Commentary on Genesis, Vol. II - Luther on Sin and the Flood
by Martin Luther
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

(7) Why we should guard against the false doctrine concerning free will 147.

* The comfort for one who commits sins of infirmities 147.

* All endeavors without the Holy Spirit are evil 148.

(8) We are to distinguish in the doctrine of free will what is good politically from what is good theologically 149-150.

b. These words are wrongly understood by the Jews and sophists 151.

* How we should view the discussions of philosophers in regard to God and divine things 152.

c. These words should be understood as spoken not only of the people before the flood, but of all men 153.

2. The Words, "It Repented Jehovah."

a. How the repentance of God is to be reconciled with the wisdom and omniscience of God.

(1) The way sophists answer this question 154.

(2) Luther's answer 155-157.

* How man should treat questions which lead us into the throne of the divine majesty 158.

* How the passages of Scripture are to be understood which attribute to God the members of a human body 159.

* Whether the Anthropomorphites were justly condemned 159.

* Why God is represented to us as if he sprang from the temporal and the visible 161-163.

* We cannot explore God's nature 163.

* In what pictures God reveals himself in the Old Testament, and in the New 164.

* The will of God in signs and the will of God's good pleasure, "signs" and "Beneplaciti."

(a) How we can know God's will in signs 165-166.

(b) Why we cannot know the will of God's pleasure, nor fathom it 165-166.

(c) What is really to be understood by the will in signs 167.

b. The way the schools explain these words 168.

c. How they are to be rightly understood 169.

* Disputing about God's majesty and omnipotence places man in a dangerous position 169-171.

* How man should hold to the signs by which God revealed himself 171.

* What the will of God's pleasure is, to what it serves and how it is revealed in Christ 172-176.

* The will of good pleasure of which the fathers speak cannot comfort the heart 175.

* The only view of the Godhead possible in this life 176.

d. In what sense it can be said that "it repented Jehovah that he had made man" 177.


A. The Repentance of God.

Vs. 5-6. And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

140. This is the passage which we have used against "free will," of which Augustine writes that without the grace of the Holy Spirit it can do nothing but sin. The scholastics, however, the champions of free will, are not only hard beset by this clear passage, but also by the authority of Augustine, and they sweat. Of Augustine they say that his language is hyperbolical, as Basil writes of one who in refuting the other side had gone too far, that he did like the farmers; they when trying to straighten out crooked branches bend them a little too far on the other side; and so Augustine, in beating back the Pelagians, is asserted to have spoken more severely against free will in the defense of grace than the merits of the case warranted.

141. As far as this passage is concerned, it is slandered when it is held that it speaks only of the evil generation before the flood, and that now men are better, at least some who make good use of their freedom of will. Such wretched interpreters do not see that the passage speaks of the human heart in general, and that a particle is plainly added, Rak, which signifies "only." In the third place, they fail to see that after the flood the same declaration is repeated in the eighth chapter in almost precisely the same terms. For God says, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth," Gen 8, 21. Here evidently he does not speak only of the antediluvians. He rather speaks of those to whom he makes the promise that henceforth another general flood of water shall never come, that is, of all the offspring of Noah. These are words of universal application: "The imagination of man's heart is evil."

142. We draw, therefore, the general conclusion that man without the Holy Spirit and without grace can do nothing but sin, and thus he unhaltingly goes forward from sin to sin. When in addition, he will not endure sound doctrine but rejects the word of salvation and resists the Holy Spirit, he becomes an enemy of God, blasphemes the Holy Spirit and simply follows the evil desires of his heart. Witnesses of this are the examples of the prophets, Christ and the Apostles, the primeval world under Noah as teacher, and also the example of our adversaries today, who cannot be convinced by anything that they are in error, that they sin, that their worship is ungodly.

143. Other declarations of Holy Scripture prove the same thing. Is not the statement of the fourteenth Psalm, verse 3, sweeping enough when it says: "Jehovah looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there was any that did understand, and did seek after God. They are all gone aside?" Thus, Ps 116, 11, "All men are liars;" and Paul, "God hath shut up all unto disobedience," Rom 11, 32. These passages are most sweeping, and emphatically force the conclusion that we all, without the Holy Spirit, whose dispenser is Christ, can do nothing but err and sin. Therefore, Christ says in the Gospel, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: ... apart from me ye can do nothing," Jn 15, 5. Without me you are a branch cut off, dry, dead and ready for the burning.

144. And the very reason the Holy Spirit performs the office of reproving the world is that he may call the world back to penitence and the recognition of its derangement. But the world remains consistent with itself; it hears not and believes it can please God with forms of worship of its own choosing and without the sanction of the divine Word, and does not permit itself to be undeceived.

145. If ever a council should be held, the final declaration and conclusion with reference to this very point, the freedom of will, will be that we should abide by the decisions of the pope and the fathers. We may clamor until we are hoarse that man in himself without the Holy Spirit is evil, that everything he does without the Holy Spirit or without faith is condemned before God, that his heart is depraved and all his thought; we shall effect nothing.

146. Therefore, the mind is to be grounded in this, and we are to hold fast the doctrine which lays before us our sin and condemnation. This knowledge of our sin is the beginning of salvation; we must absolutely despair of ourselves and give glory for righteousness to God alone. Why does Paul elsewhere complain, and in Romans 7, 18 freely confess that there is nothing good in him? He says plainly, "in my flesh;" so that we understand that the Holy Spirit alone can heal our infirmity. When this has been fixed in our hearts, the foundation of our salvation is largely laid, inasmuch as subsequently clear testimonies are given that God will not cast away the sinner, that is, one who recognizes his sin and desires to come to his senses and thirsts after righteousness and the remission of sin through Christ.

147. Let us, therefore, take care not to be found among those Cyclopeans who oppose the Word of God and proclaim their freedom of will and their own powers. Though we often err, though we fall and sin, still, upon yielding to reproof on the part of the Holy Spirit with an humble confession of our depravity, the Holy Spirit himself will be present, and not only not impute to us the sin we acknowledge, but the grace of Christ shall cover it and he will shower upon us other gifts necessary to this life as well as the future one.

148. But the words of Moses are to be more closely considered, for with a definite purpose he has used here a peculiar expression; he has not merely said, "The thoughts of man's heart are evil," but "the imagination of the thoughts of his heart." Thus he expresses the highest that man can achieve with his thoughts or with his reason and free will. "Imagination" he calls that which man with his strongest effort devises, selects, creates like a potter, and believes to be most beautiful.

But such imagination is evil, he says, and that not once, but always. For our reason without the Holy Spirit is altogether without knowledge of God. Now, to be without knowledge of God means to be entirely base, to dwell in darkness and to deem that very good which, in reality, is very bad.

149. But when I speak of good, I do so from the standpoint of theology, for we must distinguish between the theological and the civil standpoints. God approves also the rule of the ungodly; he honors and rewards virtue also among the ungodly: but only in regard to the things of this life and in things grasped by a reason which is upright from the civil standpoint; whereas the future life is not embraced in such reward. His approval is not with regard to the future life.

150. When we dispute about the freedom of the will, the question with us is what it may do from the theological standpoint, not in civil affairs and in those subjects to reason. We believe that man, without the Holy Spirit, is altogether corrupt before God, though he may stand adorned with all heathen virtues, inasmuch as there are certainly distinguished examples of moderation, of liberality, of love of country, parents and children, of courage and humanity, even in the history of the Gentiles. We maintain that man's best thoughts concerning God, the worship of God, the will of God, are worse than Cimmerian darkness; for the light of reason, which has been given to man alone, understands only bodily blessings. Such is the wicked infatuation of our evil desires.

151. This declaration, therefore, should not be construed frivolously, as the Jews and sophists do, who believe that the lower part of man only is here meant, which is bestial, and that the reason longs for better things. "The imagination of the thoughts" they apply accordingly to the second table, like the Pharisee who condemns the publican and says that he is not like the other persons. The words the Pharisee uses are very fine, for to give thanks to God for his gifts is not a sin; and yet we declare this same thing to be ungodly and wicked, because it proceeded from gross ignorance of God, and it is truly prayer turned into sin, tending neither to the glory of God nor to the welfare of men.

152. You may observe that philosophers have at various times quite cleverly discussed God and the providence with which he rules all things. To some, such words have seemed so pious that they almost have placed Socrates, Xenophon and Plato in the same rank with the prophets; yet, because in these discussions the philosophers are ignorant of the fact that God has sent his only Son into the world to save sinners, these beautiful utterances are, according to the declaration of this passage, consummate ignorance of God and mere blasphemies, for the passage states unequivocally that all imagination and effort of the human heart is only evil.

