Genesis 6:3
And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
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(3) And the Lord said.—As the Sethites are now the fallen race, it is their covenant Jehovah who determines to reduce the extreme duration of human life to that which, under the most favourable sanitary influences, might still be its normal length.

My spirit shall not always strive with man.—The meaning of this much-contested clause is really settled by the main purpose and context of the verse, which is the Divine determination to shorten human life. Whether, then, God’s spirit be the animating breath spoken of in Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22, whereby human life is sustained, or the spiritual part of man, his conscience and moral sense—God’s best gift to him—in opposition to his flesh, the struggle henceforward is not to be indefinitely prolonged. In the first case, the struggle spoken of is that between the elements of life and death in the body; in the second, it refers to the moral probation to which man is subject. The versions generally take the former meaning, and translate “shall not dwell,” or “abide “; but there is much in favour of the rendering “shall strive,” though the verb more exactly means to rule, preside over, sit as judge. Literally, then, it signifies that the Divine gift of life shall not rule in man “for ever;” that is, for a period so protracted as was antediluvian life. (Comp. Deuteronomy 15:17, &c.)

With man.—Heb., with the adam: spoken with especial reference to the Sethites.

For that he also is flesh.—So all the versions; but many commentators, to avoid an Aramaism which does not occur again till the later Psalms, translate, “in their erring he is (= they are) flesh.” But no reason for shortening human life can be found in this commonplace assertion; and if Abraham brought these records with him from Ur, we have an explanation of the acknowledged fact that Aramaisms do occur in the earlier portions of the Bible. Man, then, is “also” flesh, that is, his body is of the same nature as those of the animals, and in spite of his noble gifts and precedence, he must submit to a life of the same moderate duration as that allotted them.

Genesis 6:3. My spirit shall not always strive with man — The Spirit then strove by Noah’s preaching, 1 Peter 3:19, and by inward checks, but it was in vain with the most of men; therefore, saith God, he shall not always strive, for that he (man) also is flesh — Incurably corrupt and sensual, so that it is labour lost to strive with him. He also; that is, all, one as well as another; they are all sunk into the mire of flesh. Yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years — So long will I defer the judgment they deserve, and give them space to prevent it by their repentance and reformation. Justice said, Cut them down; but mercy interceded: Lord, let them alone this year also; and so far mercy prevailed, that a reprieve was obtained for six-score years; and during this time Noah was preaching righteousness to them, and, to assure them of the truth of his doctrine, was preparing the ark.

