Genesis 6


The children of God, among whom the true religion was at first

preserved, corrupt it by forming matrimonial connections with

irreligious women, 1, 2.

God, displeased with these connections and their consequences,

limits the continuance of the old world to one hundred and

twenty years, 3.

The issue of those improper connections termed giants, 4.

An affecting description of the depravity of the world, 5, 6.

God threatens the destruction of every living creature, 7.

Noah and his family find grace in his sight, 8.

The character and family of Noah, 9, 10.

And a farther description of the corruption of man, 11, 12.

Noah is forewarned of the approaching destruction of the

human race, 13;

and is ordered to build an ark for the safety of himself

and household, the form and dimensions of which are

particularly described, 14-16.

The deluge threatened, 17.

The covenant of God's mercy is to be established between him

and the family of Noah, 18.

A male and female of all kinds of animals that could not live

in the waters to be brought into the ark, 19, 20.

Noah is commanded to provide food for their sustenance, 21;

and punctually follows all these directions, 22.


Verse 1. When men began to multiply] It was not at this time

that men began to multiply, but the inspired penman speaks now of

a fact which had taken place long before. As there is a

distinction made here between men and those called the sons of

God, it is generally supposed that the immediate posterity of

Cain and that of Seth are intended. The first were mere men, such

as fallen nature may produce, degenerate sons of a degenerate

father, governed by the desire of the flesh, the desire of the

eye, and the pride of life. The others were sons of God, not

angels, as some have dreamed, but such as were, according to our

Lord's doctrine, born again, born from above, Joh 3:3, 5, 6, &c.,

and made children of God by the influence of the Holy Spirit,

Ga 5:6. The former were apostates from the true religion, the

latter were those among whom it was preserved and cultivated.

Dr. Wall supposes the first verses of this chapter should be

paraphrased thus: "When men began to multiply on the earth, the

chief men took wives of all the handsome poor women they chose.

There were tyrants in the earth in those days; and also after the

antediluvian days powerful men had unlawful connections with the

inferior women, and the children which sprang from this illicit

commerce were the renowned heroes of antiquity, of whom the

heathens made their gods."

Verse 3. My spirit shall not always strive] It is only by the

influence of the Spirit of God that the carnal mind can be subdued

and destroyed; but those who wilfully resist and grieve that

Spirit must be ultimately left to the hardness and blindness of

their own hearts, if they do not repent and turn to God. God

delights in mercy, and therefore a gracious warning is given. Even

at this time the earth was ripe for destruction; but God promised

them one hundred and twenty years' respite: if they repented in

that interim, well; if not, they should be destroyed by a flood.

See note on "Ge 6:5"

Verse 4. There were giants in the earth] nephilim, from

naphal, "he fell." Those who had apostatized or fallen

from the true religion. The Septuagint translate the original

word by γιγαντες, which literally signifies earth-born, and which

we, following them, term giants, without having any reference to

the meaning of the word, which we generally conceive to signify

persons of enormous stature. But the word when properly understood

makes a very just distinction between the sons of men and the sons

of God; those were the nephilim, the fallen earth-born men, with

the animal and devilish mind. These were the sons of God, who

were born from above; children of the kingdom, because children of

God. Hence we may suppose originated the different appellatives

given to sinners and saints; the former were termed γιγαντες,

earth-born, and the latter, αγιοι, i.e. saints, persons not of the

earth, or separated from the earth.

The same became mighty men-men of renown.] gibborim,

which we render mighty men, signifies properly conquerors, heroes,

from gabar, "he prevailed, was victorious." and

anshey hashshem, "men of the name," ανθρωποιονομαστπι,

Septuagint; the same as we render men of renown, renominati, twice

named, as the word implies, having one name which they derived

from their fathers, and another which they acquired by their

daring exploits and enterprises.

It may be necessary to remark here that our translators have

rendered seven different Hebrew words by the one term giants,

viz., nephilim, gibborim, enachim, rephaim, emim, and zamzummim;

by which appellatives are probably meant in general persons of

great knowledge, piety, courage, wickedness, &c., and not men of

enormous stature, as is generally conjectured.

Verse 5. The wickedness of man was great] What an awful

character does God give of the inhabitants of the antediluvian

world! 1. They were flesh, (Ge 6:3,) wholly sensual, the desires

of the mind overwhelmed and lost in the desires of the flesh,

their souls no longer discerning their high destiny, but ever

minding earthly things, so that they were sensualized, brutalized,

and become flesh; incarnated so as not to retain God in their

knowledge, and they lived, seeking their portion in this life. 2.

