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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Genesis 6

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. VI.

The human race became generally corrupt. God determines to destroy them by a flood. Noah, a just man, is commanded to build an ark for the preservation of himself, his family, and all kinds of living creatures.


Verse 1-2

Genesis 6:1-2. Men began—daughters—sons of God, &c — An evident distinction has been made in sacred scripture between the children of God and the children of men; between those who were the true servants of Jehovah, and those who were the slaves of their own evil desires and passions. The former, by intermarrying with the daughters of those who had apostatized from God or never known him, were drawn themselves into the same degeneracy; whence that universal depravation succeeded, which brought on the deluge. Intermarriages of believers with unbelievers have always been looked upon in the scriptures as peculiarly pernicious. See Genesis 24:3; Genesis 26:35; Genesis 27:46. Nehemiah 13:23; Nehemiah 13:31. Malachi 2:11. 1 Corinthians 7:39. 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 6:18. It is observed by the authors of the Universal History, that "if we consider the length of men's lives, and that they then began to beget children as early, and left off as late, in proportion as they do now, we shall find that the number of mankind before the deluge might easily be above one hundred thousand millions; that is, twenty times as many as our present earth has in all probability now upon it, or can be supposed capable of maintaining in its present constitution."

Took them wives of all which they chose A regard to nothing but their external beauty. "Not only their lust," says Mr. Locke, "but their impiety and irreligion are here taxed, who, revolting from the faith and manners of their forefathers, preferred beauty of body to beauty of mind."


Verse 3

Genesis 6:3. And the Lord said, &c.— On a view of the extreme degeneracy of mankind, God said, i.e.. "He resolved and made known" by the mouth of his prophets, such as Enoch and Noah, by whom the Spirit of Christ preached to the unbelievers and disobedient of the old world, 1 Peter 3:18-20. 2 Peter 2:5 that his Spirit should not always strive, or plead with man; that is to say, after having exhorted these men in vain to repentance, after having laboured in vain in their hearts by the internal operations of his grace, he would use no more efforts to reclaim them, but would exercise his justice upon them.

Yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years "That is," says Mr. Locke, "their days, or time of trial for repentance, shall be so long, before I destroy the race." This hath been often understood as referring to the general age of man; whereas it is evident, that it refers to that period of God's waiting for the reformation of the world, while the ark was preparing. The Chaldee has it, a period of an hundred and twenty years shall be given them, wherein to repent.

It is here objected, that, on a comparison of Genesis 5:32; Genesis 7:11 this time is found to have been not a hundred and twenty, but only a hundred years. How then did God perform his promise? I answer, this promise, though mentioned after what we read in ch. Genesis 5:32. was nevertheless made twenty years before it, for that verse is added there only to complete the genealogy; and therefore, after this narrative of the wickedness of the world, it is repeated here in its due order, in the 10th verse. Nor are such transpositions, says Poole, uncommon in scripture, without any diminution of its authority.

Observe here, the merciful respite, a hundred and twenty years! God never strikes without warning: but when his grace is rejected, his calls disregarded, his admonitions made light of: though he wait long, his time of patience ends; the sword is drawn, the sinner dies. Let us hear then, and fear, and do no more wickedly.


Verse 4

Genesis 6:4. There were giants in the earth, &c.— The grand question is, what is meant by these giants? were they really men of extraordinary size, or does the word refer solely to the enormity of their deeds? It is difficult, perhaps, to determine: but from the frequent mention of gigantic people in other parts of the scripture, from the general testimony of profane history, and from many proofs which we have had of bones of large dimensions, it seems most probable that the persons here spoken of were of extraordinary bulk, and famous not only for their crimes but their size.

You may observe, the produce of the marriages mentioned above was giants, and men of renown for their conquests and their power. But whenever a wicked man has great power, we may expect great oppression. The renown of such conquerors is their greatest dishonour, and the trumpet of fame the sound of infamy. We are apt to admire a Caesar, or an Alexander, and in the glare of conquest forget the pests of society, and the scourges of mankind.

