Friday, October 2, 2020

Nephilim An Introduction

 

What about the "Nephilim" and the “sons of God” in Genesis 6?

An Introduction 

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, October 2, 2020

Introduction

I am one of the “sons of God”.[1]

Just the mere mention of “nephilim” or the “sons of God” is likely to conjure up hard-to-believe notions of strange and wacky beliefs. If you are reading this looking for support for the idea of 10-to-20 foot giants and half-demonic beings fighting Jesus and His resurrected saints back to Jerusalem, this isn’t for you.

Instead, this is designed to reasonably look at this subject from a balanced and biblical viewpoint and avoid some of the crazy speculations and far-fetched beliefs that many nephilim commentators have done. In fact, many of those arbitrary conjectures are going to be refuted in this series.

Far too often, I read reused arguments that have long since been refuted but the refutation was ignored. Scripture is often twisted to make strange interpretations in an effort to convince readers of a particular position.  

It’s time for an honest and diligent assessment of the nephilim and the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 from someone who has changed their position on the subject as a result of biblical study. I used to hold to the position where fallen angels married and bred with women to get half angelic and half human beings. But no longer—and I’m up front about that. But because I used to hold to that position, I want to be honest with its teachings (which tend to vary depending to whom you are talking) while at the same time respectfully showing its flaws.

The previous position I held was based on the teachings of Dr. Henry Morris, the founder of The Institute for Creation Research (ICR). He was a godly man to whom great respect is deserved. Though disagreeing on biblical grounds on this subject, much of Dr. Morris’ groundbreaking work on creation is highly recommended. He is still seen as a hero of the faith in my eyes.

But let’s (you and me—author and reader) dive into this discussion together—not as a heated debate but as brothers and sisters in the Lord wanting to grow and understand this “hot-button” issue at a much more profound level. I’m writing this to Christians who have a basic understanding of Christianity but want to sincerely understand what is going on with the “sons of God” and nephilim debate. 

Where to begin?

Reading through Genesis chapter 6, we learn about the “sons of God” and the nephilim (transliterated from the Hebrew; translated as “giants” in some translations). The greater context begins in Genesis 4:1-24 where we learn the genealogy and events from Adam to Naamah. Then the text shifts in Genesis 4:25 to reveal the genealogy from Adam to Noah and his three sons which ends in Genesis 5:32. In both lineages we seen where men were multiplying on the earth.  

 Immediately following these lineages, we get to the pertinent text in Genesis 6:1-4

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.  Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." The Nephilim were 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, NAS)

 The other relevant passage is in the book of Numbers which takes place long after the Flood.

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:30-33, NAS)

If someone ask who these “sons of God” were or who the nephilim were, they are liable to get a host of different answers and perhaps even be drawn into a debate on the subject just by asking the question! This happened to me countless times when researching the topic.

Furthermore, we read about “sons of God” in several places later in Scripture. This is not to be confused with the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is the Creator (John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1) of all things. We also find the nephilim mentioned once again by Moses in Number 13. Though, nephilim is spelt slightly different in Hebrew in this instance. 

 The nephilim debate is rather heated in some circles and merely simmering in others. It is like a bomb and it is ready to explode, if someone even “breathes” on the fuse! And there is a reason…Christians are not in agreement as to who the “sons of God” and the nephilim were. It is one of those topics that encompass controversy in both Genesis and Revelation (the nephilim are utilized in some eschatological models).

And just to note, people have been debating this for 2,000 years![2] Entire theologies are built around their alleged identity, as well as novels, and even some specific end times models have major points that hinge on it.

So their identity is indeed important and so the debate rages and as mentioned, I have even changed my position from my original leanings (fallen angels views) to now lean toward another position (fallen men views) for reasons that will be discussed in this series. If one disagrees with the conclusions, we can remain brothers and sisters in the Lord regardless of our stance on this debate.

What I hope to do is teach what the positions are within the debate and what many of the debate points really boil down to from a biblical authority perspective. Some positions are rather untenable and my hope is that these refutations  are used when evaluating what you believe regarding the subject.      



[1] Per John 1:12, Romans, 8:14-16, Galatians 3:26

[2] Due to the volume of authors, theologians, commentaries, etc. that have written about the sons of God and the Nephilim, I’ve opted to not reference each argument and counterargument in detail, or I would have had more references than text. In an effort to keep this an easily readable document, I will merely be focusing on the arguments as the basis for this discussion. A few references are given that are required though.

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