“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become בני האלוהים B’nei haElohim children of God.”
A great deal of foolish conjecture has been entertained in regard to this passage of Scripture. As a result we have Christians and Jews alike pursuing occult driven myths of Alien beings and the supposed progeny of illicit sexual union between spirits (angelic beings) and human beings. In the case of the present text, as is so often the case in the interpretation of the wider Canon, the hearsay of the pseudo-learned becomes the soil in which heresy grows.
A plain reading of the text and an understanding of the wider Scripture soon snuffs out the many lies that proceed from misinterpretation.
Gen 6:1 And it came to pass, that הֵחֵל heikheil profaning, polluting and desecrating, humanity הָאָדָם ha-adam became many upon the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them,
The Talmud observes that where the Hebrew phrase וַיְהִי Vayhiy (And it came to pass) occurs at the beginning of a passage of Scripture, it often denotes times of trouble (Talmud Bavliy Megillah 10b). In the case of the present text it seems to announce humanity’s descent into the abyss of intentional sinful practice. The wilful desecration of God’s Name (character, attributes, person, expression, illumination).
The common English translation of the Hebrew הֵחֵל heikheil, meaning, “To profane, defile, pollute, desecrate, begin” has favoured, “And it came to pass that man began”. However, it is much more consistent, in light of a sound interpretation of Genesis 4:26, that we render this opening verse of Genesis 6 as, “And it came to pass, that profaning, polluting and desecrating, humanity”. Those among humanity that profane יהוה HaShem are being alluded to here (Genesis 4:26(. This sets up a foundation for recognizing בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם the, “daughters of humanity” mentioned in the following verse, as being those born to profaners and blasphemers of God, who are therefore not worshippers of God. Those who worship and seek to honour God are thus distinguished by the title בְנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים “B’nai ha-Elohim” Sons of the God (Not angels but human beings who honour God.
“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become בני האלוהים B’nei haElohim children of God.”
--Yochanan/John 1:12 [Author’s translation]
The special attention paid to the birth of daughters does not discount the birth of sons, it is merely a Hebrew idiom that conveys the importance of women in the procreation of the human race.
Gen 6:2 Seeing, בְנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים the sons of the Elohim, that בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם the daughters of humanity were fair; they took wives of all whom they chose.
Let’s be clear from the outset, the “Sons of the God” are not angels. How do we know this? We can be sure of this because our Messiah explains that angelic beings do not procreate:
“But those who are considered worthy to attain to that Olam Habah (age to come) and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”
—Luke 20:35-36 (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25) [Author’s translation]
In Jewish thinking marriage and procreation are intrinsically linked. Therefore an allusion to marriage includes the sexual act and procreation.
In this passage Yeshua also calls human beings, “Sons of God”, not because they have become angels but because they are like angels. Meaning that they are like the righteous angelic beings that whole heartedly worship and follow HaShem. These human beings are, “Sons of God” not because they are angels but because they are, “Sons of the resurrection”. An angel cannot be a son of the resurrection because an angel is an incorporeal being.
The Scriptural fact that angels are unable to procreate tells us that the, “Sons of the Elohim” in Genesis 6:2, 4 cannot possibly be angels because these same persons mate with women and the women bare offspring to them. Subsequently the Nephilim, who are born of this union are not fallen angels but rather, fallen human beings. That is, fallen in physical stature (the bigger they are the harder they fall) and in spiritual nature. The meaning of the Hebrew Nephilim is literally “To fall” or “Fallen ones”. Men who not only give in to, but also pursue the evil inclination.
Note: Israel’s sons (sons of God) took wives from the daughters of Midian (daughters of humanity) whom they were told not to intermarry with due to the possibility of idolatry (Numbers 25). This is a strong theme throughout Scripture. When Ezra returned to Israel (sons of God) after the exile to Babylon, Israel was tasked with removing the wives (daughters of humanity) they took from the surrounding idolatrous nations (Ezra 10:10-11). Additionally, following the same theme and by teaching a d’rash on the subject Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) instructs all believers (Sons of God) to refrain from being unequally yoked to non-believers (daughters of humanity).
“You should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness? And what communion does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Messiah have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with a non-believer? And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate,’ says HaShem, ‘and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters,’ says HaShem Shaddai (Almighty).”
–2 Corinthians 6:14-18 [Author’s translation]
Note that God calls those who are obedient to Him, “Sons and daughters”.
Some cite the book of Job regarding the title, “Sons of the Elohim” being used of angelic beings:
“One day the sons of the Elohim came to present themselves before HaShem, and Satan also came with them. HaShem said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered HaShem, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.’”
