Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The genealogies in Gen 4 and 5, which trace the development of the human race through two fundamentally different lines, headed by Cain and Seth, are accompanied by a description of their moral development, and the statement that through marriages between the "sons of God" (Elohim) and the "daughters of men," the wickedness became so great, that God determined to destroy the men whom He had created. This description applies to the whole human race, and presupposes the intercourse or marriage of the Cainites with the Sethites.
Gen 6:1-2 relates to the increase of men generally (האדם, without any restriction), i.e., of the whole human race; and whilst the moral corruption is represented as universal, the whole human race, with the exception of Noah, who found grace before God (Gen 6:8), is described as ripe for destruction (Gen 6:3 and Gen 6:5-8). To understand this section, and appreciate the causes of this complete degeneracy of the race, we must first obtain a correct interpretation of the expressions "sons of God" (האלהים בני) and "daughters of men" (האדם בנות). Three different views have been entertained from the very earliest times: the "sons of God" being regarded as (a) the sons of princes, (b) angels, (c) the Sethites or godly men; and the "daughters of men," as the daughters (a) of people of the lower orders, (b) of mankind generally, (c) of the Cainites, or of the rest of mankind as contrasted with the godly or the children of God. Of these three views, the first, although it has become the traditional one in orthodox rabbinical Judaism, may be dismissed at once as not warranted by the usages of the language, and as altogether unscriptural. The second, on the contrary, may be defended on two plausible grounds: first, the fact that the "sons of God," in Job 1:6; Job 2:1, and Job 38:7, and in Dan 3:25, are unquestionably angels (also אלים בּני in Psa 29:1 and Psa 89:7); and secondly, the antithesis, "sons of God" and "daughters of men." Apart from the context and tenor of the passage, these two points would lead us most naturally to regard the "sons of God" as angels, in distinction from men and the daughters of men. But this explanation, though the first to suggest itself, can only lay claim to be received as the correct one, provided the language itself admits of no other. Now that is not the case. For it is not to angels only that the term "sons of Elohim," or "sons of Elim," is applied; but in Psa 73:15, in an address to Elohim, the godly are called "the generation of Thy sons," i.e., sons of Elohim; in Deu 32:5 the Israelites are called His (God's) sons, and in Hos 1:10, "sons of the living God;" and in Psa 80:17, Israel is spoken of as the son, whom Elohim has made strong. These passages show that the expression "sons of God" cannot be elucidated by philological means, but must be interpreted by theology alone. Moreover, even when it is applied to the angels, it is questionable whether it is to be understood in a physical or ethical sense. The notion that "it is employed in a physical sense as nomen naturae, instead of angels as nomen officii, and presupposes generation of a physical kind," we must reject as an unscriptural and gnostic error. According to the scriptural view, the heavenly spirits are creatures of God, and not begotten from the divine essence. Moreover, all the other terms applied to the angels are ethical in their character. But if the title "sons of God" cannot involve the notion of physical generation, it cannot be restricted to celestial spirits, but is applicable to all beings which bear the image of God, or by virtue of their likeness to God participate in the glory, power, and blessedness of the divine life, - to men therefore as well as angels, since God has caused man to "want but little of Elohim," or to stand but a little behind Elohim (Psa 8:5), so that even magistrates are designated "Elohim, and sons of the Most High" (Psa 82:6). When Delitzsch objects to the application of the expression "sons of Elohim" to pious men, because, "although the idea of a child of God may indeed have pointed, even in the O.T., beyond its theocratic limitation to Israel (Exo 4:22; Deu 14:1) towards a wider ethical signification (Psa 73:15; Pro 14:26), yet this extension and expansion were not so completed, that in historical prose the terms 'sons of God' (for which 'sons of Jehovah' should have been used to prevent mistake), and 'sons (or daughters) of men,' could be used to distinguish the children of God and the children of the world," - this argument rests upon the erroneous supposition, that the expression "sons of God" was introduced by Jehovah for the first time when He selected Israel to be the covenant nation. So much is true, indeed, that before the adoption of Israel as the first-born son of Jehovah (Exo 4:22), it would have been out of place to speak of sons of Jehovah; but the notion is false, or at least incapable of proof, that there were not children of God in the olden time, long before Abraham's call, and that, if there were, they could not have been called "sons of Elohim." The idea was not first introduced in connection with the theocracy, and extended thence to a more universal signification. It had its roots in the divine image, and therefore was general in its application from the very first; and it was not till God in the character of Jehovah chose Abraham and his seed to be the vehicles of salvation, and left the heathen nations to go their own way, that the expression received the specifically theocratic signification of "son of Jehovah," to be again liberated and expanded into the more comprehensive idea of νἱοθεσία τοῦ Θεοῦ (i.e., Elohim, not τοῦ κυρίου = Jehovah), at the coming of Christ, the Saviour of all nations. If in the olden time there were pious men who, like Enoch and Noah, walked with Elohim, or who, even if they did not stand in this close priestly relation to God, made the divine image a reality through their piety and fear of God, then there were sons (children) of God, for whom the only correct appellation was "sons of Elohim," since sonship to Jehovah was introduced with the call of Israel, so that it could only have been proleptically that the children of God in the old world could be called "sons of Jehovah." But if it be still argued, that in mere prose the term "sons of God" could not have been applied to children of God, or pious men, this would be equally applicable to "sons of Jehovah." On the other hand, there is this objection to our applying it to angels, that the pious, who walked with God and called upon the name of the Lord, had been mentioned just before, whereas no allusion had been made to angels, not even to their creation.