They were in a state of wickedness. All was corrupt within, and

all unrighteous without; neither the science nor practice of

religion existed. Piety was gone, and every form of sound words

had disappeared. 3. This wickedness was great rabbah, "was

multiplied;" it was continually increasing and multiplying

increase by increase, so that the whole earth was corrupt before

God, and was filled with violence, (Ge 6:11;) profligacy among

the lower, and cruelty and oppression among the higher classes,

being only predominant. 4. All the imaginations of their thoughts

were evil-the very first embryo of every idea, the figment of

every thought, the very materials out of which perception,

conception, and ideas were formed, were all evil; the fountain

which produced them, with every thought, purpose, wish, desire,

and motive, was incurably poisoned. 5. All these were evil

without any mixture of good-the Spirit of God which strove with

them was continually resisted, so that evil had its sovereign

sway. 6. They were evil continually-there was no interval of

good, no moment allowed for serious reflection, no holy purpose,

no righteous act. What a finished picture of a fallen soul! Such

a picture as God alone, who searches the heart and tries the

spirit, could possibly give. 7. To complete the whole, God

represents himself as repenting because he had made them, and as

grieved at the heart because of their iniquities! Had not these

been voluntary transgressions, crimes which they might have

avoided, had they not grieved and quenched the Spirit of God,

could he speak of them in the manner he does here? 8. So incensed

is the most holy and the most merciful God, that he is determined

to destroy the work of his hands: And the Lord said, I will

destroy man whom I have created; Ge 6:7. How great must the evil

have been, and how provoking the transgressions, which obliged the

most compassionate God, for the vindication of his own glory, to

form this awful purpose! Fools make a mock at sin, but none except


Verse 8. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.] Why?

Because he was, 1. A just man, ish tsaddik, a man who

gave to all their due; for this is the ideal meaning of the

original word. 2. He was perfect in his generation-he was in all

things a consistent character, never departing from the truth in

principle or practice. 3. He walked with God-he was not only

righteous in his conduct, but he was pious, and had continual

communion with God. The same word is used here as before in the

case of Enoch. See Ge 5:22.

Verse 11. The earth also was corrupt] See Clarke on Ge 6:5.

Verse 13. I will destroy them with the earth.] Not only the

human race was to he destroyed, but all terrestrial animals, i.e.

those which could not live in the waters. These must necessarily

be destroyed when the whole surface of the earth was drowned. But

destroying the earth may probably mean the alteration of its

constitution. Dr. Woodward, in his natural history of the earth,

has rendered it exceedingly probable that the whole terrestrial

substance was amalgamated with the waters, after which the

different materials of its composition settled in beds or strata

according to their respective gravities. This theory, however, is

disputed by others.

Verse 14. Make thee an ark] tebath, a word which is used

only to express this vessel, and that in which Moses was

preserved, Ex 2:3,5. It signifies no more than our word

vessel in its common acceptation-a hollow place capable of

containing persons, goods, &c., without any particular reference

to shape or form.

Gopher wood] Some think the cedar is meant; others, the

cypress. Bochart renders this probable, 1. From the

appellation, supposing the Greek word κυπαρισσος, cypress, was

formed from the Hebrew , gopher; for take away the termination

ισσος, and then gopher and κυπαρ will have a near resemblance.

2. Because the cypress is not liable to rot, nor to be injured by

worms. 3. The cypress was anciently used for ship-building. 4.

This wood abounded in Assyria, where it is probable Noah built the

ark. After all, the word is of doubtful signification, and occurs

nowhere else in the Scriptures. The Septuagint render the place,

εκξυλωντετπαγωνων, "of square timber;" and the Vulgate, de

lignis laevigatis, "of planed timber;" so it is evident that these

translators knew not what kind of wood was intended by the

original. The Syriac and Arabic trifle with the passage,

rendering it wicker work, as if the ark had been a great basket!

Both the Targums render it cedar; and the Persian, pine or fir.

Verse 15. Thou shalt make-the length of the ark-three hundred

cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it

thirty cubits] Allowing the cubit, which is the length from the

elbow to the tip of the middle finger, to be eighteen inches, the

ark must have been four hundred and fifty feet in length,

seventy-five in breadth, and forty-five in height. But that the

ancient cubit was more than eighteen inches has been demonstrated

by Mr. Greaves, who travelled in Greece, Palestine, and Egypt, in

order to be able to ascertain the weights, moneys, and measures

of antiquity. He measured the pyramids in Egypt, and comparing

the accounts which Herodotus, Strabo, and others, give of their

size, he found the length of a cubit to be twenty-one inches and

eight hundred and eighty-eight decimal parts out of a thousand,

or nearly twenty-two inches. Hence the cube of a cubit is

evidently ten thousand four hundred and eighty-six inches. And

from this it will appear that the three hundred cubits of the

ark's length make five hundred and forty-seven feet; the fifty

for its breadth, ninety-one feet two inches; and the thirty for

its height, fifty-four feet eight inches. When these dimensions

are examined, the ark will be found to be a vessel whose capacity

was more than sufficient to contain all persons and animals said

to have been in it, with sufficient food for each for more than

twelve months. This vessel Dr. Arbuthnot computes to have been

eighty-one thousand and sixty-two tons in burden.