But let us not forget the root of all this wickedness; the apostate nature of man. His inward parts are still worse than his ways; his heart is naught; all his thoughts perverse; yea, every rising imagination big with evil; and this determinedly and continually. Behold a lively picture of a fallen spirit! However great outward wickedness is, God sees greater abominations within.


Verse 5

Genesis 6:5. The wickedness of man—great, &c.— God saw their wickedness to be great, after the period of the hundred and twenty years which he had granted them to return and repent; he saw that they amended not, but arrived at the highest pitch of depravity, both in principle and practice. The longevity of the antediluvians is alone sufficient to account for that enormous height of wickedness to which they arose, according to this text and the traditions we have of their excessive lust, impiety, and violence.


Verse 6

Genesis 6:6. It repented the Lord—it grieved him at his heart "All things past, present, and future, lie open at once to the view of the Divine Mind," says Dr. Clarke; and therefore that he is immutable in his counsels, and cannot repent, is one of the plainest dictates both of natural and revealed religion, Numbers 23:19. 1 Samuel 15:29. For he is not a man, that he should repent. So that the expressions of God's repenting, grieving, and the like, are only figurative, and adapted to our apprehensions; signifying, not any change in God himself, but only a difference of event with regard to us. Thus good parents, without any change in themselves, encourage or discourage their respective children, according as they change their behaviour for the better or the worse. Thus laws themselves, which can have no affection, and consequently no change of affection towards one person or another, yet vary their effect, themselves remaining unvaried. So when it is here said, God repented, was grieved, &c. the meaning is, that he was resolved to alter his conduct; and, as men, when they repent of any thing, are sorry for it, and endeavour to undo it, so was the Almighty determined to destroy man whom he had created, and whose change from good to evil brought on these consequences from a God continuing ever the same. We must remember, that it is by way of analogy, or comparison only, that the nature and passions of men are ascribed to God.


Verse 7

Genesis 6:7. I will destroy both man and beast, &c.— God made the beasts for the service and delight of man; they therefore must perish with him, as with him they became subject to vanity and abuse. And God might certainly destroy them thus with as much justice as by a natural death; it is only a recalling that temporary breath which God himself had given them. And as the recalling it at that time, served to render this example of the Divine severity against sin the more signal and tremendous to future ages, we may venture to affirm, it answered the purposes of God's moral government, even better than if he had saved them by miracle from the common wreck. And, considered in that light, it is so far from being an imputation upon his justice, that it is rather an act of mercy; for whatever tends to reclaim inconsiderate mortals from their infatuation in counteracting the laws, which infinite Wisdom has devised to raise them to happiness, is an act of goodness and benevolence.


Verse 8

Genesis 6:8. Noah found grace Obtained favour, or mercy; and the reasons follow in the next verse, why he obtained such favour, and so much regard from God. He was a just man, a justified person, fully accepted and approved of God: he was an heir of the justice or righteousness which is by faith; Hebrews 11:7. צדיק tsadik, answers to the word δικαιος, in the New Testament; see Romans 3:22, and, I apprehend, refers not merely to the moral virtue of justice or righteousness, but to that justice which is obtained by faith in a Redeemer, and of which St. Paul (in the text above from the Hebrews) witnesses that Noah was an heir or inheritor: it is translated righteous, ch. Genesis 7:1. Thee have I seen righteous. He was also perfect, תמים tamim, i.e.. very complete in his generations, בדרתיו bedorotau, in or among that generation of men with whom he lived; en son tems, in his time, is the French translation. The word used for generations here is different from that used in the first clause of the verse; these are the generations of Noah, תולדת toldoth.


Verse 9

Genesis 6:9. He walked with God See ch. Genesis 5:22. lived as if ever in his sight, and consequently in the most exact discharge of all duties to the Lord; both in a private manner, and as a prophet, or preacher of righteousness.

Observe in this character of Noah, 1. He walked with God when all beside were walking in their own ways; he dared to be eminently singular, and to profess it too. It is a blessed proof of a heart right with God, when in evil days a man dare openly avow himself on the Lord's side. 2. He was a despised preacher in a careless world; but the favour of God amply repaid him, and made him more highly honourable than the giants of renown. I had rather find favour in the eyes of the Lord, than be regarded by an admiring world; and have my name written in the Lamb's book of life, than emblazoned in the annals of fame among the mightiest heroes.


