Genesis 6

The Word Made Fresh

1The human population of the earth grew and expanded, and many children were born: boys and girls. 2Great men of olden days took note of the beauty of the human women and married the ones they chose.

3That is when the LORD said, “My spirit cannot inhabit mortals forever because they are mere flesh and will live no more than a hundred twenty years.”

4There were giants among men those days, when the great men had children with the women they took. They were the famous ones from the stories of olden days – legendary warriors.

5But the LORD saw that human wickedness had spread over the earth, and that they were inclined toward evil, and their very hearts were corrupted. 6Deeply grieved because of it, the LORD began to wish humans had never been created.

7That is why the LORD decided to wipe out humans from the face of the earth. And not just human beings, but animals and reptiles and birds as well. “I’m sorry I made them,” said the LORD.

8But the LORD was pleased with one man; Noah was his name.9Noah, who was a truly good man, walked with God; 10and Noah had three sons – Shem, Ham and Japheth.

11The whole world had become corrupt; God saw that it was filled with violence. 12Corruption was rampant and widespread over the earth.

13Then God spoke to Noah. “I have decided to do away with humans and animals on the face of the earth,” God said. “They have become so violent that I am going to wipe them out and start over. 14So, Noah, I want you to make an ark out of wood, with compartments inside it and sealed inside and out with tar. 15It is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet deep. 16Build a roof over it, pitched eighteen inches in the center. An entryway should be built into the ark’s side and you should finish the interior with three decks. 17I have decided to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy everything that breathes. Everything on the ground will die. 18But I will make an agreement with you. I want you to come aboard the ark with your sons, your wife, and their wives. 19And I want you to bring a pair, male and female, of every creature on the earth to keep them alive with you on the ark. 20Include the birds, the animals – even the creeping things.  Two of each kind, male and female, will board the ark with you to keep them alive. 21Be sure to load on the ark everything you will need to eat. Put it all in store on the ark so you will have enough food for every living thing on board.”

22And that is what Noah did. He did everything just as God told him.

Commentary

1-4: The text records an ancient belief, or memory, that in the distant past divine beings mated with humans and produced exceptional offspring. God decrees that this situation will not continue, but that there will be a limit on just how exceptional humans can be. It leaves us to wonder if that was a kind of “experiment” on God’s part in an attempt to improve us.

5-10: It is not clear that the wickedness mentioned here has anything to do with the mating of divine beings and mortals mentioned above, but wicked they are, so much so that God determines they must be done away with. We wonder where all this is going to lead, and then see that it is leading us back to the genealogy of the last chapter; to Noah, who, like Enoch, has found God’s favor because he is righteous; that is, he lives as God wants us to live. We are reminded that he has three sons.

11-13: It seems that the primary wickedness at large in the world is violence. Humans are prone to violence and that is specifically the reason God has decided to destroy them.

14-17: God tells Noah about his plans to destroy all living things. This comes as a surprise because it is human beings that are corrupt. The point of view seems to be that, if people are corrupt, all living things are thereby corrupted.

18-22: God offers a covenant with Noah. A covenant is an agreement in which each party pledges something with respect to the other party. As Genesis goes on, the idea of covenant will be refined. Noah is the first person with whom God offers a covenant. God’s part of the bargain is that Noah and his wife, his three sons, and their wives will be spared. Noah’s part of the covenant is to build the ark and bring on board a representative sampling of all the creatures of the earth.

Takeaway

Early in human history violence between individual and family groups was rampant. God allowed calamity to overwhelm the earth as a way of giving humanity a new beginning. Whenever there is a calamity which afflicts a large part of the earth’s population – wars and pandemics, for example – the end of each calamity is a sign that God hasn’t given up on the human race.