Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
gen 6:1Men began to multiply upon the face of the earth - This was the effect of the blessing, Gen 1:28, and yet man's corruption so abused this blessing, that it turned into a curse.
gen 6:2The sons of God - Those who were called by the name of the Lord, and called upon that name, married the daughters of men - Those that were profane, and strangers to God. The posterity of Seth did not keep to themselves as they ought, but intermingled with the race of Cain: they took them wives of all that they chose - They chose only by the eye: They saw that they were fair - Which was all they looked at.
gen 6:3My spirit shall not always strive with man - The spirit then strove by Noah's preaching, Pe1 3:19, and by inward checks, but 'twas in vain with the most of men; therefore saith God, he shall not always strive, for that he also is flesh - Incurably corrupt and sensual, so that 'tis labour lost to strive with him. He also, that is, all, one as well as another; they are all sunk into the mire of flesh. Yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years - So long will I defer the judgment they deserve, and give them space to prevent it by their repentance and reformation. Justice said, cut them down; but mercy interceded, Lord, let them alone this year also; and so far mercy prevailed, that a reprieve was obtained for six score years.
gen 6:4There were giants, and men of renown - They carried all before them, 1. With their great bulk, as the sons of Anak, Num 13:33, and, 2. With their great name, as the king of Assyria, Isa 37:11. Thus armed, they daringly insulted the rights of all their neighbours, and trampled upon all that is just and sacred.
gen 6:5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth - Abundance of sin was committed in all places, by all sorts of people: and those sins in their own nature most gross and heinous, and provoking: and committed daringly, with a defiance of heaven. And that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually - A sad sight, and very offensive to God's holy eye. This was the bitter root, the corrupt spring: all the violence and oppression, all the luxury and wantonness that was in the world, proceeded from the corruption of nature; lust conceives them, Jam 1:15, see Mat 15:19. The heart was evil, deceitful and desperately wicked; the principles were corrupt, and the habits and dispositions evil. The thoughts of the heart were so. Thought is sometimes taken for the settled judgment, and that was biased and misled; sometimes for the workings of the fancy, and those were always either vain or vile. The imagination of the thought of the heart was so, that is, their designs and devices were wicked. They did not do evil only through carelessness, but deliberately and designedly, contriving how to do mischief. 'Twas bad indeed, for it was only evil, continually evil, and every imagination was so. There was no good to be found among them, no not at any time: the stream of sin was full and strong, and constant; and God saw it. Here is God's resentment of man's wickedness. He did not see it as an unconcerned spectator, but as one injured and affronted by it; he saw it as a tender father sees the folly and stubbornness of a rebellious and disobedient child, which not only angers but grieves him, and makes him wish he had been written childless.
gen 6:6And it repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth - That he had made a creature of such noble powers, and had put him on this earth, which he built and furnished on purpose to be a comfortable habitation for him; and it grieved him at his heart - These are expressions after the manner of men, and must be understood so as not to reflect upon God's immutability or felicity. It doth not speak any passion or uneasiness in God, nothing can create disturbance to the eternal mind; but it speaks his just and holy displeasure against sin and sinners: neither doth it speak any change of God's mind; for with him there is no variableness; but it speaks a change of his way. When God had made man upright, he rested and was refreshed, Exo 31:17. and his way towards him was such as shewed him well pleased with the work of his own hands; but now man was apostatized, he could not do otherwise, but shew himself displeased; so that the change was in man, not in God.
gen 6:7I will destroy man - The original word is very significant. I will wipe off man from off the earth; as dirt is wiped off from a place which should be clean, and thrown to the dunghill. Or, I will blot out man from the earth, as those lines are blotted out of a book which displease the author, or as the name of a citizen is blotted out of the rolls of the freemen when he is disfranchised. Both man and beast the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air - These were made for man, and therefore must be destroyed with man. It repenteth me that I have made them - For the end of their creation also was frustrated: they were made that man might serve and honour God with them and therefore were destroyed, because he had served his lusts with them, and made them subject to vanity.
gen 6:8But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord - This vindicates God's justice in his displeasure against the world, and shews that he had examined the character of every person in it, before he pronounced it universally corrupt; for there being one good man he smiled upon him.
gen 6:9Noah was a just man - Justified before God by faith in the promised seed; for he was an heir of the righteousness which is by faith, Heb 11:7. He was sanctified, and had right principles and dispositions implanted in him: and he was righteous in his conversation, one that made conscience of rendering to all their due, to God his due, and to men theirs. And he walked with God as Enoch had done before him: in his generation, even in that corrupt degenerate age. It is easy to be religious when religion is in fashion; but it is an evidence of strong faith to swim against the stream, and to appear for God, when no one else appears for him: so Noah did, and it is upon record to his immortal honour.
gen 6:11The earth also was corrupt before God - That is, in the matters of God's worship; either they had other gods before him, or worshipped him by images: or, they were corrupt and wicked in despite of God. The earth was also filled with violence, and injustice towards men; there was no order nor regular government, no man was safe in the possession of that which he had the most clear right to, there was nothing but murders, rapes and rapines.
gen 6:12God looked upon the earth - And was himself an eye - witness of the corruption that was in it, for all flesh had corrupted his way - It was not some particular nations that were thus wicked, but the whole world so; there was none good beside Noah.
gen 6:13The end of all flesh is come before me; I will destroy them - The ruin of this wicked world is decreed; it is come, that is, it will come surely, and come quickly.
gen 6:14I will destroy them with the earth, but make thee an ark - I will take care to preserve thee alive. This ark was like the hulk of a ship, fitted not to sail upon the waters, but to float waiting for their fall. God could have secured Noah, by the ministration of angels without putting him to any care or pains, but he chose to employ him in making that which was to be the means of his preservation, both for the trial of his faith and obedience, and to teach us that none shall be saved by Christ, but those only that work out their salvation; we cannot do it without God, and he will not without us: both the providence of God and the grace of God crown the endeavours of the obedient and diligent. God gave him particular instructions concerning this building. It must be made of Gopher - wood; Noah, doubtless, knew what sort of wood that was, though now we do not. He must make it three stories high within: and, He must divide it into cabins with partitions, places fitted for the several sorts of creatures, so as to lose no room. Exact dimensions are given him, that he might make it proportionable, and might have room enough in it to answer the intention, and no more. He must pitch it within and without: without, to shed off the rain, and to prevent the water from soaking in; within, to take away the ill smell of the beasts when kept close. He must make a little window towards the top to let in light. He must make a door in the side of it by which to go in and out.
gen 6:17And behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth - I that am infinite in power, and therefore can do it; infinite in justice, and therefore will do it.
gen 6:18But with thee will I establish my covenant - [1.] The covenant of Providence, that the course of nature shall be continued to the end of time, not withstanding the interruption which the flood would give to it: this promise was immediately made to Noah and his sons, Gen 9:8, &c. they were as trustees for all this part of the creation, and a great honour was thereby put upon him and his. God would be to him a God, and that out of his seed God would take to himself a people.