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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Genesis 6

 

 

Verse 1

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

When men began to multiply. This is a general statement relative to the increase of the human family, without any intimation of the precise period to which it refers. Some writers have maintained that in the times immediately preceding the flood, the world was as densely populated as it is in the present day. But all calculations of the numbers of mankind founded on modern statistics, and applied to estimate the probable amount of the antediluvian population, are utterly fallacious. So far from its having been so great as has been surmised, the awfully corrupt and disordered state of society which widely prevailed must have been unfavourable to population, or have rapidly diminished it; and, accordingly, there are Scriptural data to warrant the belief that it was comparatively small. Noah, in the 600th year of his life, reckoned his whole family as consisting of eight persons; so that, if this was an average number from one man, the race could not have multiplied very fast, and we may see why the merciful Creator determined that it should not, in order that the judgment inflicted by the deluge should not be so severe as it would have been if the whole earth had been inhabited. Further, the Scriptures represent the existing race of mankind as having been all within the reach of Noah's warning voice and actions (cf. Hebrews 11:7, with 1 Peter 3:19-20; 2 Peter 2:5); and the most rational supposition is, that the area occupied by mankind was bounded by a circumference not very distant from the central abode of the first parent.

And daughters were born unto them. They are particularly mentioned because the seductive influence of their beauty and manners was one principal cause of the antediluvian apostasy and debasement.


Verse 2

That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

The sons of God saw the daughters of men. This is a difficult passage, and various modes of interpreting it have been proposed:

(1) An opinion extensively adopted is, that the "sons of God" denote angels, "daughters of men," women generally; and that the transaction referred to was, that the angels who had been appointed to guard Eden and perambulate the world, becoming enamoured with women, mingled familiarly in their society, and cohabited with them. This view is of great antiquity, having been entertained, according to Josephus, in the later ages of the Jewish Church, and eagerly adopted by Justin, Athenagoras, Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, and Lactantius, whose semi-pagan imaginations were dazzled by the rhapsodical legends of the Apocryphal book of Enoch. Being strenuously opposed at a subsequent period by Chrysostom, Augustine, and others, it was long exploded in the Christian Church as a wild and revolting fiction, until it was revived in modern times, and supported on various grounds by Rosenmuller, Gesenius, Kurtz, Tuch, Knobel, and Delitzsch, in Germany; and by Govett ('Isaiah Unfulfilled'), Maitland ('False Worship'), and others (Birks' 'Difficulties') in England, not to speak of Milton, Byron, and Moore, all of whom enlisted it in the service of poetry.

The alleged application of the name "sons of God" to angels in the poetical book of Job (Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 38:7; and perhaps Daniel 3:25), which is thought to have been written by Moses; the Septuagint version [which has hoi (Greek #3588), angeloi (Greek #32) tou (Greek #5120) Theou (Greek #2316), the anqels of God]; the supposed testimonies of Peter (1 Peter 3:19-20; 2 Peter 2:4) and Jude (Jude 1:6-7) in favour of this view, referring, as some imagine, to a class of fallen angels who, unlike Satan and his followers, are, because the enormity of their crimes, reserved in chains until the judgment-day; and the assumption that an extraordinary outrage must have been perpetrated before a judgment so awful as the flood would have been inflicted, are the grounds on which this opinion is rested by its supporters. But Keil, Faber, and others, have successfully shown that angels are not designated "the sons of God" in any part of the Pentateuch; that there is no reference to angels in this passage; still less in Peter, where, by 'the disobedient spirits in prison,' and the angels that kept not their first habitation, as also in Jude, where by the allusion to Sodom and Gomorrah, Balaam and Korah (Jude 1:7-11), it is proved that the apostles had in view only erring, sinful men.

Moveover, not to dwell on the impossibility (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:36) of angels having such a carnal intercourse as is alluded to, and on the likelihood that Divine Providence would have immediately interposed rather than have deferred the judicial punishment of so enormous a violation of natural order for 120 years, the entire context of this passage refers to men as having corrupted their ways, and being, by the withdrawal of God's Spirit, doomed to punishment. For these and other reasons, this opinion as to the connection of angels with women is generally opposed by orthodox divines as contrary to all sound notions both of philosophy and religion.

