Commentary on Genesis, Vol. II - Luther on Sin and the Flood
by Martin Luther
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101. Our age, which is the third age of the world, although it is the age of grace, is so filled with blasphemies and abominations that it is not possible either to express them in language or to form a mental image of them. This age therefore shall not be punished by temporal punishment, but by eternal death and eternal fire, or, if I may so express it, by a flood of fire. The very rainbow even, with its colors, contains a prophetic intimation of these things. The first color is sea-green, representing the destruction of the first world by the waters of the flood, because of violence and lust; the middle color of the bow is yellow, prefiguring the various calamities by which God avenged the idolatry and wickedness of the second age; the third and last color of the bow is fiery red, for fire shall at length consume the world, with all its iniquities and sins.

102. Wherefore, let us constantly pray that God may so rule our hearts by his fear and may so fill us with confidence in his mercy, that we are able with joy to await our deliverance and the righteous punishment of this ungodly world. Amen. Amen.



* How this chapter and the preceding one are connected 1.

* It is terrible that God destroyed by a flood the first world, which was the best 2.

* Of pride and the proud.

1. How God humbles what is high and grand in the eyes of the world and has the best gifts 3-4.

* How man can meet the judgments of God 4.

2. The more gifts man has the greater his pride 5.

3. The most terrible examples of punishment God gives in the case of the proud and such examples should be diligently pondered 6-7.

* The complaint that the world is hardened by reason of God's judgments 7-8.

4. How the ancient world was misled into pride through its gifts 9-10.

5. Pride is the common weakness of human nature 11.

6. In what ways man is moved to pride 12-13.

a. The chief sin of the old world 14-15.

* Pride is the spring of all vices 15.

b. How the old world sinned against the first table of the law, and brought on the sins against the second table 16.

c. How and why God punished the old world 17.

* From the punishment of the first world we conclude that the last world will be also punished 18.

d. Whether the first world was wicked before Noah's birth; on what occasion its wickedness increased 19.

* Noah the martyr of martyrs 20.

* Why Lamech called his son Noah 21.

e. How sin greatly increased in the days of Noah 22.

* Why Noah remained unmarried so long, which was his greatest cross 23.

f. When the wickedness of the old world began 24.

* Concerning unchastity.

(1) It is the foundation of all want and misery 24.

(2) It is the spring of many other sins 25.

(3) How to remedy it 25.

(4) Whether bearing children is in itself to be reckoned as unchastity, and how far Moses denounces it 26.

(5) Unchastity makes the bearing of children difficult 27.

g. The reason the sons of God looked upon the daughters of men 28.

h. Why the sin of the first world was not so terrible as the sin of the second 29-30.

i. How the first world changed through the marriages of Adam and the other patriarchs 30-32.

* The sons of God.

(1) What is understood by them 32.

(2) The rabbins' fables about the sons of God, how to refute them 33-34.

* What is to be held concerning the "Incubis" and "Succubis" 34-35.

(3) How the deluge came because of the sons of God 36.

(4) To what end should the fall and punishment of the sons of God serve us 37-38.

* Should the Romish church be called holy 37.

* How the children of God became the children of the devil 38.

* How Noah had to spend his life among a host of villains 39.

* The conduct of the world when God sends it righteous servants 40.


1. In the first five chapters Moses describes the state of the human race in the primeval world and the wonderful glory of the holy patriarchs who governed it. In these five chapters the chronicles as in the first book, so to speak, the happiest period of the whole human race and of the world before the flood. Now we shall begin what may be termed the second book of Genesis, containing the history of the flood. It shows the destruction of all the offspring of Cain and the eternal preservation of the generation of the righteous; for while everything perishes in the flood, the generation of the righteous is saved as an eternal world.

2. It is appalling that the whole human race except eight persons is destroyed, in view of the fact that this was truly the golden age; for succeeding ages do not equal the old world in glory, greatness and majesty. And if God visited with destruction his own perfect creation and the very glory of the human race, we have just cause for fear.

3. In inflicting this punishment, God followed his own peculiar way. Whatever is most exalted he particularly overthrows and humiliates. Peter says in 2 Peter 2, 5: God "spared not the ancient world;" and he would imply that it was, in comparison with succeeding ages, a veritable paradise. Neither did he spare the sublimest creatures—the angels—nor the kings ruling his people, nor the first-born of all times. But the more highly they were blessed with gifts, the more sternly he punished them when they began to misuse his gifts.

4. The Holy Spirit says in the ninth verse of the second psalm, concerning kings: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." But is it not the Lord himself who has ordained kings and wills that all men should honor and obey them? Here he condemns and spurns the wisdom of the prudent and the righteousness of the righteous. It is God's proper and incessant work to condemn what is most magnificent, to cast down the most exalted and to defeat the strongest, though they be his own creatures. He does this, however, that abundant evidence of his wrath may terrify the ungodly and may arouse us to despair of ourselves and to trust in his power alone. We must either live under the shadow of God's wing, in faith in his grace, or we must perish.

5. After the fall it came to pass that the more one was blessed with gifts, the greater was his pride. This was the sin of the angels who fell. This was the sin of the primitive world, in which the grandest people of the race lived; but because they prided themselves in their wisdom and other gifts, they perished. This was the sin of the greatest kings. This was the sin of nearly all the first-born. But what is the need of so many words? This is original sin—that we fail to recognize and rightly use the great and precious gifts of God.

6. That the greatest men must furnish the most abhorrent examples is not the fault of the gifts and blessings, but of those to whom they are intrusted. God is a dialectician and judges the person by the thing,[1] meting out destruction to the thing or gift as well as to its possessor.

[Footnote 1: ut arguat a conjugatis.]

7. It is expedient to give heed to such examples. They are given that the proud may fear and be humbled, and that we may learn our utter dependence upon the guidance and will of God, who resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the humble. Lacking the understanding and practice of these truths, man falls continually—kings, nobles, saints, one after the other, filling the world with examples of the wrath and judgment of God. The Blessed Virgin sings: "He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart. He hath put down the princes from their thrones, and hath exalted them of low degree." Lk 1, 51-53.

8. Full of such examples are all ages, all princely courts, all lands. Yet, by the grace of Saint Diabolus, the prince of this world, our hearts are so hard that we are not moved by all this to fear; rather to disdain, though we feel and see that we also shall incur destruction. Blessed are they, therefore, who heed, and are moved by such examples of wrath to be humble and to live in the fear of God.

9. Consider, then, the preeminence of the old world, that perished in the flood. It possessed apparently the best, holiest and noblest men, compared with whom we are as the dregs of the world. For the Scriptures do not say that they were wicked and unjust among themselves, but toward God. "He saw," says Moses, "that they were evil." The eyes of God perceive and judge quite differently from the eyes of men. He says in Isaiah 55, 8-9: "Neither are your ways my ways.... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

10. These tyrants and giants were esteemed and honored among themselves as the wisest and most just of men. So in our day kings and princes, popes and bishops, theologians, physicians, jurists and noblemen occupy exalted places and receive honor as the very gems and luminaries of the human race. More deservedly did the children of God in the old world receive such honor, because they excelled in power and possessed many gifts. Nevertheless, falling into pride and contempt of God while enjoying his blessings, they were rejected by God and destroyed, together with their gifts, as if they had been the lowest and vilest of the human race.

11. And this is a common failing of our human nature. It necessarily puffs itself up and prides itself on its gifts unless restrained by the Holy Spirit. I have often said that a man has no more dangerous enemy than himself. It is my own experience that I have not without me so great cause for fear as within me; for it is our inner gifts that incite our nature to pride.

12. As God, who is by nature most kind, cannot refrain from gracing and showering us with various gifts: health, property, wisdom, skill, knowledge of Scripture, etc., so we cannot refrain from priding ourselves upon these gifts and flaunting them. Wretched is our life when we lack the gifts of God, but twice wretched is it when we have them; for they tend to make us doubly wicked. Such is the corruption of original sin, though all but believers are either unaware of its existence or regard it a trivial thing.

13. Such corruption is perceptible not only in ourselves but in others. How property inflates pride though it occupies relatively the lowest place among blessings! The rich, be they noblemen, city-dwellers or peasants, deem other people as flies. To even a greater extent are the higher gifts abused—wisdom and righteousness. Possession of these gifts, then, makes inevitable this condition—God cannot suffer such pride and we cannot refrain from it.

14. This was the sin of that primeval world. Among Cain's descendants were good and wise men, who, nevertheless, before God were most wicked, for they prided themselves upon their gifts and despised God, the author. Such offense the world does not perceive and condemn; God alone is its judge.

15. Where these spiritual vices exist and flourish, the lapse into carnal ones is imminent. According to Sirach 10, 14, sin begins with falling from God. The devil's first fall is from heaven into hell; that is, from the first table of the Law into the second. When people begin to be godless—when they do not fear and trust God, but despise him, his Word and his servants—the result is that from the true doctrine they pass into heretical delusions and teach, defend and cultivate them. These sins in the eyes of the world are accounted the greatest holiness, and their authors alone are reputed religious, God-fearing and just, and held to constitute the Church, the family of God. People are unable to judge concerning the sins of the first table. Those who despise God sooner or later fall into abominable adultery, theft, murder and other gross sins against the second table.

