The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology, Lesson 7

Lesson 7: “My Spirit” in the Torah.

January 13, 2019 | The Sanctuary UPC

Daniel L. Segraves

There remains but one mention of the Spirit in the Torah, located in Genesis 6:3: “And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” This verse has been subject to various interpretations that pay little attention to the fact that the Scriptures as originally written were not divided into chapters and verses. Because of this, some interpretations, on the assumption that Genesis 6:1 introduces a theme disconnected from Genesis 5, attach verse 3 to some supposed wickedness described in the previous two verses. On this presumption, Genesis 6:3 points to future judgment which turned out to be the Noah’s flood. Some go so far as to speculate that the “giants” on the earth in Genesis 6:4 were the offspring of the marriages to which Genesis 6:1-2 refer. It has even been suggested that the Sons of God in Genesis 6:2 were fallen angels who somehow cohabited with human women.[1]

[2] It is better to note that Genesis 5 is given almost in its entirety to listing the various ages of those from Adam (930 years) to Noah (500 years before the flood). There is no reason to think that the interest in human reproduction and longevity ends at this point. Instead, Genesis 6:1-2 can be seen as a simple conclusion to the lengthy account of what had been going on since creation, as seen in Genesis 5:1-2. Men and women married. They had children. This is what is suggested by Matthew 17:27. Life was going on as normal “until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” The wickedness of the human race in this context is not introduced until Genesis 6:5.[2]

[3] To translate the Hebrew yādôn as “strive” in Genesis 6:3 may seem to allude to human wickedness upon the assumptions that there was something evil about the marriages mentioned in Genesis 6:1-2 and the notion that the “giants” were evil offspring of those marriages, but that raises the question of why it is pointed out that “man . . . is indeed flesh” and the connection of this assumed wickedness with a life span of 120 years. It has been thought by some that the 120 years is the span of time it took Noah to build the ark, but that is an assumption not noted in Scripture.

[4] Other translational possibilities include “My spirit shall not remain in human beings forever, because they are only flesh” (NAB); “My spirit will not remain in humankind indefinitely, since they are mortal” (NET); “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh” (NRS); “My Spirit shall certainly not remain among these men for ever, because they are flesh” (LXE).

[5] Translations like these connect thematically with Genesis 5 and its interest in human longevity while avoiding speculations about marriages between spirit beings (i.e., the notion that the sons of God were fallen angels) and human beings that somehow produced giants.[3]

[6] The contextual evidence that seems to clinch the view set forth here is that after the lengthy concern Genesis 5 shows for the age of people before flood, Genesis 11:10-32 turns our attention to the steady decline of the human life span after Noah’s death at 950 years of age.[4] Moses is the first who is reported to have died at the age of 120, as anticipated in Genesis 6:3, although he retained healthy eyesight and vigor (Deuteronomy 34:7). In other words, Moses did not die of old age; he died because the Spirit of God was no longer remaining in people as long as before the flood.

[7] God had breathed into Adam’s “nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). God’s original intention was to grant people eternal life. This was the reason He placed the tree of life in the midst of the garden. But after the fall of Adam and Eve, the Lord God blocked access to the tree of life to prevent people from eating of it and living forever (Genesis 3:22-24).


 [8] The reference to “My Spirit” in Genesis 6:3 is apparently simply a statement regarding the diminishing length of the human life span. Human beings are not divine; they are flesh. There is no access now to Eden’s tree of life, so there is no expectation of eternal life on this earth. The promise of eternal life is not this-worldly. It is a promise given to the “dead in Christ” who will enjoy priority in the resurrection that will follow the coming of the Lord and to those who are also “in Christ” who have not yet died at the time of His return. (See I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Excursus on the Judgment of Angels

 The following discussion is taken from my commentary on Jude:[5]

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day (Jude 6).

[9] The judgment of God is certain not only for sinning humans like the ancient Israelites (verse 5) or the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities (verse 7), but also for sinning angels.  It is evident from this that angels were created for a specific purpose, with a designated realm of existence.  They did not keep “their proper domain” but “left their own abode” (NKJV).

[10]Biblical references to some kind of an angelic fall include Isaiah 14:12-17; 24:21-22; Matthew 25:41; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:7-10.  Speculation about the time of this fall and the circumstances surrounding it has led to a rich lore going far beyond the information found in Scripture.  Some students of Scripture have suggested that there have been two occasions when angels defected from their loyalty to God.  The first was when Lucifer rebelled and took perhaps one-third of the angels with him.  (See Revelation 12:3-4, 7-10.)  The second was when angels took human women for wives.  (See Genesis 6:1-4.)  Others see only one fall and reject the view that the “sons of God” of Genesis 6 were angels.

