2 Peter 3:6
Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
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(6) Whereby.—The meaning of this is much disputed. The original literally signifies, by means of which things. But what things? The context allows various alternatives: (1) These facts about the Creation; (2) the heavens and the earth; (3) the water out of which, and the water by means of which, the world was made; (4) any or all of these together with the word of God. There is good reason for preferring the second of these. Both the heavens and the earth contributed to the deluge; for then “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11). The English “whereby” is as vague as the original.

The world that then was, . . . perished.—So that it is absurd to say that all things continue unchanged since the Creation. The world was so transformed by the deluge that the world previous to that catastrophe perished, chaos for the moment returned, and a new world issued from the crisis. “The world that then was, perished” is equivalent to “He spared not the old world” in 2Peter 2:5.

3:5-10 Had these scoffers considered the dreadful vengeance with which God swept away a whole world of ungodly men at once, surely they would not have scoffed at his threatening an equally terrible judgment. The heavens and the earth which now are, by the same word, it is declared, will be destroyed by fire. This is as sure to come, as the truth and the power of God can make it. Christians are here taught and established in the truth of the coming of the Lord. Though, in the account of men, there is a vast difference between one day and a thousand years, yet, in the account of God, there is no difference. All things past, present, and future, are ever before him: the delay of a thousand years cannot be so much to him, as putting off any thing for a day or for an hour is to us. If men have no knowledge or belief of the eternal God, they will be very apt to think him such as themselves. How hard is it to form any thoughts of eternity! What men count slackness, is long-suffering, and that to us-ward; it is giving more time to hisown people, to advance in knowledge and holiness, and in the exercise of faith and patience, to abound in good works, doing and suffering what they are called to, that they may bring glory to God. Settle therefore in your hearts that you shall certainly be called to give an account of all things done in the body, whether good or evil. And let a humble and diligent walking before God, and a frequent judging of yourselves, show a firm belief of the future judgment, though many live as if they were never to give any account at all. This day will come, when men are secure, and have no expectation of the day of the Lord. The stately palaces, and all the desirable things wherein wordly-minded men seek and place their happiness, shall be burned up; all sorts of creatures God has made, and all the works of men, must pass through the fire, which shall be a consuming fire to all that sin has brought into the world, though a refining fire to the works of God's hand. What will become of us, if we set our affections on this earth, and make it our portion, seeing all these things shall be burned up? Therefore make sure of happiness beyond this visible world.Whereby - Δι ̓ ὧν Di' hōn. Through which, or by means of which. The pronoun here is in the plural number, and there has been much difference of opinion as to what it refers. Some suppose that it refers to the heavens mentioned in the preceding verse, and to the fact that the windows of heaven were opened in the deluge (Doddridge), others that the Greek phrase is taken in the sense of (διὸ dio) "whence." Wetstein supposes that it refers to the "heavens and the earth." But the most obvious reference, though the plural number is used, and the word "water" in the antecedent is in the singular, is to "water." The fact seems to be that the apostle had the "waters" mentioned in Genesis prominently in his eye, and meant to describe the effect produced "by" those waters. He has also twice, in the same sentence, referred to "water" - "out of the water and in the water." It is evidently to these "waters" mentioned in Genesis, out of which the world was originally made, that he refers here. The world was formed from that fluid mass; by these waters which existed when the earth was made, and out of which it arose, it was destroyed. The antecedent to the word in the plural number is rather that which was in the mind of the writer, or that of which he was thinking, than the word which he had used.

The world that then was ... - Including all its inhabitants. Rosenmuller supposes that the reference here is to some universal catastrophe which occurred before the deluge in the time of Noah, and indeed before the earth was fitted up in its present form, as described by Moses in Genesis 1. It is rendered more than probable, by the researches of geologists in modern times, that such changes have occurred; but there is no evidence that Pater was acquainted with them, and his purpose did not require that he should refer to them. All that his argument demanded was the fact that the world had been once destroyed, and that therefore there was no improbability in believing that it would be again. They who maintained that the prediction that the earth would be destroyed was improbable, affirmed that there were no signs of such an event; that the laws of nature were stable and uniform; and that as those laws had been so long and so uniformly unbroken, it was absurd to believe that such an event could occur. To meet this, all that was necessary was to show that, in a case where the same objections substantially might be urged, it had actually occurred that the world had been destroyed. There was, in itself considered, as much improbability in believing that the world could be destroyed by water as that it would be destroyed by fire, and consequently the objection had no real force. Notwithstanding the apparent stability of the laws of nature, the world had been once destroyed; and there is, therefore, no improbability that it may be again. On the objections which might have been plausibly urged against the flood, see the notes at Hebrews 11:7.

