads: où un καταμείνῃ τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, κ. τ. λ., shall not remain, etc. The Vulgate and Persian correspond with it. The Syriac and Saad.: shall not dwell, etc. The Targum of Onkelos paraphrases it by shall not suffer to continue or exist forever. Several of the other Targums, together with our English version, make to correspond in meaning with : shall not contend with, strive with as before a judge, i. e. shall immediately punish. But it is only in the second form (Hiphil) that this meaning belongs to , whilst this word must be in the first form (Kal), and accordingly would mean with the following: will not judge among, as in Ps. 110: 6. The inappositenes of this interpretation will be evident to every one without a remark. The explanation of this word given by Maurer, although it expresses the sense of the passage well, seems not to be philologically well authorized. To judge, judicare, he considers as = regnare, and paraphrases the passage well: My spirit shall not always actuate (agitabit) men, i. e. I will take away from them the head and fountain of life, my vital spirit; not so long a time as their ancestors shall these men continue in life, etc. We arrive at substantially the same meaning more directly and naturally, by supposing that corresponds to

the Arabic, to be inferior, low, subject to, and hence in this passage, my spirit shall not always be brought down, subject to mortals, i. e. descend from heaven to accompany them and preserve them in existence; a shorter term of life shall be theirs, hereafter.

, forever, is of course used in its limited sense, as in 1 Sam. 1: 22. 20: 15, and has reference to the long period of life previously enjoyed by mortals.

The word

seems to have been entirely misunderstood by most of the earlier interpreters, who considered it as made up of the preposition, the fragment of the relative, and the particle . Thus in our English version it is rendered, for that also; in the Sept., dià tò εivai, x. 7. 2. But the philological objections to this interpretation are insuperable. For, in the first place, is redundant; then, in case the word were thus compounded, the vowel points would be and not ; and finally, the use of for in such a compound, belongs to later Hebrew, or to the Chaldee dialect. There is no passage which could be considered as at all parallel with this in the older Hebrew writers. It is accordingly necessary to look elsewhere for the explanation of this word; and we unquestionably find it as an Infin. in the first form, from 3, with the prefix prep. and suffix pronoun and with the meaning, on account of their wandering, transgression.


Shortening of Human Life.

Cf. the use of derivations from this root in Num. 15: 28, and Lev. 5: 18, et. al. The employment of the plural pronoun, referring to the collective noun, is in accordance with an idiom common in almost all languages. For the form of the infinitive see Grammar § 66, note 3; Ewald § 571, and Jer. 5: 26,; Ps. 119: 22, b, etc. The consequence of the transgression of man is, that he shall become, as it is indicated in the first clause by a withdrawing of the vivifying influences of the spirit of God, flesh, i. e. frail, weak, perishing, and his life shall be circumscribed to 120 years. Onkelos, Calvin and others refer the 120 years not to individual life, but to the time of repentance to be granted to the whole world. But when we compare chap. 5: 32, with 7: 11, it is difficult to make out the 120 years before the flood, unless we suppose that the designation, 500 years, is used indefinitely in 5: 32, and that Noah was towards 500 years old, that is, about 480.1 But when we take into account the reduction of the time of life that ensued in connection with the natural meaning of the words as they stand, we do not hesitate to give our assent to the explanation of most of the ancient interpreters, as well as to Josephus,2 and to Tuch, Baumgarten and others, among more recent expositors. And in doing this, it is not forgotten that subsequent to this time, the patriarchs exceeded the age of 120 years. For we do not suppose it necessary that this punishment of sin should, from the moment of the declaration, go into rigid execution upon every individual of the race. This is not according to the usual course which God pursues in reference to man. There is generally a gradual development of his purposes. So here we find that the life of man was materially shortened after the flood, and although the patriarchs, in consequence of "walking in the ways and keeping the statutes" of the Most High, were gathered to their fathers in a good old age, yet, they could well say when they looked back to former generations: few and evil have been the days of our pilgrimage, Gen. 47: 9.3 Besides, as we see, the age of man was soon reduced to this specified boundary. Joseph was 110 years old when he died, Gen. 50: 26; Moses attained to the prescribed 120 years, Deut. 34: 7; Joshua died when 110 years old, Josh. 24: 27; Eli was blind by reason of age when 98 years old, 1 Sam. 4: 15, 18. According to 1 Kings 1: 1, David was "old and stricken in years" although not yet seventy, as it appears from 2 Sam. 5: 4. In Ps. 90: 10, four


1 Compare Calvin's Comm. on Gen., translated by Rev. John Kenly, p. 243, 4. 2 Antiquities, I. 3. 2, et al.

3 Abraham died when 175, Gen. 25: 7; Isaac, 180, 35: 28; Jacob, 147, 47: 28. Cf. Tuch's Genesis, S. 130.

VOL. VII. No. 25.



score years is spoken of as an age not usually attained by man. sides it is often intimated in the Old Testament in accordance with the spirit of this passage, that "the fear of the Lord prolongeth days, but the years of the wicked shall be shortened." Cf. also 1 Kings 3: 13, Isa. 38: 17, and many other passages. It is also interesting to notice that there is among almost all nations a tradition of an early age when men, free from diseases, lived far longer than now.

But another reason for referring this numerical designation to the duration of the life of man, is found in the succeeding narrations. The determination of God to destroy man from the face of the earth and the reason for it, is formally introduced in the following verses as something different from what has gone before: God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, . . . and it repented the Lord that he had made man . . . and he said, I will destroy him from the face of the earth, etc. v. 5-7.

IV. GENESIS CH. IX. vs. 4—6.

VERSE 4. "L Only the flesh with its life, its blood, ye shall not eat, v. 5. But your blood, for your lives, I will require; at the hand of every beast I will require it; and at the hand of man, at the hand of man, his brother, I will require the life of man; v. 6. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God, he made man."

"In giving you permission to eat animal flesh, there is one restriction; ye may not eat of its blood. Nevertheless, your blood cannot be poured out on the ground, like that of beasts; "for your lives," i. e. for the preservation of your lives, I will require your blood. Every beast that killeth a man shall make expiation for it; and at the hand of the brother of every man, I will require the life of man. Every murderer stands in the relation of brother to the murdered. Both have a common father, a common Creator. But I will require it at the hands of man; I delegate my power in the case to him; the punishment on the murderer shall be executed by man."

1 Tuch's Genesis. S. 130.

2 Cf. Josephus I. 3. 9. where these traditions of a life of a thousand years among the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Phenicians, and others is mentioned; Hesiod Works and Days, line 125 sq.:

"Whilom on earth the sons of men abode,
From evil free and labor's galling load;
Free from diseases that with racking rage
Precipitate the pale decline of age.
How swift the days of manhood haste away,
And misery's pressure turns the temples gray.
And also Tuch's Genesis, S. 131.

« PreviousContinue »