The Hebrew word Nephilim is translated "giants" in the Old Testament.
It only appears twice in Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33.
A whole series of doctrines have been built around this word, in spite of the fact that the word only appears rarely. These doctrines on the Nephilim are based on Genesis 6:1-4. (It must be noted that most speculators lean very heavily on extra-biblical writings for most of their information.) The theories can basically be summed up as follows:
"Demons/angels (sons of God) had illicit relationships with women (the daughters of men) and these perverted relations produced genetically mutated beings known as Nephilim (giants). God then imprisoned some of the angels who did this and in order to purify the bloodline of man God brought on the Flood. Through genetic engineering these Nephilim will be resurrected, one of which will be the Antichrist.1 These people, the Nephilim, are also connected to so-called extra-terrestrial forms of life."
Since these theories are gaining ground and a number of books have been published based on this hypothesis, it is necessary to examine Genesis 6 again and see exactly what it teaches.
We will discover that the proponents of these theories break every principle of hermeneutics.
Here is the text:
"Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." There were giants 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. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown". (Genesis 6:1-4)
Sons of God
The first problem revolves around who in the passage are the "sons of God". Some make the connection with Job 1:6; 2:1. "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them." (Job 1:6). It is obvious, and not contested, that the "sons of God" in Job were angels. But does that mean that this term in Genesis 6:2 also refers to angels?
First, the normal meaning of "sons of God" is "believers".
"But as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12).
Job 1:6 (a poetic book) is the only place where angels are called "sons of God". It is logical and reasonable therefore that the normal meaning be attached to the term here, rather than the exception, as found in Job, unless there were something in the text that made a connection between Genesis 6 and Job 1 – which is absent.
Second Jesus explicitly said that
"in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven." (Matthew 22:30) (See also Luke 20:34-36). Therefore in Jesus' own words, angels are asexual and do not procreate.
So here is the problem. Genesis is obscure about who had the relations. Jesus said angels do not have relations. So either Jesus was mistaken or the "sons of God" were not angels. You choose! It is really as simple as that – there are no other options.
Some try to get around this by saying that the angels inhabited (possessed) human bodies to do this. That sounds good. But here is the question: A Christian man has the Holy Spirit in him. When that man produces a child by his wife, what is the child? God or man? Clearly, it is a man. There are multitudes of people in the world who are demon possessed and who procreate. What do they produce? Human babies or mutants? Obviously human babies. So why should Genesis 6 be any different. If demons entered into men to produce offspring the children would be human, and only human.
One of the principles of hermeneutics is that the Old Testament is interpreted in the light of the New Testament and not the other way round. In order to say that the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 are angels (or demons) we must discard the light of the NT and that should never happen.
The nature of the relationships
The next problem is that it is claimed that the angels had illicit relations with women. Yet the text is very clear: "they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose" (Genesis 6:2b). The phrase "took wives for themselves" only, and always, means marriage. It never refers to casual, illicit or adulterous relationships. (See Genesis 11:29 & Ruth 1:4). To suggest otherwise is reading into the text that which is simply not there.
There were giants !
The theory goes that the giants were the product of these illicit relationships. We have shown that the text does not refer to illicit relationships and that the fathers could not be angels.
Genesis 6:4, again is very clear: "There were giants 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."
Notice that it says there were giants (fact number 1) and afterwards the sons of God came into... (fact number 2). There is NO connection between the fact that there were giants and the fact that people had children.
It is exactly like me saying: "There is milk in the supermarket and eggs are $1.50 a dozen" Milk has no effect on the price, or even the existence, of eggs and the other way around. I am simply stating two facts that describe things about food in the supermarket.
In Genesis six, Moses is describing the state of the world before the flood. He makes no connection between Nephilim; and the sons of God and daughters of men. If the sentence had been reversed as follows: "The sons of God came into the daughters of men and they bore Nephilim" then you could postulate some theory about the nature of this process. But the text does not give us any room to connect the Nephilim with these marriages.
Genesis 6:4 does say that the children that were produced "were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown". "Mighty men" is a term which is used 154 times in the OT and simply refers to powerful men, either physically or politically. Just like there are many mighty men today and some are men of God and others are worldly and unsaved, so there were mighty men in those days, of which Noah was one.
"Men of old" also holds no mystique, these were simply the heroes of bygone days.
"Men of renown" is also used in Numbers 16:2 and Ezekiel 23:23. These are famous men, or well-known men. The Hebrew term literally means "men with a name" meaning they had "made a name" for themselves.
The descendants of these relationships were not monsters, mutants, or anything extraordinary. Some were ordinary people and some were powerful, some were little known and others had made a name for themselves. Genesis 6:5 (the next verse) goes on to describe these people as wicked and worthy of God's judgment.
