October 18, 2013

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART I: A General History from Adam to Abraham—Gen. 1:1-11:9.

 

Topic #D: The Destruction of Man and Beast by a Flood—Gen. 6:1-8:22

                

 

 


Lesson I.D.1: The Corruption of Men and the Decree of God. (Genesis 6.1-8)

 

 

Genesis 6.1-8

 

1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

7 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.

8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

 

Introduction

 

This section has caused a great deal of controversy among the Bible expositors, especially concerning the identity of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men. There seem to be endless debates that often miss the obvious and significant. But whatever view one takes of the details, it is clear that these verses show how wicked the human race had become, and that God was certainly justified in destroying it and beginning again with Noah and his family.

 

 

Genesis 6.1-8

 

1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

3 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.

4 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.

 

After chapter 3, Satan is not mentioned in Genesis, but behind the scenes Satan and his minions are doing all they can to keep the promised Redeemer from being born. This was Satan’s purpose throughout all of Old Testament history. After all, he didn’t want his head crushed by the Savior (Ge. 3.15)! God had declared war on Satan and the deceiver was going to fight back.

What was Satan’s plan for defeating God’s people in Noah’s day? (It is on this point that there is confusion and debate between Bible scholars who hold different views. I will do my best to represent the three most widely held views.) His plan, ACCORDING TO SOME, was to entice the godly line of Seth (“the sons of God”) to mix with the ungodly line of Cain (“the daughters of men”), and the outcome was that men abandoned their devotion to God. It is the same temptation that Christians face today; BE FRIENDLY WITH THE WORLD—“James said, “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4.4), LOVE THE WORLD—“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2.15-17), AND CONFORM TO THE WORLD—“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12.2), rather than be separated from the world (see 2 Co. 6.14-7.1). Of course, this could lead to being “condemned with the world”—“When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world” (1 Co. 11.32). Lot is an example of this danger (see Ge. 13; 19).

Some interpreters view this section as an invasion of angels who cohabitated with women and produced a race of giants. But as interesting as this theory is, it creates more problems than it solves, not the least of which is the union of sexless spirit beings with flesh and blood humans. In Mathew 22.30 we read, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” The angels do not need to procreate, because they were created eternal beings. Even if this union could occur, why should there be offspring and why should they be giants? And how did these giants (Nephilim, “fallen ones”) survive the Flood—“But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them" (Num. 13.31-33), or was there a second invasion of fallen angels after the Flood?

The term “sons of God” does refer to angels in Job 1.6, 2.1, and 38.7; but these are unfallen angels who are faithfully serving God. Even if fallen angels could make themselves appear in human bodies, why would they want to marry and settle down on earth? Certainly their wives and neighbors would eventually detect something different about them and this would create problems. Another reason for why this view is hard to accept is that if these are good angels they would never commit this sin, and evil angels could never be designated as “sons of God.” Also, the offspring here were men, not monstrosities. Furthermore the emphasis in chapter 6 is on the sinfulness of man and not the rebellion of angels, and God states clearly in this section that the judgment was coming because of what man had done. “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” (v. 5).

In verse 4 it says, “There were giants in the earth in those days,” but it does not say they are the children produced by the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.” It does have this to say about the offspring: “the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” They were not monstrosities; they were regular flesh and blood men. I believe the record here makes it clear that the giants were on the earth before the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” began to produce offspring. And the idea here is simply that these offspring were outstanding individuals.  

There is a third notion concerning the identity of the “sons of God” which says they were a lustful lot striving for fame and fertility. They were probably powerful rulers who were controlled (indwelt) by fallen angels. It may be that fallen angels left their habitation in Heaven and inhabited the bodies of human tyrants and warriors, the “mighty men which were…men of renown.” It was also a pagan belief that giants (Nephilim) and “men of renown” were of divine origin. The Canaanite cult (and most cults in the ancient Near East) included fertility rites supported magic, based on the fact that people are supernaturally affected through an object that represents them. Israel was warned to resist this because it was completely corrupt and erroneous.

This passage, then, refutes pagan beliefs by declaring the truth. The sons of God were not divine, they were demon-controlled. Their marrying as many women as they pleased was meant to satisfy their baser instincts. They were just another low order of creatures, though powerful and demon–influenced. Children of these marriages, despite pagan ideas were not god-kings. Though heroes and “men of renown,” they were flesh and blood, and in due time, they died, like all men of the human race. When God judges the world—as He is about to do—no deity, no giant, no human being has any power against Him. God simply allots a man a certain number of days, and brings about his end at the appointed time.

In every situation mentioned, the “daughters of men” were irreligious and they would, as mothers and wives, exert an influence fatal to the existence of religion in their household, and consequently the people of that age sank to the lowest depravity.

Christ, as God, had by His Spirit inspired Enoch, Noah, and perhaps other prophets, to preach repentance to that generation—“if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others” (2 Pe. 2.5). God is longsuffering and He put up with them, waiting to be gracious, notwithstanding their rebellions; but the Lord, on this occasion, declared, My spirit shall not always strive with man.” But in spite of His warning and that of their own consciences, He would finally leave them to be hardened by sin and ripened for destruction.

