The hearsay of the pseudo-learned becomes the soil in which heresy grows.
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 profaning, polluting and desecrating (Heikheil), humanity (Ha-adam) became many upon the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them,
The Talmud observes that where the Hebrew phrase, “Vaiyhee” (It came to pass) occurs at the beginning of a passage of Scripture, it often denotes times of trouble (Megillah 10b). In the case of the present text it seems to announce humanity’s descent into the abyss.
The common translation of the Hebrew Heicheil, 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 4:6, that we render this opening verse of Genesis 6 as, “And it came to pass, that profaning, polluting and desecrating (Heikheil), humanity (Ha-adam)”. Those among humanity that profane HaShem are being alluded to here. This sets up a foundation for recognizing the, “daughters of humanity” mentioned in the following verse, as being those born to profaners and blasphemers of G-d, who are therefore not followers of G-d, that is, “Benai ha-Elohim” (Sons of the G-d).
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, the sons of the Elohim, that 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 G-d” are not angels. How do we know this? We can be sure of this because our Messiah explains that angelic beings do no 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)
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 G-d”, 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 G-d” 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. Men who not only give in to, but also pursue the evil inclination.
Note: Israel’s sons (sons of G-d) 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 after the exile to Babylon, Israel was tasked with removing the wives they took from the surrounding idolatrous nations (Ezra 10:10-11). Additionally, following the same theme and by teaching a drash on the subject Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) instructs all believers to refrain from being unequally yoked to non-believers.
“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 G-d have with idols? For you are the temple of the living G-d; as G-d has said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their G-d, 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
Note that G-d 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.’” –Job 1:6
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? 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.
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 G-d, as I have already explained.
We must conclude that in the case of Job at least, the sons of the G-d that are presenting themselves before G-d are in fact human beings who are devoted worshippers of G-d and not angelic beings. Additionally, Satan has come with them because he is the accuser of G-d’s people and has been among them seeking to divert their attention from the worship of G-d.
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).
“Benai ha-Elohim” (Sons of the G-d) refers to human beings who are devoted in their worship of G-d. 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 HaShem, I won’t plead by 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. G-d 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 The Nephilim (to fall: fallen ones) came to exist in the earth in those days; and also continued after that, when 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.
With regard to the meaning of the Hebrew Nephilim, fallen ones (from the root naphal: fall) refers to their physical height and the weight with which they fall in battle as well as to the state of their relationship to G-d. They are the product of cohabitation between previously devoted followers of G-d (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.
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.
Iban Ezra claims that they were so called 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 G-d fearing men and idolatrous women.
Gen 6:5 And seeing, HaShem, what great evil humanity perpetuated in the earth, and that all the inclination and the thoughts of their core being (Lev) was only evil all the day. Gen 6:6 And having comforted Himself (nacham), HaShem, because He had made (asah) humanity on the earth, was grieved to His core being (Lev).
These two verses offer an illuminating counterpoint between the core being (lev) of fallen humanity and the core being (lev) of the Creator.
The Torah is borrowing human terms in order to convey the grief of G-d. The fact that G-d grieves is not proof, as some foolishly suggest, that G-d doesn’t know the end from the beginning. To the contrary, it is an illumination of what it means for G-d 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 G-d’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.” –Akeidas Yitzchak
The Hebrew, “nacham” is nestled within the name, “menachim” (comforter), and denotes compassion and comfort. Here it carries a sense of self comfort.
Gen 6:7 And speaking HaShem said, I will wipe out humanity whom I have created from nothing (bara) from the face of the earth; both person, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; because in compforting Myself I fashioned them.
The coming flood is an act of covering and compassion rather than an act of hatred for humanity. G-d is grieved because He is compassionate, He passes judgement because He is loving, and His purpose is eternal, not temporary.
Notice the Hebrew word play using NoaCH (comfort) and NaCHam (Self-Comfort). Noach’s comfort comes from the Comforter (G-d), as reflected also in the character of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (John 14:26; 15:26).
Gen 6:8 But Noach (Rest, Comfort) found favour in the eyes of HaShem (Merciful).
“But Noach found grace and mercy in the eyes of G-d.” –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 grace (chesed) seen through love (Ahavah) and covering (Kiparot).
The Torah Portion “Parashat Noach” begins here:
Gen 6:9 These are the generations (toldot) of Noach (Rest, Comfort): Noach (Rest, Comfort) was a tzadik (righteous) man and sound, complete and whole in his time, and The Elohim (Judge) walked with Noach (rest, comfort). Gen 6:10 And Noach begat three sons, Shem (name, renowned), Cham (hot, intense, passionate), and Yefet (expansion, open, deceive, flatter, entice).
The generations of Noach are an allusion to the redemptive renewal of humanity following the flood of covering. 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 ancestors of humanity.
This gives a 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
We note a profound difference between the walking of Noach and the walking of Chanoch. Chanoch, “walked with G-d” whereas, “G-d walked with Noach”. The Hebrew reads, “Ha-Elohim heet’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 Masorites. 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 G-d walked with Noach indicates a connection between Noach and the first Adam, whom G-d also walked with in Gan Eidan. The rhythm of redemption and renewal continues.
Gen 6:11 And corrupt was the earth before the face of the Elohim, and the earth was filled with injustice. Gen 6:12 And looked Elohim upon the earth, and saw corruption; it was corrupting, ruining and decaying all flesh and humanity’s path upon the earth.
The Zohar 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, “Chamas” as, “violence”, however violence is neither good nor evil but is effected by the inclination that drives it. Therefore, “injustice” 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 G-d, 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 G-d 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
Gen 6:13 And saying Elohim to Noach, The end of all flesh is coming before My face; for the earth is filled with injustice 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, make atonement (Karpata: Kiparot) for it as a house (protection) outside as a ransom, or, 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 G-d in repentance. Rashi notes that in spite of this gracious instruction of G-d, 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 Kiparot (covering, atonement) provided by G-d.
Gen 6:15 And this is how you should make it: The length of the ark, three hundred amah (500mm 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 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, behold, 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 in the earth will perish.
Gen 6:18 But I will establish 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 covenant is made in blood, therefore the covenant of G-d made with Noach and his children was either already made 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). In Messiah Yeshua we understand that the blood of Yeshua was shed before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8) and that the rainbow is a sign of Yeshua’s having bridged the gap between G-d and humanity for the forgiveness of sin. Therefore the covenant 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 G-d’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 Noach everything; as Elohim instructed him, he accomplished it.
This chapter ends with a response of obedience from Noach that highlights his service to G-d and the intimate nature of his relationship to G-d. It seems that like the talmidim (disciples) called by Yeshua, Noach acted immediately in following, walking with, acting out and accomplishing the instructions of G-d. He is a tzadik (righteous one) because he has accepted the gift of G-d’s righteousness.
© 2016 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.