153. The text speaks, accordingly, not only of the sins before the flood, but it speaks of the whole nature of man, his heart, his reason and his intellect, even when man pretends to righteousness and desires to be very holy, as do today the Anabaptists when they purpose in their heart so to excel as to fail in nothing, when for a show they attempt to attain the fairest virtues. The truth is that hearts without the Holy Spirit are not only ignorant of God, but naturally even hate him. How, then, can anything be aught but evil that proceeds from ignorance and hatred of God?

154. Another question is here raised. Moses speaks thus: "When Jehovah saw that every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually, it repented him that he had made man on the earth." If God foresees everything, why does the text say that he now first sees? If God is wise, how can regret for having created anything befall him? Why did he not see this sin or depraved nature of man from the beginning of the world? Why does Scripture thus attribute to God such things as a temporary will, vision and purpose? Are not the purposes of God eternal and unalterable, incapable of being regretted? Similar instances are found also in the prophets, where God threatens penalties, as for instance to the Ninevites, and yet pardons the penitent.

To this question the sophists have no other reply than this, that the Scripture speaks after the manner of men, that such things are ascribed to God accordingly through the use of a figure of speech. Hence they contend concerning a double will of God, the will expressed by signs (voluntas signi) and the will of his good pleasure (voluntas beneplaciti). The will of his good pleasure, they say, is constant and unchangeable, while the expressed will is subject to change. For the signs through which he expresses himself, he changes when he pleases. Thus he has abolished circumcision and instituted baptism, whereas the will of his good pleasure, fixed from eternity, abides.

155. While I do not condemn this interpretation, a simpler meaning of the Scripture seems to be that the Holy Scriptures express the thought of men in the ministry. For when Moses says that God sees and regrets, this is really done in the hearts of those who have the ministry of the Word. Thus he said above: "My Spirit shall not strive with man," but he does not say this simply of the Holy Spirit as existing in his own nature, or of the divine majesty, but of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of Noah and Methuselah, that is, the Holy Spirit as officiating and administering the Word through the saints.

156. In this manner God saw the wickedness of man and repented; that is, Noah, who had the Holy Spirit and was a minister of the Word, saw the wickedness of men and, seeing such things, he was moved by the Holy Spirit to grief. So Paul says in Ephesians 4, 30, that the Holy Spirit in the righteous is grieved by the ungodliness and malice of the wicked. Inasmuch as Noah is a faithful minister of the Word and an organ of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is said to grieve when Noah grieves and wishes that man rather did not exist than to be thus iniquitous.

157. The meaning, therefore, is not that God did not see these things from eternity; he saw everything from eternity; but inasmuch as this wickedness now manifests itself in all its fierceness, God now first reveals the same in the hearts of his ministers and prophets.

From eternity, therefore, God is firm and constant in his purpose. He sees and knows everything. But only in his own time does God reveal this to the righteous so that they, also, may see it. This seems to me the simplest meaning of this passage, nor does Augustine differ from it much.

158. However, I constantly follow the rule to avoid, whenever possible, such questions as draw us before the throne of the highest majesty. It is better and safer to stand at the manger of Christ, the man. To lose one's self in the labyrinths of divinity is fraught with greatest danger.

159. To this passage belong also other similar ones in which God is pictured as having eyes, ears, mouth, nose, hands and feet, as Isaiah, Daniel and other prophets saw him in their visions. In such passages the Bible speaks of God in the same manner as of a man. In consequence, the Anthropomorphites stood condemned of heresy because they attributed to the divine essence a human form.

160. Because the Anthropomorphites fancied such gross things, they have rightly been condemned. Their fancy is manifestly erroneous, for a spirit, as Christ says (Lk 24, 39), has not flesh and bone. I am rather of the opinion that the Anthropomorphites intended to adapt the form of their doctrine to the plainest people. For in his substance, God is unknowable, indefinable, inexpressible, though we may tear ourselves to pieces in our efforts to discern or portray him.

161. Hence, God himself condescends to the low plane of our understanding and presents himself to us with childlike simplicity in representations, as in a guise, so that he may be made known to us in some way. Thus the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove; not because he is a dove, but in this crude form he desired to be recognized, received and worshiped, for it was really the Holy Spirit. No one, to be sure, will say that the same passage defines God as a voice speaking from heaven, yet under this crude image, a human voice from heaven, he was received and worshiped.

162. When Scripture thus ascribes to God human form, voice, actions and state of mind, it is intended as an aid only for the uncultivated and feeble; we who are great and learned and of discernment in reference to Scripture, should likewise lay hold of these representations, because God has put them forth and revealed himself to us through them. The angels likewise, appear in human form, though it is certain that they are only spirits; spirits we cannot recognize when they present themselves as such, but likenesses we do recognize.

163. This is the simplest way of treating such passages, for the nature of God we cannot define; what he is not we can well define—he is not a voice, a dove, water, bread, wine. And yet in these visible forms he presents himself to us and deals with us. These forms he shows to us that we should not become wandering and unsettled spirits which dispute concerning God, but are completely ignorant concerning him, since in his unveiled majesty he can not be apprehended. He sees it to be impossible for us to know him in his own nature. For he lives, as the Scripture says in 1 Timothy 6, 16, in an inaccessible light, and what we can apprehend and understand he has declared. They who abide in these things will truly lay hold of him, while those who vaunt and follow visions, revelations and illuminations will either be overwhelmed by his majesty or remain in densest ignorance of God.

164. Thus the Jews also had their representations in which God manifested himself to them, as the mercy-seat, the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle, the pillars of smoke and fire. God says in Exodus 33, 20, "Man shall not see me and live," therefore he gives a representation of himself in which he so manifests himself to us that we may lay hold of him. In the new covenant we have Baptism, the Lord's Supper, absolution and the ministry of the Word.

165. These are what the scholastics call voluntas signi, the will expressed through signs, which we must view when we desire to know the will of God. Another is the voluntas beneplaciti, the will of his good pleasure, the essential will of God, or his unveiled majesty, which is God himself. From this our eyes are to be turned away. It cannot be laid hold of; for in God is nothing but divinity, and the essence of God is his infinite wisdom and almighty power. These are absolutely inaccessible to reason: what he has willed according to the will of his good pleasure, that he has seen from eternity.

166. Into this essential and divine will we should not pry, but should absolutely refrain from it as from the divine majesty, for it is inscrutable, and God has had no desire to declare it in this life. He desires to show it under certain tokens or coverings, as Baptism, the Word and the Lord's Supper. These are the images of the deity and are his will as expressed through signs, by which he deals with us on the plane of our intelligence. Hence, we should look to these alone. The will of his good pleasure is to be left entirely out of contemplation, unless you happen to be Moses, or David, or some similarly perfect man, although even they so looked to the will of the divine good pleasure as never to turn their eyes from the will expressed by signs.

167. This will of God is called his activity (effectus Dei), wherein he comes out to us and deals with us garbed in the drapery of things extraneous to himself; these we can lay hold of—the Word of God and the ceremonies instituted by himself. This will of God is not that of his omnipotence, for though God in the ten commandments enjoins what ought to be done it is yet not done. Thus, Christ has instituted the Lord's Supper to strengthen in us faith in his mercy, and yet many receive it to their condemnation, that is, without faith.

168. But I return to Moses. He says that God sees man's wickedness and repents. The scholastics explain this: He sees and repents, namely, according to the expressed will, not that of his good pleasure, or the essential will.

169. We say that Noah's heart is moved by the Holy Spirit to understand that God is wroth with man and desires his destruction. This interpretation commends itself to our intelligence and does not draw us into discussions concerning the absolute will or majesty of God, which are very dangerous, as I have seen in many. Such spirits are first puffed up by the devil so that they believe themselves to be in possession of the Holy Spirit, neglect the Word to the point of blaspheming it and vaunt nothing but the Spirit and visions.

170. This is the first degree of error—that men, paying no heed to the Deity as imaged and incarnate, seek after the unveiled God. Afterward, when the hour of judgment comes, and they feel the wrath of God, God himself judging and searching their hearts, the devil ceases to puff them up and they despair and die. They go about in the untempered sunlight and forsake the shade that delivers from the heat, Is 4, 6.

171. Let no one therefore meditate upon divinity unveiled, but flee from such thoughts as from the infernal regions and the very temptations of Satan. But let us take care to abide in these symbols through which God has revealed himself to us—the Son, born of the Virgin Mary, lying among beasts in the manger, and the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper and absolution. In these images we see and find God in a way wherein we can endure him; he comforts us, lifts us up into hope and saves. Other thoughts about the will of the good pleasure, or the essential and eternal will, kill and damn.

