Genesis 6:1-4 - "My Spirit will not contend with man forever ..."

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4)

What are these verses referring to?

This statement by God and its surrounding text has been the subject of many misinterpretations and speculative fantasy over the centuries. Many have concluded that the events are simply mysterious.

The questions many have asked about these verses:

Who were the "sons of God"?
Who were the "daughters of men"?
What was the difference between the "sons of God" and "men"?
Who were the "Nephilim"?

Let's take each question separately:

Who were the "sons of God"?

This should be considered a slight mistranslation. The word "sons" is taken from the Hebrew word בן (ben). According to the lexicon, this word can refer to a "son," a "grandson" or a "member of a group." In other words, there are two general contexts for the word. One relates to a physical family - the physical son of a mother or father. The other relates to being a follower or a member of something or someone. This is confirmed in the Gesenius lexicon with the definition: "a member of a guild, order, class."

The lexicon goes on to characterize בן (ben)'s use together with "of God" as "for angels."

The meaning here is clear. The combination of בן (ben) and אלהים ('Elohiym) indicate that "sons of God" refers to those who belong to God, because they are devoted to the Supreme Being. Elohiym refers to God, the Supreme Being, and those people who are devoted and dedicated to God are His servants or followers. The better translation would thus be "servants of God" or "followers of God" rather than "sons of God." This is clear because the context of the reference is not the physical family. The context is dedication and devotion.

This corrected translation to "follower of God" or "servant of God" also applies to the use of "son of God" and "sons of God" in the New Testament, as the Greek word υἱός (huios) can also either be translated to a physical "son" or "follower" or "servant" according to the Greek lexicon ("used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower").

This phrase also applies to Jesus and explains the reason Jesus was sometimes described as "son of David" even though he obviously was not David's son. When υἱός ("son") is translated correctly, "follower of David" is not only more functional but accurate, as Jesus often quoted from David's writings.

And of course, texts translating Jesus being described as the "son of God" are more accurately translated to "servant of God" or "follower of God" using the original Greek texts. Jesus himself confirmed this as he said:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons [followers, devotees or servants] of God." (Matt. 5:9)
And later, by Paul:
"because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons [followers, devotees or servants] of God." (Romans 8:14)

Who are the "daughters of men"?

This should also be considered a mistranslation. The word "daughters" is translated from the Hebrew root word בת (bath), which can certainly refer to a female born of a particular physical family. However, it can also mean someone or something that belongs to, is the subject of or takes shelter of, something or someone else.

For example, David stated:
Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments. (Psalm 48:11)
Here "villages" is translated from בת (bath).

In Ecclesiastes, it states:
when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; (Ecclesiastes 12:4)
"all their songs" utilizes the word בת (bath)

In the Song of Solomon:
Lover. Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens. (Song of Solomon 2:2)
Here "darling among the maidens" maintains the word בת (bath).

In Lamentations:
Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed. (Lamen. 3:48)
"my people" utilizes the word בת (bath).

Job stated:
I have become a brother of jackals, a companion of owls. (Job 30:29)
The phrase "a companion of owls" utilizes the word בת (bath).

Just as בן (ben) has an expanded use beyond the physical family, בת (bath) also can be used figuratively. The lexicon confirms this as it includes its use "as personification" and "description of character" with other possible uses for the Hebrew word בת (bath).

The Hebrew word בת (bath) is also used in the phrase "daughters of Jerusalem," used multiple times in the texts of the Old Testament. Does a city have daughters in the physical sense? Does a city give birth to female offspring? This use of "daughters" is obviously figurative, as it describes those who are connected to or belonging to Jerusalem. This is derived from the ancient custom whereupon daughters were sheltered and protected by their families, and then later by their husbands.

This figure of speech is also seen in English, as we metaphorically describe someone who is associated with or belonging to something as being the "daughter" of that thing. In fact, the word "daughter" itself has two possible definitions outside the general female offspring use. According to the Webster-Merriam dictionary:
2: something considered as a daughter (the United States is a daughter of Great Britain)
3: an atomic species that is the product of the radioactive decay of a given element
Translating and interpreting this use regards physical offspring of men would thus be inaccurate. The correct interpretation is that the phrase relates to those who were possessed by or taking shelter of the activities of mortals and the mortal world. This is further understood when we answer the next question.

What was the difference between the "sons of God" and "daughters of men"?
The text indicates that there is a clear difference between the "sons of God" (remember, better translated to "followers of God" or "servants of God") and "daughters of men."

Both relate to those who take shelter of or follow - but one is following God and the other is following "men."

'Man is mortal'

This relates to how the Supreme Being refers to "man" in the verse above, stating, "for he is mortal." He also states that "My Spirit will not contend with man forever." Here the word "will not contend with" indicates separation from, or relief from.

