Questions From Readers
● What does Genesis 6:6 mean, which reads: “It repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth”?—Y. J., Nigeria.
“Repented” is translated from the Hebrew root word na·hhamʹ, which has a variety of meanings. As given by several dictionaries, some meanings are: to breathe pantingly, to sigh, to feel regret, to repent, to grieve over or feel pity or compassion, to console or comfort, to free or ease oneself (of enemies). The word is used in different scriptures with these different meanings, and the setting indicates the thought to be conveyed. The occasion here under consideration was when Jehovah had noted man’s wickedness and determined to destroy the evildoers by means of a global flood. An accurate modern translation gives the text, in its setting, as follows: “Consequently Jehovah saw that the badness of man had become great in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time. And Jehovah felt regrets that he had made men in the earth and he felt hurt at his heart. So Jehovah said: ‘I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground, from man to domestic animal, to creeping animal and to flying creature of the heavens, because I do regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah.”—Gen. 6:5-8, NW.
Jehovah never has occasion to repent in the sense that men do to show sorrow for mistakes made and to indicate they will change from a wrong course. Jehovah’s ways are right and his perfection rules out any possibility of mistakes. Unlike men, he does not fail to keep his word or accomplish his purpose or hold to his principles. In these respects he does not change. (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Isa. 14:24; 46:11; Ezek. 24:14; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17) He may alter or change his course toward men or nations if they change and thereby make his course no longer necessary or fitting, or he may change his course in exercising his mercy. (1 Sam. 15:11; Ps. 106:44, 45; Jer. 18:7-10; Jon. 3:10) He may “repent” in the sense of the Hebrew original’s meaning of feeling pity or compassion; but never in the human sense of repenting because of any mistake or wrongdoing.
In Genesis 6:6 accurate translation indicates that he “felt regrets that he had made men in the earth.” Frequently Jehovah God represents himself as feeling human emotions to make his reactions easily understood by men. He can feel regrets, just as he can also feel grief, anger, provocation, indignation, joy, laughter, weariness of evildoers and other human reactions, as many scriptures show. In the case of Genesis 6:6, Jehovah felt regret that men had taken a wrong course and that every inclination of their thoughts was only bad. It was a hurt to his heart to see men that had come into existence as a result of his creative work turn continually to evil, and he felt regrets that such men had come into existence in the earth, and to free or ease himself of such heartfelt hurt Jehovah determined to wipe such evildoers from the face of the earth. Just as faithful men can bring joy to Jehovah’s heart, these wicked ones could and did bring hurt to it. (Prov. 27:11; Luke 15:7) Just as wicked men prior to the Flood could make Jehovah feel regret, so the abominable deeds now done before Armageddon make men of good will sigh and cry, because they have sympathy for God’s cause and respect his name.—Gen. 6:6; Ezek. 9:4.
Jehovah takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, so he felt regret when he saw the need of executing them and it brought grief to him to have to bring on the Flood. But Jehovah did not regret having made the earth and purposing that it be inhabited. He did not regret creating man to multiply and fill it. That his regret was limited to those made through his creation that had become incorrigibly wicked is shown by the fact that Noah found favor in Jehovah’s sight. Noah walked with God. Jehovah felt no regrets for having made him, and the fact that Jehovah preserved Noah and his faithful household and reissued to them the mandate to fill the earth shows Jehovah did not regret making the earth and man upon it, but was holding to his purpose to have the earth filled with righteous persons. If Jehovah had regretted making man in the first place, and was using the Flood to ease himself of these regrets, then he would have destroyed all men from earth. But the very fact that he preserved some shows his regrets were confined to those who had gone bad in their thinking and acting, for they were the only ones eliminated by the Flood.
● On page 84 of the book “This Means Everlasting Life” it says that Xerxes I was succeeded on the Persian throne by Artaxerxes III. Was it not Artaxerxes I instead?—J. C., Canada.
In Watch Tower publications this Artaxerxes has been referred to as Artaxerxes III for the following reason: The Magian impostor Smerdis, who occupied Persia’s throne for less than eight months (522 B.C.), is called in Greek Arthasasthaʹ, usually translated Artaxerxes. Hence he would be the first Artaxerxes. (Ezra 4:7-24) The Greek Septuagint next speaks of Esther’s royal husband as “Artaxerxes,” who was really Xerxes the Great, and who was hence the second Artaxerxes. (Esther 1:1) The next one, who is usually referred to as Artaxerxes I, is the third Artaxerxes, being the one with whom Nehemiah dealt. Concerning him McClintock & Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume 1, page 440, column 1, says: “He is the same with the third Artaxerxes, the Persian king who, in the twentieth year of his reign, considerately allowed Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem for the furtherance of purely national objects, invested him with the government of his own people, and allowed him to remain there for twelve years (Neh. 2:1; 5:14).” Hence it is to avoid any confusion of identity that the successor of Xerxes the Great is referred to as Artaxerxes III.