Commentary on Genesis, volume 1 (chapter 1-23)

John Calvin

Translated and edited by John King M.D.

The Banner of Truth Trust
3 Murrayfield Road, Edinburgh EH12 6EL
P.O. Box 652, Carlisle, Pennsylvania 17013, U.S.A.

First published in Latin 1554
First English Translation 1578
This edition reprinted from the Calvin Translation Society edition of
Reprinted 1975

ISBN 0 85151 093 0

Printed in Great Britain by offset lithography by Billing & Sons Limited,
Guildford and London

Translator' S Preface

Several of the commentaries of Calvin on different portions of the Holy
Scripture having been for some time before the public, through the
labours of The Calvin Society; it is not improbable that the readers of
the following pages will have already become in a great degree familiar
with the writings of this celebrated Reformer.

It may, perhaps, therefore be thought an unnecessary, if not a
presumptuous undertaking, to preface the present work with any general
observations on the character of Calvin's Expository Writings. But though
the Commentary on Genesis was neither the first which Calvin wrote, nor
the first which the Calvin Society has republished; yet since, in the
ultimate arrangement of the Commentaries it must take the foremost place,
the Editor has determined to offer such preliminary remarks as may seem
desirable for a reader who begins to read the Commentaries of Calvin, as
he begins to read the Bible itself, at the Book of Genesis. If, in taking
such a course, he is charged with repeating some things which have been
said by others before him, he will not be extremely anxious either to
defend himself from the charge or to meet it with a denial.

It seems to be now generally admitted that though, in the brilliant
constellation formed by the master-spirits of the Reformation, there were
those who, in some respects, shone with brighter lustre than Calvin, yet,
as a Commentator on Holy Scripture, he far outshines them all.

There is scarcely anything in which the wisdom of God has been more
conspicuous, than in his choice of instruments for carrying into
execution the different parts of that mighty revolution of sentiment,
which affected, more or less, every portion of Europe during the
sixteenth century.

Long before the issue of the movement was seen or apprehended, we behold
Erasmus, the most accomplished scholar of the age, acting unconsciously
as the pioneer of a Reformation, which at length he not only opposed, but
apparently hated. He had been raised up by God to lash the vices of the
Clergy, to expose the ignorance, venality, and sloth of the Mendicant
Orders, and to exhibit the follies of Romanism in sarcastic invectives
rendered imperishable by the elegant Latinity in which they were clothed.
But he did still more. The world is indebted to him for the first edition
of the entire New Testament in the Original Greek. He had also the honour
of being the first modern translator of the New Testament into Latin. He
published a valuable critical Commentary on the New Testament, which was
early translated into English, and ordered to be placed in the Churches.
Yet, great as the service undoubtedly was which he rendered to the cause
of truth, he never dared to cast the yoke of Rome from his own neck,
never stooped to identify himself with the Protestant Reformers; but
lived and died, as there is reason to fear, a mean, trickling,
timeserving Romanist, panting for preferment in a Church, the unsoundness
of which he had so fearfully exposed. It is not, however, to be denied
that God employed him as a most important instrument in shaking the
foundations of the Papacy, and in preparing the way for the more
successful efforts of more sincere and devoted servants of God.

Among these Luther and Melancthon in one field, Calvin and Zuinglius in
another, occupy posts of the greatest responsibility and usefulness; but
Luther and Calvin are manifestly the great leaders in this cause.

In qualifications necessary for the commencing of this great struggle, we
readily yield the palm to Luther. His indomitable energy, his noble
bearing, his contempt for danger, his transparent honesty of purpose, his
fiery zeal, his generous frankness--though too often degenerating into
peremptory vehemence of spirit and rudeness of manner--eminently fitted
him to take the lead in a warfare where so much was to be braved, to be
endured, and to be accomplished.

There was still another qualification, which perhaps no man ever
possessed in so high a degree as the Saxon Reformer, and that consisted
in the prodigious mastery he had over his own mother-tongue. He seized on
the rude, yet nervous and copious German of his ancestors, and taught it
to speak with a combination of melody and force, which it had never known
before. And his vernacular translation of the Holy Scriptures, in opening
to the millions of the German empire the Fount of eternal life, also
revealed to them the hitherto hidden beauties and powers of their own
masculine tongue.

Calvin, like Luther, was a man of courage; but he wanted Luther's fire,
he wanted Luther's ardent frankness of disposition; he wanted, in short,
the faculty which Luther possessed in a preeminent degree, of laying hold
on the affections, and of kindling the enthusiasm of a mighty nation.

Calvin, like Luther too, was a Translator of the Scriptures, and it is
worthy of remark, that he also wrote in a far purer and better style than
any of his contemporaries, or than any writers of an age near his own.
But he had not the honour, which God conferred on Luther, of sending
forth the sacred volume as a wholes through that great nation in which
his language was spoken, and of thus pouring, by one single acts a flood
of light upon millions of his countrymen.

But whatever advantage may lie on the side of Luther in the comparison,
so far as it has yet been carried, we shall find it on the side of Calvin
in grasp of intellect, in discriminating power, in calmness, clearness
and force of argument, in patience of research, in solid learning, in
every quality, in short, which is essential to an Expositor of Holy Writ.
We are the better able to institute this comparison, because Luther
himself wrote a Commentary on the Scriptures; but the slightest
inspection of the two Commentaries will convince the Reader of Calving
intellectual superiority; and will show, that as a faithful, penetrating,
and judicious Expounder of the Holy Spirit's meaning in the Scriptures,
he left the great Leader of the Reformation at an immeasurable distance

The doctrinal system of Calvin is too well known to require explanation
in this place. It is however a mistake to suppose that, on those points
in which Calvinism is deemed peculiarly to consist, he went a single step
farther than Luther himself, and the great majority of the Reformers. He
states his views with calmness, clearness and precision; he reasons on
them dispassionately, and never shrinks from any consequences to which he
perceives them to lead. But it would be the height of injustice to charge
him with obtruding them at every turn upon his reader, or with attempting
to force the language of Scripture to bear testimony to his own views.

No writer ever dealt more fairly and honestly by the Word of God. He is
scrupulously careful to let it speak for itself, and to guard against
every tendency of his own mind to put upon it a questionable meaning for
the sake of establishing some doctrine which he feels to be important, or
some theory which he is anxious to uphold. This is one of his prime
excellencies. He will not maintain any doctrine, however orthodox and
essential, by a text of Scripture which to him appears of doubtful
application, or of inadequate force. For instance, firmly as he believed
the doctrine of the Trinity, he refuses to derive an argument in its
favour, from the plural form of the name of God in the first chapter of
Genesis. It were easy to multiply examples of this kinds which, whether
we agree in his conclusions or not, cannot fail to produce the
conviction, that he is, at least, an honest Commentator, and will not
make any passage of Scripture speak more or less than, according to his
view, its Divine Author intended it to speak. Calvin has been charged
with ignorance of the language in which the Old Testament was written.
Father Simon says that he scarcely knew more of Hebrew than the letters!
The charge is malicious and ill founded. It may, however, be allowed that
a critical examination of the text of Holy Scripture was not the end
which Calvin proposed to himself; nor had he perhaps the materials or the
time necessary for that accurate investigation of word and syllables to
which the Scriptures have more recently been subjected. Still his verbal
criticisms are neither few nor unimportant, though he lays comparatively
little stress upon them himself.

His great strength, however, is seen in the clear, comprehensive view he
takes of the subject before him, in the facility with which he penetrates
the meaning of his Author, in the lucid expression he gives to that
meaning, in the variety of new yet solid and profitable thoughts which he
frequently elicits from what are apparently the least promising portions
of the sacred text, in the admirable precision with which he unfolds
every doctrine of Holy Scripture, whether veiled under figures and types,
or implied in prophetical allusions, or asserted in the records of the
Gospel. As his own mind was completely imbued with the whole system of
divine truth, and as his capacious memory never seemed to lose anything
which it had once apprehended, he was always able to present a harmonised
and consistent view of truth to his readers, and to show the relative
position in which any given portion of it stood to all the rest. This has
given a completeness and symmetry to his Commentaries which could
scarcely have been looked for; as they were not composed in the order in
which the Sacred Books stand in the Volume of Inspiration, nor perhaps in
any order of which a clear account can now be given. He probably did not,
at first, design to expound more than a single Book; and was led onwards
by the course which his Expository Lectures in public took, to write
first on one and then on another, till at length he traversed nearly the
whole field of revealed truth.

That, in proceeding with such want of method, his work, instead of
degenerating into a congeries of lax and unconnected observations
constantly reiterated, should have maintained, to a great degree, the
consistency of a regular and consecutive Commentary, is mainly to be
imputed to the gigantic intellectual power by which he was distinguished.
Through the whole of his writings, this power is everywhere visible,
always in action, ingrafting upon every passing incident some forcible
remark, which the reader no sooner sees than he wonders that it had not
occurred to his own mind. A work so rich in thought is calculated to call
into vigorous exercise the intellect of the reader; and, what is the best
and highest use of reading, to compel him to think for himself. It is
like seed-corn, the parent of the harvest.

It has been objected against Calvin by Bishop Horsley, no mean authority
in Biblical criticism,--that "by his want of taste, and by the poverty of
his imagination, he was a most wretched Expositor of the Prophecies,--
just as he would have been a wretched expositor of any secular poet." It
is true, this censure is qualified by the acknowledgment that Calvin was
"a man of great piety, great talents, and great learning." Yet, after
all, it would not, perhaps, be difficult to show that, as an expounder of
the poetical portions of Holy Scripture,--the Psalms for instance,--
Bishop Horsley more frequently errs through an excess of imagination,
than Calvin does through the want of it. However this may be, it is not
intended here to assert, either that Calvin possessed a high degree of
poetical taste, or that he cultivated to any great extent the powers of
the imagination. His mind was cast in the more severe mould of chastised,
vigorous, and concentrated thought. They who seek for the flowers of
poesy must go to some other master; they who would acquire habits of
sustained intellectual exercise may spend their days and nights over the
pages of Calvin.

But that which gives the greatest charm to these noble compositions is,
the genuine spirit of piety which breathes through them. The mind of the
writer turns with ease and with obvious delight to the spiritual
application of his subject. Hence the heart of the reader is often
imperceptibly raised to high and heavenly things. The rare combination of
intellect so profound and reasoning so acute, with piety so fervent,
inspires the reader with a calm and elevated solemnity, and strengthens
his conviction of the excellence and dignity of true religion.

On the mode in which The Editor has executed his task he may be permitted
to say, that he has attempted to be faithful as a translator, without
binding himself to a servile rendering of word for word, unmindful of the
idiomatic differences between one language and another. Yet it has been
his determination not to sacrifice sense to sound, nor to depart from the
Author's meaning for the sake of giving to any sentence a turn which
might seem more agreeable to an English ear. He has occasionally softened
an expression which appeared harsh in the original, and would appear
harsher still in our own language and in our own times. But in such
cases, he has generally placed the Latin expression before the reader in
a note. He has done the same, when any sentence appeared capable of a
different interpretation from that which is given in the translation. A
few passages which justly offend against delicacy are left untranslated;
and one it has been thought expedient entirely to omit. Some remarks are,
however, made upon it in the proper place.

Clear as the Latin Style of Calvin generally is, yet his sententious mode
of expressing himself occasionally leaves some ambiguity in his
expressions. Such difficulties, however, have generally been overcome by
the aid of the valuable French Translation, published at Geneva in the
year 1564,--the year of Calvin's death,--of which there is no reason to
doubt that Calvin was the author. Frequent references to this translation
in the notes will show to what extent assistance has been derived from it
by the Editor.

An English Translation of this Commentary on Genesis, by Thomas Tymme, in
black letter, was printed in the year 1578. It is, upon the whole, fairly
executed; but nearly every criticism on Hebrew words is entirely passed
over; and where the Translator has not had the sagacity to omit the whole
of any such passage, he has betrayed his own ignorance of the language,
and obscured the meaning of his author. Tymme claims for Calvin the
credit of being the first foreign Protestant Commentator on Genesis who
was made to speak in the English language.

The reader will find Calvin's Latin Version of the sacred text placed
side by side with our own excellent Authorised Translation. This was
thought the best method of meeting the wants of the public. The learned
may see Calvin's own words, which they will much prefer to any
translation of them, however accurate; the unlearned will have before
them that version of the Scriptures which from their youth they have been
taught to reverence. Where Calvin's version materially differs from our
own, and especially where his comments are made on any such different
rendering, ample explanation is given in the notes.

The Editor may be expected to say something respecting the notes
generally, which he has ventured to append to this Commentary. Some may
object that they are too few, others that they are superfluous. It would
have been easy to have made them more numerous, had space permitted; and
easier still to have omitted them altogether. But the writer of them
thought it would hardly be doing justice to Calvin to leave everything
exactly as he found it; for were the distinguished Author of the
Commentary now alive to reedit his own immortal work, there is no doubt
that he would reject every error which the increased facilities for
criticism would have enabled him to detect, and that he would throw fresh
light on many topics which were, in his day, dimly seen, or quite
misunderstood. And though it belongs not to an Editor to alter what is
erroneous, or to incorporate in his Author's Work any thoughts of his
own, or of other men; yet it is not beyond his province,--provided he
does it with becoming modesty, and with adequate information,--to point
out mistakes, to suggest such considerations as may have led him to
conclusions different from those of his Author, and to quote from other
Writers passages, sometimes confirmatory of, sometimes adverse to, those
advanced in the Work which he presents to the public. Within these limits
the Editor has endeavoured to confine himself. How far he has succeeded,
it is not for him but for the candid and competent reader to determine.

As it was possible that a doubt might exist whether the version of
Scripture used by Calvin was his own, or whether he had borrowed it from
some other source; it was thought worth the labour to investigate the
true state of the case, by having recourse to the excellent Library of
the British Museum. For this purpose the several versions which Calvin
was most likely to have adopted, had he not made one for himself, were
subjected to examination. It was not necessary to refer to any made by
Romanists; and those made by Protestants into the Latin language, which
there was any probability he should use, were but two. One by Sebastian
Munster, printed at Basle with the Hebrew Text, in 1534, from which the
version of Calvin varies considerably; the other by Leo Juda and other
learned men, printed at Zurich in 1543, and afterwards reprinted by
Robert Stephens in 1545 and 1557. The last of these editions was made use
of in comparing the versions of Leo Juda and Calvin; and though there
certainly are differences, yet they are so slight as to leave the
impression that Calvin took that of Leo Jude as his basis, and only
altered it as he saw occasion. To give the reader, however, the
opportunity of judging for himself, a few verses of the first chapter of
Genesis are transcribed from each.

The version of Leo Juda.

1. In principio creavit Deus coelum et terram.
2. Terra autem erat desolate et inanis, tenebraeque erant in superficie
voraginis: et Spiritus Dei agitabat sese in superficie aquarum.
3. Dixitque Deus, Sit Lux, et fuit lux.
4. Viditque Deus lucem quod esset bona, et divisit Deus lucem a tenebris.
5. Vocavitque Deus lucem Diem, et tenebras vocavit Noctem; fuitque
vespera, et fuit mane dies unus.
6. Dixit quoque Deus, Sit expansio, &c.

The version of Calvin.

1. In principio creavit Deus coelum et terram.
2. Terra autem erat informis et inanis, tenebraeque erant in superficie
voraginis: et Spiritus Dei agitabat se in superficie aquarum.
3. Et dixit Deus, Sit Lux, et fuit lux.
4. Viditque Deus lucem quod bona esset, et divisit Deus lucem a tenebris.
5. Et vocavit Deus lucem Diem, et tenebras vocavit Noctem. Fuitque
vespera, et fuit mane dies primus.
6. Et dixit Deus, Sit extensio, &c.

A similar examination was next resorted to, for the purpose of
ascertaining the source of Calvin's French Version. The first printed
version of the Scriptures into French was from the pen of Jacques Le
Fevre d'Estaples; or, as he was more commonly called, Jacobus Faber
Stapulensis. It was printed at Antwerp, by Martin L'Empereur. Though its
Author was in communion with the Church of Rome, yet the version is "said
to be the basis of all subsequent French Bibles, whether executed by
Romanists or Protestants."

The first Protestant French Bible was published by Robert Peter Olivetan,
with the assistance of his relative, the illustrious John Calvin, who
corrected the Antwerp edition wherever it differed from the Hebrew. It
might have been expected that Calvin would have placed this version--made
under his own eye, and perfected by his own assistance without alteration
at the head of his Commentaries. But it appears that he has not done so,
for though he departs but little from it, he not unfrequently alters a
word or two in the translation.

While on the subject of Versions, it may be added, that in The Old
English Translation by Tymme already alluded to, the Geneva version is
used. This translation was made by the learned exiles from England during
the Marian Persecution, and is sometimes distinguished from others by the
name of The Breeches Bible, on account of the rendering of Gen. 3: 7.

To give the reader some notion of the order in which Calvin's
Commentaries succeeded each other, the following List, with the dates
appended, taken from Senebiers Literary History of Geneva is submitted to
his consideration:

Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1540
Commentary on all the Epistles of Paul. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1548
Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Epistles of Peter,
John, Jude, and James . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1551
Commentary on Isaiah. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1551
Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1552
Commentary on Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1554
Commentary on the Psalms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1557
Commentary on Hosea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1557
Commentary on the Twelve Minor Prophets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1559
Commentary on Daniel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1561
Commentary on Joshua. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1562
Harmony of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. . . . . . . . 1563
Commentary on Jeremiah. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1563
Harmony of Three Gospels and Commentary on St John. . . . . . . . . . 1563

A facsimile of the title-page of the French Translation of 1563, and of
the Dedication to the Duke of Vendome, as a specimen of the French style
and spelling of the age, and a further facsimile of the title-page of the
English Translation of 1578, as well as of the Dedication to the Earl of
Warwick by Thomas Tymme, prefixed to the latter, will be found in this
edition. An accurate copy of the Map, roughly sketched by Calvin for the
purpose of explaining his hypothesis respecting the situation of the
Garden of Eden, and which seems to have been the basis of the most
approved theories on the subjects will be found in its proper place. The
same Map is given in the French and English translations, and also in the
Latin edition of Professor Hengstenberg, published at Berlin in the year
1838. It may be observed, as a coincidence, that the same sketch appears
in the Anglo Geneva Bible, to which reference has been made. A more
elaborate Map accompanies the Amsterdam edition of Calvin's Works,
published in 1671.

The edition now issuing from the press is also enriched by an engraving,
in the first style of art, of facsimiles of various medals of Calvin
never before submitted to the British public.

  Hull, January 1, 1847

Publishers' Note

To reduce size and cost of this one volume edition several items
mentioned in the above Preface and included in the Prelims of the Calvin
Translation Society edition are omitted These are the facsimiles of
venous medals of Calvin; the facsimile of the title page of the French
translation of 1563; the French translation of the Dedication to the Duke
of Vendome; the facsimile of the title page of the English translation of
1578 and the Dedications to the Earl of Warwick by Thomas Tymme prefixed
to the English translation of 1578 References to these however have not
been deleted from the index.

Note of the Scanner of this Electronic Edition

The footnotes of the Editor, and the Latin translation of the Bible-text,
are omitted. Thus you have the most pure form of Calvin's Commentary.

The Author's Epistle Dedicatory

John Calvin to the Most Illustrious Prince, Henry, Duke of Vendome, Heir
to the Kingdom of Navarre

If many censure my design, most Illustrious Prince, in presuming to
dedicate this work to you, that it may go forth to light sanctioned by
your name, nothing new or unexpected will have happened to me. For they
may object that by such dedication, the hatred of the wicked, who are
already more than sufficiently incensed against you, will be still
further inflamed. But since, at your tender age, amid various alarms and
threatenings, God has inspired you with such magnanimity that you have
never swerved from the sincere and ingenuous profession of the faith; I
do not see what injury you can sustain by having that profession, which
you wish to be openly manifest to all, confirmed by my testimony. Since,
therefore, you are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, this independence
of yours has appeared to give me just ground of confidence to
congratulate you on such an auspicious commencement, and to exhort you to
invincible constancy in future. For that flexibility which belongs to
superior natures is the common property of the young, until their
character becomes more formed. But however displeasing my labour may be
to some, yet if it be approved (as I trust it will) by your most noble
mother, the Queen, I can afford to despise both their unjust judgments
and their malicious slanders; at least I shall not be diverted by them
from my purpose. In one thing I may have acted with too little
consideration, namely, in not having consulted her, in order that I might
attempt nothing but in accordance with her judgment and her wish; yet for
this omission I have an excuse at hand. If, indeed, I had omitted to
consult her through negligence, I should condemn myself as guilty not of
imprudence only, but of rashness and arrogance. When, however, I had
given up all hope of so early a publication, because the Printer would
put me off till the next spring fairs, I thought it unnecessary, for
certain reasons, to hasten my work. In the meantime, while others were
urging him more vehemently on this point than I had done, I suddenly
received a message, that the work might be finished within fifteen days,
a thing which had before been pertinaciously refused to myself. Thus
beyond my expectation, yet not contrary to my wish, I was deprived of the
opportunity of asking her permission. Nevertheless, that most excellent
Queen is animated by such zeal for the propagation of the doctrine of
Christ and of pure faith and piety, that I am under no extreme anxiety
respecting her willingness to approve of this service of mine, and to
defend it with her patronage. She by no means dissembles her own utter
estrangement from the superstitions and corruptions with which Religion
has been disfigured and polluted. And in the midst of turbulent
agitations, it has been rendered evident by convincing proofs, that she
carried a more than masculine mind in woman's breast. And I wish that at
length even men may be put to shame, and that useful emulation may
stimulate them to imitate her example. For she conducted herself with
each peculiar modesty, that scarcely any one would have supposed her
capable of thus enduring the most violent attacks, and, at the same time,
of courageously repelling them. Besides, how keenly God exercised her
with internal conflicts but few persons are witnesses, of whom, however,
I am one.
  You truly, most Illustrious Prince, need not seek a better example, for
the purpose of moulding your own mind to the perfect pattern of all
virtues. Regard yourself as bound in an especial manner to aspire after,
to contend, and to labour for the attainment of this object. For, as the
heroic disposition which shines forth in you, will leave you the less
excusable, if you degenerate from yourself, so education, no common help
to an excellent disposition, is like another bond to retain you in your
duty. For liberal instruction has been superadded to chaste discipline.
Already imbued with the rudiments of literature, you have not cast away
(as nearly all are wont to do) these studies in disgust, but still
advance with alacrity in the cultivation of your genius. Now, in sending
forth this book to the public under your name, my desire is, that it may
effectually induce you more freely to profess yourself a disciple of
Christ; just as if God, by laying his hand upon you, were claiming you
anew to himself. And truly, you can yield no purer gratification to the
Queen your mother, who cannot be too highly estimated, than by causing
her to hear that you are making continual progress in piety.
  Although many things contained in this book are beyond the capacity of
your age, yet I am not acting unreasonably in offering it to your
perusal, and even to your attentive and diligent study. For since the
knowledge of ancient things is pleasant to the young, you will soon
arrive at those years in which the History of the creation of the World,
as well as that of the most Ancient Church, will engage your thoughts
with equal profit and delight. And, certainly, if Paul justly condemns
the perverse stupidity of men, because with closed eyes they pass by the
splendid mirror of God's glory which is constantly presented to them in
the fabric of the world, and thus unrighteously suppress the light of
truth; not less base and disgraceful has been that ignorance of the
origin and creation of the human race which has prevailed almost in every
age. It is indeed probable, that shortly after the building of Babel, the
memory of those things, which ought to have been discussed and celebrated
by being made the subjects of continual discourse, was obliterated. For
seeing that to profane men their dispersion would be a kind of
emancipation from the pure worship of God, they took no care to carry
along with them, to whatever regions of the earth they might visit, what
they had heard from their fathers concerning the Creation of the World,
or its subsequent restoration. Hence it has happened, that no nation, the
posterity of Abraham alone excepted, knew for more than two thousand
successive years, either from what fountain itself had sprung, or when
the universal race of man began to exist. For Ptolemy, in providing at
length that the Books of Moses should be translated into Greek, did a
work which was rather laudable than useful, (at least for that period,)
since the light which he had attempted to bring out of darkness was
nevertheless stifled and hidden through the negligence of men. Whence it
may easily be gathered, that they who ought to have stretched every nerve
of their mind to attain a knowledge of The Creator of the world, have
rather, by a malignant impiety, involved themselves in voluntary
blindness. In the meantime the liberal sciences flourished, men of
exalted genius arose, treatises of all kinds were published; but
concerning the History of the Creation of the World there was a profound
silence. Moreover, the greatest of philosophers, who excelled all the
rest in acuteness and erudition, applied whatever skill he possessed to
defraud God of his glory, by disputing in favour of the eternity of the
world. Although his master, Plato, was a little more religious, and
showed himself to be imbued with some taste for richer knowledge, yet he
corrupted and mingled with so many figments the slender principles of
truth which he received, that this fictitious kind of teaching would be
rather injurious than profitable. They, moreover, who devoted themselves
to the pursuit of writing history, ingenious and highly-cultivated men
though they were, while they ostentatiously boast that they are about to
become witnesses to the most remote antiquity, yet, before they reach so
high as the times of David intermix their lucubrations with much turbid
feculence; and when they ascend still higher, heap together an immense
mass of lies: so far are they from having arrived, by a genuine and clear
connection of narrative, at the true origin of the world. The Egyptians
also are an evident proof that men were willingly ignorant of things
which they had not far to seek, if only they had been disposed to addict
their minds to the investigation of truth; for though the lamp of God's
word was shining at their very doors, they would yet without shame
propagate the rank fables of their achievements, fifteen thousand years
before the foundation of the world. Not less puerile and absurd is the
fable of the Athenians, who boasted that they were born from their own
soil, maintaining for themselves a distinct origin from the rest of
mankind, and thus rendering themselves ridiculous even to barbarians.
Now, though all nations have been more or less implicated in the same
charge of ingratitude, I have nevertheless thought it right to select
those whose error is least excusable, because they have deemed themselves
wiser than all others.
  Now, whether all nations which formerly existed, purposely drew a veil
over themselves, or whether their own indolence was the sole obstacle to
their knowledge, the [First] Book of Moses deserves to be regarded as an
incomparable treasure, since it at least gives an indisputable assurance
respecting The Creation of the World, without which we should be unworthy
of a place on earth. I omit, for the present, The History of the Deluge,
which contains a representation of the Divine vengeance in the
destruction of mankind, as tremendous, as that which it supplies of
Divine mercy in their restoration is admirable. This one consideration
stamps an inestimable value on the Book, that it alone reveals those
things which are of primary necessity to be known; namely, in what manner
God, after the destructive fall of man, adopted to himself a Church; what
constituted the true worship of himself, and in what offices of piety the
holy fathers exercised themselves; in which way pure religion, having for
a time declined through the indolence of men, was restored as it were, to
its integrity; we also learn, when God deposited with a special people
his gratuitous covenant of eternal salvation; in what manner a small
progeny gradually proceeding from one man, who was both barren and
withering, almost half-dead, and (as Isaiah calls him) solitary, yet
suddenly grew to an immense multitude; by what unexpected means God both
exalted and defended a family chosen by himself, at though poor,
destitute of protection, exposed to every storm, and surrounded on all
sides by innumerable hosts of enemies. Let every one, from his own use
and experience, form his judgment respecting the necessity of the
knowledge of these things. We see how vehemently the Papists alarm the
simple by their false claim of the title of The Church. Moses so
delineates the genuine features of the Church as to take away this absurd
fear, by dissipating these illusions. It is by an ostentatious display of
splendour and of pomp that they (the Papists) carry away the less
informed to a foolish admiration of themselves, and even render them
stupid and infatuated. But if we turn our eyes to those marks by which
Moses designates the Church, these vain phantoms will have no more power
to deceive. We are often disturbed and almost disheartened at the paucity
of those who follow the pure doctrine of God; and especially when we see
how far and wide superstitions extend their dominion. And, as formerly,
the Spirit of God, by the mouth of Isaiah the prophet, commanded the Jews
to look to the Rock whence they were hewn, so he recalls us to the same
consideration, and admonishes us of the absurdity of measuring the Church
by its numbers, as if its dignity consisted in its multitude. If
sometimes, in various places, Religion is less flourishing than could be
wished, if the body of the pious is scattered, and the state of a
well-regulated Church has gone to decay, not only do our minds sink, but
entirely melt within us. On the contrary, while we see in this history of
Moses, the building of the Church out of ruins, and the gathering of it
out of broken fragments, and out of desolation itself, such an instance
of the grace of God ought to raise us to firm confidence. But since the
propensity, not to say the wanton disposition, of the human mind to frame
false systems of worship is so great, nothing can be more useful to us
than to seek our rule for the pure and sincere worshipping of God, from
those holy Patriarchs, whose piety Moses points out to us chiefly by this
mark, that they depended on the Word of God alone. For however great may
be the difference between them and us in external ceremonies, yet that
which ought to flourish in unchangeable vigour is common to us both,
namely that Religion should take its form from the sole will and pleasure
of God.
  I am not ignorant of the abundance of materials here supplied, and of
the insufficiency of my language to reach the dignity of the subjects on
which I briefly touch; but since each of them, on suitable occasions has
been elsewhere more copiously discussed by me, although not with suitable
brilliancy and elegance of diction, it is now enough for me briefly to
apprise my pious readers how will it would repay their labour, if they
would learn prudently to apply to their own use the example of The
Ancient Church as it is described by Moses. And, in fact, God has
associated us with the holy Patriarchs in the hope of the same
inheritance, in order that we, disregarding the distance of time which
separates us from them, may, in the mutual agreement of faith and
patience, endure the same conflicts. So much the more detestable, then
are certain turbulent men, who, incited by I know not what rage of
furious zeal, are assiduously endeavouring to rend asunder the Church of
our own age, which is already more than sufficiently scattered. I do not
speak of avowed enemies, who, by open violence, fall upon the pious to
destroy them, and utterly to blot out their memory; but of certain morose
professors of the Gospel, who not only perpetually supply new materials
for fomenting discords, but by their restlessness disturb the peace which
holy and learned men gladly cultivate. We see that with the Papists,
although in some things they maintain deadly strife among themselves,
they yet combine in wicked confederacy against the Gospel. It is not
necessary to say how small is the number of those who hold the sincere
doctrine of Christ, when compared with the vast multitudes of these
opponents. In the meantime, audacious scribblers arise, as from our own
bosom, who not only obscure the light of sound doctrine with clouds of
error, or infatuate the simple and the less experienced with their wicked
ravings, but by a profane license of skepticism, allow themselves to
uproot the whole of Religion. For, as if, by their rank ironies and
cavils, they could prove themselves genuine disciples of Socrates, they
have no axiom more plausible them, that faith must be free and
unfettered, so that it may be possible, by reducing everything to a
matter of doubt, to render Scripture flexible (so to speak) as a nose of
wax. Therefore, they who being captivated by the allurements of this new
school, now indulge in doubtful speculations, obtain at length such
proficiency, that they are always learning, yet never come to the
knowledge of the truth.
  Thus far I have treated briefly, as the occasion required, of the
utility of this History. As for the rest, I have laboured--how skilfully
I know not, but certainly faithfully--that the doctrine of the Law, the
obscurity of which has heretofore repelled many, may become familiarly
known. There will be readers, I doubt not, who would desire a more ample
explication of particular passages. But I, who naturally avoid prolixity,
have confined myself in this Work to narrow limits, for two reasons.
Firsts whereas these Four Books [of Moses] already deter some by their
length, I have feared lest, if in unfolding them, I were to indulge in a
style too disuse, I should but increase their disgust. Secondly, since in
my progress I have often despaired of life, I have preferred giving a
succinct Exposition to leaving a mutilated one behind me. Yet sincere
readers, possessed of sound judgment, will see that I have taken diligent
care, neither through cunning nor negligence, to pass over anything
perplexed, ambiguous, or obscure. Since, therefore, I have endeavoured to
discuss all doubtful points, I do not see why any one should complain of
brevity, unless he wishes to derive his knowledge exclusively from
Commentaries. Now I will gladly allow men of this sort, whom no amount of
verbosity can satiate, to seek for themselves some other master.
  But if you, Sire, please to make trial, you will indeed know, and will
believe for yourself, that what I declare is most true. You are yet a
youth; but God, when he commanded Kings to write out the Book of the Law
for their own use, did not exempt the odious Josiah from this class, but
choose rather to present the most noble instance of pious instruction in
a boy, that he might reprove the indolence of the aged. And your own
example teaches the great importance of having habits formed from tender
age. For the germ springing from the root which the principles of
Religion received by you have taken, not only puts forth its flower, but
also savours of a degree of maturity. Therefore labour, by indefatigable
industry, to attain the mark set before you. And suffer not yourself to
be retarded or disturbed by designing men, to whom it appears
unseasonable that boys should be called to this precocious wisdom, (as
they term it.) For what can be more absurd or intolerable, than that,
when every kind of corruption surrounds you, this remedy should be
prohibited? Since the pleasures of a Court corrupt even your servants,
how much more dangerous are the snares laid for great Princes, who so
abound in all luxury and delicacies, that it is a wonder if they are not
quite dissolved in lasciviousness? For it is certainly contrary to nature
to possess all the means of pleasure, and to refrain from enjoying them.
The difficulty, however, of retaining chastity unpolluted amidst scenes
of gaiety, is more than sufficiently evident in practice. But do you, O
most Illustrious Prince, regard everything as poison which tends to
produce a love of pleasures. For if that which stifles continence and
temperance already allures you, what will you not covet when you arrive
at adult age? The sentiment is perhaps harshly expressed, that great care
for the body is great neglect of virtue, yet most truly does Cato thus
speak. The following paradox also will scarcely be admitted in common
life: "I am greater, and am born to greater things, than to be a slave to
my body; the contempt of which is my true liberty." Let us then dismiss
that excessive rigour, by which all enjoyment is taken away from life;
still there are too many examples to show how easy is the descent from
security and self-indulgence to the licentiousness of profligacy.
Moreover; you will have to contend, not only with luxury, but also with
many other vices. Nothing can be more attractive than your affability and
modesty; but no disposition is so gentle and well-regulated, that it may
not degenerate into brutality and ferociousness when intoxicated with
flatteries. Now since there are flatterers without numbers who will prove
so many tempters to inflame your mind with various lusts, how much more
does it behave you vigilantly to beware of them? But while I caution you
against the blandishments of a Court, I require nothing more than that,
being endued with moderation, you should render yourself invincible. For
one has truly said, He is not to be praised who has never seen Asia, but
he who has lived modestly and continently in Asia. Seeing, therefore,
that to attain this state is most desirable, David prescribes a
compendious method of doing so--if you will but imitate his example--when
he declares that the precepts of God are his counsellors. And truly,
whatever counsel may be suggested from any other quarter will perish,
unless you take your commencement of becoming wise from this point. It
remains, therefore, most noble Prince, that what is spoken by Isaiah
concerning the holy king Hezekiah should perpetually recur to your mind.
For the Prophet, in enumerating his excellent qualities, especially
honours him with this eulogy, that the fear of God shall be his treasure.
  Farewell, most Illustrious Prince, may God preserve you in safety under
His protection, may He adorn you more and more with spiritual gifts, and
enrich you with every kind of benediction.

  Geneva, July 31st, 1563.


Since the infinite wisdom of God is displayed in the admirable structure
of heaven and earth, it is absolutely impossible to unfold The History of
the Creation of the World in terms equal to its dignity. For while the
measure of our capacity is too contracted to comprehend things of such
magnitude, our tongue is equally incapable of giving a full and
substantial account of them. As he, however, deserves praise, who, with
modesty and reverence, applies himself to the consideration of the works
of God, although he attain less than might be wished, so, if in this kind
of employment, I endeavour to assist others according to the ability
given to me, I trust that my service will be not less approved by pious
men than accepted by God. I have chosen to premise this, for the sake not
only of excusing myself, but of admonishing my readers, that if they
sincerely wish to profit with me in meditating on the works of God, they
must bring with them a sober, docile, mild, and humble spirit. We see,
indeed, the world with our eyes, we tread the earth with our feet, we
touch innumerable kinds of God's works with our hands, we inhale a sweet
and pleasant fragrance from herbs and flowers, we enjoy boundless
benefits; but in those very things of which we attain some knowledge,
there dwells such an immensity of divine power, goodness, and wisdom, as
absorbs all our senses. Therefore, let men be satisfied if they obtain
only a moderate taste of them, suited to their capacity. And it becomes
us so to press towards this mark during our whole life, that (even in
extreme old age) we shall not repent of the progress we have made, if
only we have advanced ever so little in our course.
  The intention of Moses in beginning his Book with the creation of the
world, is, to render God, as it were, visible to us in his works. But
here presumptuous men rise up, and scoffingly inquire, whence was this
revealed to Moses? They therefore suppose him to be speaking fabulously
of things unknown, because he was neither a spectator of the events he
records, nor had learned the truth of them by reading. Such is their
reasoning; but their dishonesty is easily exposed. For if they can
destroy the credit of this history, because it is traced back through a
long series of past ages, let them also prove those prophecies to be
false in which the same history predicts occurrences which did not take
place till many centuries afterwards. Those things, I affirm, are clear
and obvious, which Moses testifies concerning the vocation of the
Gentiles, the accomplishment of which occurred nearly two thousand years
after his death. Was not he, who by the Spirit foresaw an event remotely
future, and hidden at the time from the perception of mankind, capable of
understanding whether the world was created by God, especially seeing
that he was taught by a Divine Master? For he does not here put forward
divinations of his own, but is the instrument of the Holy Spirit for the
publication of those things which it was of importance for all men to
know. They greatly err in deeming it absurd that the order of the
creation, which had been previously unknown, should at length have been
described and explained by him. For he does not transmit to memory things
before unheard of, but for the first time consigns to writing facts which
the fathers had delivered as from hand to hand, through a long succession
of years, to their children. Can we conceive that man was so placed in
the earth as to be ignorant of his own origin, and of the origin of those
things which he enjoyed? No sane person doubts that Adam was
well-instructed respecting them all. Was he indeed afterwards dumb? Were
the holy Patriarchs so ungrateful as to suppress in silence such
necessary instruction? Did Noah, warned by a divine judgment so
memorable, neglect to transmit it to posterity? Abraham is expressly
honoured with this eulogy that he was the teacher and the master of his
family, (Gen. 18: 19.) And we know that, long before the time of Moses,
an acquaintance with the covenant into which God had entered with their
fathers was common to the whole people. When he says that the Israelites
were sprung from a holy race, which God had chosen for himself, he does
not propound it as something new, but only commemorates what all held,
what the old men themselves had received from their ancestors, and what,
in short, was entirely uncontroverted among them. Therefore, we ought not
to doubt that The Creation of the World, as here described was already
known through the ancient and perpetual tradition of the Fathers. Yet,
since nothing is more easy than that the truth of God should be so
corrupted by men, that, in a long succession of time, it should, as it
were, degenerate from itself, it pleased the Lord to commit the history
to writing, for the purpose of preserving its purity. Moses, therefore,
has established the credibility of that doctrine which is contained in
his writings, and which, by the carelessness of men, might otherwise have
been lost.

I now return to the design of Moses, or rather of the Holy Spirit, who
has spoken by his mouth. We know God, who is himself invisible, only
through his works. Therefore, the Apostle elegantly styles the worlds,
"ta me ek fainomenoon blepomena", as if one should say, "the
manifestation of things not apparent," (Heb. 11: 3.) This is the reason
why the Lord, that he may invite us to the knowledge of himself, places
the fabric of heaven and earth before our eyes, rendering himself, in a
certain manner, manifest in them. For his eternal power and Godhead (as
Paul says) are there exhibited, (Rom. 1: 20.) And that declaration of
David is most true, that the heavens, though without a tongue, are yet
eloquent heralds of the glory of God, and that this most beautiful order
of nature silently proclaims his admirable wisdom, (Ps. 19: 1.) This is
the more diligently to be observed, because so few pursue the right
method of knowing God, while the greater part adhere to the creatures
without any consideration of the Creator himself. For men are commonly
subject to these two extremes; namely, that some, forgetful of God, apply
the whole force of their mind to the consideration of nature; and others,
overlooking the works of God, aspire with a foolish and insane curiosity
to inquire into his Essence. Both labour in vain. To be so occupied in
the investigation of the secrets of nature, as never to turn the eyes to
its Author, is a most perverted study; and to enjoy everything in nature
without acknowledging the Author of the benefit, is the basest
ingratitude. Therefore, they who assume to be philosophers without
Religion, and who, by speculating, so act as to remove God and all sense
of piety far from them, will one day feel the force of the expression of
Paul, related by Luke, that God has never left himself without witness,
(Acts 14: 17.) For they shall not be permitted to escape with impunity
because they have been deaf and insensible to testimonies so illustrious.
And, in truth, it is the part of culpable ignorance, never to see God,
who everywhere gives signs of his presence. But if mockers now escape by
their cavils, hereafter their terrible destruction will bear witness that
they were ignorant of God, only because they were willingly and
maliciously blinded. As for those who proudly soar above the world to
seek God in his unveiled essence, it is impossible but that at length
they should entangle themselves in a multitude of absurd figments. For
God--by other means invisible--(as we have already said) clothes himself,
so to speak, with the image of the world in which he would present
himself to our contemplation. They who will not deign to behold him thus
magnificently arrayed in the incomparable vesture of the heavens and the
earth, afterwards suffer the just punishment of their proud contempt in
their own ravings. Therefore, as soon as the name of God sounds in our
ears, or the thought of him occurs to our minds, let us also clothe him
with this most beautiful ornament; finally, let the world become our
school if we desire rightly to know God.
  Here also the impiety of those is refuted who cavil against Moses, for
relating that so short a space of time had elapsed since the Creation of
the World. For they inquire why it had come so suddenly into the mind of
God to create the world; why he had so long remained inactive in heaven:
and thus by sporting with sacred things they exercise their ingenuity to
their own destruction. In the Tripartite History an answer given by a
pious man is recorded, with which I have always been pleased. For when a
certain impure dog was in this manner pouring ridicule upon God, he
retorted, that God had been at that time by no means inactive because he
had been preparing hell for the captious. But by what seasonings can you
restrain the arrogance of those men to whom sobriety is professedly
contemptible and odious? And certainly they who now so freely exult in
finding fault with the inactivity of God will find, to their own great
costs that his power has been infinite in preparing hell for them. As for
ourselves, it ought not to seem so very absurd that God, satisfied in
himself, did not create a world which he needed not, sooner than he
thought good. Moreover, since his will is the rule of all wisdom, we
ought to be contented with that alone. For Augustine rightly affirms that
injustice is done to God by the Manichaeans, because they demand a cause
superior to his will; and he prudently warns his readers not to push
their inquiries respecting the infinity of duration, any more than
respecting the infinity of space. We indeed are not ignorant, that the
circuit of the heavens is finite, and that the earth, like a little
globe, is placed in the centre. They who take it amiss that the world was
not sooner created, may as well expostulate with God for not having made
innumerable worlds. Yea, since they deem it absurd that many ages should
have passed away without any world at all, they may as well acknowledge
it to be a proof of the great corruption of their own nature, that, in
comparison with the boundless waste which remains empty the heaven and
earth occupy but a small space. But since both the eternity of God's
existence and the infinity of his glory would prove a twofold labyrinth,
let us content ourselves with modestly desiring to proceed no further in
our inquiries than the Lord, by the guidance and instruction of his own
works, invites us.
  Now, in describing the world as a mirror in which we ought to behold
God, I would not be understood to assert, either that our eyes are
sufficiently clear-sighted to discern what the fabric of heaven and earth
represents, or that the knowledge to be hence attained is sufficient for
salvation. And whereas the Lord invites us to himself by the means of
created things, with no other effect than that of thereby rendering us
inexcusable, he has added (as was necessary) a new remedy, or at least by
a new aid, he has assisted the ignorance of our mind. For by the
Scripture as our guide and teacher, he not only makes those things plain
which would otherwise escape our notice, but almost compels us to behold
them; as if he had assisted our dull sight with spectacles. On this
point, (as we have already observed,) Moses insists. For if the mute
instruction of the heaven and the earth were sufficient, the teaching of
Moses would have been superfluous. This herald therefore approaches, who
excites our attention, in order that we may perceive ourselves to be
placed in this scene, for the purpose of beholding the glory of God; not
indeed to observe them as mere witnesses but to enjoy all the riches
which are here exhibited as the Lord has ordained and subjected them to
our use. And he not only declares generally that God is the architect of
the world, but through the whole chain of the history he shows how
admirable is His power, His wisdom, His goodness, and especially His
tender solicitude for the human race. Besides, since the eternal Word of
God is the lively and express image of Himself, he recalls us to this
point. And thus, the assertion of the Apostle is verified, that through
no other means than faith can it be understood that the worlds were made
by the word of God, (Heb. 11: 3.) For faith properly proceeds from this,
that we being taught by the ministry of Moses, do not now wander in
foolish and trifling speculations, but contemplate the true and only God
in his genuine image.
  It may, however, be objected, that this seems at variance with what
Paul declares: "After that, in the wisdom of God, the world through
wisdom knew not God, it seemed right to God, through the foolishness of
preaching, to save them who believe," (1 Cor. 1: 21.) For he thus
intimates, that God is sought in vain under the guidance of visible
things; and that nothing remains for us but to retake ourselves
immediately to Christ; and that we must not therefore commence with the
elements of this world, but with the Gospel, which sets Christ alone
before us with his cross, and holds us to this one point. I answer, It is
in vain for any to reason as philosophers on the workmanship of the
world, except those who, having been first humbled by the preaching of
the Gospel, have learned to submit the whole of their intellectual wisdom
(as Paul expresses it) to the foolishness of the cross, (1 Cor. 1: 21.)
Nothing shall we find, I say, above or below, which can raise us up to
God, until Christ shall have instructed us in his own school. Yet this
cannot be done, unless we, having emerged out of the lowest depths, are
borne up above all heavens, in the chariot of his cross, that there by
faith we may apprehend those things which the eye has never seen, the ear
never heard, and which far surpass our hearts and minds.' For the earth,
with its supply of fruits for our daily nourishment, is not there set
before us; but Christ offers himself to us unto life eternal. Nor does
heaven, by the shining of the sun and stars, enlighten our bodily eyes,
but the same Christ, the Light of the World and the Sun of Righteousness,
shines into our souls; neither does the air stretch out its empty space
for us to breathe in, but the Spirit of God himself quickens us and
causes us to live. There, in short, the invisible kingdom of Christ fills
all things, and his spiritual grace is diffused through all. Yet this
does not prevent us from applying our senses to the consideration of
heaven and earth, that we may thence seek confirmation in the true
knowledge of God. For Christ is that image in which God presents to our
view, not only his heart, but also his hands and his feet. I give the
name of his heart to that secret love with which he embraces us in
Christ: by his hands and feet I understand those works of his which are
displayed before our eyes. As soon as ever we depart from Christ, there
is nothing, be it ever so gross or insignificant in itself, respecting
which we are not necessarily deceived.
  And, in fact, though Moses begins, in this Book, with the Creation of
the World, he nevertheless does not confine us to this subject. For these
things ought to be connected together, that the world was founded by God,
and that man, after he had been endued with the light of intelligence,
and adorned with so many privileges, fell by his own fault, and was thus
deprived of all the benefits he had obtained; afterwards, by the
compassion of God, he was restored to the life he had forfeited, and this
through the loving-kindness of Christ; so that there should always be
some assembly on earth, which being adopted into the hope of the
celestial life, might in this confidence worship God. The end to which
the whole scope of the history tends is to this point, that the human
race has been preserved by God in such a manner as to manifest his
special care for his Church. For this is the argument of the look: After
the world had been created, man was placed in it as in a theatre, that
he, beholding above him and beneath the wonderful works of God, might
reverently adore their Author. Secondly, that all things were ordained
for the use of man, that he, being under deeper obligation, might devote
and dedicate himself entirely to obedience towards God. Thirdly, that he
was endued with understanding and reason, that being distinguished from
brute animals he might meditate on a better life, and might even tend
directly towards God, whose image he bore engraved on his own person.
Afterwards followed the fall of Adam, whereby he alienated himself from
God; whence it came to pass that he was deprived of all rectitude. Thus
Moses represents man as devoid of all good, blinded in understanding,
perverse in heart, vitiated in every part, and under sentence of eternal
death; but he soon adds the history of his restorations where Christ
shines forth with the benefit of redemption. From this point he not only
relates continuously the singular Providence of God in governing and
preserving the Church, but also commends to us the true worship of God;
teaches wherein the salvation of man is placed, and exhorts us, from the
example of the Fathers, to constancy in enduring the cross. Whosoever,
therefore, desires to make suitable proficiency in this book, let him
employ his mind on these main topics. But especially, let him observe,
that ever Adam had by his own desperate fall ruined himself and all his
posterity, this is the basis of our salvation, this the origin of the
Church, that we, being rescued out of profound darkness, have obtained a
new life by the mere grace of God; that the Fathers (according to the
offer made them through the word of God) are by faith made partakers of
this life; that this word itself was founded upon Christ; and that all
the pious who have since lived were sustained by the very same promise of
salvation by which Adam was first raised from the fall.
  Therefore, the perpetual succession of the Church has flowed from this
fountain, that the holy Fathers, one after another, having by faith
embraced the offered promise, were collected together into the family of
God, in order that they might have a common life in Christ. This we ought
carefully to notice, that we may know what is the society of the true
Church, and what the communion of faith among the children of God.
Whereas Moses was ordained the Teacher of the Israelites, there is no
doubt that he had an especial reference to them, in order that they might
acknowledge themselves to be a people elected and chosen by God; and that
they might seek the certainty of this adoption from the Covenant which
the Lord had ratified with their fathers, and might know that there was
no other God, and no other right faith. But it was also his will to
testify to all ages, that whosoever desired to worship God aright, and to
be deemed members of the Church, must pursue no other course than that
which is here prescribed. But as this is the commencement of faith, to
know that there is one only true God whom we worship, so it is no common
confirmation of this faith that we are companions of the Patriarchs; for
since they possessed Christ as the pledge of their salvation when he had
not yet appeared, so we retain the God who formerly manifested himself to
them. Hence we may infer the difference between the pure and lawful
worship of God, and all those adulterated services which have since been
fabricated by the fraud of Satan and the perverse audacity of men.
Further, the Government of the Church is to be considered, that the
reader may come to the conclusion that God has been its perpetual Guard
and Ruler, yet in such a way as to exercise it in the warfare of the
cross. Here, truly, the peculiar conflicts of the Church present
themselves to view, or rather, the course is set as in a mirror before
our eyes, in which it behaves us, with the holy Fathers to press towards
the mark of a happy immortality.

  Let us now hearken to Moses.

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

Chapter I.

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the
face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light
from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the
evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and
let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under
the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it
was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning
were the second day.
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto
one place, and let the dry [land] appear: and it was so.
10 And God called the dry [land] Earth; and the gathering together of the
waters called he Seas: and God saw that [it was] good.
11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed,
[and] the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed [is] in
itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, [and] herb yielding seed after his
kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed [was] in itself, after his
kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to
divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for
seasons, and for days, and years:
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give
light upon the earth: and it was so.
16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and
the lesser light to rule the night: [he made] the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light
from the darkness: and God saw that [it was] good.
19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving
creature that hath life, and fowl [that] may fly above the earth in the
open firmament of heaven.
21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth,
which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every
winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the
waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his
kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind:
and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after
their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind:
and God saw that [it was] good.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the
air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping
thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he
him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over
the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living
thing that moveth upon the earth.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which
[is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is]
the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to
every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I
have given] every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very
good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

1. "In the beginning." To expound the term "beginning", of Christ, is
altogether frivolous. For Moses simply intends to assert that the world
was not perfected at its very commencement, in the manner in which it is
now seen, but that it was created an empty chaos of heaven and earth. His
language therefore may be thus explained. When God in the beginning
created the heaven and the earth, the earth was empty and waste. He
moreover teaches by the word "created," that what before did not exist
was now made; for he has not used the term "yatsar", which signifies to
frame or forms but "bara", which signifies to create. Therefore his
meaning is, that the world was made out of nothing. Hence the folly of
those is refuted who imagine that unformed matter existed from eternity;
and who gather nothing else from the narration of Moses than that the
world was furnished with new ornaments, and received a form of which it
was before destitute. This indeed was formerly a common fable among
heathens, who had received only an obscure report of the creation, and
who, according to custom, adulterated the truth of God with strange
figments; but for Christian men to labour (as Steuchus does) in
maintaining this gross error is absurd and intolerable. Let this, then be
maintained in the first place, that the world is not eternal but was
created by God. There is no doubt that Moses gives the name of heaven and
earth to that confused mass which he, shortly afterwards, (verse 2,)
denominates waters. The reason of which is, that this matter was to be
the seed of the whole world. Besides, this is the generally recognized
division of the world.
  "God." Moses has it Elohim, a noun of the plural number. Whence the
inference is drawn, that the three Persons of the Godhead are here noted;
but since, as a proof of so great a matter, it appears to me to have
little solidity, will not insist upon the word; but rather caution
readers to beware of violent glosses of this, kind. They think that they
have testimony against the Asians, to prove the Deity of the Son and of
the Spirit, but in the meantime they involve themselves in the error of
Sabellius, because Moses afterwards subjoins that the Elohim had spoken,
and that the Spirit of the Elohim rested upon the waters. If we suppose
three persons to be here denoted, there will be no distinction between
them. For it will follow, both that the Son is begotten by himself, and
that the Spirit is not of the Father, but of himself. For me it is
sufficient that the plural number expresses those powers which God
exercised in creating the world. Moreover I acknowledge that the
Scripture, although it recites many powers of the Godhead, yet always
recalls us to the Father, and his Word, and spirit, as we shall shortly
see. But those absurdities, to which I have alluded, forbid us with
subtlety to distort what Moses simply declares concerning God himself, by
applying it to the separate Persons of the Godhead. This, however, I
regard as beyond controversy, that from the peculiar circumstance of the
passage itself, a title is here ascribed to God, expressive of that
powers which was previously in some way included in his eternal essence.

2. "And the earth was without form and void." I shall not be very
solicitous about the exposition of these two epithets, "tohu", and
"bohu". The Hebrews use them when they designate anything empty and
confused, or vain, and nothing worth. Undoubtedly Moses placed them both
in opposition to all those created objects which pertain to the form, the
ornament and the perfection of the world. Were we now to take away, I
say, from the earth all that God added after the time here alluded to,
then we should have this rude and unpolished, or rather shapeless chaos.
Therefore I regard what he immediately subjoins that "darkness was upon
the face of the abyss," as a part of that confused emptiness: because the
light began to give some external appearance to the world. For the same
reason he calls it the abyss and waters, since in that mass of matter
nothing was solid or stable, nothing distinct.
  "And the Spirit of God." Interpreters have wrested this passage in
various ways. The opinion of some that it means the wind, is too frigid
to require refutation. They who understand by it the Eternal Spirit of
God, do rightly; yet all do not attain the meaning of Moses in the
connection of his discourse; hence arise the various interpretations of
the participle "merachepeth". I will, in the first place, state what (in
my judgment) Moses intended. We have already heard that before God had
perfected the world it was an undigested mass; he now teaches that the
power of the Spirit was necessary in order to sustain it. For this doubt
might occur to the mind, how such a disorderly heap could stand; seeing
that we now behold the world preserved by government, or order. He
therefore asserts that this mass, however confused it might be, was
rendered stable, for the time, by the secret efficacy of the Spirit. Now
there are two significations of the Hebrew word which suit the present
place; either that the spirit moved and agitated itself over the waters,
for the sake of putting forth vigour; or that He brooded over them to
cherish them. Inasmuch as it makes little difference in the result,
whichever of these explanations is preferred, let the reader's judgment
be left free. But if that chaos required the secret inspiration of God to
prevent its speedy dissolution; how could this order, so fair and
distinct, subsist by itself, unless it derived strength elsewhere?
Therefore, that Scripture must be fulfilled, 'Send forth thy Spirit, and
they shall be created, and thou shalt renew the face of the earth,' (Ps.
104: 30;) so, on the other hand, as soon as the Lord takes away his
Spirit, all things return to their dust and vanish away, (ver. 29.)

3. "And God said." Moses now, for the first time, introduces God in the
act of speaking, as if he had created the mass of heaven and earth
without the Word. Yet John testifies that 'without him nothing was made
of the things which were made,' (John 1: 3.) And it is certain that the
world had been begun by the same efficacy of the Word by which it was
completed. God, however, did not put forth his Word until he proceeded to
originate light; because in the act of distinguishing his wisdom begins
to be conspicuous. Which thing alone is sufficient to confute the
blasphemy of Servetus. This impure caviler asserts, that the first
beginning of the Word was when God commanded the light to be; as if the
cause, truly, were not prior to its effect. Since however by the Word of
God things which were not came suddenly into being, we ought rather to
infer the eternity of His essence. Wherefore the Apostles rightly prove
the Deity of Christ from hence, that since he is the Word of God, all
things have been created by him. Servetus imagines a new quality in God
when he begins to speak. But far otherwise must we think concerning the
Word of God, namely, that he is the Wisdom dwelling in God, and without
which God could never be; the effect of which, however, became apparent
when the light was created.
  "Let there be light." It we proper that the light, by means of which
the world was to be adorned with such excellent beauty, should be first
created; and this also was the commencement of the distinction, [among
the creatures.] It did not, however, happen from inconsideration or by
accident, that the light preceded the sun and the moon. To nothing are we
more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments the
agency of which he employs. The sun an moon supply us with light: And,
according to our notions we so include this power to give light in them,
that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem impossible for
any light to remain. Therefore the Lord, by the very order of the
creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is
able to impart to us without the sun and moon. Further, it is certain
from the context, that the light was so created as to be interchanged
with darkness. But it may be asked, whether light and darkness succeeded
each other in turn through the whole circuit of the world; or whether the
darkness occupied one half of the circle, while light shone in the other.
There is, however, no doubt that the order of their succession was
alternate, but whether it was everywhere day at the same time, and
everywhere night also, I would rather leave undecided; nor is it very
necessary to be known.

4. "And God saw the light. Here God is introduced by Moses as surveying
his work, that he might take pleasure in it. But he does it for our sake,
to teach us that God has made nothing without a certain reason and
design. And we ought not so to understand the words of Moses as if God
did not know that his work was good, till it was finished. But the
meaning of the passage is, that the work, such as we now see it, was
approved by God. Therefore nothing remains for us, but to acquiesce in
this judgment of God. And this admonition is very useful. For whereas man
ought to apply all his senses to the admiring contemplation of the works
of God, we see what license he really allows himself in detracting from

5. "And God called the light". That is, God willed that there should be a
regular vicissitude of days and nights; which also followed immediately
when the first day was ended. For God removed the light from view, that
night might be the commencement of another day. What Moses says however,
admits a double interpretation; either that this was the evening and
morning belonging to the first day, or that the first day consisted of
the evening and the morning. Whichever interpretation be chosen, it makes
no difference in the sense, for he simply understands the day to have
been made up of two parts. Further, he begins the day, according to the
custom of his nation, with the evening. It is to no purpose to dispute
whether this be the best and the legitimate order or not. We know that
darkness preceded time itself; when God withdrew the light, he closed the
day. I do not doubt that the most ancient fathers, to whom the coming
night was the end of one day and the beginning of another, followed this
mode of reckoning. Although Moses did not intend here to prescribe a rule
which it would be criminal to violate; yet (as we have now said) he
accommodated his discourse to the received custom. Wherefore, as the Jews
foolishly condemn all the reckonings of other people, as if God had
sanctioned this alone; so again are they equally foolish who contend that
this modest reckoning, which Moses approves, is preposterous.
  "The first day". Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who
maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a
cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at
once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us
rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the
purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men. We slightingly
pass over the infinite glory of God, which here shines forth; whence
arises this but from our excessive dullness in considering his greatness?
In the meantime, the vanity of our minds carries us away elsewhere. For
the correction of this fault, God applied the most suitable remedy when
he distributed the creation of the world into successive portions, that
he might fix our attention, and compel us, as if he had laid his hand
upon us, to pause and to reflect. For the confirmation of the gloss above
alluded to, a passage from Ecclesiasticus is unskilfully cited. 'He who
liveth for ever created all things at once,' (Ecclus. 18: 1.) For the
Greek adverb "koinei", which the writer uses, means no such thing, nor
does it refer to time, but to all things universally.

6. "Let there be a firmament." The work of the second day is to provide
an empty space around the circumference of the earth, that heaven and
earth may not be mixed together. For since the proverb, 'to mingle heaven
and earth,' denotes the extreme of disorder, this distinction ought to be
regarded as of great importance. Moreover, the word "rakia" comprehends
not only the whole region of the air, but whatever is open above us: as
the word heaven is sometimes understood by the Latins. Thus the
arrangement, as well of the heavens as of the lower atmosphere, is called
"rakia" without discrimination between them, but sometimes the word
signifies both together sometimes one part only, as will appear more
plainly in our progress. I know not why the Greeks have chosen to render
the word "stereooma", which the Latins have imitated in the term,
firmamentum; for literally it means expanse. And to this David alludes
when he says that 'the heavens are stretched out by God like a curtain,'
(Ps. 104: 2.) If any one should inquire whether this vacuity did not
previously exist, I answer, however true it may be that all parts of the
earth were not overflowed by the waters; yet now, for the first time, a
separation was ordained, whereas a confused admixture had previously
existed. Moses describes the special use of this expanse, "to divide the
waters from the waters" from which word arises a great difficulty. For it
appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should
be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and
philosophize concerning angels; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my
mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but
the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy, and other
recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach
all men without exception; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely
and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the
history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned.
The things, therefore, which he relates, serve as the garniture of that
theatre which he places before our eyes. Whence I conclude, that the
waters here meant are such as the rude and unlearned may perceive. The
assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read
concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance
respecting them, is not in accordance with the design of Moses. And truly
a longer inquiry into a matter open and manifest is superfluous. We see
that the clouds suspended in the air, which threaten to fall upon our
heads, yet leave us space to breathe. They who deny that this is effected
by the wonderful providence of God, are vainly inflated with the folly of
their own minds. We know, indeed that the rain is naturally produced; but
the deluge sufficiently shows how speedily we might be overwhelmed by the
bursting of the clouds, unless the cataracts of heaven were closed by the
hand of God. Nor does David rashly recount this among His miracles, that
God "layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters," (Ps. 104: 31;) and
he elsewhere calls upon the celestial waters to praise God, (Ps. 148: 4.)
Since, therefore, God has created the clouds, and assigned them a region
above us, it ought not to be forgotten that they are restrained by the
power of God, lest, gushing forth with sudden violence, they should
swallow us up: and especially since no other barrier is opposed to them
than the liquid and yielding, air, which would easily give way unless
this word prevailed, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters.' Yet
Moses has not affixed to the work of this day the note that "God saw that
it was good:" perhaps because there was no advantage from it till the
terrestrial waters were gathered into their proper place, which was done
on the next day, and therefore it is there twice repeated.

9. "Let the waters ... be gathered together." This also is an illustrious
miracle, that the waters by their departure have given a dwelling-place
to men. For even philosophers allow that the natural position of the
waters was to cover the whole earth, as Moses declares they did in the
beginning; first, because being an element, it must be circular, and
because this element is heavier than the air, and lighter than the earth,
it ought cover the latter in its whole circumference. But that the seas,
being gathered together as on heaps, should give place for man, is
seemingly preternatural; and therefore Scripture often extols the
goodness of God in this particular. See Psalm 33: 7, 'He has gathered the
waters together on a heap, and has laid them up in his treasures.' Also
Psalm 78: 13, 'He has collected the waters as into a bottle.' Jeremiah 5:
22, 'Will ye not fear me? will ye not tremble at my presence, who have
placed the sand as the boundary of the sea?' Job 38: 8, 'Who has shut up
the sea with doors? Have not I surrounded it with gates and bars? I have
said, Hitherto shalt thou proceed; here shall thy swelling waves be
broken.' Let us, therefore, know that we are dwelling on dry ground,
because God, by his command, has removed the waters that they should not
overflow the whole earth.

11. "Let the earth bring forth grass." Hitherto the earth was naked and
barren, now the Lord fructifies it by his word. For though it was already
destined to bring forth fruit, yet till new virtue proceeded from the
mouth of God, it must remain dry and empty. For neither was it naturally
fit to produce anything, nor had it a germinating principle from any
other source, till the mouth of the Lord was opened. For what David
declares concerning the heavens, ought also to be extended to the earth;
that it was 'made by the word of the Lord, and was adorned and furnished
by the breath of his mouth,' (Ps. 33: 6.) Moreover, it did not happen
fortuitously, that herbs and trees were created before the sun and moon.
We now see, indeed, that the earth is quickened by the sun to cause it to
bring forth its fruits; nor was God ignorant of this law of nature, which
he has since ordained: but in order that we might learn to refer all
things to him he did not then make use of the sun or moon. He permits us
to perceive the efficacy which he infuses into them, so far as he uses
their instrumentality; but because we are wont to regard as part of their
nature properties which they derive elsewhere, it was necessary that the
vigour which they now seem to impart to the earth should be manifest
before they were created. We acknowledge, it is true, in words, that the
First Cause is self-sufficient, and that intermediate and secondary
causes have only what they borrow from this First Cause; but, in reality,
we picture God to ourselves as poor or imperfect, unless he is assisted
by second causes. How few, indeed, are there who ascend higher than the
sun when they treat of the fecundity of the earth? What therefore we
declare God to have done designedly, was indispensably necessary; that we
may learn from the order of the creation itself, that God acts through
the creatures, not as if he needed external help, but because it was his
pleasure. When he says, 'Let the earth bring forth the herb which may
produce seed, the tree whose seed is in itself,' he signifies not only
that herbs and trees were then created, but that, at the same time, both
were endued with the power of propagation, in order that their several
species might be perpetuated. Since, therefore, we daily see the earth
pouring forth to us such riches from its lap, since we see the herbs
producing seed, and this seed received and cherished in the bosom of the
earth till it springs forth, and since we see trees shooting from other
trees; all this flows from the same Word. If therefore we inquire, how it
happens that the earth is fruitful, that the germ is produced from the
seed, that fruits come to maturity, and their various kinds are annually
reproduced; no other cause will be found, but that God has once spoken,
that is, has issued his eternal decree; and that the earth, and all
things proceeding from it, yield obedience to the command of God, which
they always hear.

14. "Let there be lights". Moses passes onwards to the fourth day, on
which the stars were made. God had before created the light, but he now
institutes a new order in nature, that the sun should be the dispenser of
diurnal light, and the moon and stars should shine by night. And He
assigns them this office, to teach us that all creatures are subject to
his will, and execute what he enjoins upon them. For Moses relates
nothing else than that God ordained certain instruments to diffuse
through the earth, by reciprocal changes, that light which had been
previously created. The only difference is this, that the light was
before dispersed, but now proceeds from lucid bodies; which in serving
this purpose, obey the command of God.
  "To divide the day from the night." He means the artificial day, which
begins at the rising of the sun and ends at its setting. For the natural
day (which he mentions above) includes in itself the night. Hence infer,
that the interchange of days and nights shall be continual: because the
word of God, who determined that the days should be distinct from the
nights, directs the course of the sun to this end.
  "Let them be for signs." It must be remembered, that Moses does not
speak with philosophical acuteness on occult mysteries, but relates those
things which are everywhere observed, even by the uncultivated, and which
are in common use. A twofold advantage is chiefly perceived from the
course of the sun and moon; the one is natural, the other applies to
civil institutions. Under the term nature, I also comprise agriculture.
For although sowing and reaping require human art and industry; this,
nevertheless, is natural, that the sun, by its nearer approach, warms our
earth, that he introduces the vernal season, that he is the cause of
summer and autumn. But that, for the sake of assisting their memory, men
number among themselves years and months; that of these, they form lustra
and olympiads; that they keep stated days; this I say, is peculiar to
civil polity. Of each of these mention is here made. I must, however, in
a few words, state the reason why Moses calls them signs; because certain
inquisitive persons abuse this passages to give colour to their frivolous
predictions: I call those men Chaldeans and fanatics, who divine
everything from the aspects of the stars. Because Moses declares that the
sun and moon were appointed for signs, they think themselves entitled to
elicit from them anything they please. But confutation is easy: for they
are called signs of certain things, not signs to denote whatever is
according to our fancy. What indeed does Moses assert to be signified by
them, except things belonging to the order of nature? For the same God
who here ordains signs testifies by Isaiah that he 'will dissipate the
signs of the diviners,' (Isa. 44: 25;) and forbids us to be 'dismayed at
the signs of heaven,' (Jer. 10: 2.) But since it is manifest that Moses
does not depart from the ordinary custom of men, I desist from a longer
discussion. The word "moadim" which they translate 'certain times', is
variously understood among the Hebrews: for it signifies both time and
place, and also assemblies of persons. The Rabbis commonly explain the
passage as referring to their festivals. But I extend it further to mean,
in the first place, the opportunities of time, which in French are called
saisons, (seasons;) and then all fairs and forensic assemblies. Finally,
Moses commemorates the unbounded goodness of God in causing the sun and
moon not only to enlighten us, but to afford us various other advantages
for the daily use of life. It remains that we, purely enjoying the
multiplied bounties of God, should learn not to profane such excellent
gifts by our preposterous abuse of them. In the meantime, let us admire
this wonderful Artificer, who has so beautifully arranged all things
above and beneath, that they may respond to each other in most harmonious

15. "Let them be for lights." It is well again to repeat what I have said
before, that it is not here philosophically discussed, how great the sun
is in the heaven, and how great, or how little, is the moon; but how much
light comes to us from them. For Moses here addresses himself to our
senses, that the knowledge of the gifts of God which we enjoy may not
glide away. Therefore, in order to apprehend the meaning of Moses, it is
to no purpose to soar above the heavens; let us only open our eyes to
behold this light which God enkindles for us in the earth. By this method
(as I have before observed) the dishonesty of those men is sufficiently
rebuked, who censure Moses for not speaking with greater exactness. For
as it became a theologian, he had respect to us rather than to the stars.
Nor, in truth, was he ignorant of the fact, that the moon had not
sufficient brightness to enlighten the earth, unless it borrowed from the
sun; but he deemed it enough to declare what we all may plainly perceive,
that the moon is a dispenser of light to us. That it is, as the
astronomers assert, an opaque body, I allow to be true, while I deny it
to be a dark body. For, first, since it is placed above the element of
fire, it must of necessity be a fiery body. Hence it follows, that it is
also luminous; but seeing that it has not light sufficient to penetrate
to us, it borrows what is wanting from the sun. He calls it a "lesser
light" by comparison; because the portion of light which it emits to us
is small compared with the infinite splendour of the sun.

16. "The greater light." I have said, that Moses does not here subtilely
descant, as a philosopher, on the secrets of nature, as may be seen in
these words. First, he assigns a place in the expanse of heaven to the
planets and stars; but astronomers make a distinction of spheres, and, at
the same time, teach that the fixed stars have their proper place in the
firmament. Moses makes two great luminaries; but astronomers prove, by
conclusive reasons that the star of Saturn, which on account of its great
distance, appears the least of all, is greater than the moon. Here lies
the difference; Moses wrote in a popular style things which without
instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to
understand; but astronomers investigate with great labour whatever the
sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is
not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some
frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them.
For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it
cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God.
Wherefore, as ingenious men are to be honoured who have expended useful
labour on this subject, so they who have leisure and capacity ought not
to neglect this kind of exercise. Nor did Moses truly wish to withdraw us
from this pursuit in omitting such things as are peculiar to the art; but
because he was ordained a teacher as well of the unlearned and rude as of
the learned, he could not otherwise fulfill his office than by descending
to this grosser method of instruction. Had he spoken of things generally
unknown, the uneducated might have pleaded in excuse that such subjects
were beyond their capacity. Lastly since the Spirit of God here opens a
common school for all, it is not surprising that he should chiefly choose
those subjects which would be intelligible to all. If the astronomer
inquires respecting the actual dimensions of the stars, he will find the
moon to be less than Saturn; but this is something abstruse, for to the
sight it appears differently. Moses, therefore, rather adapts his
discourse to common usage. For since the Lord stretches forth, as it
were, his hand to us in causing us to enjoy the brightness of the sun and
moon, how great would be our ingratitude were we to close our eyes
against our own experience? There is therefore no reason why janglers
should deride the unskilfulness of Moses in making the moon the second
luminary; for he does not call us up into heaven, he only proposes things
which lie open before our eyes. Let the astronomers possess their more
exalted knowledge; but, in the meantime, they who perceive by the moon
the splendour of night, are convicted by its use of perverse ingratitude
unless they acknowledge the beneficence of God.
  "To rule". He does not ascribe such dominion to the sun and moon as
shall, in the least degree, diminish the power of God; but because the
sun, in half the circuit of heaven, governs the day, and the moon the
night, by turns; he therefore assigns to them a kind of government. Yet
let us remember, that it is such a government as implies that the sun is
still a servant, and the moon a handmaid. In the meantime, we dismiss the
reverie of Plato who ascribes reason and intelligence to the stars. Let
us be content with this simple exposition, that God governs the days and
nights by the ministry of the sun and moon, because he has them as his
charioteers to convey light suited to the season.

20. "Let the waters bring forth .. the moving creature." On the fifth day
the birds and fishes are created. The blessing of God is added, that they
may of themselves produce offspring. Here is a different kind of
propagation from that in herbs and trees: for there the power of
fructifying is in the plants, and that of germinating is in the seed; but
here generation takes place. It seems, however, but little consonant with
reason, that he declares birds to have proceeded from the waters; and,
therefore this is seized upon by captious men as an occasion of calumny.
But although there should appear no other reason but that it so pleased
God, would it not be becoming in us to acquiesce in his judgment? Why
should it not be lawful for him, who created the world out of nothing, to
bring forth the birds out of water? And what greater absurdity, I pray,
has the origin of birds from the water, than that of the light from
darkness? Therefore, let those who so arrogantly assail their Creator,
look for the Judge who shall reduce them to nothing. Nevertheless if we
must use physical reasoning in the contest, we know that the water has
greater affinity with the air than the earth has. But Moses ought rather
to be listened to as our teacher, who would transport us with admiration
of God through the consideration of his works. And, truly, the Lord,
although he is the Author of nature, yet by no means has followed nature
as his guide in the creation of the world, but has rather chosen to put
forth such demonstrations of his power as should constrain us to wonder.

21. "And God created." A question here arises out of the word created.
For we have before contended, that because the world   was created, it
was made out of nothing; but now Moses says that things formed from other
matter were created. They who truly and properly assert that the fishes
were created because the waters were in no way sufficient or suitable for
their production, only resort to a subterfuge: for, in the meantime, the
fact would remain that the material of which they were made existed
before; which, in strict propriety, the word created does not admit. I
therefore do not restrict the creation here spoken of to the work of the
fifth day, but rather suppose it to refer to that shapeless and confused
mass, which was as the fountain of the whole world. God then, it is said,
created whales (balaenas) and other fishes, not that the beginning of
their creation is to be reckoned from the moment in which they receive
their form; but because they are comprehended in the universal matter
which was made out of nothing. So that, with respect to species, form
only was then added to them; but creation is nevertheless a term truly
used respecting both the whole and the parts. The word commonly rendered
whales (cetos vel cete) might in my judgment be not improperly translated
thynnus or tunny fish, as corresponding with the Hebrew word thaninim.
  When he says that "the waters brought forth," he proceeds to commend
the efficacy of the word, which the waters hear so promptly, that, though
lifeless in themselves, they suddenly teem with a living offspring, yet
the language of Moses expresses more; namely, that fishes innumerable are
daily produced from the waters, because that word of God, by which he
once commanded it, is continually in force.

22. "And God blessed them". What is the force of this benediction he soon
declares. For God does not, after the manner of men, pray that we may be
blessed; but, by the bare intimation of his purpose, effects what men
seek by earnest entreaty. He therefore blesses his creatures when he
commands them to increase and grow; that is, he infuses into them
fecundity by his word. But it seems futile for God to address fishes and
reptiles. I answer, this mode of speaking was no other than that which
might be easily understood. For the experiment itself teaches, that the
force of the word which was addressed to the fishes was not transient,
but rather, being infused into their nature, has taken root, and
constantly bears fruit.

24. "Let the earth bring forth". He descends to the sixth day, on which
the animals were created, and then man. 'Let the earth,' he says, 'bring
forth living creatures.' But whence has a dead element life? Therefore,
there is in this respect a miracle as great as if God had begun to create
out of nothing those things which he commanded to proceed from the earth.
And he does not take his material from the earth, because he needed it,
but that he might the better combine the separate parts of the world with
the universe itself. Yet it may be inquired, why He does not here also
add his benediction? I answer, that what Moses before expressed on a
similar occasion is here also to be understood, although he does not
repeat it word for word. I say, moreover, it is sufficient for the
purpose of signifying the same thing, that Moses declares animals were
created 'according to their species:' for this distribution carried with
it something stable. It may even hence be inferred, that the offspring of
animals was included. For to what purpose do distinct species exist,
unless that individuals, by their several kinds, may be multiplied?
  "Cattle." Some of the Hebrews thus distinguish between "cattle" and
"beasts of the earth," that the cattle feed on herb age, but that the
beasts of the earth are they which eat flesh. But the Lord, a little
while after, assigns herbs to both as their common food; and it may be
observed, that in several parts of Scripture these two words are used
indiscriminately. Indeed, I do not doubt that Moses, after he had named
Behemoth, (cattle,) added the other, for the sake of fuller explanation.
By 'reptiles,' in this place, understand those which are of an earthly

26. "Let us make man." Although the tense here used is the future, all
must acknowledge that this is the language of one apparently
deliberating. Hitherto God has been introduced simply as commanding; now,
when he approaches the most excellent of all his works, he enters into
consultation. God certainly might here command by his bare word what he
wished to be done: but he chose to give this tribute to the excellency of
man, that he would, in a manner, enter into consultation concerning his
creation. This is the highest honour with which he has dignified us; to a
due regard for which, Moses, by this mode of speaking would excite our
minds. For God is not now first beginning to consider what form he will
give to man, and with what endowments it would be fitting to adorn him,
nor is he pausing as over a work of difficulty: but, just as we have
before observed, that the creation of the world was distributed over six
days, for our sake, to the end that our minds might the more easily be
retained in the meditation of God's works: so now, for the purpose of
commending to our attention the dignity of our nature, he, in taking
counsel concerning the creation of man, testifies that he is about to
undertake something great and wonderful. Truly there are many things in
this corrupted nature which may induce contempt; but if you rightly weigh
all circumstances, man is, among other creatures a certain preeminent
specimen of Divine wisdom, justice, and goodness, so that he is
deservedly called by the ancients "mikrokosmos", "a world in miniature."
But since the Lord needs no other counsellor, there can be no doubt that
he consulted with himself. The Jews make themselves altogether
ridiculous, in pretending that God held communication with the earth or
with angels. The earth, forsooth, was a most excellent adviser! And to
ascribe the least portion of a work so exquisite to angels, is a
sacrilege to be held in abhorrence. Where, indeed, will they find that we
were created after the image of the earth, or of angels? Does not Moses
directly exclude all creatures in express terms, when he declares that
Adam was created after the image of God? Others who deem themselves more
acute, but are doubly infatuated, say that God spoke of himself in the
plural number, according to the custom of princes. As if, in truth, that
barbarous style of speaking, which has grown into use within a few past
centuries, had, even then, prevailed in the world. But it is well that
their canine wickedness has been joined with a stupidity so great, that
they betray their folly to children. Christians, therefore, properly
contend, from this testimony, that there exists a plurality of Persons in
the Godhead. God summons no foreign counsellor; hence we infer that he
finds within himself something distinct; as, in truth, his eternal wisdom
and power reside within him.
  "In our image, &c." Interpreters do not agree concerning the meaning of
these words. The greater part, and nearly all, conceive that the word
image is to be distinguished from likeness. And the common distinction
is, that image exists in the substance, likeness in the accidents of
anything. They who would define the subject briefly, say that in the
image are contained those endowments which God has conferred on human
nature at large, while they expound likeness to mean gratuitous gifts.
But Augustine, beyond all others, speculates with excessive refinement,
for the purpose of fabricating a Trinity in man. For in laying hold of
the three faculties of the soul enumerated by Aristotle, the intellect,
the memory, and the will, he afterwards out of one Trinity derives many.
If any reader, having leisure, wishes to enjoy such speculations, let him
read the tenth and fourteenth books on the Trinity, also the eleventh
book of the "City of God." I acknowledge, indeed, that there is something
in man which refers to the Fathers and the Son, and the Spirit: and I
have no difficulty in admitting the above distinction of the faculties of
the soul: although the simpler division into two parts, which is more
used in Scripture, is better adapted to the sound doctrine of piety; but
a definition of the image of God ought to rest on a firmer basis than
such subtleties. As for myself, before I define the image of God, I would
deny that it differs from his likeness. For when Moses afterwards repeats
the same things he passes over the likeness, and contents himself with
mentioning the image. Should any one take the exception, that he was
merely studying brevity; I answer, that where he twice uses the word
image, he makes no mention of the likeness. We also know that it was
customary with the Hebrews to repeat the same thing in different words.
besides, the phrase itself shows that the second term was added for the
sake of explanation, 'Let us make,' he says, 'man in our image, according
to our likeness,' that is, that he may be like God, or may represent the
image of God. Lastly, in the fifth chapter, without making any mention of
image, he puts likeness in its place, (verse 1.) Although we have set
aside all difference between the two words we have not yet ascertained
what this image or likeness is. The Anthropomorphites were too gross in
seeking this resemblance in the human body; let that reverie therefore
remain entombed. Others proceed with a little more subtlety, who, though
they do not imagine God to be corporeal, yet maintain that the image of
God is in the body of man, because his admirable workmanship there shines
brightly; but this opinion, as we shall see, is by no means consonant
with Scripture. The exposition of Chrysostom is not more correct, who
refers to the dominion which was given to man in order that he might, in
a certain sense, act as God's vicegerent in the government of the world.
This truly is some portion, though very small, of the image of God. Since
the image of God had been destroyed in us by the fall, we may judge from
its restoration what it originally had been. Paul says that we are
transformed into the image of God by the gospel. And, according to him,
spiritual regeneration is nothing else than the restoration of the same
image. (Col. 3: 10, and Eph. 4: 23.) That he made this image to consist
in "righteousness and true holiness," is by the figure synecdoche; for
though this is the chief part, it is not the whole of God's image.
Therefore by this word the perfection of our whole nature is designated,
as it appeared when Adam was endued with a right judgment, had affections
in harmony with reason, had all his senses sound and well-regulated, and
truly excelled in everything good. Thus the chief seat of the Divine
image was in his mind and heart, where it was eminent: yet was there no
part of him in which some scintillations of it did not shine forth. For
there was an attempering in the several parts of the soul, which
corresponded with their various offices. In the mind perfect intelligence
flourished and reigned, uprightness attended as its companion, and all
the senses were prepared and moulded for due obedience to reason; and in
the body there was a suitable correspondence with this internal order.
But now, although some obscure lineaments of that image are found
remaining in us; yet are they so vitiated and maimed, that they may truly
be said to be destroyed. For besides the deformity which everywhere
appears unsightly, this evil also is added, that no part is free from the
infection of sin.
  "In our image, after our likeness". I do not scrupulously insist upon
the particles "beth" and "caph". I know not whether there is anything
solid in the opinion of some who hold that this is said, because the
image of God was only shadowed forth in man till he should arrive at his
perfection. The thing indeed is true; but I do not think that anything of
the kind entered the mind of Moses. It is also truly said that Christ is
the only image of the Fathers but yet the words of Moses do not bear the
interpretation that "in the image" means "in Christ." It may also be
added, that even man, though in a different respects is called the image
of God. In which thing some of the Fathers are deceived who thought that
they could defeat the Asians with this weapon that Christ alone is God's,
image. This further difficulty is also to be encountered, namely, why
Paul should deny the woman to be the image of God, when Moses honours
both, indiscriminately, with this title. The solution is short; Paul
there alludes only to the domestic relation. He therefore restricts the
image of God to government, in which the man has superiority over the
wife and certainly he meant nothing more than that man is superior in the
degree of honour. But here the question is respecting that glory of God
which peculiarly shines forth in human nature, where the mind, the will,
and all the senses, represent the Divine order.
  "And let them have dominion." Here he commemorates that part of dignity
with which he decreed to honour man, namely, that he should have
authority over all living creatures. He appointed man, it is true, lord
of the world; but he expressly subjects the animals to him, because they
having an inclination or instinct of their own, seem to be less under
authority from without. The use of the plural number intimates that this
authority was not given to Adam only, but to all his posterity as well as
to him. And hence we infer what was the end for which all things were
created; namely, that none of the conveniences and necessaries of life
might be wanting to men. In the very order of the creation the paternal
solicitude of God for man is conspicuous, because he furnished the world
with all things needful, and even with an immense profusion of wealth,
before he formed man. Thus man was rich before he was born. But if God
had such care for us before we existed, he will by no means leave us
destitute of food and of other necessaries of life, now that we are
placed in the world. Yet, that he often keeps his hand as if closed is to
be imputed to our sins.

27. "So God created man." The reiterated mention of the image of God is
not a vain repetition. For it is a remarkable instance of the Divine
goodness which can never be sufficiently proclaimed. And, at the same
time, he admonishes us from what excellence we have fallen, that he may
excite in us the desire of its recovery. When he soon afterwards adds,
that God created them "male and female," he commends to us that conjugal
bond by which the society of mankind is cherished. For this form of
speaking, "God created man, male and female created he them," is of the
same force as if he had said, that the man himself was incomplete. Under
these circumstances, the woman was added to him as a companion that they
both might be one, as he more clearly expresses it in the second chapter.
Malachi also means the same thing when he relates, (2: 15,) that one man
was created by God, whilst, nevertheless, he possessed the fulness of the
Spirit. For he there treats of conjugal fidelity, which the Jews were
violating by their polygamy. For the purpose of correcting this fault, he
calls that pair, consisting of man and woman, which God in the beginning
had joined together, one man, in order that every one might learn to be
content with his own wife.

28. "And God blessed them." This blessing of God may be regarded as the
source from which the human race has flowed. And we must so consider it
not only with reference to the whole, but also, as they say, in every
particular instance. For we are fruitful or barren in respect of
offspring, as God imparts his power to some and withholds it from others.
But here Moses would simply declare that Adam with his wife was formed
for the production of offspring, in order that men might replenish the
earth. God could himself indeed have covered the earth with a multitude
of men; but it was his will that we should proceed from one fountain, in
order that our desire of mutual concord might be the greater, and that
each might the more freely embrace the other as his own flesh. Besides,
as men were created to occupy the earth, so we ought certainly to
conclude that God has mapped, as with a boundary, that space of earth
which would suffice for the reception of men, and would prove a suitable
abode for them. Any inequality which is contrary to this arrangement is
nothing else than a corruption of nature which proceeds from sin. In the
meantime, however, the benediction of God so prevails that the earth
everywhere lies open that it may have its inhabitants, and that an
immense multitude of men may find, in some part of the globe, their home.
Now, what I have said concerning marriage must be kept in mind; that God
intends the human race to be multiplied by generation indeed, but not, as
in brute animals, by promiscuous intercourse. For he has joined the man
to his wife, that they might produce a divine, that is, a legitimate
seed. Let us then mark whom God here addresses when he commands them to
increase, and to whom he limits his benediction. Certainly he does not
give the reins to human passions, but, beginning at holy and chaste
marriage, he proceeds to speak of the production of offspring. For this
is also worthy of notice, that Moses here briefly alludes to a subject
which he afterwards means more fully to explain, and that the regular
series of the history is inverted, yet in such a way as to make the true
succession of events apparent. The question, however, is proposed,
whether fornicators and adulterers become fruitful by the power of God;
which, if it be true, then whether the blessing of God is in like manner
extended to them? I answer, this is a corruption of the Divine institute;
and whereas God produces offspring from this muddy pool, as well as from
the pure fountain of marriage, this will tend to their greater
destruction. Still that pure and lawful method of increase, which God
ordained from the beginning, remains firm; this is that law of nature
which common sense declares to be inviolable.
  "Subdue it". He confirms what he had before said respecting dominion.
Man had already been created with this condition, that he should subject
the earth to himself; but now, at length, he is put in possession of his
right, when he hears what has been given to him by the Lord: and this
Moses expresses still more fully in the next verse, when he introduces
God as granting to him the herbs and the fruits. For it is of great
importance that we touch nothing of God's bounty but what we know he has
permitted us to do; since we cannot enjoy anything with a good
conscience, except we receive it as from the hand of God. And therefore
Paul teaches us that, in eating and drinking we always sin, unless faith
be present, (Rom. 14: 23.) Thus we are instructed to seek from God alone
whatever is necessary for us, and in the very use of his gifts, we are to
exercise ourselves in meditating on his goodness and paternal care. For
the words of God are to this effect: 'Behold, I have prepared food for
thee before thou wast formed; acknowledge me, therefore, as thy Father,
who have so diligently provided for thee when thou wast not yet created.
Moreover, my solicitude for thee has proceeded still further; it was thy
business to nurture the things provided for thee, but I have taken even
this charge also upon myself. Wherefore, although thou art, in a sense,
constituted the father of the earthly family, it is not for thee to be
overanxious about the sustenance of animals.'
  Some infers from this passages that men were content with herbs and
fruits until the deluge, and that it was even unlawful for them to eat
flesh. And this seems the more probable, because God confines, in some
way, the food of mankind within certain limits. Then after the deluge, he
expressly grants them the use of flesh. These reasons, however are not
sufficiently strong: for it may be adduced on the opposite side, that the
first men offered sacrifices from their flocks. This, moreover, is the
law of sacrificing rightly, not to offer unto God anything except what he
has granted to our use. Lastly men were clothed in skins; therefore it
was lawful for them to kill animals. For these reasons, I think it will
be better for us to assert nothing concerning this matter. Let it suffice
for us, that herbs and the fruits of trees were given them as their
common food; yet it is not to be doubted that this was abundantly
sufficient for their highest gratification. For they judge prudently who
maintain that the earth was so marred by the deluge, that we retain
scarcely a moderate portion of the original benediction. Even immediately
after the fall of man, it had already begun to bring forth degenerate and
noxious fruits, but at the deluge, the change became still greater. Yet,
however this may be, God certainly did not intend that man should be
slenderly and sparingly sustained; but rather, by these words, he
promises a liberal abundance, which should leave nothing wanting to a
sweet and pleasant life. For Moses relates how beneficent the Lord had
been to them, in bestowing on them all things which they could desire,
that their ingratitude might have the less excuse.

31. "And God saw everything". Once more, at the conclusion of the
creation, Moses declares that God approved of everything which he had
made. In speaking of God as seeing, he does it after the manner of men;
for the Lord designed this his judgment to be as a rule and example to
us; that no one should dare to think or speak otherwise of his works. For
it is not lawful for us to dispute whether that ought to be approved or
not which God has already approved; but it rather becomes us to acquiesce
without controversy. The repetition also denotes how wanton is the
temerity of man: otherwise it would have been enough to have said, once
for all, that God approved of his works. But God six times inculcates the
same thing, that he may restrain, as with so many bridles, our restless
audacity. But Moses expresses more than before; for he adds "me'od," that
is, very. On each of the days, simple approbation was given. But now,
after the workmanship of the world was complete in all its parts, and had
received, if I may so speak, the last finishing touch, he pronounces it
perfectly good; that we may know that there is in the symmetry of God's
works the highest perfection, to which nothing can be added.

Chapter II.

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he
rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it
he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
4 These [are] the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they
were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the
5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb
of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain
upon the earth, and [there was] not a man to till the ground.
6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of
the ground.
7 And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put
the man whom he had formed.
9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is
pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the
midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it
was parted, and became into four heads.
11 The name of the first [is] Pison: that [is] it which compasseth the
whole land of Havilah, where [there is] gold;
12 And the gold of that land [is] good: there [is] bdellium and the onyx
13 And the name of the second river [is] Gihon: the same [is] it that
compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
14 And the name of the third river [is] Hiddekel: that [is] it which
goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river [is] Euphrates.
15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to
dress it and to keep it.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the
garden thou mayest freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat
of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
18 And the LORD God said, [It is] not good that the man should be alone;
I will make him an help meet for him.
19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field,
and every fowl of the air; and brought [them] unto Adam to see what he
would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that
[was] the name thereof.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to
every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet
for him.
21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept:
and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman,
and brought her unto the man.
23 And Adam said, This [is] now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh:
she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall
cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

1. "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished." Moses summarily
repeats that in six days the fabric of the heaven and the earth was
completed. The general division of the world is made into these two
parts, as has been stated at the commencement of the first chapter. But
he now adds, "all the host of them," by which he signifies that the world
was furnished with all its garniture. This epilogue, moreover, with
sufficient clearness entirely refutes the error of those who imagine that
the world was formed in a moment; for it declares that all end was only
at length put to the work on the sixth day. Instead of host we might not
improperly render the term abundance; for Moses declares that this world
was in every sense completed, as if the whole house were well supplied
and filled with its furniture. The heavens without the sun, and moon, and
stars, would be an empty and dismantled palace: if the earth were
destitute of animals, trees, and plants, that barren waste would have the
appearance of a poor and deserted house. God, therefore, did not cease
from the work of the creation of the world till he had completed it in
every part, so that nothing should be wanting to its suitable abundance.

2. "And he rested on the seventh day". The question may not improperly be
put, what kind of rest this was. For it is certain that inasmuch as God
sustains the world by his power, governs it by his providence, cherishes
and even propagates all creatures, he is constantly at work. Therefore
that saying of Christ is true, that the Father and he himself had worked
from the beginning hitherto, because, if God should but withdraw his hand
a little, all things would immediately perish and dissolve into nothing,
as is declared in Psalm 104: 29. And indeed God is rightly acknowledged
as the Creator of heaven and earth only whilst their perpetual
preservation is ascribed to him. The solution of the difficulty is well
known, that God ceased from all his work, when he desisted from the
creation of new kinds of things. But to make the sense clearer,
understand that the last touch of God had been put, in order that nothing
might be wanting to the perfection of the world. And this is the meaning
of the words of Moses, "From all his work which he had made"; for he
points out the actual state of the work as God would have it to be, as if
he had said, then was completed what God had proposed to himself. On the
whole, this language is intended merely to express the perfection of the
fabric of the world; and therefore we must not infer that God so ceased
from his works as to desert them, since they only flourish and subsist in
him. Besides, it is to be observed, that in the works of the six days,
those things alone are comprehended which tend to the lawful and genuine
adorning of the world. It is subsequently that we shall find God saying,
"Let the earth bring forth thorns and briers," by which he intimates that
the appearance of the earth should be different from what it had been in
the beginning. But the explanation is at hand; many things which are now
seen in the world are rather corruptions of it than any part of its
proper furniture. For ever since man declined from his high original, it
became necessary that the world should gradually degenerate from its
nature. We must come to this conclusion respecting the existence of
fleas, caterpillars, and other noxious insects. In all these, I say,
there is some deformity of the world, which ought by no means to be
regarded as in the order of nature, since it proceeds rather from the sin
of man than from the hand of God. Truly these things were created by God,
but by God as an avenger. In this place, however, Moses is not
considering God as armed for the punishment of the sins of men; but as
the Artificer, the Architect, the bountiful Father of a family, who has
omitted nothing essential to the perfection of his edifice. At the
present time, when we look upon the world corrupted, and as if
degenerated from its original creation, let that expression of Paul recur
to our mind, that the creature is liable to vanity, not willingly, but
through our fault, (Rom. 8: 20,) and thus let us mourn, being admonished
of our just condemnation.

3. "And God blessed the seventh day". It appears that God is here said to
bless according to the manner of men, because they bless him whom they
highly extol. Nevertheless, even in this sense, it would not be
unsuitable to the character of God; because his blessing sometimes means
the favour which he bestows upon his people, as the Hebrews call that man
the blessed of God, who, by a certain special favour, has power with God.
(See Gen. 24: 31.) 'Enter thou blessed of God.' Thus we may be allowed to
describe the day as blessed by him which he has embraced with love, to
the end that the excellence and dignity of his works may therein be
celebrated. Yet I have no doubt that Moses, by adding the word
sanctified, wished immediately to explain what he had said, and thus all
ambiguity is removed, because the second word is exegetical of the
former. For "kadesh" with the Hebrews, is to separate from the common
number. God therefore sanctifies the seventh day, when he renders it
illustrious, that by a special law it may be distinguished from the rest.
Whence it also appears, that God always had respect to the welfare of
men. I have said above, that six days were employed in the formation of
the world; not that God, to whom one moment is as a thousand years, had
need of this succession of time, but that he might engage us in the
consideration of his works. He had the same end in view in the
appointment of his own rest, for he set apart a day selected out of the
remainder for this special use. Wherefore, that benediction is nothing
else than a solemn consecration, by which God claims for himself the
meditations and employments of men on the seventh day. This is, indeed,
the proper business of the whole life, in which men should daily exercise
themselves, to consider the infinite goodness, justice, power, and wisdom
of God, in this magnificent theatre of heaven and earth. But, lest men
should prove less sedulously attentive to it than they ought, every
seventh day has been especially selected for the purpose of supplying
what was wanting in daily meditation. First, therefore, God rested; then
he blessed this rest, that in all ages it might be held sacred among men:
or he dedicated every seventh day to rest, that his own example might be
a perpetual rule. The design of the institution must be always kept in
memory: for God did not command men simply to keep holiday every seventh
day, as if he delighted in their indolence; but rather that they, being
released from all other business, might the more readily apply their
minds to the Creator of the world. Lastly, that is a sacred rest, which
withdraws men from the impediments of the world, that it may dedicate
them entirely to God. But now, since men are so backward to celebrate the
justice, wisdom, and power of God, and to consider his benefits, that
even when they are most faithfully admonished they still remain torpid,
no slight stimulus is given by God's own example, and the very precept
itself is thereby rendered amiable. For God cannot either more gently
allure, or more effectually incite us to obedience, than by inviting and
exhorting us to the imitation of himself. Besides, we must know, that
this is to be the common employment not of one age or people only, but of
the whole human race. Afterwards, in the Law, a new precept concerning
the Sabbath was given, which should be peculiar to the Jews, and but for
a season; because it was a legal ceremony shadowing forth a spiritual
rest, the truth of which was manifested in Christ. Therefore the Lord the
more frequently testifies that he had given, in the Sabbath, a symbol of
sanctification to his ancient people. Therefore when we hear that the
Sabbath was abrogated by the coming of Christy we must distinguish
between what belongs to the perpetual government of human life, and what
properly belongs to ancient figures, the use of which was abolished when
the truth was fulfilled. Spiritual rest is the mortification of the
flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live unto themselves, or
indulge their own inclination. So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this
rest, I say, it was but for a season; but inasmuch as it was commanded to
men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship
of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.
  "Which God created and made". Here the Jews, in their usual method,
foolishly trifle, saying, that God being anticipated in his work by the
last evening, left certain animals imperfect, of which kind are fauns and
satyrs, as though he had been one of the ordinary class of artifices who
have need of time. Ravings so monstrous prove the authors of them to have
been delivered over to a reprobate mind, as a dreadful example of the
wrath of God. As to the meaning of Moses, some take it thus: that God
created his Works in order to make them, inasmuch as from the time he
gave them being, he did not withdraw his hand from their preservation.
But this exposition is harsh. Nor do I more willingly subscribe to the
opinion of those who refer the word make to man, whom God placed over his
works, that he might apply them to use, and in a certain sense perfect
them by his industry. I rather think that the perfect form of God's works
is here noted; as if he had said God so created his works that nothing
should be wanting to their perfection; or the creation has proceeded to
sucks a point, that the work is in all respects perfect.

