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Genesis 6:9-22

Context
The Judgment of the Flood

6:9 This is the account of Noah. 1 

Noah was a godly man; he was blameless 2 

among his contemporaries. 3  He 4  walked with 5  God. 6:10 Noah had 6  three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

6:11 The earth was ruined 7  in the sight of 8  God; the earth was filled with violence. 9  6:12 God saw the earth, and indeed 10  it was ruined, 11  for all living creatures 12  on the earth were sinful. 13  6:13 So God said 14  to Noah, “I have decided that all living creatures must die, 15  for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Now I am about to destroy 16  them and the earth. 6:14 Make 17  for yourself an ark of cypress 18  wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover 19  it with pitch inside and out. 6:15 This is how you should make it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. 20  6:16 Make a roof for the ark and finish it, leaving 18 inches 21  from the top. 22  Put a door in the side of the ark, and make lower, middle, and upper decks. 6:17 I am about to bring 23  floodwaters 24  on the earth to destroy 25  from under the sky all the living creatures that have the breath of life in them. 26  Everything that is on the earth will die, 6:18 but I will confirm 27  my covenant with you. You will enter 28  the ark – you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 6:19 You must bring into the ark two of every kind of living creature from all flesh, 29  male and female, to keep them alive 30  with you. 6:20 Of the birds after their kinds, and of the cattle after their kinds, and of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you so you can keep them alive. 31  6:21 And you must take 32  for yourself every kind of food 33  that is eaten, 34  and gather it together. 35  It will be food for you and for them.

6:22 And Noah did all 36  that God commanded him – he did indeed. 37 

1 sn There is a vast body of scholarly literature about the flood story. The following studies are particularly helpful: A. Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and the Old Testament Parallels; M. Kessler, “Rhetorical Criticism of Genesis 7,” Rhetorical Criticism: Essays in Honor of James Muilenburg (PTMS), 1-17; I. M. Kikawada and A. Quinn, Before Abraham Was; A. R. Millard, “A New Babylonian ‘Genesis Story’,” TynBul 18 (1967): 3-18; G. J. Wenham, “The Coherence of the Flood Narrative,” VT 28 (1978): 336-48.

2 tn The Hebrew term תָּמִים (tamim, “blameless”) is used of men in Gen 17:1 (associated with the idiom “walk before,” which means “maintain a proper relationship with,” see 24:40); Deut 18:13 (where it means “blameless” in the sense of not guilty of the idolatrous practices listed before this; see Josh 24:14); Pss 18:23, 26 (“blameless” in the sense of not having violated God’s commands); 37:18 (in contrast to the wicked); 101:2, 6 (in contrast to proud, deceitful slanderers; see 15:2); Prov 2:21; 11:5 (in contrast to the wicked); 28:10; Job 12:4.

3 tn Heb “Noah was a godly man, blameless in his generations.” The singular “generation” can refer to one’s contemporaries, i.e., those living at a particular point in time. The plural “generations” can refer to successive generations in the past or the future. Here, where it is qualified by “his” (i.e., Noah’s), it refers to Noah’s contemporaries, comprised of the preceding generation (his father’s generation), those of Noah’s generation, and the next generation (those the same age as his children). In other words, “his generations” means the generations contemporary with him. See BDB 190 s.v. דוֹר.

4 tn Heb “Noah.” The proper name has been replaced with the pronoun in the translation for stylistic reasons.

5 tn The construction translated “walked with” is used in Gen 5:22, 24 (see the note on this phrase in 5:22) and in 1 Sam 25:15, where it refers to David’s and Nabal’s men “rubbing shoulders” in the fields. Based on the use in 1 Sam 25:15, the expression seems to mean “live in close proximity to,” which may, by metonymy, mean “maintain cordial relations with.”

6 tn Heb “fathered.”