16. The purpose of my statements is to make plain that the old world was guilty, not only of sin against the second table, but most of all of sin against the first table by making a fine, but deceptive and false show of wisdom, godliness, devotion and religion. As a result of the ungodliness which flourished in opposition to the first table, there followed that moral corruption of which Moses speaks in this chapter, that the people polluted themselves with all sorts of lust and afterward filled the world with oppression, bloodshed and wrong.

17. Because the ungodly world had trampled both tables under foot, God came to judge it, who is a consuming fire and a jealous God. He so punishes ungodliness that he turns everything into sheer desolation, and neither government nor the governed remain. We may, therefore, infer that the world was the better the nearer it was to Adam, but that it degenerated from day to day until our time, when the offscouring and lowest filth of humanity, as it were, are living.

18. Now, if God did not spare a world endowed with so many and great gifts, what have we to hope for, who, offal that we are, are subject to far greater misfortune and wretchedness? But if it please God, spare the Roman pontiff and his holy bishops, who do not believe such things! I now come to my text.

Vs. 1-2. And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose.

19. This is a very brief but comprehensive account. The text must not be understood to mean that the world did not increase until the five hundredth year of Noah. The more ancient patriarchs are embraced in this statement. This is demonstrated by the fact that Noah had no daughters. The reference in the text to "daughters" certainly must be understood as referring to the by-gone age of Lamech, Methuselah, Enoch and others. The world, accordingly, was corrupt and evil before Noah was born, particularly when licentiousness began to prevail after the death of Adam, whose authority, as the first father, they feared.

20. I have said that Noah was a virgin above all others; I may add he was the greatest of all martyrs. Our so-called martyrs, compared with him, have infinite advantage in strength received from the Holy Spirit, by which death is overcome and all trials and perils are escaped. Noah lived among the unrighteous for six hundred years, and like Lot at Sodom, not without numerous and dire perils and trials.

21. This was, perhaps, one reason why Father Lamech gave his son the name Noah at his birth. When the holy patriarch saw evil abounding in the world, he entertained the hope concerning his son that he should comfort the righteous by opposing sin and its author, Satan, and restoring lost righteousness.

22. However, the wickedness that began then, not only failed to cease under Noah, but rather grew greater. Hence Noah is the martyr of martyrs. For is it not much easier to be delivered from all danger and suffering in a single hour than to live for centuries amid colossal wickedness?

23. The opinion before expressed I maintain, that Noah abstained from matrimony so long that he might not be compelled to witness and suffer in his own offspring what he saw in the descendants of the other saints. This sight of man's wickedness was his greatest cross, as Peter says of Lot in Sodom (2 Pet 2, 8): "That righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds."

24. Accordingly, the increase of humanity of which Moses speaks has not reference alone to the time of Noah, but also to the age of the other patriarchs. It was there that the violation of the first table commenced—in the contempt manifested for Jehovah and his Word. This was followed later by such gross offenses as oppression, tyranny and lewdness, which Moses explicitly mentions and names first as the cause of evil. Consult all history, study the Greek tragedies and the affairs of barbarians and Romans of all times, and you find lust the mother of every kind of trouble. It can not be otherwise. Where God's Word remains unknown or unheeded, men will plunge into lust.

25. Lust draws in its train endless other evils, as pride, oppression, perjury and the like. These sins can be attacked only as men, through the first table, learn to fear and to trust in God. Then it is that they follow the Word as a lamp going before in the dark, and they will not indulge in such scandalous deeds, but will rather beware of them. With violation of the first table, however, the spread of passions and sins of every description is inevitable.

26. But it seems strange that Moses should enumerate in the catalog of sins the begetting of daughters. He had found it commendable in the case of the patriarchs. It is even enjoyed by the ungodly as a blessing of God. Why, therefore, does Moses call it a sin?

I reply, he does not condemn the fact of procreation as such, but the abuse of it, resulting from original sin. To be endowed with royal majesty, wisdom, wealth and bodily strength is a goodly blessing. It is God who bestows these gifts. But when men, in possession of these blessings, fail to reverence the first table, and by means of these very gifts do violence to it, such wickedness merits punishment. Therein is the reason for Moses' peculiar words: "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose," without consideration of God or of law, natural or statutory.

27. The first table having been despised, the second shares the same fate. Desire occupies the principal place and in contempt for procreation it becomes purely bestial; whereas God has instituted matrimony as an aid to feeble nature and chiefly for the purpose of procreation. But when lust in this manner has gained the upper hand, all commandments, those that go before and that follow, are ruthlessly broken and dishonored. Parental honor becomes insecure; men do not shrink from doing murder; from alienating property, speaking false testimony, etc.

28. The word jiru, "saw," does not merely signify "to view," but "to view with pleasure and enjoyment." This meaning often occurs in the psalms, for instance: "Mine eye also hath seen my desire on mine enemies," Ps 92, 11; that is, shall with pleasure see vengeance executed upon my enemies. The meaning here is that, after turning their eyes from God and his Word, they turned them, filled with lust, upon the daughters of men. The sequence is unerring that, from the violation of the first table, men rush to the violation of the second. After despising God they despised also the laws of nature and, as they pleased, they married whom they chose.

29. These are rather harsh words, and yet it is my opinion that lust continued hitherto within certain limits, inasmuch as they neither committed incest with their mothers, as later the inhabitants of Canaan, nor polluted themselves with the vice of the Sodomites. Moses confines his charge to their casting aside the legal trammels set by the patriarchs and recognizing in their matrimonial alliances no law but that of lust, selecting only as passion directed and against the will of the parents.

30. It seems the patriarchs had strictly forbidden to contract alliances with the offspring of Cain, just as, later, the Jews could not lawfully mingle with the Canaanites. Though there are not wanting those who write that incestuous marriages existed before the flood, blood-relationship being held to be no barrier, I yet infer from the fact that Peter has extolled the old world, that such incestuous atrocities did not exist at that time, but that the sin of the ancient world consisted rather in men marrying whom they pleased, and as many wives from the Cainites as they chose, ignoring parental authority and controlled alone by passion. It is, therefore, a harsh word—"All which they chose."

31. I have shown, on various occasions, that the two generations, or churches, of Adam and Cain were separate. For, as Moses clearly states, Adam expelled the murderer from his association. Without doubt, therefore, Adam also exhorted his offspring to avoid the church of the evil-doers and not to mingle with the accursed generation of Cain. And for a while his counsel or command was obeyed.

32. But when Adam died and the authority of the other patriarchs became an object of scorn, the sons of God who had the promise of the blessed seed and themselves belonged to the blessed seed, craved from the tribe of the ungodly, intercourse and espousal. He tersely calls the sons of the patriarchs the "sons of God," since to them was given the promise of the blessed seed and they constituted the true Church. Yielding to the corruptions of the Cainite church they indulged the flesh themselves and took from the tribe of Cain, as wives and mistresses, whom and as many as they chose. This Lamech and Noah saw with pain, and for that reason, perhaps, deferred entering upon marriage.

33. In reference to this point the Jews fancy foolish things. They interpret the sons of God to signify demon-lechers by whom that impious generation was begotten, and that they were called the sons of God by reason of their spiritual nature. The more moderate ones, however, refute such folly and represent the sons of the mighty. This has been aptly disproved by Lyra; for the punishment of the deluge befell, not alone the mighty, but all flesh, as shall the doom at the last day.

34. But as regards the demon-lechers and strumpets (incubi and succubi), I do not deny—nay, I believe—that a demon may be either a lecher or a strumpet, for I have heard men cite their own experience. Augustine says that he heard this from trustworthy people whom he was constrained to believe. Satan is pleased when he can deceive us in this manner, by assuming the form either of a young man or a young woman. But that anything may be begotten by a devil and a human being is simply false. We hear of monstrous births of demon-like features, and I have even seen some. I am of opinion, however, that they have been deformed by the devil, but not begotten: or that they are real devils with a human body either simulated or purloined. For if the devil, by divine permission, may take possession of the whole man and change his mind, is it strange that he may disfigure also his body, causing men to be born sightless or cripples?

35. Hence, the devil may so deceive frivolous people and such as live without the fear of God that when the devil is in bed, a young man may think that he has a girl with him, and a girl that she has a youth with her; but that anything may be born from such concubinage I do not believe. Many sorceresses have at one time or another been subjected to death at the stake on account of their intercourse with demons. If the devil can deceive eyes and ears so that they fancy they see and hear things which do not exist, how much easier is it for him to deceive the sense of touch, which is in this nature exceedingly gross! But enough! These explanations have no bearing upon the present text, and we have been led to them merely by Jewish babbling.

