Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Silence Following Man's Evil Heart

כא  וַיָּרַח יְהוָה, אֶת-רֵיחַ הַנִּיחֹחַ, וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-לִבּוֹ לֹא-אֹסִף לְקַלֵּל עוֹד אֶת-הָאֲדָמָה בַּעֲבוּר הָאָדָם, כִּי יֵצֶר לֵב הָאָדָם רַע מִנְּעֻרָיו; וְלֹא-אֹסִף עוֹד לְהַכּוֹת אֶת-כָּל-חַי, כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי.
 And the LORD smelled the sweet savour; and the LORD said in His heart: 'I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
(Gen 8:21)

This verse has become a theologically loaded starting point for any discussion of man's nature. However, what most surprised me when I was going over it today was the fact that not one of the classic commentators on the bible, bothers to go into any great length to explain the verse, certainly not attempting to reverse its meaning. Rashi, who normally defends Israel, is surprising in that he just explains that the word "מנעריו" should be understood as from the moment of birth, and not youth (as translated above).

Is it possible that the classic commentators were all willing to accept the premise that mankind in inherently evil?

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