7 tn Apart from Gen 6:11-12, the Niphal form of this verb occurs in Exod 8:20 HT (8:24 ET), where it describes the effect of the swarms of flies on the land of Egypt; Jer 13:7 and 18:4, where it is used of a “ruined” belt and “marred” clay pot, respectively; and Ezek 20:44, where it describes Judah’s morally “corrupt” actions. The sense “morally corrupt” fits well in Gen 6:11 because of the parallelism (note “the earth was filled with violence”). In this case “earth” would stand by metonymy for its sinful inhabitants. However, the translation “ruined” works just as well, if not better. In this case humankind’s sin is viewed has having an adverse effect upon the earth. Note that vv. 12b-13 make a distinction between the earth and the living creatures who live on it.

8 tn Heb “before.”

9 tn The Hebrew word translated “violence” refers elsewhere to a broad range of crimes, including unjust treatment (Gen 16:5; Amos 3:10), injurious legal testimony (Deut 19:16), deadly assault (Gen 49:5), murder (Judg 9:24), and rape (Jer 13:22).

10 tn Or “God saw how corrupt the earth was.”

11 tn The repetition in the text (see v. 11) emphasizes the point.

12 tn Heb “flesh.” Since moral corruption is in view here, most modern western interpreters understand the referent to be humankind. However, the phrase “all flesh” is used consistently of humankind and the animals in Gen 6-9 (6:17, 19; 7:15-16, 21; 8:17; 9:11, 15-17), suggesting that the author intends to picture all living creatures, humankind and animals, as guilty of moral failure. This would explain why the animals, not just humankind, are victims of the ensuing divine judgment. The OT sometimes views animals as morally culpable (Gen 9:5; Exod 21:28-29; Jonah 3:7-8). The OT also teaches that a person’s sin can contaminate others (people and animals) in the sinful person’s sphere (see the story of Achan, especially Josh 7:10). So the animals could be viewed here as morally contaminated because of their association with sinful humankind.

13 tn Heb “had corrupted its way.” The third masculine singular pronominal suffix on “way” refers to the collective “all flesh.” The construction “corrupt one’s way” occurs only here (though Ezek 16:47 uses the Hiphil in an intransitive sense with the preposition בְּ [bet, “in”] followed by “ways”). The Hiphil of שָׁחָת (shakhat) means “to ruin, to destroy, to corrupt,” often as here in a moral/ethical sense. The Hebrew term דֶּרֶךְ (derekh, “way”) here refers to behavior or moral character, a sense that it frequently carries (see BDB 203 s.v. דֶּרֶךְ 6.a).

14 sn On the divine style utilized here, see R. Lapointe, “The Divine Monologue as a Channel of Revelation,” CBQ 32 (1970): 161-81.

15 tn Heb “the end of all flesh is coming [or “has come”] before me.” (The verb form is either a perfect or a participle.) The phrase “end of all flesh” occurs only here. The term “end” refers here to the end of “life,” as v. 3 and the following context (which describes how God destroys all flesh) make clear. The statement “the end has come” occurs in Ezek 7:2, 6, where it is used of divine judgment. The phrase “come before” occurs in Exod 28:30, 35; 34:34; Lev 15:14; Num 27:17; 1 Sam 18:13, 16; 2 Sam 19:8; 20:8; 1 Kgs 1:23, 28, 32; Ezek 46:9; Pss 79:11 (groans come before God); 88:3 (a prayer comes before God); 100:2; 119:170 (prayer comes before God); Lam 1:22 (evil doing comes before God); Esth 1:19; 8:1; 9:25; 1 Chr 16:29. The expression often means “have an audience with” or “appear before.” But when used metaphorically, it can mean “get the attention of” or “prompt a response.” This is probably the sense in Gen 6:13. The necessity of ending the life of all flesh on earth is an issue that has gotten the attention of God. The term “end” may even be a metonymy for that which has prompted it – violence (see the following clause).

