Origin of the Nephilim.#These enigmatic verses are a transition between the expansion of the human race illustrated in the genealogy of chap. 5 and the flood depicted in chaps. 6–9. The text, apparently alluding to an old legend, shares a common ancient view that the heavenly world was populated by a multitude of beings, some of whom were wicked and rebellious. It is incorporated here, not only in order to account for the prehistoric giants, whom the Israelites called the Nephilim, but also to introduce the story of the flood with a moral orientation—the constantly increasing wickedness of humanity. This increasing wickedness leads God to reduce the human life span imposed on the first couple. As the ages in the preceding genealogy show, life spans had been exceptionally long in the early period, but God further reduces them to something near the ordinary life span. 1When human beings began to grow numerous on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God#The sons of God: other heavenly beings. See note on 1:26. saw how beautiful the daughters of human beings were, and so they took for their wives whomever they pleased.#Mt 24:38; Lk 17:26–27. 3Then the Lord said: My spirit shall not remain in human beings forever, because they are only flesh. Their days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years.
4The Nephilim appeared on earth in those days, as well as later,#As well as later: the belief was common that human beings of gigantic stature once lived on earth. In some cultures, such heroes could make positive contributions, but the Bible generally regards them in a negative light (cf. Nm 13:33; Ez 32:27). The point here is that even these heroes, filled with vitality from their semi-divine origin, come under God’s decree in v. 3. after the sons of God had intercourse with the daughters of human beings, who bore them sons. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown.#Wis 14:6; Bar 3:26.
Warning of the Flood. 5#6:5–8:22] The story of the great flood is commonly regarded as a composite narrative based on separate sources woven together. To the Yahwist source, with some later editorial additions, are usually assigned 6:5–8; 7:1–5, 7–10, 12, 16b, 17b, 22–23; 8:2b–3a, 6–12, 13b, 20–22. The other sections are usually attributed to the Priestly writer. There are differences between the two sources: the Priestly source has two pairs of every animal, whereas the Yahwist source has seven pairs of clean animals and two pairs of unclean; the floodwater in the Priestly source is the waters under and over the earth that burst forth, whereas in the Yahwist source the floodwater is the rain lasting forty days and nights. In spite of many obvious discrepancies in these two sources, one should read the story as a coherent narrative. The biblical story ultimately draws upon an ancient Mesopotamian tradition of a great flood, preserved in the Sumerian flood story, the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, and (embedded in a longer creation story) the Atrahasis Epic. When the Lord saw how great the wickedness of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but evil,#Ps 14:2–3. 6the Lord regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved.#His heart was grieved: the expression can be misleading in English, for “heart” in Hebrew is the seat of memory and judgment rather than emotion. The phrase is actually parallel to the first half of the sentence (“the Lord regretted…”).
7So the Lord said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them.#Human beings are an essential part of their environment, which includes all living things. In the new beginning after the flood, God makes a covenant with human beings and every living creature (9:9–10). The same close link between human beings and nature is found elsewhere in the Bible; e.g., in Is 35, God’s healing transforms human beings along with their physical environment, and in Rom 8:19–23, all creation, not merely human beings, groans in labor pains awaiting the salvation of God. 8But Noah found favor with the Lord.
9These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man and blameless in his generation;#Wis 10:4; Sir 44:17. Noah walked with God. 10Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11But the earth was corrupt#Corrupt: God does not punish arbitrarily but simply brings to its completion the corruption initiated by human beings. in the view of God and full of lawlessness.#Jb 22:15–17. 12When God saw how corrupt the earth had become, since all mortals had corrupted their ways on earth,#Ps 14:2. 13God said to Noah: I see that the end of all mortals has come, for the earth is full of lawlessness because of them. So I am going to destroy them with the earth.#Sir 40:9–10; 44:17; Mt 24:37–39.