6:1-7 The most remarkable thing concerning the old world, is the destroying of it by the deluge, or flood. We are told of the abounding iniquity of that wicked world: God's just wrath, and his holy resolution to punish it. In all ages there has been a peculiar curse of God upon marriages between professors of true religion and its avowed enemies. The evil example of the ungodly party corrupts or greatly hurts the other. Family religion is put an end to, and the children are trained up according to the worldly maxims of that parent who is without the fear of God. If we profess to be the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, we must not marry without his consent. He will never give his blessing, if we prefer beauty, wit, wealth, or worldly honours, to faith and holiness. The Spirit of God strove with men, by sending Enoch, Noah, and perhaps others, to preach to them; by waiting to be gracious, notwithstanding their rebellions; and by exciting alarm and convictions in their consciences. But the Lord declared that his Spirit should not thus strive with men always; he would leave them to be hardened in sin, and ripened for destruction. This he determined on, because man was flesh: not only frail and feeble, but carnal and depraved; having misused the noble powers of his soul to gratify his corrupt inclinations. God sees all the wickedness that is among the children of men; it cannot be hid from him now; and if it be not repented of, it shall be made known by him shortly. The wickedness of a people is great indeed, when noted sinners are men renowned among them. Very much sin was committed in all places, by all sorts of people. Any one might see that the wickedness of man was great: but God saw that every imagination, or purpose, of the thoughts of man's heart, was only evil continually. This was the bitter root, the corrupt spring. The heart was deceitful and desperately wicked; the principles were corrupt; the habits and dispositions evil. Their designs and devices were wicked. They did evil deliberately, contriving how to do mischief. There was no good among them. God saw man's wickedness as one injured and wronged by it. He saw it as a tender father sees the folly and stubbornness of a rebellious and disobedient child, which grieves him, and makes him wish he had been childless. The words here used are remarkable; they are used after the manner of men, and do not mean that God can change, or be unhappy. Does God thus hate our sin? And shall not we be grieved to the heart for it? Oh that we may look on Him whom we have grieved, and mourn! God repented that he had made man; but we never find him repent that he redeemed man. God resolves to destroy man: the original word is very striking, 'I will wipe off man from the earth,' as dirt or filth is wiped off from a place which should be clean, and is thrown to the dunghill, the proper place for it. God speaks of man as his own creature, when he resolves upon his punishment. Those forfeit their lives who do not answer the end of their living. God speaks of resolution concerning men, after his Spirit had been long striving with them in vain. None are punished by the justice of God, but those who hate to be reformed by the grace of God.My Spirit - , in contradistinction to the spirit of disobedience which, by the fall, obtained entrance into the soul of man. "Shall not strive with man forever." To strive דון dı̂yn is to keep down, rule, judge, or strive with a man by moral force. From this passage we learn that the Lord by his Spirit strives with man up to a certain point. In this little negative sentence streams out the bright light of God's free and tender mercy to the apostate race of man. He sends his Spirit to irradiate the darkened mind, to expostulate with the conscience, to prompt and strengthen holy resolve, and to bring back the heart, the confidence, the affection to God. He effects the blessed result of repentance toward God in some, who are thus proved to be born of God. But it is a solemn thought that with others he will not strive perpetually. There is a certain point beyond which he will not go, for sufficient reasons known fully to himself, partly to us. Two of these we are to notice for our instruction: First, he will not touch the free agency of his rational creatures. He can put no force on the volitions of men. An involuntary or compulsory faith, hope, love, obedience, is a contradiction in terms; and anything that could bear the name can have no moral validity whatsoever. Secondly, after giving ample warning, instruction, and invitation, he will, as a just judgment on the unbelieving and the impenitent, withdraw his Spirit and let them alone. The antediluvian world was fast approaching to this point of final perversity and abandonment.

Inasmuch as he is also flesh - , in contradistinction to spirit, the breath of life which the Almighty breathed Into his nostrils. These two parts of man's complex being were originally in true and happy adjustment, the corporeal being the fit organ and complement of the spiritual as it is in him. But now by the fall the flesh has gained the upper hand, and the spirit is in the bondage of corruption. The fact that he is flesh also as well as spirit, has therefore come out into sad prominence. The doctrine of the carnal mind in the Epistle to the Romans Rom. 8 is merely the outgrowth of the thought expressed in this passage.

His days shall be an hundred and twenty years. - "His days" are the days of man, not the individual, but the race, with whom the Lord still strives. Hence, they refer to the duration, not of the life of an individual, but of the existence of the race. From this we learn that the narrative here reverts to a point of time before the birth of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, recorded in the close of the preceding passage as there were only a hundred years from their birth to the deluge. This is according to the now well-known method of Scripture, when it has two lines of events to carry on. The former narrative refers to the godly portion of mankind; this to the ungodly remnant.

Not forever will the Lord strive with man; but his longsuffering will still continue for one hundred and twenty years. Meanwhile he does not leave himself or his clemency without a witness. He sent Noah with the message of warning, who preached by his voice, by his walking with God, and also by his long labor and perseverance in the building of the ark. The doomed race, however, filled up the measure of their iniquity, and when the set number of years was accomplished, the overwhelming flood came.

3. flesh—utterly, hopelessly debased.

And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive—Christ, as God, had by His Spirit inspiring Enoch, Noah, and perhaps other prophets (1Pe 3:20; 2Pe 2:5; Jude 14), preached repentance to the antediluvians; but they were incorrigible.

yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years—It is probable that the corruption of the world, which had now reached its height, had been long and gradually increasing, and this idea receives support from the long respite granted.