(2) Another interpretation of the passage, which has been suggested in our own day, proceeds on the hypothesis that there were other varieties of mankind in existence beside the descendants of Adam; and, in accordance with this view, the following translation is proposed:-`And it came to pass, when the Adamites (literally, the Adam) began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,' 'the sons of 'Elohiym (Hebrew #430)'-the sons of the gods-the other races, saw the daughters of the Adamites that they were goodly, and they took them wives of all which they chose ('Genesis of the Earth and of Man'). That 'Aadaam (Hebrew #121), with the Hebrew article, is used as the name of an individual, see the note at Genesis 6:1-2. The term is, indeed, frequently used generically for mankind, but never to denote a distinct race of human beings; and accordingly it is not found in the plural, which it would have been if applied to a race. It might naturally have been expected, that in some ancient version this interpretation, if right, would have been found, but not one has been discovered to give the smallest countenance to such a view; and therefore, until some stronger evidence shall be adduced than what the world has yet seen, to prove that mankind are not all descended from one pair, the theory respecting the existence of a race called the Adamites, as separate from other human creatures, must be rejected.

(3) The most correct, and now the most prevalent, view of this passage-the view supported by Chrysostom and Augustine in ancient, and by Luther, Calvin, Hengstenberg, Keil, Faber, etc., in modern times-is that by "the sons of God," are meant the Sethites principally, but including also those other descendants of Adam who professed the same religious views and feelings:

`That sober race of men, whose lives Religious titled them the sons of God.'

And by "the daughters of men," women of Cainite descent, including such as might have joined their degenerate society from other branches of the Adamic family. Pious people, professors of the true religion, who truly reflected the divine image, were "the sons of God ( 'Elohiym (Hebrew #430))," and were called by that name long before the theocracy had brought the Israelites into the special relationship of the Lord's (Yahweh's) children (Exodus 4:22-23; Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:5; Psalms 73:15; Psalms 82:6; Isaiah 63:16; Hosea 1:10), or the idea attached to the name had received its full development in the Christian Church (John 1:12; Romans 8:14; Romans 8:19; 1 John 3:1-2).

Moveover, that the Hebrew word 'Aadaam (Hebrew #121), with or without the article, is often used to denote a particular class, in contradistinction to men in general-men of worldly, irreligious character-will appear from the following passages (Judges 16:7; Judges 18:28; Psalms 73:5; 1 Corinthians 3:4). The meaning of the clause under notice, then, is that the professedly religions class of the antediluvians, consisting principally of Sethites, with some others-a class who, by their principles and practice, had long kept themselves separate from the world-began gradually to relax their strictness, and to abandon their isolated position, by cultivating acquaintance, and then forming alliances, with "the daughters of men" in general, the Cainite and other women of similar character. This is what is referred to by Jude, when he says (Jude 1:6) that they kept not [ teen (Greek #3588) heautoon (Greek #1438) archeen (Greek #746)] their primitive dignity as sons of God, and the original excellence in which they were created, but left [to idion oiketeerion] their own proper situation (Bloomfield). The interpretation of the phrase, "sons of God" now given connects the present passage with Genesis 4:26, from which it is divided by the insertion of Genesis 5:1-32, which seems a distinct document; and the two verses thus viewed throw light upon each other, as well as upon the course of the following narrative.

