Genesis Devotional #3
A Biblical Study of the Doctrine of Grace:
Faith vs. Sight
Introduction: In the previous study, verse 1 stood out as the introductory portion of Genesis 6:1-8. Verse two is also connected to the same introduction. Verse 2 tells the reader why it is important for the reader to know that daughters were born to man. Combined, the two verses create a similar structure to that of the events which unfolded in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3 we are told that the woman was deceived by the cunning nature of the serpent’s argument. The woman heeded the voice of the false teacher (the serpent) and acted independently on her own in making the decision to eat of the forbidden fruit. Just prior to the woman eating the fruit, the text tells us that “the woman saw that the tree was good for food.” The act of “seeing” the woman was doing was intellectual in nature. Eve saw in the following ways: 1. She saw “that the tree was good for food.” 2. Eve saw, “that is was a delight to the eyes.” 3. Eve saw, “that the tree was desirable to make one wise.” In other words, Eve reasoned in her mind beginning at her most primal demand for self-preservation (food for the stomach) to the most elevated or praise worthy realms of her mental existence (wisdom) and then concluded God was wrong and then she ate.
Verse two begins with the same use of the word “saw.” From the context of Genesis 3, what can we anticipate the outcome of the activity of “seeing” will be?
Assignment: Write down the assumptions / presuppositions you may have about the verse before studying any further. It is good to note assumptions we may be employing so that we can objectively critique how we think in light of the text and do all we can to ensure the text is teaching us rather than us skipping over the text assuming we know how things are going to turn out.
Let’s take a look
Verse 2 “and the sons of God saw.”
The (וַֽ) is being used as a waw-relative which further explains the previous statement / verse.1 The verb יִּרְא֤וּ (to see) is a Qal imperfect, 3rd person, masculine, plural of ראָה. The imperfect verbal form looks at the action from within the event as it unfolds. The writer viewed the action as habitual.2 In other words, the habit that the “sons of God” were forming in their customary manner of life was to focus on looking at women. The activity of the men to look at women must be understood on many levels of thought. A few examples may demonstrate what kind of seeing the “sons of God” were doing.
- First, the sons of God saw mentally becoming very aware of the women in society.
- Second, the sons of God became mentally excited about the imaginative thoughts they were producing in their minds about the women they saw. The imaginative aspect to the seeing men were doing equates to debased lust.
- Third, the act of seeing went from a mental exercise to a physical experience or an activity. Sexual gratification is the view in mind with the understanding of an experience budding from the thoughts in the mind of men.
- Fourth, the men began to investigate or inspecting the women they saw. The art of planning out one’s sin is the focal point in mind. Fifth, the act of visiting is also loaded into the meaning of the word “saw.” The men are now acting out their plans and interacting with the women so as to seduce themselves with their own thoughts or be seduced by the women or both.
- The final step in seeing came. They made a selection.3 The fullness of their mental activities came into full bloom. The imperfect verb tense is extremely important in this passage because it gives room for an undisclosed amount of time to pass by where the full process of seeing is performed.
Another aspect of the verbal form to understanding is that it is simple active-fientive. The verb is describing not a state of being (stative), but a change from one state to another. In other words the verb has an intransitive force connected to it.4 It can be said that the sons of God were turning away from a state of contentment as the godly line through which the promised offspring would come. The evidence supports that the godly line of Seth demonstrated the same characteristics Eve possessed when they looked upon the forbidden fruit of women proceeding from the line of Cain.
Literally, the sons of God were making a habit of looking at the daughters of men without consideration toward God and their duty to preserve the royal line of Messiah. The line of Seth didn’t take into account the danger that existed within regarding their own sinful nature. In addition, the line of Seth did not take into account that women would be the means by which they would be enticed into rebellion against God. At the end of chapter 4 the line of Cain takes multiple wives and the line Seth begins. In 6:1 the whole activity of mankind in relation to the events at the end of chapter 4 are in view. The line of Seth is considered to be the godly offspring that adhered to the Law of God regarding marriage between one man and one woman and it was to be maintained within the royal line.
The phrase בְנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ (sons of God) has been a difficult term for many to translate and/or come to grips with regarding its interpretation. Part of the problem has to do with how students of Scripture cross reference identical terms in the book of Job in an attempt to place the phrase “sons of God” into a context that appears to be more easily interpreted outside of 6:1-8. The traditional view of interpreting the phrase has been to understand it as angelic / demonic hosts who have transgressed their domain by entering into the physical world and procreating with the daughters of men. This view has its origins from the interpretation of passages found in the book of Jude and Peter’s epistles. The idea behind the traditional view is logical, but not contextual.