The Lord said; either,

1. To the men of that age by the mouth of Noah; or,

2. Within himself; {see Psalm 14:1} he determined.

Strive with man, or, contend, or, debate in or against men, as it hath hitherto done, by inward motions and suggestions in the minds and consciences of wicked men, or by the mouths and ministry of that small remnant of holy men, and particularly of Noah, who protested against and contended with the world of the ungodly, and by their doctrines, admonitions, threatenings, and examples, endeavoured to bring them to repentance: 1 Peter 3:19; or dispute with, or concerning, or because of men, i.e. whether I should destroy or save him, as God disputes with or about Ephraim, Hosea 11:8.

For that he also, i.e. even the seed of Seth, or the sons of God also, no less than the offspring of Cain; the pronoun being here put for the foregoing noun, and the singular number put for the plural, he, i.e. they, to wit, the sons of God. Both which figures are frequent in the use of Scripture. Or, he, i.e. man, all mankind, the sons of God not excepted,

is flesh; not only fleshly in part, or in some actions, but altogether, in regard of soul as well as body, minding nothing but making provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts, Romans 13:14.

Not having the Spirit, Judges 1:19, nor heeding its good motions, but suppressing and resisting them.

Flesh not only in the condition of their nature, but in the baseness and corruption of their hearts and lives; as the word flesh is commonly used when it is opposed to the Spirit, as John 3:6 Romans 7:18, Romans 8:5, Romans 8:7, Galatians 5:17.

Yet, though he deserve a speedy destruction,

his days, i.e. the time allowed him for repentance, and the prevention of his ruin,

shall be an hundred and twenty years. During which time Noah was preaching; and, to assure them of the truth of his doctrine, preparing the ark. See 1 Peter 3:20 2 Peter 2:5.

Quest. How did God perform this promise, when there were but a hundred years between this time and the flood, by comparing Genesis 5:32, with Genesis 7:11?


1. The increasing wickedness of mankind might justly hasten their ruin, and forfeit the benefit of this indulgence.

2. This promise, though mentioned after that, Genesis 5:32, yet seems to have been made twenty years before it; for that verse is added there out of its proper place only to complete the genealogy; and therefore, after this narration, it is repeated here in its due order, Genesis 6:10. And such hysteron proterons are frequently noted in Scripture.

And the Lord said,.... Not to Noah, as in Genesis 6:13 for, as yet, he is not taken notice of, or any discourse addressed to him; but rather to or within himself, he said what follows, or thus concluded, and resolved on in his own mind:

my Spirit shall not always strive with man; meaning either the soul of man, called the Spirit of God, Job 27:3 because of his creation, and is what he breathes and puts into men, and therefore is styled the Father of spirits; and which is in man, as some in Aben Ezra observe to be the sense the word used, as a sword in the scabbard; and so the meaning is, it shall not always abide there, but be unsheathed and drawn out; man shall not live always, since he is corrupt, and given to carnal lusts: or else, as Jarchi thinks, God himself is meant, and that the sense is, my Spirit shall not always contend within myself; or there shall not always be contention within me concerning man, whether I shall destroy him, or have mercy on him; I am at a point to punish him, since he is wholly carnal: or rather this is to be understood of the Holy Spirit of God, as the Targum of Jonathan, which agrees with 1 Peter 3:18 and to be thus interpreted; that the Spirit of God, which had been litigating and reasoning the point, as men do in a court of judicature, as the word signifies, with these men in the court, and at the bar of their own consciences, by one providence or by one minister or another, particularly by Noah, a preacher of righteousness, in vain, and to no purpose; therefore, he determines to proceed no longer in this way, but pass and execute the sentence of condemnation on them:

for that he also is flesh; not only carnal and corrupt, but sadly corrupted, and wholly given up to and immersed in sensual lusts and carnal pleasures, so as not to be restrained nor reformed; even the posterity of Seth, professors of religion also, as well as the profane world and posterity of Cain:

yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years: meaning not the term of man's life, reduced to this from the length of time he lived before the flood; but this designs the space that God would give for repentance, before he proceeded to execute his vengeance on him; this is that "longsuffering of God" the apostle speaks of in the afore mentioned place, "that waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing"; and so both the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan interpret it of a space of an hundred and twenty years given them to repent: now whereas it was but an hundred years from the birth of Japheth to the flood, some think the space was shortened twenty years, because of their impenitence; but it is more probable what Jarchi observes, that this decree was made and given out twenty years before his birth, though here related, by a figure called "hysteron proteron", frequent in the Scriptures.

