• Lori

Chapters 5 and 6: Oddities in Genesis

Updated: 6 days ago

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

I’ll be honest with you: there’s not much of a lesson here. Devotionals abound if you’re looking for encouragement or comfort; show up here and you may just find weird.

The other Lamech (Genesis 5:28-31)

If you’ve been reading along as we walk through Genesis, you undoubtedly remember that prideful, violent man, Lamech, who claimed God valued his life at least eleven times more that He valued the life of Cain (Genesis 4:23-24). Here we meet another Lamech, this one from the line of Seth, an ancestor to Jesus himself. I’ve just gotta ask, “Why in the world would his parents name him THAT?”

Like the other Lamech, he received more than the standard three-sentence obituary. Not because he was proud of himself, but because he was proud of his son. He named him Noah, a good name, a name that meant “relief,” and a name that expressed his high hopes for his son:

”This one will give us comfort from our work and from the hard labor of our hands caused by the ground which the Lord has cursed.” (Genesis 5:29, NASB)

I wonder if he had any idea just how that relief would come.

The Sons of God (Genesis 6:1-4)

In my opinion, the first four verses of Genesis 6 present the oddest story in the scrolls. The story is so strange that after I read it the first time, I skipped over it the next. And the next, and the next, and the next. It’s confusing and troubling and just plain strange. Those who have taken a shot at unraveling it have come up with a number of explanations. After reading it, you may come up with your own. No judgment.

Judgment, however, is what this story is all about.

1 Now it came about, when mankind began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them,

2 that the sons of God saw that the daughters of mankind were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.

3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain with man forever, because he is also flesh; nevertheless his days shall be 120 years.”

4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of mankind, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Verse 3 would have been a great lead-in to the saga of Noah: Man was evil. God was tired of it. He was going to fix it. Had the neighboring verses (verses 2 and 4) not been included in the narrative, this study would be easy. But if there’s one thing the Bible is not, it’s easy.

So here we go.

”The sons of God.” A cursory reading might leave room for a simple explanation: God the Creator is Father of all so all of mankind can be called His sons. However, in that very same phrase, ladies are called “the daughters of mankind.” Males of the lineage of God, but females simply a product of the flesh? That seems more than just chauvinistic; it seems just plain wrong. And it is.

The word most likely showing up as “God” in your Bible is the word elohim, that plural word used to refer to gods of all kinds. So, a question. Is this verse speaking of the sons of Creator God or the progeny of gods men created? Let’s call in the big guns.

A. A well-known pundit of old, Matthew Henry, took the safe route. He didn’t address the difficulties presented by the Hebrew word elohim, but simply considered this account a reference to mixed marriages: righteous men taking up with pagan women.

B. Some scholars say the phrase should be translated as “the sons of the gods,” and since pagan kings often claimed to be descendants of the gods, this story refers to their sons, sons of the human kind. Princes marrying common folk. Shame on them.

C. Other scholars say “the sons of elohim” are a group of heavenly beings who married the daughters of man and had children with them. Verse 4 mentions these heavenly beings again, reporting that their offspring, their half god/half man descendants, were mighty men, the men of renown, the infamous Nephalim.

You may believe as you like. I choose C.

Man's one hundred twenty years (Genesis 6:3)

A third oddity is hidden in verse 3. Take it out from between its strange companions, and it simply says this:

The LORD said, “My Spirit will not remain with man forever, because he is also flesh; nevertheless his days shall be 120 years.” (Genesis 6:3, NASB)

God’s frustration is totally understandable. Man has just been trouble since the tree. But what’s the deal with the 120 years?

Again, the easy explanation, the one I’ve heard most often, is that God abbreviated man’s lifespan because men of long life do much evil.

Huh? Even if one man can’t do as much damage in 120 years as he can in 666, his kids, his grandkids, and his great-grandkids can. The passing of the generations doesn’t seem to slow the advance of evil.

And another slight problem with the shortened lifespan theory? It isn’t true!

Abraham’s father, Terah, lived to be 205 (Genesis 11:32) and Abraham himself didn’t die until he was175. Abraham’s son Isaac lived to the ripe old age of 180, and Isaacs’s son Jacob lived to 147.

And there goes easy.

Let’s see if the Bible might explain it.

Okay, think. What comes right after the strange story of the sons of God? Why it’s one of the best-known stories in Sunday school: the story of the flood!

Some years after God uttered His frustration at the depravity of man, Lamech’s son Noah came along, and God confided in him, I will wipe out mankind whom I have created from the face of the land; mankind, and animals as well, and crawling things, and the birds of the sky. For I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:7, NASB)

Man was evil. God was tired of it. He was going to fix it. Destruction was imminent.

Okay. Now let’s step back in time a bit, to that seemingly out-of-place verse, verse 3.

The LORD said, “My Spirit will not remain with man forever, because he is also flesh; nevertheless his days shall be 120 years.” (Genesis 6:3, NASB)

There, nestled in the middle of verse 3, is one of the kindest words in Scripture: “nevertheless.”

Just like God delayed the destruction of the notorious Ninevites (Jonah 3), the stubborn Israelites (Exodus 33), and basically, all of us humanites (History 101), God extended His mercy to wicked men in the days before Noah.

He waited for a man he could trust, a faithful man, His man of relief, righteous Noah, to keep the line of Seth alive. And as a result of His “nevertheless,” God’s promise to all of mankind went on to fulfillment: Noah’s descendant, the royalty of heaven, the only begotten son of God, humanity’s deliverer, the righteous God-man, Jesus, arrived.

So just how long do you suppose the “nevertheless” of Genesis 6:3 lasted? One hundred twenty years, perhaps?

Try it on. The math works.

Many more oddities are hiding in and around the verses we love to quote. May I make some suggestions?

Firstly, if you run across an oddity, seek the whole counsel of God (including the wisdom of others) before preaching with fervor what you find there.

And secondly, by all means, stop expecting God to be ordinary.