As many have supposed the capacity of the ark to have been much

too small for the things which were contained in it, it will be

necessary to examine this subject thoroughly, that every

difficulty may be removed. The things contained in the ark,

besides the eight persons of Noah's family, were one pair of all

unclean animals, and seven pairs of all clean animals. with

provisions for all sufficient for twelve months.

At the first view the number of animals may appear so immense

that no space but the forest could be thought sufficient to

contain them. If, however, we come to a calculation, the number of

the different genera or kinds of animals will be found much less

than is generally imagined. It is a question whether in this

account any but the different genera of animals necessary to be

brought into the ark should be included Naturalists have divided

the whole system of zoology into CLASSES and ORDERS, containing

genera and species. There are six classes thus denominated: 1.

Mammalia; 2. Aves; 3. Amphibia; 4. Pisces; 5. Insectae;

and 6. Vermes. With the three last of these, viz., fishes,

insects, and worms, the question can have little to do.

The first CLASS, Mammalia, or animals with teats, contains

seven orders, and only forty-three genera if we except the

seventh order, cete, i.e. all the whale kind, which certainly

need not come into this account. The different species in this

class amount, the cete excluded, to five hundred and forty-three.

The second CLASS, Aves, birds, contains six orders, and only

seventy-four genera, if we exclude the third order, anseres, or

web-footed fowls, all of which could very well live in the

water. The different species in this class, the anseres excepted,

amount to two thousand three hundred and seventy-two.

The third CLASS, Amphibia, contains only two orders, reptiles

and serpents; these comprehend ten genera, and three hundred and

sixty-six species, but of the reptiles many could live in the

water, such as the tortoise, frog, &c. Of the former there are

thirty-three species, of the latter seventeen, which excluded

reduce the number to three hundred and sixteen. The whole of

these would occupy but little room in the ark, for a small portion

of earth, &c., in the hold would be sufficient for their


Bishop Wilkins, who has written largely and with his usual

accuracy on this subject, supposes that quadrupeds do not amount

to one hundred different kinds, nor birds which could not live in

the water to two hundred. Of quadrupeds he shows that only

seventy-two species needed a place in the ark, and the birds he

divides into nine classes, including in the whole one hundred and

ninety-five kinds, from which all the web-footed should be

deducted, as these could live in the water.

He computes all the carnivorous animals equivalent, as to the

bulk of their bodies and food, to twenty-seven wolves; and all the

rest to one hundred and eighty oxen. For the former he allows one

thousand eight hundred and twenty-five sheep for their annual

consumption; and for the latter, one hundred and nine thousand

five hundred cubits of hay: these animals and their food will be

easily contained In the two first stories, and much room to spare;

as to the third story, no person can doubt its being sufficient

for the fowls, with Noah and his family.

One sheep each day he judges will be sufficient for six wolves;

and a square cubit of hay, which contains forty-one pounds, as

ordinarily pressed in our ricks, will he amply sufficient for one

ox in the day. When the quantum of room which these animals and

their provender required for one year, is compared with the

capacity of the ark, we shall be led to conclude, with the

learned bishop, "that of the two it is more difficult to assign a

number and bulk of necessary things to answer to the capacity of

the ark, than to find sufficient room for the several species of

animals and their food already known to have been there." This he

attributes to the imperfection of our lists of animals, especially

those of the unknown parts of the earth; and adds, "that the most

expert mathematicians at this day," and he was one of the first in

Europe, "could not assign the proportion of a vessel better

accommodated to the purpose than is here done;" and concludes

thus: "The capacity of the ark, which has been made an objection

against Scripture, ought to be esteemed a confirmation of its

Divine authority; since, in those ruder ages men, being less

versed in arts and philosophy, were more obnoxious to vulgar

prejudices than now, so that had it been a human invention it

would have been contrived, according to those wild apprehensions

which arise from a confused and general view of things, as much

too big as it has been represented too little." See Bishop

Wilkins's Essay towards a Philosophical Character and Language.

