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Genesis 6:1-8

Context
God’s Grief over Humankind’s Wickedness

6:1 When humankind 1  began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born 2  to them, 3  6:2 the sons of God 4  saw that the daughters of humankind were beautiful. Thus they took wives for themselves from any they chose. 6:3 So the Lord said, “My spirit will not remain in 5  humankind indefinitely, 6  since 7  they 8  are mortal. 9  They 10  will remain for 120 more years.” 11 

6:4 The Nephilim 12  were on the earth in those days (and also after this) 13  when the sons of God were having sexual relations with 14  the daughters of humankind, who gave birth to their children. 15  They were the mighty heroes 16  of old, the famous men. 17 

6:5 But the Lord saw 18  that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination 19  of the thoughts 20  of their minds 21  was only evil 22  all the time. 23  6:6 The Lord regretted 24  that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended. 25  6:7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – everything from humankind to animals, 26  including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.”

6:8 But 27  Noah found favor 28  in the sight of 29  the Lord.

1 tn The Hebrew text has the article prefixed to the noun. Here the article indicates the generic use of the word אָדָם (’adam): “humankind.”

2 tn This disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) is circumstantial to the initial temporal clause. It could be rendered, “with daughters being born to them.” For another example of such a disjunctive clause following the construction וַיְהִיכִּי (vayÿhiki, “and it came to pass when”), see 2 Sam 7:1.

3 tn The pronominal suffix is third masculine plural, indicating that the antecedent “humankind” is collective.

4 sn The Hebrew phrase translated “sons of God” (בְנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים, bÿne-haelohim) occurs only here (Gen 6:2, 4) and in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7. There are three major interpretations of the phrase here. (1) In the Book of Job the phrase clearly refers to angelic beings. In Gen 6 the “sons of God” are distinct from “humankind,” suggesting they were not human. This is consistent with the use of the phrase in Job. Since the passage speaks of these beings cohabiting with women, they must have taken physical form or possessed the bodies of men. An early Jewish tradition preserved in 1 En. 6-7 elaborates on this angelic revolt and even names the ringleaders. (2) Not all scholars accept the angelic interpretation of the “sons of God,” however. Some argue that the “sons of God” were members of Seth’s line, traced back to God through Adam in Gen 5, while the “daughters of humankind” were descendants of Cain. But, as noted above, the text distinguishes the “sons of God” from humankind (which would include the Sethites as well as the Cainites) and suggests that the “daughters of humankind” are human women in general, not just Cainites. (3) Others identify the “sons of God” as powerful tyrants, perhaps demon-possessed, who viewed themselves as divine and, following the example of Lamech (see Gen 4:19), practiced polygamy. But usage of the phrase “sons of God” in Job militates against this view. For literature on the subject see G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:135.

5 tn The verb form יָדוֹן (yadon) only occurs here. Some derive it from the verbal root דִּין (din, “to judge”) and translate “strive” or “contend with” (so NIV), but in this case one expects the form to be יָדִין (yadin). The Old Greek has “remain with,” a rendering which may find support from an Arabic cognate (see C. Westermann, Genesis, 1:375). If one interprets the verb in this way, then it is possible to understand רוּחַ (ruakh) as a reference to the divine life-giving spirit or breath, rather than the Lord’s personal Spirit. E. A. Speiser argues that the term is cognate with an Akkadian word meaning “protect” or “shield.” In this case, the Lord’s Spirit will not always protect humankind, for the race will suddenly be destroyed (E. A. Speiser, “YDWN, Gen. 6:3,” JBL 75 [1956]: 126-29).

6 tn Or “forever.”

7 tn The form בְּשַׁגַּם (bÿshagam) appears to be a compound of the preposition בְּ (beth, “in”), the relative שֶׁ (she, “who” or “which”), and the particle גַּם (gam, “also, even”). It apparently means “because even” (see BDB 980 s.v. שֶׁ).

8 tn Heb “he”; the plural pronoun has been used in the translation since “man” earlier in the verse has been understood as a collective (“humankind”).

9 tn Heb “flesh.”

10 tn See the note on “they” earlier in this verse.

