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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 6

 

 

Verses 1-4

Genesis 6:1-4. The Angel Marriages.—This section belongs to J, but to what stratum is not clear. In its nakedly mythological character it is quite unlike anything else in the history. It is obscure at some points, probably through abbreviation, and the phrase "the men of renown" implies that a cycle of stories was current about the Nephilim. It does not join on to the preceding genealogy, since the opening words point to a time much earlier than that of Noah. It serves at present as an introduction to the story of the Flood; matters had come to such a pass that nothing but the almost complete extermination of the race could cure the evil. But it does not really lead up to this, for the writer does not imply that these unions resulted in a progeny of monstrous wickedness. It is a kind of coarser parallel to the story of the forbidden fruit; in both the Divinely-appointed limits are transgressed. Here we read of union between the sons of God and the daughters of men, i.e. between angels and women. The sons of God (Job 1:5*) are those who belong to the Elohim order of being, the immortals whose nature is spirit as contrasted with mortals whose nature is flesh. This is the oldest interpretation, and it is that now generally accepted. It is in harmony with the general use of the term, and if we interpreted it to mean the pious Sethites, the daughters of men would be Cainite women, a limitation for which there is no warrant; moreover the mere intermixture of human races would not produce the Nephilim, who are obviously the offspring of unnatural unions. Certain angels then, spirit though they were, inflamed by the beauty of women, took them at their will in marriage. Thus a race of demigods was produced, the Nephilim (a name of uncertain meaning), the ancient heroes far-famed for their exploits. But this blending of spirit and flesh, of human nature with that of the Elohim, sets at nought the barriers fixed by Yahweh in the very constitution of things. At present the Divine substance, the property of the Elohim (hence called by Yahweh "my spirit") is dwelling in men. But this is not to continue since man is only flesh. How Yahweh proposed to retrieve the heavenly essence which had been mingled with the earthly is not said; the reduction of human life to 120 years, which is what the last clause of Genesis 6:3 seems to mean, would not secure its elimination, as it would be passed on with the propagation of the species. The clause may be a gloss. The blame apparently attaches to the angels only, the women being victims of their lawless lust, and the original story may have mentioned the penalty inflicted on them. Such penalties we hear of elsewhere (Isaiah 24:21 f., Psalms 8:2, cf. Psalms 5:8) for the misrule of the angels and the consequent miseries of the world and Israel in particular. (For further discussion the editor may refer to his Faded Myths, chap. iv.)

Genesis 6:3. Very difficult, and the text is corrupt. The rendering "strive" may be set aside; the sense required is that given by the VSS "abide in" (mg.), which may imply a different text. The clause "for that he also is flesh" yields no satisfying sense any more than the alternative "in their going astray they are flesh" (mg.). The simplest solution is to suppose that basar, the word for "flesh," was written twice over (dittography), and that our present text has arisen from this.

Genesis 6:4. and also after that: apparently a gloss inserted by a reader who, remembering Numbers 13:33, points out that they were in the earth not only in those days but "also after that."


Verses 5-22

Genesis 6:5-22. J gives no explanation of the universal wickedness which caused God to repent man's creation, but the previous narrative has prepared for it. Probably, however, the story, which begins abruptly, has lost something at the beginning. Observe the strong anthropomorphism in Genesis 6:6, characteristic of J but combined with a lofty conception of God. P's narrative begins with Genesis 6:9. This writer does not account for the prevalence of violence. The ark or chest is made of logs of gopher, i.e. probably fine cypress, though the word occurs only here, and its meaning is uncertain. It was divided into cells and the shell made watertight by the smearing of bitumen (Exodus 2:3*) on the inside and outside. The specifications in Genesis 6:16 are obscure. The rendering "roof" (mg.) is accepted by several, though generally the meaning, an opening for light and air, is preferred. The following clause is difficult. Wellhausen puts the words "to a cubit thou shalt finish it" at the end of the verse; the reference is in that case to the ark, which is to be accurately finished off. MT perhaps means that an opening for light, a cubit high, ran round the sides of the ark at the top. Since it is God's purpose to make a covenant with Noah, he and his family must be saved from the universal destruction the Flood is to accomplish. The covenant is not the present guarantee for security, but that recorded in Genesis 9:8-17.

Genesis 6:9 a. generations of Noah: i.e. the genealogy of Noah's descendants. The phrase is used by P to introduce a new section, which sometimes consists of a genealogy alone, sometimes of a more extended history. The Heb. for "generations" in Genesis 6:9 b is different; the meaning is that Noah was blameless among his contemporaries.

Genesis 6:14. ark: the word (Egyptian or perhaps Babylonian) means "chest." It is used of the ark in which Moses was entrusted to the Nile, but not of the Ark made in the wilderness.

Genesis 6:15. The cubit was about 18 inches; the ark was apparently an immense box about 450 ft. long, 75 broad and 45 high, with a door in its side, and fitted up with cells in three tiers. The fondness for specifications is characteristic of P, so too are the formul of enumeration in Genesis 6:18 and Genesis 6:20, and the type of sentence in Genesis 6:22.

Genesis 6:17. flood: Heb. mabbul, a foreign word, always used of the Deluge, except possibly Psalms 29:10.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 6:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/genesis-6.html. 1919.

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