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Genesis study & commentary

Genesis 6

By Doug Ford
The corruption of mankind.

Genesis 6:1-2

Man is now multiplying on the earth.  Within the genealogies, we always see the males referred to; the son of …. The son of…and so on.  Suddenly, in a strange turn, we are told daughters were born to them.  Human beings were having many daughters.  That is only significant when the next part of the sentence is added.  The 'sons of God' saw these human daughters and took them as wives.  The human daughters seem to be a contrast to these 'sons of God'.  Who are these sons of God? And why is this information inserted into the midst of the genealogy that connects Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to David and David to Jesus?

 

One thought that's often taught, because it's the easiest to believe and less threatening is that the 'sons of god' were males from the line of Seth who took wives from the line of Cain, becoming an intermarriage between the godly and the ungodly.  God does prohibit this later in the bible in Deuteronomy 7:1-4.  This was God's direction to the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land.  God says his purpose is to keep them from being drawn away to worship other gods.  The New Testament version of this same thought is 2 Corinthians 6:14:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?

 

There are some very smart men who believe the 'sons of God' mean the line of Seth and they took the 'daughters of men' as wives.  However, this leaves many unanswered questions, not the least of which is, "What does that have to do with Nephilim?"  But, let's not get ahead of our self.  The Hebrew words used for 'sons of God' is benai Elohim.  The phrase is also found in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Pss 89:6; 82:6; see Deut 32:8.  Every time benai Elohim is used in the Old Testament it is referring to angels.  'Sons of God' were direct created beings of God, not offspring of man.  Just as the 'daughters of man were born of man, 'sons of man' are born of man.  It is also noteworthy that those who translated the Hebrew Old Testament to Greek for the Septuagint (beginning 323BC) translated the bene' Elohim to angels.

 

The best understanding drawn from the scripture seems to be that these bene' Elohim were angelic beings.  As the population exploded there were fallen angels who found the daughters born of men as their wives.  The sons of God took them 'as they chose'.  This doesn't sound like the ladies had too much of a choice. 

 

Jude offer this in 5-7 as an effort to encourage the Christian to contend for the faith.  There had always been an enemy, there had been persecution and suffering, and those who would pervert God's grace.  But His grace is sufficient.

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

 

Jude tells us some angels didn't keep their proper domain.  They left their own habitation and went after strange flesh. These angels Jude is speaking about had positions of authority, but they abandoned them and took human wives. This wickedness is similar to those of Sodom & Gomorrah who gave themselves over to sexual immorality.  Remember in Sodom and Gomorrah, it was the men at the door that wanted the angels to come outside so they could have sex with them.  Even with all this said, I think the most important part of this verse from Jude is the very beginning, 'Though you already know all this.'  The facts they already knew were:

  1. The Lord delivered His people from Egypt.
  2. Angels didn't keep their positions of authority, they are kept in darkness, bound in chains for judgment.
  3. And Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves to immorality and perversion.

Any Christian who's been around the church any time knows of number 1 and number 3.  Sadly, though, few have heard of #2, particularly related to Genesis six.  This isn't a new teaching, it was taught and understood across the ages.  The earliest Jewish teachers taught this view and it showed up in their writings; 1 Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, the Septuagint (LXX), the writings of Philo and Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The early church fathers taught this, including Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.  It was some time later that it began to be brushed aside as hard to believe or unpopular.  Regardless, Jude informs us that this was common knowledge to the Jews of his day and he leads us to further believe there is more going on in Genesis six that leads to the flood. 

 

Peter has the seems to be in agreement with Jude:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.  (2 Peter 2:4-10)

 

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (1 Peter 3:18-22)

 

Among the literature the ancient Jew would have heard, read and understood would have been the book of Enoch.  This is an ancient Jewish religious work that was ascribed to Enoch by tradition.  Parts of the book show up in Papyrus dating back to 300B.C. and large parts of it were among the Dead Sea scrolls.  This apocryphal book has been debated, and still is in every aspect; origins, content, author, age, canonicity.  While it was historically used, we can't be sure the book we have today is the one referenced and taught in the past.  There are differences among the partial copies found.  It is likely that parts, if not large parts, of the book of Enoch were corrupted.  It was included in the early Hebrew collection of religious writings.  Enoch speaks of the Watchers, which are God's angels, His messengers. 

