Genesis 6:6
And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
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(6) And it repented the Lord.—If we begin with the omniscience and omnipotence of God as our postulates, everything upon earth must be predestined and immutably fore-ordained. If we start with man’s free will, everything will depend upon human choice and action. Both these sides must be true, though our mental powers are too limited to combine them. In Holy Scripture the latter view is kept more prominently in the foreground, because upon it depends human responsibility. Thus here, the overwhelming of mankind by a flood, and the subsequent abbreviation of life, is set before our eyes as painful to the Deity, and contrary to His goodwill towards men, but as necessitated by the extreme depravity of even the chosen Sethite race.

Genesis 6:6. It repented the Lord, it grieved him at his heart — Properly speaking, God cannot repent, Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:11-29; for he is perfectly wise and unchangeable in his nature and counsels, Malachi 3:6, and James 1:17. Neither is he liable to grief or disappointment, being constantly happy. But this is spoken of God after the manner of men, by the same figure of speech whereby eyes, ears, hands, and feet are ascribed to God, and must be understood so as not to reflect on his immutability or felicity. It doth not imply any passion or uneasiness in God; for nothing can create disturbance to the eternal mind: but it signifies his just and holy displeasure against sin and sinners. Neither doth it speak any change of God’s mind, for with him is no variableness; but it signifies a change of his way. When God had made man upright, he rested and was refreshed, Exodus 31:17, and his way toward him was such as showed him to be well pleased with the work of his own hands; but now that man was apostatized, he could not do otherwise than show himself displeased: so that the change was in man, and not in God.

6:1-7 The most remarkable thing concerning the old world, is the destroying of it by the deluge, or flood. We are told of the abounding iniquity of that wicked world: God's just wrath, and his holy resolution to punish it. In all ages there has been a peculiar curse of God upon marriages between professors of true religion and its avowed enemies. The evil example of the ungodly party corrupts or greatly hurts the other. Family religion is put an end to, and the children are trained up according to the worldly maxims of that parent who is without the fear of God. If we profess to be the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, we must not marry without his consent. He will never give his blessing, if we prefer beauty, wit, wealth, or worldly honours, to faith and holiness. The Spirit of God strove with men, by sending Enoch, Noah, and perhaps others, to preach to them; by waiting to be gracious, notwithstanding their rebellions; and by exciting alarm and convictions in their consciences. But the Lord declared that his Spirit should not thus strive with men always; he would leave them to be hardened in sin, and ripened for destruction. This he determined on, because man was flesh: not only frail and feeble, but carnal and depraved; having misused the noble powers of his soul to gratify his corrupt inclinations. God sees all the wickedness that is among the children of men; it cannot be hid from him now; and if it be not repented of, it shall be made known by him shortly. The wickedness of a people is great indeed, when noted sinners are men renowned among them. Very much sin was committed in all places, by all sorts of people. Any one might see that the wickedness of man was great: but God saw that every imagination, or purpose, of the thoughts of man's heart, was only evil continually. This was the bitter root, the corrupt spring. The heart was deceitful and desperately wicked; the principles were corrupt; the habits and dispositions evil. Their designs and devices were wicked. They did evil deliberately, contriving how to do mischief. There was no good among them. God saw man's wickedness as one injured and wronged by it. He saw it as a tender father sees the folly and stubbornness of a rebellious and disobedient child, which grieves him, and makes him wish he had been childless. The words here used are remarkable; they are used after the manner of men, and do not mean that God can change, or be unhappy. Does God thus hate our sin? And shall not we be grieved to the heart for it? Oh that we may look on Him whom we have grieved, and mourn! God repented that he had made man; but we never find him repent that he redeemed man. God resolves to destroy man: the original word is very striking, 'I will wipe off man from the earth,' as dirt or filth is wiped off from a place which should be clean, and is thrown to the dunghill, the proper place for it. God speaks of man as his own creature, when he resolves upon his punishment. Those forfeit their lives who do not answer the end of their living. God speaks of resolution concerning men, after his Spirit had been long striving with them in vain. None are punished by the justice of God, but those who hate to be reformed by the grace of God.And it repented the Lord - that he had made man. The Scripture is frank and unreserved; some people would say, imprudent or regardless of misconstruction, in its statements of truth. Repentance ascribed to the Lord seems to imply wavering or change of purpose in the Eternal Self-existent One. But the sublime dictate of the inspired word is, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken and shall he not make it good?" Numbers 23:19. In sooth, every act here recorded - the observation, the resolve, the exception - seems equally with the repentance to jar with the unchangeableness of God. To go to the root of the matter, every act of the divine will, of creative power, or of interference with the order of nature, seems at variance with inflexibility of purpose. But, in the first place, man has a finite mind and a limited sphere of observation, and therefore is not able to conceive or express thoughts or acts exactly as they are in God, but only as they are in himself. Secondly, God is a spirit, and therefore has the attributes of personality, freedom, and holiness; and the passage before us is designed to set forth these in all the reality of their action, and thereby to distinguish the freedom of the eternal mind from the fatalism of inert matter. Hence, thirdly, these statements represent real processes of the Divine Spirit, analogous at least to those of the human. And, lastly, to verify this representation, it is not necessary that we should be able to comprehend or construe to ourselves in all its practical detail that sublime harmony which subsists between the liberty and the immutability of God. That change of state which is essential to will, liberty, and activity, may be, for aught we know, and from what we know must be, in profound unison with the eternity of the divine purpose.5, 6. God saw it … repented … grieved—God cannot change (Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17); but, by language suited to our nature and experience, He is described as about to alter His visible procedure towards mankind—from being merciful and long-suffering, He was about to show Himself a God of judgment; and, as that impious race had filled up the measure of their iniquities, He was about to introduce a terrible display of His justice (Ec 8:11). 2448