6. Whereby—Greek, "By which" (plural). By means of which heavens and earth (in respect to the WATERS which flowed together from both) the then world perished (that is, in respect to its occupants, men and animals, and its then existing order: not was annihilated); for in the flood "the fountains of the great deep were broken up" from the earth (1) below, and "the windows of heaven" (2) above "were opened." The earth was deluged by that water out of which it had originally risen. Whereby; by which heavens and water, mentioned in the former verse, the fountains of the great deep being broken up, and the windows of heaven opened, Genesis 7:11. Or, by the word of God, as the principal cause, and the water as the instrumental, which, at his command, was poured out upon the earth both from above and below.

The world; the earth, with all the inhabitants of it, eight persons excepted. This the apostle allegeth against the forementioned scoffers, who said that all things continued as they were, when yet the flood had made so great a change in the face of the lower creation. Whereby the world that then was,.... The old world, as it is called in 2 Peter 2:5; and as the Ethiopic version here renders it; the world before the flood, that had stood from the creation 1656 years:

being overflowed with water; by the windows of heaven being opened, and the waters over the earth poured down upon it; and by the fountains of the great deep being broken up in it; thus by these waters from above and below, a general inundation was brought upon it; for that the deluge was universal is clear from hence, and from the account by Moses; for as the earth was filled with violence, and all flesh had corrupted its way, God threatened a general destruction, and which was brought by a flood, which overflowed the whole earth; for all the hills that were under the whole heaven were covered with it, and everything that had life in the dry land died, and every living substance was destroyed that was upon the face of the ground; see Genesis 6:11; and hence it follows, that hereby the then world

perished; not as to the substance of it, whatever alteration there might be in its form and position; but as to the inhabitants of it; for all creatures, men and cattle, and the creeping things, and fowls of the heaven, were destroyed, excepting Noah and his wife, and his three sons and their wives, and the creatures that were with him in the ark; see Genesis 7:23; and by this instance the apostle shows the falsehood of the above assertion, that all things continued as they were from the beginning of the creation; for the earth was covered with water first, and which, by the command of God, was removed, and, after a long series of time, was brought on it again, and by it drowned; and from whence it also appears, that this sort of reasoning used by those scoffers is very fallacious; for though the heavens and the earth may continue for a long time, as they did before the flood, in the same form and situation, it does not follow from thence that they always will, for the contrary is evident from what follows.

{5} Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with {c} water, perished:

(5) Secondly he sets against them the universal flood, which was the destruction of the whole world.

(c) For the waters returning into their former place, this world, that is to say, this beauty of the earth which we see, and all living creatures which live upon the earth, perished.

2 Peter 3:6. διʼ ὧν κ.τ.λ.] The question is, to what has ὧν retrospect? The answer depends on the meaning attached to: ὁ τότε κόσμος. To appearance this phrase must be regarded as identical with οὐρανοὶ καὶ γῆ, 2 Peter 3:5; 2 Peter 3:7 (2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:13), and in support of this view appeal may be made also to the τότε as distinguished from νῦν, 2 Peter 3:7. On this interpretation, accepted by most expositors (as also in this commentary), διʼ ὧν can refer only either to ἐξ ὕδατος and τῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγῳ (Gerhard, Brückner, Besser, Wiesinger, in this commentary also), or to ὕδατος alone (Calvin, Pott, etc.)[91]—the plural being explained from the circumstance that the water was formerly spoken of both as substance and as medium. The objection to this explanation, however, is that in the account of the flood there is nothing to show that it caused the destruction both of the heaven and of the earth, and that the earth only but not the heaven was submerged; Hofmann accordingly understands by ὁ τότε κόσμος, “the world of living creatures,” as Oecumenius already had done: ΤῸ ἈΠΏΛΕΤΟ ΜῊ ΠΡῸς ΠΆΝΤΑ ΤῸΝ ΚΌΣΜΟΝ ἈΚΟΥΣΤΈΟΝ, ἈΛΛᾺ ΠΡῸς ΜΌΝΑ ΤᾺ ΖῶΑ. On this view (where ΝῦΝ only, 2 Peter 3:6, seems to cause difficulty) ὯΝ refers to ΟὐΡΑΝΟῚ ΚΑῚ Γῆ (Oecumenius, Beza, Wolf, Hornejus, Fronmüller, Steinfass, Hofmann).[92]

[91] With this reference Burnet (Archaeol. Philos. p. 467) agrees, yet he incorrectly explains διʼ ὧν by: earn ob causam, or: propter illam (aquam); for he strangely assumes that whilst the former world was ex aqua et per aquam constituta, this constitutio perished by the flood, so that therefore the κόσμος that now is, is no longer, ex aqua et per aquam, but aliter constitutus.

