Genesis 6 provides us with an explanation of why God sends the flood and how (and why) He prepared Noah in advance. The first four verses, however, come with some biblical controversy and create more questions than answers.
In my studies, I discovered that Genesis 6:1-4 are perhaps the most controversial verses in the bible. Because I am not a biblical scholar, I will not speak as to what I think is correct, but will merely offer all views of the verses and allow you to decide for yourself and do your own study.
‘When mankind began to multiply on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of mankind were beautiful, and they took any they chose as wives for themselves. And the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because they are corrupt. Their days will be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men.’Genesis 6:1-4
The Sons of God and Daughters of Mankind
Herein lies the controversy: Who are the “sons of God”? There are three schools of thought:
#1: The “sons of God” are Seth’s godly descendants marrying “daughters of mankind”, or Cain’s ungodly descendants.
Marriage between believers and nonbelievers results in corruption according to scripture:
‘Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? ‘ 2 Corinthians 6:14
#2: The “sons of God” were nobles and aristocrats “daughters of mankind”, or commoners.
In the Ancient Near East (what we know as the area around Egypt), some rulers were identified as son of a particular god, for example a ruler in Egypt was known as “son of Re”.
In OT Hebrew, “Elohim” is used for men in positions of authority, as well as the name of God. Perhaps their sin was polygamy, the same as Cain’s Lamech in Chapter 4.
#3: The “sons of God” were heavenly beings, perhaps even fallen angels, marrying “daughters of mankind”, or human women.
There is scripture that both supports and opposes this idea. Scripture that could point to the “sons of God” being heavenly beings can be taken from the book of Job. Three times in Job are angels referred to as “sons of God”, but all three times they are actively serving God as angels.
‘One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord , and Satan also came with them. ‘ Job 1:6
God, His angels, and Satan met to discuss the fate of Job. The “sons of God” are mentioned again in Job 2:1 and 38:7.
This verse from 2 Peter suggests that the fallen angels were not spared (in the flood?) – I haven’t gotten that far yet so I only offer this as reference:
‘For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; ‘ 2 Peter 2:4
There are other verses, such as this one from the book of Matthew, that seem to conflict with this ideology:
‘For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. ‘ Matthew 22:30
Jesus says that angels do not marry. It is unclear if Jesus is referring to only angels in heaven, or all angels, including the fallen. Gen. 6:2 says the sons of God married the daughters of mankind.
Finally, Paul refers to godly people as “sons of God”:
‘But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.‘ Galatians 3:25-26
Now of course, just as there are many names for God in Hebrew, there are probably many variations of words used to represent “sons of God” in different ways. I have no idea which ideology is correct, and we may never know for sure until we get to heaven and ask God Himself.
‘And the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because they are corrupt. Their days will be 120 years.” ‘ Genesis 6:3
The reference to 120 years could mean one of two things: (1) God is going to bring judgment on the corrupt of the earth in 120 years from that time or (2) because of the corruption of mankind, God is shortening the lifespan of man to no more than 120 years.
Reflect back on Genesis 5 and the line of Adam. Men at this time are living close to 1000 years, as was the case of Methusaleh. Post-flood, lifespans began to shorten. Genesis 11:10-32 provides us with the line of Shem and shows men dying at the age of 400+, slowly lessening to around 200 years of age.
Who (or What) Were the Nephilim?
‘The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men.‘ Genesis 6:4
Another source of controversy in these first four verses is the appearance of someone (or something) called the Nephilim. The Nephilim are only mentioned two times in the bible, here in Genesis 6:4 and again in Numbers 13:33.
Again, questions arise.
- Were they the product of the marriage between the sons of God and daughters of mankind?
- Does the statement “were on the earth both in those days and afterward” refer to pre- and post-flood?
The Hebrew translation of “Nephilim” means “fallen one” which could be taken literally (fallen angel) or figuratively (sinful). The reference in Numbers 13:33 refers to them as giants. However, due to the circumstances of that verse and surrounding verses, the story of the Nephilim could have been a fabrication to scare the masses.
The KJV version of this verse is worth sharing as well:
‘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. ‘ Genesis 6:4
This version reads as if the Nephilim were indeed giants born to the daughters of men.
‘When the Lord saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. ‘ Genesis 6:5-6
For the first time in Creation, we see God regret what He has made. Seven times in Genesis 1, God created the earth and all things in it and said “it is good”, and in the case of mankind he said “it is very good”. Remember “good” was used as both ‘satisfactory’ and ‘of moral excellence’.
Man’s sin has caused God to have grief in His heart because they no longer have moral excellence. God is a loving God and wants us to be godly and good, seeking a relationship with Him. However, mankind is wicked and corrupt, only thinking about things that are sinful.
