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Genesis 6:1

Context
God’s Grief over Humankind’s Wickedness

6:1 When humankind 1  began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born 2  to them, 3 

Genesis 6:5-7

Context

6:5 But the Lord saw 4  that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination 5  of the thoughts 6  of their minds 7  was only evil 8  all the time. 9  6:6 The Lord regretted 10  that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended. 11  6:7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – everything from humankind to animals, 12  including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.”

1 tn The Hebrew text has the article prefixed to the noun. Here the article indicates the generic use of the word אָדָם (’adam): “humankind.”

2 tn This disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) is circumstantial to the initial temporal clause. It could be rendered, “with daughters being born to them.” For another example of such a disjunctive clause following the construction וַיְהִיכִּי (vayÿhiki, “and it came to pass when”), see 2 Sam 7:1.

3 tn The pronominal suffix is third masculine plural, indicating that the antecedent “humankind” is collective.

4 sn The Hebrew verb translated “saw” (רָאָה, raah), used here of God’s evaluation of humankind’s evil deeds, contrasts with God’s evaluation of creative work in Gen 1, when he observed that everything was good.

5 tn The noun יֵצֶר (yetser) is related to the verb יָצָר (yatsar, “to form, to fashion [with a design]”). Here it refers to human plans or intentions (see Gen 8:21; 1 Chr 28:9; 29:18). People had taken their God-given capacities and used them to devise evil. The word יֵצֶר (yetser) became a significant theological term in Rabbinic literature for what might be called the sin nature – the evil inclination (see also R. E. Murphy, “Yeser in the Qumran Literature,” Bib 39 [1958]: 334-44).

6 tn The related verb הָשָׁב (hashav) means “to think, to devise, to reckon.” The noun (here) refers to thoughts or considerations.

7 tn Heb “his heart” (referring to collective “humankind”). The Hebrew term לֵב (lev, “heart”) frequently refers to the seat of one’s thoughts (see BDB 524 s.v. לֵב). In contemporary English this is typically referred to as the “mind.”

8 sn Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil. There is hardly a stronger statement of the wickedness of the human race than this. Here is the result of falling into the “knowledge of good and evil”: Evil becomes dominant, and the good is ruined by the evil.

9 tn Heb “all the day.”

sn The author of Genesis goes out of his way to emphasize the depth of human evil at this time. Note the expressions “every inclination,” “only evil,” and “all the time.”

10 tn Or “was grieved”; “was sorry.” In the Niphal stem the verb נָחָם (nakham) can carry one of four semantic meanings, depending on the context: (1) “to experience emotional pain or weakness,” “to feel regret,” often concerning a past action (see Exod 13:17; Judg 21:6, 15; 1 Sam 15:11, 35; Job 42:6; Jer 31:19). In several of these texts כִּי (ki, “because”) introduces the cause of the emotional sorrow. (2) Another meaning is “to be comforted” or “to comfort oneself” (sometimes by taking vengeance). See Gen 24:67; 38:12; 2 Sam 13:39; Ps 77:3; Isa 1:24; Jer 31:15; Ezek 14:22; 31:16; 32:31. (This second category represents a polarization of category one.) (3) The meaning “to relent from” or “to repudiate” a course of action which is already underway is also possible (see Judg 2:18; 2 Sam 24:16 = 1 Chr 21:15; Pss 90:13; 106:45; Jer 8:6; 20:16; 42:10). (4) Finally, “to retract” (a statement) or “to relent or change one’s mind concerning,” “to deviate from” (a stated course of action) is possible (see Exod 32:12, 14; 1 Sam 15:29; Ps 110:4; Isa 57:6; Jer 4:28; 15:6; 18:8, 10; 26:3, 13, 19; Ezek 24:14; Joel 2:13-14; Am 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:9-10; 4:2; Zech 8:14). See R. B. Chisholm, “Does God ‘Change His Mind’?” BSac 152 (1995): 388. The first category applies here because the context speaks of God’s grief and emotional pain (see the following statement in v. 6) as a result of a past action (his making humankind). For a thorough study of the word נָחָם, see H. Van Dyke Parunak, “A Semantic Survey of NHM,” Bib 56 (1975): 512-32.

11 tn Heb “and he was grieved to his heart.” The verb עָצָב (’atsav) can carry one of three semantic senses, depending on the context: (1) “to be injured” (Ps 56:5; Eccl 10:9; 1 Chr 4:10); (2) “to experience emotional pain”; “to be depressed emotionally”; “to be worried” (2 Sam 19:2; Isa 54:6; Neh 8:10-11); (3) “to be embarrassed”; “to be offended” (to the point of anger at another or oneself); “to be insulted” (Gen 34:7; 45:5; 1 Sam 20:3, 34; 1 Kgs 1:6; Isa 63:10; Ps 78:40). This third category develops from the second by metonymy. In certain contexts emotional pain leads to embarrassment and/or anger. In this last use the subject sometimes directs his anger against the source of grief (see especially Gen 34:7). The third category fits best in Gen 6:6 because humankind’s sin does not merely wound God emotionally. On the contrary, it prompts him to strike out in judgment against the source of his distress (see v. 7). The verb וַיִּתְעַצֵּב (vayyitatsev), a Hitpael from עָצָב, alludes to the judgment oracles in Gen 3:16-19. Because Adam and Eve sinned, their life would be filled with pain; but sin in the human race also brought pain to God. The wording of v. 6 is ironic when compared to Gen 5:29. Lamech anticipated relief (נָחָם, nakham) from their work (מַעֲשֶׂה, maaseh) and their painful toil (עִצְּבֹן, ’itsÿvon), but now we read that God was sorry (נָחָם, nakham) that he had made (עָשָׂה, ’asah) humankind for it brought him great pain (עָצָב, ’atsav).

12 tn The text simply has “from man to beast, to creatures, and to birds of the air.” The use of the prepositions עַדמִן (min...ad) stresses the extent of the judgment in creation.



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