Can you explain Genesis 6:3?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Genesis 6:3 says, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” What are we to take from this?

Firstly, this “spirit” is none other than the Holy Spirit. Still, what does JEHOVAH God mean, “[his] spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh?”

Secondly, the words “not always” correspond to “an hundred and twenty years” at the end of the verse. God the Holy Spirit will not strive with man indefinitely—120 years is the maximum period. Once that time has elapsed, God will change His dealings with mankind.

Thirdly, when the Scripture says, “strive with man,” it speaks of a struggle or competition. The Holy Spirit and mankind are at odds, each opposed to the other. Notice, the rest of the verse explains—“for that he also is flesh.” The term “flesh” carries the idea of weakness or frailty; that is, man is naturally sinful. In the case of the antediluvian (pre-Flood) world, there was much violence (especially murder). Genesis 6:5, “And God 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.” We can infer from Genesis 9:6 that this verse is God’s post-Flood rule to prevent the sinful activity (namely, murder) that had occurred before the Great Flood.

Lastly, how exactly was the Holy Spirit striving with man during the time leading up to the Great Flood? This is answered, not in Genesis, but centuries later in the Bible. It is a feature called “subsequent narrative.” God provides details about an event many decades, centuries, or millennia after the fact. Unless we study all the Bible, we will miss such interesting little tidbits and fascinating extra clues.

Turning to 1 Peter, chapter 3, we read: “[18] For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: [19] By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; [20] Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” As Noah assembled the Ark, he preached to the world of his day.

Go to 2 Peter, chapter 2, verse 5: “And [God] spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;….” For 120 years, Noah warned the world of coming judgment—a flood is coming but there is safety in the boat he is constructing. Alas, they continued in their daily activities as if nothing were wrong. His cries fell on deaf ears. They were having a good time and did not want to bother to think about the consequences of their sin. God would be completely fair in destroying them. They had had ample time to reform, but they despised His Word and His servant Noah. God the Holy Spirit would not be irritated forever, competing against these sinners on the Earth for endless ages to come.

The Lord Jesus remarked in Luke chapter 17: “[26] And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. [27] They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” The parallel is Matthew chapter 24, “[37] But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. [38] For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, [39] And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

Even before Noah’s 120-year ministry, Enoch had preached to the world. Genesis 5:18-24 introduces us to Enoch: “[18] And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch: [19] And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: [20] And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died. [21] And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: [22] And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: [23] And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: [24] And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Noah was born later, in verses 28-29.)

Jude, in his little epistle, provides additional subsequent narrative, supplying information that the Holy Spirit through Moses left out in Genesis as pertaining to Enoch: “[14] And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, [15] To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Enoch was a Bible teacher, a preacher, and he too warned of God’s coming judgment against sinners. Then, Noah was born and he began his preaching ministry, continuing what Enoch (and Methuselah) had done in decades previous.

Yea, the God of the Bible is loving and merciful. Nevertheless, His justice demands that His righteousness be enforced. Mankind had plenty of time to believe His Word to them during the centuries leading up to the Great Flood. In the case of Noah, God gave man an additional 120 years—the time it took to build the Ark. Noah surely had times of great discouragement. They made fun of him. They ignored him. After 120 years of preaching, Noah had a mere seven (!) converts—his wife, their three sons, and their three wives. First Peter 3:20: eight souls were saved by water.” Second Peter 2:5: “[God] spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness.” Just remember, God the Holy Spirit will not tolerate our world’s sin forever!

Also see:
» Can you explain Genesis 6:1-4?
» How did the Great Flood’s water save the eight souls in 1 Peter 3?
» How did the Israeli patriarchs resist the Holy Ghost?