36. The true meaning is that Moses calls those men the sons of God, who had the promise of the blessed seed. This is a New Testament phrase and signifies the believers who call God, Father, and whom, God in turn, calls sons. The flood came not because the generation of Cain was corrupt, but because the generation of the righteous who had believed God, had obeyed his Word, and had possessed the true worship, now had lapsed into idolatry, disobedience to parents, sensuality, oppression. Even so the last day shall be hastened, not by the profligacy of Gentile, Turk and Jew, but by the filling of the Church with errors through the pope and fanatical spirits, so that those very ones who occupy the highest place in the Church exercise themselves in sensuality, lust and oppression.

37. It is a cause of fear for us all, that even those who were descended from the best patriarchs, began to grow haughty and depart from the Word. They gloried in their wisdom and righteousness, as later the Jews did in circumcision and Father Abraham. So did the popes glory in the title of the Church only to replace gradually their spiritual glory by carnal indulgence after forfeiting the knowledge of God, his Word and his worship. The Roman Church was truly holy and adorned by the grandest martyrs. We, at this day, however, are witnesses how she has fallen.

38. Let no one, therefore, glory in his gifts, however splendid! The greatest gift is to be a member of the true Church. But take care not to become proud on that account, for you may fall, just as Lucifer fell from heaven and, as we are here informed, as the sons of God fell into carnal pleasures. They are, therefore, no longer sons of God, but sons of Satan, having fallen alike from the first and the second table of the Law. So in the past, popes and bishops have been good and holy, but today they are of all men the worst and, so to speak, the dregs of all classes.

39. Among this rabble of decadent men who had departed from the piety and virtues of their ancestors, godly Noah lived in the greatest contempt and hatred of everybody. How could he approve the corruption of such degenerate progeny? And they themselves were most impatient of reproof. While, therefore, his example shone and gleamed, and his holiness filled the whole earth, the world became worse from day to day, and the greater the sanctity and chastity of Noah, the more the world reveled in lust. This is the beginning; it invariably introduces ruin.

40. When God arouses holy men, full of the Holy Spirit, to instruct and reprove the world, the world, impatient of sound doctrine, falls with much greater zeal into sin and plies it with much greater persistency. This was the situation at the beginning of the world, and now, at the end of the world, we realize it is still the case.



1. The words of the lamentation.

a. Interpreters have shamefully perverted these words 41.

b. The Jewish interpretation, which Jerome follows 42.

c. The Jews' interpretation refuted 42-43.

d. The interpretation of Rabbi Solomon 44.

e. The interpretation of others, especially of Origen 45.

* Why Augustine was especially pleased with the doctrine of the Manicheans 45.

f. Rabbi David's explanation 46.

* The false idea of the Jews and some Christian interpreters that the true sense of Scripture is learned from grammar.

(1) Thus ideas most foreign to the sense of Scripture are defended 46-47.

(2) This method is false and led the Jews into many fantasies 47.

g. The source of Rabbi David's awkward interpretation of these words 48.

* Why Luther has so much to say about the false interpretation of Scripture 49.

* What is necessary to interpret Scripture 50.

h. The true sense of these words 51.

* Scripture definition of "to judge" 51.

2. The author of this judgment and lamentation 51-53.

* Man's conduct upon hearing God's Word preached 54.

3. From what kind of a heart does such judgment and lamentation spring 55.

* What kind of grief is the grief of the Holy Spirit 56.

* God's severest punishment 57-59.

* What follows when man does not possess God's Word 57-58.

* Why the heathen are so carnal 58.

4. The nature of this judgment and lamentation 59.

* The lamentation and judgment of Luther over Germany because it lightly esteemed God's Word 60.

* The spirit of grace and of prayer 61.

* The office of the ministry.

a. It requires two things 62.

b. It is the greatest blessing of God 63.

c. To despise it is a great sin, and what follows when it is taken from a people 63.

d. A complaint of its neglect 64.

e. This office is explained by the expression "to judge" 65.

* Every godly preacher is one who disputes and judges 65.

* Luther's grief because of the stubbornness of the world 66.

* Why Ahab called Elijah a troubler of Israel 67.

* Why the world resents being reproved by sound doctrine. It is a good sign if a minister is reviled by the world 68.

* The glory of people who boast of being the Church.

a. Such glory avails nothing before God 68-70.

b. Papists wish by all means to have this glory 68-70.

c. Papists need this glory to suppress the Protestants 71.

d. Christ will decide at the judgment day to whom this glory belongs 71.

e. Although the first world adorned itself with this glory, it did not save them 72.

5. How and why this judgment and complaint are ascribed to God 73-74.

6. How they were published to the world by the holy patriarchs 75.

7. Why they were made 76.

8. In what way they have been published to the world 77.

9. How the world resented this judgment and complaint 78.

* Time given to the first world for repentance.

a. We are not to understand the 120 years as the period of a man's life 79.

b. The 120 years the time given these people in which to repent 80-81.

10. Whether and to what end this time was necessary 82.

11. How the old world felt upon hearing this 83.

* The complaint and judgment of the last world 84-86.

* The nearer the world approaches its destruction the less it thinks of it 86.

* How the time of the flood is to be compared with the time God gives man to repent 87.



V. 3. Jehovah said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for that he also is flesh: yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years."

41. Moses here begins by describing Noah as the highest pontiff and priest, or, as Peter calls him, a preacher of righteousness. This text has been mangled in various ways, for the natural man cannot understand spiritual things. When, therefore, the interpreters, with unwashed feet and hands, rushed into the Holy Scriptures, taking with them a human bias and method, as they themselves acknowledge, they could not but fall into diverse and erroneous views. It has almost come to pass, that the more sublime and spiritual the utterances of Scripture, the more shamefully they have been distorted. This passage in particular they have managed so shamelessly that you would not know what to believe, if you followed the interpreters.

42. The Jews are the first to crucify Moses here, for this is their exposition: My Spirit, that is my indignation and wrath, shall not always abide upon man. I will not be angry with men, but spare them, for they are flesh. That means, being spurred by sin, they incline to sin. This meaning Jerome also adopts, who is of the opinion that here only the sin of lust is spoken of, to which we are all prone by nature. But his first error is that he interprets Spirit as wrath. It is the Holy Spirit Moses here speaks of, as the contrast shows. "For man," he says, "is flesh." The meaning is, therefore, that the flesh is not only prone to sin, but also hostile toward God.

43. Then the matter itself serves as refutation, for could anything more absurd have been devised? They see with their eyes the wrath of God swallowing the whole human race through the flood, and yet they expound that God does not wish to be influenced toward the human race by anger but by mercy, and this after a hundred and twenty years, the very time of the flood.

44. Rabbi Solomon expounds it thus: The Spirit which is in God shall no more strive and wrangle. As if God in his majesty would have disputed and wrangled about what should be done with man, whether to destroy or to spare him, finally, wearied by man's wickedness, determining upon his destruction, nevertheless.

45. Others understand this of the created spirit: My spirit that I breathed upon the face of man, that is the spirit of man, shall no longer strive and contend with the flesh, which is in subjection to its lusts, for I shall take away this spirit and free it from the flesh, so that when the latter has become extinct, it may create no more difficulties for the spirit. This is the understanding of Origen, and it does not differ much from the Manichean error which attributes sin not to the whole man, but only to a part. And Augustine says that this had pleased him most in the tenets of the Manicheans, to hear that his depravity was not altogether his, but only of that part of the body which is evil from the beginning. The Manicheans posited two principles, the good and the bad, just as certain philosophers have posited enmity and friendship. Thus do men not only miss the mark, but they also fall into ungodly delusions.

46. Rabbi David cites Sanctes, and derives the word jadon from nadan, which means sheath, or shell. But as the interpretation is very clumsy, so he clothes it also in a very clumsy word: My Spirit shall not be inclosed in man as in a sheath. Has anything more unnatural ever been heard? But the Jews make a laughing-stock of modern Hebraists when they convince them that the Holy Scriptures can not be understood except through grammatical rules and an exact science of vowel-points. No exposition is so absurd but that they defend and polish it with their stale grammatical rules.

47. But tell me, what language has there ever been that men easily have learned to speak from grammatical rules? Is it not true that the very languages most thoroughly reduced to rules, like Greek and Latin, are learned rather by practice? What stupendous absurdity, therefore, it is to gather the sense of a sacred tongue, which is the repository of things theological and spiritual, from grammatical rules, and to pay no attention to the proper signification of things? And this is what the rabbis and their disciples do almost universally. Many words and verbs may be declined for which no use is seen in the language. While they make such things paramount and everywhere chase anxiously after etymology, they fall into strange fancies.

48. So here. Because the word in this passage can be derived from nadan, they construct from that a prodigious meaning. My spirit, they say, shall not be held back as in a sheath. They mean the spirit of man contained in the body as in a sheath. I shall not leave it in a sheath, they say, but I shall remove him and destroy the sheath. Such absurdities originate in the stale grammatical rules, whereas usage rather should be considered; it is that which trains the grammarian.

49. But I recite all this at length, in order to admonish you, when you come upon such silly commentators, not to follow them and admire such singular wisdom. For great men even have found delight in the folly of the rabbis. They are not unlike the Sacramentarians, who do not deny the words of Christ, This is my body, this is my blood; but explain it thus: Bread is bread, and yet the body of Christ, namely, his creature; this is my blood, namely my wine. This passion of distorting texts no sane man tolerates in the exposition of the fables of Terence, or of the eclogues of Virgil, and, forsooth, we should tolerate it in the Church!