4. "These are the generations". The design of Moses was deeply to impress
upon our minds the origin of the heaven and the earth, which he
designates by the word generation. For there have always been ungrateful
and malignant men, who, either by feigning, that the world was eternal or
by obliterating the memory of the creations would attempt to obscure the
glory of God. Thus the devils by his guiles turns those away from God who
are more ingenious and skilful than others in order that each may become
a god unto himself. Wherefore, it is not a superfluous repetition which
inculcates the necessary fact, that the world existed only from the time
when it was created since such knowledge directs us to its Architect and
Author. Under the names of heaven and earth, the whole is, by the figure
synecdoche, included. Some of the Hebrews thinks that the essential name
of God is here at length expressed by Moses, because his majesty shines
forth more clearly in the completed world.

5. "And every plant." This verse is connected with the preceding, and
must be read in continuation with it; for he annexes the plants and herbs
to the earth, as the garment with which the Lord has adorned it, lest its
nakedness should appear as a deformity. The noun "siach", which we
translate plant, sometimes signifies trees, as below, (Gen. 21: 15.)
Therefore, some in this place translate it shrubs to which I have no
objection. Yet the word plant is not unsuitable; because in the former
place, Moses seems to refer to the genus, and here to the species. But
although he has before related that the herbs were created on the third
day, yet it is not without reason that here again mention is made of
them, in order that we may know that they were then produced, preserved,
and propagated, in a manner different from that which we perceive at the
present day. For herbs and trees are produced from seed; or grafts are
taken from another roots or they grow by putting forth shoots: in all
this the industry and the hand of man are engaged. But, at that time, the
method was different: God clothed the earth, not in the same manner as
now, (for there was no seed, no root, no plant, which might germinate,)
but each suddenly sprung into existence at the command of God, and by the
power of his word. They possessed durable vigour, so that they might
stand by the force of their own nature, and not by that quickening
influence which is now perceived, not by the help of rain, not by the
irrigation or culture of man; but by the vapour with which God watered
the earth. For he excludes these two things, the rain whence the earth
derives moisture, that it may retain its native sap; and human culture,
which is the assistant of nature. When he says, that God had 'not yet
caused it to rain,' he at the same time intimates that it is God who
opens and shuts the cataracts of heaven, and that rain and drought are in
his hand.

7. "And the Lord God formed man." He now explains what he had before
omitted in the creation of man, that his body was taken out of the earth.
He had said that he was formed after the image of God. This is
incomparably the highest nobility; and, lest men should use it as an
occasion of pride, their first origin is placed immediately before them;
whence they may learn that this advantage was adventitious; for Moses
relates that man had been, in the beginning, dust of the earth. Let
foolish men now go and boast of the excellency of their nature!
Concerning other animals, it had before been said, Let the earth produce
every living creature; but, on the other hand, the body of Adam is formed
of clay, and destitute of sense; to the end that no one should exult
beyond measure in his flesh. He must be excessively stupid who does not
hence learn humility. That which is afterwards added from another
quarter, lays us under just so much obligation to God. Nevertheless, he,
at the same time, designed to distinguish man by some mark of excellence
from brute animals: for these arose out of the earth in a moment; but the
peculiar dignity of man is shown in this, that he was gradually formed.
For why did not God command him immediately to spring alive out of the
earth, unless that, by a special privilege, he might outshine all the
creatures which the earth produced?
  "And breathed into his nostrils." Whatever the greater part of the
ancients might think, I do not hesitate to subscribe to the opinion of
those who explain this passage of the animal life of man; and thus I
expound what they call the vital spirits by the word breath. Should any
one object, that if so, no distinction would be made between man and
other living creatures, since here Moses relates only what is common
alike to all: I answer, though here mention is made only of the lower
faculty of the soul, which imparts breath to the body, and gives it
vigour and motion: this does not prevent the human soul from having its
proper rank, and therefore it ought to be distinguished from others.
Moses first speaks of the breath; he then adds, that a soul was given to
man by which he might live, and be endued with sense and motion. Now we
know that the powers of the human mind are many and various. Wherefore,
there is nothing absurd in supposing that Moses here alludes only to one
of them; but omits the intellectual part, of which mention has been made
in the first chapter. Three gradations, indeed, are to be noted in the
creation of man; that his dead body was formed out of the dust of the
earth; that it was endued with a soul, whence it should receive vital
motion; and that on this soul God engraved his own image, to which
immortality is annexed.
  "Man became a living soul." I take "nefesh", for the very essence of
the soul: but the epithet living suits only the present place, and does
not embrace generally the powers of the soul. For Moses intended nothing
more than to explain the animating of the clayey figure, whereby it came
to pass that man began to live. Paul makes an antithesis between this
living soul and the quickening spirit which Christ confers upon the
faithful, (1 Cor. 15: 45,) for no other purpose than to teach us that the
state of man was not perfected in the person of Adam; but it is a
peculiar benefit conferred by Christ, that we may be renewed to a life
which is celestial, whereas before the fall of Adams man's life was only
earthly, seeing it had no firm and settled constancy.

8. "And the Lord God planted." Moses now adds the condition and rule of
living which were given to man. And, first, he narrates in what part of
the world he was placed, and what a happy and pleasant habitation was
allotted to him. Moses says, that God had planted accommodating himself,
by a simple and uncultivated style, to the capacity of the vulgar. For
since the majesty of God, as it really is, cannot be expressed, the
Scripture is wont to describe it according to the manner of men. God,
then, had planted Paradise in a place which he had especially embellished
with every variety of delights, with abounding fruits and with all other
most excellent gifts. For this reason it is called a garden, on account
of the elegance of its situation, and the beauty of its form. The ancient
interpreter has not improperly translated it Paradise; because the
Hebrews call the more highly cultivated gardens "Pardaisim", and Xenophon
pronounces the word to be Persian, when he treats of the magnificent and
sumptuous gardens of kings. That region which the Lord assigned to Adam,
as the firstborn of mankind, was one selected out of the whole world.
  "In Eden". That Jerome improperly translates this, from the beginning,
is very obvious: because Moses afterwards says, that Cain dwelt in the
southern region of this place. Moreover it is to be observed, that when
he describes paradise as in the east, he speaks in reference to the Jews,
for he directs his discourse to his own people. Hence we infer, in the
first place, that there was a certain region assigned by God to the first
man, in which he might have his home. I state this expressly, because
there have been authors who would extend this garden over all regions of
the world. Truly, I confess, that if the earth had not been cursed on
account of the sin of man, the whole--as it had been blessed from the
beginning--would have remained the fairest scene both of fruitfulness and
of delight; that it would have been, in short, not dissimilar to
Paradise, when compared with that scene of deformity which we now behold.
But when Moses here describes particularly the situation of the region,
they absurdly transfer what Moses said of a certain particular place to
the whole world. It is not indeed doubtful (as I just now hinted) that
God would choose the most fertile and pleasant place, the first-fruits
(so to speak) of the earth, as his gift to Adam, whom he had dignified
with the honour of primogeniture among men, in token of his special
favour. Again, we infer, that this garden was situated on the earth, not
as some dream in the air; for unless it had been a region of our world,
it would not have been placed opposite to Judea, towards the east. We
must, however, entirely reject the allegories of Origin, and of others
like him, which Satan, with the deepest subtlety, has endeavoured to
introduce into the Church, for the purpose of rendering the doctrine of
Scripture ambiguous and destitute of all certainty and firmness. It may
be, indeed, that some, impelled by a supposed necessity, have resorted to
an allegorical sense, because they never found in the world such a place
as is described by Moses: but we see that the greater part, through a
foolish affectation of subtleties, have been too much addicted to
allegories. As it concerns the present passage, they speculate in vain,
and to no purpose, by departing from the literal sense. For Moses has no
other design than to teach man that he was formed by God, with this
condition, that he should have dominion over the earth, from which he
might gather fruit, and thus learn by daily experience that the world was
subject unto him. What advantage is it to fly in the air, and to leave
the earth, where God has given proof of his benevolence towards the human
race? But some one may say, that to interpret this of celestial bliss is
more skilful. I answer, since the eternal inheritance of man is in
heaven, it is truly right that we should tend thither; yet must we fix
our foot on earth long enough to enable us to consider the abode which
God requires man to use for a time. For we are now conversant with that
history which teaches us that Adam was, by Divine appointment, an
inhabitant of the earth, in order that he might, in passing through his
earthly life, meditate on heavenly glory; and that he had been
bountifully enriched by the Lord with innumerable benefits, from the
enjoyment of which he might infer the paternal benevolence of God. Moses,
also, will hereafter subjoin that he was commanded to cultivate the
fields and permitted to eat certain fruits: all which things neither suit
the circle of the moon, nor the aerial regions. But although we have
said, that the situation of Paradise lay between the rising of the sun
and Judea, yet something more definite may be required respecting that
region. They who contend that it was in the vicinity of Mesopotamia, rely
on reasons not to be despised; because it is probable that the sons of
Eden were contiguous to the river Tigris. But as the description of it by
Moses will immediately follow, it is better to defer the consideration of
it to that place. The ancient interpreter has fallen into a mistake in
translating the proper name Eden by the word "pleasure." I do not indeed
deny that the place was so called from its delights; but it is easy to
infer that the name was imposed upon the place to distinguish it from

9. "And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow." The production here
spoken of belongs to the third day of the creation. But Moses expressly
declares the place to have been richly replenished with every kind of
fruitful trees, that there might be a full and happy abundance of all
things. This was purposely done by the Lord, to the end that the cupidity
of man might have the less excuse if, instead of being contented with
such remarkable affluence, sweetness, and variety, it should (as really
happened) precipitate itself against the commandment of God. The Holy
Spirit also designedly relates by Moses the greatness of Adam's
happiness, in order that his vile intemperance might the more clearly
appear, which such superfluity was unable to restrain from breaking forth
upon the forbidden fruit. And certainly it was shameful ingratitude, that
he could not rest in a state so happy and desirable: truly, that was more
than brutal lust which bounty so great was not able to satisfy. No corner
of the earth was then barren, nor was there even any which was not
exceedingly rich and fertile: but that benediction of God, which was
elsewhere comparatively moderate, had in this place poured itself
wonderfully forth. For not only was there an abundant supply of food, but
with it was added sweetness for the gratification of the palate, and
beauty to feast the eyes. Therefore, from such benignant indulgence, it
is more than sufficiently evident, how inexplicable had been the cupidity
of man.
  "The tree of life also". It is uncertain whether he means only two
individual trees, or two kinds of trees. Either opinion is probable, but
the point is by no means worthy of contention; since it is of little or
no concern to us, which of the two is maintained. There is more
importance in the epithets, which were applied to each tree from its
effect, and that not by the will of man but of God. He gave the tree of
life its name, not because it could confer on man that life with which he
had been previously endued, but in order that it might be a symbol and
memorial of the life which he had received from God. For we know it to be
by no means unusual that God should give to us the attestation of his
grace by external symbols. He does not indeed transfer his power into
outward signs; but by them he stretches out his hand to us, because,
without assistance, we cannot ascend to him. He intended, therefore, that
man, as often as he tasted the fruit of that tree, should remember whence
he received his life, in order that he might acknowledge that he lives
not by his own power, but by the kindness of God alone; and that life is
not (as they commonly speak) an intrinsic good, but proceeds from God.
Finally, in that tree there was a visible testimony to the declaration,
that 'in God we are, and live, and move.' But if Adams hitherto innocent,
and of an upright nature, had need of monitory signs to lead him to the
knowledge of divine grace, how much more necessary are signs now, in this
great imbecility of our nature, since we have fallen from the true light?
Yet I am not dissatisfied with what has been handed down by some of the
fathers, as Augustine and Eucherius, that the tree of life was a figure
of Christ, inasmuch as he is the Eternal Word of God: it could not indeed
be otherwise a symbol of life, than by representing him in figure. For we
must maintain what is declared in the first chapter of John, that the
life of all things was included in the Word, but especially the life of
men, which is conjoined with reason and intelligence. Wherefore, by this
sign, Adam was admonished, that he could claim nothing for himself as if
it were his own, in order that he might depend wholly upon the Son of
God, and might not seek life anywhere but in him. But if he, at the time
when he possessed life in safety, had it only as deposited in the word of
God, and could not otherwise retain it, than by acknowledging that it was
received from Him, whence may we recover it, after it has been lost? Let
us know, therefore, that when we have departed from Christ, nothing
remains for us but death.
  I know that certain writers restrict the meaning of the expression here
used to corporeal life. They suppose such a power of quickening the body
to have been in the tree, that it should never languish through age; but
I say, they omit what is the chief thing in life, namely, the grace of
intelligence; for we must always consider for what end man was formed,
and what rule of living was prescribed to him. Certainly, for him to
live, was not simply to have a body fresh and lively, but also to excel
in the endowments of the soul.
  Concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we must hold, that
it was prohibited to man, not because God would have him to stray like a
sheep, without judgment and without choice; but that he might not seek to
be wiser than became him, nor by trusting to his own understanding, cast
off the yoke of God, and constitute himself an arbiter and judge of good
and evil. His sin proceeded from an evil conscience; whence it follows,
that a judgment had been given him, by which he might discriminate
between virtues and vices. Nor could what Moses relates be otherwise
true, namely, that he was created in the image of God; since the image of
God comprises in itself the knowledge of him who is the chief good.
Thoroughly insane, therefore, and monsters of men are the libertines, who
pretend that we are restored to a state of innocence, when each is
carried away by his own lust without judgment. We now understand what is
meant by abstaining from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;
namely, that Adam might not, in attempting one thing or another, rely
upon his own prudence; but that, cleaving to God alone, he might become
wise only by his obedience. Knowledge is here, therefore, taken
disparagingly, in a bad sense, for that wretched experience which man,
when he departed from the only fountain of perfect wisdom, began to
acquire for himself. And this is the origin of freewill, that Adam wished
to be independent, and dared to try what he was able to do.

10. "And a river went out". Moses says that one river flowed to water the
garden, which afterwards would divide itself into four heads. It is
sufficiently agreed among all, that two of these heads are the Euphrates
and the Tigris; for no one disputes that "Hiddekel" is the Tigris. But
there is a great controversy respecting the other two. Many think, that
Pison and Gihon are the Ganges and the Nile; the error, however, of these
men is abundantly refuted by the distance of the positions of these
rivers. Persons are not wanting who fly across even to the Danube; as if
indeed the habitation of one man stretched itself from the most remote
part of Asia to the extremity of Europe. But since many other celebrated
rivers flow by the region of which we are speaking, there is greater
probability in the opinion of those who believe that two of these rivers
are pointed out, although their names are now obsolete. Be this as it
may, the difficulty is not yet solved. For Moses divides the one river
which flowed by the garden into four heads. Yet it appears, that the
fountains of the Euphrates and the Tigris were far distant from each
other. From this difficulty, some would free themselves by saying, that
the surface of the globe may have been changed by the deluge; and,
therefore, they imagine it might have happened that the courses of the
rivers were disturbed and changed, and their springs transferred
elsewhere; a solution which appears to me by no means to be accepted. For
although I acknowledge that the earth, from the time that it was
accursed, became reduced from its native beauty to a state of wretched
defilement, and to a garb of mourning, and afterwards was further laid
waste in many places by the deluge; still, I assert, it was the same
earth which had been created in the beginning. Add to this, that Moses
(in my judgment) accommodated his topography to the capacity of his age.
Yet nothing is accomplished, unless we find that place where the Tigris
and Euphrates proceed from one river. Observe, first, that no mention is
made of a spring or fountain, but only that it is said, there was one
river. But the four heads I understand to mean, both the beginnings from
which the rivers are produced, and the mouths by which they discharge
themselves into the sea. Now the Euphrates was formerly so joined by
confluence with the Tigris, that it might justly be said, one river was
divided into four heads; especially if what is manifest to all be
conceded, that Moses does not speak acutely, nor in a philosophical
manner, but popularly, so that every one least informed may understand
him. Thus, in the first chapter, he called the sun and moon two great
luminaries; not because the moon exceeded other planets in magnitude, but
because, to common observation, it seemed greater. Add further, that he
seems to remove all doubt when he says, that the river had four heads,
because it was divided from that place. What does this mean, except that
the channels were divided, out of one confluent stream, either above or
below Paradise? I will now submit a plan to view, that the readers may
understand where I think Paradise was placed by Moses. (Here follows
Calvin's plan, which contains the name's Euphrates, The Great Armenia,
Tigris, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Arabian Desert, Seleucia, The Land of
Havila, Babylon, Babylonia, Syria, Chus, The Fal of Euphrates, The Fal of
Tigris, and The Golf of the Persian Sea.)
  Pliny indeed relates, in his Sixth Book, that the Euphrates was so
stopped in its course by the Orcheni, that it could not flow into the
sea, except through the Tigris. And Pomponius Mela, in his Third Book,
denies that it flowed by any given outlet, as other rivers, but says that
it failed in its course. Nearchus, however, (whom Alexander had made
commander of his fleet, and who, under his sanction, had navigated all
these regions,) reckons the distance from the mouth of the Euphrates to
Babylon, three thousand three hundred stadia. But he places the mouths of
the Tigris at the entrance of Susiana; in which region, returning from
that long and memorable voyage, he met the king with his fleet, as Adrian
relates in his Eighth Book of the Exploits of Alexander. This statement
Strabo also confirms by his testimony in his Fifteenth Book.
Nevertheless, wherever the Euphrates either submerges or mingles its
stream, it is certain, that it and the Tigris, below the point of their
confluence, are again divided. Adrian, however, in his Seventh Book,
writes that not one channel only of the Euphrates runs into the Tigris,
but also many rivers and ditches, because waters naturally descend from
higher to lower ground. With respect to the confluence, which I have
noted in the plate, the opinion of some was, that it had been effected be
the labour of the Praefect Cobaris, lest the Euphrates, by its
precipitate course, should injure Babylon. But he speaks of it as of a
doubtful matter. It is more credible, that men, by art and industry,
followed the guidance of Nature in forming ditches, when they saw the
Euphrates any where flowing of its own accord from the higher ground into
the Tigris. Moreover, if confidence is placed in Pomponius Mela,
Semiramis conducted the Tigris and Euphrates into Mesopotamia, which was
previously dry; a thing by no means credible. There is more truth in the
statement of Strabo,--a diligent and attentive writer,--in his Eleventh
Book, that at Babylon these two rivers unite: and then, that each is
carried separately, in its own bed, into the Red Sea. He understands that
junction to have taken place above Babylon, not far from the town
Massica, as we read in the Fifth Book of Pliny. Thence one river flows
through Babylon, the other glides by Seleucia, two of the most celebrated
and opulent cities. If we admit this confluence, by which the Euphrates
was mixed with the Tigris, to have been natural, and to have existed from
the beginning, all absurdity is removed. If there is anywhere under
heaven a region preeminent in beauty, in the abundance of all kinds of
fruit, in fertility, in delicacies, and in other gifts, that is the
region which writers most celebrate. Wherefore, the eulogies with which
Moses commends Paradise are such as properly belong to a tract of this
description. And that the region of Eden was situated in those parts is
probable from Isaiah 37: 12, and Ezekiel 27: 23. Moreover, when Moses
declares that a river went forth, I understand him as speaking of the
flowing of the stream; as if he had said, that Adam dwelt on the bank of
the river, or in that land which was watered on both sides if you choose
to take Paradise for both banks of the river. However, it makes no great
difference whether Adam dwelt below the confluent stream towards Babylon
and Seleucia, or in the higher part; it is enough that he occupied a
well-watered country. How the river was divided into four heads is not
difficult to understand. For there are two rivers which flow together
into one, and then separate in different directions; thus, it is one at
the point of confluence, but there are two heads in its upper channels,
and two towards the sea; afterwards, they again begin to be more widely
  The question remains concerning the names Pison and Gihon. For it does
not seem consonant with reason, to assign a double name to each of the
rivers. But it is nothing new for rivers to change their names in their
course, especially where there is any special mark of distinction. The
Tigris itself (by the authority of Pliny) is called Diglito near its
source; but after it has formed many channels, and again coalesces, it
takes the name of Pasitigris. There is, therefore, no absurdity in
saying, that after its confluence it had different names. Further there
is some such affinity between Pasin and Pison, as to render it not
improbable, that the name Pasitigris is a vestige of the ancient
appellation. In the Fifth Book of Quintus Curtis, concerning the Exploits
of Alexander, where mention is made of Pasitigris, some copies read, that
it was called by the inhabitants Pasin. Nor do the other circumstances,
by which Moses describes three of these rivers, in accord with this
supposition. Pison surrounds the land of Havila, where gold is produced.
Surrounding is rightly attributed to the Tigris, on account of its
winding course below Mesopotamia. The land of Havila, in my judgment, is
here taken for a region adjoining Persia. For subsequently, in the
twenty-fifth chapter, Moses relates, that the Ishmaelites dwelt from
Havila unto Shur, which is contiguous to Egypt, and through which the
road lies into Assyria. Havila, as one boundary, is opposed to Shur as
another, and this boundary Moses places near Egypt, on the side which
lies towards Assyria. Whence it follows, that Havila [the other boundary]
extends towards Susia and Persia. For it is necessary that it should lie
below Assyria towards the Persian Sea; besides, it is placed at a great
distance from Egypt; because Moses enumerates many nations which dwelt
between these boundaries. Then it appears that the Nabathaeans, of whom
mention is there made, were neighbours to the Persian. Every thing which
Moses asserts respecting gold and precious stones is most applicable to
this district.
  The river Gihon still remains to be noticed, which, as Moses declares,
waters the land of Chus. All interpreters translate this word Ethiopia;
but the country of the Midianites, and the conterminous country of
Arabia, are included under the same name by Moses; for which reason, his
wife is elsewhere called an Ethiopian woman. Moreover, since the lower
course of the Euphrates tends toward that region, I do not see why it
should be deemed absurd, that it there receives the name of Gihon. And
thus the simple meaning of Moses is, that the garden of which Adam was
the possessor was well watered, the channel of a river passing that way,
which was afterwards divided into four heads.

15. "And the Lord God took the man". Moses now adds, that the earth was
given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its
cultivation. Whence it follows that men were created to employ themselves
in some work, and not to lie down in inactivity and idleness. This
labour, truly, was pleasant, and full of delight, entirely exempt from
all trouble and weariness; since however God ordained that man should be
exercised in the culture of the ground, he condemned in his person, all
indolent repose. Wherefore, nothing is more contrary to the order of
nature, than to consume life in eating, drinking, and sleeping, while in
the meantime we propose nothing to ourselves to do. Moses adds, that the
custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we
possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the
condition, that being content with a frugal and moderate use of them, we
should take care of what shall remain. Let him who possesses a field, so
partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be
injured by his negligence; but let him endeavour to hand it down to
posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed
on its fruits that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits to be
marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, that this economy, and this
diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to
enjoy, may flourish among us; let every one regard himself as the steward
of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct
himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires
to be preserved.

16. "And the Lord God commanded". Moses now teaches, that man was the
governor of the world, with this exception, that he should, nevertheless,
be subject to God. A law is imposed upon him in token of his subjection;
for it would have made no difference to God, if he had eaten
indiscriminately of any fruit he pleased. Therefore the prohibition of
one tree was a test of obedience. And in this mode, God designed that the
whole human race should be accustomed from the beginning to reverence his
Deity; as, doubtless, it was necessary that man, adorned and enriched
with so many excellent gifts, should be held under restraint, lest he
should break forth into licentiousness. There was, indeed, another
special reason, to which we have before alluded, lest Adam should desire
to be wise above measure; but this is to be kept in mind as God's general
design, that he would have men subject to his authority. Therefore,
abstinence from the fruit of one tree was a kind of first lesson in
obedience, that man might know he had a Director and Lord of his life, on
whose will he ought to depend, and in whose commands he ought to
acquiesce. And this, truly, is the only rule of living well and
rationally, that men should exercise themselves in obeying God. It seems,
however, to some as if this did not accord with the judgment of Paul,
when he teaches, that "the law was not made for the righteous," (1 Tim.
1: 9.) For if it be so, then, when Adam was yet innocent and upright, he
had no need of a law. But the solution is ready. For Paul is not there
writing controversially; but from the common practice of life, he
declares, that they who freely run, do not require to be compelled by the
necessity of law; as it is said, in the common proverb, that 'Good laws
spring from bad manners.' In the meantime, he does not deny that God,
from the beginning, imposed a law upon man, for the purpose of
maintaining the right due to himself. Should any one bring, as an
objection, another statement of Paul, where he asserts that the "law is
the minister of death," (2 Cor. 3: 7,) I answer, it is so accidentally,
and from the corruption of our nature. But at the time of which we speak,
a precept was given to man, whence he might know that God ruled over him.
These minute things, however I lightly pass over. What I have before
said, since it is of far greater moment, is to be frequently recalled to
memory, namely, that our life will then be rightly ordered, if we obey
God, and if his will be the regulator of all our affections.
  "Of every tree". To the end that Adam might the more willingly comply,
God commends his own liberality. 'Behold,' he says, 'I deliver into thy
hand whatever fruits the earth may produce, whatever fruits every kind of
tree may yield: from this immense profusion and variety I except only one
tree.' Then, by denouncing punishment, he strikes terror, for the purpose
of confirming the authority of the law. So much the greater, then, is the
wickedness of man, whom neither that kind commemoration of the gifts of
God, nor the dread of punishment, was able to retain in his duty.
  But it is asked, what kind of death God means in this place? It appears
to me, that the definition of this death is to be sought from its
opposite; we must, I say, remember from what kind of life man fell. He
was, in every respect, happy; his life, therefore, had alike respect to
his body and his soul, since in his soul a right judgment and a proper
government of the affections prevailed, there also life reigned; in his
body there was no defect, wherefore he was wholly free from death. His
earthly life truly would have been temporal; yet he would have passed
into heaven without death, and without injury. Death, therefore, is now a
terror to us; first, because there is a kind of annihilation, as it
respects the body; then, because the soul feels the curse of God. We must
also see what is the cause of death, namely alienation from God. Thence
it follows, that under the name of death is comprehended all those
miseries in which Adam involved himself by his defection; for as soon as
he revolted from God, the fountain of life, he was cast down from his
former state, in order that he might perceive the life of man without God
to be wretched and lost, and therefore differing nothing from death.
Hence the condition of man after his sin is not improperly called both
the privation of life, and death. The miseries and evils both of soul and
body, with which man is beset so long as he is on earth, are a kind of
entrance into death, till death itself entirely absorbs him; for the
Scripture everywhere calls those dead who, being oppressed by the tyranny
of sin and Satan, breath nothing but their own destruction. Wherefore the
question is superfluous, how it was that God threatened death to Adam on
the day in which he should touch the fruit, when he long deferred the
punishment? For then was Adam consigned to death, and death began its
reign in him, until supervening grace should bring a remedy.

18. "It is not good that the man should be alone." Moses now explains the
design of God in creating the woman; namely, that there should be human
beings on the earth who might cultivate mutual society between
themselves. Yet a doubt may arise whether this design ought to be
extended to progeny, for the words simply mean that since it was not
expedient for man to be alone, a wife must be created, who might be his
helper. I, however, take the meaning to be this, that God begins, indeed,
at the first step of human society, yet designs to include others, each
in its proper place. The commencement, therefore, involves a general
principle, that man was formed to be a social animal. Now, the human race
could not exist without the woman; and, therefore, in the conjunction of
human beings, that sacred bond is especially conspicuous, by which the
husband and the wife are combined in one body, and one soul; as nature
itself taught Plato, and others of the sounder class of philosophers, to
speak. But although God pronounced, concerning Adam, that it would not be
profitable for him to be alone, yet I do not restrict the declaration to
his person alone, but rather regard it as a common law of man's vocation,
so that every one ought to receive it as said to himself, that solitude
is not good, excepting only him whom God exempts as by a special
privilege. Many think that celibacy conduces to their advantage, and
therefore, abstain from marriage, lest they should be miserable. Not only
have heathen writers defined that to be a happy life which is passed
without a wife, but the first book of Jerome, against Jovinian, is
stuffed with petulant reproaches, by which he attempts to render hallowed
wedlock both hateful and infamous. To these wicked suggestions of Satan
let the faithful learn to oppose this declaration of God, by which he
ordains the conjugal life for man, not to his destruction, but to his
  "I will make him an help." It may be inquired, why this is not said in
the plural number, Let us make, as before in the creation of man. Some
suppose that a distinction between the two sexes is in this manner
marked, and that it is thus shown how much the man excels the woman. But
I am better satisfied with an interpretation which, though not altogether
contrary, is yet different; namely, since in the person of the man the
human race had been created, the common dignity of our whole nature was
without distinction, honoured with one eulogy, when it was said, "Let us
make man;" nor was it necessary to be repeated in creating the woman, who
was nothing else than an accession to the man. Certainly, it cannot be
denied, that the woman also, though in the second degree, was created in
the image of God; whence it follows, that what was said in the creation
of the man belongs to the female sex. Now, since God assigns the woman as
a help to the man, he not only prescribes to wives the rule of their
vocation to instruct them in their duty, but he also pronounces that
marriage will really prove to men the best support of life. We may
therefore conclude, that the order of nature implies that the woman
should be the helper of the man. The vulgar proverb, indeed, is, that she
is a necessary evil; but the voice of God is rather to be heard, which
declares that woman is given as a companion and an associate to the man,
to assist him to live well. I confess, indeed, that in this corrupt state
of mankind, the blessing of God, which is here described, is neither
perceived nor flourishes; but the cause of the evil must be considered,
namely, that the order of nature, which God had appointed, has been
inverted by us. For if the integrity of man had remained to this day such
as it was from the beginning, that divine institution would be clearly
discerned, and the sweetest harmony would reign in marriage; because the
husband would look up with reverence to God; the woman in this would be a
faithful assistant to him; and both, with one consent, would cultivate a
holy, as well as friendly and peaceful intercourse. Now, it has happened
by our fault, and by the corruption of nature, that this happiness of
marriage has, in a great measure, perished, or, at least, is mixed and
infected with many inconveniences. Hence arise strifes, troubles,
sorrows, dissensions, and a boundless sea of evils; and hence it follows,
that men are often disturbed by their wives, and suffer through them many
discouragements. Still, marriage was not capable of being so far vitiated
by the depravity of men, that the blessing which God has once sanctioned
by his word should be utterly abolished and extinguished. Therefore,
amidst many inconveniences of marriage, which are the fruits of
degenerate nature, some residue of divine good remains; as in the fire
apparently smothered, some sparks still glitter. On this main point hangs
another, that women, being instructed in their duty of helping their
husbands, should study to keep this divinely appointed order. It is also
the part of men to consider what they owe in return to the other half of
their kind, for the obligation of both sexes is mutual, and on this
condition is the woman assigned as a help to the man, that he may fill
the place of her head and leader. One thing more is to be noted, that,
when the woman is here called the help of the man, no allusion is made to
that necessity to which we are reduced since the fall of Adam; for the
woman was ordained to be the man's helper, even although he had stood in
his integrity. But now, since the depravity of appetite also requires a
remedy, we have from God a double benefit: but the latter is accidental.
  "Meet for him." In the Hebrew it is "kenegdo", "as if opposite to," or
"over against him." "Caph" in that language is a note of similitude. But
although some of the Rabbles think it is here put as an affirmative, yet
I take it in its general sense, as though it were said that she is a kind
of counterpart, ["antistoikon", or "antistrofon";] for the woman is said
to be opposite to or over against the man, because she responds to him.
But the particle of similitude seems to me to be added because it is a
form of speech taken from common usage. The Greek translators have
faithfully rendered the sense, "kath' auton"; and Jerome, " Which may be
like him," for Moses intended to note some equality. And hence is
refitted the error of some, who think that the woman was formed only for
the sake of propagation, and who restrict the word "good," which had been
lately mentioned, to the production of offspring. They do not think that
a wife was personally necessary for Adam, because he was hitherto free
from lust; as if she had been given to him only for the companion of his
chamber, and not rather that she might be the inseparable associate of
his life. Wherefore the particle "caph" is of importance, as intimating
that marriage extends to all parts and usages of life. The explanation
given by others, as if it were said, "Let her be ready to obedience," is
cold; for Moses intended to express more, as is manifest from what

19. "And out of the ground the Lord God formed, &c".4 This is a more
ample exposition of the preceding sentence, for he says that, of all the
animals, when they had been placed in order, not one was found which
might be conferred upon and adapted to Adam; nor was there such affinity
of nature, that Adam could choose for himself a companion for life out of
any one species. Nor did this occur through ignorance, for each species
had passed in review before Adams and he had imposed names upon them, not
rashly but from certain knowledge; yet there was no just proportion
between him and them. Therefore, unless a wife had been given him of the
same kind with himself, he would have remained destitute of a suitable
and proper help. Moreover, what is here said of God's bringing the
animals to Adam signifies nothing else than that he endued them with the
disposition to obedience, so that they would voluntarily offer themselves
to the man, in order that he, having closely inspected them, might
distinguish them by appropriate names, agreeing with the nature of each.
This gentleness towards man would have remained also in wild beasts, if
Adam, by his defection from God, had not lost the authority he had before
received. But now, from the time in which he began to be rebellious
against God, he experienced the ferocity of brute animals against
himself; for some are tamed with difficulty, others always remain
unsubdued, and some, even of their own accord, inspire us with terror by
their fierceness. Yet some remains of their former subjection continue to
the present time, as we shall see in the second verse of the ninth
chapter. Besides, it is to be remarked that Moses speaks only of those
animals which approach the nearest to man, for the fishes live as in
another world. As to the names which Adam imposed, I do not doubt that
each of them was founded on the best reason; but their use, with many
other good things, has become obsolete.

21. "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall, &c." Although to
profane persons this method of forming woman may seem ridiculous, and
some of these may say that Moses is dealing in fables, yet to us the
wonderful providence of God here shines forth; for, to the end that the
conjunction of the human race might be the more sacred he purposed that
both males and females should spring from one and the same origin.
Therefore he created human nature in the person of Adam, and thence
formed Eve, that the woman should be only a portion of the whole human
race. This is the import of the words of Moses which we have had before,
(Chap. 1: 28,) "God created man ... he made them male and female." In
this manner Adam was taught to recognize himself in his wife, as in a
mirror; and Eve, in her turn, to submit herself willingly to her husband,
as being taken out of him. But if the two sexes had proceeded from
different sources, there would have been occasion either of mutual
contempt, or envy, or contentions. And against what do perverse men here
object? 'The narration does not seem credible, since it is at variance
with custom.' As if, indeed, such an objection would have more colour
than one raised against the usual mode of the production of mankind, if
the latter were not known by use and experience. But they object that
either the rib which was taken from Adam had been superfluous, or that
his body had been mutilated by the absence of the rib. To either of these
it may be answered, that they find out a great absurdity. If, however, we
should say that the rib out of which he would form another body had been
prepared previously by the Creator of the world, I find nothing in this
answer which is not in accordance with Divine Providence. Yet I am more
in favour of a different conjecture, namely, that something was taken
from Adam, in order that he might embrace, with greater benevolence, a
part of himself. He lost, therefore, one of his ribs; but, instead of it,
a far richer reward was granted him, since he obtained a faithful
associate of life; for he now saw himself, who had before been imperfect,
rendered complete in his wife. And in this we see a true resemblance of
our union with the Son of God; for he became weak that he might have
members of his body endued with strength. In the meantime, it is to be
noted, that Adam had been plunged in a sleep so profound, that he felt no
pain; and further, that neither had the rupture been violent, nor was any
want perceived of the lost rib, because God so filled up the vacuity with
flesh, that his strength remained unimpaired; only the hardness of bone
was removed. Moses also designedly used the word built, to teach us that
in the person of the woman the human race was at length complete, which
had before been like a building just begun. Others refer the expression
to the domestic economy, as if Moses would say that legitimate family
order was then instituted, which does not differ widely from the former

22. "And brought her, &c." Moses now relates that marriage was divinely
instituted, which is especially useful to be known; for since Adam did
not take a wife to himself at his own will, but received her as offered
and appropriated to him by God, the sanctity of marriage hence more
clearly appears, because we recognize God as its Author. The more Satan
has endeavoured to dishonour marriage, the more should we vindicate it
from all reproach and abuse, that it may receive its due reverence.
Thence it will follow that the children of God may embrace a conjugal
life with a good and tranquil conscience, and husbands and wives may live
together in chastity and honour. The artifice of Satan in attempting the
defamation of marriage was twofold: first, that by means of the odium
attached to it he might introduce the pestilential law of celibacy; and,
secondly, that married persons might indulge themselves in whatever
license they pleased. Therefore, by showing the dignity of marriage, we
must remove superstition, lest it should in the slightest degree hinder
the faithful from chastely using the lawful and pure ordinance of God;
and further, we must oppose the lasciviousness of the flesh, in order
that men may live modestly with their wives. But if no other reason
influenced us, yet this alone ought to be abundantly sufficient, that
unless we think and speak honorably of marriage, reproach is attached to
its Author and Patron, for such God is here described as being by Moses.

23. "And Adam said, &c." It is demanded whence Adam derived this
knowledge since he was at that time buried in deep sleep. If we say that
his quickness of perception was then such as to enable him by conjecture
to form a judgment, the solution would be weak. But we ought not to doubt
that God would make the whole course of the affair manifest to him,
either by secret revelation or by his word; for it was not from any
necessity on God's part that He borrowed from man the rib out of which he
might form the woman; but he designed that they should be more closely
joined together by this bonds which could not have been effected unless
he had informed them of the fact. Moses does not indeed explain by what
means God gave them this information; yet unless we would make the work
of God superfluous, we must conclude that its Author revealed both the
fact itself and the method and design of its accomplishment. The deep
sleep was sent upon Adam, not to hide from him the origin of his wife,
but to exempt him from pain and trouble, until he should receive a
compensation so excellent for the loss of his rib.
  "This is now bone of, &c." In using the expression "hapa'am", Adam
indicates that something had been wanting to him; as if he had said, Now
at length I have obtained a suitable companion, who is part of the
substance of my flesh, and in whom I behold, as it were, another self.
And he gives to his wife a name taken from that of man, that by this
testimony and this mark he might transmit a perpetual memorial of the
wisdom of God. A deficiency in the Latin language has compelled the
ancient interpreter to render "ishah" by the word virago. It is, however,
to be remarked, that the Hebrew term means nothing else than the female
of the man.

24. "Therefore shall a man leave." It is doubted whether Moses here
introduces God as speaking, or continues the discourse of Adam, or,
indeed, has added this, in virtue of his office as teacher, in his own
person. The last of these is that which I most approve. Therefore, after
he has related historically what God had done, he also demonstrates the
end of the divine institution. The sum of the whole is, that among the
offices pertaining to human society, this is the principal, and as it
were the most sacred, that a man should cleave unto his wife. And he
amplifies this by a superadded comparison, that the husband ought to
prefer his wife to his father. But the father is said to be left not
because marriage severs sons from their fathers, or dispenses with other
ties of nature, for in this way God would be acting contrary to himself.
While, however, the piety of the son towards his father is to be most
assiduously cultivated and ought in itself to be deemed inviolable and
sacred, yet Moses so speaks of marriage as to show that it is less lawful
to desert a wife than parents. Therefore, they who, for slight causes,
rashly allow of divorces, violate, in one single particular, all the laws
of nature, and reduce them to nothing. If we should make it a point of
conscience not to separate a father from his son, it is a still greater
wickedness to dissolve the bond which God has preferred to all others.
  "They shall be one flesh." Although the ancient Latin interpreter has
translated the passage 'in one flesh,' yet the Greek interpreters have
expressed it more forcibly: 'They two shall be into one flesh,' and thus
Christ cites the place in Matthew 19: 5. But though here no mention is
made of two, yet there is no ambiguity in the sense; for Moses had not
said that God has assigned many wives, but only one to one man; and in
the general direction given, he had put the wife in the singular number.
It remains, therefore, that the conjugal bond subsists between two
persons only, whence it easily appears, that nothing is less accordant
with the divine institution than polygamy. Now, when Christ, in censuring
the voluntary divorces of the Jews, adduces as his reason for doing it,
that 'it was not so in the beginning,' (Matth. 19: 5,) he certainly
commands this institution to be observed as a perpetual rule of conduct.
To the same point also Malachi recalls the Jews of his own time: 'Did he
not make them one from the beginning? and yet the Spirit was abounding in
him.' (Mal. 2: 15.) Wherefore, there is no doubt that polygamy is a
corruption of legitimate marriage.

25. "They were both naked." That the nakedness of men should be deemed
indecorous and unsightly, while that of cattle has nothing disgraceful,
seems little to agree with the dignity of human nature. We cannot behold
a naked man without a sense of shame; yet at the sight of an ass, a dog,
or an ox, no such feeling will be produced. Moreover, every one is
ashamed of his own nakedness, even though other witnesses may not be
present. Where then is that dignity in which we excel? The cause of this
sense of shame, to which we are now alluding, Moses will show in the next
chapter. He now esteems it enough to say, that in our uncorrupted nature,
there was nothing but what was honorable; whence it follows, that
whatsoever is opprobrious in us, must be imputed to our own fault, since
our parents had nothing in themselves which was unbecoming until they
were defiled with sin.

Chapter III.

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the
LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye
shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the
trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God
hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall
be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it
[was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise,
she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her
husband with her; and he did eat.
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were]
naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the
cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence
of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where [art] thou?
10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid,
because I [was] naked; and I hid myself.
11 And he said, Who told thee that thou [wast] naked? Hast thou eaten of
the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave
me of the tree, and I did eat.
13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast
done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this,
thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field;
upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed
and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy
conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire
[shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of
thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying,
Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow
shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life;
18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt
eat the herb of the field;
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto
the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto
dust shalt thou return.
20 And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all
21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins,
and clothed them.
22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know
good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the
tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till
the ground from whence he was taken.
24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of
Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the
way of the tree of life.

1. "Now the serpent was more subtile." In this chapter, Moses explains,
that man, after he had been deceived by Satan revolted from his Maker,
became entirely changed and so degenerate, that the image of God, in
which he had been formed, was obliterated. He then declares, that the
whole world, which had been created for the sake of man, fell together
with him from its primary original; and that in this ways much of its
native excellence was destroyed. But here many and arduous questions
arise. For when Moses says that the serpent was crafty beyond all other
animals, he seems to intimate, that it had been induced to deceive man,
not by the instigation of Satan, but by its own malignity. I answer, that
the innate subtlety of the serpent did not prevent Satan from making use
of the animal for the purpose of effecting the destruction of man. For
since he required an instrument, he chose from among animals that which
he saw would be most suitable for him: finally, he carefully contrived
the method by which the snares he was preparing might the more easily
take the mind of Eve by surprise. Hitherto, he had held no communication
with men; he, therefore, clothed himself with the person of an animal,
under which he might open for himself the way of access. Yet it is not
agreed among interpreters in what sense the serpent is said to be
"aroom", (subtle,) by which word the Hebrews designate the prudent as
well as the crafty. Some, therefore, would take it in a good, others in a
bad sense. I think, however, Moses does not so much point out a fault as
attribute praise to nature because God had endued this beast with such
singular skill, as rendered it acute and quick-sighted beyond all others.
But Satan perverted to his own deceitful purposes the gift which had been
divinely imparted to the serpent. Some captiously cavil, that more
acuteness is now found in many other animals. To whom I answer, that
there would be nothing absurd in saying, that the gift which had proved
so destructive to the human race has been withdrawn from the serpent:
just, as we shall hereafter see, other punishments were also inflicted
upon it. Yet, in this description, writers on natural history do not
materially differ from Moses, and experience gives the best answer to the
objection; for the Lord does not in vain command his own disciples to be
'prudent as serpents,' (Matth. 10: 16.) But it appears, perhaps, scarcely
consonant with reason, that the serpent only should be here brought
forward, all mention of Satan being suppressed. I acknowledge, indeed,
that from this place alone nothing more can be collected than that men
were deceived by the serpent. But the testimonies of Scripture are
sufficiently numerous, in which it is plainly asserted that the serpent
was only the mouth of the devil; for not the serpent but the devil is
declared to be 'the father of lies,' the fabricator of imposture, and the
author of death. The question, however, is not yet solved, why Moses has
kept back the name of Satan. I willingly subscribe to the opinion of
those who maintain that the Holy Spirit then purposely used obscure
figures, because it was fitting that full and clear light should be
reserved for the kingdom of Christ. In the meantime, the prophets prove
that they were well acquainted with the meaning of Moses, when, in
different places, they cast the blame of our ruin upon the devil. We have
elsewhere said, that Moses, by a homely and uncultivated style,
accommodates what he delivers to the capacity of the people; and for the
best reason; for not only had he to instruct an untaught race of men, but
the existing age of the Church was so puerile, that it was unable to
receive any higher instruction. There is, therefore, nothing absurd in
the supposition, that they, whom, for the time, we know and confess to
have been but as infants, were fed with milk. Or (if another comparison
be more acceptable) Moses is by no means to be blamed, if he, considering
the office of schoolmaster as imposed upon him, insists on the rudiments
suitable to children. They who have an aversion to this simplicity, must
of necessity condemn the whole economy of God in governing the Church.
This, however, may suffice us, that the Lord, by the secret illumination
of his Spirit, supplied whatever was wanting of clearness in outward
expressions; as appears plainly from the prophets, who saw Satan to be
the real enemy of the human race, the contriver of all evils, furnished
with every kind of fraud and villainy to injure and destroy. Therefore,
though the impious make a noise, there is nothing justly to offend us in
this mode of speaking by which Moses describes Satan, the prince of
iniquity, under the person of his servant and instrument, at the time
when Christ, the Head of the Church, and the Sun of Righteousness, had
not yet openly shone forth. Add to this, the baseness of human
ingratitude is more clearly hence perceived, that when Adam and Eve knew
that all animals were given, by the hand of God, into subjection to them,
they yet suffered themselves to be led away by one of their own slaves
into rebellion against God. As often as they beheld any one of the
animals which were in the world, they ought to have been reminded both of
the supreme authority, and of the singular goodness of God; but, on the
contrary, when they saw the serpent an apostate from his Creator, not
only did they neglect to punish it, but, in violation of all lawful
order, they subjected and devoted themselves to it, as participators in
the same apostasy. What can be imagined more dishonourable than this
extreme depravity? Thus, I understand the name of the serpent, not
allegorically, as some foolishly do, but in its genuine sense.
  Many persons are surprised that Moses simply, and as if abruptly,
relates that men have fallen by the impulse of Satan into eternal
destruction, and yet never by a single word explains how the tempter
himself had revolted from God. And hence it has arisen, that fanatical
men have dreamed that Satan was created evil and wicked as he is here
described. But the revolt of Satan is proved by other passages of
Scripture; and it is an impious madness to ascribe to God the creation of
any evil and corrupt nature; for when he had completed the world, he
himself gave this testimony to all his works, that they were "very good."
Wherefore, without controversy, we must conclude, that the principle of
evil with which Satan was endued was not from nature, but from defection;
because he had departed from God, the fountain of justice and of all
rectitude. But Moses here passes over Satan's fall, because his object is
briefly to narrate the corruption of human nature; to teach us that Adam
was not created to those multiplied miseries under which all his
posterity suffer, but that he fell into them by his own fault. In
reflecting on the number and nature of those evils to which they are
obnoxious, men will often be unable to restrain themselves from raging
and murmuring against God, whom they rashly censure for the just
punishment of their sin. These are their well-known complaints that God
has acted more mercifully to swine and dogs than to them. Whence is this,
but that they do not refer the miserable and ruined state, under which we
languish, to the sin of Adam as they ought? But what is far worse, they
fling back upon God the charge of being the cause of all the inward vices
of the mind, (such as its horrible blindness, contumacy against God,
wicked desires, and violent propensities to evil;) as if the whole
perverseness of our disposition had not been adventitious. The design,
therefore, of Moses was to show, in a few words, how greatly our present
condition differs from our first original, in order that we may learn,
with humble confession of our fault, to bewail our evils. We ought not
then to be surprised, that, while intent on the history he purposed to
relate, he does not discuss every topic which may be desired by any
person whatever.
  We must now enter on that question by which vain and inconstant minds
are greatly agitated; namely, Why God permitted Adam to be tempted,
seeing that the sad result was by no means hidden from him? That He now
relaxes Satan's reins, to allow him to tempt us to sin, we ascribe to
judgment and to vengeance, in consequence of man's alienation from
himself; but there was not the same reason for doing so when human nature
was yet pure and upright. God, therefore, permitted Satan to tempt man,
who was conformed to His own image, and not yet implicated in any crime,
having, moreover, on this occasion, allowed Satan the use of an animal
which otherwise would never have obeyed him; and what else was this, than
to arm an enemy for the destruction of man? This seems to have been the
ground on which the Manichaeans maintained the existence of two
principles. Therefore, they have imagined that Satan, not being in
subjection to God, laid snares for man in opposition to the divine will,
and was superior not to man only, but also to God himself. Thus, for the
sake of avoiding what they dreaded as an absurdity, they have fallen into
execrable prodigies of error; such as, that there are two Gods and not
one sole Creator of the world, and that the first God has been overcome
by his antagonist. All, however, who think piously and reverently
concerning the power of God, acknowledge that the evil did not take place
except by his permission. For, in the first place, it must be conceded,
that God was not in ignorance of the event which was about to occur; and
then, that he could have prevented it, had he seen fit to do so. But in
speaking of permission, I understand that he had appointed whatever he
wished to be done. Here, indeed, a difference arises on the part of many,
who suppose Adam to have been so left to his own free will, that God
would not have him fall. They take for granted, what I allow them, that
nothing is less probable than that God should he regarded as the cause of
sin, which he has avenged with so many and such severe penalties. When I
say, however, that Adam did not fall without the ordination and will of
God, I do not so take it as if sin had ever been pleasing to Him, or as
if he simply wished that the precept which he had given should be
violated. So far as the fall of Adam was the subversion of equity, and of
well-constituted order, so far as it was contumacy against the Divine
Law-giver, and the transgression of righteousness, certainly it was
against the will of God; yet none of these things render it impossible
that, for a certain cause, although to us unknown, he might will the fall
of man. It offends the ears of some, when it is said God willed this
fall; but what else, I pray, is the permission of Him, who has the power
of preventing, and in whose hand the whole matter is placed, but his
will? I wish that men would rather suffer themselves to be judged by God,
than that, with profane temerity, they should pass judgment upon him; but
this is the arrogance of the flesh to subject God to its own test. I hold
it as a settled axiom, that nothing is more unsuitable to the character
of God than for us to say that man was created by Him for the purpose of
being placed in a condition of suspense and doubt; wherefore I conclude,
that, as it became the Creator, he had before determined with himself
what should be man's future condition. Hence the unskilful rashly infer,
that man did not sin by free choice. For he himself perceives, being
convicted by the testimony of his own conscience, that he has been too
free in sinning. Whether he sinned by necessity, or by contingency, is
another question; respecting which see the Institution, and the treatise
on Predestination.
  "And he said unto the woman." The impious assail this passage with
their sneers, because Moses ascribes eloquence to an animal which only
faintly hisses with its forked tongue. And first they ask, at what time
animals began to be mute, if they then had a distinct language, and one
common to ourselves and them. The answer is ready; the serpent was not
eloquent by nature, but when Satan, by divine permission, procured it as
a fit instrument for his use, he uttered words also by its tongue, which
God himself permitted. Nor do I doubt that Eve perceived it to be
extraordinary, and on that account received with the greater avidity what
she admired. Now, if men decide that whatever is unwonted must be
fabulous, God could work no miracle. Here God, by accomplishing a work
above the ordinary course of nature, constrains us to admire his power.
If then, under this very pretext, we ridicule the power of God, because
it is not familiar to us, are we not excessively preposterous? Besides,
if it seems incredible that beasts should speak at the command of God,
how has man the power of speech, but because God has formed his tongue?
The Gospel declares, that voices were uttered in the air, without a
tongue, to illustrate the glory of Christ; this is less probable to
carnal reason, than that speech should be elicited from the mouth of
brute animals. What then can the petulance of impious men find here
deserving of their invective? In short, whosoever holds that God in
heaven is the Ruler of the world, will not deny his power over the
creatures, so that he can teach brute animals to speak when he pleases,
just as he sometimes renders eloquent men speechless. Moreover the
craftiness of Satan betrays itself in this, that he does not directly
assail the man, but approaches him, as through a mine, in the person of
his wife. This insidious method of attack is more than sufficiently known
to us at the present day, and I wish we might learn prudently to guard
ourselves against it. For he warily insinuates himself at that point at
which he sees us to be the least fortified, that he may not be perceived
till he should have penetrated where he wished. The woman does not flee
from converse with the serpent, because hitherto no dissension had
existed; she, therefore, accounted it simply as a domestic animal.
  The question occurs, what had impelled Satan to contrive the
destruction of man? Curious sophists have feigned that he burned with
envy, when he foresaw that the Son of God was to be clothed in human
flesh; but the speculation is frivolous. For since the Son of God was
made man in order to restore us, who were already lost, from our
miserable over throw, how could that be foreseen which would never have
happened unless man had sinned? If there be room for conjectures, it is
more probable that he was driven by a kind of fury, (as the desperate are
wont to be,) to hurry man away with himself into a participation of
eternal ruin. But it becomes us to be content with this single reasons
that since he was the adversary of God, he attempted to subvert the order
established by Him. And, because he could not drag God from his throne,
he assailed man, in whom His image shone. He knew that with the ruin of
man the most dreadful confusion would be produced in the whole world, as
indeed it happened, and therefore he endeavoured, in the person of man,
to obscure the glory of God. Rejecting, therefore, all vain figments, let
us hold fast this doctrine, which is both simple and solid.
  "Yea, has God said?" This sentence is variously expounded and even
distorted, partly because it is in itself obscure, and partly because of
the ambiguous import of the Hebrew particle. The expression "aph ki",
sometimes signifies "although" or "indeed," and sometimes, "how much
more." David Kimchi takes it in this last sense, and thinks that many
words had passed between them on both sides, before the serpent descended
to this point; namely, that having calumniated God on other accounts, he
at length thus concludes, Hence it much more appears how envious and
malignant he is towards you, because he has interdicted you from the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil. But this exposition is not only
forced, it is proved to be false by the reply of Eve. More correct is the
explanation of the Chaldean paraphrast, 'Is it true that God has
forbidden? &c.' Again, to some this appears a simple, to others an
ironical interrogation. It would be a simple interrogation, if it
injected a doubt in the following manner: 'Can it be, that God should
forbid the eating of any tree whatever?' but it would be ironical, if
used for the purpose of dissipating vain fear; as, 'It greatly concerns
God, indeed, whether you eat of the tree or not! It is, therefore,
ridiculous that you should think it to be forbidden you!' I subscribe the
more freely to the former opinion, because there is greater probability
that Satan, in order to deceive more covertly, would gradually proceed
with cautious prevarications to lead the woman to a contempt of the
divine precept. There are some who suppose that Satan expressly denies
the word which our first parents had heard, to have been the word of God.
Others think, (with whom I rather agree,) that, under the pretext of
inquiring into the cause, he would indirectly weaken their confidence in
the word. And certainly the old interpreter has translated the
expression, 'Why has God said?' which, although I do not altogether
approve, yet I have no doubt that the serpent urges the woman to seek out
the cause, since otherwise he would not have been able to draw away her
mind from God. Very dangerous is the temptation, when it is suggested to
us, that God is not to be obeyed except so far as the reason of his
command is apparent. The true rule of obedience is, that we being content
with a bare command, should persuade ourselves that whatever he enjoins
is just and right. But whosoever desires to be wise beyond measure, him
will Satan, seeing he has cast off all reverence for God, immediately
precipitate into open rebellion. As it respects grammatical construction,
I think the expression ought to be translated, 'Has God even said?' or,
'Is it so that God has said?' Yet the artifice of Satan is to be noticed,
for he wished to inject into the woman a doubt which might induce her to
believe that not to be the word of God, for which a plausible reason did
not manifestly appear.
  "Of every tree of the garden." Commentators offer a double
interpretation of these words. The former supposes Satan, for the sake of
increasing envy, to insinuate that all the trees had been forbidden. "Has
God indeed enjoined that you should not dare to touch any tree?" The
other interpretation, however, is, "Have you not then the liberty granted
you of eating promiscuously from whatever tree you please?" The former
more accords with the disposition of the devil, who would malignantly
amplify the prohibitions and seems to be sanctioned by Eve's reply. For
when she says, We do eat of all, one only excepted, she seems to repel
the calumny concerning a general prohibition. But because the latter
sense of the passage, which suggests the question concerning the simple
and bare prohibition of God, was more apt to deceive, it is more credible
that Satan, with his accustomed guile, should have begun his temptation
from this point, 'Is it possible for God to be unwilling that you should
gather the fruit of any tree whatever?' The answer of the woman, that
only one tree was forbidden, she means to be a defense of the command; as
if she would deny that it ought to seem harsh or burdensome, since God
had only excepted one single tree out of so great an abundance and
variety as he had granted to them. Thus, in these words there will be a
concession, that one tree was indeed forbidden; then, the refutation of a
calumny, because it is not arduous or difficult to abstain from one tree,
when others, without number are supplied, of which the use is permitted.
It was impossible for Eve more prudently or more courageously to repel
the assault of Satan, than by objecting against him, that she and her
husband had been so bountifully dealt with by the Lord, that the
advantages granted to them were abundantly sufficient, for she intimates
that they would be most ungrateful if, instead of being content with such
affluence they should desire more than was lawful. When she says, God has
forbidden them to eat or to touch, some suppose the second word to be
added for the purpose of charging God with too great severity, because he
prohibited them even from the touch. But I rather understand that she
hitherto remained in obedience, and expressed her pious disposition by
anxiously observing the precept of God; only, in proclaiming the
punishment, she begins to give ways by inserting the adverb "perhaps,"
when God has certainly pronounced, "Ye shall die the death." For although
with the Hebrews "pen" does not always imply doubt, yet, since it is
generally taken in this sense, I willingly embrace the opinion that the
woman was beginning to waver. Certainly, she had not death so immediately
before her eyes, should she become disobedient to God, as, she ought to
have had. She clearly proves that her perception of the true danger of
death was distant and cold.

4. "And the serpent said unto the woman." Satan now springs more boldly
forward; and because he sees a breach open before him, he breaks through
in a direct assault, for he is never wont to engage in open war until we
voluntarily expose ourselves to him, naked and unarmed. He cautiously
approaches us at first with blandishments; but when he has stolen in upon
us, he dares to exalt himself petulantly and with proud confidence
against God; just as he now seizing upon Eve's doubt, penetrates further,
that he may turn it into a direct negative. It behaves us to be
instructed, by much examples, to beware of his snares, and, by making
timely resistance, to keep him far from us, that nearer access may not be
permitted to him. He now, therefore, does not ask doubtingly, as before,
whether or not the command of God, which he opposes, be true, but openly
accuses God of falsehood, for he asserts that the word by which death was
denounced is false and delusive. Fatal temptation! when while God is
threatening us with death, we not only securely sleep, but hold God
himself in derision!

5. "For God does know". There are those who think that God is here
craftily praised by Satan, as if He never would prohibit men from the use
of wholesome fruit. But they manifestly contradict themselves, for they
at the some time confess that in the preceding member of the sentence he
had already declared God to be unworthy of confidence, as one who had
lied. Others suppose that he charges God with malignity and envy, as
wishing to deprive man of his highest perfection; and this opinion is
more probable than the other. Nevertheless, (according to my judgments)
Satan attempts to prove what he had recent]y asserted, reasoning,
however, from contraries: God, he says, has interdicted to you the tree,
that he may not be compelled to admit you to the participation of his
glory; therefore, the fear of punishment is quite needless. In short, he
denies that a fruit which is useful and salutary can be injurious. When
he says, "God does know," he censures God as being moved by jealousy: and
as having given the command concerning the tree, for the purpose of
keeping man in an inferior rank.
  "Ye shall be as gods." Some translate it, 'Ye shall be like angels.' It
might even be rendered in the singular number, 'Ye shall be as God.' I
have no doubt that Satan promises them divinity; as if he had said, For
no other reason does God defraud you of the tree of knowledge, than
because he fears to have you as companions. Moreover, it is not without
some show of reason that he makes the Divine glory, or equality with God,
to consist in the perfect knowledge of good and evil; but it is a mere
pretence, for the purpose of ensnaring the miserable woman. Because the
desire of knowledge is naturally inherent in and happiness is supposed to
be placed in it; but Eve erred in not regulating the measure of her
knowledge by the will of God. And we all daily suffer under the same
disease, because we desire to know more than is right, and more than God
allows; whereas the principal point of wisdom is a well-regulated
sobriety in obedience to God.

6. "And when the woman saw." This impure look of Eve, infected with the
poison of concupiscence, was both the messenger and the witness of an
impure heart. She could previously behold the tree with such sincerity,
that no desire to eat of it affected her mind; for the faith she had in
the word of God was the best guardian of her heart, and of all her
senses. But now, after the heart had declined from faith, and from
obedience to the word, she corrupted both herself and all her senses, and
depravity was diffused through all parts of her soul as well as her body.
It is, therefore, a sign of impious defection, that the woman now judges
the tree to be good for food, eagerly delights herself in beholding it,
and persuades herself that it is desirable for the sake of acquiring
wisdom; whereas before she had passed by it a hundred times with an
unmoved and tranquil look. For now, having shaken off the bridle, her
mind wanders dissolutely and intemperately, drawing the body with it to
the same licentiousness. The word "lehaskil," admits of two explanations:
That the tree was desirable either to be looked upon or to impart
prudence. I prefer the latter sense, as better corresponding with the
  "And gave also unto her husband with her." From these words, some
conjecture that Adam was present when his wife was tempted and persuaded
by the serpent, which is by no means credible. Yet it might be that he
soon joined her, and that, even before the woman tasted the fruit of the
tree, she related the conversation held with the serpent, and entangled
him with the same fallacies by which she herself had been deceived.
Others refer the particle "immah", "with her," to the conjugal bond,
which may be received. But because Moses simply relates that he ate the
fruit taken from the hands of his wife, the opinion has been commonly
received, that he was rather captivated with her allurements than
persuaded by Satan's impostures. For this purpose the declaration of Paul
is adduced, 'Adam was not deceived, but the woman.' (I Tim. 2: 14.) But
Paul in that place, as he is teaching that the origin of evil was from
the woman, only speaks comparatively. Indeed, it was not only for the
sake of complying with the wishes of his wife, that he transgressed the
law laid down for him; but being drawn by her into fatal ambition, he
became partaker of the same defection with her. And truly Paul elsewhere
states that sin came not by the woman, but by Adam himself, (Rom. 5: 12.)
Then, the reproof which soon afterwards follows 'Behold, Adam is as one
of us,' clearly proves that he also foolishly coveted more than was
lawful, and gave greater credit to the flatteries of the devil than to
the sacred word of God.
  It is now asked, What was the sin of both of them? The opinion of some
of the ancients, that they were allured by intemperance of appetite, is
puerile. For when there was such an abundance of the choicest fruits what
daintiness could there be about one particular kind? Augustine is more
correct, who says, that pride was the beginning of all evils, and that by
pride the human race was ruined. Yet a fuller definition of the sin may
be drawn from the kind of temptation which Moses describes. For first the
woman is led away from the word of God by the wiles of Satan, through
unbelief. Wherefore, the commencement of the ruin by which the human race
was overthrown was a defection from the command of God. But observe, that
men then revolted from God, when, having forsaken his word, they lent
their ears to the falsehoods of Satan. Hence we infer, that God will be
seen and adored in his word; and, therefore, that all reverence for him
is shaken off when his word is despised. A doctrine most useful to be
known, for the word of God obtains its due honour only with few so that
they who rush onward with impunity in contempt of this word, yet arrogate
to themselves a chief rank among the worshippers of God. But as God does
not manifest himself to men otherwise than through the word, so neither
is his majesty maintained, nor does his worship remain secure among us
any longer than while we obey his word. Therefore, unbelief was the root
of defection; just as faith alone unites us to God. Hence flowed ambition
and pride, so that the woman first, and then her husband, desired to
exalt themselves against God. For truly they did exalt themselves against
God, when, honour having been divinely conferred upon them, they not
contented with such excellence, desired to know more than was lawful, in
order that they might become equal with God. Here also monstrous
ingratitude betrays itself. They had been made in the likeness of God;
but this seems a small thing unless equality be added. Now, it is not to
be endured that designing and wicked men should labour in vain, as well
as absurdly, to extenuate the sin of Adam and his wife. For apostasy is
no light offense, but detestable wickedness, by which man withdraws
himself from the authority of his Creator, yea, even rejects and denies
him. Besides it was not simple apostasy, but combined with atrocious
contumelies and reproaches against God himself. Satan accuses God of
falsehoods of envy, and of malignity, and our first parents subscribe to
a calumny thus vile and execrable. At length, having despised the command
of God, they not only indulge their own lust, but enslave themselves to
the devil. If any one prefers a shorter explanation, we may say unbelief
has opened the door to ambition, but ambition has proved the parent of
rebellion, to the end that men, having cast aside the fear of God, might
shake off his yoke. On this account, Paul teaches use that by the
disobedience of Adam sin entered into the world. Let us imagine that
there was nothing worse than the transgression of the command; we shall
not even thus have succeeded far in extenuating the fault of Adam. God,
having both made him free in everything, and appointed him as king of the
world, chose to put his obedience to the proof, in requiring abstinence
from one tree alone. This condition did not please him. Perverse
declaimers may plead in excuse, that the woman was allured by the beauty
of the tree, and the man ensnared by the blandishments of Eve. Yet the
milder the authority of God, the less excusable was their perverseness in
rejecting it. But we must search more deeply for the origin and cause of
sin. For never would they have dared to resist God, unless they had first
been incredulous of his word. And nothing allured them to covet the fruit
but mad ambition. So long as they firmly believing in God's word, freely
suffered themselves to be governed by Him, they had serene and duly
regulated affections. For, indeed, their best restraint was the thoughts
which entirely occupied their minds, that God is just, that nothing is
better than to obey his commands and that to be loved by him is the
consummation of a happy life. But after they had given place to Satan's
blasphemy, they began, like persons fascinated, to lose reason and
judgment; yea, since they were become the slaves of Satan; he held their
very senses bound. Still further, we know that sins are not estimated in
the sight of God by the external appearance, but by the inward
  Again, it appears to many absurd, that the defection of our first
parents is said to have proved the destruction of the whole race; and, on
this accounts they freely bring an accusation against God. Pelagius, on
the other hand, lest, as he falsely feared, the corruption of human
nature should be charged upon God, ventured to deny original sin. But an
error so gross is plainly refuted, not only by solid testimonies of
Scripture, but also by experience itself. The corruption of our nature
was unknown to the philosophers who, in other respects, were
sufficiently, and more than sufficiently, acute. Surely this stupor
itself was a signal proof of original sin. For all who are not utterly
blinds perceive that no part of us is sound; that the mind is smitten
with blindness, and infected with innumerable errors; that all the
affections of the heart are full of stubbornness and wickedness; that
vile lusts, or other diseases equally fatal, reign there; and that all
the senses burst forth with many vices. Since, however none but God alone
is a proper judge in this cause, we must acquiesce in the sentence which
he has pronounced in the Scriptures. In the first place, Scripture
clearly teaches us that we are born vicious and perverse. The cavil of
Pelagius was frivolous, that sin proceeded from Adam by imitation. For
David, while still enclosed in his mother's womb, could not be an
imitator of Adam, yet he confesses that he was conceived in sin, (Psalm
51: 5.) A fuller proof of this matter, and a more ample definition of
original sin, may be found in the Institutes; yet here, in a single word,
I will attempt to show how far it extends. Whatever in our nature is
vicious--since it is not lawful to ascribe it to God--we justly reject as
sin. But Paul (Rom. 3: 10) teaches that corruption does not reside in one
part only, but pervades the whole soul, and each of its faculties. Whence
it follows, that they childishly err who regard original sin as
consisting only in lust, and in the inordinate motion of the appetites,
whereas it seizes upon the very seat of reason, and upon the whole heart.
To sin is annexed condemnation, or, as Paul speaks, 'By man came sin, and
by sin, death,'(Rom. 5: 12.) Wherefore he elsewhere pronounces us to be
'the children of wrath;' as if he would subject us to an eternal curse,
(Ephes. 2: 3.) In short, that we are despoiled of the excellent gifts of
the Holy Spirit, of the light of reason, of justice, and of rectitude,
and are prone to every evil; that we are also lost and condemned, and
subjected to death, is both our hereditary condition, and, at the same
time, a just punishments which God, in the person of Adam, has indicted
on the human race. Now, if any one should object, that it is unjust for
the innocent to bear the punishment of another's sin, I answer, whatever
gifts God had conferred upon us in the person of Adams he had the best
right to take away, when Adam wickedly fell. Nor is it necessary to
resort to that ancient figment of certain writers, that souls are derived
by descent from our first parents. For the human race has not naturally
derived corruption through its descent frown Adam; but that result is
rather to be traced to the appointment of God, who, as he had adorned the
whole nature of mankind with most excellent endowments in one man, so in
the same man he again denuded it. But now, from the time in which we were
corrupted in Adam, we do not bear the punishment of another's offense,
but are guilty by our own fault.
  A question is mooted by some, concerning the time of this fall, or
rather ruin. The opinion has been pretty generally received, that they
fell on the day they were created; and, therefore Augustine writes, that
they stood only for six hours. The conjecture of others, that the
temptation was delayed by Satan till the Sabbath, in order to profane
that sacred day, is but weak. And certainly, by instances like these, all
pious persons are admonished sparingly to indulge themselves in doubtful
speculations. As for myself, since I have nothing to assert positively
respecting the time, so I think it may be gathered from the narration of
Moses, that they did not long retain the dignity they had received; for
as soon as he has said they were created, he passes, without the mention
of any other thing, to their fall. If Adam had lived but a moderate space
of time with his wife, the blessing of God would not have been unfruitful
in the production of offspring; but Moses intimates that they were
deprived of God's benefits before they had become accustomed to use them.
I therefore readily subscribe to the exclamation of Augustine, 'O
wretched freewill, which, while yet entire, had so little stability!'
And, to say no more respecting the shortness of the time, the admonition
of Bernard is worthy of remembrance: 'Since we read that a fall so
dreadful took place in Paradise, what shall we do on the dunghill?' At
the same time, we must keep in memory by what pretext they were led into
this delusion so fatal to themselves, and to all their posterity.
Plausible was the adulation of Satan, 'Ye shall know good and evil;' but
that knowledge was therefore accursed, because it was sought in
preference to the favour of God. Wherefore, unless we wish, of our own
accord, to fasten the same snares upon ourselves, let us learn entirely
to depend upon the sole will of God, whom we acknowledge as the Author of
all good. And, since the Scripture everywhere admonishes us of our
nakedness and poverty, and declares that we may recover in Christ what we
have lost in Adams let us, renouncing all self-confidence, offer
ourselves empty to Christ, that he may fill us with his own riches.

7. "And the eyes of them both were opened." It was necessary that the
eyes of Eve should be veiled till her husband also was deceived; but now
both, being alike bound by the chain of an unhappy consent, begin to be
sensible of their wretchedness although they are not yet affected with a
deep knowledge of their fault. They are ashamed of their nakedness, yet,
though convinced, they do not humble themselves before God, nor fear his
judgements as they ought; they even do not cease to resort to evasions.
Some progress, however, is made; for whereas recently they would, like
giants, assault heaven by storm; now, confounded with a sense of their
own ignominy, they flee to hiding-places. And truly this opening of the
eyes in our first parents to discern their baseness, clearly proves them
to have been condemned by their own judgment. They are not yet summoned
to the tribunal of God; there is none who accuses them; is not then the
sense of shame, which rises spontaneously, a sure token of guilt? The
eloquence, therefore, of the whole world will avail nothing to deliver
those from condemnation, whose own conscience has become the judge to
compel them to confess their fault. It rather becomes us all to open our
eyes, that, being confounded at our own disgrace, we may give to God the
glory which is his due. God created man flexible; and not only permitted,
but willed that he should be tempted. For he both adapted the tongue of
the serpent beyond the ordinary use of nature, to the devil's purpose,
just as if any one should furnish another with a sword and armour; and
then, though the unhappy event was foreknown by him, he did not apply the
remedy, which he had the power to do. On the other hand, when we come to
speak of man, he will be found to have sinned voluntarily, and to have
departed from God, his Maker, by a movement of the mind not less free
than perverse. Nor ought we to call that a light fault, which, refusing
credit to the word of God, exalted itself against him by impious and
sacrilegious emulation, which would not be subject to his authority, and
which, finally, both proudly and perfidiously revolted from him.
Therefore, whatever sin and fault there is in the fall of our first
parents remains with themselves; but there is sufficient reason why the
eternal counsel of God preceded it, though that reason is concealed from
us. We see, indeed, some good fruit daily springing from a ruin so
dreadful, inasmuch as God instructs us in humility by our miseries and
then more clearly illustrates his own goodness; for his grace is more
abundantly poured forth, through Christ, upon the world, than it was
imparted to Adam in the beginning. Now, if the reason why this is so lies
beyond our reach, it is not wonderful that the secret counsel of God
should be to us like a labyrinth.
  "And they sewed fig-leaves together." What I lately said, that they had
not been brought either by true shame or by serious fear to repentance,
is now more manifest. They sew together for themselves girdles of leaves.
For what end? That they may keep God at a distance, as by an invincible
barrier! Their sense of evil, therefore, was only confused, and combined
with dulness, as is wont to be the case in unquiet sleep. There is none
of us who does not smile at their folly, since, certainly, it was
ridiculous to place such a covering before the eyes of God. In the
meanwhile, we are all infected with the same disease; for, indeed, we
tremble, and are covered with shame at the first compunctions of
conscience; but self-indulgence soon steals in, and induces us to resort
to vain trifles, as if it were an easy thing to delude God. Therefore
unless conscience be more closely pressed there is no shadow of excuse
too faint and fleeting to obtain our acquiescence; and even if there be
no pretext whatever, we still make pleasures for ourselves, and, by an
oblivion of three days' duration, we imagine that we are well covered. In
short, the cold and faints knowledge of sin, which is inherent in the
minds of men, is here described by Moses, in
order that they may be rendered inexcusable. Quaeri tamen potest, si tota
natura peccati sordibus infecta est, cur tantum una in parte corporis
deformitas appareat. Neque enim faciem vel pectus operiunt Adam et Heva:
sed tantum pudenda quae vocamus. Hac occasione factum esse arbitror ut
vulgo non aliam vit corruptelam agnoscerent quam in libidine venerea.
Atqui expendere debebant, non minorem fuisse in oculis et auribus
verecundiae causam, quam in parte genitali, quae peccato nondum foedata
erat: quum aures et oculi inquinassent Adam et Heva, et diabolo quasi
arma praebuissent. Sed Deo fuit satis, extare in corpore humano aliquam
pudeudam notam, quae nos peccati commonefaciat. Then (as we have already
said) Adam and his wife were yet ignorant of their own vileness, since
with a covering so light they attempted to hide themselves from the
presence of God.

8. "And they heard the voice of the Lord God." As soon as the voice of
God sounds, Adam and Eve perceive that the leaves by which they thought
themselves well protected are of no avail. Moses here relates nothing
which does not remain in human nature, and may be clearly discerned at
the present day. The difference between good and evil is engraven on the
hearts of all, as Paul teaches, (Rom. 2: 15;) but all bury the disgrace
of their vices under flimsy leaves till God, by his voice, strikes
inwardly their consciences. Hence, after God had shaken them out of their
torpor, their alarmed consciences compelled them to hear his voice.
Moreover, what Jerome translates, 'at the breeze after midday,' is, in
the Hebrew, 'at the wind of the day;' the Greeks, omitting the word
'wind,' have put 'at the evening.' Thus the opinion has prevailed, that
Adam, having sinned about noon, was called to judgment about sunset. But
I rather incline to a different conjecture, namely, that being covered
with their garment, they passed the night in silence and quiet, the
darkness aiding their hypocrisy; then, about sunrise, being again
thoroughly awakened, they recollected themselves. We know that at the
rising of the sun the air is naturally excited; together, then, with this
gentle breeze, God appeared; but Moses would improperly have called the
evening air that of the day. Others take the word as describing the
southern part or region; and certainly "ruach" sometimes among the
Hebrews signifies one or another region of the world. Others think that
the time is here specified as one least exposed to terrors, for in the
clear light there is the greater security; and thus, they conceive, is
fulfilled what the Scripture declares that they who have accusing
consciences are always anxious and disquieted, even without any danger.
To this point they refer what is added respecting the wind, as if Adam
was terrified at the sound of a falling leaf. But what I have advanced is
more true and simple, that what was hid under the darkness of the night
was detected at the rising of the sun. Yet I do not doubt that some
notable symbol of the presence of God was in that gentle breeze; for
although (as I have lately said) the rising sun is wont daily to stir up
some breath of air, this is not opposed to the supposition that God gave
some extraordinary sign of his approach, to arouse the consciences of
Adam and his wife. For, since he is in himself incomprehensible, he
assumes, when he wishes to manifest himself to men, those marks by which
he may be known. David calls the winds the messengers of God, on the
wings of which he rides, or rather flies, with incredible velocity.
(Psal. 104: 3.) But, as often as he sees good, he uses the winds, as well
as other created things, beyond the order of nature, according to his own
will. Therefore, Moses, in here mentioning the wind, intimates (according
to my judgment) that some unwonted and remarkable symbol of the Divine
presence was put forth which should vehemently affect the minds of our
first parents. This resource, namely, that of fleeing from God's
presence, was nothing better than the former; since God, with his voice
alone, soon brings back the fugitives. It is. written, 'Whither shall I
flee from thy presence? If I traverse the sea, if I take wings and ascend
above the clouds, if I descend into the profound abyss, thou, Lord, wilt
be everywhere,' (Ps. 139: 7.) This we all confess to be true; yet we do
not, in the meantime, cease to snatch at vain subterfuges; and we fancy
that shadows of any kind will prove a most excellent defense. Nor is it
to be here omitted, that he, who had found a few leaves to be unavailing,
fled to whole trees; for so we are accustomed, when shut out from
frivolous cavils, to frame new excuses, which may hide us as under a
denser shade. When Moses says that Adam and his wife hid themselves 'in
the midst of the tree of Paradise,' I understand that the singular member
is put for the plural; as if he had said, among the trees.

9. "And the Lord God called unto Adam." They had been already smitten by
the voice of God, but they lay confounded under the trees, until another
voice more effectually penetrated their minds. Moses says that Adam was
called by the Lord. Had he not been called before? The former, however,
was a confused sound, which had no sufficient force to press upon the
conscience. Therefore God now approaches nearer, and from the tangled
thicket of trees draws him, however unwilling and resisting, forth into
the midst. In the same manner we also are alarmed at the voice of God, as
soon as his law sounds in our ears; but presently we snatch at shadows,
until he, calling upon us more vehemently, compels us to come forward,
arraigned at his tribunal. Paul calls this the life of the Law, when it
slays us by charging us with our sins. For as long as we are pleased with
ourselves, and are inflated with a false notion that we are alive, the
law is dead to us, because we blunt its point by our hardness; but when
it pierces us more sharply, we are driven into new terrors.

10. "And he said, I heard thy voice." Although this seems to be the
confession of a dejected and humbled man, it will nevertheless soon
appear that he was not yet properly subdued, nor led to repentance. He
imputes his fear to the voice of God, and to his own nakedness, as, if he
had never before heard God speaking without being alarmed, and had not
been even sweetly exhilarated by his speech. His excessive stupidity
appears in this, that he fails to recognize the cause of shame in his
sin; he, therefore, shows that he does not yet so feel his punishment, as
to confess his fault. In the meantime, he proves what I said before to be
true, that original sin does not reside in one part of the body only, but
holds its dominion over the whole man, and so occupies every part of the
soul, that none remains in its integrity; for, notwithstanding his
fig-leaves, he still dreads the presence of God.

11. "Who told thee that thou wast naked?" An indirect reprimand to
reprove the sottishness of Adam in not perceiving his fault in his
punishment, as if it had been said, not simply that Adam was afraid at
the voice of God, but that the voice of his judge was formidable to him
because he was a sinner. Also, that not his nakedness, but the turpitude
of the vice by which he had defiled himself, was the cause of fear; and
certainly he was guilty of intolerable impiety against God in seeking the
origin of evil in nature. Not that he would accuse God in express terms;
but deploring his own misery, and dissembling the fact that he was
himself the author of it, he malignantly transfers to God the charge
which he ought to have brought against himself. What the Vulgate
translates, 'Unless it be that thou hast eaten of the tree,' is rather an
interrogation. God asks, in the language of doubt, not as if he were
searching into some disputable matter, but for the purpose of piercing
more acutely the stupid man, who, labouring under fatal disease, is yet
unconscious of his malady; just as a sick man, who complains that he is
burning, yet thinks not of fever. Let us, however remember that we shall
profit nothing by any prevarications but that God will always bind us by
a most just accusation in the sin of Adam. The clause, "whereof I
commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat," is added to remove the
pretext of ignorance. For God intimates that Adam was admonished in time;
and that he fell from no other cause than this, that he knowingly and
voluntarily brought destruction upon himself. Again, the atrocious nature
of sin is marked in this transgression and rebellion; for, as nothing is
more acceptable to God than obedience, so nothing is more intolerable
than when men, having spurned his commandments, obey Satan and their own

12. "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me." The boldness of Adam now
more clearly betrays itself; for, so far from being subdued, he breaks
forth into coarser blasphemy. He had before been tacitly expostulating
with God; now he begins openly to contend with him, and triumphs as one
who has broken through all barriers. Whence we perceive what a refractory
and indomitable creature man began to be when he became alienated from
God; for a lively picture of corrupt nature is presented to us in Adam
from the moment of his revolt. 'Every one,' says James, 'is tempted by
his own concupiscence,' (James 1: 14;) and even Adam, not otherwise than
knowingly and willingly, had set himself, as a rebel, against God. Yet,
just as if conscious of no evil, he puts his wife as the guilty party in
his place. 'Therefore I have eaten,' he says, 'because she gave.' And not
content with this, he brings, at the same time, an accusation against
God; objecting that the wife, who had brought ruin upon him, had been
given by God. We also, trained in the same school of original sin, are
too ready to resort to subterfuges of the same kind; but to no purpose;
for howsoever incitements and instigations from other quarters may impel
us, yet the unbelief which seduces us from obedience to God is within us;
the pride is within which brings forth contempt.

13. "And the Lord God said unto the woman." God contends no further with
the man, nor was it necessary; for he aggravates rather than diminishes
his crime, first by a frivolous defence, then by an impious disparagement
of God, in short, though he rages he is yet held convicted. The Judge now
turns to the woman, that the cause of both being heard, he may at length
pronounce sentence. The old interpreter thus renders God's address: 'Why
hast thou done this?' But the Hebrew phrase has more vehemence; for it is
the language of one who wonders as at something prodigious. It ought
therefore rather to be rendered, 'How hast thou done this?' as if he had
said, 'How was it possible that thou shouldst bring thy mind to be so
perverse a counsellor to thy husband?'
  "The serpent beguiled me." Eve ought to have been confounded at the
portentous wickedness concerning which she was admonished. Yet she is not
struck dumb, but, after the example of her husband, transfers the charge
to another; by laying the blame on the serpent, she foolishly, indeed,
and impiously, thinks herself absolved. For her answer comes at length to
this: 'I received from the serpent what thou hadst forbidden; the
serpent, therefore, was the impostor.' But who compelled Eve to listen to
his fallacies, and even to place confidence in them more readily than in
the word of God? Lastly, how did she admit them, but by throwing open and
betraying that door of access which God had sufficiently fortified? But
the fruit of original sin everywhere presents itself; being blind in its
own hypocrisy, it would gladly render God mute and speechless. And whence
arise daily so many murmurs, but because God does not hold his peace
whenever we choose to blind ourselves?

14. "And the Lord God said unto the serpent." He does not interrogate the
serpent as he had done the man and the woman; because, in the animal
itself there was no sense of sin, and because, to the devil he would hold
out no hope of pardon. He might truly, by his own authority, have
pronounced sentence against Adam and Eve, though unheard. Why then does
he call them to undergo examination, except that he has a care for their
salvation? This doctrine is to be applied to our benefit. There would be
no need of any trial of the cause, or of any solemn form of judgment, in
order to condemn us; wherefore, while God insists upon extorting a
confession from us, he acts rather as a physician than as a judge. There
is the same reason why the Lords before he imposes punishment on man,
begins with the serpent. For corrective punishments (as we shall see) are
of a different kind, and are inflicted with the design of leading us to
repentance; but in this there is nothing of the sort.
  It is, however, doubtful to whom the words refer, whether to the
serpent or to the devil. Moses, indeed, says that the serpent was a
skilful and cunning animal; yet it is certain, that, when Satan was
devising the destruction of man, the serpent was guiltless of his fraud
and wickedness. Wherefore, many explain this whole passage allegorically,
and plausible are the subtleties which they adduce for this purpose. But
when all things are more accurately weighed, readers endued with sound
judgment will easily perceive that the language is of a mixed character;
for God so addresses the serpent that the last clause belongs to the
devil. If it seem to any one absurd, that the punishment of another's
fraud should be exacted from a brute animal, the solution is at hand;
that, since it had been created for the benefit of man, there was nothing
improper in its being accursed from the moment that it was employed for
his destruction. And by this act of vengeance God would prove how highly
he estimates the salvation of man; just as if a father should hold the
sword in execration by which his son had been slain. And here we must
consider, not only the kind of authority which God has over his
creatures, but also the end for which he created them, as I have recently
said. For the equity of the divine sentence depends on that order of
nature which he has sanctioned; it has, therefore, no affinity whatever
with blind revenge. In this manner the reprobate will be delivered over
into eternal fire with their bodies; which bodies, although they are not
self-moved, are yet the instruments of perpetrating evil. So whatever
wickedness a man commits is ascribed to his hands, and, therefore, they
are deemed polluted; while yet they do not more themselves, except so far
as, under the impulse of a depraved affection of the heart, they carry
into execution what has been there conceived. According to this method of
reasoning, the serpent is said to have done what the devil did by its
means. But if God so severely avenged the destruction of man upon a brute
animal, much less did he spare Satan, the author of the whole evil, as
will appear more clearly in the concluding part of the address.
  "Thou art cursed above all cattle." This curse of God has such force
against the serpents as to render it despicable, and scarcely tolerable
to heaven and earth, leading a life exposed to, and replete with,
constant terrors. Besides, it is not only hateful to us, as the chief
enemy of the human race, but, being separated also from other animals,
carries on a kind of war with nature; for we see it had before been so
gentle that the woman did not flee from its familiar approach. But what
follows has greater difficulty because that which God denounces as a
punishment seems to be natural; namely, that it should creep upon its
belly and eat dust. This objection has induced certain men of learning
and ability to say, that the serpent had been accustomed to walk with an
erect body before it had been abused by Satan. There will, however, be no
absurdity in supposing, that the serpent was again consigned to that
former condition, to which he was already naturally subject. For thus he,
who had exalted himself against the image of God, was to be thrust back
into his proper rank; as if it had been said, 'Thou, a wretched and
filthy animal, hast dared to rise up against man, whom I appointed to the
dominion of the whole world; as if, truly, thou, who art fixed to the
earth, hadst any right to penetrate into heaven. Therefore, I now throw
thee back again to the place whence thou hast attempted to emerge, that
thou mayest learn to be contented with thy lot, and no more exalt
thyself, to man's reproach and injury.' In the meanwhile he is recalled
from his insolent motions to his accustomed mode of going, in such a way
as to be, at the same time, condemned to perpetual infamy. To eat dust is
the sign of a vile and sordid nature. This (in my opinion) is the simple
meaning of the passage, which the testimony of Isaiah also confirms,
(chap. 65: 25;) for while he promises under the reign of Christ, the
complete restoration of a sound and well-constituted nature, he records,
among other things, that dust shall be to the serpent for bread.
Wherefore, it is not necessary to seek for any fresh change in each
particular which Moses here relates.

15. "I will put enmity." I interpret this simply to mean that there
should always be the hostile strife between the human race and serpents,
which is now apparent; for, by a secret feeling of nature, man abhors
them. It is regarded, as among prodigies, that some men take pleasure in
them; and as often as the sight of a serpent inspires us with horrors the
memory of our fall is renewed. With this I combine in one continued
discourse what immediately follows: 'It shall wound thy head, and thou
shalt wound its heel.' For he declares that there shall be such hatred
that on both sides they shall be troublesome to each other; the serpent
shall be vexatious towards men, and men shall be intent on the
destruction of serpents. Meanwhile, we see that the Lord acts mercifully
in chastising man, whom he does not suffer Satan to touch except in the
heel; while he subjects the head of the serpent to be wounded by him. For
in the terms head and heel there is a distinction between the superior
and the inferior. And thus God leaves some remains of dominion to man;
because he so places the mutual disposition to injure each other, that
yet their condition should not be equal, but man should be superior in
the conflict. Jerome, in turning the first member of the sentence, 'Thou
shalt bruise the head;' and the second, "Thou shalt be ensnared in the
heel,' does it without reason, for the same verb is repeated by Moses;
the difference is to be noted only in the head and the heel, as I have
just now said. Yet the Hebrew verb whether derived from "shof", or from;
"shafah", some interpret to bruise or to strihe, others to bite. I have,
however, no doubt that Moses wished to allude to the name of the serpent
which is called in Hebrew "shififon", from "shafah", or "shof".
  We must now make a transition from the serpent to the author of this
mischief himself; and that not only in the way of comparison, for there
truly is a literal analogy; because God has not so vented his anger upon
the outward instrument as to spare the devil, with whom lay all the
blame. That this may the more certainly appear to us, it is worth the
while first to observe that the Lord spoke not for the sake of the
serpent but of the man; fur what end could it answer to thunder against
the serpent in unintelligible words? Wherefore respect was had to men;
both that they might be affected with a greater dread of sin, seeing how
highly displeasing it is to God, and that hence they might take
consolation for their misery, because they would perceive that God is
still propitious to them. But now it is obvious to and how slender and
insignificant would be the argument for a good hope, if mention were here
made of a serpent only; because nothing would be then provided for,
except the fading and transient life of the body. Men would remain, in
the meanwhile, the slaves of Satan, who would proudly triumph over them,
and trample on their heads. Wherefore, that God might revive the fainting
minds of men, and restore them when oppressed by despair, it became
necessary to promise them, in their posterity victory over Satan, through
whose wiles they had been ruined. This, then, was the only salutary
medicine which could recover the lost, and restore life to the dead. I
therefore conclude, that God here chiefly assails Satan under the name of
the serpent, and hurls against him the lightning of his judgment. This he
does for a twofold reason: first, that men may learn to beware of Satan
as of a most deadly enemy; then, that they may contend against him with
the assured confidence of victory.
  Now, though all do not dissent in their minds from Satan yea, a great
part adhere to him too familiarly--yet, in reality, Satan is their enemy;
nor do even those cease to dread him whom he soothes by his flatteries;
and because he knows that the minds of men are set against him, he
craftily insinuates himself by indirect methods, and thus deceives them
under a disguised form. In short, it is in grafted in us by nature to
flee from Satan as our adversary. And, in order to show that he should be
odious not to one generation only, God expressly says, 'between thee and
the seed of the woman,' as widely indeed, as the human race shall be
propagated. He mentions the woman on this account, because, as she had
yielded to the subtlety of the devils and being first deceived, had drawn
her husband into the participation of her ruin, so she had peculiar need
of consolation.
  "I shall bruise." This passage affords too clear a proof of the great
ignorance, dullness, and carelessness, which have prevailed among all the
learned men of the Papacy. The feminine gender has crept in instead of
the masculine or neuter. There has been none among them who would consult
the Hebrew or Greek codices, or who would even compare the Latin copies
with each other. Therefore, by a common error, this most corrupt reading
has been received. Then, a profane exposition of it has been invented, by
applying to the mother of Christ what is said concerning her seed.
  There is, indeed no ambiguity in the words here used by Moses; but I do
not agree with others respecting their meaning; for other interpreters
take the seed for Christ, without controversy; as if it were said, that
some one would arise from the seed of the woman who should wound the
serpent's head. Gladly would I give my suffrage in support of their
opinion, but that I regard the word seed as too violently distorted by
them; for who will concede that a collective noun is to be understood of
one man only? Further, as the perpetuity of the contest is noted, so
victory is promised to the human race through a continual succession of
ages. I explain, therefore, the seed to mean the posterity of the woman
generally. But since experience teaches that not all the sons of Adam by
far, arise as conquerors of the devil, we must necessarily come to one
head, that we may find to whom the victory belongs. So Paul, from the
seed of Abraham, leads us to Christ; because many were degenerate sons,
and a considerable part adulterous, through infidelity; whence it follows
that the unity of the body flows from the head. Wherefore, the sense will
be (in my judgment) that the human race, which Satan was endeavouring to
oppress, would at length be victorious. In the meantime, we must keep in
mind that method of conquering which the Scripture describes. Satan has,
in all ages, led the sons of men "captive at his will," and, to this day,
retains his lamentable triumph over them, and for that reason is called
the "prince of the world," (John 12: 31.) But because one stronger than
he has descended from heaven, who will subdue him, hence it comes to pass
that, in the same manner, the whole Church of God, under its Head, will
gloriously exult over him. To this the declaration of Paul refers, "The
Lord shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly," (Rom. 16: 20.) By which
words he signifies that the power of bruising Satan is imparted to
faithful men, and thus the blessing is the common property of the whole
Church; but he, at the same time, admonishes us, that it only has its
commencement in this world; because God crowns none but well-tried

16. "Unto the woman he said." In order that the majesty of the judge may
shine the more brightly, God uses no long disputation; whence also we may
perceive of what avail are all our tergiversations with him. In bringing
the serpent forward, Eve thought she had herself escaped. God,
disregarding her cavils, condemns her. Let the sinner, therefore, when he
comes to the bar of God, cease to contend, lest he should more severely
provoke against himself the anger of him whom he has already too highly
offended. We must now consider the kind of punishment imposed upon the
woman. When he says, 'I will multiply thy pains,' he comprises all the
trouble women sustain during pregnancy, ex quo gravidiae esse incipiunt,
fastidium cibi, deliquia, lassitudines, aliaque innumera, usque dum
ventum est ad partum, qui acerbissima tormenta secum affert. It is
credible that the woman would have brought forth without pain, or at
least without such great suffering, if she had stood in her original
condition; but her revolt from God subjected her to inconveniences of
this kind. The expression, 'pains and conception,' is to be taken by the
figure hypallage, for the pains which they endure in consequence of
conception. The second punishment which he exacts is subjection. For this
form of speech, "Thy desire shall be unto thy husband," is of the same
force as if he had said that she should not be free and at her own
command, but subject to the authority of her husband and dependent upon
his will; or as if he had said, 'Thou shalt desire nothing but what thy
husband wishes.' As it is declared afterwards, "Unto thee shall be his
desire," (chap. 4: 7.) Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her
proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed,
previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle
subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude.

