Chapter 6

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After the human population had increased significantly, certain “sons of God” began to notice that the women (literally, “daughters of the man” [the earthling]) were attractive. Of their choosing or to their liking, these “sons of God” took wives from among the women. Targum Jonathan says that these women were beautiful, painted, and curled (apparently having curled their hair). They walked about with “revelation of flesh” or with much of their body exposed and with thoughts of wickedness. (6:1, 2)

Verse 6 of the letter of Jude indicates the “sons of God” to have been “angels who did not keep their original place for themselves, but left their own dwelling.” The Genesis account makes no mention about the punishment inflicted on these “sons of God.” Sources familiar to Jews living in the first century CE, however, did include references to their punishment as being restraint in bonds and confinement in a place of darkness. This is also mentioned in verse 6 of the letter of Jude and 2 Peter 2:4.

First Enoch 12:4 identifies the “sons of God as “the Watchers of the heaven” who “left the high heaven, the holy eternal place,” and took “wives for themselves.” As to their punishment, 1 Enoch 10:11 says that God instructed the angel Michael to “bind Semjâzâ and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness.” This binding is not represented as their final punishment, but they are said to remain in their bound state until “the day of their judgment and of their consummation.” (1 Enoch 10:12) “In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire.” (1 Enoch 10:13) Regarding Azâzêl, God directed the angel Raphael to bind him “hand and foot,” and to “cast him into the darkness.” He would then remain bound and in a state of total darkness until the “day of the great judgment,” at which time he would be thrown “into the fire.” (1 Enoch 10:4-6)

There is uncertainty about the significance of the Hebrew word dun in the opening sentence of verse 3. A literal rendering of the sentence could be, “And YHWH said, My spirit will not contend [dun] in [or with] man for limitless time.” This could mean that YHWH ’s spirit or attitude toward wayward humans would change. He would cease to trouble himself with them, refraining from executing severe punitive judgment. The Septuagint conveys a different meaning. “And the Lord God said, By no means [literally, not, not] will my spirit remain in these men.” This could signify that God would not allow the life force or life principle that he had imparted to humans continue to animate them. Man was but “flesh,” a mere mortal who had no strength to resist God in carrying out his purpose. YHWH determined to tolerate corrupt humans for no more than 120 years and to act against them after the allotted time was up. According to Targum Jonathan, the practicers of wickedness were given an extension of 120 years so that they might come to repentance and not perish. (6:3)

At the time the “sons of God” had sexual relations with women (literally, “the daughters of the man”), the “Nephilim” were on the earth. The designation “Nephilim” means “fellers” or individuals who caused other persons to fall by violent means. In the Septuagint, they are called “giants.” They were mighty men, “men of name,” but not men of renown known for good deeds. As the offspring of the “sons of God,” they apparently were men of extraordinary strength. (6:4) Josephus, in his Antiquities (I, iii, 1), referred to them as the offspring of “angels of God” and described them as unjust and as men who despised everything good, “on account of the confidence they had in their own strength.” The “tradition is that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants.”

The Nephilim and their fathers must have greatly contributed to the extreme corruption that came to exist among the people of that time. This did not escape the attention of YHWH. He saw that the “wickedness of man” was great. In their thoughts, humans continually were focused only on bad. The complete moral breakdown that existed caused YHWH to look with regret upon his having made man because of how evil humankind had become. He was grieved or pained at heart or in his inmost being. Therefore, YHWH purposed to blot out man, beast, crawling creature, and bird. The evil for which man was responsible had led to impending calamitous results for the whole environment, including the animals. This is still true of the environmental ruin that humans cause and which brings about the destruction of animal life. (6:5-7)

Among his contemporaries, Noah “found favor in the eyes of YHWH.” He was an upright, blameless man, one who “walked with God,” or a man who conducted himself with a wholesome regard for God and according to the guidance of his God-given conscience. Noah was the father of three sons — Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (6:8-10)

As an upright God-fearing man, Noah remained undefiled by the corruption and the violence that “filled the earth.” In view of the corruption that came to exist among “all flesh,” or all the other humans then alive, YHWH revealed to Noah his purpose to destroy “all flesh.” The destruction of corrupt humankind was to be “with the earth,” indicating that everything on the land in the then-existing condition would come to an end. (6:11-13)

For the preservation of his life, that of seven immediate family members, and that of animals, Noah was divinely directed to build an “ark,” a huge rectangular box-like vessel. Gópher is the Hebrew word for the wood that was to be used for the construction of the ark. There is uncertainty about which tree the term gópher designated. The Septuagint rendering is “squared [lengths of] wood.” The lumber may have been obtained from a resinous tree like the cypress. Compartments were to be constructed in the interior of the ark. To make the vessel watertight, both the interior and exterior were to be covered with pitch. Based on a cubit of 18 inches (c. 46 centimeters), the ark was 450 feet (c. 137 meters; 300 cubits) long, 75 feet wide (c. 23 meters; 50 cubits), and 45 feet high (c. 13.7 meters; 30 cubits) high. (6:14, 15; see the Notes section.)

There is uncertainty about the meaning of the feature of the ark that is designated as the tsóhar. Perhaps the word tsóhar referred to an 18-inch (c. 46-centimeter; 1-cubit) opening below the roof of the ark and on all four sides of the vessel. Such an opening would have provided needed ventilation and some daylight. The entrance of the ark was on its side, and the interior of the vessel had three decks. (6:16)

YHWH revealed to Noah that he would flood the earth, destroying human and animal life. He concluded a covenant with Noah, his wife, his three sons, and the wives of his three sons. That covenant assured them that they would survive the deluge. To preserve every kind of bird, animal, or crawling creature, Noah was to bring two of each, male and female, into the ark. Additionally, he was to arrange for provisions of food to last for the duration of the flood. Noah followed through on everything he had been commanded to do. (6:17-22; see the Notes section.)

Notes

There is archaeological evidence for a cubit of approximately 17.5 inches (44.5 centimeters). This would make the dimensions of the ark approximately 438 feet (133.5 meters) by 73 feet (22 meters) by 44 feet (13.4 meters). Possibly the cubit was significantly longer.