50. We need the Holy Spirit to understand the Holy Scriptures. For we know that the same Spirit shall exist to the end of the world who existed before all things. We glory in possessing this Spirit through the grace of God, and, through him, we have faith, a moderate knowledge of Scripture and an understanding of the other things necessary to godliness. Hence we do not invent a new interpretation; we are guided not only by an analogy of Holy Scripture but also by faith.

51. Through the Holy Scriptures in its entirety, the verb judge, dun, signifies almost invariably a public office in the Church, or the office of the ministry, through which we are corrected, reproved, instructed and enabled to distinguish the evil from the good, etc. Thus, Psalm 110, 6: Jadin bagojim, "He will judge among the nations;" which means: He will preach among the nations. The word found in this passage is evidently the same. And in the New Testament this phrase, originally Hebrew, is very much in vogue, especially in Paul's writings, who uses the Hebrew idiom more than the others.

52. I understand this passage therefore as words spoken by Lamech or Noah as a new message to the whole world. For it was a public message proclaimed at some public assembly. When Methuselah, Lamech and Noah saw that the world was hastening straight to destruction by its sins, they resorted to this proclamation: My Spirit shall no longer preach among men. That means: we teach in vain, we admonish in vain; the world has no desire to be better.

53. It is as if one in the present perverse times should say: We teach and make ample effort to summon the world back to sobriety and godliness, but we are derided, persecuted, killed, and all men, in the end, rush to destruction with blind eyes and deaf ears; therefore we are constrained to desist. These are the words of a soul planning appropriate action and full of anxiety, because it is clear that the human race, at the height of its peril, cannot be healed.

54. This exposition conforms to faith and Holy Scriptures. When the Word is revealed from heaven, we see that some are converted, who are freed from damnation. The remaining multitude despises it and securely indulges in avarice, lust and other vices, as Jeremiah says (ch 51, 9): "We should have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us go everyone into his own country."

The more diligently Moses and Aaron importuned and instructed, the more obstinate Pharaoh became. The Jews were not made better by even the preaching of Christ and the apostles. The same befalls us who teach in our day. What, in consequence, are we to do? Deplore the blindness and obstinacy of men we may, correct it we cannot. Who would rejoice in the eternal damnation of the popes and their followers? Who would not prefer that they should embrace the Word and recover their senses?

55. A similar exhibition of obstinacy Methuselah, Lamech and Noah saw in their day. Therefore there bursts from them this voice of despair: My Spirit, namely the Word of healing truth, shall no longer bear witness among men. For inasmuch as you refuse to embrace the Word—will not yield to healing truth—you shall perish.

These are the words of a heart filled with anxiety after the manner that the Scriptures say God is anxious; that is, the hearts of Noah, Lamech, Methuselah and other holy men who are filled with love toward all. Beholding this wickedness of men, they are troubled and pained.

56. Such grief is really the grief of the Holy Spirit, as Paul says, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption," Eph 4, 30. This means that the Holy Spirit is grieved when we miserable men are distracted and tormented by the wickedness of the world, that despises the Word we preach by the Holy Spirit. Thus Lot was troubled in Sodom, and the pious Jews in Babylon under the godless king Belshazzar; also Jeremiah, when he preached to the ungodly Jews and exclaimed (Jer 15, 10): "Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me." So in Micah 7, 1: "Woe is me! for I am as the grape gleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat."

57. The wrath of God is most fearful as he recalls the Word. What man would not prefer pestilence, famine, war—these being mere bodily calamities—to a famine of the Word which is always joined to eternal damnation? An example of the horrible darkness into which Satan can lead men when God is silent and does not speak, is furnished by the Gentiles who have been bereft of the Word. Who is not horrified by the Romans, men of exemplary wisdom and famous before other nations by reason of their dignified discipline, who observed the custom of letting the worthy matrons worship and crown Priapus, the foul idol, and of leading bridal virgins before it? What is more ludicrous than that the Egyptians adored the calf Apis as the supreme godhead?

58. The Tripartite History gives an account of Constantine the Great being the first to abolish in Phoenicia and other places the shameless custom of using virgins, before their nuptials, for purposes of prostitution. Such monstrous infamies were accounted religion and righteousness among the Gentiles. There is nothing, in fact, so ridiculous, so stupid, so obscene, nothing so remote from all propriety, that it cannot be foisted as the very essence of religion upon men who have been forsaken by the Word.

59. This is, therefore, the greatest penalty, that God, through the mouths of the holy patriarchs, threatens no longer to reprove men by his Spirit; which means that henceforth he will not give his Word to men, since all teaching is vain.

60. Like punishment our times will bring also upon Germany. For we see the haste, the unrest, of Satan, and his efforts to defraud whom he may of the Word. How many sects has he roused during our lifetime, and this while we bent all our energies toward the maintenance of pure doctrine! What is in store after our death? Surely, he will lead forth whole swarms of Sacramentarians, Anabaptists, Antinomians, Servetians, Campanistans and other heretics who at present, conquered by the pure Word and the constancy of faithful teachers, keep out of sight, but are ready for every opportunity to establish their doctrines.

61. Those, therefore, who have the Word in its purity, should learn to embrace the same, to thank God for it and to call upon him while he may be found. For when the spirit of knowledge is taken away, the spirit of prayer is also gone. Zechariah says (Zech 12, 10): For the spirit of prayer is joined to the spirit of grace. It is the spirit of grace which reproves our sins and gives instruction concerning their remission, which condemns idolatry and instructs concerning the true worship of God, which condemns avarice, lust and oppression, and teaches chastity, patience and charity. This spirit, God here threatens, shall no longer continue his work of instruction, since men refuse to hear and are incorrigible. The spirit of grace having been taken away, the spirit of prayer has also been taken away. For it is impossible for him to pray who is without the Word.

62. Accordingly, the office of a priest is twofold; first, that he turns to God and prays for himself and for his people; second, that he turns from God to men through instruction and the Word. Says Samuel: "Far be it from me that I should sin against Jehovah in ceasing to pray for you: but I will instruct you in the good and the right way," 1 Sam 12, 23. He is aware that this is his proper office.

63. Therefore, the ministry is rightly praised and esteemed as the highest favor. When this has been lost or has been vitiated, not only prayer becomes impossible, but men are simply in the power of the devil, and do nothing but grieve the Holy Spirit with all their deeds, and thus fall into mortal sin, for which it is not lawful to pray. Such other lapses as occur among men are trivial, for return is open and the hope of pardon is left. But when the Holy Spirit is grieved and men refuse to receive the witness and reproof of the Holy Spirit, the disease is desperate and incurable.

64. But how common is this sin today among all classes! Princes, noblemen, inhabitants of city and country, refuse to be reproved; they rather reprove and sit in judgment upon the Holy Spirit in his servants. They judge of the office of the ministry by the lowliness of the person. They reason thus: This minister is poor and despised; why then should he reprove me, a prince, a nobleman, a magistrate? Rather than endure this, they trample under foot the ministers, together with their office and their message. Should we not, then, fear the judgment of God, such as he here announces to the old world?

65. These, therefore, are the words of a father who disinherits his son, or of a severe schoolmaster in wrath ejecting a pupil, when God simply fixes a hundred and twenty years as the time in which opportunity is granted for repentance. He threatens, should it not be improved, his Spirit shall no longer reprove and strive.

This word pertains properly to the office of the ministry and, in a certain sense, describes it. For every preacher or servant of the Word is a man of strife and judgment, and is constrained, by reason of his office, to chide whatever is vicious, without considering the person or office of his hearer. When Jeremiah does this zealously, he incurs not only hate but also the gravest dangers. He is moved even to impatience, so that he wishes he had never been born, Jer 20, 14.

66. And if I had not been particularly strengthened by God, I should have been wearied and broken down ere this by the contumacy of an impenitent world; for the ungodly so grieve the Holy Spirit in us, that, with Jeremiah, we wish often we had never made a beginning of anything. Hence I often pray to God to let the present generation die with us, because, after our death, the most perilous times are to come.

67. For this reason Elijah is called by Ahab the godless king of Israel, the disturber of Israel; because he openly reproved the idolatry, violence and passions of his day. Likewise we today are deemed the disturbers of Germany.

68. But it is a good sign when men condemn us and call us authors of strife, for the Spirit of God strives with men, reproves and condemns them. But men are so that they wish to be taught only what gives them pleasure, as they frankly admit in Micah 2, 6-7: "Prophesy not to us; for confusion has not seized us, says the house of Jacob." The latter they use as an argument; because they look upon themselves as the house of Jacob and the people of God, they decline chastening, and will not take to themselves penalties and threats. So today the pope and his accomplices plume themselves solely upon being the Church, and declare that the Church is incapable of error. But notice this text and it will appear how frivolous such an argument is.