17. "And unto Adam he said." In the first place, it is to be observed,
that punishment was not inflicted upon the first of our race so as to
rest on those two alone, but was extended generally to all their
posterity, in order that we might know that the human race was cursed in
their person; we next observe, that they were subjected only to temporal
punishment, that, from the moderation of the divine anger, they might
entertain hope of pardon. God, by adducing the reason why he thus
punishes the man, cuts off from him the occasion of murmuring. For no
excuse was left to him who had obeyed his wife rather than God; yea, had
despised God for the sake of his wife, placing so much confidence in the
fallacies of Satan,--whose messenger and servant she was,--that he did
not hesitate perfidiously to deny his Maker. But, although God deals
decisively and briefly with Adam, he yet refutes the pretext by which he
had tried to escape, in order the more easily to lead him to repentance.
After he has briefly spoken of Adam's sin, he announces that the earth
would be cursed for his sake. The ancient interpreter has translated it,
'In thy work;' but the reading is to be retained, in which all the Hebrew
copies agree, namely, the earth was cursed on account of Adam. Now, as
the blessing of the earth means, in the language of Scripture, that
fertility which God infuses by his secret power, so the curse is nothing
else than the opposite privation, when God withdraws his favour. Nor
ought it to seem absurd, that, through the sin of man, punishment should
overflow the earth, though innocent. For as the primum mobile rolls all
the celestial spheres along with it, so the ruin of man drives headlong
all those creatures which were formed for his sake, and had been made
subject to him. And we see how constantly the condition of the world
itself varies with respect to men, according as God is angry with them,
or shows them his favour. We may add, that, properly speaking, this whole
punishment is exacted, not from the earth itself, but from man alone. For
the earth does not bear fruit for itself, but in order that food may be
supplied to us out of its bowels. The Lord, however, determined that his
anger should like a deluge, overflow all parts of the earth, that
wherever man might look, the atrocity of his sin should meet his eyes.
Before the fall, the state of the world was a most fair and delightful
mirror of the divine favour and paternal indulgence towards man. Now, in
all the elements we perceive that we are cursed. And although (as David
says) the earth is still full of the mercy of God, (Psalm 33: 5,) yet, at
the same time, appear manifest signs of his dreadful alienation from us,
by which if we are unmoved, we betray our blindness and insensibility.
Only, lest sadness and horror should overwhelm us, the Lord sprinkles
everywhere the tokens of his goodness. Moreover although the blessing of
God is never seen pure and transparent as it appeared to man in innocence
yet, if what remains behind be considered in itself, David truly and
properly exclaims, 'The earth is full of the mercy of God.'
  Again, by 'eating of the earth,' Moses means 'eating of the fruits'
which proceed from it. The Hebrew word "itsabon", which is rendered pain,
is also taken for trouble and fatigue. In this place, it stands in
antithesis with the pleasant labour in which Adam previously so employed
himself, that in a sense he might be said to play; for he was not formed
for idleness, but for action. Therefore the Lord had placed him over a
garden which was to be cultivated. But, whereas in that labour there had
been sweet delight; now servile work is enjoined upon him, as if he were
condemned to the mines. And yet the asperity of this punishment also is
mitigated by the clemency of God, because something of enjoyment is
blended with the labours of men, lest they should be altogether
ungrateful, as I shall again declare under the next verse.

18. "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth." He more largely
treats of what he has already alluded to, namely, the participation of
the fruits of the earth with labour and trouble. And he assigns as the
reason, that the earth will not be the same as it was before, producing
perfect fruits; for he declares that the earth would degenerate from its
fertility, and bring forth briers and noxious plants. Therefore we may
know, that whatsoever unwholesome things may be produced, are not natural
fruits of the earth, but are corruptions which originate from sin. Yet it
is not our part to expostulate with the earth for not answering to our
wishes, and to the labours of its cultivators as if it were maliciously
frustrating our purpose; but in its sterility let us mark the anger of
Gods and mourn over our own sins. It here been falsely maintained by some
that the earth is exhausted by the long succession of time, as if
constant bringing forth had wearied it. They think more correctly who
acknowledge that, by the increasing wickedness of men, the remaining
blessing of God is gradually diminished and impaired; and certainly there
is danger, unless the world repent, that a great part of men should
shortly perish through hunger, and other dreadful miseries. The words
immediately following, "Thou shalt eat the herb of the field," are
expounded too strictly (in my judgment) by those who think that Adam was
thereby deprived of all the fruits which he had before been permitted to
eat. God intends nothing more than that he should be to such an extent
deprived of his former delicacies as to be compelled to use, in addition
to them, the herbs which had been designed only for brute animals. For
the mode of living at first appointed him, in that happy and delightful
abundance, was far more delicate than it afterwards became. God,
therefore, describes a part of this poverty by the word herbs, just as if
a king should send away any one of his attendants from the upper table,
to that which was plebeian and mean; or, as if a father should feed a
son, who had offended him, with the coarse bread of servants; not that he
interdicts man from all other food, but that he abates much of his
accustomed liberality. This, however might be taken as added for the
purpose of consolation, as if it had been said, 'Although the earth,
which ought to be the mother of good fruits only, be covered with thorns
and briers, still it shall yield to thee sustenance whereby thou mayest
be fed.'

19. "In the sweat of thy face." Some indeed, translate it 'labour;' the
translation, however, is forced. But by "sweat" is understood hard labour
and full of fatigue and weariness, which, by its difficulty produces
sweat. It is a repetition of the former sentence, where it was said,
'Thou shalt eat it in labour.' Under the cover of this passage, certain
ignorant persons would rashly impel all men to manual labour; for God is
not here teaching as a master or legislator, but only denouncing
punishment as a judge. And, truly, if a law had been here prescribed, it
would be necessary for all to become husband men, nor would any place be
given to mechanical arts; we must go out of the world to seek for
clothing and other necessary conveniences of life. What, then, does the
passage mean? Truly God pronounces, as from his judgment-seat, that the
life of man shall henceforth be miserable, because Adam had proved
himself unworthy of that tranquil, happy and joyful state for which he
had been created. Should any one object that there are many inactive and
indolent persons, this does not prevent the curse from having spread over
the whole human race. For I say that no one lies torpid in such a degree
of sloth as not to be under the necessity of experiencing that this curse
belongs to all. Some flee from troubles, and many more do all they can to
grasp at immunity from them; but the Lord subjects all, without
exception, to this yoke of imposed servitude. It is, nevertheless, to be,
at the same time, maintained that labour is not imposed equally on each,
but on some more, on others less. Therefore, the labour common to the
whole body is here described; not that which belongs peculiarly to each
member, except so far as it pleases the Lord to divide to each a certain
measure from the common mass of evils. It is, however, to be observed,
that they who meekly submit to their sufferings, present to God an
acceptable obedience, if, indeed, there be joined with this bearing of
the cross, that knowledge of sin which may teach them to be humble. Truly
it is faith alone which can offer such a sacrifice to God; but the
faithful the more they labour in procuring a livelihood, with the greater
advantage are they stimulated to repentance, and accustom themselves to
the mortification of the flesh; yet God often remits a portion of this
curse to his own children, lest they should sink beneath the burden. To
which purpose this passage is appropriate, 'Some will rise early and go
late to rest, they will eat the bread of carefulness, but the Lord will
give to his beloved sleep,' (Psal. 127: 2.) So far, truly, as those
things which had been polluted in Adam are repaired by the grace of
Christ, the pious feel more deeply that God is good, and enjoy the
sweetness of his paternal indulgence. But because, even in the best, the
flesh is to be subdued, it not infrequently happens that the pious
themselves are worn down with hard labours and with hunger. There is,
therefore, nothing better for us than that we, being admonished of the
miseries of the present life, should weep over our sins, and seek that
relief from the grace of Christ which may not only assuage the bitterness
of grief, but mingle its own sweetness with it. Moreover, Moses does not
enumerate all the disadvantages in which man, by sin, has involved
himself; for it appears that all the evils of the present life, which
experience proves to be innumerable, have proceeded from the same
fountain. The inclemency of the air, frost, thunders, unseasonable rains,
drought, hail, and whatever is disorderly in the world, are the fruits of
sin. Nor is there any other primary cause of diseases. This has been
celebrated in poetical fables, and was doubtless handed down, by
tradition, from the fathers. Hence that passage in Horace:--
      "When from Heaven's fane the furtive hand
      Of man the sacred fire withdrew,
      A countless host--at God's command--
      To earth of fierce diseases flew;
      And death--till now kept far away
      Hastened his step to seize his prey."
  But Moses, who, according to his custom, studies a brevity adapted to
the capacity of the common people, was content to touch upon what was
most apparent, in order that, from one example, we may learn that the
whole order of nature was subverted by the sin of man. Should any one
again object, that no suffering was imposed on men which did not also
belong to women: I answer, it was done designedly, to teach us, that from
the sin of Adam, the curse flowed in common to both sexes; as Paul
testifies, that 'all are dead in Adam,' (Rom. 5: 12.)
  One question remains to be examined--'When God had before shown himself
propitious to Adam and his wife,--having given them hope of pardon,--why
does he begin anew to exact punishment from them? Certainly in that
sentence, 'the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent,'
the remission of sins and the grace of eternal salvation is contained.
But it is absurd that God, after he has been reconciled, should actually
prosecute his anger. To untie this knot, some have invented a distinction
of a twofold remission, namely, a remission of the fault and a remission
of the punishment, to which the figment of satisfactions was afterwards
annexed. They have feigned that God, in absolving men from the fault,
still retains the punishment; and that, according to the rigour of his
justice, he will inflict at least a temporal punishment. But they who
imagined that punishments are required as compensations, have been
preposterous interpreters of the judgments of God. For God does not
consider, in chastising the faithful, what they deserve; but what will be
useful to them in future; and fulfils the office of a physician rather
than of a judge. Therefore, the absolution which he imparts to his
children is complete and not by halves. That he, nevertheless, punishes
those who are received into favour, is to be regarded as a kind of
chastisement which serves as medicine for future time, but ought not
properly to be regarded as the vindictive punishment of sin committed. If
we duly consider how great is the torpor of the human mind, then, how
great its lasciviousness, how great its contumacy, how great its levity,
and how quick its forgetfulness, we shall not wonder at God's severity in
subduing it. If he admonishes in words, he is not heard; if he adds
stripes, it avails but little; when it happens that he is heard, the
flesh nevertheless perversely spurns the admonition. That obstinate
hardness which, with all its power opposes itself to God, is worse than
lasciviousness. If any one is naturally endued with such a gentle
disposition that he does not disown the duty of submission to God, yet,
having escaped from the hand of God, after one allowed sin, he will soon
relapse, unless he be drawn back as by force. Wherefore, this general
axiom is to be maintained, that all the sufferings to which the life of
men is subject and obnoxious, are necessary exercises, by which God
partly invites us to repentance, partly instructs us in humility, and
partly renders us more cautious and more attentive in guarding against
the allurements of sin for the future.
  "Till thou return." He denounces that the termination of a miserable
life shall be death; as if he would say, that Adam should at length come,
through various and continued kinds of evil, to the last evil of all.
Thus is fulfilled what we said before, that the death of Adam had
commenced immediately from the day of his transgression. For this
accursed life of man could be nothing else than the beginning of death.
'But where then is the victory over the serpent, if death occupies the
last place? For the words seem to have no other signification, than that
man must be ultimately crushed by death. Therefore, since death leaves
nothing to Adam, the promise recently given fails; to which may be added,
that the hope of being restored to a state of salvation was most slender
and obscure.' Truly I do not doubt that these terrible words would
grievously afflict minds already dejected, from other causes, by sorrow.
But since, though astonished by their sudden calamity, they were yet not
deeply affected with the knowledge of sin; it is not wonderful that God
persisted the more in reminding them of their punishment, in order that
he might beat them down, as with reiterated blows. Although the
consolation offered be in itself obscure and feeble, God caused it to be
sufficient for the support of their hope, lest the weight of their
affliction should entirely overwhelm them. In the meantime, it was
necessary that they should be weighed down by a mass of manifold evils,
until God should have reduced them to true and serious repentance.
Moreover, whereas death is here put as the final issue, this ought to be
referred to man; because in Adam himself nothing but death will be found;
yet, in this way, he is urged to seek a remedy in Christ.
  "For dust thou art." Since what God here declares belongs to man's
nature, not to his crime or fault, it might seem that death was not
superadded as adventitious to him. And therefore some understand what was
before said, 'Thou shalt die,' in a spiritual sense; thinking that, even
if Adam had not sinned, his body must still have been separated from his
soul. But, since the declaration of Paul is clear, that 'all die in Adams
as they shall rise again in Christ,' (1 Cor. 15: 22,) this wound also was
inflicted by sin. Nor truly is the solution of the question difficult,--
'Why God should pronounce, that he who was taken from the dust should
return to it.' For as soon as he had been raised to a dignity so great,
that the glory of the Divine Image shone in him, the terrestrial origin
of his body was almost obliterated. Now, however, after he had been
despoiled of his divine and heavenly excellence, what remains but that by
his very departure out of life, he should recognize himself to be earth?
Hence it is that we dread death, because dissolution, which is contrary
to nature, cannot naturally be desired. Truly the first man would have
passed to a better life, had he remained upright; but there would have
been no separation of the soul from the body, no corruption, no kind of
destruction, and, in short, no violent change.

20. "And Adam called, &c." There are two ways in which this may be read.
The former, in the pluperfect tense, 'Adam had called.' If we follow this
reading, the sense of Moses will be, that Adam had been greatly deceived,
in promising life to himself and to his posterity, from a wife, whom he
afterwards found by experience to be the introducer of death. And Moses
(as we have seen) is accustomed, without preserving the order of the
history, to subjoin afterwards things which had been prior in point of
time. If, however we read the passage in the preterite tense, it may be
understood either in a good or bad sense. There are those who think that
Adam, animated by the hope of a more happy condition, because God had
promised that the head of the serpent should be wounded by the seed of
the woman, called her by a name implying life.' This would be a noble and
even heroic fortitude of mind; since he could not, without an arduous and
difficult struggle, deem her the mother of the living, who, before any
man could have been born, had involved all in eternal destruction. But,
because I fear lest this conjecture should be weak, let the reader
consider whether Moses did not design rather to tax Adam with
thoughtlessness, who being himself immersed in death, yet gave to his
wife so proud a name. Nevertheless, I do not doubt that, when he heard
the declaration of God concerning the prolongation of life, he began
again to breathe and to take courage; and then, as one revived, he gave
his wife a name derived from life; but it does not follow, that by a
faith accordant with the word of God, he triumphed, as he ought to have
done, over death. I therefore thus expound the passage; as soon as he had
escaped present death, being encouraged by a measure of consolation, he
celebrated that divine benefit which, beyond all expectation, he had
received, in the name he gave his wife.

21. "Unto Adam also, and to his wife, did the Lord God make, &c." Moses
here, in a homely style, declares that the Lord had undertaken the labour
of making garments of skins for Adam and his wife. It is not indeed
proper so to understand his words, as if God had been a furrier, or a
servant to sew clothes. Now, it is not credible that skins should have
been presented to them by chance; but, since animals had before been
destined for their use, being now impelled by a new necessity, they put
some to death, in order to cover themselves with their skins, having been
divinely directed to adopt this counsel; therefore Moses calls God the
Author of it. The reason why the Lord clothed them with garments of skin
appears to me to be this: because garments formed of this material would
have a more degrading appearance than those made of linen or of woolen.
God therefore designed that our first parents should, in such a dress,
behold their own vileness,--just as they had before seen it in their
nudity,--and should thus be reminded of their sin. In the meantime, it is
not to be denied, that he would propose to us an example, by which he
would accustom us to a frugal and inexpensive mode of dress. And I wish
those delicate persons would reflect on this, who deem no ornament
sufficiently attractive, unless it exceed in magnificence. Not that every
kind of ornament is to be expressly condemned; but because when
immoderate elegance and splendour is carefully sought after, not only is
that Master despised, who intended clothing to be a sign of shame, but
war is, in a certain sense, carried on against nature.

22. "Behold, the man is become as one of us." An ironical reproof, by
which God would not only prick the heart of
man, but pierce it through and through. He does not, however, cruelly
triumph over the miserable and afflicted; but, according to the necessity
of the disease, applies a more violent remedy. For, though Adam was
confounded and astonished at his calamity, he yet did not so deeply
reflect on its cause as to become weary of his pride, that he might learn
to embrace true humility. We may add, that God inveighed, by this irony,
not more against Adam himself then against his posterity, for the purpose
of commending modesty to all ages. The particle, "Behold," denotes that
the sentence is pronounced upon the cause then in hand. And, truly, it
was a sad and horrid spectacle; that he, in whom recently the glory of
the Divine image was shining, should lie hidden under fetid skins to
cover his own disgrace, and that there should be more comeliness in a
dead animal than in a living man! The clause which is immediately added,
"To know good and evil," describes the cause of so great misery, namely,
that Adam, not content with his condition, had tried to ascend higher
than was lawful; as if it had been said, 'See now whither thy ambition
and thy perverse appetite for illicit knowledge have precipitated thee.'
Yet the Lord does not even deign to hold converse with him, but
contemptuously draws him forth, for the sake of exposing him to greater
infamy. Thus was it necessary for his iron pride to be beaten down, that
he might at length descend into himself, and become more and more
displeased with himself.
  "One of us." Some refer the plural number here used to the angels, as
if God would make a distinction between man, who is an earthly and
despised animal, and celestial beings; but this exposition seems
farfetched. The meaning will be more simple if thus resolved, 'After
this, Adam will be so like Me, that we shall become companions for each
other.' The argument which Christians draw from this passage for the
doctrine of the three Persons in the Godhead is, I fear, not sufficiently
firm. There is not, indeed, the same reason for it as in the former
passage, "Let us make man in our image," since here Adam is included in
the word Us; but, in the other place, a certain distinction in the
essence of God is expressed.
  "And now, lest, &c." There is a defect in the sentence which I think
ought to be thus supplied: 'It now remains that in future, he be debarred
from the fruit of the tree of life;' for by these words Adam is
admonished that the punishment to which he is consigned shall not be that
of a moment, or of a few days, but that he shall always be an exile from
a happy life. They are mistaken who think this also to be an irony; as if
God were denying that the tree would prove advantageous to man, even
though he might eat of it; for he rather, by depriving him of the symbol,
takes also away the thing signified. We know what is the efficacy of
sacraments; and it was said above that the tree was given as a pledge of
life. Wherefore, that he might understand himself to be deprived of his
former life, a solemn excommunication is added; not that the Lord would
cut him off from all hope of salvation, but, by taking away what he had
given, would cause man to seek new assistance elsewhere. Now, there
remained an expiation in sacrifices, which might restore him to the life
he had lost. Previously, direct communication with God was the source of
life to Adam; but, from the moment in which he became alienated from God,
it was necessary that he should recover life by the death of Christ, by
whose life he then lived. It is indeed certain, that man would not have
been able, had he even devoured the whole tree, to enjoy life against the
will of God; but God, out of respect to his own institution, connects
life with the external sign, till the promise should be taken away from
it; for there never was any intrinsic efficacy in the tree; but God made
it life-giving, so far as he had sealed his grace to man in the use of
it, as, in truths he represents nothing to us with false signs, but
always speaks to us, as they say, with effect. In short, God resolved to
wrest out of the hands of man that which was the occasion or ground of
confidence, lest he should form for himself a vain hope of the perpetuity
of the life which he had lost.

23. "Therefore the Lord God sent him forth." Here Moses partly prosecutes
what he had said concerning the punishment inflicted on man, and partly
celebrates the goodness of God, by which the rigour of his judgment was
mitigated. God mercifully softens the exile of Adam, by still providing
for him a remaining home on earth, and by assigning to him a livelihood
from the culture--although the labourious culture--of the ground; for
Adam thence infers that the Lord has some care for him, which is a proof
of paternal love. Moses, however, again speaks of punishment, when he
relates that man was expelled and that cherubim were opposed with the
blade of a turning sword, which should prevent his entrance into the
garden. Moses says that the cherubim were placed in the eastern region,
on which side, indeed, access lay open to man, unless he had been
prohibited. It is added, to produce terror, that the sword was turning or
sharpened on both sides. Moses, however, uses a word derived from
whiteness or heat. Therefore, God having granted life to Adam, and having
supplied him with food, yet restricts the benefit, by causing some tokens
of Divine wrath to be always before his eyes, in order that he might
frequently reflect that he must pass through innumerable miseries,
through temporal exile, and through death itself, to the life from which
he had fallen; for what we have said must be remembered, that Adam was
not so dejected as to be left without hope of pardon. He was banished
from that royal palace of which he had been the lord, but he obtained
elsewhere a place in which he might dwell; he was bereft of his former
delicacies, yet he was still supplied with some kind of food; he was
excommunicated from the tree of life, but a new remedy was offered him in
sacrifices. Some expound the 'turning sword' to mean one which does not
always vibrate with its point directed against man, but which sometimes
shows the side of the blade, for the purpose of giving place for
repentance. But allegory is unseasonable, when it was the determination
of God altogether to exclude man from the garden, that he might seek life
elsewhere. As soon, however, as the happy fertility and pleasantness of
the place was destroyed, the terror of the sword became superfluous. By
cherubim, no doubt, Moses means angels and in this accommodates himself
to the capacity of his own people. God had commanded two cherubim to be
placed at the ark of the covenant, which should overshadow its covering,
with their wings; therefore he is often said to sit between the cherubim.
That he would have angels depicted in this form, was doubtless granted as
an indulgence to the rudeness of that ancient people; for that age needed
puerile instructions, as Paul teaches, (Gal. 4: 3;) and Moses borrowed
thence the name which he ascribed to angels, that he might accustom men
to that kind of revelation which he had received from God, and faithfully
handed down; for God designed, that what he knew would prove useful to
the people, should be revealed in the sanctuary. And certainly this
method is to be observed by us, in order that we, conscious of one own
infirmity may not attempt, without assistance, to soar to heaven; for
otherwise it will happen that, in the midst of our course, all our senses
will fail. The ladders and vehicles, then, were the sanctuary, the ark of
the covenants the altar, the table and its furniture. Moreover, I call
them vehicles and ladders, because symbols of this kind were by no means
ordained that the faithful might shut up God in a tabernacle as in a
prison, or might attach him to earthly elements; but that, being assisted
by congruous and apt means, they might themselves rise towards heaven.
Thus David and Hezekiah, truly endued with spiritual intelligence, were
far from entertaining those gross imaginations, which would fix God in a
given place. Still they do not scruple to call upon God, who sitteth or
dwelleth between the cherubim, in order that they may retain themselves
and others under the authority of the law.
  Finally, In this place angels are called cherubim, for the same reason
that the name of the body of Christ is transferred to the sacred bread of
the Lord's Supper. With respect to the etymology, the Hebrews themselves
are not agreed. The most generally received opinion is, that the first
letter, "caf" is a servile letter, and a note of similitude, and,
therefore, that the word cherub is of the same force as if it were said,
'like a boy.' But because Ezekiel, who applies the word in common to
different figures, is opposed to this signification; they think more
rightly, in my judgment, who declare it to be a general name.
Nevertheless, that it is referred to angels is more than sufficiently
known. Whence also Ezekiel (28: 14) signalizes the proud king of Tyre
with this title, comparing him to a chief angel.

Chapter IV.

1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said,
I have gotten a man from the LORD.
2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep,
but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit
of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat
thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very
wroth, and his countenance fell.
6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy
countenance fallen?
7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not
well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and
thou shalt rule over him.
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they
were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew
9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where [is] Abel thy brother? And he said,
I know not: [Am] I my brother's keeper?
10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood
crieth unto me from the ground.
11 And now [art] thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth
to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee
her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment [is] greater than I can
14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth;
and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a
vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, [that] every one that
findeth me shall slay me.
15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain,
vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon
Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land
of Nod, on the east of Eden.
17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he
builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his
son, Enoch.
18 And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael
begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.
19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one [was] Adah,
and the name of the other Zillah.
20 And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and
[of such as have] cattle.
21 And his brother's name [was] Jubal: he was the father of all such as
handle the harp and organ.
22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer
in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain [was] Naamah.
23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye
wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my
wounding, and a young man to my hurt.
24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and
25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name
Seth: For God, [said she], hath appointed me another seed instead of
Abel, whom Cain slew.
26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name
Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.

1. "And Adam knew his wife Eve." Moses now begins to describe the
propagation of mankind; in which history it is important to notice that
this benediction of God, "Increase and multiply," was not abolished by
sin; and not only so, but that the heart of Adam was divinely confirmed
so that he did not shrink with horror from the production of offspring.
And as Adam recognised, in the very commencement of having offspring, the
truly paternal moderation of God's anger, so was he afterwards compelled
to taste the bitter fruits of his own sin, when Cain slew Abel. But let
us follow the narration of Moses. Although Moses does not state that Cain
and Abel were twins it yet seems to me probable that they were so; for,
after he has said that Eve, by her first conception, brought forth her
firstborn, he soon after subjoins that she also bore another; and thus,
while commemorating a double birth, he speaks only or one conception. Let
those who think differently enjoy their own opinion; to me, however it
appears accordant with reason, when the world had to be replenished with
inhabitants, that not only Cain and Abel should have been brought forth
at one births but many also afterwards, both males and females.
  "I have gotten a man." The word which Moses uses signifies both to
acquire and to possess; and it is of little consequence to the present
context which of the two you adopt. It is more important to inquire why
she says that she has received, "eth Yehovah". Some expound it, 'with the
Lord;' that is, 'by the kindness, or by the favour, of the Lord;' as if
Eve would refer the accepted blessing of offspring to the Lord, as it is
said in Psalm 127: 3, "The fruit of the womb is the gift of the Lord." A
second interpretation comes to the same point, 'I have possessed a man
from the Lord;' and the version of Jerome is of equal force, 'Through the
Lord.' These three readings, I say, tend to this point, that Eve gives
thanks to God for having begun to raise up a posterity through her,
though she was deserving of perpetual barrenness, as well as of utter
destruction. Others, with greater subtlety, expound the words, 'I have
gotten the man of the Lord;' as if Eve understood that she already
possessed that conqueror of the serpent, who had been divinely promised
to her. Hence they celebrate the faith of Eve, because she embraced, by
faith, the promise concerning the bruising of the head of the devil
through her seed; only they think that she was mistaken in the person or
the individual, seeing that she would restrict to Cain what had been
promised concerning Christ. To me, however, this seems to be the genuine
sense, that while Eve congratulates herself on the birth of a son, she
offers him to God, as the first-fruits of his race. Therefore, I think it
ought to be translated, 'I have obtained a man from the Lord', which
approaches more nearly the Hebrew phrase. Moreover, she calls a newborn
infant a man, because she saw the human race renewed, which both she and
her husband had ruined by their own fault.

2. "And she again bare his brother Abel." It is well known whence the
name of Cain is deduced, and for what reason it was given to him. For his
mother said, "kaniti", I have gotten a man; and therefore she called his
name Cain. The same explanation is not given with respect to Abel. The
opinion of some, that he was so called by his mother out of contempt, as
if he would prove superfluous and almost useless, is perfectly absurd;
for she remembered the end to which her fruitfulness would lead; nor had
she forgotten the benediction, "Increase and multiply." We should (in my
judgment) more correctly infer that whereas Eve had testified, in the
name given to her firstborn, the joy which suddenly burst upon her, and
celebrated the grace of God; she afterwards, in her other offspring,
returned to the recollection of the miseries of the human race. And
certainly, though the new blessing of God was an occasion for no common
joy; yet, on the other hand, she could not look upon a posterity devoted
to so many and great evils, of which she had herself been the cause,
without the most bitter grief. Therefore, she wished that a monument of
her sorrow should exist in the name she gave her second son; and she
would, at the same time, hold up a common mirror, by which she might
admonish her whole progeny of the vanity of man. That some censure the
judgment of Eve as absurd, because she regarded her just and holy sons as
worthy to be rejected in comparison with her other wicked and abandoned
son, is what I do not approve. For Eve had reason why she should
congratulate herself in her firstborn; and no blame attaches to her for
having proposed, in her second son, a memorial to herself and to all
others, of their own vanity, to induce them to exercise themselves in
diligent reflection on their own evils.
  "And Abel was a keeper of sheep." Whether both the brothers had married
wives, and each had a separate home, Moses does not relate. This
therefore, remains to us in uncertainty, although it is probable that
Cain was married before he slew his brother; since Moses soon after adds,
that he knew his wife, and begot children: and no mention is there made
of his marriage. Both followed a kind of life in itself holy and
laudable. For the cultivation of the earth was commanded by God; and the
labour of feeding sheep was not less honorable than useful; in short, the
whole of rustic life was innocent and simple, and most of all
accommodated to the true order of nature. This, therefore, is to be
maintained in the first place, that both exercised themselves in labours
approved by God, and necessary to the common use of human life. Whence it
is inferred, that they had been well instructed by their father. The rite
of sacrificing more fully confirms this; because it proves that they had
been accustomed to the worship of God. The life of Cain, therefore, was,
in appearance, very well regulated; inasmuch as he cultivated the duties
of piety towards God, and sought a maintenance for himself and his, by
honest and just labour, as became a provident and sober father of a
family. Moreover, it will be here proper to recall to memory what we have
before said, that the first men, though they had been deprived of the
sacrament of divine love, when they were prohibited from the tree of
life, had yet been only so deprived of it, that a hope of salvation was
still left to them, of which they had the signs in sacrifices. For we
must remember, that the custom of sacrificing was not rashly devised by
them, but was divinely delivered to them. For since the Apostle refers
the dignity of Abel's accepted sacrifice to faith, it follows, first,
that he had not offered it without the command of God, (Heb. 11: 4.)
Secondly, it has been true from the beginning, of the world, that
obedience is better than any sacrifices, (1 Sam. 15: 22,) and is the
parent of all virtues. Hence it also follows that man had been taught by
God what was pleasing to Him. thirdly, since God has been always like
himself, we may not say that he was ever delighted with mere carnal and
external worship. Yet he deemed those sacrifices of the first age
acceptable. It follows, therefore, further, that they had been
spiritually offered to him: that is, that the holy fathers did not mock
him with empty ceremonies, but comprehended something more sublime and
secret; which they could not have done without divine instruction. For it
is interior truth alone which, in the external signs, distinguishes the
genuine and rational worship of God from that which is gross and
superstitious. And, certainly, they could not sincerely devote their mind
to the worship of God, unless they had been assured of his benevolence;
because voluntary reverence springs from a sense of, and confidence in,
his goodness; but, on the other hand, whosoever regards God s hostile to
himself, is compelled to flee from him with very fear and horror. We see
then that God, when he takes away the tree of life, in which he had first
given the pledge of his grace, proves and declares himself to be
propitious to man by other means. Should anyone object, that all nations
have had their own sacrifices, and that in these there was no pure and
solid religion, the solution is ready: namely, that mention is here made
of such sacrifices as are lawful and approved by God; of which nothing
but an adulterated imitation afterwards descended to the Gentiles. For
although nothing but the word "minchah", is here placed, which properly
signifies a gift, and therefore is extended generally to every kind of
oblation; yet we may infer, for two reasons, that the command respecting
sacrifice was given to the fathers from the beginning; first, for the
purpose of making the exercise of piety common to all, seeing they
professed themselves to be the property of God, and esteemed all they
possessed as received from him; and, secondly, for the purpose of
admonishing them of the necessity of some expiation in order to their
reconciliation with God. When each offers something of his property,
there is a solemn giving of thanks, as if he would testify by his present
act that he owes to God whatever he possesses. But the sacrifice of
cattle and the effusion of blood contains something further, namely, that
the offerer should have death before his eyes; and should, nevertheless,
believe in God as propitious to him. Concerning the sacrifices of Adam no
mention is made.

4. "And the Lord had respect unto Abel, &c." God is said to have respect
unto the man to whom he vouchsafes his favour. We must, however, notice
the order here observed by Moses; for he does not simply state that the
worship which Abel had paid was pleasing to God, but he begins with the
person of the offerer; by which he signifies, that God will regard no
works with favour except those the doer of which is already previously
accepted and approved by him. And no wonder; for man sees things which
are apparent, but God looks into the heart, (1 Sam. 16: 7;) therefore, he
estimates works no otherwise than as they proceed from the fountain of
the heart. Whence also it happens, that he not only rejects but abhors
the sacrifices of the wicked, however splendid they may appear in the
eyes of men. For if he, who is polluted in his soul, by his mere touch
contaminates, with his own impurities, things otherwise pure and clean,
how can that but be impure which proceeds from himself? When God
repudiates the feigned righteousness in which the Jews were glorying, he
objects, through his Prophet, that their hands were "full of blood,"
(Isaiah 1: 15.) For the same reason Haggai contends against the
hypocrites. The external appearance, therefore, of works, which may
delude our too carnal eyes, vanishes in the presence of God. Nor were
even the heathens ignorant of this; whose poets, when they speak with a
sober and well-regulated mind of the worship of God, require both a clean
heart and pure hands. Hence, even among all nations, is to be traced the
solemn rite of washing before sacrifices. Now seeing that in another
place, the Spirit testifies, by the mouth of Peter, that 'hearts are
purified by faith,' (Acts 15: 9;) and seeing that the purity of the holy
patriarchs was of the very same kind, the apostle does not in vain infer,
that the offering of Abel was, by faith, more excellent than that of
Cain. Therefore, in the first place, we must hold, that all works done
before faith, whatever splendour of righteousness may appear in them,
were nothing but mere sins, being defiled from their roots, and were
offensive to the Lord, whom nothing can please without inward purity of
heart. I wish they who imagine that men, by their own motion of freewill,
are rendered meet to receive the grace of God, would reflect on this.
Certainly, no controversy would then remain on the question, whether God
justifies men gratuitously, and that by faith? For this must be received
as a settled point, that, in the judgment of God, no respect is had to
works until man is received into favour. Another point appears equally
certain; since the whole human race is hateful to God, there is no other
way of reconciliation to divine favour than through faith. Moreover,
since faith is a gratuitous gift of God, and a special illumination of
the Spirit, then it is easy to infer, that we are prevented by his mere
grace, just as if he had raised us from the dead. In which sense also
Peter says, that it is God who purifies the hearts by faith. For there
would be no agreement of the fact with the statement, unless God had so
formed faith in the hearts of men that it might be truly deemed his gift.
It may now be seen in what way purity is the effect of faith. It is a
vapid and trifling philosophy, to adduce this as the cause of purity,
that men are not induced to seek God as their rewarder except by faith.
They who speak thus entirely bury the grace of God, which his Spirit
chiefly commends. Others also speak coldly, who teach that we are
purified by faiths only on account of the gift of regenerations in order
that we may be accepted of God. For not only do they omit half the truth,
but build without a foundation; since, on account of the curse on the
human race, it became necessary that gratuitous reconciliation should
precede. Again, since God never so regenerates his people in this world,
that they can worship him perfectly; no work of man can possibly be
acceptable without expiation. And to this point the ceremony of legal
washing belongs, in order that men may learn, that as often as they wish
to draw near unto God, purity must be sought elsewhere. Wherefore God
will then at length have respect to our obedience, when he looks upon us
in Christ.

5. "But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect." It is not to
be doubted, that Cain conducted himself as hypocrites are accustomed to
do; namely, that he wished to appease God, as one discharging a debt, by
external sacrifices, without the least intention of dedicating himself to
God. But this is true worship, to offer ourselves as spiritual sacrifices
to God. When God sees such hypocrisy, combined with gross and manifest
mockery of himself; it is not surprising that he hates it, and is unable
to bear it; whence also it follows, that he rejects with contempt the
works of those who withdraw themselves from him. For it is his will,
first to have us devoted to himself; he then seeks our works in testimony
of our obedience to him, but only in the second place. It is to be
remarked, that all the figments by which men mock both God and themselves
are the fruits of unbelief: To this is added pride, because unbelievers,
despising the Mediator's grace, throw themselves fearlessly into the
presence of God. The Jews foolishly imagine that the oblations of Cain
were unacceptable, because he defrauded God of the full ears of corn, and
meanly offered him only barren or half-filled ears. Deeper and more
hidden was the evil; namely that impurity of heart of which I have been
speaking; just as, on the other hand, the strong scent of burning fat
could not conciliate the divine favour to the sacrifices of Abel; but,
being pervaded by the good odour of faith, they had a sweet-smelling
  "And Cain was very wroth." In this place it is asked, whence Cain
understood that his brother's oblations were preferred to his? The
Hebrews, according to their manner, report to divinations and imagine
that the sacrifice of Abel was consumed by celestial fire; but, since we
ought not to allow ourselves so great a license as to invent miracles,
for which we have no testimony of Scripture, let Jewish fables be
dismissed. It is, indeed, more probable, that Cain formed the judgement
which Moses records, from the events which followed. He saw that it was
better with his brother than with himself; thence he inferred, that God
was pleased with his brother, and displeased with himself. We know also,
that to hypocrites nothing seems of greater value, nothing is more to
their heart's content, then earthly blessing. moreover, in the person of
Cain is portrayed to us the likeness of a wicked man, who yet desires to
be esteemed just, and even arrogates to himself the first place among
saints. Such persons truly, by external works, strenuously labour to
deserve well at the hands of God; but, retaining a heart inwrapped in
deceit, they present to him nothing but a mask; so that, in their
labourious and anxious religious worship, there is nothing sincere,
nothing but mere pretence. When they afterwards see that they gain no
advantage, they betray the venom of their minds; for they not only
complain against God, but break forth in manifest fury, so that, if they
were able, they would gladly tear him don from his heavenly throne. Such
is the innate pride of all hypocrites, that, by the very appearance of
obedience, they would hold God as under obligation to them; because they
cannot escape from his authority, they try to sooth him with
blandishments, as they would a child; in the meantime, while they count
much of their fictitious trifles, they think that God does them great
wrong if he does not applaud them; but when he pronounces their offerings
frivolous and of no value in his sight, they first begin to murmur, and
then to rage. Their impiety alone hinders God from being reconciled unto
them; but they wish to bargain with God on their own terms. When this is
denied, they burn with furious indignation, which, though conceived
against God, they cast forth upon his children. Thus, when Cain was angry
with God, his fury was poured forth on his unoffending brother. When
Moses says, "his countenance fell," (the word countenance is in Hebrew
put in the plural number for the singular,) he means, that not only was
he seized with a sudden vehement anger, but that, from a lingering
sadness, he cherished a feeling so malignant that he was wasting with

6. "And the Lord said unto Cain." God now proceeds against Cain himself,
and cites him to His tribunal, that the wretched man may understand that
his rage can profit him nothing. He wishes honour to be given him for his
sacrifices; but because he does not obtain it, he is furiously angry.
Meanwhile, he does not consider that through his own fault he had failed
to gain his wish; for had he but been conscious of his inward evil, he
would have ceased to expostulate with God, and to rage against his
guiltless brother. Moses does not state in what manner God spoke. Whether
a vision was presented to him, or he heard an oracle from heaven, or was
admonished by secret inspiration, he certainly felt himself bound by a
divine judgment. To apply this to the person of Adam, as being the
prophet and interpreter of God in censuring his son, is constrained and
even frigid. I understand what it is which good men, not less pious than
learned, propose, when they sport with such fancies. Their intention is
to honour the external ministry of the word, and to cut off the occasion
which Satan takes to insinuate his illusions under the colour of
revelation. Truly I confess, nothing is more useful than that pious minds
should be retained, under the order of preaching, in obedience to the
Scripture, that they may not seek the mind of God in erratic
speculations. But we may observe, that the word of God was delivered from
the beginning by oracles, in order that afterwards, when administered by
the hands of men, it might receive the greater reverence. I also
acknowledge that the office of teaching was enjoined upon Adam, and do
not doubt that he diligently admonished his children: yet they who think
that God only spoke through his ministers, too violently restrict the
words of Moses. Let us rather conclude, that, before the heavenly
teaching was committed to public records, God often made known his will
by extraordinary methods, and that here was the foundation which
supported reverence for the word; while the doctrine delivered through
the hands of men was like the edifice itself. Certainly, though I should
be silent, all men would acknowledge how greatly such an imagination as
that to which we refer, abates the force of the divine reprimand.
Therefore, as the voice of God had previously so sounded in the ears of
Adam, that he certainly perceived God to speak; so is it also now
directed to Cain.

7. "If thou does well." In these words God reproves Cain for having been
unjustly angry, inasmuch as the blame of the whole evil lay with himself.
For foolish indeed was his complaint and indignation at the rejection of
sacrifices, the defects of which he had taken no care to amend. Thus all
wicked men, after they have been long and vehemently enraged against God,
are at length so convicted by the Divine judgment, that they vainly
desire to transfer to others the cause of the evil. The Greek
interpreters recede, in this place, far from the genuine meaning of
Moses. Since, in that age, there were none of those marks or points which
the Hebrews use instead of vowels, it was more easy, in consequence of
the affinity of words to each other, to strike into an extraneous sense.
I however, as any one, moderately versed in the Hebrew language, will
easily judge of their error, I will not pause to refute it. Yet even
those who are skilled in the Hebrew tongue differ not a little among
themselves, although only respecting a single word; for the Greeks change
the whole sentence. Among those who agree concerning the context and the
substance of the address, there is a difference respecting the word
"se'ait", which is truly in the imperative mood, but ought to be resolved
into a noun substantive. Yet this is not the real difficulty; but, since
the verb "nasa", signifies sometimes to exalt, sometimes to take away or
remit, sometimes to offer, and sometimes to accept, interpreters very
among themselves, as each adopts this or the other meaning. Some of the
Hebrew Doctors refer it to the countenance of Cain, as if God promised
that he would lift it up though now cast down with sorrow. Other of the
Hebrews apply it to the remission of sins; as if it had been said, 'Do
well, and thou shalt obtain pardon'. But because they imagine a
satisfaction, which derogates from free pardon, they dissent widely from
the meaning of Moses. A third exposition approaches more nearly to the
truth, that exaltation is to be taken for honour, in this way, 'There is
no need to envy thy brother's honour, because, if thou conductest thyself
rightly, God will also raise thee to the same degree of honour; though he
now, offended by thy sins, has condemned thee to ignominy.' But even this
does not meet my approbation. Others refine more philosophically, and
say, that Cain would find God propitious and would be assisted by his
grace, if he should by faith bring purity of heart with his outward
sacrifices. These I leave to enjoy their own opinion, but I fear they aim
at what has little solidity. Jerome translates the word, 'Thou shalt
receive;' understanding that God promises a reward to that pure and
lawful worship which he requires. Having recited the opinions of others,
let me now offer what appears to me more suitable. In the first place,
the word "seait" means the same thing as acceptance, and stands opposed
to rejection. Secondly, since the discourse has respect to the matter in
hand, I explain the saying as referring to sacrifices, namely, that God
will accept them when rightly offered. They who are skilled in the Hebrew
language know that here is nothing forced, or remote from the genuine
signification of the word. Now the very order of things leads us to the
same point: namely, that God pronounces those sacrifices repudiated and
rejected, as being of no value, which are offered improperly; but that
the oblation will be accepted, as pleasant and of good odour, if it be
pure and legitimate. We now perceive how unjustly Cain was angry that his
sacrifices were not honoured seeing that God was ready to receive them
with outstretched hands, provided they ceased to be faulty. At the same
time, however; what I before said must be recalled to memory, that the
chief point of well-doing is, for pious persons, relying on Christ the
Mediator, and on the gratuitous reconciliation procured by him, to
endeavour to worship God sincerely and without dissimulation. Therefore,
these two things are joined together by a mutual connection: that the
faithful, as often as they enter into the presence of God, are commended
by the grace of Christ alone, their sins being blotted out; and yet that
they bring thither true purity of heart.
  "And if thou does not well." On the other hand, God pronounces a
dreadful sentence against Cain, if he harden his mill in wickedness and
indulge himself in his crime; for the address is very emphatical, because
God not only repels his unjust complaint, but shows that Cain could have
no greater adversary than that sin of his which he inwardly cherished. He
so binds the impious man, by a few concise words, that he can find no
refuge, as if he had said, 'Thy obstinacy shall not profit thee; for,
though thou shouldst have nothing to do with me, thy sin shall give thee
no rest, but shall drive thee on, pursue thee, and urge thee, and never
suffer thee to escape.' Hence it follows, that he not only raged in vain
and to no profit; but was held guilty by his own inward conviction, even
though no one should accuse him; for the expression, 'Sin lieth at the
door", relates to the interior judgement of the conscience, which presses
upon the man convinced of his sin, and besieges him on every side.
Although the impious may imagine that God slumbers in heaven, and may
strive, as far as possible, to repel the fear of his judgment; yet sin
will be perpetually drawing them back, though reluctant and fugitives, to
that tribunal from which they endeavour to retire. The declarations even
of heathens testify that they were not ignorant of this truth; for it is
not to be doubted that, when they say, 'Conscience is like a thousand
witnesses,' they compare it to a most cruel executioner. There is no
torment more grievous or severe than that which is hence perceived;
moreover, God himself extorts confessions of this kind. Juvenal says:--
      "Heaven's high revenge on human crimes behold;
      Though earthly verdicts may be bought and sold,
      His judge the sinner in his bosom bears,
      And conscience racks him with tormenting cares. 
  But the expression of Moses has peculiar energy. Sin is said to lie,
but it is at the door; for the sinner is not immediately tormented with
the fear of judgment; but, gathering around him whatever delights he is
able, in order to deceive himself; he walks as in free space, and even
revels as in pleasant meadows; when, however, he comes to the door, there
he meets with sin, keeping constant guard; and then conscience, which
before thought itself at liberty, is arrested, and receives, double
punishment for the delay.
  "And unto thee shall be his desire." Nearly all commentators refer this
to sin, and think that, by this admonition, those depraved hosts are
restrained which solicit and impel the mind of man. Therefore, according
to their view, the meaning will be of this kind, 'If sin rises against
thee to subdue thee, why dost thou indulge it, and not rather labour to
restrain and control it? For it is thy part to subdue and bring into
obedience those affections in thy flesh which thou perceivest to be
opposed to the will of God, and rebellious against him.' But I suppose
that Moses means something entirely different. I omit to notice that to
the Hebrew word for sin is affixed the mark of the feminine gender, but
that here two masculine relative pronouns are used. Certainly Moses does
not treat particularly of the sin itself which was committed, but of the
guilt which is contracted from it, and of the consequent condemnation.
How, then, do these words. suit, 'Unto thee shall be his desire?' There
will, however be no need for long refutation when I shall produce the
genuine meaning of the expression. It rather seems to be a reproof, by
which God charges the impious man with ingratitude, because he held in
contempt the honour of primogeniture. The greater are the divine benefits
with which any one of us is adorned, the more does he betray his impiety
unless he endeavours earnestly to serve the Author of grace to whom he is
under obligation. When Abel was regarded as his brother's inferior, he
was, nevertheless, a diligent worshipper of God. But the firstborn
worshipped God negligently and perfunctorily, though he had, by the
Divine kindness, arrived at so high a dignity; and, therefore, God
enlarges upon his sin, because he had not at least imitated his brother,
whom he ought to have surpassed as far in piety as he did in the degree
of honour. Moreover, this form of speech is common among the Hebrews,
that the desire of the inferior should be towards him to whose will he is
subject; thus Moses speaks of the woman, (3: 16,) that her desire should
be to her husband. They, however, childishly trifle, who distort this
passage to prove the freedom of the will; for if we grant that Cain was
admonished of his duty in order that he might apply himself to the
subjugation of sin, yet no inherent power of man is to be hence inferred;
because it is certain that only by the grace of the Holy Spirit can the
affections of the flesh be so mortified that they shall not prevail. Nor,
truly, must we conclude, that as often as God commands anything we shall
have strength to perform it, but rather we must hold fast the saying of
Augustine, 'Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.'

8. "And Cain talked with Abel his brother". Some understand this
conversation to have been general; as if Cain, perfidiously dissembling
his anger, spoke in a fraternal manner. Jerome relates the language used,
'Come, let us go without.' In my opinion the speech is elliptical, and
something is to be understood, yet what it is remains uncertain.
Nevertheless, I am not dissatisfied with the explanation, that Moses
concisely reprehends the wicked perfidy of the hypocrite, who, by
speaking familiarly, presented the appearance of fraternal concord, until
the opportunity of perpetrating the horrid murder should be afforded. And
by this example we are taught that hypocrites are never to be more
dreaded than when they stoop to converse under the pretext of friendship;
because when they are not permitted to injure by open violence as much as
they please, suddenly they assume a feigned appearance of peace. But it
is by no means to be expected that they who are as savage beasts towards
God, should sincerely cultivate the confidence of friendship with men.
yet let the reader consider whether Moses did not rather mean, that
although Cain was rebuked by God, he, nevertheless, contended with his
brother, and thus this saying of his would depend on what had preceded. I
certainly rather incline to the opinion that he did not keep his
malignant feelings within his own breast, but that he broke forth in
accusation against his brother, and angrily declared to him the cause at
his dejection.
  "When they were in the field". Hence we gather that although Cain had
complained of his brother at home, he had yet so covered the diabolical
fury with which he burned, that Abel suspected nothing worse; for he
deferred vengeance to a suitable time. Moreover, this single deed of
guilt clearly shows whither Satan will hurry men, when they harden their
mind in wickedness, so that in the end, their obstinacy is worthy of the
utmost extremes of punishment.

9 "Where is Abel?" They who suppose that the father made this inquiry of
Cain respecting his son Abel, enervate the whole force of the instruction
which Moses here intended to deliver; namely, that God, both by secret
inspiration, and by some extraordinary method, cited the parricide to his
tribunal, as if he had thundered from heaven. For, what I have before
said must be firmly maintained that, as God now speaks until us through
the Scriptures, so he formerly manifested himself to the Fathers through
oracles; and also in the same meaner, revealed his judgements to the
reprobate sons of the saints. So the angel spoke to Agar in the wood,
after she had fallen away from the Church, as we shall see in the eighth
verse of the sixteenth chapter. It is indeed possible that God may have
interrogated Cain by the silent examinations of his conscience; and that
he, in return, may have answered, inwardly fretting, and murmuring. We
must, however, conclude, that he was examined, not barely by the external
voice of man, but by a Divine voice, so as to make him feel that he had
to deal directly with God. As often, then as the secret compunctions of
conscience invite us to reflect upon our sins, let us remember that God
himself is speaking, with us. For that interior sense by which we are
convicted of sin is the peculiar judgement-seat of God, where he
exercises his jurisdiction. Let those, therefore, whose consciences
accuse them, beware lest, after the example of Cain, they confirm
themselves in obstinacy. For this is truly to kick against God, and to
resist his Spirit; when we repel those thoughts, which are nothing else
than incentives to repentance. But it is a fault too common, to add at
length to former sins such perverseness, that he who is compelled,
whether he will or not, to feel sin in his mind, shall yet refuse to
yield to God. Hence it appears how great is the depravity of the human
mind; since, when convicted and condemned by our own conscience, we still
do not cease either to mock, or to rage against our Judge. Prodigious was
the stupor of Cain, who, having committed a crime so great, ferociously
rejected the reproof of God, from whose hand he was nevertheless unable
to escape. But the same thing daily happens to all the wicked; every one
of whom desires to be deemed ingenious in catching at excuses. For the
human heart is so entangled in winding labyrinths, that it is easy for
the wicked to add obstinate contempt of God to their crimes; not because
their contumacy is sufficiently firm to withstand the judgment of God,
(for, although they hide themselves in the deep recesses of which I have
spoken, they are, nevertheless, always secretly burned, as with a hot
iron,) but because, by a blind obstinacy they render themselves callous.
Hence, the force of the Divine judgment is clearly perceived; for it so
pierces into the iron hearts of the wicked, that they are inwardly
compelled to be their own judges; nor does it suffer them so to
obliterate the sense of guilt which it has extorted, as not to leave the
trace or scar of the searing. Cain, in denying that he was the keeper of
his brother's life, although, with ferocious rebellion, he attempts
violently to repel the judgment of God, yet thinks to escape by this
cavil, that he was not required to give an account of his murdered
brother, because he had received no express command to take care of him.

10. "What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood." Moses shows
that Cain gained nothing by his tergiversation. God first inquired where
his brother was; he now more closely urges him, in order to extort an
unwilling confession of his guilt; for in no racks or tortures of any
kind is there so much force to constrain evildoers, as there was efficacy
in the thunder of the Divine voice to cast down Cain in confusion to the
ground. For God no longer asks whether he had done it; but, pronouncing
in a single word that he was the doer of it, he aggravates the atrocity
of the crime. We learn, then, in the person of one man, what an unhappy
issue of their cause awaits those, who desire to extricate themselves by
contending against God. For He, the Searcher of hearts, has no need of a
long, circuitous course of investigation; but, with one word, so
fulminates against those whom he accuses, as to be sufficient, and more
than sufficient, for their condemnation. Advocates place the first kind
of defense in the denial of the fact; where the fact cannot be denied,
they have recourse to the qualifying circumstances of the case. Cain is
driven from both these defenses; for God both pronounces him guilty of
the slaughter, and, at the same time, declares the heinousness of the
crime. And we are warned by his example, that pretexts and subterfuges
are heaped together in vain, when sinners are cited to the tribunal of
  "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth." God first shows that he is
cognizant of the deeds of men, though no one should complain of or accuse
them; secondly that he holds the life of man too dear, to allow innocent
blood to be shed with impunity; thirdly, that he cares for the pious not
only while they live, but even after death. However earthly judges may
sleep, unless an accuser appeals to them; yet even when he who is injured
is silent the injuries themselves are alone sufficient to arouse God to
inflict punishment. This is a wonderfully sweet consolation to good men,
who are unjustly harassed, when they hear that their own sufferings,
which they silently endure, go into the presence of God of their own
accord, to demand vengeance. Abel was speechless when his throat was
being cut, or in whatever other manner he was losing his life; but after
death the voice of his blood was more vehement than any eloquence of the
orator. Thus oppression and silence do not hinder God from judging, or
the cause which the world supposes to be buried. This consolation affords
us most abundant reason for patience when we learn that we shall lose
nothing of our right, if we bear injuries with moderation and equanimity;
and that God will be so much the more ready to vindicate us, the more
modestly we submit ourselves to endure all things; because the placid
silence of the soul raises effectual cries, which fill heaven and earth.
Nor does this doctrine apply merely to the state of the present life, to
teach us that among the innumerable dangers by which we are surrounded,
we shall be safe under the guardianship of God; but it elevates us by the
hope of a better life; because we must conclude that those for whom God
cares shall survive after death. And, on the other hand, this
consideration should strike terror into the wicked and violent, that God
declares, that he undertakes the causes deserted by human patronage, not
in consequence of any foreign impulse, but from his own nature; and that
he will be the sure avenger of crimes, although the injured make no
complaint. Murderers indeed often exult, as if they had evaded
punishment; but at length God will show that innocent blood has not been
mute, and that he has not said in vain, 'the death of the saints is
precious in his eyes,' (Psalm 115: 17.) Therefore, as this doctrine
brings relief to the faithful, lest they should be too anxious concerning
their life, over which they learn that God continually watches; so does
it vehemently thunder against the ungodly who do not scruple wickedly to
injure and to destroy those whom God has undertaken to preserve.

11. "And now art thou cursed from the earth." Cain, having been convicted
of the crime, judgment is now pronounced against him. And first, God
constitutes the earth the minister of his vengeance, as having been
polluted by the impious and horrible parricide: as if he had said, 'Thou
didst just now deny to me the murder which thou hast committed, but the
senseless earth itself will demand thy punishment.' He does this,
however, to aggravate the enormity of the crime, as if a kind of
contagion flowed from it even to the earth, for which the execution of
punishment was required. The imagination of some, that cruelty is here
ascribed to the earth, as if God compared it to a wild beast, which had
drunk up the blood of Abel, is far from the true meaning. Clemency is
rather, in my judgment, by personification, imputed to it; because, in
abhorrence of the pollution, it had opened its mouth to cover the blood
which had been shed by a brother's hand. Most detestable is the cruelty
of this man, who does not shrink from pouring forth his neighbour's
blood, of which the bosom of the earth becomes the receptacle. Yet we
must not here imagine any miracle, as if the blood had been absorbed by
any unusual opening of the earth; but the speech is figurative,
signifying that there was more humanity in the earth than in man himself.
Moreover, they who think that, because Cain is now cursed in stronger
words than Adam had previously been, God had dealt more gently with the
first man, from a design to spare the human race; have some colour for
their opinion. Adam heard the words, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake:"
but now the shaft of divine vengeance vibrates against, and transfixes
the person of Cain. The opinion of others, that temporal punishment is
intended, because it is said, Thou art cursed from the "earth", rather
than from "heaven", lest the posterity of Cain, being cut off from the
hope of salvation, should rush the more boldly on their own damnation,
seems to me not sufficiently confirmed. I rather interpret the passage
thus: Judgment was committed to the earth, in order that Cain might
understand that his judge had not to be summoned from a distance; that
there was no need for an angel to descend from heaven, since the earth
voluntarily offered itself as the avenger.

12. "When thou tillest the ground." This verse is the exposition of the
former; for it expresses more clearly what is meant by being cursed from
the earth, namely, that the earth defrauds its cultivators of the fruit
of their toil. Should any one object that this punishment had before been
alike inflicted on all mortals, in the person of Adam; my answer is, I
have no doubt that something of the benediction which had hitherto
remained, was now further withdrawn with respect to the murderer, in
order that he might privately feel the very earth to be hostile to him.
For although, generally, God causes his sun daily to rise upon the good
and the evil, (Matth. 5: 45,) yet, in the meantime, (as often as he sees
good,) he punished the sins, sometimes of a whole nation, and sometimes
of certain men, with rain and hail, and clouds, so far, at least, as is
useful to give determinate proof of future judgment; and also for the
purpose of admonishing the world, by such examples, that nothing can
succeed when God is angry with and opposed to them. Moreover in the first
murder, God designed to exhibit a singular example of malediction, the
memory of which should remain in all ages.
  "A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be." Another punishment is now
also inflicted; namely, that he never could be safe, to whatever place he
might come. Moses uses two words, little differing from each other,
except that the former is derived from "noa", which is to wander, the
other from "nadad", which signifies to flee. The distinction which some
make, that "na" is he who never has a settled habitations but "nad", he
who knows not which way he ought to turn; as it is defective in proof, is
with me of no weight. The genuine sense then of the words is, that
wherever Cain might come, he should be unsettled and a fugitive; as
robbers are wont to be, who have no quiet and secure resting-place; for
the face of every man strikes terror into them; and, on the other hand,
they have a horror of solitude. But this seems to some by no means a
suitable punishment for a murderer, since it is rather the destined
condition of the sons of God; for they, more than all others, feel
themselves to be strangers in the world. And Paul complains that both he
and his companions are without a certain dwelling-place, (1 Cor. 4: 11.)
To which I answer, that Cain was not only condemned to personal exile,
but was also subjected to still more severe punishment; namely, that he
should find no region of the earth where he would not be of a restless
and fearful mind; for as a good conscience is properly called 'a brazen
walls' so neither a hundred walls, nor as many fortresses, can free the
wicked from disquietude. The faithful are strangers upon the earth, yet,
nevertheless, they enjoy a tranquil temporary abode. Often, constrained
by necessity, they wander from place to place, but wheresoever the
tempest bears them, they carry with them a sedate mind; till finally by
perpetual change of place, they so run their course, and pass through the
world, that they are everywhere sustained by the supporting hand of God.
Such security is denied to the wicked, whom all creatures threaten; and
should even all creatures favour them, still the mind itself is so
turbulent that it does not suffer them to rest. In this manner, Cain,
even if he bad not changed his place, could not have shaken off the
trepidation which God had fixed in his mind; nor did the fact, that he
was the first man who built a city, prevent him from being always
restless even in his own nest.

13. "My punishment is greater, &c." Nearly all commentators agree that
this is the language of desperation; because Cain, confounded by the
judgment of God, had no remaining hope of pardon. And this, indeed, is
true, that the reprobate are never conscious of their evils, till a ruin,
from which they cannot escape, overtakes them; yea, truly, when the
sinner, obstinate to the last, mocks the patience of God, this is the due
reward of his late repentance that he feels a horrible torment for which
there is no remedy,--if, truly, that blind and astonished dread of
punishments which is without any hatred of sin, or any desire to return
to God, can be called repentance;--so even Judas confesses his sin, but,
overwhelmed with fear, flies as far as possible from the presence of God.
And it is certainly true, that the reprobates have no medium; as long as
any relaxation is allowed them, they slumber securely; but when the anger
of God presses upon them, they are broken rather than corrected.
Therefore their fear stuns them, so that they can think of nothing but of
hell and eternal destruction. However, I doubt not, that the words have
another meaning. For I rather take the term "awoon" in its proper
signification; and the word "nasa", I interpret by the word to bear. 'A
greater punishment (he says) is imposed upon me than I can bear.' In this
manner, Cain, although he does not excuse his sin, having been driven
from every shift; yet complains of the intolerable severity of his
judgement. So also the devils, although they feel that they are justly
tormented, yet do not cease to rage against God their judge, and to
charge him with cruelty. And immediately follows the explanation of these
words: 'Behold, thou hast driven me from the face of the earth, and I am
hidden from thy face.' In which expression he openly expostulates with
God, that he is treated more hardly than is just, no clemency or
moderation being shown him. For it is precisely as if he had said, 'If a
safe habitation is denied me in the world, and thou dost not deign to
care for me, what dost thou leave me? Would it not be better to die at
once than to be constantly exposed to a thousand deaths? ' Whence we
infer, that the reprobate, however clearly they may be convicted, make no
end of storming; insomuch that through their impatience and fury, they
seize on occasions of contest; as if they were able to excite enmity
against God on account of the severity of their own sufferings. This
passage also clearly teaches what was the nature of that wandering
condition, or exile, which Moses had just mentioned; namely, that no
corner of the earth should be left him by God, in which he might quietly
repose. For, being excluded from the common rights of mankind, so as to
be no more reckoned among the legitimate inhabitants of the earth, he
declares that he is cast out from the face of the earth, and therefore
shall become a fugitive, because the earth will deny him a habitation;
hence it would be necessary, that he should occupy as a robber, what he
did not possess by right. To be 'hidden from the face of God,' is to be
not regarded by God, or not protected by his guardian care. This
confession also, which God extorted from the impious murderer, is a proof
that there is no peace for men, unless they acquiesce in the providence
of God, and are persuaded that their lives are the object of his care; it
is also a proof, that they can only quietly enjoy any of God's benefits
so long as they regard themselves as placed in the world, on this
condition, that they pass their lives under his government. How wretched
then is the instability of the wicked, who know that not a foot of earth
is granted to them by God!

14. "Every one that findeth me." Since he is no longer covered by the
protection of God, he concludes that he shall be exposed to injury and
violence from all men. And he reasons justly; for the hand of God alone
marvelously preserves us amid so many dangers. And they have spoken
prudently who have said, not only that our life hangs on a thread, but
also that we have been received into this fleeting life, out of the womb,
from a hundred deaths. Cain, however, in this place, not only considers
himself as deprived of God's protection, but also supposes all creatures
to be divinely armed to take vengeance of his impious murder. This is the
reason why he so greatly fears for his life from any one who may meet
him; for as man is a social animal, and all naturally desire mutual
intercourse, this is certainly to be regarded as a portentous fact, that
the meeting with any man was formidable to the murderer.

15. "Therefore, whosoever slayeth Cain." They who think that it was
Cain's wish to perish immediately by one death, in order that he might
not be agitated by continual dangers, and that the prolongation of his
life was granted him only as a punishment, have no reason, that I can
see, for thus speaking. But far more absurd is the manner in which many
of the Jews mutilate this sentence. Firsts they imagine, in this clause,
the use of the figure "aposioopesis", according to which something not
expressed is understood; then they begin a new sentence, 'He shall be
punished sevenfold,' which they refer to Cain. Still, however, they do
not agree together about the sense. Some trifle respecting Lamech, as we
shall soon declare. Others expound the passage of the deluge, which
happened in the seventh generation. But that is frivolous, since the
latter was not a private punishment of one family only, but a common
punishment of the human race. But this sentence ought to be read
continuously, thus, 'Whosoever killeth Cain, shall on this account, be
punished sevenfold.' And the causal particle "lachen" indicates that God
would take care to prevent any one from easily breaking in upon him to
destroy him; not because God would institute a privilege in favour of the
murderer, or would hearken to his prayers but because he would consult
for posterity, in order to the preservation of human life. The order of
nature had been awfully violated; what might be expected to happen in
future, when the wickedness and audacity of man should increase, unless
the fury of others had been restrained by a violent hand? For we know
what pestilent and deadly poison Satan presents to us in evil examples,
if a remedy be not speedily applied. Therefore, the Lord declares, if any
will imitate Cain, not only shall they have no excuse in his example, but
shall be more grievously tormented; because they ought, in his person, to
perceive how detestable is their wickedness in the sight of God.
Wherefore, they are greatly deceived who suppose that the anger of God is
mitigated when men can plead custom as an excuse for sinning; whereas it
is from that cause the more inflamed.
  "And the Lord set a mark." I have lately said, that nothing was granted
to Cain for the sake of favouring him; but for the sake of opposing, in
future, cruelty and unjust violence. And therefore, Moses now says, that
a mark was set upon Cain, which should strike terror into all; because
they might see, as in a mirrors the tremendous judgment of God against
bloody men. As Scripture does not describe what kind of mark it was,
commentators have conjectured, that his body became tremulous. It may
suffice for us, that there was some visible token which should repress in
the spectators the desire and the audacity to inflict injury.

16. "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord." Cain is said to
have departed from the presence of God, because, whereas he had hitherto
lived in the earth as in an abode belonging to God, now, like an exile
removed far from God's sight, he wanders beyond the limits of His
protection. Or certainly, (which is not less probable,) Moses represents
him as having stood at the bar of judgment till he was condemned: but
now, when God ceased to speak with him, being freed from the sense of His
presence, he hastens elsewhere and seeks a new habitation, where he may
escape the eyes of God. The land of Nod without doubt obtained its name
from its inhabitant. From its being situated on the eastern side of
Paradise, we may infer the truth of what was before stated, that a
certain place, distinguished by its pleasantness and rich abundance of
fruits, had been given to Adam for a habitation; for, of necessity, that
place must be limited, which has opposite aspects towards the various
regions of the world.

17. "And Cain knew his wife." From the context we may gather that Cain,
before he slew his brother, had married a wife; otherwise Moses would now
have related something respecting his marriage; because it would be a
fact worthy to be recorded, that any one of his sisters could be found,
who would not shrink with horror from committing herself into the hand of
one whom she knew to be defiled with a brother's blood; and while a free
choice was still given her, should rather choose spontaneously to follow
an exile and a fugitive, than to remain in her father's family. Moreover,
he relates it as a prodigy that Cain, having shaken off the terror he had
mentioned, should have thought of having children: for it is remarkable,
that he who imagined himself to have as many enemies as there were men in
the world, did not rather hide himself in some remote solitude. It is
also contrary to nature, that he being astounded with fear; and feeling
that God was opposed to him, could enjoy any pleasure. Indeed, it seems
to me doubtful, whether he had previously had any children; for there
would be nothing absurd in saying, that reference is here made especially
to those who were born after the crime was committed, as to a detestable
seed who would fully participate in the sanguinary disposition, and the
savage manners of their father. This, however, is without controversy,
that many persons, as well males as females, are omitted in this
narrative; it being the design of Moses only to follow one line of his
progeny, until he should come to Lamech. The house of Cain, therefore,
was more populous than Moses states; but because of the memorable history
of Lamech, which he is about to subjoin, he only adverts to one line of
descendents, and passes over the rest in silence.
  "He built a city." This, at first sight, seems very contrary, both to
the judgment of God, and to the preceding sentence. For Adam and the rest
of his family, to whom God had assigned a fixed station, are passing
their lives in hovels, or even under the open heaven, and seek their
precarious lodging under trees; but the exile Cain, whom God had
commanded to rove as a fugitive, not content with a private house, builds
himself a city. It is, however, probable, that the man, oppressed by an
accusing conscience, and not thinking himself safe within the walls of
his own house, had contrived a new kind of defense: for Adam and the rest
live dispersed through the fields for no other reason, than that they are
less afraid. Wherefore, it is a sign of an agitated and guilty mind, that
Cain thought of building a city for the purpose of separating himself
from the rest of men; yet that pride was mixed with his diffidence and
anxiety, appears, from his having called the city after his son. Thus
different affections often contend with each other in the hearts of the
wicked. Fear, the fruit of his iniquity, drives him within the walls of a
city, that he may fortify himself in a manner before unknown; and, on the
other hand, supercilious vanity breaks forth. Certainly he ought rather
to have chosen that his name should be buried for ever; for how could his
memory be transmitted, except to beheld in execration? Yet, ambition
impels him to erect a monument to his race in the name of his city. What
shall we here say, but that he had hardened himself against punishment,
for the purpose of holding out,in inflated obstinacy, against God?
Moreover although it is lawful to defend our lives by the fortifications
of cities and of fortresses, yet the first origin of them is to be noted,
because it is always profitable for us to behold our faults in their very
remedies. When captious men sneeringly inquire, whence Cain had brought
his architects and workmen to build his city, and whence he sent for
citizens to inhabit it? I, in return, ask of them, what authority they
have for believing that the city was constructed of squared stones, and
with great skill, and at much expense, and that the building of it was a
work of long continuance? For nothing further can be gathered from the
words of Moses, than that Cain surrounded himself and his posterity with
walls formed of the rudest materials: and as it respects the inhabitants;
that in that commencement of the fecundity of mankind, his offspring
would have grown to so great a number when it had reached his children of
the fourth generation, that it might easily form the body of one city.

19. "And Lamech took unto him two wives." We have here the origin of
polygamy in a perverse and degenerate race; and the first author of it, a
cruel man, destitute of all humanity. Whether he had been impelled by an
immoderate desire of augmenting his own family, as proud and ambitious
men are wont to be, or by mere lust, it is of little consequence to
determine; because, in either way he violated the sacred law of marriage,
which had been delivered by God. For God had determined, that "they two
should be one flesh," and that is the perpetual order of nature. Lamech,
with brutal contempt of God, corrupts nature's laws. The Lord, therefore,
willed that the corruption of lawful marriage should proceed from the
house of Cain, and from the person of Lamech, in order that polygamists
might be ashamed of the example.

20. "Jabal; he was the father of such as dwell in tents." Moses now
relates that, with the evils which proceeded from the family of Cain,
some good had been blended. For the invention of arts, and of other
things which serve to the common use and convenience of life, is a gift
of God by no means to be despised, and a faculty worthy of commendation.
It is truly wonderful, that this race, which had most deeply fallen from
integrity, should have excelled the rest of the posterity of Adam in rare
endowments. I, however, understand Moses to have spoken expressly
concerning these arts, as having been invented in the family of Cain, for
the purpose of showing that he was not so accursed by the Lord but that
he would still scatter some excellent gifts among his posterity; for it
is probable, that the genius of others was in the meantime not inactive;
but that there were, among the sons of Adam, industrious and skilful men,
who exercised their diligence in the invention and cultivation of arts.
Moses, however, expressly celebrates the remaining benediction of God on
that race, which otherwise would have been deemed void and barren of all
good. Let us then know, that the sons of Cain, though deprived of the
Spirit of regeneration, were yet endued with gifts of no despicable kind;
just as the experience of all ages teaches us how widely the rays of
divine light have shone on unbelieving nations, for the benefit of the
present life; and we see, at the present time, that the excellent gifts
of the Spirit are diffused through the whole human race. Moreover, the
liberal arts and sciences have descended to us from the heathen. We are,
indeed, compelled to acknowledge that we have received astronomy, and the
other parts of philosophy, medicines and the order of civil government,
from them. Nor is it to be doubted, that God has thus liberally enriched
them with excellent favours that their impiety might have the less
excuse. But, while we admire the riches of his favour which he has
bestowed on them, let us still value far more highly that grace of
regeneration with which he peculiarly sanctifies his elect unto himself.
  Now, although the invention of the harp, and of similar instruments of
music, may minister to our pleasure, rather than to our necessity, still
it is not to be thought altogether superfluous; much less does it
deserve, in itself, to be condemned. Pleasure is indeed to be condemned,
unless it be combined with the fear of God, and with the common benefit
of human society. But such is the nature of music, that it can be adapted
to the offices of religion, and made profitable to men; if only it be
free from vicious attractions, and from that foolish delight, by which it
seduces men from better employments, and occupies them in vanity. If,
however, we allow the invention of the harp no praise, it is well known
how far and how widely extends the usefulness of the art of the
carpenter. Finally, Moses, in my opinion, intends to teach that that race
flourished in various and preeminent endowments, which would both render
it inexcusable, and would prove most evident testimonies of the divine
goodness. The name of "the father of them that dwell in tents," is given
to him who was the first inventor of that convenience, which others
afterwards imitated.

23. "Hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech." The intention of Moses is to
describe the ferocity of this man, who was, however, the fifth in descent
from the fratricide Cain, in order to teach us, that, so far from being
terrified by the example of divine judgment which he had seen in his
ancestor, he was only the more hardened. Such is the obduracy of the
impious, that they rage against those chastisements of God, which ought
at least to render them gentle. The obscurity of this passage, which has
procured for us a variety of interpretations, mainly arises hence; that
whereas Moses speaks abruptly, interpreters have not considered what is
the tendency of his speech. The Jews have, according to their manner,
invented a foolish fable; namely, that Lamech was a hunter and blind, and
had a boy to direct his hand; that Cain, while he was concealed in the
woods, was shot through by his arrow, because the boy, talking him for a
wild beast, had directed his master's hand towards him; that Lamech then
took revenge on the boy, who, by his imprudence, had been the cause of
the murder. And ignorance of the true state of the case has caused
everyone to allow himself to conjecture what he pleased. But to me the
opinion of those seems to be true and simple, who resolve the past tense
into the future, and understand its application to be indefinite; as if
he had boasted that he had strength and violence enough to slay any, even
the strongest enemy. I therefore lead thus, 'I will slay a man for my
wound, and a young man for my bruise,' or 'in my bruise and wound.' But,
as I have said, the occasion of his holding this conversation with his
wives is to be noticed. We know that sanguinary men, as they are a terror
to others, so are they everywhere hated by all. The wives, therefore, of
Lamech were justly alarmed on account of their husband, whose violence
was intolerable to the whole human race, lest, a conspiracy being formed,
all should unite to crush him, as one deserving of public odium and
execration. Now Moses, to exhibit his desperate barbarity, seeing that
the soothing arts of wives are often wont to mitigate cruel and ferocious
men, declares that Lamech cast forth the venom of his cruelty into the
bosom of his wives. The sum of the whole is this: He boasts that he has
sufficient courage and strength to strike down any who should dare to
attack him. The repetition occurring in the use of the words 'man' and
'young man' is according to Hebrew phraseology, so that none should think
different persons to be denoted by them; he only amplifies, in the second
member of the sentence, his furious audacity, when he glories that young
men in the flower of their age would not be equal to contend with him: as
if he would say, Let each mightiest man come forward, there is none whom
I will not dispatch.' So far was he from calming his wives with the hope
of his leading a more humane life, that he breaks forth in threats of
sheer indiscriminate slaughter against every one, like a furious wild
beast. Whence it easily appears, that he was so imbued with ferocity as
to have retained nothing human. The nouns wound and bruise may be
variously read. If they be rendered 'for my wound and bruise,' then the
sense will be, 'I confidently take upon my own head whatever danger there
may be, let what will happen it shall be at my expense; for I have a
means of escape at hand.' Then what follows must be read in connection
with it, "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and
seven fold." If the ablative case be preferred, 'In my wound and bruise,'
there will still be a double exposition. The first is, 'Although I should
be wounded, I would still kill the man; what then will I not do when I am
whole?' The other, and, in my judgment, the sounder and more consistent
exposition, is, 'If any one provoke me by injury, or attempt any act of
violence, he shall feel that he has to deal with a strong and valiant
man; nor shall he who injures me escape with impunity.' This example
shows that men ever glide from bad to worse. The wickedness of Cain was
indeed awful; but the cruelty of Lamech advanced so far that he was
unsparing of human blood. Besides, when he saw his wives struck with
terror, instead of becoming mild, he only sharpened and confirmed himself
the more in cruelty. Thus the brutality of cruel men increases in
proportion as they find themselves hated; so that instead of being,
touched with penitence, they are ready to bury one murder under ten
others. Whence it follows that they having once become imbued with blood,
shed it, and drink its without restraint.

24. "Cain shall be avenged sevenfold." It is not my intention to relate
the ravings or the dreams of every writer, nor would I have the reader to
expect this from me; here and there I allude to them, though sparingly,
especially if there be any colour of deception; that readers, being often
admonished, may learn to take heed unto themselves. Therefore, with
respect to this passages which has been variously tortured, I will not
record what one or another may have delivered, but will content myself
with a true exposition of it. God had intended that Cain should be a
horrible example to warn others against the commission of murder; and for
this end had marked him with a shameful stigma. Yet lest any one should
imitate his crime, He declared whosoever killed him should be punished
with sevenfold severity. Lamech, impiously perverting this divine
declaration, mocks its severity; for he hence takes greater license to
sin, as if God had granted some singular privilege to murderers; not that
he seriously thinks so, but being destitute of all sense of piety, he
promises himself impunity, and in the meantime jestingly uses the name of
God as an excuse: just as Dionysus did, who boasted that the gods favour
sacrilegious persons, for the sake of obliterating the infamy which he
had contracted. Moreover, as the number seven in Scripture designates a
multitudes so sevenfold is taken for a very great increase. Such is the
meaning of the declaration of Christ, 'I do not say that thou shalt remit
the offence seven times, but seventy times seven,' (Matth. 18: 22.)

25. "Adam knew his wife again." Some hence infer that our first parents
were entirely deprived of their offspring when one of their sons had been
slain, and the other was cast far away into banishment. But it is utterly
incredible that, when the benediction of God in the propagation of
mankind was in its greatest force, Adam and Eve should have been through
so many years unfruitful. But rather before Abel was slain, the continual
succession of progeny had already rendered the house of Adam populous;
for in him and his wife especially the effect of that declaration ought
to be conspicuous, "Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth."
What, therefore, does Moses mean? Truly, that our first parents,
horror-struck at the impious slaughter, abstained for a while from the
conjugal bed. Nor could it certainly be otherwise, than that they, in
reaping this exceedingly sad and bitter fruit of their apostasy from God,
should sink down almost lifeless. The reason why he now passes by others
is that he designed to trace the generation of pious descendants through
the line of Seth. In the following chapter, however, where he will say,
that "Adam begat sons and daughters," he undoubtedly includes a great
number who had been born before Seth; to whom, however, but little regard
is paid since they were separated from that family which worshipped God
in purity, and which might truly be deemed the Church of God.
  "God", saith she, "has appointed me another seed instead of Abel." Eve
means some peculiar seed; for we have said that others had been born who
had also grown up before the death of Abel; but, since the human race is
prone to evil, nearly her whole family had, in various ways, corrupted
itself; therefore, she entertained slight hope of the remaining
multitude, until God should raise up to her a new seed, of which she
might expect better things. Wherefore, she regarded herself as bereaved
not of one son only, but of her whole offspring, in the person of Abel.

26. "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." In the verb 'to
call upon,' there is a synecdoche, for it embraces generally the whole
worship of God. But religion is here properly designated by that which
forms its principal part. For God prefers this service of piety and faith
to all sacrifices, (Psalm 50: 14.) Yea, this is the spiritual worship of
God which faith produces. This is particularly worthy of notice, because
Satan contrives nothing with greater care than to adulterate, with every
possible corruption, the pure invocation of God, or to draw us away from
the only God to the invocation of creatures. Even from the beginning of
the world he has not ceased to move this stone, that miserable men might
weary themselves in vain in a preposterous worship of God. But let us
know, that the entire pomp of adoration is nothing worth, unless this
chief point of worshipping God aright be maintained. Although the passage
may be more simply explained to mean, that then the name of God was again
celebrated; yet I approve the former sense, because it is more full,
contains a useful doctrine, and also agrees with the accustomed
phraseology of Scripture. It is a foolish figment, that God then began to
be called by other names; since Moses does not here censure depraved
superstitions, but commends the piety of one family which worshipped God
in purity and holiness, when religions among other people, was polluted
or extinct. And there is no doubt, that Adam and Eve, with a few other of
their children were themselves true worshippers of God; but closes means,
that so great was then the deluge of impiety in the world that religion
was rapidly hastening to destruction; because it remained only with a few
men, and did not flourish in any one race. We may readily conclude that
Seth was an upright and faithful servant of God. And after he begat a
son, like himself, and had a rightly constituted family, the face of the
Church began distinctly to appear, and that worship of God was set up
which might continue to posterity. Such a restoration of religion has
been effected also in our time; not that it had been altogether extinct;
but there was no certainly defined people who called upon God; and, no
sincere profession of faith, no uncorrupted religion could anywhere be
discovered. Whence it too evidently appears how great is the propensity
of men, either to gross contempt of God, or to superstition; since both
evils must then have everywhere prevailed, when Moses relates it as a
miracles that there was at that time a single family in which the worship
of God arose.

Chapter V.

1 This [is] the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God
created man, in the likeness of God made he him;
2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their
name Adam, in the day when they were created.
3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat [a son] in his
own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:
4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred
years: and he begat sons and daughters:
5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years:
and he died.
6 And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos:
7 And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and
begat sons and daughters:
8 And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he
9 And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan:
10 And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years,
and begat sons and daughters:
11 And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he
12 And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel:
13 And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty
years, and begat sons and daughters:
14 And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he
15 And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared:
16 And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty
years, and begat sons and daughters:
17 And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five
years: and he died.
18 And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch:
19 And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat
sons and daughters:
20 And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and
he died.
21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred
years, and begat sons and daughters:
23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
24 And Enoch walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him.
25 And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat
26 And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and
two years, and begat sons and daughters:
27 And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years:
and he died.
28 And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son:
29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This [same] shall comfort us
concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which
the LORD hath cursed.
30 And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five
years, and begat sons and daughters:
31 And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years:
and he died.
32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and

1. "This is the book of the generations of Adam." In this chapter Moses
briefly recites the length of time which had intervened between the
creation of the world and the deluge; and also slightly touches on some
portion of the history of that period. And although we do not comprehend
the design of the Spirit, in leaving unrecorded great and memorable
events, it is, nevertheless, our business to reflect on many things which
are passed over in silence. I entirely disapprove of those speculations
which every one frames for himself from light conjectures; nor will I
furnish readers with the occasion of indulging themselves in this
respect; yet it may, in some degree, be gathered from a naked and
apparently dry narration, what was the state of those times, as we shall
see in the proper places. "The book," according to the Hebrew phrase, is
taken for a catalogue. "The generations" signify a continuous succession
of a race, or a continuous progeny. Further, the design with which this
catalogue was made, was, to inform us, that in the great, or rather, we
might say, prodigious multitude of men, there was always a number, though
small, who worshipped God; and that this number was wonderfully preserved
by celestial guardianship, lest the name of God should be entirely
obliterated, and the seed of the Church should fail.
  "In the day that God created." He does not restrict these "generations"
to the day of the creation, but only points out their commencement; and,
at the same time, he distinguishes between our first parents and the rest
of mankind, because God had brought them into life by a singular method,
whereas others had sprung from a previous stock, and had been born of
parents. Moreover, Moses again repeats what he had before stated that
Adam was formed according to the image of God, because the excellency and
dignity of this favour could not be sufficiently celebrated. It was
already a great thing, that the principal place among the creatures was
given to man; but it is a nobility far more exalted, that he should bear
resemblance to his Creator, as a son does to his father. It was not
indeed possible for God to act more liberally towards man, than by
impressing his own glory upon him, thus making him, as it were, a living
image of the Divine wisdom and justice. This also is of force in
repelling the calumnies of the wicked who would gladly transfer the blame
of their wickedness to their Maker, had it not been expressly declared,
that man was formed by nature a different being from that which he has
now become, through the fault of his own defection from God.

2. "Male and female created he them." This clause commends the sacred
bond of marriage, and the inseparable union of the husband and the wife.
For when Moses has mentioned only one, he immediately afterwards includes
both under one name. And he assigns a common name indiscriminately to
both, in order that posterity might learn more sacredly to cherish this
connection between each other, when they saw that their first parents
were denominated as one person. The trifling inference of Jewish writers,
that married persons only are called Adam, (or man,) is refuted by the
history of the creation; nor truly did the Spirit, in this place, mean
anything else, than that after the appointment of marriage, the husband
and the wife were like one man. Moreover, he records the blessing
pronounced upon them, that we may observe in it the wonderful kindness of
God in continuing to grant it; yet let us know that by the depravity and
wickedness of men it was, in some degree, interrupted.

3. "And begat a son in his own likeness." We have lately said that Moses
traces the offspring of Adam only through the line of Seth, to propose
for our consideration the succession of the Church. In saying that Seth
begat a son after his own image, he refers in part to the first origin of
our nature: at the same time its corruption and pollution is to be
noticed, which having been contracted by Adam through the fall, has
flowed down to all his posterity. If he had remained upright, he would
have transmitted to all his children what he had received: but now we
read that Seth, as well as the rest, was defiled; because Adams who had
fallen from his original state, could beget none but such as were like
himself. If any one should object that Seth with his family had been
elected by the special grace of God: the answer is easy and obvious;
namely, that a supernatural remedy does not prevent carnal generation
from participating in the corruption of sin. Therefore, according to the
flesh, Seth was born a sinner; but afterwards he was renewed by the grace
of the Spirit. This sad instance of the holy patriarch furnishes us with
ample occasion to deplore our own wretchedness.

4. "And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth." In the number of
years here recorded we must especially consider the long period which the
patriarchs lived together. For through six successive ages, when the
family of Seth had grown into a great people, the voice of Adam might
daily resound, in order to renew the memory of the creation, the fall,
and the punishment of man; to testify of the hope of salvation which
remained after chastisement, and to recite the judgments of God, by which
all might be instructed. After his death his sons might indeed deliver,
as from hand to hand, what they had learned, to their descendants; but
far more efficacious would be the instruction from the mouth of him, who
had been himself the eyewitness of all these things. Yet so wonderful,
and even monstrous, was the general obstinacy, that not even the sounder
part of the human race could be retained in the obedience and the fear of

5. "And he died." This clause, which records the death of each patriarch,
is by no means superfluous. For it warns us that death was not in vain
denounced against men; and that we are now exposed to the curse to which
man was doomed, unless we obtain deliverance elsewhere. In the meantime,
we must reflect upon our lamentable condition; namely, that the image of
God being destroyed, or, at least, obliterated in us, we scarcely retain
the faint shadow of a life, from which we are hastening to death. And it
is useful, in a picture of so many ages, to behold, at one glance, the
continual course and tenor of divine vengeance; because otherwise, we
imagine that God is in some way forgetful; and to nothing are we more
prone than to dream of immortality on earth, unless death is frequently
brought before our eyes.

22. "And Enoch walked with God." Undoubtedly Enoch is honoured with
peculiar praise among the men of his own age, when it is said that he
walked with God. Yet both Seth and Enoch, and Cainan, and Mahalaleel, and
Jared, were then living, whose piety was celebrated in the former part of
the chapter. As that age could not be ruder or barbarous, which had so
many most excellent teachers; we hence infer, that the probity of this
holy man, whom the Holy Spirit exempted from the common order, was rare
and almost singular. Meanwhile, a method is here pointed out of guarding
against being carried away by the perverse manners of those with whom we
are conversant. For public custom is as a violent tempest; both because
we easily suffer ourselves to be led hither and thither by the multitude,
and because every one thinks what is commonly received must be right and
lawful; just as swine contract an itching from each other; nor is there
any contagion worse, and more loathsome than that of evil examples. Hence
we ought the more diligently to notice the brief description of a holy
life, contained in the words, "Enoch walked with God." Let those, then,
who please, glory in living according to the custom of others; yet the
Spirit of God has established a rule of living well and rightly, by which
we depart from the examples of men who do not form their life and manners
according to the law of God. For he who, pouring contempt upon the word
of God, yields himself up to the imitation of the world, must be regarded
as living to the devil. Moreover, (as I have just now hinted,) all the
rest of the patriarchs are not deprived of the praise of righteousness;
but a remarkable example is set before us in the person of one man, who
stood firmly in the season of most dreadful dissipation; in order that,
if we wish to live rightly and orderly, we may learn to regard God more
than men. For the language which Moses uses is of the same force as if he
had said, that Enoch, lest he should be drawn aside by the corruptions of
men, had respect to God alone; so that with a pure conscience, as under
his eyes, he might cultivate uprightness.

24. "And he was not, for God took him." He must be shamelessly
contentious, who will not acknowledge that something extraordinary is
here pointed out. All are, indeed, taken out of the world by death; but
Moses plainly declares that Epoch was taken out of the world by an
unusual mode, and was received by the Lord in a miraculous manner. For
"lakach" among the Hebrews signifies 'to take to one's self,' as well as
simply to take. But, without insisting on the word, it suffices to hold
fast the thing itself; namely, that Enoch, in the middle period of life,
suddenly, and in an unexampled method, vanished from the sight of men,
because the Lord took him away, as we read was also done with respect to
Elijah. Since, in the translation of Enoch, an example of immortality was
exhibited; there is no doubt that Gad designed to elevate the minds of
his saints with certain faith before their death; and to mitigate, by
this consolation, the dread which they might entertain of death, seeing
they would know that a better life was elsewhere laid up for them. It is,
however, remarkable that Adam himself was deprived of this support of
faith and of comfort. For since that terrible judgment of God, 'Thou
shalt die the death,' was constantly sounding in his ears, he very
greatly needed some solace, in order that he might in death have
something else to reflect upon than curse and destruction. But it was not
till about fifty years after his death, that the translation of Epoch
took place, which was to be as a visible representation of a blessed
resurrection; by which, if Adam had been enlightened, he might have
girded himself with equanimity for his own departure. Yet, since the
Lord, in inflicting punishment, had moderated its rigour, and since Adam
himself had heard from his own mouth, what was sufficient to afford him
no slight alleviation; contented with this kind of remedy, it became his
duty patiently to bear, both the continual cross in this world, and also
the bitter and sorrowful termination of his life. But whereas others were
not taught in the same manner by a manifest oracle to hope for victory
over the serpent, there was, in the translation of Enoch, an instruction
for all the godly, that they should not keep their hope confined within
the boundaries of this mortal life. For Moses shows that this translation
was a proof of the Divine love towards Enoch, by connecting it
immediately with his pious and upright life. Nevertheless, to be deprived
of life is not in itself desirable. It follows, therefore, that he was
taken to a better abode; and that even when he was a sojourner in the
world, he was received into a heavenly country; as the Apostle, in the
Epistle to the Hebrews, (11: 5,) plainly teaches. Moreover, if it be
inquired, why Enoch was translated, and what is his present condition; I
answer, that his transition was by a peculiar privilege, such as that of
other men would have been, if they had remained in their first state. For
although it was necessary for him to put off what was corruptible; yet
was he exempt from that violent separation, from which nature shrinks. In
short, his translation was a placid and joyful departure out of the
world. Yet he was not received into celestial glory, but only freed from
the miseries of the present life, until Christ should come, the
first-fruits of those who shall rise again. And since he was one of the
members of the Church, it was necessary that he should wait until they
all shall go forth together, to meet Christ, that the whole body may be
united to its Head. Should any one bring as an objection the saying of
the Apostle, 'It is appointed unto all men once to die,' (Heb. 9: 27,)
the solution is easy, namely, that death is not always the separation of
the soul from the body; but they are said to die, who put off their
corruptible nature: and such will be the death of those who will be found
surviving at the last day.

29. "And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us
concerning our work." In the Hebrew languages the etymology of the verb
"nacham" does not correspond with the noun "noach", unless we call the
letter "mem" superfluous; as sometimes, in composition, certain letters
are redundant. "Noach" signifies to give rest, but "nacham" to comfort.
The name Noah is derived from the former verb. Wherefore, there is either
the transmutation of one letter into another, or only a bare allusion,
when Lamech says, "This same shall comfort us concerning our work." But
as to the point in hand, there is no doubt that he promises to himself an
alleviation, or solace, of his labours. But it is asked, whence he had
conceived such hope from a son whose disposition he could not yet have
discerned. The Jews do not judge erroneously in declaring Lamech's
expression to be a prophecy; but they are too gross in restricting to
agriculture what is applicable to all those miseries of human life which
proceed from the curse of God, and are the fruits of sin. I come, indeed,
to this conclusion; that the holy fathers anxiously sighed, when, being
surrounded with so many evils they were continually reminded of the first
origin of all evils, and regarded themselves as under the displeasure of
God. Therefore in the expression, "the toil of our hands," there is the
figure synecdoche; because under one kind of toil he comprises the whole
miserable state into which mankind had fallen. For they undoubtedly
remembered what Moses has related above, concerning the labourious, sad,
and anxious life to which Adam had been doomed: and since the wickedness
of man was daily increasing, no mitigation of the penalty could be hoped
for, unless the Lord should bring unexpected succour. It is probable that
they were very earnestly looking for the mercy of God; for their faith
was strong, and necessity urged them ardently to desire help. But that
the name was not rashly given to Noah, we may infer hence, that Moses
expressly notes it as a thing worthy to be remembered. Certainly some
meaning was couched under the names of other patriarchs; yet he passes by
the reason why they were so called, and only insists upon this name of
Noah. Therefore the contentious reader is not to be allowed hence to
pronounce a judgment, that there was something peculiar in Noah, which
did not suit others before him. I have, then, no doubt that Lamech hoped
for something rare and unwonted from his son; and that, too, by the
inspiration of the Spirit. Some suppose him to have been deceived,
inasmuch as he believed that Noah was the Christ; but they adduce no
rational conjecture in support of the opinion. It is more probable, that,
seeing something great was promised concerning his son, he did not
refrain from mixing his own imagination with the oracle; as holy men are
also sometimes wont to exceed the measure of revelation, and thus it
comes to pass, that they neither touch heaven nor earth.

32. "And Noah was five hundred years old." Concerning the fathers whom
Moses has hitherto enumerated, it is not easy to conjecture whether each
of them was the first born of his family or not; for he only wished to
follow the continued succession of the Church. But God, to prevent men
from being elated by a vain confidence in the flesh, frequently chooses
for himself those who are posterior in the order of nature. I am,
therefore, uncertain whether Moses has recorded the catalogue of those
whom God preferred to others; or of those who, by right of primogeniture,
held the chief rank among their brethren; I am also uncertain how many
sons each had. With respect to Noah, it plainly appears that he had no
more than three sons; and this Moses purposely declares the more
frequently, that we may know that the whole of his family was preserved.
But they, in my opinion, err, who think that in this place the chastity
of Noah is proclaimed, because he led a single life through nearly five
centuries. For it is not said that he was unmarried till that time; nor
even in what year of his life he had begun to be a father. But, in simply
mentioning the time in which he was warned of the future deluge, Moses
also adds, that at the sane time, or thereabouts, he was the father of
three sons; not that he already had them, but because they were born not
long afterwards. That he had, indeed, survived his five hundredth year
before Shem was born, will be evident from the eleventh chapter;
concerning the other two nothing is known with certainty, except that
Japheth was the younger. It is wonderful that from the time when he had
received the dreadful message respecting the destruction of the human
race, he was not prevented, by the greatness of his grief, from
intercourse with his wife; but it was necessary that some remains should
survive, because this family was destined for the restoration of the
second world. Although we do not read at what time his sons took wives, I
yet think it was done long before the deluge; but they were unfruitful by
the providence of God, who had determined to preserve only eight souls.

Chapter VI.

1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the
earth, and daughters were born unto them,
2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they [were] fair;
and they took them wives of all which they chose.
3 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.
4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when
the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare
[children] to them, the same [became] mighty men which [were] of old, men
of renown.
5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and
[that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil
6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it
grieved him at his heart.
7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face
of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls
of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
9 These [are] the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man [and] perfect
in his generations, [and] Noah walked with God.
10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with
12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all
flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for
the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will
destroy them with the earth.
14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and
shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
15 And this [is the fashion] which thou shalt make it [of]: The length of
the ark [shall be] three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits,
and the height of it thirty cubits.
16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish
it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof;
[with] lower, second, and third [stories] shalt thou make it.
17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to
destroy all flesh, wherein [is] the breath of life, from under heaven;
[and] every thing that [is] in the earth shall die.
18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into
the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.
19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every [sort] shalt thou
bring into the ark, to keep [them] alive with thee; they shall be male
and female.
20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every
creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every [sort] shall
come unto thee, to keep [them] alive.
21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt
gather [it] to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.
22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

1. "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply." Moses, having
enumerated in order, ten patriarchs, with whom the worship of God
remained pure, now relates, that their families also were corrupted. But
this narration must be traced to an earlier period than the five
hundredth year of Noah. For, in order to make a transition to the history
of the deluge, he prefaces it by declaring the whole world to have been
so corrupt, that scarcely anything was left to God, out of the widely
spread defection. That this may be the more apparent, the principle is to
be kept in memory, that the world was then as if divided into two parts;
because the family of Seth cherished the pure and lawful worship of Good,
from which the rest had fallen. Now, although all mankind had been formed
for the worship of God, and therefore sincere religion ought everywhere
to have reigned; yet since the greater part had prostituted itself,
either to an entire contempt of God, or to depraved superstitions; it was
fitting that the small portion which God had adopted, by special
privilege, to himself, should remain separate from others. It was,
therefore, base ingratitude in the posterity of Seth, to mingle
themselves with the children of Cain, and with other profane races;
because they voluntarily deprived themselves of the inestimable grace of
God. For it was an intolerable profanation, to pervert, and to confound,
the order appointed by God. It seems at first sight frivolous, that the
sons of God should be so severely condemned, for having chosen for
themselves beautiful wives from the daughters of men. But we must know
first, that it is not a light crime to violate a distinction established
by the Lord; secondly, that for the worshippers of God to be separated
from profane nations, was a sacred appointment which ought reverently to
have been observed, in order that a Church of God might exist upon earth;
thirdly, that the disease was desperate, seeing that men rejected the
remedy divinely prescribed for them. In short, Moses points it out as the
most extreme disorder; when the sons of the pious, whom God had separated
to himself from others, as a peculiar and hidden treasure, became
  That ancient figment, concerning the intercourse of angels with women,
is abundantly refuted by its own absurdity; and it is surprising that
learned men should formerly have been fascinated by ravings so gross and
prodigious. The opinion also of the Chaldean paraphrase is frigid;
namely, that promiscuous marriages between the sons of nobles, and the
daughters of plebeians, is condemned. Moses, then, does not distinguish
the sons of God from the daughters of men, because they were of
dissimilar nature, or of different origin; but because they were the sons
of God by adoption, whom he had set apart for himself; while the rest
remained in their original condition. Should any one object, that they
who had shamefully departed from the faith, and the obedience which God
required, were unworthy to be accounted the sons of God; the answer is
easy, that the honour is not ascribed to them, but to the grace of God,
which had hitherto been conspicuous in their families. For when Scripture
speaks of the sons of God, sometimes it has respect to eternal election,
which extends only to the lawful heirs; sometimes to external vocations
according to which many wolves are within the fold; and thought in fact,
they are strangers, yet they obtain the name of sons, until the Lord
shall disown them. Yea, even by giving them a title so honorable, Moses
reproves their ingratitude, because, leaving their heavenly Father, they
prostituted themselves as deserters.

