Friday, October 28, 2016

Parshas Bereishis 5777

The Sons of G-d

The Torah writes (Genesis 6:1-2):
When men began to increase on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of G-d saw how beautiful the daughters of men were and took wives from among those that pleased them.
And later on (Genesis 6:4):
It was then, and later too, that giants appeared on earth—when the sons of G-d cohabited with the daughters of men, who bore them offspring. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown.
Different opinions explaining this:
SourceSons of G-dDaughters of Men
Midrash Rabbahsons of judgescommoners
Midrash TanchumaangelsNaamah, daughter of Lamech
Ibn Ezradescendants of Sethdescendants of Cain
Rashisons of rulers and judgescommoners
Ibn Ezraastrologistscommoners

The first argument revolves around whether the term "G-d" in "sons of G-d" is divine or not. On one hand, the book of Job (Job 1:6) seems to indicate that it is divine:
One day the sons of G-d presented themselves before the LORD
As clear from the context and explained by Metzutzas Zion (ibid) it is clearly referring to angels. We also find similar terminology in the Rambam (Yesodei haTorah 2:7):
The different names with which the angels are called reflect their [spiritual] levels. Thus, they are called: 1) The holy chayyot, who are above all the others; 2) the ofanim; 7) the elokim; 3) the er'elim; 8) the sons of the elokim; 4) the chashmalim; 9) the keruvim; 5) the serafim; 10) the ishim. 6) the mal'achim; These ten names which are used to refer to the angels reflect their ten [different spiritual] levels.
According to these opinions, the verses here clearly refer to angels which ended up mingling with humans. Similarly, we find the tales of two angels who fell from Heaven and mingled with men - see Rashi (Numbers 13:33 and Niddah 61a) and Targum Jonathan (Genesis 6:4):
Schamchazai and Uzziel, who fell from heaven, were on the earth in those days; and also, after the sons of the Great had gone in with the daughters of men, they bare to them: and these are they who are called men who are of the world, men of names.
According to these opinions, the opposite term "daughters of men" then refers to regular human beings. However, there are also midrashim that this refers to a specific woman as opposed to all humans. This seems to revolve around whether the term "daughters of men" is referring to someone mentioned earlier or not. As cited in Yalkut Shemoini (Torah 161:2) [also in Midrash Tanchuma Chukas]:
For then to him appeared a beautiful woman whose beauty was like Naamah the sister of Tuval Kain, through whom the angels sinned as it says "And the sons of G-d saw the daughters of men"
On the other hand, at least one opinion in Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 26:8) is clearly against calling them angels:
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai used to curse anyone that called them (i.e. "the sons of G-d" here) divine
According to these opinions, disagreement then exists about defining what "sons of G-d" means in a non divine manner. All of the opinions revolve around a definition of a higher and lower sets of people, with the higher ones oppressing the lower. According to Rashi (ibid), this refers to people of power and authority - judges and princes:
Wherever the word אלקים occurs in the Scriptures it signifies authority, and the following passages prove this: (Exodus 4:16) “and thou shalt be his (אלקים) master”, and (Exodus 7:1) “See, I have made the (אלקים) a master.”
According to the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 26:8), this refers to judges:
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai called them (i.e. the sons of G-d) judges ... and any breach that does not come from great people is not called a breach
As explained by Matnas Kehuna (ibid) and Eitz Yosef (ibid), we find that this can refer to judges (Exodus 22:7-8, see Targum and Rashi there):
If the thief is not caught, the owner of the house shall depose before G-d that he has not laid hands on the other’s property. In all charges of misappropriation—pertaining to an ox, an ass, a sheep, a garment, or any other loss, whereof one party alleges, “This is it”—the case of both parties shall come before G-d: he whom G-d declares guilty shall pay double to the other.
Ibn Ezra (ibid) explains slightly differently:
The sons of judges who do on earth the judgement of G-d 
The Ibn Ezra (ibid) cites another opinion referring to these as the sons of Seth and the sons of Cain. In Sefer Imrei Sheifer (ibid) a fuller explanation is provided:
And Ramban says that Adam and Eve are called the "sons of G-d" since they were created by His hands, and they had many children but the ones that were born initially were born identically to them as it says referring to Seth "and he borne him in his image and appearance". Perhaps, the children of Seth are all called "sons of G-d"  for the first three were all in his image and appearance, and once they started serving idols then their appearance and form became weaker.
The Ibn Ezra (ibid) has one additional explanation:
And it seems to be a proper explanation in my eyes, that the term "sons of G-d" refers to people who had the knowledge of the High to choose wives through astrology, each one matching them, and that their offspring would be like them. Therefore, from them came out giants and they also took women by force.
((there is also another possible explanation that the people in power were being worshipped as G-ds, but I don't have a source for that)