The Sons of God and the Nephilim—Part 4

The cover of the first book in L.A. Marzulli's fiction trilogy centered around the Nephilim. See www.lamarzulli.net for more details.

[As of 11/5/11 my thesis is now available in print or for Amazon Kindle.] The first post in this series briefly summarized the various positions on the Sons of God and the Nephilim and I shared my thesis statement on this topic. The second post critiqued the Sethite position while the third post offered a critique of the Royalty view. In this fourth post, I will lay out some of the strengths of the Fallen Angel view. In fact, the next few posts on this topic will cover the Fallen Angel position. It has the greatest textual support, but it also has the most objections to address. So if I don’t cover a particular issue in this post, please be patient. I will probably get to it in a future post.

The Fallen Angel position is the most popular theory concerning the identity of the sons of God. This is clearly the earliest position that we know of. It was promoted in apocryphal works written before the time of Christ and by every church father who commented on it until the 3rd century. Here again is the key passage from Genesis:

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, NASB)

The Fallen Angel view proposes that the “sons of God” (verses 2, 4) were fallen angels who materialized (probably as humans), married women, and sired children by them. The offspring of these unions were “the mighty men who were of old, men of renown” (v. 4). Most intepreters believe that the Nephilim were the offspring, but some argue that they were already on the earth when these marriages took place. A derivative of this view is that these fallen angels possessed men who then had children. Many modern scholars hold to this derivative view, and I believe it is a possibility. However, the text does not say that they possessed men to do this, so before accepting this position, I think it is wise to see if the ancient view can stand up to the various objections.

Although the Fallen Angel view is repulsive to most, it is important to understand what the text actually states. The term “sons of God” is from the Hebrew bene ha ‘elohim. This particular term is only used three other times in Scripture and in each case, it clearly refers to heavenly beings. Here are the three passages—all from the Book of Job.

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)

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. (Job 2:1)

[Job, where were you] when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:7)

In each of these verses, the term “sons of God” definitely refers to heavenly beings of some sort. Why should we interpret this term any differently in Genesis 6? While there are a handful of similar Hebrew phrases used in Scripture, these are the only four passages that mention this specific term. The closest any other passage comes is from a Dead Sea Scroll manuscript of Deuteronomy which uses bene ‘elohim in Deuteronomy 32:8, which I believe should also be translated as “sons of God” as the ESV has it. Most other translations were completed before this document was well-known and so they translated this verse with “sons of Israel.” While this is what the more recent manuscripts state, this wording makes little sense of the context.

Three New Testament passages also seem to support this position. 1 Peter 3:19–20 speaks of a particular group of “spirits in prison” (probably angels) who sinned during the days of Noah. 2 Peter 2:4 mentions angels who sinned and are currently held in “chains of darkness” and reserved for judgment. The surrounding context of this verse speaks of the wickedness that existed before the Flood and at Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude 6 refers to “angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, [God] has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” The surrounding context of this passage also discusses the wickedness and sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah.

So these three New Testament passages refer to angels who sinned during the days of Noah and are now being held in chains (prison) until the day of judgment. If Genesis 6 speaks of fallen angels, then these three verses make perfect sense. However, if the “sons of God” of Genesis 6 refer to certain groups of men, then we really have no idea what these passages in the New Testament are about. While these verses should not be seen as a watertight argument for the Fallen Angel position, they do give strong support to it.

The short book of Jude offers another interesting tidbit in relation to this subject. Verses 14–15 states, “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them…” This quotation does not appear in the Old Testament, but is from the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Jude’s quote of this book does not mean we should view Enoch as part of the canon. However, it does mean that this particular statement from Enoch is inspired, and it also shows that Jude was quite familiar with the Book of Enoch. Why is this important? Because the Book of Enoch also promotes the Fallen Angel position (this will be examined in a future post). Since Jude was familiar with Enoch, and he also wrote about angels who sinned and are being held in chains until the day of judgment, then it is extremely likely that he had the Fallen Angel view in mind when he wrote.

There is much more to discuss on this issue. There are other arguments that will be raised to support this position and, there are many objections that need to be addressed. In the next post, I plan to provide some more of the strengths. The objections will also be addressed in a future post.

 


Comments

The Sons of God and the Nephilim—Part 4 — 6 Comments

  1. Hi Tim,
    Thanks for a great article. I read the whole thing and my position on this matter has long been the same with yours. I read the article to see how much of it was in line with what I believe and to my surprise, just about every detail (I read the whole post)is. Not that I make sense of the whole idea of spirits materializing into mortal flesh, but if God created a lower beings that were somewhere between man and the higher heavenly beings then it would makes sense that they might also have access to the material world, as part of their mandate.
    Of course this is purely speculative as the scriptures don’t clearly state it, but I believe that there is much that the scriptures don’t say, simply because such information is not essential for salvation.

  2. NEPHILIM

    9/2013. I like your sober and academic approach to the subject, however, my conclusions, if I can offer a different perspective which has not been presented by anyone until now, takes several often overlooked observations into account. Clearly, there isn’t much within Scripture to look at to be able to accurately determine the nature or identity of the Nephilim (Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33).