172. However, to name this the will of "good pleasure" is a misnomer. For that deserves to be called the will of good pleasure which the Gospel discloses, concerning which Paul says, "that ye may prove what is the good will of God," Rom 12, 2. And Christ says, "This is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son should have eternal life," Jn 6, 40. Also, "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother," Mt 12, 50. Again, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," Mt 3, 17. This will of grace is correctly and properly called the will "of the divine good pleasure" and it is our only remedy and safeguard against that other will, be it called the "expressed will" or the "will of good pleasure," about the display of which at the flood and the destruction of Sodom the scholastics dispute.

173. On both occasions a terrible wrath is in evidence, against which no soul could find protection, except in that gracious will, keeping in mind that the Son of God was sent into the flesh to deliver us from sin, death and the power of the devil.

174. This will of the divine good pleasure has been determined from eternity, and revealed and published in Christ. It is a quickening, gracious and lovable will, and consequently it alone merits to be called "the will of good pleasure." But the good fathers almost pass the promises by; they do not press them, though they could properly be called "the will of the good pleasure."

175. Therefore, as they enjoin looking to the will expressed by signs, they do well, but this is in no wise sufficient; when we consider the ten commandments, are we not frightened by the sight of our sins? When those terrible examples of wrath are added which are also divine will as expressed by signs, it is impossible for the soul to be lifted up except by looking back to the will of the good pleasure, as we call it, that is, the Son of God, who portrays for us the spirit and the will of his Father, who does not hate sinners but desires to have compassion upon them through his Son. Christ says to Philip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," Jn 14, 9.

176. The Son of God, therefore, who became incarnate, is that sign or veil of God in which the divine majesty with all its gifts so offers itself to us that no sinner is so wretched but he dare approach him in certain confidence of obtaining forgiveness. This is the only vision of Deity which in this life is expedient and possible. However, those who have died in this faith shall on the last day be so illumined by power from on high as to behold the majesty itself. In the meantime, it behooves us to approach the Father through the way, which is Christ himself. He will lead us safely and we shall not be deceived.

177. The additional statement of the text, "It repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth," I believe to be meant to bring out the antithesis, that God has in mind not the earthly man, who is subject to sin and death, but the heavenly man, who is lord over them. He expresses his love for the latter, while he hates the former and plans his destruction.


1. This is not to be understood of the divine nature, but of the hearts of the patriarchs 178-179.

2. Abraham, Samuel and Christ grieved in like manner 180.

3. By whom such grief is awakened in the heart 181.

4. The cause of this grief 182.

* The character of the children of God and of the world in the face of the approaching calamity 183-184.

* How the patriarchs and the Church were walls of defense 185.

5. What made the grief of the holy patriarchs greater 185.

6. Moses describes this grief very carefully 186.

* How we see the grief of God in his saints 187.

* How all is ruined on account of sin 187.

* Why Noah did not dare to reveal the great wrath of God to the world 188.

* What prevents the world from believing God's threatenings 188-189.

* To whom God's promises do and do not apply 190.

* Why the old world did not believe the threat of the deluge 191.

* The fate of true doctrine in our day is the same as it was in Noah's 192.


V. 6b. And it grieved him at his heart.

178. Such was the regret of God that he was pained in his heart. The word here is azab, which was used before when he said (Gen 3, 16), "In pain shalt thou bring forth children"; also in Psalm 127, 2, "the bread of toil." This expression must be understood according to the usage of Scripture. We must not think that God has a heart or that he can suffer pain, but when the spirit of Noah, Lamech or Methuselah is grieved, God himself is said to be grieved. We may understand such grief not of his divine nature, but of his conduct. Noah, with his father and grandfather, feels in his heart, through a revelation of the Holy Spirit, that God hates the world because of sin and desires its destruction; therefore they are grieved by this impenitence.

179. This is the simple and true meaning. If you refer these words to the will of the divine essence and hold that God has resolved this from eternity, a perilous argument is employed to which are equal only men who are spiritual and tested by trial, like Paul, for instance, who has ventured to argue concerning predestination. Let us take our stand on an humbler plane, one less open to danger, and hold that Noah and the other fathers were most grievously pained when the Spirit disclosed to them such wrath. These inexpressible groanings of the best of men are accordingly attributed to God himself, because they emanate from his Spirit.

180. An example of such groanings we see later in the case of Abraham, who interposed himself like a wall in behalf of the safety of the Sodomites and did not abandon the cause until they came down to five righteous ones. Without a doubt the Holy Spirit filled the breast of Abraham with infinite and frequent groanings in his attempts to effect the salvation of the wretched. Likewise Samuel—what does he not do for Saul? He cries and implores with such vehemence that God is compelled to restrain him: "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel?" 1 Sam 16, 1. So Christ, foreseeing the destruction of Jerusalem within a few years by reason of its sins, is most violently moved and pained in his soul.

181. Such promptings the Spirit of prayer arouses in pious souls. Present everywhere, he is moved by the adversities of others, teaches, informs, spares no pains, prays, complains, groans. Thus Moses and Paul are willing to be accursed for the sake of their people.

182. In this manner Noah, the most holy man, and his father and grandfather are consumed with pain at the sight of such terrible wrath of God. He is not delighted at this overthrow of the whole human race, but is filled with anxiety and the most grievous pain, while at the same time the sons of men live in the greatest security, mocking, boasting and taunting. Thus Psalms 109, 4, "For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer." Thus Paul, "I tell you even weeping." Phil 3, 18. And what else could holy men do but weep when the world would in no wise permit itself to be corrected?

183. It is always the appearance of the true Church that she not only suffers, not only is humiliated and trampled under foot, but also prays for her tormentors, is seriously disturbed by their dangers; on the contrary, others play and frolic in proportion as they approach their doom. But when the hour of judgment comes, God in turn closes his ears so completely that he does not even hear his own beloved children as they pray and intercede for the wicked. So Ezekiel laments that no one is found who will stand for Israel as a protecting wall, saying that this is the office of the prophets, Ezek 13, 5.

184. It is impossible for the ungodly to pray; let no one, therefore, entertain the hope concerning the papists, our adversaries, that they pray. We pray for them and plant ourselves like a wall against the wrath of God and, without doubt, it is by our tears and groanings that they are saved, if, perchance, they will repent.

185. It is a terrible example, that God has spared not the first world, for which Noah, Lamech and Methuselah set themselves like a wall. What, then, shall we expect where such walls do not exist, where there is no Church at all? The Church is always a wall against the wrath of God. She feels pain, is tormented in her soul, prays, intercedes, instructs, teaches, exhorts, as long as the judgment hour is not here but coming. When she sees these ministrations to be unavailing, what else can she do but feel grievous pain at the destruction of the impenitent? The pain of the godly fathers was augmented by the sight of so many relatives and kindred at one time going to destruction.

186. This pain Moses could not express in a better and more graphic description than to say that God repented of having made man. Before, when he describes man's nature as having been formed in God's image, he says that God beheld all that he had made and it was very good. God, then, is delighted with his creatures and has joy in them. Here he absolutely alters that statement by one altogether at variance with it—that God is grieved at heart and even repents of having created man.

187. It was Noah and the other fathers who felt this through the revelation of the Holy Spirit; otherwise, they would have shared those thoughts of joy and would have judged according to the earlier prophecy that God had delight in all his works. Never would they have thought that the wrath of God was such as to destroy not only the whole human race, but also all living flesh of sky and earth, which surely had not offended, yea, the very earth also; for the earth, because of man's sin, had not retained after the flood its pristine excellence. Some have written, as Lyra reminds us, that by the flood the surface of the earth was washed away three hands deep. Certain it is that paradise has been utterly destroyed through the flood. Therefore, we possess today an earth more deeply cursed than before the flood and after the fall of Adam; though the state of the earth after the fall could not compare with the grandeur of its primeval state before sin.

188. These disasters, therefore, the holy fathers saw through the revelation of the Holy Spirit a hundred and twenty years before. But such was the wickedness of the world that it put the Holy Spirit to silence. Noah could not venture to reveal such threats without risk of the gravest dangers. With his father and grandfather, with his children and wife, he would discuss this great wrath of God. The sons of men, however, had no more inclination to hear these things than the papists today have to hear themselves called the church of Satan and not of Christ. Accordingly, they would vaunt their ancestors and over against Noah's proclamations they would plead the promise of the seed, believing it to be impossible for God, in this manner, to destroy all mankind.

