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Genesis 6:1-22

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Corruption of Mankind The Wickedness and Judgment of Man The Birth of the Nephilim Human Wickedness Sons of God and Women
6:1-4 6:1-4 6:1-4 6:1-4 6:1-4
    The Great Flood   The Corruption of Humanity
    (6:5-8:22)    
6:5-8 6:5-8 6:5-8 6:5-8 6:5-8
  Noah Pleases God   Noah  
6:9-10 6:9-10 6:9-10 6:9-12 6:9a
        6:9b-12
6:11-12 6:11-13 6:11-22   Preparations for the Flood
        (6:13-7:16)
6:13-22 The Ark Prepared   6:13-22 6:13-16
  6:14-21      
        6:17-22
  6:22      

READING CYCLE THREE (see p. vii)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:1-4
  1Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 2that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. 3Then the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." 4The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

6:1 "men" This is the generic use of the term (cf. 5:2). If it is used in the generic sense in v. 2 which seems probable then the angelic theory is strengthened.

▣ "and daughters were born to them" This does not imply that these were the first birth of daughters (cf. 5:4) but a general statement of the expansion of the human race (BDB 408, KB 411, Qal PASSIVE PERFECT).

6:2 "sons of God" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: "THE SONS OF GOD" IN GENESIS 6

▣ "the daughters of men were beautiful" The term "beautiful" is literally "good" or "fair" (BDB 373). This has been a key theological concept from chapter 1 (esp. 1:31). What God saw as good He now sees evil (cf. vv. 5-6).

▣ "they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose" The first phrase implies marriage which would militate against the view that it was angels (BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERFECT). However, the second phrase implies that they took previously married and/or unmarried women, whomever they chose (BDB 103, 119, Qal PERFECT). This could imply (1) angelic beings or (2) powerful human leaders of Cain's line (i.e. tyrants) practicing polygamy.

6:3 "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever" The term "strive" can be translated "remain" (BDB 192, KB 220, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. NRSV "abide"). This either refers to (1) God's patience (i.e He postponed the flood until the ark was finished cf. I Pet. 3:20) or (2) mankind's reduced life span.

 How does 6:3 relate to 6:1-2 and 6:4? It is very difficult to follow the original author's intent through this context. Possibly even though humans had mixed with angels they will still die. As Eve "saw" and took so now "sons of God" "saw" and took, which implies the same type of rebellion (i.e. possibly grasping eternal life or independence).

▣ "because he is also flesh" This seems to add weight to the interpretation that the other people spoken of in the passage are angelic beings in contradistinction to mortal humans. Today's English Version translates "they are mortal."

▣ "nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years" This seems to imply a time period of grace (cf. II Pet. 2:5) where it asserts that Noah preached for these intervening years, therefore, it refers to the time until the flood came. It also could point toward the reduced life-span of humans after the coming flood.

6:4 "The Nephilim" This implies "the fallen ones" (from the Hebrew naphal, BDB 658, KB 709). It seems to me that they are analogous to the giants (cf. Num. 13:33; also Deut. 2:10-11; 9:2; and the Septuagint, the Vulgate and Peshitta translations). However, other interpreters such as Martin Luther and H.C. Leupold assert that this term should be interpreted "tyrants" which implies the powerful kings of Cain's line who had large harems.

J. Wash Watts in Old Testament Teaching, pp. 28-30, says "Nephilim refers to Noah and his family as those who separated themselves from those of Cain's line and Seth's line who were intermarrying. In this interpretation Nephilim are the sons of the "One true God" (cf. "the God" 5:22,24; 6:9). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS USED FOR TALL/POWERFUL WARRIORS OR PEOPLE GROUPS

▣ "were on the earth in those days" Those who believe in angels co-habitating with human women use the second half of v. 4 as a proof-text to show that the giants came out of this relationship. However, others use the first half of v. 4 to assert that giants were already on the earth at this time.

The inter-testamental apocalyptic book of I Enoch asserts that these giants were the result of the union of angels and humans and that the mixing of the orders of creation is the reason God sent the flood. I Enoch also asserts that these giants who lost their physical bodies in the flood are the demons seeking to indwell human bodies for their own selfish reasons. 