Humanity has a tremendous capacity. Man is fearfully and wonderfully made—that is a great truth many have lost sight of. The idea that man came from some protoplasm in a giant, cosmic garbage can or seaweed is utterly preposterous. It is the opinion of some scientists that evolution will be repudiated, and when it happens some people are going to look ridiculous. Evolution is nothing more than a theory as far as science is concerned and there is nothing conclusive about it. It is a philosophy and like any philosophy, it can be accepted or rejected.

What we have in verse 4, as I see it is this: Genesis is a book of Genealogies—it is a book of two family lines. The “sons of God” are the godly line who have come down from Adam through Seth, and the “daughters of men” belong to the line of Cain. What is happening here is an intermingling and intermarriage of these two lines, until finally the entire line is totally corrupted (well, not totally; there is one exception). That is the picture that is presented to us here.

 

 

5 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.

6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

7 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.

8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

 

God’s words concerning the human race are filled with sadness. People’s “wickedness” was “great,” and “every imagination (better, “plan”)” of their hearts was “only evil” continually“every indication of his heart was evil from childhood” (Gen. 6.21). God had designed man—“the LORD God formed the man” (Ge. 2.7)—but man had taken that capacity for good that God had given him and produced only evil. It would be hard to find a stronger statement in the Bible about the sin of mankind. This verse gives insight into Jesus’ explanation that “in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…” (Matt. 24.38)—seemingly a harmless statement until its context is studied. God was forgotten or openly defied by men who were “corrupt” and “full of violence”—“Now the earth was CORRUPT in God's sight and was FULL OF VIOLENCE. So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth” (Ge. 6.11, 13).

The wordplays in verses 5-8 are striking. God “repented” that He had made man because the sin of man had “filled” Him “with pain.” God’s purposes and plans had failed to produce the precious fruit that had been anticipated, because sinful man had prevented their full fruition. The words “repented,” “pain,” and “filled” go back to chapters 3 and 5. Lamech longed for comfort from the painful toil under the curse (Ge. 5.29). Now God “repented” (“was grieved”) that He had made man because human sin pained Him (v. 6). This is why pain was brought into the world (according to some expositors)—God was “grieved” by sin. But now God, rather than comforting man, “repented” for making him. This gave an ironic twist to Lamech’s words. God decided to destroy them all. [“Repented” does not suggest that God changed His mind, because He is “changeless”—"I the LORD do not change” (Mal. 3.6). Instead, it means that God was sorrowful.] There are four more words in this passage that should be emphasized, and maybe you ought to hi-lite them in your Bible. “The wickedness of man was GREAT.” “EVERY imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only EVIL.” Only evil—that is all it was—and it was that way “CONTINUALLY.” These four words reveal the condition of the human family that was in the world at that time.

Observe the connection of these verses (5-8) with those that come before (1-4): the oppressors were mighty men and men of renown. God saw that the wickedness of man was great. The wickedness of a people must be truly great when there are notorious sinners who are men of renown among them. Things are bad when evil men are not only honored for their wickedness, and the vilest men exalted; wickedness is great, when great men are wicked. Their wickedness was great, abundant, and was committed in all places by all sorts of people. This was sin which was itself gross, heinous and infuriating; and was committed daringly, and in defiance of Heaven: nor was any attempt made to restrain or punish it by those who had the power to do so. There was no good to be found among them.

Even though swift judgment would fall because God’s Spirit would not always shield (“shield” may be better than “contend with,” verse 6.3). During this time Noah was “a preacher of righteousness”—“if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others” (2 Pe. 2.5). Although God was “grieved” by man’s sin, thank God He did not destroy everyone.

God is about to alter His visible procedure for dealing with man, from being merciful and longsuffering to show Himself to be a God of judgment; and since that impious race had filled up its measure of iniquity, he was about to release a terrible display of His justice—When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong” (Eccl. 8.11). Noah was a recipient of God’s grace and therefore was spared the judgment (in contrast with those who aspired to immorality). In the time of Moses, Israel would know they were chosen by God and that they should live righteously. As God’s people they would meet the Nephilim, the Anakites—“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim) (Num. 13.33)—and the Rephaites—“And the territory of Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei” (Josh. 12.4)—when they entered the Promised Land. But Israel should not fear them as demigods. God would judge the corrupt world for its idolatry and fornication. And in the latter day the wicked will suddenly be swept away by judgment when God will establish His theocratic kingdom of blessing—“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24.36-39).

Through it all, God’s love shown clearly, even when the rumblings of God’s judgment began to threaten the people of the earth. What an awful state of things, when only one man or one family of piety and virtue was all that remained among the professed sons of God. Only one man out of all the countless of multitudes then on the earth was fit to receive God’s grace. “But Noah found grace (favor, approval) in the eyes of the LORD.”  The word “GRACE” means “acceptance” or “favor” or “approval” at least, and probably has a richer meaning. It was love and mercy in action. God, by extending mercy to Noah, signified that there was new life or new hope for mankind in the days ahead. 

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