189. For the same reason, the Jews did not believe the prophets nor even Christ himself when called to repentance, but maintained that they were the people of God, inasmuch as they had the temple and worship. The Turks today are inflated with victories which they believe to be the reward for their faith and religion because they believe in one God. We, however, are viewed as heathen and reputed to believe in three Gods. God would not give us such victories and dominions, they say, if he did not favor us and approve our religion. This same reasoning blinds also the papist. Occupying an exalted position, they maintain they are the Church and hence they have no fear of divine punishment. Devilish, therefore, is that argument whereby men take the name of God to palliate their sins.

190. But if God did not spare the first world, the generation of the holy patriarchs, which had the promise of the seed as its very own—if he saved only a very small remnant—the Turks, Jews and Papists shall boast in vain of the name of God. According to Micah 2, 7, the Word of God promises blessings to those who walk in uprightness. But those who do not walk in uprightness are cursed. Those he threatens, those he destroys. Neither does he take account of the name "Church", nor of their number, whereas he saves the remnant which walks in uprightness. But never will you convince the world of this.

191. In all probability the descendants of the patriarchs who perished in the flood abused quite shamefully the argument of the dignity of the Church, and condemned Noah for blasphemy and falsehood. To say, they argued, that God was about to destroy the whole world by a flood is equal to saying that God is not merciful, nor a Father, but a cruel tyrant. You proclaim the wrath of God, O Noah! Then God is not such a being as to promise deliverance from sin and death through the seed of woman? The wrath of God, therefore, will not swallow the whole earth. We are the people of God. We have from God magnificent gifts; never would God have given these to us if he had resolved to act against us with such hostility. In this fashion the wicked are in the habit of applying to themselves the promises and trusting to the same. All warnings, however, they neglect and deride.

192. It is profitable to contemplate this diligently so that we may be safeguarded against such vicious heedlessness of the wicked. For what happened to Moses, now happens also to us. Our adversaries ascribe to themselves the name of God's people, true worship, grace and everything holy; to us, everything devilish. Now, when we reprove them for blasphemy and say that they are the church of Satan, they rage against us with every kind of cruelty. Hence we mourn with Noah, and commend the cause to God, as Christ did on the cross—what else could we do?—and wait till God shall judge the earth and show that he loves the remnant of those that fear him and that he hates the multitude of impenitent sinners in spite of their boast of being the Church, of having the promises, of having the worship of God. When God destroyed the whole original world, he manifested the promise of the seed to that wretched and tiny remnant, Noah and his sons.



1. What comfort was offered Noah by his righteousness in the midst of his suffering 193.

* To find grace before God leads to faith and excludes works 194.

2. For what was righteous Noah especially praised by God 195.

* Many great men lived in the days of Noah 196.

3. How righteous Noah had to contend against so much all alone 197.

* By what means the Papists contend against the Evangelicals 198.

4. With what the world especially upbraided righteous Noah 199.

* People then were wiser and more ingenious than now 200.

5. Noah may be called both just and pious 201.

6. Righteous Noah led a godly life, possessed great courage and was a marvelous character 202.

7. By his piety Noah was a confessor of the truth 203-204.

* It is very difficult for one man to withstand the united opposition of many 204.

8. Being a preacher of righteousness Noah was in greater danger 205.

9. Noah an example of patience and of all virtues 206.

10. How he traveled and preached everywhere in the world, and preserved the human race temporally and spiritually 207-208.

11. The world takes offense at righteous Noah's marrying, and adds sin to sin 209.

12. The order of the birth of Noah's sons 210.


1. Whether, as Lyra teaches, birds and animals were destroyed 211.

* Why the punishment of sin was visited also upon the animals 212-213.

2. The meaning of "the earth was corrupt before God" 214-216.

* The sins against the first table of the law can easier be concealed than those against the second table 214.

* Where false doctrine is taught, godless living follows 215.

3. How the earth was corrupt in the light of the first table of the law 215-216.

4. How the earth was corrupt in the light of the second table 217-218.

* The meaning of "violence" in Scripture 218.

* The greatest violence can obtain under the appearance of holiness, as among the Papists and Turks 219-221.

* Moses beautifully traces the course God takes in his judgments 222.

* Who can pass the right judgment upon the pope that he is Antichrist 223.

* How Antichrist strengthens the courage of the godly, and whether they can check him 223.

5. Noah laments this corruption 224.

* Godlessness cannot be remedied when it adorns itself with the appearance of holiness 225.

6. How God views this corruption 226.

* Luther laments the wickedness of the enemies of the Gospel 227.

* How we should view God's delay in punishing the wickedness of his enemies 228.

* God's delay is very hard for believers 229.

7. The first world, although corrupt, was much better than the present world 230.


A. Noah Alone Was found Righteous.

V. 8. But Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah.

193. These are the words through which Noah was lifted up and quickened again. For such wrath of the divine majesty would have killed him, had not God added the promise of saving him. It is likely, however, that his faith had a struggle and was weak. We cannot imagine how such contemplation of God's wrath weakens courage.

194. This novel expression of the Holy Spirit the heavenly messenger Gabriel also uses when speaking to the Blessed Virgin Lk 1, 30, "Thou hast found favor (grace) with God." The expression most palpably excludes merit and commends faith, through which alone we are justified before God, made acceptable and well pleasing in his sight.

V. 9. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, and perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God.

195. With this passage the Jews commence not only a new chapter, but also a new lesson. This is a very brief history, but it greatly extols our patriarch Noah; he alone remained just and upright while the other sons of God degenerated.

196. Let us remember many most excellent men were among the sons of God, of whom some lived with Noah well nigh five hundred years. Man in that age before the flood was very long-lived; not only the sons of God, but also the sons of men. A very wide and rich experience had been gathered by these people during so many years. Much they learned from their progenitors and much they saw and experienced.

197. Amid the corruption of all these stands Noah, a truly marvelous man. He swerves neither to the left nor to the right. He retains the true worship of God. He retains the pure doctrine, and lives in the fear of God. There is no doubt that a depraved generation hated him inordinately, tantalized him in various ways and thus insulted him: "Art thou alone wise? Dost thou alone please God? Are the rest of us all in error? Shall we all be damned? Thou alone dost not err. Thou alone shalt not be condemned." And thus the just and holy man must have concluded in his mind that all others were in error and about to be condemned, while he and his offspring alone were to be saved. Although his conviction was right in the matter, his lot was a hard one. The holy man was in various ways troubled by such reflections.

198. The wretched Papists press us today with this one argument: Do you believe that all the fathers have been in error? It seems hard so to believe, especially of the worthier ones, such as Augustine, Ambrose, Bernard and that whole throng of the best men who have governed Churches with the Word and have been adorned with the august name of the Church. The labors of such we both laud and admire.

199. But surely no less a difficulty confronted Noah himself, who alone is called just and upright, at a time when the very sons of men paraded the name of the Church. When the sons of the fathers allied themselves with these they, forsooth, believed that Noah with his people raved, because he followed another doctrine and another worship.

200. Today our life is very brief, still to what lengths human nature will go is sufficiently in evidence. What may we imagine the condition to have been in such a long existence, in which the bitterness and vehemence of human nature were even stronger? Today we are naturally much more dull and stupid, and yet men singularly gifted rush into wickedness. It is afterward said that all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth, only Noah was just and upright.

201. From these two words we may gather the thought that Noah is held to be "just" as he honored the first table and "upright" as he honored the second. "Just" he is called, because of his faith in God, because he first believed the general promise with respect to the seed of woman and then also the particular one respecting the destruction of the world through the flood and the salvation of his own offspring. On the other hand he is called "upright" because he walked in the fear of God and conscientiously avoided murder and other sins with which the wicked polluted themselves in defiance of conscience. Nor did he permit himself to be moved by the frequent offenses of men most illustrious, wise and apparently holy.

202. Great was his courage. Today it appears to us impossible that one man should oppose himself to all mankind, condemning them as evil, while they vaunt the Church and God's Word and worship, and to maintain that he alone is a son of God and acceptable before him. Noah, accordingly, is a marvelous man, and Moses commends this same greatness of mind when he plainly adds "in his generation," or "in his age," as if he desired to say that his age was indeed the most wicked and corrupt.

203. Above, in the history of Enoch, we explained what it means to walk with God, namely, to advocate the cause of God in public. To be just and upright bespeaks private virtue, but to walk with God is something public—to advocate the cause of God before the world, to wield his Word, to teach his worship. Noah was not simply just and holy for himself but he was also a confessor; he taught others the promises and threats of God, and performed and suffered all that behooves a public personage in an age so exceedingly wicked and corrupt.

204. If it were I who had seen that so great men in the generation of the ungodly were opposed to me, I surely in desperation should have cast aside my ministry. For one cannot conceive how difficult it is for one man to oppose himself alone to the unanimity of all churches; to impugn the judgment of the best and most amicable of men; to condemn them; to teach, to live, and to do everything, in opposition to them. This is what Noah did. He was inspired with admirable constancy of purpose, inasmuch as he, innocent before men, not only regarded the cause of God, but most earnestly pressed it among the most nefarious men, until he was told: "My spirit shall not further strive with man." And the word "strive" finely portrays the spirit with which the ungodly heard Noah instruct them.

