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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Genesis 6

Verses 1-4

GENESIS - CHAPTER SIX

Verses 1-4:

"It came to pass," literally, "it was." This denotes some earlier era in the pre-flood world, and is not an immediate sequence following chapter 5. The period covered by these verses possibly had its beginning around the time of Enoch, contemporary with Lamech the Cainite, see Ge 5:19-24. It was in this era that violence and sensuality began to increase at a rapid rate.

There are two opinions among Bible interpreters regarding the identity of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men." One interpretation is that the "sons of God" were angels. This view was held by Philo, Justin Martyr, Clement, Tertullian, Luther, Gesenius, Ewald, Delitzsch, Alford, and others. This portion cites the following Scriptures which identify angels as "sons of God:" Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; along with Jude 6, 7. This interpretation is inconsistent with the basic, universal law that "like produces like." Nowhere in the realm of nature is there an inter-breeding between species. Although angels at times appeared to men in human form (Ge 18; Jos 5:12-15; Jg 6:11-22), there is no hint that this changed their essential nature to that of a human being. Jesus confirmed that the essential difference between humans and angels renders marriage relations impossible by the angels, Mt 22:30; Lu 20:35, 36.

The other interpretation is that the "sons of God" are the descendants of godly Seth. Among the ancient writers who held this belief were Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, Jerome, Keil, Calvin, Lange, and others. Other Scriptures which have the phrase "sons of God" clearly refer to humans and not to angels, De 14:1; Lu 3:38; Ga 3:16. Historically, Eve recognized Seth as a son from God, Ge 4:25. It was during the lifetime of Seth that his descendants began to call themselves by the Name of Jehovah, Ge 4:26.

"Daughters of men" refers not to the Cainites restrictedly, but to men generally, including at times perhaps to those of the lineage of Seth as well as of Adam’s other descendants. The key expression is not "daughters of men," but "they were fair," tob, referring to their outward appearance. Physical attraction became the main factor in the marriage relationship among the "sons of God," just as it was the Cainite line of godless humanity. Jesus confirms this: "In the days that were before the flood they were. . .marrying and giving in marriage" (Mt 24:38). The sin was not in the marriage relationship per se but in the perversion of it, degrading it to the beast level of sensuality and fleshly lust.

Emphasis is on "of all," denoting that the Sethites did not restrict their marriage relationship to the "fair" daughters of their own race, but chose wives indiscriminately from the Cainites the estranged lineage of Adam and others, with no regard to spiritual character.

At some point in the pre-flood history, Jehovah determined that He would not indefinitely tolerate the sensuality and violence which came to characterized the human race, including many of the Sethites. Verse 3 implies that from this point, it was 120 years to the terrible judgment Jehovah would pour out upon sinful humanity.

"Giants," nephilim, from naphal meaning "to fall." This term implies that the "giants" were products of the fall of the "sons of God" into the sin of moral impurity. Nephilim occurs only three times on the Hebrew text, the other occurrences both being in Nu 13:33 where they refer to the inhabitants of Canaan, Cainites who terrorized Israel’s spies. The word does not refer exclusively to one who is huge in stature. It includes one who is violent, lawless, or who may be deformed in appearance. These violent, strange appearing men occupied various regions of the earth in the days when the sensual lifestyle prevailed in the pre-flood world.

In addition to the nephilim who filled the earth with violence and moral impurity, there were also "mighty men" "ha-gibborim born to the unholy marriages. Gibborim, literally, "heroes, strong and impetuous ones." The term occurs some 157 times in the Hebrew text and refers to both good and evil men. The context governs the meaning. These men were men of reputation in the pre-flood world, the nobility who boasted of their lawlessness.

Verses 5-8

Verses 5-8:

"Wickedness" is ra’ath, tumultuous wickedness. The entire human race had become wicked in God’s Sight. This was no slight misdeed, but man’s wickedness was wide-spread, deeply ingrained into every aspect of society. Wicked mankind turned his great powers and talents and wisdom to sensuality and violence throughout the inhabited earth. Jesus described this condition in His comparison of the "last days" just prior to His Return with the pervasive wickedness of the pre-flood world, Mt 24:37-39; Lu 17:26, 27.