Again, the antithesis "sons of God" and "daughters of men" does not prove that the former were angels. It by no means follows, that because in Gen 6:1 האדם denotes man as a genus, i.e., the whole human race, it must do the same in Gen 6:2, where the expression "daughters of men" is determined by the antithesis "sons of God." And with reasons existing for understanding by the sons of God and the daughters of men two species of the genus האדם, mentioned in Gen 6:1, no valid objection can be offered to the restriction of האדם, through the antithesis Elohim, to all men with the exception of the sons of God; since this mode of expression is by no means unusual in Hebrew. "From the expression 'daughters of men," as Dettinger observes, "it by no means follows that the sons of God were not men; any more than it follows from Jer 32:20, where it is said that God had done miracles 'in Israel, and among men,' or from Isa 43:4, where God says He will give men for the Israelites, or from Jdg 16:7, where Samson says, that if he is bound with seven green withs he shall be as weak as a man, for from Psa 73:5, where it is said of the ungodly they are not in trouble as men, that the Israelites, or Samson, or the ungodly, were not men at all. In all these passages אדם (men) denotes the remainder of mankind in distinction from those who are especially named." Cases occur, too, even in simple prose, in which the same term is used, first in a general, and then directly afterwards in a more restricted sense. We need cite only one, which occurs in Judg. In Jdg 19:30 reference is made to the coming of the children of Israel (i.e., of the twelve tribes) out of Egypt; and directly afterwards (Jdg 20:1-2) it is related that "all the children of Israel," "all the tribes of Israel," assembled together (to make war, as we learn from Jdg 20:3., upon Benjamin); and in the whole account of the war, Judges 20 and 21, the tribes of Israel are distinguished from the tribe of Benjamin: so that the expression "tribes of Israel" really means the rest of the tribes with the exception of Benjamin. And yet the Benjamites were Israelites. Why then should the fact that the sons of God are distinguished from the daughters of men prove that the former could not be men? There is not force enough in these two objections to compel us to adopt the conclusion that the sons of God were angels.
The question whether the "sons of Elohim" were celestial or terrestrial sons of God (angels or pious men of the family of Seth) can only be determined from the context, and from the substance of the passage itself, that is to say, from what is related respecting the conduct of the sons of God and its results. That the connection does not favour the idea of their being angels, is acknowledged even by those who adopt this view. "It cannot be denied," says Delitzsch, "that the connection of Gen 6:1-8 with Gen 4 necessitates the assumption, that such intermarriages (of the Sethite and Cainite families) did take place about the time of the flood (cf. Mat 24:38; Luk 17:27); and the prohibition of mixed marriages under the law (Exo 34:16; cf. Gen 27:46; Gen 28:1.) also favours the same idea." But this "assumption" is placed beyond all doubt, by what is here related of the sons of God. In Gen 6:2 it is stated that "the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose," i.e., of any with whose beauty they were charmed; and these wives bare children to them (Gen 6:4). Now אשּׁה לקח (to take a wife) is a standing expression throughout the whole of the Old Testament for the marriage relation established by God at the creation, and is never applied to πορνεία, or the simple act of physical connection. This is quite sufficient of itself to exclude any reference to angels. For Christ Himself distinctly states that the angels cannot marry (Mat 22:30; Mar 12:25; cf. Luk 20:34.). And when Kurtz endeavours to weaken the force of these words of Christ, by arguing that they do not prove that it is impossible for angels so to fall from their original holiness as to sink into an unnatural state; this phrase has no meaning, unless by conclusive analogies, or the clear testimony of Scripture,
(Note: We cannot admit that there is any force in Hoffmann's argument in his Schriftbeweis 1, p. 426, that "the begetting of children on the part of angels is not more irreconcilable with a nature that is not organized, like that of man, on the basis of sexual distinctions, than partaking of food is with a nature that is altogether spiritual; and yet food was eaten by the angels who visited Abraham." For, in the first place, the eating in this case was a miracle wrought through the condescending grace of the omnipotent God, and furnishes no standard for judging what angels can do by their own power in rebellion against God. And in the second place, there is a considerable difference between the act of eating on the part of the angels of God who appeared in human shape, and the taking of wives and begetting of children on the part of sinning angels. We are quite unable also to accept as historical testimony, the myths of the heathen respecting demigods, sons of gods, and the begetting of children on the part of their gods, or the fables of the book of Enoch (ch. 6ff.) about the 200 angels, with their leaders, who lusted after the beautiful and delicate daughters of men, and who came down from heaven and took to themselves wives, with whom they begat giants of 3000 (or according to one MS 300) cubits in height.
