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Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 6

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verses 5-7


‘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 continually,’ etc.

Genesis 6:5-7

I. ‘In these verses,’ it will be said, ‘ we see the results of the Fall. God made man innocent, and man fell when he lost this independent virtue, this innoceney of his own; as the first father lost it, all his descendants, by the decree of God or by some necessity of their relationship, lost it too; hence arose the need for Divine grace, and for men being made partakers of a righteousness which is not their own.’

Now, if we follow the Scripture narrative closely, we shall find that it directly negatives this statement. It tells us that God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.’ Such words absolutely exclude the idea that man, according to his original constitution, possessed anything of his own. They affirm him to be good only in so far as he reflects that which exists perfect in another, so far only as he confesses Him to be the Good. God pronounced His creation very good, because no creature was standing in itself—because the highest creature, to which all the others looked up, himself looked up to his Maker and saw his perfection in Him.

II. The principle that man was made in the image of God is not a principle which was true for Adam and false for us. It is the principle upon which the race was constituted and can never cease to be constituted. Adam’s sin consisted in disbelieving that law and acting as if he were not under it. The Divine order has not been interrupted because a man refused obedience to it; it is only made more evident by that violation. Man has set up a self-will, has fallen under the dominion of the nature which God had given him. This very act is a step in his education, a means by which God will teach him more fully what he is, what he is not; how he may thwart the purposes of his Creator, how he may conspire with them.

III. The story of the Flood, as told in Scripture, is a most memorable part of the history of man, expounding the course of God’s dealings with him. He is grieved that He made man, because men were living wholly at variance with the law under which they were created. He uses the powers of nature to destroy those who had made themselves the slaves of nature. The righteous government which physical things obey is thus indicated. God’s repentance is reconciled with His divine, unchangeable will. There is a true and holy repentance in God, otherwise there could be no repentance in us.

—Rev. F. D. Maurice.


‘The purpose of creation had been frustrated by man’s wickedness, and therefore God determined to destroy man. “God, seeing that ruin must come,” from man’s sin, “acted judicially, as in the first instance He had acted creatively.” The question would seem to have been simply this: “Shall sin be left to kill the human race slowly, as if inch by inch, without My asserting judicial rights, or shall I distinctly interpose, as I did in Eden, and bring judgment down upon iniquity?” God was bound to take the second course, if He was to protect not only His own dignity, but the integrity of truth and righteousness.” Divine forbearance was exhausted: “It grieved the Lord at his heart that He had made man on the earth.” This was the moral reason for the Flood—“righteousness was asserted, sin judged, goodness preserved, evil destroyed.” ’

Verse 6


‘And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.’

Genesis 6:6

I. Human Sin.—(a) Sin had grown. This thought should be amplified, and special emphasis should be laid upon the fact that evil always has a tendency to grow. Every wicked man was once an innocent babe; the child committed its first conscious act of wrong-doing, perhaps a very little fault, but a real one. Then came another, then another. So it is easier to go wrong afterwards. Illustrate by the rolling of a stone down a slope, or by the increasing size of a leak in a ship. The stone accumulates force as it goes; the water flowing through the tiny hole in the ship’s side makes it larger. So the men of the old world each grew more and more sinful.

(b) One helped to make another bad.

(c) God’s patience, instead of leading them to do better, was taken advantage of.

(d) God saw it all. Perhaps they forgot Him altogether, or else persuaded themselves that He was taking no notice. They said, ‘How doth God know? Can He judge through the dark cloud?’ ( Job 12:13; Psalms 73:11). But nothing is hidden from His sight, and He not only saw what men did, and heard what they said, but He read their very thoughts ( v. 5). Remark, that though sin had driven God out of man’s heart, and there was no longer that happy fellowship between the two which existed in Eden, yet sin cannot drive God out of the world. Though unseen, He is yet everywhere present; seeing all, hearing all, knowing all.

II. Divine sorrow and anger.—It is impossible for us to fully understand what God is and how He feels; therefore we are obliged to be contented with words that describe actions and feelings of men. Thus we may say God was disappointed with man. He made him upright; intended him to be happy; but ‘ all flesh had corrupted his way upon earth.’ All the Divine expectations and hopes were disappointed, and God was sorry He had made man. The sorrow was very deep; ‘ It grieved Him at His heart.’ Impress upon hearers the thought that sin grieves God. Illustrate by sorrow of father or mother when children do wrong. But our Lesson teaches us that God is not only grieved at sin; it sets forth

III. Divine Judgment.—(a) God resolved on an appropriate punishment. The earth was filled with violence; He would fill it with a flood. Men were corrupt; they should all die. Everywhere there was violence ( v. 13); they should all die a violent death.

