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NIV Isaiah 49:15

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

Matthew 7:11

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Genesis 6:6

The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

How do we understand this regret? How can a good father regret bringing his own children into existence?

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  • In Isaiah, babies neither rape, nor murder; and in Matthew, unlike in Genesis, it is the fathers, not their children, who are evil.
    – Lucian
    Oct 15 at 14:19
  • Are you asking : If a human denies the existence of Elohim as his/her Father, does Elohim still consider the human His child? Oct 15 at 14:37
  • something like that, yes :)
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 15 at 14:41
  • God did not 'beget' human beings. He created them. His only begotten Son is begotten of the Father. You are confusing things together that are different. Matthew 7:11 is addressed to those born again of Spirit - a begetting. But Adam and his progeny are created, in nature. A rare down-vote, Mr Chan.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 15 at 19:37
  • Good point. I modified. Thanks :)
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 15 at 22:00
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And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (Genesis 6:6, KJV)

וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם יְהוָ֔ה כִּֽי־עָשָׂ֥ה אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּתְעַצֵּ֖ב אֶל־לִבֹּֽו׃ (TR)

This Hebrew word וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם (way·yin·nā·ḥem / H5162) is a difficult one to properly translate. It is in the Hebrew Niphal/Nifal form, which happens to be passive voice, and yet it can mean a number of things which are not passive in English.

If we say God "was sorry," we convert it to an adjective (plus a linking verb). If we say He "repented" or "regretted" or "rued the day," we convert it to active voice. If we say God "comforted Himself" or "consoled Himself" we make it reflexive. We could, of course, say He "was consoled" or "was comforted"--and those are passive voice verbs, but those do not do justice to the Hebrew concept here. And we cannot even possibly say God "was regretted" or "was repented"--these verbs have no passive voice forms in English that could apply to this context.

Translators, therefore, have a hard time with this verse. It's nearly impossible to get it right.

One of the possible translations for this Hebrew word would actually be: "was moved to pity."

It is always possible, as well, that when looking at Hebrew from Genesis, one of the earliest books of the Bible to be written, the meaning was slightly different from what it may have later evolved to mean. Languages do evolve. Just 150 years ago, if I called you "conservative," it would have meant something more like "preservative," and might even have hinted at "stingy"--hardly a compliment! Nowadays, many Christians would like to be thought "conservative."

Knowing that God knows the future as well as if it were already the past tells us that it would be impossible for God to actually regret something that He has done. The KJV translation here is awkward "it repented the LORD." It what? That doesn't even make sense in English. "Repent" is not one of those words we can apply in a passive sense like this.

The real trouble is that English lacks an equivalent word to this Hebrew concept. Because of this, we need to look at the broader picture, applying what we know from other Biblical passages to this one. Is it possible for God to feel sorrow or grief?

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30, KJV)

Apparently it is.

I would submit that the story of Genesis 6:6 is essentially the same as seeing Jesus brought to tears in John 11:35: God felt sorrow.

Conclusion

The translation of this verse is problematic because of lack of full equivalence between Hebrew and English for this crucial verb.

I would submit that this verse might more clearly be translated as: And Jehovah was moved to sorrow because He had made man on the earth, and He felt grieved at heart.

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  • I kind of agree with your comments, It is an interesting concept, the fact that Yah knows the ending from the beginning, making it impossible for Him to make a mistake that he regrets. Yet he regretted choosing Saul. We know God can discern the thoughts of the hearts, but he has given us free will to choose. If he knew what we would choose, would there be a need to test our hearts?
    – 0000
    Oct 15 at 17:18
  • @0000 God knows what we will choose, but even we don't know that. Others looking on at this sin experiment don't know. Ultimately, God Himself is on trial. He tests us to refine our characters (e.g. testing Abraham over Isaac after Abraham had failed multiple times to be honest regarding his wife/sister) and to show everyone His fairness in the final judgment. A Biblical example showing God knows our choices would be Cyrus: Even his name was known by God about 70 years before he was born, and he did what God said he would without even knowing it had been prophesied already.
    – Polyhat
    Oct 15 at 21:22
  • An example of Him not knowing would be: "31 Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart." – The Heart is like a face, when you give it something sour it results in an expression. There is a Hebrew word Panim it means a lot of things to do with change, like a face and even a heart. Gen22:12 Abraham was tested, so God would know. If He already knew he wouldn't need to test him.ThereIsMoreExamples. ButYes testing is also to refine
    – 0000
    Oct 16 at 0:55
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The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth. How can a father regret begetting his own children?