Nor do Pe2 2:4 and Jde 1:6 furnish any evidence of angel marriages. Peter is merely speaking of sinning angels in general (ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων) whom God did not spare, and not of any particular sin on the part of a small number of angels; and Jude describes these angels as τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχήν ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον, those who kept not their princedom, their position as rulers, but left their own habitation. There is nothing here about marriages with the daughters of men or the begetting of children, even if we refer the word τούτοις in the clause τὸν ὅμοιον τούτοις τρόπον ἐκπορνεύσασαι in Jde 1:7 to the angels mentioned in Jde 1:6; for ἐκπορνεύειν, the commission of fornication, would be altogether different from marriage, that is to say, from a conjugal bond that was permanent even though unnatural. But it is neither certain nor probable that this is the connection of τούτοις. Huther, the latest commentator upon this Epistle, who gives the preference to this explanation of τούτοις, and therefore cannot be accused of being biassed by doctrinal prejudices, says distinctly in the 2nd Ed. of his commentary, "τούτοις may be grammatically construed as referring to Sodom and Gomorrah, or per synesin to the inhabitants of these cities; but in that case the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah would only be mentioned indirectly." There is nothing in the rules of syntax, therefore, to prevent our connecting the word with Sodom and Gomorrah; and it is not a fact, that "grammaticae et logicae praecepta compel us to refer this word to the angels," as G. v. Zeschwitz says. But the very same reason which Huther assigns for not connecting it with Sodom and Gomorrah, may be also assigned for not connecting it with the angels, namely, that in that case the sin of the angels would only be mentioned indirectly. We regard Philippi's explanation (in his Glaubenslehre iii. p. 303) as a possible one, viz., that the word τούτοις refers back to the ἄνθρωποι ἀσελγεῖς mentioned in Jde 1:4, and as by no means set aside by De Wette's objection, that the thought of Jde 1:8 would be anticipated in that case; for this objection is fully met by the circumstance, that not only does the word οὗτοι, which is repeated five times from Jde 1:8 onwards, refer back to these men, but even the word τούτοις in Jde 1:14 also. On the other hand, the reference of τούτοις to the angels is altogether precluded by the clause καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας, which follows the word ἐκπορνεύσασαι. For fornication on the part of the angels could only consist in their going after flesh, or, as Hoffmann expresses it, "having to do with flesh, for which they were not created," but not in their going after other, or foreign flesh. There would be no sense in the word ἑτέρας unless those who were ἐκπορνεύσαντες were themselves possessed of σάρξ; so that this is the only alternative, either we must attribute to the angels a σάρξ or fleshly body, or the idea of referring τούτοις to the angels must be given up. When Kurtz replies to this by saying that "to angels human bodies are quite as much a ἑτέρα σάρξ, i.e., a means of sensual gratification opposed to their nature and calling, as man can be to human man," he hides the difficulty, but does not remove it, by the ambiguous expression "opposed to their nature and calling." The ἑτέρα σάρξ must necessarily presuppose an ἰδία σάρξ.