–Iyov/Job 1:6 [Author’s translation]
There are several false presumptions made by those who associate this title with angelic beings. First, they presume that to, “present themselves before HaShem” they must be in the heavens. Is HaShem confined to the heavens? The Priests of Israel and Israel as a nation are said to “present themselves before HaShem” on numerous occasions, are they in the heavens when they do this? Of course not. In fact, we know from the wider Scripture that Satan has been cast from the third heaven by the time the Biblical chronology reaches Genesis 3 (Rev. 12; Isa. 14; Ezekiel 28).
Therefore, in order for Satan to be present he must be within the realm of either the atmosphere of the earth or the earth itself. We know where he is because the text tells us in Satan’s response to HaShem’s question, “I’ve come from roaming throughout the earth”.
Second, they fail to accept multiple Hebrew meanings for titles, saying that this title can only refer to angels. In fact, it can also refer to human beings who are devoted to the worship of God, as I have already explained.
We must conclude that in the case of Job at least, the sons of the God that are presenting themselves before God are in fact human beings who are devoted worshippers of God, (Job himself may have been among them, but like them, unaware of the demonic presence of accusation) and not angelic beings. Additionally, Satan has come with them because he is the accuser of God’s people and has been among them seeking to divert their attention from the worship of God.
The traditional rabbinical Jewish view follows Rashi’s assertion that Elohim always denotes rulership and therefore the sons of the Elohim are the children of judges, rulers etc. In this understanding the daughters of humanity are simply the female children of the lower classes or common people, made subject to the sons of judges (R’ Saadiah Gaon; Rambam, Moreh 1:14).
We must conclude that בְנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים B’nai ha-Elohim (Sons of the God) refers to human beings who are devoted in their worship of God. In the case of Genesis 6 it does not refer to angelic beings or aliens, nor does it insinuate sexual relations between incorporeal spiritual beings and human beings.
Gen 6:3 And said יהוה HaShem, I won’t plead by רוּחִי Ruach My Spirit with humanity forever, for also they are flesh: and it will come to pass that their days will be a hundred and twenty years.
Humanity is made up of both spirit and flesh, made perishable by sin and death. God has said His Spirit will not plead with human beings (nefesh: self, soul, spirit, mind, physical being) forever and explains this by saying, “For also they are flesh”. Meaning, that the sin affected physical body will deteriorate exponentially, and as a result, lifespans will decrease.
Gen 6:4 הַנְּפִלִים ha-Nephilim The Nephilim (to fall: fallen ones) came to exist in the earth in those days; and also continued after that, when בְנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים the sons of the Elohim came in to בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם the daughters of humanity, who bore children to them, the same became mighty ones which were of old, men of renown.
The meaning of the Hebrew נְּפִלִים Nephilim, fallen ones (from the root נפל naphal: fall) refers to their physical height and the weight with which they fall in battle as well as bearing figurative meaning regarding the state of their relationship to God. They are the product of cohabitation between previously devoted followers of God (sons of the Elohim) and women of idolatry (daughters of humanity). Therefore the fallen (Nephilim) children became renowned in their fallen state. New heights of evil were being reached by humanity.
There is a sober warning here for believers who wilfully disobey God’s word and choose to marry non-believers. By doing so they harden their hearts to the Holy Spirit and their children grow up in confusion being taught divergent worldviews and in most cases turn away from God toward the inclination of evil.
The Nephilim bloodline obviously mixed with the bloodlines of Noach’s children through their wives because these same mighty ones were responsible for terrifying Moses’ spies (Numbers 13:33).
Both Rashi and Gur Aryeh agree that the Nephilim were so named due to their fallen spiritual condition and their egregious sinfulness.
Iben Ezra claims that they were so called by this name because the hearts of those who saw them fell in awe at their size.
The answer to the question, “How did they come to exist” posed by the beginning of verse 4, is found in the subsequent clause, “the sons of the Elohim came in to the daughters of humanity, who bore children to them, the same became mighty ones which were of old, men of renown.” The Hebrew euphemism, “the sons of the Elohim came in to the daughters of humanity” refers to the sex act. The Nephilim are the children of once God fearing men and idolatrous women.
Gen 6:5 And seeing, יהוה HaShem, what רַבָּה רָעַתrabah ra’at great evil humanity perpetuated in the earth, and that all the inclination and the thoughts of their core being לִבּוֹ lebo were only evil all the day. Gen 6:6 וַיִּנָּחֶם Vayinchem And having comforted Himself, יהוה HaShem, because He had made עָשָׂה asah humanity on the earth, was grieved to לִבּוֹ lebo His core being.
