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And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose . And the LORD said , My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh : yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. ( V1-4)
Hang onto your seats, folks, this ride may get a little bumpy.
There are 4 groups mentioned in these verses. Those groups are ‘men’, ‘daughters’, ‘sons of God’ and ‘giants’. The ‘men’ is self-explanatory, as is ‘daughters’. Even ‘giants’, as fantastic as the idea might be, at least carry a very clear connotation. But were we wind up in high weeds (and run afoul of respectable Christianity) is in trying to identify the ‘sons of God’. But rather than shrink from the fantastic, we will compare how the term is used in other parts of the Bible, and follow that truth wherever it may lead us.
Starting from the back of our Bible and working our way towards Genesis, we see that saved people are referred to as sons of God in John 1:12. There were no modern New Testament Christians around in Genesis 6, so it can’t be them. Jesus Christ is referred to as the son of God, and so is Adam (Luke 3:38) but it can’t be either one of those individuals. Israel as a nation is called ‘sons of God’ in Isi 43:1-6, and Hosea 1:10, but obviously this early on in the Bible there is no Israel so it can’t be them. That leaves only one possibility.
In Job 1:6 as well as Job 38:4-7 angelic beings are called the ‘sons of God’. So in Genesis 6 we have angels leaving their ‘first estate’ (Jude 1:6-7) and somehow mixing their seed with the seed of men, producing a race of giants. Not only has this happened before, but it will happen again (Daniel 2:43).
The offspring of these sons of God and human women were not only giants, but men of renown. These unnaturally large people show up over and over again in your Bible, (Josh 11:21 and Deut 2:10-20, for example) usually when a descendant of Israel is about to take the throne (1 Sam 17).
Interestingly, the mythologies of ancient peoples are full of legends of ‘gods’ cohabitating with human women and producing remarkable offspring. This hardly surprising, considering that although there is one God, there are many gods (Ps 82:1-6, Ps 86:8, Ps 97:7-9, 96:5). In Acts 14;11, the people thought it entirely reasonable that the gods had come down to them in the likeness of men. But outside of the Bible, we have examples like Isis the first woman who gained immortality from Ra the Egyptian sun God by enchanting him with a serpent. The first emperor of China claimed to be half-god, referring to himself as ‘the son of the great red dragon’. Hercules was the result of a union between Zeus and a human woman. The 5 Pandava brothers of India were flying giants who were born of a human woman impregnated by a god. Thesueus was the son of Psoiden and a human woman. Even Gilgamesh, the king of modern Iraq was reportedly a god-woman hybrid of some sort. These legends show up in almost every culture and probably have their basis in the very real exploits of these men of renown. The legends survived the flood and then were carried to the four corners of the earth by the people leaving the tower of Babel.
In verse 3, God makes an interesting statement. He says man is ‘also’ flesh. Many have taken the 120 year limit on man here to be some sort of ‘upper limit’ on how long a man can live. As interesting as that is, I think there is a much simpler explanation. God is talking to himself here. We know that Noah had kids when he was 500, and the flood happened at 600, so God decides 20 years before he talks to Noah about the flood. This means 120 years left for the wicked population on the earth to live.
“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said , I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” (V5-7)
The word ‘repented’ is used a couple of different ways in the Bible, and people have written whole books on the subject that are much better than what I could produce, but primarily ‘repent’ is used to indicate a change in direction. Just being sorry isn’t enough; if you sin against God you should be sorry, but until you stop the sin, you haven’t repented. In 2 Cor 7:10, the sorrow isn’t the repentance; the sorrow is what causes you to repent. God tells man to repent (Matt 3;2, 4:17, Mark 6:12, Luke 5:32, Acts 20:21), and there is an element of repentance in the gospel, but one has to be careful not to make that repentance into a work. It’s amazing how we can overthink salvation and rob ourselves.
In verse 6, God shows his heart to his creation. Not once in the Koran does Allah the moon god show any emotion or compassion. This is because he is a stone idol and incapable of caring. But the God of the Bible not only cares, and is grieved, but takes the time to let us peek behind the glory and power and majesty and see his heart (Ezek 6:9, Heb 4:15).
In verse 7, God vows to kill man, beast, creeping thing and fowls of the air. For obvious reasons, he never vows to kill fish, although one night out on the street a man asked me if I thought Noah took any fish on the ark. I asked him, “Why would he?”
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt ; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” ( V8-13)
This is the first mention of grace in the Bible, and here, as in every other place, it means ‘unmerited favor’. A grace you can earn is no grace. As Kyle Stephens said “Grace isn’t something God invented at Pentecost.” Why did God give Noah grace? It looks like, according to verse 9, that Noah’s family line might have been the only family line left on earth that had not been corrupted by the reproductive efforts of the sons of God. After all, in verse 11, the phrase “his way” shows up, which means whoever or whatever was doing the corrupting is male. The corrupting is being done” through them” according to verse 13, and the destruction will come “through them”. Noah certainly wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect in his generations. Perfect also means ‘finished’, according to Lev 22:21. Heb 2:10, Job 1:1, and Heb 5:8-9.
“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die .” ( V14-17)
The ark is for floating, not sailing. One of my pet peeves are illustrations of the ark where it has a lovely keel and a little room on top, along with lots of windows and the obligatory pair of giraffes sticking their heads out the window. The ark, as it is described in the Bible , looks like a big floating box, almost like a coffin, but as a coffin contains death, the ark contained life. The ark is made of gopher wood, which means something organic has to die to protect Noah and his family. There are no nails in the ark, nothing iron, just like the Temple.
Verse 15 lists the measurements of the ark as 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. If a cubit is 22.5 inches, then the ark winds up being 562.5 feet long, 93.7 feet wide and 56.25 feet tall, which is 3,500,000 cubic feet. If you use a giants cubit, it’s even bigger. Furthermore, the ark is described as having a window, and a door. There are three stories to the ark, just like there are 3 heavens, 3 sections to the tabernacle and 3 stories in Ezekiels temple (Ezek 42:5-6). The pattern seems to be that if God intends to inhabit something, it has 3 parts to it, just like he does.
Verse 16 also has mention of a door in the side ((John 19:34, Heb 10:19-20, John 10:1-9) and in verse 17 everything that breathes air is put under the penalty of death.
“But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (V18-22)
This is the first mention of a covenant, and this covenant is conditional; get in the ark and you’ll be safe. Stay out here and you’ll drown.
Noah is told two of every sort, male and female. A misreading of this has led to all sort of well-intentioned error. He takes two males and two females of every unclean animal and of every clean animal he takes 7 males and 7 females. Also notice that Noah did not run about scooping up animals, the animals came to him. This also relives him of the burden of distinguishing which animals are clean and which are unclean, since he didn’t have Leviticus 11 to fall back on. Noah gathered up food for the animals, not animals.
The animals had lived off of vegetation before the fall, and will live off of vegetation again during the millennium, so it’s not inconceivable that the animals getting on the ark switched back to a temporary grass diet.
Now since God made man in one spot, but put animals all over the earth, some of these animals had to have started out on their journey towards the ark a long time before, possibly years before.
People educated beyond their intelligence have long railed against the account of the ark with such platitudes as ‘Noah couldn’t fit two of every animal on earth in the ark’. He didn’t. He fit at least four ( 2 males, 2 females) of every ‘kind’. If you want an interesting little Bible study, take a look at what God considers ‘kind’, and keep in mind that our idea of how to classify animals (Kingdom. Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species) isn’t God’s way.