2. "That they were fair." Moses does not deem it worthy of condemnation
that regard was had to beauty, in the choice of wives; but that mere lust
reigned. For marriage is a thing too sacred to allow that men should be
induced to it by the lust of the eyes! For this union is inseparable
comprising all the parts of life; as we have before seen, that the woman
was created to be a helper of the man. Therefore our appetite becomes
brutal, when we are so ravished with the charms of beauty, that those
things which are chief are not taken into the account. Moses more clearly
describes the violent impetuosity of their lust, when he says, that "they
took wives of all that they chose;" by which he signifies, that the sons
of God did not make their choice from those possessed of necessary
endowments, but wandered without discrimination, rushing onward according
to their lust. We are taught, however, in these words, that temperance is
to be used in holy wedlock, and that its profanation is no light crime
before God. For it is not fornication which is here condemned in the sons
of the saints, but the too great indulgence of license in choosing
themselves wives. And truly, it is impossible but that, in the succession
of time, the sons of God should degenerate when they thus bound
themselves in the same yoke with unbelievers. And this was the extreme
policy of Balaam; that, when the power of cursing was taken from him, he
commanded women to be privily sent by the Midianites, who might seduce
the people of God to impious defection. Thus, as in the sons of the
patriarchs, of whom Moses now treats, the forgetfulness of that grace
which had been divinely imparted to them was, in itself, a grievous evil,
inasmuch as they formed illicit marriages after their own host; a still
worse addition was made, when, by mingling themselves with the wicked,
they profaned the worship of God, and fell away from the faith; a
corruption which is almost always wont to follow the former.

3. "My Spirit shall not always strive." Although Moses had before shown
that the world had proceeded to such a degree of wickedness and impiety,
as ought not any longer to be borne; yet in order to prove more
certainly, that the vengeance by which the whole world was drowned, was
not less just than severe, he introduces God himself as the speaker. For
there is greater weight in the declaration when pronounced by God's own
mouth, that the wickedness of men was too deplorable to leave any
apparent hope of remedy, and that therefore there was no reason why he
should spare them. Moreover, since this would be a terrible example of
divine anger, at the bare hearing of which we are even now afraid, it was
necessary to be declared, that God had not been impelled by the heat of
his anger into precipitation, nor had been more severe than was right;
but was almost compelled, by necessity, utterly to destroy the whole
world, except one single family. For men commonly do not refrain from
accusing God of excessive haste; nay, they will even deem him cruel for
taking vengeance of the sins of men. Therefore, that no man may murmur,
Moses here, in the person of God, pronounces the depravity of the world
to have been intolerable, and obstinately incurable by any remedy. This
passage, however, is variously expounded. In the first place, some of the
Hebrews derive the word which Moses uses from the root "nadan" which
signifies a scabbard. And hence they elicit the meaning that God was
unwilling for his Spirit to be any longer held captive in a human body,
as if enclosed like a sword in the scabbard. But because the exposition
is distorted, and savours of the delirium of the Manichees, as if the
soul of man were a portion of the Divine Spirit, it is by us to be
rejected. Even among the Jews, it is a more commonly received opinion,
that the word in question is from the root "doon". But since it often
means to judge, and sometimes to litigate, hence also arise different
interpretations. For some explain the passage to mean, that God will no
longer deign to govern men by his Spirit; because the Spirit of God acts
the part of a judge within us, when he so enlightens us with reason that
we pursue what is right. Luther, according to his custom, applies the
term to the external jurisdiction which God exercises by the ministry of
the prophets, as if some one of the patriarchs had said in an assembly,
'We must cease from crying aloud; because it is an unbecoming thing that
the Spirit of God, who speaks through us, should any longer weary himself
in reproving the world.' This is indeed ingeniously spoken; but because
we must not seek the sense of Scripture in uncertain conjectures, I
interpret the words simply to mean, that the Lord, as if wearied with the
obstinate perverseness of the world, denounces that vengeance as present,
which he had hitherto deferred. For as long as the Lord suspends
punishment, he, in a certain sense, strives with men, especially if
either by threats or by examples of gentle chastisement, he invites them
to repentance. In this way he had striven already, some centuries, with
the world, which, nevertheless, was perpetually becoming worse. And now,
as if wearied out, he declares that he has no mind to contend any longer.
For when God, by inviting the unbelievers to repentance, had long striven
with them; the deluge put an end to the controversy. However, I do not
entirely reject the opinion of Luther that God, having seen the
deplorable wickedness of men, would not allow his prophets to spend their
labour in vain. But the general declaration is not to be restricted to
that particular case. When the Lord says, 'I will not contend for ever,'
he utters his censure on an excessive and incurable obstinacy; and, at
the same time, gives proof of the divine longsuffering: as if he would
say, There will never be an end of contentions unless some unprecedented
act of vengeance cuts off the occasion of it. The Greek interpreters,
deceived by the similitude of one letter to another have improperly read,
'shall not remain:' which has commonly been explained, as if men were
then deprived of a sound and correct judgment; but this has nothing to do
with the present passage.
  "For that he also is flesh." The reason is added why there is no
advantage to be expected from further contention. The Lord here seems to
place his Spirit in opposition to the carnal nature of men. In which
method, Paul declares that the 'natural man does not receive those things
which belong to the Spirit, and that they are foolishness unto him,' (1
Cor. 2: 14.) The meaning of the passage therefore is, that it is in vain
for the Spirit of God to dispute with the flesh, which is incapable of
reason. God gives the name of flesh as a mark of ignominy to men, whom
he, nevertheless, had formed in his own image. And this is a mode of
speaking familiar to Scripture. They who restrict this appellation to the
inferior part of the soul are greatly deceived. For since the soul of man
is vitiated in every part, and the reason of man is not less blind than
his affections are perverse, the whole is properly called carnal.
Therefore, let us know, that the whole man is naturally flesh, until by
the grace of regeneration he begins to be spiritual. Now, as it regards
the words of Moses, there is no doubt that they contain a grievous
complaint together with a reproof on the part of God. Man ought to have
excelled all other creatures, on account of the mind with which he was
endued; but now, alienated from right reason, he is almost like the
cattle of the field. Therefore God inveighs against the degenerate and
corrupt nature of men; because, by their own fault, they are fallen to
that degree of fatuity, that now they approach more nearly to beasts than
to true men, such as they ought to be, in consequence of their creation.
He intimates, however, this to be an adventitious fault, that man has a
relish only for the earth, and that, the light of intelligence being
extinct, he follows his own desires. I wonder that the emphasis contained
in the particle "beshagam" has been overlooked by commentators; for the
words mean, 'on this account, because he also is flesh.' In which
language God complains, that the order appointed by him has been so
greatly disturbed, that his own image has been transformed into flesh.
  "Yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." Certain writers
of antiquity, such as Lactantius, and others, have too grossly blundered
in thinking that the term of human life was limited within this space of
time; whereas, it is evident, that the language used in this place refers
not to the private life of any one, but to a time of repentance to be
granted to the whole world. Moreover, here also the admirable benignity
of God is apparent, in that he, though wearied with the wickedness of
men, yet postpones the execution of extreme vengeance for more than a
century. But here arises an apparent discrepancy. For Noah departed this
life when he had completed nine hundred and fifty years. It is however
said that he lived from the time of the deluge three hundred and fifty
years. Therefore, on the day he entered the ark he was six hundred years
old. Where then will the twenty years be found? The Jews answer, that
these years were cut off in consequence of the increasing wickedness of
men. But there is no need of that subterfuge; when the Scripture speaks
of the five hundredth year of his age, it does not affirm, that he had
actually reached that point. And this mode of speaking, which takes into
account the beginning of a period, as well as its end, is very common.
Therefore, inasmuch as the greater part of the fifth century of his life
was passed, so that he was nearly five hundred years old, he is said to
have been of that age.

4. "There were giants in the earth." Among the innumerable kinds of
corruptions with which the earth was filled, Moses especially records one
in this place; namely that giants practiced great violence and tyranny. I
do not, however, suppose, that he speaks of all the men of this age; but
of certain individuals, who, being stronger than the rest, and relying on
their own might and power, exalted themselves unlawfully, and without
measure. As to the Hebrew noun,
"nefilim", its origin is known to be from the verb "naphal", which is to
fall; but grammarians do not agree concerning its etymology. Some think
that they were so called because they exceeded the common stature;
others, because the countenance of men fell at the sight of them, on
account of the enormous size of their body; or, because all fell
prostrate through terror of their magnitude. To me there seems more truth
in the opinion of those who say, that a similitude is taken from a
torrent, or an impetuous tempest; for as a storm and torrent, violently
falling, lays waste and destroys the fields, so these robbers brought
destruction and desolation into the world. Moses does not indeed say,
that they were of extraordinary stature, but only that they were robust.
Elsewhere, I acknowledge, the same word denotes vastness of stature,
which was formidable to those who explored the land of Canaan, (Num. 13:
33.) But Moses does not distinguish those of whom he speaks in this
place, from other men, so much by the size of their bodies, as by their
robberies and their lust of dominion. In the context, the particle
"wegam", which is interposed, is emphatical. Jerome, after whom certain
other interpreters have blundered, has rendered this passage in the worst
possible manner. For it is literally rendered thus, 'And even after the
sons of God had gone in to the daughters of men;' as if he had said,
Moreover, or, 'And at this time.' For in the first place, Moses relates
that there were giants; then he subjoins, that there were also others
from among that promiscuous offspring, which was produced when the sons
of God mingled themselves with the daughters of men. It would not have
been wonderful if such outrage had prevailed among the posterity of Cain;
but the universal pollution is more clearly evident from this, that the
holy seed was defiled by the same corruption. That a contagion so great
should have spread through the few families which ought to have
constituted the sanctuary of God, is no slight aggravation of the evil.
The giants, then, had a prior origin; but afterwards those who were born
of promiscuous marriages imitated their example.
  "The same became mighty men which were of old." The word 'age' is
commonly understood to mean antiquity: as if Moses had said, that they
who first exercised tyranny or power in the world, together with an
excessive licentiousness and an unbridled lust of dominion, had begun
from this race. Yet there are those who expound the expression, 'from the
age,' to mean, in the presence of the world: for the Hebrew word "olam",
has also this signification. Some think that this was spoken
proverbially; because the age immediately posterior to the deluge had
produced none like them. The first exposition is the more simple; the sum
of the whole, however, is, that they were ferocious tyrants, who
separated themselves from the common rank. Their first fault was pride;
because, relying on their own strength, they arrogated to themselves more
than was due. Pride produced contempt of God, because, being inflated by
arrogance, they began to shake off every yoke. At the same time, they
were also disdainful and cruel towards men; because it is not possible
that they, who would not bear to yield obedience to God, should have
acted with moderation towards men. Moses adds they were "men of renown;"
by which he intimates that they boasted of their wickedness, and were
what are called, honorable robbers. Nor is it to be doubted, that they
had something more excellent than the common people, which procured for
them favour and glory in the world. Nevertheless, under the magnificent
title of heroes, they cruelly exercised dominion, and acquired power and
fame for themselves, by injuring and oppressing their brethren. And this
was the first nobility of the world. Lest any one should too greatly
delight himself in a long and dingy line of ancestry; this, I repeat, was
the nobility, which raised itself on high, by pouring contempt and
disgrace on others. Celebrity of name is not in itself condemned; since
it is necessary that they whom the Lord has adorned with peculiar gifts
should be preeminent among others; and it is advantageous that there
should be distinction of ranks in the world. But as ambition is always
vicious and more especially so when joined with a tyrannical ferocity,
which causes the more powerful to insult the weak, the evil becomes
intolerable. It is, however, much worse, when wicked men gain honour by
their crimes; and when, the more audacious any one is in doing injury,
the more insolently he boasts of the empty smoke of titles. Moreover, as
Satan is an ingenious contriver of falsehoods, by which he would corrupt
the truth of God, and in this manner render it suspected, the poets have
invented many fables concerning the giants; who are called by them the
sons of the Earth, for this reason, as it appears to me, because they
rushed forward to acquire dominions without any example of their

5. "And God saw that tee wickedness of man was great." Moses prosecutes
the subject to which he had just alluded, that God was neither too harsh,
nor precipitate in exacting punishment from the wicked men of the world.
And he introduces God as speaking after the manner of men, by a figure
which ascribes human affections to God; because he could not otherwise
express what was very important to be known; namely, that God was not
induced hastily, or for a slight cause, to destroy the world. For by the
word "saw", he indicates long continued patience; as if he would say,
that God had not proclaimed his sentence to destroy men, until after
having well observed, and long considered, their case, he saw them to be
past recovery. Also, what follows has not a little emphasis, that 'their
wickedness was great in the earth.' He might have pardoned sins of a less
aggravated character: if in one part only of the world impiety had
reigned, other regions might have remained free from punishment. But now,
when iniquity has reached its highest point, and so pervaded the whole
earth, that integrity possesses no longer a single corner; it follows,
that the time for punishment is more than fully arrived. A prodigious
wickedness, then, everywhere reigned, so that the whole earth was covered
with it. Whence we perceive that it was not overwhelmed with a deluge of
waters till it had first been immersed in the pollution of wickedness.
  "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart." Moses has traced the
cause of the deluge to external acts of iniquity, he now ascends higher,
and declares that men were not only perverse by habit, and by the custom
of evil living; but that wickedness was too deeply seated in their
hearts, to leave any hope of repentance. He certainly could not have more
forcibly asserted that the depravity was such as no moderate remedy might
cure. It may indeed happen, that men will sometimes plunge themselves
into sin, while yet something of a sound mind will remain; but Moses
teaches us, that the mind of those, concerning whom he speaks, was so
thoroughly imbued with iniquity, that the whole presented nothing but
what was to be condemned. For the language he employs is very emphatical:
it seemed enough to have said, that their heart was corrupt: but not
content with this word, he expressly asserts, "every imagination of the
thoughts of the heart;" and adds the word "only," as if he would deny
that there was a drop of good mixed with it.
  "Continually." Some expound this particle to mean, from commencing
infancy; as if he would say, the depravity of men is very great from the
time of their birth. But the more correct interpretation is, that the
world had then become so hardened in its wickedness, and was so far from
any amendment, or from entertaining any feeling of penitence, that it
grew worse and worse as time advanced; and further, that it was not the
folly of a few days, but the inveterate depravity which the children,
having received, as by hereditary right, transmitted from their parents
to their descendants. Nevertheless, though Moses here speaks of the
wickedness which at that time prevailed in the world, the general
doctrine is properly and consistently hence elicited. Nor do they rashly
distort the passage who extend it to the whole human race. So when David
says, 'That all have revolted, that they are become unprofitable, that
is, none who does good, no not one; their throat is an open sepulchre;
there is no fear of God before their eyes,' (Ps. 5: 10, and 14: 3;) he
deplores, truly, the impiety of his own age; yet Paul (Rom. 3: 12) does
not scruple to extend it to all men of every age: and with justice; for
it is not a mere complaint concerning a few men, but a description of the
human mind when left to itself, destitute of the Spirit of God. It is
therefore very proper that the obstinacy of the men, who had greatly
abused the goodness of Gods should be condemned in these words; yet, at
the same time, the true nature of man, when deprived of the grace of the
Spirit, is clearly exhibited.

6. "And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth." The
repentance which is here ascribed to God does not properly belong to him,
but has reference to our understanding of him. For since we cannot
comprehend him as he is, it is necessary that, for our sakes he should,
in a certain sense, transform himself. That repentance cannot take place
in God, easily appears from this single considerations that nothing
happens which is by him unexpected or unforeseen. The same reasoning, and
remark, applies to what follows, that God was affected with grief.
Certainly God is not sorrowful or sad; but remains forever like himself
in his celestial and happy repose: yet, because it could not otherwise be
known how great is God's hatred and detestation of sin, therefore the
Spirit accommodates himself to our capacity. Wherefore, there is no need
for us to involve ourselves in thorny and difficult questions, when it is
obvious to what end these words of repentance and grief are applied;
namely, to teach us, that from the time when man was so greatly
corrupted, God would not reckon him among his creatures; as if he would
say, 'This is not my workmanship; this is not that man who was formed in
my image, and whom I had adorned with such excellent gifts: I do not
deign now to acknowledge this degenerate and defiled creature as mine.'
Similar to this is what he says, in the second place, concerning grief;
that God was so offended by the atrocious wickedness of men, as if they
had wounded his heart with mortal grief: There is here, therefore, an
unexpressed antithesis between that upright nature which had been created
by God, and that corruption which sprung from sin. Meanwhile, unless we
wish to provoke God, and to put him to grief, let us learn to abhor and
to flee from sin. Moreover, this paternal goodness and tenderness ought,
in no slight degree, to subdue in us the love of sin; since God, in order
more effectually to pierce our hearts, clothes himself with our
affections. This figure, which represents God as transferring to himself
what is peculiar to human nature, is called "antroopopateia".

7. "And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the
face of the earth, both man and beast, &c." He again introduces God as
deliberating, in order that we may the better know that the world was not
destroyed without mature counsel on the part of God. For the Spirit of
the Lord designed that we should be diligently admonished on this point,
in order that he might cut off occasion for those impious complaints,
into which we should be otherwise too ready to break forth. The word
"said" here means decreed; because God utters no voice, without having
inwardly determined what he would do. Besides, he had no need of new
counsel, according to the manner of men, as if he were forming a judgment
concerning something recently discovered. But all this is said in
consideration of our infirmity; that we may cleverly think of the deluge,
but it shall immediately occur to us that the vengeance of God was just.
Moreover, God, not content with the punishment of man, proceeds even to
beasts, and cattle, and fowls and every kind of living creatures. In
which he seems to exceed the bounds of moderation: for although the
impiety of men is hateful to him, yet to what purpose is it to be angry
with unoffending animals? But it is not wonderful that those animals,
which were created for man's sake, and lived for his use, should
participate in his ruin: neither asses, nor oxen, nor any other animals,
had done evil; yet being in subjection to man when he fell, they were
drawn with him into the same destruction. The earth was like a wealthy
house, well supplied with every kind of provision in abundance and
variety. Now, since man has defiled the earth itself with his crimes, and
has vilely corrupted all the riches with which it was replenished, the
Lord also designed that the monument of his punishment should there be
placed: just as if a judge, about to punish a most wicked and nefarious
criminal, should, for the sake of greater infamy, command his house to be
razed to the foundation. And this all tends to inspire us with a dread of
sin; for we may easily infer how great is its atrocity, when the
punishment of it is extended even to the brute creation.

8. "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." This is a Hebrew
phrase, which signifies that God was propitious to him, and favoured him.
For so the Hebrews are accustomed to speak:--'If I have found grace in
thy sight,' instead of, 'If I am acceptable to thee,' or, 'If thou wilt
grant me thy benevolence or favor.' Which phrase requires to be noticed,
because certain unlearned men infer with futile subtlety, that if men
find grace in God's sight, it is because they seek it by their own
industry and merits. I acknowledge, indeed, that here Noah is declared to
have been acceptable to God, because, by living uprightly and homily, he
kept himself pure from the common pollutions of the world; whence,
however, did he attain this integrity, but from the preventing grace of
God? The commencement, therefore, of this favour was gratuitous mercy.
Afterwards, the Lord, having once embraced him, retained him under his
own hand, lest he should perish with the rest of the world.

9. "These are the generations of Noah." The Hebrew word "toledot"
properly means generation. It has, however, sometimes a more extended
sense, and applies to the whole history of life; this indeed seems to be
its meaning in the present place. For when Moses had stated that one man
was found whom God,--when he had determined to destroy the whole world,--
would yet preserve, he briefly describes what kind of person he was. And,
in the first place, asserts, that he was just and upright among the men
of his age: for here is a different Hebrew noun, "dor", which signifies
an age, or the time of a life. The word "tamim" which the ancient
interpreter is accustomed to translate perfect, is of the same force as
upright or sincere; and is opposed to what is deceitful, pretended, and
vain. And Moses does not rashly connect these two things together; for
the world, being always influenced by external splendour, estimates
justice, not by the affection of the heart, but by bare works. If,
however, we desire to be approved by God, and accounted righteous before
him, we must not only regulate our hands, and eyes, and feet, in
obedience to his Law; but integrity of heart is above all things
required, and holds the chief place in the true definition of
righteousness. Let us, however, know that they are called just and
upright, not who are in every respect perfect, and in whom there is no
defect; but who cultivate righteousness purely, and from their heart.
Because we are assured that God does not act towards his own people with
the rigour of justice, as requiring of them a life according to the
perfect rule of the Law; for, if only no hypocrisy reigns within them,
but the pure love of rectitude flourishes, and fills their hearts, he
pronounces them, according to his clemency, to be righteous.
  The clause, "in his generations," is emphatical. For he has already
often said, and will soon repeat it, that nothing was more corrupt than
that age. Therefore, it was a remarkable instance of constancy, that Noah
being surrounded on every side with the filth of iniquity, should hence
have contracted no contagion. We know how great is the force of custom,
so that nothing is more difficult than to live homily among the wicked,
and to avoid being led away by their evil examples. Scarcely is there one
in a hundred who has not in his mouth that diabolical proverb, 'We must
howl when we are among the wolves;' and the greater part,--framing a rule
for themselves from the common practice,--judge everything to be lawful
which is generally received. As, however, the singular virtue of Noah is
here commended; so let us remember that we are instructed what we ought
to do, though the whole world were rushing to its own destruction. If, at
the present time, the morals of men are so vitiated, and the whole mode
of life so confused, that probity has become most rare; still more vile
and dreadful was the confusion in the time of Noah, when he had not even
one associate in the worship of God, and in the pursuit of holiness. If
he could bear up against the corruptions of the whole world, and against
such constant and vehement assaults of iniquity; no excuse is left for
us, unless, with equal fortitude of mind, we prosecute a right course
through innumerable obstacles of vice. It is not improbable that Moses
uses the word generations in the plural number, the more fully to declare
what a strenuous and invincible combatant Noah was, who, through so many
ages, had remained unaltered. Besides, the manner of cultivating
righteousness, which he had adopted is explained in the context; namely
that he had "walked with God," which excellency he had also commended in
the holy father Enoch, in the preceding chapter, where we have stated
what the expression means. When the corruption of morals was so great in
the earth, if Noah had had respect to man, he would have been cast into a
profound labyrinth. He sees, therefore, this to be his only remedy;
namely, to disregard men, that he may fix all his thoughts on God, and
make Him the sole Arbiter of his life. Whence it appears, how foolishly
the Papists clamour that we ought to follow the fathers; when the Spirit
expressly recalls us from the imitation of men, except so far as they
lead us to God. Moses again mentions his three sons, for the purpose of
showing that, in the greatest sorrow by which he was almost consumed, he
was yet able to have offspring, in order that God might have a small
remnant of seed for himself.

11. "The earth also was corrupt before God." In the former clause of this
verse Moses describes that impious contempt of God, which had left no
longer any religion in the world; but the light of equity being extinct,
all men had plunged into sin. In the second clause he declares, that the
love of oppression, that frauds, injuries, rapines, and all kinds of
injustice, prevailed. And these are the fruits of impiety, that men, when
they have revolted from God,--forgetful of mutual equity among
themselves,--are carried forward to insane ferocity, to rapines, and to
oppressions of all sorts. God again declares that he had seen this; in
order that he may commend his longsuffering to us. The earth is here put
for its inhabitants; and the explanation immediately follows, 'that all
flesh had corrupted its way.' Yet the word flesh is not here understood
as before, in a bad sense; but is meant for men, without any mark of
censure: as in other places of Scripture, 'All flesh shall see the glory
of the Lord,' (Isaiah 40: 5.) 'Let all flesh be silent before the Lord,'
(Zech. 2: 13.)

13. "And God said unto Noah." Here Moses begins to relate how Noah would
be preserved. And first, he says, that the counsel of God respecting the
destruction of the world was revealed to him. Secondly, that the command
to build the ark was given. Thirdly, that safety was promised him, if, in
obedience to God, he would take refuge in the ark. These chief points are
to be distinctly noted; even as the Apostle, when he proclaims the faith
of Noah, joins fear and obedience with confidence, (Heb. 11: 7.) And it
is certain that Noah was admonished of the dreadful vengeance which was
approaching; not only in order that he might be confirmed in his holy
purpose, but that, being constrained by fear, he might the more ardently
seek for the favour offered to him. We know that the impunity of the
wicked is sometimes the occasion of alluring even the good to sin: the
denunciation, therefore, of future punishment ought to be effectual in
restraining the mind of a holy man; lest, by gradual declension, he
should at length relax to the same lasciviousness. Yet God had special
reference to the other point; namely, that by keeping continually in view
the terrible destruction of the world, Noah might be more and more
excited to fear and solicitude. For it was necessary, that in utter
despair of help from any other quarter, he should seek his safety, by
faith, in the ark. For so long as life was promised to him on earth,
never would he have been so intent as he ought, in the building of the
ark; but, being alarmed by the judgment of God, he earnestly embraces the
promise of life given unto him. He no longer relies upon the natural
causes or means of life; but rests exclusively on the covenant of God, by
which he was to be miraculously preserved. No labour is now troublesome
or difficult to him; nor is he broken down by long fatigue. For the spur
of God's anger pierces him too sharply to allow him to sleep in carnal
delights, or to faint under temptations, or to be delayed in his course
by vain hope: he rather stirs himself up, both to flee from sin, and to
seek a remedy. And the Apostle teaches, that it was not the least part of
his faith, that through the fear of those things which were not seen he
prepared an ark. When faith is treated of simply, mercy and the
gratuitous promise come into the account; but when we wish to express all
its parts, and to canvass its entire force and nature, it is necessary
that fear also should be joined with it. And, truly no one will ever
seriously resort to the mercy of God, but he who, having been touched
with the threatening of God, shall dread that judgment of eternal death
which they denounce, shall abhor himself on account of his own sins,
shall not carelessly indulge his vices, nor slumber in his pollution; but
shall anxiously sigh for the remedy of his evils. This was, truly, a
peculiar privilege of grace, that God warned Noah of the future deluge.
Indeed, he frequently commands his threatening to be proposed to the
elect, and reprobate, in common; that by inviting both to repentance, he
may humble the former, and render the latter inexcusable. But while the
greater part of mankind, with deaf ears, reject whatever is spoken, he
especially turns his discourse to his own people, who are still curable,
that by the fear of his judgment he may train them to piety. The
condition of the wicked might at that time seem desirable, in comparison
with the anxiety of holy Noah. They were securely flattering themselves
in their own delights; for we know what Christ declares concerning the
luxury of that period, (Luke 17: 26.) Meanwhile, the holy man, as if the
world were every moment going to ruin, groaned anxiously and sorrowfully.
But if we consider the end; God granted an inestimable benefit to his
servant, in denouncing to him a danger, of which he must beware.
  "The earth is filled with violence through them." God intimates that
men were to be taken away, in order that the earth, which had been
polluted by the presence of beings so wicked, might be purified.
Moreover, in speaking only of the iniquity and violence, of the frauds
and rapines, of which they were guilty towards each other; he does it,
not as if he were intending to remit his own claims upon them, but
because this was a more gross and palpable demonstration of their

14. "Make thee an ark of gopher wood." Here follows the command to build
the ark, in which God wonderfully proved the faith and obedience of his
servant. Concerning its structure, there is no reason why we should
anxiously inquire, except so far as our own edification is concerned.
First, the Jews are not agreed among themselves respecting the kind of
wood of which it was made. Some explain the word gopher to be the cedar;
others, the fir-tree; others, the pine. They differ also respecting the
stories; because many think that the sink was in the fourth place, which
might receive the refuse and other impurities. Others make five chambers
in a triple floor, of which they assign the highest to the birds. There
are those who suppose that it was only three stories in height; but that
these were separated by intermediate divisions. Besides, they do not
agree about the window: to some it appears that there was not one window
only, but many. Some say they were open to receive air; but others
contend that they were only made for the sake of light, and therefore
were covered over with crystal, and lined with pitch. To me it seems more
probable, that there was only one, not cut out for the sake of giving
light; but to remain shut, unless occasion required it to be opened, as
we shall see afterwards. Further, that there was a triple story, and
rooms separated in a manner to us unknown. The question respecting its
magnitude is more difficult. For, formerly, certain profane men ridiculed
Moses, as having imagined that so vast a multitude of animals was shut up
in so small a space; a third part of which would scarcely contain four
elephants. Origin solves this question, by saying that a geometrical
cubit was referred to by Moses, which is six times greater than the
common one; to whose opinion Augustine assents in his fifteenth book on
the 'City of God,' and his first book of 'Questions on Genesis.' I grant
what they allege, that Moses, who had been educated in all the science of
the Egyptians, was not ignorant of geometry; but since we know that Moses
everywhere spoke in a homely style, to suit the capacity of the people,
and that he purposely abstained from acute disputations, which might
savour of the schools and of deeper learning; I can by no means persuade
myself, that, in this place, contrary to his ordinary method, he employed
geometrical subtlety. Certainly, in the first chapter, he did not treat
scientifically of the stars, as a philosopher would do; but he called
them, in a popular manner, according to their appearance to the
uneducated, rather than according to truth, "two great lights." Thus we
may everywhere perceive that he designates things, of every kind by their
accustomed names. But what was then the measure of the cubit I know not;
it is, however, enough for me, that God (whom, without controversy, I
acknowledge to be the chief builder of the ark) well knew what things the
place which he described to his servant was capable of holding. If you
exclude the extraordinary power of God from this history, you declare
that mere fables are related. But, by us, who confess that the remains of
the world were preserved by an incredible miracle, it ought not to be
regarded as an absurdity, that many wonderful things are here related, in
order that hence the secret and incomprehensible power of God, which far
surpasses all our senses, may be the more clearly exhibited. Porphyry or
some other caviler, may object, that this is fabulous, because the reason
of it does not appear; or because it is unusual; or because it is
repugnant to the common order of nature. But I make the rejoinder; that
this entire narration of Moses, unless it were replete with miracles
would be colds and trifling, and ridiculous. He, however, who will
reflect aright upon the profound abyss of Divine omnipotence in this
history, will rather sink in reverential awe, than indulge in profane
mockery. I purposely pass over the allegorical application which
Augustine makes of the figure of the ark to the body of Christ, both in
his fifteenth book of 'The City of God,' and his twelfth book against
Faustus; because I find there scarcely anything solid. Origin still more
boldly sports with allegories: but there is nothing more profitable, than
to adhere strictly to the natural treatment of things. That the ark was
an image of the Church is certain, from the testimony of Peter, (1 Peter
3: 21;) but to accommodate its several parts to the Church, is by no
means suitable, as I shall again show, in its proper place.

18. "But with thee will I establish my covenant." Since the construction
of the ark was very difficult, and innumerable obstacles might
perpetually arise to break off the work when begun, God confirms his
servant by a super added promise. Thus was Noah encouraged to obey God;
seeing that he relied on the Divine promise, and was confident that his
labour would not be in vain. For then do we freely embrace the commands
of God, when a promise is attached to them, which teaches us that we
shall not spend our strength for nought. Whence it appears how foolishly
the Papists are deceived, who triflingly argue, that men are led away by
the doctrine of faith from the desire of doing well. For what will be the
degree of our alacrity in well-doing, unless faith enlighten us? Let us
therefore know, that the promises of God alone, are they which quicken
us, and inspire each of our members with vigour to yield obedience to
God: but that without these promises, we not only lie torpid in
indolence, but are almost lifeless, so that neither hands nor feet can do
their duty. And hence, as often as we become languid, or more remiss than
we ought to be, in good works, let the promises of God recur to us, to
correct our tardiness. For thus, according to the testimony of Paul,
(Col. 1: 5,) love flourishes in the saints, on account of the hope laid
up for them in heaven. It is especially necessary that the faithful
should be confirmed by the word of God, lest they faint in the midst of
their course; to the end that they may certainly be assured that they are
not beating the air, as they say; but that, acquiescing in the promise
given them, and being sure of success, they follow God who calls them.
This connection, then, is to be borne in mind, that when God was
instructing his servant Moses what he would have him do, he declares, for
the purpose of retaining him in obedience to himself, that he requires
nothing of him in vain. Now, the sum of this covenant of which Moses
speaks was, that Noah should be safe, although the whole world should
perish in the deluge. For there is an understood antithesis, that the
whole world being rejected, the Lord would establish a peculiar covenant
with Noah alone. Wherefore, it was the duty of Noah to oppose this
promise of God, like a wall of iron, against all the terrors of death;
just as if it were the purpose of God, by this sole word, to discriminate
between life and death. But the covenant with him is confirmed, with this
condition annexed, that his family shall be preserved for his sake; and
also the brute animals, for the replenishing of the new world; concerning
which I shall say more in the ninth chapter.

19. "And of every living thing of all flesh." "All flesh" is the name he
gives to animals of whatsoever kind they may be. He says they went in two
and two; not that a single pair of each kind was received into the ark,
(for we shall soon see that there were three pairs of the clean kinds,
and one animal over, which Noah afterwards offered in sacrifice;) but
whereas here mention is made only of offspring, he does not expressly
state the number, but simply couples males with females, that Noah might
hence perceive how the world was to be replenished.

22. "Thus did Noah." In a few words, but with great sublimity, Moses here
commends the faith of Noah. The unskilful wonder that the apostle (Heb.
11: 7) makes him "heir of the righteousness which is by faith." As if,
truly, all the virtues, and whatsoever else was worthy of praise in this
holy man, had not sprung from this fountain. For we ought to consider the
assaults of temptation to which his breast was continually exposed.
First, the prodigious size of the ark might have overwhelmed all his
senses, so as to prevent him from raising a finger to begin the work. Let
the reader reflect on the multitude of trees to be felled, on the great
labour of conveying them, and the difficulty of joining them together.
The matter was also long deferred; for the holy man was required to be
engaged more than a hundred years in most troublesome labour. Nor can we
suppose him to have been so stupid, as not to reflect upon obstacles of
this kind. Besides, it was scarcely to be hoped, that the men of his age
would patiently bear with him, for promising himself an exclusive
deliverance, attended with ignominy to themselves. Their unnatural
ferocity has been before mentioned; there can therefore be no doubt that
they would daily provoke modest and simpleminded men, even without cause.
But here was a plausible occasion for insult; since Noah, by felling
trees on all sides, was making the earth bare, and defrauding them of
various advantages. It is a common proverb, that perverse and contentious
men will dispute about an ass's shadow. What, then, might Noah think,
would those fierce Cyclops do for the shadow of so many trees; who, being
practiced in every kind of violence, would seize with eagerness on all
sides an occasion of exercising cruelty? But this was what chiefly tended
to inflame their rage, that he, by building an asylum for himself,
virtually doomed them all to destruction. Certainly, unless they had been
restrained by the mighty hand of God, they would have stoned the holy man
a hundred times; still it is probable, that their vehemence was not so
far repressed, as to prevent them from frequently assailing him with
scoffs and derision, from heaping upon him many reproaches, and pursuing
him with grievous threats. I even think, that they did not restrain their
hands from disturbing his work. Therefore, although he may have addressed
himself with alacrity to the work committed to him; yet his constancy
might have failed more than a thousand times, in so many years, unless it
had been firmly rooted. Moreover, as the work itself appeared
impracticable, it may be further asked, Whence were provisions for the
year to be obtained? Whence food for so many animals? He is commanded to
lay up what will suffice for food during ten months for his whole family
for cattle, and wild beasts, and even for birds. Truly, it seems absurd,
that after he has been disengaged from agriculture, in order to build the
ark, he should be commanded to collect a two-years' store of provision;
but much more trouble attended the providing of food for animals. He
might therefore have suspected that God was mocking him. His last work
was to gather animals of all kinds together. As if, indeed, he had all
the beasts of the forest at his command, or was able to tame them; so
that, in his keeping, wolves might dwell with lambs, tigers with hares,
lions with oxen--as sheep in his fold. But the most grievous temptation
of all was, that he was commanded to descend, as into the grave, for the
sake of preserving his life, and voluntarily to deprive himself of air
and vital spirit; for the smell of dung alone pent up, as it was, in a
closely filled place, might, at the expiration of three days, have
stifled all the living creatures in the ark. Let us reflect on these
conflicts of the holy man--so severe, and multiplied and long-continued--
in order that we may know how heroic was his courage, in prosecuting, to
the utmost, what God had commanded him to do. Moses, indeed, says in a
single word that he did it; but we must consider how far beyond all human
power was the doing of it: and that it would have been better to die a
hundred deaths, than to undertake a work so labourious, unless he had
looked to something higher than the present life. A remarkable example,
therefore, of obedience is here described to us; because, Noah,
committing himself entirely to God, rendered Him due honour. We know, in
this corruption of our nature, how ready men are to seek subterfuges, and
how ingenious in inventing pretexts for disobedience to God. Wherefore,
let us also learn to break through every kind of impediment, and not to
give place to evil thoughts, which oppose themselves to the word of God,
and with which Satan attempts to entangle our minds, that they may not
obey the command of God. For God especially demands this honour to be
given to himself, that we should suffer him to judge for us. And this is
the true proof of faith, that we, being content with one of his commands,
gird ourselves to the work, so that we do not swerve in our course,
whatever obstacle Satan may place in our way, but are borne on the wings
of faith above the world. Moses also shows, that Noah obeyed God, not in
one particular only, but in all. Which is diligently to be observed;
because hence, chiefly, arises dreadful confusion in our life, that we
are not able, unreservedly to submit ourselves to God; but when we have
discharged some part of our duty, we often blend our own feelings with
his word. But the obedience of Noah is celebrated on this, account, that
it was entire, not partial; so that he omitted none of those things which
God had commanded.

Chapter VII.

1 And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark;
for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and
his female: and of beasts that [are] not clean by two, the male and his
3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep
seed alive upon the face of all the earth.
4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty
days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I
destroy from off the face of the earth.
5 And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him.
6 And Noah [was] six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon
the earth.
7 And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with
him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.
8 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that [are] not clean, and of fowls, and
of every thing that creepeth upon the earth,
9 There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the
female, as God had commanded Noah.
10 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood
were upon the earth.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the
seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the
great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the
sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them,
into the ark;
14 They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their
kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his
kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort.
15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh,
wherein [is] the breath of life.
16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God
had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.
17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased,
and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.
18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth;
and the ark went upon the face of the waters.
19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high
hills, that [were] under the whole heaven, were covered.
20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were
21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of
cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the
earth, and every man:
22 All in whose nostrils [was] the breath of life, of all that [was] in
the dry [land], died.
23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of
the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl
of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only
remained [alive], and they that [were] with him in the ark.
24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.

1. "And the Lord said unto Noah." I have no doubt that Noah was
confirmed, as he certainly needed to be, by oracles frequently repeated.
He had already sustained, during one hundred years, the greatest and most
furious assaults; and the invincible combatant had achieved memorable
victories; but the most severe contest of all was, to bid farewell to the
world, to renounce society and to bury himself in the ark. The face of
the earth was, at that time, lovely; and Moses intimates that it was the
season in which the herbs shoot forth and the trees begin to flourish.
Winter, which binds the joy of sky and earth in sharp and rugged frost,
has now passed away; and the Lord has chosen the moment for destroying
the world, in the very season of spring. For Moses states that the
commencement of the deluge was in the second month. I know, however, that
different opinions prevail on this subject; for there are three who begin
the year from the autumnal equinox; but that mode of reckoning the year
is more approved, which makes it commence in the month of March. However
this might be, it was no light trial for Noah to leave of his own accord,
the life to which he had been accustomed during six hundred years, and to
seek a new mode of life in the abyss of death. He is commanded to forsake
the world, that he may live in a sepulchre which he had been labouriously
digging for himself through more than a hundred years. Why was this?
Because, in a little while, the earth was to be submerged in a deluge of
waters. Yet nothing of the kind is apparent: all indulge in feasts,
celebrate nuptials, build sumptuous houses; in short, everywhere,
daintiness and luxury prevail; as Christ himself testifies, that that age
was intoxicated with its own pleasures, (Luke 17: 26.) Wherefore, it was
not without reason, that the Lord encouraged and fortified the mind of
his servant afresh, by the renewal of the promise, lest he should faint;
as if he would says 'Hitherto thou hast laboured with fortitude amid so
many causes of offence; but now the case especially demands that thou
shouldst take courage, in order to reap the fruit of thy labour: do not,
however, wait till the waters burst forth on every side from the opened
veins of the earth, and till the higher waters of heaven, with opposing
violence, rush from their opened cataracts; but while everything is yet
tranquil, enter into the ark, and there remain till the seventh day, then
suddenly shall the deluge arise.' And although oracles are not now
brought down from heaven, let us know that continual meditation on the
word is not ineffectual; for as new difficulties perpetually arise before
us, so God, by one and another promise, establishes our faith, so that
our strength being renewed, we may at length arrive at the goal. Our
duty, indeed, is, attentively to hear God speaking to us; and neither
through depraved fastidiousness, to reject those exercises, by which He
cherishes, or excites, or confirms our faith, according as he knows it to
be still tender, or languishing, or weak; nor yet to reject them as
superfluous. "For thee have I seen righteous." When the Lord assigns as
his reason for preserving Noah, that he knew him to be righteous, he
seems to attribute the praise of salvation to the merit of works; for if
Noah was saved because he was righteous, it follows, that we shall
deserve life by good works. But here it behaves us cautiously to weigh
the design of God; which was to place one man in contrast with the whole
world, in order that, in his person, he might condemn the unrighteousness
of all men. For he again testifies, that the punishment which he was
about to inflict on the world was just, seeing that only one man was left
who then cultivated righteousness, for whose sake he was propitious to
his whole family. Should any one object, that from this passage, God is
proved to have respect to works in saving men, the solution is ready;
that this is not repugnant to gratuitous acceptance, since God accepts
those gifts which he himself has conferred upon his servants. We must
observe, in the first place, that he loves men freely, inasmuch as he
finds nothing in them but what is worthy of hatred, since all men are
born the children of wrath, and heirs of eternal malediction. In this
respect he adopts them to himself in Christ, and justifies them by his
mere mercy. After he has, in this manner, reconciled them unto himself,
he also regenerates them, by his Spirit, to new life and righteousness.
Hence flow good works, which must of necessity be pleasing to God
himself. Thus he not only loves the faithful but also their works. We
must again observe, that since some fault always adheres to our works, it
is not possible that they can be approved, except as a matter of
indulgence. The grace, therefore, of Christ, and not their own dignity or
merit, is that which gives worth to our works. Nevertheless, we do not
deny that they come into the account before God: as he here acknowledges
and accepts the righteousness of Noah which had proceeded from his own
grace; and in this manner (as Augustine speaks) he will crown his own
gifts. We nay further notice the expression, "I have seen thee righteous
before me;" by which words, he not only annihilates all that hypocritical
righteousness which is destitute of interior sanctity of heart, but
vindicates his own authority; as if he would declare, that he alone is a
competent judge to estimate righteousness. The clause, "in this
generation," is added, as I have said, for the sake of amplification; for
so desperate was the depravity of that age, that it was regarded as a
prodigy, that Noah should be free from the common infection.

2. "Of every clean beast." He again repeats what he had before said
concerning animals, and not without occasion. For there was no little
difficulty in collecting from woods, mountains, and caves, so great a
multitude of wild beasts, many species of which were perhaps altogether
unknown; and there was, in most of them, the same ferocity which we now
perceive. Wherefore, God encourages the holy man, lest being alarmed with
that difficulty, and having cast aside all hope of success, he should
fail. Here, however, at first sight, appears some kind of contradiction,
because whereas he before had spoken of pairs of animals, he now speaks
of sevens. But the solution is at hand; because, previously, Moses does
not state the number, but only says that females were added as companions
to the males; as if he had said, Noah himself was commanded not to gather
the animals promiscuously together, but to select pairs out of them for
the propagation of offspring. Now, however, the discourse is concerning
the actual number. Moreover, the expression, "by sevens," is to be
understood not of seven pairs of each kind, but of three pairs, to which
one animal is added for the sake of sacrifice. Besides, the Lord would
have a threefold greater number of clean animals than of others
preserved, because there would be a greater necessity of them for the use
of man. In which appointment, we must consider the paternal goodness of
God towards us, by which he is inclined to have regard to us in all

3. "To keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth." That is, that
hence offspring might be born. But this is referred to Noah; for
although, properly speaking, God alone gives life, yet God here refers to
those duties which he had enjoined upon his servant: and it is with
respect to his appointed office, that God commands him to collect animals
that he may keep seed alive. Nor is this extraordinary, seeing that the
ministers of the gospel are said, in a sense, to confer spiritual life.
In the clause which next follows, "upon the face of all the earth," there
is a twofold consolation: that the waters, after they had covered the
earth for a time, would again cease, so that the dry surface of the earth
should appear; and then, that not only should Noah himself survive, but,
by the blessing of God, the number of animals should be so increased, as
to spread far and wide through the whole world. Thus, in the midst of
ruin, future restoration is promised to him. Moses is very earnest in
showing that God took care, by every means, to retain Noah in obedience
to his word, and that the holy man entirely acquiesced. This doctrine is
very useful, especially when God either promises or threatens anything
incredible, since men do not willingly receive what seems to them
improbable. For nothing was less accordant with the judgment of the
flesh, than that the world should be destroyed by its Creator; because
this was to subvert the whole order of nature which he had established.
Wherefore, unless Noah had been well admonished of this terrible judgment
of God, he never would have ventured to believe it; lest he should
conceive of God as acting in contradiction to himself. The word "haykum",
which Moses here uses has its origin from a word signifying to stand; but
it properly means whatever lives and flourishes.

5. "And Noah did according to all that the Lord commanded." This is not a
bare repetition of the former sentence; but Moses commends Noah's uniform
tenor of obedience in keeping all God's commandments; as if he would say,
that in whatever particular it pleased God to try his obedience, he
always remained constant. And, certainly, it is not becoming to obey one
or another commandment of God only, so that when we have performed a
defective obedience, we should feel at liberty to withdraw; for we must
keep in memory the declaration of James, 'He who forbade thee to kill,
forbade thee also to steal, and to commit adultery,' (James 2: 11.)

6. "And Noah was six hundred years old." It is not without reason that he
again mentions the age of Noah. For old age has this among other evils,
that it renders men more indolent and morose; whence the faith of Noah
was the more conspicuous, because it did not fail him in that advanced
period of life. And as it was a great excellence, not to languish through
successive centuries, so big promptitude deserves no little commendation;
because, being commanded to enter the ark, he immediately obeyed. When
Moses shortly afterwards subjoins, that he had entered on account of the
waters of the deluge, the words ought not to be expounded, as if he were
compelled, by the rushing of the waters, to flee into the ark; but that
he, being moved with fear by the word, perceived by faith the approach of
that deluge which all others ridiculed. Wherefore, his faith is again
commended in this place, because, indeed, he raised his eyes above heaven
and earth.

8. "Of clean beasts." Moses now explains,--what had before been
doubtful,--in which manner the animals were gathered together into the
ark, and says that they came of their own accord. If this should seem to
any one absurd, let him recall to mind what was said before, that in the
beginning every kind of animals presented themselves to Adam, that he
might give them names. And, truly, we dread the sight of wild beasts from
no other cause than this, that seeing we have shaken off the yoke of God,
we have lost that authority over them with which Adam was endued. Now, it
was a kind of restoration of the former state of things when God brought
to Noah those animals which he intended should be preserved through
Noah's labour and service. For Noah retained the untamed animals in his
ark, in the very same way in which hens and geese are preserved in a
coop. And it is not superfluously added, that the animals themselves
came, as God had instructed Noah; for it shows that the blessing of God
rested on the obedience of Noah, so that his labour should not be in
vain. It was impossible, humanly speaking, that in a moment such an
assemblage of all animals should take place; but because Noah, simply
trusting the event with God, executed what was enjoined upon him; God, in
return, gave power to his own precept, that it might not be without
effect. Properly speaking, this was a promise of God annexed to his
commands. And, therefore, we must conclude, that the faith of Noah
availed more, than all snares and nets, for the capture of animals; and
that, by the very same gate, lions, and wolves, and tigers, meekly
entered, with oxen, and with lambs, into the ark. And this is the only
method by which we may overcome all difficulties; while,--being
persuaded, that what is impossible to us is easy to God,--we derive
alacrity from hope. It has before been stated that the animals entered in
by pairs. We have also related the different opinions of interpreters
respecting the month in which the deluge took place. For since the
Hebrews begin their year in sacred things from March, but in earthly
affairs from September; or,--which is the same thing,--since the two
equinoxes form with them a double commencement of the year, some think
that the sacred year, and some the political, is here intended. But
because the former method of reckoning the years was Divinely appointed,
and is also more agreeable to nature, it seems probable that the deluge
began about the time of spring.

11. "The same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up."
Moses recalls the period of the first creation to our memory; for the
earth was originally covered with water; and by the singular kindness of
God, they were made to recede, that some space should be left clear for
living creatures. And this, philosophers are compelled to acknowledge,
that it is contrary to the course of nature for the waters to subside, so
that some portion of the earth might rise above them. And Scripture
records this among the miracles of God, that he restrains the force of
the sea, as with barriers, lest it should overwhelm that part of the
earth which is granted for a habitation to men. Moses also says, in the
first chapter, that some waters were suspended above in the heaven; and
David, in like manner, declares, that they are held enclosed as in a
bottle. Lastly, God raised for men a theatre in the habitable region of
the earth; and caused, by his secret power, that the subterraneous waters
should not break forth to overwhelm us, and the celestial waters should
not conspire with them for that purpose. Now, however, Moses states, that
when God resolved to destroy the earth by a deluge, those barriers were
torn up. And here we must consider the wonderful counsel of God; for he
might have deposited, in certain channels or veins of the earth, as much
water as would have sufficed for all the purposes of human life; but he
has designedly placed us between two graves, lest, in fancied security,
we should despise that kindness on which our life depends. For the
element of water, which philosophers deem one of the principles of life,
threatens us with death from above and from beneath, except so far as it
is restrained by the hand of God. In saying that the fountains were
broken up, and the cataracts opened, his language is metaphorical, and
means, that neither did the waters flow in their accustomed manner, nor
did the rain distil from heaven; but that the distinctions which we see
had been established by God, being now removed, there were no longer any
bars to restrain the violent irruption.

12. "And the rain was upon the earth." Although the Lord burst open the
floodgates of the waters, yet he does not allow them to break forth in a
moment, so as immediately to overwhelm the earth, but causes the rain to
continue forty days; partly, that Noah, by long meditation, might more
deeply fix in his memory what he had previously learned, by instruction,
through the word; partly, that the wicked, even before their death, might
feel that those warnings which they had held in derision, were not empty
threats. For they who had so long scorned the patience of God, deserved
to feel that they were gradually perishing under that righteous judgment
of his, which, during a hundred years, they had treated as a fable. And
the Lord frequently so tempers his judgments, that men may have leisure
to consider with more advantage those judgments which, by their sudden
eruption, might overcome them with astonishment. But the wonderful
depravity of our nature shows itself in this, that if the anger of God is
suddenly poured forth, we become stupefied and senseless; but if it
advances with measured pace, we become so accustomed to it as to despise
it; because we do not willingly acknowledge the hand of God without
miracles; and because we are easily hardened, by a kind of superinduced
insensibility, at the sight of God's works.

13. "In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, &c." A repetition
follows, sufficiently particular, considering the brevity with which
Moses runs through the history of the deluge, yet by no means
superfluous. For it was the design of the Spirit to retain our minds in
the consideration of a vengeance too terrible to be adequately described
by the utmost severity of language. Besides, nothing is here related but
what is difficult to be believed; wherefore Moses the more frequently
inculcates these things, that however remote they may be from our
apprehension, they may still obtain credit with us. Thus the narration
respecting the animals refers to this point; that by the faith of holy
Noah they were drawn from their woods and caverns and were collected in
one place from their wandering courses, as if they had been led by the
hand of God. We see, therefore, that Moses does not insist upon this
point without an object; but he does it to teach us that each species of
animals was preserved, not by chance, nor by human industry, but because
the Lord reached out and offered to Noah himself, from hand to hand, (as
they say,) whatever animal he intended to keep alive.

16. "And the Lord shut him in." This is not added in vain, nor ought it
to be lightly passed over. That door must have been large, which could
admit an elephant. And truly, no pitch would be sufficiently firm and
tenacious, and no joining sufficiently solid, to prevent the immense
force of the water from penetrating through its many seams, especially in
an irruption so violent, and in a shock so severe. Therefore, Moses, to
cut off occasion for the vain speculations which our own curiosity would
suggest, declares in one word, that the ark was made secure from the
deluge, not by human artifice, but by divine miracle. It is, indeed, not
to be doubted that Noah had been endued with new ability and sagacity,
that nothing might be defective in the structure of the ark. But lest
even this favour should be without success, it was necessary for
something greater to be added. Wherefore, that we might not measure the
mode of preserving the ark by the capacity of our own judgment, Moses
teaches use that the waters were not restrained from breaking in upon the
ark, by pitch or bitumen only, but rather by the secret power of God, and
by the interposition of his hand.

17. "And the flood was forty days, &c." Moses copiously insists upon this
fact, in order to show that the whole world was immersed in the waters.
Moreover, it is to be regarded as the special design of this narrations
that we should not ascribe to fortune, the flood by which the world
perished; how ever customary it may be for men to cast some veil over the
works of God, which may obscure either his goodness or his judgments
manifested in them. But seeing it is plainly declared, that whatever was
flourishing on the earth was destroyed, we hence infer, that it was an
indisputable and signal judgment of God; especially since Noah alone
remained secure, because he had embraced, by faith, the word in which
salvation was contained. He then recalls to memory what we before have
said; namely how desperate had been the impiety, and how enormous the
crimes of men, by which God was induced to destroy the whole world;
whereas, on account of his great clemency, he would have spared his own
workmanship, had he seen that any milder remedy could have been
effectually applied. These two things, directly opposed to each other, he
connects together; that the whole human race was destroyed, but that Noah
and his family safely escaped. Hence we learn how profitable it was for
Noah, disregarding the world, to obey God alone: which Moses states not
so much for the sake of praising the man, as for that of inviting us to
imitate his example. Moreover, lest the multitude of sinners should draw
us away from God; we must patiently bear that the ungodly should hold us
up to ridicule, and should triumph over us, until the Lord shall show by
the final issue, that our obedience has been approved by him. In this
sense, Peter teaches that Noah's deliverance from the universal deluge
was a figure of baptism, (1 Pet. 3: 21;) as if he had said, the method of
the salvation, which we receive through baptism, degrees with this
deliverance of Noah. Since at this time also the world is full of
unbelievers as it was then; therefore it is necessary for us to separate
ourselves from the greater multitude, that the Lord may snatch us from
destruction. In the same manner, the Church is fitly, and justly,
compared to the ark. But we must keep in mind the similitude by which
they mutually correspond with each other; for that is derived from the
word of God alone; because as Noah believing the promise of God, gathered
himself his wife and his children together, in order that under a certain
appearance of death, he might emerge out of death; so it is fitting that
we should renounce the world and die, in order that the Lord may quicken
us by his word. For nowhere else is there any security of salvation. The
Papists, however, act ridiculously who fabricate for us an ark without
the word.

Chapter VIII.

1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle
that [was] with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the
earth, and the waters asswaged;
2 The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped,
and the rain from heaven was restrained;
3 And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the
end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.
4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the
month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the
tenth [month], on the first [day] of the month, were the tops of the
mountains seen.
6 And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the
window of the ark which he had made:
7 And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the
waters were dried up from off the earth.
8 Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated
from off the face of the ground;
9 But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned
unto him into the ark, for the waters [were] on the face of the whole
earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto
him into the ark.
10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove
out of the ark;
11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth
[was] an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated
from off the earth.
12 And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which
returned not again unto him any more.
13 And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first
[month], the first [day] of the month, the waters were dried up from off
the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and,
behold, the face of the ground was dry.
14 And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month,
was the earth dried.
15 And God spake unto Noah, saying,
16 Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons'
wives with thee.
17 Bring forth with thee every living thing that [is] with thee, of all
flesh, [both] of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that
creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and
be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.
18 And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives
with him:
19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, [and] whatsoever
creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.
20 And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean
beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I
will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the
imagination of man's heart [is] evil from his youth; neither will I again
smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat,
and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

1. "And God remembered Noah." Moses now descends more particularly to
that other part of the subject, which shows, that Noah was not
disappointed in his hope of the salvation divinely promised to him. The
remembrance of which Moses speaks, ought to be referred not only to the
external aspect of things, (so to speak,) but also to the inward feeling
of the holy man. Indeed it is certain, that Gods from the time in which
he had once received Noah into his protection, was never unmindful of
him; for, truly, it was by as great a miracle, that he did not perish
through suffocation in the ark, as if he had lived without breath,
submerged in the waters. And Moses just before has said that by God's
secret closing up of the ark, the waters were restrained from penetrating
it. But as the ark was floating, even to the fifth month, upon the
waters, the delay by which the Lord suffered his servant to be anxiously
and miserably tortured might seem to imply a kind of oblivion. And it is
not to be questioned, that his heart was agitated by various feelings,
when he found himself so long held in suspense; for he might infer, that
his life had been prolonged, in order that he might be more miserable
than any of the rest of mankind. For we know that we are accustomed to
imagine God absent, except when we have some sensible experience of his
presence. And although Noah tenaciously held fast the promise which he
had embraced, even to the end, it is yet credible, that he was grievously
assailed by various temptations; and God, without doubt, purposely thus
exercised his faith and patience. For, why was not the world destroyed in
three days? And for what purpose did the waters, after they had covered
the highest mountains rise fifteen cubits higher, unless it was to
accustom Noah, and his family, to meditate the more profitably on the
judgments of Gods and when the danger was past, to acknowledge that they
had been rescued from a thousand deaths? Let us therefore learn, by this
example, to repose on the providence of God, even while he seems to be
most forgetful of us; for at length, by affording us help, he will
testify that he has been mindful of us. What, if the flesh persuade us to
distrust, yet let us not yield to its restlessness; but as soon as this
thought creeps in, that God has cast off all care concerning us, or is
asleep, or far distant, let us immediately meet it with this shield, 'The
Lord, who has promised his help to the miserable will, in due time, be
present with us, that we may indeed perceive the care he takes of us.'
Nor is there less weight in what is added that God also remembered the
animals; for if, on account of the salvation promised to man, his favour
is extended to brute cattle, and to wild beasts; what may we suppose will
be his favour towards his own children, to whom he has so liberally, and
so sacredly, pledged his faithfulness?
  "And God made a wind to pass over the earth." Here it appears more
clearly, that Moses is speaking of the effect of God's remembrance of
Noah; namely, that in very deed, and by a sure proof, Noah might know
that God cared for his life. For when God, by his secret power, might
have dried the earth, he made use of the wind; which method he also
employed in drying the Red Sea. And thus he would testify, that as he had
the waters at his command, ready to execute his wrath, so now he held the
winds in his hand, to afford relief. And although here a remarkable
history is recorded by Moses, we are yet taught, that the winds do not
arise fortuitously, but by the command of God; as it is said in Psalm
104: verse 4, that 'they are the swift messengers of God;' and again,
that God rides upon their wings. Finally, the variety, the contrary
motions, and the mutual conflicts of the elements, conspire to yield
obedience to God. Moses also adds other inferior means by which the
waters were diminished and caused to return to their former position. The
sum of the whole is, that God, for the purpose of restoring the order
which he had before appointed, recalled the waters to their prescribed
boundaries so that while the celestial waters, as if congealed, were
suspended in the air; others might lie concealed in their gulfs; others
flow in separate channels; and the sea also might remain within its

3. "And after the end of the hundred and fifty days." Some think that the
whole time, from the beginning of the deluge to the abatement of the
waters, is here noted; and thus they include the forty days in which
Moses relates that there was continued rain. But I make this distinction,
that until the fortieth day, the waters rose gradually by fresh
additions; then that they remained nearly in the same state for one
hundred and fifty days; for both computations make the period a little
more than six months and a half. And Moses says, that about the end of
the seventh month, the diminution of the waters appeared to be such that
the ark settled upon the highest summit of a mountain, or touched some
ground. And by this lengthened space of time, the Lord would show the
more plainly, that the dreadful desolation of the world had not fallen
upon it accidentally, but was a remarkable proof of his judgment; while
the deliverance of Noah was a magnificent work of his grace, and worthy
of everlasting remembrance. If, however, we number the seventh month from
the beginning of the year, (as some do,) and not from the time that Noah
entered the ark, the subsidence of which Moses speaks, took place
earlier, namely, as soon as the ark had floated five months. If this
second opinion is received, there will be the same reckoning of ten
months; for the sense will be, that in the eighth month after the
commencement of the deluge, the tops of the mountains appeared.
Concerning the name Ararat, I follow the opinion most received. And I do
not see why some should deny it to be Armenian the mountains of which are
declared, by ancient authors, almost with one consents to be the highest.
The Chaldean paraphrase also points out the particular part, which he
calls mountains of Cardu, which others call Cardueni. But whether that be
true, which Josephus has handed down respecting the fragments of the ark
found there in his time; remnants of which, Jerome says, remained to his
own age, I leave undecided.

6. "At the end of forty days." We may hence conjecture with what great
anxiety the breast of the holy man was oppressed. After he had perceived
the ark to be resting on solid ground, he yet did not dare to open the
window till the fortieth day; not because he was stunned and torpid, but
because an example, thus formidable, of the vengeance of God, had
affected him with such fear and sorrow combined, that being deprived of
all judgment, he silently remained in the chamber of his ark. At length
he sends forth a raven, from which he might receive a more certain
indication of the dryness of the earth. But the raven perceiving nothing
but muddy marshes, hovers around, and immediately seeks to be readmitted.
I have no doubt that Noah purposely selected the ravens which he knew
might be allured by the odour of carcasses, to take a further flight, if
the earth, with the animals upon it, were already exposed to view; but
the raven, flying around did not depart far. I wonder whence a negation,
which Moses has not in the Hebrew text, has crept into the Greek and
Latin version, since it entirely changes the sense. Hence the fable has
originated, that the raven, having found carcasses, was kept away from
the arks and forsook its protector. Afterwards, futile allegories
followed, just as the curiosity of men is ever desirous of trifling. But
the dove, in its first egress, imitated the raven, because it flew back
to the ark; afterwards it brought a branch of olive in its bill; and at
the third time, as if emancipated, it enjoyed the free air, and the free
earth. Some writers exercise their ingenuity on the olive branch; because
among the ancients it was the emblem of peace, as the laurel was of
victory. But I rather think, that as the olive tree does not grow upon
the mountains, and is not a very lofty tree, the Lord had given his
servant some token whence he might infer, that pleasant regions, and
productive of good fruits, were now freed from the waters. Because the
version of Jerome says, that it was a branch with green leaves; they who
have thought, that the deluge began in the month of September, take this
as a confirmation of their opinion. But the words of Moses have no such
meaning. And it might be that the Lord, willing to revive the spirit of
Noah, offered some branch to the dove, which had not yet altogether
withered under the waters.

15. "And God spake unto Noah." Though Noah was not a little terrified at
the judgment of God, yet his patience is commended in this respect, that
having the earth, which offered him a home, before his eyes, he yet does
not venture to go forth. Profane men may ascribe this to timidity, or
even to indolence; but holy is that timidity which is produced by the
obedience of faith. Let us therefore know, that Noah was restrained, by a
hallowed modesty, from allowing himself to enjoy the bounty of nature,
till he should hear the voice of God directing him to do so. Moses winds
this up in a few words, but it is proper that we should attend to the
thing itself. All ought indeed, spontaneously, to consider how great must
have been the fortitude of the man, who, after the incredible weariness
of a whole year, when the deluge has ceased, and new life has shone
forth, does not yet move a foot out of his sepulchre, without the command
of God. Thus we see, that, by a continual course of faith, the holy man
was obedient to God; because at God's command, he entered the ark, and
there remained until God opened the way for his egress; and because he
chose rather to lie in a tainted atmosphere than to breathe the free air,
until he should feel assured that his removal would be pleasing to God.
Even in minute affairs, Scripture commends to us this self-government,
that we should attempt nothing but with an approving conscience. How much
less is the rashness of men to be endured in religious matters, if,
without taking counsel of God, they permit themselves to act as they
please. It is not indeed to be expected that God will every moment
pronounce, by special oracles, what is necessary to be done; yet it
becomes us to hearken attentively to his voice, in order to be certainly
persuaded that we undertake nothing but what is in accordance with his
word. The spirit of prudence, and of counsel, is also to be sought; of
which he never leaves those destitute, who are docile and obedient to his
commands. In this sense, Moses relates that Noah went out of the ark as
soon as he, relying on the oracle of God, was aware that a new habitation
was given him in the earth.

17. "That they may breed abundantly, &c." With these words the Lord would
cheer the mind of Noah, and inspire him with confidence, that a seed had
been preserved in the ark which should increase till it replenished the
whole earth. In short, the renovation of the earth is promised to Noah;
to the end that he may know that the world itself was inclosed in the
ark, and that the solitude and devastation, at the sight of which his
heart might faint, would not be perpetual.

20. "And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord." As Noah had given many
proofs of his obedience, so he now presents an example of gratitude. This
passage teaches us that sacrifices were instituted from the beginning for
this end, that men should habituate themselves, by such exercises, to
celebrate the goodness of God, and to give him thanks. The bare
confession of the tongue, yea, even the silent acknowledgment of the
heart, might suffice for God; but we know how many stimulants our
indolence requires. Therefore, when the holy fathers, formerly, professed
their piety towards God by sacrifices, the use of them was by no means
superfluous. Besides, it was right that they should always have before
their eyes symbols, by which they would be admonished, that they could
have no access to God but through a mediator. Now, however, the
manifestation of Christ has taken away these ancient shadows. Wherefore,
let us use those helps which the Lord has prescribed. Moreover, when I
say that sacrifices were made use of, by the holy fathers, to celebrate
the benefits of God, I speak only of one kind: for this offering of Noah
answers to the peace-offerings, and the first-fruits. But here it may be
asked, by what impulse Noah offered a sacrifice to God, seeing he had no
command to do so? I answer: although Moses does not expressly declare
that God commanded him to do it, yet a certain judgment may be formed
from what follows, and even from the whole context, that Noah had rested
upon the word of Gods and that, in reliance on the divine command, he had
rendered this worship, which he knew, indubitably, should be acceptable
to God. We have before said, that one animal of every kind was preserved
separately; and have stated for what end it was done. But it was useless
to set apart animals for sacrifice, unless God had revealed this design
to holy Noah, who was to be the priest to offer up the victims. Besides,
Moses says that sacrifices were chosen from among clean animals. But it
is certain that Noah did not invent this distinction for himself since it
does not depend on human choice. Whence we conclude, that he undertook
nothing without divine authority. Also immediately afterwards, Moses
subjoins, that the smell of the sacrifice was acceptable to God. This
general rule, therefore, is to be observed, that all religious services
which are not perfumed with the odour of faith, are of an ill-savour
before God. Let us therefore know, that the altar of Noah was founded in
the word of God. And the same word was as salt to his sacrifices, that
they might not be insipid.

21. "And the Lord smelled a sweet savour." Moses calls that by which God
was appeased, an odour of rest; as if he had said, the sacrifice had been
rightly offered. Yet nothing can be more absurd than to suppose that God
should have been appeased by the filthy smoke of entrails, and of flesh.
But Moses here, according to his manner, invests God with a human
character for the purpose of accommodating himself to the capacity of an
ignorant people. For it is not even to be supposed, that the rite of
sacrifice, in itself, was grateful to God as a meritorious act; but we
must regard the end of the work, and not confine ourselves to the
external form. For what else did Noah propose to himself than to
acknowledge that he had received his own life, and that of the animals,
as the gift of God's mercy alone? This piety breathed a good and sweet
odour before God; as it is said, (Psalm 116: 12,) "What shall I render
unto the Lord for all his benefits? I will take the cup of salvation, and
will call upon the name of the Lord."
  "And the Lord said in his heart." The meaning of the passage is, God
had decreed that he would not hereafter curse the earth. And this form of
expression has great weight: for although God never retracts what he has
openly spoken with his mouth, yet we are more deeply affected when we
hear, that he has fixed upon something in his own mind; because an inward
decree of this kind in no way depends upon creatures. To sum up the
whole, God certainly determined that he would never more destroy the
world by a deluge. Yet the expression, 'I will not curse,' is to be but
generally understood; because we know how much the earth has lost of its
fertility since it has been corrupted by man's sin, and we daily feel
that it is cursed in various ways. And he explains himself a little
afterwards, saying, 'I will not smite anymore every thing living.' For in
these words he does not allude to every kind of vengeance, but only to
that which should destroy the world, and bring ruin both on mankind and
the rest of animals: as if he would say, that he restored the earth with
this stipulation, that it should not afterwards perish by a deluge. So
when the Lord declares, (Isa. 54: 9,) that he will be contented with one
captivity of his people, he compares it with the waters of Noah, by which
he had resolved that the world should only once be overwhelmed.
  "For the imagination of man's heart." This reasoning seems incongruous:
for if the wickedness of man is so great that it does not cease to
provoke the anger of God, it must necessarily bring down destruction upon
the world. Nay, God seems to contradict himself by having previously
declared that the world must be destroyed, because its iniquity was
desperate. But here it behaves us more deeply to consider his design; for
it was the will of God that there should be some society of men to
inhabit the earth. If, however, they were to be dealt with according to
their deserts, there would be a necessity for a daily deluge. Wherefore,
he declares, that in inflicting punishment upon the second world, he will
so do it, as yet to preserve the external appearance of the earth, and
not again to sweep away the creatures with which he has adorned it.
Indeed, we ourselves may perceive such moderation to have been used, both
in the public and special judgments of God, that the world yet stands in
its completeness, and nature yet retains its course. Moreover, since God
here declares what would be the character of men even to the end of the
world, it is evident that the whole human race is under sentence of
condemnation, on account of its depravity and wickedness. Nor does the
sentence refer only to corrupt morals; but their iniquity is said to be
an innate iniquity, from which nothing but evils can spring forth. I
wonder, however, whence that false version of this passage has crept in,
that the thought is prone to evil; except, as is probable, that the place
was thus corrupted, by those who dispute too philosophically concerning
the corruption of human nature. It seemed to them hard, that man should
be subjected, as a slave of the devil to sin. Therefore, by way of
mitigation, they have said that he had a propensity to vices. But when
the celestial Judge thunders from heaven, that his thoughts themselves
are evil, what avails it to soften down that which, nevertheless, remains
unalterable? Let men therefore acknowledge, that inasmuch as they are
born of Adam, they are depraved creatures, and therefore can conceive
only sinful thoughts, until they become the new workmanship of Christ,
and are formed by his Spirit to a new life. And it is not to be doubted,
that the Lord declares the very mind of man to be depraved, and
altogether infected with sin; so that all the thoughts which proceed
thence are evil. If such be the defect in the fountain itself, it
follows, that all man's affections are evil, and his works covered with
the same pollution, since of necessity they must savour of their
original. For God does not merely say that men sometimes think evil; but
the language is unlimited, comprising the tree with its fruits. Nor is it
any proof to the contrary, that carnal and profane men often excel in
generosity of disposition, undertake designs apparently honorable, and
put forth certain evidences of virtue. For since their mind is corrupted
with contempt of God, with pride, self-love, ambitious hypocrisy, and
fraud; it cannot be but that all their thoughts are contaminated with the
same vices. Again, they cannot tend towards a right end: whence it
happens that they are judged to be what they really are, crooked and
perverse. For all things in such men, which release us under the colour
of virtue, are like wine spoiled by the odour of the cask. For, (as was
before said,) the very affections of nature, which in themselves are
laudable, are yet vitiated by original sin, and on account of their
irregularity have degenerated from their proper nature; such are the
mutual love of married persons, the love of parents towards their
children, and the like. And the clause which is added, "from youth", more
fully declares that men are born evil; in order to show that, as soon as
they are of an age to begin to form thoughts, they have radical
corruption of mind. Philosophers, by transferring to habit, what God here
ascribes to nature, betray their own ignorance. And to wonder; for we
please and flatter ourselves to such an extent, that we do not perceive
how fatal is the contagion of sin, and what depravity pervades all our
senses. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the judgment of God, which
pronounces man to be so enslaved by sin that he can bring forth nothing
sound and sincere. Yet, at the same time, we must remember, that no blame
is to be cast upon God for that which has its origin in the defection of
the first man, whereby the order of the creation was subverted. And
furthers it must be noted, that men are not exempted from guilt and
condemnation, by the pretext of this bondage: because, although all rush
to evil, yet they are not impelled by any extrinsic force, but by the
direct inclination of their own hearts; and, lastly, they sin not
otherwise than voluntarily.

22. "While the earth remaineth." By these words the world is again
completely restored. For so great was the confusion and disorder which
had overspread the earth, that there was a necessity for some renovation.
On which account, Peter speaks of the old world as having perished in the
deluge, (2 Pet. 3: 6.) Moreover, the deluge had been an interruption of
the order of nature. For the revolutions of the sun and moon had ceased:
there was no distinction of winter and summer. Wherefore, the Lord here
declares it to be his pleasure, that all things should recover their
vigour, and be restored to their functions. The Jews erroneously divide
their year into six parts; whereas Moses, by placing the summer in
opposition to the winter, thus divides the whole year in a popular manner
into two parts. And it is not to be doubted, that by cold and heat he
designates the periods already referred to. Under the words, "seed-time,"
and "harvest," he marks those advantages which flow to men from the
moderated temperature of the atmosphere. If it is objected that this
equable temperament is not every year perceived; the answer is ready,
that the order of the world is indeed disturbed by our vices, so that
many of its movements are irregular: often the sun withholds its proper
heat,--snow or hail follow in the place of dew,--the air is agitated by
various tempests; but although the world is not so regulated as to
produce perpetual uniformity of seasons, yet we perceive the order of
nature so far to prevail, that winter and summer annually recur, that
there is a constant succession of days and nights, and that the earth
brings forth its fruits in summer and autumn. Moreover, by the
expression, 'all the days of the earth,' he means, 'as long as the earth
shall last.'

Chapter IX.

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth.
2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of
the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth [upon]
the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they
3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green
herb have I given you all things.
4 But flesh with the life thereof, [which is] the blood thereof, shall ye
not eat.
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.
6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the
image of God made he man.
7 And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the
earth, and multiply therein.
8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed
after you;
10 And with every living creature that [is] with you, of the fowl, of the
cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of
the ark, to every beast of the earth.
11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be
cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more
be a flood to destroy the earth.
12 And God said, This [is] the token of the covenant which I make between
me and you and every living creature that [is] with you, for perpetual
13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a
covenant between me and the earth.
14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that
the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
15 And I will remember my covenant, which [is] between me and you and
every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a
flood to destroy all flesh.
16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may
remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature
of all flesh that [is] upon the earth.
17 And God said unto Noah, This [is] the token of the covenant, which I
have established between me and all flesh that [is] upon the earth.
18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham,
and Japheth: and Ham [is] the father of Canaan.
19 These [are] the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth
20 And Noah began [to be] an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within
his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and
told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid [it] upon both their
shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father;
and their faces [were] backward, and they saw not their father's
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done
unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed [be] Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be
unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed [be] the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be
his servant.
27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem;
and Canaan shall be his servant.
28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.
29 And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he

1. "And God blessed Noah." We hence infer with what great fear Noah had
been dejected, because God, so often and at such length, proceeds to
encourage him. For when Moses here says, that God blessed Noah and his
sons, he does not simply mean that the favour of fruitfulness was
restored to them; but that, at the same time, the design of God
concerning the new restitution of the world was revealed unto them. For
to the blessing itself is added the voice of God by which he addresses
them. We know that brute animals produce offspring in no other way than
by the blessing of God; but Moses here commemorates a privilege which
belongs only to men. Therefore, lest those four men and their wives,
seized with trepidation, should doubt for what purpose they had been
delivered, the Lord prescribes to them their future condition of life:
namely, that they shall raise up mankind from death to life. Thus he not
only renews the world by the same word by which he before created it; but
he directs his word to men, in order that they may recover the lawful use
of marriage, may know that the care of producing offspring is pleasing to
Himself, and may have confidence that a progeny shall spring from them
which shall diffuse itself through all regions of the earth, so as to
render it again inhabited; although it had been laid waste and made a
desert. Yet he did not permit promiscuous intercourse, but sanctioned
anew that law of marriage which he had before ordained. And although the
blessing of God is, in some way, extended to illicit connections, so that
offspring is thence produced, yet this is an impure fruitfulness; that
which is lawful flows only from the expressly declared benediction of

2. "And the fear of you." This also has chiefly respect to the
restoration of the world, in order that the sovereignty over the rest of
animals might remain with men. And although after the fall of man, the
beasts were endued with new ferocity, yet some remains of that dominion
over them, which God had conferred on him in the beginning, were still
left. He now also promises that the same dominion shall continue. We see
indeed that wild beasts rush violently upon men, and rend and tear many
of them in pieces; and if God did not wonderfully restrain their
fierceness, the human race would be utterly destroyed. Therefore, what we
have said respecting the inclemency of the air, and the irregularity of
the seasons, is also here applicable. Savage beasts indeed prevail and
rage against men in various ways, and no wonder; for since we perversely
exalt ourselves against God, why should not the beasts rise up against
us? Nevertheless, the providence of God is a secret bridle to restrain
their violence. For, whence does it arise that serpents spare us, unless
because he represses their virulence? Whence is it that tigers,
elephants, lions, bears, wolves, and other wild beasts without number, do
not rend, tear, and devour everything human, except that they are
withheld by this subjection, as by a barrier? Therefore, it ought to be
referred to the special protection and guardianship of God, that we
remain in safety. For, were it otherwise, what could we expect; since
they seem as if born for our destruction, and burn with the furious
desire to injure us? Moreover, the bridle with which the Lord restrains
the cruelty of wild beasts, to prevent them falling upon men, is a
certain fear and dread which God has implanted in them, to the end that
they might reverence the presence of men. Daniel especially declares this
respecting kings; namely, that they are possessed of dominion, because
the Lord has put the fear and the dread of them both on men and beasts.
But as the first use of fear is to defend the society of mankind; so,
according to the measure in which God has given to men a general
authority over the beasts, there exists in the greatest and the least of
men, I know not what hidden mark, which does not suffer the cruelty of
wild beasts, by its violence to prevail. Another advantage, however and
one more widely extended, is here noted; namely, that men may render
animals subservient to their own convenience, and may apply them to
various uses, according to their wishes and their necessities. Therefore,
the fact that oxen become accustomed to bear the yoke; that the wildness
of horses is so subdued as to cause them to carry a rider; that they
receive the pack-saddle to bear burdens; that cows give milk, and suffer
themselves to be milked; that sheep are mute under the hand of the
shearer; all these facts are the result of this dominion, which, although
greatly diminished, is nevertheless not entirely abolished.

3. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you." The Lord
proceeds further, and grants animals for food to men, that they may eat
their flesh. And because Moses now first relates that this right was
given to men, nearly all commentators infer, that it was not lawful for
man to eat flesh before the deluge, but that the natural fruits of the
earth were his only food. But the argument is not sufficiently firm. For
I hold to this principle; that God here does not bestow on men more than
he had previously given, but only restores what had been taken away, that
they might again enter on the possession of those good things from which
they had been excluded. For since they had before offered sacrifices to
God, and were also permitted to kill wild beasts, from the hides and
skins of which, they might make for themselves garments and tents, I do
not see what obligation should prevent them from the eating of flesh. But
since it is of little consequence what opinion is held, I affirm nothing
on the subject. This ought justly to be deemed by us of greater
importance, that to eat the flesh of animals is granted to us by the
kindness of God; that we do not seize upon what our appetite desires, as
robbers do, nor yet tyrannically shed the innocent blood of cattle; but
that we only take what is offered to us by the hand of the Lord. We have
heard what Paul says, that we are at liberty to eat what we please, only
we do it with the assurance of conscience, but that he who imagines
anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean, (Rom. 14: 14.) And whence
has this happened to man, that he should eat whatever food he pleased
before God, with a tranquil mind, and not with unbridled license, except
from his knowing, that it has been divinely delivered into his hand by
the right of donation? Wherefore, (the same Paul being witness,) the word
of God sanctifies the creatures, that we may purely and lawfully feed on
them, (1 Tim. 4: 5.) Let the adage be utterly rejected which says, 'that
no one can feed and refresh his body with a morsel of bread, without, at
the same time, defiling his soul.' Therefore it is not to be doubted,
that the Lord designed to confirm our faith, when he expressly declares
by Moses, that he gave to man the free use of flesh, so that we might not
eat it with a doubtful and trembling conscience. At the same time,
however, he invites us to thanksgiving. On this account also, Paul adds
"prayer" to the "word," in defining the method of sanctification in the
passage recently cited.
  And now we must firmly retain the liberty given us by the Lord, which
he designed to be recorded as on public tables. For, by this word, he
addresses all the posterity of Noah, and renders this gift common to all
ages. And why is this done, but that the faithful may boldly assert their
right to that which, they know, has proceeded from God as its Author? For
it is an insupportable tyranny, when God, the Creator of all things, has
laid open to us the earth and the air, in order that we may thence take
food as from his storehouse, for these to be shut up from us by mortal
man, who is not able to create even a snail or a fly. I do not speak of
external prohibition; but I assert, that atrocious injury is done to God,
when we give such license to men as to allow them to pronounce that
unlawful which God designs to be lawful, and to bind consciences which
the word of God sets free, with their fictitious laws. The fact that God
prohibited his ancient people from the use of unclean animals, seeing
that exception was but temporary, is here passed over by Moses.

4. "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof." Some
thus explain this passages 'Ye may not eat a member cut off from a living
animal,' which is too trifling. However, since there is no copulative
conjunction between the two words, blood and life, I do not doubt that
Moses, speaking of the life, added the word blood exegetically, as if he
would say, that flesh is in some sense devoured with its life, when it is
eaten imbued with its own blood. Wherefore, the life and the blood are
not put for different things, but for the same; not because blood is in
itself the life, but inasmuch as the vital spirits chiefly reside in the
blood, it is, as far as our feeling is concerned, a token which
represents life. And this is expressly declared, in order that men may
have the greater horror of eating blood For if it be a savage and
barbarous thing to devour lives, or to swallow down living flesh, men
betray their brutality by eating blood. Moreover, the tendency of this
prohibition is by no means obscure, namely, that God intends to accustom
men to gentleness, by abstinence from the blood of animals; but, if they
should become unrestrained, and daring in eating wild animals they would
at length not be sparing of even human blood. Yet we must remember, that
this restriction was part of the old law. Wherefore, what Tertullian
relates, that in his time it was unlawful among Christians to taste the
blood of cattle, savours of superstition. For the apostles, in commanding
the Gentiles to observe this rite, for a short time, did not intend to
inject a scruple into their consciences, but only to prevent the liberty
which was otherwise sacred, from proving an occasion of offense to the
ignorant and the weak.

5. "And surely your blood of your lives will I require." In these words
the Lord more explicitly declares that he does not forbid the use of
blood out of regard to animals themselves, but because he accounts the
life of men precious: and because the sole end of his law is, to promote
the exercise of common humanity between them. I therefore think that
Jerome, in rendering the particle "ach", for, has done better than they
who read it as an adversative disjunctive; 'otherwise your blood will I
require;' yet literally it may best be thus translated, 'And truly your
blood.' The whole context is (in my opinion) to be thus read, 'And truly
your blood, which is in your lives, or which is as your lives, that is
which vivifies and quickens you, as it respects your body, will I
require: from the hand of all animals will require it; from the hand of
man, from the hand, I say, of man, his brother, will I require the life
of man.' The distinction by which the Jews constitute four kinds of
homicide is frivolous; for I have explained the simple and genuine sense,
namely, that God so highly estimates our life, that he will not suffer
murder to go unavenged. And he inculcates this in so many words, in order
that he may render the cruelty of those the more detestable, who lay
violent hands upon their neighbours. And it is no common proof of God's
love towards us, that he undertakes the defense of our lives, and
declares that he will be the avenger of our death. In saying that he will
exact punishment from animals for the violated life of men, he gives us
this as an example. For if, on behalf of man, he is angry with brute
creatures who are hurried by a blind impulse to feed upon him; what, do
we suppose, will become of the man who, unjustly, cruelly, and contrary
to the sense of nature, falls upon his brother?

6. "Whose sheddeth man's blood." The clause "in man" which is here added,
has the force of amplification. Some expound it, 'Before witnesses.'
Others refer it to what follows, namely, 'that by man his blood should be
shed.' But all these interpretations are forced. What I have said must be
remembered, that this language rather expresses the atrociousness of the
crime; because whosoever kills a man, draws down upon himself the blood
and life of his brother. On the whole, they are deceived (in my judgment)
who think that a political law, for the punishment of homicides, is here
simply intended. Truly I do not deny that the punishment which the laws
ordain, and which the judges execute, are founded on this divine
sentence; but I say the words are more comprehensive. It is written, 'Men
of blood shall not live out half their days,' (Ps. 55: 25.) And we see
some die in highways, some in stews, and many in wars. Therefore, however
magistrates may connive at the crime, God sends executioners from other
quarters, who shall render unto sanguinary men their reward. God so
threatens and denounces vengeance against the murderer, that he even arms
the magistrate with the sword for the avenging of slaughter, in order
that the blood of men may not be shed with impunity.
  "For in the image of God made he man." For the greater confirmation of
the above doctrines God declares, that he is not thus solicitous
respecting human life rashly, and for no purpose. Men are indeed unworthy
of God's care, if respect be had only to themselves. but since they bear
the image of God engraven on them, He deems himself violated in their
person. Thus, although they have nothing of their own by which they
obtain the favour of God, he looks upon his own gifts in them, and is
thereby excited to love and to care for them. This doctrine, however is
to be carefully observed that no one can be injurious to his brother
without wounding God himself. Were this doctrine deeply fixed in our
minds, we should be much more reluctant than we are to inflict injuries.
Should any one object, that this divine image has been obliterated, the
solution is easy; first, there yet exists some remnant of it, so that man
is possessed of no small dignity; and, secondly, the Celestial Creator
himself, however corrupted man may be, still keeps in view the end of his
original creation; and according to his example, we ought to consider for
what end he created men, and what excellence he has bestowed upon them
above the rest of living beings.

7. "And you, be ye fruitful and multiply." He again turns his discourse
to Noah and his sons, exhorting them to the propagation of offspring: as
if he would say, 'You see that I am intent upon cherishing and preserving
mankind, do you therefore also attend to it.' At the same time, in
commending to them the preservation of seed, he deters them from murder,
and from unjust acts of violence. Yet his chief end was that to which I
have before alluded, that he might encourage their dejected minds. For in
these words is contained not a bare precept, but also a promise.

8. "And God spake unto Noah." That the memory of the deluge might not
inspire them with new terrors, as often as the sky were covered with
clouds, lest the earth should again be drowned; this source of anxiety is
taken away. And certainly, if we consider the great propensity of the
human mind to distrust, we shall not deem this testimony to have been
unnecessary even for Noah. He was indeed endued with a rare and
incomparable faith, even to a miracle; but no strength of constancy could
be so great, that this most sad and terrible vengeance of God should not
shake it. Therefore, whenever any great and continued shower shall seem
to threaten the earth with a deluge, this barrier, on which the holy man
may rely, is interposed. Now although his sons would need this
confirmation more than he, yet the Lord speaks especially on his account.
And the clause which follows, 'and to his sons who were with him,' is to
be referred to this point. For how is it, that God, making his covenant
with the sons of Noah, commands them to hope for the best? Truly, because
they are joined with their father, who is, as it were, the stipulator of
the covenant, so as to be associated with him, in a subordinate place.
Moreover, there is no doubt that it was the design of God to provide for
all his posterity. It was not therefore a private covenant confirmed with
one family only, but one which is common to all people, and which shall
flourish in all ages to the end of the world. And truly, since at the
present time, impiety overflows not less than in the age of Noah, it is
especially necessary that the waters should be restrained by this word of
God, as by a thousand bolts and bars lest they should break forth to
destroy us. Wherefore, relying on this promise, let us look forward to
the last day, in which the consuming fire shall purify heaven and earth.

10. "And witch every living creature." Although the favour which the Lord
promises extends also to animals, yet it is not in vain that he addresses
himself only to men, who, by the sense of faith, are able to perceive
this benefit. We enjoy the heaven and the air in common with the beasts,
and draw the same vital breath; but it is no common privilege, that God
directs his word to us; whence we may learn with what paternal love he
pursues us. And here three distinct steps are to be traced. First, God,
as in a matter of present concern, makes a covenant with Noah and his
family, lest they should be afraid of a deluge for themselves. Secondly,
he transmits his covenant to posterity, not only that, as by continual
succession, the effect may reach to other ages; but that they who should
afterwards be born might also apprehend this testimony by faith, and
might conclude that the same thing which had been promised to the sons of
Noah, was promised unto them. Thirdly, he declares that he will be
propitious also to brute animals, so that the effect of the covenant
towards them, might be the preservation of their lives only, without
imparting to them sense and intelligence. Hence the ignorance of the
Anabaptists may be refuted, who deny that the covenant of God is common
to infants, because they are destitute of present faith. As if, truly,
when God promises salvation to a thousand generations, the fathers were
not intermediate parties between God and their children, whose office it
is to deliver to their children (so to speak) from hand to hand the
promise received from God. But as many as withdraw their life from this
protection of God (since the greater part of men either despise or
ridicule this divine covenant) deserve, by this single act of
ingratitude, to be immersed in eternal fire. For although this be an
earthly promise, yet God designs the faith of his people to be exercised,
in order that they may be assured that a certain abode will, by his
special goodness, be provided for them on earth, until they shall be
gathered together in heaven.

12. "This is the token of the covenant." A sign is added to the promise,
in which is exhibited the wonderful kindness of God; who, for the purpose
of confirming our faith in his word, does not disdain to use such helps.
And although we halve more fully discussed the use of signs in the second
chapter, yet we must briefly maintain, from these words of Moses, that it
is wrong to sever signs from the word. By the word, I mean not that of
which Papists boast; whereby they enchant bread, wine, water, and oil,
with their magical whisperings; but that which may strengthen faith:
according no the Lord here plainly addresses holy Noah and his sons; he
then annexes a seal, for the sake of assurance. Wherefore, if the
sacrament be wrested from the word, it ceases to be what it is called. It
must, I say, be a vocal sign, in order that it may retain its force, and
not degenerate from its nature. And not only is that administration of
sacraments in which the word of God is silent, vain and ludicrous; but it
draws with it pure satanic delusions. Hence we also infer, that from the
beginning, it was the peculiar property of sacraments, to avail for the
confirmation of faith. For certainly, in the covenant that promise is
included to which faith ought to respond. It appears to some absurd, that
faith should be sustained by such helps. But they who speak thus do not,
in the first place, reflect on the great ignorance and imbecility of our
minds; nor do they, secondly, ascribe to the working of the secret power
of the Spirit that praise which is due. It is the work of God alone to
begin and to perfect faith; but he does it by such instruments as he sees
good; the free choice of which is in his own power.

13. "I do set my bow in the cloud." From these words certain eminent
theologians have been induced to deny, that there was any rainbow before
the deluge: which is frivolous. For the words of Moses do not signify,
that a bow was then formed which did not previously exist; but that a
mark was engraven upon it, which should give a sign of the divine favour
towards men. That this may the more evidently appear, it will be well to
recall to memory what we have elsewhere said, that some signs are
natural, and some preternatural. And although there are many examples of
this second class of signs in the Scriptures; yet they are peculiar, and
do not belong to the common and perpetual use of the Church. For, as it
pleases the Lord to employ earthly elements, as vehicles for raising the
minds of men on high, so I think the celestial arch which had before
existed naturally, is here consecrated into a sign and pledge; and thus a
new office is assigned to it; whereas, from the nature of the thing
itself, it might rather be a sign of the contrary; for it threatens
continued rain. Let this therefore he the meaning, of the words, 'As
often as the rain shall alarm you, look upon the bow. For although it may
seem to cause the rain to overflow the earth, it shall nevertheless be to
you a pledge of returning dryness, and thus it will then become you to
stand with greater confidence, than under a clear and serene sky.' Hence
it is not for us to contend with philosophers respecting the rainbow; for
although its colours are the effect of natural causes, yet they act
profanely who attempt to deprive God of the right and authority which he
has over his creatures.

15. "And I will remember my covenant." Moses, by introducing God so often
as the speaker, teaches us that the word holds the chief place, and that
signs are to be estimated by it. God, however, speaks after the manner of
men, when he says, that at the sight of the rainbow he will remember his
covenant. But this mode of speaking has reference to the faith of men, in
order that they may reflect, that God, whenever he stretches out his arch
over the clouds, is not unmindful of his covenant.

18. "The sons of Noah." Moss enumerates the sons of Noah, not only
because he is about to pass on to the following history, but for the
purpose of more fully illustrating the force of the promise, "Replenish
the earth." For we may hence better conceive how efficacious the blessing
of God has been, because an immense multitude of men proceeded in a short
time from so small a number; and because one family, and that a little
one, grew into so many, and such numerous nations.

20. "And Noah began to be an husbandman." I do not so explain. the words,
as if he then, for the first time, began to give his attention to the
cultivation of the fields; but, (in my opinion,) Moses rather intimates,
that Noah, with a collected mind, though now an old man, returned to the
culture of the fields, and to his former labours. It is, however,
uncertain whether he had been a vine-dresser or not. It is commonly
believed that wine was not in use before that time. And this opinion has
been the more willingly received, as affording an honorable pretext for
the excuse of Noah's sin. But it does not appear to me probable that the
fruit of the vine, which excels all others, should have remained
neglected and unprofitable. Also, Moses does not say that Noah was
drunken on the first day on which he tasted it. Therefore, leaving this
question undetermined, I rather suppose, that we are to learn from the
drunkenness of Noah, what a filthy and detestable crime drunkenness is.
The holy patriarch, though he had hitherto been a rare example of
frugality and temperance, losing all self-possession, did, in a base and
shameful manner, prostrate himself naked on the ground, so as to become a
laughingstock to all. Therefore, with what care ought we to cultivate
sobriety, lest anything like this, or even worse, should happen to us?
Formerly, the heathen philosopher said, that 'wine is the blood of the
earth; and, therefore, when men intemperately pour it down their throats,
they are justly punished by their mother. Let us, however, rather
remember, that when men, by shameful abuse, profane this noble and most
precious gift of God, He himself becomes the Avenger. And let us know,
that Noah, by the judgement of Gods has been set forth as a spectacle to
be a warning to others, that they should not become intoxicated by
excessive drinking. Some excuse might certainly be made for the holy man;
who, having completed his labour, and being exhilarated with wine,
imagines that he is but taking his just reward. But God brands him with
an eternal mark of disgrace. What then, do we suppose, will happen to
those idle-bellies and insatiable gluttons whose sole object of
contention is who shall consume the greatest quantity of wine? And
although this kind of correction was severe, yet it was profitable to the
servant of God; since he was recalled to sobriety, lest by proceeding in
the indulgence of a vice to which he had once yielded, he should ruin
himself; just as we see drunkards become at length brutalized by
continued intemperance.

22. "And Ham, the father of Canaan." This circumstance is added to
augment the sorrow of Noah, that he is mocked by his own son. For we must
ever keep in memory, that this punishment was divinely inflicted upon
him; partly, because his fault was not a light one; partly that God in
his person might present a lesson of temperance to all ages. Drunkenness
in itself deserves as its reward, that they who deface the image of their
heavenly Father in themselves, should become a laughingstock to their own
children. For certainly, as far as possible, drunkards subvert their own
understanding, and so far deprive themselves of reason as to degenerate
into beasts. And let us remember, that if the Lord so grievously avenged
the single transgression of the holy man, he will prove an avenger no
less severe against those who are daily intoxicated; and of this we have
examples sufficiently numerous before our eyes. In the meanwhile, Ham, by
reproachfully laughing at his feather, betrays his own depraved and
malignant disposition. We know that parents, next to God, are most deeply
to be reverenced; and if there were neither books nor sermons, nature
itself constantly inculcates this lesson upon us. It is received by
common consent, that piety towards parents is the mother of all virtues.
This Ham, therefore, must have been of a wicked, perverse, and crooked
disposition; since he not only took pleasure in his father's shame, but
wished to expose him to his brethren. And this is no slight occasion of
offense; first, that Noah, the minister of salvation to men, and the
chief restorer of the world, should in extreme old age, lie intoxicated
in his house; and then, that the ungodly and wicked Ham should have
proceeded from the sanctuary of God. God had selected eight souls as a
sacred seed, thoroughly purged from all corruption, for the renovation of
the Church: but the son of Noah shows, how necessary it is for men to be
held as with the bridle of God, however they may be exalted by privilege.
The impiety of Ham proves to us how deep is the root of wickedness in
men; and that it continually puts forth its shoots, except where the
power of the Spirit prevails over it. But if, in the hallowed sanctuary
of God, among so small a number, one fiend was preserved; let us not
wonder if, at this day, in the Church, containing a much greater
multitude of men, the wicked are mingled with the good. Nor is there any
doubt that the minds of Shem and Japheth were grievously wounded, when
they perceived in their own brother such a prodigy of scorn; and, on the
other hand, their father shamefully lying prostrate on the ground. Such a
debasing alienation of mind in the prince of the new world, and the holy
patriarch of the Church, could not less astonish them, than if they had
seen the ark itself broken, dashed in pieces, cleft asunder, and
destroyed. Yet this cause of offense they alike overcome by their
magnanimity, and conceal by their modesty. Ham alone eagerly seizes the
occasion of ridiculing and inveighing against his father; just as
perverse men are wont to catch at occasions of offense in others, which
may serve as a pretext for indulgence in sin. And his age renders him the
less excusable; for he was not a lascivious youth, who, by his
thoughtless laughter, betrayed his own folly, seeing that he was already
more than one hundred years old. Therefore, it is probable, that he thus
perversely insulted his father, for the purpose of acquiring for himself
the license of sinning with impunity. We see many such at this day, who
most studiously pry into the faults of holy and pious men, in order that
without shame they may precipitate themselves into all iniquity; they
even make the faults of other men an occasion of hardening themselves
into a contempt for God.

