(Gen. 6:6) Did God make a mistake in creating mankind?

CLAIM: Genesis states, “The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Gen. 6:6 NIV). Open theist Greg Boyd writes, “If the future is eternally settled in God’s mind and/or by God’s will, it is challenging to see how God could genuinely regret some of his decisions in light of how events played themselves out (Gen. 6:6-7; 1 Sam. 15:11, 35). How can you regret something that turns out exactly as you eternally knew it would?”[1]

RESPONSE: The word “regretted” (nāḥam) can be translated as “consoling himself” (Gen. 27:42). The root word reflects the idea of “breathing or sighing, deeply,” and it “suggests a physical display of one’s feelings—sorrow, compassion or comfort.”[2] This word is used for God in a number of instances (Ex. 32:14; 1 Sam. 15:11; Jer. 26:3). Here in Genesis 6, God was tremendously affected by the evil and suffering on Earth. Therefore, this passage is not addressing the intellectual knowledge of God; it is addressing the emotional concern of God. God isn’t upset with his creation, but with what his creation has freely chosen. Mathews writes, “The making of ‘man’ is no error; it is what ‘man’ has made of himself.”[3]

[1] Gregory A. Boyd, “Chapter Four: God Limits His Control,” in Four Views on Divine Providence, Zondervan Counterpoints Collection (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 199.

[2] Walter Kaiser, More Hard Sayings of the Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 40.

[3] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 343.