I. THE SINS OF THE PRIMEVAL WORLD IN GENERAL THE CAUSE OF ITS DESTRUCTION.1. In the first five chapters Moses describes the state of the human race in the primeval world and the wonderful glory of the holy patriarchs who governed it. In these five chapters the chronicles as in the first book, so to speak, the happiest period of the whole human race and of the world before the flood. Now we shall begin what may be termed the second book of Genesis, containing the history of the flood. It shows the destruction of all the offspring of Cain and the eternal preservation of the generation of the righteous; for while everything perishes in the flood, the generation of the righteous is saved as an eternal world.
2. It is appalling that the whole human race except eight persons is destroyed, in view of the fact that this was truly the golden age; for succeeding ages do not equal the old world in glory, greatness and majesty. And if God visited with destruction his own perfect creation and the very glory of the human race, we have just cause for fear.
3. In inflicting this punishment, God followed his own peculiar way. Whatever is most exalted he particularly overthrows and humiliates. Peter says in 2 Peter 2,5: God "spared not the ancient world;" and he would imply that it was, in comparison with succeeding ages, a veritable paradise. Neither did he spare the sublimest creatures — the angels — nor the kings ruling his people, nor the first-born of all times. But the more highly they were blessed with gifts, the more sternly he punished them when they began to misuse his gifts.
4. The Holy Spirit says in the ninth verse of the second psalm, concerning kings: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." But is it not the Lord himself who has ordained kings and wills that all men should honor and obey them? Here he condemns and spurns the wisdom of the prudent and the righteousness of the righteous. It is God's proper and incessant work to condemn what is most magnificent, to cast down the most exalted and to defeat the strongest, though they be his own creatures. He does this, however, that abundant evidence of his wrath may terrify the ungodly and may arouse us to despair of ourselves and to trust in his power alone. We must either live under the shadow of God's wing, in faith in his grace, or we must perish.
5. After the fall it came to pass that the more one was blessed with gifts, the greater was his pride. This was the sin of the angels who fell. This was the sin of the primitive world, in which the grandest people of the race lived; but because they prided themselves in their wisdom and other gifts, they perished. This was the sin of the greatest kings. This was the sin of nearly all the first-born. But what is the need of so many words? This is original sin — that we fail to recognize and rightly use the great and precious gifts of God.
6. That the greatest men must furnish the most abhorrent examples is not the fault of the gifts and blessings, but of those to whom they are intrusted. God is a dialectician and judges the person by the thing, ▼
▼ ut arguat a conjugatis.meting out destruction to the thing or gift as well as to its possessor.
7. It is expedient to give heed to such examples. They are given that the proud may fear and be humbled, and that we may learn our utter dependence upon the guidance and will of God, who resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the humble. Lacking the understanding and practice of these truths, man falls continually — kings, nobles, saints, one after the other, filling the world with examples of the wrath and judgment of God. The Blessed Virgin sings: "He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart. He hath put down the princes from their thrones, and hath exalted them of low degree." Lk 1,51-53.
8. Full of such examples are all ages, all princely courts, all lands. Yet, by the grace of Saint Diabolus, the prince of this world, our hearts are so hard that we are not moved by all this to fear; rather to disdain, though we feel and see that we also shall incur destruction. Blessed are they, therefore, who heed, and are moved by such examples of wrath to be humble and to live in the fear of God.
9. Consider, then, the preeminence of the old world, that perished in the flood. It possessed apparently the best, holiest and noblest men, compared with whom we are as the dregs of the world. For the Scriptures do not say that they were wicked and unjust among themselves, but toward God. "He saw," says Moses, "that they were evil." The eyes of God perceive and judge quite differently from the eyes of men. He says in Isaiah 55,8-9: "Neither are your ways my ways.... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
10. These tyrants and giants were esteemed and honored among themselves as the wisest and most just of men. So in our day kings and princes, popes and bishops, theologians, physicians, jurists and noblemen occupy exalted places and receive honor as the very gems and luminaries of the human race. More deservedly did the children of God in the old world receive such honor, because they excelled in power and possessed many gifts. Nevertheless, falling into pride and contempt of God while enjoying his blessings, they were rejected by God and destroyed, together with their gifts, as if they had been the lowest and vilest of the human race.
11. And this is a common failing of our human nature. It necessarily puffs itself up and prides itself on its gifts unless restrained by the Holy Spirit. I have often said that a man has no more dangerous enemy than himself. It is my own experience that I have not without me so great cause for fear as within me; for it is our inner gifts that incite our nature to pride.
12. As God, who is by nature most kind, cannot refrain from gracing and showering us with various gifts: health, property, wisdom, skill, knowledge of Scripture, etc., so we cannot refrain from priding ourselves upon these gifts and flaunting them. Wretched is our life when we lack the gifts of God, but twice wretched is it when we have them; for they tend to make us doubly wicked. Such is the corruption of original sin, though all but believers are either unaware of its existence or regard it a trivial thing.
13. Such corruption is perceptible not only in ourselves but in others. How property inflates pride though it occupies relatively the lowest place among blessings! The rich, be they noblemen, city-dwellers or peasants, deem other people as flies. To even a greater extent are the higher gifts abused — wisdom and righteousness. Possession of these gifts, then, makes inevitable this condition — God cannot suffer such pride and we cannot refrain from it.
14. This was the sin of that primeval world. Among Cain's descendants were good and wise men, who, nevertheless, before God were most wicked, for they prided themselves upon their gifts and despised God, the author. Such offense the world does not perceive and condemn; God alone is its judge.
15. Where these spiritual vices exist and flourish, the lapse into carnal ones is imminent. According to Sirach 10,14, sin begins with falling from God. The devil's first fall is from heaven into hell; that is, from the first table of the Law into the second. When people begin to be godless — when they do not fear and trust God, but despise him, his Word and his servants — the result is that from the true doctrine they pass into heretical delusions and teach, defend and cultivate them. These sins in the eyes of the world are accounted the greatest holiness, and their authors alone are reputed religious, God-fearing and just, and held to constitute the Church, the family of God. People are unable to judge concerning the sins of the first table. Those who despise God sooner or later fall into abominable adultery, theft, murder and other gross sins against the second table.
16. The purpose of my statements is to make plain that the old world was guilty, not only of sin against the second table, but most of all of sin against the first table by making a fine, but deceptive and false show of wisdom, godliness, devotion and religion. As a result of the ungodliness which flourished in opposition to the first table, there followed that moral corruption of which Moses speaks in this chapter, that the people polluted themselves with all sorts of lust and afterward filled the world with oppression, bloodshed and wrong.
17. Because the ungodly world had trampled both tables under foot, God came to judge it, who is a consuming fire and a jealous God. He so punishes ungodliness that he turns everything into sheer desolation, and neither government nor the governed remain. We may, therefore, infer that the world was the better the nearer it was to Adam, but that it degenerated from day to day until our time, when the offscouring and lowest filth of humanity, as it were, are living.
18. Now, if God did not spare a world endowed with so many and great gifts, what have we to hope for, who, offal that we are, are subject to far greater misfortune and wretchedness? But if it please God, spare the Roman pontiff and his holy bishops, who do not believe such things! I now come to my text.
V.1, 2. And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose.
19. This is a very brief but comprehensive account. The text must not be understood to mean that the world did not increase until the five hundredth year of Noah. The more ancient patriarchs are embraced in this statement. This is demonstrated by the fact that Noah had no daughters. The reference in the text to "daughters" certainly must be understood as referring to the by-gone age of Lamech, Methuselah, Enoch and others. The world, accordingly, was corrupt and evil before Noah was born, particularly when licentiousness began to prevail after the death of Adam, whose authority, as the first father, they feared.
20. I have said that Noah was a virgin above all others; I may add he was the greatest of all martyrs. Our so-called martyrs, compared with him, have infinite advantage in strength received from the Holy Spirit, by which death is overcome and all trials and perils are escaped. Noah lived among the unrighteous for six hundred years, and like Lot at Sodom, not without numerous and dire perils and trials.
21. This was, perhaps, one reason why Father Lamech gave his son the name Noah at his birth. When the holy patriarch saw evil abounding in the world, he entertained the hope concerning his son that he should comfort the righteous by opposing sin and its author, Satan, and restoring lost righteousness.
22. However, the wickedness that began then, not only failed to cease under Noah, but rather grew greater. Hence Noah is the martyr of martyrs. For is it not much easier to be delivered from all danger and suffering in a single hour than to live for centuries amid colossal wickedness?
23. The opinion before expressed I maintain, that Noah abstained from matrimony so long that he might not be compelled to witness and suffer in his own offspring what he saw in the descendants of the other saints. This sight of man's wickedness was his greatest cross, as Peter says of Lot in Sodom (2 Pet 2,8): "That righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds."
24. Accordingly, the increase of humanity of which Moses speaks has not reference alone to the time of Noah, but also to the age of the other patriarchs. It was there that the violation of the first table commenced — in the contempt manifested for Jehovah and his Word. This was followed later by such gross offenses as oppression, tyranny and lewdness, which Moses explicitly mentions and names first as the cause of evil. Consult all history, study the Greek tragedies and the affairs of barbarians and Romans of all times, and you find lust the mother of every kind of trouble. It can not be otherwise. Where God's Word remains unknown or unheeded, men will plunge into lust.
25. Lust draws in its train endless other evils, as pride, oppression, perjury and the like. These sins can be attacked only as men, through the first table, learn to fear and to trust in God. Then it is that they follow the Word as a lamp going before in the dark, and they will not indulge in such scandalous deeds, but will rather beware of them. With violation of the first table, however, the spread of passions and sins of every description is inevitable.
26. But it seems strange that Moses should enumerate in the catalog of sins the begetting of daughters. He had found it commendable in the case of the patriarchs. It is even enjoyed by the ungodly as a blessing of God. Why, therefore, does Moses call it a sin?
I reply, he does not condemn the fact of procreation as such, but the abuse of it, resulting from original sin. To be endowed with royal majesty, wisdom, wealth and bodily strength is a goodly blessing. It is God who bestows these gifts. But when men, in possession of these blessings, fail to reverence the first table, and by means of these very gifts do violence to it, such wickedness merits punishment. Therein is the reason for Moses' peculiar words: "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose," without consideration of God or of law, natural or statutory.
27. The first table having been despised, the second shares the same fate. Desire occupies the principal place and in contempt for procreation it becomes purely bestial; whereas God has instituted matrimony as an aid to feeble nature and chiefly for the purpose of procreation. But when lust in this manner has gained the upper hand, all commandments, those that go before and that follow, are ruthlessly broken and dishonored. Parental honor becomes insecure; men do not shrink from doing murder; from alienating property, speaking false testimony, etc.
28. The word jiru, "saw," does not merely signify "to view," but "to view with pleasure and enjoyment." This meaning often occurs in the psalms, for instance: "Mine eye also hath seen my desire on mine enemies," Ps 92,11; that is, shall with pleasure see vengeance executed upon my enemies. The meaning here is that, after turning their eyes from God and his Word, they turned them, filled with lust, upon the daughters of men. The sequence is unerring that, from the violation of the first table, men rush to the violation of the second. After despising God they despised also the laws of nature and, as they pleased, they married whom they chose.
29. These are rather harsh words, and yet it is my opinion that lust continued hitherto within certain limits, inasmuch as they neither committed incest with their mothers, as later the inhabitants of Canaan, nor polluted themselves with the vice of the Sodomites. Moses confines his charge to their casting aside the legal trammels set by the patriarchs and recognizing in their matrimonial alliances no law but that of lust, selecting only as passion directed and against the will of the parents.
30. It seems the patriarchs had strictly forbidden to contract alliances with the offspring of Cain, just as, later, the Jews could not lawfully mingle with the Canaanites. Though there are not wanting those who write that incestuous marriages existed before the flood, blood-relationship being held to be no barrier, I yet infer from the fact that Peter has extolled the old world, that such incestuous atrocities did not exist at that time, but that the sin of the ancient world consisted rather in men marrying whom they pleased, and as many wives from the Cainites as they chose, ignoring parental authority and controlled alone by passion. It is, therefore, a harsh word — "All which they chose."
31. I have shown, on various occasions, that the two generations, or churches, of Adam and Cain were separate. For, as Moses clearly states, Adam expelled the murderer from his association. Without doubt, therefore, Adam also exhorted his offspring to avoid the church of the evil-doers and not to mingle with the accursed generation of Cain. And for a while his counsel or command was obeyed.
32. But when Adam died and the authority of the other patriarchs became an object of scorn, the sons of God who had the promise of the blessed seed and themselves belonged to the blessed seed, craved from the tribe of the ungodly, intercourse and espousal. He tersely calls the sons of the patriarchs the "sons of God," since to them was given the promise of the blessed seed and they constituted the true Church. Yielding to the corruptions of the Cainite church they indulged the flesh themselves and took from the tribe of Cain, as wives and mistresses, whom and as many as they chose. This Lamech and Noah saw with pain, and for that reason, perhaps, deferred entering upon marriage.
33. In reference to this point the Jews fancy foolish things. They interpret the sons of God to signify demon-lechers by whom that impious generation was begotten, and that they were called the sons of God by reason of their spiritual nature. The more moderate ones, however, refute such folly and represent the sons of the mighty. This has been aptly disproved by Lyra; for the punishment of the deluge befell, not alone the mighty, but all flesh, as shall the doom at the last day.
34. But as regards the demon-lechers and strumpets (incubi and succubi), I do not deny — nay, I believe — that a demon may be either a lecher or a strumpet, for I have heard men cite their own experience. Augustine says that he heard this from trustworthy people whom he was constrained to believe. Satan is pleased when he can deceive us in this manner, by assuming the form either of a young man or a young woman. But that anything may be begotten by a devil and a human being is simply false. We hear of monstrous births of demon-like features, and I have even seen some. I am of opinion, however, that they have been deformed by the devil, but not begotten: or that they are real devils with a human body either simulated or purloined. For if the devil, by divine permission, may take possession of the whole man and change his mind, is it strange that he may disfigure also his body, causing men to be born sightless or cripples?
35. Hence, the devil may so deceive frivolous people and such as live without the fear of God that when the devil is in bed, a young man may think that he has a girl with him, and a girl that she has a youth with her; but that anything may be born from such concubinage I do not believe. Many sorceresses have at one time or another been subjected to death at the stake on account of their intercourse with demons. If the devil can deceive eyes and ears so that they fancy they see and hear things which do not exist, how much easier is it for him to deceive the sense of touch, which is in this nature exceedingly gross! But enough! These explanations have no bearing upon the present text, and we have been led to them merely by Jewish babbling.
36. The true meaning is that Moses calls those men the sons of God, who had the promise of the blessed seed. This is a New Testament phrase and signifies the believers who call God, Father, and whom, God in turn, calls sons. The flood came not because the generation of Cain was corrupt, but because the generation of the righteous who had believed God, had obeyed his Word, and had possessed the true worship, now had lapsed into idolatry, disobedience to parents, sensuality, oppression. Even so the last day shall be hastened, not by the profligacy of Gentile, Turk and Jew, but by the filling of the Church with errors through the pope and fanatical spirits, so that those very ones who occupy the highest place in the Church exercise themselves in sensuality, lust and oppression.
37. It is a cause of fear for us all, that even those who were descended from the best patriarchs, began to grow haughty and depart from the Word. They gloried in their wisdom and righteousness, as later the Jews did in circumcision and Father Abraham. So did the popes glory in the title of the Church only to replace gradually their spiritual glory by carnal indulgence after forfeiting the knowledge of God, his Word and his worship. The Roman Church was truly holy and adorned by the grandest martyrs. We, at this day, however, are witnesses how she has fallen.
38. Let no one, therefore, glory in his gifts, however splendid! The greatest gift is to be a member of the true Church. But take care not to become proud on that account, for you may fall, just as Lucifer fell from heaven and, as we are here informed, as the sons of God fell into carnal pleasures. They are, therefore, no longer sons of God, but sons of Satan, having fallen alike from the first and the second table of the Law. So in the past, popes and bishops have been good and holy, but today they are of all men the worst and, so to speak, the dregs of all classes.
39. Among this rabble of decadent men who had departed from the piety and virtues of their ancestors, godly Noah lived in the greatest contempt and hatred of everybody. How could he approve the corruption of such degenerate progeny? And they themselves were most impatient of reproof. While, therefore, his example shone and gleamed, and his holiness filled the whole earth, the world became worse from day to day, and the greater the sanctity and chastity of Noah, the more the world reveled in lust. This is the beginning; it invariably introduces ruin.
