The Sons of God and the Nephilim

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The Sons of God and the Nephilim
The Sons of God and the Nephilim is a detailed overview of how the expression “Sons of God” can be used in Scripture and how it is used in the context of the Nephilim and Sons of God of Genesis 6.

The Sons of God and the Nephilim

The term “sons of God” (or “God’s sons”) is used in several places in the Bible to refer to different things. Consider Job 1:6:

Now on the day when God’s sons came to present themselves before Yahweh, Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6)

In the above verse, “sons of God” refers to those who accompanied Satan, namely, fallen angels (also called evil spirits or demons). The term can also mean other things. Consider John 1:12:

But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name. (John 1:12)

And again, Galatians 3:26:

For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)

Thus, if you have decided to trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, you are a son or daughter of God.

Consider yet another usage in Psalm 82:

I said, “You are gods, all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like one of the rulers.” (Psalm 82:6-7)

This Psalm is not about fallen angels. And neither is it about those who have trusted in Jesus. Instead, it is about those who have been called to exercise judgment and justice on the earth, who will “die like men, and fall like one of the rulers” (see Psalm 82:7) because they refused to do what was right. It is a Psalm of judgment.

Thus, we can see from Psalm 82, that “sons of the Most High” (that is, “sons of God”), can be used in the sense of those who were created by God. I believe it is clear from Psalm 82:6-7 that it not only refers to those who were created by God, but who were created having been given authority. Please, read that passage with me again:

I said, “You are gods, all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like one of the rulers.” (Psalm 82:6-7)

It is very clear that a contrast is being made here. Whereas, you were created as “son of the Most High” yet you will “die like men.” In other words, something has gone terribly wrong with the authority structure. This is a statement on the disobedience of man — who became impotent through disobedience, unable or unwilling to do that which he was originally commanded to do (which was to have dominion over the earth, see Genesis 1:26).

Consider the descendants of Joseph. We read,

Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years old, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli (Luke 3:23)

And then, in verse 38, the lineage reaches Adam,

“the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” (Luke 3:38)

We can see that Adam is referred to as the “son of God” here. Thus, the sense is that he came from God.

Thus, we can see from the Scriptures that the term “sons of God” can refer to:

1. Fallen angels

2. People who have trusted in Jesus

3. People who have been created by God.

It is in this third sense that I believe the term “sons of God” (or “God’s sons”) is used in Genesis 6, in which we read:

The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when God’s sons came in to men’s daughters and had children with them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)

Now here is my reasoning for this. Consider that the entirety of Genesis 5 gives us a genealogy from God, to Adam (being in God’s likeness), to Adam’s son Seth (in his likeness), to Seth’s son, and so forth, all the way down to Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah. Thus, they are all in the likeness (or image) of God.

When in the very next chapter (Genesis 6) we read of “God’s sons”, it naturally follows from the previous chapter that we are referring to the descendants of Adam who came from God. Further evidence is that the Genesis 6:4 “sons of God” usage appears quite similar, almost identical, to the Psalm 82:6-7 usage, in which man is spoken of pejoratively in that he fell from his authority, and became rebellious.

Hence, Genesis 6:5 naturally follows,

Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil. (Genesis 6:5)

Notice how no hint of fallen angels is provided in Genesis 6:5 as to why God judged the earth. It is simply because of sin. What type of sin? The answer is provided three verses back:

God’s sons saw that men’s daughters were beautiful, and they took any that they wanted for themselves as wives. (Genesis 6:2)

Genesis 6:2 is a pejorative statement, in which humans who were given authority, rather than honoring God, instead, “took any (woman) that they wanted for themselves as wives”. This word “took” (Strong’s H3947) can be used in very noble ways. But it can also be used in very negative ways. For example, it is the same word that is found in Genesis 3:6, in which Even “took some of its fruit, and ate”. Thus, we must rely upon context to decide whether this “taking” of women as wives is meant as a good or bad thing. The answer is a bad thing, and denotes the method by which men, during that time, were lusting after women rather than submitting to God. Compare this to 1 Corinthians 11:3:

But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)

In Genesis 6, instead of the men being safely under God (which would have meant no judgment and no flood), they placed themselves under sin’s grip by allowing themselves to be controlled by their carnal desires for women. In this sense, they placed themselves under women, rather than under God. This is exactly the same thing we see today, as many “men of God” are now submitting their pulpits to women, which is expressly forbidden in the Bible.

Let the wives be quiet in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to be talking except in submission, as the law also says. (1 Corinthians 14:34)

This is the only commandment in Scripture in which Paul expressly writes,

If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37)

In Genesis 6:2, the statement, “they took any (woman) that they wanted” is not a positive but negative statement. Rather than waiting for God’s perfect choice for a mate, the males were heated up with passion and “took any (woman) that they wanted”. This has the sense of violence and recklessness upon an earth rampant with sexual immorality. This is a description of the state of man prior to the flood. Therefore, Genesis 6:2 is in no way a description of mankind’s good intentions. Instead, it is an “executive summary” that is, God’s verdict as to why mankind, except for Noah and his family, were given the death sentence.