69. Are not those whom God threatens to no longer judge by his Spirit likewise the sons of God? What can be more splendid than this name? Beyond doubt they gloried in this name and rebelled against the patriarchs when they opposed, or at least despised, their preaching. For it does not seem likely that God should be thrown into a rage against the whole human race on account of a few sins. But the magnificent name did not save them, nor did it avail that they were strong and great in number. Six hundred thousand marched out of Egypt, and two only entered the land of Canaan; all the others were prevented by death on account of their sins.

70. Evidently God will in no way inquire about the magnificent titles of the Church, pope and bishop. Other testimony will be needed when they desire to escape the wrath of God than to boast of being the Church. For it is written (Mt 7, 20): "By their fruits ye shall know them." And verse 21: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven."

71. If ever in the future a council shall be held—which I hardly believe—no one will be able to take from them the title of Church, but propped up by this alone they will condemn and oppress us. Different shall be the judgment, when the Son of man shall come in his glory. Then it shall appear that among the members of the holy Church have been John Huss and Jerome of Prague. The pope, however, and the cardinals, the bishops, doctors, monks and priestly mountebanks, shall appear as the church of evil-doers, enthroned in pestilence, and as veritable henchmen of Satan, rendering aid to their father in his lying and murdering.

72. Such judgment of God we see also here. He does not deny that the offspring of the saints are sons of God. This magnificent title in which they took pride and securely sinned, God leaves to them. And yet these very sons of God who took in marriage the daughters of men, he warns that he not only will take the Word from their hearts and minds, but that he will take from their eyes and ears also the ministering Spirit who preaches, prays, reproves, teaches and sighs in holy servants, and because they refuse to be chastened and reproved; knowing themselves to be the sons of God they despise the Word and its teachers. But they do not escape punishment because of their name. The same shall likewise befall the papists and other enemies of the Word.

73. In accordance with this I hold that the sentiments of pious men are here attributed to God himself, according to the usage of the Holy Scriptures; for instance in Malachi 3, 8, where the Lord says that he is pierced through, or, as the Hebrew has it, that violence is done to him because the people were unfaithful in rendering to the priests the first-fruits and the tenth.

74. But why, you may say, should God need to complain thus? Can he not when it pleases him suddenly destroy the whole world? He surely can, but does not do so gladly. He says: "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live," Ezk 33, 11. Such a disposition proves that God is inclined to pardon, to endure and to remit the sins of men, if only they will come to their senses; but inasmuch as they continue in obduracy, and reject all help, he is, as it were, tormented by this wickedness of men.

75. The words "And Jehovah said," I attribute to the holy fathers, who testified through a public decree that God should be compelled to exercise vengeance, for they taught by divine authority. When Noah and his ancestors had preached nearly a thousand years, and yet the world continued to degenerate more and more, they announced God's decision to an ungrateful world and disclosed this as his thought: Why should I preach forever and permit my heralds to cry in vain? The more messengers I send, the longer I defer my wrath,—the worse they become. It is therefore necessary for preaching to cease, and for retribution to begin. I shall not permit my Spirit, that is my Word, to sit in judgment and to bear witness forever, and to tolerate man's wickedness. I am constrained to punish their sins. Because man is flesh, he is opposed to me. He is earthly, I am spirit. Man continues in his carnal state, mocks at the Word, persecutes and hates my Spirit in the patriarchs, and the story is told to deaf ears. Hence it is necessary that I should cease and permit man to go his own way. This contrast he desires to indicate when he says: "For he is flesh."

76. Noah, Lamech and Methuselah were very holy men, full of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly they performed their office by teaching, admonishing, urging and entreating, in season and out of season; as Paul says, 2 Tim 4, 2. But they reproved flesh and did unprofitable labor, for the flesh would not yield to sound teaching. Should I, says he, endure forever such contempt for my Word?

77. This proclamation, therefore, contains a public complaint, made by the Holy Spirit through the holy patriarchs, Noah, Lamech, Methuselah and others, whom God took away before the flood that they might not be spectators of so widely diffused wrath. All these, with one voice and mouth, admonished the giants and tyrants to repent, and added the threat that God would not endure forever such contempt of his Word.

78. But the flesh remained true to its nature; they despised faithful exhortations in their presumption and carnal security, and the holy patriarchs they treated as men in dotage and as simpletons because of their threat that God would move in wrath even upon his Church, namely, the heirs of the promise of the coming seed.

79. The added clause, "yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years," Jerome affirms must not be understood as referring to the years of human life, nor to the age of individual men; for it is certain that after the flood many exceeded the two hundredth year. If you refer it to the years allotted to individuals, the promise would be that individuals should complete so many years, which, however, is false. Therefore he speaks of the time conceded to the world for repentance until the flood should arrive.

80. This interpretation agrees with what precedes. God shows that he is displeased with the perversity of men. He is full of solicitude and quite ready to forbear. Against his will, so to speak, he permits the flood to rage. Therefore, he decided upon a fixed and adequate time for them to come to their senses, and to escape punishment. All this time Noah admonished men to repent, making it clear that God could not longer endure such wickedness, while he was yet so kind as to grant adequate time for repentance.

81. There is a beautiful cohesion between the words and their significance. A former proclamation threatens: I cannot endure longer contempt for my Word; my preachers and priests attain nothing with their infinite labor except derision. Nevertheless, as a father or good judge would gladly spare a son but is compelled by his wickedness to be severe, so, the Lord says, I do not destroy gladly the human race. I shall grant them one hundred and twenty years in which they may come to themselves, and during which I shall exercise mercy.

82. Horrible was the disaster, because neither the brothers nor the sisters of Noah were saved. It was necessary that the most earnest warning should precede, that, perhaps, they might be called back to repentance. To the Ninevites Jonah announces destruction within forty days, and they repent and are saved.

83. It is clear, therefore, that the heedlessness of the old world was very great, inasmuch as in the one hundred and twenty years of grace it obstinately persisted in its lusts, even deriding its pontiff Noah, the teacher of righteousness.

84. In our times, at the approach of the day of the Lord, almost the same condition obtains; we exhort to penitence the papists and our noblemen; the inhabitants of city and country we admonish not to continue despising the Word, since God will not leave this unavenged. But in vain we exert ourselves, as the Scripture says. A few faithful folk are edified and these are, one by one, gathered away from the face of sin, and "no man layeth it to heart," as is spoken in Isaiah 57, 1. But when God, in this way, has shaken out the wheat and gathered the grain in its place, what, think you, shall be the future of the chaff? Nothing else but to be burned with inextinguishable fire, Mt 13, 42. This shall be the lot of the world.

85. But the world does not understand how it can be that through the preaching of the Gospel the wheat should be separated from the chaff, to be gathered into the barn, while the chaff, that is, the throng of unbelievers sunk in idolatry and darkness, shall be consigned to the fire. It is written: "In a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee," Is 49, 8. Those who will neglect this day of salvation, will find God as an avenger, for he will not do useless labor in threshing empty chaff.

86. But the world is flesh; it does not obey. Yea, the nearer and more immediate the calamity, the more secure it is and the more readily it despises all faithful admonitions. Though this offense provokes the righteous, we should, notwithstanding, conclude that God does not reprove in vain the world through his Holy Spirit, nor that the Holy Spirit in the righteous is grieved in vain. Christ uses this as an example when he speaks of the wickedness and heedlessness of our age: "And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man," Mt 24, 37.

87. It is to be observed here what has been an object of difficulty for Jerome, that the flood came a hundred years after the birth of Shem, Ham and Japheth, while here a hundred and twenty years are said to have been the time of the flood.


1. The time Noah began to preach 87.

2. Why the world took occasion to despise Noah's preaching 88.

* Jerome's reckoning of the 120 years 89.

3. Why Noah married after living so long single, when the world was to be destroyed 90.

4. How and why Noah was the prophet of prophets and his the greatest of prophecies 91.

5. His preaching disregarded not only by the Cainites but by the sons of God 92.

* To what end God's complaint of the first world should serve us 93.

* When was the judgment of God announced 94.

* The generation of the Cainites.

a. Whether it still existed in the days of Noah 95.

b. Why Moses does not record the generations of the Cainites and of their patriarchs 95.

c. How the holy patriarchs warned their children against the Cainites 96.

d. How the Cainites tormented the holy patriarchs 96.

6. Why God raised up Noah 97.

7. Noah's faith exceptionally strong 97-98.

8. What impelled Noah to continue his work, and not to turn to the world 99.

9. How Noah's age was the wickedest and he had to oppose its wickedness all alone 100.

* Who of the patriarchs were still living in Noah's time 100.

10. What trials Noah had to experience 101.


87. But this passage shows that Noah began preaching about the impending punishment of the deluge before his marriage, having hitherto led the life of a celibate.

88. Consider, therefore, what pastime he offered to a wicked world in its fancied security. He predicts destruction to the whole world through the flood, nevertheless, he himself marries. Why? Was it not sufficient for him to perish alone, that he must join to himself a companion for the disaster? Oh, foolish old man! Surely if he believed the world was to perish by a deluge, he would rather perish alone than marry and take the trouble to beget children. But if he himself will be saved, why, so shall also we.

