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Verse 5. For this they willingly are ignorant of. lanyanei gar autouv touto yelontav. There is some considerable variety in the translation of this passage. In our common version the Greek word (yelontav) is rendered as if it were an adverb, or as if it referred to their ignorance in regard to the event; meaning, that while they might have known this fact, they took no pains to do it, or that they preferred to have its recollection far from their minds. So Beza and Luther render it. Others, however, take it as referring to what follows, meaning, "being so minded; being of that opinion; or affirming." So Bloomfield, Robinson, (Lex.,) Mede, Rosenmuller, etc. According to this interpretation the sense is, "They who thus will or think; that is, they who hold the opinion that all things will continue to remain as they were, are ignorant of this fact that things have not always thus remained; that there has been a destruction of the world once by water." The Greek seems rather to demand this interpretation; and then the sense of the passage will be, "It is concealed or hidden from those who hold this opinion, that the earth has been once destroyed." It is implied, whichever interpretation is adopted, that the will was concerned in it; that they were influenced by that rather than by sober judgment and by reason; and whether the word refers to their ignorance, or to their holding that opinion, there was obstinacy and perverseness about it. The will has usually more to do in the denial and rejection of the doctrines of the Bible than the understanding has. The argument which the apostle appeals to in reply to this objection is a simple one. The adversaries of the doctrine affirmed that the laws of nature had always remained the same, and they affirmed that they always would. The apostle denies the fact which they assumed, in the sense in which they affirmed it, and maintains that those laws have not been so stable and uniform that the world has never been destroyed by an overwhelming visitation from God. It has been destroyed by a flood; it may be again by fire. There was the same improbability that the event would occur, so far as the argument from the stability of the laws of nature is concerned, in the one case that there is in the other, and consequently the objection is of no force.

That by the word of God. By the command of God. "He spake, and it was done." Comp. Ge 1:6,9; Ps 33:9.

The idea here is, that everything depends on his word or will. As the heavens and the earth were originally made by his command, so by the same command they call be destroyed.

The heavens were of old. The heavens were formerly made, Ge 1:1. The word heaven in the Scriptures sometimes refers to the atmosphere, sometimes to the starry worlds as they appear above us, and sometimes to the exalted place where God dwells. Here it is used, doubtless, in the popular signification, as denoting the heavens as they appear, embracing the sun, moon, and stars.

And the earth standing out of the water and in the water. Marg., consisting. Gr., sunestwsa. The Greek word, when used in an intransitive sense, means to stand with, or together; then tropically, to place together, to constitute, place, bring into existence. —Robinson. The idea which our translators seem to have had is, that, in the formation of the earth, a part was out of the water, and a part under the water; and that the former, or the inhabited portion, became entirely submerged, and that thus the inhabitants perished. This was not, however, probably the idea of Peter. He doubtless has reference to the account given in Ge 1 of the creation of the earth, in which water performed so important a part. The thought in his mind seems to have been, that water entered materially into the formation of the earth, and that in its very origin there existed the means by which it was afterwards destroyed. The word which is rendered "standing" should rather be rendered consisting of, or constituted of; and the meaning is, that the creation of the earth was the result of the Divine agency acting on the mass of elements which in Genesis is called waters, Ge 1:2,6,7,9.

There was at first a vast fluid, an immense unformed collection of materials, called waters, and from that the earth arose. The point of time, therefore, in which Peter looks at the earth here, is not when the mountains, and continents, and islands, seem to be standing partly out of the water and partly in the water, but when there was a vast mass of materials called waters from which the earth was formed. The phrase "out of the water" (ex udatov) refers to the origin of the earth. It was formed from, or out of, that mass. The phrase "in the water" (di udatov) more properly means through or by. It does not mean that the earth stood in the water in the sense that it was partly submerged; but it means not only that the earth arose from that mass that is called water in Ge 1, but that that mass called water was in fact the grand material out of which the earth was formed. It was through or by means of that vast mass of mingled elements that the earth was made as it was. Everything arose out of that chaotic mass; through that, or by means of that, all things were formed, and from the fact that the earth was thus formed out of the water, or that water entered so essentially into its formation, there existed causes which ultimately resulted in the deluge.

{a} "by the word" Ge 1:6,9 {1} "earth standing" "consisting" {b} "water" Ps 24:2

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