These two verses offer an illuminating counterpoint between the core being לִבּוֹ lebo of fallen humanity and the core being לִבּוֹ lebo of the Creator.
The Torah is borrowing human terms in order to convey the grief of God. The fact that God grieves is not proof, as some foolishly suggest, that God doesn’t know the end from the beginning. To the contrary, it is an illumination of what it means for God to both know the end from the beginning and to grieve for His beloved creation, specifically for His beloved humanity.
Rav Akeidas Yitzchak tells the following mashal (teaching story) in explanation of God’s grief:
“A man plants a sapling and nurtures it proudly, protecting it from harm as it grows to maturity, knowing that he will one day cut it down for lumber. When the time comes he is grieved that he must cut down the tree for which he has worked so hard, even though he knew that he would eventually be doing so.”
The root of the Hebrew phrase וַיִּנָּחֶם Vayinchem, is נחם nacham, and reminds the Hebrew reader of the name,מנחם Menachim (comforter). It denotes compassion and comfort. Here it carries a sense of self comfort.
Gen 6:7 And speaking יהוה HaShem said, “I will wipe out humanity whom בָּרָאתִי baratiy I have created from nothing from the face of the earth; both person, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; because in נִחַמְתִּי nechamtiy My comforting I fashioned them.”
The coming flood is an act of covering and compassion rather than an act of hatred for humanity. God is grieved because He is compassionate, He passes judgement because He is loving, and His purpose is eternal, not temporary.
Gen 6:8 But נֹחַ Noach (Rest, Comfort) found favour in the eyes of יהוה HaShem (Mercy).
Notice the Hebrew word play using נֹחַ NoaCH (comfort) and נִחַמְתִּי NiCHamtiy (My comfort). Noach’s comfort comes from the Comforter (God), as reflected also in the character of the רוח הקודש Ruach Ha-Kodesh (John 14:26; 15:26).
“But Noach found grace and mercy in the eyes of Elohim.”
–Targum Yerushalayim Jerusalem Targum
Note that Noach found favour not in his own actions but, “in the eyes of HaShem” which is a euphemism indicating the perspective and viewpoint of HaShem, that being one of חן chen grace seen through אהבה ahavah all existing love and כפרה kaparah atonement.
The Torah Portion “Parashat Noach” begins here:
Gen 6:9 These are תּוֹלְדֹת toldot the generations of נֹחַ Noach (Rest, Comfort): נֹחַ Noach (Rest, Comfort) was a אִישׁ צַדִּיק iysh tzadik righteous man and sound, complete and whole in his time, and הָאֱלֹהִים the Elohim (the Judge) walked with נֹחַ Noach (Rest, Comfort). Gen 6:10 And נֹחַ Noach (Rest, Comfort) begat three sons, שֵׁם Sheim (name, renowned), חָם Cham (hot, intense, passionate), and יָפֶת Yafet (expansion, open, deceive, flatter, entice).
The generations of Noach are an allusion to the redemptive renewal of humanity following the flood of covering atonement. Abarbanel notes that Noach, whom the Torah had previously listed as the last link in the genealogy of his forebears, now mentions him again as a type of second Adam whose children will become the forebears of humanity.
This gives a רֶמֶז remez (hint), a foreshadowing of the last Adam, Yeshua.
“So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a nefesh (living being)’; the last Adam, a ruach chaiyim (life-giving spirit).”
–1 Corinthians 15:45 [Author’s translation]
We note a profound difference between the walking of נֹחַ Noach and the walking of חֲנֽוֹךְ Chanoch. Chanoch, “walked with God” whereas, “God walked with Noach”. The Hebrew reads, הִתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹחַ אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים et Ha-Elohim hit’haleikh-Noach. The marker indicating that Noach is the subject of the verb is not in the unmarked Torah text, but is an addition of the Masoretes. Therefore the text in its original state can be read as I have translated it. In fact it is due to this phrase that Rambam identifies Noach as a prophet. The fact that God walked with Noach indicates a connection between Noach and the first Adam, whom God also walked with in גן עדן Gan Eden (Garden of Eden). The rhythm of redemption and renewal continues.
Gen 6:11 And corrupt was the earth לִפְנֵי before the face of הָאֱלֹהִים the Elohim, and the earth was filled with חָמָס chamas unjust violence. Gen 6:12 And looked אֱלֹהִים Elohim upon the earth, and saw corruption; it was corrupting, ruining and decaying all flesh and humanity’s path upon the earth.
The Zohar (Jewish esoteric commentary codified 1280 BCE) claims that humanity is the essence of the world and therefore the actions of humanity affect all of creation.