But it is thought by some, that even if τούτοις in Jde 1:7 do not refer to the angels in Jde 1:6, the words of Jude agree so thoroughly with the tradition of the book of Enoch respecting the fall of the angels, that we must admit the allusion to the Enoch legend, and so indirectly to Gen 6, since Jude could not have expressed himself more clearly to persons who possessed the book of Enoch, or were acquainted with the tradition it contained. Now this conclusion would certainly be irresistible, if the only sin of the angels mentioned in the book of Enoch, as that for which they were kept in chains of darkness still the judgment-day, had been their intercourse with human wives. For the fact that Jude was acquainted with the legend of Enoch, and took for granted that the readers of his Epistle were so too, is evident from his introducing a prediction of Enoch in Jde 1:14, Jde 1:15, which is to be found in ch. i. 9 of Dillmann's edition of the book of Enoch. But it is admitted by all critical writers upon this book, that in the book of Enoch which has been edited by Dillmann, and is only to be found in an Ethiopic version, there are contradictory legends concerning the fall and judgment of the angels; that the book itself is composed of earlier and later materials; and that those very sections (ch. 6-16:106, etc.) in which the legend of the angel marriages is given without ambiguity, belong to the so-called book of Noah, i.e., to a later portion of the Enoch legend, which is opposed in many passages to the earlier legend. The fall of the angels is certainly often referred to in the earlier portions of the work; but among all the passages adduced by Dillmann in proof of this, there is only one (19:1) which mentions the angels who had taken wives. In the others, the only thing mentioned as the sin of the angels or of the hosts of Azazel, is the fact that they were subject to Satan, and seduced those who dwelt on the earth (54:3-6), or that they came down from heaven to earth, and revealed to the children of men what was hidden from them, and then led them astray to the commission of sin (64:2). There is nothing at all here about their taking wives. Moreover, in the earlier portions of the book, besides the fall of the angels, there is frequent reference made to a fall, i.e., an act of sin, on the part of the stars of heaven and the army of heaven, which transgressed the commandment of God before they rose, by not appearing at their appointed time (vid., 18:14-15; 21:3; 90:21, 24, etc.); and their punishment and place of punishment are described, in just the same manner as in the case of the wicked angels, as a prison, a lofty and horrible place in which the seven stars of heaven lie bound like great mountains and flaming with fire (21:2-3), as an abyss, narrow and deep, dreadful and dark, in which the star which fell first from heaven is lying, bound hand and foot (88:1, cf. 90:24). From these passages it is quite evident, that the legend concerning the fall of the angels and stars sprang out of Isa 24:21-22 ("And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall visit the host of the height [המּרום צבא, the host of heaven, by which stars and angels are to be understood on high i.e., the spiritual powers of the heavens] and the kings of the earth upon the earth, and they shall be gathered together, bound in the dungeon, and shut up in prison, and after many days they shall be punished"), along with Isa 14:12 ("How art thou fallen from heaven, thou beautiful morning star!"), and that the account of the sons of God in Gen 6, as interpreted by those who refer it to the angels, was afterwards combined and amalgamated with it.
Now if these different legends, describing the judgment upon the stars that fell from heaven, and the angels that followed Satan in seducing man, in just the same manner as the judgment upon the angels who begot giants from women, were in circulation at the time when the Epistle of Jude was written; we must not interpret the sin of the angels, referred to by Peter and Jude, in a one-sided manner, and arbitrarily connect it with only such passages of the book of Enoch as speak of angel marriages, to the entire disregard of all the other passages, which mention totally different sins as committed by the angels, that are punished with bands of darkness; but we must interpret it from what Jude himself has said concerning this sin, as Peter gives no further explanation of what he means by ἁμαρτῆσαι. Now the only sins that Jude mentions are μὴ τηρῆσαι τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχήν and ἀπολιπεῖν τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον. The two are closely connected. Through not keeping the ἀρχή (i.e., the position as rulers in heaven) which belonged to them, and was assigned them at their creation, the angels left "their own habitation" (ἴδιον οἰκητήριον); just as man, when he broke the commandment of God and failed to keep his position as ruler on earth, also lost "his own habitation" (ἴδιον οἰκητήριον), that is to say, not paradise alone, but the holy body of innocence also, so that he needed a covering for his nakedness, and will continue to need it, until we are "clothed upon with our hose which is from heaven" (οἰκητήριον ἡμῶν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ). In this description of the angels' sin, there is not the slightest allusion to their leaving heaven to woo the beautiful daughters of men. The words may be very well interpreted, as they were by the earlier Christian theologians, as relating to the fall of Satan and his angels, to whom all that is said concerning their punishment fully applies. If Jude had had the πορνεία of the angels, mentioned in the Enoch legends, in his mind, he would have stated this distinctly, just as he does in v. 9 in the case of the legend concerning Michael and the devil, and in v. 11 in that of Enoch's prophecy. There was all the more reason for his doing this, because not only to contradictory accounts of the sin of the angels occur in the Enoch legends, but a comparison of the parallels cited from the book of Enoch proves that he deviated from the Enoch legend in points of no little importance. Thus, for example, according to Enoch 54:3, "iron chains of immense weight" are prepared for the hosts of Azazel, to put them into the lowest hell, and cast them on that great day into the furnace with flaming fire. Now Jude and Peter say nothing about iron chains, and merely mention "everlasting chains under darkness" and "chains of darkness." Again, according to Enoch 10:12, the angel sinners are "bound fast under the earth for seventy generations, till the day of judgment and their completion, till the last judgment shall be held for all eternity." Peter and Jude make no allusion to this point of time, and the supporters of the angel marriages, therefore, have thought well to leave it out when quoting this parallel to Jde 1:6. Under these circumstances, the silence of the apostles as to either marriages or fornication on the part of the sinful angels, is a sure sign that they gave no credence to these fables of a Jewish gnosticizing tradition.)