Preparation for the Flood. 14Make yourself an ark of gopherwood,#Gopherwood: an unidentified wood mentioned only in connection with the ark. It may be the wood of the cypress, which in Hebrew sounds like “gopher” and was widely used in antiquity for shipbuilding. equip the ark with various compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you shall build it: the length of the ark will be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.#Hebrew “cubit,” lit., “forearm,” is the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, about eighteen inches (a foot and a half). The dimensions of Noah’s ark were approximately 440 × 73 × 44 feet. The ark of the Babylonian flood story was an exact cube, 120 cubits (180 feet) in length, width, and height. 16Make an opening for daylight#Opening for daylight: a conjectural rendering of the Hebrew word sohar, occurring only here. The reference is probably to an open space on all sides near the top of the ark to admit light and air. The ark also had a window or hatch, which could be opened and closed (8:6). and finish the ark a cubit above it. Put the ark’s entrance on its side; you will make it with bottom, second and third decks. 17I, on my part, am about to bring the flood waters on the earth, to destroy all creatures under the sky in which there is the breath of life; everything on earth shall perish.#Gn 7:4, 21; 2 Pt 2:5. 18I will establish my covenant with you. You shall go into the ark, you and your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives with you.#Gn 9:9; Wis 14:6; Heb 11:7; 1 Pt 3:20. 19Of all living creatures you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, one male and one female,#You shall bring two of every kind…, one male and one female: For the Priestly source (P), there is no distinction between clean and unclean animals until Sinai (Lv 11), no altars or sacrifice until Sinai, and all diet is vegetarian (Gn 1:29–30); even after the flood P has no distinction between clean and unclean, since “any living creature that moves about” may be eaten (9:3). Thus P has Noah take the minimum to preserve all species, one pair of each, without distinction between clean and unclean, but he must also take on provisions for food (6:21). The Yahwist source (J), which assumes the clean-unclean distinction always existed but knows no other restriction on eating meat (Abel was a shepherd and offered meat as a sacrifice), requires additional clean animals (“seven pairs”) for food and sacrifice (7:2–3; 8:20). to keep them alive along with you. 20Of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal, and of every kind of thing that crawls on the ground, two of each will come to you, that you may keep them alive. 21Moreover, you are to provide yourself with all the food that is to be eaten, and store it away, that it may serve as provisions for you and for them. 22Noah complied; he did just as God had commanded him.#Just as God had commanded him: as in the creation of the world in chap. 1 and in the building of the tabernacle in Ex 25–31, 35–40 (all from the Priestly source), everything takes place by the command of God. In this passage and in Exodus, the commands of God are carried out to the letter by human agents, Noah and Moses. Divine speech is important. God speaks to Noah seven times in the flood story.
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There were big, strong fighting men
1The people on the earth kept on having lots of kids, and those kids grew up and kept on having more kids, so after some time there were lots of people on the earth. And some people had very pretty daughters.
2There were some men that everyone called the Sons of God. They looked at the pretty young women, then they picked out the women they wanted, and they married them. 3God looked at everything that was happening. He said, “I gave people their breath, but I will not let it stay in them for ever. They are just people. They will live for only 120 years.”
4Those men that were called the Sons of God, they slept with the pretty women, like men usually sleep with their wives, and then those women had kids called Nefalim. Those Nefalim kids grew up to be big, strong fighting men. They were the great fighters in the stories from a long time ago.#Numbers 13:33
People kept on doing bad things
5God looked at the people on the earth, and he saw them doing lots of bad things. He knew the way they were thinking. They were thinking bad things all the time. God saw that the people were very bad. 6So God was feeling sad. He really felt no good inside. He thought to himself, “I should not have made all these people.”
7And God said, “These people keep on doing bad things, and that makes me really sad. I’m sorry that I made them. I’m sorry I made everything on the earth. I want to finish up everything. I want to kill all the people I made, and I want to kill all the animals on earth, the big animals, and the little animals, and even the animals that crawl around on the ground, and I want to kill all the birds that fly in the sky.”
8But God looked at the man called Noah, and Noah made God happy.
The story about Noah
9This is the story about Noah and his family. Noah was a good man. He didn’t do anything wrong. He was God’s friend, and he spent a lot of time with God.#2 Peter 2:5 10He had 3 sons. Their names were Shem, Ham, and Jafeth.
11-12Everyone on the earth kept on doing bad things. They were doing wrong to each other, and fighting and hurting each other. God looked down and saw all the bad things that were going on. The people were always doing things that were really bad.
13So God said to Noah, “Look, everyone is doing bad things and hurting each other. I’m going to kill everyone, and I will finish up everything on the earth.”
God told Noah to build a big boat
14Then God said to Noah, “Make a really big boat for yourself. Make it out of that strong wood called cypress. Make some rooms in the boat. And get some tar, and paint the inside of the boat, and paint the outside too. That will keep the water out of the boat.
15Listen, this is how big I want you to make the boat. It has to be 140 metres long, and 23 metres wide, and 13½ metres high. 16I want you to make a roof for that boat, but leave ½ a metre between the top of the walls and the roof, all around the top of the boat. And put a door in the side of the boat. And make 3 floors in the boat, one floor on the bottom and the other 2 floors upstairs.
17You see, soon I will bring a lot of flood water, and it will cover the earth, and everything that is on the earth will die. Everything that breathes air will die, wherever they live. 18But don’t worry. I’m making a strong promise to you, that I will look after you. I will look after you, and your wife, and all your kids, and their wives too. You all have to go into that boat.#1 Peter 3:20
19And you have to bring lots of animals into that boat too. Every sort of animal that is on the earth has to go into that boat, so that they will stay alive in the big flood. Get one male and one female of each sort of those animals, and take them into the boat with you. You see, you have to keep those animals alive. 20And you have to do the same thing for all those different sorts of birds. Get one male and one female of all of those birds. And you have to do the same thing for all those animals that crawl around on the ground. You have to get one male and one female of all those animals too. I will get 2 of every sort of animal to come to you, so you can keep them alive.
21And you have to gather up lots of food, all the sorts of food that people eat, and all the things that animals eat too. You have to put it all in the boat, so that you will all have enough food.”
22Then Noah did all of that. He did everything that God told him to do.#Hebrews 11:7
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