The Nephilim—Who Are Those Guys ?
When I first became a Christian and was participating in Bible studies, I was really excited about the Word of God, but a good friend and co-worker who considered himself an expert on “religion” told me, “I took a couple of religion classes in college and found out the Bible is full of contradictions and crazy stuff”. I asked for an example and he challenged me to read Genesis 6:1-7. That night I went home eager to read it and confident that it would present no problems for me. I was shocked to read verse 4, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days…when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.” I looked at a different translation and it translated sons of God as angels, and the footnote said that fallen angels had procreated with human women and produced a race of evil giants. Now I was really confused, even shocked and desperate for answers. Maybe my friend was right, there is some really crazy stuff in here. My problem was compounded when I asked the question at Bible study and the guy basically had no idea and said, “that’s just one of those problem passages that we have no answer for”.
I am not one to leave things hanging out there like that so I continued to pursue it, even going to a book store (that was radical action in those days). The commentary I found explained it something like—“sons of God” is used in the Old Test. to refer to angels who had sex with women and produced the Nephilim. It further referred me to 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 which seem to say that a group of evil angels left heaven, committed some particularly evil sin for which they were incarcerated by God in the abyss, inference being the act of Genesis 6 producing these “mighty men” of old—the Nephilim. This just seemed too wild for me so I continued to dig. This finally led me to the explanation I am satisfied with today—the only one who could perfectly explain this passage is the author, but there are several explanations to choose from that work. The key is not worrying so much about who the Nephilim are, but honing in on the context of the passage and what the overall meaning is. Let’s offer several possibilities of who the sons of God were and who the Nephilim were, and then focus on the meaning. Possibilities include:
- The sons of God were the godly line of Seth mentioned in Gen.4:25 who replaced Abel as Adam’s godly son. The human race which descended from Seth were faithful believers until they cohabited with “the daughters of men” who were the descendants of Cain. The result was children viewed as “mighty men” who ruled wickedly
- The “sons of God” were fallen angels who cohabited with women on earth.
- The “sons of God” are proud and powerful humans who were influenced, enticed, or even controlled by fallen angels. They cohabited with many women to satisfy their lusts and to perpetuate their rebellious line through many children. Their children ruled so they were called mighty. This view would also incorporate Jude 6 and 2 Peter2:4. The demons that influenced them were locked up.
In many ways, #2 works because in the O.T. “sons of God” is only used to refer to angels or godly men. #2 also explains Jude 6, and the Greek Septuagint’s translation of Nephilim as giants. The problem is that angels are spiritual beings who don’t procreate (Matt.22:30). Most ministers prefer the politically correct interpretation of the godly line of Seth intermarried with the evil line of Cain, and #3 is a comfortable compromise as well.
Who Are Those Guys—the Nephilim ?
The Hebrew word for Nephilim comes from naphal which means to fall. The most likely meaning of this is “those who have fallen”. This is in regard to their fallen evil nature. Much later those who translated the O.T. into Greek, translated it as giants because of Numbers 13:33 reference to the very large sons of Anak who were also called Nephilim. Whoever they were, it is clear they were violent men of strength and power that God was very unhappy with. To rebellious men of later times, they were regarded as great heroes, but in God’s sight they were merely ungodly men of violence and evil (just read Gen.6:5). Whether giants or not, whether men or angels, the context of the passage and the meaning of the passage is the same. The conditions of the world at that time were so evil that they were finally intolerable even to a God of compassion and long-suffering. Result being that all the godless inhabitants of the pre-flood world would soon perish in the flood.
Therefore, no matter how you interpret Genesis 6:4 you must come away with the meaning that the world conditions in the days before the Flood demanded God’s action in the judgment of the coming catastrophe.
What does this mean for us? When God judges the world as He was about to in Genesis 6, no giant, no angel, and no human being has any power to resist Him. In the same way, God has allotted our days and when they are up, that’s it. God has also appointed a day in the coming future of judgment for the whole earth. Are you ready? Could you honestly say as John said in Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus” I am ready.