205. Peter also beautifully sets forth what it means to walk with God when he calls Noah a preacher, not of the righteousness of man, but of God; that is, that of faith in the promised seed. But what reward Noah received from the ungodly for his message Moses does not indicate. The statement is sufficient, that he preached righteousness, that he taught the true worship of God while the whole earth opposed him. That means the best, most religious and wisest of men were against him. More than one miracle, in consequence, was necessary to prevent his being waylaid and killed by the ungodly. We see today how much wrath, hate, and envy one sermon to the people may create. What shall we believe Noah may have suffered who taught not a hundred, not two hundred, but even more years, down to the last century, when God did not desire the wicked to receive instruction any longer lest they become still fiercer and more depraved.

206. Therefore we may conjecture from the condition and nature of the world itself, and of the devil, from the experience of the apostles and the prophets, and likewise from our own, what a noble example of patience and other virtues Noah has been, who was just and irreproachable in that ungodly generation and walked with God—that is, governed the churches with the Word—and who, when the one hundred and twenty years were determined upon, after the lapse of which the world was to be destroyed by a flood, in face of such a terrible threat, entered into matrimony and begot children.

207. It is very probable that he traveled up and down the earth; that he taught everywhere; that everywhere he exhorted to worship God in truth; that he, hindered by many labors, refrained from matrimony on account of abundance of tribulations and in the expectation of the advent of a better and more religious age. But when he recognized this hope as unfounded and by a voice divine was warned that a time had been set for the world's destruction, then and not before, prompted by the Spirit, did he make up his mind to marry, in order to transmit to the new age seed out of himself. And thus the holy man preserved the human race, not only spiritually, in the true Word and worship, but also bodily, by begetting children.

208. As in paradise a new Church had its beginning, before the flood, through Adam and Eve's faith in the promise, so also here a new world and a new Church arise from the marriage of Noah—a nursery of that world which shall endure to the end.

209. I stated above (para 88) that this marriage was an occasion of great offense to the ungodly and that they made the most extraordinary sport of it. How inconsistent that the world is to perish so soon, when Noah, five hundred years old, becomes a father! They deemed his act the surest evidence that the world was not to perish by a flood. Hence, they began to live even more licentiously, and in the greatest security to despise all threats. Christ says in Matthew 24, 38, that in the days of Noah they ate, they drank, etc. The world does not understand the plans of God.

210. Concerning the order of the sons of Noah, I said above that Japheth was first, that Shem was born two years afterward when Noah commenced to build the ark, and Ham two years later. This has not been clearly explained by Moses, but still it has been carefully noted.

B. Destruction of the Whole World.

V. 11. And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.

211. Lyra, perhaps under the influence of rabbinic interpretation, contends here that even the birds and other animals forsook their nature and mixed with those of another species. But I do not believe it, for the creation or nature of animals remains as it was fashioned. They have not fallen through sin, like man, but are, on the contrary, fashioned for this bodily life alone. In consequence they neither hear the Word, nor does the Word concern them. They are absolutely without the Law of the first and the second tables. Accordingly, this passage refers only to man.

212. But that the beasts bore the penalty of sin and perished at the same time with man through the flood was the result of God's purpose to destroy man altogether; not alone in body and soul, but with the possessions and dominion which were his at creation. Instances of similar retribution occur in the Old Testament. In the sixth chapter of Daniel we see the enemies of Daniel cast into the lions' den, together with their wives, children and whole families. In the sixteenth chapter of Numbers a like incident is narrated in connection with the destruction of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Similar is also an instance spoken of by Christ when the king commands to sell the servant together with wife, children and all his substance.

213. In this manner, evidently, not only men but all their goods were destroyed, so that punishment might be full and complete. Beasts, fields and the birds of heaven were created for man. They are man's property and chattels. Therefore, the animals perished, not because they had sinned, but because God wanted man to perish amid all his earthly possessions.

214. In this passage Moses' specific statement that "the earth was corrupt before God," is made to show that Noah was treated and esteemed in the eyes of his age as a stupid and good for nothing character. The world, on the contrary, appeared in its own eyes perfectly holy and righteous, believing it had just cause for the persecution of Noah, especially in regard to the first table of the Law and the worship of God. The second table is not without its disguise of hypocrisy, but in this respect it bears no comparison to the former. The adulterer, the thief, the murderer can remain hidden for a while, though not forever. But the sins of the first table generally remain hidden under the cloak of sanctity until God brings them to light. Godlessness never wishes to be godlessness, but chases after a reputation for piety and religion; and trims its cult so finely that in comparison with it the true cult and the true religion appear coarse.

215. The verb shiheth is very frequent and conspicuous in Holy Scripture. Moses uses it in the thirty-first chapter of Deuteronomy, verse 29: "For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you." And David says, "They are all gone aside; they are together become filthy," Ps 14, 3. Both passages speak particularly of the sins against the first table; that is, they accuse the apparently devoutest saints of false worship and false doctrine, for it is impossible for a righteous life to follow teaching that is false.

216. When Moses says the earth was corrupt before God, he clearly points out the contrast—the hypocrites and oppressors judged Noah's teaching and practise as wholly wrong, and their own as altogether holy. The reverse, Moses says, was true. Mankind was assuredly corrupt measured by the first table. They lacked the true Word and the true worship. This distinction between the first and the second tables commends itself strongly to my judgment and was doubtless suggested by the Holy Spirit.

217. The additional statement—"and the earth was filled with violence"—points to this unfailing sequence. With the Word lost, with faith extinct, with traditions and will-worship—to use St. Paul's phraseology (Col 2, 8)—having replaced the true cult, there results violence and shameful living.

218. The correct significance of the word hamas is violence force, wrong, with the suspension of all law and equity, a condition where pleasure is law and everything is done not by right, but by might. But if such was their life, you may say, how could they maintain the appearance and reputation of holiness and righteousness? As if we did not really have similar instances before our eyes today. Has the world ever seen anything more cruel than the Turks? And they adorn all their fierceness with the name of God and religion.

219. The popes have not only seized for themselves the riches of the earth, but have filled the Church itself with stupendous errors and blasphemous doctrines. They live in shocking licentiousness. They alienate at pleasure the hearts of kings. Much is done by them to bring on bloodshed and war. And yet, with all such blasphemies and outrages, they arrogate to themselves the name and title of the greatest saints and boast of being vicars of Christ and successors of Peter.

220. Thus the greatest wrong is allied to the names of Church and true religion. Should any one offer objection, immediately is he put under the ban and condemned as a heretic and an enemy of God and man. Barring the Romans and their accomplices, there is no people which plumes itself more upon religion and righteousness than the Turks. The Christians they despise as idolaters; themselves they esteem as most holy and wise. Notwithstanding, what is their life and religion but incessant murder, robbery, rapine and other horrible outrages?

221. The present times, therefore, illustrate how those two incompatible things may be found in union—the greatest religiousness with abominations, the greatest wrong with a show of right. And this is the very cause for men becoming hardened and secure without apprehending the punishment they merit by their sins.

V. 12. And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.

222. Inasmuch as the wrath of God is appalling and destruction is imminent for all flesh except eight souls, Moses is somewhat redundant in this passage, and uses repetitions, which are not superfluous but express an emphasis of their own. Above he said the earth was corrupt; now he says that God, as if following the customary judicial method, saw this and meditated punishment. In this manner he pictures, as it were, the order in which God proceeds.

223. The judgment of spiritual people concerning the pope at the present day is that he is the Antichrist, raging against the Word and the kingdom of Christ. But they who censure it are unable to correct this wickedness. Wickedness is growing daily and contempt for godliness is becoming greater every day. Now comes the thought: What is God doing? Why does he not punish his enemy? Does he sleep and care no longer for human affairs? The delay of judgment causes the righteous anguish. They themselves cannot come to the succor of a stricken religion and they see God who could help, connive at the fury of the popes, who securely sin against the first and the second tables of the Law.

224. Just so Noah sees the earth filled with wrongs. Therefore, he groans and sighs to heaven in order to arouse God from the highest heaven to judgment. Such voices occur here and there in the Psalms (10, 1): "Why standest thou afar off?"; (13, 1): "How long, O Jehovah?"; (9, 13): "Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah; consider my trouble"; (7, 6-9): "Arise, judge my cause, etc."