They took wives of all which they chose. The Hebrew verb, laaqach (Hebrew #3947), to take, with 'ishaah They took wives of all which they chose. The Hebrew verb, laaqach (Hebrew #3947), to take, with 'ishaah (Hebrew #802) (Genesis 19:14; 1 Samuel 25:43), and sometimes without it (Genesis 34:9; Genesis 34:16; Deuteronomy 20:7; 1 Chr. 22:22 ), signifies to take in marriage. From this usual import of the term, therefore, the marriages which the Sethites formed with the Cainite women were legitimate connections; and as female beauty has always exercised a powerful influence over the minds of men in the choice of their wives, there was no impropriety in allowing that element of attraction to have weight in forming the matrimonial relation then, any more than now. But the Sethites seem, in their admiration of external charms, to have paid no regard to the will of God respecting religious principle and character; and as intermarriages with unbelievers and profane women have in all ages been productive of numerous evils (Genesis 27:46; Genesis 28:1; Exodus 34:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14), it must be concluded that the sacred historian had such consequences in view when he took such a prominent notice of the manners which formed a characteristic feature of the latest antediluvian age.

Mixed marriages between parties of opposite principles and practice must necessarily be sources of extensive corruption. The women, irreligious themselves, would, as wives and mothers, exert an influence fatal to the existence of religion in their household, and consequently the later antediluvians sank to the lowest depravity. But the phrase "took them wives of all which they chose evidently implies something very different from the simple exercise of a free choice; and it seems a conclusion perfectly warranted by the terms of this passage, that the practice of polygamy had widely spread. until it became the chief cause of that universal corruption and violence which ensued. In connection with this, it may be added that the Hebrew 'Elohiym (Hebrew #430) sometimes signifies 'the great, the mighty' (Psalms 29:1; Psalms 82:1; Psalms 82:7; John 10:34), and the Hebrew 'aadaam (Hebrew #120), as distinguished from 'iysh (Hebrew #376), denotes the poor, humble, and common people (Psalms 49:1-2; Isaiah 2:8-9); so that we may consider the passage still further as implying that the princes, or sons of the chief men, broke through the restraints of social and domestic order, by taking, in profligate and violent licentiousness, numbers of beautiful women from among the humbler classes to fill their harems.


Verse 3

And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

And the Lord said. There is nothing said either of the time when or the parties to whom this communication was made. But it is supposed that the words which follow are a traditional fragment of Enoch's prophecies (Jude 1:14-15).

My Spirit shall not always strive with man. The Hebrew [ yaadown (Hebrew #1777)], 'my Spirit shall not be made low in man; i:e., the higher and divine nature shall not forever be humiliated in the lower, shall not ever descend from heaven and dwell in flesh forever (Gesenius). Others, as De Wette, Maurer, Knobel, and Delitzsch, render it, 'My spirit (the divine breath which was breathed into him at creation) shall not judge or rule in man forever;' i:e., they shall not live so long as their ancestors. But "my Spirit" seems rather to refer here to the Holy Spirit; and in that view there are two interpretations given to this clause. The Septuagint, the Syriac, the Chaldaic, and the Vulgate [reading yaadowr] render it 'my Spirit shall not always dwell or remain with man,' as threatening to forewarn them that the Shechinah, or divine presence, which had hitherto continued at the gate of Eden, and among the Sethites, would be withdrawn from the world. The other interpretation is that given in the King James Version, and it seems most in accordance with the context: "shall not strive," namely, by bringing a charge of guilt against them judicially by the external ministry of His servants, until at length the trial of the world is brought to a close by Noah condemning it through his faith (Hebrews 11:7). Christ, as God, had, by His Spirit inspiring Enoch, Noah, and perhaps other prophets (1 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 2:5; Jude 1:14), preached repentance to the antediluvians; but, as they had continued incorrigible, He would withdraw the services of His prophetic messengers, who had been sent to admonish and warn them, and would come to employ any further efforts for reclaiming a people who resisted the most powerful means of conviction, giving them over to a reprobate mind (Hosea 4:17; Romans 1:28), and letting merited vengeance take its course (cf. Isaiah 63:10; Acts 5:9; Acts 7:51; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).

For that he also is flesh. 'The objection,' says Keil, 'to this explanation is that the gam (Hebrew #1571), rendered also, introduces an incongruous emphasis into the clause. I therefore prefer to regard it as a plural suffix with the infinitive of shaagah (Hebrew #7686), 'in their erring (that of men) he (man as a genus) is flesh;' i:e., men have proved themselves, by their erring and straying, to be flesh, given up to sensuality, incapable of being ruled by the Spirit of God, and led back to the divine goal of their life. The term "flesh" is used in the sense which it commonly bears in the New Testament-the nature of man as corrupted and dreaded by the predominance of debasing lusts and unbridled passions (John 3:6; Romans 8:5-7; Romans 13:14).

Yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. Josephus, and most of the old commentators, with Tuch, Baumgarten, Hupfeld, Knobel, Ewald among the modern, consider these words as intimating that the life of man, instead of being, as hitherto, continued to a patriarchal longevity, was to be reduced to a comparatively brief period; that the withdrawal of the vivifying Spirit of God, in consequence of human transgression, would render man a frail, short-lived creature on earth, and hence, the duration of his mortal existence would be limited to 120 years. This explanation, however, is objectionable, on the ground that it is not consistent with the facts of the sacred history; because the age of many of the post-diluvian patriarchs exceeded that specified time-namely, Noah and his sons lived much longer after the flood-Arphaxad, 530 years (Genesis 11:13); Salah, 403 (Genesis 11:15); Eber, 430 (Genesis 11:17); Abraham, 175 (Genesis 15:7); Isaac, 180 (Genesis 35:28); Jacob, 147 (Genesis 47:28); and after the time of Moses the life of man was gradually shortened, and reduced further and further, until it was fixed at the normal standard of threescore years and ten.

Therefore, the 120 years cannot refer to any alteration in the length of human life, but to a respite wanted to mankind from an awful judgment, and to the limitation of the season of grace to that number of years. This is the opinion of Onkelos, Luther, Calvin, Ranke, Keil, Kurtz, and Hengstenberg. It accords with the tenor of Scripture, which describes the period allotted for repentance and reformation as "the long-suffering of God in the days of Noah" (1 Peter 3:19-20); and well might it be designated a period of "long-suffering," for, as has been well observed, the probationary term afforded to the antediluvians was three times greater than the time of trial to the Jews in the wilderness, and to the same people after the crucifixion until the destruction of Jerusalem. It may be inferred from data in this history, that the announcement of the predicted doom of the antediluvian race was made to Noah in the 480th year of his age, after which he became "a preacher of righteousness."


Verse 4

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

There were giants in the earth in those days [Hebrew, ha-N


Verse 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.

God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth. The corruption had not only become universal, it had assumed a colossal character in the two aspects of lust and cruelty; and so intent were the men of that period in devising means of indulging the lowest propensities of their nature, that not only did they commit deeds of wickedness, but the very "imaginations of their thoughts" - those embryo beginnings of emotional mental activity which give moral character to all that proceeds from them - "were only evil continually." The language implies a prodigious excess of depravity. God is described, in the anthropomorphic style, as observing it attentively; and when He "saw it," as "repenting" that He had created man, and being "grieved in His heart." God cannot change (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17), nor be affected with sorrow, like man; but by language suited to our nature and experience, He is described as about to alter His visible procedure toward mankind-from being merciful and long-suffering, He was about to show Himself a God of judgment, by employing the powers and agencies of the system in which they had been placed as the instruments of these punishments; and as that impious race had filled up the measure of their iniquities, He was about to introduce a terrible display of His justice (Ecclesiastes 8:11).


Verse 6

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 7

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

And the Lord said. Here the Lord (Yahweh) is identified with God ( 'Elohiym (Hebrew #430)), who created man; and numerous instances occur in the subsequent narrative of the flood, of the interchange of the divine names, as if for the purpose of directing attention to the fact that the same Almighty agent presided over both the creative acts and the diluvian dispensation.

