Genesis 6:5-8 “Crucial Question: Is Man Wicked?”
Redeemer Church Sunday School, Genesis Class
Genesis 6:5-8 “Crucial Question: Is Man Wicked?”
Read Genesis 6:1-8 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
Introduction: If you were to ask the average American if mankind was basically good or fundamentally wicked, what do you think would be the answer? Do you think that most people consider themselves to be mostly good or mostly bad? Do they think their righteousness exceeds their sinfulness? When the world looks at biblical Christianity and our doctrine of sin, what does the world think of our understanding of sin? Why do they think what they think about sin?
What do you think about sin? Are you a sinner? Are you basically good or wicked? After you are saved, do you remain a sinner? What is the difference between a saved sinner and a lost sinner?
Last week we saw one of the most difficult to understand texts in the entire Bible; today we examine one of the most challenging texts of the Bible; challenging because it is so horrible and blunt in its evaluation of man. Yet we will also find hope as we see God’s amazing grace. Sin, judgment and grace, all three are in these 4 verses.
I. Literary Analysis
A. Keep in mind that these four verses are the end of the second toledoth that began in Ch.5:1. These toledoths (this is the book of the generations of) seem to be the way that Moses outlines Genesis. However, these 4 verses serve as a bridge between two toledoths. The themes in these 4 verses are continued into the next section that begins with vs.9- the sinfulness of man and the character of Noah. In John Sailhamer’s commentary (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 2 “Genesis”, Zondervan, 1990, p.79-82) he treats 6:5-12 as a unit because the themes are so similar.
B. As we look at the words and sentences in these verses we do see that Moses is again tying things together as he links ideas and words with what he has written in previous passages. Compare vs. 5 with vs. 2 “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great…” and “…the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive.” What man sees as attractive, God sees as wickedness. That shows the difference between God and man; God is holy and man is not. Matthews (NAC, B&H, 1996, p.340) sees this as a deliberate mimicry of the sons of God. Moses doesn’t put anything in the text that isn’t intentional. Time and again he pokes his finger in the eye of the pagans around Israel, and he does again here. But this phrasing in vss. 1-5 goes back all the way to ch.1:31 “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Now, man has corrupted what was good, and defiled it to the point where God sees it all as wickedness. It is sadly ironic that though man has fulfilled the command to be fruitful and multiply (1:28 and 6:1) it has only resulted in the spread of sin.
C. Notice the intensifiers used- the wickedness is Great, Every intention of the thoughts of man is Only evil Continually. The Nephilim may have been the mighty men of old, men of renown, but in God’s Word they are renowned for their wickedness.
D. Look at the contrast between man, whose thoughts of his heart was only evil, and God, whose heart was grieved by man’s wickedness. And Moses ties vs. 6 with 5:29 by using 3 similar words in both verses: relief/comfort and sorry/grieved, work/labor and made, painful toil and pain/grieved. Matthews writes (p.341) “Thus Lamech’s hope for his son as the deliverer from the toils of human sin is realized in part through Noah’s survival of the flood.”
II. The Problem- Can God Be “Sorry” for Creating Man?
A. Before we get to the teaching about sin, we must look at the big problem in this text; at least it is a problem for some. There is a good answer. Vs.6 says, “the Lord was sorry he had made man on the earth”. It is repeated in vs. 7 “I am sorry that I have made them.” The KJV uses the word “repent” and the NIV uses “grieved”.
B. Other places in Scripture tell us that God cannot repent, or change his mind. Look at Num. 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
In Exodus 32:12,14 we see the exact same expression yinnahem YHWH.
12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
Here the term is translated “relent”.
1Sam.15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”
C. The key to interpreting this passage is the context in which the words are used. God’s grief over making man, his being sorry that he has made man is not admitting that He made a mistake, it is a heartfelt attitude of grief over what man has made of himself as a sinner. In vss.5-7 the word “man” is used 4 times. It is man’s sinfulness that is grieving God. God’s being sorry for making man is here related to his wrath at sin. God’s grief and anger are linked. Moses is using anthropomorphic language, expressing to some extent the heartfelt emotions of God.
D. When we say that God has emotions we must be careful to explain because God’s emotions are similar but also very different from ours. The fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God and we have emotions, tells us that God also has something like emotions. He loves us, he expresses joy over us, he gets angry with sin and is pained by our sin. We are all too often controlled by our emotions. God is never caught by surprise and is always still in control so he is never ruled by his emotions. His emotions are much more tied with his attributes. God is love, therefore he loves us. God is holy, therefore he is grieved over sin and must burn hot against it. God does not react in wrath, his holiness burns like a steady fire, wrath, against sin always and forever. So when we see in our text that God is sorry he made man, the context shows the wickedness of man and we understand that God’s holiness is grieved over man’s wickedness. God’s love for man is grieved because sin must be punished.