"Imagination" is yetzer, a device or fashioned purpose. This term denotes the purpose fashioned from the inner meditations of the heart. Man’s sin was the product of the depravity in his innermost being. All he designed and produced was for but one purpose: the gratification of the sin-nature.

"Repented" is yirnnahem, from naham, "to groan or pant." The grammatical structure here denotes grief or lamentation. This does not imply that God changed His mind nor that He wavered in His purpose. Man’s sin caused grief to Jehovah.

Jehovah pronounced judgment upon the depravity of the pre-flood world. "Destroy" is machah, "blot out or wipe away." This verb implies the means by which the destruction would take place: a "washing away" in a deluge. Jehovah determined to wipe out the entire human race. Included in this destruction would be the lower animals, the beasts and creeping things over which man exercised dominion. This was not an impulsive act of revenge on Jehovah’s part, but it was a solemn pronouncement of the awful effects of sin. Not only would the sinner be subject to judgment, but the effects would pervade all with whom he had to do.

"Noah found grace." This is the first appearance of the term "grace." It is the same as the "grace" of the New Testament, see Ro 4, 5; Eph 2. The reason Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah is clarified in Heb 11:7. It was in response to Noah’s faith.

Verses 9-13

Verse 9-13:

"Just" is upright, declared to be righteous. It is a legal term, denoting one who has been tried and acquitted, declared not guilty.

"Perfect," tamim is "whole", complete. (Sept. teleios, complete or fulfilled). It does not mean without flaw or sinless. It denotes moral uprightness and integrity, maturity. This indicates that Noah was of unbroken or pure descent from the lineage of Seth. He was not as many of his contemporaries, offspring of promiscuous relations between the godless and the godly lines, of Seth and Cains’ lineage.

Note: the expression "all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth" does not occur until after the birth of Noah’s sons. To some, this implies that the variation of the physical characteristics of Noah’s sons may have been due to a mixing of the lines of Seth and Cain in the genealogy of Noah’s wife. It is said of Noah that he was "perfect in his generations." This is not said of his wife. Apparently this marriage was not in the perfect, revealed Will of God.

Like Enoch, Noah walked with God. Unlike Enoch he was left in the world of wickedness, where he became a preacher of righteousness (2Pe 2:5), and warned of God’s impending judgment.

Noah’s sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. They are usually listed in this order. This may seem to imply that Shem was the oldest, Ham, the second-born, and Japheth the youngest. But the order in which they are listed is not necessarily the order of their birth. Ge 9:14 lists Ham as Noah’s "younger son." Shem was born 97 years before the Flood, Ge 11:10, and Noah was 600 years old at the time of the Flood. Ge 5:32 records that Noah was 500 years old when he began to beget children. This implies that Japheth was born about three years before Shem. Thus, Japheth was the eldest, Shem the second-born, Ham the youngest son of Noah.

The names of Noah’s sons are significant in their prophetic and historic meaning:

Shem: "name" or "fame." It was through his descendants that the "Name" of Jehovah was to be perpetuated, culminating in the coming of Messiah.

Ham: "hot" or "dark, swarthy." This could refer to his skin color, for his descendants are primarily the dark-skinned peoples.

Japheth: "God will enlarge." His descendants settled primarily in the northern regions of the earth.

See chapters 10 and 11 for more on the descendants of Noah’s sons.

The inhabitants of the earth had become openly, totally corrupt. They flaunted their lawlessness and licentiousness before God. The outward demonstration of their inward corruption was violence, including all kinds of cruelty and injuries toward others. Humanity as a whole had turned away from God’s design to their own ways of depravity. By the time of Noah, men had ceased to attempt to cover their sin as did Adam, or to hide from Jehovah. They were brazen in their depraved conduct.

God informed Noah of His determination to terminate the moral corruption which enveloped the inhabited earth. "All" does not mean every single individual, as Noah and his family were not included in the sentence of Divine judgment. It is a general term frequently employed in other Scripture references, indicating the vast majority.

Verses 14-22

Verses 14-22:

God made provision for Noah and his family to escape the devastation of His judgment upon the earth. He gave Noah instructions to build an "Ark," tebah, a boat or vessel. This was not to be a boat in the ordinary sense of the term, but a box-like structure (see Ex 2:3) capable of floating upon the waters. The material to be used: "gopher wood," made water-proof by caulking. and coating with "pitch" or bitumen. The exact type of wood is thought by many to be a resinous tree, like cypress.

