You State That Never Once Has God Renounced His Claim on What He Had Made, However, Genesis 6:5-7 States That God Was Sorry for Having Made Man.

In your Heaven book you state (page 88) that never once has God renounced His claim on what He had made. However, according to Genesis 6:5-7, it does state that because of man’s great wickedness and evilness of heart that God was sorry for having made man and as a result of His grief, He decided to destroy His creation—man along with the animals, birds, and creeping things. Can you help me clarify this?

Answer by Jim Swanson, (M.Th, MSM.), EPM volunteer

You are a careful reader, and I commend you for your query.

Perhaps Randy carefully chose the word “renounce,” in that typically it has a meaning of “verbally proclaiming a completely severed relationship with another entity” (person, people, “the creation,” etc.). I will not quote a dictionary per se, but it seems to me this would be a normal definition not unlike what could be found in a dictionary.

Here in Genesis 6, the Hebrew word is nakham (Strong’s Number, 5162; Zondervan NIV number 5714). It has a various range of meanings: “to comfort another, or to be comforted”; “to change one’s mind”; “to regret, be sorry”; even “to repent, relent, regret.” If you have The Dictionary of Biblical Languages (Swanson), Hebrew, you can see such range of meanings (Logos Research Sys. software).

Anyway, the grammatical stem found in Genesis 6 is called Niphal, which is a grammatically reflective or internalized stem. This means the emphasis I believe is some kind of internalized feeling the LORD has as He is surveying this corruption in the creation. This feeling is sometimes rendered “was sorry” (NLT) or “was grieved” (NIV), though other translations probably renders it as “relented, repented.” While it is very true that in this context you can translate this verb in the Niphal as “change one’s mind,” (another internalized process), emphasizing the volitional or decision-making part of God’s processing the situation, it is also likely the more emotional “sorrow, feeling grief” is (in my opinion) a little more likely in this context (the NIV rendering probably got it about right).

So to summarize, The Hebrew word (and its grammar) here is expressing a feeling the LORD is having internally, as part of a thought process (“was grieved and regretted”), and not verbally expressing (“renounce”) a cutting off of relationship. Remember He destroys the creation, but He does not stop having a relationship with it.

This is perhaps why Randy can make the assertion that there is never a renouncing of the claim.

For more information on the subject of Heaven, see Randy Alcorn's book Heaven.

James A. Swanson (ThB, MSM, MTh) is a biblical studies scholar with original language expertise. His works include A Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (OT)A Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (NT), and A Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Aramaic (OT).