Genesis 9:6
Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
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(6) By man . . . —This penalty of life for life is not to be left to natural law, but man himself, in such a manner and under such safeguards as the civil law in each country shall order, is to execute the Divine command. And thus protected from violence, both of man and beast, and with all such terrible crimes for bidden as had polluted Adam’s beginning, Noah in peace and security is to commence afresh man’s great work upon earth.

Genesis 9:6. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood — Whether upon a sudden provocation, or premeditated, (for rash anger is heart-murder, as well as malice prepense, Matthew 5:21-22,) by man shall his blood be shed — That is, by the magistrate, or whoever is appointed to be the avenger of blood. Before the flood, as it should seem by the story of Cain, God took the punishment of murder into his own hands; but now he committed this judgment to men, to masters of families at first, and afterward to the heads of countries. For in the image of God made he man — Man is a creature dear to his Creator, and, therefore, ought to be so to us: God put honour upon him, let us not then put contempt upon him. Such remains of God’s image are still even upon fallen man, that he who unjustly kills a man, defaceth the image of God, and doth dishonour to him. And what then shall we say of those who commit wilful and deliberate murder in duels? And what shall we say of the magistracy in any country that does not suppress this diabolical practice?

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.

6. Whoso sheddeth man's blood … for in the image of God made he man—It is true that image has been injured by the fall, but it is not lost. In this view, a high value is attached to the life of every man, even the poorest and humblest, and an awful criminality is involved in the destruction of it. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, wilfully and unwarrantably. For there is a double exception to this law:

1. Of casual murder, expressed Numbers 35:31 Deu 19:4.

2. Of death inflicted by the hand of the magistrate for crimes deserving it, mentioned in the following words, and elsewhere.

By man, i.e. by the hand of man, namely, the magistrate, Romans 13:4; who is hereby empowered and required, upon pain of my highest displeasure, to inflict this punishment. See Exodus 21:12 Leviticus 24:17 Matthew 26:57. Or, for that man, i.e. for that man’s sake, whose blood he hath shed, which cries for vengeance.

In the image of God made he man; so that murder is not only an offence against man, but also an injury to God, and a contempt of that image of God which all men are obliged to reverence and maintain, and especially magistrates, who being my vicegerents and servants, are therefore under a particular obligation to punish those who deface and destroy it.

Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed,.... That is, he that is guilty of wilful murder shall surely be put to death by the order of the civil magistrate; so the Targum of Jonathan,"by witnesses the judges shall condemn him to death,''that is, the fact being clearly proved by witnesses, the judges shall condemn"him to death,''that is, the fact being clearly proved by witnesses, the judges shall pass the sentence of death upon him, and execute it; for this is but the law of retaliation, a just and equitable one, blood for blood, or life for life; though it seems to be the first law of this kind that empowered the civil magistrate to take away life; God, as it is thought, reserving the right and power to himself before, and which, for some reasons, he thought fit not to make use of in the case of Cain, whom he only banished, and suffered not others to take away his life, but now enacts a law, requiring judges to punish murder with death: and which, according to this law, ought never to go unpunished, or have a lesser punishment inflicted for it: the reason follows:

for in the image of God made he man; which, though sadly defaced and obliterated by sin, yet there are such remains of it, as render him more especially the object of the care and providence of God, and give him a superiority to other creatures; and particularly this image, among others, consists in immortality, which the taking away of his life may seem to contradict; however, it is what no man has a right to do.

Whoso sheddeth man's blood, {f} by man shall his blood be shed: for in the {g} image of God made he man.

(f) Not only by the magistrate, but often God raises up one murderer to kill another.

(g) Therefore to kill man is to deface God's image, and so injury is not only done to man, but also to God.

6. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, &c.] In the first clause of this verse the principle is laid down, that murder is to be punished with death. Blood for blood and life for life is to be the penalty (cf. Genesis 9:5). The sanctity of human life is thus protected by Divine sanction. The custom of blood-revenge (cf. Genesis 4:10-15), which has entered so largely into the social conditions of Semitic life, whether civilized or barbarous, is here stated in its simplest terms. The murderer’s life is “required.”

The sentence reads like a line of poetry, Shôphêk dăm hâ-âdâm Bâ-âdâm dâmô yis-shâphêk. LXX seems to have misread bâ-âdâm (= “by man”), rendering ἀντὶ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ = “for his blood” (? b’ dâmô): while in the Latin it is omitted altogether.

for in the image of God, &c.] This clause contains the foundation-principle for the tremendous sentence just promulgated. Man is different from the animals. God made him expressly “in His own image” (see note on Genesis 1:27). Violence done to human personality constitutes an outrage against the Divine. Man is to discern in his neighbour “the image of God,” and to honour it as the symbol of Divine origin and human brotherhood. As that “image” is not physical (for God is spirit), nor moral (for man is sinful), it must denote man’s higher nature, expressed by his self-consciousness, freedom of will, reason, affection, &c.

The prohibitions of blood eating and of murder form two of the so-called “commandments of Noah” which were held by the Rabbis of the Jewish synagogue to have been Divinely imposed upon mankind before the days of Abraham; and were, therefore, in theory required from Gentiles living among the Israelites and from Gentiles who attached themselves to the Jewish community.

The “commandments of Noah” are seven—the prohibitions of (1) disobedience, (2) idolatry, (3) blasphemy, (4) adultery, (5) theft, (6) murder, and (7) the eating of blood.

Verse 6. - Whoso sheddeth. Literally, he shedding, i.e. willfully and unwarrantably; and not simply accidentally, for which kind of manslaughter the law afterwards provided (vide Numbers 35:11); or judicially, for that is commanded by the present statute. Man's blood. Literally, blood of the man, human blood. By man. Not openly and directly by God, but by man himself, acting of course as God's instrument and agent - an instruction which involved the setting up of the magisterial office, by whom the sword might be borne ("Hic igitur fens est, ex quo manat totum jus civile etjus gentium." - Luther. Cf. Numbers 35:29-31; Romans 13:4), and equally laid a basis for the law of the goel subsequently established in Israel (Deuteronomy 19:6; Joshua 20:3). The Chaldee paraphrases, "with witnesses by sentence of the judges." The LXX. substitutes for "by man" ἀντὶ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ ( an interpretation followed by Professor Lewis, who quotes Jona ben Gannach in its support, Shall. Not merely a permission legalizing, but an imperative command enjoining, capital punishment, the reason for which follows. For in the image of God made he man. To apply this to the magistracy (Bush, Murphy, Keil), who are sometimes in Scripture styled Elohim (Psalm 82:6), and the ministers of God (Romans 13:4), and who may be said to have been made in the Divine image in the sense of being endowed with the capacity of ruling and judging, seems forced and unnatural; the clause obviously assigns the original dignity of man (cf. Genesis 1:28) as the reason why the murderer cannot be suffered to escape (Calvin, Poole, Alford, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Candlish, Lange) Genesis 9:6"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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