NASB, NKJV"the mighty men"
NRSV, NJB"the heroes"
TEV"the great heroes"

This is the Hebrew term gibbor (BDB 150), which means an especially empowered person, animal, or thing. It is used of (1) Nimrod in Gen. 10:8-9; (2) tyrants in Ps. 52:1; Ezek. 32:27; and (3) angels in Ps. 103:20 (also in the Thanksgiving Hymns 8:11 and 20:34 from the Dead Sea Scrolls)

NASB, NKJV
NJB, NIV"men of renown"
NRSV"warriors of renown"
TEV"famous men"

The first rendering is the translation of most modern English Bibles as well as the Septuagint. However, literally it is "men of the name" (BDB 1027). This has resulted in three theories:

(1) it refers to the godly line of Seth who worshiped YHWH (i.e. the name of God, cf. J. Wash Watts)

(2) it refers to the Nephilim as powerful offspring of the angels and humans (i.e. the giants cf. TEV)

(3) it refers to the kings of the godless line of Cain who were tyrants (cf. NRSV); they took many women as wives (i.e. royal polygamy cf. NJB)

 

This is a very brief and ambiguous paragraph. Its main thrust is the continual and escalating wickedness of creation which sets the stage for God's radical judgment. However, wickedness continues even in Noah and his family.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:5-8
  5
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7The Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." 8But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

6:5 "the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great" This section of Scripture emphasizes the development of evil in the heart of mankind (BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Gen. 6:11-12,13b; 8:21; Ps. 14:3; 51:5) which is a direct paradox to the goodness of creation in Gen. 1:31.

"and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" This result of Adam and Eve's fall had reached universal proportions. All but eight people were hopelessly affected by evil. They dwelt on evil thinking night and day!

The concept of "evil intent" (ysr, BDB 428) becomes the rabbinical understanding of mankind's moral nature. They see mankind as exercising one of two intents (good or evil). This famous proverb, "in every man's heart is a black and a white dog; the one you feed the most becomes the biggest" (paraphrase), describes mankind. This view of mankind is strengthened by 4:7. Jewish theologians do not emphasize Gen. 3 but Gen. 6 as the source of evil in the world. Children are not evil at birth because moral responsibility comes only with knowledge (bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah). Evil consists of choices!

6:6 "the Lord was sorry. . .He was grieved in His heart" These are anthropomorphic phrases. The first is interpreted "the LORD heaved with a sigh" (BDB 636, KB 688, Niphal IMPERFECT). The second is interpreted "the LORD was grieved into His heart" (BDB 780, KB 864, Hithpael IMPERFECT). These are intense Hebrew phrases (cf. 34:7; 45:5; I Sam. 2:33; 20:34; II Sam. 19:2; Ps. 78:40; Isa. 54:6). God is often spoken of in the Bible as being sorry or repenting (cf. Gen. 6:6-7; Exod. 32:14; I Sam. 15:11; II Sam. 24:16; Jer. 18:7,8; 26:13,19; Jonah 3:10). However, other passages assert that God never repents or changes His mind (cf. Num. 23:19; I Sam. 15:29; Jer. 4:28; Ps. 132:11). This is the tension that always occurs when we use human terms to describe God. God is not a man, but the only words we have to describe Him and His feelings are human terms. It must be asserted that God is not fickle. He is steadfast and longsuffering in His redemptive purpose for humanity, but mankind's response in repentance of sin often determines God's actions in a particular situation (cf. Ps. 106:45; Jonah).

Theologically it is God who changes, not mankind. God chooses to work with sinful humanity. His goal is the same-a righteous people who reflect His character. This will only be accomplished by a new heart, a new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:26-38). God chooses grace over judgment!

6:7 "I will blot out man whom I have created" The term "blot out" means "to wash away" (BDB 562, KB 567, Qal IMPERFECT, i.e. the flood). The animals suffer because of the sin of mankind (cf. Rom. 8:19-22). The fish are not included in this judgment. This judgment is not based on the capricious actions of the gods as in the Mesopotamian accounts but the moral evil of humanity. This evil remains even within the family of righteous Noah (cf. 8:21-22) but God's grace chooses to cover continuing human evil until the coming of Christ (cf. Gal. 3).

6:8 "in the eyes of the Lord" This is another example of anthropomorphic phrases to describe God. He does not have eyes, He is a Spirit. This is metaphorical for God's all-knowingness (i.e. omniscience).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:9-10
  9
These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

6:9 "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time" These two descriptive words are very significant. The first one implies that Noah conformed to the standard of his understanding about the will of God. The second (BDB 1070) implies that he has a complete heart toward the Lord (e.g. 17:1; Ps. 18:23). The second term is later used for unblemished sacrifices. These two terms do not imply Noah's sinlessness, as 9:21 shows.

SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS

▣ "Noah walked with God" This (BDB 229, KB 246, Hithpael PERFECT)is a very similar phrase to 5:21-24 (Hithpael IMPERFECT) where the phrase is used of Enoch.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:11-12

 11Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.

6:11-12 God's will was for mankind and animals to fill the earth but sin filled (BDB 569, KB 583, Niphal IMPERFECT) the earth with violence and evil (cf. v. 13; Ps. 14:1-3; Rom. 3:10-18). No longer is the "very good" of Gen. 1:31 an appropriate description. This is not the world that God intended it to be!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:13-22
 
13Then God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. 14Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. 18But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark‒you and your sons and your wife, and your sons' wives with you. 19And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping things of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive. 21As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them." 22Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.