40. When God arouses holy men, full of the Holy Spirit, to instruct and reprove the world, the world, impatient of sound doctrine, falls with much greater zeal into sin and plies it with much greater persistency. This was the situation at the beginning of the world, and now, at the end of the world, we realize it is still the case.
II. THE JUDGMENT AND LAMENTATION OF GOD OVER THE FIRST WORLD; NOAH AND HIS PREACHING.
A. GOD'S JUDGMENT AND LAMENTATION OVER THE OLD WORLD.V.3. Jehovah said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for that he also is flesh: yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years."
41. Moses here begins by describing Noah as the highest pontiff and priest, or, as Peter calls him, a preacher of righteousness. This text has been mangled in various ways, for the natural man cannot understand spiritual things. When, therefore, the interpreters, with unwashed feet and hands, rushed into the Holy Scriptures, taking with them a human bias and method, as they themselves acknowledge, they could not but fall into diverse and erroneous views. It has almost come to pass, that the more sublime and spiritual the utterances of Scripture, the more shamefully they have been distorted. This passage in particular they have managed so shamelessly that you would not know what to believe, if you followed the interpreters.
42. The Jews are the first to crucify Moses here, for this is their exposition: My Spirit, that is my indignation and wrath, shall not always abide upon man. I will not be angry with men, but spare them, for they are flesh. That means, being spurred by sin, they incline to sin. This meaning Jerome also adopts, who is of the opinion that here only the sin of lust is spoken of, to which we are all prone by nature. But his first error is that he interprets Spirit as wrath. It is the Holy Spirit Moses here speaks of, as the contrast shows. "For man," he says, "is flesh." The meaning is, therefore, that the flesh is not only prone to sin, but also hostile toward God.
43. Then the matter itself serves as refutation, for could anything more absurd have been devised? They see with their eyes the wrath of God swallowing the whole human race through the flood, and yet they expound that God does not wish to be influenced toward the human race by anger but by mercy, and this after a hundred and twenty years, the very time of the flood.
44. Rabbi Solomon expounds it thus: The Spirit which is in God shall no more strive and wrangle. As if God in his majesty would have disputed and wrangled about what should be done with man, whether to destroy or to spare him, finally, wearied by man's wickedness, determining upon his destruction, nevertheless.
45. Others understand this of the created spirit: My spirit that I breathed upon the face of man, that is the spirit of man, shall no longer strive and contend with the flesh, which is in subjection to its lusts, for I shall take away this spirit and free it from the flesh, so that when the latter has become extinct, it may create no more difficulties for the spirit. This is the understanding of Origen, and it does not differ much from the Manichean error which attributes sin not to the whole man, but only to a part. And Augustine says that this had pleased him most in the tenets of the Manicheans, to hear that his depravity was not altogether his, but only of that part of the body which is evil from the beginning. The Manicheans posited two principles, the good and the bad, just as certain philosophers have posited enmity and friendship. Thus do men not only miss the mark, but they also fall into ungodly delusions.
46. Rabbi David cites Sanctes, and derives the word jadon from nadan, which means sheath, or shell. But as the interpretation is very clumsy, so he clothes it also in a very clumsy word: My Spirit shall not be inclosed in man as in a sheath. Has anything more unnatural ever been heard? But the Jews make a laughing-stock of modern Hebraists when they convince them that the Holy Scriptures can not be understood except through grammatical rules and an exact science of vowel-points. No exposition is so absurd but that they defend and polish it with their stale grammatical rules.
47. But tell me, what language has there ever been that men easily have learned to speak from grammatical rules? Is it not true that the very languages most thoroughly reduced to rules, like Greek and Latin, are learned rather by practice? What stupendous absurdity, therefore, it is to gather the sense of a sacred tongue, which is the repository of things theological and spiritual, from grammatical rules, and to pay no attention to the proper signification of things? And this is what the rabbis and their disciples do almost universally. Many words and verbs may be declined for which no use is seen in the language. While they make such things paramount and everywhere chase anxiously after etymology, they fall into strange fancies.
48. So here. Because the word in this passage can be derived from nadan, they construct from that a prodigious meaning. My spirit, they say, shall not be held back as in a sheath. They mean the spirit of man contained in the body as in a sheath. I shall not leave it in a sheath, they say, but I shall remove him and destroy the sheath. Such absurdities originate in the stale grammatical rules, whereas usage rather should be considered; it is that which trains the grammarian.
49. But I recite all this at length, in order to admonish you, when you come upon such silly commentators, not to follow them and admire such singular wisdom. For great men even have found delight in the folly of the rabbis. They are not unlike the Sacramentarians, who do not deny the words of Christ, This is my body, this is my blood; but explain it thus: Bread is bread, and yet the body of Christ, namely, his creature; this is my blood, namely my wine. This passion of distorting texts no sane man tolerates in the exposition of the fables of Terence, or of the eclogues of Virgil, and, forsooth, we should tolerate it in the Church!
50. We need the Holy Spirit to understand the Holy Scriptures. For we know that the same Spirit shall exist to the end of the world who existed before all things. We glory in possessing this Spirit through the grace of God, and, through him, we have faith, a moderate knowledge of Scripture and an understanding of the other things necessary to godliness. Hence we do not invent a new interpretation; we are guided not only by an analogy of Holy Scripture but also by faith.
51. Through the Holy Scriptures in its entirety, the verb judge, dun, signifies almost invariably a public office in the Church, or the office of the ministry, through which we are corrected, reproved, instructed and enabled to distinguish the evil from the good, etc. Thus, Psalm 110,6: Jadin bagojim, "He will judge among the nations;" which means: He will preach among the nations. The word found in this passage is evidently the same. And in the New Testament this phrase, originally Hebrew, is very much in vogue, especially in Paul's writings, who uses the Hebrew idiom more than the others.
52. I understand this passage therefore as words spoken by Lamech or Noah as a new message to the whole world. For it was a public message proclaimed at some public assembly. When Methuselah, Lamech and Noah saw that the world was hastening straight to destruction by its sins, they resorted to this proclamation: My Spirit shall no longer preach among men. That means: we teach in vain, we admonish in vain; the world has no desire to be better.
53. It is as if one in the present perverse times should say: We teach and make ample effort to summon the world back to sobriety and godliness, but we are derided, persecuted, killed, and all men, in the end, rush to destruction with blind eyes and deaf ears; therefore we are constrained to desist. These are the words of a soul planning appropriate action and full of anxiety, because it is clear that the human race, at the height of its peril, cannot be healed.
54. This exposition conforms to faith and Holy Scriptures. When the Word is revealed from heaven, we see that some are converted, who are freed from damnation. The remaining multitude despises it and securely indulges in avarice, lust and other vices, as Jeremiah says (ch 51,9): "We should have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go everyone into his own country."
The more diligently Moses and Aaron importuned and instructed, the more obstinate Pharaoh became. The Jews were not made better by even the preaching of Christ and the apostles. The same befalls us who teach in our day. What, in consequence, are we to do? Deplore the blindness and obstinacy of men we may, correct it we cannot. Who would rejoice in the eternal damnation of the popes and their followers? Who would not prefer that they should embrace the Word and recover their senses?
55. A similar exhibition of obstinacy Methuselah, Lamech and Noah saw in their day. Therefore there bursts from them this voice of despair: My Spirit, namely the Word of healing truth, shall no longer bear witness among men. For inasmuch as you refuse to embrace the Word — will not yield to healing truth — you shall perish.
These are the words of a heart filled with anxiety after the manner that the Scriptures say God is anxious; that is, the hearts of Noah, Lamech, Methuselah and other holy men who are filled with love toward all. Beholding this wickedness of men, they are troubled and pained.
56. Such grief is really the grief of the Holy Spirit, as Paul says, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption," Eph 4,30. This means that the Holy Spirit is grieved when we miserable men are distracted and tormented by the wickedness of the world, that despises the Word we preach by the Holy Spirit. Thus Lot was troubled in Sodom, and the pious Jews in Babylon under the godless king Belshazzar; also Jeremiah, when he preached to the ungodly Jews and exclaimed (Jer 15,10): "Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me." So in Micah 7,1: "Woe is me! for I am as the grape gleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat."
57. The wrath of God is most fearful as he recalls the Word. What man would not prefer pestilence, famine, war — these being mere bodily calamities — to a famine of the Word which is always joined to eternal damnation? An example of the horrible darkness into which Satan can lead men when God is silent and does not speak, is furnished by the Gentiles who have been bereft of the Word. Who is not horrified by the Romans, men of exemplary wisdom and famous before other nations by reason of their dignified discipline, who observed the custom of letting the worthy matrons worship and crown Priapus, the foul idol, and of leading bridal virgins before it? What is more ludicrous than that the Egyptians adored the calf Apis as the supreme godhead?
58. The Tripartite History gives an account of Constantine the Great being the first to abolish in Phoenicia and other places the shameless custom of using virgins, before their nuptials, for purposes of prostitution. Such monstrous infamies were accounted religion and righteousness among the Gentiles. There is nothing, in fact, so ridiculous, so stupid, so obscene, nothing so remote from all propriety, that it cannot be foisted as the very essence of religion upon men who have been forsaken by the Word.
59. This is, therefore, the greatest penalty, that God, through the mouths of the holy patriarchs, threatens no longer to reprove men by his Spirit; which means that henceforth he will not give his Word to men, since all teaching is vain.
60. Like punishment our times will bring also upon Germany. For we see the haste, the unrest, of Satan, and his efforts to defraud whom he may of the Word. How many sects has he roused during our lifetime, and this while we bent all our energies toward the maintenance of pure doctrine! What is in store after our death? Surely, he will lead forth whole swarms of Sacramentarians, Anabaptists, Antinomians, Servetians, Campanistans and other heretics who at present, conquered by the pure Word and the constancy of faithful teachers, keep out of sight, but are ready for every opportunity to establish their doctrines.
61. Those, therefore, who have the Word in its purity, should learn to embrace the same, to thank God for it and to call upon him while he may be found. For when the spirit of knowledge is taken away, the spirit of prayer is also gone. Zechariah says (Zech 12,10): For the spirit of prayer is joined to the spirit of grace. It is the spirit of grace which reproves our sins and gives instruction concerning their remission, which condemns idolatry and instructs concerning the true worship of God, which condemns avarice, lust and oppression, and teaches chastity, patience and charity. This spirit, God here threatens, shall no longer continue his work of instruction, since men refuse to hear and are incorrigible. The spirit of grace having been taken away, the spirit of prayer has also been taken away. For it is impossible for him to pray who is without the Word.
62. Accordingly, the office of a priest is twofold; first, that he turns to God and prays for himself and for his people; second, that he turns from God to men through instruction and the Word. Says Samuel: "Far be it from me that I should sin against Jehovah in ceasing to pray for you: but I will instruct you in the good and the right way," 1 Sam 12,23. He is aware that this is his proper office.
63. Therefore, the ministry is rightly praised and esteemed as the highest favor. When this has been lost or has been vitiated, not only prayer becomes impossible, but men are simply in the power of the devil, and do nothing but grieve the Holy Spirit with all their deeds, and thus fall into mortal sin, for which it is not lawful to pray. Such other lapses as occur among men are trivial, for return is open and the hope of pardon is left. But when the Holy Spirit is grieved and men refuse to receive the witness and reproof of the Holy Spirit, the disease is desperate and incurable.
64. But how common is this sin today among all classes! Princes, noblemen, inhabitants of city and country, refuse to be reproved; they rather reprove and sit in judgment upon the Holy Spirit in his servants. They judge of the office of the ministry by the lowliness of the person. They reason thus: This minister is poor and despised; why then should he reprove me, a prince, a nobleman, a magistrate? Rather than endure this, they trample under foot the ministers, together with their office and their message. Should we not, then, fear the judgment of God, such as he here announces to the old world?
65. These, therefore, are the words of a father who disinherits his son, or of a severe schoolmaster in wrath ejecting a pupil, when God simply fixes a hundred and twenty years as the time in which opportunity is granted for repentance. He threatens, should it not be improved, his Spirit shall no longer reprove and strive.
This word pertains properly to the office of the ministry and, in a certain sense, describes it. For every preacher or servant of the Word is a man of strife and judgment, and is constrained, by reason of his office, to chide whatever is vicious, without considering the person or office of his hearer. When Jeremiah does this zealously, he incurs not only hate but also the gravest dangers. He is moved even to impatience, so that he wishes he had never been born, Jer 20,14.
66. And if I had not been particularly strengthened by God, I should have been wearied and broken down ere this by the contumacy of an impenitent world; for the ungodly so grieve the Holy Spirit in us, that, with Jeremiah, we wish often we had never made a beginning of anything. Hence I often pray to God to let the present generation die with us, because, after our death, the most perilous times are to come.
67. For this reason Elijah is called by Ahab the godless king of Israel, the disturber of Israel; because he openly reproved the idolatry, violence and passions of his day. Likewise we today are deemed the disturbers of Germany.
68. But it is a good sign when men condemn us and call us authors of strife, for the Spirit of God strives with men, reproves and condemns them. But men are so that they wish to be taught only what gives them pleasure, as they frankly admit in Micah 2,6-7: "Prophesy not to us; for confusion has not seized us, says the house of Jacob." The latter they use as an argument; because they look upon themselves as the house of Jacob and the people of God, they decline chastening, and will not take to themselves penalties and threats. So today the pope and his accomplices plume themselves solely upon being the Church, and declare that the Church is incapable of error. But notice this text and it will appear how frivolous such an argument is.
69. Are not those whom God threatens to no longer judge by his Spirit likewise the sons of God? What can be more splendid than this name? Beyond doubt they gloried in this name and rebelled against the patriarchs when they opposed, or at least despised, their preaching. For it does not seem likely that God should be thrown into a rage against the whole human race on account of a few sins. But the magnificent name did not save them, nor did it avail that they were strong and great in number. Six hundred thousand marched out of Egypt, and two only entered the land of Canaan; all the others were prevented by death on account of their sins.
70. Evidently God will in no way inquire about the magnificent titles of the Church, pope and bishop. Other testimony will be needed when they desire to escape the wrath of God than to boast of being the Church. For it is written (Mt 7,20): "By their fruits ye shall know them." And verse 21: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven."
71. If ever in the future a council shall be held — which I hardly believe — no one will be able to take from them the title of Church, but propped up by this alone they will condemn and oppress us. Different shall be the judgment, when the Son of man shall come in his glory. Then it shall appear that among the members of the holy Church have been John Huss and Jerome of Prague. The pope, however, and the cardinals, the bishops, doctors, monks and priestly mountebanks, shall appear as the church of evil-doers, enthroned in pestilence, and as veritable henchmen of Satan, rendering aid to their father in his lying and murdering.
72. Such judgment of God we see also here. He does not deny that the offspring of the saints are sons of God. This magnificent title in which they took pride and securely sinned, God leaves to them. And yet these very sons of God who took in marriage the daughters of men, he warns that he not only will take the Word from their hearts and minds, but that he will take from their eyes and ears also the ministering Spirit who preaches, prays, reproves, teaches and sighs in holy servants, and because they refuse to be chastened and reproved; knowing themselves to be the sons of God they despise the Word and its teachers. But they do not escape punishment because of their name. The same shall likewise befall the papists and other enemies of the Word.
73. In accordance with this I hold that the sentiments of pious men are here attributed to God himself, according to the usage of the Holy Scriptures; for instance in Malachi 3,8, where the Lord says that he is pierced through, or, as the Hebrew has it, that violence is done to him because the people were unfaithful in rendering to the priests the first-fruits and the tenth.
74. But why, you may say, should God need to complain thus? Can he not when it pleases him suddenly destroy the whole world? He surely can, but does not do so gladly. He says: "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live," Ezk 33,11. Such a disposition proves that God is inclined to pardon, to endure and to remit the sins of men, if only they will come to their senses; but inasmuch as they continue in obduracy, and reject all help, he is, as it were, tormented by this wickedness of men.
75. The words "And Jehovah said," I attribute to the holy fathers, who testified through a public decree that God should be compelled to exercise vengeance, for they taught by divine authority. When Noah and his ancestors had preached nearly a thousand years, and yet the world continued to degenerate more and more, they announced God's decision to an ungrateful world and disclosed this as his thought: Why should I preach forever and permit my heralds to cry in vain? The more messengers I send, the longer I defer my wrath, — the worse they become. It is therefore necessary for preaching to cease, and for retribution to begin. I shall not permit my Spirit, that is my Word, to sit in judgment and to bear witness forever, and to tolerate man's wickedness. I am constrained to punish their sins. Because man is flesh, he is opposed to me. He is earthly, I am spirit. Man continues in his carnal state, mocks at the Word, persecutes and hates my Spirit in the patriarchs, and the story is told to deaf ears. Hence it is necessary that I should cease and permit man to go his own way. This contrast he desires to indicate when he says: "For he is flesh."