(b) The punishment was to be very complete. God would destroy all men, and all that belonged to them; their houses, their cattle, their flocks, their fowls. Almost always sin uses God’s gifts against Him; hence He often punishes now by taking away what would, if rightly used, be a blessing.


(1)‘Each age develops one or other of the many depraved tendencies of human nature in larger proportions than others—as Cain the self-righteous—the man that would be independent of the Maker of the world. Lamech, the sensual man, that overthrows God’s family order for man’s wellbeing. Nimrod—the rise of ambition, and its struggles for empire. This cycle has been often repeated; men get wearied of certain vices, and exchange them for others, as the fruits become too bitter to be longer endured, or as retributive providences produce a reaction against them.’

(2)‘We have no conception of the antediluvian age. Men then lived long enough to mature in sin, and we are told that everything that a man could imagine was carried out, and there was great violence in the land. But there is another class of people tell us, “Well, you know God is so merciful that all will be saved.” See how that will correspond with this: Man was so wicked and so corrupt and so violent that God could not let him live upon the earth, so He swept them all off, and left the only righteous man and his family. Yet some tell us that believers and unbelievers, thieves, murderers, sceptics, pantheists, deists, all alike, are going to heaven. It is a monstrous doctrine. He is coming to judge the world. God gave the world in Noah’s time one hundred and twenty years to repent, but how long our own day of grace may continue it is impossible to say. We do know, however, that there is still hope, and therefore, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts.’

Verse 8


‘Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.’

Genesis 6:8

I. The first fact that strikes us in the story of the Flood is this: that God, on account of the wickedness to which the world had grown, had made up His mind to sweep it away, once and for all.

II. Out of the seed of Noah God had determined to people the earth once more with a race that would not be so wicked as the one He destroyed.

III. Noah was told to go into the ark because his life was to be saved from the Flood. God has provided another ark for us; He tells us to go into it and be saved.

IV. Noah’s family was taken with him into the ark, showing the value God sets on family life.

V. God gave it as a reward to Noah for his righteousness that his children went with him into the ark. A holy and loving example preaches a sermon to those who watch it, and remains in the memory of the godless son and the godless daughter long after the parents have been laid in the grave.

Bishop Thorold.


(1)‘Almost all races possess some tradition of a great flood which swept away all mankind save one righteous man and his family. Noah is the Fuh-he of the Chinese, the Manu of the East Indians, the Deucalion of the Greeks, the Xisuturus of the Chaldeans, and the Coxcox and the Tezpi of the Mexicans. They represent him as the second father of the race, and several of them agree that he had three sons. In these traditions the dove, the olive-branch, the raven, and the ark itself all find a place. As to the universality of the Flood the traditions also agree. By that is meant, of course, that the Flood covered all the inhabited world. “It is distinctly with mankind that Genesis is concerned, and not with the physical globe.” As to the time, it is generally set down as 1650 years after the creation of Adam.

The whole story of the Deluge is of exceeding interest. It begins with the amazing description of the wickedness of the world before the Flood. Corruption and vileness filled the earth, and wickedness was rampant. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And, therefore, “God said unto Noah”—the only righteous man then living on the earth—“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.” ’

(2) ‘The earth was so corrupt that nothing short of a deluge could wash it clean. Cain, the first born, became a murderer, and good Abel, the next born, was put out of this life.

Humanity must start a new line or all would be Cainites. So Seth is born, but these “sons of God,” his descendants, soon married Cainites for their beauty, and the race got to be unnameably bad ( Genesis 6:5). Extermination by drowning was but a little more speedy than by the natural results of their sins.

But because there was one fairly good family, the infinite patience of God determined to start the race again. He would save one out of Sodom, and one family out of a doomed world. What kind of a man was worth saving? He was a “just man and perfect.” All the wickedness of the whole world did not swerve him. He had communion with God as if they talked face to face. He had great faith, so that obedience kept him preparing the ark for a hundred and twenty years, when there was no sign of rain. The sneers of men never turned him from obedience.’

