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What does Genesis 6:3 mean; "My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years?"

This is a much misapplied verse being made to mean that the Holy Spirit will not always work with people toward their salvation. However much this may be true, this verse would not be a good application for it.

This is generally taken to mean that God would not always be long suffering in Noah's day, but in a hundred and twenty years He would send the flood upon them. A careful examination of the context will soon show that this could not be true. Noah was 500 years old in Genesis 5:32 when be begat three sons. He was 600 years old when the flood came (Genesis 7:6). He was told to take his sons in the ark he was to build, Genesis 6:18. Had be received this message l20 years before the flood he would have been 480 years old and would not have had any sons at that time to take into the ark. Shem was only 98 years old when the flood came on the earth, Genesis 11:10. So the above theory cannot be true.

The spirit in Genesis 6:3 is not the Holy Spirit but the spirit of man as in Genesis 2:7 "breath" (spirit same Hebrew word) of life. It is this spirit that God says will not always strive (Hebrew: dwell or remain) in man. "Man" being singular so is "his" days. The reference here is likely to Adam who was not dead at the giving of this message.

The message of the coming flood was not given to Noah but to Enoch in Genesis 5:22 in his son Methuselah who was born 969 years before the flood. Adam would have been 687 years old at this time. He lived 243 years after this and died at 930, Genesis 5:5. His is the first death recorded in Genesis 5 from natural causes. The bible only records Abel's murder before Adam's death. It would seem that some time during Enoch's ministry of 300 years (Genesis 5:22). The prophecy of Genesis 6:3 was given about the first man (Adam) and his death being the first from natural causes.

All comments and questions to: Harold Smith

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Updated July 2009, by Shelly Allen