New English Translation
4 The Nephilim[a] were on the earth in those days (and also after this)[b] when the sons of God would sleep with[c] the daughters of humankind, who gave birth to their children.[d] They were the mighty heroes[e] of old, the famous men.[f]
5 But the Lord saw[g] that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination[h] of the thoughts[i] of their minds[j] was only evil[k] all the time.[l] 6 The Lord regretted[m] that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended.[n]Read full chapter
- Genesis 6:4 tn The Hebrew word נְפִילִים (nefilim) is simply transliterated here, because the meaning of the term is uncertain. According to the text, the Nephilim became mighty warriors and gained great fame in the antediluvian world. The text may imply they were the offspring of the sexual union of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of humankind” (v. 2), but it stops short of saying this in a direct manner. The Nephilim are mentioned in the OT only here and in Num 13:33, where it is stated that they were giants (thus KJV, TEV, NLT “giants” here). The narrator observes that the Anakites of Canaan were descendants of the Nephilim. Certainly these later Anakite Nephilim could not be descendants of the antediluvian Nephilim (see also the following note on the word “this”).
- Genesis 6:4 tn This observation is parenthetical, explaining that there were Nephilim even after the flood. If all humankind, with the exception of Noah and his family, died in the flood, it is difficult to understand how the postdiluvian Nephilim could be related to the antediluvian Nephilim or how the Anakites of Canaan could be their descendants (see Num 13:33). It is likely that the term Nephilim refers generally to “giants” (see HALOT 709 s.v. נְפִילִים) without implying any ethnic connection between the antediluvian and postdiluvian varieties.
- Genesis 6:4 tn Heb “would come to.” The verb בּוֹא (bo’; “to come, enter”) with the preposition אֶל (’el; “to”) means “to approach, to come to” (HALOT 113 s.v. בּוֹא) and is a euphemism for coming together for sexual relations. See the note at 2 Sam 12:24 on this phrase being only a euphemism. A more literal rendering such as “get together with” would be less clear about the sexual implication, so a clearer euphemism has been used for the translation. The Hebrew imperfect verbal form portrays the action as repetitive or customary.
- Genesis 6:4 tn Heb “and they gave birth to them.” The masculine plural suffix “them” refers to the “sons of God,” to whom the “daughters of humankind” bore children. After the Qal form of the verb יָלָד (yalad, “to give birth”) the preposition ל (lamed, “to”) introduces the father of the child(ren). See Gen 16:1, 15; 17:19, 21; 21:2-3, 9; 22:23; 24:24, 47; 25:2, etc.
- Genesis 6:4 tn The parenthetical/explanatory clause uses the word הַגִּבֹּרִים (haggibborim) to describe these Nephilim. The word means “warriors; mighty men; heroes.” The appositional statement further explains that they were “men of renown.” The text refers to superhuman beings who held the world in their power and who lived on in ancient lore outside the Bible. See E. A. Speiser, Genesis (AB), 45-46; C. Westermann, Genesis, 1:379-80; and Anne D. Kilmer, “The Mesopotamian Counterparts of the Biblical Nephilim,” Perspectives on Language and Text, 39-43.
- Genesis 6:4 tn Heb “men of name” (i.e., famous men).
- Genesis 6:5 sn The Hebrew verb translated “saw” (רָאָה, raʾah), used here of God’s evaluation of humankind’s evil deeds, contrasts with God’s evaluation of creative work in Gen 1, when he observed that everything was good.
- Genesis 6:5 tn The noun יֵצֶר (yetser) is related to the verb יָצָר (yatsar, “to form, to fashion [with a design]”). Here it refers to human plans or intentions (see Gen 8:21; 1 Chr 28:9; 29:18). People had taken their God-given capacities and used them to devise evil. The word יֵצֶר (yetser) became a significant theological term in Rabbinic literature for what might be called the sin nature—the evil inclination (see also R. E. Murphy, “Yeser in the Qumran Literature,” Bib 39 : 334-44).
- Genesis 6:5 tn The related verb חָשָׁב (khashav) means “to think, to devise, to reckon.” The noun (here) refers to thoughts or considerations.
- Genesis 6:5 tn Heb “his heart” (referring to collective “humankind”). The Hebrew term לֵב (lev, “heart”) frequently refers to the seat of one’s thoughts (see BDB 524 s.v. לֵב). In contemporary English this is typically referred to as the “mind.”
- Genesis 6:5 sn Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil. There is hardly a stronger statement of the wickedness of the human race than this. Here is the result of falling into the “knowledge of good and evil”: Evil becomes dominant, and the good is ruined by the evil.
- Genesis 6:5 tn Heb “all the day.”sn The author of Genesis goes out of his way to emphasize the depth of human evil at this time. Note the expressions “every inclination,” “only evil,” and “all the time.”
- Genesis 6:6 tn Or “was grieved”; “was sorry.” In the Niphal stem the verb נָחָם (nakham) can carry one of four semantic meanings, depending on the context: (1) “to experience emotional pain or weakness,” “to feel regret,” often concerning a past action (see Exod 13:17; Judg 21:6, 15; 1 Sam 15:11, 35; Job 42:6; Jer 31:19). In several of these texts כִּי (ki, “because”) introduces the cause of the emotional sorrow. (2) Another meaning is “to be comforted” or “to comfort oneself” (sometimes by taking vengeance). See Gen 24:67; 38:12; 2 Sam 13:39; Ps 77:3; Isa 1:24; Jer 31:15; Ezek 14:22; 31:16; 32:31. (This second category represents a polarization of category one.) (3) The meaning “to relent from” or “to repudiate” a course of action which is already underway is also possible (see Judg 2:18; 2 Sam 24:16 = 1 Chr 21:15; Pss 90:13; 106:45; Jer 8:6; 20:16; 42:10). (4) Finally, “to retract” (a statement) or “to relent or change one’s mind concerning,” “to deviate from” (a stated course of action) is possible (see Exod 32:12, 14; 1 Sam 15:29; Ps 110:4; Isa 57:6; Jer 4:28; 15:6; 18:8, 10; 26:3, 13, 19; Ezek 24:14; Joel 2:13-14; Am 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:9-10; 4:2; Zech 8:14). See R. B. Chisholm, “Does God ‘Change His Mind’?” BSac 152 (1995): 388. The first category applies here because the context speaks of God’s grief and emotional pain (see the following statement in v. 6) as a result of a past action (his making humankind). For a thorough study of the word נָחָם, see H. Van Dyke Parunak, “A Semantic Survey of NHM,” Bib 56 (1975): 512-32.
- Genesis 6:6 tn Heb “and he was grieved to his heart.” The verb עָצָב (ʿatsav) can carry one of three semantic senses, depending on the context: (1) “to be injured” (Ps 56:5; Eccl 10:9; 1 Chr 4:10); (2) “to experience emotional pain”; “to be depressed emotionally”; “to be worried” (2 Sam 19:2; Isa 54:6; Neh 8:10-11); (3) “to be embarrassed”; “to be offended” (to the point of anger at another or oneself); “to be insulted” (Gen 34:7; 45:5; 1 Sam 20:3, 34; 1 Kgs 1:6; Isa 63:10; Ps 78:40). This third category develops from the second by metonymy. In certain contexts emotional pain leads to embarrassment and/or anger. In this last use the subject sometimes directs his anger against the source of grief (see especially Gen 34:7). The third category fits best in Gen 6:6 because humankind’s sin does not merely wound God emotionally. On the contrary, it prompts him to strike out in judgment against the source of his distress (see v. 7). The verb וַיִּתְעַצֵּב (vayyitʿatsev), a Hitpael from עָצָב, alludes to the judgment oracles in Gen 3:16-19. Because Adam and Eve sinned, their life would be filled with pain, but sin in the human race also brought pain to God. The wording of v. 6 is ironic when compared to Gen 5:29. Lamech anticipated relief (נָחָם, nakham) from their work (מַעֲשֶׂה, maʿaseh) and their painful toil (עִצְּבֹן, ʿitsevon), but now we read that God was sorry (נָחָם) that he had made (עָשָׂה, ʿasah) humankind for it brought him great pain (עָצָב).