This parsha begins differently than the previous parshas. Instead of saying “Person x lived y number of years, and begot Person z,” it says, “Noah was five hundred years old, and begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” We soon discover that Noah’s history deviates from the history of the previous patriarchs (Enoch excepted). It seems that the Torah makes an abrupt change of subject and begins talking about sons of God and daughters of men. But in fact, the entire passage from 5:32-6:4 stays on the same topic, as we can tell from the paragraph divisions! It is our job to discover how the seemingly disparate elements relate a single topic theme.
God is providing us detail as to why Noah’s history, which will continue, deviates from the pattern previously set. In fact, this parsha forms a chiastic structure:
1A) 6.1 daughters of men born;
1B) 6.2 sons of Elohiym took them for wives;
–> CENTRAL AXIS 6.3 “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he is also flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years;”
2B) 6.4 children of the sons of Elohiym;
2A) 6.4 that the daughters of men bore to them.
So what was going on here? The sons of Elohiym were most likely angelic beings who had rebelled against YHVH when Lucifer fell and earned the name satan for himself (which means, “adversary”, Rev 12:7-9). Thus they are called fallen angels. In the literature of the ancient world, “sons of God” is a term used for both good and evil supernatural beings. I believe what the enemy was trying to do here, since God had told the woman that her seed would crush Satan’s head, was to pollute the gene pool so that the Promised Seed could not come.
The children of these demonic unions were called nephilim, an ancient Hebrew word of uncertain meaning. The KJV renders it “giants,” and it is true that most cultures contain giant myths, who were great in size and strength, but were mostly evil. These giants were demi-gods, i.e., the sons of the “gods” united with human women. Sound familiar? Only in Greek mythology are the demi-gods counted as heroic (the Greeks exalted the serpent as the revealer of secret wisdom); in all others the giants were terrible evil beings who were feared.
Nephilim is Strong’s H5303, from the primitive root naphal, Strong’s H5307, lpn, nun – pey – lamed. The nun n is the seed (or sperm), also sons or descendants; the pey p is the mouth, also blow, scatter, or edge; and the lamed l is the shepherd’s staff.
lp, pey – lamed, is its own primitive root meaning judgment, i.e., the mouth speaking from authority (the shepherd’s staff). Thus nephilim is “sons of judgment,” the sons of those who were judged unworthy of heaven – fallen angels.
Jude in the New Testament talks about Enoch, who was a prophet, and who wrote a book of prophecy (however not included in the canon as it had been heavily edited at some point after the Flood) about this particular sin of the fallen angels, and the wickedness of men who followed them:
“And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;” Jud 6
“Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”” Jud 14-15
Now that this sin in particular, immorality with fallen angels, is singled out before the account of the Flood, might give us a clue as to why God chose to destroy mankind. Noah was perfect in his generations (Gen 6:9), i.e., one valid understanding of the Hebrew is that Noah was pure in his genetics, his gene pool. All the other men were destroyed so that the gene pool could not be corrupted again, and the Promised Seed could come.
The theme of the parsha p’tuchah from Gen 5:32-6:4 is that the mortal flesh of man strives with the immortal Spirit of God.