Polyhat has given a wonderful insight into the word usually translated as "regretted" or "repented".

Further, this whole verse gives us better insight into Jehovah God's feelings towards us, his children. The topic "Heart" in the Insight on the Scriptures provides the following:

God’s Heart. Jehovah reveals that he has affections and emotions, the Bible describing him as having a “heart.” At the time of the Flood “he felt hurt at his heart,” regretting that men had rejected his righteous rule, making it necessary for him to turn from being their benefactor to becoming their destroyer. (Ge 6:6) By contrast, God’s “heart” ‘rejoices’ when his servants are faithful. (Pr 27:11) Such a thing as the cruel offering up of humans as burnt sacrifices, practiced by some of the deviating Israelites, never had come up into God’s heart, showing also that he could not be a God of eternal torment.​—Jer 7:31; 19:5.

How do we understand this regret? How can a father regret begetting his own children?

The topic "Repentance" has a subheading that touches on this issue:

How can God, who is perfect, “feel regret”? In the majority of cases where the Hebrew na·chamʹ is used in the sense of “feeling regret,” the reference is to Jehovah God. Genesis 6:6, 7 states that “Jehovah felt regrets that he had made men in the earth, and he felt hurt at his heart,” their wickedness being so great that God determined he would wipe them off the surface of the ground by means of the global Flood. This cannot mean that God felt regret in the sense of having made a mistake in his work of creation, for “perfect is his activity.” (De 32:4, 5) Regret is the opposite of pleasurable satisfaction and rejoicing. Hence, it must be that God regretted that after he had created mankind, their conduct became so evil that he now found himself obliged (and justly so) to destroy all mankind with the exception of Noah and his family. For God ‘takes no delight in the death of the wicked.’​—Eze 33:11.

M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia comments: “God himself is said to repent [na·chamʹ, feel regret]; but this can only be understood of his altering his conduct towards his creatures, either in the bestowing of good or infliction of evil​—which change in the divine conduct is founded on a change in his creatures; and thus, speaking after the manner of men, God is said to repent.” (1894, Vol. VIII, p. 1042) God’s righteous standards remain constant, stable, unchanging, free from fluctuation. (Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17) No circumstance can cause him to change his mind about these, to turn from them, or to abandon them. However, the attitude and reactions of his intelligent creatures toward those perfect standards and toward God’s application of them can be good or bad. If good, this is pleasing to God; if bad, it causes regret. Moreover, the creature’s attitude can change from good to bad or bad to good, and since God does not change his standards to accommodate them, his pleasure (and accompanying blessings) can accordingly change to regret (and accompanying discipline or punishment) or vice versa. His judgments and decisions, then, are totally free from caprice, fickleness, unreliability, or error; hence he is free from all erratic or eccentric conduct.​—Eze 18:21-30; 33:7-20. [italics theirs]

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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  • Again and again, I'm surprised by how intelligent some of these writings are that are written by the JWs :) Sorry I used to have a negative bias against them but you have corrected me :)
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 15 at 16:25
  • I appreciate your candor. I have found that many people have had the same attitude because of "bad press". After having deep conversations and honest research, those individuals have come to reevaluate their opinion of JWs just as you have.
    – agarza
    Oct 15 at 16:31
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This verse, if inflected correctly, makes perfect sense. However, if ‘reasoned’ out, it easy to come to very incorrect conclusions….

GEN 6:6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

God created man. Now here’s the pivotal ‘key’. He loved man. He was going to send his son to die on man’s behalf, so as to save them. But here, in Genesis 6, man had made himself un-saveable. Man had become reprobate. The Apostle Paul describes this ‘state’ (reprobate) in Romans 1 - essentially in this state, man is beyond being saved. And, when or if any ‘man’ is un-saveable, it grieves his heart.

So, let’s inflect that verse correctly. “The Lord was sorry he had made man” … means, or rather should be read or understood as … God feeling sorry for the man he had created. Because man had ‘destroyed himself’, and was heading to an eternity of being separated from God. Grieving for man.

He (God) never intended this. It was not his will. - this is the way I see it.

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