The LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. The LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground—man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky—for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:6-7)
I understand that this is uncomfortable reading about God’s wrath extending to the animal kingdom, so let’s address that elephant in the room (see what I did there?). I might not alleviate that discomfort, but I will offer an explanation.
In your discomfort you may have noticed the several animal groupings (beasts, birds of the sky, creeping things) which are vertabim quotes from the creation account of Genesis 1. I interpret this as an allegory to ‘erasing’ history, which is precisely how the verb em’cheh (“I will destroy”) is employed elsewhere in Scripture – denoting the blotting out of words from paper.
The allegories to Genesis 1 also invite us to review what went wrong. After all, this is sort of like God “rewinding” the creation script, is it not? When we do, we read that we were charged to “bear fruit and increase. Fill the earth and conquer it, and subjugate the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves over the whole earth.” (Gen. 1:28)
May I suggest that we didn’t do ANY of this? While it’s true we did start increasing in number (Gen. 6:1), we didn’t tame the animal kingdom – we instead subjugated each other. We murdered, we ruled by force, we built harems and enslaved fellow men. We did not expand outward, but inward, and this enabled animals to lose their instinct in fearing us (cf. Gen. 9:2). The takeaway here is that the animal kingdom is at its best when man is at his best, but that’s not what occurred. We let the earth become unable to be tamed, which stemmed from an abundance of wickedness.
The Heart of God
This bears repeating: no other scripture offers such a deep glimpse into the Almighty. No other verse dares to look into the heart of the One True God, and I take this as an invitation to investigate.
First, I’d reiterate something I found earlier in Genesis 6:6, that the Divine Name (YHVH) and the verb yinachem (having the same root as the name of Noah/Noach) are together side-by-side, surrounded by depictions of chaotic hearts. Whether it be the evil imaginations of men’s hearts (vs. 5), or the grief inside the Almighty’s heart, I believe this is a deep, prophetic revelation showing that Noah wanted to flee wickedness as much as God craved fellowship among righteous men. According to the rest of the story, this is exactly what happened. God and Noah found each other, as demonstrated by the very next verse:
But Noah found favor in the eye of YHVH. (Genesis 6:8)
And the impetus for this covenant stemmed from a simpatico distaste for the evils of mankind and a mutual search for righteous, holy fellowship: “The LORD said to Noah, “Come with all of your household into the ship, for I have seen your righteousness before me in this generation.” (Genesis 7:1) We were created to live righteously that we might fellowship with the Holy One. As a matter of fact, this is the meaning of life!
Frankly, I don’t believe God discloses secrets to just any scrub who decides to casually read the Bible. It’s more His nature to reveal intimacies to those who are intimate with Him. That’s why the grief inside God’s heart was fully disclosed as a WARNING. When the grief was great enough, YHVH reached a tipping point and began to erase His creation. This is provided as a prophecy. Other Scriptures show that there will again be a time when lawlessness will abound in the earth (Matt. 24:12), and that YHVH will not preserve Mankind after they forsake the point of life: to live righteously before the One True God and have fellowship with Him.
Finally, the last revelation from this – and another tie to the Creation story – is how men “grieved” YHVH in his heart. The word for “grief” is et’sev, which is from the same root word used after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden. In both judgments of woman and man (in Gen. 3:16-17), God used “itzavon” to explain what life would be in a post-Paradise world. I suggested then that itzavon should not be understood as physical pain (i.e. the pain of childbirth), but rather emotional stress or grief that comes with raising children all-day-every-day, or the sweat-of-your-face labor that just might feed your family and pay all the bills.
So we have stressful situations that qualify as itzavon, but most men will work jobs that suck before letting his family starve. To compare this with God’s grief, we’d have to imagine a man tolerating so much abuse from his family that he’d say “they’re on their own, I’m out.” Or, to a greater extent, we have to imagine a mother turning in her derelict sons to the police. The anguish that these men and women experience isn’t accrued overnight. It’s a grief symptomatic of long-term mental abuse and disappointment. In other words, the Scriptures show that this et’sev – experienced by a long-suffering God – was likewise grief built over time, as men continually ran away from Him.
If we do not live righteously and fellowship with the One True God, we are not doing as we were created to do, like petulant children who curse, disobey and otherwise abuse their parents. Every man has a breaking point, and apparently so does God! Let us not grieve Him; let’s bring ourselves into righteous order and fellowship with Him. In this way we shall be confident we’ll be on the right side of God’s next breaking point, and not have our creation erased. ◊