Today we see more evidence of the evil that entered the world as a result of the fall. It is not entirely clear who all the figures in this reading refer to. Some of the Fathers see the sons of God as fallen angels, while others see them as the descendants of Cain. However, it is clear that as human beings multiplied the relations between them also became increasingly difficult. Moreover, the ‘Nephilim’ are generally seen as giants, and the description of them suggests a world in which might was right and the powerful ruled the weak. Saint Basil the Great comments,
Strength of arm, swiftness of foot and comeliness of body – the spoils of sickness and the plunder of time – also awakens pride in man, unaware as he is that ‘All flesh is grass and all the glory of man as a flower of the field. The grass is withered and the flower is fallen.’ Such was the arrogance of the giants because of their strength.
If we are honest, then we should recognise that – despite the reference to giants – this is not so far removed from our world in which the powerful exploit the weak and in which brute force is taken more seriously than reason or truth. Saint Ambrose of Milan writes,
Must we really consider as different from giants those men who, even though they are composed of body and soul, despise the most precious good of the soul, that is, the activity of the mind, and show themselves to be imitators of this flesh, as if confirming that they were heirs of their own mother’s foolishness.
This situation grieves God, but again we are not left entirely without hope. In His grief, God wants to blot out humanity, yet we are left with the words that ‘Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.’ Once more, there is a faithful remnant who will continue our race and open the way for God’s plan of redemption.
A Reading from the Book of Genesis 5:32-6:8:
After Noah was five hundred years old, Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose. Then the LORD said, “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.