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Genesis 6:1-4

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 

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).



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