Noah’s unusual vessel was to contain "rooms," kinnim or "nests," chambers. There were to be three "stories" or "decks" in the craft. Its dimensions were three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. A cubit is generally regarded as eighteen inches. This in linear measurements would be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Inclusive of interior and exterior trim, and assuming the vessel to be rectangular in shape, and assuming the cubit to be eighteen inches, the ark contained a gross of 1,518,750 cubic feet capacity. Allowing five feet, or 31/a cubits for the ends and sides, and 10 cubits for the keel, the two inner floors or decks, and the top deck or roof, the interior dimensions could have been 445 feet by 70 feet by 35 feet. This gives an interior capacity of 1,090,250 cubic feet. Allowing forty cubic feet per ton, the ark could have had a capacity for between 27,256.25 tons to 37,968.75 tons. A Seventeenth Century maritime engineer proved in an actual experiment that a vessel built after the dimensions and pattern of the ark would have a cargo capacity greater by one-third than any other form of cubic content. The size and dimensions of the ark were such that there was ample room for Noah and his entire family, for all the animals God required him to take on board, and for all the provisions necessary for a twelve months’ cruise.

The ark is another proof of Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. Nothing like this had ever been attempted in all of human history. There were no documents giving instructions in ship-building. There was no way for mere human ingenuity to produce the calculations and furnish the blueprints for this project. No previous experiments existed to show the exact dimensions required for maximum efficiency. The only way Noah could have designed and completed the ark was by direct inspiration from God.

The ark was to have a "window," necessary both for light and for ventilation. "Window" is tsohar, a "bright object or double light." This is not the same word in Ge 8:6, denoting the window through which Noah sent the dove following the flood. The word is challon, meaning "a perforated place," and is the term commonly used for the windows of a building. The "one window" was likely an opening of a cubit, or eighteen inches, running along the top of the ark’s sides, and sheltered by over-hanging eaves of the top deck or roof. This would provide about 1,350 square feet of open area. If the opening continued on both the ends, this would add another 225 square feet of opening, making a total of 1,575 square feet, adequate for ventilation and light for the entire vessel. ,

The ark was to have only one door, set in the side. This door could have provided a ramp for access into the ark, to all three stories of it.

The entire project was a tremendous undertaking for Noah. First, he must gather the materials to be used in the building. Then, he must prepare these materials into usable form, cut and dressed and ready for use. Then, he must fit everything in its proper place. Finally, he must caulk all the seams, and coat it inside and outside with "pitch," probably bitumen or asphalt. Given the sinfulness of most of humanity it was likely that Noah received little assistance and no encouragement for his job. How long the project required for completion is unknown. some suggest it was 120 years, based on Ge 6:3. If that be true, Noah began the project twenty years before the birth of his first child. It may be assumed that as the sons grew, they became involved in the work, and helped Noah.

God revealed to Noah that the means of judgment upon the earth would be a flood of waters. "Flood" is mabbul, and is used exclusively to denote the deluge of Noah’s day, with the sole exception of Ps 29:10. This implies that this "flood" was to be something special, more than a rampage of nature. There was to be nothing like this ever again in earth’s history.

The deluge was designed to destroy all humanity, and all land and air creatures on the face of the earth, with the exception of those that were in the ark.

Jehovah made a "covenant," birith, that He would spare Noah and his family from the devastation of the Deluge. The term comes from a verb meaning "to cut or carve," alluding to the custom of cutting or dividing pieces of the sacrificial victim and passing between these pieces, see Ge 15:9. This was a "covenant of blood," by which Jehovah guaranteed Noah’s safety.

Jehovah instructed Noah to take into the ark two of every sort of living creatures, to preserve the animal species for repopulating the earth. "Shalt thou bring" is literally, "receive them when they come." This implies Divine intervention in bringing the pairs of animals, creeping things, and fowls into the ark. In addition, there was to be gathered and stored food supplies adequate for the duration of the Deluge. Noah did all according as Jehovah instructed him.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 6". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-6.html. 1985.