In this manner they commenced to despise the preaching concerning the flood with the greater assurance because of the marriage of Noah, ignorant of the counsel of God, who moves in a manner altogether unintelligible to the world. How absurd to promise Abraham posterity through Isaac, and yet to command Isaac to be sacrificed!

89. The divine Jerome argues against the view that God had fixed the time for the flood at a hundred and twenty years, but saw himself compelled, later, when wickedness had waxed strong, to shorten the time.

90. But we shall not make God a liar; we rather give it as our conviction that Noah had hitherto preached, while in a state of celibacy, that the world was to be destroyed through the flood, and later, by a divine command, had taken a maid as a little branch, so to speak, from the race of women, and begotten three sons. Below it is written that he had found grace with the Lord; otherwise he who had refrained from marriage so long, might have continued to do so still longer. But God, in order to restrain his wrath, wants to leave a nursery for the human race; therefore, he commands marriage. This the wicked believe to be a sign that the world shall not perish; they live accordingly in security and despise the preacher, Noah. But the counsel of God is different—to destroy the whole world and to leave through this righteous Noah a nursery for the future world.

91. Noah was, therefore, the greatest prophet; his equal the world has not had. First he teaches the longest time; then he gives instruction concerning a universal punishment coming upon the world, and even fixes the year of its advent. Likewise Christ prophesies concerning the last judgment, when all flesh shall perish. "But of that day," he says in Mark 13, 32, "or that hour knoweth no one, ... but the father."

Jonah foretells punishment for the Ninevites within forty days; Jeremiah foretells seventy years of captivity; Daniel, seventy weeks until the coming of Christ. These are remarkable prophecies, in which time, place and person are accurately described.

But this prophecy of Noah surpasses all others, inasmuch as he foretells through the Holy Spirit that within a certain number of years the whole human race shall perish. He is worthy to be called the second Adam and the head of the human race, through whose mouth God speaks and calls the whole world to repentance.

92. It is terrible, however, that his message was despised with such assurance that not only none of the Cainites, but not even any one of Adam's progeny underwent a change. Therefore Noah was compelled to witness the destruction of brothers, sisters, relatives and kindred without number, and all these made a mock of the pious old man and of his message as an old woman's tale.

93. This awful example is held up to us lest we persist in sin. For if God did not spare the primitive world, which was so magnificent—the very flower and youth of the world—and in which had lived so many pious men, but, as he says in Psalm 81, 12, "gave them up unto their own hearts' lust," and cast them aside, as if they had no claim upon the promise made to the Church—if he did this, how much less will he spare us who do not possess such prerogatives?

94. Therefore, the decree cited in this passage that God would grant men a hundred and twenty years for repentance, was rendered and promulgated before Noah had begotten children.

95. With reference to the generation of the Cainites, no mention is made of their patriarchs at the time of the flood, nor does Moses even deem them worthy of being named. Previously he has brought down the generation of Cain as far as Lamech, but whether his sons or nephews lived at the time of Noah is uncertain. This much is certain, that the offspring of Cain existed to that time, and were so powerful as to mislead the very sons of God, since even the posterity of the holy patriarchs perished in the flood.

96. Before this time the holy patriarchs—the rulers of the true Church, as it were—admonished their families to beware of the accursed generation. But the Cainites, incensed at being condemned, made the attempt to overturn the righteous with every kind of mischief; for the church of Satan wars perpetually against the Church of God.

97. Therefore, as the righteous begin to waver and wickedness gains ground, God raises Noah to exhort to repentance and to be for his descendants a perpetual example, whose faith and diligent, patient devotion to teaching, his offspring might admire and imitate. A great miracle is it and a case of illustrious faith, that Noah, having heard through Methuselah and Lamech the decree that the world is to perish after a hundred and twenty years, through the flood, does not doubt its truth, and yet, when the hundred and twenty years have almost expired, marries and begets children. He might rather have thought: If the human race is to perish, why should I marry? Why should I beget sons? If I have refrained these many years, I shall do so henceforth. But Noah does not do this; rather, after making known God's purpose respecting the world's destruction, he obeys God, who calls him to matrimony, and believes God that, though the whole world may perish, yet he with his children shall be saved. An illustrious faith is this and worthy of our consideration.

98. There was in him first that general faith, in common with the patriarchs, concerning the seed which was to bruise the head of the serpent. He possessed also the singular virtue of holding fast to this faith in the midst of such a multitude of offenses, and not departing from Jehovah. Then, to this general faith he added the other, special faith, that he believed God as regards both the threatened destruction of the rest of the world and the salvation promised to Noah himself and his sons. Beyond a doubt, to this faith his grandfather Methuselah and his father Lamech earnestly incited him; for it was as difficult to so believe as it was for the Virgin Mary to believe that none but herself was to be the mother of the Son of God.

99. This faith taught him to despise the presumption of the world which derided him as a man in his dotage. This faith prompted him diligently to continue the building of the ark, a work those giants probably ridiculed as extreme folly. This faith made Noah strong to stand alone against the many evil examples of the world, and to despise most vehemently the united judgment of all others.

100. But almost unutterable and miraculous is this faith, burdened as it is with strange and most weighty obstacles, which the Holy Spirit shows in passing, without going into great detail, that we may be induced to meditate the more diligently upon its circumstances. Consider first the great corruption of the age. While the Church had before this time many and most holy patriarchs, it was now deprived of such rulers; Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch are all dead, and the number of patriarchs is reduced to three—Methuselah, Lamech and Noah. These alone are left at the time the decree concerning the destruction of the world is published. These three are compelled to witness and suffer the incredible malice of men, their idolatry, blasphemy, violent acts, foul passions, until finally Methuselah and Lamech are also called out of this life. There Noah was the only one to oppose the world rushing to destruction, and to make an effort to preserve righteousness and to repress unrighteousness. But far from meeting with success, he had to see even the sons of God lapse into wickedness.

101. This ruin and havoc of the Church troubled the righteous man and all but broke his heart, as Peter says of Lot in Sodom, 2 Pet 2, 8. Now, if Lot was so distracted and vexed by the wickedness of one community, how must it have been with Noah, against whom not only the generation of Cain raged, but who was opposed also by the decadent generation of the patriarchs, and then even by his own father's house, his brothers, sisters, and the descendants of his uncles and aunts? For all these were corrupted and estranged from the faith by the daughters of men. As the text says, they "saw the daughters of men."



1. Why this is said of the sons and not of the daughters of the holy patriarchs 102.

2. Why were the holy fathers so emphatically forbidden to let their sons marry the ungodly 103-104.

3. How this was the beginning of all evils 105.

* What evils have in all times come through woman 106.

4. The sins here sprang from despising the first table of the law 107-108.

* The sins of the second table follow when the first table is not kept 108.

5. Everything that is called sin is embraced in this sin 109-110.

6. How marriage with the children of the true Church was despised 111.

7. Their desire to marry thus resembled Eve's desire to take the forbidden apple 112.

8. Why the patriarchs' children took this step 113.

9. How these marriage alliances were formed 114-116.

10. Berosus' testimony concerning these forbidden marriages 116.



1. By the "giants" or tyrants.

a. What is to be understood by tyrants 117.

* The pope resembles the tyrants before the flood 118.

b. The nature of these tyrants 119.

c. Why called Nephilim 120-122.

d. Whether they received their name from their size or from their cruelty 123.

* How the Scriptures designate true rulers 123.

e. These tyrants types of Antichrist 123.

f. They were raging, powerful and criminal characters 124.

* Of authorities.

(1) How God wants us to honor the authorities though he terribly threatens them 125-126.

(2) Why God wants them to be honored, when he himself does not honor them 127.

(3) Godless rulers are God's swine and are rare birds in heaven 128.

g. Whether these tyrants were rulers and why God called them by such a shameful name 129.

h. Moses chose the word Nephilim, which in his day designated a wicked people, to express the tyrants of the first World 130.

2. By "the mighty men."

a. How Jerome perverts this text 131.

b. What is to be understood by "the mighty men that were of old" 131.

* The meaning of "Olam" 132.

c. Whence did they receive their power 133.

d. Why called "mighty men" 134.

* The character of the true church 134.

3. By "the men of renown."

a. Why they were thus named 135.

b. Who they were 136.

* They resembled the pope and bishops 136.

c. Lyra's false explanation of it refuted 137.

* How Antichrist is restrained from the world, and true doctrine maintained 137.


* That one sin follows another until man reaches the highest degree of sin 139.



102. But, I ask, why is not complaint made also of the men, or why are not the daughters of God included in this complaint? He says merely that they "saw the daughters of men." It was surely for this reason, that the holy generation of Seth had received the peculiar injunction to beware of fellowship with the Cainites, inasmuch as they had been excluded from the true Church, and to mingle with them neither socially through marriage, nor ecclesiastically through worship, for the righteous should avoid every occasion of offense.

103. In prohibiting marriage with the Cainites it was the chief purpose of the pious fathers to maintain their generation pure; for daughters bring into the houses of their husbands the views and manners of the fathers. Thus, we read of Solomon in the Book of the Kings that he was led astray through a woman who was a stranger; and thus Jezebel introduced the wickedness of the Syrians into the kingdom of Israel.