6:14 "Make for yourself an ark" The VERB (BDB 793 I, KB 889) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. This term for "ark" may be an Egyptian loan word for "chest" or "box" (BDB 1061). The only other use of this term is for the basket in which Moses was placed (cf. Exod. 2:3,4).

▣ "gopher wood" We have no certainty about the etymology of this word (BDB 781 and 172). Some of the various interpretations are: (1) the Septuagint has "squared wood"; (2) the Vulgate has "smooth wood"; (3) most commentators believe that it refers to some type of tree, most likely a cypress (NRSV, REB) because most ships in the ancient Near East were made from this wood and covered with resin.

▣ "you shall make the ark with rooms" This apparently was to divide the animals as well as to help support the structure of the ark (also three levels).

6:15 "cubits" There are two cubits (BDB 52) in the Bible. The regular cubit is the distance between an average man's longest finger and his elbow, usually around 18 inches (cf. Deut. 3:11; II Chr. 2:3). There is also a longer cubit (royal cubit) used in construction (i.e. Solomon's temple), which was common in Egypt, Palestine, and sometimes Babylon. It was 21 inches long (cf. Ezek. 40:5; 43:13). The physical dimensions of the ark were probably around 450 feet by 75 feet by 45 feet. This is about half the size of the Queen Elizabeth II. It has been surmised that it was square but it possibly had slanted sides to help control wave pressure against the hull.

The ancients used parts of the human body for measurement. The people of the ancient Near East used:

1. width between the outstretched arms

2. length from elbow to middle finger (cubit)

3. width from outstretched thumb to little finger (span)

4. length between all four fingers of a closed hand (handbreadth)

The cubit (BDB 52, KB 61) was not completely standardized, but there were two basic lengths.

a. normal male's elbow to middle finger (about 18 inches, cf. Deut. 3:11)

b. royal cubit was a bit longer (about 21 inches, cf. II Chr. 3:3; Ezek. 40:5; 43:13)

6:16 "You shall make a window for the ark" This is not the same word for window that is used in 8:6. Many have supposed that it refers to a lighting and ventilation system around the top of the ark, just under the roof.

6:17 "the flood" There has been some conjecture that this term (BDB 550) is related to the Assyrian term "to destroy."

 Was the flood of Noah's day world-wide or only in the ancient Near East? The term "earth" (eres) is often translated "land" in a local sense (cf. Gen. 41:57). If humans had not spread out to all parts of the earth which is surely implied in the tower of Babel experience of chapters 10-11, then a local flood would have done the job. The best book I have read on the rational evidence for a local flood is Bernard Ramm's The Christian View of Science and Scripture.

▣ "the breath of life" This is the Hebrew term ruach. It can be used for wind, life, breath, or spirit. Both humans and beasts are said to have nephesh but only humans are made in the image of God (cf. 1:26-27) and have a "special" creation (cf. 2:7). In this context all that breathe-die (cf. 7:22, animals and humans)!

6:18

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"I will establish"
TEV"I will make"
NET"I will confirm"

The VERB's (BDB 877, KB 1086, Hiphil PERFECT) basic meaning is to "arise" or "stand up." The Hiphil stem is used "to establish," "to ratify" (cf. 6:18; 9:9,11,17; 17:7,19,21; Exod. 6:4; Ezek. 16:62).

It is uncertain to which promise/covenant this refers. Probably it is a foreshadowing of 9:9,11,17. The key is that God Himself will confirm and maintain His promises with fallen, rebellious mankind. Even amidst their wickedness God's eternal plans for fellowship abide!

▣ "My covenant with you" This is the first use of this term berith (BDB 136). It is explained and amplified in Gen. 9:8-17. It forms a central motif for both the OT and NT understanding of the relationship between God and humanity. There are mutual responsibilities, obligations, and promises on both sides. This sets the stage for our understanding the dialectical tension between the unconditional covenant on God's part, yet its conditional aspect on human response in each generation. See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT

▣ "you shall enter the ark-you and your sons and your wife, and your sons' wives with you" Noah's blamelessness extended to his family (cf. I Cor. 7:14).

6:19 "you shall bring" This may imply that the animals (whether local or worldwide is uncertrain) came to Noah, but Noah positioned them in the ark. He probably began doing this before the last week. How the animals lived together and ate on the ark is a mystery, but it does not rule out the possibility either of a natural setting or a supernatural setting.

6:21 There was food on the ark for Noah and the animals (BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERATIVE). However, the specifics are not recorded. The account is theological more than just information.

6:22 "Thus Noah did" The key theme is that Noah obeyed God (cf. 7:5,9,16), which is the appropriate response, however, Adam and Eve and the rest of mankind did not (e.g. 6:5,11-12,13).

Related Topics: Hamartiology (Sin), Bible Study Methods