"'Behold I even I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth,'" said Rabbi Jehuda. "These words have reference to the waters of strife (Meribah), when the children of Israel murmured against the Lord and caused his holiness to appear amongst them. But was this act of insubordination and murmuring against God the only occurrence in the history of the children of Israel, that scripture should thus characterize it? The fact is, it is recorded as the occasion Israel afforded to the executors of divine justice of overcoming and afflicting them. For there are waters sweet and bitter, waters clear and turbid, waters of peace and waters of strife, to which scripture alludes as waters of Meribah where the children of Israel strove with the Lord: that is, they attracted to themselves the impure, unclean spirit that defiled them (vayiqqadesh bam) (Num. xx. 13).
In objecting against this exposition, Rabbi Hezekiah said: "If your interpretation was correct, the word vayiqadshou (they were deified) would have been used by scripture. The true meaning of the words is I think as follows: 'He whom the children of Israel should have worshipped and adored became degraded by them, if I may so express it. They became so obdurate
and wilfully irrational both in mind and heart that the sense of the Divine presence with them became lost and extinguished, as doth the light of the moon at its fall. Therefore as the word vayiqadesh used by scripture should not be translated in its best sense of being sanctified; so the words, 'Behold I even I do bring a flood of waters,' should be understood as meaning, 'I will send unto them the impure and destroying angel by whom they have allowed themselves to become defiled.'"
Said Rabbi Jose: "Woe unto those who are unwilling to repent of their evil ways and deeds before the Holy One during their life on earth, for if, continuing unrepentant, at the close of66a-66b it, they become cast into that outer darkness, where their torment ceaseth not and there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Observe that by the open persistence of the antediluvians in their heinous and flagitious iniquity they were condemned and punished by the Holy One in a remarkable and open manner.
Said Rabbi Isaac: "Even when a man sins in secret, the Holy One is long suffering, and if he repents, has mercy upon and forgives him. On the contrary, if he continues in his evil and secret deeds, they become at last revealed and manifested and he is punished openly. Of this ordeal of the 'mey hammarim' (bitter waters) is an instance. It was so with the antediluvians, and how were they punished? They were exterminated from the face of the earth. The fountains of the great deep became opened and poured forth rain and mighty volumes of boiling water, so that their fleshless skeletons only remained to show they had once lived and had totally perished from off the face of the earth."
Said Rabbi Isaac: "The words 'and they were destroyed from the earth' (Gen. vii. 23), have the same meaning as 'let them be blotted out of the book of the living' (Ps. lxix. 28). Thus by the use of the word mahha (blotted out, destroyed off) in these two passages of scripture we are taught that the names of the wicked and evil doers are expunged out of the book of life--that they will never use again and appear in the day of judgment.