 

Watchers is an Aramaic term used 3 times in the Old Testament in three places; Daniel 4:13, 17, 23:

In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven.

 

 'The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.'

 

23 "Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, 'Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.'

 

The word 'watcher' seems to have some origin with the Akkadians of 2250B.C.  They used to bury little figurines of the Apkallu in their foundations to ward off the evil spirits.  The Apkallu were the giant, Nephilim, and were called the Watchers.  There are many references to these watchers on ancient cuneiform writings. While the term only shows up in the bible a few times, it seems to be widely used and believed by many cultures of the ancient times (though this doesn't necessarily make it fact). 

 

There is at least some indication that the sons of God were His angels that left their place and came to earth, taking wives and having offspring that were the giants.  There are many temples around and on Mt Hermon.  The temples are to many gods across the ages.  The oldest is also the highest, at over 2800 feet above sea level.  A stone was inscribed and has been translated to say, "According to the command of the greatest and Holy God, those who take an oath proceed from here."  Mt Hermon itself means oath and seems to refer to the oath these rebellious watchers took to stick together in their endeavor to take human wives. 

 

The northern region of Bashan runs to the base of Mt Hermon.  The connection of Mount Bashan to Mt. Hermon seems to be the context of this passage of Psalm 68.  The gods of this mount wanted to be like the God of Gods of Mount Zion:

15 Mount Bashan, majestic mountain,

Mount Bashan, rugged mountain,

16 why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain,

at the mountain where God chooses to reign,

where the Lord himself will dwell forever?

17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands

and thousands of thousands;

the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.

18 When you ascended on high,

you took many captives;

you received gifts from people,

even from the rebellious—

that you, Lord God, might dwell there.

 

Many religions saw Mt Hermon as this place of religious significance and influence.  It had a reputation of being the referred to as the gates of hell for the cave that seemed to descend into the depths at its base.  From this cave once flowed the waters of the Jordon.  These waters once stood between the children of Israel and their Promised Land and the Lord dammed the waters and allowed them to cross on dry land.  It forms an interesting picture of the waters of death flowing from the gates of hell blocking the way to the Promised land.  It is only by God's had are we saved through these waters and ushered in. 

 

Matthew 22:30 is put forth as one of the arguments against the theory that the watchers took these women as wives.  It says:

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.

Their argument is that angels don't marry and they draw the conclusion they are sexless.  However, Jesus didn't say angels were sexless, He said they don't marry.  He was also speaking about faithful angels, not rebellious ones.  So, this argument doesn't carry much weight.

 

Genesis 6:3-4

In the midst of the genealogy leading the flood we find verse three.  It is a difficult verse meaning one of two things:

  1. God's patience is running out with the wickedness of mankind.  He would be patient for another 120 years and then flood the earth wiping out humanity.  In the context of the intermarriage of angels and human women, the polluting of the bloodlines and wickedness on earth, this makes sense and fits the context.
  1. It is the shortening of the lifespans of mankind.  The earth was populated and the exponential growth had become an exponential wickedness.  Some see the flood as a collapse of the protective vapor canopy around the earth.  It not only brings a flood but also shortens the lifespan of man.  Not everyone agrees there was a vapor canopy and this seems to be a little bit of speculation.

What is wearing on God's patience though?  Well, we are told there is a population explosion on the earth.  Then we are told of the sons of God are marrying the daughters of men.  And now we find out there are giants in the land.  Earlier we said there were some unanswered questions to the Sethite view.  If the daughters of Seth were marrying the daughters of Cain, why did this make God angry enough to flood the earth and wipe out almost all the people?  Why was there something "unnatural" about the offspring of these unions?  There are giants in the land – these are the Nephilim.  The offspring of these unnatural unions were the Gibborim, or mighty men.