I will destroy man whom I have created. Conformably to a theory already noticed, this verse has been translated-`I will destroy the Adamites whom I have created from the face of the land (region); from Adamite to beast, to creeping things, and to the fowls of heaven.' This version is inadmissible, for reasons already stated (see the note at Genesis 6:2). The denunciation was made in reference, not to a portion of mankind, but to the whole human race; because the universal violation of the order which was established for man's happiness and advancement, together with the continued contempt and abuse of the season of grace allotted to him, had rendered imperatively necessary a vindication of the divine character and government; and although the precise manner in which man was to be destroyed was not specified in this first announcement, it was distinctly stated that it would be done so as to make the awful dispensation unmistakably manifest to be a judicial infliction. This destruction involved the professors of the true religion as well as profane and wicked people. Even "the sons of God" were under the dominion of carnality, and addicted to every wickedness. The merited vengeance was to overtake them in common with others. In the usual course of Providence the lower animals are frequently involved in the calamities that befall man, such as pestilence, fire, or flood; and in order to demonstrate the intensity of the divine wrath, it was distinctly pre-intimated that, having been created for man's sake, they would share in his sweeping punishment at this time.


Verse 8

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Mankind was not to be annihilated; means were to be adopted for preserving a small remnant. Noah was selected:

`Among the faithless, faithful only he.'

This was an exercise of divine mercy in the midst of judgment, for the transmission of the human family. This preservation may be regarded as a reward of his piety. But it was a 'reward of grace,' as one that trusted in a better righteousness; and it is no small proof of its being a reward of grace, that it extended to his whole family, though one of them was wicked.


Verse 9

These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

These are the generations of Noah - (see the note at Genesis 2:4.) This is the commencement of a Parashah (new section), indicated in the Hebrew Bible by the letter pe (p), and extending to Genesis 11:32.

Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations - i:e., among his wicked contemporaries. (The Hebrew word is different from that rendered "generations" in the previous clause.) He was not absolutely just and perfect; because, since the fall of Adam, no man has been free from sin except Jesus Christ. But as living by faith He was just (Galatians 3:2; Hebrews 11:7) and "perfect" - i:e., sincere in his desire to do God's will.

Walked with God. The phrase, which is applied only to this patriarch and to Enoch, may denote both his habitual piety and his character as "a preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5). What an awful state of things, when only one man or one family of piety and virtue was now existing among the professed sons of God! It is believed that Methuselah died in the year of the flood, and many others may have been believers, or brought to a late repentance, whose names have not been recorded.


Verse 10

And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Noah begat three sons. This is a recapitulation from Genesis 5:32, introductory to the ensuing narrative, of which the three sons of Noah form prominent subjects.


Verse 11

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.

The earth also was corrupt before God. The phrase "before God," expresses the enormity of the corruption which, though proceeding from men, had infused the elements of evil so thoroughly, as it were, into the material soil, that it also had become corrupt.

And the earth was filled with violence. The government being patriarchal, the head or chief had in most instances not the will to restrain or punish the lawless excesses of his family; and in the absence of any well-regulated authority, it is easy to imagine what evils would arise. Men were left to do what was right in their own eyes, and having no fear of God, destruction and misery were in their ways.

God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt. The Hebrew verb is used (Jeremiah 13:7) to signify destroyed or corrupted by putridity; here it denotes moral corruption.

For all flesh had corrupted his way - i:e., course of life, manners, conduct (cf. 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11). The term "all flesh," though in Genesis 6:13; Genesis 6:17 inclusive of, and in Genesis 6:19 applicable solely to, the lower animals, here evidently refers to the human race, which alone are capable of moral corruption; and it is deserving of notice that no mention is made of the sin of angels intermingling with women.


Verse 12

And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 13

And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

The end of all flesh is come before me. That "the end of all flesh" does not here mean the destruction of mankind appears not only from the circumstance that that judgment is not formally announced until the last clause of the verse, but from the accompanying words," is come before me," which always denote a loud, vehement, irrepressible rumour, (cf. Genesis 18:21; Exodus 3:9; Esther 9:11, margin) "The end," therefore, must signify the height of depravity, the acme of wickedness.