11 tn Heb “his days will be 120 years.” Some interpret this to mean that the age expectancy of people from this point on would be 120, but neither the subsequent narrative nor reality favors this. It is more likely that this refers to the time remaining between this announcement of judgment and the coming of the flood.

12 tn The Hebrew word נְפִילִים (nÿfilim) is simply transliterated here, because the meaning of the term is uncertain. According to the text, the Nephilim became mighty warriors and gained great fame in the antediluvian world. The text may imply they were the offspring of the sexual union of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of humankind” (v. 2), but it stops short of saying this in a direct manner. The Nephilim are mentioned in the OT only here and in Num 13:33, where it is stated that they were giants (thus KJV, TEV, NLT “giants” here). The narrator observes that the Anakites of Canaan were descendants of the Nephilim. Certainly these later Anakite Nephilim could not be descendants of the antediluvian Nephilim (see also the following note on the word “this”).

13 tn This observation is parenthetical, explaining that there were Nephilim even after the flood. If all humankind, with the exception of Noah and his family, died in the flood, it is difficult to understand how the postdiluvian Nephilim could be related to the antediluvian Nephilim or how the Anakites of Canaan could be their descendants (see Num 13:33). It is likely that the term Nephilim refers generally to “giants” (see HALOT 709 s.v. נְפִילִים) without implying any ethnic connection between the antediluvian and postdiluvian varieties.

14 tn Heb “were entering to,” referring euphemistically to sexual intercourse here. The Hebrew imperfect verbal form draws attention to the ongoing nature of such sexual unions during the time before the flood.

15 tn Heb “and they gave birth to them.” The masculine plural suffix “them” refers to the “sons of God,” to whom the “daughters of humankind” bore children. After the Qal form of the verb יָלָד (yalad, “to give birth”) the preposition לְ (lÿ, “to”) introduces the father of the child(ren). See Gen 16:1, 15; 17:19, 21; 21:2-3, 9; 22:23; 24:24, 47; 25:2, etc.

16 tn The parenthetical/explanatory clause uses the word הַגִּבֹּרִים (haggibborim) to describe these Nephilim. The word means “warriors; mighty men; heroes.” The appositional statement further explains that they were “men of renown.” The text refers to superhuman beings who held the world in their power and who lived on in ancient lore outside the Bible. See E. A. Speiser, Genesis (AB), 45-46; C. Westermann, Genesis, 1:379-80; and Anne D. Kilmer, “The Mesopotamian Counterparts of the Biblical Nephilim,” Perspectives on Language and Text, 39-43.

17 tn Heb “men of name” (i.e., famous men).

18 sn The Hebrew verb translated “saw” (רָאָה, raah), used here of God’s evaluation of humankind’s evil deeds, contrasts with God’s evaluation of creative work in Gen 1, when he observed that everything was good.

19 tn The noun יֵצֶר (yetser) is related to the verb יָצָר (yatsar, “to form, to fashion [with a design]”). Here it refers to human plans or intentions (see Gen 8:21; 1 Chr 28:9; 29:18). People had taken their God-given capacities and used them to devise evil. The word יֵצֶר (yetser) became a significant theological term in Rabbinic literature for what might be called the sin nature – the evil inclination (see also R. E. Murphy, “Yeser in the Qumran Literature,” Bib 39 [1958]: 334-44).

20 tn The related verb הָשָׁב (hashav) means “to think, to devise, to reckon.” The noun (here) refers to thoughts or considerations.

21 tn Heb “his heart” (referring to collective “humankind”). The Hebrew term לֵב (lev, “heart”) frequently refers to the seat of one’s thoughts (see BDB 524 s.v. לֵב). In contemporary English this is typically referred to as the “mind.”

22 sn Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil. There is hardly a stronger statement of the wickedness of the human race than this. Here is the result of falling into the “knowledge of good and evil”: Evil becomes dominant, and the good is ruined by the evil.

23 tn Heb “all the day.”

sn The author of Genesis goes out of his way to emphasize the depth of human evil at this time. Note the expressions “every inclination,” “only evil,” and “all the time.”