104. The holy fathers saw the same would come to pass in their generation; therefore, after they were separated from the Cainites through the divine command, they resolved that the sons of the holy generation should not marry the daughters of men. The daughters of the race of the righteous could more readily be restrained from marriage with the Cainites, while the sons were independent and headstrong.

105. In this way Moses wishes to show the trouble began from the time the sons of God joined themselves to the daughters of men, seeing that they were fair. The sons of men who were proud and strong and passionately given to pleasure, without doubt despised the plain maidens of the pious race who had been reared by the holy patriarchs not delicately, but simply and modestly, being arrayed in homely garb. There was hence no necessity of making a law also for the maidens, inasmuch as they were in any case neglected by the noble Cainites.

106. If you study the history of nations you will find that women have been the occasion for the overthrow of the strongest kingdoms. Well known is the disgrace of Helen. The sacred writings demonstrate also that woman occasioned the fall of the whole human race. This, however, should be mentioned without reflection upon the sex, for we have a command, "Honor thy father and thy mother," Ex 20, 12. Likewise, "Husbands, love your wives," Col 3, 19. It is true that Eve was the first to pluck the apple; however, she first sinned by idolatry and fell from the faith, which faith, as long as it is in the heart, controls also the body; but when it has departed from the heart, the body serves sin. Guilt is not peculiar to sex but to sin, which man has in common with woman.

107. Thus Moses gives an account of the prevailing unrighteousness and lust. But he gives the reader to understand that, before sin was committed against the second table of the Law, the first had been violated, and the Word of God treated with contempt. Otherwise the sons of God would have obeyed the will of their pious parents forbidding marriage with those outside the Church.

108. Moses, therefore, concludes that, because the sons of God had forsaken the worship and Word of God and departed from the precepts of their parents, thereupon to fall into sensuality and lust, and to take to wife whom they pleased, they also became violent and appropriated the goods of others. The world cannot do otherwise. When it has forsaken God, it worships the devil; when it has despised the Word and fallen into idolatry, it rushes forth into all sins of passion, in which fierceness of anger and fierceness of desire by turns are aroused, and thus all the appetites are thrown into a state of the greatest disorder. When the righteous reprove this, the result is resentment and violence against them.

109. The sin of the flood, then, embraces everything that may be called sin, by the first as well as the second table. Wicked men first depart from God through unbelief; then they disregard obedience to parents, and finally become murderers, adulterers, etc.

110. I mention this to the end that no one may believe that sex or the marriage estate in themselves are to blame. It is chiefly transgression of God's commandments and disobedience to parents which are condemned. Owing to absence of fellowship between the Cainites and the true Church, pious parents desired also social separation from the Cainites, for fear they might be perverted by the manners of ungodly wives. But God's command being neglected, and the authority of parents despised, the younger generation lapsed into the passions of concupiscence and vehemence. In this way the honor of sex and the dignity of matrimony are conserved: accusation is brought solely against the unrighteousness which first departs from God and then manifests itself in injuring the saints.

111. This is the teaching of the words: "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair." Why did they not see the daughters of God and desire those in the Church and possess the promise of the seed? Are they not convicted of contempt for the sisters of their own generation, that is the true Church, and of mingling with the carnal and impious generation of Cain? They despise the simplicity and reserve of their sisters and prefer the smiles, the dress, the wiles of the daughters of Cain; the latter they crave and cultivate, the former they treat either with neglect or dishonor.

112. With such eyes as Eve viewed the apples when she fell into sin, the sons of God viewed the daughters of men. Eve had seen the forbidden tree before that, but with eyes of faith looking back to God's commandment; for that reason she did not crave, but rather she fled from the same. When, however, the eyes of faith were dimmed and she beheld the tree solely with carnal eyes, she stretched out her hand with desire and invited also Adam, her husband.

113. Likewise the sons of the patriarchs had seen long before that the daughters of the Cainites excelled in form, dress and elegance of manners. Nevertheless, they did not mingle with them, for the eye of faith looked back to the commandment of God and to the promise of the seed to be born from the generation of the righteous. But the eyes of faith having been lost, they saw no longer either the command or the promise of God, but followed merely the desire of the flesh. The simple, good and virtuous girls of their own generation they despised; the Cainites they married, seeing they were polished, charming and pleasant.

114. It is not a sin, therefore, that they marry, nor is the sex in itself condemned. Condemnation lies in this, that with contempt of the divine commandment they marry unlawfully; that they permit themselves to be led astray by their wives from the true worship to the wicked worship of a false church; that, after the fashion of the Cainites, they pay no heed to parental authority and become guilty of violence, oppression and other sins.

Moses clearly reveals their sin when he says: "They took them wives of all that they chose," as if he said: To marry a wife is not an evil but a blessing, if it be done lawfully. But they sinned in that they married without judgment, against the will and purpose of the parents, marrying whom and as many as they pleased, regardless of their own estate, whether married or single.

115. This is a stern word, by which Moses characterizes it as a great sin that they arbitrarily married two wives or more, exchanged them, or snatched them from others, after the manner of Herod, who possessed himself of his brother's wife. It is this unbridled reign of evil lust that Moses discloses and condemns.

116. Berosus writes that incestuous marriages also took place among them, so that they married even their mothers and sisters. But I doubt whether they were so wicked as that. It is a sin sufficiently grave that in marrying they dispensed with judgment, the authority of their parents and even with the Word of God, following altogether the guidance of lust and desire. They took whom they pleased and whom they could, and by such license they brought chaos into domestic, public and churchly relations.


The sin of the primeval world was, therefore, an upheaval of all established order, inasmuch as the Church was demoralized by idolatry and false modes of worship. This condition was aggravated by those oppressors who cruelly persecuted the righteous teachers and holy men. Public discipline was destroyed by oppression and violent deeds, and domestic discipline by uncurbed lust. Upon such overturning of piety and integrity followed universal depravity; men were not merely evil but plainly incorrigible.


V. 4a. The Nephilim (giants) were in the earth in those days,

117. Moses continues the description of the sin and offense which provoked the deluge. The first point was that the sons of God had fallen from the fear of God, and the Word had become altogether carnal, perverting not only the Church but also the State and home. Now he adds that wickedness had grown to the extent of giants arising upon earth. He clearly states that there were born from the concubinage of the sons of God with the daughters of men, not sons of God, but giants; that is, bold men who arrogated to themselves at the same time both government and priesthood.

118. Just so the pope arrogates to himself at the same time the spiritual and the temporal sword. This would not be the height of evil, if he would only make use of his power for the preservation of State and Church; but the greatest sin is that he abuses his power for the establishment of idolatry, for a warfare against sound doctrine, and for purposes of oppression even in the State. When the Papists are reproved with the Word of God, they spurn such reproof, claiming that they are the Church and incapable of error. This class of people Moses calls "giants," men who arrogate to themselves power both political and ecclesiastical, and who sin most licentiously.

119. Such men are described in the Book of Wisdom who say: "Let unrighteousness be our law," 2, 11. Also in Psalms, 12, 4: "Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?" Again in Psalm 73. "They scoff, and in wickedness utter oppression: they speak loftily," etc. Such were the giants who withstood the Holy Spirit to his face, who, through the mouth of Lamech, Noah and the sons of Noah, exhorted, implored, taught and reproved.

120. There are those who dispute the meaning of the noun Nephilim and derive it from Naphal, which signifies "to fall." They commonly take it in a passive sense, meaning that other men, seeing the uncouth forms and extraordinary size, fell down from fear. Let the rabbis vouch for the correctness of this; it is ridiculous to call them "Nephilim" because others fell. Some, however, suggest the etymology that they were thus called because they had fallen from the common stature of men, and allege as proof-passage Numbers 13, 33, from which it appears that giants possessed huge bodies like the Anakim and Rephaim. Which of these are right, I do not decide, especially since it is certain that a theory of all words can not be given, nor their origin demonstrated.

121. But here another question obtrudes itself: Why should those born from the sons of God and the daughters of men alone have differed from the ordinary stature of man? I have no other answer than that the text says nothing of stature in this place. In Numbers 13, 33 it is said: "There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, who come of the giants: and we were in our sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." There hugeness of body is shown, but not here; therefore they may be called giants for some other reason than massive stature.

122. To give my opinion of the word, I hold it is to be taken neither in the sense of the neuter nor of the passive, but of the active, inasmuch as the word "naphal" is often used in the sense of the active, though it does not belong to the third conjugation, in which almost all transitive verbs are found. Thus in Joshua 11, 7: "So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly, and fell upon them." If the verb is construed as neuter, as if Joshua and his men had fallen before the enemies, history will object; for the meaning is that they fell upon the enemies and suddenly overpowered them.

123. Therefore, this passage and other, similar ones prompt me to understand "nephilim" to designate not bulk of body, but tyranny and oppression, inasmuch as they domineered by force, making no account of law and honor, but merely indulging their pleasure and desire. Rightful rulers the Scripture calls shepherds and princes, but those who rule by wrong and violence are rightly called "Nephilim," because they fall and prey upon those beneath them.

