Genesis 6:5
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.
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(5) And God saw.—Really, And Jehovah saw.

Imagination.—More exactly, form, shape. Thus every idea or embodied thought, which presented itself to the mind through the working of the heart—that is, the whole inner nature of man—“was only evil continually”—Heb., all the day, from morning to night, without reproof of conscience or fear of the Divine justice. A more forcible picture of complete depravity could scarcely be drawn; and this corruption of man’s inner nature is ascribed to the overthrow of moral and social restraints.

Genesis 6:5. God saw that the wickedness of man, &c. — Abundance of sin was committed in all places, by all sorts of people; and those sins in their own nature most gross, and heinous, and provoking; and committed daringly, and in defiance of heaven. And that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually — A sad sight, and very offensive to God’s holy eye! This was the bitter root, the corrupt spring: all the violence and oppression, all the luxury and wantonness that was in the world, proceeded from the corruption of nature; lust conceived them, James 1:15, see Matthew 15:19. The heart was evil, deceitful, and desperately wicked; the principles were corrupt, and the habits and dispositions evil. The thoughts of the heart were so. Thought is sometimes taken for the settled judgment, and that was biased and misled; sometimes for the workings of the fancy, and those were always either vain or evil. The imagination of the thoughts of the heart was so; that is, their designs and devices were wicked. They did not do evil only through carelessness, but deliberately and designedly contrived how to do mischief. It was bad indeed, for it was only evil, continually evil, and every imagination was so. There was no good to be found among them, no, not at any time: the stream of sin was full, and strong, and constant; and God saw it. Here is God’s resentment of man’s wickedness. He did not see it as an unconcerned spectator, but as one injured and affronted by it; he saw it as a tender father sees the folly and stubbornness of a rebellious and disobedient child, which not only displeases but grieves him, and makes him wish he had been written childless.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.In these verse we are to conceive the 120 years of respite to be at an end. The iniquity of the race is now full, and the determination of the Lord is therefore announced, with a statement of the grounds on which it rests, and a glance at the individual to be excepted from the general destruction.

Genesis 6:5

And God saw. - The course of the primeval world was a great experiment going on before the eye of God, and of all intelligent observers, and manifesting the thorough depravity and full-grown degeneracy of the fallen race, when left to the bent of its perverted inclinations. "Every imagination" (יצר yētser). Here the object of thought is distinguished from the thought itself. This is a distinction not generally or constantly recognized by the mental philosopher, though of essential importance in the theory of the mind. The thought itself is a real phase or attitude of mind; the form, idea, species, object of thought may have matter, real content, or it may not. "Only evil every day." This is an unlimited condemnation of the state and process of the carnal man. The reason is obvious. Homage to God, to truth, to right, to love, does not reign in his heart; and the imaginations or purposes that are not regulated by this, however excellent and praiseworthy in other respects, are destitute of the first the essential principle of moral good. This is now made palpable to the eye of observation by the almost universal predominance of the ungodly spirit. This accordingly forms the ground of the divine procedure.

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). To the heart the Scripture commonly ascribes all men’s actual wickedness, as Psalm 41:6 Proverbs 4:23, Proverbs 6:14, Proverbs 6:18, Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:19 Romans 3:10, &c.; thereby leading us from acts of sin to the original corruption of nature, as the cause and source of them.

Evil continually, i.e. that man was perpetually either doing or contriving wickedness; that not only his actions were vile, but his principles also; his very soul, yea, the noblest part of it, which might seem most free from the contagion; his mind and thoughts were corrupt and abominable, and so there was no hope of amendment. And God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth,.... That it spread throughout the earth, wherever it was inhabited by men, both among the posterity of Cain and Seth, and who indeed now were mixed together, and become one people: this respects actual transgressions, the wicked actions of men, and those of the grosser sort, which were "multiplied" (r) as the word also signifies; they were both great in quality and great in quantity; they were frequently committed, and that everywhere; the degeneracy was become universal; there was a flood of impiety that spread and covered the whole earth, before the deluge of waters came, and which was the cause of it: this God saw, not only by his omniscience, by which he sees everything, but he took notice of it in his providence, and was displeased with it, and determined in his mind to show his resentment of it, and let men see that he observed it, and disapproved of it, and would punish for it:

and that, every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually: the heart of man is evil and wicked, desperately wicked, yea, wickedness itself, a fountain of iniquity, out of which abundance of evil flows, by which it may be known in some measure what is in it, and how wicked it is; but God, that sees it, only knows perfectly all the wickedness of it, and the evil that is in it: the "thoughts" of his heart are evil; evil thoughts are formed in the heart, and proceed from it; they are vain, foolish, and sinful, and abominable in the sight of God, by whom they are seen, known, and understood afar off: the "imagination" of his thoughts is evil, the formation of them; they were evil while forming, the substratum of thought, the very beginning of it, the first motion to it, yea, "every" such one was evil, and "only" so; not one good among them, not one good thing in their hearts, no one good thought there, nor one good imagination of the thought; and so it was "continually" from their birth, from their youth upwards, throughout the whole of their lives, and all the days of their lives, night and day, and day after day, without intermission: this respects the original corruption of human nature, and shows it to be universal; for this was not only true of the men of the old world, but of all mankind; the same is said of men after the flood as before, and of all men in general without any exception, Genesis 8:21. Hence appears the necessity of regeneration, and proves that the new creature is not an improvement of the old principles of corrupt nature, since there is no good thing in man but what is put into him; also the disability of man to do that which is good, even to think a good thought, or do a good action; therefore the works of unregenerate men are not properly good works, since they cannot flow from a right principle, or be directed to a right end.

(r) "augescere", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "multiplicaretur", Schmidt.

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.
5. of man] Literally, “the man,” ha-adam, used generically, as in Genesis 6:1.

“The unity of the race is a consistent doctrine of the O.T. It was האדם, man, when created as a single individual. It spread over the earth, and was still האדם, man. It was כלבשר, ‘alt flesh,’ that had corrupted its way before the Flood. Mankind is, as a whole, corrupt; and, corresponding to this, each individual is unclean.… Probably the O.T. does not go the length of offering any rationale of the fact that each individual is sinful, beyond connecting him with a sinful whole.” (Davidson, Theology of the O.T. pp. 218, 219.)

every imagination of the thoughts of his heart] An elaborate description. The word rendered “imagination” means “form,” “formation,” or “shape,” and, as applied to the region of thought, denotes “an idea,” or “the concept of thought,” cogitatio, cf. Genesis 8:21.

continually] Literally, “all the day.” Man’s sinfulness is thus described as universal and unintermittent. The beginnings of “sin” are seen in the picture of the Fall, chap. 3, its propagation in the murderous act of Cain, chap. 4; we have reached in this passage its complete and unrestrained expansion.

The LXX translating the word for “imagination” as a verb, gives καὶ πᾶς τις διανοεῖται ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἐπιμελῶς ἐπὶ τὰ πονηρὰ πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας, Lat. quod … cuncta cogitatio cordis intenta esset ad malum omni tempore.

5–8. Introduction to the story of the Flood from J: Jehovah sees the sinfulness of man and resolves to annihilate the race.

Genesis 6:5 to Genesis 9:17. The Flood. (J and P.)

Here follows the Hebrew narrative of the Flood. The Flood is the one great event in the history of the world, which in the Hebrew narrative emerges out of the obscurity between the creation of man and the period of the patriarchs. It marks the close of the first era of the human race. According to the story in Genesis, it was a judgement for the depravity of mankind.

It marks also the beginning of a new era in the history of mankind. This has its origin in the mercy of God, who, in recognition of the righteousness of Noah, preserves him and his family in the general overthrow. This is a symbol of salvation. The new age opens with the renewal of promises to man, and with a covenant entailing new obligations on man’s part, in return for the assurance of Divine protection.

On the relation of the Genesis narrative to the Babylonian and other accounts of the Flood, see Special Note on the chapter comments for Genesis 8.

The present narrative is woven together out of the two distinct Israelite traditions, J and P: see Introduction. This compositeness of structure in the Flood narrative is quite unmistakable1[12]. It accounts for the (a) repetitions, (b) discrepancies, (c) intermittent use of special words and phrases, inexplicable on the assumption of a continuous homogeneous narrative. Under the head of (a) “repetitions,” notice the duplicated account of the growing corruption of mankind in Genesis 6:5-8 (J), and in Genesis 6:9-12 (P); of the entrance of Noah and his family into the ark Genesis 7:7 (J) and Genesis 7:13 (P); of the rising of the waters of the Flood Genesis 7:17 (J) and Genesis 7:18-19 (P); of the end of all living creatures Genesis 7:21 (P) and Genesis 7:22-23 (J); and of God’s promise to Noah in Genesis 8:15-19 (P) and Genesis 8:20-22 (J).

[12] See Appendix C (book comments).

