Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 6:11–13

Genesis 6:11–13
11 The earth was ruined in the sight of God; the earth was filled with violence.  12 God saw the earth, and indeed it was ruined, for all living creatures on the earth were sinful.  13 So God said to Noah, “I have decided that all living creatures must die, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Now I am about to destroy them and the earth.”
(NET Bible)

Deeper Study: The phrase “God saw . . . and indeed” (NET) or “God saw . . . and behold” (NASB, KJV) occurs in Genesis for things that are surprising or shocking. The same phrase is also used for Noah, Abraham and others. Examples (best ones are bolded) include: 8:13; 18:2; 19:28; 22:13; 24:63; 26:8; 29:2; 31:2; 31:10; 33:1; 37:25; 40:6; 42:27. Note that NET frequently drops the word “behold” while NASB always includes it. Based on this usage what was God’s reaction in Genesis 6:12 to what he saw?

To become ruined . . . to ruin

Anyone who follows world events must see that violence and oppression are a constant feature in world events. One area sells human beings, another features child slavery and child soldiers. Some nations are dominated by narco-violence and one is ruled by a rich junta which will not permit relief for poor hurricane victims. Piracy threatens the shipping lanes, and bombs explode daily.

In our own country the poor are frequently stigmatized as lazy or malicious so as to justify not helping them. And violence is hardly unknown in our midst. What does God think about all this violence, evil and neglect? What might he do about it? What has he done in the past?

A single Hebrew verb dominates all three verses in today’s section: Sh?T (roughly shakat) means “become ruined” in one form and “destroy” (to intentionally ruin) in another form.[1] The verb is used four times in Genesis 6:11–13 as illustrated by Victor Hamilton:

To capture this consistency of word choice we may render the above as ‘gone to ruin was the earth . . . indeed, it had gone to ruin . . . all flesh had ruined its way . . . I will ruin them.’ The choice of the same word to describe both the earth’s condition and the intended action of God must be deliberate.[2]

Genesis 6:11 tells us what constituted the ruin of the earth. Instead of being filled by the multiplication of humankind and animal life, it was filled with violence instead! This violence may not only include brute force (Jer. 51:35) but also oppression of the weak by the strong (Amos 6:1–3) or the abuse of a neighbor (Prov. 16:29). Some who commit sin are going to be surprised that God is offended by oppression of the weak in addition to what we call violent crime.

By comparing three different translations of Genesis 6:12, we learn something interesting:

NET Bible: God saw the earth, and indeed it was ruined, for all living creatures on the earth were sinful.

ESV: And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

NIV 2011: God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.

NET says “all living creatures,” while the more literal ESV has “all flesh.” NET informs us that all the living creatures “were sinful” — demonstrating the frequent tendency of the NET Bible to use abstractions — while the ESV says all flesh “had corrupted their way.” NIV 2011 is close to ESV for Genesis 6:12, but it’s translation using the word “people”  leaves out the animals (see below)!

Have you previously considered the participation in sin or the corruption of the animals as well as humankind? The NET Bible Notes say:

The phrase “all flesh” is used consistently of humankind and the animals in Gen. 6–9 (6:17, 19; 7:15–16, 21; 8:17; 9:11, 15–17), suggesting that the author intends to picture all living creatures, humankind and animals, as guilty of moral failure. This would explain why the animals, not just humankind, are victims of the ensuing divine judgment. The OT sometimes views animals as morally culpable (Gen. 9:5; Exod. 21:28–29; Jonah 3:7–8).[3]

To grasp this unusual idea, it may help to recall that the serpent was used as part of the deception of the woman (Gen. 3:1), and we may have in Genesis 6:12 a hint that the invasion of earthly life by angelic beings involved more than intercourse with the daughters of men.

Genesis 6:13  So God said to Noah, “I have decided that all living creatures must die, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Now I am about to destroy them and the earth.” (NET)

When the NET translates God’s words as saying “I have decided,” it removes to the marginal notes certain details that may include a glimpse of God reaching a decision before the heavenly council:

Hebrew “the end of all flesh is coming [or ‘has come’] before me” . . . . The phrase “end of all flesh” occurs only here. . . . The phrase “come before” occurs in Exod. 28:30, 35; 34:34; Lev. 15:14; Num. 27:17; 1 Sam. 18:13, 16; 2 Sam. 19:8; 20:8; 1 Kings 1:23, 28, 32; Ezek. 46:9; Ps. 79:11 (groans come before God); 88:3 (a prayer comes before God); 100:2; 119:170 (prayer comes before God); Lam. 1:22 (evil-doing comes before God); Esth. 1:19; 8:1; 9:25; 1 Chron. 16:29. The expression often means “have an audience with” or “appear before.” But when used metaphorically, it can mean “get the attention of” or “prompt a response.” This is probably the sense in Gen. 6:13. The necessity of ending the life of all flesh on earth is an issue that has gotten the attention of God.[4]

Beyond doubt the Bible teaches God’s awareness of all that happens (Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 139), but when a matter “comes before” God, it takes on the sense of a formal hearing. This one ended with God’s decision to destroy all life on earth due to rampant violence.