76. Noah, Lamech and Methuselah were very holy men, full of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly they performed their office by teaching, admonishing, urging and entreating, in season and out of season; as Paul says, 2 Tim 4,2. But they reproved flesh and did unprofitable labor, for the flesh would not yield to sound teaching. Should I, says he, endure forever such contempt for my Word?
77. This proclamation, therefore, contains a public complaint, made by the Holy Spirit through the holy patriarchs, Noah, Lamech, Methuselah and others, whom God took away before the flood that they might not be spectators of so widely diffused wrath. All these, with one voice and mouth, admonished the giants and tyrants to repent, and added the threat that God would not endure forever such contempt of his Word.
78. But the flesh remained true to its nature; they despised faithful exhortations in their presumption and carnal security, and the holy patriarchs they treated as men in dotage and as simpletons because of their threat that God would move in wrath even upon his Church, namely, the heirs of the promise of the coming seed.
79. The added clause, "yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years," Jerome affirms must not be understood as referring to the years of human life, nor to the age of individual men; for it is certain that after the flood many exceeded the two hundredth year. If you refer it to the years allotted to individuals, the promise would be that individuals should complete so many years, which, however, is false. Therefore he speaks of the time conceded to the world for repentance until the flood should arrive.
80. This interpretation agrees with what precedes. God shows that he is displeased with the perversity of men. He is full of solicitude and quite ready to forbear. Against his will, so to speak, he permits the flood to rage. Therefore, he decided upon a fixed and adequate time for them to come to their senses, and to escape punishment. All this time Noah admonished men to repent, making it clear that God could not longer endure such wickedness, while he was yet so kind as to grant adequate time for repentance.
81. There is a beautiful cohesion between the words and their significance. A former proclamation threatens: I cannot endure longer contempt for my Word; my preachers and priests attain nothing with their infinite labor except derision. Nevertheless, as a father or good judge would gladly spare a son but is compelled by his wickedness to be severe, so, the Lord says, I do not destroy gladly the human race. I shall grant them one hundred and twenty years in which they may come to themselves, and during which I shall exercise mercy.
82. Horrible was the disaster, because neither the brothers nor the sisters of Noah were saved. It was necessary that the most earnest warning should precede, that, perhaps, they might be called back to repentance. To the Ninevites Jonah announces destruction within forty days, and they repent and are saved.
83. It is clear, therefore, that the heedlessness of the old world was very great, inasmuch as in the one hundred and twenty years of grace it obstinately persisted in its lusts, even deriding its pontiff Noah, the teacher of righteousness.
84. In our times, at the approach of the day of the Lord, almost the same condition obtains; we exhort to penitence the papists and our noblemen; the inhabitants of city and country we admonish not to continue despising the Word, since God will not leave this unavenged. But in vain we exert ourselves, as the Scripture says. A few faithful folk are edified and these are, one by one, gathered away from the face of sin, and "no man layeth it to heart," as is spoken in Isaiah 57,1. But when God, in this way, has shaken out the wheat and gathered the grain in its place, what, think you, shall be the future of the chaff? Nothing else but to be burned with inextinguishable fire, Mt 13,42. This shall be the lot of the world.
85. But the world does not understand how it can be that through the preaching of the Gospel the wheat should be separated from the chaff, to be gathered into the barn, while the chaff, that is, the throng of unbelievers sunk in idolatry and darkness, shall be consigned to the fire. It is written: "In a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee," Is 49,8. Those who will neglect this day of salvation, will find God as an avenger, for he will not do useless labor in threshing empty chaff.
86. But the world is flesh; it does not obey. Yea, the nearer and more immediate the calamity, the more secure it is and the more readily it despises all faithful admonitions. Though this offense provokes the righteous, we should, notwithstanding, conclude that God does not reprove in vain the world through his Holy Spirit, nor that the Holy Spirit in the righteous is grieved in vain. Christ uses this as an example when he speaks of the wickedness and heedlessness of our age: "And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man," Mt 24,37.
87. It is to be observed here what has been an object of difficulty for Jerome, that the flood came a hundred years after the birth of Shem, Ham and Japheth, while here a hundred and twenty years are said to have been the time of the flood.
B. NOAH AND HIS PREACHING.87. But this passage shows that Noah began preaching about the impending punishment of the deluge before his marriage, having hitherto led the life of a celibate.
88. Consider, therefore, what pastime he offered to a wicked world in its fancied security. He predicts destruction to the whole world through the flood, nevertheless, he himself marries. Why? Was it not sufficient for him to perish alone, that he must join to himself a companion for the disaster? Oh, foolish old man! Surely if he believed the world was to perish by a deluge, he would rather perish alone than marry and take the trouble to beget children. But if he himself will be saved, why, so shall also we.
In this manner they commenced to despise the preaching concerning the flood with the greater assurance because of the marriage of Noah, ignorant of the counsel of God, who moves in a manner altogether unintelligible to the world. How absurd to promise Abraham posterity through Isaac, and yet to command Isaac to be sacrificed!
89. The divine Jerome argues against the view that God had fixed the time for the flood at a hundred and twenty years, but saw himself compelled, later, when wickedness had waxed strong, to shorten the time.
90. But we shall not make God a liar; we rather give it as our conviction that Noah had hitherto preached, while in a state of celibacy, that the world was to be destroyed through the flood, and later, by a divine command, had taken a maid as a little branch, so to speak, from the race of women, and begotten three sons. Below it is written that he had found grace with the Lord; otherwise he who had refrained from marriage so long, might have continued to do so still longer. But God, in order to restrain his wrath, wants to leave a nursery for the human race; therefore, he commands marriage. This the wicked believe to be a sign that the world shall not perish; they live accordingly in security and despise the preacher, Noah. But the counsel of God is different — to destroy the whole world and to leave through this righteous Noah a nursery for the future world.
91. Noah was, therefore, the greatest prophet; his equal the world has not had. First he teaches the longest time; then he gives instruction concerning a universal punishment coming upon the world, and even fixes the year of its advent. Likewise Christ prophesies concerning the last judgment, when all flesh shall perish. "But of that day," he says in Mark 13,32, "or that hour knoweth no one, ... but the father."
Jonah foretells punishment for the Ninevites within forty days; Jeremiah foretells seventy years of captivity; Daniel, seventy weeks until the coming of Christ. These are remarkable prophecies, in which time, place and person are accurately described.
But this prophecy of Noah surpasses all others, inasmuch as he foretells through the Holy Spirit that within a certain number of years the whole human race shall perish. He is worthy to be called the second Adam and the head of the human race, through whose mouth God speaks and calls the whole world to repentance.
92. It is terrible, however, that his message was despised with such assurance that not only none of the Cainites, but not even any one of Adam's progeny underwent a change. Therefore Noah was compelled to witness the destruction of brothers, sisters, relatives and kindred without number, and all these made a mock of the pious old man and of his message as an old woman's tale.
93. This awful example is held up to us lest we persist in sin. For if God did not spare the primitive world, which was so magnificent — the very flower and youth of the world — and in which had lived so many pious men, but, as he says in Psalm 81,12, "gave them up unto their own hearts' lust," and cast them aside, as if they had no claim upon the promise made to the Church — if he did this, how much less will he spare us who do not possess such prerogatives?
94. Therefore, the decree cited in this passage that God would grant men a hundred and twenty years for repentance, was rendered and promulgated before Noah had begotten children.
95. With reference to the generation of the Cainites, no mention is made of their patriarchs at the time of the flood, nor does Moses even deem them worthy of being named. Previously he has brought down the generation of Cain as far as Lamech, but whether his sons or nephews lived at the time of Noah is uncertain. This much is certain, that the offspring of Cain existed to that time, and were so powerful as to mislead the very sons of God, since even the posterity of the holy patriarchs perished in the flood.
96. Before this time the holy patriarchs — the rulers of the true Church, as it were — admonished their families to beware of the accursed generation. But the Cainites, incensed at being condemned, made the attempt to overturn the righteous with every kind of mischief; for the church of Satan wars perpetually against the Church of God.
97. Therefore, as the righteous begin to waver and wickedness gains ground, God raises Noah to exhort to repentance and to be for his descendants a perpetual example, whose faith and diligent, patient devotion to teaching, his offspring might admire and imitate. A great miracle is it and a case of illustrious faith, that Noah, having heard through Methuselah and Lamech the decree that the world is to perish after a hundred and twenty years, through the flood, does not doubt its truth, and yet, when the hundred and twenty years have almost expired, marries and begets children. He might rather have thought: If the human race is to perish, why should I marry? Why should I beget sons? If I have refrained these many years, I shall do so henceforth. But Noah does not do this; rather, after making known God's purpose respecting the world's destruction, he obeys God, who calls him to matrimony, and believes God that, though the whole world may perish, yet he with his children shall be saved. An illustrious faith is this and worthy of our consideration.
98. There was in him first that general faith, in common with the patriarchs, concerning the seed which was to bruise the head of the serpent. He possessed also the singular virtue of holding fast to this faith in the midst of such a multitude of offenses, and not departing from Jehovah. Then, to this general faith he added the other, special faith, that he believed God as regards both the threatened destruction of the rest of the world and the salvation promised to Noah himself and his sons. Beyond a doubt, to this faith his grandfather Methuselah and his father Lamech earnestly incited him; for it was as difficult to so believe as it was for the Virgin Mary to believe that none but herself was to be the mother of the Son of God.
99. This faith taught him to despise the presumption of the world which derided him as a man in his dotage. This faith prompted him diligently to continue the building of the ark, a work those giants probably ridiculed as extreme folly. This faith made Noah strong to stand alone against the many evil examples of the world, and to despise most vehemently the united judgment of all others.
100. But almost unutterable and miraculous is this faith, burdened as it is with strange and most weighty obstacles, which the Holy Spirit shows in passing, without going into great detail, that we may be induced to meditate the more diligently upon its circumstances. Consider first the great corruption of the age. While the Church had before this time many and most holy patriarchs, it was now deprived of such rulers; Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch are all dead, and the number of patriarchs is reduced to three — Methuselah, Lamech and Noah. These alone are left at the time the decree concerning the destruction of the world is published. These three are compelled to witness and suffer the incredible malice of men, their idolatry, blasphemy, violent acts, foul passions, until finally Methuselah and Lamech are also called out of this life. There Noah was the only one to oppose the world rushing to destruction, and to make an effort to preserve righteousness and to repress unrighteousness. But far from meeting with success, he had to see even the sons of God lapse into wickedness.
101. This ruin and havoc of the Church troubled the righteous man and all but broke his heart, as Peter says of Lot in Sodom, 2 Pet 2,8. Now, if Lot was so distracted and vexed by the wickedness of one community, how must it have been with Noah, against whom not only the generation of Cain raged, but who was opposed also by the decadent generation of the patriarchs, and then even by his own father's house, his brothers, sisters, and the descendants of his uncles and aunts? For all these were corrupted and estranged from the faith by the daughters of men. As the text says, they "saw the daughters of men."
III. THE SINS OF THE OLD WORLD IN PARTICULAR.
A. THE FORBIDDEN MARRIAGES ENTERED INTO.102. But, I ask, why is not complaint made also of the men, or why are not the daughters of God included in this complaint? He says merely that they "saw the daughters of men." It was surely for this reason, that the holy generation of Seth had received the peculiar injunction to beware of fellowship with the Cainites, inasmuch as they had been excluded from the true Church, and to mingle with them neither socially through marriage, nor ecclesiastically through worship, for the righteous should avoid every occasion of offense.
103. In prohibiting marriage with the Cainites it was the chief purpose of the pious fathers to maintain their generation pure; for daughters bring into the houses of their husbands the views and manners of the fathers. Thus, we read of Solomon in the Book of the Kings that he was led astray through a woman who was a stranger; and thus Jezebel introduced the wickedness of the Syrians into the kingdom of Israel.
104. The holy fathers saw the same would come to pass in their generation; therefore, after they were separated from the Cainites through the divine command, they resolved that the sons of the holy generation should not marry the daughters of men. The daughters of the race of the righteous could more readily be restrained from marriage with the Cainites, while the sons were independent and headstrong.
105. In this way Moses wishes to show the trouble began from the time the sons of God joined themselves to the daughters of men, seeing that they were fair. The sons of men who were proud and strong and passionately given to pleasure, without doubt despised the plain maidens of the pious race who had been reared by the holy patriarchs not delicately, but simply and modestly, being arrayed in homely garb. There was hence no necessity of making a law also for the maidens, inasmuch as they were in any case neglected by the noble Cainites.
106. If you study the history of nations you will find that women have been the occasion for the overthrow of the strongest kingdoms. Well known is the disgrace of Helen. The sacred writings demonstrate also that woman occasioned the fall of the whole human race. This, however, should be mentioned without reflection upon the sex, for we have a command, "Honor thy father and thy mother," Ex 20,12. Likewise, "Husbands, love your wives," Col 3,19. It is true that Eve was the first to pluck the apple; however, she first sinned by idolatry and fell from the faith, which faith, as long as it is in the heart, controls also the body; but when it has departed from the heart, the body serves sin. Guilt is not peculiar to sex but to sin, which man has in common with woman.
107. Thus Moses gives an account of the prevailing unrighteousness and lust. But he gives the reader to understand that, before sin was committed against the second table of the Law, the first had been violated, and the Word of God treated with contempt. Otherwise the sons of God would have obeyed the will of their pious parents forbidding marriage with those outside the Church.
108. Moses, therefore, concludes that, because the sons of God had forsaken the worship and Word of God and departed from the precepts of their parents, thereupon to fall into sensuality and lust, and to take to wife whom they pleased, they also became violent and appropriated the goods of others. The world cannot do otherwise. When it has forsaken God, it worships the devil; when it has despised the Word and fallen into idolatry, it rushes forth into all sins of passion, in which fierceness of anger and fierceness of desire by turns are aroused, and thus all the appetites are thrown into a state of the greatest disorder. When the righteous reprove this, the result is resentment and violence against them.
109. The sin of the flood, then, embraces everything that may be called sin, by the first as well as the second table. Wicked men first depart from God through unbelief; then they disregard obedience to parents, and finally become murderers, adulterers, etc.
110. I mention this to the end that no one may believe that sex or the marriage estate in themselves are to blame. It is chiefly transgression of God's commandments and disobedience to parents which are condemned. Owing to absence of fellowship between the Cainites and the true Church, pious parents desired also social separation from the Cainites, for fear they might be perverted by the manners of ungodly wives. But God's command being neglected, and the authority of parents despised, the younger generation lapsed into the passions of concupiscence and vehemence. In this way the honor of sex and the dignity of matrimony are conserved: accusation is brought solely against the unrighteousness which first departs from God and then manifests itself in injuring the saints.
111. This is the teaching of the words: "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair." Why did they not see the daughters of God and desire those in the Church and possess the promise of the seed? Are they not convicted of contempt for the sisters of their own generation, that is the true Church, and of mingling with the carnal and impious generation of Cain? They despise the simplicity and reserve of their sisters and prefer the smiles, the dress, the wiles of the daughters of Cain; the latter they crave and cultivate, the former they treat either with neglect or dishonor.
112. With such eyes as Eve viewed the apples when she fell into sin, the sons of God viewed the daughters of men. Eve had seen the forbidden tree before that, but with eyes of faith looking back to God's commandment; for that reason she did not crave, but rather she fled from the same. When, however, the eyes of faith were dimmed and she beheld the tree solely with carnal eyes, she stretched out her hand with desire and invited also Adam, her husband.
113. Likewise the sons of the patriarchs had seen long before that the daughters of the Cainites excelled in form, dress and elegance of manners. Nevertheless, they did not mingle with them, for the eye of faith looked back to the commandment of God and to the promise of the seed to be born from the generation of the righteous. But the eyes of faith having been lost, they saw no longer either the command or the promise of God, but followed merely the desire of the flesh. The simple, good and virtuous girls of their own generation they despised; the Cainites they married, seeing they were polished, charming and pleasant.