23. "And Shem and Japheth took a garment." Here the piety, as well as the
modesty, of the two brothers is commended; who, in order that the dignity
of their father might not be lowered in their esteem, but that they might
always cherish and keep entire the reverence which they owed him, turned
away their eyes from the sight of his disgrace. And thus they gave proof
of the regard they paid to their father's honour, in supposing that their
own eyes would be polluted, if they voluntarily looked upon the nakedness
by which he was disgraced. At the same time they also consulted their own
modesty. For (as it was said in the third chapter) there is something so
unaccountably shameful in the nakedness of man, that scarcely any one
dares to look upon himself, even when no witness is present. They also
censure the impious rashness of their brother, who had not spared his
father. Hence, then, we may learn how acceptable to God is that piety, of
which the example here recorded receives a signal encomium of the Spirit.
But if piety towards an earthly father was a virtue so excellent, and so
worthy of praise; with how much greater devotedness of piety ought the
sacred majesty of God to be worshipped? The Papists make themselves
ridiculous by desiring to cover the filthiness of their idol, yea, the
abominations of their whole impure clergy, with the cloak of Shem and
Japheth. I omit to state how great is the difference between the disgrace
of Noah and the execrable vileness of so many crimes which contaminate
heaven and earth. But it is necessary that Antichrist and his horned
bishops, with all that rabble, should prove themselves to be fathers, if
they with that any honour should be paid them.

24. "And Noah awoke." It might seem to some that Noah, although he had
just cause of anger, still conducted himself with too little modesty and
gravity; and that he ought, at least, silently to have mourned over his
sin before God; and also, with shame, to have given proof of his
repentance to men: but that now as if he had committed no offense, he
fulminates with excessive severity against his son. Moses, however, does
not here relate reproaches uttered by Noah, under the excitement of rage
and anger, but rather introduces him speaking in the spirit of prophecy.
Wherefore we ought not to doubt, that the holy man was truly humbled (as
he ought to be) under a sense of his fault, and honestly reflected on his
own deserts; but now, having received the grant of pardon, and his
condemnation being removed, he proceeds as the herald of Divine judgment.
It is not indeed to be doubted that the holy man, endued with a
disposition otherwise gentle, and being one of the best of parents, would
pronounce this sentence upon his son with the most bitter grief of mind.
For he saw him miraculously preserved amongst a few and having a place
among the very flower of the human race. Now, therefore, when, with his
own mouth, he is compelled to separate him from the Church of God, he
doubtless would grievously bewail the malediction of his son. But by this
example, God would admonish us that the constancy of our faith must be
retained, if at any time we see those fail who are most closely united to
us, and that our spirits ought not to be broken; nay, that we must so
exercise the severity which God enjoins, as not to spare even our own
bowels. And whereas, Noah does not pronounce a sentence so harsh, except
by Divine inspiration, it behaves us to infer from the severity of the
punishment how abominable in the sight of God is the impious contempt of
parents, since it perverts the sacred order of nature, and violates the
majesty and authority of God, in the person of those whom he has
commanded to preside in his place.

25. "Cursed be Canaan." It is asked in the first place, why Noah instead
of pronouncing the curse upon his son, inflicts the severity of
punishment, which that son had deserved, upon his innocent grandson;
since it seems not consistent with the justice of God, to visit the
crimes of parents upon their children? But the answer is well known;
namely that God, although he pursues his course of judgments upon the
sons and the grandchildren of the ungodly, yet in being angry with them,
is not angry with the innocent, because even they themselves are found in
fault. Wherefore there is no absurdity in the act of avenging the sins of
the fathers upon their reprobate children; since, of necessity, all those
whom God has deprived of his Spirit are subject to his wrath. But it is
surprising that Noah should curse his grandson; and should pass his son
Ham, the author of the crime, over in silence. The Jews imagine that the
reason of this was to be traced to the special favour of God; and that
since the Lord had bestowed on Ham so great an honour, the curse was
transferred from him to his son. But the conjecture is futile. Certainly,
to my mind, there is no doubt that the punishment was carried forward
even to his posterity in order that the severity of it might be the more
apparent; as if the Lord had openly proclaimed that the punishment of one
man would not satisfy him but that he would attach the curse also to the
posterity of the offender, so that it should extend through successive
ages. In the meantime, Ham himself is so far from being exempt, that God,
by involving his son with him, aggravates his own condemnation.
  Another question is also proposed; namely, why among the many sons of
Ham, God chooses one to be smitten? But let not our curiosity here
indulge itself too freely; let us remember that the judgments of God are,
not in vain, called "a great deep," and that it would be a degrading
thing for God, before whose tribunal we all must one day stand, to be
subjected to our judgments, or rather to our foolish temerity. He chooses
whom he sees good, that he may show forth in them an example of his grace
and kindness; others he appoints to a different end, that they may be
proofs of his anger and severity. Here, although the minds of men are
blinded, let every one of us, conscious of his own infirmity, learn
rather to ascribe praise to God's justice, than plunge, with insane
audacity, into the profound abyss. While God held the whole seed of Ham
as obnoxious to the curse, he mentions the Canaanites by name, as those
whom he would curse above all others. And hence we infer that this
judgment proceeded from God, because it was proved by the event itself.
What would certainly be the condition of the Canaanites, Noah could not
know by human means. Wherefore in things obscure and hidden, the Spirit
directed his tongue.
  Another difficulty still remains: for since the Scripture teaches that
God avenges the sins of men on the third and fourth generation, it seems
to assign this limit to the wrath of God; but the vengeance of which
mention is now made extends itself to the tenth generation. I answer,
that these words of Scripture are not intended to prescribe a law to God,
which he may not so far set aside, as to be at liberty to punish sins
beyond four generations. The thing to be here observed is, the comparison
instituted between punishment and grace; by which we are taught, that
God, while he is a just avenger of crimes, is still more inclined to
mercy. In the meantime, let his liberty remain unquestioned, to extend
his vengeance as far as he pleases.
  "A servant of servants shall he be." This Hebraism signifies that
Canaan shall be the last, even among servants: as if it had been said,
'Not only shall his condition be servile, but worse than that of common
servitude.' Yet the thunder of this severe and dreadful prophecy seems
weak and illusory, since the Canaanites excelled in strength and in
riches, and were possessed of extensive dominion. Where then is this
servitude? In the first place, I answer, that though God, in threatening
men, does not immediately execute what he denounces, yet his threats are
never weak and ineffectual. Secondly, that the judgments of God are not
always exhibited before our eyes, nor apprehended by our carnal reason.
The Canaanites, having shaken off the yoke of servitude, which was
divinely imposed upon them, even proceeded to grasp at empire for
themselves. But although they triumph for a time, yet in the sight of God
their condition is not deemed free. Just as when the faithful are
iniquitously oppressed, and tyrannically harassed by the wicked, their
spiritual liberty is still not extinct in the sight of God. It behaves us
then to be content with this proof of the divine judgment, that God
promised the dominion of the land of Canaan to his servant Abraham, and
at length devoted the Canaanites to destruction. But because the Pope so
earnestly maintains that he sometimes utters prophecies,--as did even
Caiaphas, (John 11: 51,)--lest we should seem to refuse him everything, I
do not deny that the title with which he adorns himself was dictated by
the Spirit of God, 'Let him be a servant of servants,' in the same sense
that Canaan was.

26. "Blessed be the Lord God of Shem." Noah blesses his other children,
but in a different manner. For he places Shem in the highest post of
honour. And this is the reason why Noah, in blessing him, breaks forth in
the praise of God, without adhering to the person of man. For the
Hebrews, when they are speaking of any rare and transcendent excellence,
raise their thoughts to God. Therefore the holy man, when he perceived
that the most abundant grace of God was destined for his son Shem, rises
to thanksgiving. Whence we infer, that he spoke, not from carnal reason,
but rather treated of the secret favours of God, the result of which was
to be deferred to a remote period. Finally, by these words it is
declared, that the benediction of Shem would be divine or heavenly.

27. "God shall enlarge Japhet." In the Hebrew words "jafte" and "jafet",
there is an elegant allusion. For the root of the word is "patah", which,
among the Hebrews, signifies to entice with smooth words, or to allure in
one direction or another. Here, however, nearly all commentators take it
as signifying to enlarge. If this exposition be received, the meaning
will be, that the posterity of Japheth, which for a time would be
scattered, and removed far from the tents of Shem, would at length be
increased, so that it should more nearly approach them, and should dwell
together with them, as in a common home. But I rather approve the other
version, 'God shall gently bring back, or incline Japheth.' Moreover,
whichever interpretation we follow, Noah predicts that there will be a
temporary dissension between Shem and Japheth, although he retains both
in his family and calls both his lawful heirs; and that afterwards the
time will come, in which they shall again coalesce in one body, and have
a common home. It is, however, most absolutely certain, that a prophecy
is here put forth concerning things unknown to man, of which, as the
event, at length, shows God alone was the Author. Two thousand years and
some centuries more, elapsed before the Gentiles and the Jews were
gathered together in one faith. Then the sons of Shem, of whom the
greater part had revolted and cut themselves off from the holy family of
God, were collected together, and dwelt under one tabernacle. Also the
Gentiles, the progeny of Japheth, who had long been wanderers and
fugitives were received into the same tabernacle. For God, by a new
adoption, has formed a people out of those who were separated, and has
confirmed a fraternal union between alienated parties. This is done by
the sweet and gentle voice of God, which he has uttered in the gospel;
and this prophecy is still daily receiving its fulfilment, since God
invites the scattered sheep to join his flock, and collects, on every
side, those who shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the
kingdom of heaven. It is truly no common support of our faith, that the
calling of the Gentiles is not only decreed in the eternal counsel of
God, but is openly declared by the mouth of the Patriarch; lest we should
think it to have happened suddenly or by chance, that the inheritance of
eternal life was offered generally to all. But the form of the
expression, 'Japheth shall dwell in the tabernacles of Shem,' commends to
us that mutual society which ought to exist, and to be cherished among
the faithful. For whereas God had chosen to himself a Church from the
progeny of Shem, he afterwards chose the Gentiles together with them, on
this condition, that they should join themselves to that people, who were
in possession of the covenant of life.

28. "And Noah lived." Although Moses briefly states the age of the holy
man, and does not record his annals and the memorable events of his life,
yet those things which are certain, and which Scripture elsewhere
commemorates, ought to recur to our minds. Within one hundred and fifty
years, the offspring of his three sons became so numerous, that he had
sufficient and even abundant proof of the efficacy of the Divine
benediction "Increase and multiply." He sees, not one city only, filled
with his grandchildren, nor his seed expanded barely to three hundred
families; but many nations springing from one of his sons who should
inhabit extensive regions. This astonishing increase, since it was a
visible representation of the divine favour towards him, would doubtless
fill him with unbounded joy. For Abraham was nearly fifty years old when
his ancestor Noah died. In the meantime, he was compelled to behold many
things, which would afflict his holy breast with incredible grief. To
omit other things; he saw in the family of Shem, the sanctuary of God,--
into which the sons of Japheth were to be received,--destroyed, or, at
least, dilapidated and rent. For whereas the father of Abraham himself,
having deserted his proper station, had erected for himself a profane
tabernacle; a very small portion indeed remained of those who worshipped
God in the harmonious consent of a pure faith. With what tormenting pains
this terrible confusion affected him cannot be sufficiently expressed in
words. Hence we may know, that his eyes of faith must have been
exceedingly penetrating, which did not fail to behold afar of, the grace
of God, in preserving the Church, at that time overwhelmed by the
wickedness of men.

Chapter X.

1 Now these [are] the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and
Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.
2 The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal,
and Meshech, and Tiras.
3 And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.
4 And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.
5 By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every
one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.
6 And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan.
7 And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and
Sabtecha: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan.
8 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as
Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.
10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and
Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
11 Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city
Rehoboth, and Calah,
12 And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same [is] a great city.
13 And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim,
14 And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (out of whom came Philistim,) and
15 And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn, and Heth,
16 And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite,
17 And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite,
18 And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward
were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad.
19 And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to
Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and
Zeboim, even unto Lasha.
20 These [are] the sons of Ham, after their families, after their
tongues, in their countries, [and] in their nations.
21 Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of
Japheth the elder, even to him were [children] born.
22 The children of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and
23 And the children of Aram; Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Mash.
24 And Arphaxad begat Salah; and Salah begat Eber.
25 And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one [was] Peleg; for in
his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name [was] Joktan.
26 And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah,
27 And Hadoram, and Uzal, and Diklah,
28 And Obal, and Abimael, and Sheba,
29 And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab: all these [were] the sons of
30 And their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar a mount
of the east.
31 These [are] the sons of Shem, after their families, after their
tongues, in their lands, after their nations.
32 These [are] the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations,
in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth
after the flood.

1. "These are the generations." If any one pleases more accurately to
examine the genealogies related by Moses in this and the following
chapter, I do not condemn his industry. And some interpreters have not
unsuccessfully applied their diligence and study to this point. Let them
enjoy, as far as I am concerned the reward of their labours. It shall,
however, suffice for me briefly to allude to those things which I deem
more useful to be noticed, and for the sake of which I suppose these
genealogies to have been written by Moses. First, in these bare names we
have still some fragment of the history of the world; and the next
chapter will show how many years intervened between the date of the
deluge and the time when God made his covenant with Abraham. This second
commencement of mankind is especially worthy to be known; and detestable
is the ingratitude of those, who, when they had heard, from their fathers
and grandfathers of the wonderful restoration of the world in so short a
time, yet voluntarily became forgetful of the grace and the salvation of
God. Even the memory of the deluge was by the greater part entirely lost.
Very few cared by what means or for what end they had been preserved.
Many ages afterwards, seeing that the wicked forgetfulness of men had
rendered them callous to the judgment and mercy of God, the door was
opened to the lies of Satan by whose artifice it came to pass, that
heathen poets scattered abroad futile and even noxious fables, by which
the truth respecting God's works was adulterated. The goodness of God,
therefore, wonderfully triumphed over the wickedness of men, in having
granted a prolongation of life to beings so ungrateful, brutal, and
barbarous. Now, to captious men, (who yet do not think it absurd to
refuse to acknowledge a Creator of the world,) such a sudden increase of
mankind seems incredible, and therefore they ridicule it as fabulous. I
grant, indeed, that if we choose to estimate what Moses relates by our
own reason, it may be regarded as a fable; but they act very perversely
who do not attend to the design of the Holy Spirit. For what else, I ask,
did the Spirit intend, than that the offspring of three men should be
increased, not by natural means, or in a common manner, but by the
unwonted exercise of the power of God, for the purpose of replenishing
the earth far and wide? They who regard this miracle of God as fabulous
on account of its magnitude, should much less believe that Noah and his
sons, with their wives, breathed in the waters, and that animals lived
nearly a whole year without sun and air. This then, is a gigantic
madness, to hold up to ridicule what is said respecting the restoration
of the human race: for there the admirable power of God is displayed. How
much better would it be, in the history of these events,--which Noah saw
with his own eyes, and not without great admiration,--to behold God, to
admire his power, to celebrate his goodness, and to acknowledge his hand,
not less filled with mysteries in restoring, than in creating the world?
We must, however, observe, that in the three catalogues which Moses
furnishes, all the heads of the families are not enumerated; but those
only, among the grandsons of Noah, are recorded, who were the princes of
nations. For as any one excelled among his brethren, in talent, valour,
industry, or other endowments, he obtained for himself a name and power,
so that others, resting under his shadow, freely conceded to him the
priority. Therefore, among the sons of Japheth, of Ham, and of Shem,
Moses enumerates those only who had been celebrated, and by whose names
the people were called. Moreover, although no certain cause appears why
Moses begins at Japheth, and descends in the second place to Ham, yet it
is probable that the first place is given to the sons of Japheth, because
they, having wandered over many regions, and having even crossed the sea,
had receded farther from their country: and since these nations were less
known to the Jews, therefore he alludes to them briefly. He assigns the
second place to the sons of Ham, the knowledge of whom, on account of
their vicinity, was more familiar to the Jews. But since he had
determined to weave the history of the Church in one continuous
narrative, he postpones the progeny of Shem, from which the church
flowed, to the last place. Wherefore, the order in which they are
mentioned is not that of dignity; since Moses puts those first, whom he
wished slightly to pass over, as obscure. Besides, we must observe, that
the children of this world are exalted for a time, so that the whole
earth seems as if it were made for their benefit, but their glory being
transient vanishes away; while the Church, in an ignoble and despised
condition, as if creeping on the ground, is yet divinely preserved, until
at length, in his own time, God shall lift up her head. I have already
declared that I leave to others the scrupulous investigation of the names
here mentioned. The reason of certain of them is manifest from the
Scripture, such as Cush, Mizraim, Madai, Canaan, and the like: in respect
to some others there are probable conjectures; in others, the obscurity
is too great to allow of any certain conclusion; and those figments which
interpreters adduce are, in part, very much distorted and forced; in
part, vapid, and without any fair pretext. Undoubtedly it seems to be the
part of a frivolous curiosity to seek for certain and distinct nations in
each of these names. When Moses says, that the islands of the Gentiles
were divided by the sons of Japheth, we understand that the regions
beyond the sea were parted among them. For Greece and Italy, and other
continental lands,--as well as Rhodes and Cyprus,--are called islands by
the Hebrews, because the sea interposed. Whence we infer that we are
sprung from those nations.

8. "And Cush begat Nimrod." It is certain that Cush was the prince of the
Ethiopians. Moses relates the singular history of his son Nimrod, because
he began to be eminent in an unusual degree. Moreover, I thus interpret
the passage, that the condition of men was at that time moderate; so that
if some excelled others, they yet did not on that account domineer, nor
assume to themselves royal power; but being content with a degree of
dignity, governed others by civil laws and had more of authority than
power. For Justin, from Trogus Pompeius, declares this to have been the
most ancient condition of the world. Now Moses says, that Nimrod, as if
forgetting that he was a man, took possession of a higher post of honour.
Noah was at that time yet living, and was certainly great and venerable
in the eyes of all. There were also other excellent men; but such was
their moderation, that they cultivated equality with their inferiors, who
yielded them a spontaneous rather than a forced reverence. The ambition
of Nimrod disturbed and broke through the boundaries of this reverence.
Moreover, since it sufficiently appears that, in this sentence of Moses,
the tyrant is branded with an eternal mark of infamy, we may hence
conclude, how highly pleasing to God is a mild administration of affairs
among men. And truly, whosoever remembers that he is a man, will gladly
cultivate the society of others. With respect to the meaning of the
terms, "tsajid", properly signifies hunting, as the Hebrew grammarians
state; yet it is often taken for food. But whether Moses says that he was
robust in hunting, or in violently seizing upon prey; he metaphorically
intimates that he was a furious man, and approximated to beasts rather
than to men. The expression, "Before the Lord," seems to me to declare
that Nimrod attempted to raise himself above the order of men; just as
proud men become transported by a vain self-confidence, that they may
look down as from the clouds upon others.
  "Wherefore it is said." Since the verb is in the future tense, it may
be thus explained, Nimrod was so mighty and imperious that it would be
proper to say of any powerful tyrant, that he is another Nimrod. Yet the
version of Jerome is satisfactory, that thence it became a proverb
concerning the powerful and the violent, that they were like Nimrod. Nor
do I doubt that God intended the first author of tyranny to be
transmitted to odium by every tongue.

10. "And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel." Moses here designates
the seat of Nimrod's empire. He also declares that four cities were
subject to him; it is however uncertain whether he was the founder of
them, or had thence expelled their rightful lords. And although mention
is elsewhere made of Calneh, yet Babylon was the most celebrated of all.
I do not however think that it was of such wide extent, or of such
magnificent structure, as the profane historians relate. But since the
region was among the first and most fruitful, it is possible that the
convenience of the situation would afterwards invite others to enlarge
the city. Wherefore Aristotle, in his Politics, taking it out of the rank
of cities, compares it to a province. Hence it has arisen, that many
declare it to have been the work of Semiramis, by whom others say that it
was not built but only adorned and joined together by bridges. The land
of Shinar is added as a note of discrimination, because there was also
another Babylon in Egypt, which is now called Cairo. But it is asked, how
was Nimrod the tyrant of Babylon, when Moses in the following chapter,
subjoins, that a tower was begun there, which obtained this name from the
confusion of tongues? Some suppose that a hysteron proteron is here
employed, and that what Moses is afterwards about to relate concerning
the building of the tower was prior in the order of time. Moreover, they
add, that because the building of the tower was disastrously obstructed,
their design was changed to that of building a city. But I rather think
there is a prolepsis; and that Moses called the city by the same name,
which afterwards was imposed by a more recent event. The reason of the
conjecture is that probably, at this time, the inhabitants of that place,
who had engaged in so vast a work, were numerous. It might also happen,
that Nimrod, solicitous about his own fame and power, inflamed their
insane desire by this pretext, that some famous monument should be
erected in which their everlasting memory might remain. Still, since it
is the custom of the Hebrews to prosecute more diffusely, afterwards,
what they had touched upon briefly, I do not entirely reject the former

11. "Out of that land went forth Asshur." It is credible that Asshur was
one of the posterity of Shem. And the opinion has been commonly received,
that he is here mentioned, because, when he was dwelling, in the
neighbourhood of Nimrod, he was violently expelled thence. In this
manner, Moses would mark the barbarous ferocity of Nimrod. And truly
these are the accustomed fruits of a greatness which does not keep within
bounds; whence has arisen the old proverb, 'Great kingdoms are great
robberies.' It is indeed necessary that some should preside over others;
but where ambition, and the desire of rising higher than is right, are
rampant, they not only draw with them the greatest and most numerous
injuries, but also verge closely upon the dissolution of human society.
Yet I rather adopt the opinion of those who say that Asshur is not, in
this place, the name of a man, but of a country which derived its
appellation from him; and thus the sense will be, that Nimrod, not
content with his large and opulent kingdom, gave the reins to his
cupidity, and pushed the boundaries of his empire even into Assyria,
where he also built new cities. The passage in Isaiah (23: 13) is alone
opposed to this opinion, where he says, 'Behold the land of the
Chaldeans, the people was not, Asshur founded it when they inhabited the
deserts, and he reduced it to ruin.' For the prophet seems to say, that
cities were built by the Assyrians in Chaldea, whereas previously, its
inhabitants were wandering and scattered as in a desert. But it may be,
that the prophet speaks of other changes of these kingdoms, which
occurred afterwards. For, at the time in which the Assyrians maintained
the sovereignty, seeing that they flourished in unbounded wealth, it is
credible that Chaldea, which they had subjected to themselves was so
adorned and increased by a long peace, that it might seem to have been
founded by them. And we know, that when the Chaldeans, in their turn,
seized on the empire, Babylon was exalted on the ruins of Nineveh.

21. "Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber." Moses,
being about to speak of the sons of Shem, makes a brief introduction,
which he had not done in reference to the others. Nor was it without
reason; for since this was the race chosen by God, he wished to sever it
from other nations by some special mark. This also is the reason why he
expressly styles him the 'father of the sons of Eber,' and the elder
brother of Japheth. For the benediction of Shem does not descend to all
his grandchildren indiscriminately, but remains in one family. And
although the grandchildren themselves of Eber declined from the true
worship of God, so that the Lord might justly have disinherited them; yet
the benediction was not extinguished, but only buried for a season, until
Abraham was called, in honour of whom this singular dignity is ascribed
to the race and name of Eber. For the same cause, mention is made of
Japheth, in order that the promise may be confirmed, 'God shall speak
gently unto Japheth, that he may dwell in the tents of Shem.' Shem is not
here called the brother of Ham, inasmuch as the latter was cut off from
the fraternal order, and was debarred his own right. Fraternity remained
only between them and Japheth; because, although they were separated, God
had engaged that he would cause them to return from this dissension into
union. As it respects the name Eber, they who deny it to be a proper
name, but deduce it from the word which signifies to pass over, are more
than sufficiently refuted by this passage alone.

Chapter XI.

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a
plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them
throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top
[may reach] unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered
abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the
children of men builded.
6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people [is] one, and they have all one
language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained
from them, which they have imagined to do.
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may
not understand one another's speech.
8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the
earth: and they left off to build the city.
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there
confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD
scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
10 These [are] the generations of Shem: Shem [was] an hundred years old,
and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat
sons and daughters.
12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:
13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years,
and begat sons and daughters.
14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:
15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and
begat sons and daughters.
16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg:
17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and
begat sons and daughters.
18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu:
19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and
begat sons and daughters.
20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug:
21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and
begat sons and daughters.
22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:
23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons
and daughters.
24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:
25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years,
and begat sons and daughters.
26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 Now these [are] the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor,
and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in
Ur of the Chaldees.
29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife [was]
Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the
father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.
30 But Sarai was barren; she [had] no child.
31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son,
and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth
with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and
they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died
in Haran.

1. "And the whole earth was of one language." Whereas mention had before
been made of Babylon in a single word, Moses now more largely explains
whence it derived its name. For this is a truly memorable history, in
which we may perceive the greatness of men's obstinacy against God, and
the little profit they receive from his judgments. And although at first
sight the atrocity of the evil does not appear; yet the punishment which
follows it, testifies how highly God was displeased with that which these
men attempted. They who conjecture that the tower was built with the
intent that is should prove a refuge and protections if, at any time, God
should determine to overwhelm the earth with a deluge, have no other
guide, that I can see, but the dream of their own brain. For the words of
Moses signify no such thing: nothing, indeed, is here noticed, except
their mad ambitions and proud contempt of God. 'Let us build a tower
(they say) whose top may reach to heaven, and let us get ourselves a
name.' We see the design and the aim of the undertaking. For whatsoever
might happen, they wish to have an immortal name on earth; and thus they
build, as if in opposition to the will of God. And doubtless ambition not
only does injury to men, but exalts itself even against God. To erect a
citadel was not in itself so great a crime; but to raise an eternal
monument to themselves, which might endure throughout all ages, was a
proof of headstrong pride, joined with contempt of God. And hence
originated the fable of the giants who, as the poets have feigned, heaped
mountains upon mountains, in order to drag down Jove from his celestial
throne. This allegory is not very remote from the impious counsel to
which Moses alludes; for as soon as mortals, forgetful of themselves; are
inflated above measure, it is certain that like the giants, they wage war
with God. This they do not openly profess, yet it cannot be otherwise
than that every one who transgresses his prescribed bounds, makes a
direct attack upon God.
  With respect to the time in which this event happened, a fragment of
Berosus is extant, (if, indeed, Berosus is to be accounted the author of
such trifles,) where, among other things, a hundred and thirty years are
reckoned from the deluge to the time when they began to build the tower.
This opinion, though deficient in competent authority, has been
preferred, by some, to that which commonly obtained among the Jews, and
which places about three hundred and forty years between the deluge and
the building of the tower. Nor is there anything more plausible in what
others relate; namely, that these builders undertook the work, because
men were even then dispersed far and wide, and many colonies were already
formed; whence they apprehended that as their offspring was daily
increasing, they must, in a short time, migrate to a still greater
distance. But to this argument we may oppose the fact, that the peculiar
blessing of God was to be traced in this multiplication of mankind.
Moreover, Moses seems to set aside all controversy. For after he has
mentioned Arphaxad as the third of the sons of Shem, he then names Peleg,
his great-grandson, in whose days the languages were divided. But from a
computation of the years which he sets down, it plainly appears that one
century only intervened. It is, however, to be noted, that the languages
are not said to have been divided immediately after the birth of Peleg,
and that no definite time was ever specified. It must, indeed, have added
greatly to the weight of Noah's sufferings, when he heard of this wicked
counsel, which had been taken by his posterity. And it is not to be
doubted that he was wounded with the deepest grief, when he beheld them,
with devoted minds, rushing to their own destruction. But the Lord thus
exercised the holy man, even in extreme old age, to teach us not to be
discouraged by a continual succession of conflicts. If any one should
prefer the opinion commonly received among the Jews; the division of the
earth must be referred to the first transmigrations, when men began to be
distributed in various regions: but what has been already recorded in the
preceding chapter, respecting the monarchy of Nimrod, is repugnant to
this interpretation. Still a middle opinion may be entertained; namely,
that the confusion of tongues may perhaps have happened in the extreme
old age of Peleg. Now he lived nearly two hundred and forty years; nor
will it be absurd to suppose that the empire founded by Nimrod endured
two or three centuries. I certainly,--as in a doubtful case,--freely
admit that a longer space of time might intervene between the deluge and
the design of building the tower. Moreover, when Moses says, 'the earth
was of one lip,' he commends the peculiar kindness of God, in having
willed that the sacred bond of society among men far separated from each
other should be retained, by their possessing a common language among
themselves. And truly the diversity of tongues is to be regarded as a
prodigy. For since language is the impress of the minded how does it come
to pass, that men, who are partakers of the same reason, and who are born
for social life, do not communicate with each other in the same language?
This defect, therefore, seeing that it is repugnant to nature, Moses
declares to be adventitious; and pronounces the division of tongues to be
a punishment, divinely inflicted upon men, because they impiously
conspired against God. Community of language ought to have promoted among
them consent in religion; but this multitude of whom Moses speaks, after
they had alienated themselves from the pure worship of God, and the
sacred assembly of the faithful, coalesce to excite war against God.
Therefore by the just vengeance of God their tongues were divided.

2. "They found a plain in the land of Shinar. It may be conjectured from
these words, that Moses speaks of Nimrod and of the people whom he had
collected around him. If, however, we grant that Nimrod was the chief
leader in the construction of so great a pile, for the purpose of
erecting a formidable monument of his tyranny: yet Moses expressly
relates, that the work was undertaken not by the counsel or the will of
one man only, but that all conspired together, so that the blame cannot
be cast exclusively upon one, nor even upon a few.

3. "And they said one to another." That is, they mutually exhorted each
other; and not only did every man earnestly put his own hand to the work,
but impelled others also to the daring attempt.
  "Let us make brick." Moses intimates that they had not been induced to
commence this work, on account of the ease with which it could be
accomplished nor on account of any other advantages which presented
themselves; he rather shows that they had contended with great and
arduous difficulties; by which means their guilt became the more
aggravated. For how is it that they harass and wear themselves out in
vain on a difficult and labourious enterprise, unless that, like madmen,
they rush impetuously against God? Difficulty often deters us from
necessary works; but these men, when they had neither stones nor mortar,
yet do not scruple to attempt the raising of an edifice which may
transcend the clouds. We are taught therefore, by this example, to what
length the lust of men will hurry them, when they indulge their ambition.
Even a profane poet is not silent on this subject,--
      "Man, rashly daring, full of pride,
      Most covets what is most denied."
And a little afterwards,--
      "Counts nothing arduous, and tries
      insanely to possess the skies."

4. "Whose top may reach unto heaven." This is an hyperbolical form of
speech, in which they boastingly extol the loftiness of the structure
they are attempting to raise. And to the same point belongs what they
immediately subjoin, "Let us make us a name;" for they intimate, that the
work would be such as should not only be looked upon by the beholders as
a kind of miracle, but should be celebrated everywhere to the utmost
limits of the world. This is the perpetual infatuation of the world; to
neglect heaven, and to seek immortality on earth, where every thing is
fading and transient. Therefore, their cares and pursuits tend to no
other end than that of acquiring for themselves a name on earth. David,
in the forty ninth psalm, deservedly holds up to ridicule this blind
cupidity; and the more, because experience (which is the teacher of the
foolish) does not restore posterity to a sound mind, though instructed by
the example of their ancestors; but the infatuation creeps on through all
succeeding ages. The saying of Juvenal is known,--'Death alone
acknowledges how insignificant are the bodies of men.' Yet even death
does not correct our pride, nor constrain us seriously to confess our
miserable condition: for often more pride is displayed in funerals than
in nuptial pomp. By such an example, however, we are admonished how
fitting it is that we should live and die humbly. And it is not the least
important part of true prudence, to have death before our eyes in the
midst of life, for the purpose of accustoming ourselves to moderation.
For he who vehemently desires to be great in the world, is first
contumelious towards men, and at length, his profane presumption breaks
forth against God himself; so that after the example of the giants, he
fights against heaven.
  "Lest we be scattered abroad." Some interpreters translate the passage
thus, 'Before we are scattered:' but the peculiarity of the language will
not bear this explanation: for the men are devising means to meet a
danger which they believe to be imminent; as if they would say, 'It
cannot be, that when our number increases, this region should always hold
all men; and therefore an edifice must be erected by which their name
shall be preserved in perpetuity, although they should themselves be
dispersed in different regions.' It is however asked, whence they derived
the notion of their future dispersion? Some conjecture that they were
warned of it by Noah; who, perceiving that the world had relapsed into
its former crimes and corruptions, foresaw, at the same time, by the
prophetic spirit, some terrible dispersion; and they think that the
Babylonians, seeing they could not directly resist God, endeavoured, by
indirect methods, to avert the threatened judgment. Others suppose, that
these men, by a secret inspiration of the Spirit, uttered prophecies
concerning their own punishment, which they did not themselves
understand. But these expositions are constrained; nor is there any
reason which requires us to apply what they here say, to the curse which
was inflicted upon them. They knew that the earth was formed to be
inhabited and would everywhere supply its abundance for the sustenance of
men; and the rapid multiplication of mankind proved to them that it was
not possible for them long to remain shut up within their present narrow
limits; wherefore, to whatever other places it would be necessary for
them to migrate, they design this tower to remain as a witness of their

5. "And the Lord came down." The remaining part of the history now
follows, in which Moses teaches us with what ease the Lord could overturn
their insane attempts, and scatter abroad all their preparations. There
is no doubt that they strenuously set about what they had presumptuously
devised. But Moses first intimates that God, for a little while, seemed
to take no notice of them, in order that suddenly breaking off their work
at its commencement, by the confusion of their tongues, he might give the
more decisive evidence of his judgment. For he frequently bears with the
wicked, to such an extent, that he not only suffers them to contrive many
nefarious things, as if he were unconcerned, or were taking repose; but
even further, their impious and perverse designs with animating success,
in order that he may at length cast them down to a lower depth. The
descent of God, which Moses here records, is spoken of in reference to
men rather than to God; who, as we know, does not move from place to
place. But he intimates that God gradually and as with a tardy step,
appeared in the character of an Avenger. The Lord therefore descended
that he might see; that is, he evidently showed that he was not ignorant
of the attempt which the Babylonians were making.

6. "Behold, the people is one." Some thus expound the words, that God
complains of a wickedness in men so refractory, that he excites himself
by righteous grief to execute vengeance; not that he is swayed by any
passions, but to teach us that he is not negligent of human affairs, and
that, as he watches for the salvation of the faithful, so he is intent on
observing the wickedness of the ungodly; as it is said in Psalm 34: 16,
"The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the
remembrance of them from the earth." Others think there is a comparison
between the less and the greater, no if it had been said, 'They are
hitherto few and only use one language; what will they not dare, if, on
account of their multitude, they should become separated into various
nations?' But there rather seems to me to be a suppressed irony, as if
God would propose to himself a difficult work in subduing their audacity:
so that the sense may be, 'This people is compacted together in a firm
conspiracy, they communicate with each other in the same language, by
what method therefore can they be broken?' Nevertheless, he ironically
smiles at their foolish and hasty confidence; because, while men are
calculating upon their own strength, there is nothing which they do not
arrogate to themselves.
  "This they begins to do." In saying that they begin, he intimates that
they make a diligent attempts accompanied with violent fervour, in
carrying on the work. Thus in the way of concession, God declares, that
supposing matters to be so arranged, there would be no interruption of
the building.

7. "Go to, let us go down." We have said that Moses has represented the
case to us by the figure hypotyposis, that the judgments of God may be
the more clearly illustrated. For which reason, he now introduces God as
the speaker, who declares that the work which they supposed could not be
retarded, shall, without any difficulty, be destroyed. The meaning of the
words is of this kind, 'I will not use many instruments, I will only blow
upon them, and they, through the confusion of tongues, shall be
contemptibly scattered. And as they, having collected a numerous band,
were contriving how they might reach the clouds; so on the other hand,
God summons his troops, by whose interposition he may ward off their
fury. It is, however, asked, what troops he intends? The Jews think that
he addresses himself to the angels. But since no mention is made of the
angels, and God places those to whom he speaks in the same rank with
himself, this exposition is harsh, and deservedly rejected. This passage
rather answers to the former, which occurs in the account of man's
creation, when the Lord said, "Let us make man after our image." For God
aptly and wisely opposes his own eternal wisdom and power to this great
multitude; as if he had said, that he had no need of foreign auxiliaries,
but possessed within himself what would suffice for their destruction.
Wherefore, this passage is not improperly adduced in proof that Three
Persons subsist in One Essence of Deity. Moreover, this example of Divine
vengeance belongs to all ages: for men are always inflamed with the
desire of daring to attempt what is unlawful. And this history shows that
God will ever be adverse to such counsels and designs; so that we here
behold, depicted before our eyes what Solomon says: 'There is no counsel,
nor prudence, nor strength against the Lord,' (Prov. 21: 30.) Unless the
blessing of God be present, from which alone we may expect a prosperous
issue, all that we attempt will necessarily perish. Since, then, God
declares that he is at perpetual war with the unmeasured audacity of men;
anything we undertake without his approval will end miserably, even
though all creatures above and beneath should earnestly offer us their
assistance. Now, although the world bears this curse to the present day;
yet, in the midst of punishment, and of the most dreadful proofs of
Divine anger against the pride of men, the admirable goodness of God is
rendered conspicuous, because the nations hold mutual communication among
themselves, though in different languages; but especially because He has
proclaimed one gospel, in all languages, through the whole world, and has
endued the Apostles with the gift of tongues. Whence it has come to pass,
that they who before were miserably divided, have coalesced in the unity
of the faith. In this sense Isaiah says, that the language of Canaan
should be common to all under the reign of Christ, (Isaiah 19: 18;)
because, although their language may differ in sound, they all speak the
6ame thing, while they cry, Abba, Father.

8. "So the Lord scattered them abroad." Men had already been spread
abroad; and this ought not to be regarded as a punishment, seeing it
rather flowed from the benediction and grace of God. But those whom the
Lord had before distributed with honour in various abodes, he now
ignominiously scatters, driving them hither and thither like the members
of a lacerated body. This, therefore, was not a simple dispersion for the
replenishing of the earth, that it might every where have cultivators and
inhabitants; but a violent rout, because the principal bond of
conjunction between them was, cut asunder.

9. "Therefore is the name of it called Babel." Behold what they gained by
their foolish ambition to acquire a name! They hoped that an everlasting
memorial of their origin would be engraven on the tower; God not only
frustrates their vain expectation, but brands them with eternal disgrace,
to render them execrable to all posterity, on account of the great
mischief indicted on the human race, through their fault. They gain,
indeed, a name, but not each as they would have chosen: thus does God
opprobriously cast down the pride of those who usurp to themselves
honours to which they have no title. Here also is refuted the error of
those who deduce the origin of Babylon from Jupiter Belus.

10. "These are the generations of Shem." Concerning the progeny of Shem,
Moses had said something in the former chapter: but now he combines with
the names of the men, the term of their several lives, that we might not
be ignorant of the age of the world. For unless this brief description
had been preserved, men at this day would not have known how much time
intervened between the deluge and the day in which God made his covenant
with Abraham. Moreover, it is to be observed, that God reckons the years
of the world from the progeny of Shem, as a mark of honour: just as
historians date their annals by the names of kings or consuls.
Nevertheless, he has granted this not so much on account of the dignity
and merits of the family of Shem, as on account of his own gratuitous
adoption; for (as we shall immediately see) a great part of the posterity
of Shem apostatized from the true worship of God. For which reason, they
deserved not only that God should expunge them from his calendar, but
should entirely take them out of the world. But he too highly esteems
that election of his, by which he separated this family from all people,
to suffer it to perish on account of the sins of men. And therefore from
the many sons of Shem he chooses Arphaxad alone; and from the sons of
Arphaxad, Selah alone; and from him also, Eber alone; till he comes to
Abram; the calling of whom ought to be accounted the renovation of the
Church. As it concerns the rest, it is probable that before the century
was completed, they fell into impious superstitions. For when God brings
it as a charge against the Jews, that their fathers Terah and Nahor
served strange gods, (Josh. 24: 2,) we must still remember, that the
house of Shem, in which they were born, was the peculiar sanctuary of
God, where pure religion ought most to have flourished; what then do we
suppose, must have happened to others who might seem, from the very
first, to have been emancipated from this service? Hence truly appears,
not only the prodigious wickedness and depravity, but also the inflexible
hardness of the human mind. Noah and his sons, who had been eye-witnesses
of the deluge, were yet living: the narration of that history ought to
have inspired men with not less terror than the visible appearance of God
himself: from infancy they had been imbued with those elements of
religious instruction, which relate to the manner in which God was to be
worshipped, the reverence with which his word was to be obeyed, and the
severe vengeance which remains for those who should violate the order
prescribed by him: yet they could not be restrained from being so
corrupted by their vanity, that they entirely apostatized. In the
meantime, there is no doubt that holy Noah, according to his
extraordinary zeal and heroic fortitude, would contend in every way for
the maintenance of God's glory: and that he sharply and severely
inveighed, yea, fulminated against the perfidious apostasy of his
descendants; and whereas all ought to have trembled at his very look,
they are yet moved by no chidings, however loud, from proceeding in the
course into which their own fury has hurried them. From this mirror,
rather than from the senseless flatteries of sophists, let us learn how
fruitful is the corruption of our 
nature. But if Noah and Shem, and other such eminent teachers could not,
by contending most courageously, prevent the prevalence of impiety in the
world; let us not wonder, if at this day also, the unbridled lust of the
world rushes to impious and perverse modes of worship, against all the
obstacles interposed by sound doctrine, admonition, and threats. Here,
however, we must observe, in these holy men, how firm was the strength of
their faith, how indefatigable their patience, how persevering their
cultivation of piety; since they never gave way, on account of the many
occasions of offense with which they had to contend. Luther very properly
compares the incredible torments, by which they were necessarily
afflicted, to many martyrdoms. For such an alienation of their
descendants from God did not less affect their minds than if they had
seen their own bowels not only lacerated and torn, but cast into the mire
of Satan, and into hell itself. But while the world was thus filled with
ungodly men, God wonderfully retained a few under obedience to his word,
that he might preserve the Church from destruction. And although we have
said that the father and grandfather of Abraham were apostates, and that,
probably, the defection did not first begin with them; yet, because the
Church by the election of God, was included in that race, and because God
had some who worshipped him in purity, and who survived even to the time
of Abraham. Moses deduces a continuous line of descent, and thus enroll
them in the catalogue of saints. Whence we infer, (as I have a little
before observed,) in what high estimation God holds the Church, which,
though so small in numbers is yet preferred to the whole world.
  "Shem was an hundred years old." Since Moses has placed Arphaxad the
third in order among the sons of Shem, it is asked how this agrees with
his having been born in the second year after the deluge? The answer is
easy. It cannot be exactly ascertained, from the catalogues which Moses
recites, at what time each was born; because sometimes the priority of
place is assigned to one, who yet was posterior in the order of birth.
Others answer, that there is nothing absurd in supposing Moses to declare
that, after the completion of two years, a third son was born. But the
solution I have given is more genuine.

27. "Terah begat Abram." Here also Abram is placed first among his
brethren, not (as I suppose) because he was the firstborn; but because
Moses, intent on the scope of his history, was not very careful in the
arrangement of the sons of Terah. It is also possible that he had other
sons. For, the reason why Moses speaks especially of them is obvious;
namely, on account of Lot, and of the wives of Isaac and Jacob. I will
now briefly state why I think Abram was not the first born. Moses shortly
afterwards says, that Haran died in his own country, before his father
left Chaldea, and went to Charran. But Abram was seventy-five years old
when he departed from Charran to dwell in the land of Canaan. And this
number of seventy-five years is expressly given after the death of Terah.
Now, if we suppose that Abram was born in his father's seventieth year,
we must also allow that we have lost sixty years of Terah's age; which is
most absurd. The conjecture of Luther, that God buried that time in
oblivion, in order to hide from us the end of the world, in the first
place is frivolous, and in the next, may be refuted by solid and
convincing arguments. Others violently wrest the words to apply them to a
former egress; and think that he lived together with his father at
Charran for sixty years; which is most improbable. For to what end should
they have protracted their stay so long in the midst of their journey?
But there is no need of labourious discussion. Moses is silent respecting
the age of Abraham when he left his own country; but says, that in the
seventy-fifth year of his age, he came into the land of Canaan, when his
father, having reached the two hundredth and fifth year of his life, had
died. Who will not hence infer that he was born when his father had
attained his one hundredth and thirtieth year? But he is named first
among those sons whom Terah is said to have begotten, when he himself was
seventy years old. I grant it; but this order of recital does nothing
towards proving the order of birth, as we have already said. Nor, indeed,
does Moses declare in what year of his life Terah begat sons; but only
that he had passed the above age before he begat the three sons here
mentioned. Therefore, the age of Abraham is to be ascertained by another
mode of computation, namely, from the fact that Moses assigns to him the
age of seventy-five when his father died, whose life had reached to two
hundred and five years. A firm arid valid argument is also deduced from
the age of Sarai. It appears that she was not more than ten years younger
than Abraham. If she was the daughter of his younger brother, she would
necessarily have equalled her own father in age. They who raise an
objection, to the effect that she was the daughter-in-law, or only the
adopted daughter of Nahor, produce nothing beyond a sheer cavil.

28. "And Haran died."  Haran is said to have died before the face of his
father; because he left his father the survivor. It is also said that he
died in his country, that is, in Ur. The Jews turn the proper name into
an appellative, and say that he died in the fire. For, as they are bold
in forging fables, they pretend that he, with his brother Abram, were
thrown by the Chaldeans into the fire, because they shunned idolatry; but
that Abram escaped by the constancy of his faith. The twenty-fourth
chapter of Joshua, however, which I have cited above, openly declares,
that this whole family was not less infected with superstition9 than the
country itself. I confess, indeed, that the name Ur is derived from fire:
names, however, are wont to be assigned to cities, either from their
situation, or from some particular event. It is possible that they there
cherished the sacred fire, or that the splendour of the sun was more
conspicuous than in other places. Others will have it, that the city was
so named, because it was situated in a valley, for the Hebrews call
valleys "uraim". But there is no reason why we should be very anxious
about such a matter: let it suffice, that Moses, speaking of the country
of Abram immediately afterwards declares it to have been Ur of the

30. "But Sarai was barren." Not on]y does he say that Abram was without
children, but he states the reasons namely, the sterility of his wife; in
order to show that it was by nothing short of an extraordinary miracle
that she afterwards bare Isaac, as we shall declare more fully in its
proper place. Thus was God pleased to humble his servant; and we cannot
doubt that Abram would suffer severe pain through this privation. He sees
the wicked springing up everywhere, in great numbers, to cover the earth;
he alone is deprived of children. And although hitherto he was ignorant
of his own future vocation; yet God designed in his person, as in a
mirror, to make it evident, whence and in what manner his Church should
arise; for at that time it lay hid, as in a dry root under the earth.

31. "And Terah took Abram his son." Here the next chapter ought to
commence; because Moses begins to treat of one of the principal subjects
of his book; namely, the calling of Abram. For he not only relates that
Terah changed his country, but he also explains the design and the end of
his departure, that he left his native soils and entered on his journey,
in order to come to the land of Canaan. Whence the inference is easily
drawn, that he was not so much the leader or author of the journey, as
the companion of his son.
  And it is no obstacle to this inference, that Moses assigns the
priority to Terah, as if Abram had departed under his auspices and
direction, rather than by the command of God: for this is an honour
conferred upon the father's name. Nor do I doubt that Abram, when he saw
his father willingly obeying the calling of God, became in return the
more obedient to him. Therefore, it is ascribed to the authority of the
father, that he took his son with him. For, that Abram had been called of
God before he moved a foot from his native soil, will presently appear
too plain to be denied. We do not read that his father had been called.
It may therefore be conjectured, that the oracle of God had been made
known to Terah by the relation of his son. For the divine command to
Abram respecting his departure, did not prohibit him from informing his
father, that his only reason for leaving him was, that he preferred the
command of God to all human obligations. These two things, indeed without
controversy, we gather from the words of Moses; that Abram was divinely
called, before Terah left his own country: and that Terah had no other
design than that of coming into the land of Canaan; that is, of joining
his son as a voluntary companion. Therefore, I conclude, that he had left
his country a short time before his death. For it is absurd to suppose,
that when he departed from his own country, to go directly to the land of
Canaan, he should have remained sixty years a stranger in a foreign land.
It is more probable, that being an old man worn out with years he was
carried off by disease and weariness. And yet it may be, that God held
them a little while in suspense, because Moses says he dwelt in Charran;
but from what follows, it appears that the delay was not long: since, in
the seventy-fifth year of his age, Abram departed thence; and he had gone
thither already advanced in age, and knowing that his wife was barren.
Moreover, the town which by the Hebrews is called Charran, is declared by
all writers, with one consent, to be Charran, situated in Mesopotamia;
although Lucas, poetically rather than truly, places it in Assyria. The
place was celebrated for the destruction of Crassus, and the overthrow of
the Roman army.

Chapter XII.

1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from
thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make
thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee:
and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with
him: and Abram [was] seventy and five years old when he departed out of
5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their
substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in
Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the
land of Canaan they came.
6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the
plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite [was] then in the land.
7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give
this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto
8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and
pitched his tent, [having] Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and
there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the
9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to
sojourn there; for the famine [was] grievous in the land.
11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that
he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou [art] a fair
woman to look upon:
12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee,
that they shall say, This [is] his wife: and they will kill me, but they
will save thee alive.
13 Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me
for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the
Egyptians beheld the woman that she [was] very fair.
15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh:
and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen,
and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and
17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because
of Sarai Abram's wife.
18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What [is] this [that] thou hast
done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she [was] thy wife?
19 Why saidst thou, She [is] my sister? so I might have taken her to me
to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take [her], and go thy way.
20 And Pharaoh commanded [his] men concerning him: and they sent him
away, and his wife, and all that he had.

1. "Now the Lord had said unto Abram." That an absurd division of these
chapters may not trouble the readers, let them connect this sentence with
the last two verses of the previous chapter. Moses had before said, that
Terah and Abram had departed from their country to dwell in the land of
Canaan. He now explains that they had not been impelled by levity as rash
and fickle men are wont to be; nor had been drawn to other regions by
disgust with their own country, as morose persons frequently are; nor
were fugitives on account of crime; nor were led away by any foolish
hope, or by any allurements, as many are hurried hither and thither by
their own desires; but that Abram had been divinely commanded to go forth
and had not moved a foot but as he was guided by the word of God. They
who explain the passage to mean, that God spoke to Abram after the death
of his father, are easily refuted by the very words of Moses: for if
Abram was already without a country, and was sojourning as a stranger
elsewhere, the command of God would have been superfluous, 'Depart from
thy land, from thy country, and from thy father's house.' The authority
of Stephen is also added, who certainly deserves to be accounted a
suitable interpreter of this passage: now he plainly testifies, that God
appeared to Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in
Charran; he then recites this oracle which we are now explaining; and at
length concludes, that, for this reason, Abraham migrated from Chaldea.
Nor is that to be overlooked which God afterwards repeats, (15: 7,) 'I am
the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees;' for we thence
infer, that the Divine Hand was not for the first time stretched out to
him after he had dwelt in Charran, but while he yet remained at home in
Chaldea. Truly this command of Gods respecting which doubts are foolishly
entertained, ought to be deemed by us sufficient to disprove the contrary
error. For God could not have spoken thus, except to a man who had been,
up to that time, settled in his nest, having his affairs underanged, and
living quietly and tranquilly among his relatives, without any change in
his mode of life; otherwise, the answer would have been readily given 'I
have left my country, I am far removed from my kindred.' In short, Moses
records this oracle, in order that we may know that this long journey was
undertaken by Abram, and his father Terah, at the command of God. Whence
it also appears, that Terah was not so far deluded by superstitions as to
be destitute of the fear of God. It was difficult for the old man,
already broken and failing in health, to tear himself away from his own
country. Some true religion, therefore, although smothered, still
remained in his mind. Therefore, when he knew that the place, from which
his son was commanded to depart, was accursed, it was his wish not to
perish there; but he joined himself as an associate with him whom the
Lord was about to deliver. What a witness, I demand, will he prove, in
the last day, to condemn our indolence! Easy and plausible was the excuse
which he might have alleged; namely that he would remain quietly at home,
because he had received no command. But he, though blind in the darkness
of unbelief, yet opened his eyes to the beam of light which shot across
his path; while we remain unmoved when the Divine vocation directly
shines upon us. Moreover, this calling of Abram is a signal instance of
the gratuitous mercy of God. Had Abram been beforehand with God by any
merit of works? Had Abram come to him, or conciliated his favour? Nay, we
must ever recall to mind, (what I have before adduced from the passage in
Joshua,) that he was plunged in the filth of idolatry; and now God freely
stretches forth his hand to bring back the wanderer. He deigns to open
his sacred mouth, that he may show to one, deceived by Satan's wiles, the
way of salvation. And it is wonderful, that a man, miserable and lost,
should have the preference given him, over so many holy worshippers of
God; that the covenant of life should be placed in his possession; that
the Church should be revived in him, and he himself constituted the
father of all the faithful. But this is done designedly, in order that
the manifestation of the grace of God might become the more conspicuous
in his person. For he is an example of the vocation of us all; for in him
we perceive, that, by the mere mercy of God, those things which are not
are raised from nothing, in order that they may begin to be something.
  "Get thee out of thy country." This accumulation of words may seem to
be superfluous. To which also may be added, that Moses, in other places
so concise, here expresses a plain and easy matter in three different
forms of speech. But the case is quite otherwise. For since exile is in
itself sorrowful, and the sweetness of their native soil holds nearly all
men bound to itself, God strenuously persists in his command to leave the
country, for the purpose of thoroughly penetrating the mind of Abram. If
he had said in a single word, Leave thy country, this indeed would not
lightly have pained his mind; but Abram is still more deeply affected,
when he hears that he must renounce his kindred and his father's house.
Yet it is not to be supposed, that God takes a cruel pleasure in the
trouble of his servants; but he thus tries all their affections, that he
may not leave any lurking-places undiscovered in their hearts. We see
many persons zealous for a short time, who afterwards become frozen;
whence is this, but because they build without a foundation? Therefore
God determined, thoroughly to rouse all the senses of Abram, that he
might undertake nothing rashly or inconsiderately; lest, repenting soon
afterwards, he should veer with the wind, and return. Wherefore, if we
desire to follow God with constancy, it behaves us carefully to meditate
on all the inconveniences, all the difficulties, all the dangers which
await us; that not only a hasty zeal may produce fading flowers, but that
from a deep and well-fixed root of piety, we may bring forth fruit in our
whole life.
  "Unto a land that I will show thee." This is another test to prove the
faith of Abram. For why does not God immediately point out the land,
except for the purpose of keeping his servant in suspense, that he may
the better try the truth of his attachment to the word of God? As if he
would say, 'I command thee to go forth with closed eyes, and forbid thee
to inquire whither I am about to lead thee, until, having renounced thy
country, thou shalt have given thyself wholly to me.' And this is the
true proof of our obedience, when we are not wise in our own eyes, but
commit ourselves entirely unto the Lord. Whensoever, therefore, he
requires anything of us, we must not be so solicitous about success, as
to allow fear and anxiety to retard our course. For it is better, with
closed eyes, to follow God as our guide, than, by relying on our own
prudence, to wander through those circuitous paths which it devises for
us. Should any one object, that this statement is at variance with the
former sentence, in which Moses declared that Terah and Abram departed
from their own country, that they might come into the land of Canaan: the
solution is easy, if we admit a prolepsis (that is, an anticipation on
something still future) in the expression of Moses; such as follows in
this very chapter, in the use of the name Bethel; and such as frequently
occurs in the Scriptures. They knew not whither they were going; but
because they had resolved to go whithersoever God might call them, Moses,
speaking in his own person, mentions the land, which, though hitherto
unknown to them both, was afterwards revealed to Abram alone. It is
therefore true, that they departed with the design of coming to the land
of Canaan; because, having received the promise concerning a land which
was to be shown them, they suffered themselves to be governed by God,
until he should actually bestow what he had promised. Nevertheless it may
be, that God, having proved the devotedness of Abram, soon afterwards
removed all doubt from his mind. For we do not know at what precise
moment of time, God would intimate to him what it was his will to conceal
only for a season. It is enough that Abram declared himself to be truly
obedient to God, when, having cast all his care on God's providence, and
having discharged, as it were, into His bosom, whatever might have
impeded him, he did not hesitate to leave his own country, uncertain
where, at length, he might plant his foot; for, by this method, the
wisdom of the flesh was reduced to order, and all his affections, at the
same time, were subdued. Yet it may be asked, why God sent his servant
into the land of Canaan rather than into the East, where he could have
lived with some other of the holy fathers? Some (in order that the change
may not seem to have been made for the worse) will have it, that he was
led thither, for the purpose of dwelling with his ancestor Shem, whom
they imagine to have been Melchizedek. But if such were the counsel of
God, it is strange that Abram bent his steps in a different direction;
nay, we do not read that he met with Melchizedek, till he was returning
from the battle in the plain of Sodom. But, in its proper place, we shall
see how frivolous is the imagination, that Melchizedek was Shem. As it
concerns the subject now in hand, we infer, from the result which at
length followed, that God's design was very different from what these men
suppose. The nations of Canaan, on account of their deplorable
wickedness, were devoted to destruction. God required his servant to
sojourn among them for a time, that, by faith, he might perceive himself
to be the heir of that land, the actual possession of which was reserved
for his posterity to a long period after his own death. Wherefore he was
commanded to cross over into that country, for this sole reason, that it
was to be evacuated by its inhabitants, for the purpose of being given to
his seed for a possession. And it was of great importance, that Abram,
Isaac, and Jacob, should be strangers in that land, and should by faith
embrace the dominion over it, which had been divinely promised them, in
order that their posterity might, with the greater courage, gird
themselves to take possession of it.

2. "And I will make of thee a great nation." Hitherto Moses has related
what Abram had been commanded to do; now he annexes the promise of God to
the command; and that for no light cause. For as we are slothful to obey,
the Lord would command in vain, unless we are animated by a superadded
confidence in his grace and benediction. Although I have before alluded
to this, in the history of Noah, it will not be useless to inculcate it
again, for the passage itself requires something to be said; and the
repetition of a doctrine of such great moment ought not to seem
superfluous. For it is certain that faith cannot stand, unless it be
founded on the promises of God. But faith alone produces obedience.
Therefore in order that our minds may be disposed to follow God, it is
not sufficient for him simply to command what he pleases, unless he also
promises his blessing. We must mark the promise, that Abram, whose wife
was still barren, should become a great nation. This promise might have
been very efficacious, if God, by the actual state of things, had
afforded ground of hope respecting its fulfilment; but now, seeing that
the barrenness of his wife threatened him with perpetual privation of
offspring, the bare promise itself would have been cold, if Abram had not
wholly depended upon the word of God; wherefore, though he perceives the
sterility of his wife, he yet apprehends, by hope, that great nation
which is promised by the word of God. And Isaiah greatly extols this act
of favour, that God, by his blessing, increased his servant Abram whom he
found alone and solitary to so great a nations (Isaiah 51: 2.) The noun
"goi", "my nation," (ver. 4,) though detestable to the Jews,' is in this
place, and in many others, taken as a term of honour. And it is here used
emphatically, to show that he should not only have posterity from his own
seed in great number, but a peculiar people, separated from others, who
should be called by his own name.
  "I will bless thee." This is partly added, to explain the preceding
sentence. For, lest Abram should despair, God offers his own blessing,
which was able to effect more in the way of miracle, than is seen to be
effected, in other cases, by natural means. The benediction, however,
here pronounced, extends farther than to offspring; and implies, that he
should have a prosperous and joyous issue of all his affairs; as appears
from the succeeding context, "And will make thy name great, and thou
shalt be a bleeping." For such happiness is promised him, as shall fill
all men everywhere with admiration, so that they shall introduce the name
of Abram, as an example, into their formularies of pronouncing
benediction. Others use the term in the sense of augmentation, 'Thou
shalt be a blessing,' that is, 'All shall bless thee.' But the former
sense is the more suitable. Some also expound it actively, as if it had
been said, 'My grace shall not reside in thee, so that thou alone mayest
enjoy it, but it shall flow far unto all nations. I therefore now so
deposit it with thee, that it may overflow into all the world.' But God
does not yet proceed to that communication, as I shall show presently.

3. "And I will bless them that bless thee." Here the extraordinary
kindness of God manifests itself, in that he familiarly makes a covenant
with Abram, as men are wont to do with their companions and equals. For
this is the accustomed form of covenants between kings and others, that
they mutually promise to have the same enemies and the same friends. This
certainly is an inestimable pledge of special love, that God should so
greatly condescend for our sake. For although he here addresses one man
only, he elsewhere declares the same affection towards his faithful
people. We may therefore infer this general doctrine, that God so
embraced us with his favour, that he will bless our friends, and take
vengeance on our enemies. We are, moreover, warned by this passage, that
however desirous the sons of God may be of peace, they will never want
enemies. Certainly, of all persons who ever conducted themselves so
peaceably among men as to deserve the esteem of all, Abram might be
reckoned among the chief, yet even he was not without enemies; because he
had the devil for his adversary, who holds the wicked in his hand, whom
he incessantly impels to molest the good. There is then, no reason why
the ingratitude of the world should dishearten us, even though many hate
us without cause, and, when provoked by no injury, study to do us harm;
but let us be content with this single consolation, that God engages on
our side in the war. Besides, God exhorts his people to cultivate
fidelity and humanity with all good men, and, further, to abstain from
all injury. For this is no common inducement to excite us to assist the
faithful, that if we discharge any duty towards them, God will repay it;
nor ought it less to alarm us, that he denounces war against us, if we
hurt any one belonging to him.
  "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Should any one
choose to understand this passage in a restricted sense, as if, by a
proverbial mode of speech, they who shall bless their children or their
friends, shall be called after the name of Abram, let him enjoy his
opinion; for the Hebrew phrase will bear the interpretation, that Abram
shall be called a signal example of happiness. But I extend the meaning
further; because I suppose the same thing to be promised in this place,
which God afterwards repeats more clearly, (22: 18.) And the authority of
Paul brings me to this point; who says, that the promise to the seed of
Abraham, that is, to Christ, was given four hundred and thirty years
before the law, (Gal. 3: 17.) But the computation of years requires us to
understand, that the blessing was promised him in Christ, when he was
coming into the land of Canaan. Therefore God (in my judgment) pronounces
that all nations should be blessed in his servant Abram because Christ
was included in his loins. In this manner, he not only intimates that
Abram would be an example, but a cause of blessing; so that there should
be an understood antithesis between Adam and Christ. For whereas, from
the time of the first man's alienation from God, we are all born
accursed, here a new remedy is offered unto us. Nor is there any thing
contrary to this in the assertion, that we must by no means seek a
blessing in Abram himself, inasmuch as the expression is used in
reference to Christ. Here the Jews petulantly object, and heap together
many testimonies of Scripture, from which it appears that to bless or
curse in any one, is nothing else than to wish good or evil to another,
according to him as a pattern. But their cavil may be set aside without
difficulty. I acknowledge, that what they say is often, but not always
true. For when it is said, that the tribe of Levi shall bless in the name
of God, in Deut. 10: 8; Isa. 65: 16, and in similar passages, it is
sufficiently evident, that God is declared to be the fountain of all
good, in order that Israel may not seek any portion of good elsewhere
Seeing, therefore, that the language is ambiguous, let them grant the
necessity of choosing this, or the other sense, as may be most suitable
to the subject and the occasion. Now Paul assumes it as an axiom which is
received among all the pious, and which ought to be taken for granted,
that the whole human race is obnoxious to a curse, and therefore that the
holy people are blessed only through the grace of the Mediator. Whence he
concludes, that the covenant of salvation which God made with Abram, is
neither stable nor firm except in Christ. I therefore thus interpret the
present place; that God promises to his servant Abram that blessing which
shall afterwards flow down to all people. But because this subject will
be more amply explained else where, I now only briefly touch upon it.

4. "So Abram departed." They who suppose that God was now speaking to
Abram in Charran, lay hold of these words in support of their error. But
the cavil is easily refuted; for after Moses has mentioned the cause of
their departure, namely, that Abram had been constrained by the command
of God to leave his native soil, he now returns to the thread of the
history. Why Abram for a time should have remained in Charran, we do not
know, except that God laid his hand upon him, to prevent him from
immediately obtaining a sight of the land, which, although yet unknown,
he had nevertheless preferred to his own country. He is now said to have
departed from Charran, that he might complete the journey he had begun;
which also the next verse confirms, where it is said, that he took Sarai
his wife and Lot his nephew with him. As under the conduct and auspices
of his father Terah, they had departed from Chaldea; so now when Abram is
become the head of the family, he pursues and completes what his father
had begun. Still it is possible, that the Lord again exhorted him to
proceed, the death of his father having intervened, and that he confirmed
his former call by a second oracle. It is however certain, that in this
place the obedience of faith is commended, and not as one act simply, but
as a constant and perpetual course of life. For I do not doubt, but Moses
intended to say, that Abram remained in Charran, not because he repented,
as if he was inclined to swerve from the straight course of his vocation,
but as having the command of God always fixed in his mind. And therefore
I would rather refer the clause, "As the Lord had spoken to him" to the
first oracle; so that Moses should say, 'he stood firmly in his purpose,
and his desire to obey God was not broken by the death of his father.'
Moreover, we have here in one word, a rule prescribed to us, for the
regulation of our whole life, which is to attempt nothing but by Divine
authority. For, however men may dispute concerning virtues and duties, no
work is worthy of praise, or deserves to be reckoned among virtues,
except what is pleasing to God. And he himself testifies, that he makes
greater account of obedience than of sacrifice, (1 Sam. 15: 22.)
Wherefores our life will then be rightly constituted, when we depend upon
the word of God, and undertake nothing except at his command. And it is
to be observed, that the question is not here concerning some one
particular work, but concerning the general principle of living piously
and uprightly. For the subject treated of, is the vocation of Abram which
is a common pattern of the life of all the faithful. We are not indeed
all indiscriminately commanded to desert our country; this point, I
grant, is special in the case of Abram; but generally, it is God's will
that all should be in subjection to his word, and should seek the law,
for the regulation of their life, at his mouth, lest they should be
carried away by their own will, or by the maxims of men. Therefore by the
example of Abram, entire self-renunciation is enjoined, that we may live
and die to God alone.

5. "The souls that they had gotten in Haran." Souls signify male and
female servants. And this is the first mention of servitude; whence it
appears, that not long after the deluge the wickedness of man caused
liberty which by nature, was common to all, to perish with respect to a
great part of mankind. Whence servitude originated is not easy to
determine, unless according to the opinion which has commonly prevailed
it arose from wars; because the conquerors compelled those whom they took
in battle to serve them; and hence the name of bondsman is derived. But
whether they who were first slaves had been subjugated by the laws of
war, or had been reduced to this state by want, it is indeed certain,
that the order of nature was violently infringed; because men were
created for the purpose of cultivating mutual society between each other.
And although it is advantageous that some should preside over others, yet
an equality, as among brethren ought to have been retained. However,
although slavery is contrary to that right government which is most
desirable, and in its commencement was not without fault; it does not, on
this account, follow, that the use of it, which was afterwards received
by custom, and excused by necessity, is unlawful. Abram therefore might
possess both servants bought with money, and slaves born in his house.
For that common saying, 'What has not prevailed from the beginning cannot
be rendered valid by length of time,' admits (as is well known) of some
exceptions; and we shall have an example in point in the forty-eighth

6. "And Abram passed through the land." Here Moses shows that Abram did
not immediately, on his entering into the land, find a habitation in
which he might rest. For the expression "passed through," and the
position of the place (Sichem) to which he passed, show that the length
of his journey had been great. Sichem is not far from Mount Gerizim,
which is towards the desert of the Southern region. Wherefore, it is just
as Moses had said, that the faith of Abram was again tried, when God
suffered him as a wanderer to traverse the whole land, before he gave him
any fixed abode. How hard would it seems when God had promised to be his
Protector, that not even a little corner is assigned him on which he may
set his foot? But he is compelled to wander in a circuitous route, in
order that he may the better exercise self denial. The word "elon" is by
some translated an oak forest, by some a valley; others take it for the
proper name of a place. I do not doubt that Moreh is the proper name of
the place; but I explain Elon to mean a plain, or an oak, not that it was
a single tree, but the singular is put for the plural number; and this
latter interpretation I most approve.
  "And the Canaanite was then in the land." This clause concerning the
Canaanite is not added without reason; because it was no slight
temptation to be cast among that perfidious and wicked nation, destitute
of all humanity. What could the holy man then think, but that he was
betrayed into the hands of these most abandoned men, by whom he might
soon be murdered; or else that he would have to spend a disturbed and
miserable life amid continual injuries and troubles? But it was
profitable for him to be accustomed, by such discipline, to cherish a
better hope. For if he had been kindly and courteously received in the
land of Canaan, he would have hoped for nothing better than to spend his
life there as a guest. But now God raises his thoughts higher in order
that he may conclude, that at some future time, the inhabitants being
destroyed, he shall be the lord and heir of the land. Besides, he is
admonished, by the continual want of repose, to look up towards heaven.
For since the inheritance of the land was specially promised to himself,
and would only belong to his descendants, for his sake; it follows, that
the land, in which he was so ill and inhumanly treated, was not set
before him as his ultimate aim, but that heaven itself was proposed to
him as his final resting-place.

7. "And the Lord appeared unto Abram." He now relates that Abram was not
left entirely destitute, but that God stretched forth his hand to help
him. We must, however, mark, with what kind of assistance God succours
him in his temptations. He offers him his bare word, and in such a way,
indeed, that Abram might deem himself exposed to ridicule. For God
declares he will give the land to his seed: but where is the seed, or
where the hope of seed; seeing that he is childless and old, and his wife
is barren? This was therefore an insipid consolation to the flesh. But
faith has a different taste; the property of which is, to hold all the
senses of the pious so bound by reverence to the word, that a single
promise of God is quite sufficient. Meanwhile, although God truly
alleviates and mitigates the evils which his servants endure, he does it
only so far as is expedient for them, without indulging the desire of the
flesh. Let us hence learn, that this single remedy ought to be sufficient
for us in our sufferings: that God so speaks to us in his word, as to
cause our minds to perceive him to be propitious; and let us not give the
reins to the importunate desires of our flesh. God himself will not fail
on his part; but will, by the manifestation of his favour, raise us when
we are cast down.
  "And there builded he an altar." This altar was a token of gratitude.
As soon as God appeared to him he raised an altar: to what end? That he
might call upon the name of the Lord. We see, therefore, that he was
intent upon giving of thanks; and that an altar was built by him in
memory of kindness received. Should any one ask, whether he could not
worship God without an altar? I answer, that the inward worship of the
heart is not sufficient unless external profession before men be added.
Religion has truly its appropriate seat in the heart; but from this root,
public confession afterwards arises, as its fruit. For we are created to
this end, that we may offer soul and body unto God. The Canaanites had
their religion; they had also altars for sacrifices: but Abram, that he
might not involve himself in their superstitions, erects a domestic
altar, on which he may offer sacrifice; as if he had resolved to place a
royal throne for God within his house. But because the worship of God is
spiritual, and all ceremonies which have no right and lawful end, are not
only vain and worthless in themselves, but also corrupt the true worship
of God by their counterfeited and fallacious appearance; we must
carefully observe what Moses says, that the altar was erected for the
purpose of calling upon God. The altar then is the external form of
divine worship; but invocation is its substance and truth. This mark
easily distinguishes pure worshippers from hypocrites, who are far too
liberal in outward pomp, but wish their religion to terminate in bare
ceremonies. Thus all their religion is vague, being directed to no
certain end. Their ultimate intention, indeed, is (as they confusedly
speak) to worship God: but piety approaches nearer to God; and therefore
does not trifle with external figures, but has respect to the truth and
the substance of religion. On the whole, ceremonies are no otherwise
acceptable to God, than as they have reference to the spiritual worship
of God.
  To invoke the name of God, or to invoke in his name, admits of a
twofold exposition; namely, either to pray to God, or to celebrate his
name with praises. But because prayer and thanksgiving are things
conjoined, I willingly include both. We have before said, in the fourth
chapter, that the whole worship of God was not improperly described, by
the figure synecdoch, under this particular expression; because God
esteems no duty of piety more highly, and accounts no sacrifice more
acceptable, than the invocation of his name, as is declared in Psalm 50:
23, and Psalm 51: 19. As often, therefore, as the word altar occurs, let
the sacrifices also come into our mind; for from the beginning, God would
have mankind informed, that there could be no access to himself without
sacrifice. Therefore Abram, from the general doctrine of religion, opened
for himself a celestial sanctuary, by sacrifices, that he might rightly
worship God. But we know that God was never appeased by the blood of
beasts. Wherefore it follows, that the faith of Abram was directed to the
blood of Christ.
  It may seem, however, absurd, that Abram built himself an altar, at his
own pleasure, though he was neither a priest, nor had any express command
from God. I answer, that Moses removes this scruple in the context: for
Abram is not said to have made an altar simply to God, but to God who had
appeared unto him. The altar therefore had its foundation in that
revelation; and ought not to be separated from that of which it formed
but a part and an appendage. Superstition fabricates for itself such a
God as it pleases and then invents for him various kinds of worship; just
as the Papists, at this days most proudly boast that they worship God,
when they are only trifling with their foolish pageantry. But the piety
of Abram is commended, because, having erected an altar, he worshipped
God who had been manifested to him. And although Moses declares the
design with which Abram built the altar, when he relates that he there
called upon God, he yet, at the same time, intimates, that such a service
was pleasing to God: for this language implies the approval of the Holy
Spirit, who thereby pronounces that he had rightly called upon God.
Others, indeed confidently boasted that they worshipped God; but God, in
praising Abram only, rejects all the rites of the heathen as a vile
profanation of his name.

8. "And he removed from thence." When we hear that Abram moved from the
place where he had built an altar to God, we ought not to doubt that he
was, by some necessity, compelled to do so. He there found the
inhabitants unpropitious; and therefore transfers his tabernacle
elsewhere. But if Abram bore his continual wanderings patiently, our
fastidiousness is utterly inexcusable, when we murmur against God, if he
does not grant us a quiet nest. Certainly, when Christ has opened heaven
to us, and daily invites us thither to dwell with himself; we should not
take it amiss, if he chooses that we should be strangers in the world.
The sum of the passage is this, that Abram was without a settled
residence: which title Paul assigns to Christians, (1 Cor. 4: 11.)
Moreover, there is a manifest prolepsis in the word Bethel; for Moses
gives the place this name, to accommodate his discourse to the men of his
own age.
  "And there he builded an altar." Moses commends in Abram his unwearied
devotedness to piety: for by these words, he intimates, that whatever
place he visited, he there exercised himself in the external worship of
God; both that he might have no religious rites in common with the
wicked, and that he might retain his family in sincere piety. And it is
probable, that, from this cause, he would be the object of no little
enmity; because there is nothing which more enrages the wicked, than
religion different from their own, in which they conceive themselves to
be not only despised, but altogether condemned as blind. And we know that
the Canaanites were cruel and proud, and too ready to avenge insults.
This was perhaps the reason of Abram's frequent removals: that his
neighbours regarded the altars which he built, as a reproach to
themselves. It ought indeed to be referred to the wonderful favour of
God, that he was not often stoned. Nevertheless, since the holy man knows
that he is justly required to bear testimony that he has a God peculiarly
his own, whom he must not, by dissimulation, virtually deny, he therefore
does not hesitate to prefer the glory of God to his own life.

9. "And Abram journeyed." This was the third removal of the holy man
within a short period, after he seemed to have found some kind of abode.
It is certain that he did not voluntarily, and for his own gratification,
run hither and thither, (as light-minded persons are wont to do:) but
there were certain necessities which drove him forth, in order to teach
him, by continual habit, that he was not only a stranger, but a wretched
wanderer in the land of which he was the lord. Yet no common fruit was
the result of so many changes; because he endeavoured, as much as in him
lay, to dedicate to God, every part of the land to which he had access,
and perfumed it with the odour of his faith.

10. "And there was a famine in the land." A much more severe temptation
is now recorded, by which the faith of Abram is tried to the quick. For
he is not only led around through various windings of the country, but is
driven into exile, from the land which God had given to him and to his
posterity. It is to be observed, that Chaldea was exceedingly fertile;
having been, from this cause, accustomed to opulence, he came to Charran,
where, it is conjectured, he lived commodiously enough, since it is clear
he had an increase of servants and of wealth. But now being expelled by
hunger from that land, where, in reliance on the word of God, he had
promised himself a happy life, supplied with all abundance of good
things, what must have been his thoughts, had he not been well fortified
against the devices of Satan? His faith would have been overturned a
hundred times. And we know, that whenever our expectation is frustrated,
and things do not succeed according to our wishes, our flesh soon harps
on this string, 'God has deceived thee.' But Moses shows, in a few words,
with what firmness Abram sustained this vehement assault. He does not
indeed magnificently proclaim his constancy in verbose eulogies; but, by
one little word, he sufficiently demonstrates, that it was great even to
a miracle, when he says, that he "went down into Egypt to sojourn there."
For he intimates, that Abram, nevertheless, retained in his mind
possession of the land promised unto him; although, being ejected from it
by hunger, he fled elsewhere, for the sake of obtaining food. And let us
be instructed by this example, that the servants of God must contend
against many obstacles, that they may finish the course of their
vocation. For we must always recall to memory, that Abram is not to be
regarded as an individual member of the body of the faithful, but as the
common father of them all; so that all should form themselves to the
imitation of his example. Therefore, since the condition of the present
life is unstable, and obnoxious to innumerable changes; let us remember,
that, whithersoever we may be driven by famine, and by the rage of war,
and by other vicissitudes which occasionally happen beyond our
expectation, we must yet hold our right course; and that, though our
bodies may be carried hither and thither, our faith ought to stand
unshaken. Moreover, it is not surprising, when the Canaanites sustained
life with difficulty, that Abram should be compelled privately to consult
for himself. For he had not a single acre of land; and he had to deal
with a cruel and most wicked people, who would rather a hundred times
have suffered him to perish with hunger, than they would have brought him
assistance in his difficulty. Such circumstances amplify the praise of
Abram's faith and fortitude: first, because, when destitute of food for
the body. he feeds himself upon the sole promise of God; and then,
because he is not to be torn away by any violence, except for a short
time, from the place where he was commanded to dwell. In this respect he
is very unlike many, who are hurried away, by every slight occasion, to
desert their proper calling.

11. "He said unto Sarai his wife." He now relates the counsel which Abram
took for the preservation of his life when he was approaching Egypt. Andy
since this place is like a rock, on which many strike; it is proper that
we should soberly and reverently consider how far Abram was deserving of
excuse, and how he was to be blamed. First, there seems to be something
of falsehood, mixed with the dissimulations which he persuades his wife
to practice. And although afterwards he makes the excuse, that he had not
lied nor feigned anything that was untrue: in this certainly he was
greatly culpable that it was not owing to his care that his wife was not
prostituted. For when he dissembles the fact, that she was his wife, he
deprives her chastity of its legitimate defense. And hence certain
perverse cavilers take occasion to object, that the holy patriarch was a
pander to his own wife; and that, for the purpose of craftily taking care
of himself, he spared neither her modesty nor his own honour. But it is
easy to refute this virulent abuse; because, it may indeed be inferred,
that Abram had far higher ends in view, seeing that in other things, he
was endued with a magnanimity so great. Again, how did it happen, that he
rather sought to go into Egypt than to Charran, or into his own country,
unless that in his journeying, he had God before his eyes, and the divine
promise firmly rooted in his mind? Since, therefore, he never allowed his
senses to swerve from the word of God, we may even thence gather the
reason, why he so greatly feared for his own life, as to attempt the
preservation of it from one danger, by incurring a still greater.
Undoubtedly he would have chosen to die a hundred times, rather than thus
to ruin the character of his wife, and to be deprived of the society of
her whom alone he loved. But while he reflected that the hope of
salvation was centred in himself, that he was the fountain of the Church
of Gods that unless he lived, the benediction promised to him, and to his
seed, was vain; he did not estimate his own life according to the private
affection of the flesh; but inasmuch as he did not wish the effect of the
divine vocation to perish through his death, he was so affected with
concern for the preservation of his own life, that he overlooked every
thing besides. So far, then, he deserves praise, that, having in view a
lawful end of living, he was prepared to purchase life at any price. But
in devising this indirect method, by which he subjected his wife to the
peril of adultery, he seems to be by no means excusable. If he was
solicitous about his own life, which he might justly be, yet he ought to
have cast his care upon God. The providence of God, I grant, does not
indeed preclude the faithful from caring for themselves; but let them do
it in such a way, that they may not overstep their prescribed bounds.
Hence it follows, that Abram's end was right, but he erred in the way
itself; for so it often happens to us, that even while we are tending
towards God, yet, by our thoughtlessness in catching at unlawful means,
we swerve from his word. And this, especially, is wont to take place in
affairs of difficulty; because, while no way of escape appears, we are
easily led astray into various circuitous paths. Therefore, although they
are rash judges, who entirely condemn this deed of Abram, yet the special
fault is not to be denied, namely, that he, trembling at the approach of
death, did not commit the issue of the danger to God, instead of sinfully
betraying the modesty of his wife. Wherefore, by this example, we are
admonished, that, in involved and doubtful matters, we must seek the
spirit of counsel and of prudence from the Lord; and must also cultivate
sobriety, that we may not attempt anything rashly without the authority
of his word.
  "I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon." It is asked whence
had Sarai this beauty, seeing she was an old woman? For though we grant
that she previously had excelled in elegance of form, certainly years had
detracted from her gracefulness; and we know how much the wrinkles of old
age disfigure the best and most beautiful faces. In the first place, I
answer, there is no doubt that there was then greater vivacity in the
human race than there is now; we also know, that vigour sustains the
personal appearance. Again, her sterility availed to preserve her beauty,
and to keep her whole habit of body entire; for there is nothing which
more debilitates females than frequent parturition. I do not however
doubt, that the perfection of her form was the special gift of God; but
why he would not suffer the beauty of the holy woman to be so soon worn
down by age, we know not; unless it were, that the loveliness of that
form was intended to be the cause of great and severe anxiety to her
husband. Common experience also teaches us, that they who are not content
with a regular and moderate degree of comeliness, find, to their great
loss, at what a cost immoderate beauty is purchased.

12. "Therefore it shall come to pass, that when the Egyptians shall see
thee, &c." It may seem that Abram was unjust to the Egyptians, in
suspecting evil of them, from whom he had yet received no injury. And,
since charity truly is not suspicious; he may appear to deal unfairly, in
not only charging them with lust, but also in suspecting them of murder.
I answer, that the holy man did, not without reason, fear for himself
from that nation, concerning which he had heard many unfavourable
reports. And already he had, in other places, experienced so much of the
wickedness of men, that he might justly apprehend everything from the
profane despisers of God. He does not however pronounce anything
absolutely concerning the Egyptians; but, wishing to bring his wife to
his own opinion, he gives her timely warning of what might happen. And
God, while he commands us to abstain from malicious and sinister
judgments, yet allows to be on our guard against unknown persons; and
this may take place without any injury to the brethren. Yet I do not deny
that this trepidation of Abram exceeded all bounds and that an
unreasonable anxiety caused him to involve himself in another fault, as
we have already stated.

15. "And commended her before Pharaoh." Although Abram had sinned by
fearing too much and too soon, yet the event teaches, that he had not
feared without cause: for his wife was taken from him and brought to the
king. At first Moses speaks generally of the Egyptians, afterwards he
mentions the courtiers; by which course he intimates, that the rumour of
Sara's beauty was everywhere spread abroad; but that it was more eagerly
received by the courtiers who indulge themselves in greater license.
Whereas he adds, that they told the king; we hence infer, how ancient is
that corruption which now prevails immeasurably in the courts of kings.
For as all things there are full of blandishments and flatteries, so the
nobles principally apply their minds to introduce, from time to time,
what may be gratifying to royalty. Therefore we see, that whosoever among
them desires to rise high in favour, is addicted not only to servile
batteries, but also to pandering for their master's lusts.
  "And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house." Since she was carried
off, and dwelt for some time in the palace, many suppose that she was
corrupted by the king. For it is not credible, that a lustful man, when
he had her in his power, should have spared her modesty. This, truly,
Abram had richly deserved, who had neither relied upon the grace of God,
nor had committed the chastity of his wife to His faithfulness and care;
but the plague which immediately followed, sufficiently proves that the
Lord was mindful of her; and hence we may conclude, that she remained
uninjured. And although, in this place, Moses says nothing expressly on
the subject, yet, from a comparison with a similar subsequent history, we
conjecture, that the guardianship of God was not wanting to Abram at this
time also. When he was in similar danger, (Gen. 20: 1,) God did not
suffer her to be violated by the king of Gerar; shall we then suppose
that she was now exposed to Pharaoh's lust? Would God have thought more
about subjecting her, who had been once dishonoured, to a second
disgrace, than about preserving her, who had hitherto lived uprightly and
chastely? Further, if God showed himself so propitious to Abram, as to
rescue his wife whom he exposed a second time to infamy; how is it
possible that He should have failed to obviate the previous danger?
Perhaps, also, greater integrity still flourished in that age; so that
the lusts of kings were not so unrestrained as they afterwards became.
Moreover, when Moses adds, that Abram was kindly treated for Sarai's
sake; we hence conclude, that she was honorably entertained by Pharaoh,
and was not dealt with as a harlot. When, therefore, Moses says, that she
was brought into the king's palace; I do not understand this to have been
for any other purpose, than that the kings by a solemn rite, might take
her as his wife.

17. "And the Lord plagued Pharaoh." If Moses had simply related, that God
had punished the king for having committed adultery, it would not so
obviously appear that he had taken care of Sarai's chastity; but when he
plainly declares that the house of the king was plagued because of Sarai,
Abram's wife, all doubt is, in my judgment, removed; because God, on
behalf of his servant, interposed his mighty hand in time, lest Sarai
should be violated. And here we have a remarkable instance of the
solicitude with which God protects his servants, by undertaking their
cause against the most powerful monarchs; as this and similar histories
show, which are referred to in Psalm 105 verse 12-15:--'When they were
but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it. When they
went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people; he
suffered no man to do them wrong; yea, he reproved kings for their sakes;
saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.' From which
passage also a confirmation of the opinion just given may be derived. For
if God reproved Pharaoh, that he should do Abram no harm; it follows,
that he preserved Sarai's honour uninjured. Instructed by such examples,
we may also learn, that however the world may hold us in contempt, on
account of the smallness of our number, and our weakness; we are yet so
precious in the sight of God, that he will, for our sake, declare himself
an enemy to kings, and even to the whole world. Let us know, that we are
covered by his protection, in order that the lust and violence of those
who are more powerful, may not oppress us. But it is asked, whether
Pharaoh was justly punished, seeing that he neither intended, by guile
nor by force, to gain possession of another man's wife? I answer, that
the actions of men are not always to be estimated according to our
judgment, but are rather to be weighed in the balances of God; for it
often happens, that the Lord will find in us what he may justly punish,
while we seem to ourselves to be free from fault, and while we absolve
ourselves from all guilt. Let kings rather learn, from this history, to
bridle their own power, and moderately to use their authority; and,
lastly, to impose a voluntary law of moderation upon themselves. For,
although no fault openly appears in Pharaoh; yet, since he has no
faithful monitor among men, who dares to repress his licentiousness, the
Lord chastises him from heaven. As to his family, it was indeed innocent;
but the Lord has always just causes, though hidden from us, why he should
smite with his rod those who seem to merit no such rebuke. That he spared
his servant Abram, ought to be ascribed to his paternal indulgence.

18. "And Pharaoh called Abram." Pharaoh justly expostulates with Abram,
who was chiefly in fault. No answer on the part of Abram is here
recorded; and perhaps he assented to the just and true reprehension. It
is, however, possible that the exculpation was omitted by Moses; whose
design was to give an example of the Divine providence in preserving
Abram, and vindicating his marriage relation. But, although Abram knew
that he was suffering the due punishment of his folly, or of his
unreasonable caution; He, nevertheless, relapsed, as we shall see in its
proper place, a second time into the same fault.

20. "And Pharaoh commanded his men." In giving commandment that Abram
should have a safe-conduct out of the kingdom, Pharaoh might seem to have
done it, for the sake of providing against danger; because Abram had
stirred up the odium of the nation against himself, as against one who
had brought thither the scourge of God along with him; but as this
conjecture has little solidity, I give the more simple interpretation,
that leave of departure was granted to Abram with the addition of a
guard, lest he should be exposed to violence. For we know how proud and
cruel the Egyptians were; and how obnoxious Abram was to envy, because
having there become suddenly rich, he would seem to be carrying spoil
away with him.

Chapter XIII.

1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had,
and Lot with him, into the south.
2 And Abram [was] very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.
3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the
place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai;
4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and
there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
5 And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.
6 And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together:
for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.
7 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the
herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then
in the land.
8 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between
me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we [be]
9 [Is] not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee,
from me: if [thou wilt take] the left hand, then I will go to the right;
or if [thou depart] to the right hand, then I will go to the left.
10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that
it [was] well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and
Gomorrah, [even] as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as
thou comest unto Zoar.
11 Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east:
and they separated themselves the one from the other.
12 Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of
the plain, and pitched [his] tent toward Sodom.
13 But the men of Sodom [were] wicked and sinners before the LORD
14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him,
Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward,
and southward, and eastward, and westward:
15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy
seed for ever.
16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man
can number the dust of the earth, [then] shall thy seed also be numbered.
17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of
it; for I will give it unto thee.
18 Then Abram removed [his] tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of
Mamre, which [is] in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

1. "And Abram went up out of Egypt." In the commencement of the chapter,
Moses commemorates the goodness of God in protecting Abram; whence it
came to pass, that he not only returned in safety, but took with him
great wealth. This circumstance is also to be noticed, that when he was
leaving Egypt, abounding in cattle and treasures, he was allowed to
pursue his journey in peace; for it is surprising that the Egyptians
would suffer what Abram had acquired among them, to be transferred
elsewhere. Moses next shows that riches proved no sufficient obstacle to
prevent Abram from having respect continually to his proposed end, and
from moving towards it with unremitting pace. We know how greatly even a
moderate share of wealth, hinders many from raising their heads towards
heaven; while they who really possess abundance, not only lie torpid in
indolence, but are entirely buried in the earth. Wherefore, Moses places
the virtue of Abram in contrast with the common vice of others; when he
relates that he was not to be prevented by any impediments, from seeking
again the land of Canaan. For he might (like many others) have been able
to flatter himself with some fair pretext: such as, that since God, from
whom he had received extraordinary blessings, had been favourable and
kind to him in Egypt, it was right for him to remain there. But he does
not forget what had been divinely commanded him; and, therefore, as one
unfettered, he hastens to the place whither he is called. Wherefore, the
rich are deprived of all excuse, if they are so rooted in the earth, that
they do not attend the call of God. Two extremes, however, are here to be
guarded against. Many place angelical perfection in poverty; as if it
were impossible to cultivate piety and to serve God, unless riches are
cast away. Few indeed imitate Crates the Theban, who cast his treasures
into the sea; because he did not think that he could be saved unless they
were lost. Yet many fanatics repel rich men from the hope of salvation;
as if poverty were the only gate of heaven; which yet, sometimes,
involves men in more hindrances than riches. But Augustine wisely teaches
us, that the rich and poor are collected together in the same inheritance
of life; because poor Lazarus was received into the bosom of rich
Abraham. On the other hand, we must beware of the opposite evil; lest
riches should cast a stumblingblock in our way, or should so burden us,
that we should the less readily advance towards the kingdom of heaven.

3. "And he went on his journeys." In these words Moses teaches us, that
Abram did not rest till he had returned to Bethel. For although he
pitched his tent in many places, yet he nowhere so fixed his foot, as to
make it his permanent abode. He does not speak of the south in reference
to Egypt; he merely means that he had come into the southern part of
Judea; and that, therefore, he had, by a long and troublesome journey,
arrived at the place where he had determined to remain. Moses next
subjoins, that an altar had before been there erected by him and that he
then also began anew to call upon the name of the Lord: whereby we may
learn, that the holy man was always like himself in worshipping God, and
giving evidence of his piety. The explanation given by some, that the
inhabitants of the place had been brought to the pure worship of God, is
neither probable, nor to be deduced from the words of Moses. And we have
stated elsewhere what is the force of the expression, 'To invoke in the
name,' or, 'To call upon the name of the Lord;' namely, to profess the
true and pure worship of God. For Abram invoked God, not twelve times
only, during the whole course of his life; but whenever he publicly
celebrated him, and by a solemn rite, made it manifest that he had
nothing in common with the superstitions of the heathen, then he is also
said to have called upon God. Therefore, although he always worshipped
God, and exercised himself in daily prayers; yet, because he did not
daily testify his piety by outward profession before men, this virtue is
here especially commended by Moses. It was therefore proper that
invocation should be conjoined with the altar; because by the sacrifices
offered, he plainly testified what God he worshipped in order that the
Canaanites might know that he was not addicted to their common

5. "And Lot also, which went with Abram." Next follows the inconvenience
which Abram suffered through his riches: namely, that he was torn from
his nephew, whom he tenderly loved, as if it had been from his own
bowels. Certainly had the option been given him he would rather have
chosen to cast away his riches, than to be parted from him whom he had
held in the place of an only son: yet he found no other method of
avoiding contentions. Shall we impute this evil to his own excessive
moroseness or to the forwardness of his nephew? I suppose, however, that
we must rather consider the design of God. There was a danger lest Abram
should be too much gratified with his own success inasmuch as prosperity
blinds many. Therefore God allays the sweetness of wealth with
bitterness; and does not permit the mind of his servant to be too much
enchanted with it. And whenever a fallacious estimate of riches impels us
to desire them inordinately, because we do not perceive the great
disadvantages which they bring along with them; let the recollection of
this history avail to restrain such immoderate attachment to them.
Further, as often as the rich find any trouble arising from their wealth;
let them learn to purify their minds by this medicine, that they may not
become excessively addicted to the good things of the present life. And
truly, unless the Lord were occasionally to put the bridle on men, to
what depths would they not fall, when they overflow with prosperity? On
the other hand, if we are straitened with poverty, let us know, that, by
this method also, God corrects the hidden evils of our flesh. Finally,
let those who abound remember, that they are surrounded with thorns and
must take care lest they be pricked; and let those whose affairs are
contracted and embarrassed know, that God is caring for them, in order
that they may not be involved in evil and noxious snares. This separation
was sad to Abram's mind; but it was suitable for the correction of much
latent evil, that wealth might not stifle the armour of his zeal. But if
Abram had need of such an antidote, let us not wonder, if God, by
inflicting some stroke, should repress our excesses. For he does not
always wait till the faithful shall have fallen; but looks forward for
them into the future. So he does not actually correct the avarice or the
pride of his servant Abram: but, by an anticipated remedy, he causes that
Satan shall not infect his mind with any of his allurements.

7. "And there was a strife." What I hinted respecting riches, is also
true respecting a large retinue of attendants. We see with what ambition
many desire a great crowd of servants, almost amounting to a whole
people. But since the family of Abram cost him so dear; let us be well
content to have few servants, or even to be entirely without them, if it
seem right to the Lord that it should be so. It was scarcely possible to
avoid great confusion, in a house where there was a considerable number
of men. And experience confirms the truth of the proverbs that a crowd is
commonly turbulent. Now, if repose and tranquility be an inestimable
good; let us know, that we best consult for our real welfare, when we
have a small house, and privately pass our time, without tumult, in our
families. We are also warned, by the example before us, to beware lest
Satan, by indirect methods, should lead us into contention. For when he
cannot light up mutual enmities between us, he would involve us in other
men's quarrels. Lot and Abram were at concord with each other; but a
contention raised between their shepherds, carried them reluctantly away;
so that they were compelled to separate from each other. There is no
doubt that Abram faithfully instructed his own people to cultivate peace;
yet he did not so far succeed in his desire and effort, as to prevent his
witnessing the most destructive fire of discord kindled in his house.
Wherefore, it is nothing wonderful, if we see tumults often arising in
churches, where there is a still greater number of men. Abram had about
three hundred servants; it is probable that the family of Lot was nearly
equal to it: what then may be expected to take place between five or six
thousand men,--especially free men,--when they contend with each other?
As, however, we ought not to be disturbed by such scandals; so we must,
in every way, take care that contentions do not become violent. For
unless they be speedily met, they will soon break out into pernicious
  "The Canaanite and the Perizzite." Moses adds this for the sake of
aggravating the evil. For he declares the heat of the contention to have
been so great, that it could neither be extinguished nor assuaged, even
by the fear of impending destruction. They were surrounded by as many
enemies as they had neighbours. Nothing, therefore, was wanting in order
to their destruction, but a suitable occasion; and this they themselves
were affording by their quarrels. To such a degree does blind fury
infatuate men, when once the vehemence of contention has prevailed, that
they carelessly despise death, when placed before their eyes. Now,
although we are not continually surrounded by Canaanites, we are yet in
the midst of enemies, as long as we sojourn in the world. Wherefore, if
we are influenced by any desire for the salvation of ourselves, and of
our brethren, let us beware of contentions which will deliver us over to
Satan to be destroyed.

