Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 6:7–8

Genesis 6:7–8
7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth– everything from humankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.”  8 But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD.
(NET Bible)

Extermination and grace

Many people in our contemporary world just cruise along thinking that God will continue to tolerate the deterioration of moral behavior among humanity. Indeed, the Bible warns that in the last days scoffers will say, “Ever since our ancestors died all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4).

How do we reassess our behavior before God? Does God ever reassess his actions and make a change? How and when might such a thing happen? What can we do to prepare for such a change?

In saying “I will wipe humankind . . . from the face of the earth,” God uses a verb that means “wipe clean” or “wipe out,” depending on the context.[1] It is used for wiping names from records (Exod. 17:14) and for wiping a plate clean (2 Kings 21:13). The ancient method for erasing a name from a scroll is illuminating: “Note that erasures in ancient leather scrolls were made by washing or sponging off the ink rather than blotting. ‘Wipe out’ is therefore more accurate for the idea of expunge.”[2]

Victor Hamilton puts matters bluntly by saying, “God not only erases sins [Isa. 43:25], but he erases sinners—he judges them by drowning them.”[3] Genesis 6:7 makes it clear that all animal life will be included in the judgment on humanity.

We have already learned in a previous post that God saw evil and violence throughout the earth. In response, God felt the pain of “regret,” the same verb N?M (roughly nakam) which we discussed in Genesis 6:6. Recall that this verb can mean both “be pained” and “be relieved of pain.” God feels the pain of regret, but he intends to relieve that pain by destroying those who have caused it through sin.

The duality of the Hebrew verb is not just a technical curiosity; it provides insight into the process of repentance. When our actions bring a sufficient degree of pain, we experience regret. A critical strategy to relieve that pain is to change our minds and take different actions that result in relief of that pain. Humanity acted in sin and brought about a world covered with evil and violence. The right solution would have been to turn away from that sin and turn to God, but that did not happen.

On God’s side of the relationship, he had created the world, humankind and all other life. But the penetration of evil and violence into human behavior, spoiling creation, caused God to feel the pain of regret. Instead of continuing to maintain such a world, God relieves his pain by destroying those who have refused his ways.

Hamilton says, “The fact that the OT affirms that God does repent . . . forces us to make room in our theology for the concepts of both the unchangeability of God and his changeability.”[4] Waltke adds, “People can count on God always to reconsider his original intention to do good or evil according to the human response.”[5]

In this gloomy situation there is just one ray of light: “But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). The word translated “favor” is one which everyone should embrace; it is often translated “grace.” In this case it is the action of the stronger (God) on behalf of the weaker (Noah). The NET Bible Notes for Genesis 6:8 make clear the common basis for such favor:

The favor/kindness is often earned, coming in response to an action or condition (see Gen. 32:5; 39:4; Deut. 24:1; 1 Sam. 25:8; Prov. 3:4; Ruth 2:10). This is the case in Gen. 6:8, where verse 9 gives the basis (Noah’s righteous character) for the divine favor.

The consonants in the Hebrew word for “Noah” are the reverse of the consonants in the Hebrew word for “favor.” In English we might quip that “Noah” is “favor” spelled backwards. In fact, there are many variations on Noah’s name that infuse this entire narrative—apparently a big hint from the author that he would survive.

Apart from God’s favor toward us in Jesus Christ, we would have suffered the same fate as Noah’s contemporaries. In the next post we will see more of Noah’s character before God.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) ma?ah, wipe out, q.v.

[2] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (TWOT) 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1980), ma?ah, wipe out, q.v.

[3] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 275.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1–17, 275.

[5] Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 119.

Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 6:5-6

[NOTE: This post is one of the most important to appear on this blog in relation to what God is like!]

The ruined earth

How many times have you heard someone say about their sin, I wasnt hurting anybody but myself? But the truth is that all sin hurts God!

How does God feel about sin? What will God do in reaction to the pain which sin causes him? How will God comfort himself concerning the pain caused by human sin?

One thing about being God is that you never have to explain yourself! Yet Gen. 6:5 does exactly that; it explains why God decided to destroy the world he originally created. Clearly, God does not provide this explanation as a matter of obligation but to inform his servants of his motivation and character. God takes sin so seriously that he will ultimately destroy those who carry it out.

