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Genesis 6:1-4 talks of the worldwide degeneration of mankind into ungodly ways before the equally worldwide, universal flood experienced in Genesis 6-9. The main question with regards to this chapter is on its importance to the faith of Christians. This paper discusses this matter in detail as this chapter either gives a historical explanation, or makes the author of the book of Genesis an architect of myths. This chapter also either gives a warning of the Noahic floods or they mock these floods by either being consistent with the teachings of the bible or by contradicting with the bible by propagating false ideas. Most arguments in chapter 6 of Genesis are based on the meaning of the phrase sons of God, particularly in chapter 2 and 4. The aim of this paper is to discuss the interpretation of this chapter.
Historical background and social setting
Whereas it is evident that chapter 4 and 5 of Genesis had problems of their own, the study of background information is intended to give a contextual understanding of chapter 6. Genesis 4 talks about the sacrifices that were made by Abel and Cain. Nevertheless, it becomes evident that Cain and Abel demonstrate attitudes that are contrasting towards God. Cain made a sacrifice to God that was not accepted as the Lord did not have respect to the sacrifice by Cain. In verse 6 and 7 of chapter 4, God criticized Cain for his sacrifices’ inadequacy, and cautioned him to do well. However, Cain reacted negatively due to his lack of a penitent attitude and humility, and thereafter killed Abel. In addition to murder and the sacrifice being unfit, Cain denied and lied to God. These acts by Cain can lead to the assumption, that he had ungodly characteristics which led him to commit ungodly acts. The response by God was to exile Cain to a far away land. The latter generations of Cain include Lamech; who was a polygamist and boasted of violence. The other generations of Cain are well-known for their material quests such as metal working, musicianship, and animal husbandry (Trevor 2)
In the meantime, Adam and Eve got another son by the name Seth. Seth bore a son Enoch and this saw the emergence of a renewed spirit of loyalty to God. It is written that Enoch walked with God and this means that probably Enoch was favored by God and in spiritual union with the lord. In the end, Lamech bore a son by the name Noah and through him; he saw a future and hope of comfort. After some time, Noah was the one chosen and found God’s favor.
Nevertheless, the verses that follow present a problem in comprehending the state of individuals before the floos. The writer of Genesis describes worldly people like Lamech and those favored by God like Enoch, however there comes Noah who was viewed as blameless in his Era. Noah was given instruction by God to build an Ark so as to rescue a part of humanity as he had seen that human beings had become unrepentant and wicked. The question as to what had changed so rapidly that God had decided to destroy the whole universe arises. In my view the explanation of this occurrence can be found in between the verses in the end of chapter 5 and in verse 5 of chapter 6.
Interpretation of “sons of God”
There have been three key interpretations on the meaning of “Sons of God”, these explanations have been suggested in an attempt to shed more light on this matter. The first interpretation viewed sons of God as magnates or nobles but this view was refuted. The other interpretation is that sons of God were the fallen angels, according to this view angels were attracted to earthly women and took the form of human-like beings. These creatures married Sethites and Cainites and they bore Nephilims. These beings were giants and were superior physically such that they were viewed as men of military might and physical prowess. However, during this race was wiped out together with other sinners during the floods (Livingston).
The third interpretation, proposes that the sons of God came from Seth’s male descendants and Cain’s female descendants. As Seth was considered to be a believer and Cain a non-believer, this was a union of non-believers and believers. This union between Seth’s sons who were considered as good and daughters of Cain considered as bad, was the beginning of mixed marriages. The offspring later became famous for their corruption and decadence and this made God so unhappy that he was forced to destroy the whole race of human beings through floods (Deffinbaugh).
A number of scholars argue that in Genesis chapter 6 verses 1, sons of God refer to all men who existed at the time. Nevertheless, this interpretation leads to inconconsistency or misunderstanding to the consequent limitations that were placed on the interpretation of the words daughters of men found in verse 2. The inconsistency and misunderstanding comes about from the fact that daughters of men are also included when defining mankind. In this case, it means that the phrase sons of God are disqualified from the human beings population called men. The argument in this view revolves on the probable particippation of divine beings. Inconsistency in this case emerges from the fact that word men is considered to encompass all mankind in the first verse, nevertheless it encompasses a portion of mankind in the name of daughters of men in verse 2. This view can be interpreted to mean that the phrases daughters of men and sons of men are two different components of what mankind is made up of. Therefore, the word men in verse 2 should be viewed as having a more restricted sense as opposed to the word’s meaning in verse 1.
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The problem with the term daughters of men in verse 2 is that it results in the unnatural modification in meaning that may not be the aim of this verse. Nevertheless, if the initial idea of the second view that there existed two sets of mankind being discussed, then consistency can only be upheld if the men talked of in verse 1 are viewed as a subdivision of the whole population. Therefore, in verse 1 the daughters born to men can be equated to daughters of men found in verses 2 and 4. From this perspective, the words “with man” which is in verse 3 encompasses both sons and daughters. Therefore, it is possible, that the men that are viewed by God in verse 3, encompasses all mankind and is not limited to the daughters of men only (Trevor 5).
It is natural to assume that the word “daughters” refers to the female offspring only. Nevertheless, the word may at times be used to mean both females and males, especially when referring to singular collection of the population of a city or place, for example daughter of Zion.
Whereas chapter 6 of Genesis has numerous problems in interpretation, the general meaning of this chapter can be determined by the evaluation of the doctrinal principles and peripheral contents in the old testaments. The idea is that the sons of God being angels contradict the view that they were a class of nobles. The other explanation that the sons of God arose from the union between the worldly cainites and godly sethites seems more commendable as it does not create any theological or doctrinal problems. However it does not conform to the exegetical practices. The issue of interpretation of the phrase daughters of men and sons of god, and the problem of explaining the nature of nephilim, can be solved by considering the impact of an overpowering majority of ungodly on the lesser group of those considered as worshipful people. Therefore, as opposed to considering the presence of nephilim, or the union in marriage, one should evaluate the impact of the evil influences so as to establish the reason for the severe punishment by god through floods.