114. It is not a sin, therefore, that they marry, nor is the sex in itself condemned. Condemnation lies in this, that with contempt of the divine commandment they marry unlawfully; that they permit themselves to be led astray by their wives from the true worship to the wicked worship of a false church; that, after the fashion of the Cainites, they pay no heed to parental authority and become guilty of violence, oppression and other sins.
Moses clearly reveals their sin when he says: "They took them wives of all that they chose," as if he said: To marry a wife is not an evil but a blessing, if it be done lawfully. But they sinned in that they married without judgment, against the will and purpose of the parents, marrying whom and as many as they pleased, regardless of their own estate, whether married or single.
115. This is a stern word, by which Moses characterizes it as a great sin that they arbitrarily married two wives or more, exchanged them, or snatched them from others, after the manner of Herod, who possessed himself of his brother's wife. It is this unbridled reign of evil lust that Moses discloses and condemns.
116. Berosus writes that incestuous marriages also took place among them, so that they married even their mothers and sisters. But I doubt whether they were so wicked as that. It is a sin sufficiently grave that in marrying they dispensed with judgment, the authority of their parents and even with the Word of God, following altogether the guidance of lust and desire. They took whom they pleased and whom they could, and by such license they brought chaos into domestic, public and churchly relations.
B. DISORDER IN ALL BRANCHES OF SOCIETY.The sin of the primeval world was, therefore, an upheaval of all established order, inasmuch as the Church was demoralized by idolatry and false modes of worship. This condition was aggravated by those oppressors who cruelly persecuted the righteous teachers and holy men. Public discipline was destroyed by oppression and violent deeds, and domestic discipline by uncurbed lust. Upon such overturning of piety and integrity followed universal depravity; men were not merely evil but plainly incorrigible.
C. THE TYRANNY EXERCISED.V. 4a. The Nephilim (giants) were in the earth in those days,
117. Moses continues the description of the sin and offense which provoked the deluge. The first point was that the sons of God had fallen from the fear of God, and the Word had become altogether carnal, perverting not only the Church but also the State and home. Now he adds that wickedness had grown to the extent of giants arising upon earth. He clearly states that there were born from the concubinage of the sons of God with the daughters of men, not sons of God, but giants; that is, bold men who arrogated to themselves at the same time both government and priesthood.
118. Just so the pope arrogates to himself at the same time the spiritual and the temporal sword. This would not be the height of evil, if he would only make use of his power for the preservation of State and Church; but the greatest sin is that he abuses his power for the establishment of idolatry, for a warfare against sound doctrine, and for purposes of oppression even in the State. When the Papists are reproved with the Word of God, they spurn such reproof, claiming that they are the Church and incapable of error. This class of people Moses calls "giants," men who arrogate to themselves power both political and ecclesiastical, and who sin most licentiously.
119. Such men are described in the Book of Wisdom who say: "Let unrighteousness be our law," 2, 11. Also in Psalms, 12,4: "Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?" Again in Psalm 73. "They scoff, and in wickedness utter oppression: they speak loftily," etc. Such were the giants who withstood the Holy Spirit to his face, who, through the mouth of Lamech, Noah and the sons of Noah, exhorted, implored, taught and reproved.
120. There are those who dispute the meaning of the noun Nephilim and derive it from Naphal, which signifies "to fall." They commonly take it in a passive sense, meaning that other men, seeing the uncouth forms and extraordinary size, fell down from fear. Let the rabbis vouch for the correctness of this; it is ridiculous to call them "Nephilim" because others fell. Some, however, suggest the etymology that they were thus called because they had fallen from the common stature of men, and allege as proof-passage Numbers 13,33, from which it appears that giants possessed huge bodies like the Anakim and Rephaim. Which of these are right, I do not decide, especially since it is certain that a theory of all words can not be given, nor their origin demonstrated.
121. But here another question obtrudes itself: Why should those born from the sons of God and the daughters of men alone have differed from the ordinary stature of man? I have no other answer than that the text says nothing of stature in this place. In Numbers 13,33 it is said: "There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, who come of the giants: and we were in our sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." There hugeness of body is shown, but not here; therefore they may be called giants for some other reason than massive stature.
122. To give my opinion of the word, I hold it is to be taken neither in the sense of the neuter nor of the passive, but of the active, inasmuch as the word "naphal" is often used in the sense of the active, though it does not belong to the third conjugation, in which almost all transitive verbs are found. Thus in Joshua 11,7: "So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly, and fell upon them." If the verb is construed as neuter, as if Joshua and his men had fallen before the enemies, history will object; for the meaning is that they fell upon the enemies and suddenly overpowered them.
123. Therefore, this passage and other, similar ones prompt me to understand "nephilim" to designate not bulk of body, but tyranny and oppression, inasmuch as they domineered by force, making no account of law and honor, but merely indulging their pleasure and desire. Rightful rulers the Scripture calls shepherds and princes, but those who rule by wrong and violence are rightly called "Nephilim," because they fall and prey upon those beneath them.
Thus in Psalm 10: "He croucheth and humbleth himself and Venaphal Baa Zumaf Helkaim (falls with his strong ones upon the poor)". The Holy Spirit speaks there of the reign of the Antichrist, whom he describes as raging so furiously as to crush what he can, and, at all events, to bend what he cannot crush, so that afterward he may suppress with all his strength what has been bent. For baazuma can be indifferently rendered by "with his strength," or "with his strong ones." This power, he says, he uses only against those who are Hilkaim, that is the poor, such as have previously been in some state of affliction. Others who excel in power, he worships so as to draw them over to his side.
124. Accordingly I interpret "giants" in this passage not as men of huge stature, as in Numbers 13,33, but as violent and oppressive; as the poets depict the Cyclopeans, who fear neither God nor men, but follow only their desires, relying upon their strength and power. For the oppressors sit enthroned in majesty, sway empires and kingdoms, and arrogate to themselves even spiritual power, but use such power against the Church and the Word of God for the gratification of their lust.
125. Observe here the strange counsel of God, commanding us to fear the authorities, to obey, serve and honor them, while at the same time the threats and dreadful reproofs which he administers are almost invariably directed against those in authority, against kings and princes, as if God proceeded against them with a peculiar hatred. Scripture enjoins upon us to honor authority, but itself does not honor it; rather it destroys it with a threat of the gravest penalties. Scripture enjoins us to fear authority, but itself appears to despise authorities, inasmuch as it does not commend but threatens.
126. Does not Mary earnestly declaim in her song against princes, Luke 1,51-53: "He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart. He hath put down princes from their thrones, and hath exalted them of low degree. The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away"? If we believe this to be true, who would wish to be found among authorities, for whom so certain perdition is prepared and imminent? Who would not prefer to live on a lowly plane and suffer hunger? The second psalm accuses the authorities of the gravest crime when it says that they place themselves with united strength and efforts in opposition to God and his anointed and render violence to his kingdom. "Thou hast made of a city a heap, of a fortified city a ruin," Is 25,2. The whole Bible abounds with like sentiments.
127. Thus, the Bible does not honor the authorities, but threatens them with danger, and drags them into manifest contempt; and still with consummate care it commands us to reverence and fear them, and to render them all manner of service. Why is this? Surely because God himself desires to punish them, and has reserved vengeance for himself instead of surrendering it to their subjects. Jeremiah argues in chapter 12,1, concerning the prosperity of the way of the ungodly, and yet the Lord is righteous. But he concludes: "Thou, O Lord, fattenest them and preparest them for the sacrifice."
128. So might it be said that the authorities are God's swine, as it were; he fattens them, gives them wealth, power, fame and the obedience of their subjects. They are not pursued, while they themselves pursue and oppress others; they suffer no injury, but they inflict it upon others; they do not give to others, but rob them until the hour comes when, like fattened swine, they are slaughtered. Hence the German proverb: A prince is a rare bird in the kingdom of heaven or, princes are wild game in heaven.
129. Accordingly, those whom Moses calls here "Nephilim," which is an odious and disgraceful name, were without doubt the lawful administrators of Church and State. But because they did not use their office as they should, God marks and brands them with this opprobious name. As we, in this corrupt state of nature, are unable to use the least gift without pride, so God, most intolerant of pride, thrusts the mighty from their throne, and leaves the rich empty.
130. I accept, then, the word "Nephilim" as having an active signification, being equivalent to tyrants, oppressors, revelers. I believe, furthermore, as has been the case with other languages also, that Moses has transferred the usage of this word from his own times to those before the deluge, after changing somewhat its meaning, inasmuch as these degenerate descendants of the sons of God abused their power and position for the oppression of the good, just as those Anakim were tyrants relying upon bodily strength, and so Moses will presently show.
V.4b. And also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them; the same were the men that were of old, the men of renown.
131. Jerome ▼
▼ So also the A. V. and the R. V., while Luther has by no means the philological science against him. Mundus, seculum, aion, and olam are used to express the same conception. Translator.renders: Isti sunt potentes a seculo (these are mighty men from the beginning). But the word seculum (olam) does not here signify duration of time, nor does it predicate extent. These giants did not exist from the beginning, they were not born until the sons of God had degenerated. But seculum (olam) connotes a second predicate, that of substance, so that Moses explains the nature of the power in which they trusted to have been secular or worldly. They despised the ministry of the Word as a vile office; therefore they seized upon another office, a secular one. The very same thing our Papists have done. It has pleased them better to hold ample revenues and worldly kingdoms than to be hated of all men for the sake of the Gospel.
132. As far as Moses is concerned, the noun olam designates the world itself, and also age or time. Hence it is to be carefully noted when olam (seculum) signifies duration of time, and when it signifies "world" in the Scriptures. Here it signifies of necessity "world," for they did not exist from the beginning.
133. This clause, then, aptly describes the power they had received, not from the Church, nor from the Holy Spirit, but from the devil and the world. It is, as it were, the counterpart of what Christ says before Pontius Pilate, John 18,36: "My kingdom is not of this world." The servants of the Word struggle with hunger, and they labor under the hate of all classes. In consequence, they cannot exercise tyranny; but those who possess kingdoms, who govern states, who possess castles and domains, are equipped for exercising tyranny.
134. This clause contains also a suggestive reference to the small Church with her few souls. These are cross-bearers without wealth; but they possess the Word. Their only wealth is what the world despises and persecutes. The Nephilim, on the other hand, or giants, usurp as the descendants of the patriarchs the splendid name of the Church, and possess also kingdoms. They exercise dominion, and pursue the miserable Church in their power. In accordance therewith Moses calls them mighty before, or in, the world; or worldlings and temporal potentates.
135. What Jerome renders viri famosi (famous men) is, in Hebrew, "men of name," that is, renowned or famous in the world. Moses touches here also upon the sin of the Cyclopeans, who, possessing everything in the world, possessed also a famous name and were renowned throughout the world; while, on the contrary, the true sons of God, namely Noah and his sons, were held in the greatest scorn and regarded as heretics, as sons of the devil, as a blot upon the grandeur of Church and State. So is it now with us. Christ testifies in Matthew 24,37, that the last times resemble the times of Noah.
136. Moses had before testified that the Holy Spirit would be taken from the wicked and they would be sent in the ways of their own desire. They were, accordingly, such rascals as the pope today with his cardinals and bishops, who are not only styled princes and possess kingdoms, but also take to themselves the name of Church, so as to subject us as heretics to the ban, and securely to condemn us. They do not permit themselves to be called tyrants, nor wicked, nor temple-robbers. They wish to be styled most kind, holy and reverend gentlemen.
137. The meaning, therefore, is not that which Lyra follows when he understands "famous" as "notorious." As the world does not call the pope Antichrist, but ascribes to him the name of the greatest saint and admires him as if he and his carnal creatures were filled with the Holy Spirit and incapable of error, and therefore humbly worships whatever he commands or advises — exactly so those giants had a noble name and were held in admiration by the whole world. On the contrary, Noah with his followers was condemned as a rebel, as a heretic, as a traducer of the dignity of State and Church. So today do bishops regard us who profess the Gospel.
D. THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT.138. This passage furnishes a description of the sins with which that age was burdened: Men were averse to the Word; they were given over to their own lusts and reprobate minds; they sinned against the Holy Spirit by persistent impenitence, by defending their ungodly behavior and by warring upon the recognized truth. Yet with all these blasphemies they retained the name and authority, not only of the State, but also of the Church, as if God had exalted them to the place of the angels. When this was the state of things, and Noah and Lamech with their pious ancestor Methuselah taught in vain, God turned them over to the desires of their hearts (Ps 81,12) and maintained silence until they should experience the flood, the prophecy of which they refused to believe.
139. This is falling away from God and Church and entering upon illicit marriage. One sin, unless corrected at once, will lead to another, and so on indefinitely until the state is reached which Solomon describes in Proverbs 18,3, "When the wicked cometh, there cometh also contempt, and with ignominy Cometh reproach." They who thus sin, even if afterward rebuked, do not heed. They imagine they stand in need of no instructor, and think they represent a just cause. They do not believe in a life after this, or even hope for salvation, while living in open sin. Notwithstanding, scorn and shame shall overwhelm them. It was this persistent impenitence and consummate contempt for the Word that impelled God to visit all flesh with a universal flood.
IV. THE REPENTANCE AND GRIEF OF GOD BECAUSE HE HAD MADE MAN.
A. The Repentance of God.V.5, 6. And Jehovah 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. And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
140. This is the passage which we have used against "free will," of which Augustine writes that without the grace of the Holy Spirit it can do nothing but sin. The scholastics, however, the champions of free will, are not only hard beset by this clear passage, but also by the authority of Augustine, and they sweat. Of Augustine they say that his language is hyperbolical, as Basil writes of one who in refuting the other side had gone too far, that he did like the farmers; they when trying to straighten out crooked branches bend them a little too far on the other side; and so Augustine, in beating back the Pelagians, is asserted to have spoken more severely against free will in the defense of grace than the merits of the case warranted.
141. As far as this passage is concerned, it is slandered when it is held that it speaks only of the evil generation before the flood, and that now men are better, at least some who make good use of their freedom of will. Such wretched interpreters do not see that the passage speaks of the human heart in general, and that a particle is plainly added, Rak, which signifies "only." In the third place, they fail to see that after the flood the same declaration is repeated in the eighth chapter in almost precisely the same terms. For God says, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth," Gen 8,21. Here evidently he does not speak only of the antediluvians. He rather speaks of those to whom he makes the promise that henceforth another general flood of water shall never come, that is, of all the offspring of Noah. These are words of universal application: "The imagination of man's heart is evil."
142. We draw, therefore, the general conclusion that man without the Holy Spirit and without grace can do nothing but sin, and thus he unhaltingly goes forward from sin to sin. When in addition, he will not endure sound doctrine but rejects the word of salvation and resists the Holy Spirit, he becomes an enemy of God, blasphemes the Holy Spirit and simply follows the evil desires of his heart. Witnesses of this are the examples of the prophets, Christ and the Apostles, the primeval world under Noah as teacher, and also the example of our adversaries today, who cannot be convinced by anything that they are in error, that they sin, that their worship is ungodly.
143. Other declarations of Holy Scripture prove the same thing. Is not the statement of the fourteenth Psalm, verse 3, sweeping enough when it says: "Jehovah looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there was any that did understand, and did seek after God. They are all gone aside?" Thus, Ps 116,11, "All men are liars;" and Paul, "God hath shut up all unto disobedience," Rom 11,32. These passages are most sweeping, and emphatically force the conclusion that we all, without the Holy Spirit, whose dispenser is Christ, can do nothing but err and sin. Therefore, Christ says in the Gospel, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: ... apart from me ye can do nothing," Jn 15,5. Without me you are a branch cut off, dry, dead and ready for the burning.
144. And the very reason the Holy Spirit performs the office of reproving the world is that he may call the world back to penitence and the recognition of its derangement. But the world remains consistent with itself; it hears not and believes it can please God with forms of worship of its own choosing and without the sanction of the divine Word, and does not permit itself to be undeceived.
145. If ever a council should be held, the final declaration and conclusion with reference to this very point, the freedom of will, will be that we should abide by the decisions of the pope and the fathers. We may clamor until we are hoarse that man in himself without the Holy Spirit is evil, that everything he does without the Holy Spirit or without faith is condemned before God, that his heart is depraved and all his thought; we shall effect nothing.
146. Therefore, the mind is to be grounded in this, and we are to hold fast the doctrine which lays before us our sin and condemnation. This knowledge of our sin is the beginning of salvation; we must absolutely despair of ourselves and give glory for righteousness to God alone. Why does Paul elsewhere complain, and in Romans 7,18 freely confess that there is nothing good in him? He says plainly, "in my flesh;" so that we understand that the Holy Spirit alone can heal our infirmity. When this has been fixed in our hearts, the foundation of our salvation is largely laid, inasmuch as subsequently clear testimonies are given that God will not cast away the sinner, that is, one who recognizes his sin and desires to come to his senses and thirsts after righteousness and the remission of sin through Christ.
