When Gods Seduced Women
Tucked between the Bible’s introduction of Noah and his descendants in Genesis 5:28–32 and the story of God’s decision to flood the earth in Genesis 6:5–7 we find a short narrative about the “sons of god” (benei elohim) having relations with human women: “When men began to increase on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of god saw how beautiful the daughters of men were and took wives from among those that pleased them” (6:1–2). God hastens to intervene. He denies immortality to the offspring of these unions and pronounces that their lives, like those of all humans, will be limited to 120 years (v. 3).
In its context, the episode serves to introduce the story of the Flood: this contamination between the upper and lower worlds provokes God to erase humankind from the face of the earth (Genesis 6:7). The story of the Creation, one remembers, prescribed fixed areas and boundaries that would separate light from dark, lower waters from upper waters, oceans from dry land, day from night. The disorder caused by an intrusion of upper beings into the lower world incites God to equally confound the order of creation. God inflicts a measure-formeasure punishment that erases the boundary between the upper and the lower waters: “On that day all the fountains of the great deep burst apart, and the floodgates of the sky broke open” (7:11). But the Flood, we understand from the end of our story, does not put a final end to these boundary-crossing events, since the divine beings will continue to come to the daughters of men and to father children by them, producing Nephilim, “mighty heroes,” “giants”: “It was then, and later too, that the Nephilim appeared on earth, when the sons of God cohabited