Article of the Month

August, 2015

 

A DIFFICULT SCRIPTURE

A DELIGHTFUL DISCOVERY

 

There are times when we examine certain Scriptures in the Bible when we feel a certain uneasiness about them.  Often, various translations don’t seem to help.  Equally often, lexicons and other reference works don’t seem to supply what we need.  Nevertheless, we know instinctively (and by comparison with other texts) that the thought as presented seems faulty.

 

Genesis 6:6 and 7 is just such a passage.  The New American Standard reads:

                        “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on earth,

                        and He was grieved in His heart.

                        “And the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created

                        from the face of the land…for I am sorry that I have made them.’”

 

The context is the preparation for the great flood of Noah’s day.  But the troubling aspect is that God’s character and foreknowledge (Acts 15:18) of all that will happen before it ever happens precludes the idea that He could do something and then repent for having done it.  Thus, this passage is hiding something from us.  And if we can discover what is hidden, we will be wealthier for it.

 

It was a curious discovery that began to open the answer to this problem.  In a study on the word “comfort,” it was noticed that the problem word here in Genesis (“sorry” — or other variants like “repented”) is the same Hebrew word from which “comfort” is consistently translated. In the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (or its modern equivalents such as the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance), it is number 5161 in the Hebrew dictionary.  Its primary definition is “to be sorry, console oneself.”  Some of its translations in the NAS are:

                                                            appeased

                                                            consolation

                                                            change

                                                            comfort

                                                            compassion

                                                            regret

                                                            relent

                                                            repent

                                                            sorry

                                                            think better

                                                            etc.

 

While attempting to understand how this single word could have what seem to be such conflicting meanings, we find that two of it is translations supply a valuable clue.  “Change” and “think better” are words which form a foundation for both COMFORT and REPENT.  True comfort comes from a change in our thinking, our circumstances, or our attitudes.  True repentance or sorrow likewise comes from a change in our perspective.

 

With this in mind we are doubly blessed in our understanding.  In the case of “comfort,” we are brought to the conclusion that true comfort cannot happen until the distressed person changeseither because his circumstances change, or because his perception of his circumstances change.  Thus, comfort is not just someone’s patting us on the back and saying, “There, there.  Everything will be fine.”  Comfort comes about because we change.  Likewise, when we are sorry, a change has occurred in us.

 

The application of this concept to the difficult text of Genesis 6:6, 7 seems to eliminate all problems from the passage.  God doesn’t have regrets; He doesn’t repent:  He doesn’t have to say “I’m sorry!”  He doesn’t CHANGE (Malachi 3:6).  But He can change His approach in dealing with His creatures when it is time for the next progressive step in His plan for creation’s development.  His approaches change; but He never changes.  He simply applies the next needed building-block for the accomplishment of His purposes.  This is what happened at the flood.

 

Thus we have several lessons from one Hebrew word.  We see that God can change approaches without changing character or wisdom.  We see that true repentance requires change in our inner beings.  We see that comfort is impossible without something’s changing.  We also see that an in-depth search into the uses of a single word can give us the true foundation meaning of the word — a meaning which a dictionary may never supply.

 

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