147. Let us, therefore, take care not to be found among those Cyclopeans who oppose the Word of God and proclaim their freedom of will and their own powers. Though we often err, though we fall and sin, still, upon yielding to reproof on the part of the Holy Spirit with an humble confession of our depravity, the Holy Spirit himself will be present, and not only not impute to us the sin we acknowledge, but the grace of Christ shall cover it and he will shower upon us other gifts necessary to this life as well as the future one.
148. But the words of Moses are to be more closely considered, for with a definite purpose he has used here a peculiar expression; he has not merely said, "The thoughts of man's heart are evil," but "the imagination of the thoughts of his heart." Thus he expresses the highest that man can achieve with his thoughts or with his reason and free will. "Imagination" he calls that which man with his strongest effort devises, selects, creates like a potter, and believes to be most beautiful.
But such imagination is evil, he says, and that not once, but always. For our reason without the Holy Spirit is altogether without knowledge of God. Now, to be without knowledge of God means to be entirely base, to dwell in darkness and to deem that very good which, in reality, is very bad.
149. But when I speak of good, I do so from the standpoint of theology, for we must distinguish between the theological and the civil standpoints. God approves also the rule of the ungodly; he honors and rewards virtue also among the ungodly: but only in regard to the things of this life and in things grasped by a reason which is upright from the civil standpoint; whereas the future life is not embraced in such reward. His approval is not with regard to the future life.
150. When we dispute about the freedom of the will, the question with us is what it may do from the theological standpoint, not in civil affairs and in those subjects to reason. We believe that man, without the Holy Spirit, is altogether corrupt before God, though he may stand adorned with all heathen virtues, inasmuch as there are certainly distinguished examples of moderation, of liberality, of love of country, parents and children, of courage and humanity, even in the history of the Gentiles. We maintain that man's best thoughts concerning God, the worship of God, the will of God, are worse than Cimmerian darkness; for the light of reason, which has been given to man alone, understands only bodily blessings. Such is the wicked infatuation of our evil desires.
151. This declaration, therefore, should not be construed frivolously, as the Jews and sophists do, who believe that the lower part of man only is here meant, which is bestial, and that the reason longs for better things. "The imagination of the thoughts" they apply accordingly to the second table, like the Pharisee who condemns the publican and says that he is not like the other persons. The words the Pharisee uses are very fine, for to give thanks to God for his gifts is not a sin; and yet we declare this same thing to be ungodly and wicked, because it proceeded from gross ignorance of God, and it is truly prayer turned into sin, tending neither to the glory of God nor to the welfare of men.
152. You may observe that philosophers have at various times quite cleverly discussed God and the providence with which he rules all things. To some, such words have seemed so pious that they almost have placed Socrates, Xenophon and Plato in the same rank with the prophets; yet, because in these discussions the philosophers are ignorant of the fact that God has sent his only Son into the world to save sinners, these beautiful utterances are, according to the declaration of this passage, consummate ignorance of God and mere blasphemies, for the passage states unequivocally that all imagination and effort of the human heart is only evil.
153. The text speaks, accordingly, not only of the sins before the flood, but it speaks of the whole nature of man, his heart, his reason and his intellect, even when man pretends to righteousness and desires to be very holy, as do today the Anabaptists when they purpose in their heart so to excel as to fail in nothing, when for a show they attempt to attain the fairest virtues. The truth is that hearts without the Holy Spirit are not only ignorant of God, but naturally even hate him. How, then, can anything be aught but evil that proceeds from ignorance and hatred of God?
154. Another question is here raised. Moses speaks thus: "When Jehovah saw that every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually, it repented him that he had made man on the earth." If God foresees everything, why does the text say that he now first sees? If God is wise, how can regret for having created anything befall him? Why did he not see this sin or depraved nature of man from the beginning of the world? Why does Scripture thus attribute to God such things as a temporary will, vision and purpose? Are not the purposes of God eternal and unalterable, incapable of being regretted? Similar instances are found also in the prophets, where God threatens penalties, as for instance to the Ninevites, and yet pardons the penitent.
To this question the sophists have no other reply than this, that the Scripture speaks after the manner of men, that such things are ascribed to God accordingly through the use of a figure of speech. Hence they contend concerning a double will of God, the will expressed by signs (voluntas signi) and the will of his good pleasure (voluntas beneplaciti). The will of his good pleasure, they say, is constant and unchangeable, while the expressed will is subject to change. For the signs through which he expresses himself, he changes when he pleases. Thus he has abolished circumcision and instituted baptism, whereas the will of his good pleasure, fixed from eternity, abides.
155. While I do not condemn this interpretation, a simpler meaning of the Scripture seems to be that the Holy Scriptures express the thought of men in the ministry. For when Moses says that God sees and regrets, this is really done in the hearts of those who have the ministry of the Word. Thus he said above: "My Spirit shall not strive with man," but he does not say this simply of the Holy Spirit as existing in his own nature, or of the divine majesty, but of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of Noah and Methuselah, that is, the Holy Spirit as officiating and administering the Word through the saints.
156. In this manner God saw the wickedness of man and repented; that is, Noah, who had the Holy Spirit and was a minister of the Word, saw the wickedness of men and, seeing such things, he was moved by the Holy Spirit to grief. So Paul says in Ephesians 4,30, that the Holy Spirit in the righteous is grieved by the ungodliness and malice of the wicked. Inasmuch as Noah is a faithful minister of the Word and an organ of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is said to grieve when Noah grieves and wishes that man rather did not exist than to be thus iniquitous.
157. The meaning, therefore, is not that God did not see these things from eternity; he saw everything from eternity; but inasmuch as this wickedness now manifests itself in all its fierceness, God now first reveals the same in the hearts of his ministers and prophets.
From eternity, therefore, God is firm and constant in his purpose. He sees and knows everything. But only in his own time does God reveal this to the righteous so that they, also, may see it. This seems to me the simplest meaning of this passage, nor does Augustine differ from it much.
158. However, I constantly follow the rule to avoid, whenever possible, such questions as draw us before the throne of the highest majesty. It is better and safer to stand at the manger of Christ, the man. To lose one's self in the labyrinths of divinity is fraught with greatest danger.
159. To this passage belong also other similar ones in which God is pictured as having eyes, ears, mouth, nose, hands and feet, as Isaiah, Daniel and other prophets saw him in their visions. In such passages the Bible speaks of God in the same manner as of a man. In consequence, the Anthropomorphites stood condemned of heresy because they attributed to the divine essence a human form.
160. Because the Anthropomorphites fancied such gross things, they have rightly been condemned. Their fancy is manifestly erroneous, for a spirit, as Christ says (Lk 24,39), has not flesh and bone. I am rather of the opinion that the Anthropomorphites intended to adapt the form of their doctrine to the plainest people. For in his substance, God is unknowable, indefinable, inexpressible, though we may tear ourselves to pieces in our efforts to discern or portray him.
161. Hence, God himself condescends to the low plane of our understanding and presents himself to us with childlike simplicity in representations, as in a guise, so that he may be made known to us in some way. Thus the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove; not because he is a dove, but in this crude form he desired to be recognized, received and worshiped, for it was really the Holy Spirit. No one, to be sure, will say that the same passage defines God as a voice speaking from heaven, yet under this crude image, a human voice from heaven, he was received and worshiped.
162. When Scripture thus ascribes to God human form, voice, actions and state of mind, it is intended as an aid only for the uncultivated and feeble; we who are great and learned and of discernment in reference to Scripture, should likewise lay hold of these representations, because God has put them forth and revealed himself to us through them. The angels likewise, appear in human form, though it is certain that they are only spirits; spirits we cannot recognize when they present themselves as such, but likenesses we do recognize.
163. This is the simplest way of treating such passages, for the nature of God we cannot define; what he is not we can well define — he is not a voice, a dove, water, bread, wine. And yet in these visible forms he presents himself to us and deals with us. These forms he shows to us that we should not become wandering and unsettled spirits which dispute concerning God, but are completely ignorant concerning him, since in his unveiled majesty he can not be apprehended. He sees it to be impossible for us to know him in his own nature. For he lives, as the Scripture says in 1 Timothy 6,16, in an inaccessible light, and what we can apprehend and understand he has declared. They who abide in these things will truly lay hold of him, while those who vaunt and follow visions, revelations and illuminations will either be overwhelmed by his majesty or remain in densest ignorance of God.
164. Thus the Jews also had their representations in which God manifested himself to them, as the mercy-seat, the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle, the pillars of smoke and fire. God says in Exodus 33,20, "Man shall not see me and live," therefore he gives a representation of himself in which he so manifests himself to us that we may lay hold of him. In the new covenant we have Baptism, the Lord's Supper, absolution and the ministry of the Word.
165. These are what the scholastics call voluntas signi, the will expressed through signs, which we must view when we desire to know the will of God. Another is the voluntas beneplaciti, the will of his good pleasure, the essential will of God, or his unveiled majesty, which is God himself. From this our eyes are to be turned away. It cannot be laid hold of; for in God is nothing but divinity, and the essence of God is his infinite wisdom and almighty power. These are absolutely inaccessible to reason: what he has willed according to the will of his good pleasure, that he has seen from eternity.
166. Into this essential and divine will we should not pry, but should absolutely refrain from it as from the divine majesty, for it is inscrutable, and God has had no desire to declare it in this life. He desires to show it under certain tokens or coverings, as Baptism, the Word and the Lord's Supper. These are the images of the deity and are his will as expressed through signs, by which he deals with us on the plane of our intelligence. Hence, we should look to these alone. The will of his good pleasure is to be left entirely out of contemplation, unless you happen to be Moses, or David, or some similarly perfect man, although even they so looked to the will of the divine good pleasure as never to turn their eyes from the will expressed by signs.
167. This will of God is called his activity (effectus Dei), wherein he comes out to us and deals with us garbed in the drapery of things extraneous to himself; these we can lay hold of — the Word of God and the ceremonies instituted by himself. This will of God is not that of his omnipotence, for though God in the ten commandments enjoins what ought to be done it is yet not done. Thus, Christ has instituted the Lord's Supper to strengthen in us faith in his mercy, and yet many receive it to their condemnation, that is, without faith.
168. But I return to Moses. He says that God sees man's wickedness and repents. The scholastics explain this: He sees and repents, namely, according to the expressed will, not that of his good pleasure, or the essential will.
169. We say that Noah's heart is moved by the Holy Spirit to understand that God is wroth with man and desires his destruction. This interpretation commends itself to our intelligence and does not draw us into discussions concerning the absolute will or majesty of God, which are very dangerous, as I have seen in many. Such spirits are first puffed up by the devil so that they believe themselves to be in possession of the Holy Spirit, neglect the Word to the point of blaspheming it and vaunt nothing but the Spirit and visions.
170. This is the first degree of error — that men, paying no heed to the Deity as imaged and incarnate, seek after the unveiled God. Afterward, when the hour of judgment comes, and they feel the wrath of God, God himself judging and searching their hearts, the devil ceases to puff them up and they despair and die. They go about in the untempered sunlight and forsake the shade that delivers from the heat, Is 4,6.
171. Let no one therefore meditate upon divinity unveiled, but flee from such thoughts as from the infernal regions and the very temptations of Satan. But let us take care to abide in these symbols through which God has revealed himself to us — the Son, born of the Virgin Mary, lying among beasts in the manger, and the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper and absolution. In these images we see and find God in a way wherein we can endure him; he comforts us, lifts us up into hope and saves. Other thoughts about the will of the good pleasure, or the essential and eternal will, kill and damn.
172. However, to name this the will of "good pleasure" is a misnomer. For that deserves to be called the will of good pleasure which the Gospel discloses, concerning which Paul says, "that ye may prove what is the good will of God," Rom 12,2. And Christ says, "This is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son should have eternal life," Jn 6,40. Also, "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother," Mt 12,50. Again, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," Mt 3,17. This will of grace is correctly and properly called the will "of the divine good pleasure" and it is our only remedy and safeguard against that other will, be it called the "expressed will" or the "will of good pleasure," about the display of which at the flood and the destruction of Sodom the scholastics dispute.
173. On both occasions a terrible wrath is in evidence, against which no soul could find protection, except in that gracious will, keeping in mind that the Son of God was sent into the flesh to deliver us from sin, death and the power of the devil.
174. This will of the divine good pleasure has been determined from eternity, and revealed and published in Christ. It is a quickening, gracious and lovable will, and consequently it alone merits to be called "the will of good pleasure." But the good fathers almost pass the promises by; they do not press them, though they could properly be called "the will of the good pleasure."
175. Therefore, as they enjoin looking to the will expressed by signs, they do well, but this is in no wise sufficient; when we consider the ten commandments, are we not frightened by the sight of our sins? When those terrible examples of wrath are added which are also divine will as expressed by signs, it is impossible for the soul to be lifted up except by looking back to the will of the good pleasure, as we call it, that is, the Son of God, who portrays for us the spirit and the will of his Father, who does not hate sinners but desires to have compassion upon them through his Son. Christ says to Philip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," Jn 14,9.
176. The Son of God, therefore, who became incarnate, is that sign or veil of God in which the divine majesty with all its gifts so offers itself to us that no sinner is so wretched but he dare approach him in certain confidence of obtaining forgiveness. This is the only vision of Deity which in this life is expedient and possible. However, those who have died in this faith shall on the last day be so illumined by power from on high as to behold the majesty itself. In the meantime, it behooves us to approach the Father through the way, which is Christ himself. He will lead us safely and we shall not be deceived.
177. The additional statement of the text, "It repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth," I believe to be meant to bring out the antithesis, that God has in mind not the earthly man, who is subject to sin and death, but the heavenly man, who is lord over them. He expresses his love for the latter, while he hates the former and plans his destruction.
B. THE GRIEF OF GOD.V.6b. And it grieved him at his heart.
178. Such was the regret of God that he was pained in his heart. The word here is azab, which was used before when he said (Gen 3,16), "In pain shalt thou bring forth children"; also in Psalm 127,2, "the bread of toil." This expression must be understood according to the usage of Scripture. We must not think that God has a heart or that he can suffer pain, but when the spirit of Noah, Lamech or Methuselah is grieved, God himself is said to be grieved. We may understand such grief not of his divine nature, but of his conduct. Noah, with his father and grandfather, feels in his heart, through a revelation of the Holy Spirit, that God hates the world because of sin and desires its destruction; therefore they are grieved by this impenitence.
179. This is the simple and true meaning. If you refer these words to the will of the divine essence and hold that God has resolved this from eternity, a perilous argument is employed to which are equal only men who are spiritual and tested by trial, like Paul, for instance, who has ventured to argue concerning predestination. Let us take our stand on an humbler plane, one less open to danger, and hold that Noah and the other fathers were most grievously pained when the Spirit disclosed to them such wrath. These inexpressible groanings of the best of men are accordingly attributed to God himself, because they emanate from his Spirit.
180. An example of such groanings we see later in the case of Abraham, who interposed himself like a wall in behalf of the safety of the Sodomites and did not abandon the cause until they came down to five righteous ones. Without a doubt the Holy Spirit filled the breast of Abraham with infinite and frequent groanings in his attempts to effect the salvation of the wretched. Likewise Samuel — what does he not do for Saul? He cries and implores with such vehemence that God is compelled to restrain him: "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel?" 1 Sam 16,1. So Christ, foreseeing the destruction of Jerusalem within a few years by reason of its sins, is most violently moved and pained in his soul.
181. Such promptings the Spirit of prayer arouses in pious souls. Present everywhere, he is moved by the adversities of others, teaches, informs, spares no pains, prays, complains, groans. Thus Moses and Paul are willing to be accursed for the sake of their people.
182. In this manner Noah, the most holy man, and his father and grandfather are consumed with pain at the sight of such terrible wrath of God. He is not delighted at this overthrow of the whole human race, but is filled with anxiety and the most grievous pain, while at the same time the sons of men live in the greatest security, mocking, boasting and taunting. Thus Psalms 109,4, "For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer." Thus Paul, "I tell you even weeping." Phil 3,18. And what else could holy men do but weep when the world would in no wise permit itself to be corrected?