[92] Beda likewise applies ὧν to heaven and earth, but interprets (evidently erroneously) διά thus, that these are not the causa, but the objectum perditionis; i.e. διʼ ὧν as equivalent to in quibus partibus aere et terra.2 Peter 3:6. διʼ ὧν. Mayor and Schmeidel, against the evidence of nearly all manuscripts, read διʼ ὅν. This is rendered unnecessary (1) if the above rendering of ἐξ ὕδατος κ.τ.λ. is taken, and the plural διʼ ὧν refers to the two waters. διʼ ὅν would refer to λόγῳ alone, or (2) if διʼ ὧν relers to ὑδάτων and λόγῳ taken together, which would in some ways suit the sense of the whole passage better. The false teachers had ignored the agency of the Divine word. κατακλυσθείς; ἁπ. λεγ. in N.T.; found several times in P.Tebt. e.g. 5417ff (B.C. 86) [ὥστε] … συμβεβηκότων κατακλυσθῆναι. “So that in consequence of what happened, it was flooded”; 565f (late ii. B.C.) γείν[ωσ]κε δὲ περὶ τοῦ κατακεκλῦσθαι τὸ πεδίον “but know about our plain having been inundated”.6. whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished] The “whereby” is not without its difficulties. Does it refer to the whole fact of creation described in the previous verse, or to the two regions in which the element of water was stored up? On the whole, the latter has most in its favour. In the deluge, as described in Genesis 7:11, the “fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened,” and so the waters above and those below the firmament were both instruments in the work of judgment. The stress laid on the same fact here and in 1 Peter 3:19-20 is, as far as it goes, an evidence in favour of identity of authorship. In the use of the word “perished,” or “was destroyed,” we have a proof, not to be passed over, as bearing indirectly upon other questions of dogmatic importance, that the word does not carry with it the sense of utter destruction or annihilation, but rather that of a change, or breaking up, of an existing order. It is obvious that this meaning is that which gives the true answer to those who inferred from the continuity of the order of nature that there could be no catastrophic change in the future.2 Peter 3:6. Δἰ ὧν, by means of which) by means of the heavens and the earth; whence the water flowed together.—ὁ τότε κόσμος, the world which then was) that is, the human race: for ἀπώλεια, destruction, is not here attributed to the heaven and the earth, as Burnet understands it. Comp. the end of 2 Peter 3:7 and 2 Peter 3:10-13. The deluge was universal.—ἀπώλετο, perished) There follows an emphatic increase of the sense by the figure Epitasis[18] of judgment and perdition, 2 Peter 3:7. With this corresponds the saying, they shall perish, they shall be judged, Romans 2:12. Before the deluge God said: My Spirit shall not always pass sentence (judgment) upon man, Genesis 6:3. Judgment is reserved for the last day.

[18] See Append. on this figure.—E.Verse 6. - Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. The Greek for" whereby" is δἰ ῶν, literally, "through which things." The plural here presents some difficulty. The most obvious antecedents are "the heavens and the earth" of the last verse; but many commentators refer the relative to the twice-repeated "water." The meaning will be the same whichever view we take. "The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened;" that is, the Deluge was brought to pass by means of the heavens, i.e., the waters that were above the firmament, and the earth, i.e., the waters that were below the firmament, which came from the earth as the waters first mentioned came from the heavens. Another possible view is that of Huther, who refers δἱ ῶν to the water and the Word of God. By the world here must be meant the world of living creatures. This is St. Peter's answer to the mockers: there had been one great catastrophe; there will be another. The world that then was (ὁ τότε κόσμος)

Lit., the then world. The word for world is literally order, and denotes the perfect system of the material universe.

Being overflowed (κατακλυσθεὶς)

Only here in New Testament. Cataclysm is derived from it.

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