225. What Moses here describes comes at length to pass, that God also sees these things and hears the cry of the righteous who are able to judge the world; for they who are spiritual judge all things (1 Cor 2, 15), though they cannot alter anything. Wickedness is incorrigible when adorned with a show of piety, and so is oppression when it assumes the disguise of justice and foresight. It is nothing new that they who seize the wives, daughters, houses, lands and goods of others desire to be just and holy, as we showed above in respect of the papacy.

226. This is the second stage then: When the saints have seen and judged the wickedness of the world, God also sees it. He says of the Sodomites: "The cry of them is waxed great before Jehovah" (Gen 19, 13); and above (ch 4, 10): "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me." But always before the Lord takes note, the sobs and groans of the righteous precede, arousing, as it were, the Lord from slumber.

What Moses desires to show in this passage through the word, "saw" is that God finally perceived the afflictions and heard the cries of the righteous, filling at last all heaven. He who hitherto had winked at everything and seemed to favor the success of the wicked, was awakened as from slumber. The fact is he saw everything much sooner than Noah; for he is the searcher of hearts and cannot be deceived by simulated piety as we can. But not until now, when he meditates punishment, does Noah perceive that he sees.

227. Thus we are afflicted today by extreme and unheard of wickedness, for our adversaries condemn from sheer caprice the truth they know and profess. They try to get at our throats and shed the blood of the righteous with a satanic fury. Such blasphemous, sacrilegious and parricidal doings against the kingdom and name of God, manifest as such beyond possibility of denial, they defend as the acme of justice. While contending for the maintenance of their tyrannical position they go so far as to arrogate to themselves the name of the Church. What else can we do here but cry to Jehovah to make his name sacred and not to permit the overthrow of his kingdom nor resistance to his paternal will?

228. But so far the Lord sleeps. He apparently does not observe such wickedness, because he gives no sign as yet of observing it. Rather he permits us to be tormented by such woeful sights. We are, therefore, thus far in the first stage and this verse, stating that the whole earth is corrupt, applies to our age. But at the proper time the second stage will be reached, when we can declare in certainty of faith that not only we but God also sees and hates such wickedness. Though God, in his long-suffering, has continued to wink at many things, he shall retain the name of One who in righteousness shall judge the earth.

229. How bitter and hard such delay is for the righteous, the lamentations of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 12, 1ff., and 20, 7ff, show. There the holy man almost verges on blasphemy until he is told that the Babylonian king should come and inflict punishment upon the unbelieving scoffers. Thereupon Jeremiah recognizes that God looks down on the earth and is Judge upon the earth.

230. The universal judgment which follows is terrible in the extreme, namely that all flesh upon the earth had corrupted its way and that God, when he had begun to examine the sons of men, did not, from the oldest to the youngest of the fathers, find any he could save from destruction.

This strikes our ears as still more awful when we take into consideration the condition of the primitive world, not judging by the miserable fragments we have today. As the physical condition of the world at that time was infinitely ahead of this age, so we may conclude that the majesty and pomp of our rulers and the show of sanctity and wisdom on the part of the popes are not to be compared to the show of religion, righteousness and wisdom found among those renowned men of the primitive world.

And yet the text says that all flesh had corrupted its way, save Noah and his offspring. That means all men were wicked, lived in idolatry and false religion and hated the true worship of God. They despised the promise of the seed, and persecuted Noah, who proclaimed forgiveness through the seed and threatened to those, who should fail to believe his forgiveness, eternal doom.



1. How punishment finally comes when God has suffered sin long enough 231.

* Luther's hope that God's judgment may soon break upon the last world 231.

2. Whether reason can grasp the wrath and punishment of God 232.

3. How God's promises stand in the midst of his wrath and punishment 232.

4. The first world thought itself secure against God's wrath 233.

* The Papal security and boldness against the Evangelicals 234.

5. By what means God punished the first world 235.

* The Holy Spirit must reveal that God's wrath and punishment do not violate his promises 236.

6. The causes of this wrath and punishment 237.

* By what may it be known that God will visit Germany with punishment 238.

* God complains more of the violence shown to the neighbor than to himself 239.

* The damages of the deluge 240.

* The ground of the earth was in a better state before the flood than now 240.

* The colors in the rainbow signs of the punishment of the first and the last world 241.


A. God Decides to Punish the Old World.

V. 13. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

231. After Noah and his people had for a long time raised their accusing cry against the depravity of the world, the Lord gave evidence that he saw the depravity and intended to avenge it. This, the second stage, we also look for today, nor is there any doubt that men shall exist, to whom this coming destruction of the world is to be revealed, unless the destruction be the last day and the final judgment, which I truly wish. We have seen enough wickedness in these brief and evil days of ours. Godless men, as in Noah's time, adorn their vices with the name of holiness and righteousness. Hence, no penitence or reformation is to be hoped for. This stage having been reached in the times of Noah, sentence is finally passed, having been previously announced by the Lord when he gave command that striving should cease and issued the declaration that he regretted having made man.

232. Reason is incapable of believing and perfectly understanding such wrath. Just consider how different this is from what had been. Above we have read (ch 1, 31) that God saw everything he had made and behold, it was very good; that he gave man and beast the additional blessing of propagation; that he subjected to man's rule the earth and all the treasures of the earth; that as the highest blessing, he added the promise of the woman's seed and life eternal and instituted not only the home and the State, but also the Church. How, then, is it that the first world, called into being in this way through the Word, should, to use Peter's expression, perish by water?

233. There is no doubt that the sons of the world threw all this up to Noah as he preached the coming universal destruction, and publicly charged him with lying, on the ground that home, State and Church had been instituted by God; that God surely would not overturn his own establishment by a final destruction; that man had been created for propagation and dominion upon the earth, not for the rule of water over him to his destruction.

234. Just so the Papists press us with the one argument that Christ will be with the Church to the end of the world (Mt 28, 20); that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Mt 16, 18). This they vaunt in a loud-voiced manner, believing their destruction to be an impossibility. Swept by the waves Peter's ship may be, they say, but the waters cannot overwhelm it.

235. Quite similar was the security and assurance before the flood; notwithstanding, we see that the whole earth perished. The scoffers boasted that God's regulations are perpetual, and that God had never completely abolished or altered his creation. But consider the outcome and you will see that they were wrong, while Noah alone was right.

236. Unless the additional light of the Holy Spirit is vouchsafed, man will surely be convinced by such argument; for is it not equivalent to making God inconstant and changeable, to maintain that he will completely destroy his creature? Yet God gives Noah the revelation that he will make an end of flesh and earth, not in part, but of all flesh and all the earth. Would it not be awful enough to partition the earth into three parts and to threaten destruction to one? But to rage against the whole earth and against all mankind seems to be in conflict with God's government and the declaration that everything is very good. These things are too sublime to be understood or comprehended by human reason.

237. What is the cause of wrath so great? Surely, the fact that the earth is filled with violence, as he here says. Astonishing reason! He says nothing here concerning the first table; he mentions only the second. It is, as if he said: I shall say nothing of myself that they hate, blaspheme and persecute my Word. Among themselves how shamefully do they live! Neither home nor State are properly administered; everything is conducted by force, nothing by reason and law. Therefore, I shall destroy at the same time both mankind and the earth.

238. We see also in our age that God winks at the profanation of the mass, a horrible abomination that fills the whole earth, and at ungodly teachings and other offenses which have hitherto been in vogue in religion. But when men live so together that they disregard both State and home, when huge covetousness, graft of every description and manifold iniquity have waxed strong, does it not become clear to every man that God is compelled, as it were, to punish, yea to overturn Germany?

239. It is the fullness of his mercy and love that prompts God rather to make complaint concerning the wrongs inflicted upon his members than those inflicted upon himself. We observe he maintains silence respecting the latter, while he threatens punishment, not to man alone, but even to the very earth itself.

240. A twofold effect is traceable to the flood; a weakening of man's powers and an impairment of his wealth and that of the earth. The latter-day fruit of trees is in nowise to be compared with that in the days before the flood. The antediluvian turnips were better than afterward the melons, oranges or pomegranates. The pear was finer than the spices of today. So it is likely that a man's finger possessed more strength than today his whole arm. Likewise man's reason and understanding were far superior. But God, because of sin, has brought punishment to bear, not alone upon man, but also upon his property and domain, as witness to posterity also of his wrath.

But how is the destruction to be effected? Assuredly, by his seizing the watery element and blotting out everything. The force with which this element is wont to rage is common knowledge. Though the atmosphere be pestilential, it does not always infect trees and roots. But water not only overturns everything, not only does it tear out trees and roots, but it also lifts the very surface of the earth. It alters the soil, so that the most fertile fields are marred by the overflow of salty earth and sand (Ps 107, 34). This was therefore equal to the downfall of the primitive world.

