a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

The Wickedness of Humankind


When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. 3Then the L ord said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.” 4The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

5 The L ord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6And the L ord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7So the L ord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8But Noah found favor in the sight of the L ord.

Noah Pleases God

9 These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. 10And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. 13And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. 21Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

9. These are the generations of Noah. The Hebrew word תולדות (toledoth) properly means generation. It has, however, sometimes a more extended sense, and applies to the whole history of life; this indeed seems to be its meaning in the present place.271271     See Dathe, in loco. For when Moses had stated that one man was found whom God, — when he had determined to destroy the whole world, — would yet preserve, he briefly describes what kind of person he was. And, in the first place, asserts, that he was just and upright among the men of his age: for here is a different Hebrew noun, דור (dor,) which signifies an age, or the time of a life.272272     Though it also means generation. — See Gesenius, Schindler, etc, sub voce דור The word תמים (tamim) which the ancient interpreter is accustomed to translate perfect,273273     “Noe vir justus atque perfectus ferit.” — Vulgate. — “תמים refers chiefly to moral integrity, irreproachable, innocent, honest.” — Gesenius is of the same force as upright or sincere ; and is opposed to what is deceitful, pretended, and vain. And Moses does not rashly connect these two things together; for the world, being always influenced by external splendor, estimates justice, not by the affection of the heart, but by bare works. If, however, we desire to be approved by God, and accounted righteous before him, we must not only regulate our hands, and eyes, and feet, in obedience to his Law; but integrity of heart is above all things required, and holds the chief place in the true definition of righteousness. Let us, however, know that they are called just and upright, not who are in every respect perfect, and in whom there is no defect; but who cultivate righteousness purely, and from their heart. Because we are assured that God does not act towards his own people with the rigour of justice, as requiring of them a life according to the perfect rule of the Law; for, if only no hypocrisy reigns within them, but the pure love of rectitude flourishes, and fills their hearts, he pronounces them, according to his clemency, to be righteous.

The clause, “in his generations,” is emphatical. For he has already often said, and will soon repeat it, that nothing was more corrupt than that age. Therefore, it was a remarkable instance of constancy, that Noah being surrounded on every side with the filth of iniquity, should hence have contracted no contagion. We know how great is the force of custom, so that nothing is more difficult than to live homily among the wicked, and to avoid being led away by their evil examples. Scarcely is there one in a hundred who has not in his mouth that diabolical proverb, ‘We must howl when we are among the wolves;’ and the greater part, — framing a rule for themselves from the common practice, — judge everything to be lawful which is generally received. As, however, the singular virtue of Noah is here commended; so let us remember that we are instructed what we ought to do, though the whole world were rushing to its own destruction. If, at the present time, the morals of men are so vitiated, and the whole mode of life so confused, that probity has become most rare; still more vile and dreadful was the confusion in the time of Noah, when he had not even one associate in the worship of God, and in the pursuit of holiness. If he could bear up against the corruptions of the whole world, and against such constant and vehement assaults of iniquity; no excuse is left for us, unless, with equal fortitude of mind, we prosecute a right course through innumerable obstacles of vice. It is not improbable that Moses uses the word generations in the plural number, the more fully to declare what a strenuous and invincible combatant Noah was, who, through so many ages, had remained unaltered. Besides, the manner of cultivating righteousness, which he had adopted is explained in the context; namely that he had “walked with God,” which excellency he had also commended in the holy father Enoch, in the preceding chapter, where we have stated what the expression means. When the corruption of morals was so great in the earth, if Noah had had respect to man, he would have been cast into a profound labyrinth. He sees, therefore, this to be his only remedy; namely, to disregard men, that he may fix all his thoughts on God, and make Him the sole Arbiter of his life. Whence it appears, how foolishly the Papists clamor that we ought to follow the fathers; when the Spirit expressly recalls us from the imitation of men, except so far as they lead us to God. Moses again mentions his three sons, for the purpose of showing that, in the greatest sorrow by which he was almost consumed, he was yet able to have offspring, in order that God might have a small remnant of seed for himself.

VIEWNAME is study