Genesis vi. 1-3.

July 5, 2010

Chapter VI.  The sins of men were the cause of the flood: Noe, however, was found just and commanded to build the ark, in which he and all races of animals might be protected.

And after that men began to be multiplied upon the earth, and daughters were born to them.  The sons of God seeing the daughters of men, that they were fair, took themselves wives of all which they chose.  And God said: My Spirit shall not remain in man for ever, because he is flesh, and his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.

1-2. The multiplication of men; the sons of God.

Cornelius: “Josephus and Theodoretus think this happened around the seventh generation from Adam, that is at the time of Henoch.  Therefore this is anacephalæosis: Moses recapitulates, and goes back from Noe to the earlier times that provided the cause of the flood” (Commentaria, p 132).

St. Chrysostom: “Earlier we taught you that it is the custom of Scripture to call men the sons of God.  And because these men took their origin from Seth, and from his son named Enos (for it says: He hoped to call on the name of the Lord God), having been born from him afterwards, they are called sons of God in the holy Scriptures, since they imitated the virtue of their parents; but Scripture calls the sons of Cain, and those born before Seth, the sons of men …

“See how through this passage we are shown their great intemperance.  For they did not come together out of a desire to procreate children, but out of pleasure and intemperance.  The concupiscence of beauty led them into this disaster; beauty of appearance was for them an occasion of whoring and intemperance” (xxii. 3.).

St. Bede: “It seems therefore that the generation of Seth’s race, as long as it did not mingle with the offspring of Cain, preserved the standard of its chastity unspotted; and after their wicked fall into concupiscence joined them to the accursed progeny of women, it was then that the very decency of their mind was destroyed and they began to share in the curse” (In Principium Genesis II. col. 83).

3. “My spirit shall not remain in man …”

St. Jerome: “In Hebrew it is written: My spirit will not judge these men forever, because they are flesh; that is: since the human condition is frail, I will not preserve them unto eternal torments, but will render them here what they deserve.  Therefore this passage shows not the severity of God, as we read in our texts, but His clemency, while the sinner is visited here for his sin … Further, lest it seem to be cruel in Him, because He did not leave the sinners room for repentance, it adds: But their days will be one hundred and twenty years.  That is, they shall have one hundred and twenty years to do penance.  Therefore human life is not, as many erroneously think, shortened to a hundred and twenty years: one hundred and twenty years are given to this generation for penance.  For certainly we find that after the flood Abraham lived for one hundred and seventy-five years, and others for more than two or three hundred years.  Now because they scorned to do penance, God did not wish to wait for the decreed time, but with the space of twenty years cut away He brought in the flood in the hundredth year marked out for penance” (LHQG).

St. Augustine: “This is not to be taken as though it were foretold that after this men would not live longer than one hundred and twenty years: for we find that after the flood some exceeded even five hundred years.  Rather, it is to be understood that God said this when Noe was nearing the age of five hundred years; that is, when he was four hundred and eighty years old (which according to its custom Scripture calls five hundred, very often signifying by the name of the whole the greatest part); for in the six hundredth year of Noe’s life, in the second month, the flood occurred.  Thus one hundred and twenty years were foretold for the life of the men who were to perish, and when these were finished, they were destroyed by the flood” (De civitate Dei, XV. xxiv.).

St. Chrysostom: “Here in a few words an abyss of mercy can be seen … Did you see the greatness of His anger? did you see the vehemence of His threats?  Consider also how He mingles His threats and anger with mercy.  For such is our Lord: He often warns, not to fulfill His warnings with the deed, but so that we may be corrected and He will not have to lead His warnings through to a deed.  Otherwise, if He wished to punish, why would he tell us in advance?  But because He does not wish to, He always waits, and restrains Himself in delay, and postpones, and speaks to us, giving guilty men the opportunity to flee malice and follow virtue, and not be punished … He ordains another time for them and says: “I have warned you; I have spoken and made clear my anger, which it is just to inflict upon you because of the multitude of sins you have committed.  But because I wish even those who have sinned incurably to be saved, and none to perish, I shall therefore grant you a period of one hundred and twenty years, so that, if you wish, you may come to your senses and wash away your sins, and by turning yourselves to better things and pursuing virtue you may escape the dangers of My punishments” (xxii. 3, 4.).

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