 

Looking at the 'giants' - the word in Hebrew is Nephilim.  It implies a recklessness or fierceness more than men of great stature.  These guys were without any control, morality or rules, they were known for their devastation and carnage.  This is the first use of the word gibbor, the heroes or mighty men.  The first gibbor given a name is Nimrod, a mighty one on earth, a mighty hunter.  Nimrod went on to found the kingdoms of Babel, Erech, Accad and the city of Nineveh among others.

 

When you look at Nimrod he begins to resemble the Mesopotamian hero Gilgamesh.  Gilgamesh is the main character is an epic Babylonian poem inscribed in cuneiform tablets.  It is regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature.  Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk in 2100 BC.  In the Qumran Book of Giants, Gilgamesh is listed as a Gibbor. 

 

There is, in fact, many flood stories among many ancient cultures.  That is why the Book of Genesis is considered a Polemic (a written attack against something).  There were many stories of creation and giants and a flood.  Most have a hero building a boat, few, if any explain why the flood occurred.  Most only state that their god was angry.  Moses wrote this down to set the record straight. 

 

As to why God did this, there is no doubt that the serpent probably thought Cain was the promised messiah just as Eve did.  Then along came Able.  The serpent was successful in moving Cain's heart to kill the one son and defile the other.  Satan probably would have thought his mission accomplished.  But God isn't overruled or outsmarted that easily, plus His plan would play out over many years.  How could Satan possibly head off the birth of this messiah?  Many believe his plan was to infect the culture with wickedness and pollute the bloodlines. 

 

The offspring of the Nephilim and the daughters of men represent a genetic defect that infected the land and threatens the bloodline that would lead to Jesus Christ.  Is it reasonable to believe Satan sent his angels to intermarry with human women to pollute the gene pool?  We know from the prophecy that from the Seed of the woman the Messiah would come.  Was Satan running ahead and polluting the population with his evil?

  1. Many Jews in Jesus time (and long before) knew that mankind had a problem.  They would all agree we are sinful by nature flowing from our federal head, Adam.  But they also would have said mankind had another problem, that evil existed in the world because of the work of the Watchers.  They brought unrighteousness, idolatry, technology and skills that sinful man had no capacity to handle, along with disease, suffering and evil of all kinds.  The heart of mankind was desperately wicked, born into it by Adam and influenced by the evil unleashed on the world by the watchers.
  2. The watchers left their rightful habitation and place of authority from which they had been assigned to seek their own place and their own authority.  They desired to be gods.  In many ways, mankind seemed to accommodate them.  There are many connections that can be made through ancient temple inscriptions and other writings to connect the Watchers to gods and goddesses of that time.  Many of these gods were seen as bringing technology and knowledge man did not possess.  From the early Sumerians came language, arts, knowledge of chemistry, cutting of roots, metallurgy and more.  Enoch said it was the watchers who brought these things.  The Sumerian gods, Annunaki, are an example of this connection to the Watchers.  Because this is so difficult to grasp, the Annunaki are perceived as alien visitors bringing this knowledge to men.   
  3. We see the attack on marriage; Lamech seen as the first with two wives.  Even in his poem we can see the hatred and violent influence he held over them.  Violence was prevalent and accepted.  When the watchers took the daughters of mankind as wives, the understanding of this interaction was violent sex.

 

It seems the Adamic race was so polluted that God found it necessary to start again with Noah and his sons, and to imprison the demons that did this so they could never do this again.  Also notice in verse 4 that there were giants also afterward.  After what?  It seems they existed after the flood.  The same process seems to have started again.  Looking post flood, when mankind gathered against God at Babel, he scattered them and confused their language. 

 

There is so much debate and so many books written regarding giants, Nephilim, watchers and the book of Enoch.  Moses didn't write this account as some mysterious hidden wisdom we must seek out.  He wrote it as a polemic.  It was to set the record straight among the many other accounts that existed.  We don't need to account for all these other stories or be able to argue the existence of fallen angels and giants.  We only need to know what Moses, and other biblical writers, wrote down for us.  The story isn't about giants, angels or even a flood.  It is about a good God who brings salvation to the righteous. 