8. "And Abram said unto Lot." Moses first states, that Abram no sooner
perceived the strifes which had arisen, than he fulfilled the duty of a
good householder, by attempting to restore peace among his domestics; and
that afterwards, by his moderation, he endeavoured to remedy the evil by
removing it. And although the servants alone were contending, he yet does
not say in vain, "Let there be no strife between me and thee:" because it
was scarcely possible but that the contagion of the strife should reach
from the domestics to their lords, although they were in other respects
perfectly agreed. He also foresaw that their friendship could not long
remain entire, unless he attempted, in time, to heal the insidious evil.
Moreover, he calls to mind the bond of consanguinity between them; not
because this alone ought to avail to promote mutual peace, but that he
might more easily bend and mollify the mind of his nephew. For when the
fear of God is less effectual with us than it ought to be; it is useful
to call in other helps also, which may retain us in our duty. Now however
since we all are adopted as sons of God, with the condition annexed, that
we should be mutually brethren to each other: this sacred bond is less
valued by us than it ought to be, if it does not prove sufficient to
allay our contentions.

9. "Is not the whole land before thee?" Here is that moderation of which
I have spoken; namely, that Abram for the sake of appeasing strifes
voluntarily sacrifices his own right. For as ambition and the desire of
victory is the mother of all contentions; so when every one meekly and
moderately departs, in some degree, from his just claim, the best remedy
is found for the removal of all cause of bitterness. Abram might indeed,
with an honorable pretext, have more pertinaciously defended the right
which he relinquished, but he shrinks from nothing for the sake of
restoring peace: and therefore he leaves the option to his nephew.

10. "And Lot lifted up Lois eyes." As the equity of Abram was worthy of
no little praise; so the inconsideration of Lot, which Moses here
describes, is deserving of censure. He ought rather to have contended
with his uncle for the palm of modesty; and this the very order of nature
suggested; but just as if he had been, in every respect, the superior, he
usurps for himself the better portion; and makes choice of that region
which seemed the more fertile and agreeable. And indeed it necessarily
follows, that whosoever is too eagerly intent upon his own advantage, is
wanting in humanity towards others. There can be no doubt that this
injustice would pierce the mind of Abram; but he silently bore it, lest
by any means, he should give occasion of new offense. And thus ought we
entirely to act, whenever we perceive those with whom we are connected,
to be not sufficiently mindful of their duty: otherwise there will be no
end of tumults. When the neighbouring plain of Sodom is compared to the
paradise of God, many interpreters explain it as simply meaning, that it
was excellent, and in the highest degree fertile; because the Hebrews
call anything excellent, divine. I however think, that the place where
Adam resided at the beginning, is pointed out. For Moses does not propose
a general similitude, but says, 'that region was watered;' just as he
related the same thing respecting the first abode of man; namely, that a
river, divided into four parts, watered it; he also adds the same thing
respecting a part of Egypt. Whence it more clearly appears, that in one
particular only, this place is compared with two others.

13. "But the men of Sodom." Lot thought himself happy that so rich a
habitation had fallen to his share: but he learns at length, that the
choice to which he had hastened, with a rashness equal to his avarice,
had been unhappily granted to him; since he had to deal with proud and
perverse neighbours, with whose conduct it was much harder to bear, than
it was to contend with the sterility of the earth. Therefore, seeing that
he was led away solely by the pleasantness of the prospect, he pays the
penalty of his foolish cupidity. Let us then learn by this example, that
our eyes are not to be trusted; but that we must rather be on our guard
lest we be ensnared by them, and be encircled, unawares, with many evils;
just as Lot, when he fancied that he was dwelling in paradise, was nearly
plunged into the depths of hell. But it seems wonderful, that Moses, when
he wishes to condemn the men of Sodom for their extreme wickedness,
should say that they were wicked before the Lord; and not rather before
men; for when we come to God's tribunal, every mouth must be stopped, and
all the world must be subject to condemnation; wherefore Moses may be
thought to speak thus by way of extenuation. But the case is otherwise:
for he means that they were not merely under the dominion of those common
vices which everywhere prevail among men, but were abandoned to most
execrable crimes, the cry of which rose even to heaven, (as we shall
afterwards see,) and demanded vengeance from God. That God, however, bore
with them for a time: and not only so, but suffered them to inhabit a
most fertile region, though they were utterly unworthy of light and of
life, affords, as we hence learn, no ground to the wicked of
self-congratulation, when God bears also with them for a time, or when,
by treating them kindly, and even liberally, he, by his indulgence,
strives with their ingratitude. Yet although they exult in their luxury,
and even become outrageous against God, let the sons of God be admonished
not to envy their fortune; but to wait a little while, till God, arousing
them from their intoxication, shall call them to his dreadful judgment.
Therefore, Ezekiel, speaking of the men of Sodom, declares it to have
been the cause of their destruction, that, being saturated with bread and
wine, and filled with delicacies, they had exercised a proud cruelty
against the poor, (Ezek. 16: 49.)

14. "And the Lord said unto Abram." Moses now relates that after Abram
was separated from his nephew, divine consolation was administered for
the appeasing of his mind. There is no doubt that the wound inflicted by
that separation was very severe, since he was obliged to send away one
who was not less dear to him than his own life. When it is said,
therefore, that the Lord spoke, the circumstance of time requires to be
noted; as if he had said, that the medicine of God's word was now brought
to alleviate his pain. And thus he teaches us, that the best remedy for
the mitigation and the cure of sadness, is placed in the word of God.
  "Lift up now thine eyes." Seeing that the Lord promises the land to the
seed of Abram, we perceive the admirable design of God, in the departure
of Lot. He had assigned the land to Abram alone; if Lot had remained with
him, the children of both would have been mixed together. The cause of
their dissension was indeed culpable; but the Lord, according to his
infinite wisdom, turns it to a good issue, that the posterity of Lot
should possess no part of the inheritance. This is the reason why he says
'All the land which is before thee, I assign to thee and to thy seed.
Therefore, there is no reason why thou, to whom a reward so excellent is
hereafter to be given, shouldst be excessively sorrowful and troubled on
account of this solitude and privation.' For although the same thing had
been already promised to Abram; yet God now adapts his promise to the
relief of the present sorrow. And thus it is to be remembered that not
only was a promise here repeated which might cherish and confirm Abram's
faith; but that a special oracle was given from which Abram might learn,
that the interests of his own seed were to be promoted, by the separation
of Lot from him. The speculation of Luther here (as in other places) has
no solidity; namely, that God spoke through some prophet. In promising
the land "for ever," he does not simply denote perpetuity; but that
period which was brought to a close by the advent of Christ. Concerning
the meaning of the word "olam", the Jews ignorantly contend: but whereas
it is taken in various senses in Scripture, it comprises in this place
(as I have lately hinted) the whole period of the law; just as the
covenant which the Lord made with his ancient people is, in many places,
called eternal; because it was the office of Christ by his coming to
renovate the world. But the change which Christ introduced was not the
abolition of the old promises, but rather their confirmation. Seeing,
therefore, that God has not now one peculiar people in the land of
Canaan, but a people diffused throughout all regions of the earth; this
does not contradict the assertion, that the eternal possession of the
land was rightly promised to the seed of Abram, until the future

16. "And I will make to seed as the dust." Omitting those subtleties, by
means of which others argue about nothing, I simply explain the words to
signify, that the seed of Abram is compared to the dust, because of its
immense multitude; and truly the sense of the term is to be sought for
only in Moses' own words. It was, however, necessary to be here added,
that God would raise up for him a seed, of which he was hitherto
destitute. And we see that God always keeps him under the restraint of
his own word; and will have him dependent upon his own lips. Abram is
commanded to look at the dust; but when he turns his eyes upon his own
family, what similitude is there between his solitariness and the
countless particles of dust? This authority the Lord therefore requires
us to attribute to his own word, that it alone should be sufficient for
us. It may also give occasion to ridicule, that God commands Abram to
travel till he should have examined the whole land. To what purpose shall
he do this, except that he may more clearly perceive himself to be a
stranger; and that, being exhausted by continual and fruitless
disquietude, he may despair of any stable and permanent possession? For
how shall he persuade himself that he is lord of that land in which he is
scarcely permitted to drink water, although he has with great labour dug
the wells? But these are the exercises of faith, in order that it may
perceive, in the word, those things which are far off, and which are
hidden from carnal sense. For faith is the beholding of absent things,
(Heb. 11: 1,) and it has the word as a mirror, in which it may discover
the hidden grace of God. And the condition of the pious, at this days is
not dissimilar: for since they are hated by all, are exposed to contempt
and reproach, wander without a home, are sometimes driven hither and
thither, and suffer from nakedness and poverty, it is nevertheless their
duty to lay hold on the inheritance which is promised. Let us therefore
walk through the world, as persons debarred from all repose, who have no
other resource than the mirror of the word.

18. "And Abram removed his tent." Here Moses relates that the holy man,
animated by the renewed promise of Gods traversed the land with great
courage as if by a look alone he could subdue it to himself. Thus we see
how greatly the oracle had profited him: not that he had heard anything
from the mouth of God to which he had been unaccustomed, but because he
had obtained a medicine so seasonable and suitable to his present grief,
that he rose with collected energy towards heaven. At length Moses
records that the holy man, having, performed his circuit, returned to the
oak, or valley of Mare, to dwell there. But, again, he commends his piety
in raising an altar, and calling upon God. I have already frequently
explained what this means: for he himself bore an altar in his heart; but
seeing that the land was full of profane altars on which the Canaanites
and other nations polluted the worship of God, Abram publicly professed
that he worshipped the true God; and that not at random, but according to
the method revealed to him by the word. Hence we infer, that the altar of
which mention is made was not built rashly by his hand, but that it wag
consecrated by the same word of God.

Chapter XIV.

1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king
of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;
2 [That these] made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of
Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the
king of Bela, which is Zoar.
3 All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt
4 Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they
5 And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that [were]
with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in
Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim,
6 And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which [is] by the
7 And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which [is] Kadesh, and smote
all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in
8 And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the
king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same
[is] Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;
9 With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and
Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with
10 And the vale of Siddim [was full of] slimepits; and the kings of Sodom
and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the
11 And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their
victuals, and went their way.
12 And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his
goods, and departed.
13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he
dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother
of Aner: and these [were] confederate with Abram.
14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his
trained [servants], born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen,
and pursued [them] unto Dan.
15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night,
and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which [is] on the left hand
of Damascus.
16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother
Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the
slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that [were] with him, at the
valley of Shaveh, which [is] the king's dale.
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he
[was] the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed [be] Abram of the most high God,
possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies
into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take
the goods to thyself.
22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the
LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
23 That I will not [take] from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I
will not take any thing that [is] thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have
made Abram rich:
24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the
men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their

1. "And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel." The history related in
this chapter is chiefly worthy of remembrance, for three reasons: first,
because Lot, with a gentle reproof, exhorted the men of Sodom to
repentance; they had, however, become altogether unteachable, and
desperately perverse in their wickedness. But Lot was beaten with these
scourges, because, having been allured and deceived by the richness of
the soil, he had mixed himself with unholy and wicked men. Secondly,
because God, out of compassion to him, raised up Abram as his avenger and
liberator, to rescue him, when a captive, from the hand of the enemy; in
which act the incredible goodness and benevolence of God towards his own
people, is rendered conspicuous; since, for the sake of one man, he
preserves, for a time, many who were utterly unworthy. Thirdly, because
Abram was divinely honoured with a signal victory, and was blessed by the
mouth of Melchizedek, in whose person, as appears from other passages of
Scripture, the kingdom and priesthood of Christ was shadowed forth. As it
respects the sum of the history, it is a horrible picture both of the
avarice and pride of man.
  The human race had yet their three progenitors, Shem, Ham, and Japheth,
living among them; by the very sight of whom they were admonished, that
they all sprung from one family, and one ark. Moreover, the memory of
their common origin was a sacred pledge of fraternal connection, which
should have bound them to assist each other, by mutual good offices.
Nevertheless, ambition so prevailed, that they assailed one another on
all sides, with sword and armour, and each attempted to subdue the rest.
Wherefore, while we see, at the present day, princes raging furiously,
and shaking the earth to the utmost of their power; let us remember that
the evil is of ancient date; since the lust of dominion has, in all ages,
been too prevalent among men. Let us, however, also remark, that no fault
is worse than that loftiness of mind, which many deem a most heroical
disposition. The ambition of Chedorlaomer was the torch of the whole war:
for he, inflamed with the desire of triumphing, drew three others into a
hostile confederacy. And pride compelled the men of Sodom and their
allies to take arms, for the purpose of shaking off the yoke.
  That Moses, however, records the names of so many kings, while Shem was
yet living, (although derided by profane men as fabulous,) will not
appear absurd, if we only reflect that this great propagation of the
human race, was a remarkable miracle of God. For when the Lord said to
Noah himself, and to his sons, "Increase and multiply," he intended to
raise them to the hope of a far more excellent restoration than would
have taken place, in the ordinary course of nature. This benediction is
indeed perpetual, and shall flourish even to the end of the world: but it
was necessary that its extraordinary efficacy should then appear; in
order that these earliest fathers might know, that a new world had been
divinely inclosed within the ark. By the Poets, Deucalion with his wife,
is feigned to have sown the race of men after the deluge, by throwing
stones behind him. But it followed of necessity, that the miserable minds
of men should be deluded with such trifles, when they departed from the
pure truth of God; and Satan has made use of this artifice, for the
purpose at discrediting the veracity of the miracles of God. For since
the memory of the deluge, and the unwonted propagation of a new world,
could not be speedily obliterated, he scattered abroad clouds and smoke;
introducing puerile conceits, in order that what had before been held for
certain truth, might now be regarded as a fable. It is however to be
observed, that all are called kings by Moses, who held the priority in
any town, or in any considerable assembly of men. It is asked, whether
those kings who followed Chedorlaomer dwelt at a great distance; because
Tidal is called "the king of nations?" There are those who imagine that
he reigned over different nations far and wide; as if he was a king of
kings. The ancient interpreter fetches Arioch from Pontus; which
is most absurd. I rather think the true reason of the name was, that he
had a band composed of deserters and vagrants, who, having left their own
country, had resorted to him. Therefore, since they were not one body--
natives of his own country--but gathered together from a promiscuous
multitude, he was properly called "king of nations." In saying that the
battle was fought in the vale of Siddim, or in the open plain, which,
when Moses wrote, had become the Salt Sea, it is not to be doubted that
the Dead Sea, or the lake Asphaltites, is meant. For he knew whom he was
appointed to instruct, and therefore he always accommodated his words to
the rude capacity of the people; and this is his common custom in
reference to the names of places, as I have previously intimated. Before,
however, the battle was fought, Moses declares that the inhabitants of
the region were partially beaten. It is probable that all had been
scattered, because they had no leader, under whose auspices they might
fight, until five kings advanced to meet them with a disciplined army.
Now, though Chedorlaomer had rendered so many people tributary to him by
tyranny rather than by lawful authority, and on that account his ambition
is to be condemned; yet his subjects are justly punished for having
rashly rebelled. For although liberty is by no means to be despised, yet
the subjection which is once imposed upon us cannot, without implied
rebellion against God, be shaken off; because 'every power is ordained by
God,' notwithstanding, in its commencement, it may have flowed from the
lust of dominion, (Rom. 13: 1.) Therefore some of the rebels are
slaughtered like cattle; and others, though they have clothed themselves
in armour, and are prepared to resist, are yet driven to flight; thus,
unhappily to all concerned, terminates the contumacious refusal to pay
tribute. And such narratives are to be noticed that we may learn from
them, that all who strive to produce anarchy, fight against God.

10. "And the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled." Some expound that they
had fallen into pits: but this is not probable, since they were by no
means ignorant of the neighbouring places: such an event would rather
have happened to foreign enemies. Others say, that they went down into
them for the sake of preserving their lives. I, however, understand them
to have exchanged one kind of death for another, as is common in the
moment of desperation; as if Moses had said, the swords of the enemy were
so formidable to them, that, without hesitation, they threw themselves
headlong into the pits. For he immediately afterwards subjoins, that they
who escaped fled to the mountains. Whence we infer, that they who had
rushed into the pits had perished. Only let us know, that they fell, not
so much deceived through ignorance of the place, as disheartened by fear.

12. "And they took Lot." It is doubtful whether Lot remained at home
while others went to the battle, and was there captured by the enemy; or
whether he had been compelled to take arms with the rest of the people.
As, however, Moses does not mention him till he speaks of the plundering
of the city, the conjecture is probable, that at the conclusion of the
battle, he was taken at home, unarmed. We here see, first, that
sufferings are common to the good and the evil; then, that the more
closely we are connected with the wicked and the ungodly, when God pours
down his vengeance on them, the more quickly does the scourge come upon

13. "And there came one that had escaped." This is the second part of the
chapter, in which Moses shows, that when God had respect to his servant
Lot, he gave him Abram as his deliverer, to rescue him from the hands of
the enemy. But here various questions arise; as, whether it was lawful
for Abram, a private person, to arm his family against kings, and to
undertake a public war. I do not, however, doubt, that as he went to the
war endued with the power of the Spirit, so also he was guarded by a
heavenly command, that he did not transgress the bounds of his vocation.
And this ought not to be regarded as a new thing, but as his special
calling; for he had already been created king of that land. And although
the possession of it was deferred to a future time; yet God would give
some remarkable proof of the power which he had granted him, and which
was hitherto unknown to men. A similar prelude of what was to follow, we
read in the case of Moses, when he slew the Egyptian, before he openly
presented himself as the avenger and deliverer of his nation. And for
this reason the subject ought to be noticed, that they who wish to defend
themselves by armed force, whenever any force is used against them, may
note from this fact, frame a rule for themselves. We shall hereafter see
this same Abram bearing patiently and with a submissive mind, injuries
which had at least, an equal tendency to provoke his spirit. Moreover,
that Abram attempted nothing rashly, but rather, that his design was
approved by God, will appear presently, from the commendation of
Melchizedek. We may therefore conclude, that this war was undertaken by
him, under the special direction of the Spirit. If any one should take
exception, that he proceeded further than was lawful, when he spoiled the
victors of their prey and captives, and restored them wholly to the men
of Sodom, who had, by no means been committed to his protection; I
answer, since it appears that God was his Guide and Ruler in this
affair,--as we infer from His approbation,--it is not for us to dispute
respecting His secret judgment. God had destined the inhabitants of
Sodom, when their neighbours were ruined and destroyed, to a still more
severe judgment; because they were themselves the worst of all. He,
therefore, raised up his servant Abram, after they had been admonished by
a chastisement sufficiently severe, to deliver them, in order that they
might be rendered the more inexcusable. Therefore, this peculiar
suggestion of the Holy Spirit ought no more to be drawn into a precedent,
than the whole war which Abram had carried on. With respect to the
messenger who had related to Abram the slaughter at Sodom, I do not
accept what some suppose, that he was a pious man. We may rather
conjecture that, as a fugitive from home, who had been deprived of all
his goods, he came to Abram to elicit something from his humanity. That
Abram is called a Hebrew, I do not explain from the fact of his having
passed over the river, as is the opinion of some; but from his being of
the progeny of Eber. For it is a name of descent. And the Holy Spirit
here again honorably announces that race as blessed by God.
  "And these were confederate with Abram." It appeared that in the course
of time, Abram was freely permitted to enter into covenant and friendship
with the princes of the land: for the heroical virtues of the man, caused
them to regard him as one who was not, by any means, to be despised. Nay,
as he had so great a family, he might also have been numbered among
kings, if he had not been a stranger and a sojourner. But God purposed
thus to provide for his peace, by a covenant relating to temporal things
in order that he never might be mingled with those nations. Moreover,
that this whole transaction was divinely ordered we may readily
conjecture from the fact, that his associates did not hesitate, at great
risk, to assail four kings, who (according to the state of the times)
were sufficiently strong, and were flushed with the confidence of
victory. Surely they would scarcely ever have been thus favourable to a
stranger, except by a secret impulse of God.

14. "When Abram heard that his brother was taken captive." Moses briefly
explains the cause of the war which was undertaken; namely, that Abram
might rescue his relation from captivity. Meanwhile, what I have before
said is to be remembered, that he did not rashly fly to arms; but took
them as from the hand of God, who had constituted him lord of that land.
With reference to the words themselves, I know not why the ancient
interpreter has rendered them, 'Abram numbered his trained servants.' For
the word "rik" signifies to unsheathe, or to draw out. Now Moses calls
these servants "chaninim", not as having been educated and trained for
military service, as many suppose; but rather (in my opinion) as having
been brought up under his own authority, and imbued from childhood with
his discipline; so that they fought the more courageously, being
stimulated by his faith, and going forth under his auspices; and were
ready to undergo every kind of danger for his sake. But in this great
household troop, we must notice, not only the diligence of the holy
patriarch, but the special blessing of God, by which it had been
increased beyond the common and usual manner.

15. "And he divided himself against them." Some explain the words to mean
that Abram alone, with his domestic troops, rushed upon the enemy.
Others, that he and his three confederates divided their bands, in order
to strike greater terror into the foe. A third class suppose the phrase
to be a Hebraism, for making an irruption into the midst of the enemy. I
rather embrace the second exposition; namely, that he invaded the enemy
on different sides, and suddenly inspired them with terror. For the
circumstance of time favours this view, because he attacked them by
night. And although examples of similar bravery occur in profane history;
yet it ought to be ascribed to the faith of Abram, that with a small
band, he dared to assail a numerous army elated with victory. But that he
came off conqueror with little trouble, and with intrepidity pursued
those who far exceeded him in number, we must ascribe to the favour of

17. "And the king of Sodom went out." Although the king of Sodom knew
that Abram had taken arms only on account of his nephew, yet he went to
meet him with due honour, in order to show his gratitude. For it is a
natural duty to acknowledge benefits conferred upon us, even when not
intentionally rendered, but only from unexpected circumstances and
occasions, or (as we say) by accident. Moreover, the whole affair yields
greater glory to God, because the victory of Abram was celebrated in this
manner. He also marks the place where the king of Sodom met Abram,
namely, "the king's dale," which I think was so called, rather after some
particular king, than because those kings met there for their pleasure.

18. "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth." This is the last of
the three principal points of this history, that Melchizedek, the chief
father of the Church, having entertained Abram at a feast, blessed him,
in virtue of his priesthood, and received tithes from him. There is no
doubt that by the coming of this king to meet him, God also designed to
render the victory of Abram famous and memorable to posterity. But a more
exalted and excellent mystery was, at the same time, adumbrated: for
seeing that the holy patriarch, whom God had raised to the highest rank
of honour, submitted himself to Melchizedek, it is not to be doubted that
God had constituted him the only head of the whole Church; for, without
controversy, the solemn act of benediction, which Melchizedek assumed to
himself, was a symbol of preeminent dignity. If any one replies, that he
did this as a priest; I ask, was not Abram also a priest? Therefore God
here commends to us something peculiar in Melchizedek, in preferring him
before the father of all the faithful. But it will be more satisfactory
to examine the passage word by word, in regular order, that we may thence
better gather the import of the whole. That he received Abram and his
companions as guests belonged to his royalty; but the benediction
pertained especially to his sacerdotal office. Therefore, the words of
Moses ought to be thus connected: Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth
bread and wine; and seeing he was the priest of God, he blessed Abram;
thus to each character is distinctly attributed what is its own. He
refreshed a wearied and famishing army with royal liberality; but because
he was a priest, he blessed, by the rite of solemn prayer, the firstborn
son of God, and the father of the Church. Moreover, although I do not
deny that it was the most ancient custom, for those who were kings to
fulfill also the office of the priesthood; yet this appears to have been,
even in that age, extraordinary in Melchizedek. And truly he is honoured
with no common eulogy, when the Spirit ratifies his priesthood. We know
how, at that time, religion was everywhere corrupted since Abram himself,
who was descended from the sacred race of Shem and Eber, had been plunged
in the profound vortex of superstitions with his father and grandfather.
Therefore many imagine Melchizedek to have been Shem; to whose opinion I
am, for many reasons, hindered from subscribing. For the Lord would not
have designated a man, worthy of eternal memory, by a name so new and
obscure, that he must remain unknown. Secondly, it is not probable that
Shem had migrated from the east into Judea; and nothing of the kind is to
be gathered from Moses. Thirdly, if Shem had dwelt in the land of Canaan,
Abram would not have wandered by such winding courses, as Moses has
previously related, before he went to salute his ancestor. But the
declaration of the Apostle is of the greatest weight; that this
Melchizedek, whoever he was, is presented before us, without any origin,
as if he had dropped from the clouds, and that his name is buried without
any mention of his death. (Heb. 7: 3.) But the admirable grace of God
shines more clearly in a person unknown; because, amid the corruptions of
the world, he alone, in that land, was an upright and sincere cultivator
and guardian of religion. I omit the absurdities which Jerome, in his
Epistle to Evagrius, heaps together; lest, without any advantage, I
should become troublesome, and even offensive to the reader. I readily
believe that Salem is to be taken for Jerusalem; and this is the
generally received interpretation. If, however, any one chooses rather to
embrace a contrary opinion, seeing that the town was situated in a plain,
I do not oppose it. On this point Jerome thinks differently:
nevertheless, what he elsewhere relates, that in his own times some
vestiges of the palace of Melchizedek were still extant in the ancient
ruins, appears to me improbable.
  It now remains to be seen how Melchizedek bore the image of Christ, and
became, as it were, his representative, (avtitupos.) These are the words
of David, "The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a priest
forever, after the order of Melchizedek," (Psalm 110: 4.) First, he had
placed him on a royal throne, and now he gives him the honour of the
priesthood. But under the Law, these two offices were so distinct, that
it was unlawful for kings to usurp the office of the priesthood. If,
therefore, we concede as true, what Plato declares, and what occasionally
occurs in the poets, that it was formerly received, by the common custom
of nations, that the same person should be both king and priest; this was
by no means the case with David and his posterity, whom the Law
peremptorily forbade to intrude on the priestly office. It was therefore
right, that what was divinely appointed under the old law, should be
abrogated in the person of this priest. And the Apostle does not contend
without reason, that a more excellent priesthood than that old and
shadowy one, was here pointed out; which priesthood is confirmed by an
oath. Moreover, we never find that king and priest, who is to be
preeminent over all, till we come to Christ. And as no one has arisen
except Christ, who equalled Melchizedek in dignity, still less who
excelled him; we hence infer that the image of Christ was presented to
the fathers, in his person. David, indeed, does not propose a similitude
framed by himself; but declares the reason for which the kingdom of
Christ was divinely ordained, and even confirmed with an oath; and it is
not to be doubted that the same truth had previously been traditionally
handed down by the fathers. The sum of the whole is, that Christ would
thus be the king next to God, and also that he should be anointed priest,
and that for ever; which it is very useful for us to know, in order that
we may learn that the royal power of Christ is combined with the office
of priest. The same Person, therefore who was constituted the only and
eternal Priest, in order that he might reconcile us to God, and who,
having made expiation, might intercede for us, is also a King of infinite
power to secure our salvation, and to protect us by his guardian care.
Hence it follows, that relying on his advocacy, we may stand boldly in
the presence of God, who will, we are assured, be propitious to us; and
that trusting in his invincible arm, we may securely triumph over enemies
of every kind. But they who separate one office from the other, rend
Christ asunder, and subvert their own faith, which is deprived of half
its support. It is also to be observed, that Christ is called an eternal
King, like Melchizedek. For since the Scripture, by assigning no end to
his life, leaves him as if he were to survive through all ages; it
certainly represents or shadows forth to us, in his person, a figure, not
of a temporal, but of an eternal kingdom. But whereas Christ, by his
death, has accomplished the office of Priest, it follows that God was, by
that one sacrifice, once appeased in such a manner, that now
reconciliation is to be sought in Christ alone. Therefore, they do him
grievous wrong, and wrest from him by abominable sacrilege, the honour
divinely conferred upon him by an oaths who either institute other
sacrifices for the expiation of sins, or who make other priests. And I
wish this had been prudently weighed by the ancient writers of the
Church. For then would they not so coolly, and even so ignorantly, have
transferred to the bread and wine the similitude between Christ and
Melchizedek, which consists in things very different. They have supposed
that Melchizedek is the image of Christ, because he offered bread and
wine. For they add, that Christ offered his body, which is life-giving
bread, and his blood, which is spiritual drink. But the Apostle, while in
his Epistle to the Hebrews, he most accurately collects, and specifically
prosecutes, every point of similarity between Christ and Melchizedek,
says not a word concerning the bread and wine. If the subtleties of
Tertullian, and of others like him, were true, it would have been a
culpable negligence, not to bestow a single syllable upon the principal
point, while discussing the separate parts, which were of comparatively
trivial importance. And seeing the Apostle disputes at so great length,
and with such minuteness, concerning the priesthood; how gross an
instance of forgetfulness would it have been, not to touch upon that
memorable sacrifice, in which the whole force of the priesthood was
comprehended? He proves the honour of Melchizedek from the benediction
given, and tithes received: how much better would it have suited this
argument to have said, that he offered not lambs or calves, but the life
of the world, (that is, the body and blood of Christ,) in a figure? By
these arguments the fictions of the ancients are abundantly refuted.
Nevertheless, from the very words of Moses a sufficiently lucid
refutation may be taken. For we do not there read that anything was
offered to God; but in one continued discourse it is stated, 'He offered
bread and wine; and seeing he was priest of the Most High God, he blessed
him.' ho does not see that the same relative pronoun is common to both
verbs; and therefore that Abram was both refreshed with the wine, and
honoured with the benediction? Utterly ridiculous truly are the Papists,
who distort the offerings of bread and wine to the sacrifice of their
mass. For in order to bring Melchizedek into agreement with themselves,
it will be necessary for them to concede that bread and wine are offered
in the mass. Where, then, is transubstantiation, which leaves nothing
except the bare species of the elements? Then, with what audacity do they
declare that the body of Christ is immolated in their sacrifices? Under
what pretext, since the Son of God is called the only successor of
Melchizedek, do they substitute innumerable successors for him? We see,
then, how foolishly they not only deprave this passage, but babble
without the colour of reason.

19. "And he blessed him." Unless these two members of the sentence, 'He
was the priest of God,' and 'He blessed,' cohere together, Moses here
relates nothing uncommon. For men mutually bless each other; that is,
they wish well to each other. But here the priest of God is described,
who, according to the right of his office, sanctifies one inferior and
subject to himself. For he would never have dared to bless Abram, unless
he had known, that in this respect he excelled him. In this manner the
Levitical priests are commanded to bless the people; and God promises
that the blessing should be efficacious and ratified, (Num. 6: 23.) So
Christ, when about to ascend up to heaven, having lifted up his hands,
blessed the Apostles, as a minister of the grace of God, (Luke 24: 51;)
and then was exhibited the truth of this figure. For he testifies that
the office of blessing the Church, which had been adumbrated in
Melchizedek, was assigned him by his Father.
  "Blessed be Abram of the most high God." The design of Melchizedek is
to confirm and ratify the grace of the Divine vocation to holy Abram; for
he points out the honour with which God had peculiarly dignified him by
separating him from all others, and adopting him as his own son. And he
calls God, by whom Abram had been chosen, "the Possessor of heaven and
earth," to distinguish him from the fictitious idols of the Gentiles.
Afterwards, indeed, God invests himself with other titles; that, by some
peculiar mark, he may render himself more clearly known to men, who,
because of the vanity of their mind, when they simply hear of God as the
Framer of heaven and earth, never cease to wander, till at length they
are lost in their own speculations. But because God was already known to
Abram, and his faith was founded upon many miracles, Melchizedek deems it
sufficient to declare that, by the title of Creator, He whom Abram
worshipped, is the true and only God. And although Melchizedek himself
maintained the sincere worship of the true God, he yet calls Abram
blessed of God, in respect of the eternal covenant: as if he would say,
that, by a kind of hereditary right, the grace of God resided in one
family and nation, because Abram alone had been chosen out of the whole
world. Then is added a special congratulation on the victory obtained;
not such as is wont to pass between profane men, who puff each other up
with inflated encomiums; but Melchizedek gives thanks unto God, and
regards the victory which the holy man had gained as a seal of his
gratuitous calling.

20. "And he gave him tithes of all." There are those who understand that
the tithes were given to Abram; but the Apostle speaks otherwise, in
declaring that Levi had paid tithes in the loins of Abram, (Heb. 7: 9,)
when Abram offered tithes to a more excellent Priest. And truly what the
expositors above-mentioned mean, would be most absurd; because, if
Melchizedek was the priest of God, it behaved him to receive tithes
rather than to give them. Nor is it to be doubted but Abram offered the
gift to God, in the person of Melchizedek, in order that, by such
first-fruits, he might dedicate all his possessions to God. Abram
therefore voluntarily gave tithes to Melchizedek, to do honour to his
priesthood. Moreover, since it appears that this was not done wrongfully
nor rashly, the Apostle properly infers, that, in this figure, the
Levitical priesthood is subordinate to the priesthood of Christ. For
other reasons, God afterwards commanded tithes to be given to Levi under
the Law; but, in the age of Abram, they were only a holy offering, given
as a pledge and proof of gratitude. It is however uncertain whether he
offered the title of the spoils or of the goods which he possessed at
home. But, since it is improbable that he should have been liberal with
other persons' goods, and should have given a very a tenth part of the
prey, of which he had resolved not to touch even a thread, I rather
conjecture, that these tithes were taken out of his own property. I do
not, however, admit that they were paid annually, as some imagine, but
rather, in my judgment, he dedicated this present to Melchizedek once,
for the purpose of acknowledging him as the high priest of God: nor could
he, at that time, (as we say,) hand it over; but there was a solemn
stipulation, of which the effect shortly after followed.

21. "And the king of Sodom said." Moses having, by the way, interrupted
the course of his narrative concerning the king of Sodom, by the mention
of the king of Salem, now returns to it again; and says that the king of
Sodom came to meet Abram, not only for the sake of congratulating him,
but of giving him a due reward. He therefore makes over to him the whole
prey, except the men; as if he would says 'It is a great thing that I
recover the men; let all the rest be given to thee as a reward for this
benefit.' And thus to have shown himself grateful to man, would truly
have been worthy of commendation; had he not been ungrateful to God, by
whose severity and clemency he remained alike unprofited. It was even
possible that this man, when poor and deprived of all his goods, might,
with a servile affectation of modesty, try to gain the favour of Abram,
by asking to have nothing but the captives and the empty city for
himself. Certainly we shall afterwards see that the men of Sodom were
unmindful of the benefit received, when they proudly and contemptuously
vexed righteous Lot.

22. "And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand, &c."
This ancient ceremony was very appropriate to give expression to the
force and nature of an oath. For by raising the hand towards heaven, we
show that we appeal to God as a witness, and also as an avenger, if we
fail to keep our oath. Formerly, indeed, they raised their hands in
giving votes; whence the Greeks derive the word "cheirotonein", which
signifies to decree: but in the rite of swearing, the reason for doing so
was different. For men hereby declared, that they regarded themselves as
in the presence of God, and called upon him to be both the Guardian of
truth, and the Avenger of perjury. Yet it may seem strange that Abram
should so easily have put himself forward to swear; for he knew that a
degree of reverence was due to the name of God, which should constrain us
to use it but sparingly, and only from necessity. I answer, there were
two reasons for his swearing. First, since inconstant men are wont to
measure others by their own standard, they seldom place confidence in
bare assertions. The king of Sodom, therefore, would have thought that
Abram did not seriously remit his right, unless the name of God had been
interposed. And, secondly, it was of great consequence, to make it
manifest to all, that he had not carried on a mercenary war. The
histories of all times sufficiently declare, that even they who have had
just causes of war have, nevertheless, been invited to it by the thirst
of private gain. And as men are acute in devising pretexts, they are
never at a loss to find plausible reasons for war, even though
covetousness may be their only real stimulant. Therefore, unless Abram
had resolutely refused the spoils of war, the rumour would immediately
have spread, that, under the pretence of rescuing his nephew, he had been
intent upon grasping the prey. Against which it was necessary for him
carefully to guard, not so much for his own sakes as for the glory of
God, which would otherwise have received some mark of disparagement.
Besides, Abram wished to arm himself with the name of God, as with a
shield, against all the allurements of avarice. For the king of Sodom
would not have desisted from tempting his mind by various methods, if the
occasion for using bland insinuations had not been promptly cut off.

23. "That I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet." The
Hebrews have an elliptical form of making oath, in which the imprecation
of punishment is understood. In some places, the full expression of it
occurs in the Scriptures, "The Lord do so to me and more also," (1 Sam.
14: 44.) Since however, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of
the living God, in order that the obligation of oaths may be the more
binding, this abrupt form of speech admonishes men to reflect on what
they are doing; for it is just as if they should put a restraint upon
themselves, and should stop suddenly in the midst of their discourse.
This indeed is most certain, that men never rashly swear, but they
provoke the vengeance of God against them, and make Him their adversary.
  "Lest thou shouldst say." Although these words seem to denote a mind
elated, and too much addicted to fame, yet since Abram is on this point
commended by the Spirit, we conclude that this was a truly holy
magnanimity. But an exception is added namely that he will not allow his
own liberality to be injurious to his allies, nor make them subject to
his laws. For this also is not the least part of virtue, to act rightly,
yet in such a manner, that we do not bind others to our example, as to a
rule. Let every one therefore regard what his own vocation demands, and
what pertains to his own duty, in order that men may not prejudge one
another according to their own will. For it is a moroseness too
imperious, to wish that what we ourselves follow as right, and consonant
with our duty, should be prescribed as a law to others.

Chapter XV.

1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision,
saying, Fear not, Abram: I [am] thy shield, [and] thy exceeding great
2 And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go
childless, and the steward of my house [is] this Eliezer of Damascus?
3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one
born in my house is mine heir.
4 And, behold, the word of the LORD [came] unto him, saying, This shall
not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels
shall be thine heir.
5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and
tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So
shall thy seed be.
6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for
7 And he said unto him, I [am] the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of
the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.
8 And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
9 And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she
goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove,
and a young pigeon.
10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and
laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.
12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and,
lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.
13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a
stranger in a land [that is] not theirs, and shall serve them; and they
shall afflict them four hundred years;
14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and
afterward shall they come out with great substance.
15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a
good old age.
16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the
iniquity of the Amorites [is] not yet full.
17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark,
behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those
18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy
seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great
river, the river Euphrates:
19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,
20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,
21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the

1. "The word of the Lord came." When Abram's affairs were prosperous and
were proceeding according to his wish, this vision might seem to be
superfluous; especial]y since the Lord commands his servant, as one
sorrowful and afflicted with fear, to be of good courage. Therefore
certain writers conjecture, that Abram having returned after the
deliverance of his nephew, was subjected to some annoyance of which no
mention is made by Moses; just as the Lord often humbles his people, lest
they should exult in their prosperity; and they further suppose that when
Abram had been dejected he was again revived by a new oracle. But since
there is no warrant for such conjecture in the words of Moses, I think
the cause was different. First, although he was on all sides applauded,
it is not to be doubted that various surmises entered into his own mind.
For, not withstanding Chedorlaomer and his allies had been overcome in
battle, yet Abram had so provoked them, that they might with fresh
troops, and with renewed strength, again attack the land of Canaan. Nor
were the inhabitants of the land free from the fear of this danger.
Secondly, as signal success commonly draws its companion envy along with
it, Abram began to be exposed to many disadvantageous remarks, after he
had dared to enter into conflict with an army which had conquered four
kings. An unfavourable suspicion might also arise, that perhaps, by and
by, he would turn the strength which he had tried against foreign kings,
upon his neighbours, and upon those who had hospitably received him.
Therefore, as the victory was an honour to him, so it cannot be doubted,
that it rendered him formidable and an object of suspicion to many, while
it inflamed the hatred of others; since every one would imagine some
danger to himself, from his bravery and good success. It is therefore not
strange, that he should have been troubled, and should anxiously have
revolved many things, until God animated him anew, by the confident
expectation of his assistance. There might be also another end to be
answered by the oracle; namely, that God would meet and correct a
contrary fault in his servant. For it was possible that Abram might be so
elated with victory as to forget his own calling, and to seek the
acquisition of dominion for himself, as one who, wearied with a wandering
course of life and with perpetual vexations, desired a better fortune,
and a quiet state of existence. And we know how liable men are to be
ensnared by the blandishments of prosperous and smiling fortune.
Therefore God anticipates the danger; and before this vanity takes
possession of the mind of the holy man, recalls to his memory the
spiritual grace vouchsafed to him to the end that he, entirely
acquiescing therein, may despise all other things. Yet because this
expression, "Fear not," sounds as if God would soothe his sorrowing and
anxious servant with some consolation; it is probable that he had need of
such confirmation, because he perceived that many malignantly stormed
against his victory, and that his old age would be exposed to severe
annoyances. It might however be, that God did not forbid him to fear,
because he was already afraid; but that he might learn courageously to
despise, and to account as nothing, all the favour of the world, and all
earthly wealth; as if he had said, 'If only I am propitious to thee,
there is no reason why thou shouldst fear; contented with me alone in the
world, pursue, as thou hast begun, thy pilgrimage; and rather depend on
heaven, than attach thyself to earth.' However this might be, God recalls
his servant to himself, showing that far greater blessings were treasured
up for him in God; in order that Abram might not rest satisfied with his
victory. Moses says that God spoke to him "in a vision," by which he
intimates that some visible symbol of God's glory was added to the word,
in order that greater authority might be given to the oracle. And this
was one of two ordinary methods by which the Lord was formerly wont to
manifest himself to his prophets, as it is stated in the book of Numbers,
(chap. 12: 6.)
  "Fear not, Abram." Although the promise comes last in the text, it yet
has precedence in order; because on it depends the confirmation, by which
God frees the heart of Abram from fear. God exhorts Abram to be of a
tranquil mind; but what foundation is there for such security, unless by
faith we understand that God cares for us, and learn to rest in his
providence? The promise, therefore, that God will be Abram's shield and
his exceeding great reward, holds the first place; to which is added the
exhortation, that, relying upon such a guardian of his safety, and such
an author of his felicity, he should not fear. Therefore, to make the
sense of the words more clear, the causal particle is to be inserted.
'Fear not, Abram, because I am thy shield.' Moreover, by the use of the
word "shield," he signifies that Abram would always be safe under his
protection. In calling himself his "reward," He teaches Abram to be
satisfied with Himself alone. And as this was, with respect to Abram, a
general instruction, given for the purpose of showing him that victory
was not the chief and ultimate good which God had designed him to pursue;
so let us know that the same blessing is promised to us all, in the
person of this one man. For, by this voice, God daily speaks to his
faithful ones; inasmuch as having once undertaken to defend us, he will
take care to preserve us in safety under his hand, and to protect us by
his power. Now since God ascribes to himself the office and property of a
shield, for the purpose of rendering himself the protector of our
salvation; we ought to regard this promise as a brazen wall, so that we
should not be excessively fearful in any dangers. And since men,
surrounded with various and innumerable desires of the flesh, are at
times unstable, and are then too much addicted to the love of the present
life; the other member of the sentence follows, in which God declares,
that he alone is sufficient for the perfection of a happy life to the
faithful. For the word "reward" has the force of inheritance, or
felicity. Were it deeply engraven on our minds, that in God alone we have
the highest and complete perfection of all good things; we should easily
fix bounds to those wicked desires by which we are miserably tormented.
The meaning then of the passage is this, that we shall be truly happy
when God is propitious to us; for he not only pours upon us the abundance
of his kindness, but offers himself to us, that we may enjoy him. Now
what is there more, which men can desire, when they really enjoy God?
David knew the force of this promise, when he boasted that he had
obtained a goodly lot, because the Lord was his inheritance, (Psalm 16:
6.) But since nothing is more difficult than to curb the depraved
appetites of the flesh, and since the ingratitude of man is so vile and
impious, that God scarcely ever satisfies them; the Lord calls himself
not simply "a reward," but an "exceeding great reward," with which we
ought to be more than sufficiently contented. This truly furnishes most
abundant material, and most solid support, for confidence. For whosoever
shall be fully persuaded that his life is protected by the hand of God,
and that he never can be miserable while God is gracious to him; and who
consequently resorts to this haven in all his cares and troubles, will
find the best remedy for all evils. Not that the faithful can be entirely
free from fear and care, as long as they are tossed by the tempests of
contentions and of miseries; but because the storm is hushed in their own
breast; and whereas the defense of God is greater than all dangers, so
faith triumphs over fear.

2. "And Abram said, Lord God." The Hebrew text has "Adonai Jehovah". From
which appellation it is inferred that some special mark of divine glory
was stamped upon the vision; so that Abram, having no doubt respecting
its author, confidently broke out in this expression. For since Satan is
a wonderful adept at deceiving, and deludes men with so many wiles in the
name of God, it was necessary that some sure and notable distinction
should appear in true and heavenly oracles, which would not suffer the
faith and the minds of the holy fathers to waver. Therefore in the vision
of which mention is made, the majesty of the God of Abram was manifested,
which would suffice for the confirmation of his faith. Not that God
appeared as he really is, but only so far as he might be comprehended by
the human mind. But Abram, in overlooking a promise so glorious, in
complaining that he is childless, and in murmuring against God, for
having hitherto given him no seed, seems to conduct himself with little
modesty. What was more desirable than to be received under God's
protection, and to be happy in the enjoyment of Him? The objection,
therefore, which Abram raised, when disparaging the incomparable benefit
offered to him, and refusing to rest contented until he receives
offspring, appears to be wanting in reverence. Yet the liberty which he
took admits of excuse; first, because the Lord permits us to pour into
his bosom those cares by which we are tormented, and those troubles with
which we are oppressed. Secondly, the design of the complaint is to be
considered; for he does not simply declare that he is solitary, but,
seeing that the effect of all the promises depended upon his seed, he
does, not improperly, require that a pledge so necessary should be given
him. For if the benediction and salvation of the world was not to be
hoped for except through his seed; when that principal point seemed to
fail him, it is not to be wondered at, that other things should seem to
vanish from his sight, or should at least not appease his mind, nor
satisfy his wishes. And this is the very reason why God not only regards
with favour the complaint of his servant, but immediately gives a
propitious answer to his prayer. Moses indeed ascribes to Abram that
affection which is naturally inherent in us all; but this is no proof
that Abram did not look higher when he so earnestly desired to be the
progenitor of an heir. And certainly these promises had not faded from
his recollection; 'To thy seed will I give this land,' and 'In thy seed
shall all nations be blessed;' the former of which promises is so annexed
to all the rest, that if it be taken away, all confidence in them would
perish; while the latter promise contains in it the whole gratuitous
pledge of salvation. Therefore Abram rightly includes in it, every thing
which God had promised.
  "I go childless." The language is metaphorical. We know that our life
is like a race. Abram, seeing he was of advanced age, says that he has so
far proceeded, that little of his course still remains. 'Now,' he says,
'I am come near the goal; and the course of my life being finished, I
shall die childless.' He adds, for the sake of aggravating the indignity,
'that a foreigner would be his heir.' For I do not doubt that Damascus is
the name of his country, and not the proper name of his mother, as some
falsely suppose; as if he had said, 'Not one of my own relatives will be
my heir, but a Syrian from Damascus.' For, perhaps, Abram had bought him
in Mesopotamia. He also calls him the son of "meshek", concerning the
meaning of which word grammarians are not agreed. Some derive it from
"shakak", which means to run to and fro, and translate it, steward or
superintendent, because he who sustains the care of a large house, runs
hither and thither in attending to his business. Others derive it from
"shook", and render it cupbearer, which seems to me incongruous. I rather
adopt a different translation, namely, that he was called the son of the
deserted house, (filius derelictionis), because "mashak" sometimes
signifies to leave. Yet I do not conceive him to be so called because
Abram was about to leave all things to him; but because Abram himself had
no hope left in any other. It is therefore (in my judgment) just as if he
called him the son of a house destitute of children, because this was a
proof of a deserted and barren house, that the inheritance was devolving
upon a foreigner who would occupy the empty and deserted place. He
afterwards contemptuously calls him his servant, or his home-born slave,
'the son of my house (he says) will be my heir.' He thus speaks in
contempt, as if he would say, 'My condition is wretched, who shall not
have even a freeman for my successor.' It is however asked, how he could
be both a Damascene and a home-born slave of Abram? There are two
solutions of the difficulty, either that he was called the son of the
house, not because he was born, but only because he was educated in it;
or, that he sprang from Damascus, because his father was from Syria.

4. "This shall not be thine heir." We hence infer that God had approved
the wish of Abram. Whence also follows the other point, that Abram had
not been impelled by any carnal affection to offer up this prayer, but by
a pious and holy desire of enjoying the benediction promised to him. For
God not only promises him a seed, but a great people, who in number
should equal the stars of heaven. They who expound the passage
allegorically; implying that a heavenly seed was promised him which might
be compared with the stars, may enjoy their own opinion: but we maintain
what is more solid; namely, that the faith of Abram was increased by the
sight of the stars. For the Lord, in order more deeply to affect his own
people, and more efficaciously to penetrate their minds, after he here
reached their ears by his word, also arrests their eyes by external
symbols, that eyes and ears may consent together. Therefore the sight of
the stars was not superfluous; but God intended to strike the mind of
Abram with this thought, 'He who by his word alone suddenly produced a
host so numerous by which he might adorn the previously vast and desolate
heaven; shall not He be able to replenish my desolate house with
offspring?' It is, however, not necessary to imagine a nocturnal vision,
because the stars, which, during the day, escape our sight, would then
appear; for since the whole was transacted in vision, Abram had a
wonderful scene set before him, which would manifestly reveal hidden
things to him. Therefore though he perhaps might not move a step, it was
yet possible for him in vision to be led forth out of his tent. The
question now occurs, concerning what seed the promise is to be
understood. And it is certain that neither the posterity of Ishmael nor
of Esau is to be taken into this account, because the legitimate seed is
to be reckoned by the promise, which God determined should remain in
Isaac and Jacob; yet the same doubt arises respecting the posterity of
Jacob, because many who could trace their descent from him, according to
the flesh, cut themselves off, as degenerate sons and aliens, from the
faith of their fathers. I answer, that this term seed is,
indiscriminately, extended to the whole people whole God has adopted to
himself. But since many were alienated by their unbelief, we must come
for information to Christ, who alone distinguishes true and genuine sons
from such as are illegitimate. By pursuing this method, we find the
posterity of Abram reduced to a small numbers that afterwards it may be
the more increased. For in Christ the Gentiles also are gathered
together, and are by faith ingrafted into the body of Abram, so as to
have a place among his legitimate sons. Concerning which point more will
be said in the seventeenth chapter.

6. "And he believed in the Lord." None of us would be able to conceive
the rich and hidden doctrine which this passage contains, unless Paul had
borne his torch before us. (Rom. 4: 3.) But it is strange, and seems like
a prodigy, that when the Spirit of God has kindled so great a light, yet
the greater part of interpreters wander with closed eyes, as in the
darkness of night. I omit the Jews, whose blindness is well known. But it
is (as I have said) monstrous, that they who have had Paul as their
luminous expositor; should so foolishly have depraved this place. However
it hence appears, that in all ages, Satan has laboured at nothing more
assiduously than to extinguish, or to smother, the gratuitous
justification of faith, which is here expressly asserted. The words of
Moses are, "He believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for
righteousness." In the first place, the faith of Abram is commended,
because by it he embraced the promise of God; it is commended, in the
second place, because hence Abram obtained righteousness in the sight of
God, and that by imputation. For the word "chashav", which Moses uses, is
to be understood as relating to the judgment of God, just as in Psalm
106: 31, where the zeal of Phinehas is said to have been counted to him
for righteousness. The meaning of the expression will, however, more
fully appear by comparison with its opposites. In Leviticus 7: 18, it is
said that when expiation has been made, iniquity 'shall not be imputed'
to a man. Again, in chap. 17: 4, 'Blood shall be imputed unto that man.'
So, in 2 Sam. 19: 19, Shimei says, 'Let not the king impute iniquity unto
me.' Nearly of the same import is the expression in 2 Kings 12: 15, 'They
reckoned not with the man into whose hand they delivered the money for
the work;' that is, they required no account of the money, but suffered
them to administer it, in perfect confidence. Let us now return to Moses.
Just as we understand that they to whom iniquity is imputed are guilty
before God; so those to whom he imputes righteousness are approved by him
as just persons; wherefore Abram was received into the number and rank of
just persons by the imputation of righteousness. For Paul, in order that
he may show us distinctly the force and nature, or quality of this
righteousness, leads us to the celestial tribunal of God. Therefore, they
foolishly trifle who apply this term to his character as an honest man;
as if it meant that Abram was personally held to be a just and righteous
man. They also, no less unskilfully, corrupt the text, who say that Abram
is here ascribing to God the glory of righteousness seeing that he
ventures to acquiesce surely in His promises, acknowledging Him to be
faithful and true; for although Moses does not expressly mention the name
of God, yet the accustomed method of speaking in the Scriptures removes
all ambiguity. Lastly, it is not less the part of stupor than of
impudence, when this faith is said to have been imputed to him for
righteousness, to mingle with it some other meaning, than that the faith
of Abram was accepted in the place of righteousness with God.
  It seems, however, to be absurd, that Abram should be justified by
believing that his seed would be as numerous as the stars of heaven; for
this could be nothing but a particular faith, which would by no means
suffice for the complete righteousness of man. Besides, what could an
earthly and temporal promise avail for eternal salvation? I answer,
first, that the believing of which Moses speaks, is not to be restricted
to a single clause of the promise here referred to, but embraces the
whole; secondly that Abram did not form his estimate of the promised seed
from this oracle alone, but also from others, where a special benediction
is added. Whence we infer that he did not expect some common or undefined
seed, but that in which the world was to be blessed. Should any one
pertinaciously insist, that what is said in common of all the children of
Abram, is forcibly distorted when applied to Christ; in the first place,
it cannot be denied that God now again repeats the promise before made to
his servant, for the purpose of answering his complaint. But we have
said--and the thing itself clearly proves--that Abram was impelled thus
greatly to desire seed, by a regard to the promised benediction. Whence
it follows, that this promise was not taken by him separately from
others. But to pass all this over; we must, I say, consider what is here
treated of, in order to form a judgment of the faith of Abram. God does
not promise to his servant this or the other thing only, as he sometimes
grants special benefits to unbelievers, who are without the taste of his
paternal love; but he declares, that He will be propitious to him, and
confirms him in the confidence of safety, by relying upon His protection
and His grace. For he who has God for his inheritance does not exult in
fading joy; but, as one already elevated towards heaven, enjoys the solid
happiness of eternal life. It is, indeed, to be maintained as an axiom,
that all the promises of God, made to the faithful, flow from the free
mercy of God, and are evidences of that paternal love, and of that
gratuitous adoption, on which their salvation is founded. Therefore, we
do not say that Abram was justified because he laid hold on a single
word, respecting the offspring to be brought forth, but because he
embraced God as his Father. And truly faith does not justify us for any
other reason, than that it reconciles us unto God; and that it does so,
not by its own merit; but because we receive the grace offered to us in
the promises, and have no doubt of eternal life, being fully persuaded
that we are loved by God as sons. Therefore, Paul reasons from
contraries, that he to whom faith is imputed for righteousness, has not
been justified by works. (Rom. 4: 4.) For whosoever obtains righteousness
by works, his merits come into the account before God. But we apprehend
righteousness by faith, when God freely reconciles us to himself. Whence
it follows, that the merit of works ceases when righteousness is sought
by faith; for it is necessary that this righteousness should be freely
given by God, and offered in his word, in order that any one may possess
it by faith. To render this more intelligible, when Moses says that faith
was imputed to Abram for righteousness, he does not mean that faith was
that first cause of righteousness which is called the efficient, but only
the formal cause; as if he had said, that Abram was therefore justified,
because, relying on the paternal loving-kindness of God, he trusted to
His mere goodness, and not to himself, nor to his own merits. For it is
especially to be observed, that faith borrows a righteousness elsewhere,
of which we, in ourselves, are destitute; otherwise it would be in vain
for Paul to set faith in opposition to works, when speaking of the mode
of obtaining righteousness. Besides, the mutual relation between the free
promise and faith, leaves no doubt upon the subject.
  We must now notice the circumstance of time. Abram was justified by
faith many years after he had been called by God; after he had left his
country a voluntary exile, rendering himself a remarkable example of
patience and of continence; after he had entirely dedicated himself to
sanctity and after he had, by exercising himself in the spiritual and
external service of God, aspired to a life almost angelical. It therefore
follows, that even to the end of life, we are led towards the eternal
kingdom of God by the righteousness of faith. On which point many are too
grossly deceived. For they grant, indeed, that the righteousness which is
freely bestowed upon sinners and offered to the unworthy is received by
faith alone; but they restrict this to a moment of time, so that he who
at the first obtained justification by faith, may afterwards be justified
by good works. By this method, faith is nothing else than the beginning
of righteousness, whereas righteousness itself consists in a continual
course of works. But they who thus trifle must be altogether insane. For
if the angelical uprightness of Abram faithfully cultivated through so
many years, in one uniform course, did not prevent him from fleeing to
faith, for the sake of obtaining righteousness; where upon earth besides
will such perfection be found, as may stand in God's sight? Therefore, by
a consideration of the time in which this was said to Abram, we certainly
gather, that the righteousness of works is not to be substituted for the
righteousness of faith, in any such way, that one should perfect what the
other has begun; but that holy men are only justified by faith, as long
as they live in the world. If any one object, that Abram previously
believed Gods when he followed Him at His calls and committed himself to
His direction and guardianship, the solution is ready; that we are not
here told when Abram first began to be justified, or to believe in God;
but that in this one place it is declared, or related, how he had been
justified through his whole life. For if Moses had spoken thus
immediately on Abram's first vocation, the cavil of which I have spoken
would have been more specious; namely, that the righteousness of faith
was only initial (so to speak) and not perpetual. But now since after
such great progress, he is still said to be justified by faith, it thence
easily appears that the saints are justified freely even unto death. I
confess, indeed, that after the faithful are born again by the Spirit of
God, the method of justifying differs, in some respect, from the former.
For God reconciles to himself those who are born only of the flesh, and
who are destitute of all good; and since he finds nothing in them except
a dreadful mass of evils, he counts them just, by imputation. But those
to whom he has imparted the Spirit of holiness and righteousness, he
embraces with his gifts. Nevertheless, in order that their good works may
please God, it is necessary that these works themselves should be
justified by gratuitous imputation; but some evil is always inherent in
then. Meanwhile, however, this is a settled point, that men are justified
before God by believing not by working; while they obtain grace by faith,
because they are unable to deserve a reward by works. Paul also, in hence
contending, that Abram did not merit by works the righteousness which he
had received before his circumcision, does not impugn the above doctrine.
The argument of Paul is of this kind: The circumcision of Abram was
posterior to his justification in the order of time, and therefore could
not be its cause, for of necessity the cause precedes its effect. I also
grant, that Paul, for this reason, contends that works are not
meritorious, except under the covenant of the law, of which covenant,
circumcision is put as the earnest and the symbol. But since Paul is not
here defining the force and nature of circumcision, regarded as a pure
and genuine institution of God, but is rather disputing on the sense
attached to it, by those with whom he deals, he therefore does not allude
to the covenant which God before had made with Abram, because the mention
of it was unnecessary for the present purpose. Both arguments are
therefore of force; first, that the righteousness of Abram cannot be
ascribed to the covenant of the law, because it preceded his
circumcision; and, secondly, that the righteousness even of the most
perfect characters perpetually consists in faith; since Abram, with all
the excellency of his virtues, after his daily and even remarkable
service of God, was, nevertheless, justified by faith. For this also is,
in the last place, worthy of observation, that what is here related
concerning one man, is applicable to all the sons of God. For since he
was called the father of the faithful, not without reason; and since
further, there is but one method of obtaining salvation; Paul properly
teaches, that a real and not personal righteousness is in this place

7. "I am the Lord that brought thee." Since it greatly concerns us, to
have God as the guide of our whole life, in order that we may know that
we have not rashly entered on some doubtful way, therefore the Lord
confirms Abram in the course of his vocation, and recalls to his memory
the original benefit of his deliverance; as if he had said, 'I, after I
had stretched out my hand to thee, to lead thee forth from the labyrinth
of death, have carried my favour towards thee thus far. Thou, therefore,
respond to me in turn, by constantly advancing; and maintain steadfastly
thy faith, from the beginning even to the end.' This indeed is said, not
with respect to Abram alone, in order that he, gathering together the
promises of God, made to him from the very commencement of his life of
faith, should form them into one whole; but that all the pious may learn
to regard the beginning of their vocation as flowing perpetually from
Abram, their common father; and may thus securely boast with Paul, that
they know in whom they have believed, (2 Tim. 1: 12,) and that God, who,
in the person of Abram, had separated a church unto himself; would be a
faithful keeper of the salvation deposited with Him. That, for this very
end, the Lord declares himself to have been the deliverer of Abram
appears hence; because he connects the promise which he is now about to
give with the prior redemption; as if he were saying, 'I do not now first
begin to promise thee this land. For it was on this account that I
brought thee out of thy own country, to constitute thee the lord and heir
of this land. Now therefore I covenant with thee in the same form; lest
thou shouldst deem thyself to have been deceived, or fed with empty
words; and I command thee to be mindful of the first covenant, that the
new promise, which after many years I now repeat, may be the more firmly

8. "Lord God, whereby shall I know." It may appear absurd, first, that
Abram, who before had placed confidence in the simple word of God,
without moving any question concerning the promises given to him, should
now dispute whether what he hears from the mouth of God be true or not.
Secondly, that he ascribes but little honour to God, not merely by
murmuring against him, when he speaks, but by requiring some additional
pledge to be given him. Further, whence arises the knowledge which
belongs to faith, but from the word? Therefore Abram in vain desires to
be assured of the future possession of the land, while he ceases to
depend upon the word of God. I answer, the Lord sometimes concedes to his
children, that they may freely express any objection which comes into
their mind. For he does not act so strictly with them, as not to suffer
himself to be questioned. Yea, the more certainly Abram was persuaded
that God was true, and the more he was attached to His word, so much the
more familiarly did he disburden his cares into God's bosom. To this may
be added, that the protracted delay was no small obstacle to Abram's
faith. For after God had held him in suspense through a great part of his
life, now when he was worn down with age, and had nothing before his eyes
but death and the grave, God anew declares that he shall be lord of the
land. He does not, however, reject, on account of its difficulty, what
might have appeared to him incredible, but brings before God the anxiety
by which he is inwardly oppressed. And therefore his questioning with God
is rather a proof of faith, than a sign of incredulity. The wicked,
because their minds are entangled with various conflicting thoughts, do
not in any way receive the promises, but the pious, who feel the
impediments in their flesh, endeavour to remove them, lest they should
obstruct the way to God's word; and they seek a remedy for those evils of
which they are conscious. It is, nevertheless, to be observed, that there
were some special impulses in the saints of old, which it would not now
be lawful to draw into a precedent. For though Hezekiah and Gideon
required certain miracles, this is not a reason why the same thing should
be attempted by us in the present day; let it suffice us to seek for such
confirmation only as the Lord himself according to his own pleasure,
shall judge most eligible.

9. "Take me an heifer of three years old." Some, instead of an heifer of
three years old translate the passage, 'three heifers' and in each
species of animals enumerated, would make the number three. Yet the
opinion of those who apply the word three to the age of the heifer, is
more general. Moreover, although God would not deny his servant what he
had asked; he yet, by no means, granted what would gratify the desire of
the flesh. For, what certainty could be added to the promise, by the
slaughter of an heifer, or goat, or ram? For the true design of
sacrifice, of which we shall see more presently, was hitherto hidden from
Abram. Therefore by obeying the command of God, of which, however, no
advantage was apparent, he hence proves the obedience of his faith; nor
did his wish aim at any other end than this; namely, that the obstacle
being removed, he might, as was just, reverently acquiesce in the word of
the Lord. Let us, therefore, learn meekly to embrace those helps which
God offers for the confirmation of our faith; although they may not
accord with our judgment, but rather may seem to be a mockery; until, at
length, it shall become plain from the effect, that God was as far as
possible from mocking us.

10. "And divided them in the midst." That no part of this sacrifice may
be without mystery, certain interpreters weary themselves in the
fabrication of subtleties; but it is our business, as I have often
declared, to cultivate sobriety. I confess I do not know why he was
commanded to take three kinds of animals besides birds; unless it were,
that by this variety itself, it was declared, that all the posterity of
Abram, of whatever rank they might be, should be offered up in sacrifice,
so that the whole people, and each individual, should constitute one
sacrifice. There are also some things, concerning which, if any one
curiously seeks the reason, I shall not be ashamed to acknowledge my
ignorance, because I do not choose to wander in uncertain speculations.
Moreover, this, in my opinion, is the sum of the whole: That God, in
commanding the animals to be killed, shows what will be the future
condition of the Church. Abram certainly wished to be assured of the
promised inheritance of the land. Now he is taught that it would take its
commencement from death; that is that he and his children must die before
they should enjoy the dominion over the land. In commanding the
slaughtered animals to be cut in parts, it is probable that he followed
the ancient rite in forming covenants whether they were entering into any
alliance, or were mustering an army, a practice which also passed over to
the Gentiles. Now, the allies or the soldiers passed between the severed
parts, that, being enclosed together within the sacrifice, they might be
the more sacredly united in one body. That this method was practiced by
the Jews, Jeremiah bears witness, (34: 18,) where he introduces God as
saying, 'They have violated my covenant, when they cut the calf in two
parts, and passed between the divisions of it, as well the princes of
Judas, and the nobles of Jerusalem, and the whole people of the land.'
Nevertheless, there appears to me to have been this special reason for
the act referred to; that the Lord would indeed admonish the race of
Abram, not only that it should be like a dead carcass, but even like one
torn and dissected. For the servitude with which they were oppressed for
a time, was more intolerable than simple death; yet because the sacrifice
is offered to God, death itself is immediately turned into new life. And
this is the reason why Abram, placing the parts of the sacrifice opposite
to each other, fits them one to the other, because they were again to be
gathered together from their dispersion. But how difficult is the
restoration of the Church and what troubles are involved in it, is shown
by the horror with which Abram was seized. We see, therefore, that two
things were illustrated; namely, the hard servitude, with which the sons
of Abram were to be pressed almost to laceration and destruction; and
then their redemption, which was to be the signal pledge of divine
adoption; and in the same mirror the general condition of the Church is
represented to us, as it is the peculiar province of God to create it out
of nothing, and to raise it from death.

11. "And when the fowls came down." Although the sacrifice was dedicated
to God, yet it was not free from the attack and the violence of birds. So
neither are the faithful, after they are received into the protection of
God, so covered with his hand, as not to be assailed on every side; since
Satan and the world cease not to cause them trouble. Therefore, in order
that the sacrifice we have once offered to God may not be violated, but
may remain pure and uninjured, contrary assaults must be repulsed, with
whatever inconvenience and toil.

12. "A deep sleep fell upon Abram." The vision is now mingled with a
dream. Thus the Lord here joins those two kinds of communication
together, which I have before related from Numbers 12: 6, where it is
said, 'When I appear unto my servants the prophets, I speak to them in a
vision or a dream.' mention has already been made of a vision: Moses now
relates, that a dream was superadded. A horrible darkness intervened,
that Abram might know that the dream is not a common one, but that the
whole is divinely conducted; it has, nevertheless, a correspondence with
the oracle then present, as God immediately afterwards explains in his
own words, "Thou shalt surely know that thy seed shall be a stranger,"
&c. We have elsewhere said, that God was not wont to dazzle the eyes of
his people with bare and empty spectres; but that in visions, the
principal parts always belonged to the word. Thus here, not a mute
apparition is presented to the eyes of Abram, but he is taught by an
oracle annexed, what the external and visible symbol meant. It is,
however, to be observed, that before one son is given to Abram, he hears
that his seed shall be, for a long time, in captivity and slavery. For
thus does the Lord deal with his own people; he always makes a beginning
from death, so that by quickening the dead, he the more abundantly
manifests his power. It was necessary, in part, on Abram's account, that
this should have been declared; but the Lord chiefly had regard to his
posterity, lest they should faint in their sufferings, of which, however,
the Lord had promised a joyful and happy issue; especially since their
long continuance would produce great weariness. And three things are,
step by step, brought before them; first, that the sons of Abram must
wander four hundred years, before they should attain the promised
inheritance; secondly, that they should be slaves; thirdly that they were
to be inhumanly and tyrannically treated. Wherefore the faith of Abram
was admirable and singular, seeing that he acquiesced in an oracle so
sorrowful, and felt assured, that God would be his Deliverer, after his
miseries had proceeded to their greatest height.
  It is, however, asked, how the number of years here given agrees with
the subsequent history? Some begin the computation from the time of his
departure out of Charran. But it seems more probable that the
intermediate time only is denoted; as if he would say, 'It behoves thy
posterity to wait patiently; because I have not decreed to grant what I
now promise, until the four hundredth year: yea, up to that very time
their servitude will continue.' According to this mode of reckoning,
Moses says, (Exod. 12: 40,) that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt
four hundred and thirty years: while yet, from the sixth chapter, we may
easily gather, that not more than two hundred and thirty years, or
thereabouts, elapsed from the time that Jacob went down thither, to their
deliverance. Where then, shall we find the remaining two hundred years,
but by referring to the oracle? Of this matter all doubt is removed by
Paul, who (Gal. 3: 17) reckons the years from the gratuitous covenant of
life, to the promulgation of the Law. In short, God does not indicate how
long the servitude of the people should be from its commencement to its
close, but how long he intended to suspend, or to defer his promise. As
to his omitting the thirty years, it is neither a new nor unfrequent
thing, where years are not accurately computed, to mention only the
larger sums. But we see here, that for the sake of brevity, the whole of
that period is divided into four centuries. Therefore, there is no
absurdity in omitting the short space of time: this is chiefly to be
considered, that the Lord, for the purpose of exercising the patience of
his people, suspends his promise more than four centuries.

14. "Also that nations whom they serve." A consolation is now subjoined,
in which this is the first thing, God testifies that he will be the
vindicator of his people. Whence it follows, that he will take upon
himself the care of the sa1vation of those whom he has embraced, and will
not suffer them to be harassed by the ungodly and the wicked with
impunity. And although he here expressly announces that he will take
vengeance on the Egyptians; yet all the enemies of the Church are exposed
to the same judgment: even as Moses in his song extends to all ages and
nations the threat that the Lord will exact punishment for unjust
persecutions. 'Vengeance is mine, I, saith he, will repay,' (Dent. 32:
35.) Therefore, whenever we happen to be treated with inhumanity by
tyrants, (which is very usual with the Church,) let this be our
consolation, that after our faith shall be sufficiently proved by bearing
the cross, God, at whose pleasure we are thus humbled, will himself be
the Judge, who will repay to our enemies the due reward of the cruelty
which they now exercise. Although they now exult with intoxicated joy, it
will at length appear by the event itself, that our miseries are happy
ones, but their triumphs wretched; because God, who cares for us, is
their adversary. But let us remember that we must give place unto the
wrath of God, as Paul exhorts, in order that we may not be hurried
headlong to seek revenge. Place also must be given to hope, that it may
sustain us when oppressed and groaning under the burden of evils. To
judge the nation, means the same thing as to summon it to judgment, in
order that God, when he has long reposed in silence, may openly manifest
himself as the Judge.

15. "And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace." Hitherto the Lord had
respect to the posterity of Abram as well as to himself, that the
consolation might be common to all; but now he turns his address to Abram
alone, because he had need of peculiar confirmation. And the remedy
proposed for alleviating his sorrow was, that he should die in peace,
after he had attained the utmost limit of old age. The explanation given
by some that he should die a natural death, exempt from violence; or an
easy death, in which his vital spirits should spontaneously and naturally
fail, and his life itself should fall by its own maturity, without any
sense of pain, is, in my opinion, frigid. For Moses wishes to express
that Abram should have not only a long, but a placid old age, with a
corresponding joyful and peaceful death. The sense therefore is that
although through his whole life, Abram was to be deprived of the
possession of the land, yet he should not be wanting in the essential
materials of quiet and joy, so that having happily finished his life, he
should cheerfully depart to his fathers. And certainly death makes the
great distinction between the reprobate and the sons of God, whose
condition in the present life is commonly one and the same, except that
the sons of God have by far the worst of it. Wherefore peace in death
ought justly to be regarded as a singular benefit, because it is a proof
of that distinction to which I have just alluded. Even profane writers,
feeling their way in the dark, have perceived this. Plato, in his book on
the Republic, (lib. i.) cites a song of Pindar, in which he says, that
they who live justly and homily, are attended by a sweet hope, cherishing
their hearts and nourishing their old age; which hope chiefly governs the
fickle mind of men. Because men, conscious of guilt, must necessarily be
miserably harassed by various torments; the Poet, when he asserts that
hope is the reward of a good conscience, calls it the nurse of old age.
For as young men, while far removed from death, carelessly take their
pleasure; the old are admonished by their own weakness, seriously to
reflect that they must depart. Now unless the hope of a better life
inspires them, nothing remains for them but miserable fears. Finally, as
the reprobate indulge themselves during their whole life, and stupidly
sleep in their vices, it is necessary that their death should be full of
trouble; while the faithful commit their souls into the hand of God
without fear and sadness. Whence also Balaam was constrained to break
forth in this expression, 'Let my soul die the death of the righteous,'
(Numb. 23: 10.) Moreover, since men have not such a desirable close of
life in their own power; the Lord, in promising a placid and quiet death
to his servant Abram, teaches us that it is his own gift. And we see that
even kings, and others who deem themselves happy in this world, are yet
agitated in death; because they are visited with secret compunctions for
their sins, and look for nothing in death but destruction. But Abram
willingly and joyfully went forward to his death, seeing that he had in
Isaac a certain pledge of the divine benediction, and knew that a better
life was laid up for him in heaven.

16. "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." The reason here given
is deemed absurd, as seeming to imply that the sons of Abram could not
otherwise be saved, than by the destruction of others. I answer, that we
must with modesty and humility yield to the secret counsel of God. Since
he had given that land to the Amorites, to be inhabited by them in
perpetuity, he intimates, that he will not, without just cause, transfer
the possession of it to others; as if he would say, 'I grant the dominion
of this land to thy seed without injury to any one. The land, at present,
is occupied by its lawful possessors, to whom I delivered it. Until,
therefore, they shall have deserved, by their sins, to be rightfully
expelled, the dominion of it sill not come to thy posterity.' Thus God
teaches him that the land must be evacuated, in order that it may lie
open to new inhabitants. And this passage is remarkable, as showing, that
the abodes of men are so distributed in the world, that the Lord will
preserve quiet people, each in their several stations, till they cast
themselves out by their own wickedness. For by polluting the place of
their habitation, they in a certain sense tear away the boundaries fixed
by the hand of God, which would otherwise have remained immovable.
Moreover, the Lord here commends his own longsuffering. Even then the
Amorites had become unworthy to occupy the land, yet the Lord not only
bore with them for a short time, but granted them four centuries for
repentance. And hence it appears, that he does not, without reason, so
frequently declare how slow he is to anger. But the more graciously he
waits for men, if, at length, instead of repenting they remain obstinate,
the more severely does he avenge such great ingratitude. Therefore Paul
says, that they who indulge themselves in sin, while the goodness and
clemency of God invite them to repentance, heap up for themselves a
treasure of wrath, (Rom. 2: 4;) and thus they reap no advantage from
delay, seeing that the severity of the punishment is doubled; just as it
happened to the Amorites, whom, at length, the Lord commanded to be so
entirely cut off, that not even infants were spared. Therefore when we
hear that God out of heaven is silently waiting until iniquities shall
fill up their measure; let us know, that this is no time for torpor, but
rather let every one of us stir himself up, that we may be beforehand
with the celestial judgment. It was formerly said by a heathen, that the
anger of God proceeds with a slow step to avenge itself, but that it
compensates for its tardiness by the severity of its punishment. Hence
there is no reason why reprobates should flatter themselves, when he
seems to let them pass unobserved, since he does not so repose in heaven,
as to cease to be the Judge of the world; nor will he be unmindful of the
execution of his office, in due time. We infer, however, from the words
of Moses, that though space for repentance is given to the reprobate,
they are still devoted
to destruction. Some take the word "awon" for punishment, as if it had
been said that punishment was not yet matured for them. But the former
exposition is more suitable; namely, that they will set no bound to their
wickedness, until they bring upon themselves final destruction.

17. "Behold, a smoking furnace." Again a new vision was added, to confirm
his faith in the oracle. At first, Abram was horror-struck with the thick
darkness; now, in the midst of a smoking furnace, he sees a burning lamp.
Many suppose that a sacrifice was consumed with this fire; but I rather
interpret it as a symbol of future deliverance, which would well agree
with the fact itself. For there are two things contrary to each other in
appearance; the obscurity of smoke, and the shining of a lamp. Hence
Abram knew that light would, at length, emerge out of darkness. An
analogy is always to be sought for between signs, and the things
signified, that there may be a mutual correspondence between them. Then,
since the symbol, in itself, is but a lifeless carcass, reference ought
always to be made to the word which is annexed to it. But here, by the
word, liberty was promised to Abram's seed, in the midst of servitude.
Now the condition of the Church could not be painted more to the life,
than when God causes a burning torch to proceed out of the smoke, in
order that the darkness of afflictions may not overwhelm us, but that we
may cherish a good hope of life even in death; because the Lord will, at
length, shine upon us, if only we offer up ourselves in sacrifice to Him.

18. "In the same day the Lord made a covenant." I willingly admit what I
have alluded to above, that the covenant was ratified by a solemn rite,
when the animals were divided into parts. For there seems to be a
repetition, in which he teaches what was the intent of the sacrifice
which he has mentioned. Here, also, we may observe, what I have said,
that the word is always to be joined with the symbols, lest our eyes be
fed with empty and fruitless ceremonies. God has commanded animals to be
offered to him; but he has shown their end and use, by a covenant
appended to them. If, then, the Lord feeds us by sacraments, we infer,
that they are the evidences of his grace, and the tokens of those
spiritual blessings which flow from it.
  He then enumerates the nations, whose land God was about to give to the
sons of Abram, in order that he may confirm what he before said
concerning a numerous offspring. For that was not to be a small band of
men, but an immense multitude, for which the Lord assigns a habitation of
such vast extent. God had before spoken only of the Amorites, among whom
Abram then dwelt; but now, for the sake of amplifying his grace, he
recounts all the others by name.

Chapter XVI.

1 Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid,
an Egyptian, whose name [was] Hagar.
2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from
bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain
children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
3 And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram
had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband
Abram to be his wife.
4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she
had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong [be] upon thee: I have given my
maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was
despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid [is] in thy hand; do to her
as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from
her face.
7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the
wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt
thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and
submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed
exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou [art] with
child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the
LORD hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand [will be] against every man, and
every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all
his brethren.
13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God
seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, [it is] between
Kadesh and Bered.
15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which
Hagar bare, Ishmael.
16 And Abram [was] fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael
to Abram.

1. "Now Sarai, Abram's wife." Moses here recites a new history, namely,
that Sarai, through the impatience of long delay, resorted to a method of
obtaining seed by her husband, at variance with the word of God. She saw
that she was barren, and had passed the age of bearing. And she inferred
the necessity of a new remedy, in order that Abram might obtain the
promised blessing. Moses expressly relates, that the design of marrying a
second wife did not originate with Abram himself, but with Sarai, to
teach us that the holy man was not impelled by lust to these nuptials;
but that when he was thinking of no such thing, he was induced to engage
in them, by the exhortation of his wife. It is, however, asked, whether
Sarai substituted her handmaid in her place, through the mere desire of
having offspring? So it seems to some; yet to me it is incredible, that
the pious matron should not have been cognizant of those promises, which
had been so often repeated to her husband. Yea, it ought to be fully
taken for granted, among all pious persons, that the mother of the people
of God, was a participator of the same grace with her husband. Sarai,
therefore, does not desire offspring (as is usual) from a merely natural
impulse; but she yields her conjugal rights to another, through a wish to
obtain that benediction, which she knew was divinely promised: not that
she makes a divorce from her husband, but assigns him another wife, from
whom he might receive children. And certainly if she had desired
offspring in the ordinary manner, it would rather have come into her mind
to do it by the adoption of a son, than by giving place to a second wife.
For we know the vehemence of female jealousy. Therefore, while
contemplating the promise, she becomes forgetful of her own right, and
thinks of nothing but the bringing forth of children to Abram. A
memorable example, from which no small profit accrues to us. For however
laudable was Sarai's wish, as regards the end, or the scope to which it
tended; nevertheless, in the pursuit of it, she was guilty of no light
sin, by impatiently departing from the word of God, for the purpose of
enjoying the effect of that word. While she rejects upon her own
barrenness and old age, she begins to despair of offspring, unless Abram
should have children from some other quarter; in this there is already
some fault. Yet, however desperate the affair might be, still she ought
not to have attempted anything at variance with the will of God and the
legitimate order of nature. God designed that the human race should be
propagated by sacred marriage. Sarai perverts the law of marriage, by
defiling the conjugal bed, which was appointed only for two persons. Nor
is it an available excuse, that she wished Abram to have a concubine and
not a wife; since it ought to have been regarded as a settled point, that
the woman is joined to the man, 'that they two should be one flesh.' And
though polygamy had already prevailed among many; yet it was never left
to the will of man, to abrogate that divine law by which two persons were
mutually bound together. Nor was even Abram free from fault, in following
the foolish and preposterous counsel of his wife. Therefore, as the
precipitancy of Sarai was culpable, so the facility with which Abram
yielded to her wish was worthy of reprehension. The faith of both of them
was defective; not indeed with regard to the substance of the promise,
but with regard to the method in which they proceeded; since they
hastened to acquire the offspring which was to be expected from God,
without observing the legitimate ordinance of God. Whence also we are
taught that God does not in vain command his people to be quiet, and to
wait with patience, whenever he defers or suspends the accomplishment of
their wishes. For they who hasten before the time, not only anticipate
the providence of God, but being discontented with his word, precipitate
themselves beyond their proper bounds. But it seems that Sarai had
something further in view; for she not only wished that Abram should
become a father, but would fain acquire to herself maternal rights and
honours. I answer, since she knew that all nations were to be blessed in
the seed of Abram, it is no wonder that she should be unwilling to be
deprived of participation in his honour; lest she should be cut off, as a
putrid member, from the body which had received the blessing, and should
also become an alien from the promised salvation.
  "Bare him no children." This seems added as an excuse. And truly Moses
intimates that she did not seek help from the womb of her maid, before
necessity compelled her to do so. Her own words also show, that she had
patiently and modestly waited to see what God would do, until hope was
entirely cut off, when she says, that she was restrained from bearing by
the Lord. (ver. 2.) What fault then shall we find in her? Surely, that
she did not, as she ought, cast this care into the bosom of God, without
binding his power to the order of nature, or restraining it to her own
sense. And then, by neglecting to infer from the past what would take
place in future, she did not regard herself as in the hand of God, who
could again open the womb which he had closed.

2. "That I may obtain children by her." This is a Hebrew phrase, which
signifies to become a mother. Some however, expound the word as simply
meaning, to have a son. And certainly "ben", which, among the Hebrews,
signifies son, corresponds with the verb here used. But since sons are so
called metaphorically as being the maintainers of the race, and thus
building up the family, therefore the primary signification of the word
is to be retained. But Sarai claims for herself by right of dominion, the
child which Hagar shall bring forth: because handmaids do not bring forth
for themselves, since they have not power over their own body. By first
speaking to her husband, she does not barely allow of a concubine, who
should be as a harlot; but introduces and obtrudes one. And hence it
appears, that when persons are wiser in their own eyes than they ought to
be, they easily fall into the snare of trying illicit means. The desire
of Sarai proceeds from the zeal of faith; but because it is not so
subjected to God as to wait his time, she immediately has recourse to
polygamy, which is nothing else than the corruption of lawful marriage.
Moreover, since Sarai, that holy woman, yet fanned in her husband the
same flame of impatience with which she burned, we may hence learn, how
diligently we ought to be on our guard, lest Satan should surprise us by
any secret fraud. For not only does he induce wicked and ungodly men
openly to oppose our faith; but sometimes, privately and by stealth, he
assails us through the medium of good and simple men, that he may
overcome us unawares. On every side, therefore, we must be on our guard
against his wiles; lest by any means he should undermine us.
  "And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai." Truly the faith of Abram
wavers, when he deviates from the word of God, and suffers himself to be
borne away by the persuasion of his wife, to seek a remedy which was
divinely prohibited. He, however, retains the foundation, because he does
not doubt that he shall, at length, perceive that God is true. By which
example we are taught, that there is no reason why we should despond, if,
at any time, Satan should shake our faith; provided that the truth of God
be not overthrown in our hearts. Meanwhile, when we see Abram, who,
through so many years, had bravely contended like an invincible
combatant, and had surmounted so many obstacles, now yielding, in a
single moment, to temptation; who among us will not fear for himself in
similar danger? Therefore, although we may have stood long and firmly in
the faith, we must daily pray, that God would not lead us into

3. "And gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife." Moses states what
was the design of Sarai; for neither did she intend to make her house a
brothel, nor to be the betrayer of her maid's chastity, nor a pander for
her husband. Yet Hagar is improperly called a wife; because she was
brought into another person's bed, against the law of God. Wherefore, let
us know that this connection was so far illicit, as to be something
between fornication and marriage. The same thing takes place with all
those inventions which are appended to the word of God. For with whatever
fair pretext they may be covered, there is an inherent corruption, which
degenerates from the purity of the word, and vitiates the whole.

4. "Her mistress was despised in her eyes." Here Moses relates that the
punishment of excessive precipitancy quickly followed. The chief blame,
indeed, rested with Sarai; yet because Abram had proved himself too
credulous, God chastises both as they deserve. Sarai is grievously and
bitterly tried, by the proud contempt of her handmaid; Abram is harassed
by unjust complaints; thus we see that both pay the penalty of their
levity, and that the contrivance devised by Sarai, and too eagerly
embraced by Abram, fails of success. Meanwhile, in Hagar, an instance of
ingratitude is set before us; because she, having been treated with
singular kindness and honour, begins to hold her mistress in contempt.
Since, however, this is an exceedingly common disease of the mind, let
the faithful accustom themselves to the endurance of it; if, at any time,
a return so unjust be made to them, for their acts of kindness. But
especially, let the infirmity of Sarai move us thus to act, since she was
unable to bear the contempt of her maid.

5. "My wrong be upon thee." This also was a part of her punishment, that
Sarai was brought so low as to forget herself for a while; and being
vehemently excited, conducted herself with so much weakness. Certainly,
to the utmost of her power, she had impelled her husband to act rashly;
and now she petulantly insults him, although innocent. For she adduces
nothing for which Abram was to be blamed. She reproaches him with the
fact, that she had given her maid into his bosom; and complains that she
is condemned by this maid, without having first ascertained, whether he
intended to assist the bad cause, by his countenance, or not. Thus blind
is the assault of anger; it rushes impetuously hither and thither; and
condemns, without inquiry, those who are entirely free from blame. If
ever any woman was of a meek and gentle spirit, Sarai excelled in that
virtue. Whereas, therefore, we see that her patience was violently shaken
by a single offense, let every one of us he so much the more resolved to
govern his own passions.
  "The Lord judge between me and thee." She makes improper use of the
name of God, and almost forgets that due reverence, which is so strongly
enforced on those who are godly. She makes her appeal to the judgment of
God. What else is this, than to call down destruction on her own head?
For if God had interposed as judge, he must of necessity have executed
punishment upon one or other of them. But Abram had done no injury. It
remains, therefore, that she must have felt the vengeance of God, whose
anger she had so rashly imprecated upon herself, or her husband. Had
Moses spoken this of any heathen woman, it might have been passed over as
a common thing. But now, the Lord shows us, in the person of the mother
of the faithful; first, how vehement is the flame of anger, and to what
lengths it will hurry men; then, how greatly they are blinded who, in
their own affairs, are too indulgent to themselves; whence we should
learn to suspect ourselves, whenever our own concerns are treated of.
Another thing also is here chiefly worthy of remark; namely, that the
best ordered families are sometimes not free from contentions; nay, that
this evil reaches even to the Church of God; for we know that the family
of Abram, which was disturbed with strifes, was the living representation
of the Church. As to domestic broils, we know that the principal part of
social life, which God hallowed among men, is spent in marriage; and yet
various inconveniences intervene, which defile that good state, as with
spots. It behoves the faithful to prepare themselves to cut off these
occasions of trouble. For this end, it is of great importance to reflect
on the origin of the evil; for all the troubles men find in marriage,
they ought to impute to sin.

6. "Behold, thy maid is in thy hand." The greatness of Abram's humanity
and modesty appears from his answer. He does not quarrel with his wife;
and though he has the best cause, yet he does not pertinaciously defend
it, but voluntarily dismisses the wife who had been given him. In short,
for the sake of restoring peace, he does violence to his feelings, both
as a husband, and a father. For, in leaving Hagar to the will of her
enraged mistress, he does not treat her as his wife; he also, in a
certain way, undervalues that object of his hope which was conceived in
her womb. And it is not to be doubted that he was thus calm and placid in
bearing the vehemence of his wife; because, throughout her whole life, he
had found her to be obedient. Still it was a great excellence, to
restrain his temper under an indignity so great. It may, however, here be
asked, how it was that his care for the blessed seed had then vanished
from his mind? Hagar is great with child; he hopes that the seed through
which the salvation of the world was promised, is about to proceed from
her. Why then does he not set Sarai aside, and turn his love and desire
still more to Hagar? Truly we hence infer, that all human contrivances
pass away and vanish in smoke, as soon as any grievous temptation is
presented. Having taken a wife against the divine command, he thinks the
matter is succeeding well, when he sees her pregnant, and pleases himself
in foolish confidence; but when contention suddenly arises, he is at his
wit's end, and rejects all hope, or, at least, forgets it. The same thing
must necessarily happen to us, as often as we attempt anything contrary
to the word of God. Our minds will fail at the very first blast of
temptation; since our only ground of stability is, to have the authority
of God for what we do. In the meantime, God purifies the faith of his
servant from its rust; for by mixing his own and his wife's imagination
with the word of God, he, in a sense, had stifled his faith; wherefore,
to restore its brightness, that which was superfluous is cut of. God, by
opposing himself in this manner to our sinful designs, recalls us from
our stupidity to a sound mind. A simple promise had been given 'I will
bless thy seed.' Sarai's gloss supervened, namely, that she could have no
seed but a supposititious one by Hagar: this mire of human imagination,
with which the promise had been defiled must be purged away, that Abram
might derive his knowledge from no other source, than the pure word of
  "And Sarai dealt hardly with her." The word "anah", which Moses uses,
signifies to afflict and to humble. I therefore explain it as being put
for reducing Hagar to submission. But it was difficult for an angry woman
to keep within bounds, in repressing the insolence of her maid.
Wherefore, it is possible that she became immoderately enraged against
her; not so much considering her own duty as revolving the means of being
avenged for the offenses committed. Since Moses brings no heavier charge,
I confine myself to what is certain; that Sarai made use of her proper
authority in restraining the insolence of her maid. And, doubtless, from
the event, we may form a judgments that Hagar was impelled to flee, not
so much by the cruelty of her mistress, as by her own contumacy. Her own
conscience accused her; and it is improbable that Sarai should have been
so greatly incensed, except by many, and, indeed atrocious offenses.
Therefore, the woman being of servile temper, and of indomitable
ferocity, chose rather to flee, than to return to favour, through the
humble acknowledgment of her fault.

7. "And the angel of the Lord found her." We are here taught with what
clemency the Lord acts towards his own people, although they have
deserved severe punishment. As he had previously mitigated the punishment
of Abram and Sarai, so now he casts a paternal look upon Hagar, so that
his favour is extended to the whole family. He does not indeed altogether
spare them, lest he should cherish their vices; but he corrects them with
gentle remedies. It is indeed probable, that Hagar, in going to the
desert of Sur, meditated a return to her own country. Yet mention seems
to be made of the desert and the wilderness, to show that she, being
miserably afflicted, wandered from the presence of men, till the angel
met her. Although Moses does not describe the form of the vision, yet I
do not doubt, that it was clothed in a human body; in which,
nevertheless, manifest tokens of celestial glory were conspicuous.

8. "And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid." By the use of this epithet, the
angel declares, that she still remained a servant, though she had escaped
the hands of her mistress; because liberty is not to be obtained by
stealth, nor by flight, but by manumission. Moreover, by this expression,
God shows that he approves of civil government, and that the violation of
it is inexcusable. The condition of servitude was then hard; and thanks
are to be given to the Lord, that this barbarity has been abolished; yet
God has declared from heaven his pleasure, that servants should bear the
yoke; as also by the mouth of Paul, he does not give servants their
freedom, nor deprive their masters of their use; but only commands them
to be kindly and liberally treated. (Ephes. 6: 5.) It is to be inferred
also, from the circumstance of the time, not only that civil government
is to be maintained, as matter of necessity, but that lawful authorities
are to be obeyed, for conscience' sake. For although the fugitive Hagar
could no longer be compelled to obedience by force, yet her condition was
not changed in the sight of God. By the same argument it is proved, that
if masters at any time deal too hardly with their servants, or if rulers
treat their subjects with unjust asperity, their rigour is still to be
endured, nor is there just cause for shaking off the yoke, although they
may exercise their power too imperiously. In short, whenever it comes
into our mind to defraud any one of his right, or to seek exemption from
our proper calling, let the voice of the angel sound in our ears, as if
God would draw us back, by putting his own hand upon us. They who have
proudly and tyrannically governed shall one day render their account to
God; meanwhile, their asperity is to be borne by their subjects, till
God, whose prerogative it is to raise the abject and to relieve the
oppressed, shall give them succour. If a comparison be made, the power of
magistrates is far more tolerable, than that ancient dominion was. The
paternal authority is in its very nature amiable, and worthy of regard.
If the flight of Hagar was prohibited by the command of God, much less
will he bear with the licentiousness of a people, who rebel against their
prince; or with the contumacy of children, who withdraw themselves from
obedience to their parents.
  "Whence camest thou?" He does not inquire, as concerning a doubtful
matter, but knowing that no place for subterfuge is left to Hagar, he
peremptorily reproves her for her flight; as if he had said, 'Having
deserted thy station, thou shalt profit nothing by thy wandering, since
thou canst not escape the hand of God, which had placed thee there.' It
might also be, that he censured her departure from that house, which was
then the earthly sanctuary of God. For she was not ignorant that God was
there worshipped in a peculiar manner. And although she indirectly
charges her mistress with cruelty, by saying that she had fled from her
presence; still the angel, to cut off all subterfuges, commands her to
return and to humble herself. By which words he first intimates, that the
bond of subjection is not dissolved either by the too austere, or by the
impotent dominion of rulers; he then retorts the blame of the evil upon
Hagar herself, because she had obstinately placed herself in opposition
to her mistress, and, forgetful of her own condition, had exalted herself
more insolently and boldly than became a handmaid. In short, as she is
justly punished for her faults, he commands her to seek a remedy by
correcting them. And truly, since nothing is better than, by obedience
and patience, to appease the severity of those who are in authority over
us; we must more especially labour to bend them to mildness by our
humiliation, when we have offended them by our pride.

10. "I will multiply thy seed exceedingly." For the purpose of mitigating
the offense, and of alleviating what was severe in the precept, by some
consolation, he promises a blessing in the child which she should bear.
God might indeed, by his own authority, have strictly enjoined what was
right; but in order that Hagar might the more cheerfully do what she knew
to be her duty, he allures her, as by blandishments, to obedience. And to
this point those promises tend, by which he invites us to voluntary
submission. For he would not draw us by servile methods, so that we
should obey his commands by constraint; and therefore he mingles mild and
paternal invitations with his commands, dealing with us liberally, as
with sons. That the angel here promises to do what is peculiar to God
alone, involves no absurdity, for it is sufficiently usual with God to
invest his ministers whom he sends with his own character, that the
authority of their word may appear the greater. I do not, however,
disapprove the opinion of most of the ancients; that Christ the Mediator
was always present in all the oracles, and that this is the cause why the
majesty of God is ascribed to angels. On which subject I have already
touched and shall have occasion to say more elsewhere.

11 "And shalt bear a son." The angel explains what he had briefly said
respecting her seed; namely, that it should not be capable of being
numbered on account of its multitude; and he commences with Ishmael, who
was to be its head and origin. Although we shall afterwards see that he
was a reprobate, yet an honorable name is granted to him, to mark the
temporal benefit of which Ishmael became a partakers as being a son of
Abram. For I thus explain the passage, God intended that a monument of
the paternal kindness, with which he embraced the whole house of Abram,
should endure to posterity. For although the covenant of eternal life did
not belong to Ishmael; yet, that he might not be entirely without favour,
God constituted him the father of a great and famous people. And thus we
see that, with respect to this present life, the goodness of God extended
itself to the seed of Abram according to the flesh. But if God intended
the name of Ishmael [which signifies God will hear] to be a perpetual
memorial of his temporal benefits; he will by no means bear with our
ingratitude, if we do not celebrate his celestial and everlasting
mercies, even unto death.
  "The Lord has heard thy affliction." We do not read that Hagar, in her
difficulties, had recourse to prayer; and we are rather left to
conjecture, from the words of Moses, that when she was stupefied by her
sufferings, the angel came of his own accord. It is therefore to be
observed, that there are two ways in which God looks down upon men, for
the purpose of helping them; either when they, as suppliants, implore his
aid; or when he, even unasked, succours them in their afflictions. He is
indeed especially said to hearken to them who, by prayers, invoke him as
their Deliverer. Yet, sometimes, when men lie mute, and because of their
stupor, do not direct their wishes to him, he is said to listen to their
miseries. That this latter mode of hearing was fulfilled towards Hagar,
is probable, because God freely met her wandering through the desert.
Moreover, because God frequently deprives unbelievers of his help, until
they are worn away with slow disease, or else suffers them to be suddenly
destroyed; let none of us give indulgence to our own sloth; but being
admonished by the sense of our evils, let us seek him without delay. In
the meantime, however, it is of no small avail to the confirmation of our
faith, that our prayers will never be despised by the Lord, seeing that
he anticipates even the slothful and the stupid, with his help; and if he
is present to those who seek him not, much more will he be propitious to
the pious desires of his own people.

