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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 6

 

 

Verses 1-22

Genesis 6:2. Sons of God. Some understand this expression of Seth’s sons, who intermarried with Cain’s daughters, but assign no reason for their being called the daughters of men. Others understand it, and with greater propriety, of the sons of great men, who are repeatedly called Elohim, or gods, in the scriptures. So Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8; Exodus 22:28; and Psalms 82., where the same term occurs. Hence the sons of the judges, or great men, seized the daughters of the poor; and rapes, prostitution, and violence were without restraint. Being gigantic in stature, and having no regular government, they filled the earth with murder and robbery. All our Saxon chiefs claimed descent from Odin, and all the Greeks from Jupiter. Ulyssus says in Ovid, Nam mihi Laertes pater est, Arcesius illi, Jupiter huic.— Metam, lib. 13. ver. 145.

Genesis 6:4. Giants. These the poets call children of the earth, or earth-born, as is the etymon of the Greek γιγαντες. They were men of prodigious stature, said to have made war with the gods; and with that view, they raised ladders towards heaven, and piled rocks on rocks. When the thunderbolts of Jupiter threw down their works, those rocks which fell into the sea became islands, and those which rolled on the earth became mountains. Ovid. Meta. lib. 1. Plato mentions this war of the giants or Titanes in Critias, which he calls Atlantic, as having happened before the deluge of Noah. Arnobius in his first book against the gentiles, after Berosus, describes these giants as greater monsters of cruelty and crimes than of stature. The late Rev. W. Ward, seventeen years a missionary at Serampore in India, has written the history of the Mythology of the Hindoos, in which he says “The giants [before the deluge] sprang from Ditee.” He adds, that the sixth, seventh, and eighth incarnation of Vishnoo was to destroy the giants.—The Hebrews call the giants before the flood the Nephilim or apostates, the Gibborim or mighty men. Those of Palestine are called the Anachim. They were beyond all dispute from nine to ten feet in stature.—The origin of pagan fable is founded on facts stated by Moses. Those monsters mocked at the Ark, and filled the earth with violence; and when driven to the summits of the mountains, piled rocks in vain to gain a momentary reprieve from the high rolling tides of the deluge. Heaven retaliated, laughing at their calamity, and mocking at their fears. These are the Rephaim or the dead, who sunk under the waters, and are now associated with all the inhabitants of hell. Job 26:5-6. Proverbs 2:18.

Genesis 6:6. It repented—it displeased the Lord; or, the creation of the sons of Adam was abhorred of the Lord; but Augustine prefers the first reading, as implying a change in God’s conduct. He had created man to live, but now determined on his destruction.

Genesis 6:12. All flesh had corrupted its way. Had there been ten righteous persons in Sodom, it had not been destroyed: now there were, after Methuselah was gone, but eight who remained in covenant with God. Therefore the Almighty took them into his ark, and destroyed the wicked. The ark was a type of the church. Food and safety, life and righteousness were there. It brought its family safely through the waves and storms, from the old to a new and peaceful world. By the like figures of wood and water, the cross and baptism, are we now saved, and placed under the covenant protection of the Lord. 1 Peter 3:20-21.

Genesis 6:14. Make thee an ark of gopher wood: the idea of the precise species of wood seems lost. Our countryman, Mr. Evelyn, contends for the cypress tree. Of this the Indians make their war canoes; for a single tree when excavated, will hold sixty men.

As to Mr. Lawrence’s objection, in his medical lectures, against the capacity of the ark to hold the creatures, the learned Budœus of Paris has written a volume on the subject in Latin. Moses gives us here the dimensions of the ark, 300 cubits long, 50 high, and 30 broad; and the cubit of those gigantic men from the elbow to the end of the long finger, could not be less than 30 inches. Others are of opinion that the antediluvian cubit was reckoned the third part of the stature of those men, who may be supposed to have been at least eight or nine feet high; so that according to these dimensions the ark must have been equal to ten or twelve first-rate ships of war; and the long space of 120 years, in which the ark was in building, coincides with its magnitude. Prodigious superstructure! No one but a reigning prince, like Noah, could have built it. It was divided into three stories, the better to accommodate the different species of creatures, and to store up what was necessary for their subsistence. It drew 15 cubits of water, and rose 15 above the surface. It would float in so quiescent a state as to allow the beasts to couch on the deck. This stupendous fabric was piloted and preserved by the special care of heaven; and oh how awful, that many of the scoffing age should have assisted in its construction, and perished at last in the flood.—The two best writers on this subject are Budœus and bishop Wilkins.

