I’ve been reading @jongarvey’s newly published book, The Generations of Heaven and Earth. Something stood out to me in one of Jon’s arguments (p. 38) regarding the intermarriage of the “sons of God” and “daughters of men” (Genesis 6:1-8).
It is unnecessary to read disapproval into this event [the intermarriage of the two groups] simply because it introduces the flood narrative, for it also follows naturally after the genealogy of Adam. The offspring described are “mighty men of old, men of renown” rather than men of infamy. “Son of God” is also a designation for the Davidic king in Scripture, probably for the same reason, that he is royally elected by God to rule Israel, just as Adam was to rule earth. This royal allusion would fit in with the passage at hand, and also with the heroic status of the offspring of these unions. Adam’s special status brings some new element of power and glory to mankind, whether for good (furthering the rule of the earth) or ill (introducing sinful tyranny) or both. This reading is also consistent with the modern Jewish view, shared by a few Christian commentators, that the “sons of God (elohim)” actually means here “sons of rulers.”
I’m not sure I’m convinced with this narrative. To quote the passage:
1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: 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 man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
What Jon doesn’t seem to address is verse 3, which seems to connect the lessening of the average age (from centuries to “only” 120 years) to the intermarriage described in vv. 1-2. If the argument is that vv. 1-2 is actually part of the passage in chapter 5 (the genealogies), that still only leaves a puzzle as to what made God lessen the ages of people, if this intermarriage was just “business as usual”, or something expected (even more curious if we believe that Adam was meant to intermarry with these people outside the Garden from the beginning, as is proposed in some GAE models).
In addition, the succeeding verses (vv. 5-8) seem to further confirm that both the intermarriage and the presence of the Nephilim (whether or not they are connected) is related to the “wickedness” that cause the Flood to be sent.
While this might seem to be a minor interpretive issue, I think it may affect our conclusion as to whether the prohibition against incest applied in Genesis 1-11. If God disapproved of exogamy with people outside the Garden, then it seems that Adam & Eve’s family was meant to marry only endogamously. Do you have any thoughts, @jongarvey?
Secondly, and perhaps more peripheral, I would be curious to know what you think about the old but not crazily old ages of the patriarchs (e.g. people having an average age of 120 years, or Abraham dying at 175 years). We can think of Adam’s 930 years of age as not being literal, but that’s a more difficult argument to make with Abraham.
Sorry if any of these issues are explained later in the book (since I haven’t finished it!).