12. "And he will be a wild man." The angel declares what kind of person
Ishmael will be. The simple meaning is, (in my judgment,) that he will be
a warlike man, and so formidable to his enemies, that none shall injure
him with impunity. Some expound the word "pere" to mean a forester, and
one addicted to the hunting of wild beasts. But the explanation must not,
it seems, be sought elsewhere than in the context; for it follows
immediately after, 'His hand shall be against all men, and the hand of
all men against him.' It is however asked, whether this ought to be
reckoned among benefits conferred by God, that he is to preserve his rank
in life by force of arms; seeing that nothing is, in itself, more
desirable than peace. The difficulty may be thus solved; that Ishmael,
although all his neighbours should make war upon him, and should, on
every side, conspire to destroy him; shall yet though alone, be endued
with sufficient power to repel all their attacks. I think, however, that
the angel, by no means, promises Ishmael complete favour, but only that
which is limited. Among our chief blessings, we must desire to have peace
with all men. Now, since this is denied to Ishmael, that blessing which
is next in order is granted to him; namely, that he shall not be overcome
by his enemies; but shall be brave and powerful to resist their force. He
does not, however, speak of Ishmael's person, but of his whole progeny;
for what follows is not strictly suitable to one man. Should this
exposition be approved, no simple or unmixed blessing is here promised;
but only a tolerable or moderate condition; so that Ishmael and his
posterity might perceive that something was divinely granted to them, for
the sake of their father Abram. Therefore, it is, by no means, to be
reckoned among the benefits given by God, that he shall have all around
him as enemies, and shall resist them all by violence: but this is added
as a remedy and an alleviation of the evil; that he, who would have many
enemies, should be equal to bear up against them.
  "And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." As this is
properly applicable only to a nation, we hence the more easily perceive,
that they are deceived who restrict the passage to the person of Ishmael.
Again, others understand, that the posterity of Ishmael was to have a
fixed habitation in the presence of their brethren, who would be
unwilling to allow it; as if it were said, that they should forcibly
occupy the land they inhabit, although their brethren might attempt to
resist them. Others adduce a contrary opinion; namely, that the
Ishmaelites, though living among a great number of enemies, should yet
not be destitute of friends and brethren. I approve, however, of neither
opinion: for the angel rather intimates, that this people should be
separate from others; as if he would say, 'They shall not form a part or
member of any one nation; but shall be a complete body, having a distinct
and special name.'

13. "And she called the name of the Lord." Moses, I have no doubt,
implies that Hagar, after she was admonished by the angel, changed her
mind: and being thus subdued, retook herself to prayer; unless, perhaps,
here the confession of the tongue, rather than change of mind, is
denoted. I rather incline, however, to the opinion, that Hagar, who had
before been of a wild and intractable temper, begins now at length to
acknowledge the providence of God. Moreover, as to that which some
suppose; namely, that God is called 'the God of vision,' because he
appears and manifests himself to men, it is a forced interpretation.
Rather let us understand that Hagar, who before had appeared to herself
to be carried away by chance, through the desert; now perceives and
acknowledges that human affairs are under divine government. And whoever
is persuaded that he is looked upon by God, must of necessity walk as in
his sight.
  "Have I also here seen after him that seeth me?" Some translate this,
'Have I not seen after the vision?' But it really is as I have rendered
it. Moreover, the obscurity of the sentence has procured for us various
interpretations. Some among the Hebrews say that Hagar was astonished at
the sight of the angel; because she thought that God was nowhere seen but
in the house of Abram. But this is frigid, and in this way the ambition
of the Jews often compels them to trifle; seeing that they apply their
whole study to boasting on the glory of their race. Others so understand
the passage, 'Have I seen after my vision?' that is, so late, that during
the vision I was blind? According to these interpreters, the vision of
Hagar was twofold: the former erroneous; since she perceived nothing
celestial in the angel; but the other true, after she had been affected
with a sense of the divine nature of the vision. To some it seems that a
negative answer is implied; as if she would say, I did not see him
departing; and then from his sudden disappearance, she collects that he
must have been an angel of God.
  Also, on the second member of the sentence, interpreters disagree.
Jerome renders it, 'the back parts of him that teeth me:' which many
refer to an obscure vision, so that the phrase is deemed metaphorical.
For as we do not plainly perceive men from behind; so they are said to
see the back parts of God, to whom he does not openly nor clearly
manifest himself; and this opinion is commonly received. Others think
that Moses used a different figure; for they take the seeing of the back
parts of God, for the sense of his anger; just as his face is said to
shine upon us, when he shows himself propitious and favourable.
Therefore, according to them, the sense is, 'I thought that I had
escaped, so that I should no more be obnoxious to the rod or chastening
of God; but here also I perceive that he is angry with me.' So far I have
briefly related the opinion of others. And although I have no intention
to pause for the purpose of refuting each of these expositions; I yet
freely declare, that not one of these interpreters has apprehended the
meaning of Moses. I willingly accept what some adduce, that Hagar
wondered at the goodness of God, by whom she had been regarded even in
the desert: but this, though something, is not the whole. In the first
place, Hagar chides herself, because, as she had before been too blind,
she even now opened her eyes too slowly and indolently to perceive God.
For she aggravates the guilt of her torpor by the circumstance both of
place and time. She had frequently found, by many proofs, that she was
regarded by the Lord; yet becoming blind, she had despised his
providence, as if, with closed eyes, she had passed by him when he
presented himself before her. She now accuses herself for not having more
quickly awoke when the angel appeared. The consideration of place is also
of great weight, because God, who had always testified that he was
present with her in the house of Abram, now pursued her as a fugitive,
even into the desert. It implied, indeed, a base ingratitude on her part,
to be blind to the presence of God; so that even when she knew he was
looking upon her, she did not, in return, raise her eyes to behold him.
But it was a still more shameful blindness, that she, being regarded by
the Lord, although a wanderer and an exile, paying the just penalty of
her perverseness, still would not even acknowledge him as present. We now
see the point to which her self-reproach tends; 'Hitherto I have not
sought God, nor had respect to him, except by constraint; whereas, he had
before deigned to look down upon me: even now in the desert, where being
afflicted with evils, I ought immediately to have roused myself, I have,
according to my custom, been stupefied: nor should I ever have raised my
eyes towards heaven, unless I had first been looked upon by the Lord.'

14. "Wherefore the well was called." I subscribe to the opinion of those
who take the word "kara" indefinitely, which is usual enough in the
Hebrew language. In order that the sense may be the clearer it is capable
of being resolved into the passive voice, that 'the well was called.' Yet
I think this common appellation originated with Hagar, who, not content
with one simple confession, wished that the mercy of God should be
attested in time to come; and therefore she transmitted her testimony, as
from hand to hand. Hence we infer how useful it is, that they who do not
freely humble themselves, should be subdued by stripes. Hagar, who had
always been wild and rebellious, and who had, at length, entirely shaken
off the yoke; now, when the hardness of her heart was broken by
afflictions, appears altogether another person. She was not, however,
reduced to order by stripes only; but a celestial vision was also added,
which thoroughly arrested her. And the same thing is necessary for us;
namely, that God, while chastising us with his hand, should also bring us
into a state of submissive meekness by his Spirit. Some among the Hebrews
say that the name of the well was given to it, as being a testimony of a
twofold favour, because Ishmael was revived from death, and God had
respect to Hagar, his mother. But they foolishly mutilate things joined
together: for Hagar wished to testify that she had been favourably
regarded by Him who was the Living God, or the Author of life.

15. "And Abram called." Hagar had been commanded to give that name to her
son; but Moses follows the order of nature; because fathers, by the
imposition of the name, declare the power which they have over their
sons. We may easily gather, that Hagar, when she returned home, related
the events which had occurred. Therefore, Abram shows himself to be
obedient and grateful to God: because he both names his son according to
the command of the angel, and celebrates the goodness of God in having
hearkened to the miseries of Hagar.

Chapter XVII.

1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to
Abram, and said unto him, I [am] the Almighty God; walk before me, and be
thou perfect.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee
3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant [is] with thee, and thou shalt be a
father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be
Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of
thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after
thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto
thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein
thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting
possession; and I will be their God.
9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou,
and thy seed after thee in their generations.
10 This [is] my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy
seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a
token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every
man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought
with money of any stranger, which [is] not of thy seed.
13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money,
must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an
everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not
circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken
my covenant.
15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call
her name Sarai, but Sarah [shall] her name [be].
16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will
bless her, and she shall be [a mother] of nations; kings of people shall
be of her.
17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart,
Shall [a child] be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall
Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou
shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for
an everlasting covenant, [and] with his seed after him.
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and
will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes
shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear
unto thee at this set time in the next year.
22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house,
and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of
Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the
selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24 And Abraham [was] ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised
in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And Ishmael his son [was] thirteen years old, when he was circumcised
in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money
of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

1. "And when Abram was nineteen years old and nine." Moses passes over
thirteen years of Abram's life, not because nothing worthy of remembrance
had in the meantime occurred; but because the Spirit of God, according to
his own will, selects those things which are most necessary to be known.
He purposely points out the length of time which had elapsed from the
birth of Ishmael to the period when Isaac was promised, for the purpose
of teaching us that he long remained satisfied with that son who should,
at length, be rejected, and that he was as one deluded by a fallacious
appearance. Meanwhile, we see in what a circuitous course the Lord led
him. It was even possible that he brought this delay upon himself by his
own fault, in having precipitately entered into second nuptials; yet as
Moses declares no such thing, I leave it undetermined. Let it suffice to
accept what is certain; namely, that Abram being contented with his only
son, ceased to desire any other seed. The want of offspring had
previously excited him to constant prayers and sighings; for the promise
of God was so fixed in his mind, that he was ardently carried forward to
seek its fulfilment. And now, falsely supposing that he had obtained his
wish, he is led away by the presence of his son according to the flesh,
from the expectation of a spiritual seed. Again the wonderful goodness of
God shows itself, in that Abram himself is raised, beyond his own
expectation and desire, to a new hope, and he suddenly hears, that what
it never came into his mind to ask, is granted unto him. If he had been
daily offering up importunate prayers for this blessing, we should not so
plainly have seen that it was conferred upon him by the free gift of God,
as when it is given to him without his either thinking of it or desiring
it. Before however we speak of Isaac, it will repay our labour, to notice
the order and connection of the words.
  First, Moses says that the Lord "appeared" unto him, in order that we
may know that the oracle was not pronounced by secret revelation, but
that a vision at the same time was added to it. Besides the vision was
not speechless, but had the word annexed, from which word the faith of
Abram might receive profit. Now that word summarily contains this
declaration, that God enters into covenant with Abram: it then unfolds
the nature of the covenant itself, and finally puts to it the seal, with
the accompanying attestations.
  "I am the Almighty God." The Hebrew noun El, which is derived from
power, is here put for God. The same remark applies to the accompanying
word "shaddai", as if God would declare, that he had sufficient power for
Abram's protection: because our faith can only stand firmly, while we are
certainly persuaded that the defense of God is alone sufficient for use
and can sincerely despise everything in the world which is opposed to our
salvation. God, therefore, does not boast of that power which lies
concealed within himself; but of that which he manifests towards his
children; and he does so, in order that Abram might hence derive
materials for confidence. Thus, in these words, a promise is included.
  "Walk before me." The force of this expression we have elsewhere
explained. In making the covenant, God stipulates for obedience, on the
part of his servant. Yet He does not in vain prefix the declaration that
he is 'the Almighty God,' and is furnished with power to help his own
people: because it was necessary that Abram should be recalled from all
other means of help, that he might entirely devote himself to God alone.
For no one will ever retake himself to God, but he who keeps created
things in their proper place, and looks up to God alone. Where, indeed,
the power of God has been once acknowledged, it ought so to transport us
with admiration, and our minds ought so to be filled with reverence for
him, that nothing should hinder us from worshipping him. Moreover,
because the eyes of God look for faith and truth in the heart, Abram is
commanded to aim at integrity. For the Hebrews call him a man of
perfections who is not of a deceitful or double mind, but sincerely
cultivates rectitude. In short, the integrity here mentioned is opposed,
to hypocrisy. And surely, when we have to deal with God, no place for
dissimulation remains. Now, from these words, we learn for what end God
gathers together for himself a church; namely, that they whom he has
called, may be holy. The foundation, indeed, of the divine calling, is a
gratuitous promise; but it follows immediately after, that they whom he
has chosen as a peculiar people to himself, should devote themselves to
the righteousness of God. For on this condition, he adopts children as
his own, that he may, in return, obtain the place and the honour of a
Father. And as he himself cannot lie, so he rightly demands mutual
fidelity from his own children. Wherefore, let us know, that God
manifests himself to the faithful, in order that they may live as in his
sight; and may make him the arbiter not only of their works, but of their
thoughts. Whence also we infer, that there is no other method of living
piously and justly than that of depending upon God.

2. "And I will make my covenant." He now begins more fully and abundantly
to explain what he had before alluded to briefly. We have said that the
covenant of God with Abram had two parts. The first was a declaration of
gratuitous love; to which was annexed the promise of a happy life. But
the other was an exhortation to the sincere endeavour to cultivate
uprightness, since God had given, in a single word only, a slight taste
of his grace; and then immediately had descended to the design of
miscalling; namely, that Abram should be upright. He now subjoins a more
ample declaration of his grace, in order that Abram may endeavour more
willingly to form his mind and his life, both to reverence towards God,
and to the cultivation of uprightness; as if God had said 'See how kindly
I indulge thee: for I do not require integrity from thee simply on
account of my authority, which I might justly do; but whereas I owe thee
nothing, I condescend graciously to engage in a mutual covenant.' He does
not, however, speak of this as of a new thing: but he recalls the memory
of the covenant which he had before made, and now fully confirms and
establishes its certainty. For God is not wont to utter new oracles,
which may destroy the credit, or obscure the light, or weaken the
efficacy of those which preceded; but he continues, as in one perpetual
tenor, those promises which he has once given. Wherefore, by these words,
he intends nothing else than that the covenant, of which Abram had heard
before should be established and ratified: but he expressly introduces
that principal point, concerning the multiplication of seed, which he
afterwards frequently repeats.

3. "And Abram fell on his face." We know that this was the ancient rite
of adoration. Moreover, Abram testifies, first, that he acknowledges God,
in whose presence all flesh ought to keep silence, and to be humbled;
and, secondly that he reverently receives and cordially embraces whatever
God is about to speak. If, however, this was intended as a confession of
faith, we must observe, that the faith which relies upon the grace of God
cannot be disjoined from a pure conscience. God, in offering his grace to
Abram, requires of him a sincere disposition to live justly and homily.
Abram, in prostrating himself, declares that he obediently receives both.
Let us therefore remember, that in one and the same bond of faith, the
gratuitous adoption in which our salvation is placed, is to be combined
with newness of life. And although Abram utters not a word, he declares
more fully by his silence, than if he had spoken with a loud and sounding
voice, that he yields obedience to the word of God.

4. "As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee." They who translate the
passage, 'Behold, I make a covenant with thee,' or, 'Behold, I and my
covenant with thee;' do not seem to me faithfully to represent the
meaning of Moses. For, first, God declares that he is the speaker, in
order that absolute authority may appear in his words. For since our
faith can rest on no other foundation than his eternal veracity, it
becomes, above all things, necessary for us to be informed that what is
proposed to us, has proceeded from his sacred mouth. Therefore, the
pronoun I, is to be read separately as a preface to the rest; in order
that Abram might have a composed mind, and might engage, without
hesitation, in the proposed covenant. Whence a useful doctrine is
deduced, that faith necessarily has reference to God: because, although
all angels and men should speak to us, never would their authority appear
sufficiently great to confirm our minds. And it cannot but be, that we
should at times waver, until that voice sounds from heaven, 'I am.'
Whence also it appears what kind of religion is that of the Papacy:
where, instead of the word of God, the fictions of men are alone the
subject of boast. And they are justly exposed to continual fluctuation,
who, depending upon the word of men, act unjustly towards God, by
ascribing to them more than is right. But let us have no other foundation
of our faith than this word 'I', not as spoken indifferently by any mouth
whatever, but by the mouth of God alone. If, however, myriads of men set
themselves in opposition, and proudly exclaim, 'We, we,' let this single
word of God suffice to dissipate the empty sound of multitudes.
  "And thou shalt be a father of many nations." It is asked what is this
multitude of nations? It obviously appears, that different nations had
their origin from the holy Patriarch: for Ishmael grew to a great people:
the Idumeans, from another branch were spread far and wide; large
families also sprung from other sons, whom he had by Keturah. But Moses
looked still further, because, indeed, the Gentiles were to be, by faith,
inserted into the stock of Abram, although not descended from him
according to the flesh: of which fact Paul is to us a faithful
interpreter and witness. For he does not gather together the Arabians,
Idumeans, and others, for the purpose of making Abram the father of many
nations; but he so extends the name of father, as to make it applicable
to the whole world, in order that the Gentiles, in other respects
strangers, and separated from each other, might, from all sides combine
in one family of Abram. I grant, indeed, that, for a time, the twelve
tribes were as so many nations; but only in order to form a prelude to
that immense multitude, which, at length, is collected together as the
one family of Abram. And that Moses speaks of those sons, who, being
regenerate by faith, acquire the name, and pass over into the stock of
Abram, is sufficiently proved by this one consideration. For the carnal
race of Abram could not be divided into different nations, without
causing those who had departed from the unity, to be immediately
accounted strangers. Thus the Church rejected the Ishmaelites, the
Idumeans, and others, and regarded them as foreigners. Abram therefore
was not called the father of many nations, because his seed was to be
divided into many nations; but rather, because many nations were to be
gathered together unto him. A change also of his name is added as a
token. For he begins to be called Abraham, in order that the name itself
may teach him, that he should not be the father of one family only; but
that a progeny should rise up to him from an immense multitude, beyond
the common course of nature. For this reason, the Lord so often renews
this promise; because the very repetition of it shows that no common
blessing was promised.

7. "And thy seed after thee." There is no doubt that the Lord
distinguishes the race of Abraham from the rest of the world. We must now
see what people he intends. Now they are deceived who think that his
elect alone are here pointed out; and that all the faithful are
indiscriminately comprehended, from whatever people, according to the
flesh, they are descended. For, on the contrary, the Scripture declares
that the race of Abraham, by lineal descent, had been peculiarly accepted
by God. And it is the evident doctrine of Paul concerning the natural
descendants of Abraham, that they are holy branches which have proceeded
from a holy root, (Rom. 11: 16.) And lest any one should restrict this
assertion to the shadows of the law, or should evade it by allegory, he
elsewhere expressly declares, that Christ came to be a minister of the
circumcision, (Rom. 15: 8.) Wherefore, nothing is more certain, than that
God made his covenant with those sons of Abraham who were naturally to be
born of him. If any one object, that this opinion by no means agrees with
the former, in which we said that they are reckoned the children of
Abraham, who being by faith ingrafted into his body, form one family; the
difference is easily reconciled, by laying down certain distinct degrees
of adoption, which may be collected from various passages of Scripture.
In the beginning, antecedently to this covenant, the condition of the
whole world was one and the same. But as soon as it was said, 'I will be
a God to thee and to thy seed after thee,' the Church was separated from
other nations; just as in the creation of the world, the light emerged
out of the darkness. Then the people of Israel was received, as the flock
of God, into their own fold: the other nations wandered, like wild
beasts, through mountains, woods, and deserts. Since this dignity, in
which the sons of Abraham excelled other nations, depended on the word of
God alone, the gratuitous adoption of God belongs to them all in common.
For if Paul deprives the Gentiles of God and of eternal life, on the
ground of their being aliens from the covenant, (Eph. 4: 18,) it follows
that all Israelites were of the household of the Church, and sons of God,
and heirs of eternal life. And although it was by the grace of God, and
not by nature, that they excelled the Gentiles; and although the
inheritance at the kingdom of God came to them by promise, and not by
carnal descent; yet they are sometimes said to differ by nature from the
rest of the world. In the Epistle to the Galatians, chap. 2: ver. 15, and
elsewhere, Paul calls them saints 'by nature,' because God was willing
that his grace should descend, by a continual succession, to the whole
seed. In this sense, they who were unbelievers among the Jews, are yet
called the children of the celestial kingdom by Christ. (Matth. 8: 12.)
Nor does what St Paul says contradict this; namely, that not all who are
from Abraham are to be esteemed legitimate children; because they are not
the children of the promise, but only of the flesh. (Rom. 9: 8.) For
there, the promise is not taken generally for that outward word, by which
God conferred his favour as well upon the reprobate as upon the elect;
but must be restricted to that efficacious calling, which he inwardly
seals by his Spirit. And that this is the case, is proved without
difficulty; for the promise by which the Lord had adopted them all as
children, was common to all: and in that promise, it cannot be denied,
that eternal salvation was offered to all. What, therefore, can be the
meaning of Paul, when he denies that certain persons have any right to be
reckoned among children, except that he is no longer reasoning about the
externally offered grace, but about that of which only the elect
effectually partake? Here, then, a twofold class of sons presents itself
to us, in the Church; for since the whole body of the people is gathered
together into the fold of God, by one and the same voice, all without
exception, are in this respects accounted children; the name of the
Church is applicable in common to them all: but in the innermost
sanctuary of God, none others are reckoned the sons of God, than they in
whom the promise is ratified by faith. And although this difference flows
from the fountain of gratuitous election, whence also faith itself
springs; yet, since the counsel of God is in itself hidden from us, we
therefore distinguish the true from the spurious children, by the
respective marks of faith and of unbelief. This method and dispensation
continued even to the promulgation of the gospel; but then the middle
wall was broken down, (Ephes. 2: 14,) and God made the Gentiles equal to
the natural descendants of Abraham. That was the renovation of the world,
by which they, who had before been strangers, began to be called sons.
Yet whenever a comparison is made between Jews and Gentiles, the
inheritance of life is assigned to the former, as lawfully belonging to
them; but to the latter, it is said to be adventitious. Meanwhile, the
oracle was fulfilled in which God promises that Abraham should be the
father of many nations. For whereas previously, the natural sons of
Abraham were succeeded by their descendants in continual succession, and
the benediction, which began with him, flowed down to his children; the
coming of Christ, by inverting the original order, introduced into his
family those who before were separated from his seed: at length the Jews
were cast out, (except that a hidden seed of the election remained among
them,) in order that the rest might be saved. It was necessary that these
things concerning the seed of Abraham should once be stated, that they
may open to us an easy introduction to what follows.
  "In their generations." This succession of generations clearly proves
that the posterity of Abraham were taken into the Church, in such a
manner that sons might be born to them, who should be heirs of the same
grace. In this way the covenant is called perpetual, as lasting until the
renovation of the world; which took place at the advent of Christ. I
grant, indeed, that the covenant was without end, and may with propriety
be called eternal, as far as the whole Church is concerned; it must,
however always remain as a settled point, that the regular succession of
ages was partly broken, and partly changed, by the coming of Christ,
because the middle wall being broken down, and the sons by nature being,
at length, disinherited, Abraham began to have a race associated with
himself from all regions of the world.
  "To be a God unto thee." In this single word we are plainly taught that
this was a spiritual covenant, not confirmed in reference to the present
life only; but one from which Abraham might conceive the hope of eternal
salvations so that being raised even to heaven, he might lay hold of
solid and perfect bliss. For those whom God adopts to himself, from among
a people--seeing that he makes them partakers of his righteousness and of
all good things--he also constitutes heirs of celestial life. Let us then
mark this as the principal part of the covenant, that He who is the God
of the living, not of the dead, promises to be a God to the children of
Abraham. It follows afterwards, in the way of augmentation of the grant,
that he promise6 to give them the land. I confess, indeed, that something
greater and more excellent than itself was shadowed forth by the land of
Canaan; yet this is not at variance with the statement, that the promise
now made was an accession to that primary one, 'I will be thy God.' Now,
although God again affirms, as before, that He will give the land to
Abraham himself, we nevertheless know, that Abraham never possessed
dominion over it; but the holy man was contented with his title to it
alone, although the possession of it was not granted him; and, therefore,
he calmly passed from his earthly pilgrimage into heaven. God again
repeats that He will be a God to the posterity of Abraham, in order that
they may not settle upon earth, but may regard themselves as trained for
higher things.

9. "Thou shalt keep my covenant." As formerly, covenants were not only
committed to public records, but were also wont to be engraven in brass,
or sculptured on stones, in order that the memory of them might be more
fully recorded, and more highly celebrated; so in the present instance,
God inscribes his covenant in the flesh of Abraham. For circumcision was
as a solemn memorial of that adoption, by which the family of Abraham had
been elected to be the peculiar people of God. The pious had previously
possessed other ceremonies which confirmed to them the certainty of the
grace of God; but now the Lord attests the new covenant with a new kind
of symbol. But the reason why He suffered the human race to be without
this testimony of his grace, during so many ages, is concealed from us;
except that we see it was instituted at the time when he chose a certain
nation to himself; which thing itself depends on his secret counsel.
Moreover, although it would, perhaps, be more suitable for the purpose of
instruction, were we to give a summary of those things which are to be
said concerning circumcision; I will yet follow the order of the text,
which I think more appropriate to the office of an interpreter. In the
first place; since circumcision is called by Moses, the covenant of God,
we thence infer that the promise of grace was included in it. For had it
been only a mark or token of external profession among men, the name of
covenant would be by no means suitable, for a covenant is not otherwise
confirmed, than as faith answers to it. And it is common to all
sacraments to have the word of God annexed to them, by which he testifies
that he is propitious to us, and calls us to the hope of salvation; yea,
a sacrament is nothing else than a visible word, or sculpture and image
of that grace of God, which the word more fully illustrates. If, then,
there is a mutual relation between the word and faith; it follows, that
the proposed end and use of sacraments is to help, promote and confirm
faith. But they who deny that sacraments are supports to faith, or that
they aid the word in strengthening faith, must of necessity expunge the
name of covenant; because, either God there offers himself as a Promiser,
in mockery and falsely, or else, faith there finds that on which it may
support itself, and from which it may confirm its own assurance. And
although we must maintain the distinction between the word and the sign;
yet let us know, that as soon as the sign itself meets our eyes, the word
ought to sound in our ears. Therefore, while, in this place, Abraham is
commanded to keep the covenant, God does not enjoin upon him the bare use
of the ceremony, but chiefly designs that he should regard the end; and
certainly, since the promise is the very soul of the sign, whenever it is
torn away from the sign, nothing remains but a lifeless and vain phantom.
This is the reason why we say, that sacraments are abolished by the
Papists; because, the voice of God having become extinct, nothing remains
with them, except the residuum of mute figures. Truly frivolous is their
boasts that their magical exorcisms stand in the place of the word. For
nothing can be called a covenants but what is perceived by us to be
clearly revealed, so that it may edify our faith; these actors, who by
gesture alone, or by a confused murmuring, play as on pipes, have nothing
like this.
  We now consider how the covenant is rightly kept; namely, when the word
precedes, and we embrace the sign as a testimony and pledge of grace; for
as God binds himself to keep the promise given to us; so the consent of
faith and of obedience is demanded from us. What follows further on this
subject is worthy of notice.
  "Between me and you." Whereby we are taught that a sacrament has not
respect only to the external confession, but is an intervening pledge
between God and the conscience of man. And, therefore, whosoever is not
directed to God through the sacraments, profanes their use. But by the
figure metonymy, the name of covenant is transferred to circumcision
which is so conjoined with the word, that it could not be separated from

10. "Every man-child among you shall be circumcised." Although God
promised alike to males and females, what he afterwards sanctioned by
circumcision, he nevertheless consecrated, in one sex, the whole people
to himself. For whereas, by this symbol, the promise which was given,
indiscriminately, to males and females, is confirmed, and it is certain
that females as well as males had need of confirmation, it is hence
evident, that the symbol was ordained for the sake of both sexes. Nor is
it of any force in opposition to this reasoning to say that each
individual is commanded to communicate in the sacraments, if he would
derive any benefit from them, on the ground that no profit is received by
those who neglect their use. For the covenant of God was graven on the
bodies of the males, with this condition annexed, that the females also
should as their associates be partakers of the same sign.

11. "Ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin." Very strange and
unaccountable would this command at first sight appear. The subject
treated of, is the sacred covenant, in which righteousness, salvation,
and happiness are promised; whereby the seed of Abraham is distinguished
from other nations, in order that it may be holy and blessed; and who can
say that it is reasonable for the sign of so great a mystery to consist
in circumcision? But as it was necessary for Abraham to become a fool, in
order to prove himself obedient to God; so whosoever is wise, will both
soberly and reverently receive what God seems to us foolishly to have
commanded. And yet we must inquire, whether any analogy is here apparent
between the visible sign, and the thing signified. For the signs which
God has appointed to assist our infirmity, should be accommodated to the
measure of our capacity, or they would be unprofitable. Moreover, it is
probable that the Lord commanded circumcision for two reasons; first, to
show that whatever is born of man is polluted; then, that salvation would
proceed from the blessed seed of Abraham. In the first place, therefore,
whatever men have peculiar to themselves, by generation, God has
condemned, in the appointment of circumcision; in order that the
corruption of nature being manifest, he might induce them to mortify
their flesh. Whence also it follows, that circumcision was a sign of
repentance. Yet, at the same time, the blessing which was promised in the
seed of Abraham, was thereby marked and attested. If then it seem absurd
to any one, that the token of a favour so excellent and so singular, was
given in that part of the body, let him become ashamed of own salvation,
which flowed from the loins of Abraham; but it has pleased God thus to
confound the wisdom of the world, that he may the more completely abase
the pride of the flesh. And hence we now learn, in the second place, how
the reconciliation between God and men, which was exhibited in Christ,
was testified by this sign. For which reason it is styled by Paul a seal
of the righteousness of faith. (Rom. 4: 11.) Let it suffice thus briefly
to have touched upon the analogy between the thing signified and the

12. "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised." God now
prescribes the eighth day for circumcision; whence it appears that this
was a part of that discipline, under which he intended to keep his
ancient people; for greater liberty is at this day, permitted in the
administration of baptism. Some, however maintain that we must not
contend earnestly about the number of days, because the Lord spared the
children on account of their tenderness, since it was not without danger
to inflict a wound upon those who were newly born. For although he might
have provided that circumcision should produce no harm or injury; yet
there would be no absurdity in saying, that He has respect to their
tenser age, in order to prove to the Jews his paternal love towards their
children. To others this seems to be too frigid; therefore they seek a
spiritual mystery in the number of days. They think that the present life
is allegorically signified by the seven days; that God commanded infants
to be circumcised on the eighth day, in order to show that though we must
give attention to the mortification of the flesh during the whole course
of our life, it will not be completed till the end. Augustine also thinks
that it had reference to the resurrection of Christ; whereby external
circumcision was abolished and the truth of the figure was set forth. It
is probable and consonant with reason, that the number seven designated
the course of the present life. Therefore the eighth day might seem to be
fixed upon by the Lord, to prefigure the beginning of a new life. But
because such a reason is never given in Scripture, I dare affirm nothing.
Wherefore, let it suffice to maintain what is certain and solid; namely,
that God, in this symbol, has so represented the destruction of the old
man, as yet to show that he restores men to life.
  "He that is born in the house, or bought with money." When God commands
Abraham to circumcise all whom he has under his power, his special love
towards holy Abraham is conspicuous in this, that He embraces his whole
family in His grace. We know that formerly slaves were scarcely reckoned
among the number of men. But God, out of regard to his servant Abraham,
adopts them as his own sons: to this mercy nothing whatever can be added.
The pride also of the flesh is cast down; because God, without respect of
persons, gathers together both freemen and slaves. But in the person of
Abraham, he has prescribed it as a law to all his servants, that they
should endeavour to bring all who are subject to them, into the same
society of faith with themselves. For every family of the pious ought to
be a church. Therefore, it we desire to prove our piety, we must labour
that every one of us may have his house ordered in obedience to God. And
Abraham is not only commanded to dedicate and to offer unto God those
born in his house, but whomsoever he might afterwards obtain.

13. "For an everlasting covenant." The meaning of this expression may be
twofold: either that God promises that his grace, of which circumcision
was a sign and pledge, should be eternal; or that he intended the sign
itself to be perpetually observed. Indeed, I have no doubt that this
perpetuity ought to be referred to the visible sign. But they who hence
infer, that the use of it ought to flourish among the Jews even of the
present time, are (in my opinion) deceived. For they swerve from that
axiom which we ought to regard as fixed; that since Christ is the end of
the law, the perpetuity which is ascribed to the ceremonies of the law,
was terminated as soon as Christ appeared. The temple was the perpetual
habitation of God, according to that declaration, "This is my rest
forever, here will I dwell," (Ps. 132: 14.) The Sabbath indicated not a
temporal but a perpetual sanctification of the people. Nevertheless, it
is not to be denied, that Christ brought them both to an end. In the same
way must we also think of circumcision. If the Jews object, that in this
manner, the law was violated by Christ; the answer is easy; that the
external use of the law was so abrogated, as to establish its truth. For,
at length, by the coming of Christ, circumcision was substantially
confirmed, so that it should endure forever, and that the covenant which
God had before made, should be ratified. Moreover, lest the changing of
the visible sign should perplex any one, let that renovation of the
world, of which I have spoken, be kept in mind; which renovation--
notwithstanding some interposed variety--has perpetuated those things
which would otherwise have been fading. Therefore, although the use of
circumcision has ceased; yet it does not cerise to be an everlasting, or
perpetual covenant, if only Christ be regarded as the Mediator; who,
though the sign be changed, has confirmed the truth. And that, by the
coming of Christ, external circumcision ceased, is plain from the words
of Paul; who not only teaches that we are circumcised by the death of
Christy spiritually, and not through the carnal sign: but who expressly
substitutes baptism for circumcision; (Col. 2: 11;) and truly baptism
could not succeed circumcision, without taking it away. Therefore in the
next chapter he denies that there is any difference between circumcision
and uncircumcision; because, at that time, the thing was indifferent, and
of no importance. Whence we refute the error of those, who think that
circumcision is still in force among the Jews, as if it were a peculiar
symbol of the nation, which never ought to be abrogated. I acknowledge,
indeed, that it was permitted to them for a time, until the liberty
obtained by Christ should be better known; but though permitted, it by no
means retained its original force. For it would be absurd to be initiated
into the Church by two different signs; of which the one should testify
and affirm that Christ was come, and the other should shadow him forth as

14. "And the uncircumcised man-child." In order that circumcision might
be the more attended to, God denounces a severe punishment on any one who
should neglect it. And as this shows God's great care for the salvation
of men; so, on the other hand, it rebukes their negligence. For since God
thus benignantly offers a pledge of his love, and of eternal life, for
what purpose does he add threatening but to rouse the sluggishness of
those whose duty it is to run with diligence? Therefore, this
denunciation of punishment virtually charges men with foul ingratitude,
because they either reject or despise the grace of God. The passage
however teaches, that such contempt shall not pass unpunished. And since
God threatens punishment only to despisers, we infer that the
uncircumcision of children would do them no harm, if they died before the
eighth day. For the bare promise of God was effectual to their salvation.
He did not so attest this salvation by external signs, as to restrict his
own effectual working to those signs. Moses, indeed, sets aside all
controversy on this subject, by adducing as a reason, that they would
make void the covenant of God: for we know, that the covenant was not
violated, when the power of keeping it was taken away. Let us then
consider, that the salvation of the race of Abraham was included in that
expression, 'I will be a God to thy seed.' And although circumcision was
added as a confirmation, it nevertheless did not deprive the word of its
force and efficacy. But because it is not in the power of man to sever
what God has joined together; no one could despise or neglect the sign,
without both rejecting the word itself; and depriving himself of the
benefit therein offered. And therefore the Lord punished bare neglect
with such severity. But if any infants were deprived by death of the
tokens of salvation, he spared them, because they had done nothing
derogatory to the covenant of God. The same reasoning is at this day in
force respecting baptism. Whoever, having neglected baptism, feigns
himself to be contented with the bare promise, tramples, as much as in
him lies, upon the blood of Christ, or at least does not suffer it to
flow for the washing of his own children. Therefore, just punishment
follows the contempt of the sign, in the privation of grace; because, by
an impious severance of the sign and the word, or rather by a laceration
of them, the covenant of God is violated. To consign to destruction those
infants, whom a sudden death has not allowed to be presented for baptism,
before any neglect of parents could intervene, is a cruelty originating
in superstition. But that the promise belongs to such children, is not in
the least doubtful. For what can be more absurd than that the symbol,
which is added for the sake of confirming the promise, should really
enervate its force? Wherefore, the common opinion, by which baptism is
supposed to be necessary to salvation, ought to be so moderated, that it
should not bind the grace of Gods or the power of the Spirit, to external
symbols, and bring against God a charge of falsehood.
  "He hath broken my covenant." For the covenant of God is ratified, when
by faith we embrace what he promises. Should any one object, that infants
were guiltless of this fault, because they hitherto were destitute of
reason: I answer, we ought not to press this divine declaration too
closely, as if God held the infants as chargeable with a fault of their
own: but we must observe the antithesis, that as God adopts the infant
son in the person of his father, so when the father repudiates such a
benefit, the infant is said to cut himself off from the Church. For the
meaning of the expression is this, 'He shall be blotted out from the
people whom God had chosen to himself'. The explanation of some, that
they who remained in uncircumcision would not be Jews, and would have no
place in the census of that people, is too frigid. We must go farther,
and say, that God, indeed, will not acknowledge those as among his
people, who will not bear the mark and token of adoption.

15. "As for Sarai thy wife." God now promises to Abraham a legitimate
seed by Sarai. She had been (as I have said) too precipitate, when she
substituted, without any command from God, her handmaid in her own place:
Abraham also bad been too pliant in following his, wife, who foolishly
and rashly wished to anticipate the design of God; nevertheless, their
united fault did not prevent God frown making it known to them that he
was about to give them that seed, from the expectation of which, they
had, in a manner, cut themselves off. Whence the gratuitous kindness of
God shines the more clearly, because, although men impede the course of
it by obstacles of their own, it nevertheless comes to them. Moreover,
God changes the name of Sarai, in order that he may extend her
preeminence far and wide, which in her former name had been more
restricted. For the letter "jod" has the force among the Hebrews of the
possessive pronoun: this being now taken away, God designs that Sarah
should every where, and without exception, be celebrated as a sovereign
and princess. And this is expressed in the context, when God promises
that he will give her a son, from whom at length nations and kings should
be born. And although at first sight this benediction appears most ample,
it is still far richer than it seems to be, in the words here used, as we
shall see in a little time.

17. "And Abraham fell upon his face." This was in token, not only of his
reverence, but also of his faith. For Abraham not only adores God, but in
giving him thanks, testifies that he receives and embraces what was
promised concerning a son. Hence also we infer that he laughed, not
because he either despised, or regarded as fabulous, or rejected, the
promise of God; but, as is commonly wont to happen in things which are
least expected, partly exulting with joy, and partly being carried beyond
himself in admiration, he breaks forth into laughter. For I do not assent
to the opinion of those who suppose, that this laughter flowed solely
from joy; but I rather think that Abraham was as one astonished; which
his next interrogation also confirms, "shall a child be born to him that
is an hundred years old?" For although he does not reject as vain what
had been said by the angel, he yet shows that he was no otherwise
affected, than as if he had received some incredible tidings. The novelty
of the thing so strikes him, that for a short time he is confounded; yet
he humbles himself before God, and with confused mind, prostrating
himself on the earth, he, by faith, adores the power of God. For, that
this was not the language of one who doubts, Paul, in his Epistle to the
Romans, is a witness, (4: 19,) who denies that Abraham considered his
body now dead, or the barren womb of Sarah, or that he staggered through
unbelief; but declares that he believed in hope against hope. And that
which Moses relates, "that Abraham said in his heart," I do not so
explain as if he had distinctly conceived this in his mind: but as many
things steal upon us contrary to our purpose, the perplexing thought
suddenly rushed upon his mind, 'What a strange thing is this, that a son
should be born to one a hundred years old!' This, however, seems to some,
to be a kind of contest between carnal reason and faith; for although
Abraham, reverently prostrating himself before God, submits his own mind
to the divine word, he is still disturbed by the novelty of the affair. I
answer, that this admiration, which did not obstruct the course of God's
power, was not contrary to faith; nay, the strength of faith shone the
more brightly, in having surmounted an obstacle so arduous. And therefore
he is not reprehended for laughing, as Sarah is in the next chapter.

18. "And Abraham said unto God." Abraham does not now wonder silently
within himself, but pours forth his wish and prayer. His language,
however, is that of a mind still perturbed and vacillating, "O that (or I
wish that) Ishmael might live!" For, as if he did not dare to hope for
all that God promises, he fixes his mind upon the son already born; not
because he would reject the promise of fresh offspring, but because he
was contented with the favour already received, provided the liberality
of God should not extend further. He does not, then, reject what the Lord
offers; but while he is prepared to embrace it, the expression, "O that
Ishmael!" yet flows from him through the weakness of his flesh. Some
think that Abraham spoke thus, because he was afraid for his firstborn.
But there is no reason why we should suppose that Abraham was smitten
with any such fear, as that God, in giving him another son, would take
away the former, or as if the latter favour should absorb that which had
preceded. The answer of God, which follows shortly after, refutes this
interpretation. What I have said is more certain; namely, that Abraham
prayed that the grace of God, in which he acquiesced, might be ratified
and confirmed to him. Moreover, without reflection, he breaks forth into
this wish, when, for very joy, he could scarcely believe what he had
heard from the mouth of God. 'To live before Jehovah' is as much as, to
be preserved in safety under his protection, or to be blessed by Him.
Abraham therefore desires of the Lord, that he will preserve the life
which he has given to Ishmael.

19. "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed." Some take the adverb
"aval", to mean 'Truly.' Others, however, more rightly suppose it to be
used for increasing the force of the expression. For God rouses the
slumbering mind of his servant; as if he would say, 'The sight of one
favour prevents thee from raising thyself higher; and thus it happens
that thou dost confine thy thoughts within too narrow limits. Now,
therefore, enlarge thy mind, to receive also what I promise concerning
Sarah. For the door of hope ought to be sufficiently open to admit the
word in its full magnitude.'
  "And I will establish my covenant with him." He confines the spiritual
covenant to one family, in order that Abraham may hence learn to hope for
the blessing before promised; for since he had framed for himself a false
hope, not founded on the word of God, it was necessary that this false
hope should first be dislodged from his heart, in order that he might now
the more fully rely upon the heavenly oracles, anal might fix the anchor
of his faith, which before had wavered in a fallacious imagination, on
the firm truth of God. He calls the covenant everlasting, in the sense
which we have previously explained. He then declares that it shall not be
bound to one person only, but shall be common to his whole race, that it
may, by continual succession, descend to his posterity. Yet it may seem
absurd, that God should command Ishmael, whom he deprives of his grace,
to be circumcised. I answer; although the Lord constitutes Isaac the
firstborn and the head, from whom he intends the covenant of salvation to
flow, he still does not entirely exclude Ishmael, but rather, in adopting
the whole family of Abraham, joins Ishmael to his brother Isaac as an
inferior member, until Ishmael cut himself off from his father's house,
and his brother's society. Therefore his circumcision was not useless,
until he apostatized from the covenant: for although it was not deposited
with him, he might, nevertheless, participate in it, with his brother
Isaac. In short, the Lord intends nothing else, by these words, than that
Isaac should be the legitimate heir of the promised benediction.

20. "And as for Ishmael." He here more clearly discriminates between the
two sons of Abraham. For in promising to the one wealth, dignity, and
other things pertaining to the present life, he proves him to be a son
according to the flesh. But he makes a special covenant with Isaac, which
rises above the world and this frail life: not for the sake of cutting
Ishmael off from the hope of eternal life, but in order to teach him that
salvation is to be sought from the race of Isaac, where it really dwells.
We infers however, from this passage, that the holy fathers were by no
means kept down to earth, by the promises of God, but rather were borne
upwards to heaven. For God liberally and profusely promises to Ishmael
whatever is desirable with respect to this earthly life: and yet He
accounts as nothing all the gifts He confers on him, in comparison with
the covenant which was to be established in Isaac. It therefore follow,
that neither wealth, nor power, nor any other temporal gift, is promised
to the sons of the Spirit, but an eternal blessing, which is possessed
only by hope, in this world. Therefore, however we may now abound in
delights, and in all good things, our happiness is still transient,
unless by faith we penetrate into the celestial kingdom of God, where a
greater and higher blessing is laid up for us.
  It is however asked, whether Abraham had respect only to this earthly
life when he prayed for his son? For this the Lord seems to intimate,
when he declares that he had granted what Abraham asked, and yet only
mentions the things we have recorded. But it was not God's design to
fulfill the whole wish of Abraham on this point; only he makes it plain
that he would have some respect to Ishmael, for whom Abraham had
entreated; so as to show that the fathers prayer had not been in vain.
For he meant to testify that he embraced Abraham with such love, that,
for his sake, he had respect to his whole race, and dignified it with
peculiar benefits.

22. "God went up from Abraham." This expression contains a profitable
doctrine, namely, that Abraham certainly knew this vision to be from God;
for the ascent here spoken implies as much. And it is necessary for the
pious to be fully assured that what they hear proceeds from God, in order
that they may not be carried hither and thither but may depend alone upon
heaven. And whereas God now, when he has spoken to us, does not openly
ascend to heaven before our eyes; this ought to diminish nothing from the
certainty of our faith; because a full manifestation of Him has been made
in Christ, with which it is right that we should be satisfied. Besides,
although God does not daily ascend upwards in a visible form, yet, in
this his majesty is not less resplendent, that he raises us upwards by
transforming us into his own image. Further, he gives sufficient
authority to his word, when he seals it upon our hearts by his spirit.

23. "And Abraham took Ishmael." Moses now commends the obedience of
Abraham because he circumcised the whole of his family as he had been
commanded. For he must, of necessity, have been entirely devoted to God,
since he did not hesitate to inflict upon himself a wound attended with
acute pain, and not without danger of life. To this may be added the
circumstance of the time; namely, that he does not defer the work to
another day, but immediately obeys the Divine mandate. There is, however,
no doubt, that he had to contend with various perplexing thoughts. Not to
mention innumerable others, this might come into his mind, 'As for me,
who have been so long harassed with many adverse affairs, and tossed
about in different exiles, and yet have never swerved from the word of
God; if, by this symbol, he would consecrate me to himself as a servant,
why has he put me off to extreme old age? What does this mean, that I
cannot be saved unless I, with one foot almost in the grave, thus
mutilate myself?' But this was an illustrious proof of obedience, that
having overcome all difficulties, he quickly, and without delay, followed
where God called him. And he gave, in so doing, an example of faith not
less excellent; because, unless he had certainly embraced the promises of
God, he would by no means have become so prompt to obey. Hence,
therefore, arose his great alacrity, because he set the word of God in
opposition to the various temptations which might disturb his mind, and
draw him in contrary directions.
  Two things also here are worthy of observation. First, that Abraham was
not deterred by the difficulty of the work from yielding to God the duty
which he owed him. We know that he had a great multitude in his house,
nearly equal to a people. It was scarcely credible that so many men would
have suffered themselves to be wounded apparently to be made a
laughingstock. Therefore it was justly to be feared, that he would excite
a great tumult in his tranquil family; yea, that, by a common impulses
the major part of his servants would rise up against him; nevertheless,
relying upon the word of God, he strenuously attempts what seemed
  We next see, how faithfully his family was instructed; because not only
his home-born slaves, but foreigners, and men bought with money, meekly
receive the wounds which was both troublesome, and the occasion of shame
to carnal sense. It appears then that Abraham diligently took care to
have them prepared for due obedience. And since he held them under holy
discipline, he received the reward of his own diligences in finding them
so tractable in a most arduous affair. So, at this day, God seems to
enjoin a thing impossible to be done, when he requires his gospel to be
preached every where in the whole world, for the purpose of restoring it
from death to life. For we see how great is the obstinacy of nearly all
men, and what numerous and powerful methods of resistance Satan employs;
so that, in short, all the ways of access to these principles are
obstructed. Yet it behoves individuals to do their duty, and not to yield
to impediments; and, finally our endeavours and our labours shall by no
means fail of that success which is not yet apparent.

Chapter XVIII.

1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in
the tent door in the heat of the day;
2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him:
and when he saw [them], he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed
himself toward the ground,
3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not
away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and
rest yourselves under the tree:
5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after
that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And
they said, So do, as thou hast said.
6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready
quickly three measures of fine meal, knead [it], and make cakes upon the
7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and
gave [it] unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.
8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and
set [it] before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did
9 And they said unto him, Where [is] Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold,
in the tent.
10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time
of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard [it]
in the tent door, which [was] behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah [were] old [and] well stricken in age; [and] it
ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old
shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying,
Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will
return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a
15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he
said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham
went with them to bring them on the way.
17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and
all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household
after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and
judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken
of him.
20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and
because their sin is very grievous;
21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether
according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will
22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but
Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous
with the wicked?
24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also
destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that [are]
25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous
with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be
far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city,
then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to
speak unto the Lord, which [am but] dust and ashes:
28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou
destroy all the city for [lack of] five? And he said, If I find there
forty and five, I will not destroy [it].
29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be
forty found there. And he said, I will not do [it] for forty's sake.
30 And he said [unto him], Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will
speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I
will not do [it], if I find thirty there.
31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord:
Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not
destroy [it] for twenty's sake.
32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but
this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not
destroy [it] for ten's sake.
33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with
Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

1. "And the Lord appeared unto him." It is uncertain whether Moses says,
that God afterwards appeared again unto Abraham; or whether, reverting to
the previous history, he here introduces other circumstances, which he
had not before mentioned. I prefer, however, the former of these
interpretations; namely, that God confirmed the mind of his servant with
a new vision; just as the faith of the saints requires, at intervals,
renewed assistance. It is also possible that the promise was repeated for
the sake of Sarah. What shall we say, if in this manner, he chose to do
honour to the greatness of his grace? For the promise concerning Isaac,
from whom, at length, redemption and salvation should shine forth to the
world, cannot be extolled in terms adequate to its dignity. Whichever of
these views be taken, we perceive that there was sufficient reason why
Isaac was again promised. Concerning the word Mamre we have spoken in the
thirteenth chapter. Probably a grove of oaks was in that place, and
Abraham dwelt there, on account of the convenience of the situation.

2. "And, lo, three men stood by him." Before Moses proceeds to his
principal subject, he describes to us, the hospitality of the holy man;
and he calls the angels men, because, being clothed with human bodies,
they appeared to be nothing else than men. And this was done designedly,
in order that he, receiving them as men, might give proof of his charity.
For angels do not need those services of ours, which are the true
evidences of charity. Moreover, hospitality holds the chief place among
these services; because it is no common virtue to assist strangers, from
whom there is no hope of reward. For men in general are wont, when they
do favours to others, to look for a return; but he who is kind to unknown
guests and persons, proves himself to be disinterestedly liberal.
Wherefore the humanity of Abraham deserves no slight praise; because he
freely invites men who were to him unknown, through whom he had received
no advantage, and from whom he had no hope of mutual favours. What,
therefore was Abraham's object? Truly, that he might relieve the
necessity of his guests. He sees them wearied with their journeys and has
no doubt that they are overcome by heat; he considers that the time of
day was becoming dangerous to travellers; and therefore he wishes both to
comfort, and to relieve persons thus oppressed. And certainly, the sense
of nature itself dictates, that strangers are to be especially assisted;
unless blind self-love rather impels us to mercenary services. For none
are more deserving of compassion and help than those whom we see deprived
of friends, and of domestic comforts. And therefore the right of
hospitality has been held most sacred among all people, and no disgrace
was ever more detestable than to be called inhospitable. For it is a
brutal cruelty, proudly to despise those who, being destitute of ordinary
protection, have recourse to our assistance. It is however asked, whether
Abraham was wont thus to receive indiscriminately all kinds of guests? I
answer, that, according to his accustomed prudence he made a distinction
between his guests. And truly the invitation, which Moses here relates,
has something uncommon. Undoubtedly, the angels bore, in their
countenance and manner, marks of extraordinary dignity; so that Abraham
would conclude them to be worthy not only of meat and drink, but also of
honour. They who think that he was thus attentive to this office, because
he had been taught, by his fathers that angels often appeared in the
world in human form, reason too philosophically. Even the authority of
the Apostle is contrary to this; for he denies that they were, at first,
known to be angels either by Abraham, or by Lot, since they thought they
were entertaining men. (Heb. 13: 2.) This, then, is to be maintained;
that when he saw men of reverend aspects and having marks of singular
excellence, advancing on their journey, he saluted them with honour, and
invited them to repose. But, at that time, there was greater honesty than
is, at present, to be found amid the prevailing perfidy of mankind; so
that the right of hospitality might be exercised with less danger.
Therefore, the great number of inns are evidence of our depravity, and
prove it to have arisen from our own fault, that the principal duty of
humanity has become obsolete among us.
  "And bowed himself towards the ground." This token of reverence was in
common use with oriental nations. The mystery which some of the ancient
writers have endeavoured to elicit from this act; namely, that Abraham
adored one out of the threes whom he saw, and, therefore, perceived by
faith, that there are three persons in one God, since it is frivolous,
and obnoxious to ridicule and calumny, I am more than content to omit.
For we have before said, that the angels were so received by the holy
man, as by one who intended to discharge a duty towards men. But the fact
that God honoured his benignity, and granted it to him as a reward, that
angels should be presented to him for guests, was what he was not aware
of; till they had made themselves known at the conclusion of the meal. It
was therefore a merely human and civil honour, which he paid them. As to
his having saluted one in particular, it was probably done because he
excelled the other two. For we know that angels often appeared with
Christ their Head; here therefore, among the three angels Moses points
out one, as the Chief of the embassy.

3. "Pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant." In asking thus meekly,
and even suppliantly, there is no doubt that Abraham does it, moved by
the reason which I have stated. For if he had slaughtered calves for all
kinds of travellers, his house would soon have been emptied by his
profuse expenditure. He, therefore, did honour to their virtue and their
excellent endowments, lest he should pour contempt upon God. Thus,
neither was he so liberal as to invite wanderers, or other men of all
kinds, who herd together; nor did ambition induce him to deal thus
bountifully with these three persons, but rather his love and affection
for those gifts of God, and those virtues which appeared in them. As to
his offering them simply a morsel of bread, he makes light of an act of
kindness which be was about to do, not only for the sake of avoiding all
boasting, but in order that they might the more easily yield to his
counsel and his entreaties, when they were persuaded that they should not
prove too burdensome and troublesome to him. For modest persons do not
willingly put others to expense or trouble. The washing of feet, in that
age, and in that region of the world, was very common, perhaps, because
persons travelled with naked feet, under burning suns: and it was the
great remedy for the alleviation of weariness, to wash the feet parched
with heat.

5. "For therefore are ye come to your servant." He does not mean that
they had come designedly, or for the express purpose of seeking to be
entertained, as his guests; but he intimates that their coming had
occurred opportunely, as if he would say, 'You have not slipped into this
place by chance; but have been led hither by the design and the direction
of God.' He, therefore, refers it to the providence of God, that they had
come, so conveniently, to a place where they might refresh themselves a
little while, till the heat of the sun should abate. Moreover, as it is
certain that Abraham spoke thus in sincerity of mind; let us after his
examples conclude that, whenever our brethren, who need our help, meet
us, they are sent unto us by God.

6. "And Abraham hastened into the tent." Abraham's care in entertaining
his guests is here recorded; and Moses, at the same time, shows what a
well-ordered house he had. In short, he presents us, in a few words, with
a beautiful picture of domestic government. Abraham runs, partly, to
command what he would have done; and partly, to execute his own duty, as
the master of the house. Sarah keeps within the tent; not to indulge in
sloth, but rather to take her own part also, in the labour. The servants
are all prompt to obey. Here is the sweet concord of a well-conducted
family; which could not have thus suddenly arisen, unless each had, by
long practice, been accustomed to right discipline. A question, however;
arises out of the assertion of Moses, that the angels "did eat." Some
expound it, that they only appeared as persons eating; which fancy enters
their minds through the medium of another error; since they imagine them
to have been mere spectres, and not endued with real bodies. But, in my
judgment, the thing is far otherwise. In the first place, this was no
prophetical vision, in which the images of absent things are brought
before the eyes; but the angels really came into the house of Abraham.
Wherefore, I do not doubt that God,--who created the whole world out of
nothing, and who daily proves himself to be a wonderful Artificer in
forming creatures,--gave them bodies, for a time, in which they might
fulfill the office enjoined them. And as they truly walked, spoke, and
discharged other functions; so I conclude, they did truly eat; not
because they were hungry, but in order to conceal themselves, until the
proper time for making themselves known. Yet as God speedily annihilated
those bodies, which had been created for a temporary use; so there will
be no absurdity in saying, that the food itself was destroyed, together
with their bodies. But, as it is profitable briefly to touch upon such
questions; and, as religion in no way forbids us to do so; there is on
the other hand, nothing better than that we should content ourselves with
a sober solution of them.

9. "Where is Sarah?" Hitherto God permitted Abraham to discharge an
obvious duty. But, having given him the opportunity of exercising
charity, God now begins to manifest himself in his angels. The reason why
Moses introduces, at one time, three speakers, while, at another, he
ascribes speech to one only, is, that the three together represent the
person of one God. We must also remember what I have lately adduced, that
the principal place is given to one; because Christ, who is the living
image of the Father, often appeared to the fathers under the form of an
angel, while, at the same time, he yet had angels, of whom he was the
Head, for his attendants. And as to their making inquiry respecting
Sarah; we may hence infer, that a son is again here promised to Abraham,
because she had not been present at the former oracle.

10. "I will certainly return unto thee." Jerome translates its 'I will
return, life attending me:' as if God, speaking in the manner of men, had
said, 'I will return if I live.' But it would be absurd, that God, who
here so magnificently proclaims his power, should borrow from man a form
of speech which would suppose him to be mortal. What majesty, I pray,
would this remarkable oracle possess, which treats of the eternal
salvation of the world? That interpretation, therefore, can by no means
be approved, which entirely enervates the force and authority of the
promise. Literally it is, "according to the time of life." Which some
expound of Sarah; as if the angel had said, Sarah shall survive to that
period. But it is more properly explained of the child; for God promises
that He will come, at the just and proper time of bringing forth, that
Sarah might become the mother of a living child.

11. "Were old, and well stricken in age." Moses inserts this verse to
inform us that what the angel was saying, justly appeared improbable to
Sarah. For it is contrary to nature that children should be promised to
decrepit old men. A doubt, however, may be entertained on this point,
respecting Abraham: because men are sometimes endued with strength to
have children, even in extreme old age: and especially in that period,
such an occurrence was not uncommon. But Moses here speaks comparatively:
for since Abraham, during the vigour of his life, had remained with his
wife childless; it was scarcely possible for him, now that his body was
half dead, to have children; he had indeed begotten Ishmael in his old
age, which was contrary to expectation. But that now, twelve years
afterwards, it should be possible to become a father, through his aged
wife, was scarcely credible. Moses however chiefly insists upon the case
of Sarah; because the greatest impediment was with her. "It ceased," he
says, "to be with Sarah after the manner of women." With this expression,
he soberly speaks about the monthly stream of the women. At the same
moment with this, the possibility of conceiving ceases.

12. "Therefore Sarah laughed within herself." Abraham had laughed before,
as appears in the preceding chapter: but the laughter of both was, by no
means, similar. For Sarah is not transported with admiration and joy, on
receiving the promise of God; but foolishly sets her own age and that of
her husband in opposition to the word of God; that she may withhold
confidence from God, when he speaks. Yet she does not, avowedly, charge
God with falsehood or vanity; but because, having her mind fixed on the
contemplation of the thing proposed, she only weighs what might be
accomplished by natural means, without raising her thoughts to the
consideration of the power of God, and thus rashly casts discredit on God
who speaks to her. Thus, as often as we measure the promises and the
works of God, by our own reason, and by the laws of nature, we act
reproachfully towards him, though we may intend nothing of the sort. For
we do not pay him his due honour, except we regard every obstacle which
presents itself in heaven and on earth, as placed under subjection to his
word. But although the incredulity of Sarah is not to be excused; she,
nevertheless, does not directly reject the favour of God; but is only so
kept back by shame and modesty, that she does not altogether believe what
she hears. Even her very words declare the greatest modesty; 'After we
are grown old shall we give ourselves up to lust?' Wherefore, let us
observe, that nothing was less in Sarah's mind, than to make God a liar.
But herein consisted in this alone, that, having fixed her thoughts too
much on the accustomed order of nature, she did not give glory to God, by
expecting from him a miracle which she was unable to conceive in her
mind. We must here notice the admonition which the Apostle gathers from
this passage, because Sarah here calls Abraham her lord. (1 Peter 3: 6.)
For he exhorts women, after her example, to be obedient and well-behaved
towards their own husbands. Many women, indeed, without difficulty, give
their husbands this title, when yet they do not scruple to bring them
under rule, by their imperious pride: but the Apostle takes it for
granted that Sarah testifies, from her heart, what she feels, respecting
her husband: nor is it doubtful that she gave proof, by actual services,
of the modesty which she had professed in words.

13. "And the Lord said." Because the majesty of God had now been
manifested in the angels, Moses expressly mentions his Name. We have
before declared, in what sense the name of God is transferred to the
angel; it is not, therefore, now necessary to repeat it: except, as it is
always important to remark, that the word of the Lord is so precious to
himself, that he would be regarded by us as present, whenever he speaks
through his ministers. Again, whenever he manifested himself to the
fathers, Christ was the Mediator between him and them; who not only
personates God in proclaiming his word, but is also truly and essentially
God. And because the laughter of Sarah had not been detected by the eye
of man, therefore Moses expressly declares that she was reprehended by
God. And to this point belong the following circumstances, that the angel
had his back turned to the tent, and that Sarah laughed within herself,
and not before others. The censure also shows that the laughter of Sarah
was joined with incredulity. For there is no little weight in this
sentence, 'Can anything be wonderful with God?' But the angel chides
Sarah, because she limited the power of God within the bounds of her own
sense. An antithesis is therefore implied between the immense power of
God, and the contracted measure which Sarah imagined to herself, through
her carnal reason. Some translate the word "pala", hidden, as if the
angel meant that nothing was hidden from God: but the sense is different;
namely, that the power of God ought not to be estimated by human reason.
It is not surprising, that in arduous affairs we fail, or that we succumb
to difficulties: but God's way is far otherwise, for he looks down with
contempt, from above, upon those things which alarm us by their lofty
elevation. We now see what was the sin of Sarah; namely, that she did
wrong to God, by not acknowledging the greatness of his power. And truly,
we also attempt to rob God of his power, whenever we distrust his word.
At the first sight, Paul seems to give cold praise to the faith of
Abraham, in saying, that he did not consider his body, now dead, but gave
glory to God, because he was persuaded that he could fulfill what he had
promised. (Rom. 4: 19.) But if we thoroughly investigate the source of
distrust, we shall find that the reason why we doubt of God's promises
is, because we sinfully detract from his power. For as soon as any
extraordinary difficulty occurs, then, whatever God has promised, seems
to us fabulous; yea, the moment he speaks, the perverse thought
insinuates itself, How will he fulfill what he promises? Being bound
down, and preoccupied by such narrow thoughts, we exclude his power, the
knowledge of which is better to us than a thousand worlds. In short, he
who does not expect more from God than he is able to comprehend in the
scanty measure of his own reason, does him grievous wrong. Meanwhile, the
word of the Lord ought to be inseparably joined with his power; for
nothing is more preposterous, than to inquire what God can do, to the
setting aside of his declared will. In this way the Papists plunge
themselves into a profound labyrinth, when they dispute concerning the
absolute power of God. Therefore, unless we are willing to be involved in
absurd dotings, it is necessary that the word should precede us like a
lamp; so that his power and his will may be conjoined by an inseparable
bond. This rule the Apostle prescribes to us, when he says, 'Being
certainly persuaded, that what he has promised, he is able to perform,'
(Rom. 4: 21.) The angel again repeats the promise that he would come
'according to the time of life,' that is, in the revolving of the year,
when the full time of bringing forth should have arrived.

15. "Then Sarah denied." Another sin of Sarah's was, that she endeavoured
to cover and hide her laughter by a falsehood. Yet this excuse did not
proceed from obstinate wickedness, according to the manner in which
hypocrites are wont to snatch at subterfuges, so that they remain like
themselves, even to the end. Sarah's feelings were of a different kind;
for while she repents of her own folly, she is yet so terrified, as to
deny that she had done, what she now perceives to be displeasing to God.
Whence we infer, how great is the corruption of our nature, which causes
even the fear of God,-- the highest of all virtues,--to degenerate into a
fault. Moreover, we must observe whence that fear, of which Moses makes
mention, suddenly entered the mind of Sarah; namely, from the
consideration that God had detected her secret sin. We see, therefore,
how the majesty of God, when it is seriously felt by us, shakes us out of
our insensibility. We are more especially constrained to feel thus, when
God ascends his tribunal, and brings our sins to light.
  "Nay; but thou didst laugh." The angel does not contend in a
multiplicity of words, but directly refutes her false denial of the fact.
We may hence learn, that we gain no advantage by tergiversation, when the
Lord reproves us, because he will immediately dispatch our case with a
single word. Therefore, we must beware lest we imitate the petulance of
those who mock God with false pretences, and at length rush into gross
contempt of Him. However he may seem to leave us unnoticed for a time,
yet he will fulminate against us with that terrible voice, 'It is not as
you pretend.' In short, it is not enough that the judgment of God should
be reverenced, unless we also confess our sins ingenuously and without
shifts or evasions. For a double condemnation awaits those who, from a
desire to escape the judgment of God, retake themselves to the refuge of
dissimulation. We must, therefore bring a sincere confession, that, as
persons openly condemned, we may obtain pardon. But seeing that God was
contented with giving a friendly reprehension, and that he did not more
severely punish the double offense of Sarah; we hence perceive with what
tender indulgence he sometimes regards his own people. Zacharias was more
severely treated, who was struck dumb for nine months. (Luke 1: 9.) But
it is not for us to prescribe a perpetual law to God; who, as he
generally binds his own people to repentance by punishments, often sees
it good to humble them sufficiently, without inflicting any chastisement.
In Sarah, truly, he gives a singular instance of his compassion; because
he freely forgives her all, and still chooses that she should remain the
mother of the Church. In the meantime, we must observe, how much better
it is that we should be brought before him as guilty, and that like
convicted persons we should be silent, than that we should delight
ourselves in sin, as a great part of the world is accustomed to do.

16. "And the men rose up from thence." Moses again calls those men, whom
he had openly declared to be angels. But he gives them the name from the
form which they had assumed. We are not, however, to suppose that they
were surrounded with human bodies, in the same manner in which Christ
clothed himself in our nature, together with our flesh; but God invested
them with temporary bodies, in which they might be visible to Abraham,
and might speak familiarly with him. Abraham is said to have brought them
on the way; not for the sake of performing an office of humanity, as when
he had received them at first, but in order to render due honour to the
angels. For frivolous is the opinion of some who imagine that they were
believed to be prophets, who had been banished, on account of the word.
He well knew that they were angels as we shall soon see more clearly. But
he follows those in the way, whom he did not dare to detain.

17. "Shall I hide from Abraham?" Seeing that God here takes counsel, as
if concerning a doubtful matter, he does it for the sake of men; for he
had already determined what he would do. But he designed, in this manner,
to render Abraham more intent upon the consideration of the causes of
Sodom's destruction. He adduces two reasons why He wished to manifest his
design to Abraham, before he carried it into execution. The former is,
that he had already granted him a singularly honorable privilege; the
second, that it would be useful and fruitful in the instruction of
posterity. Therefore, in this expression, the scope and use of revelation
is briefly noted.

18. "Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation."
In Hebrew it is, 'And being, he shall be,' &c. But the copulative ought
to be resolved into the causal adverb. For this is the reasons to which
we have already alluded, why God chose to inform his servant of the
terrible vengeance He was about to take upon the men of Sodom; namely,
that He had adorned him, above all others, with peculiar gifts. For, in
this way, God continues his acts of kindness towards the faithful, yea,
even increases them, and gradually heaps new favours upon those before
granted. And he daily deals with us in the same manner. For what is the
reason why he pours innumerable benefits upon us, in constant succession,
unless that, having once embraced us with paternal love, he cannot deny
himself? And, therefore, in a certain way, he honours himself and his
gifts in us. For what does he here commemorate, except his own gratuitous
gifts? Therefore, he traces the cause of his beneficence to himself, and
not to the merits of Abraham; for the blessing of Abraham flowed from no
other source than the Divine Fountain. And we learn from the passage,
what experience also teaches, that it is the peculiar privilege of the
Church, to know what the Divine judgments mean, and what is their
tendency. When God inflicts punishment upon the wicked, he openly proves
that he is indeed the Judge of the world; but because all things seem to
happen by chance, the Lord illuminates his own children by his word, lest
they should become blind, with the unbelievers. So formerly, when he
stretched forth his hand over all regions of the world, he yet confined
his sacred word within Judea; that is, when he smote all nations with
slaughter and with adversity, he yet taught his only elect people, by his
word through the prophets, that he was the Author of these punishments;
yea, he predicted beforehand that they would take place; as it is written
in Amos, (3: 7,) 'Shall there be anything which the Lord will hide from
his servants the prophets?' Let us therefore remember, that from the time
when God begins to be kind towards us, he is never weary, until, by
adding one favour to another, he completes our salvation. Then, after he
has once adopted us, and has shone into our minds by his word, he holds
the torch of the same word burning before our eyes, that we may, by
faith, consider those judgments and punishments of iniquity which the
impious carelessly neglect. Thus it becomes the faithful to be employed
in reflecting on the histories of all times, that they may always form
their judgment from the Scripture, of the various destructions which,
privately and publicly, have befallen the ungodly. But it is asked; was
it necessary that the destruction of Sodom should be explained to
Abraham, before it happened? I answer, since we are so dull in
considering the works of God, this revelation was by no means
superfluous. Although the Lord proclaims aloud that adversity is the rod
of his anger; scarcely any one hearkens to it, because, through the
depraved imaginations of our flesh, we ascribe the suffering to some
other cause. But the admonition, which precedes the event, does not
suffer us to be thus torpid, nor to imagine that fortune, or any thing
else which we may fancy, stands in the place of God's word. Thus it
necessarily happened, in former times, that the people, although
iron-hearted, were more affected by these predictions than they would
have been had they been admonished by the prophets, after they had
received punishment. Wherefore, from them, it will be proper for us to
assume a general rule, in order that the judgments of God, which we daily
perceive, may not be unprofitable to us.
  The Lord declares to his servant Abraham that Sodom was about to
perish, while it was yet entire, and in the full enjoyment of its
pleasures. Hence no doubt remains, that it did not perish by chance, but
was subjected to divine punishment. Hence also, when the cause of the
punishment is thus declared beforehand, it will necessarily far more
effectually pierce and stimulate the minds of men. We must afterwards
come to the same conclusion, concerning other things; for although God
does not declare to us, what he is about to do, yet he intends us to be
eyewitnesses of his works and prudently to weigh their causes, and not to
be dazzled by a confused beholding of them, like unbelievers, 'who
seeing, see not,' and who pervert their true design.

19. "For I know him, that he will command his children." The second
reason why God chooses to make Abraham a partaker of his counsel is,
because he foresees that this would not be done in vain, and without
profit. And the simple meaning of the passage is, that Abraham is
admitted to the counsel of God, because he would faithfully fulfill the
office of a good householder, in instructing his own family. Hence we
infer, that Abraham was informed of the destruction of Sodom, not for his
own sake alone, but for the benefit of his race. Which is carefully to be
observed; for this sentence is to the same effect, as if God, in the
person of Abraham, addressed all his posterity. And truly, God does not
make known his will to us, that the knowledge of it may perish with us;
but that we may be his witnesses to posterity and that they may deliver
the knowledge received through us, from hand to hand, (as we say,) to
their descendants. Wherefore, it is the duty of parents to apply
themselves diligently to the work of communicating what they have learned
from the Lord to their children. In this manner the truth of God is to be
propagated by us, so that no one may retain his knowledge for his own
private use; but that each may edify others, according to his own
calling, and to the measure of his faith. There is however no doubt, that
the gross ignorance which reigns in the world, is the just punishment of
men's idleness. For whereas the greater part close their eyes to the
offered light of heavenly doctrine; yet there are those who stifle it, by
not taking care to transmit it to their children. The Lord therefore
righteously takes away the precious treasure of his word, to punish the
world for its sloth. The expression "after him" is also to be noticed; by
which we are taught that we must not only take care of our families, to
govern them duly, while we live; but that we must give diligence, in
order that the truth of God, which is eternal, may live and flourish
after our death; and that thus, when we are dead, a holy course of living
may survive and remain. Moreover, we hence infer, that those narratives
which serve to inspire terror, are useful to be known. For our carnal
security requires sharp stimulants whereby we may be urged to the fear of
God. And lest any one should suppose that this kind of doctrine belongs
only to strangers, the Lord specially appoints it for the sons of
Abraham, that is, for the household of the Church. For those interpreters
are infatuated and perverse, who contend that faith is overturned if
consciences are alarmed. For whereas nothing is more contrary to faith
than contempt and torpor; that doctrine best accords with the preaching
of grace, which so subdues men to the fear of God, that they, being
afflicted and famishing, may hasten unto Christ.
  "And they shall keep the way of the Lord." Moses intimates, in these
words, that the judgment of God is proposed, not only in order that they
who, by negligence, please themselves in their vices, may be taught to
fear, and that being thus constrained, they may sigh for the grace of
Christ; but also to the end that the faithful themselves, who are already
endued with the fear of God, may advance more and more in the pursuit of
piety. For he wills that the destruction of Sodom should be recorded,
both that the wicked may be drawn to God, by the fear of the same
vengeance, and that they who have already begun to worship God, may be
better formed to true obedience. Thus the Law avails, not only for the
beginning of repentance, but also for our continual progress. When Moses
adds, "to do justice and judgment," he briefly shows the nature of the
way of the Lord, which he had before mentioned. This, however, is not a
complete definition; but from the duties of the Second Table, he briefly
shows, by the figure synecdoche, what God chiefly requires of us. And it
is not unusual in Scripture, to seek a description of a pious and holy
life, from the Second Table of the Law; not because charity is of more
account than the worship of God, but because they who live uprightly and
innocently with their neighbours, give evidence of their piety towards
God. In the names of justice and judgment he comprehends that equity, by
which to every one is given what is his own. If we would make a
distinction, justice is the name given to the rectitude and humanity
which we cultivate with our brethren, when we endeavour to do good to
all, and when we abstain from all wrong, fraud, and violence. But
judgment is to stretch forth the hand to the miserable and the oppressed,
to vindicate righteous causes, and to guard the weak from being unjustly
injured. These are the lawful exercises in which the Lord commands his
people to be employed.
  "That the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of
him." Moses intimates that Abraham should become possessed of the grace
promised to him, if he instructed his children in the fear of the Lord,
and governed his household well. But under the person of one man, a rule
common to all the pious is delivered: for they who are negligent in this
part of their duty, cast off or suppress, as much as in them lies, the
grace of God. Therefore, that the perpetual possession of the gifts of
God may remain to us, and survive to posterity, we must beware lest they
be lost through our neglect. Yet it would be false for any one hence to
infer, that the faithful could either cause or deserve, by their own
diligence, that God should fulfill those things which he has promised.
For it is an accustomed method of speaking in Scripture, to denote by the
word "that" the consequence rather than the cause. For although the grace
of God alone begins and completes our salvation; yet, since by obeying
the call of God, we fulfill our course, we are said, also in this manner,
to obtain the salvation promised by God.

20. "The cry of Sodom." The Lord here begins more clearly to explain to
Abraham his counsel concerning the destruction of the five cities;
although he only names Sodom and Gomorrah, which were much more famous
than the rest. But before he makes mention of punishment, he brings
forward their iniquities, to teach Abraham that they justly deserved to
be destroyed: otherwise the history would not tend to instruction. But
when we perceive that the anger of God is provoked by the sin of man, we
are inspired with a dread of sinning. In saying that the "cry was great,"
he indicates the grievousness of their crimes, because, although the
wicked may promise themselves impunity, by concealing their evils, and
although these evils may be silently and quietly borne by men; yet their
sin will necessarily sound aloud in the ears of God. Therefore this
phrase signifies, that all our deeds, even those of which we think the
memory to be buried, are presented before the bar of God, and that they,
even of themselves, demand vengeance, although there should be none to

21. "I will go down now." Since this was a signal example of the wrath of
God, which He intends to be celebrated through all ages, and to which he
frequently refers in the Scripture; therefore Moses diligently records
those things which are especially to be considered in divine judgments;
just as, in this place, he commends the moderation of God, who does not
immediately fulminate against the ungodly and pour out his vengeance upon
them; but who, when affairs were utterly desperate, at length executes
the punishment which had been long held suspended over them. And the Lord
does not testify in vain, that he proceeds to inflict punishment in a
suitable and rightly attempered order; because, whenever he chastises us,
we are apt to think that he acts towards us more severely than is just.
Even when, with astonishing forbearance, he waits for us, until we have
come to the utmost limit of impiety, and our wickedness has become too
obstinate to be spared any longer; still we complain of the excessive
haste of his rigour. Therefore he presents as in a conspicuous picture,
his equity in bearing with us, in order that we may know, that he never
breaks forth to inflict punishment, except on those who are mature in
crime. Now, if, on the other hand, we look at Sodom; there a horrible
example of stupor meets our eyes. For the men of Sodom go on, as if they
had nothing to do with God; their sense of good and evil being
extinguished, they wallow like cattle in every kind of filth; and just as
if they should never have to render an account of their conduct, they
flatter themselves in their vices. Since this disease too much prevails
in all ages, and is at present far too common, it is important to mark
this circumstance, that at the very time when the men of Sodom, having
dismissed all fear of God, were indulging themselves, and were promising
themselves impunity, however they might sin, God was taking counsel to
destroy them, and was moved, by the tumultuous cry of their iniquities,
to descend to earth, while they were buried in profound sleep. Wherefore,
if God, at any time, defers his judgments; let us not, therefore, think
ourselves in a better condition; but before the cry of our wickedness
shall have wearied his ears may we, aroused by His threats, quickly
hasten to appease Him. Since, however, such forbearance of God cannot be
comprehended by us, Moses introduces Him as speaking according to the
manner of men.
  "Whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it." The
Hebrew noun "calah", which Moses here uses, means the perfection, or the
end of a thing, and also its destruction. Therefore, Jerome turns it, 'If
they shall have completed it in act.' I have, indeed, no doubt but Moses
intimates, that God came down, in order to inquire whether or not their
sins had risen to the highest point: just as he before said, that the
iniquities of the Amorites were not yet full. The sum of the whole then
is; the Lord was about to see whether they were altogether desperate, as
having precipitated themselves into the lowest depths of evil; or whether
they were still in the midst of a course, from which it was possible for
them to be recalled to a sound mind; forasmuch as he was unwilling
utterly to destroy those cities, if, by any method, their wickedness was
curable. Others translate the passage, 'If they have done this, their
final destruction is at hand: but if not, I will see how far they are to
be punished.' But the former sense is most accordant with the context.

22. "But Abraham stood yet before the Lord." Moses first declares that
the men proceeded onwards, conveying the impression, that having finished
their discourse, they took leave of Abraham, in order that he might
return home. He then adds, that Abraham stood before the Lord, as persons
are wont to do, who, though dismissed, do not immediately depart, because
something still remains to be said or done. Moses, when he makes mention
of the journey, with propriety attributes the name of men to the angels;
but he does not, however, say, that Abraham stood before men, but before
the face of God; because, although with his eyes, he beheld the
appearance of men, he yet, by faith, looked upon God. And his words
sufficiently show, that he did not speak as he would have done with a
mortal man. Whence we infer, that we act preposterously, if we allow the
external symbols, by which God represents himself, to retard or hinder us
from going directly to Him. By nature, truly, we are prone to this fault;
but so much the more must we strive, that, by the sense of faith, we may
be borne upwards to God himself, lest the external signs should keep us
down to this world. Moreover, Abraham approaches God, for the sake of
showing reverence. For he does not, in a contentious spirit, oppose God,
as if he had a right to intercede; he only suppliantly entreats: and
every word shows the great humility and modesty of the holy man. I
confess, indeed, that at times, holy men, carried away by carnal sense,
have no self-government, but that, indirectly at least, they murmur
against God. Here, however, Abraham addresses God with nothing but
reverence, nor does anything fall from him worthy of censure; yet we must
notice the affection of mind by which Abraham had been impelled to
interpose his prayers on behalf of the inhabitants of Sodom. Some
suppose, that he was more anxious concerning the safety of his nephew
alone than for Sodom and the rest of the cities; but that, being withheld
by modesty, he would not request one man expressly to be given to him,
while he entirely neglected a great people. But it is, by no means,
probable that he made use of such dissimulation. I certainly do not
doubt, that he was so touched with a common compassion towards the five
cities that he drew near to God as their intercessor. And if we weigh all
things attentively, he had great reasons for doing so. He had lately
rescued them from the hand of their enemies; he now suddenly hears that
they are to be destroyed. He might imagine that he had rashly engaged in
that war; that his victory was under a divine curse, as if he had taken
arms against the will of God, for unworthy and wicked men; and it was
possible that he would be not a little tormented by such thoughts.
Besides, it was difficult to believe them all to have been so ungrateful,
that no remembrance of their recent deliverance remained among them. But
it was not lawful for him, by a single word, to dispute with God, after
having heard what He had determined to do. For God alone best knows what
men deserve, and with what severity they ought to be treated. Why then
does not Abraham acquiesce? Why does he imagine to himself that there are
some just persons in Sodom, whom God has overlooked, and whom he hastens
to overwhelm in a common destruction with the rest? I answer, that the
sense of humanity by which Abraham was moved, was pleasing to God. Firsts
because, as was becoming, he leaves the entire cognizance of the fact
with God. Secondly, because he asks with sobriety and submission, for the
sole cause of obtaining consolation. There is no wonder that he is
terrified at the destruction of so great a multitude. He sees men created
after the image of God; he persuades himself that, in that immense crowd,
there were, at least, a few who were upright, or not altogether unjust,
and abandoned to wickedness. He therefore alleges before God, what he
thinks available to procure their forgiveness. He may, however, be
thought to have acted rashly, in requesting impunity to the evil, for the
sake of the good; for he desired God to spare the place, if he should
find fifty good men there. I answer, that the prayers of Abraham did not
extend so far as to ask God not to scourge those cities, but only not to
destroy them utterly; as if he had said 'O Lord, whatever punishment thou
mayest inflict upon the guilty, wilt thou not yet leave some dwelling
place for the righteous? Why should that region utterly perish, as long
as a people shall remain, by whom it may be inhabited?' Abraham,
therefore, does not desire that the wicked, being mixed with the
righteous, should escape the hand of God: but only that God, in
inflicting public punishment on a whole nation, should nevertheless
exempt the good who remained from destruction.

23. "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?" It is certain
that when God chastises the body of a people, he often involves the good
and the reprobate in the same punishment. So Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra, and
others like them, who worshipped God in purity in their own country, were
suddenly hurried away into exile, as by a violent tempest:
notwithstanding it had been said 'The land vomiteth out her inhabitants,
because of their iniquities,' (Lev. 18: 25.) But when God thus seems to
be angry with all in common, it behoves us to fix our eyes on the end,
which shall evidently discriminate the one from the other. For if the
husband man knows how to separate the grains of wheat in his barn, which
with the chaff are trodden under the feet of the oxen, or are struck out
with the flail; much better does God know how to gather together his
faithful people,--when he has chastised them for a time,--from among the
wicked, (who are like worthless refuse,) that they may not perish
together; yea, by the very event, he will, at length, prove that he would
not permit those whom he was healing by his chastisements to perish. For,
so far is he from hastening to destroy his people, when he subjects them
to temporal punishments, that he is rather administering to them a
medicine which shall procure their salvation. I do not however doubt,
that God had denounced the final destruction of Sodom; and in this sense
Abraham now takes exception, that it was by no means consistent, that the
same ruin should alike fall on the righteous and the ungodly. There will,
however, be no absurdity in saying, that Abraham, having good hope of the
repentance of the wicked, asked God to spare them; because it often
happens that God, out of regard to a few, deals gently with a whole
people. For we know, that public punishments are mitigated, because the
Lord looks upon his own with a benignant and paternal eye. In the same
sense the answer of God himself ought to be understood, 'If in the midst
of Sodom I find fifty righteous, I will spare the whole place for their
sake.' Yet God does not here bind himself by a perpetual rule, so that it
shall not be lawful for him, as often as he sees good, to bring the
wicked and the just together to punishment. And, in order to show that he
has free power of judging, he does not always adhere to the same equable
moderation in this respect. He who would have spared Sodom on account of
ten righteous persons, refused to grant the same terms of pardon to
Jerusalem. (Matth. 11: 24.) Let us know, therefore, that God does not
here lay himself under any necessity; but that he speaks thus, in order
to make it better known, that he does not, on light grounds, proceed to
the destruction of a city, of which no portion remained unpolluted.

25. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" He does not here
teach God His duty, as if any one should say to a judge, 'See what thy
office requires, what is worthy of this place, what suits thy character;'
but he reasons from the nature of God, that it is impossible for Him to
intend anything unjust. I grant that, in using the same form of speaking,
the impious often murmur against God, but Abraham does far otherwise. For
although he wonders how God should think of destroying Sodom, in which he
was persuaded there was a number of good men; he yet retains this
principle, that it was impossible for God, who is the Judge of the world,
and by nature loves equity yea, whose will is the law of justice and
rectitude, should in the least degree swerve from righteousness. He
desires, however, to be relieved from this difficulty with which he is
perplexed. So, whenever different temptations contend within our minds,
and some appearance of contradiction presents itself in the works of God,
only let our persuasion of His justice remain fixed, and we shall be
permitted to pour into His bosom the difficulties which torment us, in
order that He may loosen the knots which we cannot untie. Paul seems to
have taken from this place the answer with which he represses the
blasphemy of those who charge God with unrighteousness. 'Is God
unrighteous? Far from it, for how should there be unrighteousness with
Him who judges the world?' (Rom. 3: 5, 6.) This method of appeal would
not always avail among earthly judges; who are sometimes deceived by
error, or perverted by favour, or inflamed with hatred, or corrupted by
gifts, or misled by other means, to acts of injustice. But since God, to
whom it naturally belongs to judge the world, is liable to none of these
evils, it follows, that He can no more be drawn aside from equity, than
he can deny himself to be God.

27. "Which am but dust and ashes." Abraham speaks thus for the sake of
obtaining pardon. For what is mortal man when compared with God? He
therefore confesses that he is too bold, in thus familiarly interrogating
God; yet he desires that this favour may be granted unto him, by the
Divine indulgence. It is to be noted, that the nearer Abraham approaches
to God, the more fully sensible does he become of the miserable and
abject condition of men. For it is only the brightness of the glory of
God which covers with shame and thoroughly humbles men, when stripped of
their foolish and intoxicated self-confidence. Whosoever, therefore,
seems to himself to be something, let him turn his eyes to God, and
immediately he will acknowledge himself to be nothing. Abraham, indeed
was not forgetful that he possessed a living soul; but he selects what
was most contemptible, in order to empty himself of all dignity. It may
seem, however, that Abraham does but sophistically trifle with God, when,
diminishing gradually from the number first asked, he proceeds to his
sixth interrogation. I answer, that this was rather to be considered as
the language of a perturbed mind. At first he anxiously labours for the
men of Sodom, wherefore he omits nothing which may serve to mitigate his
solicitude. And as the Lord repeatedly answers him so mildly, we know
that he had not been deemed importunate, nor troublesome. But if he was
kindly heard, when pleading for the inhabitants of Sodom, even to his
sixth petition; much more will the Lord hearken to the prayers which any
one may pour out for the Church and household of faith. Moreover, the
humanity of Abraham appears also in this, that although he knows Sodom to
be filled with vilest corruptions, he cannot bring his mind to think that
all are infected with the contagion of wickedness; but he rather inclines
to the equitable supposition, that, in so great a multitude, some just
persons may be concealed. For this is a horrible prodigy, that the filth
of iniquity should so pervade the whole body, as to allow no member to
remain pure. We are, however, taught by this example, how tyrannically
Satan proceeds when once the dominion of sin is established. And
certainly, seeing the propensity of men to sin, and the facility for
sinning are so great, it is not surprising that one should be corrupted
by another, till the contagion reached every individual. For nothing is
more dangerous than to live where the public license of crime prevails;
yea, there is no pestilence so destructive, as that corruption of morals,
which is opposed neither by laws nor judgments, nor any other remedies.
And although Moses, in the next chapter, explains the most filthy crime
which reigned in Sodom, we must nevertheless remember what Ezekiel
teaches (16: 48, 49,) that the men of Sodom did not fall at once into
such execrable wickedness; but that in the beginning, luxury from the
fulness of bread prevailed, and that, afterwards, pride and cruelty
followed. At length, when they were given up to a reprobate mind, they
were also driven headlong into brutal lusts. Therefore if we dread this
extreme of inordinate passion, let us cultivate temperance and frugality;
and let us always fear, lest a superfluity of food should impel us to
luxury; lest our minds should be infected with pride on account of our
wealth, and lest delicacies should tempt us to give the reins to our

Chapter XIX.

1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of
Sodom: and Lot seeing [them] rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself
with his face toward the ground;
2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your
servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall
rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide
in the street all night.
3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and
entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened
bread, and they did eat.
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, [even] the men of Sodom,
compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every
5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where [are] the men which
came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know
6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him,
7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.
8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I
pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as [is] good in your
eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the
shadow of my roof.
9 And they said, Stand back. And they said [again], This one [fellow]
came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse
with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, [even]
Lot, and came near to break the door.
10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to
them, and shut to the door.
11 And they smote the men that [were] at the door of the house with
blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find
the door.
12 And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and
thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring
[them] out of this place:
13 For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great
before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.
14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his
daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will
destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.
15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying,
Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be
consumed in the iniquity of the city.
16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the
hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being
merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the
17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he
said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all
the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.
18 And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord:
19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast
magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life;
and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:
20 Behold now, this city [is] near to flee unto, and it [is] a little
one: Oh, let me escape thither, ([is] it not a little one?) and my soul
shall live.
21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing
also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast
22 Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be
come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.
24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire
from the LORD out of heaven;
25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the
inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the
26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of
27 And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood
before the LORD:
28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of
the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the
smoke of a furnace.
29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that
God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow,
when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.
30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two
daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a
cave, he and his two daughters.
31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father [is] old, and
[there is] not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of
all the earth:
32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him,
that we may preserve seed of our father.
33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn
went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down,
nor when she arose.
34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the
younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink
wine this night also; and go thou in, [and] lie with him, that we may
preserve seed of our father.
35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger
arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when
she arose.
36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
37 And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same [is]
the father of the Moabites unto this day.
38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the
same [is] the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.

1. "And there came two angels to Sodom." The question occurs, why one of
the three angels has suddenly disappeared, and two only are come to
Sodom? The Jews (with their wonted audacity in introducing fables)
pretend that one came to destroy Sodom, the other to preserve Lot. But
from the discourse of Moses, this appears to be frivolous: because we
shall see that they both assisted in the liberation of Lot. What I have
before adduced is more simple; namely, that it was granted to Abraham, as
a peculiar favour, that God would not only send him two messengers from
the angelic host, but that, in a more familiar manner, he would manifest
himself to him, in his own Son. For (as we have seen) one of the
messengers held the principal place, as being superior to the others in
dignity. Now, although Christ was always the Mediator, yet, because he
manifested himself more obscurely to Lot than he did to Abraham, the two
angels only came to Sodom. Since Moses relates, that Lot sat in the gate
of the city about evening, many contend that he did so, according to
daily custom, for the purpose of receiving guests into his house; yet, as
Moses is silent respecting the cause, it would be rash to affirm this as
certain. I grant, indeed, that he did not sit as idle persons are wont to
do; but the conjecture is not less probable, that he had come forth to
meet his shepherds, in order to be present when his sheep were folded.
That he was hospitable, the courteous invitation which is mentioned by
Moses clearly demonstrates; yet, why he then remained in the gate of the
city is uncertain; unless it were, that he was unwilling to omit any
opportunity of doing an act of kindness, when strangers presented
themselves on whom he might bestow his services. What remains, on this
point, may be found in the preceding chapter.

2. "Nay, but we will abide in the street." The angels do not immediately
assent, in order that they may the more fully investigate the disposition
of the holy man. For he was about to bring them to his own house, not
merely for the sake of supplying them with a supper, but for the purpose
of defending them from the force and injury of the citizens. Therefore
the angels act, as if it were safe to sleep on the highway; and thus
conceal their knowledge of the abandoned wickedness of the whole people.
For if the gates of cities are shut, to prevent the incursions of wild
beasts and of enemies; how wrong and absurd it is that they who are
within should be exposed to still more grievous dangers? Therefore the
angels thus speak, in order to make the wickedness of the people appear
the greater. And Lot, in urging the angels to come unto him, for the
purpose of protecting them from the common violence of the people, the
more clearly shows, how careful he was of his guests, lest they should
suffer any dishonour or injury.

3. "And he made them a feast." By these words, and others following,
Moses shows that the angels were more sumptuously entertained than was
customary: for Lot did not act thus, indiscriminately, with all. But,
when he conceived, from the dignity of their mien and dress, that they
were not common men, he baked cakes, and prepared a plentiful feast.
Again, Moses says that the angels did eat: not that they had any need to
do so; but because the time was not yet come, for the manifestation of
their celestial nature.

4. "Before they lay down." Here, in a single crime, Moses sets before our
eyes a lively picture of Sodom. For it is hence obvious, how diabolical
was their consent in all wickedness, since they all so readily conspired
to perpetrate the most abominable crime. The greatness of their iniquity
and wantonness, is apparent from the fact, that, in a collected troop,
they approach, as enemies, to lay siege to the house of Lot. How blind
and impetuous is their lust; since, without shame, they rush together
like brute animals! how great their ferocity and cruelty; since they
reproachfully threaten the holy man, and proceed to all extremities!
Hence also we infer, that they were not contaminated with one vice only,
but were given up to all audacity in crime, so that no sense of shame was
left them. And Ezekiel (as we have above related) accurately describes
from what beginnings of evil they had proceeded to this extreme
turpitude, (Ezekiel 16: 49 ) What Paul says, also refers to the same
point: that God punished the impiety of men, when he cast them into such
a state of blindness, that they gave themselves up to abominable lusts,
and dishonoured their own bodies. (Rom. 1: 18.) But when the sense of
shame is overcome, and the reins are given to lust, a vile and outrageous
barbarism necessarily succeeds, and many kinds of sin are blended
together, so that a most confused chaos is the result. But if this severe
vengeance of God so fell upon the men of Sodom, that they became blind
with rage, and prostituted themselves to all kinds of crime, certainly we
shall scarcely be more mildly treated, whose iniquity is the less
excusable, because the truth of God has been more clearly revealed unto
  "Both old and young." Moses passes over many things in silence which
may come unsought into the reader's mind: for instance, he does not
mention by whom the multitude had been stirred up. Yet it is probable
that there were some who fanned the flame: nevertheless, we hence
perceive how freely they were disposed to commit iniquity; since, as at a
given signal, they immediately assemble. It also shows how completely
destitute they were of all remaining shame; for, neither did any gravity
restrain the old, nor any modesty, suitable to their age, restrain the
young: finally, he intimates, that all regard to honour was gone, and
that the order of nature was perverted, when he says, that young and old
flew together from the extreme parts of the city.

5. "Where are the men?" Although it was their intention shamefully to
abuse the strangers to their outrageous appetite, yet, in words, they
pretend that their object is different. For, as if Lot had been guilty of
a fault in admitting unknown men into the city, wherein he himself was a
stranger, they command these men to be brought out before them. Some
expound the word "know" in a carnal sense; and thus the Greek
interpreters have translated it. But I think the word has here a
different meaning; as if the men had said, We wish to know whom thou
bringest, as guests, into our city. The Scripture truly is accustomed
modestly to describe an act of shame by the word know; and therefore we
may infer that the men of Sodom would have spoken, in coarser language,
of such an act: but, for the sake of concealing their wicked design, they
here imperiously expostulate with the holy man, for having dared to
receive unknown persons into his house. Here, however, a question arises;
for if the men of Sodom were in the habit of vexing strangers, of all
kinds, in this manner, how shall we suppose they had acted towards
others? For Lot was not now for the first time beginning to be
hospitable; and they, too, had always been addicted to lust. Lot was
prepared to expose his own daughters to dishonour, in order to save his
guests; how often, then, might it have been necessary to prostitute them
before, if the fury of men of such character could not be otherwise
assuaged? Now truly, if Lot had known that such danger was impending; he
ought rather to have exhorted his guests to withdraw in time. In my
opinion, however, although Lot knew the manners of the city; he had,
nevertheless, no suspicion of what really happened, that they would make
an assault upon his house; this, indeed, seems to have been quite a new
thing. It was, however, fitting, when the angels were sent to investigate
the true state of the people, that they should all break out into this
detestable crime. So the wicked, after they have long securely exulted in
their iniquity, at length, by furiously rushing onward, accelerate their
destruction in a moment. God therefore designed, in calling the men of
Sodom to judgment, to exhibit, as it were, the extreme act of their
wicked life; and he impelled them, by the spirit of deep infatuation, to
a crime, the atrocity of which would not suffer the destruction of the
place to be any longer deferred. For as the hospitality of the holy man,
Lot, was honoured with a signal reward; because he, unawares, received
angels instead of men, and had them as guests in his house; so God
avenged, with more severe punishment, the shameful lust of the others;
who, while endeavouring to do violence to angels, were not only injurious
towards men; but, to the utmost of their power, dishonoured the celestial
glory of God, by their sacrilegious fury.