For the earth is filled with violence through them - literally, from them [Septuagint, ap' (Greek #575) autoon (Greek #846), by them]. They were the efficient causes of the violence (see for this use of the preposition, Genesis 47:13; Exodus 8:20; Judges 6:6; Jeremiah 15:17; Ezekiel 14:15). The universal prevalence of lost and violence, encouraged by longevity, which put the thought of death far away from the antediluvians, was the proximate cause of the destruction of the ungodly "world." A confluence of various streams of evil had swelled into an overflowing torrent of corruption. The idolatrous or atheistical race of Cain; the religious decline and final apostasy of the Sethites, who, disappointed in their hope of the promised Deliverer, abandoned their faith; or, attracted by the worldly prosperity and gay lives of the Cainites, gradually cultivated their society, and forming matrimonial alliances with them, merged into full conformity with the world. The forms of worship being abandoned, and all sense of the true germinal religion extinguished, wickedness increased with fearful rapidity until, in the tenth generation, the iniquity of the old world came to the full. The kingdom of God was overthrown. Satan reigned supreme in the world, and converted this earth into a province of hell.

Behold, I will destroy them with the earth - or, from the earth. How startling must have been the announcement of the threatened destruction! There was no outward indication of it. The course of nature and experience seemed against the probability of its occurrence. The public opinion of mankind would ridicule it. The whole world would be ranged against it.

God said unto Noah. It was by an immediate revelation that he was made aware of the awful catastrophe which was to befall the world in his days. By whatever means the announcement of it was made to him-whether it was by means of a heavenly messenger in human form (Genesis 18:16; Genesis 18:33); whether, as in the case of Moses, out of a bush (Exodus 3:2); or in a vision of the night, as revelations were frequently made to the prophets-Noah must have had some solid grounds of conviction that he was not imposed upon by a vision of the fancy, or had become the dupe of a timid and credulous mind. Nothing short of the most direct and unmistakable evidence that God Himself was the Author of this astonishing communication could have removed all the objections that must have risen up before his mind relative to such a destructive calamity, or could have secured his full credence to the prediction of an event of which the established laws of nature and the course of Providence combined to show the apparent improbability. He believed that, since it was within the compass of divine power to accomplish the threatened destruction, so it was perfectly accordant with all the attributes of the divine character; and hence, being fully persuaded that the communication made to him was from God, through faith (Hebrews 11:7) he set about preparing the appointed means for preserving himself and family from the impending calamity.


Verse 14

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

Make thee an ark of gopher wood - ark [ teebaah (Hebrew #8392) - old Hebrew or Chaldaic, Gesenius], a hollow chest or boat (cf. Exodus 11:3). Bunsen traces the word to an Egyptian root, while Dietrich thinks it is a contraction for de'baat), from a word signifying 'reeds' used in Job 9:26 for the Nile boats. The Septuagint uses kibootos (Greek #2787). It was to be made of "gopher wood." Our translators have retained the original term. The Septuagint renders it ek xuloon tetragoonoon, of wood squared or smoothed with the plane. But this interpretation is generally rejected by modern scholars, who consider the timber referred to was either a species of resinous tree, as Gesenius, the pine, fir, cedar; or, as Bochart and others, the cypress, a wood remarkable for its durability, and abounding on the Armenian mountains, while other kinds of wood are scarce in all that region. Arrian relates that Alexander the Great built a fleet at Babylon in after-ages of this wood. While straight and easily worked, this wood is also hard, compact, and indestructible, the mummy cases of the ancient Egyptians having been composed of it, and the cypress doors of St. Peter's at Rome have now remained undecayed for upwards of a thousand years, ('British and Foreign Evangelical Review,' vol.

xlvii.)

Rooms shalt thou make - i:e., cells, or chambers; literally, nests. At the time when the English translation of the Bible was made, 'room' and place were synonymous terms (cf. Psalms 31:8; Luke 14:8).

And shalt pitch it within and without (with) pitch . [Hebrew, koper (Hebrew #3724)] - a material for covering or overlaying. It is supposed to have been bitumen, asphalt, or it might be the chips of the cypress, whose resinous timber could easily be converted into tar with which to pitch the sides of the ark, and which, when smeared over and become hardened, would make it perfectly water-tight.