it can be proved that the angels either possess by nature a material corporeality adequate to the contraction of a human marriage, or that by rebellion against their Creator they can acquire it, or that there are some creatures in heaven and on earth which, through sinful degeneracy, or by sinking into an unnatural state, can become possessed of the power, which they have not by nature, of generating and propagating their species. As man could indeed destroy by sin the nature which he had received from his Creator, but could not by his own power restore it when destroyed, to say nothing of implanting an organ or a power that was wanting before; so we cannot believe that angels, through apostasy from God, could acquire sexual power of which they had previously been destitute.
The sentence of God upon the "sons of God" is also appropriate to men only. "Jehovah said: My spirit shall not rule in men for ever; in their wandering they are flesh." "The verb דּוּן = דּין signifies to rule (hence אדון the ruler), and to judge, as the consequence of ruling. רוּה is the divine spirit of life bestowed upon man, the principle of physical and ethical, natural and spiritual life. This His spirit God will withdraw from man, and thereby put an end to their life and conduct. בּשׁגּם is regarded by many as a particle, compounded of בּ, שׁ a contraction of אשׁר, and גּם (also), used in the sense of quoniam, because, (בּשׁ = בּאשׁר, as שׁ or שׁ = אשׁר Jdg 5:7; Jdg 6:17; Sol 1:7). But the objection to this explanation is, that the גּם, "because he also is flesh," introduces an incongruous emphasis into the clause. We therefore prefer to regard שׁגּם as the inf. of שׁגג = שׁגה with the suffix: "in their erring (that of men) he (man as a genus) is flesh;" an explanation to which, to our mind, the extremely harsh change of number (they, he), is no objection, since many examples might be adduced of a similar change (vid., Hupfeld on Psa 5:10). Men, says God, have proved themselves by their erring and straying to be flesh, i.e., given up to the flesh, and incapable of being ruled by the Spirit of God and led back to the divine goal of their life. בּשׂר is used already in its ethical signification, like σάρξ in the New Testament, denoting not merely the natural corporeality of man, but his materiality as rendered ungodly by sin. "Therefore his days shall be 120 years:" this means, not that human life should in future never attain a greater age than 120 years, but that a respite of 120 years should still be granted to the human race. This sentence, as we may gather from the context, was made known to Noah in his 480th year, to be published by him as "preacher of righteousness" (Pe2 2:5) to the degenerate race. The reason why men had gone so far astray, that God determined to withdraw His spirit and give them up to destruction, was that the sons of God had taken wives of such of the daughters of men as they chose. Can this mean, because angels had formed marriages with the daughters of men? Even granting that such marriages, as being unnatural connections, would have led to the complete corruption of human nature; the men would in that case have been the tempted, and the real authors of the corruption would have been the angels. Why then should judgment fall upon the tempted alone? The judgments of God in the world are not executed with such partiality as this. And the supposition that nothing is said about the punishment of the angels, because the narrative has to do with the history of man, and the spiritual world is intentionally veiled as much as possible, does not meet the difficulty. If the sons of God were angels, the narrative is concerned not only with men, but with angels also; and it is not the custom of the Scriptures merely to relate the judgments which fall upon the tempted, and say nothing at all about the tempters. For the contrary, see Gen 3:14. If the "sons of God" were not men, so as to be included in the term אדם, the punishment would need to be specially pointed out in their case, and no deep revelations of the spiritual world would be required, since these celestial tempters would be living with men upon the earth, when they had taken wives from among their daughters. The judgments of God are not only free from all unrighteousness, but avoid every kind of partiality.
