Thursday, August 30, 2018

Book Review: Commentary on Genesis

"Commentary on Genesis." From Matthew Henry's Commentary on The Whole Bible Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Matthew Henry. Updated by Martin H. Manser. 1710 for the original. [Source: Bought]

We have now before us the holy Bible, or book, for so bible signifies. We call it the book, by way of eminency; for it is incomparably the best book that ever was written, the book of books, shining like the sun in the firmament of learning, other valuable and useful books, like the moon and stars, borrowing their light from it. We call it the holy book, because it was written by holy men, and indited by the Holy Ghost; it is perfectly pure from all falsehood and corrupt intention; and the manifest tendency of it is to promote holiness among men. The great things of God’s law and gospel are here written to us, that they might be reduced to a greater certainty, might spread further, remain longer, and be transmitted to distant places and ages more pure and entire than possibly they could be by report and tradition: and we shall have a great deal to answer for if these things which belong to our peace, being thus committed to us in black and white, be neglected by us as a strange and foreign thing, Hos. 8:12. The scriptures, or writings of the several inspired penmen, from Moses down to St. John, in which divine light, like that of the morning, shone gradually (the sacred canon being now completed), are all put together in this blessed Bible, which, thanks be to God, we have in our hands, and they make as perfect a day as we are to expect on this side of heaven. Every part was good, but all together very good. This is the light that shines in a dark place (2 Pet. 1:19), and a dark place indeed the world would be without the Bible.

Genesis is easily one of my favorite books of the Old Testament. Every time I begin a new Bible project, Genesis is my favorite place to begin. Likewise, Revelation is my favorite place to finish. I may read the other sixty-four books in any order, but Genesis and Revelation are my book ends.

I have read a few commentaries on the book of Genesis. My latest to read was by Matthew Henry. He began with a few introductory remarks about the Bible in general and then proceeded on to Genesis.

The edition of the commentary I read did not include the text of the Bible. (I imagine some do.) It is broken down into chapters, and within each chapter it is arranged by verses. The book includes summary or highlights for each section. The arrangement seems to be entirely in outline form. At first I found this slightly odd. But the more I read, the more accustomed I became to the style. I think perhaps Puritans did this quite a bit with their sermons. (I've also read some Thomas Manton and John Owen.)

I will point out one little thing. While I agree with Henry's overall theology most of the time, I do disagree with him here and there. In particular, I (strongly) disagree with his assessment that Dinah--Jacob's daughter who was raped--was asking for it. His argument is that Dinah was in the wrong and that if she'd just stayed at home--near her home and the protection of her father and brothers, she'd never have been raped. Not content to just blame Dinah, he also finds a way to blame her mother, Leah, for encouraging her daughter's "vain curiosity." He writes, "SHE WENT TO BE SEEN." His application is that fathers should exercise great(er) authority over their families and in particular their daughters.