24 tn Or “was grieved”; “was sorry.” In the Niphal stem the verb נָחָם (nakham) can carry one of four semantic meanings, depending on the context: (1) “to experience emotional pain or weakness,” “to feel regret,” often concerning a past action (see Exod 13:17; Judg 21:6, 15; 1 Sam 15:11, 35; Job 42:6; Jer 31:19). In several of these texts כִּי (ki, “because”) introduces the cause of the emotional sorrow. (2) Another meaning is “to be comforted” or “to comfort oneself” (sometimes by taking vengeance). See Gen 24:67; 38:12; 2 Sam 13:39; Ps 77:3; Isa 1:24; Jer 31:15; Ezek 14:22; 31:16; 32:31. (This second category represents a polarization of category one.) (3) The meaning “to relent from” or “to repudiate” a course of action which is already underway is also possible (see Judg 2:18; 2 Sam 24:16 = 1 Chr 21:15; Pss 90:13; 106:45; Jer 8:6; 20:16; 42:10). (4) Finally, “to retract” (a statement) or “to relent or change one’s mind concerning,” “to deviate from” (a stated course of action) is possible (see Exod 32:12, 14; 1 Sam 15:29; Ps 110:4; Isa 57:6; Jer 4:28; 15:6; 18:8, 10; 26:3, 13, 19; Ezek 24:14; Joel 2:13-14; Am 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:9-10; 4:2; Zech 8:14). See R. B. Chisholm, “Does God ‘Change His Mind’?” BSac 152 (1995): 388. The first category applies here because the context speaks of God’s grief and emotional pain (see the following statement in v. 6) as a result of a past action (his making humankind). For a thorough study of the word נָחָם, see H. Van Dyke Parunak, “A Semantic Survey of NHM,” Bib 56 (1975): 512-32.

25 tn Heb “and he was grieved to his heart.” The verb עָצָב (’atsav) can carry one of three semantic senses, depending on the context: (1) “to be injured” (Ps 56:5; Eccl 10:9; 1 Chr 4:10); (2) “to experience emotional pain”; “to be depressed emotionally”; “to be worried” (2 Sam 19:2; Isa 54:6; Neh 8:10-11); (3) “to be embarrassed”; “to be offended” (to the point of anger at another or oneself); “to be insulted” (Gen 34:7; 45:5; 1 Sam 20:3, 34; 1 Kgs 1:6; Isa 63:10; Ps 78:40). This third category develops from the second by metonymy. In certain contexts emotional pain leads to embarrassment and/or anger. In this last use the subject sometimes directs his anger against the source of grief (see especially Gen 34:7). The third category fits best in Gen 6:6 because humankind’s sin does not merely wound God emotionally. On the contrary, it prompts him to strike out in judgment against the source of his distress (see v. 7). The verb וַיִּתְעַצֵּב (vayyitatsev), a Hitpael from עָצָב, alludes to the judgment oracles in Gen 3:16-19. Because Adam and Eve sinned, their life would be filled with pain; but sin in the human race also brought pain to God. The wording of v. 6 is ironic when compared to Gen 5:29. Lamech anticipated relief (נָחָם, nakham) from their work (מַעֲשֶׂה, maaseh) and their painful toil (עִצְּבֹן, ’itsÿvon), but now we read that God was sorry (נָחָם, nakham) that he had made (עָשָׂה, ’asah) humankind for it brought him great pain (עָצָב, ’atsav).

26 tn The text simply has “from man to beast, to creatures, and to birds of the air.” The use of the prepositions עַדמִן (min...ad) stresses the extent of the judgment in creation.

27 tn The disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) is contrastive here: God condemns the human race, but he is pleased with Noah.

28 tn The Hebrew expression “find favor [in the eyes of]” is an idiom meaning “to be an object of another’s favorable disposition or action,” “to be a recipient of another’s favor, kindness, mercy.” The favor/kindness is often earned, coming in response to an action or condition (see Gen 32:5; 39:4; Deut 24:1; 1 Sam 25:8; Prov 3:4; Ruth 2:10). This is the case in Gen 6:8, where v. 9 gives the basis (Noah’s righteous character) for the divine favor.

29 tn Heb “in the eyes of,” an anthropomorphic expression for God’s opinion or decision. The Lord saw that the whole human race was corrupt, but he looked in favor on Noah.



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