Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
Blessed, with fecundity. Barrenness was deemed a curse. (Calmet)
Fear, &c. God confirms the dominion of man over all the animals, though he must exercise it now by compulsion; they will not obey always without reluctance, as they would have done in the state of innocence. (Haydock)
Meat. The more religious, at least, had hitherto abstained from flesh, being content with herbs, &c.: which had been expressly granted. Now, the salt waters of the deluge had vitiated the earth, its plants were no longer so nutritive. (Menochius) --- God gives leave to eat flesh meat, but with some restriction, that we may still learn to obey. (Worthington)
With blood. This was a matter of indifference in itself, like the forbidden fruit. But God gave the prohibition, to keep people at a greater distance from imbruing their hands in the blood of others, which nevertheless we know some have drunk! He would also assert his dominion over all things; the blood or life of animals being reserved to be offered in sacrifice to him, instead of the life of man, Leviticus xvii. 11. Blood of brutes is gross and unwholesome. (Menochius) --- The apostles required this law to be observed by the first Christians, that the Jews might not be disgusted: but, after a competent time had been allowed them, the Church thought proper to alter this discipline. (St. Augustine, contra Faust. xxxii. 13.)
At the hand; a Hebrew idiom. God orders an ox to be stoned, which had slain a man, Exodus xxi. 28. --- Man, (hominis) every man, (viri) brother. By these three terms, God inculcates a horror of bloodshed; because we are all of the same nature, ought to act like generous men, and to consider every individual as a brother, since we spring from the same stock. (Menochius)
Shed. God had not subjected Cain to this law of retaliation, as he was the first murderer, and the earth was unpeopled. (Haydock) --- Here he declares, that it is just to inflict such a punishment on the offender. (Menochius) --- Judges are hence authorized to punish murderers with death. (Calmet) --- The general law, thou shalt not kill, admits of exceptions, and forbids killing by private authority, or out of revenge. (Haydock) --- The blood of your lives, may signify the blood on which your life depends; or, according to the Rabbin, it is a prohibition of suicide, which one would think is so contrary to the first law of nature, self-preservation, as to require no prohibition; and yet, to the scandal of philosophers, some have written in its defence! (Haydock)
Soul...in birds, &c. The covenant of God is made with animals, only in as much as they are subservient to man. (Du Hamel) --- The Egyptians adored most of them; and many oriental nations, and even philosophers, pretended they had intelligent souls, and could speak a rational language, which some of them would have the people believe they could understand. (Calmet) --- This was the case of those great impostors Apollonius of Tyena, Mahomet, &c. (Haydock) --- Moses shews sufficiently that beasts were neither divinities nor rational. (Calmet)
My rain bow. This had been from the beginning; but it was not before appointed for a sign that the earth should no more be destroyed by water. It is styled God's bow, on account of its beauty and grandeur. (Menochius) (Ecclesiasticus xliii. 12.) --- "As the rain-bow, which makes its appearance in the clouds, borrows all its effulgence from the sun, so those only who acknowledge the glory of Christ in God's clouds, and do not seek their own glory, will escape destruction in the deluge," St. Augustine, contra Faust. ii. 21.
Remember; or I shall cause men to reflect, when they see the rain-bow, of the horrors of the deluge, and of my gracious promises and covenant.
Chanaan, who, it seems, is here mentioned to his shame, having first discovered and told his father that Noe was drunk. He was probably but young at the time, being born after the deluge.
A husbandman. Hebrew, literally "a man of the earth." (Haydock) --- To till, perhaps with a plough, which he is said to have invented. (Menochius)
Drunk. Noe by the judgment of the fathers was not guilty of sin, in being overcome by wine; because he knew not the strength of it. (Challoner) --- Wine, Though vines had grown from the beginning, the art of making wine seems not to have been discovered; and hence Noe's fault is much extenuated, and was at most only a venial sin. (Menochius) --- His nakedness prefigured the desolate condition of Christ upon the cross, which was a scandal to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles. But by this folly we are made wise; we are redeemed, and enjoy the name of Christians. Sem and Japheth represent the multitude of believers, Cham and Chanaan the audacity and impudence of all unbelievers. (St. Augustine, contra Faust. xii. 24; City of God xvi. 2; St. Cyprian, ep. 63. ad Cæcil.) (Worthington) --- Like the Manichees, modern heretics are very free in condemning many innocent actions of the Patriarchs. (Haydock)
Gen 9:23 ought we to be so quick-sighted in discovering the faults of any: which we often represent as real, when they are only apparent. (Haydock)
Cursed be Chanaan. The curses, as well as the blessings, of the patriarchs were prophetical: and this in particular is here recorded by Moses, for the children of Israel, who were to possess the land of Chanaan. But why should Chanaan be cursed for his father's fault? The Hebrews answer, that he, being then a boy, was the first that saw his grandfather's nakedness, and told his father Cham of it; and joined with him in laughing at it: which drew upon him, rather than the rest of the children of Cham, this prophetical curse. (Challoner) --- Theodoret, q. 57. The children of Sem executed this sentence, in exterminating many of the Chanaanites under Josue. (Worthington) --- They perished for their own wickedness, which God foresaw, and revealed to Noe. Cham was severely punished by this denunciation of his children's misery. See Milton, xi. 754. xii. 27; Deuteronomy ix. 4. (Haydock)
Enlarge Japheth. His name signifies latitude or enlargement. (Worthington) --- May he, God, according to some; but more probably Japheth, of whom the rest of the sentence speaks. (Haydock) --- This was verified by the extensive dominion of the children of Japheth, both in the islands and on the continent; more particularly, when the Romans subdued the Jews, and posterity of Sem. (Menochius) --- Referring all this to the Church, the Gentiles entered in, upon the refusal of the Jews, though preachers of that nation were the instruments of their conversion. Chanaan, in the mean time, cherished his slavery, and seeks not to obtain the liberty and glory of the sons of God, in which he is a figure of heretics, (Haydock) who serve to make Christians more upon their guard, and by persecuting them, exercise their patience and increase their crown. (Worthington)
He died, having witnessed the attempt of his children to build the tower of Babel, (we may suppose with disapprobation) and having been concerned in the dispersing of nations. Some imagine he travelled eastward, and founded the empire of China, which is denied by others. (Haydock) --- The fathers conclude that he had no children after the deluge, as the Scripture mentions the world was divided among his three sons and their offspring. Perhaps the fabulous account of Saturn is a perversion of Noe's history, as the three great pagan deities, Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, to whom Saturn gave the empire of heaven, seas and hell, may have been intended for the three sons of Noe. The Egyptians have attributed to their Osiris the erecting of altars, cultivating vines, teaching agriculture, &c. for which we have seen Noe was so famous. (Calmet) --- This great and virtuous patriarch had only been dead two years, when the faithful Abraham was born, as it were to succeed him in maintaining the cause of God. (Haydock) --- The Rabbins assert, that God gave some general laws to Noe, which were necessarily to be observed by all who would obtain salvation: 1. To obey the laws. 2. Not to curse God. 3. Nor admit of any false god, nor of any superstition. 4. Not to marry one's mother, mother-in-law, sister by the same mother, or another person's wife, nor to commit sins against nature. 5. Not to shed blood, that of beasts must be buried. 6. Not to steal, or break one's word. 7. Not to eat the limb of a living creature. Maimonides thinks this last was given to Noe, the rest to Adam. (Calmet)