[11]What did Jude have in mind?  We should first note the parallel of this verse with II Peter 2:4: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (NKJV).  Neither Peter nor Jude identifies the time of this sin.

[12]It is true that “most Jews during the intertestamental period thought that these ‘sons of God’ [of Genesis 6] were angels.”[6]  It is also true that Jude has an apparent reference to I Enoch in Jude 14-15 and that I Enoch popularized the idea that the Genesis account described angels marrying women.

(1) It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful.  (2) And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children….(7)…Their whole number was two hundred….(10) Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees.  (11) And the women conceiving brought forth giants,  (12) Whose stature was each three hundred cubits.  These devoured all which the labour of men produced; until it became impossible to feed them;  (13) When they turned themselves against men, in order to devour them;  (14) And began to injure birds, beasts, reptiles, and fishes, to eat their flesh one after another, and to drink their blood.  (15) Then the earth reproved the unrighteous (Enoch 7:1-2, 7, 10-15).[7]

According to this account, 200 angels selected human women as their wives.  These women conceived and gave birth to giants 437.5 feet tall.[8]

Does Jude endorse this account?

[13]On the face of it, the account in Enoch—part of the pseudepigrapha [false writings]—seems fantastic.  The best information suggests that Enoch was written “in or soon after the year 95 [B.C.].”[9]  It reflects the Jewish legends current at the time, including the idea of two Messiahs, “well known to the Jewish eschatology of the last centuries B.C.”[10]

[14]Even if Jude did quote from the book of Enoch in verses 14-15, and it is by no means certain that he did, this does not mean that Jude endorsed all of the content of Enoch.  Just as Paul quoted pagan poets without endorsing everything the poets said, so Jude could quote from current literature without endorsing the full content of the book.  And it may be that Jude did not quote from Enoch at all; he may simply have referred to oral tradition that was known in the Jewish community and—as a consequence—included in Enoch.  Other apparent similarities between Jude and Enoch could be explained on the same basis.

[15]The argument for the idea that angels married women goes something like this:

(1) The “sons of God” must have been angels, because angels are identified as “sons of God” in Job.  (See Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7.)

(2) The wives taken by the “sons of God” bore giants, so “the sons of God” must not be ordinary men.  Ordinary men do not have giants for offspring.

(3) Jewish tradition viewed the “sons of God” as angels.

(4) The reference to the sexual sin of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 7) is a contextual indicator that the sin of the angels was also a sexual sin.  The grammatical agreement of “these” in the phrase “in a similar manner to these” (NKJV) in verse 7 with “the angels” of verse 6 indicates that the sin of the angels was the same as the sin of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

[16]The objection to the idea that angels married women goes something like this:

(1) Job is the only Old Testament book to identify angels as “sons of God,” with the possible exception of Daniel 3:25, where the pagan King Nebuchadnezzar identified the fourth man in the fire as “like the Son of God.”[11]  The context of Job is far removed from the context of Genesis.  We ordinarily look for definitions in immediate contexts.

(2) Angels are spirits.  (See Hebrews 1:7.)  How is it possible that a spirit could cohabit with a human being and produce offspring?  The incarnation provides no support for the idea that spirit beings can cohabit with humans.  The incarnation occurred not by cohabitation but by a miracle.  If God created everything to reproduce after its kind (see Genesis 1:24-25) so that species cannot be crossed, it seems apparent that the same holds true throughout creation.  (See I Corinthians 15:39.)

(3) A careful reading of Genesis 6:1-4 does not indicate that the giants were the offspring of the union of angels and women.  The text simply says that “there were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of men and they bore children to them.  Those [giants] were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown” (Genesis 1:4, NKJV).  The text does not say that the children born by the daughters of men to the sons of God were giants; it merely says there were giants on the earth at that time who were “men of renown.”

(4) Nor does a careful reading of Genesis 6:1-4 indicate that the judgment of God came on the earth as a result of the union of sons of God and daughters of men.  Genesis 6:1-2 could fit contextually as the final two verses of Genesis 5[12] as a simple statement of fact.  The first clue of the coming judgment is found in Genesis 6:3.  Genesis 6:4 is another simple statement of fact: There were giants on the earth at that time.  The reason for the coming judgment is found in Genesis 6:5, and it is not connected with the marriage of the sons of God with the daughters of men.  It would seem strange, indeed, to blame human beings alone for sins conceived and perpetrated by angels.  Would human women have been able to resist the advances of “super-human” men who had once been angels?