Victor Hamilton does an excellent job of summarizing our two verses:

Here, first of all, is what God saw (v. 5), then how he felt (v. 6), then what he intends to do (v. 7). What God saw was both the intensiveness of sin and the extensiveness of sin. Geographically, the problem is an infested earth. Note that in Gen. 6:5-13, the earth (Hebrew haarets) is mentioned eight times.[1]

In Genesis 2:16-17 we found a pattern of a general observation followed by a specific exception. The Lord first said (2:16) the man could eat from every tree in the Garden of Eden. Then came the specific exception that the man must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:17). The same pattern occurs in Genesis 6:5-8, in which God condemns the evil of all humankind (6:5) and then introduces the specific exception — Noah (6:8).

Genesis 6:5

But the LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time.
(NET Bible)

Point of no return

Recall that in Genesis 1:31, God saw all that he had made and it was very good. By this point (6:5), the picture has totally changed to evil! This state of affairs is the direct result of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Here is the result of falling into the knowledge of good and evil: Evil becomes dominant, and the good is ruined by the evil.[2] Ruined is the operative word for this section of Genesis.

The word translated by NET as inclination primarily means something made into shape, like a pot fashioned by a potter, and then secondarily means inclination, which is an idea shaped by the mind.[3] Good things were fashioned by the mind of God, but evil things were the creative product of pre-flood humanity. In what may be a fitting description of the effects God saw, the apostle Paul describes the depraved mind (Rom. 1:28) of those who refused to acknowledge God, and he further describes them as contrivers of all sorts of evil (Rom. 1:30). That last phrase in Paul fits nicely with the second half of Genesis 6:5.

Wenham correctly says, Few texts in the OT are so explicit and all-embracing as this in specifying the extent of human sinfulness and depravity.[4]

Genesis 6:6

The LORD regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended.
(NET Bible)

Underneath this verses clearly-stated meaning lies a world of theological reflection. For centuries the church held that God was incapable of feeling emotions; some Christian scholars still take that position today. Those interpreters take the view that this verse is a case of anthropopathism, meaning the ascription of human feelings or passions to God.[5] The idea behind anthropopathism is that God cannot actually feel emotions such as we experience — a doctrine called impassibility — but the only way we can comprehend him is to act as if he is like us in this way. Moreover, to assume the Bible contains just-pretend sections opens Pandoras Box for deriving the meaning of any biblical text.

I believe that God feels emotions just as the Bible describes them, and we also have such emotions because we are made in his image.[6] The NET Bible clearly takes the same view in its translation and Notes for Genesis 6:6; you should read those notes.Hamilton says, Verses like this remind us that the God of the OT is not beyond the capability of feeling pain, chagrin, and remorse.[7]

Remember that in Genesis 5:29 it was predicted that Noah will bring us comfort, using the verb N?M (the unfamiliar symbol ? sounds like the last two letters of the Scottish word loch). That very same verb is used in a different sense in Genesis 6:5 to say the LORD regretted making humankind.

Hamilton observes, It will be noticed that there is a polarity between several of these meanings; thus, N?M means both be pained and be relieved of pain.[8] Sometimes, when we feel pain, that pain can be relieved when it moves us to take action. That is exactly how God will soon relieve the pain he feels about humanitys pervasive sinfulness — he will take decisive action.

To make sure we get the point, the author of Genesis adds a second clause to describe God: he was highly offended (Gen. 6:6b). The verb in this clause is used to express the most intense form of human emotion, a mixture of bitter rage and anguish.[9] Wenham adds that Dinah felt this after being raped (Gen. 34:7) and so did Jonathan upon learning that his father Saul planned to kill his best friend David (1 Sam. 20:34).

When God feels such emotions, the status quo is headed for a reversal! Yet Gods mercy and kindness lead him to allow 120 years before the torrential rains begin to fall.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 273.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 6:5.

[3] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) yetser, form, intention, q.v.

[4] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 144.

[5] anthropopathism. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 20 Oct. 2008..

[6] Occams Razor: all things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.

[7] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 274.

[8] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 275, fn 5.

[9] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 144.