Thus in Psalm 10: "He croucheth and humbleth himself and Venaphal Baa Zumaf Helkaim (falls with his strong ones upon the poor)". The Holy Spirit speaks there of the reign of the Antichrist, whom he describes as raging so furiously as to crush what he can, and, at all events, to bend what he cannot crush, so that afterward he may suppress with all his strength what has been bent. For baazuma can be indifferently rendered by "with his strength," or "with his strong ones." This power, he says, he uses only against those who are Hilkaim, that is the poor, such as have previously been in some state of affliction. Others who excel in power, he worships so as to draw them over to his side.

124. Accordingly I interpret "giants" in this passage not as men of huge stature, as in Numbers 13, 33, but as violent and oppressive; as the poets depict the Cyclopeans, who fear neither God nor men, but follow only their desires, relying upon their strength and power. For the oppressors sit enthroned in majesty, sway empires and kingdoms, and arrogate to themselves even spiritual power, but use such power against the Church and the Word of God for the gratification of their lust.

125. Observe here the strange counsel of God, commanding us to fear the authorities, to obey, serve and honor them, while at the same time the threats and dreadful reproofs which he administers are almost invariably directed against those in authority, against kings and princes, as if God proceeded against them with a peculiar hatred. Scripture enjoins upon us to honor authority, but itself does not honor it; rather it destroys it with a threat of the gravest penalties. Scripture enjoins us to fear authority, but itself appears to despise authorities, inasmuch as it does not commend but threatens.

126. Does not Mary earnestly declaim in her song against princes, Luke 1, 51-53: "He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart. He hath put down princes from their thrones, and hath exalted them of low degree. The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away"? If we believe this to be true, who would wish to be found among authorities, for whom so certain perdition is prepared and imminent? Who would not prefer to live on a lowly plane and suffer hunger? The second psalm accuses the authorities of the gravest crime when it says that they place themselves with united strength and efforts in opposition to God and his anointed and render violence to his kingdom. "Thou hast made of a city a heap, of a fortified city a ruin," Is 25, 2. The whole Bible abounds with like sentiments.

127. Thus, the Bible does not honor the authorities, but threatens them with danger, and drags them into manifest contempt; and still with consummate care it commands us to reverence and fear them, and to render them all manner of service. Why is this? Surely because God himself desires to punish them, and has reserved vengeance for himself instead of surrendering it to their subjects. Jeremiah argues in chapter 12, 1, concerning the prosperity of the way of the ungodly, and yet the Lord is righteous. But he concludes: "Thou, O Lord, fattenest them and preparest them for the sacrifice."

128. So might it be said that the authorities are God's swine, as it were; he fattens them, gives them wealth, power, fame and the obedience of their subjects. They are not pursued, while they themselves pursue and oppress others; they suffer no injury, but they inflict it upon others; they do not give to others, but rob them until the hour comes when, like fattened swine, they are slaughtered. Hence the German proverb: A prince is a rare bird in the kingdom of heaven or, princes are wild game in heaven.

129. Accordingly, those whom Moses calls here "Nephilim," which is an odious and disgraceful name, were without doubt the lawful administrators of Church and State. But because they did not use their office as they should, God marks and brands them with this opprobious name. As we, in this corrupt state of nature, are unable to use the least gift without pride, so God, most intolerant of pride, thrusts the mighty from their throne, and leaves the rich empty.

130. I accept, then, the word "Nephilim" as having an active signification, being equivalent to tyrants, oppressors, revelers. I believe, furthermore, as has been the case with other languages also, that Moses has transferred the usage of this word from his own times to those before the deluge, after changing somewhat its meaning, inasmuch as these degenerate descendants of the sons of God abused their power and position for the oppression of the good, just as those Anakim were tyrants relying upon bodily strength, and so Moses will presently show.

V. 4b. And also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them; the same were the men that were of old, the men of renown.

131. Jerome[1] renders: Isti sunt potentes a seculo (these are mighty men from the beginning). But the word seculum (olam) does not here signify duration of time, nor does it predicate extent. These giants did not exist from the beginning, they were not born until the sons of God had degenerated. But seculum (olam) connotes a second predicate, that of substance, so that Moses explains the nature of the power in which they trusted to have been secular or worldly. They despised the ministry of the Word as a vile office; therefore they seized upon another office, a secular one. The very same thing our Papists have done. It has pleased them better to hold ample revenues and worldly kingdoms than to be hated of all men for the sake of the Gospel.

[Footnote 1: So also the A. V. and the R. V., while Luther has by no means the philological science against him. Mundus, seculum, aion, and olam are used to express the same conception. Translator.]

132. As far as Moses is concerned, the noun olam designates the world itself, and also age or time. Hence it is to be carefully noted when olam (seculum) signifies duration of time, and when it signifies "world" in the Scriptures. Here it signifies of necessity "world," for they did not exist from the beginning.

133. This clause, then, aptly describes the power they had received, not from the Church, nor from the Holy Spirit, but from the devil and the world. It is, as it were, the counterpart of what Christ says before Pontius Pilate, John 18, 36: "My kingdom is not of this world." The servants of the Word struggle with hunger, and they labor under the hate of all classes. In consequence, they cannot exercise tyranny; but those who possess kingdoms, who govern states, who possess castles and domains, are equipped for exercising tyranny.

134. This clause contains also a suggestive reference to the small Church with her few souls. These are cross-bearers without wealth; but they possess the Word. Their only wealth is what the world despises and persecutes. The Nephilim, on the other hand, or giants, usurp as the descendants of the patriarchs the splendid name of the Church, and possess also kingdoms. They exercise dominion, and pursue the miserable Church in their power. In accordance therewith Moses calls them mighty before, or in, the world; or worldlings and temporal potentates.

135. What Jerome renders viri famosi (famous men) is, in Hebrew, "men of name," that is, renowned or famous in the world. Moses touches here also upon the sin of the Cyclopeans, who, possessing everything in the world, possessed also a famous name and were renowned throughout the world; while, on the contrary, the true sons of God, namely Noah and his sons, were held in the greatest scorn and regarded as heretics, as sons of the devil, as a blot upon the grandeur of Church and State. So is it now with us. Christ testifies in Matthew 24, 37, that the last times resemble the times of Noah.

136. Moses had before testified that the Holy Spirit would be taken from the wicked and they would be sent in the ways of their own desire. They were, accordingly, such rascals as the pope today with his cardinals and bishops, who are not only styled princes and possess kingdoms, but also take to themselves the name of Church, so as to subject us as heretics to the ban, and securely to condemn us. They do not permit themselves to be called tyrants, nor wicked, nor temple-robbers. They wish to be styled most kind, holy and reverend gentlemen.

137. The meaning, therefore, is not that which Lyra follows when he understands "famous" as "notorious." As the world does not call the pope Antichrist, but ascribes to him the name of the greatest saint and admires him as if he and his carnal creatures were filled with the Holy Spirit and incapable of error, and therefore humbly worships whatever he commands or advises—exactly so those giants had a noble name and were held in admiration by the whole world. On the contrary, Noah with his followers was condemned as a rebel, as a heretic, as a traducer of the dignity of State and Church. So today do bishops regard us who profess the Gospel.


138. This passage furnishes a description of the sins with which that age was burdened: Men were averse to the Word; they were given over to their own lusts and reprobate minds; they sinned against the Holy Spirit by persistent impenitence, by defending their ungodly behavior and by warring upon the recognized truth. Yet with all these blasphemies they retained the name and authority, not only of the State, but also of the Church, as if God had exalted them to the place of the angels. When this was the state of things, and Noah and Lamech with their pious ancestor Methuselah taught in vain, God turned them over to the desires of their hearts (Ps 81, 12) and maintained silence until they should experience the flood, the prophecy of which they refused to believe.

139. This is falling away from God and Church and entering upon illicit marriage. One sin, unless corrected at once, will lead to another, and so on indefinitely until the state is reached which Solomon describes in Proverbs 18, 3, "When the wicked cometh, there cometh also contempt, and with ignominy Cometh reproach." They who thus sin, even if afterward rebuked, do not heed. They imagine they stand in need of no instructor, and think they represent a just cause. They do not believe in a life after this, or even hope for salvation, while living in open sin. Notwithstanding, scorn and shame shall overwhelm them. It was this persistent impenitence and consummate contempt for the Word that impelled God to visit all flesh with a universal flood.



1. The Words, "The wickedness of man was great."

a. How Luther used these words against the doctrine of free will; how the advocates of free will falsely interpreted them, and how they are refuted 140-141.

* Concerning free will.

(1) Augustine's doctrine of free will misinterpreted by the schools 140.

(2) The schools unreasonably defend it 141.

(3) Man has no free will and without the grace of the Holy Spirit can do nothing 142-143.

(4) The reproving office of the Holy Spirit makes it clear that man has no free will 144.

(5) Whether there is hope, if a council be held, that the Papists will abandon their false doctrine of free will 145.

(6) How the true doctrine of free will leads us to a knowledge of sin and what we are to hold in reference to it 146.

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