Of its existence, antiquity is agreed. Abydenus, and Berosus a priest of Babylon, and Herodotus have all recorded the fact.—Vide Euseb. Præp. lib. 9. c. 11, 12. Origen in Alexandria, and Jerome at Rome, have rebutted the objections started in their day. And as the Alps of Italy have been washed by the tides, how could either men or beasts be saved without an Ark? See Genesis 8:3.

Yet we concede, that many creatures might be saved on floats of timber, as aquatic birds, toads also, for a hundred of these have been found in the great coal of Dudley; a fact which I affirm on conversations with practical men, after a residence in those coalfields. Serpents and vermin might partially subsist on the waters, and find some shelter in the earth during the flux and reflux of the tides. Nor do I see any thing against the text of Moses, to admit that creatures might be saved on icebergs, or on the mountains of Asia, and of South America, which far exceed the Alps in elevation.—See more, Genesis 1:15; Genesis 8:3.

REFLECTIONS.

The increase of wicked men is attended we see with an increase of wickedness. Polygamy was the first bane of society, and its consequences are still the same. It degrades a woman from her rank in life, and fosters the bad propensities of lust, cruelty, wrong, and revenge. The children born in whoredom and concubinage receive an education calculated to imbitter families and disturb the state. Hence large cities, large associations of people must be governed by a rigorous police, and by a discipline unrelaxed, or they are lost beyond a name.

An illicit intercourse between the sexes, unrestrained by public shame, and unpunished by law, is attended with the total loss of virtue and religion, and it is the sure forerunner of destruction to families and nations. It is better that a few delinquents should suffer, than a whole people be destroyed: for every other kind of wickedness is appendant to crimes of this nature.

God withdraws his grace or the striving of his Spirit from men who are resolved to keep their sins. So he did to the heathen world, who did not choose to retain the patriarchal knowledge and covenant of God; he gave them up to work all manner of uncleanness with greediness. So he will do still: those who slight his calls and grace shall be abandoned to their own way, till body and soul are involved in destruction. Shun then, oh my soul, the slightest propensity to evil, for whoever dallies with the smallest streams of sin, is soon attracted by the torrent, and swallowed up in the whirlpool of criminal dissipation.

Yet the Father of mercies is slow to punish the wicked, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. When the ordinary means failed to effectuate their conversion, he employed the extraordinary: having translated Enoch to increase the faith and raise the hopes of men, he now strengthened the preaching of righteous Noah by the terrors of a rising ark, and spared the guilty age a hundred and twenty years. Oh how good and gracious is the Lord, even to the evil and unthankful! We know not whether his longsuffering, or his menaces of total destruction, be the higher character of his mercy to wicked and unreasonable men.

St. Peter associates the old world with the scoffers in the gospel age. Hence it is presumed, if the sign of the ark occasioned a moment’s terror, because the vengeance was delayed, it was soon derided as a phenomenon of enthusiasm, and an object of universal laughter. Let us beware of men who scoff at warnings, and at God’s word; it is one sad mark that they are forsaken of God’s Spirit, and that their destruction will soon follow.

But Noah, poor persecuted and derided Noah, found grace in the eyes of the Lord, who always provides for the safety of his saints before he destroys the wicked. Let every sinner then fly to the ark, to Jesus Christ and his covenant, for there and there only is salvation; and God is always nearest to his people in the evil day.

But was Ham, a very immodest son, saved in the ark? And were myriads of unoffending infants destroyed by the flood? Then we learn, that children are very much benefited by their parents’ piety, and very much injured by their parents’ sins. What an argument for the heads of houses to support integrity of character, and live to God, that their children may be blessed: and what an argument for children to be righteous, that they may inherit all the blessings promised to the faithful seed!

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 6:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/genesis-6.html. 1835.

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