Verse 17


‘And behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh.’

Genesis 6:17

With the exception of the black tribes and peoples, there is no branch of the human race that has not a tradition of the flood.—These traditions, of course, differ in many respects, and regard the event from many different standpoints, but in general features they are so constant and unvarying that it is impossible to regard the story as a myth. The Flood came before the family had scattered. God’s children were still in their ancestral home when the hour of tragedy and death arrived. The Flood, then, is not an idle story. It is the record of an actual event. What are some of God’s purposes in giving it this large place in His Word?

I. It teaches us the truth that God is watching.—Our Saviour has spoken of that, and so we put it first. For we are always tempted to think, as the years roll, that there is no eye fixed upon the scene. Day succeeds day, and night moves after night; men eat and drink, and love, and marry, and die, and all is so orderly and uninterrupted that they almost forget the power on the throne. But the story of the Flood was meant to teach that the Lord God is not indifferent. He does not sit apart in royal state, unconcerned with human sin and sorrow. He seems to be idle, but the hour will come when He will bare His arm and work in majesty. Men were utterly vile before the Flood, and God saw that. But among them there was one man who lived a holy life, and God saw that. Men thought they could live and sin just as they pleased, but the day dawned when they saw their tragic error. Let none of us think, then, that God does not see us. If we are struggling in evil surroundings to be good, He knows it all. No Noah can ever be hidden from the gaze of Him whose eyes go to and fro upon the earth.

II. Again, it teaches us that we are saved by faith.—The writer to the Hebrews dwells on that. There is no more sublime faith in the world’s history than the faith of Noah in preparing at God’s word. The skies were not dark when the first beams were laid. There was no murmur of uprising waters. Do you not think that people laughed at Noah? Did not the schoolboys mock him as they passed? It was the work of a dotard, in that golden weather, to be getting ready for a deluge. But Noah had been taught to scorn appearances, and he toiled on undaunted in his faith. By faith, then, Noah was saved through grace, and that not of himself, it was the gift of God. He had nothing but God’s bare word to hold to, but he held to it, though everybody mocked; and he found at last how wise it had been to walk by faith and not by sight. Are you ready to be true though others smile? Are you willing to pray and to believe that sin spells death, though all the appearances should be against it?

III. Once more it teaches us that God saves by separating.—That is one of the greatest of all Bible truths. Let us never forget the care and the love and the patience wherewith God separated Noah from the world. The thought of the ark and the plan of the ark were God’s. It was God who gave Noah strength to do the work. And at last, when all was ready for the voyaging, we read that it was God who shut them in. Did Noah grumble at his loss of liberty? Did he think it hard to lose the fair sweet world? Was it odious to him to be confined and limited after the long years in vale and meadow? I think he saw the wisdom of the limits when he stepped out to the large liberty of Ararat. So does God deal with every one of us. He draws us apart; He saves by separation. And at first, perhaps, when we are called to cross-bearing, we think it hard that our old liberty should go. But gradually through our separation comes our freedom. Through our separation we have entered a new world, and where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.

IV. Then, lastly, it teaches us that God saves for service.—It was for the world’s sake that Noah was brought through. He was preserved that mankind might start again, and so was he a forerunner of the Second Adam. God never saves us merely to enjoy. God saves us that we may do His will. A man is brought through the deep waters for the sake of others, and his first task is always to build an altar. Note, too, that of the beasts and birds that were preserved, some were immediately offered on that altar. They, too, no less than Ham and Shem, were saved for service, and they served best by being sacrificed. Is not that sometimes the case with all of us? Was it not so supremely with the Lord? He was brought through the deeps and billows of Gethsemane to serve mankind, and His crowning service was being sacrificed on Calvary.


‘Père Scheil, the Assyriologist, recently discovered a new account of the Deluge. It was found upon some fragments of a terra-cotta tablet which he dug up at Sippara, inscribed with cuneiform characters. One word, ‘ hibis’ (effaced), indicates that though the tablet is dated in the time of King Ammizaduga (about 2140 b.c.), it is itself only a copy of an earlier record. It is now settled, therefore, beyond all question that many centuries before Moses, men could and did make permanent records. The fragments of this newly-discovered tablet are large enough to show that the poem contains polytheistic and mythical details, in marked contrast with the divine story of Genesis.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Genesis 6". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/genesis-6.html. 1876.
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