Furthermore, the translation of the word Nephilim in Genesis 6:4 as "giants" is very arbitrary. There are many other possible ways this word could be translated here: "Bullies", "mighty ones" or "tyrants". At least one dictionary states that the Nephilim in Genesis and in Numbers were two different peoples.2 Once again, we cannot build an entire doctrine on a word which we cannot translate or explain with any measure of certainty.
Genesis 6:4 is simply a description of life before the flood and not a commentary on mysterious genetic mutant life forms. Jesus obviously has this verse in mind when he says: "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matthew 24:37-39) (note the reference to marriage in both verses).
One of the most important principles of hermeneutics is that the verse has to be read in its context. The context is clear, that life was going on as usual, people were becoming more and more self-absorbed and sinful but judgment was coming. This is the same point Jesus was making in Matthew 24 – people will be self-absorbed and fixated on every-day life and will not be ready for His coming.
The cause of the Flood
Those who speculate about the Nephilim, connect them with the reason for the Flood. Once again, there is no connection there. Genesis 6 describes life on earth. Yes, there were Nephilim, but more significantly, people were marrying and having children and becoming more wicked. Genesis 6:5-6 cannot be clearer. God's judgment fell because of the wickedness of man. This had absolutely nothing to do with demons, angels or mutants. Look at these verses again: "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." (Genesis 6:5-7).
If the flood had anything to do with anything other than man's sinfulness, either Moses or Jesus would have said something in that regard, but both are silent about demons, angels and mutants. The flood had nothing to do with clearing the gene pool. It was all about clearing the earth of sinful and wicked people. Even Sunday school children should be able to tell you that.
If the flood had anything to do with God wanting to destroy the giants because they were "contaminated seed" or to purge the gene pool then, Noah and his sons should have been destroyed also. Noah and his sons carried the gene from which giants were formed. This is obvious since giants (Nephilim) are born after the flood and were present in the Land when the spies were sent to scout out the land (Numbers 13:33). These giants were descendants of Noah since all of humankind after the flood descended from Noah.
These speculators quote the Book of Enoch (and other apocryphal books) in support of their ideas as though they are Scripture. Yet, Enoch and the rest of the Apocrypha are not part of the canon of Scripture for obvious reasons – they are not, and have never been regarded as inspired except by apostate churches and false teachers.
Once again they break one of the fundamentals of Evangelical and Reformed hermeneutics: We hold only to Scripture and do not add, nor subtract from it (Revelation 22:18; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32). It is especially reprehensible to formulate an entire doctrine on extra-biblical evidence as these people are doing.
The fact is that there is overwhelming evidence in very old writings that the Hebrew sages never regarded the "sons of God" as angels or demons. We dare not use that as evidence, lest we sink to the same level as these speculators.
Jude 6 is quoted in support of the theories. This verse says: "And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6).
Once again, there is absolutely nothing in the verse, or the context, that connects it with Genesis 6. There is nothing in the context that gives rise to understand that "not keep(ing) their proper domain" has anything to do with having relations with women. These angels sinned by overstepping their boundaries – that is evident. But what those boundaries were can be any of a hundred things. We just cannot draw connection between Genesis 6 and Jude 6, except that the chapter number is the same as the verse number!
Verse 4 is similar to Jude 6: "For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly." (2 Peter 2:4-5).
To those who pluck verses out of their context there appears to be a connection between the sinning angels and the flood. But look at the context:
2Peter 2:1-3 There were, and will be, false teachers and they will "bring upon themselves swift destruction".
2Peter 2:4 Angels sinned and God "reserved them for judgment"
2Peter 2:5 The ancient world sinned and God judged them by the flood, but spared Noah
2Peter 2:6-8 Sodom and Gomorrah sinned and God judged them, but spared Lot
2Peter 2:9 Therefore in the future, the Lord will judge the unjust and save the godly.
The angels and the pre-flood world are simply two of four examples that Peter quotes to show that God will punish sin. The connections between the sinning angels and the flood are the same connection with false teachers and Sodom – the connections have nothing to do with gene mutation but is all about sin and the consequences thereof.
The purpose of this brief article is not to provide answers to all the questions that surround Genesis 6. In fact, we do not have all the answers and those who claim they have a full and detailed explanation for these verses are speculating. The point of the text in Genesis 6, and 2 Peter 2 is to warn that God will not tolerate sin and will judge it.
But what we are certain of is that the theories about angels producing mutant life forms are not Biblical and that the conclusions derived from this theory are fictional, at best.
"... charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith". (1 Timothy 1:3-4).
"But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness." (1 Timothy 4:7).
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
- This is a very brief and highly sanitized summary of some very extreme and bizarre teachings. But it must also be noted that those who hold to these teachings differ greatly, amongst themselves, as to how far they take their conclusions.
- Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
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