183. It is always the appearance of the true Church that she not only suffers, not only is humiliated and trampled under foot, but also prays for her tormentors, is seriously disturbed by their dangers; on the contrary, others play and frolic in proportion as they approach their doom. But when the hour of judgment comes, God in turn closes his ears so completely that he does not even hear his own beloved children as they pray and intercede for the wicked. So Ezekiel laments that no one is found who will stand for Israel as a protecting wall, saying that this is the office of the prophets, Ezek 13,5.
184. It is impossible for the ungodly to pray; let no one, therefore, entertain the hope concerning the papists, our adversaries, that they pray. We pray for them and plant ourselves like a wall against the wrath of God and, without doubt, it is by our tears and groanings that they are saved, if, perchance, they will repent.
185. It is a terrible example, that God has spared not the first world, for which Noah, Lamech and Methuselah set themselves like a wall. What, then, shall we expect where such walls do not exist, where there is no Church at all? The Church is always a wall against the wrath of God. She feels pain, is tormented in her soul, prays, intercedes, instructs, teaches, exhorts, as long as the judgment hour is not here but coming. When she sees these ministrations to be unavailing, what else can she do but feel grievous pain at the destruction of the impenitent? The pain of the godly fathers was augmented by the sight of so many relatives and kindred at one time going to destruction.
186. This pain Moses could not express in a better and more graphic description than to say that God repented of having made man. Before, when he describes man's nature as having been formed in God's image, he says that God beheld all that he had made and it was very good. God, then, is delighted with his creatures and has joy in them. Here he absolutely alters that statement by one altogether at variance with it — that God is grieved at heart and even repents of having created man.
187. It was Noah and the other fathers who felt this through the revelation of the Holy Spirit; otherwise, they would have shared those thoughts of joy and would have judged according to the earlier prophecy that God had delight in all his works. Never would they have thought that the wrath of God was such as to destroy not only the whole human race, but also all living flesh of sky and earth, which surely had not offended, yea, the very earth also; for the earth, because of man's sin, had not retained after the flood its pristine excellence. Some have written, as Lyra reminds us, that by the flood the surface of the earth was washed away three hands deep. Certain it is that paradise has been utterly destroyed through the flood. Therefore, we possess today an earth more deeply cursed than before the flood and after the fall of Adam; though the state of the earth after the fall could not compare with the grandeur of its primeval state before sin.
188. These disasters, therefore, the holy fathers saw through the revelation of the Holy Spirit a hundred and twenty years before. But such was the wickedness of the world that it put the Holy Spirit to silence. Noah could not venture to reveal such threats without risk of the gravest dangers. With his father and grandfather, with his children and wife, he would discuss this great wrath of God. The sons of men, however, had no more inclination to hear these things than the papists today have to hear themselves called the church of Satan and not of Christ. Accordingly, they would vaunt their ancestors and over against Noah's proclamations they would plead the promise of the seed, believing it to be impossible for God, in this manner, to destroy all mankind.
189. For the same reason, the Jews did not believe the prophets nor even Christ himself when called to repentance, but maintained that they were the people of God, inasmuch as they had the temple and worship. The Turks today are inflated with victories which they believe to be the reward for their faith and religion because they believe in one God. We, however, are viewed as heathen and reputed to believe in three Gods. God would not give us such victories and dominions, they say, if he did not favor us and approve our religion. This same reasoning blinds also the papist. Occupying an exalted position, they maintain they are the Church and hence they have no fear of divine punishment. Devilish, therefore, is that argument whereby men take the name of God to palliate their sins.
190. But if God did not spare the first world, the generation of the holy patriarchs, which had the promise of the seed as its very own — if he saved only a very small remnant — the Turks, Jews and Papists shall boast in vain of the name of God. According to Micah 2,7, the Word of God promises blessings to those who walk in uprightness. But those who do not walk in uprightness are cursed. Those he threatens, those he destroys. Neither does he take account of the name "Church", nor of their number, whereas he saves the remnant which walks in uprightness. But never will you convince the world of this.
191. In all probability the descendants of the patriarchs who perished in the flood abused quite shamefully the argument of the dignity of the Church, and condemned Noah for blasphemy and falsehood. To say, they argued, that God was about to destroy the whole world by a flood is equal to saying that God is not merciful, nor a Father, but a cruel tyrant. You proclaim the wrath of God, O Noah! Then God is not such a being as to promise deliverance from sin and death through the seed of woman? The wrath of God, therefore, will not swallow the whole earth. We are the people of God. We have from God magnificent gifts; never would God have given these to us if he had resolved to act against us with such hostility. In this fashion the wicked are in the habit of applying to themselves the promises and trusting to the same. All warnings, however, they neglect and deride.
192. It is profitable to contemplate this diligently so that we may be safeguarded against such vicious heedlessness of the wicked. For what happened to Moses, now happens also to us. Our adversaries ascribe to themselves the name of God's people, true worship, grace and everything holy; to us, everything devilish. Now, when we reprove them for blasphemy and say that they are the church of Satan, they rage against us with every kind of cruelty. Hence we mourn with Noah, and commend the cause to God, as Christ did on the cross — what else could we do? — and wait till God shall judge the earth and show that he loves the remnant of those that fear him and that he hates the multitude of impenitent sinners in spite of their boast of being the Church, of having the promises, of having the worship of God. When God destroyed the whole original world, he manifested the promise of the seed to that wretched and tiny remnant, Noah and his sons.
V. HOW NOAH ALONE WAS FOUND RIGHTEOUS, AND HOW THE WHOLE WORLD WAS DESTROYED.
A. Noah Alone Was found Righteous.V.8. But Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah.
193. These are the words through which Noah was lifted up and quickened again. For such wrath of the divine majesty would have killed him, had not God added the promise of saving him. It is likely, however, that his faith had a struggle and was weak. We cannot imagine how such contemplation of God's wrath weakens courage.
194. This novel expression of the Holy Spirit the heavenly messenger Gabriel also uses when speaking to the Blessed Virgin Lk 1,30, "Thou hast found favor (grace) with God." The expression most palpably excludes merit and commends faith, through which alone we are justified before God, made acceptable and well pleasing in his sight.
V.9. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, and perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God.
195. With this passage the Jews commence not only a new chapter, but also a new lesson. This is a very brief history, but it greatly extols our patriarch Noah; he alone remained just and upright while the other sons of God degenerated.
196. Let us remember many most excellent men were among the sons of God, of whom some lived with Noah well nigh five hundred years. Man in that age before the flood was very long-lived; not only the sons of God, but also the sons of men. A very wide and rich experience had been gathered by these people during so many years. Much they learned from their progenitors and much they saw and experienced.
197. Amid the corruption of all these stands Noah, a truly marvelous man. He swerves neither to the left nor to the right. He retains the true worship of God. He retains the pure doctrine, and lives in the fear of God. There is no doubt that a depraved generation hated him inordinately, tantalized him in various ways and thus insulted him: "Art thou alone wise? Dost thou alone please God? Are the rest of us all in error? Shall we all be damned? Thou alone dost not err. Thou alone shalt not be condemned." And thus the just and holy man must have concluded in his mind that all others were in error and about to be condemned, while he and his offspring alone were to be saved. Although his conviction was right in the matter, his lot was a hard one. The holy man was in various ways troubled by such reflections.
198. The wretched Papists press us today with this one argument: Do you believe that all the fathers have been in error? It seems hard so to believe, especially of the worthier ones, such as Augustine, Ambrose, Bernard and that whole throng of the best men who have governed Churches with the Word and have been adorned with the august name of the Church. The labors of such we both laud and admire.
199. But surely no less a difficulty confronted Noah himself, who alone is called just and upright, at a time when the very sons of men paraded the name of the Church. When the sons of the fathers allied themselves with these they, forsooth, believed that Noah with his people raved, because he followed another doctrine and another worship.
200. Today our life is very brief, still to what lengths human nature will go is sufficiently in evidence. What may we imagine the condition to have been in such a long existence, in which the bitterness and vehemence of human nature were even stronger? Today we are naturally much more dull and stupid, and yet men singularly gifted rush into wickedness. It is afterward said that all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth, only Noah was just and upright.
201. From these two words we may gather the thought that Noah is held to be "just" as he honored the first table and "upright" as he honored the second. "Just" he is called, because of his faith in God, because he first believed the general promise with respect to the seed of woman and then also the particular one respecting the destruction of the world through the flood and the salvation of his own offspring. On the other hand he is called "upright" because he walked in the fear of God and conscientiously avoided murder and other sins with which the wicked polluted themselves in defiance of conscience. Nor did he permit himself to be moved by the frequent offenses of men most illustrious, wise and apparently holy.
202. Great was his courage. Today it appears to us impossible that one man should oppose himself to all mankind, condemning them as evil, while they vaunt the Church and God's Word and worship, and to maintain that he alone is a son of God and acceptable before him. Noah, accordingly, is a marvelous man, and Moses commends this same greatness of mind when he plainly adds "in his generation," or "in his age," as if he desired to say that his age was indeed the most wicked and corrupt.
203. Above, in the history of Enoch, we explained what it means to walk with God, namely, to advocate the cause of God in public. To be just and upright bespeaks private virtue, but to walk with God is something public — to advocate the cause of God before the world, to wield his Word, to teach his worship. Noah was not simply just and holy for himself but he was also a confessor; he taught others the promises and threats of God, and performed and suffered all that behooves a public personage in an age so exceedingly wicked and corrupt.
204. If it were I who had seen that so great men in the generation of the ungodly were opposed to me, I surely in desperation should have cast aside my ministry. For one cannot conceive how difficult it is for one man to oppose himself alone to the unanimity of all churches; to impugn the judgment of the best and most amicable of men; to condemn them; to teach, to live, and to do everything, in opposition to them. This is what Noah did. He was inspired with admirable constancy of purpose, inasmuch as he, innocent before men, not only regarded the cause of God, but most earnestly pressed it among the most nefarious men, until he was told: "My spirit shall not further strive with man." And the word "strive" finely portrays the spirit with which the ungodly heard Noah instruct them.
205. Peter also beautifully sets forth what it means to walk with God when he calls Noah a preacher, not of the righteousness of man, but of God; that is, that of faith in the promised seed. But what reward Noah received from the ungodly for his message Moses does not indicate. The statement is sufficient, that he preached righteousness, that he taught the true worship of God while the whole earth opposed him. That means the best, most religious and wisest of men were against him. More than one miracle, in consequence, was necessary to prevent his being waylaid and killed by the ungodly. We see today how much wrath, hate, and envy one sermon to the people may create. What shall we believe Noah may have suffered who taught not a hundred, not two hundred, but even more years, down to the last century, when God did not desire the wicked to receive instruction any longer lest they become still fiercer and more depraved.
206. Therefore we may conjecture from the condition and nature of the world itself, and of the devil, from the experience of the apostles and the prophets, and likewise from our own, what a noble example of patience and other virtues Noah has been, who was just and irreproachable in that ungodly generation and walked with God — that is, governed the churches with the Word — and who, when the one hundred and twenty years were determined upon, after the lapse of which the world was to be destroyed by a flood, in face of such a terrible threat, entered into matrimony and begot children.
207. It is very probable that he traveled up and down the earth; that he taught everywhere; that everywhere he exhorted to worship God in truth; that he, hindered by many labors, refrained from matrimony on account of abundance of tribulations and in the expectation of the advent of a better and more religious age. But when he recognized this hope as unfounded and by a voice divine was warned that a time had been set for the world's destruction, then and not before, prompted by the Spirit, did he make up his mind to marry, in order to transmit to the new age seed out of himself. And thus the holy man preserved the human race, not only spiritually, in the true Word and worship, but also bodily, by begetting children.
208. As in paradise a new Church had its beginning, before the flood, through Adam and Eve's faith in the promise, so also here a new world and a new Church arise from the marriage of Noah — a nursery of that world which shall endure to the end.
209. I stated above (§88) that this marriage was an occasion of great offense to the ungodly and that they made the most extraordinary sport of it. How inconsistent that the world is to perish so soon, when Noah, five hundred years old, becomes a father! They deemed his act the surest evidence that the world was not to perish by a flood. Hence, they began to live even more licentiously, and in the greatest security to despise all threats. Christ says in Matthew 24,38, that in the days of Noah they ate, they drank, etc. The world does not understand the plans of God.
210. Concerning the order of the sons of Noah, I said above that Japheth was first, that Shem was born two years afterward when Noah commenced to build the ark, and Ham two years later. This has not been clearly explained by Moses, but still it has been carefully noted.
B. Destruction of the Whole World.V.11. And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
211. Lyra, perhaps under the influence of rabbinic interpretation, contends here that even the birds and other animals forsook their nature and mixed with those of another species. But I do not believe it, for the creation or nature of animals remains as it was fashioned. They have not fallen through sin, like man, but are, on the contrary, fashioned for this bodily life alone. In consequence they neither hear the Word, nor does the Word concern them. They are absolutely without the Law of the first and the second tables. Accordingly, this passage refers only to man.
212. But that the beasts bore the penalty of sin and perished at the same time with man through the flood was the result of God's purpose to destroy man altogether; not alone in body and soul, but with the possessions and dominion which were his at creation. Instances of similar retribution occur in the Old Testament. In the sixth chapter of Daniel we see the enemies of Daniel cast into the lions' den, together with their wives, children and whole families. In the sixteenth chapter of Numbers a like incident is narrated in connection with the destruction of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Similar is also an instance spoken of by Christ when the king commands to sell the servant together with wife, children and all his substance.
213. In this manner, evidently, not only men but all their goods were destroyed, so that punishment might be full and complete. Beasts, fields and the birds of heaven were created for man. They are man's property and chattels. Therefore, the animals perished, not because they had sinned, but because God wanted man to perish amid all his earthly possessions.
214. In this passage Moses' specific statement that "the earth was corrupt before God," is made to show that Noah was treated and esteemed in the eyes of his age as a stupid and good for nothing character. The world, on the contrary, appeared in its own eyes perfectly holy and righteous, believing it had just cause for the persecution of Noah, especially in regard to the first table of the Law and the worship of God. The second table is not without its disguise of hypocrisy, but in this respect it bears no comparison to the former. The adulterer, the thief, the murderer can remain hidden for a while, though not forever. But the sins of the first table generally remain hidden under the cloak of sanctity until God brings them to light. Godlessness never wishes to be godlessness, but chases after a reputation for piety and religion; and trims its cult so finely that in comparison with it the true cult and the true religion appear coarse.
215. The verb shiheth is very frequent and conspicuous in Holy Scripture. Moses uses it in the thirty-first chapter of Deuteronomy, verse 29: "For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you." And David says, "They are all gone aside; they are together become filthy," Ps 14,3. Both passages speak particularly of the sins against the first table; that is, they accuse the apparently devoutest saints of false worship and false doctrine, for it is impossible for a righteous life to follow teaching that is false.
216. When Moses says the earth was corrupt before God, he clearly points out the contrast — the hypocrites and oppressors judged Noah's teaching and practise as wholly wrong, and their own as altogether holy. The reverse, Moses says, was true. Mankind was assuredly corrupt measured by the first table. They lacked the true Word and the true worship. This distinction between the first and the second tables commends itself strongly to my judgment and was doubtless suggested by the Holy Spirit.
217. The additional statement — "and the earth was filled with violence" — points to this unfailing sequence. With the Word lost, with faith extinct, with traditions and will-worship — to use St. Paul's phraseology (Col 2,8) — having replaced the true cult, there results violence and shameful living.
218. The correct significance of the word hamas is violence force, wrong, with the suspension of all law and equity, a condition where pleasure is law and everything is done not by right, but by might. But if such was their life, you may say, how could they maintain the appearance and reputation of holiness and righteousness? As if we did not really have similar instances before our eyes today. Has the world ever seen anything more cruel than the Turks? And they adorn all their fierceness with the name of God and religion.
219. The popes have not only seized for themselves the riches of the earth, but have filled the Church itself with stupendous errors and blasphemous doctrines. They live in shocking licentiousness. They alienate at pleasure the hearts of kings. Much is done by them to bring on bloodshed and war. And yet, with all such blasphemies and outrages, they arrogate to themselves the name and title of the greatest saints and boast of being vicars of Christ and successors of Peter.
220. Thus the greatest wrong is allied to the names of Church and true religion. Should any one offer objection, immediately is he put under the ban and condemned as a heretic and an enemy of God and man. Barring the Romans and their accomplices, there is no people which plumes itself more upon religion and righteousness than the Turks. The Christians they despise as idolaters; themselves they esteem as most holy and wise. Notwithstanding, what is their life and religion but incessant murder, robbery, rapine and other horrible outrages?