And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always {d} strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an {e} hundred and twenty years.

(d) Because man could not by won by God's leniency and patience by which he tried to win him, he would no longer withhold his vengeance.

(e) Which time span God gave man to repent before he would destroy the earth, 1Pe 3:20.

3. And the lord said] It is not evident in this verse, why the Lord should pass a sentence of condemnation upon man. In the two preceding verses, it is not man, but “the sons of God,” whose depravity has been described. Perhaps, however, the object of the words is, in view of the mixed marriages, to impose a more restricted limit upon the duration of human life. Man is warned, as in Genesis 4:22, that on earth he has no immortality. The warning is administered to the progeny of the sons of God and the daughters of men no less than to the children of men generally.

Following this line of interpretation, we obtain some clue to the meaning of a most obscure verse. Its obscurities, indeed, are such that it may well be the case, that the original text has suffered corruption in the early stages of its transmission.

1. The R.V. text may be paraphrased: “My spirit shall not for ever be contending with man; seeing that he also is carnally minded. His days are numbered: but I will not at once consume him. There shall yet be an interval of 120 years, before I bring upon mankind the catastrophe of the Deluge.” The objections to this are numerous: (a) the rendering “strive” is exceedingly doubtful; (b) the idea of the spirit of Jehovah striving with men is unsuitable; (c) the rendering, “for that he also, &c.” represents a Hebrew idiom found nowhere else in the Pentateuch, while the word “also” has no logical connexion; (d) the mention of “his days” being 120 years despite the Flood is, to say the least, strange—Noah is expressly stated in P to be 500 years old at the birth of his sons (Genesis 6:22), and 600 years old when he entered the ark (Genesis 7:6); (e) “flesh” is used in its metaphorical, not in its literal, sense.

2. R.V. marg. rule in. Better, according to many ancient versions, abide in … in their going astray they are flesh. The following paraphrase may be given: “the Spirit which I have implanted in man is not to abide in him for ever. (Still he shall not be judged too severely.) In their continual going astray men shew that they are frail flesh. Mortal life, therefore, shall be limited to 120 years (no admixture of the heavenly strain shall avail for the greater prolongation of life).”

It is objected that the lives of the patriarchs in P exceed this limit. But the passage is evidently an independent fragment from J. And it is a more serious objection that the words of the verse, taken literally, make no clear allusion to the illicit marriages, and are applicable to mankind generally.

Verse 3. - And the Lord - Jehovah; not because due to the Jehovist (Tuch, Bleek, Colenso), but because the sin above specified was a direct violation of the footing of grace on which the Sethites stood - said, - to himself, i.e. purposed, - My spirit - neither "ira, seu rigida Dei justitia" (Venema), nor "the Divine spirit of life bestowed upon man, the principle of physical and ethical, natural and spiritual life" (Keil); but the Holy Ghost, the Ruach Elohim of Genesis 1:2 - shall not always strive. London: -