At best, Henry's remarks are 99.9% speculation. The Bible simply says that Dinah "went out to visit the women of the land." In the next verse, we're told: Shechem saw her, took her, raped her. Henry's argument it seems is that the sin that started it all was the sin of being seen. He speculates that Dinah wanted to be seen. That she was seeking attention and flattery.  That she was inviting men to approach her. That if she'd taken care not to be seen by men, then she'd never have been raped.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • Our duty as Christians is always to keep heaven in our sight and the earth under our feet.
  • God is not only the author of everything living, but the fountain of life and spring of every change. Dead matter would remain dead if he did not bring it alive. And this makes us believe that it is possible for God to raise the dead.
  • What God requires of us he himself works in us, or it is not done. He that commands faith, holiness, and love creates them in us by the power of his grace alongside his word.
  • The glory and goodness, the beauty and harmony, of God’s works, both of providence and grace, will best appear when they are perfected. So the lesson is: judge nothing before the right time.
  • The One who made the soul is alone able to make it new.
  • It adds much to the comfort of any situation if we have clearly seen God going before us and putting us into it.
  • None of us was sent into the world to be lazy. The One who made these souls and bodies has given us something to work with; the One who made us living wants us to labor, to serve him and our society, and to work out our salvation.
  • Satan teaches people first to doubt and then to deny; he makes them skeptics first, and so gradually makes them atheists. He could not have persuaded them to run the risk of ruining themselves if he had not suggested to them a great probability of improving themselves.
  • Our first parents, who knew so much, did not know this—that they knew enough.
  • Satan may tempt, but he cannot force; he may persuade us to throw ourselves down, but he cannot throw us down (Mt 4:6).
  • The way of sin is downhill; we cannot stop ourselves when we want to.
  • What a dishonor and restlessness sin brings; it causes trouble wherever it is admitted. What a deceiver Satan is. He told our first parents, when he tempted them, that their eyes would be opened; and so they were, but not as they understood it; they were opened to their shame and grief.
  • Although God knows all our sins, yet he wants to know them from us, and requires from us a simple confession of them; not so that he may be informed, but that we may be humbled.
  • A perpetual quarrel is here begun between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the Devil among human beings. It is the fruit of this enmity that there is a continual conflict between grace and sin in the hearts of God’s people and that there is similarly a continual struggle between the wicked and the godly in this world.
  • A gracious promise is here made of Christ, as the deliverer of fallen humanity from the power of Satan. It was said in the earshot of our first parents, who, doubtless, saw a door of hope opened to them. Here was the dawning of the Gospel day. No sooner was the wound given than the remedy was provided and revealed. They are told three things concerning Christ: His incarnation, that he would be the seed of the woman, the offspring of that woman; therefore his genealogy (Lk 3:23-38) goes so far as to show him to be the son of Adam, but God does the woman the honor to call him rather her offspring, because it was she whom the Devil had deceived, and Adam had laid the blame on her. In this we can see that God magnifies his grace, in that, though the woman was first in the rebellion, it is she who will be saved by childbearing, that is, by the promised offspring who will descend from her (1Ti 2:15). He was similarly to be the offspring of a woman only, of a virgin. His sufferings and death, pointed at in Satan’s bruising his heel, that is, his human nature. Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness, to draw him into sin; and some think it was Satan that terrified Christ in his agony, to drive him to despair. It was the Devil that put it into the heart of Judas to betray Christ, of Peter to deny him, of the chief priests to try him, of the false witnesses to accuse him, and of Pilate to condemn him. In all this, they aimed at destroying the Savior, and so destroying salvation. But on the contrary, it was by death that Christ destroyed him that had the power of death (Heb 2:14). Christ’s heel was bruised when his feet were pierced and nailed to the cross, and Christ’s sufferings are continued in the sufferings of the saints for his name. His victory over Satan in this. Satan had now trampled on the woman, and insulted her; but the offspring of the woman would be raised up in the fullness of time to triumph over him (Col 2:15). He shall bruise his head, that is, he shall destroy all his schemings and all his powers, and overthrow completely his kingdom and concerns. Christ thwarted Satan’s temptations; by his death, he gave a fatal blow to the Devil’s kingdom, a wound to the head of this Beast that can never be healed.
  • Sin brought sorrow into the world; if we had known no guilt, we would have known no grief.
  • How wonderfully the satisfaction our Lord Jesus made by his death and sufferings fulfills the sentence here passed on our first parents. Did travailing pains come in with sin? We read of the travail of his soul, the soul of Christ, the suffering servant (Isa 53:11). Did subjection come in with sin? Christ was born under law (Gal 4:4). Did the curse come in with sin? Christ became a curse for us, died a cursed death (Gal 3:13). Did thorns come in with sin? He was crowned with thorns for us. Did sweat come in with sin? For us his sweat was like drops of blood. Did sorrow come in with sin? He was a man of sorrows, in his agony his soul was extremely sorrowful. Did death come in with sin? He became obedient to death. And so the plaster covers the whole wound completely. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!
  • It is the will of God that each one of us should have something to do in this world.
  • So close are sin and punishment that the same word in Hebrew signifies both.
  • If sin is harbored in the house, the curse waits at the door, like a bailiff ready to arrest sinners whenever they look out.
  • Adam’s eating the forbidden fruit seemed just a little sin, but it opened the door to the greatest.
  • Those that reject God cannot find rest anywhere else.
  • The human race is not its own maker, therefore we must not be our own master; but the Author of our being must be the director of our activities and the center of them.
  • True religion; what is godliness, but walking with God? The ungodly and worldly are without God in the world, they walk contrary to him: but the godly walk with God, which presupposes reconciliation with God, for two cannot walk together except they be agreed (Am 3:3).
  • To walk with God is to set God always before us, and to act as those that are always under his eye. It is to live a life of fellowship with God both in worship of him and wisdom in our dealings with others. It is to make God’s word our rule and his glory our aim in all our actions. It is to obey his will, to agree with his intentions, and to be workers together with him.
  • The bad will sooner lead astray the good than the good reform the bad.
  • God was grieved that he had made human beings; but we never find him grieving that he redeemed human beings.