The linchpin is the use of the word "mortal." What does the word "mortal" mean? The Hebrew word being translated to "mortal" is בשר (basar). This word can also mean - as is used in other texts - "flesh." According to the lexicon, the word refers to "flesh of the body" or "the body itself." It can also refer to "mankind," but only because mankind is "of the flesh."

As indicated prior, the phrase, "sons of God" ("followers of God" or "servants of God") indicates those who are devoted and dedicated to God, as well as those in the category of angels. As we discern that the "sons of God" were the antithesis to "men" and that "men" were "of the flesh" we can understand that "men" refer to those who have taken on physical bodies.

Furthermore, being a "daughter of men" refers to a person who has taken shelter of the flesh. They are possessed by the physical world and attracted to the world of matter.

This is contrasted with the angels, and those who are devoted to the Supreme Being because these persons are not attracted to the physical world and the world of the flesh - the material world. Rather, they are loving servants of the Supreme Being.

And as teachers throughout the scriptures clearly explain that the Supreme Being dwells personally in the spiritual realm - we must accept that the "sons of God" - God's loving servants or devotees - are inhabitants of the spiritual realm, who may occasionally visit the physical world as part of their service to God.

The illusion of the body

The fact is, we are not these physical bodies. Our physical bodies are vehicles we occupy temporarily. This is clear from God's statement, and clear because we know by observation that every physical body dies after a few decades. No body lives beyond about 120 years - as specified here by the Supreme Being's statement.

We are spiritual beings who are temporarily encased within these physical bodies. Each of us occupying a physical body was once an angel. Be we are fallen angels. We have fallen into the physical world by taking on a physical body because we decided at some point that we did not want to be devoted to the Supreme Being any longer. We wanted to explore our own facilities for enjoyment. Instead of living to please God we decided we wanted to live to please ourselves.

This is why the Supreme Being, in this statement, says: "My Spirit will not contend with man forever." Because we wanted our freedom from Him, the Supreme Being gave us a virtual world equipped with physical bodies where we could get lost in a virtual identity and pretend that He doesn't exist for a while.

Here in the physical world, we can pretend that we are these physical bodies and we own the things around us. This is despite the fact that we cannot control the things around us and we will leave them all behind at the time of death. Yet we still pretend that these things are ours.

This is illusion. The Supreme Being set up the physical world as a place of illusion so we could get away from Him and act out our self-centered desires.

How did we fall?

Becoming fallen takes place as the spiritual being - each of us - is exposed to the concept of having the freedom to reject Him or not. Along with this comes the influence of those who have already rejected Him. This was symbolized in another manuscript from Genesis in the story of the serpent and Adam and Eve - as the serpent influenced Eve, and Eve influenced Adam.

In other words, the Supreme Being wants us to love Him out of free will. Therefore, He presents before us plenty of temptations, influences, and facilities that give us alternatives to loving and pleasing Him. He gives us plenty of escape passages.

In the verses above, the description of the "sons of God" first being attracted by and then marrying the "daughters of men" indicates that some who were previously devoted to the Supreme Being - loving and serving Him - became influenced by (symbolized by attraction) and then became connected to or immersed in (symbolized by marriage) the self-centered illusions of the physical world.

Whether they were directly influenced by having contact with those already within physical bodies or simply attracted by the desire to enjoy separately from God is not relevant. This is because God offers us so many facilities to leave His service, depending upon the situation.

The bottom line is that we were attracted, influenced, and succumbed to the self-centered illusions of the physical world that allow us to feel independent of God.

So this allegorical yet historical story of how we each fell into the physical world reveals our past with accuracy, yet with symbolism. The phrase "having children by them" symbolizes our further bonding and immersion into the physical world.

This indicates that not only did we symbolically "marry" our existence within the physical world, but we became entrapped within it. The symbolism is that by having children, we become ensnared into the family of the physical world. We strive for the adoration of others. We strive to be wealthy and we strive for the pleasures of this world.

These things - adoration, wealth, sensual pleasures - symbolically become our "family" as we engage in the attractions of the physical world.

This brings us to the next question:

Who were the "Nephilim"?

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The phrases, "heroes of old" and "men of renown" are based upon two key Hebrew words: עולם (`owlam) and שם (shem). Let's examine these two words:

- עולם (`owlam) is being translated to "heroes of old". Actually, the word refers to something or someone of "long duration, antiquity, futurity, for ever, ever, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, old, ancient, world" according to the lexicon. It also means for "ever, always, continuous existence, perpetual, everlasting, indefinite or unending future, eternity" according to the lexicon.