While God’s mercy is the leading component of his character (Exod. 34:6), there is a limit to his patience and tolerance (Exod. 34:7). And what happens all over the world can affect us too!

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) sha?at, become ruined (niphal) [Niphal forms are usually passive voice], destroy (hiphil) [Hiphil forms are usually causative], q.v.

[2]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) 278.

[3] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 6:12.

[4] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 6:13.

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 5:29 and 6:1–2

Genesis 5:29
He named him Noah, saying, “This one will bring us comfort from our labor and from the painful toil of our hands because of the ground that the LORD has cursed.”
(NET Bible)

Descent into greater depravity

Even though we live in an affluent nation, most of us have wished for better days to come. In our best moments we see pockets of hardship and wish they could have a remedy; we observe death and despair and wish things were otherwise.

Wishing for a better world falls far short of working for the kingdom of God. This world is on track to be destroyed, but we still must act as our world’s stewards and show the love of Christ to its needy masses. How might we work for God’s kingdom as our way of making a better world? What can we do to help some survive this world to live with God forever?

Lamech named his son Noah (Gen. 5:29), which may be related to the Hebrew word . . . (NUA?, ‘to rest’); that unfamiliar symbol “?” is pronounced like the final two letters in the Scottish word “loch.” Such word associations are lost on us because they are based on similar sound. When Lamech says, “This one will bring us comfort” (Gen. 5:29a, emphasis added), he uses a verb that shares some of the same letters and sounds of Noah’s name. This verb (? N?M) plays a powerful role in the events that will unfold in Genesis 6.

The summary of what has been said is that Lamech names Noah based on an expectation that Noah will bring comfort. That expectation will turn out to be correct but not in the way that Lamech expects.

Gordon Wenham says:

Chap. 4 [of Genesis] described the growing power of sin from Adam via Cain, culminating in the viciousness of Lamech. It also traced early developments in culture and technology but suggested that all were tainted by the effects of human sin. Chap. 5 on the other hand records God’s blessing of mankind; man multiplies, “fathering sons and daughters.”[1]

If Genesis 4 demonstrates the penetration of sin within humanity by human actions, Genesis 6 opens with a disturbing account of angelic interaction with human women during the pre-flood years.

When you look into ancient literature outside the Bible, you find distorted parallels to what is found in Genesis. Wenham says, “Marriages between men and the gods are a well-known feature of Greek, Egyptian, Ugaritic [a Syrian port, powerful in ancient times], Hurrian [an ancient people in the region of Turkey], and Mesopotamian theology.”[2] In other words, this idea seems strange to us but was well-known in ancient times. The Bible reveals some of the truth about the history.

Genesis 6:2
the sons of God saw that the daughters of humankind were beautiful. Thus they took wives for themselves from any they chose.
(NET Bible) 

In summarizing Genesis 6:1–4, Victor Hamilton says, “Here the divine or angelic world illegitimately impinges on the human world.”[3] The phrase “sons of God” has received a lot of discussion for centuries. The most likely explanation is that the phrase refers to “nonhuman godlike beings such as angels, demons, or spirits.”[4] It certainly refers to such entities in Job 1:6 and Ps. 29:1. Bruce Waltke offers the clarification that: “Angels are called ‘sons of God’ because they belong to the world of [God], although not in a mythological, physical, or genealogical sense.”[5]

In describing the sin of the angelic beings, Waltke says: “The Hebrew reads literally: ‘saw . . . good . . . took.’ Their sin repeats the pattern (‘saw . . . good . . . took’) of the original sin in 3:6.”[6] Whatever women they liked, they took for wives. The women and their parents were culpable for not refusing the pairings. God had declared that all reproduction was “according to its kind” (Gen. 1:24). But in a world where sin was running rampant, God’s limits were ignored.

As we will see in the next post, this is a prescription for disaster!

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

[1] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 125.

[2] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 138.

[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) 263.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 139.

[5] Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 116, fn 19.

[6] Waltke, Genesis, 117.