Thursday, November 14, 2013

Genesis 6:1-8

This text serves as a bridge between the end of the “Book of the Generations of Adam” in 5:1-6:8 and the “Generations of Noah” beginning in 6:9.
This text can be divided into two main parts: 6:1-4, which describes the spiral of evil throughout the land, and 6:5-8, which describes God’s response to it.

Increasing Corruption (6:1-4)
The reference to humanity beginning to “multiply” in 6:1 seems positive at first, since this is what God originally told man and woman to do in 1:26-28. However, at this same time, “the sons of God” took wives from “the daughters of man” (6:2), and 6:3 seems to connect this with the Lord’s displeasure.

This is one of the most difficult verses in all of Scripture. Just who were the “sons of God,” and what was it about these marriages that was displeasing to the Lord? There are three basic views that have been proposed:

1. The “sons of God” are angels, and the sin was co-habiting with human women (see Gordon Wenham in the Word Biblical Commentary on Genesis for further support of this view).

In favor of this view:
a. The only other place in Scripture we find the phrase “sons of God” is in Job, where it refers to angels (Job 1:6, etc).
b. While angels are spirit beings, they can take human form, making these actions a theoretical possibility (as in Gen. 19:1-11).
c. This was the oldest and most common view among early commentators, and may even be hinted at in NT texts such as Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4 (and possibly 1 Peter 3:20- 21).

Problems with this view:
a. The text in Genesis seems to place the blame for what is happening squarely on human beings (6:3, 5, 6, 7). If angelic beings were involved, they are unmentioned in the rest of the text.
b. While it is possible that the NT refers to this view, it is not certain. The texts in the NT could be referring to a much earlier event in connection with Satan’s fall.

2. The “sons of God” are the godly line of Seth, and the sin was co-habiting with ungodly women (see Kenneth Matthew in the New American Commentary on Genesis for further support of this view).

In favor of this view:
a. This section appears just after the genealogy of Seth in 5:1-32, which doesn’t conclude until 9:28-29.

b. Scripture often mentions marriage within the family in Genesis (see 24:3-4). 
c. From the time of Augustine this view found lots of support among Christian commentators.

Problems with this view:
a. It does not explain why it was wrong for the “sons of God” to marry “the daughters of men” (unless the idea is indiscriminate marriage, which is certainly not explicitly stated).
b. The prohibition against intermarriage with other families doesn’t appear until much later in the Bible.

3. The “sons of God” are kings, and the sin is taking “as their wives any they chose,” i.e. abuse of power. (Compare this to the prima nocta, “right of first night”). (See John Walton in the NIV Application commentary on Genesis for further support of this view).

In favor of this view:
a. In Scripture and the ancient world kings were called “sons of God.”
b. The theme of taking what is not right to take would fall in line with earlier stories in Genesis, and with the expanding power of sin (individuals – families – societies). It may also connect with the lineage of Cain, which includes Lamech (cf. 4:23).
c. This became a very popular view among rabbinical commentators.

Problems with this view:
a. Normally the expression for kings is in the singular, “son of God,” not the plural. 

b. “Took” does not inherently carry any idea of coercion, and can be used for matrimony in general.

The main thing that is important for us to focus on is the connection between 6:1-4 and the opening chapters of Genesis. Whatever was happening here, it involved seeing something beautiful and taking it – exactly what Eve did in 3:6. What happened in Eden has now been magnified, leading to grave consequences. Just as God evicted man from the garden, now He says that His Spirit – that which gives life (cf. 2:7) – will not abide in man (or “strive with man,” NASB) forever. Instead, “his days shall be 120 years.”

The reference to 120 years could refer to:
-The time between this pronouncement and the flood. -The life span of man’s years.

Gen. 6:4 states that in these days the “Nephilim” were on the earth.
-This is a transliteration of a Hebrew term that is obscure, and only found in one other place (Num. 13:33).
-The LXX translated it “giants,” and the KJV followed this interpretation.
-The end of 6:4 identifies them as “mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” 

- What is most important to see is that according to the text, they were “men.” The

assumption that they were the offspring of angels and humans is not directly supported by the text.

The Lord’s Response (6:5-8)
Notice three reactions:
1. The Lord saw (6:5). The contrast is between what the Lord “saw” in 1:31 and what He sees now. Wickedness has pervaded the world and the hearts of humanity.
2. The Lord was sorry (6:6). This is profound language expressing the bitterness and hurt of a betrayed relationship.

3. The Lord said (6:7). God announces His intention to bring judgment to bear on the land.
The only glimmer of hope found in this text is the mention of Noah (6:8; cf. 5:29). 


  1. These are great study points. Very enlightening. God bless.

    Chris fuller

  2. Shane, I'm interested in your thought about Psalm 82:6. None of the translations I'm aware of say that these "gods" were "sons of God", but the ESV, NASB, and NIV say they are "sons of the Most High". Curious on your thoughts. I'm doing a sermon on our being partakers of God's divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) and these passages, (Gen. 6:4; Psa. 82:6) among others, have come across my mind to further study.

    Have a blessed day. P.S. - when do you and your wife move?

    1. Hey Mitch, that is a tough passage. I have gone back and forth between them being angelic creatures to being human judges delegated to represent God. We are moving in mid-January. Hope you guys are doing well!

  3. What do you think of what Jesus said regarding the angels not marrying?

  4. James, in Gen 18-19 angels could take human form such that at least the men in Sodom thought they could have relations. So I am not convinced that what Jesus said rules out the angels view. What Jesus said has to do with angels living forever, not necessarily their inability to take human form. Remember that the context of what Jesus says has to do with the law concerning levirate marriage, which was given because of concern that a family line not be ended in death.