Verse 11

Genesis 6:11. The earth also was corrupt—filled with violence Instead of also the Hebrew may be rendered, with rather more propriety, and the earth; that is, all the men upon the earth (except Noah, &c.) were corrupt before God; i.e.. were become totally impious and irreligious, having thrown off all reverence to the true God, and become either entirely profane and atheistical, or else gross idolaters: the word here used is generally applied to the corruption of idolatry. And the violence wherewith the earth was filled, plainly means those notorious acts of rapine, injustice, and oppression, which were committed by that irreligious race. This description of the original corruption is well explained by the account which St. Paul gives us of the heathen idolatry, and its flagitious consequences, Romans 1:21; Romans 1:32. And the comparison which St. Peter and St. Jude make of the heretics and apostates of their times, with the sinners before the flood, confirms that the last had forsaken the true worship of God.


Verse 12

Genesis 6:12. God looked upon the earth, &c.— God observing that his patience was to no effect, and that the hundred and twenty years, which we may now suppose near expiring, produced no fruits of repentance, resolved to destroy that incorrigible race. "The patience of God," says Archbishop Tillotson, "did not expire till he saw that the wickedness of man was grown great, and that all flesh had corrupted his way; nor till it was necessary to drown the world to cleanse it, and to destroy mankind to reform it, by beginning a new world upon the only righteous family that was left of all the last generations of the old." All flesh signifies "all the human race," who had, and who only could, corrupt their way. His way means their principles and conduct, their faith and manners. With the earth, at the end of the next verse, may be read, as in the margin of our Bibles, from the earth; though the former may be understood to refer to all the natural and artificial products of the earth, as well as the animals; every thing that serves, upon earth, for the use and convenience of men.

God takes repeated notice of the wickedness of men. He will not only be, but be seen to be, just in his judgments. Violence and spoil disfigured the earth, and, like devouring beasts let loose, the fallen sons of men preyed one on another. It was surely high time to interpose. Sin is the cause of every mischief: if kingdoms fall, or houses are divided, to this it must be ascribed. We may here observe, that the people of God are usually looked upon as the burden and the troublers of the earth. How little do men know, that for their sakes only, judgment this hour lingereth!


Verse 14

Genesis 6:14. Make thee an ark תבת tebat, an ark, or hollow vessel: it is used only on this occasion, and for the vessel into which Moses was put, Exodus 2:2-3. This ark was constructed according to the divine direction. Its materials were gopher wood, that is, cypress-wood, says Mr. Locke. It is probable some of the turpentine species of trees, which abound with pitchy and resinous particles, is meant, and very likely the cedar, or cypress; the wood of which, as Bochart has shewn, is very durable against worms and rot, and was used in building of ships anciently. Rooms were to be made in the ark, קנים kenim, mansiunculas, Vulg. little mansions, stalls, cabins, apartments for men and animals, to lodge them separately, as well as their necessary food. And it was to be pitched within and without with pitch; to be covered over with a bituminous substance, proper to repel the water. Its dimensions follow: it was to be in length three hundred cubits; fifty in breadth; thirty in height: an immense capacity! for a cubit is the measure from the elbow to the finger's end, containing six hands'-breadths, or a foot and a half: so that three hundred cubits make exactly four hundred and fifty feet. There was to be a window made in the ark: the original word צהר tsoar, implies "something to admit the light." The phrase, in a cubit shalt thou finish it above, refers to the ark, and not to the window. It should be rendered thus; thou shalt make a light to the ark, something by which light and air may be communicated to the creatures within: and thou shalt finish it, the ark (which is the immediate and feminine antecedent,) above, with, or to a cubit; that is, most probably it was to be covered with a roof, raised a cubit high in the middle; or the roof above was to be finished according to the measure of a cubit, which was the common measure of the whole work. A door was to be set in the side of the ark, for the greater convenience of going in and coming out; and, to make it more commodious for the reception of different creatures, it was to consist of three stories, each of equal height, that is, about fifteen feet high. And whoever will give themselves the trouble to calculate the contents of a vessel built in that manner, and in these proportions, will soon be satisfied, that its construction was not only the best fitted possibly for the purpose, but that its capacity was absolutely sufficient for the end designed.

