Is Genesis 6:13 Permissive or Causative?

Is Genesis 6:13 Permissive or Causative?

I was recently asked: “Is ‘I will destroy them’ in Genesis 6:13 written in the permissive or the causative sense in the original Hebrew?”

The verse says:

“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.” (Gen 6:13)

I couldn’t say (not being a Hebrew scholar) whether the words themselves are written in a permissive or causative sense. However, looking at the verse in its context and looking at related verses can help to answer whether God personally and directly caused (causative) the flood or whether He simply allowed (permissive) forces outside of Himself to bring it about.

The flood is introduced by God looking on the state of the earth:

“And God say that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5)

The next verse says that “it repented the LORD that he had made man …” The word “repented” there means “to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion.” There is no suggestion of changing one’s mind. He is not saying He wants to get rid of mankind. God was sorry for the state of the earth (and the resulting suffering) brought about by man’s actions not for His act of creating it and man to live on it. God doesn’t make mistakes. He never says “Oops, I shouldn’t have done that.”

In verse 7, God proposes, it seems, to take remedial action:

“And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” (Gen 6:7)

So the question again is whether the destruction by God was permissive or causative. Verses 11-12 then describe more of the condition of the earth:

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” (Gen 6:11-12)

Then, in verse 13, God says something interesting to Noah:

“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.” (Gen 6:13)

God, looking at the earth and the trend of violence that was filling it, saw what was coming – “The end of all flesh” and it was coming “for” or because of the violence. We are not given details of the violence but the suggestion is that mankind was headed towards extinction. So what is the evidence that God’s action towards mankind was permissive rather than causative? Here are several points:

  • It does not make sense that God would move to solve the problem of violence by using violence. God’s actions were to save the endangered race (as many as would accept that salvation) not to destroy it.
  • It seems intuitive that God would keep His own laws – “thou shalt not kill.”
  • There is a very interesting pattern in scripture consisting of 4 parts:
  1. Man sins
  2. God’s response is anger/wrath (as defined in Romans chapter 1)
  3. God leaves, abandons, gives up, hands over etc
  4. Trouble come from another source

There are over 70 examples of this pattern from scripture listed at: https://characterofgod.org/2016/02/wrath-of-god/

This passage from Job follows the pattern:

“Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?  Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood: Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them?” (Job 22:15-17)

In those verses:

  1. man sinned – “wicked men” Which said unto God, Depart from us.”
  2. God responded in anger/wrath – this is the one part of the pattern most often omitted and is not mentioned in this passage.
  3. God left – “Depart from us” – God would have honored this request as He allows man to have free will.
  4. Trouble came from another source – they were “overflown with a flood.”

“What can the Almighty do for them?” is a rhetorical question. He could do nothing to protect them without violating their freedom of choice and imposing Himself on them. God respected the free will choices of even “wicked men” and departed from them and could no longer protect them (without dishonoring their request and imposing Himself upon them) with the result that they were destroyed by the flood.

In summary, the weight of evidence favors the flood being permissive (God allowed it) rather than causative.

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