On Genesis 6
Lamech names his son Noah, which means “rest,” saying, “Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29). Taking this together with Genesis 6, what other relief was needed on the earth?
Dear God, I’m intrigued by the mention of the Nephilim in the Bible (Gen 6:1). It sounds like it came straight out of a science-fiction movie: an alien race has “intercourse with the daughters of human beings, who bore them sons. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown” (Gen 6:4).
Bless the collaborators for the “New American Bible: Catholic Edition” because the annotations are invaluable to my understanding of Scripture. Here’s the note on Gen6:1-4…
These enigmatic verses are a transition between the expansion of the human race illustrated in the geneaology of Chapter 5 and the flood depicted in Chapters 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 geneaology show, life spans had been exceptionally long in the early period, but God further reduces them to something near the ordinary life span.
God, wouldn’t the inclusion of this old legend confuse people? If I took the Bible passage literally, then that means there once existed an alien race that mixed its DNA with humanity. Only people who are taught to read the Bible in the context of the writers who wrote the books would understand the Nephilim for what they are – folk wisdom for why giants once existed in legends. I like how the Bible commentary focuses “the story of the flood with a moral orientation.” Human beings became so reckless, that they started to breed with other species. Modern technology is not too far away from genetic manipulation that can make us taller, stronger, smarter and more subjectively beautiful.
I imagine that once we start eating the fruits from the Tree of Life, our wickedness will only live longer. We will have no motivation to repent and come back to a loving relationship with you. We will have no need to become your adoptive sons and daughters through Jesus Christ because we will erroneously believe we have the power to become gods ourselves — making the same mistakes as Adam and Eve. A world full of unrepentant people because we feel so empowered by our own greatness sounds like the condition of humanity just before the flood. There was nothing you could do, God, to turn their hearts back to you.
In computer jargon, you hit the “reboot button” with the birth of Seth and his lineage but you “reformatted the hard drive” with the flood and used Noah and his lineage as the new “firmware” from which humankind will be rebuilt.
The Church has long seen that God’s actions in the Old Testament prefigure what He one day will do through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Old Testament figures are called “types” of the New. Think for a moment about the ark: A great vessel rides above the deathly waves of a flood and carries the righteous to safety. Can you think of a New Testament parallel, of which the ark is a type? Read 1 Peter 3:18-22 along with Catechism Nos. 845-1219. What do the ark and the flood signify? Explain.
I’ve read about this before in Scott Hahn’s book about the Virgin Mary. The ark is an Old Testament type to Jesus’ mother in the New Testament.
The question asks me to refer to 1 Peter 3:18-22 and CCC 845-1219 understand the New Testament parallel to the ark. It’s fascinating to read the NAB commentary for 1 Peter 3:19. The comment says it’s unclear what the phrase “the spirits in prison” referred to. It could be the spirits of sinners who died in the flood, or the angelic powers who were hostile to God who were then saved by Christ. Could this be the Nephilim? Pretty cool.
According to CCC 845, the Church is the ark (or “bark”) in which “the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.”
What solemn promise did God make to Noah, and with what sign did he seal that covenant?
Dear God, you first said to yourself “Never again will I curse the ground because of human beings, since the desires of the human heart are evil from youth; nor will I ever again strike down every living being, as I have done.” Then you said to Noah and his sons, “I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
You sealed your solemn promise with the following, “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature — every mortal being — so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being. When the bow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature – every mortal being that is on earth.” I should say a prayer every time I see a rainbow, Lord. Thank you for your mercy.
As was typical with covenants, the covenant made demands on Noah and his sons as well. What were they?
Dear God, I missed this the first time around because I focused on the rainbow. Your covenant made demands on Noah and his descendants (all of humanity), as well. We are to have lots of babies (you repeat this twice in your conversation with Noah, once at Gen 9:1 and again at 9:7). We can eat meat, but not raw meat with blood still in it. You reinforce that humans are not to be killed, either by animals or by other humans.