Many English translations render the Hebrew, חָמָס chamas as, “violence”, however violence is neither good nor evil but is effected by the inclination that drives it. Therefore, “unjust violence” is the more accurate translation.
Humanity’s physical and spiritual path had become a path to destruction. Having reached out to humanity to no avail, HaShem must now do what any loving father would. He must discipline His children in the short term for the purpose of redeeming them for eternity.
“For Messiah also has suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to Elohim, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of Elohim waited in the days of Noach, while the vessel (ark) was being prepared, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved through water.”
–1 Peter 3:18-20 [Author’s translation]
Gen 6:13 And saying אֱלֹהִים Elohim to נֹחַ Noach, “The end of all flesh is coming לְפָנַי lepanay before My face; for the earth is filled with חָמָס chamas unjust violence in their faces; and, behold, destruction is near the earth. Gen 6:14 Make a vessel of gopher wood; rooms (nests) fashion in the vessel, and cover it, וְכָפַרְתָּ ve’karpata (Kaparah) make atonement for it as a house (protection) outside בכפר as a ransom, [alt. with asphalt].
HaShem could have saved Noach immediately without the need for a vessel. Why then did He instruct Noach to build the vessel?
The building of the vessel would take time (the shortest estimate is between 5 and 50 years), thus attracting attention and giving an opportunity for others to return to God in repentance. Rashi notes that in spite of this gracious instruction of God, those who saw Noach’s project and heard his explanation decided to mock him rather than repent.
The language of verse 14 illuminates the need for covering and atonement for sin. The pitch that covers the vessel (ark) is seen as a form of protection from the punishment that the flood will bring. While those outside the vessel will drown, Noach and his family will be protected by the asphalt, the Kaparot (coverings, atonements) provided by God.
Gen 6:15 And this is how you should make it: The length of the ark, three hundred אַמָּה amah (50cm per), the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. (Approx. 135 meters long, 23 meters wide and 14 meters high). Gen 6:16 A window shall you make to the vessel, and in an אַמָּה amah (half meter) shall you finish it above; and the door of the vessel shall you set in the side; with lower, second, and third stories shall you make it.
Even conservative interpretations of the measurements lead us to conclude that there was ample room on the vessel to house Noach’s family, the animals, and the food needed for the journey.
Gen 6:17 And, הִנְנִי hineniy behold, now, pay attention, I, even I, bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, which has the breath of living, from under the heavens; and everything that is בָּאָרֶץ ba’aretz in the land will perish. Gen 6:18 But I will establish בְּרִיתִי My covenant with you; and you shall come into the vessel, you, and your sons, and your wife, and your sons' wives with you.
A בריתcovenant (cutting) is made in blood, therefore the covenant of God made with Noach and his children was either already made (Rev. 13:8) or will be confirmed by the sacrifice offered by Noach following the flood and the covenant sign of the rainbow that is given in acknowledgement of the agreement (Genesis 9:8-17). Or, both.
In Messiah Yeshua we understand that the blood of Yeshua shed at an appointed time within history is nonetheless transcendent in His resurrection and eternal person and was therefore also shed before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). We understand that the rainbow is a sign of Yeshua’s having bridged the gap between God and humanity for the forgiveness of sin. Therefore the בריתcovenant (cutting) made here with Noach’s family is a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah and the redemption offered to all humanity through Him.
Gen 6:19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shall you bring into the vessel, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Gen 6:20 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 to you, to keep them alive.
The selection of a breeding couple of each species is practical. Noach is later instructed to bring seven of each of the kosher species for offerings (7:2) in preparation of God’s giving the Torah and the sacrificial system to Israel at Sinai (Remembering that the present text was recorded by Moses retrospectively).
Gen 6:21 And take with you all food that is eaten, gathering it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you, and for them.” Gen 6:22 Accomplished נֹחַ Noach everything; as אֱלֹהִים Elohim instructed him, he accomplished it.
This chapter ends with a response of obedience from Noach that highlights his service to God and the intimate nature of his relationship to God. It seems that like the talmidim (disciples) called by Yeshua, Noach acted immediately in following, walking with, acting out and accomplishing the instructions of God. He is a אִישׁ צַדִּיק iysh tzadik righteous man (6:9) because he has accepted the gift of God’s righteousness.
© 2023 Yaakov ben Yehoshua Brown
Yaakov (Brown) Ben Yehoshua, founder and spiritual leader of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community, presents a series of in depth studies of books of the Bible. Yaakov approaches the text from a Messianic Jewish perspective, revealing seldom considered translational alternatives and unique insights into the timeless nature of the Word of God as it applies to the redemptive work of the King Messiah Yeshua.