The first occurrence of the word “repent” furnishes the key to its meaning and scope. In Genesis 6:6 we read, “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth.” The language is figurative, for He who is infinite in wisdom and immutable in counsel never changes His mind. This is plain from “God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent” (Num. 23:19), and “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent, for he is not a man that he should repent” (I Sam. 15:29); and again, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Thus, in the light of these definite statements we are compelled to conclude that in Genesis 6:6 (and similar passages) the Almighty condescends to accommodate Himself to our mode of speaking, and express Himself after a human manner—as He also does in Psalm 78:65; 87:6; Isaiah 59:16, etc.
Now by carefully noting the setting of this word in Genesis 6:6 and attentively observing what follows, we discover: first, that the occasion of repentance is sin, for in Genesis 6:5 we read that “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth”: thus repentance is a realization of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Second, that the nature of repentance consists in a change of mind: a new decision is formed in view of the deplorable conditions existing—“it repented the Lord that he had made man.” Third, that genuine repentance is accompanied by a real sorrow for sin, for that which necessitated the change of mind: “and it grieved him at his heart” (cf. II Cor. 7:10). Fourth, that the fruit or consequence of repentance appears in a determination to undo (forsake, and rectify as far as possible) that which is sorrowed over: “and the Lord said I will destroy man” (v. 7). All of these elements are found in a repentance which has been produced in the heart by the gracious and supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit.
Arthur W. Pink. Repentance. Joseph Kreifels.