221. The present times, therefore, illustrate how those two incompatible things may be found in union — the greatest religiousness with abominations, the greatest wrong with a show of right. And this is the very cause for men becoming hardened and secure without apprehending the punishment they merit by their sins.
V.12. And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
222. Inasmuch as the wrath of God is appalling and destruction is imminent for all flesh except eight souls, Moses is somewhat redundant in this passage, and uses repetitions, which are not superfluous but express an emphasis of their own. Above he said the earth was corrupt; now he says that God, as if following the customary judicial method, saw this and meditated punishment. In this manner he pictures, as it were, the order in which God proceeds.
223. The judgment of spiritual people concerning the pope at the present day is that he is the Antichrist, raging against the Word and the kingdom of Christ. But they who censure it are unable to correct this wickedness. Wickedness is growing daily and contempt for godliness is becoming greater every day. Now comes the thought: What is God doing? Why does he not punish his enemy? Does he sleep and care no longer for human affairs? The delay of judgment causes the righteous anguish. They themselves cannot come to the succor of a stricken religion and they see God who could help, connive at the fury of the popes, who securely sin against the first and the second tables of the Law.
224. Just so Noah sees the earth filled with wrongs. Therefore, he groans and sighs to heaven in order to arouse God from the highest heaven to judgment. Such voices occur here and there in the Psalms (10, 1): "Why standest thou afar off?"; (13, 1): "How long, O Jehovah?"; (9, 13): "Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah; consider my trouble"; (7, 6-9): "Arise, judge my cause, etc."
225. What Moses here describes comes at length to pass, that God also sees these things and hears the cry of the righteous who are able to judge the world; for they who are spiritual judge all things (1 Cor 2,15), though they cannot alter anything. Wickedness is incorrigible when adorned with a show of piety, and so is oppression when it assumes the disguise of justice and foresight. It is nothing new that they who seize the wives, daughters, houses, lands and goods of others desire to be just and holy, as we showed above in respect of the papacy.
226. This is the second stage then: When the saints have seen and judged the wickedness of the world, God also sees it. He says of the Sodomites: "The cry of them is waxed great before Jehovah" (Gen 19,13); and above (ch 4,10): "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me." But always before the Lord takes note, the sobs and groans of the righteous precede, arousing, as it were, the Lord from slumber.
What Moses desires to show in this passage through the word, "saw" is that God finally perceived the afflictions and heard the cries of the righteous, filling at last all heaven. He who hitherto had winked at everything and seemed to favor the success of the wicked, was awakened as from slumber. The fact is he saw everything much sooner than Noah; for he is the searcher of hearts and cannot be deceived by simulated piety as we can. But not until now, when he meditates punishment, does Noah perceive that he sees.
227. Thus we are afflicted today by extreme and unheard of wickedness, for our adversaries condemn from sheer caprice the truth they know and profess. They try to get at our throats and shed the blood of the righteous with a satanic fury. Such blasphemous, sacrilegious and parricidal doings against the kingdom and name of God, manifest as such beyond possibility of denial, they defend as the acme of justice. While contending for the maintenance of their tyrannical position they go so far as to arrogate to themselves the name of the Church. What else can we do here but cry to Jehovah to make his name sacred and not to permit the overthrow of his kingdom nor resistance to his paternal will?
228. But so far the Lord sleeps. He apparently does not observe such wickedness, because he gives no sign as yet of observing it. Rather he permits us to be tormented by such woeful sights. We are, therefore, thus far in the first stage and this verse, stating that the whole earth is corrupt, applies to our age. But at the proper time the second stage will be reached, when we can declare in certainty of faith that not only we but God also sees and hates such wickedness. Though God, in his long-suffering, has continued to wink at many things, he shall retain the name of One who in righteousness shall judge the earth.
229. How bitter and hard such delay is for the righteous, the lamentations of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 12,1ff., and 20,7ff, show. There the holy man almost verges on blasphemy until he is told that the Babylonian king should come and inflict punishment upon the unbelieving scoffers. Thereupon Jeremiah recognizes that God looks down on the earth and is Judge upon the earth.
230. The universal judgment which follows is terrible in the extreme, namely that all flesh upon the earth had corrupted its way and that God, when he had begun to examine the sons of men, did not, from the oldest to the youngest of the fathers, find any he could save from destruction.
This strikes our ears as still more awful when we take into consideration the condition of the primitive world, not judging by the miserable fragments we have today. As the physical condition of the world at that time was infinitely ahead of this age, so we may conclude that the majesty and pomp of our rulers and the show of sanctity and wisdom on the part of the popes are not to be compared to the show of religion, righteousness and wisdom found among those renowned men of the primitive world.
And yet the text says that all flesh had corrupted its way, save Noah and his offspring. That means all men were wicked, lived in idolatry and false religion and hated the true worship of God. They despised the promise of the seed, and persecuted Noah, who proclaimed forgiveness through the seed and threatened to those, who should fail to believe his forgiveness, eternal doom.
VI. GOD DECIDES TO PUNISH THE FIRST WORLD; COMMANDS NOAH TO BUILD AN ARK; THE COVENANT.
A. God Decides to Punish the Old World.V.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.
231. After Noah and his people had for a long time raised their accusing cry against the depravity of the world, the Lord gave evidence that he saw the depravity and intended to avenge it. This, the second stage, we also look for today, nor is there any doubt that men shall exist, to whom this coming destruction of the world is to be revealed, unless the destruction be the last day and the final judgment, which I truly wish. We have seen enough wickedness in these brief and evil days of ours. Godless men, as in Noah's time, adorn their vices with the name of holiness and righteousness. Hence, no penitence or reformation is to be hoped for. This stage having been reached in the times of Noah, sentence is finally passed, having been previously announced by the Lord when he gave command that striving should cease and issued the declaration that he regretted having made man.
232. Reason is incapable of believing and perfectly understanding such wrath. Just consider how different this is from what had been. Above we have read (ch 1,31) that God saw everything he had made and behold, it was very good; that he gave man and beast the additional blessing of propagation; that he subjected to man's rule the earth and all the treasures of the earth; that as the highest blessing, he added the promise of the woman's seed and life eternal and instituted not only the home and the State, but also the Church. How, then, is it that the first world, called into being in this way through the Word, should, to use Peter's expression, perish by water?
233. There is no doubt that the sons of the world threw all this up to Noah as he preached the coming universal destruction, and publicly charged him with lying, on the ground that home, State and Church had been instituted by God; that God surely would not overturn his own establishment by a final destruction; that man had been created for propagation and dominion upon the earth, not for the rule of water over him to his destruction.
234. Just so the Papists press us with the one argument that Christ will be with the Church to the end of the world (Mt 28,20); that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Mt 16,18). This they vaunt in a loud-voiced manner, believing their destruction to be an impossibility. Swept by the waves Peter's ship may be, they say, but the waters cannot overwhelm it.
235. Quite similar was the security and assurance before the flood; notwithstanding, we see that the whole earth perished. The scoffers boasted that God's regulations are perpetual, and that God had never completely abolished or altered his creation. But consider the outcome and you will see that they were wrong, while Noah alone was right.
236. Unless the additional light of the Holy Spirit is vouchsafed, man will surely be convinced by such argument; for is it not equivalent to making God inconstant and changeable, to maintain that he will completely destroy his creature? Yet God gives Noah the revelation that he will make an end of flesh and earth, not in part, but of all flesh and all the earth. Would it not be awful enough to partition the earth into three parts and to threaten destruction to one? But to rage against the whole earth and against all mankind seems to be in conflict with God's government and the declaration that everything is very good. These things are too sublime to be understood or comprehended by human reason.
237. What is the cause of wrath so great? Surely, the fact that the earth is filled with violence, as he here says. Astonishing reason! He says nothing here concerning the first table; he mentions only the second. It is, as if he said: I shall say nothing of myself that they hate, blaspheme and persecute my Word. Among themselves how shamefully do they live! Neither home nor State are properly administered; everything is conducted by force, nothing by reason and law. Therefore, I shall destroy at the same time both mankind and the earth.
238. We see also in our age that God winks at the profanation of the mass, a horrible abomination that fills the whole earth, and at ungodly teachings and other offenses which have hitherto been in vogue in religion. But when men live so together that they disregard both State and home, when huge covetousness, graft of every description and manifold iniquity have waxed strong, does it not become clear to every man that God is compelled, as it were, to punish, yea to overturn Germany?
239. It is the fullness of his mercy and love that prompts God rather to make complaint concerning the wrongs inflicted upon his members than those inflicted upon himself. We observe he maintains silence respecting the latter, while he threatens punishment, not to man alone, but even to the very earth itself.
240. A twofold effect is traceable to the flood; a weakening of man's powers and an impairment of his wealth and that of the earth. The latter-day fruit of trees is in nowise to be compared with that in the days before the flood. The antediluvian turnips were better than afterward the melons, oranges or pomegranates. The pear was finer than the spices of today. So it is likely that a man's finger possessed more strength than today his whole arm. Likewise man's reason and understanding were far superior. But God, because of sin, has brought punishment to bear, not alone upon man, but also upon his property and domain, as witness to posterity also of his wrath.
But how is the destruction to be effected? Assuredly, by his seizing the watery element and blotting out everything. The force with which this element is wont to rage is common knowledge. Though the atmosphere be pestilential, it does not always infect trees and roots. But water not only overturns everything, not only does it tear out trees and roots, but it also lifts the very surface of the earth. It alters the soil, so that the most fertile fields are marred by the overflow of salty earth and sand (Ps 107,34). This was therefore equal to the downfall of the primitive world.
241. The penalty of the present world, however, will be different, as the color of the rainbow shows. The lowest color the extent of which is well defined, is that of water. For the fury of the water in the deluge was so great that limits were set to its havoc, and the earth was restored to the remnant of the godly after the destruction of the evil-doers. But the other arch of the rainbow, the outer, which has no clearly defined bounds, is of the color of fire, the element which shall consume the whole world. This destruction shall be succeeded by a better world, which shall last forever and serve the righteous. This the Lord seems to have written in the color of the rainbow.
B. GOD COMMANDS NOAH TO BUILD AN ARK.V.14. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch (bitumen).
242. God's first thought was to save a remnant through that tiny seed, the three sons of Noah, for Noah ceased henceforth to beget children. This strongly attests the mercy of God toward those who walk in his ways.
243. Gopher some make out to be pine, others hemlock, still others cedar; hence, a guess is rather difficult. The choice appears to have been made owing to its lightness or its resinous quality, so that it might float more easily upon the water and be impervious to it.
244. Kinnim signifies "nests" or "chambers"; that is separate spaces for the various animals. Bears, sheep, deer and horses did not dwell in one and the same place, but the several species had their respective quarters.
245. But what is meant by bitumen, I do not know. With us vessels are made water tight with pitch and tow. Pitch, it is true, withstands water, but it also invites the flame. There is no bitumen with us which resists water, hence we raise no objection to "bitumen" being rendered "pitch."
246. You may ask: Why does God prescribe everything so accurately? The injunction to build the ark should have been sufficient. Reason could determine for itself the rules concerning dimensions and mode of construction. Why, then, does God give such careful instruction with reference to dimensions and materials? Certainly that Noah, after undertaking all things according to the Lord's direction (as Moses built the tabernacle according to the model received on the mount), should with the greater faith trust that he and his people were to be saved, nor entertain any doubt concerning a work ordered by the Lord himself, even how it should be made. This is the reason the Lord gives his directions with such attention to detail.
V.15. And this is how thou shalt make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
247. A nice geometrical and mathematical exercise concerning the form and dimensions of the ark is here presented. The views of writers vary. Some claim it was four-cornered, others that it was gabled like nearly all our structures in Europe. As for myself, I hold it was four-cornered. Eastern people's were not acquainted with gabled buildings. Theirs were evidently of four-cornered form, as the Bible mentions people walking on roofs. Similar was the shape of the temple.
248. There is a difference of opinion also concerning the arrangement of the animals in their quarters, which occupied the upper, which the central and which the lower places, this being the distinction warranted by the text. No certainty, however, can be arrived at. It is likely that Noah himself and the birds occupied the upper part, the clean animals the central and the unclean animals the lower one. The rabbis assert the lower part served the purpose of storing dung. But I think the dung was thrown out of the window, for its removal was necessitated by such a multitude of beasts abiding in the ark for over a year.
249. Augustine quotes Philo against Faustus in stating that on geometrical principles, the ark had the proportions of the human body, for when a man lies on the ground his body is ten times as long as it is high and six times as long as broad. So three hundred cubits are six times fifty and ten times thirty.
250. An application is made of this to the body of Christ, the Church, which has baptism as the door, through which clean and unclean enter without distinction. Although the Church is small, she rules the earth notwithstanding, and it is due to her that the world is preserved, just as the unclean animals were preserved in the ark. Others stretch the application so far as to point to the wound in the side of Jesus' body as prefigured by the windows in the ark. These are allegories which are not exactly profound, but still harmless because they harbor no error and serve a purpose other than that of wrangling, namely, that of rhetorical ornamentation.
V.16. A light shalt thou make to the ark, and to a cubit shalt thou finish it upward; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
251. Behold, how diligent an architect God is! With what care he interests himself in all the parts of the structure and their arrangement. Furthermore, the word Zohar does not properly signify window, but southern light. The question may be raised here whether the ark had only one window or several. For the Hebrew language permits the use of the singular for the plural, or of the collective for the distributive term, as for instance: "I will destroy man from the face of the ground." Here evidently not one man but many are spoken of. But to me it seems there was only one window that shed light upon man's domicile.
252. The Latin interpreter is so strangely obscure as to fail to make himself understood. My unqualified opinion is that he was unable to divest himself of the image of a modern ship, in which men are commonly carried in the lower part. Nor is it quite intelligible what he says about the door, inasmuch as it is certain that the ell-long window was in the upper part, and the door in the center of the side or in the navel of the ark. Thus, also, Eve was framed from the middle portion of man's body. The whole structure was divided into three partitions, a higher, a central and a lower one, and it was the upper one which, according to my view, was illuminated by the light of day through the window.
253. You may say, however: What kind of a window was it, or how could it exist in those frequent and violent rains? For rain did not fall then as it does ordinarily, since the water in forty days rose to such proportions as to submerge the highest mountains by fifteen arm-lengths. The Jews claim that the window was closed by a crystal which transmitted the light. But too curious a research into these matters appears to me useless, since neither godliness nor Christ's kingdom are put in jeopardy from the fact of our remaining in ignorance concerning some features of this structure of which God was the architect. It seems to me sufficiently satisfactory to assume that the window was on the side of the upper partition.
254. As to the door, it is certain that it was about thirteen or fourteen cubits from the earth. The ark, when it floated, sank about ten feet into the water with its great weight of animals of every kind and provender for more than a year. This may suffice as a crude conception of the ark; for, besides height and length, Moses merely indicates that it had three partitions, a door and a window.
255. We will dismiss innumerable other questions such as: What kind of air was used in the ark? for such a stupendous mass of water, particularly falling water, must have produced a violent and pestilential stench; whence did they draw their drinking-water? for water cannot be preserved a whole year, hence mariners often call at ports in their vicinity for the purpose of drawing water; again, how could the bilge-water with its obnoxious odor be drawn up?
256. Such questions and other subordinate points related to the experience of the mariner we may pass by. Otherwise there will be no end of questions. We will be content with the simple supposition that the lower part probably served the purpose of securing the bears, lions, tigers and other savage animals; the middle part, that of housing the gentle and tractable animals, together with the provender, which cannot be kept in a place devoid of all air-currents; the upper that of accommodating human beings themselves, together with the domestic animals and the birds. This should be enough for us.
V.17. And I, behold, I do bring the flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is in the earth shall die.
257. Above God has threatened in general the human race with destruction. Here he points out the method; namely, that he intends to destroy everything by a new disaster, a flood. Such a punishment the world hitherto had not known. The customary punishments, as we see from the prophets, are pestilence, famine, the sword and fierce beasts. Men and beasts perish of pestilence. The earth is laid waste by war, for it is deprived of those who till it. The sufferings of famine, though they seem to be less cruel, are by far the most terrible. With the fourth class of penalties, our regions have almost no experience at all. Although these are severally sufficient for the chastisement of the human race, the Lord desired to employ a novel kind of punishment against the primeval world, through which all flesh having the breath of life was to perish.