241. The penalty of the present world, however, will be different, as the color of the rainbow shows. The lowest color the extent of which is well defined, is that of water. For the fury of the water in the deluge was so great that limits were set to its havoc, and the earth was restored to the remnant of the godly after the destruction of the evil-doers. But the other arch of the rainbow, the outer, which has no clearly defined bounds, is of the color of fire, the element which shall consume the whole world. This destruction shall be succeeded by a better world, which shall last forever and serve the righteous. This the Lord seems to have written in the color of the rainbow.


* That Noah had only three children is a sign of God's mercy 242.

1. The kind of wood used in building the ark 243.

2. Its various rooms 244.

3. The pitch by which it was protected 245.

4. Why God instructed Noah so particularly how each part was to be constructed 246.

5. The form of the ark, and how teachers differ on this point 247.

6. The place Noah occupied in the ark, and that of the animals 248.

7. Whether the ark had the proportions of a human body 249.

8. How the ark was a type of the body of Christ—of the Church 250.

9. The windows of the ark:

a. Whether it had more than one window 251.

* The Latin version is not clear here 252.

b. What kind of a window it was, and how it could stand the rain 253.

c. Luther's opinion of the Jews' ideas about the window 253.

10. The door of the ark 254.

11. How to meet the various questions about the ark 255-256.

* The deluge was a new method of punishment, hence the non incredible 257-258.

* God was in earnest in the threatening of this flood 259.


V. 14. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch (bitumen).

242. God's first thought was to save a remnant through that tiny seed, the three sons of Noah, for Noah ceased henceforth to beget children. This strongly attests the mercy of God toward those who walk in his ways.

243. Gopher some make out to be pine, others hemlock, still others cedar; hence, a guess is rather difficult. The choice appears to have been made owing to its lightness or its resinous quality, so that it might float more easily upon the water and be impervious to it.

244. Kinnim signifies "nests" or "chambers"; that is separate spaces for the various animals. Bears, sheep, deer and horses did not dwell in one and the same place, but the several species had their respective quarters.

245. But what is meant by bitumen, I do not know. With us vessels are made water tight with pitch and tow. Pitch, it is true, withstands water, but it also invites the flame. There is no bitumen with us which resists water, hence we raise no objection to "bitumen" being rendered "pitch."

246. You may ask: Why does God prescribe everything so accurately? The injunction to build the ark should have been sufficient. Reason could determine for itself the rules concerning dimensions and mode of construction. Why, then, does God give such careful instruction with reference to dimensions and materials? Certainly that Noah, after undertaking all things according to the Lord's direction (as Moses built the tabernacle according to the model received on the mount), should with the greater faith trust that he and his people were to be saved, nor entertain any doubt concerning a work ordered by the Lord himself, even how it should be made. This is the reason the Lord gives his directions with such attention to detail.

V. 15. And this is how thou shalt make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

247. A nice geometrical and mathematical exercise concerning the form and dimensions of the ark is here presented. The views of writers vary. Some claim it was four-cornered, others that it was gabled like nearly all our structures in Europe. As for myself, I hold it was four-cornered. Eastern people's were not acquainted with gabled buildings. Theirs were evidently of four-cornered form, as the Bible mentions people walking on roofs. Similar was the shape of the temple.

248. There is a difference of opinion also concerning the arrangement of the animals in their quarters, which occupied the upper, which the central and which the lower places, this being the distinction warranted by the text. No certainty, however, can be arrived at. It is likely that Noah himself and the birds occupied the upper part, the clean animals the central and the unclean animals the lower one. The rabbis assert the lower part served the purpose of storing dung. But I think the dung was thrown out of the window, for its removal was necessitated by such a multitude of beasts abiding in the ark for over a year.

249. Augustine quotes Philo against Faustus in stating that on geometrical principles, the ark had the proportions of the human body, for when a man lies on the ground his body is ten times as long as it is high and six times as long as broad. So three hundred cubits are six times fifty and ten times thirty.

250. An application is made of this to the body of Christ, the Church, which has baptism as the door, through which clean and unclean enter without distinction. Although the Church is small, she rules the earth notwithstanding, and it is due to her that the world is preserved, just as the unclean animals were preserved in the ark. Others stretch the application so far as to point to the wound in the side of Jesus' body as prefigured by the windows in the ark. These are allegories which are not exactly profound, but still harmless because they harbor no error and serve a purpose other than that of wrangling, namely, that of rhetorical ornamentation.

V. 16. A light shalt thou make to the ark, and to a cubit shalt thou finish it upward; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

251. Behold, how diligent an architect God is! With what care he interests himself in all the parts of the structure and their arrangement. Furthermore, the word Zohar does not properly signify window, but southern light. The question may be raised here whether the ark had only one window or several. For the Hebrew language permits the use of the singular for the plural, or of the collective for the distributive term, as for instance: "I will destroy man from the face of the ground." Here evidently not one man but many are spoken of. But to me it seems there was only one window that shed light upon man's domicile.

252. The Latin interpreter is so strangely obscure as to fail to make himself understood. My unqualified opinion is that he was unable to divest himself of the image of a modern ship, in which men are commonly carried in the lower part. Nor is it quite intelligible what he says about the door, inasmuch as it is certain that the ell-long window was in the upper part, and the door in the center of the side or in the navel of the ark. Thus, also, Eve was framed from the middle portion of man's body. The whole structure was divided into three partitions, a higher, a central and a lower one, and it was the upper one which, according to my view, was illuminated by the light of day through the window.

253. You may say, however: What kind of a window was it, or how could it exist in those frequent and violent rains? For rain did not fall then as it does ordinarily, since the water in forty days rose to such proportions as to submerge the highest mountains by fifteen arm-lengths. The Jews claim that the window was closed by a crystal which transmitted the light. But too curious a research into these matters appears to me useless, since neither godliness nor Christ's kingdom are put in jeopardy from the fact of our remaining in ignorance concerning some features of this structure of which God was the architect. It seems to me sufficiently satisfactory to assume that the window was on the side of the upper partition.

254. As to the door, it is certain that it was about thirteen or fourteen cubits from the earth. The ark, when it floated, sank about ten feet into the water with its great weight of animals of every kind and provender for more than a year. This may suffice as a crude conception of the ark; for, besides height and length, Moses merely indicates that it had three partitions, a door and a window.

255. We will dismiss innumerable other questions such as: What kind of air was used in the ark? for such a stupendous mass of water, particularly falling water, must have produced a violent and pestilential stench; whence did they draw their drinking-water? for water cannot be preserved a whole year, hence mariners often call at ports in their vicinity for the purpose of drawing water; again, how could the bilge-water with its obnoxious odor be drawn up?

256. Such questions and other subordinate points related to the experience of the mariner we may pass by. Otherwise there will be no end of questions. We will be content with the simple supposition that the lower part probably served the purpose of securing the bears, lions, tigers and other savage animals; the middle part, that of housing the gentle and tractable animals, together with the provender, which cannot be kept in a place devoid of all air-currents; the upper that of accommodating human beings themselves, together with the domestic animals and the birds. This should be enough for us.

V. 17. And I, behold, I do bring the flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is in the earth shall die.

257. Above God has threatened in general the human race with destruction. Here he points out the method; namely, that he intends to destroy everything by a new disaster, a flood. Such a punishment the world hitherto had not known. The customary punishments, as we see from the prophets, are pestilence, famine, the sword and fierce beasts. Men and beasts perish of pestilence. The earth is laid waste by war, for it is deprived of those who till it. The sufferings of famine, though they seem to be less cruel, are by far the most terrible. With the fourth class of penalties, our regions have almost no experience at all. Although these are severally sufficient for the chastisement of the human race, the Lord desired to employ a novel kind of punishment against the primeval world, through which all flesh having the breath of life was to perish.

258. Because this punishment was unheard of in former ages, the wicked were slower to believe it. They reasoned thus: If God is at all angry, can he not correct the disobedient by the sword, by pestilence? A flood would destroy also the other creatures which are without sin; surely God will not plan anything like this for the world.

259. But in order to remove such unbelief from the mind of Noah and the righteous, he repeats with stress the pronoun, "And I, behold, I do bring." Afterward he clearly adds that he will destroy all flesh that is under heaven and in the earth; for he excludes here the fishes whose realm is widened by the waters. This passage tends to show the magnitude of the wrath of God, through which men lose, not only body and life, but also universal dominion over the earth.


* The way God comforted Noah in announcing the flood, and why such comfort was needed 260.

1. The nature of this covenant.

a. The views of Lyra, Burgensis and others 261.

b. Luther's views 262-263.