Some say that the reason God destroyed the earth in Noah’s day was because of fallen angels. In other words, the angels polluted the blood stream of man. This is a wholly unbiblical argument. Man has been polluted since the fall. No further pollution is necessary in order to bring man into judgment, for God said clearly,

“for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

Death set in immediately it was a spiritual death with physical ramifications (murder, cheating, lying, stealing, physical death, etc) being seen soon afterwords. Furthermore, angels (which would include fallen angels) cannot procreate (see Matthew 22:30).

The Bible tells us plainly in Genesis 6:5 that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil”. Where are the fallen angels? If fallen angels were responsible for the flood, you would have expected it be mentioned right there. But there is no such mention. The problem with this “fallen angels” theology (which is not biblical) is that it seeks to remove accountability from man for all his misdeeds. It seeks to put the blame on the fallen angels. But the Bible teaches the flood was man’s fault, not the fault of fallen angels.

The Nephilim

We now have this term, “Nephilim,”1 which is the raw Hebrew which most English Bible translators feel more comfortable using, since they are not entirely sure what the word even means. It is used 3 times in 2 verses in the entire Bible. Some translations (but not the majority of them) use the word “giants” here.

The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when God’s sons came in to men’s daughters and had children with them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)

There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim. We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers 13:33)

It may be that the word “Nephilim” does refer to giants. But to be on the safe side, a full 35 out of 53 English Bible translations simply use the word “Nephilim”2. 16 out of 53 use the word “giants” (in one case, “very large men”). That leaves 2 more.

YLT uses “fallen ones”.

VOICE uses “great warrior race”.

Bonus points to the EXB here, as it says, “The Nephilim [fallen ones; the significance of the name is unclear]”. Thus, they are very explicit about the meaning being unclear.

Negative mention goes to 4 English versions:

CEV: They properly render “Nephilim” as “Nephilim” (which is safe), but instead of using “sons of God” which also appears in this verse, they translate it as “the children of the supernatural beings” which makes this a paraphrase and not a true translation. This is very dangerous because they are deciding for you what “sons of God” means here and that is highly debatable! Leave the text “as is” and do not change it! (See the warning in Proverbs 30:5-6.)

TLB also makes this same error, taking the liberty of rendering “sons of God” as “the evil beings from the spirit world”.

GNT says, “In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the heavenly beings.” Yet nowhere does the text say that!

ISV says, “The Nephilim were on the earth at that time (and also immediately afterward), when those divine beings were having sexual relations with those human women.” Yet nowhere in the original Hebrew does it say, “divine beings.” It simply says, “sons of God.”

In short, I think a strong case can be made to support the Genesis 6 “sons of God” as referring to those who were human (male) descendants of Adam, who forsook their godly responsibilities and became subject to the lusts of the flesh. They fell out of headship with God (see 1 Corinthians 11:3) and became “submitted” to women in an ungodly way.

To be clear, I’m not referring to having mutual respect for one another, or submitting to one another out of love and in the fear of Christ, which the Bible commands in Ephesians 5:21. I’m referring to men being essentially submitted to their own ungodly passions for others, thus inviting judgment on themselves and the entire human race. It is, after all, sin that opens the door for judgment. Demons are not required for that. So for people to say that God judged the earth during the days of Noah because fallen angels had sexual relationships with human females, I think is to entirely miss the mark.

Let us do a little comparison once again:

Genesis 6:2 and 6:4:

God’s sons saw that men’s daughters were beautiful, and they took any that they wanted for themselves as wives. (Genesis 6:2)

The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when God’s sons came in to men’s daughters and had children with them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)

As contrasted with 1 Corinthians 11:3:

But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)

Emperor Worship

In the days of ancient Rome, there was something called emperor worship. The emperors themselves were hailed as God or as “a god.” We see this in the book of Acts, with king Herod.3

On an appointed day, Herod dressed himself in royal clothing, sat on the throne, and gave a speech to them. The people shouted, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” (Acts 12:21-22)

Thus, the people elevated Herod to be a “god,” and not a man. Certainly, Herod himself was a “mighty man”, a “man of renown” (compare Genesis 6:4). He was observed, and seen, and feared, by all the people. And yet Herod died as a man, and not as a god at all.

The people shouted, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he didn’t give God the glory. Then he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:22-23)

Thus, from the vantage point of humans, Herod was hailed as “god”. Yet there is only one true God. All others are idols (see Isaiah 42:8).

“I am Yahweh. That is my name. I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to engraved images. (Isaiah 42:8)

God will indeed not give his glory to another. Therefore, Herod was struck by an angel of the Lord, and he died. Yet from the standpoint of Herod leading, he was permitted (by God) to assume the figurative title “god” in the Psalm 82 sense of the word, meaning “leader” or “ruler” of the people. So, too, these people in Genesis 6, who were the “sons of God,” were called to lead others in righteousness. But because of their lusts, they fell into judgment. No longer were they under God, but fell under the power of sin.

These were,

“the mighty men who were of old, men of renown” (see Genesis 6:4).

They were “renown” because all eyes were fixed on them. This is not a good thing! God should have received the glory, not men! Thus,

“the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil” (see Genesis 6:5).

And judgment ensued.

 

1. https://biblehub.com/interlinear/genesis/6.htm

2. https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Genesis%206:4

3. There were 3 Herods.

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