258. Because this punishment was unheard of in former ages, the wicked were slower to believe it. They reasoned thus: If God is at all angry, can he not correct the disobedient by the sword, by pestilence? A flood would destroy also the other creatures which are without sin; surely God will not plan anything like this for the world.
259. But in order to remove such unbelief from the mind of Noah and the righteous, he repeats with stress the pronoun, "And I, behold, I do bring." Afterward he clearly adds that he will destroy all flesh that is under heaven and in the earth; for he excludes here the fishes whose realm is widened by the waters. This passage tends to show the magnitude of the wrath of God, through which men lose, not only body and life, but also universal dominion over the earth.
C. GOD'S COVENANT WITH NOAH.V.18. But I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.
260. To this comfort Moses before pointed when he declared that Noah had found grace. Noah stood in need of it, not only to escape despair amid such wrath, but also for the strengthening of his faith in view of the raging retribution. For it was no easy matter to believe the whole human race was to perish. The world consequently judged Noah to be a dolt for believing such things, ridiculed him and, undoubtedly, made his ship an object of satire. In order to strengthen his mind amid such offenses, God speaks with him often, and now even reminds him of his covenant.
261. Interpreters discuss the question, what that covenant was. Lyra explains it as the promise to defend him against the evil men who had threatened to murder him. Burgensis claims this covenant refers to the perils amid the waters, which were to be warded off. Still others believe it was the covenant of the rainbow, which the Lord afterward made with Noah.
262. In my opinion, he speaks of a spiritual covenant, or of the promise of the seed, which was to bruise the serpent's head. The giants had this covenant, but when its abuse resulted in pride and wickedness, they fell from it. So it was afterward with the Jews, whose carnal presumption in reference to God, the Law, worship and temple led to their loss of these gifts and they perished. To Noah, however, God confirms this covenant by certainly declaring that Christ was to be born from his posterity and that God would leave, amid such great wrath, a nursery for the Church. This covenant includes not only protection of Noah's body, the view advocated by Lyra and Burgensis, but also eternal life.
263. The sentiment, therefore, of the promise is this: Those insolent despisers of my promises and threats will compel me to punish them. I shall first withdraw from them the protection and assurance which are theirs by reason of their covenant with me, that they may perish without covenant and without mercy. But that covenant I shall transfer to you so that you shall be saved, not alone from such power of the waters, but also from eternal death and condemnation.
264. The plain statement is, "With thee." Not the sons, not the wives, does he mention, whom he was also to save; but Noah alone he mentions, from whom the promise was transmitted to his son Shem. This is the second promise of Christ, which is taken from all other descendants of Adam and committed alone to Noah.
265. Afterward this promise is made clearer from time to time. It proceeded from the race to the family, and from the family to the individual. From the whole race of Abraham it was carried forward to David alone; from David to Nathan; from Nathan down to one virgin, Mary, who was the dead branch or root of Jesse, and in whom this covenant finds its termination and fulfilment. The establishment of such a covenant was most necessary in view of the imminence of the incredible and incalculable wrath of God.
266. You will observe here, however, a special call when he says: "Thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, etc." If Noah had not received this special call, he would not have ventured to enter the ark.
267. How terrible is it that from the whole human race only eight persons should be selected for salvation and yet from among them, Ham, the third son of Noah, be rejected! By the mouth of God he is numbered here among the elect and saints. Yea, with them he is protected and saved. Nor is he distinguished from Noah. If he had not believed and prayed for the same things, if he had not feared God, he would in nowise have been saved in the ark; and yet, afterward he is rejected!
268. The sophists wrangle here concerning an election that takes place according to the purpose of God. But often have I exhorted to beware of speculations about the unveiled majesty, for besides being anything but true, they are far from being profitable. Let us rather think of God as he offers himself to us in his Word and sacraments. Let us not trace these instances back to a hidden election, in which God arranged everything with himself from eternity. Such doctrine we cannot apprehend with our minds, and we see it conflicts with the revealed will of God.
269. What, then, you will ask, shall we declare with reference to these examples? Nothing but that they are pointed out to inspire us with the fear of God, so that we believe it is possible to fall from grace after once receiving grace. Paul warns, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor 10,12. We should heed such examples to teach us humility, that we may not exalt ourselves with our gifts nor become slothful in our use of blessings received, but may reach forth to the things which are before, as Paul says in Philippians 3,13. They teach us not to believe that we have apprehended everything.
270. Malignant and most bitter is our enemy, but we are feeble, bearing this great treasure in earthen vessels. 2 Cor 4,7. Therefore, we must not glory as if we were secure, but seeing that men so holy fell from grace, which they had accepted and for a long time enjoyed, we should look anxiously to God as if in peril at this very moment. In this manner these examples are discussed to our profit; but those who give no attention to them and chase after complex high thoughts on an election according to the purpose of God, drive and thrust their souls into despair, to which they naturally incline.
VII. THE ANIMALS AND THEIR FOOD, AND NOAH'S OBEDIENCE.
A. THE ANIMALS NOAH TOOK INTO THE ARK.V.19, 20. And 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. Of the birds after their kind, and of the cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
271. Here again a dispute arises, as is the case when in historical narratives one proceeds to the application and incidental features. Our text appears to vindicate the view that here two and two are spoken of; but in the beginning of the seventh chapter seven and seven. Hence, Lyra quarrels with one Andrea, who believed fourteen specimens were included in the ark, because it is written: "Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven." But I approve Lyra's interpretation, who says seven specimens of every class were inclosed in the ark, three male and three female, and the seventh also male, to be used by Noah for purposes of sacrifice.
272. When Moses says here that two and two of the several species were brought into the ark, we must necessarily understand the seventh chapter as speaking only of the unclean animals, for the number of clean animals was the greater. Of the unclean seven of every species were inclosed in the ark.
273. It is also necessary that we here discuss the signification of terms as "all life," "beasts," "cattle." Though these are often used without discrimination, still at various places the Scripture employs them discriminatingly; for instance, when it says, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures." Gen 1,24. "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures." Gen 1,20. In those places the words of the genus stand for all living beings on the earth and in the waters. Here the constituent species are named — chayah, remes, and behemah — though frequently used without discrimination.
274. The cattle he calls here behemoth, though in Ezekiel, first chapter, those four animals are called by the common name, hachayoth, a word by which we commonly designate not so much animals as beasts, subsisting not on hay or anything else growing out of the earth, but flesh; as lion, bear, wolf and fox. Behemoth are cattle or brutes which live on hay and herbs growing from the earth; as sheep, cows, deer and roe.
275. Remes means reptile. The word is derived from ramas, which means to tread. When we compare ourselves with the birds, we are remasian, for we creep and tread upon the earth with our feet like the dogs and other beasts. But the proper meaning is, animals which do not walk with face erect. The animals which creep and which we term reptiles have a specific name, being called sherazim, as we see in Leviticus from the word sharaz, which means to move, hereafter used in the seventh chapter. The word oph is known, meaning bird.
276. Such are the differences among these terms, although, as I said before, they are not observed in some places. The interpretation must be confined, however, to the time after the flood; otherwise the inference would be drawn that such savage beasts existed also in paradise. Who will doubt that before sin, dominion having been given to man over all animals of earth, there was concord not only among men but also between animals and man?
277. Though the first chapter clearly proves that these wild beasts were created with the others, on account of sin their nature was altered. Those created gentle and harmless, after the fall became wild and harmful. This is my view, though since our loss of that state of innocent existence it is easier to venture a guess than to reach a definition of that life.
278. But, you ask, if because of sin the nature of animals became completely altered, how could Noah control them, especially the savage and fierce ones? The lion surely could not be controlled, nor tigers, panthers and the like. The answer is: Such wild animals went into the ark miraculously. To me this appears reasonable. If they had not been forced by a divine injunction to go into the ark, Noah would not have had it within his power to control such fierce animals. Undoubtedly he had to exercise his own human power, but this alone was insufficient. And the text implies both conditions, for at first it says: "Thou shalt bring into the ark," and then adds: "Two of every sort shall come unto thee." If they had not been miraculously guided, they would not have come by twos and sevens.
279. That two by two and seven by seven came of their own accord is a miracle and a sign that they had a premonition of the wrath of God and the coming terrible disaster. Even brute natures have premonitions and forebodings of impending calamities, and often as if prompted by a certain sense of compassion, they will manifest distress for a man in evident peril. We see dogs and horses understand the perils of their masters and show themselves affected by such intelligence, the dogs by howling, the horses by trembling and the emission of copious sweat. As a matter of fact it is not rare that wild beasts in danger seek refuge with man.
280. When, therefore, there is elsewhere in brute natures such an intelligence, is it a wonder that, after having been divinely aroused to a sense of coming danger, they joined themselves voluntarily to Noah? For the text shows they came voluntarily. In the same manner history bears witness, and our experience confirms it, that, when a terrible pestilence rages or a great slaughter is imminent, wolves, the most ferocious of animals, flee not only into villages, but, on occasion, even into cities, taking refuge among men and humbly asking, as it were, their help.
B. THE FOOD NOAH TOOK INTO THE ARK.V.21. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.
281. Inasmuch as the flood was to last a whole year, it was necessary to remind Noah of the food to be collected from the herbs and the fruits of trees in order to preserve the life of man and of animals. Though the wrath of God was terrible, to the destruction of everything born on earth, the goodness of the Lord shines forth, notwithstanding, in this an awful calamity. He looks to the preservation of man and the animals, and through their preservation to that of the species. The animals chosen for preservation in the ark were sound and of unblemished body, and through divine foresight, they received food suitable to their nature.
282. As for man, it is established that, as yet, he did not use flesh for food. He ate only of the vegetation of the earth, which was far more desirable before the flood than at present, after the remarkable corruption of the earth through the brackish waters.
283. We observe here the providence of God, by whose counsel the evil are punished and the good saved. By a miracle God preserves a portion of his creatures when he punishes the wicked and graciously makes provision for their posterity.
284. It would have been an easy matter for God to preserve Noah and the animals for the space of a full year without food, as he preserved Moses, Elijah and Christ, the latter for forty days, without food. He made everything out of nothing, which is even more marvelous. Yet God, in his government of the things created, as Augustine learnedly observes, allows them to perform their appropriate functions. In other words, to apply Augustine's view to the matter in hand, God performs his miracles along the lines of natural law.
285. God also requires that we do not discard the provisions of nature, which would mean to tempt God; but that we use with thanksgiving the things God has prepared for us. A hungry man who looks for bread from heaven rather than tries to obtain it by human means, commits sin. Christ gives the apostles command to eat what is set before them, Lk 10,7. So Noah is here enjoined to employ the ordinary methods of gathering food. God did not command him to expect in the ark a miraculous supply of food from heaven.
286. The life of the monks is all a temptation of God. They cannot be continent and still they refrain from matrimony; likewise they abstain from certain meats, though God has created them to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe, and by those who know the truth, that every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving, 1 Tim 4,3-4. The use of medicine is legitimate; yea, it has been created as a necessary means to conserve health. The study of the arts and of language is to be cultivated and, as Paul says, "Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified through prayer." 1 Tim 4,4-5.
287. God was able to preserve Noah in the midst of the waters. They fable of Clement that he had a cell in the middle of the sea. Yea, the people of Israel were preserved in the midst of the Red Sea and Jonah in the belly of the whale. But this was not God's desire. He rather willed that Noah should use the aid of wood and trees, so that human skill might thereby have a sphere for its exercise.
288. When, however, human means fail, then it is for you either to suffer or to expect help from the Lord. No human effort could support the Jews when they stood by the sea and were surrounded in the rear by the enemy. Hence, a miraculous deliverance was to be hoped for, or a sure death to be suffered.
C. NOAH'S OBEDIENCE.V.22. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
289. This phrase is very frequent in Scripture. This is the first passage in which praise for obedience to God is clothed in such a form of words. Later we find it stated repeatedly that Moses, the people, did according to all that God commanded them. But Noah received commendation as an example for us. His was not a dead faith, which is no faith at all, but a living and active faith. He renders obedience to God's commands, and because he believes both God's promises and threats, he carefully carries out what God commanded with reference to the ark and the gathering of animals and food. This is unique praise for Noah's faith, that he remains on the royal way — adds nothing, changes nothing and takes nothing from the divine command, but abides absolutely in the precept he has heard.
290. It is the most common and at the same time most noxious sin in the Church, that people either altogether change God's commands or render something else paramount to them. There is only one royal road to which we must keep. They sin who swerve too much to the left by failing to perform the divine commands. Those who swerve to the right and do more than God has commanded, like Saul when he spared the Amalekites, also sin even more grievously than those who turn to the left. They add a sham piety; for, while those who err on the left cannot excuse their error, these do not hesitate to ascribe to themselves remarkable merit.
291. And such error is exceedingly common. God is wont sometimes to command common, paltry, ridiculous and even offensive things, but reason takes delight in splendid things. From the common ones it either shrinks or undertakes them under protest. Thus the monks shrank from home duties and chose for themselves others apparently of greater glamour. Today the great throng, hearing that common tasks are preached in the Gospel, despises the Gospel as a vulgar teaching, lacking in elegance. What noteworthy thing is it to teach that servants should obey their master and children their parents? Such a common and oft-taught doctrine the learned papists not only neglect but even ridicule. They desire rather something unique, something remarkable either for its reputed wisdom or for its apparent difficult character. Such is the madness of man's wisdom.
292. In general it is wisdom to observe not so much the person that speaks as that which he says, because the teacher's faults are always in evidence. But when we consider precepts of God and true obedience, this axiom should be reversed. Then we should observe not so much that which is said, but the person of him who speaks. In respect to divine precepts, if you observe that which is said and not him who speaks, you will easily stumble. This is illustrated by the example of Eve, whose mind did not dwell upon the person who issued the command. She regarded only the command and concluded it to be a matter of small moment to taste the apple. But what injury was thereby wrought to the whole human race!
293. He who observes him that gives the command will conclude that what is very paltry in appearance is very great. The Papists estimate it a slight thing to govern the State, to be a spouse, to train children. But experience teaches that these are very important matters, for which the wisdom of men is incompetent. We see that at times the most spiritual men have here shamefully fallen. When we, therefore, remember him who gives the command, that which is paltry and common becomes a responsibility too great to discharge without divine aid.
294. The Papists, therefore, who look only at the outward mask, like the cow at the gate, can make light of duties toward home and State, and imagine they perform others of greater excellence. In the very fact that they are shameless adulterers, blasphemers of God, defilers of the sanctuary and brazen squanderers of the Church's property, they powerfully testify against themselves that they can in no wise appreciate the paltry, common and vulgar domestic and public duties.
295. In what, therefore, consists the holiness they vaunt? Forsooth, in that on certain days they abstain from meat, that they bind themselves to certain vows, that they have a liking for certain kinds of work. But, I ask you, who has given command to do those things? No one. That which God has enjoined or commanded, they do not respect. They render paramount something else concerning which God has given no command.
296. Hence, the vital importance of this rule, that we observe not the contents of the command but its author. He who fails to do this will often be offended, as I said, by the insignificance or absurdity of a task. God should receive credit for wisdom and goodness. Assuredly that which he himself enjoins is well and wisely enjoined, though human reason judge differently.
297. From the wisdom of God the Papists detract when they consider divinely enjoined tasks as paltry and attempt to undertake something better or more difficult. God is not propitiated by such works, but rather provoked, as Saul's example shows. As if God were stupid, dastardly, and cruel in that he commanded to destroy the Amalekites and all their belongings, Saul conceived a kinder plan and reserved the cattle for the purpose of sacrifice. What else was such action but to deem himself wise and God foolish.
298. Hence Moses rightly commends in this passage Noah's obedience when he says that he did everything the Lord had enjoined. That means to give God credit for wisdom and goodness. He did not discuss the task, as Adam, Eve and Saul did to their great hurt. He kept his eye on the majesty of him who gave the command. That was enough for him, even though the command be absurd, impossible, inexpedient. All such objections he passes by with closed eyes, as it were, and takes his stand upon the one thing commanded by God. This text therefore is familiar as far as hearing it is concerned, but even as to the performance and practice of it, it is known to very few and is extremely difficult.
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This example runs both a 'Hebrew word search' and a 'Text' search and shows the results in both the NIV and ESV.
You can mix most searches. This finds any word translated as 'throne' in the Prophets and the New Testament, but only in verses concerning the topic 'David'. This excludes verses which refer to a 'throne' in other contexts.
Interlinear Hebrew & Greek is available for some translations with grammar (and more soon). To reverse the interlinear order, click on a version abbreviation under the verse number.
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