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The Hebrew text translated seems to read

... he too is flesh...

Granted many English translations omit the בשׁגם altogether but nonetheless it is in the original.

To whom or to what does it make reference to if at all relevant?

Possibilities

  • contrasting to the rest of creation, man though greater than the animals is also flesh. Context doesn’t seem to favor this Rabbinic view (Umberto Cassuto)
  • contrasting man with himself, though a spirit he also possesses a fleshly body. It’s a curious choice of words to merely state man has a body
  • contrasting the sons of God as though they too have flesh and are mentioned in v2
  • an entirely different understanding of בשׁגם
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  • My King James Version reads: "My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh..." The word 'is' is in italics, but not the word 'also'. Which English translation do you quote from? – Lesley Apr 10 at 6:36
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    Robert Young translates differently from the KJV in this place : And Jehovah saith, My Spirit doth not strive in man, to the age; in their erring they are' flesh:' and his days have been an hundred and twenty years.. – Nigel J Apr 10 at 8:16
  • @Lesley I translated it thus, hence it had to make sense in English. I might just as well have written “he too (is) flesh” or “he too flesh” or “he also flesh”. Considering I’m not interested in an existing translation from which to draw understanding and meaning I don’t quite understand why this is relevant. Hope this addressed your question. – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 10 at 12:10
  • @NigelJ I can’t see in the immediate statement from whence “erring” could have been justified. That appears to be an interpretation more so than a translation. Maybe you could point to why erring was inserted. Thank you for the resource. – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 10 at 12:17
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and sons of God see the daughters of men that they `are' fair, and they take to themselves women of all whom they have chosen. [YLT Genesis 6:2]

And Jehovah saith, My Spirit doth not strive in man -- to the age; in their erring they are' flesh:' and his days have been an hundred and twenty years. [YLT Genesis 6:3]

Robert Young seems to be adding the verb 'erring' in interpretation, or explanation.

It appears to me that he is relating this text to Jude 1:6 :

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. [KJV]

I would suggest that Young is referring 'My Spirit' and 'striving' to the angelic powers who, unlawfully and inappropriately, manifested themselves in humanity ('left their first estate') in order to participate in the material creation, with catastrophic results.

'In their erring they are flesh' says Young, that is to say in their error of supposing they can, or should, leave their proper place and partake of flesh and blood.

'My spirit' that is not to say the Holy Spirit, but the angelic spirits, shall not 'strive' (unlawfully forcing themselves into an estate to which they do not belong) 'unto the age', that is to say, indefinitely.

Yet their days shall be an hundred and twenty years, that is to say, judgment will fall after a set time (once an ark is prepared).

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I would translate Gen 6:3 as:

And the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend/strive with mankind forever; indeed, he [is] flesh; his days shall be 120 years."

Thus, the text appears to be contrasting two elements which could be set out as follows:

  • My Spirit shall not strive with mankind forever
  • He [is] flesh, his days shall be 120 years
  1. That is, God's Spirit רוּחַ is contrasted with man's flesh בָּשָׂר, and,

  2. forever is contrasted with 120 years

It is significant that in the story of the flood that follows, it is specifically the creatures in whom is the "breath of life" that are destroyed - see Gen 1:30, 2:7, 6:17, 7:15, 22, etc.

We also observe that God's Spirit contends/strives/judges man - an allusion to the extreme wickedness of mankind that God could no longer tolerate to grow further without making mankind the victim of its own sinfulness, especially the innocent. That is, man's conscience would no longer hear the pleadings of God's Spirit and all hope was lost. hence the destruction of the wicked before the last few righteous were destroyed.

2

I turned to Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis 6:2-3 and noted that verse 2 speaks of the sons of God who took the daughters of men as wives. Henry notes that men began to multiply upon the face of the earth but the posterity of Seth intermingled themselves with the excommunicated race of Cain. Henry suggests that the daughters of men which the sons of God married were the offspring of Cain, who were profane, and strangers to God and godliness. They married “strange wives” and were therefore unequally yoked with unbelievers.

This is what Henry has to say about Genesis 6:3:

This comes in here as a token of God's displeasure at those who married strange wives; he threatens to withdraw from them his Spirit, whom they had grieved by such marriages, contrary to their convictions: fleshly lusts are often punished with spiritual judgments, the sorest of all judgments. The reason of this resolution: For that he also is flesh, that is, incurably corrupt, and carnal, and sensual, so that it is labour lost to strive with him.

He also, that is, All, one as well as another, they have all sunk into the mire of flesh. https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=mh&b=1&c=6

Based on this commentary, it seems that the understanding of “he too” or “he also” refers to all of corrupt humanity who have grieved the spirit of God. I think my understanding is in agreement with the answer given by Dottard - God's Spirit רוּחַ is contrasted with man's flesh בָּשָׂר.

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