16 tn The participle, especially after הִנֵּה (hinneh) has an imminent future nuance. The Hiphil of שָׁחָת (shakhat) here has the sense “to destroy” (in judgment). Note the wordplay involving this verb in vv. 11-13: The earth is “ruined” because all flesh has acted in a morally “corrupt” manner. Consequently, God will “destroy” all flesh (the referent of the suffix “them”) along with the ruined earth. They had ruined themselves and the earth with violence, and now God would ruin them with judgment. For other cases where “earth” occurs as the object of the Hiphil of שָׁחָת, see 1 Sam 6:5; 1 Chr 20:1; Jer 36:29; 51:25.

17 sn The Hebrew verb is an imperative. A motif of this section is that Noah did as the Lord commanded him – he was obedient. That obedience had to come from faith in the word of the Lord. So the theme of obedience to God’s word is prominent in this prologue to the law.

18 tn A transliteration of the Hebrew term yields “gopher (גֹּפֶר, gofer) wood” (so KJV, NAB, NASB). While the exact nature of the wood involved is uncertain (cf. NLT “resinous wood”), many modern translations render the Hebrew term as “cypress” (so NEB, NIV, NRSV).

19 tn The Hebrew term כָּפָר (kafar, “to cover, to smear” [= to caulk]) appears here in the Qal stem with its primary, nonmetaphorical meaning. The Piel form כִּפֶּר (kipper), which has the metaphorical meaning “to atone, to expiate, to pacify,” is used in Levitical texts (see HALOT 493-94 s.v. כפר). Some authorities regard the form in v. 14 as a homonym of the much more common Levitical term (see BDB 498 s.v. כָּפָר).

20 tn Heb “300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high.” The standard cubit in the OT is assumed by most authorities to be about 18 inches (45 cm) long.

21 tn Heb “a cubit.”

22 tn Heb “to a cubit you shall finish it from above.” The idea is that Noah was to leave an 18-inch opening from the top for a window for light.

23 tn The Hebrew construction uses the independent personal pronoun, followed by a suffixed form of הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”) and the a participle used with an imminent future nuance: “As for me, look, I am going to bring.”

24 tn Heb “the flood, water.”

25 tn The verb שָׁחָת (shakhat, “to destroy”) is repeated yet again, only now in an infinitival form expressing the purpose of the flood.

26 tn The Hebrew construction here is different from the previous two; here it is רוּחַ חַיִּים (ruakh khayyim) rather than נֶפֶשׁ הַיָּה (nefesh khayyah) or נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (nishmat khayyim). It refers to everything that breathes.

27 tn The Hebrew verb וַהֲקִמֹתִי (vahaqimoti) is the Hiphil perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive (picking up the future sense from the participles) from קוּם (qum, “to rise up”). This may refer to the confirmation or fulfillment of an earlier promise, but it is more likely that it anticipates the unconditional promise made to humankind following the flood (see Gen 9:9, 11, 17).

28 tn The perfect verb form with vav (ו) consecutive is best understood as specific future, continuing God’s description of what will happen (see vv. 17-18a).

29 tn Heb “from all life, from all flesh, two from all you must bring.” The disjunctive clause at the beginning of the verse (note the conjunction with prepositional phrase, followed by two more prepositional phrases in apposition and then the imperfect verb form) signals a change in mood from announcement (vv. 17-18) to instruction.

30 tn The Piel infinitive construct לְהַחֲיוֹת (lÿhakhayot, here translated as “to keep them alive”) shows the purpose of bringing the animals into the ark – saving life. The Piel of this verb means here “to preserve alive.”

31 tn Heb “to keep alive.”

32 tn The verb is a direct imperative: “And you, take for yourself.” The form stresses the immediate nature of the instruction; the pronoun underscores the directness.

33 tn Heb “from all food,” meaning “some of every kind of food.”

34 tn Or “will be eaten.”

35 tn Heb “and gather it to you.”

36 tn Heb “according to all.”

37 tn The last clause seems redundant: “and thus (כֵּן, ken) he did.” It underscores the obedience of Noah to all that God had said.



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