6. "And Lot went out at the door unto them." It appears from the fact
that Lot went out and exposed himself to danger, how faithfully he
observed the sacred right of hospitality. It was truly a rare virtue,
that he preferred the safety and honour of the guests whom he had once
undertaken to protect, to his own life: yet this degree of magnanimity is
required from the children of God, that where duty and fidelity are
concerned, they should not spare themselves. And although he was already
grievously injured by the besieging of his house; he yet endeavours, by
gentle words, to soothe ferocious minds, while he suppliantly entreats
them to lay aside their wickedness, and addresses them by the title of
brethren. Now it appears, how savage was their cruelty, and how violent
the rage of their lust, when they were in no degree moved by such
extraordinary mildness. But the description of a rage so brutal, tends to
teach us that punishment was not inflicted upon them, until they had
proceeded to the last stage of wickedness. And let us remember, that the
reprobate, when they have been blinded by the just judgment of God, rush,
as with devoted minds, through every kind of crime, and leave nothing
undone, until they render themselves altogether hateful and detestable to
God and men.

8. "I have two daughters." As the constancy of Lot, in risking his own
life for the defense of his guests, deserves no common praise; so now
Moses relates that a defect was mixed with this great virtue, which
sprinkled it with some imperfection. For, being destitute of advice, he
devises (as is usual in intricate affairs) an unlawful remedy. He does
not hesitate to prostitute his own daughters, that he may restrain the
indomitable fury of the people. But he should rather have endured a
thousand deaths, than have resorted to such a measure. Yet such are
commonly the works of holy men: since nothing proceeds from them so
excellent, as not to be in some respect defective. Lot, indeed, is urged
by extreme necessity; and it is no wonder that he offers his daughters to
be polluted, when he sees that he has to deal with wild beasts; yet he
inconsiderately seeks to remedy one evil by means of another. I can
easily excuse some for extenuating his fault; yet he is not free from
blame, because he would ward off evil with evil. But we are warned by
this example, that when the Lord has furnished us with the spirit of
invincible fortitude, we must also pray that he may govern us by the
spirit of prudence; and that he will never suffer us to be deprived of a
sound judgment, and a well-regulated reason. For then only shall we
rightly proceed in our course of duty, when, in complicated affairs, we
perceive, with a composed mind, what is necessary, what is lawful, and
what is expedient to be done; then shall we be prepared promptly to meet
any danger whatever. For, that our minds should be carried hither and
thither by hastily catching at wicked counsels, is not less perilous than
that they should be agitated by fear. But when reduced to the last
straits, let us learn to pray, that the Lord would open to us some way of
escape. Others would excuse Lot by a different pretext, namely, that he
knew his daughters would not be desired. But I have no doubt that, being
willing to avail himself of the first subterfuge which occurred to him,
he turned aside from the right way. This, however, is indisputable;
although the men of Sodom had not yet, in express terms, avowed the base
desire with which they were inflamed, yet Lot, from their daily crimes,
had formed his judgment respecting it. If any one should raise the
objection that such a supposition is absurd; I answer, that, since by
custom they had imagined the crime to be lawful, the crowd was easily
excited by a few instigators, as it commonly happens, where no
distinction is maintained between right and wrong. When Lot says,
"Therefore came they under the shadow of my roof;" his meaning is, that
they had been committed to him by the Lord, and that he should be guilty
of perfidy, unless he endeavoured to protect them.

9. "And they said, Stand back." That Lot, with all his entreaties, than
which nothing could be adduced more likely to soothe their rage, was thus
harshly repelled, shows the indomitable haughtiness of this people. And,
in the first place, they threaten that, if he persists in interceding,
they will deal worse with him than with those whom he defends. Then they
reproach him with the fact, that he, a foreigner, assumes the province of
a judge. Every word proves the pride with which they swell. They place
one man in opposition to a multitude, as if they would say, 'By what
right hast thou alone challenge to thyself authority over the whole
city?' They next boast that, while they are natives, he is but a
stranger. Such is, at the present time, the boasting of the Papists
against the pious ministers of God's word: they allege against us, as a
disgrace, the paucity of our numbers, in contrast with their own great
multitude. Then they pride themselves upon their long succession, and
contend that it is intolerable for them to be reproved by new men. But
however contumaciously the wicked may strive, rather than submit to
reason, let us know that they are exalted only to their own ruin.

10. "But the men put forth their hand." Moses again gives the name of men
to those who were not so, but who had appeared as such; for although they
begin to exert their celestial force, they do not yet declare that they
are angels divinely sent from heaven. But here Moses teaches, that the
Lord, although he may for a time seem regardless, while the faithful are
engaged in conflict, yet never deserts his own, but stretches out his
hand, (so to speak,) at the critical moment. Thus, in preserving Lot, he
defers his aid until the last extremity. Let us, therefore, with tranquil
minds, wait on his providence; and let us intrepidly follow what belongs
to our calling, and what he commands; for although he may suffer us to be
exposed to dangers he will still show, that he has never been unmindful
of us. For we see, that as Lot had shut the door of his house for the
protection of his guests, so he is repaid, when the angels not only
receive him again, through the opened door, but by opposing the barriers
of divine power, prevent the impious men from approaching it. For, (as I
have before intimated), they afford him not merely human help, but they
come to bring him assistance, armed with divine power. Whereas, Moses
says, that the men were smitten with blindness, we are not so to
understand it, as if they had been deprived of eyesight; but that their
vision was rendered so dull, that they could distinguish nothing. This
miracle was more illustrious, than if their eyes had been thrust out, or
entirely blinded; because with their eyes open, they feel about, just
like blind men, and seeing, yet do not see. At the same time, Moses
wishes to describe their iron obstinacy: they do not find Lot's door; it
follows then, that they had laboured in seeking it; but, in this manner,
they furiously wage war with God. This, however, has happened, not once
only, and not with the men of Sodom alone; but is daily fulfilled in the
reprobate, whom Satan fascinates with such madness, that when stricken by
the mighty hand of God, they proceed with stupid obstinacy to advance
against him. And we need not seek far, for an instance of such conduct;
we see with what tremendous punishments God visits wandering lusts; and
yet the world ceases not, with desperate audacity, to rush into the
certain destruction which is set before their eyes.

12. "Hast thou here any besides?" At length the angels declare for what
purpose they came, and what they were about to do. For so great was the
indignity of the last act of this people, that Lot must now see how
impossible it was for God to bear with them any longer. And, in the first
place, they declare, that they are come to destroy the city, because "the
cry of it was waxen great." By which words they mean, that God was
provoked, not by one act of wickedness only, but that, after he had long
spared them, he was now, at last, almost compelled, by their immense mass
of crimes, to come down to inflict punishment. For we must maintain, that
the more sins men heap together, the higher will their wickedness rise,
and the nearer will it approach to God, to cry aloud for vengeance.
Wherefore, as the angels testify, that God had been hitherto
longsuffering, and of great forbearance; so they declare, on the other
hand, what issue awaits all those, who, having gathered together
mountains of guilt, exalt themselves with daily increasing audacity, as
if, like the giants, they were about to assail heaven. They, however,
explain the cause of this destruction, not only that Lot may ascribe
praise to the divine righteousness and equity, but that he, being
impressed with fear, may the more quickly hasten his departure. For, such
is the indolence of our flesh, that we slowly and coldly set ourselves to
escape the judgment of God, unless we are deeply stirred by the dread of
it: thus Noah, alarmed by the terror of the deluge, applied his industry
to the framing of the ark. Meanwhile, the angels inspire the mind of the
holy man with hope; lest he should tremble, or should be so possessed by
fear, and so desponding respecting his deliverance, as to be too slow to
depart. For they not only promise that he shall be safe, but also grant,
unasked, the life of his family. And truly, he ought not to have doubted
respecting his own life, when he saw others freely given him, as by a
superabundance of favour. It is however asked, 'Why was God willing to
offer his kindness to ungrateful men, by whom he knew it would be
rejected?' The same question may be put respecting the preaching of the
gospel; for God was not ignorant that few would become partakers of that
salvation, which nevertheless, he commands to be offered indiscriminately
to all. In this way, unbelievers are rendered more inexcusable, when they
reject the message of salvation. The chief reason, however, why Lot is
commanded to set before his own family the hope of deliverance, is, that
he may embrace, with greater confidence, the offered favour of God, and
may strenuously and quickly prepare himself to depart, not doubting of
his own preservation. It is, with probability, inferred from this place,
that he had, then, no sons in that city; for, in consequence of the
exhortation of the angels he would immediately have attempted to draw
them out of it. We have before seen, that he had an ample and numerous
band of servants; but no mention is made of them, since the freemen are
here only reckoned. It is, nevertheless, probable, that some servants
went forth with him, to carry provisions and some portion of furniture.
For, whence did his daughters obtain in the desert mountain, the wine
which they gave their father, unless some things, which Moses does not
mention, had been conveyed by asses, or camels, or wagons? It was however
possible, that, in so great a number, many chose rather to perish with
the men of Sodom, than to become associates and companions of their lord,
in seeking safety. But it is better to leave as we find them, those
things which the Spirit of God has not revealed.

13. "The Lord has sent us to destroy it." This place teaches us, that the
angels are the ministers of God's wrath, as well as of his grace. Nor
does it form any objection to this statement, that elsewhere the latter
service is peculiarly ascribed to holy angels: as when the Apostle says,
they were appointed for the salvation of those whom God had adopted as
sons. (Heb. 1: 14.) And the Scripture, in various places, testifies, that
the guardianship of the pious is committed to them, (Ps. 91: 11;) while,
on the other hand, it declares that God executes his judgments by
reprobate angels. (Ps. 78: 49.) For it must be maintained, that God
causes his elect angels to preside over those judgments which he executes
by means of the reprobate. For it would be absurd to attribute to devils,
the honour of presiding over the judgments of God, since they do not
yield him voluntary obedience; but rather, while raging contumaciously
against him, are yet reluctantly compelled to become his executioners.
Let us therefore know, that it is not foreign to the office of elect
angels, to descend armed for the purpose of executing Divine vengeance
and of inflicting punishment. As the angel of the Lord destroyed, in one
night, the army of Sennacherib which besieged Jerusalem, (2 Kings 19:
35;) so also the angel of the Lord appeared to David with his drawn
sword, when the pestilence was raging against the people. (2 Sam. 24:
16.) But, as I have before said, the angels repeat what they had
previously said to Abraham, concerning the cry of Sodomy that they may
the more urgently impel Lot, by a detestation of the place, to take his
flight, and may induce him by the fear of the wrath of God, to seek for

14. "And Lot went out." The faith of the holy man, Lot, appeared first in
this, that he was completely awed and humbled at the threatening of God;
secondly, that in the midst of destruction, he yet laid hold of the
salvation promised to him. In inviting his sons-in-law to join him, he
manifests such diligence as becomes the sons of God; who ought to labour,
by all means, to rescue their own families from destruction. But when
Moses says, 'he appeared as one who mocked;' the meaning is, that the
pious old man was despised and derided and that what he said was
accounted a fable; because his sons-in-law supposed him to be seized with
delirium, and to be vainly framing imaginary dangers. Lot, therefore, did
not seem to them to mock purposely or to have come for the sake of
trifling with them; but they deemed his language fabulous; because, where
there is no religion, and no fear of God, whatever is said concerning the
punishment of the wicked, vanishes as a vain and illusory thing. And
hence we perceive how fatal an evil security is, which son inebriates,
yea, fascinates, the minds of the wicked, that they no longer think God
sits as Judge in heaven; and thus they stupidly sleep in sin, till, while
they're saying, "Peace and safety," they are overwhelmed in sudden ruin.
And especially, the nearer the vengeance of God approaches, the more does
their obstinacy increase and become desperate. There is nothing more full
of fear, and even of terror, than wicked men are, when the hand of God
presses closely on them; but until, constrained by force, they perceive
their destruction to be imminent, they either reject all threats with
proud scorn, or contemptuously pass them by. But their indolence ought to
awaken us to the fear of God, so that we may be always careful; but more
especially when some token of the wrath of God presents itself before us.

15. "The angels hastened Lot." Having praised the faith and piety of Lot,
Moses shows that something human still adhered to him; because the angels
hastened him, when he was lingering. The cause of his tardiness might be,
that he thought he was going into exile: thus a multiplicity of cares and
fears disturb his anxious mind. For he doubts what would happen to him,
as a fugitives when, having left his house and furniture, naked and in
want, he should retake himself to some desert place. In the meantime, he
does not consider that he must act like persons shipwrecked, who, in
order that they may come safe into port, cast into the sea their cargo,
and every thing they have. He does not indeed doubt, that God is speaking
the truth; nor does he refuse to remove elsewhere, as he is commanded;
but, as if sinking under his own infirmity, and entangled with many
cares, he, who ought to have run forth hastily, and without delay, moves
with slow and halting pace. In his person, however, the Spirit of God
presents to us, as in a mirror, our own tardiness; in order that we,
shaking off all sloth, may learn to prepare ourselves for prompt
obedience, as soon as the heavenly voice sounds in our ears; otherwise,
in addition to that indolence which, by nature, dwells within us, Satan
will interpose many delays. The angels, in order the more effectually to
urge Lot forward, infuse the fear, lest he should be destroyed in the
iniquity, or the punishment of the city. For the word "awon" signifies
both. Not that the Lord rashly casts the innocent on the same heap with
the wicked, but because the man, who will not consult for his own safety,
and who, even being warned to beware, yet exposes himself, by his sloth,
to ruin, deserves to perish.

16. "And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand." The angels
first urged him by words; now seizing him by the hand, and indeed with
apparent violence, they compel him to depart. His tardiness is truly
wonderful, since, though he was certainly persuaded that the angels did
not threaten in vain, he could yet be moved, by no force of words, until
he is dragged by their hands out of the city. Christ says, 'Though the
spirit is willing, the flesh is weak,' (Matth. 26: 41:) here a worse
fault is pointed out; because the flesh, by its sluggishness, so
represses the alacrity of the spirit, that with slow halting, it can
scarcely creep along. And, indeed, as every man's own experience bears
him witness of this evil, the faithful ought to endeavour, with the
greater earnestness, to prepare themselves to follow God; and to beware
lest as with deaf ears, they disregard his threats. And truly, they will
never so studiously and forcibly press forward as not still to be
retarded more than enough, in the discharge of their duty. For what Moses
says is worthy of attention, that the Lord was merciful to his servant,
when, having laid hold of his hand by the angels, He hurried him out of
the city. For so it is often necessary for us to be forcibly drawn away
from scenes which we do not willingly leave. If riches, or honours, or
any other things of that kind, prove an obstacle to any one, to render
him less free and disengaged for the service of God, when it happens that
he is abridged of his fortune, or reduced to a lower rank, let him know
that the Lord has laid hold of his hand; because words and exhortations
had not sufficiently profited him. We ought not, therefore, to deem it
hard, that those diseases, which instruction did not suffice effectually
to correct, should be healed by more violent remedies. Moses even seems
to point to something greater; namely, that the mercy of God strove with
the sluggishness of Lot; for, if left to himself, he would, by lingering,
have brought down upon his own head the destruction which was already
near. Yet the Lord not only pardons him, but, being resolved to save him,
seizes him by the hand, and draws him away, although making resistance.

17. "Escape for thy life." This was added by Moses, to teach use that the
Lord not only stretches out his hand to us for a moment, in order to
begin our salvation; but that without leaving his work imperfect, he will
carry it on even to the end. It certainly was no common act of grace,
that the ruin of Sodom was predicted to Lot himself, lest it should crush
him unawares; next, that a certain hope of salvation was given him by the
angels; and, finally, that he was led by the hand out of the danger. Yet
the Lord, not satisfied with having granted him so many favours, informs
him of what was afterwards to be done, and thus proves himself to be the
Director of his course, till he should arrive at the haven of safety. Lot
is forbidden to look behind him, in order that he may know, that he is
leaving a pestilential habitation. This was done, first, that he might
indulge no desire after it, and then, that he might the better reflect on
the singular kindness of God, by which he had escaped hell. Moses had
before related, how fertile and rich was that plain; Lot is now commanded
to depart thence, that he may perceive himself to have been delivered, as
out of the midst of a shipwreck. And although, while dwelling in Sodom,
his heart was continually vexed; it was still scarcely possible that he
should avoid contracting some defilement from a sink of wickedness so
profound: being now, therefore, about to be purified by the Lord, he is
deprived of those delights in which he had taken too much pleasure. Let
us also hence learn, that God best provides for our salvation, when he
cuts off those superfluities, which serve to the pampering of the flesh;
and when, for the purpose of correcting excessive self-indulgence, he
banishes us from a sweet and pleasant plain, to a desert mountain.

18. "And Lot said unto them." Here another fault of Lot is censured,
because he does not simply obey God, nor suffer himself to be preserved
according to His will, but contrives some new method of his own. God
assigns him a mountain as his future place of refuge, he rather chooses
for himself a city. They are therefore under a mistake, who so highly
extol his faith, as to deem this a perfect example of suitable prayer;
for the design of Moses is rather to teach, that the faith of Lot was not
entirely pure, and free from all defects. For it is to be held as an
axiom, that our prayers are faulty, so far as they are not founded on the
word. Lot, however, not only departs from the word, but preposterously
indulges himself in opposition to the word; such importunity has,
certainly, no affinity with faith. Afterwards, a sudden change of mind
was the punishment of his foolish cupidity. For thus do all necessarily
vacillate, who do not submit themselves to God. As soon as they attain
one wish, immediately a new disquietude is produced, which compels them
to change their opinion. It must then, in short, be maintained, that Lot
is by no means free from blame, in wishing for a city as his residence;
for he both sets himself in opposition to the command of God, which it
was his duty to obey; and desires to remain among those pleasures, from
which it was profitable for him to be removed. He, therefore, acts just
as a sick person would do, who should decline an operation, or a bitter
draught, which his physician had prescribed. Nevertheless, I do not
suppose, that the prayer of Lot was altogether destitute of faith; I
rather think, that though he declined from the right way, he not only did
not depart far from it, but was even fully purposed in his mind to keep
it. For he always depended upon the word of God; but in one particular he
fell from it, by entreating that a place should be given to him, which
had been denied. Thus, with the pious desires of holy men, some defiled
and turbid admixture is often found. I am not however ignorant, that
sometimes they are constrained, by a remarkable impulse of the Spirit, to
depart in appearance from the word, yet without really transgressing its
limits. But the immoderate carnal affection of Lot betrays itself, in
that he is held entangled by those very delights which he ought to have
shunned. Moreover, his inconstancy is a proof of his rashness, because he
is soon displeased with himself for what he has done.

19. "Behold now, they servant has found grace in thy sight." Though Lot
saw two persons, he yet directs his discourse to one. Whence we infer,
that he did not rely upon the angels; because he was well convinced that
they had no authority of their own, and that his salvation was not placed
in their hands. He uses therefore their presence in no other way than as
a mirror, in which the face of God may be contemplated. Besides, Lot
commemorates the kindness of God, not so much for the sake of testifying
his gratitude, as of acquiring thence greater confidence in asking for
more. For since the goodness of God is neither exhausted, nor wearied, by
bestowing; the more ready we find him to give, the more confident does it
become us to be, in hoping for what is good. And this truly is the
property of faith, to take encouragement for the future, from the
experience of past favour. And Lot does not err on this point; but he
acts rashly in going beyond the word for the sake of self-gratification.
Therefore I have said, that his prayer, though it flowed from the
fountain of faith, yet drew something turbid from the mire of carnal
affection. Let us then, relying upon the mercy of God, not hesitate to
expect all things from him; especially those which he himself has
promised, and which he permits us to choose.
  "I cannot escape to the mountains." He does not indeed rage against
God, with determined malice as the wicked are wont to do; yet, because he
rests not upon the word of God, he slides, and almost falls away. For why
does he fear destruction in the mountain, where he was to be protected by
the hand of God, and yet expect to find a safe abode in that place, which
is both near to Sodom, and obnoxious to similar vengeance, on account of
its impure and wicked inhabitants? But this verily is the nature of men,
that they choose to seek their safety in hell itself, rather than in
heaven, whenever they follow their own reason. We see, then, how greatly
Lot errs, in seeing from, and entertaining suspicions of, a mountain
infected with no contagion of iniquity and choosing a city which,
overflowing with crimes, could not but be hateful to God. He pretends
that it is a little one, in order that he may the more easily obtain his
request. As if he had said, that he only wanted a corner where he might
be safely sheltered. This would have been right, if he had not declined
the asylum divinely granted to him and rashly contrived another for

21. "See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also." Some
ignorantly argue from this expression, that Lot's prayer was pleasing to
God, because he assented to his request, and gave him what he sought. For
it is no new thing for the Lord sometimes to grant, as an indulgence,
what he, nevertheless, does not approve. And he now indulges Lot, but in
such way, that he soon afterwards corrects his folly. Meanwhile, however,
since God so kindly and gently bears with the evil wishes of his own
people, what will he not do for us if our prayers are regulated according
to the pure direction of his Spirit, and are drawn from his word? But
after the angel has granted him his wish respecting the place, he again
reproves his indolence, by exhorting him to make haste.

22. "I cannot do any thing." Since the angel had not only been sent as an
avenger to destroy Sodom, but also had received a command for the
preservation of Lot; he therefore declares, that he will not do the
former act, unless this latter be joined with it; because it is not at
the option of the servant to divide those things which God has joined
together. I am not, however, dissatisfied with the explanation of some,
who suppose the angel to speak in the person of God. For although in
appearance the language is harsh, yet there is no absurdity in saying,
that God is unable to destroy the reprobate without saving his elect. Nor
must we, therefore, deem his power to be limited, when he lays himself
under any such necessity; or that anything of his liberty and authority
is diminished, when he willingly and freely binds himself. And let us
especially remember, that his power is connected by a sacred bond with
his grace, and with faith in his promises. Hence it may be truly and
properly said, that he can do nothing but what he wills and promises.
This is a true and profitable doctrine. There will, however, be less
ground of scruple if we refer the passage to the angels; who had a
positive commandment, from which it was not lawful for them to abate the
smallest portion.

24. "Then the Lord rained." Moses here succinctly relates in very
unostentatious language, the destruction of Sodom and of the other
cities. The atrocity of the case might well demand a much more copious
narration, expressed in tragic terms; but Moses, according to his manner,
simply recites the judgment of God, which no words would be sufficiently
vehement to describe, and then leaves the subject to the meditation of
his readers. It is therefore our duty to concentrate all our thoughts on
that terrible vengeance, the bare mention of which, as it did not take
place without so mighty concussion of heaven and earth, ought justly to
make us tremble; and therefore it is so frequently mentioned in the
Scriptures. And it was not the will of God that those cities should be
simply swallowed up by an earthquake; but in order to render the example
of his judgment the more conspicuous, he hurled fire and brimstone upon
them out of heaven. To this point belongs what Moses says, "that the Lord
rained fire from the Lord." The repetition is emphatical, because the
Lord did not then cause it to rain, in the ordinary course of nature;
but, as if with a stretched out hand, he openly fulminated in a manner to
which he was not accustomed, for the purpose of making it sufficiently
plain, that this rain of fire and brimstone was produced by no natural
causes. It is indeed true, that the air is never agitated by chance; and
that God is to be acknowledged as the Author of even the least shower of
rain; and it is impossible to excuse the profane subtlety of Aristotle,
who, when he disputes so acutely concerning second causes, in his Book on
Meteors, buries God himself in profound silence. Moses, however, here
expressly commends to us the extraordinary work of God; in order that we
may know that Sodom was not destroyed without a manifest miracle. The
proof which the ancients have endeavoured to derive, from this testimony,
for the Deity of Christ, is by no means conclusive: and they are angry,
in my judgment, without cause, who severely censure the Jews, because
they do not admit this kind of evidence. I confess, indeed, that God
always acts by the hand of his Son, and have no doubt that the Son
presided over an example of vengeance so memorable; but I say, they
reason inconclusively, who hence elicit a plurality of Persons, whereas
the design of Moses was to raise the minds of the readers to a more
lively contemplation of the hand of God. And as it is often asked, from
this passage, 'What had infants done, to deserve to be swallowed up in
the same destruction with their parents?' the solution of the question is
easy; namely, that the human race is in the hand of God, so that he may
devote whom he will to destruction, and may follow whom he will with his
mercy. Again, whatever we are not able to comprehend by the limited
measure of our understanding, ought to be submitted to his secret
judgment. Lastly, the whole of that seed was accursed and execrable so
that God could not justly have spared, even the least.

26. "But his wife looked back." Moses here records the wonderful judgment
of God, by which the wife of Lot was transformed into a statue of salt.
But under the pretext of this narrative, captious and perverse men
ridicule Moses; for since this metamorphosis has no more appearance of
truth, than those which Ovid has feigned, they boast that it is
undeserving of credit. But I rather suppose it to have happened through
the artifice of Satan, that Ovid, by fabulously trifling, has indirectly
thrown discredit on this most signal proof of Divine vengeance. But
whatever heathens might please to fabricate, is no concern of ours. It is
only of importance to consider, whether the narrative of Moses contains
anything absurd or incredible. And, first, I ask; Since God created men
out of nothing, why may he not, if he sees fit, reduce them again to
nothing? If this is granted, as it must be; why, if he should please, may
he not turn them into stones? Yea, those excellent philosophers, who
display their own acuteness, in derogating from the power of God, daily
see miracles as great in the course of nature. For how does the crystal
acquire its hardness? and--not to refer to rare examples--how is the
living animal generated from lifeless seed? how are birds produced from
eggs? Why then does a miracle appear ridiculous to them, in this one
instance, when they are obliged to acknowledge innumerable examples of a
similar kind? and how can they, who deem it inconsistent, that the body
of a woman should be changed into a mass of salt, believe that the
resurrection will restore to life, a carcass reduced to putrefaction?
When, however, it is said, that Lot's wife was changed into a statue of
salt, let us not imagine that her soul passed into the nature of salt;
for it is not to be doubted, that she lives to be a partaker of the same
resurrection with us, though she was subjected to an unusual kind of
death, that she might be made an example to all. However, I do not
suppose Moses to mean, that the statue had the taste of salt; but that it
had something remarkable, to admonish those who passed by. It was
therefore necessary, that some marks should be impressed upon it, whereby
all might know it to be a memorable prodigy. Others interpret the statue
of salt to have been an incorruptible one, which should endure for ever;
but the former exposition is the more genuine. It may now be asked, why
the Lord so severely punished the imprudence of the unhappy woman; seeing
that she did not look back, from a desire to return to Sodom? Perhaps,
being yet doubtful, she wished to have more certain evidence before her
eyes; or, it might be, that, in pity to the perishing people, she turned
her eyes in that direction. Moses, certainly, does not assert that she
purposely struggled against the will of God; but, forasmuch as the
deliverance of her, and her husband, was an incomparable instance of
Divine compassion, it was right that her ingratitude should be thus
punished. Now, if we weigh all the circumstances, it is clear that her
fault was not light. First, the desire of looking back proceeded from
incredulity; and no greater injury can be done to God, than when credit
is denied to his word. Secondly we infer from the words of Christ, that
she was moved by some evil desire; (Luke 17: 32;) and that she did not
cheerfully leave Sodom, to hasten to the place whither God called her;
for we know that he commands us to remember Lot's wife, lest, indeed, the
allurements of the world should draw us aside from the meditation of the
heavenly life. It is therefore probable, that she, being discontented
with the favour God had granted her, glided into unholy desires, of which
thing also her tardiness was a sign; for Moses intimates that she was
following after her husband, when he says, that she looked back from
"behind" him; for she did not look back towards him; but because by the
slowness of her pace, she was less advanced, she, therefore, was behind
him. And although it is not lawful to affirm any thing respecting her
eternal salvation; it is nevertheless probable that God, having inflicted
temporal punishment, spared her soul; inasmuch as he often chastises his
own people in the flesh, that their soul may he saved from eternal
destruction. Since, however, the knowledge of this is not very
profitable, and we may without danger remain in ignorance, let us rather
attend to the example which God designs for the common benefit of all
ages. If the severity of the punishment terrifies us; let us remember,
that they sin, at this days not less grievously, who, being delivered,
not from Sodom, but from hell, fix their eyes on some other object than
the proposed prize of their high calling.

27. "And Abraham got up early in the morning." Moses now reverts to
Abraham, and shows that he, by no means, neglected what he had heard from
the mouth of the angel; for he relates that Abraham came to a place where
he might see the judgment of God. For we must not suspect that (as we
have lately said respecting Lot's wife) he trusted more to his own eyes
than to the word of God; and that he came to explore, because he was in
doubt. But we rather infers from the text, that he, being already
persuaded that the angel had not spoken in vain, sought confirmation, by
the actual beholding of the event; which confirmation would be useful
both to himself and to posterity. And it is not to be doubted, that
during the whole night, he suffered severe anguish respecting the safety
of his nephew Lot. Whether he became satisfied on this point or note we
do not know; yet I rather incline to the conjecture, that he remained
anxious about him. And it is possible that, hesitating between hope and
fear, he went forward to meet him, in order that he might see whether he
wag delivered or not. And although he beholds nothing but the smoke,
which generally remains after a great fire; yet this sign is given him
from the Lord, for a testimony to posterity, of a punishment so
memorable. God indeed designs, that, in the very appearance of the place,
a monument of his wrath should exist for ever: but because, through the
readiness of the world to cast a doubt upon the judgments of God, it
might be easily believed, that such had been the nature of the place from
the beginning; or that the change had occurred accidentally; the Lord was
pleased to exhibit his act of vengeance before the eyes of Abraham, in
order that he might discharge the office of a herald to posterity.

29. "God remembered Abraham." Although Moses does not assert that the
deliverance of Abraham's nephew was made known to him; yet since he says,
that Lot was saved from destruction for Abraham's sake, it is probable
that he was not deprived of that consolation which he most needed; and
that he was conscious of the benefit, for which it became him to give
thanks. If it seems to any one absurd, that the holy man Lot should be
granted for the sake of another; as if the Lord had not respect to his
own piety: I answer, these two things well agree with each other; that
the Lord, since he is wont to aid his own people, cared for Lot, whom he
had chosen, and whom he governed by his Spirit; and yet that, at the same
time, he would show, in the preservation of his life, how greatly he
loved Abraham, to whom he not only granted personal protection, but also
the deliverance of others. It is however right to observe, that what the
Lord does gratuitously,--induced by no other cause than his own
goodness,--is ascribed to the piety or the prayers of men, for this
reason; that we may be stirred up to worship God, and to pray to him. We
have seen, a little while before, how merciful God proved himself to be,
in preserving Lot; and truly, he would not have perished, even if he had
not been the nephew of Abraham. Yet Moses says, it was a favour granted
to Abraham, that Lot was not consumed in the same destruction with Sodom.
But if the Lord extended the favour which he had vouchsafed to his
servant, to the nephew also, who now was as a stranger from his family;
how much more confidently ought every one of the faithful to expect, that
the same grace shall, by no means be wanting to his own household? And,
if the Lord, when he favours us, embraces others also who are connected
with us, for our sake, how much more will he have respect to ourselves?
In saying that Lot dwelt in those cities, the figure synecdoche, which
puts the whole for a part, is used, but it is expressly employed to make
the miracle more illustrious; because it happened, only by the singular
providence of God, that when five cities were destroyed a single person
should escape.

30. "And Lot went up out of Zoar." This narration proves what I have
before alluded to, that those things which men contrive for themselves,
by rash counsels drawn from carnal reason, never prosper: especially when
men, deluded by vain hope, or impelled by depraved wishes, depart from
the word of God. For although temerity commonly seems to be successful at
the beginning; and they who are carried away by their lusts, exult over
the joyful issue of affairs; yet the Lord, at length, curses whatever is
not undertaken with his approval; and the declaration of Isaiah is
fulfilled, 'Woe to them who begin a work and not by the Spirit of the
Lord; who take counsel, but do not ask at his mouth,' (Isaiah 30: 1.)
Lot, when commanded to retake himself to the mountain, chose rather to
dwell in Zoar. After this habitation was granted to him, according to his
own wish, he soon repents and is sorry for he trembles at the thought
that destruction is every moment hastening on a place so near to Sodom,
in which perhaps the same impiety and wickedness was reigning. But let
the readers recall to memory what I have said, that it was only through
the wonderful kindness of God, that he did not receive either immediate,
or very severe punishment. For the Lord, by pardoning him at the time,
caused him finally to become judge of his own sin. For he was neither
expelled from Zoar by force nor by the hand of man; but a blind anxiety
of mind drove him and hurried him into a cavern, because he had followed
the lust of his flesh rather than the command of God. And thus in
chastising the faithful, God mitigates their punishments so as to render
it their best medicine. For if he were to deal strictly with their folly
they would fall down in utter confusion. He therefore gives them space
for repentance that they may willingly acknowledge their fault.

31. "And the firstborn said." Here Moses narrates a miracle, which
rightly brings the readers to astonishment. For, how could that unchaste
intercourse come into the mind of the daughters of Lot, while the
terrible punishment of God of the Sodomites stood still before her eyes,
and while they knew that the scandalous and sinful lusts were the chief
causes thereof? True, they were not so much moved through sensual lusts,
as through a foolish desire for the procreation of their family;
nevertheless, this urge was too absurd, because it forces the nature to
forget all chastity and sense of shame, and, like the beasts, to destroy
all difference between scandalous and honourable. To understand the
better the whole of the case, I will deal with the separate parts, in
  In the first place, concerning the plan of Lot's oldest daughter, whom
the younger obeyed, concerning that I take for granted that none of both
is urged trough fleshy lust, but that they both have only thought about
the propagation of the family. For, what kind of passion would that have
been, to desire for intercourse with an already old father?
  That the oldest furtively comes in for but one night, and puts her
sister in her stead, the next night, and that they, being pregnant, not
think to return to the embrace of their father; from that we decide in
the second place, that they have had no other goal but to become mother.
But I do not approve of what some conjecture, who say that they were
mislead by a great error, thinking that the whole world had perished
together with Sodom. For, they had just dwelt in Zoar, also there were
sweet regions before their eyes, which were surely not without
inhabitants, and also they had learned from their father that a special
punishment was inflicted upon the Sodomites and the other neighbours.
They also were not ignorant of the family whence their father came, and
what kind of uncle he had followed out of his fatherland. So, what must
we think? That, because they were assured that families are maintained by
children, it was hard for them and it was a continual cause of grief,
that they were without children. Also the emptiness, when their father
would be dead, could seem to be unbearable for them, because they saw
that they then would be lonely, and without any help. So, hence their
impudent desire, and that absurd urgency to seek this unchaste
intercourse, as they were afraid of a lonely life, which was liable to
many concerns. Also I doubt not, that Moses not narrates what they have
used as a pretext, but what they have said in a sincere feeling of their
hearts. So, they wanted to bring forth seed, like the custom of all the
nations. They adduce the example of the entire world, because they would
deem it unfair when their state would be worse then that of the others.
Everywhere, they say, the young women are praised, who conceive children,
and thus build their families; why must we then be condemned to be always
childless? In the mean time, they well know that they commit a great sin.
For, why make they their father drunken? Is it not, because they guess,
that he cannot be made willing? When he has had an aversion to
unchastity, the daughters must necessarily have had the same notion in
their consciences. So, in no wise they are to be excused, that they lend
themselves to a scandalous intercourse, which all the nation abhor by
nature. While the people, with normal crimes, are forced to admit their
crimes; how will they plead themselves free with important crimes, as if
no fear for God's judgement prickled them? Therefore, with suppression of
the conscience, Lot's daughters devote themselves to that crime. The
reason to mislead their father was no other then this, that they knew the
disgrace, which they themselves necessarily had to condemn, because they
knew that it was against the order of the nature. From this appears,
whereto the people come when they follow their own will; for nothing can
be so absurd or bestial, that we not decay to that, when we give free
rein to our flesh. Let this, therefore, be the beginning of al our
desires, to examine what the Lord allows, in order that it comes not in
our mind to ask something, what according His Word is free to us.
  "There is not a man in the earth." They mean not that all the nations
are destroyed, as many explainers drivel, but because they are by fear
driven in the cave, leading a lonely life, they complain, that they are
cut off from any hope of marriage. And yes, being secluded from the rest
of the nations, they lived as if they were sent away to some separated
world. Might one object that they could ask husbands of their father,
then I answer, that it absolutely not a miracle, that they, beaten down
through fear, could not seek another medicine, than what was at hand.
For, they thought that they on that solitary mountain, locked up in the
den of a rock, had no more the least connection with the human race. It
could be (as I have reminded before) that some slaves dwelt with them.
This is even probable, for otherwise it was difficult to have wine in the
cave, when this was not taken with them on a wagon with the other foods.
Yet they say that there were no husbands for them, because they have an
aversion to a marriage with slaves.
  Further I mean, that the name "earth" in the first member, is put for
region or area, as if they said: This region has no more men left, who
could marry us after the custom of the entire world. For there is here a
tacit contrast between the whole earth and a certain part thereof. But
this is their first crime, that they, in a zeal to propagate the human
race, violate the holy law of nature. Next, it is wrong and wicked, that
they not flee to the Creator of the world Himself, to cure them from that
desolation, about which they were worried. Thirdly, they show their
negligence when they aim their hearts only on the earthly life, and not
worry about the heavenly life. Though I dare not to give security
concerning the time, which has elapsed between the destruction of Sodom,
and the unchaste intercourse of Lot with his daughters, yet, it is
probable that they, as soon as they had come in the cave, in aversion to
the solitude, have made up this scandalous and execrable plan. It could
not take a long time, that Lot lived in the cave, or there came lack of
food and drink. And like a sudden fear had carried away their father,
like a storm, likewise the daughters could not restrain themselves, even
for some days. Without calling upon God, or asking their father for
advice, they are carried away through a bestial instinct. Herein we see
how soon the deliverance and the punishment of the Sodomites has left
their memory, although both had always to be kept in their heart. Oh,
that this vice also among us were not so great; but we show too clearly
in both ways our ingratitude.

33. "And he perceived not." Though Lot not sinned knowingly, yet, because
his drunkenness was the cause of his sin, his guilt is diminished, but
not annulled. Without doubt the Lord has chastised his dissatisfaction in
this manner. This is something rare and strange, that his senses are so
under influence of the wine, that he, like a dead man pours out his lust.
Therefore I assume that he not so much is fuddled through the wine, but
that his excessiveness is beat by God through the spirit of ignorance.
And when God has not spared the holy Patriarch, how can we then think to
be unpunished, when we do the same excessiveness? Let we therefore
realize through this example, that the law of modesty is prescribed us,
in order that we eat modestly and moderately. Yet, there are some unholy
people, who consider Lot as the protector of their wickedness.
  Why do we not rather think to which horrible scandal he has decayed,
because he excessively used wine? We must, as I already have said, not
simply consider what the drunkenness drags along with it, and with which
other vices it is connected, but we must consider the punishment of God.
Therefore he willed openly spread this tragic crime, in order that the
drunkenness will be abhorred. Daily the Lord testifies by heavy
punishments, how much this vice displeases Him. When we see that
Abraham's nephew, the host of Angels, a man adored with extraordinary
fame of holiness, is defiled by unchaste intercourse, because he has
drunk too much, what will then happen to the guzzlers and the whores, who
daily drink themselves drunken? But we have at great length spoken about
this in the ninth chapter, what men can reread. Concerning the words,
when Moses says, that Lot did not perceive it, that his daughter lay down
and arose--some explain it thus that he saw no difference between a
stranger and his own daughter. But when he was not totally blinded, he
could in the morning, having slept out his intoxication, know that he has
had intercourse with his daughter. Some say, to diminish his guilt, that
he not so much is fuddled through much drinking, but that he was
depressed through sadness. But I retain this, that he, as he was endowed
with more splendid gifts, also deserved the more punishment, and that
therefore his reason was taken away from him, so that he, like a
unreasonable beast, lost himself in sensual lust.
  35. "And the younger arose, and law with him." This place teaches us
how dangerous it is, to fall in the snares of satan. For, who once is
caught therein, involves himself deeper and deeper in it. It is sure that
Lot has been a modest man, but either, that the daughters have overtaken
him while he was overcome with sadness, or that he allured by any other
means to excessive drinking, once being decayed to excessiveness, he is
again deceived the next day. We must therefore diligently resist the
first beginning, for it is nearly impossible that they, who are once
stupefied through its sweetness, totally lose themselves in the vices.
Therefore, men ought to be on their guard against stimulus to evil, as
deadly evils; and men ought to fear each flattering temptation as
something poisonous. And this circumstance deserves attention, that Lot,
among the Sodomites by the accumulation of crimes which nearly defiled
heaven and earth, was chaste and clean, like an angel.
  Whence did he keep such a cleanness in Sodom, else then through the
knowledge of the evil, that surrounded him, which made him worried and
careful? Presently, being safe on the mountain, satan besieges him with
new pitfalls. Through this example, the Spirit admonishes us to
watchfulness, that, when we think the least about it, an invisible enemy
stretches snared for us. Likewise has Moses told earlier that Adam was
deceived in Paradise. When we take care for ourselves, that will that
watchfulness make us being on our guard against all guiles of our enemy.
For there is nobody who not carries with him thousands of temptation to
his own deceit.
  37. "And the firstborn bare." This was a terrible blindness, that the
daughters of Lot, shaking off all feeling of shame, raised up a memorial
of their virtue, and through an eternal sign have exhibited their
dishonour before their posterity. To their sons, or better, two nation in
their persons, they give names, whence everybody can know that it was a
family, originating from adultery and unchaste intercourse. The eldest
boasts that she had obtained her son from her father, the other that her
son was born out close relationship. Thus both unashamedly spread their
crime, while they rather, through shame of their crime, had hidden
themselves in eternal hideouts. Not content with the infamousness in
their time, the propagate their crime into other times. Therefore, there
is no doubt that they, enchanted by satan, have forgotten all difference
between what is scandalous and honest. Paul says, Rom.2:5, that wicked,
after a long pleasure in sinning, are at the end deprived of all feel of
grief thereof. Such stupidity undoubtedly had caught those girls, because
they did not shame themselves to spread their dishonour everywhere.
Further, such an example of God's punishment is revealed us, in order
that we not allow any sin, and we will not lose ourselves in
licentiousness, but that we, through fear of God, spur ourselves on to

Chapter XX.

1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled
between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She [is] my sister: and Abimelech
king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold,
thou [art but] a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she
[is] a man's wife.
4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay
also a righteous nation?
5 Said he not unto me, She [is] my sister? and she, even she herself
said, He [is] my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of
my hands have I done this.
6 And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in
the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against
me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
7 Now therefore restore the man [his] wife; for he [is] a prophet, and he
shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore [her] not,
know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that [are] thine.
8 Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his
servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore
9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done
unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and
on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to
be done.
10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done
this thing?
11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God [is] not
in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
12 And yet indeed [she is] my sister; she [is] the daughter of my father,
but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
13 And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's
house, that I said unto her, This [is] thy kindness which thou shalt shew
unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He [is] my
14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and
womenservants, and gave [them] unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his
15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land [is] before thee: dwell where it
pleaseth thee.
16 And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand
[pieces] of silver: behold, he [is] to thee a covering of the eyes, unto
all that [are] with thee, and with all [other]: thus she was reproved.
17 So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife,
and his maidservants; and they bare [children].
18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of
Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.

1. "And Abraham journeyed from thence." What Moses related respecting the
destruction of Sodom, was a digression. He now returns to the
continuation of his history, and proceeds to show what happened to
Abraham; how he conducted himself, and how the Lord protected him; till
the promised seed, the future source of the Church, should be born unto
him. He also says, that Abraham came into the South country; not that he
travelled beyond the limits of the inheritance given to him, but left his
former abode, and went towards the South. Moreover; the region which he
points out fell chiefly, afterwards, to the lot of the tribe of Judah. It
is, however, unknown what was his intention in removing, or what
necessity impelled him to change his place: we ought, however, to be
persuaded, that he had not transferred his abode to another place for any
insufficient cause; especially since a son, whom he had not even dared to
wish for, had been lately promised him, through Sarah. Some imagine that
he fled from the sad spectacle which was continually presented before his
eyes; for he saw the plain, which had lately appeared so pleasant to the
view, and so replenished with varied abundance of fruits, transformed
into a misshapen chaos. And certainly, it was possible that the whole
neighbourhood might be affected with the smell of sulphur, as well as
tainted with other corruptions, in order that men might the more clearly
perceive this memorable judgment of God. Therefore, there is nothing
discordant with facts, in the supposition, that Abraham, seeing the place
was under the curse of the Lord, was, by his detestation of it, drawn
elsewhere. It is also credible, that (as it happened to him in another
place) he was driven away by the malice and injuries of those among whom
he dwelt. For the more abundantly the Lord had manifested his grace
towards him, the more necessary was it, in return, for his patience to be
exercised, in order that he might reflect upon his conditions as a
pilgrim upon earth. Moses also expressly declares, that he dwelt as a
stranger in the land of Gerar. Thus we see, that this holy family was
driven hither and thither as refuse, while a fixed abode was granted to
the wicked. But it is profitable to the pious to be thus unsettled on
earth; lest, by setting their minds on a commodious and quiet habitation,
they should lose the inheritance of heaven.

2. "And Abraham said of Sarah his wife." In this history, the Holy Spirit
presents to us a remarkable instance, both of the infirmity of man, and
of the grace of God. It is a common proverb, that even fools become wise
by suffering evil. But Abraham, forgetful of the great danger which had
befallen him in Egypt, once more strikes his foot against the same stone;
although the Lord had purposely chastised him, in order that the warning
might be useful to him, throughout his whole life. Therefore we perceive,
in the example of the holy patriarch, how easily the oblivion, both of
the chastisements and the favours of God, steals over us. For it is
impossible to excuse his gross negligence, in not calling to mind, that
he had once tempted God; and that he would have had himself alone to
blame, if his wife had become the property of another man. But if we
thoroughly examine ourselves scarcely any one will be found who will not
acknowledge, that he has often offended in the same way. It may be added,
that Abraham was not free from the charge of ingratitude; because, if he
had rejected that his wife had been wonderfully preserved to him by the
Lord, he would never again, knowingly and willingly, have cast himself
into similar danger. For he makes the former favour divinely offered unto
him, so far as he is able, of none effect. We must, however, notice the
nature of the sin, on which we have touched before. For Abraham did not,
for the sake of providing for his own safety prostitute his wife, (as
impious men cavil.) But, as he had before been anxious to preserve his
life, till he should receive the seed divinely promised to him; so now,
seeing his wife with child, in the hope of enjoying so great a blessing,
he thought nothing of his wife's danger. Therefore if we thoroughly weigh
all things, he sinned through unbelief, by attributing less than he ought
to the providence of God. Whence also, we are admonished, how dangerous a
thing it is, to trust our own counsels. For Abraham's disposition is
right, while fixing his attention on the promise of God; but inasmuch as
he does not patiently wait for God's helps but turns aside to the use of
unlawful means, he is, in this respect, worthy of censure.
  "And Abimelech sent." There is no doubt that the Lord purposed to
punish his servant, for the counsel he had so rashly taken. And such
fruits of distrust do all receive, who rely not, as they ought, on the
providence of God. Some perverse men quarrel with this passage; because
nothing seems to them more improbable than that a decrepit old woman
should be desired by the king, and taken from the bosom of her husband.
But we answer, first, that it is not known what her appearance was,
except that Moses before declared her to be a person of singular beauty.
And it is possible that she was not much worn with age. For we often see
some women in their fortieth year more wrinkled than others in their
seventieth. But here another thing is to be considered, that, by the
unwonted favour of God, her comeliness was preeminent among her other
endowments. It might also be, that king Abimelech was less attracted by
the elegance of her form, than by the rare virtues with which he saw her,
as a matron, to be endued. Lastly, we must remember, that this whole
affair was directed by the hand of God, in order that Abraham might
receive the due reward of his folly. And as we find that they who are
exceedingly acute in discerning the natural causes of things, are yet
most blind in reference to the divine judgments; let this single fact
suffice us, that Abimelech, being a minister to execute the divine
chastisement, acted under a secret impulse.

3. "But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night." Here Moses shows that
the Lord acted with such gentleness, that in punishing his servant, he
yet, as a father, forgave him: just as he deals with us, so that, while
chastising us with his rod, his mercy and his goodness far exceed his
severity. Hence also we infer, that he takes greater care of the pious
than carnal sense can understand; since he watches over them while they
sleep. This also is to be carefully noticed; that however we may be
despised by the worlds we are yet precious to him, since for our sake he
reproves even kings, as it is written in Psalm 105: 14. But as this
subject was more fully discussed in the twelfth chapters let the readers
there seek what I now purposely omit. Whereas, God is said to have come,
this is to be applied to the perception of the king, to whom undoubtedly
the majesty of God was manifested; so that he might clearly perceive
himself to be divinely reproved and not deluded with a vain spectra.
  "Behold, thou art but a dead man." Although God reproved king
Abimelech, for the sake of Abraham, whom he covered with his special
protection; he yet intends to show, generally, his high displeasure
against adultery. And, in truth, here is no express mention of Abraham;
but rather a general announcement is made, for the purpose of maintaining
conjugal fidelity. 'Thou shalt die, because thou hast seized upon a women
who was joined to a husband.' Let us therefore learn, that a precept was
given in these words, to mankind, which forbids any one to touch his
neighbour's wife. And, truly, since nothing in the life of man is more
sacred than marriage, it is not to be wondered at, that the Lord should
require mutual fidelity to be cherished between husbands and wives and
should declare that he will be the Avenger of it, as often as it is
violated. He now addresses himself, indeed, only to one man; but the
warning ought to sound in the ears of all, that adulterers--although they
may exult with impunity for a time--shall yet feel that God, who presides
over marriage, will take vengeance on them. (Heb. 13: 4.)

4. "But Abimelech had not come near her." Though Abraham had deprived
himself of his wife, the Lord interposed in time to preserve her
uninjured. When Moses previously relates, that she was taken away by
Pharaoh, he does not say whether her chastity was assailed or not; but
since the Lord then also declared himself the vindicator of her whom he
now saved from dishonour, we ought not to doubt that her integrity was
preserved both times. For why did he now forbid the king of Gerar to
touch her, if he had previously suffered her to be corrupted in Egypt? We
see, however, that when the Lord so defers his aid as not to stretch out
his hand to the faithful, till they are in extreme peril, he shows the
more clearly how admirable is his Providence.
  "Wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?" The explanation given by
some, that Abimelech here compares himself with the men of Sodom, is
perhaps too refined. The following meaning appears to me more simple;
namely 'O Lord, although thou dost severely punish adultery, shall thy
wrath pour itself out on unoffending men, who have rather fallen into
error, than sinned knowingly and willingly?' Moreover, Abimelech seems so
to clear himself, as if he were entirely free from blame: and yet the
Lord both admits and approves his excuse. We must, however, mark in what
way, and to what extent he boasts that his heart and hands are guiltless.
For he does not arrogate to himself a purity which is altogether
spotless; but only denies that he was led by lust, either tyrannically or
purposely, to abuse another man's wife. We know how great is the
difference between a crime and a fault; thus Abimelech does not exempt
himself from every kind of charge, but only shows that he had been
conscious of no such wickedness as required this severe punishment. The
'simplicity of heart,' of which he speaks, is nothing else than that
ignorance which stands opposed to consciousness of guilt; and 'the
righteousness of his hands,' is nothing but that selfgovernment, by which
men abstain from force and acts of injustice. Besides, the interrogation
which Abimelech used proceeded from a common feeling of religion. For
nature itself dictates, that God preserves a just discrimination in
inflicting punishments.

6. "Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart." We
infer from this answer of God, (as I have lately remarked,) that
Abimelech did not testify falsely concerning his own integrity. Yet,
while God allows that his excuse is true, He nevertheless chastises him.
Let us hence learn, that even they who are pure, according to human
judgment, are not entirely free from blame. For no error may be deemed so
excusable, as to be without some deteriorating admixture. Wherefores it
is not for any one to absolve himself by his own judgment; rather let us
learn to bring all our conduct to the standard of God. For Solomon does
not say in vain, that 'the ways of men seem right to themselves, but the
Lord pondereth the hearts,' (Prov. 21: 2.) But if even they who are
unconscious to themselves of any evil, do not escape censure; what will
be our condition, if we are held inwardly bound by our own conscience?
  "I also withheld thee." This declaration implies that God had respect,
not only to Abraham, but also to the king. For because he had no
intention of defiling another man's wife, God had compassion on him. And
it frequently happens, that the Spirit restrains, by his bridle, those
who are gliding into error; just as, on the other hand, he drives those
headlong, by infatuations and a spirit of stupor, who, with depraved
affections and lusts, knowingly transgress. And as God brought to the
heathen king, who had not been guilty of deliberate wickedness, a timely
remedy, in order that his guilt should not be increased; so He proves
himself daily to be the faithful guardian of his own people, to prevent
them from rushing forward, from lighter faults to desperate crimes.

7. "Now therefore, restore the man his wife." God does not now speak of
Abraham as of a common man, but as of one who is so peculiarly dear unto
himself, that He undertakes the defense of his conjugal bed, by a kind of
privilege. He calls Abraham a prophet, for the sake of honour; as if he
were charging Abimelech with having injured a man of great and singular
excellence; that he might not wonder at the greatness of the punishment
inflicted upon him. And although the word prophet is properly the name of
an office; yet I think it has here a more comprehensive import, and that
it is put for a chosen man, and one who is familiar with God. For since
at that time, no Scripture was in existence, God not only made himself
known by dreams and visions but chose also to himself rare and excellent
men, to scatter abroad the seed of piety, by which the world would become
more inexcusable. But since Abraham is a prophet, he is constituted, as
it were, a mediator between God and Abimelech. Christ, even then, was the
only Mediator; but this was no reason why some men should not pray for
others; especially they who excelled in holiness, and were accepted by
God; as the Apostle teaches, that 'the fervent prayers of a righteous man
avail much.' (James 5: 16.) And we ought not, at this day, to neglect
such intercession, provided it does not obscure the grace of Christ, nor
lead us away from Him. But that, under this pretext, the Papists resort
to the patronage of the dead, is absurd. For as the Lord does not here
send the king of Gerar to Noah, or to any one of the dead fathers, but
into the presence of the living Abraham; so the only precept we have on
this subject is, that, by mutually praying for each other, we should
cultivate charity among ourselves.
  "And if thou restore her not." Hence we are to learn, the intention of
those threats and denunciations with which God terrifies men; namely,
forcibly to impel those to repentance, who are too backward. In the
beginning of this discourse, it had been absolutely declared, 'Thou art a
dead man;' now the condition is added, 'Unless thou restore her.' Yet the
meaning of both expressions is the same; though at first God speaks more
sharply, that he may inspire the offender with the greater terror. But
now, when he is subdued, God expresses his intention more clearly, and
leaves him the hope of pardon and salvation. Thus is the knot untied,
with which many entangle themselves, when they perceive that God does not
always, or instantly, execute the punishments which he has denounced;
because they deem it a sign, either that God has changed his purpose, or
that he pretends a different thing by his word, from that which he has
secretly decreed. He threatens destruction to the Ninevites, by Jonah,
and afterwards spared them. (Jonah 3: 4.) The unskilful do not perceive
how they can escape from one of two absurdities; namely, that God has
retracted his sentence; or that he had feigned himself to be about to do
what he really did not intend. But if we hold fast this principle, that
the inculcation of repentance is included in all threats, the difficulty
will be solved. For although God, in the first instance, addresses men as
lost; and, therefore, penetrates them with the present fear of death,
still the end is to be regarded. For if he invites them to repentance, it
follows, that the hope of pardon is left them, provided they repent.

8. "Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning." Moses teaches how
efficacious the oracle had been. For Abimelech, alarmed at the voice of
God, arose in the morning, not only that he himself might quickly obey
the command enjoined upon him but that he might also exhort his own
peep!e to do the same. An example of such ready obedience is shown us in
a heathen king, that we may no more make excuses for our torpor, when we
are so little profited by the Divine remonstrances. God appeared to him
in a dream; but since he daily cries aloud in our ears, by Moses, by the
prophets and by the apostles, and finally, by his only-begotten Son, it
were absurd to suppose that so many testimonies should avail less than
the vision of a single dream.

9. "Then Abimelech called Abraham." There are those who suppose that the
king of Gerar did not make a complaint against Abraham; but rather
declared his own repentance. If, however we fairly weigh his words we
find confession mixed with expostulation. Although he complains that
Abraham had acted unjustly, he yet does not so transfer the blame to him,
as to free himself from all fault. And he may, with justice, impute part
of the blame to Abraham, as he does; provided he also acknowledges his
own sin. Let we therefore know, that this king did not act as hypocrites
are in the habit of doing. For, as soon as ever a pretext is furnished
for inculpating others, they confidently absolve themselves: they even
esteem it a lawful purgation for themselves, if they can draw others into
a participation of their crime. But Abimelech, while he complains that he
had been deceived, and had fallen through impudence, yet does not,
meanwhile, scruple to condemn himself as guilty of a great sin, 'It is
not,' he says, 'through thee, that I and my whole kingdom have been
prevented from falling into the greatest wickedness.' No one therefore
may exonerate himself from blame, under the pretence that he had been
induced by others to sin. It is, however to be noted, that adultery is
here called a great sin; because it binds not one man only, but a whole
people, as in a common crime. The king of Gerar could not indeed have
spoken thus, had he not acknowledged the sacred right of marriage. But,
at the present time, Christians--at least they who boast of the name--are
not ashamed jocularly to extenuate so great a crime, from which even a
heathen shrinks with the greatest horror. Let us however know, that
Abimelech was a true herald of that divine judgment, which miserable men
in vain endeavour to elude by their cavils. And let that expression of
Paul ever recur to our memory, 'Be not deceived; because of those things
cometh the wrath of God upon the disobedient.' (1 Cor. 5: 9; Eph. 5: 6.)
It is not without reason, that he makes this sin common to the whole
nation; for when crimes are committed with impunity, a whole region is,
in a certain sense, polluted. And it is especially notorious, that the
anger of God is provoked against the whole body of the people, in the
person of the king. Hence, with so much the greater earnestness and care,
must we beseech God to govern, by his Spirit, those whom he has placed in
authority over us; and then, to preserve the country, in which he has
granted us a dwelling-place, exempt and pure from all iniquity.

10. "What sawest thou that thou hast done this thing?" By this question
the king provides against the future. He thinks that Abraham had not
practiced this dissimulation inconsiderately; and, since God was
grievously offended, he fears to fall again into the same danger. He
therefore testifies, by an inquiry so earnest, that he wishes to remedy
the evil. Now, it is no common sign of a just and meek disposition in
Abimelech, that he allows Abraham a free defense. We know how sharply,
and fiercely, they expostulate, who think themselves aggrieved: so much
the greater praise, then, was due to the moderation of this king, towards
an unknown foreigner. Meanwhile, let us learn, by his example, whenever
we expostulate with our brethren, who may have done us any wrong, to
permit them freely to answer us.

11. "And Abraham said." There are two points contained in this answer.
For, first, he confesses that he had been induced by fear to conceal his
marriage. He then denies that he had lied for the purpose of excusing
himself. Now, although Abraham declares with truth, that he had not
concealed his marriage with any fraudulent intention, nor for the purpose
of injuring any one; yet he was worthy of censure, because, through fear,
he had submitted, so far as he was concerned, to the prostitution of his
wife. Wherefore, much cannot be said in his excuse: since he ought to
have been more courageous and resolute in fulfilling the duty of a
husband, by vindicating, the honour of his wife whatever danger might
threaten him. Besides, it was a sign of distrust, to resort to an
unlawful subtlety. With regard to his suspicion; although he had
everywhere perceived that a monstrous licentiousness prevailed; it was,
nevertheless, unjust to form a judgment so unfavourable of a people whom
he had not yet known; for he supposes them all to be homicides. But as I
have treated, at some length, on these subjects, in the tenth chapter; it
may now suffice to have alluded to them, by the way. Meanwhile, we come
to the conclusion, that Abraham does not contend for the justice of his
cause before God; but only shows his earnestness to appease Abimelech.
His particular form of expression is, however, to be noticed; for
wherever the fear of God does not reign, men easily rush onwards to every
kind of wickedness; so that they neither spare human blood, nor restrain
themselves from rapine, violence, and contumelies. And doubtless it is
the fear of God alone, which unites us together in the bonds of our
common humanity which keeps us within the bounds of moderation, and
represses cruelty; otherwise we should devour each other like wild
beasts. It will, indeed, sometimes happen, that they who are destitute of
the fear of God, may cultivate the appearance of equity. For God, in
order that he may preserve mankind from destruction, holds in check, with
his secret rein, the lusts of the ungodly. It must, however, be always
taken into the account, that the door is opened to all kinds of
wickedness, when piety and the fear of God have vanished. Of this, at the
present day, too clear a proof is manifest, in the horrible deluge of
crime, which almost covers the whole earth. For, from what other cause
than this arise such a variety of deceptions and frauds, such perfidy and
cruelty, that all sense of justice is extinguished by the contempt of
God? Now, whenever we have a difficult contest with the corruptions of
our own age, let us reflect on the times of Abraham, which, although they
were filled with impiety and other crimes yet did not divert the holy man
from the course of duty.

12. "And yet indeed she is my sister". Some suppose Sarah to have been
Abraham's own sister, yet not by the same mothers but born from a second
wife. As, however, the name sister has a wider signification among the
Hebrews, I willingly adopt a different conjecture; namely, that she was
his sister in the second degree; thus it will be true that they had a
common father, that is, a grandfather, from whom they had descended by
brothers. Moreover, Abraham extenuates his offense, and draws a
distinction between his silence and a direct falsehood; and certainly he
professed with truth, that he was the brother of Sarah. Indeed it appears
that he feigned nothing in words which differed from the facts
themselves; yet when all things have been sifted, his defense proves to
be either frivolous, or, at least, too feeble. For since he had purposely
used the name of sister as a pretext, lest men should have some suspicion
of his marriage; he sophistically afforded them an occasion of falling
into error. Wherefore, although he did not lie in words, yet with respect
to the matter of fact, his dissimulation was a lie, by implication. He
had, however, no other intention than to declare that he had not dealt
fraudulently with Abimelech; but that, in an affair of great anxiety, he
had caught at an indirect method of escape from death, by the pretext of
his previous relationship to his wife.

13. "When God caused me to wander." Because the verb is here put in the
plural number, I freely expound the passage as referring to the angels,
who led Abraham through his various wanderings. Some, with too much
subtlety, infer from it a Trinity of Persons: as if it had been written
The gods caused me to wander. I grant, indeed, that the noun "Elohim" is
frequently taken for God in the Scripture: but then the verb with which
it is connected is always singular. Wherever a plural verb is added then
it signifies angels or princes. There are those who think that Abraham,
because he was speaking with one who was not rightly instructed, spoke
thus in conformity with the common custom of the heathen; but, in my
opinion, most erroneously. For to what purpose did he, by erecting
altars, make it manifest that he was devoted to the service of the only
true God, if it were lawful for him afterwards to deny, in words, the
very God whom he had worshipped? On which subject we have before spoken,
as the case required. Abraham, however, does not complain respecting, the
angels, that he had been led astray by their fallacious guidance: but he
points out what his own condition formerly was; namely, that having left
his own country, he had not only migrated into a distant land, but had
been constantly compelled to change his abode. Wherefore there is no
wonder, that necessity drove him into new designs. Should any one
inquire, why he makes angels the guides of his pilgrimage? the answer is
ready; Although Abraham knew that he was wandering by the will and
providence of God alone, he yet refers to angels, who, as he elsewhere
acknowledges, were given him to be the guides of his journey. The sum of
the address is of this tendency; to teach Abimelech, that Abraham was
alike free from malicious cunning, and from falsehood: and then, that
because he was passing a wandering and unquiet life; Sarah, by agreement,
had always said the same thing which she had done in Gerar. This wretched
anxiety of the holy man might so move Abimelech to compassion as to cause
his anger to cease.

14. "And Abimelech took sheep." Abraham had before received possessions
and gifts in Egypt; but with this difference, that whereas Pharaoh had
commanded him to depart elsewhere; Abimelech offers him a home in his
kingdom. It therefore appears that both kings were stricken with no
common degree of fear. For when they perceived that they were reproved by
the Lord, because they had been troublesome to Abraham; they found no
method of appeasing God, except that of compensating, by acts of
kindness, for the injury they had brought on the holy man. The latter
difference alluded to flowed hence; that Pharaohs being more severely
censured, was so terrified, that he could scarcely bear the sight of
Abraham: whereas Abimelech, although alarmed, was yet soon composed by
an added word of consolation, when the Lord said to him, "He is a
prophet, and he shall pray for thee." For there is no other remedy for
the removal of fear, than the Lord's declaration that he will be
propitious. It is indeed of little advantage for the sinner to present to
God only what fear extorts. But it is a true sign of penitence, when,
with a composed mind and quiet conscience, he yields himself, as obedient
and docile, to God. And seeing that Abimelech allowed Abraham a
habitation in his realm, a blessing of no trivial kind followed this act
of humanity; because Isaac was born there, as we shall see in the next

16. "He is to thee a covering of the eyes." Because there is, in these
words, some obscurity, the passage is variously explained. The beginning
of the verse is free from difficulty. For when Abimelech had given a
thousand pieces of silver; in order that his liberality might not be
suspected, he declare6 that he had given them to Abraham; and that since
Abraham had been honorably received, his wife was not to be regarded as a
harlot. But what follows is more obscure, 'He shall be a veil to thee.'
Many interpreters refer this to the gift; in which they seem to me to be
wrong. The Hebrews, having no neuter gender, use the feminine instead of
it. But Moses, in this place, rather points to the husband; and this best
suits the sense. For Sarah is taught that the husband to whom she is
joined was as a veil, with which she ought to be covered lest she should
be exposed to others. Paul says, that the veil which the woman carries on
her head, is the symbol of subjection. (1 Cor. 11: 10.) This also belongs
to unmarried persons, as referring to the end for which the sex is
ordained; but it applies more aptly to married women; because they are
veiled, as by the very ordinance of marriage. I therefore thus explain
the words, 'Thou, if thou hadst no husband, wouldst be exposed to many
dangers; but now, since God has appointed for thee a guardian of thy
modesty, it behoves thee to conceal thyself under that veil. Why then
hast thou of thine own accords thrown off this covering?' This was a just
censure; because Sarah, pretending that she was in the power of her
husband, had deprived herself of the divine protection.
  "Thus she was reproved." Interpreters distort this clause also. The
natural exposition seems to me to be, that the Lord had suffered Sarah to
be reproved by a heathen king, that he might the more deeply affect her
with a sense of shame. For Moses draws especial attention to the person
of the speaker; because it seemed a disgrace that the mother of the
faithful should be reprehended by such a master. Others suppose that
Moses speaks of the profit which she had received; seeing that she,
instructed by such a lesson, would henceforth learn to act differently.
But Moses seems rather to point out that kind of correction of which I
have spoken; namely, that Sarah was humbled, by being delivered over to
the discipline of a heathen man.

17. "So Abraham prayed." In two respects the wonderful favour of God
towards Abraham was apparent; firsts that, with outstretched hand, He
avenged the injury done to him; and, secondly, that, through Abraham's
prayer, He became pacified towards the house of Abimelech. It was
necessary to declare, that the house of Abimelech had been healed in
answer to Abraham's prayers; in order that, by such a benefit, the
inhabitants might be the more closely bound to him. A question, however,
may be agitated respecting the kind of punishment described in the
expression, the whole house was barren. For if Abraham had gone into the
land of Gerar, after Sarah had conceived, and if the whole of what Moses
has here related was fulfilled before Isaac was born, how was it possible
that, in so short a time, this sterility should be manifest? If we should
say, that the judgment of God was then made plain, in a manner to us
unknown, the answer would not be inappropriate. Yet I am not certain,
that the series of the history has not been inverted. The more probable
supposition may seem to be, that Abraham had already been resident in
Gerar, when Isaac was promised to him; but that the part, which had
before been omitted, is now inserted by Moses. Should any one object,
that Abraham dwelt in Mamre till the destruction of Sodom, there would be
nothing absurd in the belief, that what Moses here relates had taken
place previously. Yet, since the correct notation of time does little for
the confirmation of our faith, I leave both opinions undecided.

Chapter XXI.

1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah
as he had spoken.
2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set
time of which God had spoken to him.
3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom
Sarah bare to him, Isaac.
4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had
commanded him.
5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto
6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, [so that] all that hear will
laugh with me.
7 And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have
given children suck? for I have born [him] a son in his old age.
8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the
[same] day that Isaac was weaned.
9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto
Abraham, mocking.
10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son:
for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, [even] with
11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.
12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because
of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said
unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he
[is] thy seed.
14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle
of water, and gave [it] unto Hagar, putting [it] on her shoulder, and the
child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the
wilderness of Beersheba.
15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under
one of the shrubs.
16 And she went, and sat her down over against [him] a good way off, as
it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child.
And she sat over against [him], and lift up her voice, and wept.
17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to
Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear
not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he [is].
18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make
him a great nation.
19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went,
and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness,
and became an archer.
21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a
wife out of the land of Egypt.
22 And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief
captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God [is] with thee in all
that thou doest:
23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal
falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son: [but] according
to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to
the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
24 And Abraham said, I will swear.
25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which
Abimelech's servants had violently taken away.
26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst
thou tell me, neither yet heard I [of it], but to day.
27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and
both of them made a covenant.
28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What [mean] these seven ewe lambs
which thou hast set by themselves?
30 And he said, For [these] seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand,
that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.
31 Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware
both of them.
32 Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and
Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of
the Philistines.
33 And [Abraham] planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the
name of the LORD, the everlasting God.

1. "And the Lord visited Sarah." In this chapters not only is the
nativity of Isaac related, but because, in his very birth, God has set
before us a lively picture of his Church, Moses also gives a particular
account of this matter. And first, he says that God visited Sarah, as he
had promised. Because all offspring, flows from the kindness of God, as
it is in the psalm, 'The fruit of the womb is the gift of God;' (Psalm
127: 3;) therefore the Lord is said, not without reason, to visit those,
to whom he gives children. For although the foetus seems to be produced
naturally, each from its own kind; there is yet no fecundity in animals,
except so far as the Lord puts forth his own power, to fulfill what he
has said, "Increase and multiply." But in the propagation of the human
race, his special benediction is conspicuous; and, therefore, the birth
of every child is rightly deemed the effect of divine visitation. But
Moses, in this place, looks higher, forasmuch as Isaac was born out of
the accustomed course of nature. Therefore Moses here commends that
secret and unwonted power of God, which is superior to the law of nature;
and not improperly, since it is of great consequence for us to know that
the gratuitous kindness of God reigned, as well in the origin, as in the
progress of the Church; and that the sons of God were not otherwise born,
than from his mere mercy. And this is the reason why he did not make
Abraham a father, till his body was nearly withered. It is also to be
noticed, that Moses declares the visitation which he mentions, to be
founded upon promise; 'Jehovah visited Sarah, as he had promised.' In
these words he annexes the effect to its cause, in order that the special
grace of God, of which an example is given in the birth of Isaac, might
be the more perceptible. If he had barely said, that the Lord had respect
unto Sarah, when she brought forth a son; some other cause might have
been sought for. None, however, can doubt, that the promise, by which
Isaac had been granted to his father Abraham, was gratuitous; since the
child was the fruit of that adoption, which can be ascribed to nothing
but the mere grace of God. Therefore, whoever wishes rightly and
prudently to reflect upon the work of God, in the birth of Isaac, must
necessarily begin with the promise. There is also great emphasis in the
repetition, "The Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken." For he thus
retains his readers, as by laying his hand upon them, that they may pause
in the consideration of so great a miracle. Meanwhile, Moses commends the
faithfulness of God; as if he had said he never feeds men with empty
promises, nor is he less true in granting what he has promised, than he
is liberal, and willing, in making the promise.

2. "She bare Abraham a son." This is said according to the accustomed
manner of speaking; because the woman is neither the head of a family,
nor brings forth properly for herself, but for her husband. What follows,
however, is more worthy of notice, "In his old age, at the set time,"
which God had predicted: for the old age of Abraham does, not a little,
illustrate the glory of the miracle. And now Moses, for the third time,
recalls us to the word of God, that the constancy of his truth may always
be present to our minds. And though the time had been predicted, alike to
Abraham and to his wife, yet this honour is expressly attributed to the
holy man; because the promise had been especially given on his account.
Both, however, are distinctly mentioned in the context.

3. "And Abraham called the name." Moses does not mean that Abraham was
the inventor of the name; but that he adhered to the name which before
had been given by the angel. This act of obedience, however, was worthy
of commendation, since he not only ratified the word of God, but also
executed his office as God's minister. For, as a herald, he proclaimed to
all, that which the angel had committed to his trust.

4. "And Abraham circumcised his son." Abraham pursued his uniform tenor
of obedience, in not sparing his own son. For, although it would be
painful for him to wound the tender body of the infant; yet, setting
aside all human affection, he obeys the word of God. And Moses records
that he did as the Lord had commanded him; because there is nothing of
greater importance, than to take the pure word of God for our rule, and
not to be wise above what is lawful. This submissive spirit is especially
required, in reference to sacraments; lest men should either invent any
thing for themselves, or should transfer those things which are commanded
by the Lord, to any use they please. We see, indeed, how inordinately the
humours of men here prevail; inasmuch as they have dared to devise
innumerable sacraments. And to go no further for an example, whereas God
has delivered only two sacraments to the Christian Church, the Papists
boast that they have seven. As if truly it were in their power to forge
promises of salvation, which they might sanction with signs imagined by
themselves. But it were superfluous to relate with how many figments the
sacraments have been polluted by them. This certainly is manifest, that
there is nothing about which they are less careful, than to observe what
the Lord has commanded.

5. "And Abraham was an hundred years old." Moses again records the age of
Abraham the better to excite the minds of his readers to a consideration
of the miracle. And although mention is made only of Abraham, let us yet
remember that he is, in this place, set before us, not as a man of lust,
but as the husband of Sarah, who has obtained, through her, a lawful
seed, in extreme old age, when the strength of both had failed. For the
power of God was chiefly conspicuous in this, that when their marriage
had been fruitless more than sixty years, suddenly they obtain offspring.
Sarah, truly, in order to make amends for the doubt to which she had
given way, now exultingly proclaims the kindness of God, with becoming
praises. And first, she says, that God had given her occasion of joy; not
of common joy, but of such as should cause all men to congratulate her.
Secondly, for the purpose of amplification, she assumes the character of
an astonished inquirer, 'Who would have told this to Abraham?' Some
explain the clause in question, 'will laugh at me,' as if Sarah had said,
with shame, that she should be a proverb to the common people. But the
former sense is more suitable; namely, 'Whosoever shall hear it, will
laugh with me;' that is, for the sake of congratulating me.

7. "Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given
children such?" I understand the future tense to be here put for the
subjunctive mood. And the meaning is, that such a thing would never have
entered into the mind of any one. Whence she concludes, that God alone
was the Author of it; and she now condemns herself for ingratitude
because she had been so slow in giving credit to the angel who had told
her of it. Now, since she speaks of children in the plural number, the
Jews, according to their custom, invent the fable, that whereas a rumour
was spread, that the child was supposititious, a great number of infants
were brought by the neighbours, in order that Sarah, by suckling them,
might prove herself a mother. As if, truly, this might not easily be
known, when they saw Isaac hanging on her breast, and as if this was not
a more clear and distinct proof, that the milk, pressed out by the
fingers, flowed before their eyes. But the Jews are doubly foolish and
infatuated, as not perceiving, that this form of expression is of exactly
the same import, as if Sarah had called herself a nurse. Meanwhile, it is
to be observed, that Sarah joins the office of nurse with that of mother;
for the Lord does not in vain prepare nutriment for children in their
mothers' bosoms, before they are born. But those on whom he confers the
honour of mothers, he, in this way, constitutes nurses; and they who deem
it a hardship to nourish their own offspring, break, as far as they are
able, the sacred bond of nature. If disease, or anything of that kind, is
the hindrance, they have a just excuse; but for mothers voluntarily, and
for their own pleasure, to avoid the trouble of nursing, and thus to make
themselves only half-mothers, is a shameful corruption.

8. "And the child grew, and was weaned." Moses now begins to relate the
manner in which Ishmael was rejected from the family of Abraham, in order
that Isaac alone might hold the place of the lawful son and heir. It
seems, indeed, at first sight, something frivolous, that Sarah, being
angry about a mere nothing, should have stirred up strife in the family.
But Paul teaches, that a sublime mystery is here proposed to us,
concerning the perpetual state of the Church. (Gal. 4: 21.) And, truly,
if we attentively consider the persons mentioned, we shall regard it as
no trivial affair, that the father of all the faithful is divinely
commanded to eject his firstborn son; that Ishmael, although a partaker
of the same circumcision, becomes so transformed into a strange nations
as to be no more reckoned among the blessed seed; that, in appearance,
the body of the Church is so rent asunder, that only one-half of it
remains; that Sarah, in expelling the son of her handmaid from the house,
claims the entire inheritance for Isaac alone. Wherefore, if due
attention be applied in the reading of this history, the very mystery of
which Paul treats, spontaneously presents itself.
  "And Abraham made a great feast." It is asked, why he did not rather
make it on the day of Isaac's birth, or circumcision? The subtile
reasoning of Augustine, that the day of Isaac's weaning was celebrated,
in order that we may learn, from his example, no more to be children in
understandings is too constrained. What others say, has no greater
consistency; namely, that Abraham took a day which was not then in common
use, in order that he might not imitate the manners of the Gentiles.
Indeed, it is very possible, that he may also have celebrated the
birthday of his son, with honour and joy. But special mention is made of
this feast, for another reason; namely, that then, the mocking of Ishmael
was discovered. For I do not assent to the conjecture of those who think
that a new history is here begun; and that Sarah daily contended with
this annoyance, until, at length, she purged the house by the ejection of
the impious mocker. It is indeed probable, that, on other days also,
Ishmael had been elated by similar petulance; yet I do not doubt but
Moses expressly declares that his contempt was manifested towards Sarah,
at that solemn assembly, and that from that time, it was publicly
proclaimed. Now Moses does not speak disparagingly of the pleasures of
that feast, but rather takes their lawfulness for granted. For it is not
his design to prohibit holy men from inviting their friends, to a common
participation of enjoyment, so that they, jointly giving thanks to God,
may feast with greater hilarity than usual. Temperance and sobriety are
indeed always to be observed; and care must be taken, both that the
provision itself be frugal, and the guests moderate. I would only say,
that God does not deal so austerely with us, as not to allow us,
sometimes, to entertain our friends liberally; as when nuptials are to be
celebrated, or when children are born to us. Abraham, therefore, made a
great feast, that is, an extraordinary one; because he was not accustomed
thus sumptuously to furnish his table every day; yet this was an
abundance which by no means degenerated into luxury. Besides, while he
was thus liberal in entertaining his friends according to his power, he
also had sufficient for unknown guests, as we have seen before.

9. "And Sarah saw the son of Hagar." As the verb "to laugh" has a twofold
signification among the Latins, so also the Hebrews use, both in a good
and evil sense, the verb from which the participle "metsachaik" is
derived. That it was not a childish and innoxious laughter, appears from
the indignation of Sarah. It was, therefore a malignant expression of
scorn, by which the forward youth manifested his contempt for his infant
brother. And it is to be observed, that the epithet which is here applied
to Ishmael, and the name Isaac, are both derived from the same root.
Isaac was, to his father and others, the occasion of holy and lawful
laughter; whence also, the name was divinely imposed upon him. Ishmael
turns the blessing of God, from which such joy flowed, into ridicule.
Therefore, as an impious mocker, he stands opposed to his brother Isaac.
Both (so to speak) are the sons of laughter: but in a very different
sense. Isaac brought laughter with him from his mother's womb, since he
bore,--engraven upon him,--the certain token of God's grace. He therefore
so exhilarates his father's house, that joy breaks forth in thanksgiving;
but Ishmael, with canine and profane laughter, attempts to destroy that
holy joy of faith. And there is no doubt that his manifest impiety
against God, betrayed itself under this ridicule. He had reached an age
at which he could not, by any means be ignorant of the promised favour,
on account of which his father Abraham was transported with so great joy:
and yet--proudly confident in himself--he insults, in the person of his
brother, both God and his word, as well as the faith of Abraham.
Wherefore it was not without cause that Sarah was so vehemently angry
with him, that she commanded him to be driven into exile. For nothing is
more grievous to a holy mind, than to see the grace of God exposed to
ridicule. And this is the reason why Paul calls his laughter persecution;
saying, 'He who was after the flesh persecuted the spiritual seed.' (Gal.
4: 29.) Was it with sword or violence? Nay, but with the scorn of the
virulent tongue, which does not injure the body, but pierces into the
very soul. Moses might indeed have aggravated his crime by a multiplicity
of words; but I think that he designedly spoke thus concisely, in order
to render the petulance with which Ishmael ridicules the word of God the
more detestable.

10. "Cast out this bond woman." Not only is Sarah exasperated against the
transgressor, but she seems to act more imperiously towards her husband
than was becoming in a modest wife. Peter shows, that when, on a previous
occasion, she called Abraham lord, she did not do so feignedly; since he
proposes her, as an example of voluntary subjection, to pious and chaste
matrons. (1 Pet. 3: 6.) But now, she not only usurps the government of
the house, by calling her husband to order, but commands him whom she
ought to reverence, to be obedient to her will. Here, although I do not
deny that Sarah, being moved by womanly feelings, exceeded the bounds of
moderation, I yet do not doubt, both that her tongue and mind were
governed by a secret impulse of the Spirit, and that this whole affair
was directed by the providence of God. Without controversy, she was the
minister of great and tremendous judgment. And Paul adduces this
expression, not as a futile reproach, which an enraged woman had poured
forth, but as a celestial oracle. But although she sustains a higher
character than that of a private woman, yet she does not take from her
husband his power; but makes him the lawful director of the ejection.

11. "And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight." Although
Abraham had been already assured, by many oracles, that the blessed seed
should proceed from Isaac only; yet, under the influence of paternal
affection, he could not bear that Ishmael should be cut off, for the
purpose of causing the inheritance to remain entire to him, to whom it
had been divinely granted; and thus, by mingling two races, he
endeavoured, as far as he was able, to confound the distinction which God
had made. It may truly seem absurd, that the servant of God should thus
be carried away by a blind impulse: but God thus deprives him of
judgment, not only to humble him, but also to testify to all ages, that
the dispensing of his grace depends upon his own will alone. Moreover, in
order that the holy man may bear, with greater equanimity, the departure
of his son, a double consolation is promised him. For, first, God recalls
to his memory the promise made concerning Isaac; as if he would say, it
is enough and more than enough, that Isaac, in whom the spiritual
benediction remains entire, is left. He then promises that he will take
care of Ishmael, though exiled from his paternal home; and that a
posterity shall arise from him which shall constitute a whole nation. But
I have explained above, on the seventeenth chapter, what is the meaning
of the expression, 'The seed shall be called in Isaac.' And Paul, (Rom.
9: 8,) by way of interpretation, uses the word reckoned, or imputed. And
it is certain that, by this method, the other son was cut off from the
family of Abraham; so that he should no more have a name among his
posterity. For God, having severed Ishmael, shows that the whole progeny
of Abraham should flow from one head. He promises also to Ishmael, that
he shall be a nations but estranged from the Church; so that the
condition of the brothers shall, in this respect, be different; that one
is constituted the father of a spiritual people, to the other is given a
carnal seed. Whence Paul justly infers, that not all who are the seed of
Abraham are true and genuine sons; but they only who are born of the
Spirit. For as Isaac himself became the legitimate son by a gratuitous
promise, so the same grace of God makes a difference among his
descendants. But because we have sufficiently treated of the various sons
of Abraham on the seventeenth chapter, the subject is now more sparingly
alluded to.

12. "In all that Sarah hath said unto thee." I have just said that
although God used the ministry of Sarah in so great a matter, it was yet
possible that she might fail in her method of acting. He now commands
Abraham to hearken unto his wife, not because he approves her
disposition, but because he will have the work, of which he is Himself
the Author, accomplished. And he thus shows that his designs are not to
be subjected to any common rule, especially when the salvation of the
Church is concerned. For he purposely inverts the accustomed order of
nature, in order that he may prove himself to be the Author and the
Perfecter of Isaac's vocation. But because I have before declared, that
this history is more profoundly considered by Paul, the sum of it is here
briefly to be collected. In the first place, he says, that what is here
read, was written allegorically: not that he wishes all histories,
indiscriminately to be tortured to an allegorical sense, as Origin does;
who by hunting everywhere for allegories, corrupts the whole Scripture;
and others, too eagerly emulating his example, have extracted smoke out
of light. And not only has the simplicity of Scripture been vitiated, but
the faith has been almost subverted, and the door opened to many foolish
dotings. The design of Paul was, to raise the minds of the pious to
consider the secret work of God, in this history; as if he had said, What
Moses relates concerning the house of Abraham, belongs to the spiritual
kingdom of Christ; since, certainly, that house was a lively image of the
Church. This, however, is the allegorical similitude which Paul commends.
Whereas two sons were born to Abraham, the one by a handmaid, the other
by a free woman; he infers, that there are two kinds of persons born in
the Church; the faithful, whom God endues with the Spirit of adoption,
that they may enjoy the inheritance; and hypocritical disciples, who
feign themselves to be what they are not, and usurp, for a time, a name
and place among the sons of God. He therefore teaches, that there are
certain who are conceived and born in a servile manner; but others, as
from a freeborn mother. He then proceeds to say, that the sons of Hagar
are they who are generated by the servile doctrine of the Law; but that
they who, having embraced, by faith, gratuitous adoption, are born
through the doctrine of the Gospel, are the sons of the free woman. At
length he descends to another similitudes in which he compares Hagar with
mount Sinai, but Sarah with the heavenly Jerusalem. And although I here
allude in few words to those things which my readers will find copiously
expounded by me, in the fourth chapter to the Galatians; yet, in this
short explanation, it is made perfectly clear what Paul designs to teach.
We know that the true sons of God are born of the incorruptible seed of
the word: but when the Spirit, which gives life to the doctrine of the
Law and the Prophets, is taken away, and the dead letter alone remains,
then that seed is so corrupted, that only adulterous sons are born in a
state of slavery; yet because they are apparently born of the word of
God, though corrupted, they are, in a sense, the sons of God. Meanwhile,
none are lawful heirs, except those whom the Church brings forth into
liberty, being conceived by the incorruptible seed of the gospel. I have
said, however, that in these two persons is represented the perpetual
condition of the Church. For hypocrites not only mingle with the sons of
God in the Church, but despise them, and proudly appropriate to
themselves all the rights and honours of the Church. And as Ishmael,
inflated with the vain title of primogeniture, harassed his brother Isaac
with his taunts; so these men, relying on their own splendour,
reproachfully assail and ridicule the true faith of the simple: because,
by arrogating all things to themselves, they leave nothing to the grace
of God. Hence we are admonished, that none have a well-grounded
confidence of salvation, but they who, being called freely, regard the
mercy of God as their whole dignity. Again, the Spirit furnishes the
consciences of the pious with strong and effective weapons against the
ferociousness of those who, under a false pretext, boast that they are
the Church. We see that it is no new thing, for persons who are nothing
but hypocrites to occupy the chief place in the Church at God. Wherefore,
while at this day, the Papists proudly exult, there is no reason why we
should be disturbed by their empty and inflated boasts. As to their
glorying in their long succession, it just means as much as if Ishmael
were proclaiming himself the firstborn. It is, therefore necessary to
discriminate between the true and the hypocritical Church. Paul describes
a mark, which they are never able, with their cavils, to obliterate. For
as large bottles are broken with a slight blast; so by this single word,
all their glory is extinguished, 'the sons of the handmaid shall not be
eternal inheritors.' In the meantime their insolence is to be patiently
borne, so long as God shall loosen the rein to their tyranny. For the
Apostles, formerly, were oppressed by the Jewish hypocrites of their age,
with the same reproaches which these men now cast upon us. In the same
way, Ishmael triumphed over Isaac, as if he had obtained the victory.
Wherefore, we must not wonder, if our own age also has its Ishmaelites.
But lest such indignity should break our spirits, let this consolation
perpetually occur to us, that they who hold the preeminence in the
Church, will not always remain within it.

14. "And Abraham rose up early." How painful was the wound, which the
ejection of his firstborn son inflicted upon the mind of the holy man, we
may gather from the double consolation with which God mitigated his
grief: He sends his son into banishments just as if he were tearing out
his own bowels. But being accustomed to obey God, he brings into
subjection the paternal love, which he is not able wholly to cast aside.
This is the true test of faith and piety, when the faithful are so far
compelled to deny themselves, that they even resign the very affections
of their original nature, which are neither evil nor vicious in
themselves, to the will of God. There is no doubt that, during the whole
night, he had been tossed with various cares; that he had a variety of
internal conflicts, and endured severe torments; yet he arose early in
the morning, to hasten his separation from his child; since he knew that
it was the will of God.
  "And took bread, and a bottle of water." Moses intimates not only that
Abraham committed his son to the care of his mother, but that he
relinquished his own paternal right over him; for it was necessary for
this son to be alienated, that he might not afterwards be accounted the
seed of Abraham. But with what a slender provision does he endow his wife
and her son? He places a flagon of water and bread upon her shoulder. Why
does he not, at least, load an ass with a moderate supply of food? Why
does he not add one of his servants, of which his house contained plenty,
as a companion? Truly either God shut his eyes, that, what he would
gladly have done, might not come into his mind; or Abraham limited her
provision, in order that she might not go far from his house. For
doubtless he would prefer to have them near himself, for the purpose of
rendering them such assistance as they would need. Meanwhile, God
designed that the banishment of Ishmael should be thus severe and
sorrowful; in order that, by his example, he might strike terror into the
proud, who, being intoxicated with present gifts, trample under foot, in
their haughtiness, the very grace to which they are indebted for all
things. Therefore he brought the mother and child to a distressing issue.
For after they have wandered into the desert, the water fails; and the
mother departs from her son; which was a token of despair. Such was the
reward of the pride, by which they had been vainly inflated. It had been
their duty humbly to embrace the grace of God offered to all people, in
the person of Isaac: but they impiously spurned him whom God had exalted
to the highest honour. The knowledge of God's gifts ought to have formed
their minds to modesty. And because nothing was more desirable for them,
than to retain some corner in Abraham's house, they ought not to have
shrunk from any kind of subjection, for the sake of so great a benefit:
God now exacts from them the punishment, which they had deserved, by
their ingratitude.

17. "God heard the voice of the lad." Moses had said before that Hagar
wept: how is it then, that, disregarding her tears, God only hears the
voice of the lad? If we should say, that the mother did not deserve to
receive a favourable answer to her prayers; her son, certainly, was in no
degree more worthy. For, as to the supposition of some, that they both
were brought to repentance by this chastisement, it is but an uncertain
conjecture. I leave their repentance, of which I can see no sign, to the
judgment of God. The cry of the boy was heard, as I understand it, not
because he had prayed in faith; but because God, mindful of his own
promise, was inclined to have compassion upon them. For Moses does not
say, that their vows and sighs were directed towards heaven; it is rather
to be believed, that, in bewailing their miseries, they did not resort to
divine help. But God, in assisting them, had respect, not to what they
desired of him, but to what he had promised to Abraham concerning
Ishmael. In this sense Moses seems to say that the voice of the boy was
heard; namely, because he was the son of Abraham.
  "What aileth thee, Hagar?" The angel reproves the ingratitude of Hagar;
because, when reduced to the greatest straits, she does not reflect on
God's former kindness towards her, in similar danger; so that, as one who
has found him to be a deliverer, she might again cast herself upon his
faithfulness. Nevertheless, the angel assures her that a remedy is
prepared for her sorrows if only she will seek it. Therefore in the
clause, "What aileth thee?" is a reproof for having tormented herself in
vain, by confused lamentation. When he afterwards says, "Fear not," he
invites and exhorts her to hope for mercy. But what, we may ask, is the
meaning of the expression, which he adds, "where he is?" It may seem that
there is a suppressed antithesis between the place where he now was, and
the house of Abraham; so that Hagar might conclude, that although she was
wandering in the desert as an exile from the sanctuary of God, yet she
was not entirely forsaken by God; since she had him for a Leader in her
exile. Or else, the phrase is emphatical; implying, that, though the boy
is cast into solitude, and counted as one forsaken, he nevertheless has
God nigh unto him. And thus the angel, to relieve the despair of the
anxious mother, commands her to return to the place where she had laid
down her son. For (as is usual in desperate circumstances) she had become
stupefied through grief; and would have lain as one lifeless, unless she
had been roused by the voice of the angel. We perceive, moreover, in this
example, how truly it is said, that when father and mother forsake us,
the Lord will take us up.

18. "Arise lift up the lad." In order that she might have more courage to
bring up her son, God confirms to her what he had before often promised
to Abraham. Indeed, nature itself prescribes to mothers what they owe to
their children; but, as I have lately hinted, all the natural feelings of
Hagar would have been destroyed, unless God had revived her, by inspiring
new confidence, to address herself with fresh vigour to the fulfilment of
her maternal office. With respect to the fountain or "well", some think
it suddenly sprung up. But since Moses says, that the eyes of Hagar were
opened, and not that the earth was opened or dug up; I rather incline to
the opinion, that, having been previously astonished with grief, she did
not discern what was plainly before her eyes; but now, at length, after
God has restored her vision, she begins to see it. And it is worthy of
especial notice, that when God leaves us destitute of his
superintendence, and takes away his grace from us, we are as much
deprived of all the aids which are close at hand, as if they were removed
to the greatest distance. Therefore we must ask, not only that he would
bestow upon us such things as will be useful to us, but that he will also
impart prudence to enable us to use them; otherwise, it will be our lot
to faint, with closed eyes, in the midst of fountains.

20. "And God was with the lad." There are many ways in which God is said
to be present with men. He is present with his elects whom he governs by
the special grace of his Spirit; he is present also, sometimes, as it
respects external life, not only with his elect, but also with strangers,
in granting them some signal benediction: as Moses, in this place,
commends the extraordinary grace by which the Lord declares that his
promise is not void, since he pursues Ishmael with favour, because he was
the son of Abraham. Hence, however, this general doctrine is inferred;
that it is to be entirely ascribed to God that men grow up, that they
enjoy the light and common breath of heaven, and that the earth supplies
them with food. Only it must be remembered, the prosperity of Ishmael
flowed from this cause, that an earthly blessing was promised him for the
sake of his father Abraham. In saying, that Hagar took a wife for
Ishmael, Moses has respect to civil order; for since marriage forms a
principal part of human life, it is right that, in contracting it,
children should be subject to their parents, and should obey their
counsel. This order, which nature prescribes and dictates, was, as we
see, observed by Ishmael, a wild man in the barbarism of the desert; for
he was subject to his mother in marrying a wife. Whence we perceive, what
a prodigious monster was the Pope, when he dared to overthrow this sacred
right of nature. To this is also added the impudent boast of authorizing
a wicked contempt of parents, in honour of holy wedlock. Moreover the
Egyptian wife was a kind of prelude to the future dissension between the
Israelites and the Ishmaelites.

22. "And it came to pass at that time." Moses relates, that this covenant
was entered into between Abraham and Abimelech, for the purpose of
showing, that after various agitations, some repose was, at length,
granted to the holy man. He had been constrained, as a wanderer, and
without a fixed abode, to move his tent from place to place, during sixty
years. But although God would have him to be a sojourner even unto death,
yet, under king Abimelech, he granted him a quiet habitation. And it is
the design of Moses to show, how it happened, that he occupied one place
longer than he was wont. The circumstance of time is to be noted; namely,
soon after he had dismissed his son. For it seems that his great trouble
was immediately followed by this consolation, not only that he might have
some relaxation from continued inconveniences, but that he might be the
more cheerful, and might the more quietly occupy himself in the education
of his little son Isaac. It is however certain, that the covenant was
not, in every respect, an occasion of joy to him; for he perceived that
he was tried by indirect methods, and that there were many persons in
that region, to whom he was disagreeable and hateful. The king, indeed
openly avowed his own suspicions of him: it was, however, the highest
honour, that the king of the p]ace should go, of his own accord, to a
stranger, to enter into a covenant with him. Yet it may be asked, whether
this covenant was made on just and equal conditions, as is the custom
among allies? I certainly do not doubt, that Abraham freely paid due
honour to the king; nor is it probable that the king intended to detract
anything from his own dignity, in order to confer it upon Abraham. What,
then, did he do? Truly, while he allowed Abraham a free dwelling-place,
he would yet hold him bound to himself by an oath.
  "God is with thee in all that thou doest." He commences in friendly and
bland terms; he does not accuse Abraham nor complain that he had
neglected any duty towards himself, but declares that he earnestly
desires his friendship; still the conclusion is, that he wishes to be on
his guard against him. It may then be asked, Whence had he this
suspicion, or fear, first of a strange