Understanding the Old Testament

The “Sons of God” and the Nephilim

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Genesis 6:1-4 contains the strange story of the “sons of God” mating with the “daughters of men.” Who were these “sons of God”?

Two explanations have been offered. One is that they were angelic beings, as in Job 1:6 and Job 38:7. If so, then they were surely fallen angels—i.e., demons. Those who object to this interpretation point out that angels and demons are spiritual beings, and therefore they could not have mated with human women. But if that objection is valid, then how did the Incarnation of Christ come about?

The other explanation is that “sons of God” refers to humans who are faithful to God, as in John 1:12 and Romans 8:14. Thus, the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were those descendants of Enosh who “began to call upon the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:26) When they mated with the daughters of idolatrous men, they were corrupted—resulting in the corruption that led God to regret having made mankind at all. (Genesis 6:5-7)

Genesis 6:4 says that this happened when the “Nephilim” were on the earth. The Nephilim are also referred to in Numbers 13:33. When the Israelite spies returned from spying out Canaan, ten of those spies brought back a dire warning about the people of the land, which included the Nephilim, compared to whom the Israelites felt like “grasshoppers.”

Numbers 13:33 adds that “the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim.” We encounter the Anakim again in Deuteronomy 2:10-11 and 2:21, which tell us that the former inhabitants of Moab and Ammon were “a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim.”

So it seems that the Nephilim were a tall, powerful, and intimidating people. If you believe that a worldwide flood destroyed all of mankind except for Noah and his family members (Genesis 6-8), then the Nephilim of Numbers 13 cannot be the descendants of the Nephilim of Genesis 6, since the latter would have drowned in the flood. In that case, perhaps “Nephilim” became a generic term for people of large or tall proportions.

Question to ponder or discuss:  In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, Moses warned the Israelites that they would be led into idolatry if they intermarried with non-Israelites when they reached the Promised Land. This later proved to be the case. See, for example, Judges 3:5-7 and 1 Kings 11:1-4. Why do you think idolatry and evil resulted from such intermarriage? Is there a lesson there for us?

Copyright 2017 by Don Davidson

My book, Beyond Blind Faith: Reasons for the Hope We Have (1 Peter 3:15), is available on Amazon.com as either a print book or a Kindle e-book. Here's the link:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074MVHVHP Read Chapter 1 (pdf format)



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