Verse 16. A window shalt thou make] What this was cannot be

absolutely ascertained. The original word tsohar signifies

clear or bright; the Septuagint translate it by επωυναγων,

"collecting, thou shalt make the ark," which plainly shows they

did not understand the word as signifying any kind of window or

light. Symmacbus translates it διαφανες, a transparency; and

Aquila, μεσημβρινον, the noon. Jonathan ben Uzziel supposes that

it was a precious luminous stone which Noah, by Divine command,

brought from the river Pison. It is probably a word which should

be taken in a collective sense, signifying apertures for air and


In a cubit shalt thou finish it above] Probably meaning that

the roof should be left a cubit broad at the apex or top, and that

it should not terminate in a sharp ridge. But this place is

variously understood.

Verse 17. I-do bring a flood] ; mabbul; a word used only

to designate the general deluge, being never applied to signify

any other kind of inundation; and does not the Holy Spirit intend

to show by this that no other flood was ever like this, and that

it should continue to be the sole one of the kind? There have

been many partial inundations in various countries, but never more

than ONE general deluge; and we have God's promise, Ge 9:15, that

there shall never be another.

Verse 18. With thee will I establish my covenant] The word

berith, from bar, to purify or cleanse, signifies properly a

purification or purifier, (see on chap. xv.,) because in all

covenants made between God and man, sin and sinfulness were ever

supposed to be on man's side, and that God could not enter into

any covenant or engagement with him without a purifier; hence, in

all covenants, a sacrifice was offered for the removal of

offences, and the reconciliation of God to the sinner; and hence

the word berith signifies not only a covenant, but also the

sacrifice offered on the occasion, Ex 24:8; Ps 50:5; and Jesus

Christ, the great atonement and purifier, has the same word for

his title, Isa 42:6; 49:8; and Zec 9:11.

Almost all nations, in forming alliances, &c., made their

covenants or contracts in the same way. A sacrifice was provided,

its throat was cut, and its blood poured out before God; then the

whole carcass was divided through the spinal marrow from the head

to the rump; so as to make exactly two equal parts; these were

placed opposite to each other, and the contracting parties passed

between them, or entering at opposite ends met in the centre, and

there took the covenant oath. This is particularly referred to by

Jeremiah, Jer 34:18, 19, 20: "I will give the men (into the hands

of their enemies, Jer 34:20) that have transgressed my covenant,

which have not performed the words of the covenant which they made

before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the

parts thereof," &c. See also De 29:12.

A covenant, says Mr. Ainsworth, is a disposition of good things

faithfully declared, which God here calls his, as arising from his

grace towards Noah (Ge 6:8) and all men; but implying also

conditions on man's part, and therefore is called our covenant,

Zec 9:11. The apostles call it

διαθηκη, a testament or disposition; and it is mixed of the

properties both of covenant and testament, as the apostle shows,

Heb 9:16, &c., and of both may be named a

testamental covenant, whereby the disposing of God's favours and

good things to us is declared. The covenant made with Noah

signified, on God's part, that he should save Noah and his family

from death by the ark. On Noah's part, that he should in faith

and obedience make and enter into the ark-Thou shalt come into the

ark, &c., so committing himself to God's preservation, Heb 11:7.

And under this the covenant or testament of eternal salvation by

Christ was also implied, the apostle testifying, 1Pe 3:21, that

the antitype, baptism, doth also now save us; for baptism is a

seal of our salvation, Mr 16:16. To

provide a Saviour, and the means of salvation, is GOD'S part: to

accept this Saviour, laying hold on the hope set before us, is

ours. Those who refuse the way and means of salvation must

perish; those who accept of the great Covenant Sacrifice cannot

perish, but shall have eternal life. See Clarke on Ge 15:10, &c.

Verse 19. To keep them alive] God might have destroyed all the

animal creation, and created others to occupy the new world, but

he chose rather to preserve those already created. The Creator and

Preserver of the universe does nothing but what is essentially

necessary to be done. Nothing should be wantonly wasted; nor

should power or skill be lavished where no necessity exists; and

yet it required more means and economy to preserve the old than to

have created new ones. Such respect has God to the work of his

hands, that nothing but what is essential to the credit of his

justice and holiness shall ever induce him to destroy any thing he

has made.

Verse 21. Of all food that is eaten] That is, of the food

proper for every species of animals.

Verse 22. Thus did Noah] He prepared the ark; and during one

hundred and twenty years preached righteousness to that sinful

generation, 2Pe 2:5. And this we are informed, 1Pe 3:18, 19,

&c., he did by the Spirit of Christ; for it was only through him

that the doctrine of repentance could ever be successfully

preached. The people in Noah's time are represented as shut up in

prison-arrested and condemned by God's justice, but graciously

allowed the space of one hundred and twenty years to repent in.

This respite was an act of great mercy; and no doubt thousands who

died in the interim availed themselves of it, and believed to the

saving of their souls. But the great majority of the people did

not, else the flood had never come.

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