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I am reading through Genesis in the ESV for the first time and was struck by some unfamiliar wording in Genesis 6:3. It reads: "My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years."

I checked about half a dozen or so other translations, and they all use strive with, contend with, or some similar variant rather than "abide in," except the RSV which agrees with the ESV.

I think the ESV/RSV reading is interesting and wonder if anyone can tell me anything about it's accuracy or the possible reasoning behind the choice?

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Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics—Stack Exchange! Related, but not identical: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/1261/68 Interesting question. By the time we're done, we'll have analysed every word in Genesis 6! –  Jon Ericson Mar 12 '12 at 23:37

2 Answers 2

The verse:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, לֹא-יָדוֹן רוּחִי בָאָדָם לְעֹלָם, בְּשַׁגַּם, הוּא בָשָׂר; וְהָיוּ יָמָיו, מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה.

The word translated "abide in" is יָדוֹן . The root dalet-vav-nun concerns judgment or discussion, according to 501 Hebrew Verbs. This use is passive. I think the translator means "abide (in)" in the sense of "I can't abide this situation", not the sense of "dwell" that you might otherwise infer (and that I think I've seen in some translations). A better root if "dwell" were meant would be yud-shin-vet.

Another way to translate this might be "tolerate" -- "I will not tolerate My spirit (which gives life) being in man forever".

I don't think "strive" or "contend" is quite right; a better word to convey that sense would be neged (nun-gimel-dalet).

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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Interesting-- thanks for helping to clarify this for me. :) –  Leah Mar 13 '12 at 19:00

According to the footnote in the NET Bible, the word used here is יָדוֹן (yadon), which only occurs here. Apparently, it might be derived from the word "strive" (din), but then it should have been יָדִין (yadin). The LXX translates it "remain with", which might be the real meaning of יָדוֹן (yadon). See footnote 5 at https://lumina.bible.org/bible/Genesis+6:3 and footnote 9 on page 128 in Reading and Re-Reading Scripture at Qumran

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