Note: God is not only referencing the actions of man – the things that can be seen with the eyes – but also the thoughts of man.
- God cares about the heart and mind of man.
- While actions on the outside may make people seem “good”, it’s our faith that creates a relationship with God.
- ‘For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. ‘ Ephesians 2:8-9
- There were most likely some people on earth who were speaking the word of God and going through the motions of being faithful, but their hearts were impure and set on sinful things.
Judgment Shared with Noah
‘Then the Lord said, “I will wipe off from the face of the earth mankind, whom I created, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky — for I regret that I made them.” Noah, however, found favor in the sight of the Lord . ‘ Genesis 6:7-8
For the first time (but certainly not the last time), God speaks to man and we see God share His intentions with someone. Now notice, in these verses, He doesn’t get specific about the type of judgment, just that the earth and all things in it will be judged.
Of all the people alive on earth at this time, Noah was the only one found righteous and blameless (v. 9) in God’s sight, the only one found worthy of the job of building the ark, and the only one worth saving to carry out His original plan and purpose.
The Specs of the Ark
‘“Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside. This is how you are to make it: The ark will be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. You are to make a roof, finishing the sides of the ark to within 18 inches of the roof. You are to put a door in the side of the ark. Make it with lower, middle, and upper decks.‘ Genesis 6:14-16
To get an idea of the scope of this project God gave to Noah, watch the drone view of The Ark Encounter in Kentucky, where they built a full-size replica of the ark based on biblical dimensions.
Source: Ark Encounter
I can only imagine what it must have been like for Noah to receive this command from God. As a righteous and faithful man who walked with God, I’m sure he never doubted whether he could do the job. However, as God spells out the magnitude of this ark, I can picture Noah’s mouth opening wider and wider, and for a brief moment possibly having those simple human thoughts of, “You want me to do what?!”
There were no power tools or heavy machinery. Noah labored, quite possibly for years, with his own hands to build this huge ark. And he built it quite possibly in the middle of dessert. Imagine what his neighbors thought!
Fun fact: A cubit is the length of a person’s arm from elbow to fully extended middle finger.
God Reveals Means of Judgment
‘“Understand that I am bringing a flood — floodwaters on the earth to destroy every creature under heaven with the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will die. ‘ Genesis 6:17
I love the first word of this verse. “Understand”. God is making it very clear what His plans are, and wants to be sure Noah fully understands and comprehends the magnitude of what He is about to say. God doesn’t mean a figurative flood. He wants Noah to understand that He is quite literally destroying the entire earth and all things on it, and everything will die.
There is no mention of whether it had ever rained up to the time of the flood. We know from Gen. 2:6 that God caused water to come from the ground to serve as water for the earth, but we don’t know if water came from the sky at this point. So Noah stepped out in complete and total faith to build an ark for a flood that would cover the earth.
The First Covenant
‘But I will establish My covenant with you, and you will enter the ark with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. ‘ Genesis 6:18
A covenant is a binding agreement between two parties. God is telling Noah that he and his family will live if he does as God commands. We will dive further into God’s covenant with Noah in Genesis 9.
Animals Two by Two
‘You are also to bring into the ark two of all the living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of everything — from the birds according to their kinds, from the livestock according to their kinds, and from the animals that crawl on the ground according to their kinds — will come to you so that you can keep them alive. ‘ Genesis 6:19-20
God instructs Noah to keep two of every animal – male and female – alive on the ark during the flood. Notice the verbiage here, though: “will come to you“. God does not task Noah with collecting these animals from all over the world. Instead, Noah is tasked with building the ark, and God will send the animals to him.
‘Take with you every kind of food that is eaten; gather it as food for you and for them.” And Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him. ‘ Genesis 6:21-22
Although God is upset with His creation and their sinfulness, He is good to Noah and provides all he needs. He allows Noah to bring his family on the ark, and will also provide food for both Noah’s family and all the animals onboard.
Noah is obedient and does what God commanded him to do. Notice Noah never complained or questioned God. He simply obeyed.
Noah could not possibly foresee the future and know what would happen after the flood. Can you imagine knowing that everything and everyone you know would soon die, and you and your family would be all that remains? Imagine what must have been going through Noah’s head while building the ark. The unknown is terrifying, but he had faith in God and knew, without a doubt, that he and his family would be taken care of, and there was a purpose for all he was asked to do.
Noah didn’t obey God because he feared judgment. Noah was obedient and faithful and received favor from God because of his faithfulness. It was because of his relationship with God that he was tasked with building an ark.
Had God revealed His plans for the flood to all mankind, many would have been obedient out of fear, not faith.