Properly God cannot repent, Numbers 23:19 1 Samuel 15:11, 1 Samuel 15:29, because he is unchangeable in his nature and counsels, Malachi 3:6 Jam 1:17, and perfectly wise, and constantly happy, and therefore not liable to any grief or disappointment. But this is spoken of God after the manner of man, by a common figure called anthropopathia, whereby also eyes, ears, hands, nose, &c. are ascribed to God; and it signifies an alienation of God’s heart and affections from men for their wickedness, whereby God carries himself towards them like one that is truly penitent and grieved, destroying the work of his own hands.

It grieved him at his heart, or, at his very soul, i.e. exceedingly.

And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth,.... Because of the wickedness of man, the wickedness of his heart, and the wickedness of his life and conversation, which was so general, and increased to such a degree, that it was intolerable; wherefore God could have wished, as it were, that he had never made him, since he proved so bad; not that repentance, properly speaking, can fall upon God, for he never changes his mind or alters his purposes, though he sometimes changes the course and dispensations of his providence. This is speaking by an anthropopathy, after the manner of men, because God determined to do, and did something similar to men, when they repent of anything: as a potter, when he has formed a vessel that does not please him, and he repents that he has made it, he takes it and breaks it in pieces; and so God, because of man's wickedness, and to show his aversion to it, and displicency at it, repented of his making him; that is, he resolved within himself to destroy him, as in the next verse, which explains this:

and it grieved him at his heart; this is to be understood by the same figure as before, for there can, no more be any uneasiness in his mind than a change in it; for God is a simple Being, uncompounded, and not subject to any passions and affections. This is said to observe his great hatred to sin, and abhorrence of it.

And it {g} repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

(g) God never repents, but he speaks in human terms, because he destroyed him, and in a way denied him as his creature.

6. And it repented the Lord … grieved him at his heart] This is a strong instance of what is called anthropomorphism, an expression descriptive of human emotion or action ascribed to Jehovah (e.g. Genesis 3:8, Genesis 7:16, Genesis 8:21). Such expressions have often given rise to superficial criticisms, depreciatory of Holy Scripture, on the part both of those who are ignorant of Oriental literature, and of those who assume that the Books of Holy Scripture must be free from the literary characteristics of the writers’ age and nationality. In this verse Jehovah is represented as intensely grieved at the frustration of His purposes for the human race. The description is given in the childlike simplicity of the language of an early age: compare Genesis 11:5-6; Genesis 18:21.

In other passages, e.g. Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, it is asserted that Jehovah is not, like man, capable of repentance. There are two representations in Holy Scripture of the Divine Nature: one, which, as here, makes the Divine Purpose fluctuate, in reflexion, as it were, of man’s changing experiences; the other, which depicts the Divine Purpose as uniform, changeless, and unvarying, cf. James 1:17.

It was the dread of any expression being liable to the suspicion of irreverence towards the Almighty, which led to the strange renderings of this verse by the later Jews. Thus, LXX renders “repented” by ἐνεθυμήθη = “considered,” and “grieved” by διενοήθη = “purposed,” while the Targum of Onkelos renders the second clause “and spake by his word to break their strength according to his will,” and Pseudo-Jonathan, “and disputed with his word concerning them.” The object of such paraphrases is to avoid anthropomorphism. The LXX also avoids the expression of repentance as applied to God in Exodus 32:12.