Verse 15

And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

And this is the fashion. According to the description, the ark was a ship, destined not to sail, but 'only to float-an oblong, flat-bottomed chest. Assuming the cubit to be 18 inches, the dimensions of the ark would be 450 feet in length by 75 feet in breadth and 45 feet in height; or, taking the cubit at 21,888 inches, the vessel would measure 547 feet long, 91 feet 2 inches wide, and 47 feet 2 inches high; that is, three times the length of a first-rate Man-of-War in the British navy. The dimensions of the 'Great Eastern' exceed those of the ark, being 691 feet in length, 83 feet in breadth, and 58 feet in depth.


Verse 16

A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

A window shalt thou make to the ark. [Hebrew, tsohar (Hebrew #6672)] - light; a collective noun, and therefore construed with the feminine, whence the next clause is rendered "of a cubit long shalt thou make them" - namely, the windows, formed of some transparent substance unknown. It is maintained by some, on the ground of Genesis 8:6, that there was only one window. But that passage is not conclusive on the point, and the great probability is that there were more windows in so large a structure. The Septuagint, instead of "window," translates the words, 'thou shalt make the ark in a gathering together upward.' Rosenmuller renders it 'roof,' and considers the second clause a direction to raise the roof in the middle, seemingly to form a gentle slope for letting the water run off. Assuming this latter interpretation to be the right one, and proceeding according to mathematical calculations made by various authors, a writer in the 'Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal' gives the following very intelligible description of the vessel: 'The ark of Noah was formed of a rectangular base, having sides springing up from its edges and inclining inward, until they met over its middle; the coverings at the ends forming each an angle of about fifty degrees with the base.

A vessel constructed in this form would be altogether unfit for carrying sail. But this was not the purpose of the ark. It was intended only for floating on the surface; and, bearing this in mind, let us inquire what advantages the form secured. It was obviously possessed of great strength. In the triangular form every beam, like those of an anchor roof, formed a brace, longitudinally directed to resist any tendency to change of form. The partitions dividing the rooms within, running not only across, but lengthwise also, as the large dimensions of the structure evidently admit and imply, and the internal horizontal floors supporting both these again, furnished numerous braces to strengthen every part of the fabric. But this was not the only advantage. Its outward form was that which is of all others the best adapted to elude the force of the waves in a stormy sea. The most ample experience has proved that an inclined plane, such as it presented on all sides to the waves, renders their stroke harmless, as is seen in the sloping dikes of Holland and Denmark; in our own piers and breakwaters, which are found liable to little injury from the heaviest sea, when they are made to meet them in an inclined form; and, above all, in the old ships of the British navy, built with the upper decks narrower than the lower, and consequently having inclined inwardly.

By the special form of the ark now pointed out, its contents are necessarily reduced to a little less than one-half of what the parallelopiped affords. According to Dr. Arbuthnot, the best authority on such questions, the burden, granting the form to have been a parallelopiped, amounted to about 81,000 tons. The triangular form will still leave a capacity of more than 35,000 tons, allowing Dr. Arbuthnot's estimate of the cubit-forming yet a vessel so large, in comparison with any that we are accustomed to build, that we can easily conceive, as a detail of particulars would show, it was sufficiently ample for the purpose for which it was intended.' Having deemed it necessary to investigate the stability of equilibrium of a floating body of the form assigned to the ark, this writer found the result to be quite satisfactory.

