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B'resheet/Genesis 6:11 And the earth had become corrupt before G-d and the earth had become filled with violence.
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The first and the last words in this verse attract the interest of the commentators. The first, - a Nifal 3fs prefix form verb with a vav-conversive from the root , means either "to be marred or spoiled by rotting" (for example, the loincloth that Jeremiah had been told to bury by the river, Jeremiah 13:4-7), "to be morally corrupt" or "to be laid waste" (Davidson).Hirsch says, "it is the conception of corruption, not destruction", and points out that , "whose basic meaning is a pit that interrupts the path of somebody striding towards his goal" is related to , bribery, "which is a pit dug in the path of a judge on his way to delivering a true and just verdict" and , slaughter, "which interrupts the progress of the life of an animal".
Rashi suggests that "the root is an expression of sexual immorality and idolatry." He connects idolatry with the same verb used in the verse " lest you act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female" (D'varim 4:16, NASB) and sexual immorality with the next verse, "for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth" (B'resheet 6:12, NASB). He is supported by the Sages who had recorded that, "a Tanna of the School of R. Ishmael taught: Wherever corruption is mentioned, it must refer to immorality and idolatry. 'Immorality' as it is written, for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth" (b. Sanhedrin 57a). "Corrupted his way" connotes immorality, for Solomon said, "... the way of a man with a maid. This is the way of an adulterous woman: she eats and wipes her mouth, and says, 'I have done no wrong'" (Proverbs 30:19-20, NASB). Rashi goes on to comment that, "wherever you find promiscuity, catastrophe comes to the world and kills good and bad (B'resheet Rabbah 26:5)".
The last word in the verse, , has a variety of meanings. Nahum Sarna suggests that this emphasises the universal corruption: "This term parallels 'no justice' in Job 19:7 and is elsewhere the synonym of 'falsehood', 'deceit' or 'bloodshed'. It means, in general, the flagrant subversion of the ordered processes of law - an arrogant disregard for the sanctity and inviolability of human life." As if to echo that, theBaal HaTurim points out that the gematria of the word hamas is equal to two things: the waters of Noah (Isaiah 54:9), describing the flood and , hell. The Tur deduces from this that the people were punished both measure for measure and as if from hell.
Talking about the conditions that would apply for His return, the gospels record Yeshua saying, "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed" (Luke 17:26-30, NASB). Using the image of both the days of Noah and the days of Lot - times when sexual behaviour and immorality caused G-d's wrath to be poured out on the earth - Yeshua warns us in the days coming up to His return, that we should expect to see a return to similar levels of abhorrent and aberrant behaviour; conduct that is an abomination before G-d.
Rav Sha'ul explains that it is all part of the process of denying the existence of G-d. "What is revealed is G-d's anger from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who in their wickedness keep suppressing the truth; because what is known about G-d is plain to them, since G-d has made it plain to them" (Romans 1:18-19, CJB). When people suppress or deny the truth about G-d - that He does exist, that He does have standards for behaviour and conduct, that we are accountable for our behaviour and that He will judge each man according to his deeds - they provoke G-d's anger against them. It is not just that they themselves are misbehaving, it is that by their actions and words they are denying G-d, some even supposedly within the household of faith. "For ever since the creation of the universe His invisible qualities - both His eternal power and His divine nature - have been clearly seen, because they can be understood from what He has made. Therefore, they have no excuse; because, although they know who G-d is, they do not glorify Him as G-d or thank Him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking; and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened" (vv. 20-21, CJB). When man, in order to indulge himself, denies the truth that is all around us and built into the fabric of the world that we live in, our thought processes, our ability to process information on a truthful and accurate basis, our skills of reasoning and discernment, become blunted and dull. Man needs to ignore so much evidence that he is unable to draw accurate conclusions from what he sees; like scientists attempting to prove the theory of global warming from "cooked" data, or the theory of evolution from a broken or non-existent fossil record, mankind has become blind and deluded because he is determined not to see the answer that the evidence actually shows. As Yeshua said, "And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:14, NASB). Rav Sha'ul again: "Claiming to be wise, they have become fools!" (Romans 1:22, CJB).
As we see the moral standards of the world around us declining into a morass of corruption and impurity that, even allowing for the excesses of the later years of the Roman empire, has probably not been seen since the days of Noah, we need to do a number of things:
We have a calling in these days to stand firm on G-d's promises and commandments, being not just 10% better than those around us, but modelling and describing G-d's absolute standards of behaviour and modesty in dress, speech and conduct, to those around us. We have to be both salt and light: salt to preserve our world until the end, and light to show others that there is a G-d and that He has a plan for their lives too.
Further Study: Ezekiel 16:49-50; Jeremiah 8:7-9; Zechariah 13:8-9
Application: Do you quail at the requirements of political correctness and not offending non-believers by appearing to criticise them? Now is no time for fear-inspired paralysis - we have a job to do and a world to reach. We must stand and be counted.
© Jonathan Allen, 2010
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