The Latin rendering is quite free from any such shrinking, and is noteworthy: poenituit eum et tactus dolore cordis intrinsecus.

Verse 6. - And it repented the Lord. Yinnahem; from naham, to pant, to groan; Niph., to lament, to grieve bemuse of the misery of others, also because of one's own actions; whence to repent (cf. German, rouen; English, rue: Gesenius); = "it grieved him at his heart." "Verbum nostae pravitatae accommodatum" (Chrysostom); "non est perturbatio, sod judi-cium, quo irrogatur pinna;" and again, "poenitudo Dei est mutandorum immutabilis ratio" (Augustine). "Deus est immutabilis; sed cum ii, quos eurat, mutantur, murat ipse res, prout ils expedit quos eurat" (Justin Martyr: Latin Version). "The repentance here ascribed to God does not properly belong to him, but has reference to our understanding of him (Calvin). "The repentance of God does not presuppose any variableness in his nature or purposes" Keil). "A peculiarly strong anthropathic expression, which, however, presents the truth that God, in consistency with his immutability, assumes a changed position in respect to changed man" (Lange). That he had made man on the earth. i.e. that he had created man at all, and in particular that he had settled him on the earth. And it grieved him at his heart. A touching indication that God did not hate man, and a clear proof that, though the Divine purpose is immutable, the Divine nature is not impassible. Genesis 6:6Now when the wickedness of man became great, and "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil the whole day," i.e., continually and altogether evil, it repented God that He had made man, and He determined to destroy them. This determination and the motive assigned are also irreconcilable with the angel-theory. "Had the godless race, which God destroyed by the flood, sprung either entirely or in part from the marriage of angels to the daughters of men, it would no longer have been the race first created by God in Adam, but a grotesque product of the Adamitic factor created by God, and an entirely foreign and angelic factor" (Phil.).

(Note: When, on the other hand, the supporters of the angel marriages maintain that it is only on this interpretation that the necessity for the flood, i.e., for the complete destruction of the whole human race with the exception of righteous Noah, can be understood, not only is there no scriptural foundation for this argument, but it is decidedly at variance with those statements of the Scriptures, which speak of the corruption of the men whom God had created, and not of a race that had arisen through an unnatural connection of angels and men and forced their way into God's creation. If it were really the case, that it would otherwise be impossible to understand where the necessity could lie, for all the rest of the human race to be destroyed and a new beginning to be made, whereas afterwards, when Abraham was chosen, the rest of the human race was not only spared, but preserved for subsequent participation in the blessings of salvation: we should only need to call Job to mind, who also could not comprehend the necessity for the fearful sufferings which overwhelmed him, and was unable to discover the justice of God, but who was afterwards taught a better lesson by God Himself, and reproved for his rash conclusions, as a sufficient proof of the deceptive and futile character of all such human reasoning.) But this is not the true state of the case. The Scriptures expressly affirm, that after the flood the moral corruption of man was the same as before the flood; for they describe it in Genesis 8:21 in the very same words as in Genesis 6:5 : and the reason they assign for the same judgment not being repeated, is simply the promise that God would no more smite and destroy all living, as He had done before-an evident proof that God expected no change in human nature, and out of pure mercy and long-suffering would never send a second flood. "Now, if the race destroyed had been one that sprang from angel-fathers, it is difficult to understand why no improvement was to be looked for after the flood; for the repetition of any such unnatural angel-tragedy was certainly not probable, and still less inevitable" (Philippi).)

The force of ינּחם, "it repented the Lord," may be gathered from the explanatory יתעצּב, "it grieved Him at His heart." This shows that the repentance of God does not presuppose any variableness in His nature of His purposes. In this sense God never repents of anything (1 Samuel 15:29), "quia nihil illi inopinatum vel non praevisum accidit" (Calvin). The repentance of God is an anthropomorphic expression for the pain of the divine love at the sin of man, and signifies that "God is hurt no less by the atrocious sins of men than if they pierced His heart with mortal anguish" (Calvin). The destruction of all, "from man unto beast," etc., is to be explained on the ground of the sovereignty of man upon the earth, the irrational creatures being created for him, and therefore involved in his fall. This destruction, however, was not to bring the human race to an end. "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." In these words mercy is seen in the midst of wrath, pledging the preservation and restoration of humanity.

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