 

It should not escape our thought how similar our days are to the days we are speaking of.  As the end of days draws nearer, mankind has overcome to the language barrier and there seems to be no end to the evil we can initiate.  Love is grown cold, violence is unprecedented, so many have become a god unto themselves.  Sex of every kind is incorporated into every aspect of our culture and making its way into religion.  Technology is rampant and growing exponentially; you don't have to look very far to find quotes regarding the thought that technology (computers) will not only make man obsolete but has made god obsolete.  Every institution of God is under full attack and seemingly losing more ground daily. 

 

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:37-41)

 

Genesis 6:5-10

The wickedness of man was great.  This is the reason for the flood.  When righteousness and paganism are blended in the culture, it will never result in the pagan becoming more righteous.  With all things equal, wickedness will invade until it pervades a life.  It's the same thought as 1 Corinthians 5:6:

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

It will result in the Godly becoming poisoned with the unrighteousness of the land.  The unnatural marriages of verse 2 brought about an offspring that was wicked.  This wickedness was like fuel on the first of an already sin-fallen society.  Imagine, every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  Can you imagine this kind of wickedness or evil?  The statement is about as emphatic as it can be in using 'every' and 'all'.  These guys weren't just a little ornery – every intent and thought was evil – continually.  There weren't any pauses in between thoughts.  There weren't a few good or righteous thoughts scattered in among the others.   There was no break for holidays.  Every intent was evil all the time.  This speaks of a complete and absolute corruption by sin.  One commentary put it this way:

Their depravity was not a temporary state. There were no relentings, no repentances, no hesitations. Lust was their medium, violence their method. This was total, inveterate depravity.

Much of the sin and wickedness seemed to be external and visible evil; but we know it was an internal problem.  It was a matter of the heart. 

 

 We might speculate the Nephilim were without conscience or that they were without a soul because they were not entirely human.  But it's only speculation and doesn't explain the depravity of the rest of society.   It is only by the power of God, through the Spirit of God that mankind can stand against wickedness in a culture. 

 

The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  God said, "I am sorry that I have made them."  God was not surprised at what was happening.  God cannot be surprised.  The creation was not out of control.  God wasn't sitting back waiting to see how things turned out, only to be disappointed in the results.  God knew all along how things would turn out.  Even so, imagine how heartbroken He was at what man had done.  There are many examples in scripture of God's emotions.  He is pressed by the sins of his creatures (Amos 2:13); He is wearied (Isa. 43:24); broken (Eze. 6:9); grieved (Ps. 95:10); and here grieved to the heart.

 

God was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  God was sorry that he had made him only in the sense that he now had destroy him.  God is of one mind, never changing.  The 'change' we see is not of God but of man.  God created man and it was good.  Now that man had become sinful and wicked, God showed himself displeased.  He had to; He is Holy and a just God.  The grief of sin fell on mankind, but the Lord Himself was also grieved.

 

The word translated to 'wipe' (v. 7) means to erase or blot out.  God was about to uncreate His creation.  He would wash it away with water.  The violence and evil had damaged God's original design so bad that even the animals, birds and creatures had to die also. 

 

Noah found favor in the eyes of God.  How does this happen?  Noah was a righteous man, an exception among the culture.  He was one of the few left whose thoughts were not always wicked all the time.  Noah's thoughts inclined toward God.  He was blameless; we could think of this as wholesome or honorable.  He was honorable in a generation of people who had no honor.  He walked with God as Enoch walked with God.    

 

Genesis 6:11-16

The corruption and violence involved the entire earth and so the cleansing would be a global cleansing.  "God said to Noah…."  We don't know how it was that God spoke to him.  God speaks to us in many ways.  Regardless of how this conversation happened, Noah knew this word came from God.  God shared with this favored man what He was about to do. 