Under the head of (b) “discrepancies,” notice that, in P, Noah takes one pair of every kind of animal into the ark (Genesis 6:19-20, and Genesis 7:15-16), while, in J, Noah is commanded to take seven pairs of every clean animal and one pair of every unclean animal into the ark (Genesis 7:2-3); again, in P, the Flood is brought about through the outburst of the waters from the great deep both from beneath the earth and from above the firmament (Genesis 7:11, Genesis 8:2); while, in J, it is produced by the rain (Genesis 7:12, Genesis 8:2). According to P, the Flood was in progress for 150 days (Genesis 7:24, Genesis 8:3), while according to J the rain lasted for 40 days (Genesis 7:12); in J the waters were subsiding for 14 or 21 days (Genesis 8:10; Genesis 8:12), and in P the earth was dry after a year and 10 days (Genesis 8:14).

Under the head of (c), the following are examples of distinctive phraseology:

P  J

“God” (Elohim), Genesis 6:9; Genesis 6:11-13; Genesis 6:22, Genesis 7:16 a, Genesis 8:1; Genesis 8:15.  “the Lord” (Jehovah), Genesis 7:1; Genesis 7:5; Genesis 7:16 b, Genesis 8:20-21.

“male and female” (zâkâr un’ḳêbâh), Genesis 6:19, Genesis 7:16.  “the male and his female” (ish v’ishto), Genesis 7:2.

“destroy” (shâḥath), Genesis 6:13; Genesis 6:17.  “destroy” (mâḥâh), Genesis 6:7, Genesis 7:4; Genesis 7:23.

“all flesh,” Genesis 6:12-13; Genesis 6:17, Genesis 7:21.  “every living thing,” Genesis 7:4; Genesis 7:23.

“breath (ruaḥ) of life,” Genesis 7:15.  “breath of (nishmath) the spirit of (ruaḥ) life,” Genesis 7:22.

“die” (gâv‘â), Genesis 7:21.  “die” (mûth), Genesis 7:22.

“waters prevailed” (gâbâr), Genesis 7:18-19; Genesis 7:24.  “waters increased” (râbâh), Genesis 7:17 b.

“waters abated” (ḥâsêr), Genesis 8:3 b, 5.  “waters abated” (qâlal), Genesis 8:8.

Also characteristic of P is the minute description of the ark and its dimensions (Genesis 6:14-16), the varieties of animals (Genesis 6:20), the Flood’s depth (Genesis 7:20), and the members of Noah’s family (Genesis 7:13, Genesis 8:15; Genesis 8:18); while, in J, Divine action is described in anthropomorphic terms (e.g. Genesis 6:6, Genesis 7:16, Genesis 8:21), and vivid details of narrative are introduced (Genesis 8:6-12).

Roughly speaking the portions derived from P consist of Verse 5. - And God (Jehovah, which should have been rendered 'the Lord') saw - indicative of the long-continued patience (Calvin) of the Deity, under whose immediate cognizance the great experiment of the primeval age of the world was wrought out - that the wickedness (ra'ath; from the root raa, to make a loud noise, to rage, hence to be wicked) of man (literally, of the Adam: this was the first aggravation of the wickedness which God beheld; it was the tumultuous rebellion of the being whom he had created in his own image) was great (it was no slight iniquity, but a wide-spread, firmly-rooted, and deeply-staining corruption, the second aggravation) in the earth. This was the third aggravation; it was in the world which he had made, and not only in it, but pervading it so "that integrity possessed no longer a single corner" (Calvin). And that every imagination - yetzer, a device, like pottery ware, from yatza, to fashion as a potter (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 8:19). Cf. yotzer, a potter, used of God (Psalm 94:9, 20). Hence the fashioned purpose (ἐνθύμησις) as distinguished from the thought out of which it springs - "a distinction not generally or constantly recognized by the mental philosopher, though of essential importance in the theory of the mind" (Murphy) - of the thoughts - mahshevoth; from hashal, to think, to meditate = ἔννοια; cf. Hebrews 9:12 (T. Lewis) - of his heart - or, the heart, the seat of the affections and emotions of the mind. Cf. Judges 16:15 (love); Proverbs 31:11 (confidence); Proverbs 5:12 (contempt); Psalm 104:15 (joy). Here "the feeling, or deep mother heart, the state of soul, lying below all, and giving moral character to all (Lewis). Cf. the psychological division of Hebrews 4:12 was only evil continually. Literally, every day. "If this is not total depravity, how can language express it?" Though the phrase does not mean "from infancy," yet "the general doctrine" (of man's total and universal depravity) "is properly and consistently elicited hence" (Calvin). Now 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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