(5) There is no reason the “sons of God” could not have been human descendants of Seth.  When Eve gave birth to Seth, she said, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed” (Genesis 4:25, NKJV).  If Seth was a seed appointed by God, he was in a sense the son of God and so were his descendants.  Scripture describes Adam as having been made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27).  Adam was thus the “son of God” (Luke 3:38).  It seems that care is taken to describe Seth as having been in Adam’s “own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3, NKJV).  If Adam was the son of God, so was Seth (Luke 3:38).  The point may simply be that descendants of Seth married women who were not the descendants of Seth.  The implication may be that Seth’s descendants had a godly heritage while the women they married did not.

(6) Angels do not marry.  (See Matthew 22:30.)  It may be suggested that only angels “in heaven” do not marry, but this seems to assume something not intended by Jesus.  The point is that angels are spirit-beings; spirit-beings do not marry.  There is nothing in defecting from their place in heaven that would make angels anything other than spirit-beings.  Descriptions of angels as “men” do not mean they are male.  This is simply a description based on what is observable to the human senses.  These descriptions are of godly angels who appeared to people at various times and places to communicate a divine message.  As faithful angels, they still had a place “in heaven” and thus did not marry, even though they are described as “men.”

(7) Concerning the grammatical agreement of “these” (toutois) of verse 7 with the angels of verse 6, the following observations may be made: (a) the agreement may actually be with the “men” of verse 4 and “these dreamers” of verse 8; (b) even if the antecedent of “these” is the angels of verse 6, the point may be that both the angels and the cities of Sodom and Gommorah are offered as examples of God’s judgment rather than as examples of the same kind of sin.

(8) The account given by the book of Enoch seems clearly to be a “Jewish fable.”  (See I Timothy 1:4; 4:7; II Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14.)  It does, without question, reflect Jewish speculations from the era just before the time of Christ.  It has all the ingredients that might make a good science fiction story: Angels becoming human, cohabiting with women, producing children over 400 feet tall, and teaching all forms of magic and sorcery to the world.  Could such a thing happen again?  If this was really the reason God destroyed the earth with a flood, and if it is the purpose of Satan and his angels to see the human race destroyed, why isn’t this happening today?

[17]Whenever the sin of these angels occurred, the reason Jude points it out is to assure his readers of the certainty of God’s judgment upon false teachers.  These sinning angels are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (NKJV).  This is not a reference to literal chains.  To qualify “chains” as being “everlasting” means the “chains” are a metaphorical way of describing the finality of the judgment.  Nor are the fallen angels locked in a dark dungeon.  The “darkness” in which they exist is spiritual darkness as opposed to the light of truth in which they formerly existed.  (See comments on II Peter 2:4.)

[18]The “great day” is a reference to the Day of the Lord, a term that refers to all of the events transpiring in conjunction with the Second Coming of Jesus.  (See comments on II Peter 1:19.)  In some way, believers will participate in judging fallen angels.  (See I Corinthians 6:3.)

[1] See the author’s treatment of this notion in Daniel L. Segraves, Second Peter and Jude (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 2000), 220-225.

[2] John Sailhamer wrote, “If we read [Genesis] 6:1-4 as a summary of chapter 5 . . . there is little to arouse our suspicion that the events recounted are anything out of the ordinary. As a summary of the preceding chapter, this little patch of narrative is a reminder that the sons and daughters of Adam had greatly increased in number, had married, and had continued to have children” (The Pentateuch as Narrative, 121).

[3] The meaning of Nephilim, sometimes rendered “giants,” is uncertain. This is why some English translations leave it untranslated, choosing instead to transliterate the word.

[4] In keeping with the early generations of people, Noah lived to be 950 years old (Genesis 9:29). As seen in Genesis 5, Adam was 930 years old when he died, Seth 912, Enosh 905, Cainan 910, Mahalalel 895, Jared 962, Methuselah 969, and Lamech 777. Enoch, between Jared and Methuselah, walked with God and, at age 365, “was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:21-25). By contrast, the human life span after the flood rapidly decreased: Shem, 600; Arphaxad 438; Salah, 433; Eber 464; Eber 464; Peleg 239; Reu 239; Serug 230; Nahor 148; Terah 205.

[5] Daniel L. Segraves, Second Peter and Jude (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 2000), 220-225.

[6] Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Comentry, 2 Peter, Jude (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 110.

[7] Richard Laurence, trans., The Book of Enoch the Prophet (Chicago, IL: Lushena Books, n.d.), 5-6.

[8] A cubit is 17.5 inches.

[9] Charles Cutler Torrey, The Apocryphal Literature: A Brief Introduction (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1945), 114.

[10] Ibid., 111.

[11] A literal translation of the Hebrew text of Daniel 3:25 would read, “the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”  Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan with no accurate insight into the spirit realm.  He simply described what he saw in a way consistent with his world view.

[12] Chapter and verse divisions are not, of course, original.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Daniel L. Segraves[archive]