“Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.’”
Explanation and Commentary of Genesis 6:3
God is perfect and his creation was perfect and good (Gen 1:31). In the creation of man in God’s own image, God gave man the freedom to turn away from him. God, in his infinite wisdom and ability to hold the universe together by the Word of mouth (Heb 1:3), saw this as the only way for mankind to have a genuine, loving relationship with their Father in heaven. But in the early stages of redemptive history, this was a costly endeavor. First, Adam, who was supposed to live forever, brought death into the creation. Even still, the first generations of man lived a mighty long life, approaching a thousand years. In this verse, just before the destruction of the world through the flood, God puts a lower limit on the number of days that man can do evil by shortening the average lifespan.
But the truth is that Jesus has made a way through his death and resurrection to restore the eternal life expectancy in heaven with himself and God. It is a blessing that we are not confined to existence on the earth in this age for so long a time as man once lived. As Paul said to the Philippians, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21).
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Genesis 6:3
#1 “Then the Lord said,”
In the time that the human race was rapidly multiplying, and so was their sinful influence on the whole world, God not only shortened man’s lifespan but also decreed the great flood.
#2 “‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever,”
It seems that what is in view here is the Spirit of God to animate men that is in each man and woman, the breath of God (Gen 2:7) apart from the indwelling experienced by the believer in Christ. It appears that God desired to shorten the time that men and women would have to do evil in their tragic, fallen state.
#3 “for they are mortal;”
The wages of sin is death (Ro 6:23). There was a clear command that came with a consequence in the garden of Eden. If they were to eat of the tree in the midst of the garden that God forbade them to eat, then they would surely die (Gen 2:17). Rather than dropping dead on the spot, Adam and Eve began a long process of decay and (relative to now) a long process of dying. This is otherwise known as mortality. We are mortal in that we are not allowed on earth to eat from the Tree of Life in the garden, but we are immortal in that we are allowed to partake of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ who died so that we may not perish, but “have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16).
#4 “their days will be a hundred and twenty years.’”
It seems plausible that one hundred and twenty years would be roughly the longest possible lifespan for the human race, given certain conditions of perfect health and wellness. It is extremely rare for anyone to live to one hundred, but there have been a few. A woman in France, Jeanne Calment, died in 1997 at the age of one hundred twenty-two.
Bible Study on Genesis 6:3
Expert Overview of Genesis Ch. 1-11
Biblical Translations of Genesis 6:3
Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”
Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”
And the Lord said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”
And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.