"The Nephilim were on 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: these are the heroes (הגּבּרים) who from the olden time (מעולם, as in Psa 25:6; Sa1 27:8) are the men of name" (i.e., noted, renowned or notorious men). נפילים, from נפל to fall upon (Job 1:15; Jos 11:7), signifies the invaders (ἐπιπίπτοντες Aq., βιαῖοι Sym.). Luther gives the correct meaning, "tyrants:" they were called Nephilim because they fell upon the people and oppressed them.
(Note: The notion that the Nephilim were giants, to which the Sept. rendering γίγαντες has given rise, was rejected even by Luther as fabulous. He bases his view upon Jos 11:7 : "Nephilim non dictos a magnitudine corporum, sicut Rabbini putant, sed a tyrannide et oppressione quod vi grassati sint, nulla habita ratione legum aut honestatis, sed simpliciter indulgentes suis voluptatibus et cupiditatibus." The opinion that giants are intended derives no support from Num 13:32-33. When the spies describe the land of Canaan as "a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof," and then add (Num 13:33), "and there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak among (מן lit., from, out of, in a partitive sense) the Nephilim," by the side of whom they were as grasshoppers; the term Nephilim cannot signify giants, since the spies not only mention them especially along with the inhabitants of the land, who are described as people of great stature, but single out only a portion of the Nephilim as "sons of Anak" ענק בּני), i.e., long-necked people or giants. The explanation "fallen from heaven" needs no refutation; inasmuch as the main element, "from heaven," is a purely arbitrary addition.)
The meaning of the verse is a subject of dispute. To an unprejudiced mind, the words, as they stand, represent the Nephilim, who were on the earth in those days, as existing before the sons of God began to marry the daughters of men, and clearly distinguish them from the fruits of these marriages. היוּ can no more be rendered "they became, or arose," in this connection, than היה in Gen 1:2. ויּהיוּ would have been the proper word. The expression "in those days" refers most naturally to the time when God pronounced the sentence upon the degenerate race; but it is so general and comprehensive a term, that it must not be confined exclusively to that time, not merely because the divine sentence was first pronounced after these marriages were contracted, and the marriages, if they did not produce the corruption, raised it to that fulness of iniquity which was ripe for the judgment, but still more because the words "after that" represent the marriages which drew down the judgment as an event that followed the appearance of the Nephilim. "The same were mighty men:" this might point back to the Nephilim; but it is a more natural supposition, that it refers to the children born to the sons of God. "These," i.e., the sons sprung from those marriages, "are the heroes, those renowned heroes of old."
Now if, according to the simple meaning of the passage, the Nephilim were in existence at the very time when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, the appearance of the Nephilim cannot afford the slightest evidence that the "sons of God" were angels, by whom a family of monsters were begotten, whether demigods, daemons, or angel-men.
(Note: How thoroughly irreconcilable the contents of this verse are with the angel-hypothesis is evident from the strenuous efforts of its supporters to bring them into harmony with it. Thus, in Reuter's Repert., p. 7, Del. observes that the verse cannot be rendered in any but the following manner: "The giants were on the earth in those days, and also afterwards, when the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, these they bare to them, or rather, and these bare to them;" but, for all that, he gives this as the meaning of the words, "At the time of the divine determination to inflict punishment the giants arose, and also afterwards, when this unnatural connection between super-terrestrial and human beings continued, there arose such giants;" not only substituting "arose" for "were," but changing "when they connected themselves with them" into "when this connection continued." Nevertheless he is obliged to confess that "it is strange that this unnatural connection, which I also suppose to be the intermediate cause of the origin of the giants, should not be mentioned in the first clause of Gen 6:4." This is an admission that the text says nothing about the origin of the giants being traceable to the marriages of the sons of God, but that the commentators have been obliged to insert it in the text to save their angel marriages. Kurtz has tried three different explanations of this verse but they are all opposed to the rules of the language.) (1) In the History of the Old Covenant he gives this rendering: "Nephilim were on earth in these days, and that even after the sons of God had formed connections with the daughters of men;" in which he not only gives to גּם the unsupportable meaning, "even, just," but takes the imperfect יבאוּ in the sense of the perfect בּאוּ. (2) In his Ehen der Sצhne Gottes (p. 80) he gives the choice of this and the following rendering: "The Nephilim were on earth in those days, and also after this had happened, that the sons of God came to the daughters of men and begat children," were the ungrammatical rendering of the imperfect as the perfect is artfully concealed by the interpolation of "after this had happened." (3) In "die Sצhne Gottes," p. 85: "In these days and also afterwards, when the sons of God came (continued to come) to the daughters of men, they bare to them (sc., Nephilim)," where יבאוּ, they came, is arbitrarily altered into לבוא יוסיפוּ, they continued to come. But when he observes in defence of this quid pro quo, that "the imperfect denotes here, as Hengstenberg has correctly affirmed, and as so often is the case, an action frequently repeated in past times," this remark only shows that he has neither understood the nature of the usage to which H. refers, nor what Ewald has said (136) concerning the force and use of the imperfect.)