2. Whether the giants or tyrants were embraced in this covenant and how received by them 262-263.

3. Why it was made only with Noah 264.

4. How this covenant was made clearer from time to time, and why it was needed at this time 265.

5. How a special call was added to this covenant 266.

* God's judgment upon the first world terrible 267.

* Why Ham was taken into the ark, who was later rejected 267.

* Foreknowledge and election.

a. Why we should avoid thinking and disputing on this subject 268.

b. To what end should the examples of Scripture on this theme serve 269.

c. How consideration of the same may help and harm us 270.


V. 18. But I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.

260. To this comfort Moses before pointed when he declared that Noah had found grace. Noah stood in need of it, not only to escape despair amid such wrath, but also for the strengthening of his faith in view of the raging retribution. For it was no easy matter to believe the whole human race was to perish. The world consequently judged Noah to be a dolt for believing such things, ridiculed him and, undoubtedly, made his ship an object of satire. In order to strengthen his mind amid such offenses, God speaks with him often, and now even reminds him of his covenant.

261. Interpreters discuss the question, what that covenant was. Lyra explains it as the promise to defend him against the evil men who had threatened to murder him. Burgensis claims this covenant refers to the perils amid the waters, which were to be warded off. Still others believe it was the covenant of the rainbow, which the Lord afterward made with Noah.

262. In my opinion, he speaks of a spiritual covenant, or of the promise of the seed, which was to bruise the serpent's head. The giants had this covenant, but when its abuse resulted in pride and wickedness, they fell from it. So it was afterward with the Jews, whose carnal presumption in reference to God, the Law, worship and temple led to their loss of these gifts and they perished. To Noah, however, God confirms this covenant by certainly declaring that Christ was to be born from his posterity and that God would leave, amid such great wrath, a nursery for the Church. This covenant includes not only protection of Noah's body, the view advocated by Lyra and Burgensis, but also eternal life.

263. The sentiment, therefore, of the promise is this: Those insolent despisers of my promises and threats will compel me to punish them. I shall first withdraw from them the protection and assurance which are theirs by reason of their covenant with me, that they may perish without covenant and without mercy. But that covenant I shall transfer to you so that you shall be saved, not alone from such power of the waters, but also from eternal death and condemnation.

264. The plain statement is, "With thee." Not the sons, not the wives, does he mention, whom he was also to save; but Noah alone he mentions, from whom the promise was transmitted to his son Shem. This is the second promise of Christ, which is taken from all other descendants of Adam and committed alone to Noah.

265. Afterward this promise is made clearer from time to time. It proceeded from the race to the family, and from the family to the individual. From the whole race of Abraham it was carried forward to David alone; from David to Nathan; from Nathan down to one virgin, Mary, who was the dead branch or root of Jesse, and in whom this covenant finds its termination and fulfilment. The establishment of such a covenant was most necessary in view of the imminence of the incredible and incalculable wrath of God.

266. You will observe here, however, a special call when he says: "Thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, etc." If Noah had not received this special call, he would not have ventured to enter the ark.

267. How terrible is it that from the whole human race only eight persons should be selected for salvation and yet from among them, Ham, the third son of Noah, be rejected! By the mouth of God he is numbered here among the elect and saints. Yea, with them he is protected and saved. Nor is he distinguished from Noah. If he had not believed and prayed for the same things, if he had not feared God, he would in nowise have been saved in the ark; and yet, afterward he is rejected!

268. The sophists wrangle here concerning an election that takes place according to the purpose of God. But often have I exhorted to beware of speculations about the unveiled majesty, for besides being anything but true, they are far from being profitable. Let us rather think of God as he offers himself to us in his Word and sacraments. Let us not trace these instances back to a hidden election, in which God arranged everything with himself from eternity. Such doctrine we cannot apprehend with our minds, and we see it conflicts with the revealed will of God.

269. What, then, you will ask, shall we declare with reference to these examples? Nothing but that they are pointed out to inspire us with the fear of God, so that we believe it is possible to fall from grace after once receiving grace. Paul warns, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor 10, 12. We should heed such examples to teach us humility, that we may not exalt ourselves with our gifts nor become slothful in our use of blessings received, but may reach forth to the things which are before, as Paul says in Philippians 3, 13. They teach us not to believe that we have apprehended everything.

270. Malignant and most bitter is our enemy, but we are feeble, bearing this great treasure in earthen vessels. 2 Cor 4, 7. Therefore, we must not glory as if we were secure, but seeing that men so holy fell from grace, which they had accepted and for a long time enjoyed, we should look anxiously to God as if in peril at this very moment. In this manner these examples are discussed to our profit; but those who give no attention to them and chase after complex high thoughts on an election according to the purpose of God, drive and thrust their souls into despair, to which they naturally incline.



1. The number and kinds of animals 271-272.

2. The differences in the animals 273.

a. What is understood by the "Behemoth" 274.

b. By the "Remes" 275.

c. Whether this difference is observed in all places 276.

3. Whether wild and ferocious animals were in paradise, and if created from the beginning 276-277.

4. How Noah could bring the animals, especially the wild ones, into the ark 278-279.

* The animals at the time felt danger was near 278-279.

5. The animals came of themselves to Noah in the ark 280.


1. Why necessary to take with them food 281.

* The kind of food man then had, and if he ate flesh 282.

2. God's foreknowledge shines forth here 283.

3. Why God did not maintain man and the animals in the ark by a miracle 284.

* The extraordinary ways and miracles of God.

a. Why man should not seek miracles, where ordinary ways and means are at hand 285.

b. The monks seek extraordinary ways and thus tempt God 286.

* Whether we should use medicine, and if we should learn the arts and languages 286.

c. Why God did not save Noah in the water without the ark, when he could have done so 287.

d. When does God use extraordinary means with man 288.


1. In what respect it was especially praised 289.

* Obedience to God.

a. How one is to keep the golden mean, and not turn to the right or left 290.

b. How man can by obedience or disobedience mark out his own course 290-291.

c. Why most people shun obedience 291.

d. How we are here not to look to the thing commanded, but to the person commanding 292-296.

e. How sadly they fail who look at the thing commanded 293.

* How the Papists neither understand nor keep God's commandments 294.

* What we are to think of the holiness of the Papists 295.

f. All God commands is good, even if it seems different to reason 296.

* How the Papists do harm by the works of their wisdom, and only provoke God to anger, as king Saul did 297.

g. How in his obedience Noah held simply to God's Word and overcame all difficulties 298.



Vs. 19-20. And every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

271. Here again a dispute arises, as is the case when in historical narratives one proceeds to the application and incidental features. Our text appears to vindicate the view that here two and two are spoken of; but in the beginning of the seventh chapter seven and seven. Hence, Lyra quarrels with one Andrea, who believed fourteen specimens were included in the ark, because it is written: "Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven." But I approve Lyra's interpretation, who says seven specimens of every class were inclosed in the ark, three male and three female, and the seventh also male, to be used by Noah for purposes of sacrifice.

272. When Moses says here that two and two of the several species were brought into the ark, we must necessarily understand the seventh chapter as speaking only of the unclean animals, for the number of clean animals was the greater. Of the unclean seven of every species were inclosed in the ark.

273. It is also necessary that we here discuss the signification of terms as "all life," "beasts," "cattle." Though these are often used without discrimination, still at various places the Scripture employs them discriminatingly; for instance, when it says, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures." Gen 1, 24. "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures." Gen 1, 20. In those places the words of the genus stand for all living beings on the earth and in the waters. Here the constituent species are named—chayah, remes, and behemah—though frequently used without discrimination.

274. The cattle he calls here behemoth, though in Ezekiel, first chapter, those four animals are called by the common name, hachayoth, a word by which we commonly designate not so much animals as beasts, subsisting not on hay or anything else growing out of the earth, but flesh; as lion, bear, wolf and fox. Behemoth are cattle or brutes which live on hay and herbs growing from the earth; as sheep, cows, deer and roe.

275. Remes means reptile. The word is derived from ramas, which means to tread. When we compare ourselves with the birds, we are remasian, for we creep and tread upon the earth with our feet like the dogs and other beasts. But the proper meaning is, animals which do not walk with face erect. The animals which creep and which we term reptiles have a specific name, being called sherazim, as we see in Leviticus from the word sharaz, which means to move, hereafter used in the seventh chapter. The word oph is known, meaning bird.

276. Such are the differences among these terms, although, as I said before, they are not observed in some places. The interpretation must be confined, however, to the time after the flood; otherwise the inference would be drawn that such savage beasts existed also in paradise. Who will doubt that before sin, dominion having been given to man over all animals of earth, there was concord not only among men but also between animals and man?

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse