1 When human beings began to grow numerous on the earth and daughters were born to them,
2 the sons of God saw how beautiful the daughters of human beings were, and so they took for their wives whomever they pleased.
3 Then the LORD said: My spirit shall not remain in human beings forever, because they are only flesh. Their days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years.
4 The Nephilim appeared on earth in those days, as well as later, after the sons of God had intercourse with the daughters of human beings, who bore them sons. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown.
- "Origin of the Nephilim": These enigmatic verses are a transition between the expansion of the human race illustrated in the genealogy of chap. 5 and the flood depicted in chaps. 6–9. The text, apparently alluding to an old legend, shares a common ancient view that the heavenly world was populated by a multitude of beings, some of whom were wicked and rebellious. It is incorporated here, not only in order to account for the prehistoric giants, whom the Israelites called the Nephilim, but also to introduce the story of the flood with a moral orientation—the constantly increasing wickedness of humanity. This increasing wickedness leads God to reduce the human life span imposed on the first couple. As the ages in the preceding genealogy show, life spans had been exceptionally long in the early period, but God further reduces them to something near the ordinary life span.
- "The sons of God": other heavenly beings. See note on 1:26.
- "As well as later": the belief was common that human beings of gigantic stature once lived on earth. In some cultures, such heroes could make positive contributions, but the Bible generally regards them in a negative light (cf. Nm 13:33; Ez 32:27). The point here is that even these heroes, filled with vitality from their semi-divine origin, come under God’s decree in v. 3.
Moses sent twelve spies, one from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, to investigate Canaanites.
32 They spread discouraging reports among the Israelites about the land they had reconnoitered, saying, “The land that we went through and reconnoitered is a land that consumes its inhabitants. And all the people we saw there are huge.
33 There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakim are from the Nephilim); in our own eyes we seemed like mere grasshoppers, and so we must have seemed to them.”