Now when the wickedness of man became great, and "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil the whole day," i.e., continually and altogether evil, it repented God that He had made man, and He determined to destroy them. This determination and the motive assigned are also irreconcilable with the angel-theory. "Had the godless race, which God destroyed by the flood, sprung either entirely or in part from the marriage of angels to the daughters of men, it would no longer have been the race first created by God in Adam, but a grotesque product of the Adamitic factor created by God, and an entirely foreign and angelic factor" (Phil.).
(Note: When, on the other hand, the supporters of the angel marriages maintain that it is only on this interpretation that the necessity for the flood, i.e., for the complete destruction of the whole human race with the exception of righteous Noah, can be understood, not only is there no scriptural foundation for this argument, but it is decidedly at variance with those statements of the Scriptures, which speak of the corruption of the men whom God had created, and not of a race that had arisen through an unnatural connection of angels and men and forced their way into God's creation. If it were really the case, that it would otherwise be impossible to understand where the necessity could lie, for all the rest of the human race to be destroyed and a new beginning to be made, whereas afterwards, when Abraham was chosen, the rest of the human race was not only spared, but preserved for subsequent participation in the blessings of salvation: we should only need to call Job to mind, who also could not comprehend the necessity for the fearful sufferings which overwhelmed him, and was unable to discover the justice of God, but who was afterwards taught a better lesson by God Himself, and reproved for his rash conclusions, as a sufficient proof of the deceptive and futile character of all such human reasoning.) But this is not the true state of the case. The Scriptures expressly affirm, that after the flood the moral corruption of man was the same as before the flood; for they describe it in Gen 8:21 in the very same words as in Gen 6:5 : and the reason they assign for the same judgment not being repeated, is simply the promise that God would no more smite and destroy all living, as He had done before-an evident proof that God expected no change in human nature, and out of pure mercy and long-suffering would never send a second flood. "Now, if the race destroyed had been one that sprang from angel-fathers, it is difficult to understand why no improvement was to be looked for after the flood; for the repetition of any such unnatural angel-tragedy was certainly not probable, and still less inevitable" (Philippi).)
The force of ינּחם, "it repented the Lord," may be gathered from the explanatory יתעצּב, "it grieved Him at His heart." This shows that the repentance of God does not presuppose any variableness in His nature of His purposes. In this sense God never repents of anything (Sa1 15:29), "quia nihil illi inopinatum vel non praevisum accidit" (Calvin). The repentance of God is an anthropomorphic expression for the pain of the divine love at the sin of man, and signifies that "God is hurt no less by the atrocious sins of men than if they pierced His heart with mortal anguish" (Calvin). The destruction of all, "from man unto beast," etc., is to be explained on the ground of the sovereignty of man upon the earth, the irrational creatures being created for him, and therefore involved in his fall. This destruction, however, was not to bring the human race to an end. "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." In these words mercy is seen in the midst of wrath, pledging the preservation and restoration of humanity.
Gen 6:9-12 contain a description of Noah and his contemporaries; Gen 6:13-22, the announcement of the purpose of God with reference to the flood.
"Noah, a righteous man, was blameless among his generations:" righteous in his moral relation to God; blameless (τέλειος, integer) in his character and conduct. דּרות, γενεαί, were the generations or families "which passed by Noah, the Nestor of his time." His righteousness and integrity were manifested in his walking with God, in which he resembled Enoch (Gen 5:22).
In Gen 6:10-12, the account of the birth of his three sons, and of the corruption of all flesh, is repeated. This corruption is represented as corrupting the whole earth and filling it with wickedness; and thus the judgment of the flood is for the first time fully accounted for. "The earth was corrupt before God (Elohim points back to the previous Elohim in Gen 6:9)," it became so conspicuous to God, that He could not refrain from punishment. The corruption proceeded from the fact, that "all flesh" - i.e., the whole human race which had resisted the influence of the Spirit of God and become flesh (see Gen 6:3) - "had corrupted its way." The term "flesh" in Gen 6:12 cannot include the animal world, since the expression, "corrupted its way," is applicable to man alone. The fact that in Gen 6:13 and Gen 6:17 this term embraces both men and animals is no proof to the contrary, for the simple reason, that in Gen 6:19 "all flesh" denotes the animal world only, an evident proof that the precise meaning of the word must always be determined from the context.
