This is the first chapter of four dealing with the great flood and its fallout. This chapter is principally about why God destroys all life on earth, as well as the layout of the ark that Noah builds.
First of all, the reasons: there are at least two. In verses 1-4, God seems to be most concerned that the “sons of God” (angels?) are fathering giant children with human women. In verses 5-7, it’s because humans had become wicked. In verses 11-12, everything on the earth, all the living creatures, have gone bad. After verse 8, we also get a switch from LORD God to just God (YHWH to Elohim), which is probably why it repeats itself immediately on people being wicked and Noah being the only good one.
But what’s the deal with the sons of God, the daughters of men, and “the heroes that were of old, great warriors of renown”? Who are the Nephelim, and if the flood was to wipe them out, why do they appear later in the Bible (as v 4 admits they do)?
Unfortunately I can’t come into this with a fresh perspective, because I’ve read the Book of Enoch. There are several parts to it, but the oldest bits, from the 3rd century BC, read a little bit like one of those fan fiction pieces where somebody’s trying to fix the original writer’s plot holes. In it, the sons of God are fallen angels, called Watchers, who come to earth, knock up women, teach everyone awful things and corrupt them. Meanwhile the Nephelim, being huge, go around eating all the animals and people and turning everything awful and violent. See? It all fits together now!
The Book of Enoch was considered canon by many early church writers, and still is canon in Ethiopia. But it didn’t stick around anywhere else, and the only full text is in Ethiopic, with some bits in Greek, Aramaic, and Latin scattered in other places. If you can find a translation, it’s a very interesting look at the mythology that heavily influenced the New Testament.
Getting back to the text itself, I want to make a couple notes again on differences in translation. First, the NCT assumed that since they were going to have to explain what a cubit was anyway in their measurements section, they just used the Hebrew amah. Second, the NRSV notes that the word they translate as “roof” might also mean “window,” and the NCT opted for the latter with akaritori, a term for a dormer-window skylight. They also say “lawless” (fuhou) instead of “violence” in verse 11. Again, nothing too major, but it highlights choices in translation.
There was a ton of Japanese in this that I didn’t know, which made it slow reading: masu (to increase in level), koukai suru (to regret), nuguisaru (to blot out), muku na (pure, innocent), daraku (corrupt), morotomo (together with), haba (width), saishi (wife and children), and of course kouzui (deluge). Hopefully the next chapter will be easier.