 

The material of construction was to be gopher wood (translated Cypress in NIV).  This is an unknown wood to us but Noah knew what it was.  It must have been plentiful in the preflood world.  Noah was to make rooms – the word used for Rooms is 'kane' and is translated 'nest' in 11 of the 13 places its used.  Noah was to make nest-like places on his boat.  This 'pitch' on the ark was a covering, a kopher.  The kopher is likened to the blood of Christ, the covering for the sinner to keep them in the day of judgment.  The ark is the hiding place of Noah and his family during judgment.  God guards the righteous from His coming wrath by putting them in a safe place.

 

The ark is 450 feet long, 75 wide, 45 feet high.  The volume was 1.4 million cubic feet.  This is the size of 522 standard railroad boxcars.  Many have calculated the numbers of species and how much space they would take and found the ark to be more than sufficient for the task for which it was created.    

 

Genesis 6:17-22

God announced to Noah that He would bring an end to the wickedness with this flood.  All life would be destroyed.  Every creature with 'ruah', the breath of life, would be washed away.  God made it clear that it was He who was doing this.  He didn't foresee an act of nature, bad luck or timing.  He wasn't at the mercy of some other god or spirit.  He decided it, He would make it happen.  This was important for Moses to teach the children of Israel in that day.  The flood stories exist in every civilization and are nearly as old as the civilization.  Some are similar, many are not; most attest the flood to the anger of the gods.  Moses makes it clear it is Yahweh who did this. 

 

Even in our day, this fact is disputed; and even if the 'science' of today agrees there was a worldwide flood they would never attest it to Almighty God. 

 

Imagine what Noah felt when he heard the announcement of this calamity from God.  He may have wondered how many other people were building arks.  He may have been figuring in his head how many people would fit on the ark.  God clarified how many people would be saved.  This ark was for Noah and his wife along with his sons and their wives.  Just eight people among the millions of the earth.  Noah and his family would be the remnant of mankind.  He was also to bring a male and female of every creature on the earth along with all the food needed to keep them alive. 

 

My first thought would have been, 'How long do I have to get ready?'.  Building this large of a boat must have seemed like such a daunting task with this worldwide calamity on the horizon.  Noah's grandfather was Methusaleh, whose name announced the flood – when he dies it will come.  His son was Lamech, who had Noah.  Methusaleh and Lamech likely had many other sons and daughters.  Each of these represent Noah's own family.  Every day that Noah worked on the ark, this thought must have been on his mind; all the rest of his family would perish in the flood. 

 

Noah had the promise from God that He would establish His covenant.  Since having faith in God wasn't foreign to him, Noah did everything God commanded of him.  This is the most important phrase of this immediate passage.  Noah didn't need any more information than what God gave him.  He didn't complain about the task before him.  He didn't wait for a sign.  He didn't wait and pray about it.  He didn't tell God how crazy this sounded.  He didn't shy away from it because of what people would say or think.  Noah just did what God told him to day.  This is the evidence of a person of faith, one who walks with God.

 

As daunting a task as this might have been, this wasn't the primary difficulty he would face.  Noah was a preacher of righteousness in an unrighteous culture (2 Peter 2:5).  Every day, Noah was broken hearted for the people who would perish, starting with his family.  To ad injury to insult, those he loved and cared about were the ones who would mock him over his obedience and faith in God.  Noah's greatest burden was working in obedience while he was the object of scorn and ridicule of all those who surrounded him.  Remember, their thoughts were only evil all the time.  He would be building a boat that had to appear useless.  You know people pointed and laughed and mocked and joked, as Noah prayed and preached repentance.  They would have said he was wacky, different, a radical; he was taking that God stuff way to serious.  He was probably often advised to take a week off, have couple drinks and lighten up a little. 

 

The work Noah was doing for God couldn't be hidden.  It was huge and everyone would see.  How about you?  Is the work that God is doing through you conspicuous?  Will everyone, or anyone, notice? 

 

©2019 Doug Ford