"The end of all flesh is come before Me." אל בּוא, when applied to rumours, invariably signifies "to reach the ear" (vid., Gen 18:21; Exo 3:9; Est 9:11); hence לפני בּא in this case cannot mean a me constitutus est (Ges.). קץ, therefore, is not the end in the sense of destruction, but the end (extremity) of depravity or corruption, which leads to destruction. "For the earth has become full of wickedness מפּגיהם," i.e., proceeding from them, "and I destroy them along with the earth." Because all flesh had destroyed its way, it should be destroyed with the earth by God. The lex talionis is obvious here.
Noah was exempted from the extermination. He was to build an ark, in order that he himself, his family, and the animals might be preserved. תּבה, which is only used here and in Exo 2:3, Exo 2:5, where it is applied to the ark in which Moses was placed, is probably an Egyptian word: the lxx render it κίβωτος here, and θίβη in Exodus; the Vulgate arca, from which our word ark is derived. Gopher-wood (ligna bituminata; Jerome) is most likely cypress. The ἁπ. λεγ. gopher is related to כּפר, resin, and κυπάρισσος; it is no proof to the contrary that in later Hebrew the cypress is called berosh, for gopher belongs to the pre-Hebraic times. The ark was to be made cells, i.e., divided into cells, קנּים (lit., nests, niduli, mansiunculae), and pitched (כּפר denom. from כּפר) within and without with copher, or asphalte (lxx ἄσφαλτος, Vulg. bitumen). On the supposition, which is a very probable one, that the ark was built in the form not of a ship, but of a chest, with flat bottom, like a floating house, as it was not meant for sailing, but merely to float upon the water, the dimensions, 300 cubits long, 50 broad, and 30 high, give a superficial area of 15,000 square cubits, and a cubic measurement of 450,000 cubits, probably to the ordinary standard, "after the elbow of a man" (Deu 3:11), i.e., measured from the elbow to the end of the middle finger.
"Light shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit from above shalt thou finish it." As the meaning light for צהר is established by the word צהרים, "double-light" or mid-day, the passage can only signify that a hole or opening for light and air was to be so constructed as to reach within a cubit of the edge of the roof. A window only a cubit square could not possibly be intended; for צהר is not synonymous with חלּון (Gen 8:6), but signifies, generally, a space for light, or by which light could be admitted into the ark, and in which the window, or lattice for opening and shutting, could be fixed; though we can form no distinct idea of what the arrangement was. The door he was to place in the side; and to make "lower, second, and third (sc., cells)," i.e., three distinct stories.
(Note: As the height of the ark was thirty cubits, the three stories of cells can hardly have filled the entire space, since a room ten cubits high, or nine cubits if we deduct the thickness of the floors, would have been a prodigality of space beyond what the necessities required. It has been conjectured that above or below these stories there was space provided for the necessary supplies of food and fodder. At the same time, this is pure conjecture, like every other calculation, not only as to the number and size of the cells, but also as to the number of animals to be collected and the fodder they would require. Hence every objection that has been raised to the suitability of the structure, and the possibility of collecting all the animals in the ark and providing them with food, is based upon arbitrary assumptions, and should be treated as a perfectly groundless fancy. As natural science is still in the dark as to the formation of species, and therefore not in a condition to determine the number of pairs from which all existing species are descended, it is ridiculous to talk, as Pfaff and others do, of 2000 species of mammalia, and 6500 species of birds, which Noah would have had to feed every day.)
Noah was to build this ark, because God was about to bring a flood upon the earth, and would save him, with his family, and one pair of every kind of animal. מבּוּל, (the flood), is an archaic word, coined expressly for the waters of Noah (Isa 54:9), and is used nowhere else except Psa 29:10. הארץ על מים is in apposition to mabbul: "I bring the flood, waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is a living breath" (i.e., man and beast). With Noah, God made a covenant. On בּרית see Gen 15:18. As not only the human race, but the animal world also was to be preserved through Noah, he was to take with him into the ark his wife, his sons and their wives, and of every living thing, of all flesh, two of every sort, a male and a female, to keep them alive; also all kinds of food for himself and family, and for the sustenance of the beasts.
"Thus did Noah, according to all that God commanded him" (with regard to the building of the ark). Cf. Heb 11:7.