The traditional view has its strong point only in the fact that many scholars and/or teachers over several millennia have supported the idea of the sons of God being fallen angels. Those who hold to the traditional view undergird their position by cross referencing the term sons of God in Genesis 6:2 with other portions of Scripture as found in Job chapter 1 and 2. But as stated previously, the immediate context alone drives the interpretation of a passage.5 Terms are often used in different ways in other languages. The ancient writers of Scripture used the same terms but in different ways based on the context of what they were recording and how it was to be understood. If one isolates, the term “sons of God” found in Genesis 6:2 to the immediate context, one will only arrive at the sons of God being the godly line of Seth. Support for this rendering is also found in the Holman Bible Dictionary. Sons of God thought of in a generic sense refers to “a class of beings in some relationship to God. Its meaning and translation vary according to context.”6 In fact, to translate the term as the godly one or the godly line of Seth is appropriate. Therefore a more precise translation is “and the godly line of Seth saw.”
From the immediate context the term “sons of God” is understood to represent men of a royalty or men of a highly esteemed heritage. The heritage is not so much implied or bestowed by mankind within the social order of humanity, but by God. Genesis 4:1-14 is the context of Genesis 6:2. In chapter 4 God made a distinction between two lines. Cain’s line was cursed as a result of his sinful rebellion against God by killing Abel; a man after God’s own heart as demonstrated through his act of worship. The cursed line therefore was not to be in the lineage of Messiah. Based on the context, the reader should understand that another line must be supplied through which the promised seed would come. Indeed, the context resolves the need for another heir by revealing the birth of Seth (4:25). Then Seth had a son Enosh and the reader is to grasp that the line of Seth had been established (4:26). Chapter 5 further proves the line of Seth had become numerous. Thus the “sons of God” was a title given by God to the line of Seth. The line of Seth was to be understood by humanity as the line through which Messiah would come.
The Jews are Sethites. The line of Israel came from the line of Seth. The Jews were supposed to be a royal line of people out of all of the people who lived on the face of the earth (Exodus 19:6). Furthermore, Psalm 82:6-8 clearly demonstrates that Israel was to be a kingdom built up as “sons of the Most High.” But like the line of Seth, Israel would not prove faithful to their mission as ambassadors and judges and rulers and most of all as priests to the nations of the world. Kenneth Matthews states in regard to the interpretation that “sons of God” refer to the line of Seth, “from beginning to end 6:1-8 concerns humanity and its outcome, not angels and their punishment. The flood is God’s judgment against ‘man’ (vv. 3, 5-7), and there is no other reference to the culpability of angels.”7
The understanding of the term must be grasped within context of the passage and the syntactical usage of the language itself. Since verse 2 is a continuation of verse 1, the term sons of God can only mean men of royalty or honor.8 Furthermore, the syntax at the beginning of verse 1 ties the event to the lines of Cain and Seth from the end of chapter 4. Some Hebraists translate the term as “the godly line of Seth” or even “godly ones” referring to the line of Seth.9 The term can speak of kings, rulers, or dominating men of power. However, that is very unlikely to be the position the line of Seth held. The multiplication of the line of Cain was exponential because of the amount of wives Cain’s descendants began to take for themselves (4:23). God marked Cain as a means of identifying his line to others not from his line. Cain built cities, walls of isolation for protection from those who may come to kill him (4:17). The line of Cain became more perverse as polygamy and murder became the norm (4:23-24).
The line of Seth on the other hand followed the godly protocol of one man to one woman in marriage. Nothing is mentioned in the text about Seth or his descendants living in cities. More than likely the Sethites followed in the footsteps of their great grandfather Adam. Seth’s line were either Bedouins or agrarians or both. The land on which they lived was their home until environmental or socio-political forces caused them to move on. Sethites probably tilled the ground for food and raised livestock for clothing (Genesis 3:17-19). The line of Seth would have followed the marriage mandate of one man to one woman based on the upbringing and instruction Seth received from his parents. Therefore the term “sons of God” should not be veiled in obscurity, rather it should be clear to us from the context alone that the term is referring to godly men and their offspring.10 Matthews states, “Elohim can be rendered as a genitive of quality, meaning “godly sons,” referring to the heritage of the Sethites.”11 The translation should therefore be “godly sons.” Thus the Sethites (line of Seth from Adam) “accentuates the Sethites’ crime of inclusiveness. Their unrestricted license accelerated the degeneracy of the whole human family.”12
What was it that the Sons of God saw?