- שם (shem) is being translated to "of renown" but it means, according to the lexicon, "name, reputation, fame, glory." It can also mean "the Name (as designation of God)" or "memorial, monument" according to the lexicon.

The verse also describes the "Nephilim" as גבור (gibbowr) which means "strong" and "mighty" according to the lexicon. This is not indicated in the NIV translation, but in some texts, this word has been translated to the "Nephilim" being a race of giants. This has spawned numerous speculations describing the "Nephilims" as a race of aliens, etc.

But we know that to be "strong" or "mighty" doesn't necessarily mean being large. A person can also have other types of strength, such as mental strength or discipline.

As we break the language of the verse down within its context, we find a key in the word שם (shem). The problem with this translation is that the translators themselves were seeing from a perspective of the physical world, rather than the spiritual perspective of the text. Since the translators are trapped within the "mortal" identification of being the physical body, they naturally interpreted and translated the "Nephilim" as some sort of physical giants, heroes and so on.

What they failed to see is that the description using שם (shem) indicates, together with the context of the story, that what is being discussed were devoted wise men, dedicated to the Supreme Being, and had the strength to resist the temptations and attractions of the physical world.

These were those who had taken on physical bodies, yet were also devoted to the Supreme Being. And their being "ancient" or "perpetual" characterization describes the eternal nature of being devoted to the Supreme Being.

This is clarified by שם (shem), as within context, it is describing someone who takes shelter in the glorification of the Supreme Being (as "Shem" indicates glorifying or memorializing God's Holy Names). Such a person, as the text describes, becomes strong and wise, and their connection with God is eternal.

The oral tradition

Many hands and voices have bastardized the prose of these ancient teachings, passed down orally from teacher to student for thousands of years, and at some point put in writing. Power-hungry emperors and institutional priests have attempted to interpret and translate these teachings into a supposed history of the world.

They have tried to piece together unrelated teachings that use symbolism and parable to explain who we are and how we got here. It is certainly ironic that these teachings that explain our spiritual history have been misused in an attempt to create a misguided and supposed history of the world.

While certainly there is evidence of the existence of many of the saints - the "prophets" - and kings of the Old Testament, and there is a lineage of teachers and their students being described historically within the texts of the Old Testament, some of these texts in the early books of Genesis are discussing another type of history: How we fell to the physical world from the spiritual realm.

So we must not be surprised with the misinterpretation and mistranslation of these ancient teachings by those employed by institutions focused on stabilizing their political power and authority rather than the spiritual growth of those who would read these texts later.

This is the nature of self-centeredness within the physical world. This place we call planet earth, together with these physical bodies we temporarily occupy is quite simply, hell. This is a place of greed, lust, hatred, anger, and violence. We can easily discern this simply by turning on the news.

We might compare this world to jail. We are each here because we broke the law of the spiritual realm: love. We decided that we didn't want to love God. We didn't want to love others anymore. We wanted others to love us. We wanted to be God. We wanted what God has: power and authority.

The reason for suffering

Many people ask this question: If God is good, why is there so much suffering?

The question that should be asked is: If we are so good, why is there so much suffering?

The suffering of this world is our responsibility. We made the decision to come here to get away from God. We made the decision that we are more important than others. We made the decisions that hurt others in order to achieve our self-centered goals.

Suffering is a consequence of self-centeredness.

Self-centeredness required the creation of the physical world by the Supreme Being. Self-centeredness also required the programming of the physical world with consequences. And with mortality. In other words, we cannot live in the physical world forever. Why not? Because we are not physical. We are spiritual.

Consider if the Supreme Being created the physical world and these temporary bodies so they would live forever. What would that accomplish? It would entrap us here in hell forever. Would that be good?

The Supreme Being doesn't want to lose us forever. He loves us. He wants us back. He knows we will only be happy if we are back in our natural position in the spiritual realm.

But because love requires freedom, we have to decide to return on our own. This is why the Supreme Being programmed the world with consequences: So we could experience the results of our actions. This creates learning experiences, allowing those of us who decide we want to return to Him or just to get out, in general, a means for elevating our consciousness.

And should we choose not to get out, and not try to elevate our consciousness, we are able to remain within the physical realm until we decide we want to come back home. This is why there are so many other types of species within the physical world - including animals, fish, plants and so on. These are physical bodies that allow us to completely forget the Supreme Being.

The human form of life is a special form because it provides a bridge to elevate our consciousness if we decide to. In the human form, we can remember God.

Without elevating our consciousness, we would have no facility to return to Him. Elevating our consciousness means becoming prepared to return to Him.

It means returning to our lost loving relationship with the Supreme Being. This means that each of us has the ability to return to our natural position of being "sons" (servants, devotees or followers) of God.