The rule given by Laplace for determining the stability of equilibrium of a floating body is, That the equilibrium will be stable in every direction, when the sum of the products of each element of the section of the floating body, at the level of the fluid, into the square of its distance from that horizontal axis, through the center of gravity of the section, in relation to which the sum of the products is a minimum-is greater than the product of the volume of the displaced fluid, into the height of the center of gravity of the floating body, above the center of gravity of the volume. Suppose a vessel of the form of the ark to be immersed, by the weight of its materials and lading, to the depth of 6 cubits, which is rather more than one-third of its whole tonnage, and that the weight is so uniformly distributed, that the center of gravity is the same as if the body were homogeneous, in that case the former sum would be to the latter in the proportion of 18 to 7 approximately. If the center of gravity were to continue the same, the ratio of the stability would decrease with a deeper lading, owing to the rapid decrease of the section of flotation. Were the body immersed to the depth of 9 cubits, which is very nearly one-half of its tonnage, the former sum would be to the latter only in the proportion of about 8 to 5; and were it immersed to the depth of 12 cubits, or somewhat less than two-thirds of its tonnage, the ratio of the former and latter sums would be only as 7 to 6. But it is, quite evident that in arranging the lading the center of gravity of the floating body may be brought below that of a homogeneous body, and that the facility of doing this increases with the depth of lading, insomuch that in very deep ladings the center of gravity of the floating body may be very easily brought below that of the displaced fluid, in which case the stability would be absolute in every rate of lading.'

Thus, the "fashion" or form of the ark was completely adapted for its purpose. God was pleased to employ human agency and ordinary means for the preservation of Noah and his family, and the living creatures that were saved with them; and if it be delightful to the contemplative mind to observe the numberless wise contrivances, the uses and ends displayed, the infinity of wisdom, in short, poured over the immensity of his creation, it is also highly gratifying to find an analogous proof of wisdom in its admirable adaptation to its end, in this structure, fabricated by his express direction.'


Verse 17

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.

Behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth. This is the first intimation of the mode in which the threatened destruction was to be effected-namely, by water. [Hebrew, hamabuwl (Hebrew #3999), the deluge-a word used only in one other place of the Bible (Psalms 29:10), which contains an unmistakable reference to this narrative. Mayim (Hebrew #4325), which is added, may either be taken as accusative, in apposition, 'the mabbul, waters,' or in the form of a genitive, "a flood of waters."] The element employed was to be water, which when increased to overwhelming depth, was called mabbul (Genesis 9:15). The repetition of the announcement was intended to establish the certainty of the event (cf. Genesis 41:22). Whatever opinion may be entertained as to the operation of natural laws and agencies in the deluge, it was brought on the world by God as a punishment for the enormous wickedness of its inhabitants. Geology informs us of many an inundation or cataclysm from the influence of secondary causes in the earth, when it was populated by races without souls. But the sacred historian expressly assigns a moral cause for the deluge-the sin of man, the moral agent, the lord of the earth. He represents the Almighty himself as declaring to Noah that his own omnipotent arm was to be the great efficient, the direct agent, in the accomplishment of so tremendous a catastrophe, and though the dispensation might have been brought on by the action of natural causes, the supernatural character of it appears in the fact of its being a judgment, Sund-fluth (sin-flood, Luther), announced 120 years previous to its infliction.

`The Maker justly claims the world He made In this the right of Providence is laid.'


Verse 18

But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.

But with thee will I establish my covenant , [ b


Verses 19-21

And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 22

Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

Thus did Noah. He began without delay to prepare the colossal fabric, and in every step of his progress faithfully followed the divine directions he had received. His acting as he did was one of the most heroic acts of faith which the history of the world records: For an undertaking of such a magnitude, and for such an object, must not only have imposed on him immense labour both of body and of mind-have not only demanded vast appliances of skill and expenditure of resources-but great fortitude and resolution to encounter the ridicule and obloquy of which he would be made the object. But neither scorn nor pity could shake his resolution. Firmly persuaded of the divine testimony, he prosecuted his work, as well as his zealous warnings as "a preacher of righteousness (1 Peter 3:19-20), and never ceased either his labours or his admonitions until the period of respite was exhausted. Nay, it would appear that he began his preparations in his 480th year, while he was childless (cf. Genesis 10:21 with Genesis 10:32). But "being warned of God of things not seen as yet," - including probably the promise of children, as well as the dispensation of the deluge - "moved with fear, he prepared an ark for the saving of his house;" and the birth of his sons, after he had been twenty years occupied with the building of that gigantic vessel, must have tended greatly to confirm his faith and stimulate his obedience.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 6:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/genesis-6.html. 1871-8.

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