- The godly sons saw
“that the daughters of mankind were beautiful”
The phrase את־בְּנ֣וֹתis formed of a את־ preposition joined to the word בְּנ֣וֹת “daughters.” The preposition serves to demonstrate accompaniment to the present circumstances involved with the verbal act of seeing and lusting after women. In other words, the sons of God were drawn to the daughters of all mankind ( הָֽאָדָ֔ם) as mentioned in verse 13. We know from the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden that the act of seeing will lead to rebellion against God if it is not bound up by self-control. The beauty of the daughters of men attracted the godly sons of Seth like a bee to a well perfumed and vibrantly colorful flower. The Sethites no longer ruled over their sinful impulses; rather, they gave into them. No longer was the curse of Cain regarded as evil. With the removal of the prohibition on marriage to the Canaanites firmly established in the mind of the godly sons, the Sethites mingled the blessings of their line with the curse imposed upon all of Cain’s descendants.
The Sethites did not fall far from their parental tree. Eve saw the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was good (in Hebrew: כִּ֣י טוֹב) she led herself into taking of the forbidden fruit.14 When the Sethites saw the women were beautiful, they literally saw the daughter were good (in Hebrew: כִּ֥י טֹבֹ֖ת). The spelling is practically identical. The phrase were beautiful is literally to be understood as “good.” As the old adage goes, “Like Mother like son.” The phrase is constructed of the Hebrew כִּ֥י conjunction. The conjunction functions as a particle working together with the activity of “seeing” to display the object of perception. The literal translation is “that good.” However, this does not work very well with the word order of English in understanding the verse. Therefore, the verse moves forward the particle “that” and adds the dummy verb “were” in order to communicate the idea of the action in English.
The word connected to the particle is טֹבֹ֖ת and simply means “good,” “pleasant,” “desirable,” or “morally good and comes from the root word טוֹב"15. Since it is referring to the women in the context of vv. 1-2, the natural translation of the word is “beautiful.” טֹבֹ֖ת is identical to the same usage of “good” that Eve employed when she thought through her decision making process. If any differences are present, they are found within the ending which employs a feminine pointer added to agree with the feminine noun for “daughters.” Thus the word “beautiful” is functioning as an adjectival modifier of the noun.
Seeing leads to taking: Genesis 3:6, “When the woman saw…she took”
- What did the godly men do when they saw?
“and they took for themselves, whomever they chose”
The next act in succession is denoted by the Wayyiqtol + imperfect verb formulation (וַ + imperfect verb) also known as the waw-relative. The verb “לָקַח ” communicates that the act of taking is specifically connected to marriage.16 It is important to note that the verb is used well over one thousand times in the entire Old Testament text. The translation and / or interpretative nuanced of the word comes directly from the context in which it is found.17 As Walter Kaiser states, “As in English one can take vengeance (Isa 47:3) or receive disgrace (Ezk 36:30), and God receives (accepts) prayer in Ps 6:10 where it is used in parallel with shāma ‘ “to hear.”’
A similar parallel exists between lāqah “snatch” and gānab to “steal” (cf. Job 4:12; Jer 23:30-31; Jud 17:2).”18 The context up to this point in verse 2 locks in the act to include they were taking by force.19 In other words, men began to violently take women for themselves ( לָהֶם). The goal in mind for taking of the daughters of men was specifically for procreation (wives, נָשִׁ֔ים). The Hebrews term for wives is a noun which renames the term “daughters” for the purpose of demonstrating movement in the passage. The daughters of men because the wives of the godly sons of Seth.
Immoral taking leads to an insatiable appetite of lust
- What became the habit of the godly men after they took by force?
“whomever they chose” מִכֹּ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר בָּחָֽרוּ׃
The choice was an act of the will or volition. The Sethites became debased as they removed restraint and began to take women without regard for God. Because the focus of the text is upon the Sethites, the act is all the more atrocious. The phrase מִכֹּ֖ל is a preposition + noun construction. The preposition points to the source from where the sons of God took the women. A literal rendering of the Hebrew into English is from all. The noun כֹּ֖ל is in an interconnected relationship with the particle אֲשֶׁ֥ר (who, which, that, what) and identifies the clause as being in relation to the antecedent.20 In this case the antecedent is wives.