God's favour to Noah now begins signally to appear.

1. He communicates to him his fixed purpose to destroy the world of the ungodly. Their end is come, their measure of iniquity is filled, and his patience at an end.

2. The manner of their end—by a flood. "I, that bound up the waters in swaddling-bands, when the great deep first broke from the womb of Nature, will open its fountains. I, even I my power will accomplish it. Their burning lusts shall be quenched in a deluge of waters."

3. His covenant with him and his family. A covenant of mercies temporal and spiritual: a deliverance from the devouring flood; but, better still, a deliverance from the deluge of iniquity too.

4. The means and methods prescribed for the saving himself and his family—an ark. He must provide it. God's promises do not make our labours needless, but encourage us to work, from the assurance of success. God orders the manner of the ark. He who saves, will direct us in the properest methods to work out our salvation. It is not designed for sailing, but to save from sinking; and it is to be made large enough to contain himself, his family, and some of every species of animals. Mark the blessing of pious parents; Noah's whole family were kept alive for their father's sake.

5. The assurance that God would collect the proper freight, when he had prepared the vessel. Though we may often be in the dark how things shall be brought about, yet if we are acting under the divine command, and trusting on the divine promise, he will bring it to pass.


Verse 17

Genesis 6:17. And, behold, &c.— It is very evident from this verse, that the deluge was universal, as no words can be imagined more strong and comprehensive. See also ch. Genesis 7:4.; and indeed there is scarce any nation upon earth, among whom some traces and tradition of this wonderful event are not to be found. The heathen stories are well known; and Indians, Chinese, and Americans, have all retained some memory of what the sacred scriptures only give us, and indeed only can give us, an authentic account.


Verse 18

Genesis 6:18. With thee will I establish my covenant See notes on ch. Genesis 9:9.


Verse 19

Genesis 6:19. And of, &c.— See ch. Genesis 2:19. shalt thou bring, it is here said: and lest it might appear an impossibility for Noah to do so, God says, in the next verse, that they shall come to Noah: he himself, by his divine power, causing them to come into the ark to him. The first words might be rendered, thou shalt introduce, more conformably to the latter, they shall come: "they shall come, impelled by my power, and thou shalt introduce them to the several places appointed for them in the ark."


Verse 22

Genesis 6:22. Thus did Noah, &c.— Obedient to the divine command Noah made the ark, and during that time, no doubt, must have endured many scoffs and contumelies, from the joyous, unthinking, and irreligious of that generation. On that account the building the ark is considered as an act of triumphant faith by the sacred writer. "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, full of religious reverence, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." Hebrews 11:7. The Mahometans have a tradition, that when Noah began to work upon this famous vessel, all who saw him derided him, and said, "You are building a ship; if you can bring water to it, you will be a prophet as well as a carpenter." But he made answer to these insults: "You laugh at me now, but I shall have my turn to laugh at you; for you will learn, to your own cost, that there is a God in heaven who punishes the wicked."

Noah was no sooner commanded to build the ark but he obeys: such is the mind of every true believer. "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." Observe,

1. His unreserved faith. A thousand corrupt reasonings, no doubt, intruded, of the how, and why, and wherefore; but it was enough for Noah, he had God's word, which silenced every doubt. Note; one reason why men do not now flee from the wrath to come, is, because they attend to the vain reasonings of their mind against the express revelation of God.

2. His diligence. He began immediately, and finished it according to the pattern. He neither staggered at the trouble and expence, nor could be diverted by the mockeries of the unbelievers, who, no doubt, thought him a very ridiculous enthusiast, to attempt providing against such an improbable, or, as to them it appeared, impossible event. Note; those who cannot bear the scoffs of the world, or be ready to give up all for Christ, will never swim in the ark.

3. It was a continual sermon: every blow of the axe and hammer was a call to repentance. It convinced not the world indeed, but it condemned it. Note; the time will come, when impenitent sinners may remember their obstinacy and hardness of heart too late to amend it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 6:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/genesis-6.html. 1801-1803.

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