1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. – Genesis 6:1-8 ESV
Once again, Moses reveals that mankind was keeping the divine mandate to “multiply and fill the earth.” They were doing what God had commanded them to do. But the problem was that, because of the fall, mankind was no longer able to bear God’s image as He had intended. They had become damaged goods. Like a dirty mirror, their ability to accurately reflect His divine glory had been marred. Yet, according to chapter five, there was a still remnant of individuals who still chose to worship God. The ungodly line of Cain was balanced out by the more faithful line of Seth, illustrated in the life of Enoch, a man who “walked with God” (Genesis 5:21 ESV).
The genealogy of Adam, recorded in chapter five, provides an explanatory backdrop upon which to view the dark and depressing events of chapter six. Moses ends the genealogy with an introduction to Noah, who will play a major role in the next phase of God’s pre-ordained plan for mankind. Noah is not just one more name in a long list of Adam’s descendants. He is the whole point of the genealogy. Moses wants us to know that God planned for the coming of this one who would play the role of “savior,” bringing rest to those who had grown weary living under the curse that God had imposed because of Adam’s sin. Even Noah’s father somehow recognized that his infant son would play the role of a deliverer.
“Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” – Genesis 5:29
When pronounced in Hebrew, Noah’s name sounded like the Hebrew word for “rest” or “comfort.” Lamech believed that his son would bring some form of relief from the constant struggle of attempting to eke out a living from the ground that God had cursed. He and his fellow inhabitants of the earth were looking for some form of salvation from the divine condemnation under which they suffered.
But even under the curse, mankind seemed to flourish. They continued to procreate and produce more of their kind. Moses declares that “man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them” (Genesis 6:1 ESV). Due to the extended life spans experienced prior to the flood, the reproduction cycle of humanity was greatly extended. As a result, they were able to “fill the earth” in a relatively short period of time. The lines of Cain and Seth both expanded rapidly, creating a perfect storm. These two divergent branches of Adam’s family tree would soon find themselves interacting with one another. The godly and the godless would inevitably end up crossing paths and even intermarrying with one another.
The next section of chapter six has developed a controversial reputation. In it, Moses states that “the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose” (Genesis 6:2 ESV). There are those who interpret this verse to mean that fallen angels procreated with the daughters of men. They arrive at this conclusion because every other time the phrase, “sons of God,” is used in the Old Testament, it refers to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). Proponents of this view also claim that the New Testament books of 2 Peter and Jude provide support for their assertion.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly… – 2 Peter 2:4-6 ESV
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. – Jude 6-7 ESV
But it would appear that these two passages refer to the original fall of Satan and the angels who joined him in his failed coup attempt against God. There is no other reference in the Genesis passage to angels. In fact, the very next verse reflects God’s anger with mankind, not angelic beings.
“My Spirit shall not abide in man forever…” – Genesis 6:3 ESV
It seems much more likely that “the sons of God” and “daughters of men” are intended as references to the godly line of Seth and the ungodly line of Cain. These two branches of Adam’s family tree had begun to merge through intermarriage, and the result was a further degradation of the spiritual seed of Seth. The appearance of men like Enoch became increasingly rarer. And God’s anger with mankind is reflected in His decision to dramatically shorten the average lifespan. The reference to 120 years, found in verse 3, is most likely a warning concerning the pending judgment of God. It refers to the length of time before God would destroy the earth with a flood. And as a result of this cataclysmic event, human lifespans will begin to drop precipitously. No longer would humans live for seven to eight centuries. These protracted periods of existence had produced many children, but few faithful followers of God.
And it seems that with the longer lifespans, humans had enjoyed prolonged growing periods. Each stage of life, including adolescence, lasted longer in those days. As a result, men not only lived longer but grew larger. That seems to be the best explanation for Moses’ reference to the Nephilim. These were so-called “giants” who intermarried with the daughters of men and became “the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown” (Genesis 6:4 ESV). There is only one other reference to the Nephilim in the Bible and it is found in Numbers 13:33. While some assert that the Nephilim were the offspring of angels who procreated with humans, this seems unlikely, since the Scriptures seem to teach that angels do not marry or reproduce (Matthew 22:30).
The entire focus of this passage is on humanity and not on fallen angels or some antediluvian super-species. Verse 5 clearly states the problem.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5 ESV
This isn’t about disreputable angels performing despicable acts with human beings. It’s not about a race of superhuman X-Men polluting the DNA of humanity. The problem is wickedness – pure and simple. The wickedness of man was great in the earth. And this wickedness included attitudes as well as actions. In fact, “everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil” (Genesis 6:5 NLT).
And what follows is one of the saddest statements found in Scripture.
And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. – Genesis 6:6 ESV
With this emotionally charged statement, Moses attempts to describe God’s sorrow over the state of His creation. Humanity’s downward spiritual spiral has come to the point of no return. God is not second-guessing Himself. He is not questioning the goodness of His original creation of man. At that time, He had declared all that He had made as “very good” (Genesis 1:31), including Adam and Eve. But their rebellion had brought death into the world. It had permanently marred their relationship with God and damaged the entire creative order. And the longer man lived and the more of his own kind he created, the worse the situation became. Until God intervened.
“I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” – Genesis 6:7 ESV
The one who had created it all would choose to destroy it all and start over. God would begin again. The Creator would re-create. The life-giver would choose to destroy all life and then reanimate and rejuvenate His creation once again. But His destruction would not be complete. He would graciously spare some. God would preserve a remnant of His creation in order to fulfill the plan of redemption He had developed long before He pierced the pre-creation darkness with the light of His glory. God would use a man named Noah to act as His agent of redemption and recreation. In the midst of all the moral darkness and spiritual apathy of his age, this one man found favor in the eyes of the Lord. He would become the vessel through whom God was spare a remnant of fallen humanity and carry out His grand plan of redemption.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.