The literal idea is that they took wives from all which they chose. The verb בָּחָֽרוּ at the end of the clause is of בחר (Qal, perfect, 3rd person, common, plural).21 The general translation of the verb is to choose. The perfect verbal aspect has shifted the storyline from viewing the activity of the men from the inside to seeing the completion of the situation from the outside. In other words, the verbal action began in 4:26 where Seth and his descendants began to call on the name of the Lord (perfect-stative). Then it shifted away from men calling on the name of the Lord to all men beginning to pollute multiplication (imperfect-fientive) with all men arriving at choosing women (perfect-stative) over that of God. From 6:1-2 the entire story line is linked back to 4:26 to include the line of Seth and Cain in order to tell the reader of the activity which unfolded between the two.
The verb to choose gives the completion of the interrelated activities between the blood lines. Men in the end chose the natural world and its benefits over the promises of God. The translation of the verb into English must include a “simple past, present, perfect, or pluperfect” as the verb denotes completion.22 The bottom line: the Sethites willfully took wives for themselves without restraint or regard for God. The natural result became a merged union of people forming a one-world society filled with violence as men stole women from fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, and even to the extent that they stole another man’s wife (6:5).
- Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, Biblical Hebrew Syntax, (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 547. Waltke and O’Connor state, Relative waw with the prefix form represents a situation that is usually successive and always subordinate to a preceding statement. The succession may be either absolute or subjective, and often distinction between them is blurred. Temporal sequence depends on the objective fact outside the control of the speaker; logical sequence, by contrast, subjectively exists in the way a speaker see the relationship between situations. Sometimes with wayyqtl a situations is represented as a logical entailment from (a) preceding one(s) or a logical contrast with it/them or as a summarizing statement of it/them. If the explanatory situation in fact occurred prior to the leading one, it may be necessary to translate wayyqtl by a pluperfect. Wayyqtl may be used after an clause which provides a starting point for development, as happens when wayyqtl is used epexegetically, after a circumstantial clause or phrase. Therefore, the noun construction sons of God is sub-categorizing a group of men within the larger category mankind.
- Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 57.
- Jackie A. Naude, “ראָה” in NIDOT, vol 3., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 1007-15.
- Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 39.
- Peter James Silzer and Thomas John Finley, How Biblical Languages Work, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004), 186-87. Silzer and Finley write, “Some phrases or sentences are ambiguous because a particular word or particular words have more than one potential meaning…The larger context of the sentence might clarify…but sometimes there is not enough information to decide…to understand an utterance we need to understand the context in which it was spoken (or written).” There are several types of contexts that must be considered before one decides how to translate a word that appears to be ambiguous. The linguistic context is a must for a proper translation / interpretation of the text. A social context is important to grasp the use of the word within the confines of its living society. The physical context is a demanding characteristic of determining the meaning of a text. All of these points are necessary for proper translation from one language to another and interpretation of what was translated.
- Holman Bible Dictionary, (Nashville: Holman, 2008), 1519.
- Kenneth Matthews, The New American Commentary: 1-11:26, vol. 1A, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1996), 327.
- Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessings: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 1996), 182-83. Ross states, “The polemic would then be saying that the “sons of God that the pagans often spoke of were not lesser gods of the pantheon who entered the world of humans for their pleasure. Rather, the “sons of God” were basically human beings. There may have been demonic or spirit activity or power behind them, but they were just another low order of humans.”
- Elmer Martens, “ בּן ” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1980),254.
- Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Holman, 2003), 1519.
- Kenneth Matthews, The New American Commentary: 1-11:26, vol. 1A, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1996), 330. Matthews writes, “This genitive use attributes a quality of condition to the construct so as to represent or characterize that person. The occurrence of this use is well attested.”
- Ibid., 331.
- Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 154.
- BDB, 542.
- Walter Kaiser, “לקח” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1980), 1125.
- P.J.J.S. Els, “לָקַח” in NIDOT, vol 2, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 812-16.
- BDB., 81.
- Halot., 119.
- Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, Biblical Hebrew Syntax, (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 364. Waltke and O’Connor write, “fientive verb is one that designates a dynamic situation. With this kind of verb a clause answers the implicit question ‘What does X do?’, where X is a nominal expression and do is a fientive verb. A fientive verb may be transitive or intransitive…A stative verb is one that describes a circumstance or state, whether external and physical, or psychological, or perceptual. Sentences with this kind of verb implicitly answer the question ‘What is X’s characteristic, quality, circumstance, state (physical or mental)?’”
- Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 55.