  • We mock God in saying that we are sorry for our sin, and that it grieves us to the heart, if we then continue to indulge in it.
  • None are destroyed by the justice of God except those who hate to be reformed by the grace of God.
  • God directs Noah to make an ark (vv. 14-16). This ark was like the hulk of a ship, fitted not to sail on the waters (there was no need for that, as there would be no shore to sail to), but to float on the waters, waiting for them to subside. God chose, however, to use him to make what would be the means of his preservation, both to test his faith and obedience and to teach us that none will be saved by Christ except those who work out their salvation (Php 2:12). We cannot do this without God, and he will not do this without us.
  • God does not command him go into the ark, but come into it, implying that God would go with him, would lead him into it, accompany him in it, and in due time bring him safely out of it. It was this that made Noah’s ark, which was a prison, to be not only a refuge, but also a palace. This call to Noah was a type of the call which the Gospel gives to humble sinners. Christ is an ark already prepared, in whom alone we can be safe when death and judgment come.
  • It is our great duty in obedience to the Gospel call to come by a living faith in Christ into that way of salvation which God has provided for poor sinners. When Noah came into the ark, he left his own house and land. In the same way, we must leave our own righteousness and our worldly possessions, whenever they compete with Christ.
  • He that believes does not make haste to run before God, but he does make haste to go out to meet him (Isa 28:16).
  • Serving God with the little we have is the way to make it more; and we must never think that what God is honored with is wasted.
  • God sets the whole earth before all human beings, tells them it is all their own, while it remains, to them and their heirs. Though it is not a paradise, but instead a wilderness, it is still better than we deserve. Blessed be God that it is not hell.
  • Our lives are not so much our own that we may leave them at our own pleasure, but they are God’s.
  • The thicker the cloud, the brighter the rainbow in the clouds. In the same way, just as sufferings come to us in abundance, God showers his encouragement and comfort upon us all the more (2Co 1:5).
  • If God loves us and has mercy in store for us, he will not allow us to take up our rest anywhere short of Canaan, but will graciously repeat his calls, till the good work that he has begun is truly carried out and our souls rest only in God.
  • God knows how to make his favors fit the needs and necessities of his children. He who has a bandage for every sore will first provide one for what is most painful.
  • Jesus Christ is the great blessing of the world, the greatest blessing that the world has ever known. He is a family blessing, by him salvation is brought to the house (Lk 19:9).
  • Enemies may part us and our homes, us and our altars, but not us and our God.
  • The way of family worship is a good and old way; it is not a novel invention but is the time-honored practice of all the saints. Wherever we go, let us not fail to take our faith along with us.
  • We ought to be ready, whenever it is in the power of our hands, to help and relieve those that are in distress.
  • Though we must never complain about God, we may still complain to him, and it is some ease to a burdened spirit to open up to a faithful and compassionate friend:
  • If Christ is ours, heaven is also ours.
  • What God has promised is as certain as if it were already done; and so it is said, whoever believes hath everlasting life (Jn 3:36), for all that believe will as surely go to heaven as if they were there already.
  • When passion is on the throne, reason has been thrown outdoors and is neither heard nor spoken. Those who are most loud and forward in appealing to God are not always in the right.
  • Tears speak as well as prayers.
  • On this side of heaven we have the food we need, but not a continual feast.
  • What God is himself, that he will be to his people: his wisdom is theirs, to guide and counsel them; his power is theirs, to protect and support them; his goodness is theirs, to provide for and comfort them.
  • God graciously comes to those in whom he has first raised an expectation of him.
  • Religion does not destroy, but improve, good manners, and teaches us to honor all people.
  • Fellowship with God is maintained by the word and by prayer. In the word, God speaks to us; in prayer we speak to him.
  • God’s word does us good when it provides us with matter for prayer and stirs us to it.
  • Though sin is to be hated, sinners are to be pitied and prayed for. God does not delight in their death, and we should not desire, but pray for deliverance from, the day of destruction.
  • We must direct our prayer as we send a letter and then look up to wait for a reply. We must direct our prayer as an arrow and then look up to see whether it reaches its mark (Ps 5:3).
  • God is always punctual according to his timing. Though his promised mercies do not come at the time we set, they will certainly come at the time he sets, and that is the best time.
  • Whatever is the source of our joy, God must be acknowledged as its author, unless it is the laughter of the fool (Ecc 7:6).
  • The best evidence of our fearing God is our being willing to serve and honor him with what is dearest to us.
  • Tears are a tribute due to our deceased friends. When the body is sown, it must be watered. But we must not grieve as those that have no hope (1Th 4:13); for we have a good hope through grace both concerning them and also concerning ourselves.
  • Meditation and prayer ought to be both our business and our delight when we are alone.
  • If we are sure of God’s presence with us wherever we go, then we may move on with God’s encouragement.
  • Divine Providence is to be acknowledged in all the detailed circumstances which go to make a journey or any other undertaking encouraging and successful. If we meet with those who can direct us, we must not say that it was by chance, but that it was at such times God in his providence who was favoring us.
  • Times of fear should become times of prayer; whatever frightens us should drive us to our knees and to our God.
  • We may be going where God calls us and still think our way is obstructed by thorns and thistles. If God is our guide, he will also be our guard.
  • Let sin be recognized as sin (Ro 7:13); we should call it by its name and never lessen it.
  • Let us be content to prove ourselves innocent and not be fond of rebuking others for their guilt.
  • Suffering sometimes turns out to be a fortunate and effective means of awakening our conscience.
  • God sees his work from the beginning to the end, but we do not (Ecc 3:11). 4.3. God often works by opposites. Many of those who put Christ to death were saved by his death.
  • If God is with us while we stay behind in this world and will soon receive us to be with those who have gone on ahead to a better world, we ought not to grieve as those who have no hope.
  • God often brings good out of evil, and furthers the purposes of his providence even by human sins. Not that he is the author of sin; far be it from us to think so; but his infinite wisdom so overrules events that the outcome ends in his praise which in its own nature had a direct tendency to dishonor him, as, for example, the putting of Christ to death (Ac 2:23).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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