E. Let me quote Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994, p.163ff) “Unchangeableness. We can define the unchangeableness of God as follows: God is unchanging I his being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and he acts and feels differently in response to different situations. This attribute of God is also called god’s immutability.” In Malachi 3:6 we find that “For I the Lord do not change…” and James 1:17 “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
F. Herman Bavinck, the great Dutch theologian writes, “The doctrine of God’s immutability is of the highest significance for religion. The contrast between being and becoming marks the difference between the Creator and the creature. Every creature is continually becoming.” Psalm 33:11 “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” So God does not change in his essence or in his eternal counsel, his sovereign plans for the universe.
G. But in dealing with man, who is a creature of time, God deals with us in time according to the situation we are in at that time. He sees man’s sinfulness and he is sorry he has made man, and he is going to bring the flood to wipe out man, yet he preserves Noah and his family- his purposes never changed. We see God answering our prayers, he changes according to our using the means he has ordained- prayer. The question of God’s impassibility, not having passions, is not agreed upon within conservative theology. I would say he has emotions, but he is not ruled by his emotions.
H. We see our point from Gen.6:5-8 illustrated best in the person of Christ in his cleansing of the Temple where he displayed wrath, zeal for his Father’s house and in the healing of the leper in Mark 1:41 where the word can be translated “moved with pity-compassion” or even “anger”. And Jesus mourns over Jerusalem in Matt.23 in a passage that speaks of judgment. Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions as a man, but these are not inconsistent with his being God.
I. In conclusion then, God’s being sorry that he made man does not throw us into any kind of false problem with God changing his mind or being inconsistent.
J. Application- What problems, if any are related to God being unchanging and impassible? You may have to consider that question from the fallen, lost man’s perspective. Does the doctrine of God’s immutability comfort you as a Christian? How does it affect your prayer life? The spreading of the Gospel? How do the “Open Theists” approach this doctrine? What other doctrines must the Open Theists compromise?
III. The Wickedness of Man and the Sin Problem
A. Total Depravity- since ch.3 Moses has been making the case for the sinfulness of man. Beginning with man’s disobeying God while in a perfect Garden and in full communion with God he goes on to fratricide, brother killing brother. Then he moves to the arrogance of Cain who never repents and in fact disregards God’s judgment and instead of being a restless wanderer on the earth, founds a city. We see the two lines of man with the line of Cain vs. the line of Seth. We have seen Lamech who takes 2 wives and kills a young man. Now we have seen the sons of God intermarrying with the daughters of man, in some kind of a demonic arrangement. Now the resulting evil has caught God’s eye and his evaluation is that man’s heart is only evil all the time.
B. Wickedness/evil- the word here means being wrong in light of God’s intentions and purposes, going against God’s design is wickedness or evil. But Moses intensifies it by saying the wickedness was “great”. And that our thoughts and intents were only evil/bad all the time. Not just sometimes, but all the time. In the New Testament
– The best passages that show the same force come from Rom.3 and Ephesians 4. Rom.3 “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Ephesians 4 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
C. Grudem defines sin- “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude or nature.” We have an inherited aspect of sin that we get from Adam. David understood this in psalm 51:5 “I was brought forth in iniquity, in sin did my mother conceive me.” We are natural born sinners; we sin because we are sinners. It is who we are. Parents, do you have to teach your babies how to sin, or do you have to teach them to do right? In Rom. 7:18 Paul writes, “I know that nothing good dwells in me.” Everything about is tainted with sin, from birth.
D. Are different ages or areas more sinful than others? It may be that the age of Noah was exceptionally bad. But I look at our own age and cannot even think of any other age being worse than ours! But it may be.
E. The doctrine of sin is proved every day in the news. And in our own hearts I may add. I have a friend who is a Christian but claims he never sins. Certain holiness denominations teach that.
F. Picture sin this way- Every human is born in the deepest part of a dungeon, chained to the wall in a locked cell in a strong fortress where the guards are the demons and they are tasked with keeping you in the dungeon. The fortress is on an island surrounded with shark infested water. Our position is hopeless because we not only cannot escape, we don’t want to escape, this place is all we know and we cannot conceive of not being in the dungeon. It is normal for us.
G. Sin is like leprosy- it is fatal, it is numbing, it is contagious, it is smelly, it is unsightly, it separates us from God and each other, it cripples us and makes us unclean. We are unable to join in worship in that condition.
H. Application- Go back to the questions I asked in the introduction. How would you respond to a person who does not believe man is fallen, wicked and “only evil all the time”? In recent weeks, Pastor Tim has been preaching from the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, in Matt.5. How does this doctrine of the sinfulness of man affect your understanding of the Beatitudes? How does this doctrine affect how you view the News? In Southern Baptist life right now, there is a skirmish between the Calvinist wing of the SBC (and Redeemer Church is largely Calvinist) and the Arminian (non-Calvinist) majority. How does this doctrine of sin impact that debate? How might a proper understanding of the wickedness of man affect our evangelism? Our missions? Our sanctification? Our politics?
Conclusion: God is just in condemning man to judgment!