1. Shall not dwell (LXX., οὐ μὴ καταμείνη; Vulgate, non permanebit; Syriac, Onkelos).

2. Shall not be humbled, i.e. by dwelling in men (Gesenius, Tuch).

3. More probably, shall not rule (De Wette, Delitzsch, Kalisch, Furst), or shall not judge (οὐ κρίνει), as the consequence of ruling (Symmachus, Rosenmüller, Keil), or shall not contend in judgment (arguere, reprehendere; cf. Ecclesiastes 6:10), i.e. strive with a man by moral force (Calvin, Michaelis, Dathe, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Murphy, Bush). With man, for that he also - beshaggam. Either be, shaggam, inf. of shagag, to wander, with pron. surf. = "in their wandering" (Gesenius, Tuch, Keil) - the meaning being that men by their straying had proved themselves to be flesh, though a plural suffix with a singular pronoun following is inadmissible in Hebrew (Kalisch); or be, sh (contracted from asher), and gain (also) = quoniam. Cf. Judges 5:7; Judges 6:17; Song of Solomon 1:7 (A.V.). Though an Aramaic particle, "it must never be forgotten that Aramaisms are to be expected either in the most modern or in the most ancient portions of Scripture" ('Speaker's Commentary) - is flesh, not "transitory beings" (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Tuch), or corporeal beings (Kalisch), but sinful beings; bashar being already employed in its ethical signification, like σάρξ in the New Testament, to denote "man's materiality as rendered ungodly by sin" (Keil). "The doctrine of the carnal mind (Romans 8.) is merely the outgrowth, of the thought expressed in this passage ' (Murphy). Yet his days - not the individual's (Kalisch), which were not immediately curtailed to the limit mentioned, and, even after the Flood, extended far beyond it (vide Genesis 11.); but the races, which were only to be prolonged in gracious respite (Calvin) - shall be an hundred and twenty years. Tuch, Colenso, and others, supposing this to have been said by God in Noah's 500th year, find a respite only of 100 years, instead of 120; but the historian does not assert that it was then God either formed or announced this determination. Genesis 6:3The sentence of God upon the "sons of God" is also appropriate to men only. "Jehovah said: My spirit shall not rule in men for ever; in their wandering they are flesh." "The verb דּוּן equals דּין signifies to rule (hence אדון the ruler), and to judge, as the consequence of ruling. רוּה is the divine spirit of life bestowed upon man, the principle of physical and ethical, natural and spiritual life. This His spirit God will withdraw from man, and thereby put an end to their life and conduct. בּשׁגּם is regarded by many as a particle, compounded of בּ, שׁ a contraction of אשׁר, and גּם (also), used in the sense of quoniam, because, (בּשׁ equals בּאשׁר, as שׁ or שׁ equals אשׁר Judges 5:7; Judges 6:17; Sol 1:7). But the objection to this explanation is, that the גּם, "because he also is flesh," introduces an incongruous emphasis into the clause. We therefore prefer to regard שׁגּם as the inf. of שׁגג equals שׁגה with the suffix: "in their erring (that of men) he (man as a genus) is flesh;" an explanation to which, to our mind, the extremely harsh change of number (they, he), is no objection, since many examples might be adduced of a similar change (vid., Hupfeld on Psalm 5:10). Men, says God, have proved themselves by their erring and straying to be flesh, i.e., given up to the flesh, and incapable of being ruled by the Spirit of God and led back to the divine goal of their life. בּשׂר is used already in its ethical signification, like σάρξ in the New Testament, denoting not merely the natural corporeality of man, but his materiality as rendered ungodly by sin. "Therefore his days shall be 120 years:" this means, not that human life should in future never attain a greater age than 120 years, but that a respite of 120 years should still be granted to the human race. This sentence, as we may gather from the context, was made known to Noah in his 480th year, to be published by him as "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5) to the degenerate race. The reason why men had gone so far astray, that God determined to withdraw His spirit and give them up to destruction, was that the sons of God had taken wives of such of the daughters of men as they chose. Can this mean, because angels had formed marriages with the daughters of men? Even granting that such marriages, as being unnatural connections, would have led to the complete corruption of human nature; the men would in that case have been the tempted, and the real authors of the corruption would have been the angels. Why then should judgment fall upon the tempted alone? The judgments of God in the world are not executed with such partiality as this. And the supposition that nothing is said about the punishment of the angels, because the narrative has to do with the history of man, and the spiritual world is intentionally veiled as much as possible, does not meet the difficulty. If the sons of God were angels, the narrative is concerned not only with men, but with angels also; and it is not the custom of the Scriptures merely to relate the judgments which fall upon the tempted, and say nothing at all about the tempters. For the contrary, see Genesis 3:14. If the "sons of God" were not men, so as to be included in the term אדם, the punishment would need to be specially pointed out in their case, and no deep revelations of the spiritual world would be required, since these celestial tempters would be living with men upon the earth, when they had taken wives from among their daughters. The judgments of God are not only free from all unrighteousness, but avoid every kind of partiality.
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