    But based on what we know and what we can infer from Scripture, I would offer the following alternative. We have believed that when God created man, He created only two individuals from which all others derive. While I won’t dispute that, it is clear that the Bible is silent on the length of time these two individuals lived prior to the “Fall”.

    It is just as obvious from the Biblical account that after the death of Abel, his brother Cain left the area where he was farming with his family and moved with his wife to another city. The inescapable conclusion is that Cain and Abel were not the only two other people on the earth besides Adam and Eve. There were, unarguably, more people on the earth than just the four.

    Described as the Book of Beginnings, Genesis doesn’t always provide a full and comprehensive panorama of the landscape. That said, it is very likely that between the moment of their creation and the actual Fall, Adam and Eve had other children whose mention was not relevant to the account. In fact, we are not even told how much time elapsed until the Fall. Clearly, the amount of time and the number of people were significant. What complicates the matter for some is the intransigent belief that everything in Genesis 1-3 happened in a matter of seven 24 hour days, a theory debunked by Hebrews chapter 4, where 4,000 years after the creation story Paul tells us that the 7th Day of Creation is not yet over. Consequently, if the 7th Day can last more than 24 hours, why can’t the other days also comprise an undetermined amount of time?

    Nevertheless, unless we determine not to deal with reality, we are forced to admit that Cain’s wife was already a member of a broader community of people. What Genesis tells us, in effect, is that Cain and Abel were the first of their kind to suffer the consequences of sin as they did, not that they were two of only four people in existence.

    Bearing in mind the aforementioned and God’s purpose for creating mankind, I have no reservations that Adam and Eve were also the first spoken of in Genesis because they were also the first of those created to fall. That is to say, Adam and Eve were not the only two human beings on the earth at the time of the Fall, which in my estimation did not come the day after God rested.

    By referencing God’s purpose for the creation of humanity I mean to say that mankind was created so that Christ could have a body through which to eradicate evil and establish eternal perfection (Hebrews 10:5 and Daniel 9:24). Contrary to popular belief, man was not created as merely a masterpiece of God’s handiwork. Man was created for the specific purpose of developing the proper environment through which God could enter His creation to put an end to corruption, a condition embodied in the devil; the imagery or parallel to Genesis 6:5-7, 11-13. “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them….Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth…..”The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. ” See 2 Peter 3:10.

    Assuming that there were people on the earth prior to the Fall, properly identified as those not committing the same sin as Adam (Romans 5:14), it is highly plausible in the real world that they were referred to as the Sons of God (those that had not directly participated in the sins of Adam and Eve) that mated with the daughters of men; fallen men. There is no indication that the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis were either angels or beings from other planets. In fact, some translations refer to the Nephilim as “those that have fallen” and other the translations read, “giants”.

    The logical conclusion is that those referred to as the ones that had fallen or the giants, the tall, stately and famous men, the Nephilim (possibly a qualitative category of men), were those descendants of Adam that were the product of the Fall, as the name “naphal”, “the fallen ones” in Hebrew implies See the Pulpit Commentary on Genesis 6:4. The Sons of God were those engendered prior to the Fall, not angelic or extraterrestrial beings, as some suppose.

    This conclusion is borne out by the distinction in the narratives that Nephilim were sinful men, and that the daughters of men are juxtaposed to the purity and unadulterated Sons of God. Clearly, the daughters were the product of sinful men, while the Sons were not covered by the same iniquity. Their corruption set in with their association with those that were the product of disobedience. The Sons of God is a title conferred on those that enjoy a special status with God. In John 1:12 we are told that, “as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name”.

    In the same manner, those that had a special relationship with God before the time of Noah were called the Sons of God. The title connotes a preferential standing with God. The fact that God became angry attests to the fact that these men that had a special relationship with God were also corrupted. Romans 8:14 tells us that, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God”. But in the case of Genesis 6, the Sons strayed from that relationship. They were seduced by the beauty of the women of sinful men.

    A good example of the special status that the Sons enjoyed with God is mentioned in Job 1:1-3, “Again there was a day when the Sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”

    It is evident from the narrative that the Sons of God referred to in Job are men, not angels, Job being one of them. These men are described as, “blameless and upright [men] fearing God and turning away from evil”. These were obviously not ordinary men, but they were not perfect, either. But they were, nevertheless, as Genesis 6 labels them, “mortal” and “corrupt”.

    Consequently, it was the corrupting nature of the relationship between the Sons of God and the Daughters of men that displeased God; not the implausible union between angels and humans. The postulate that angels materialized and procreated with mortal flesh and blood overlooks the nature and creative purpose of the angels. Fallen or not, Christ himself defined the angels as created beings that do not procreate (Matthew 22:29 – 30, 24:38, Mark 12:25, and Luke 20:34 – 36 “Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”).

    The notion that angels can possess humans to experience the pleasures of the flesh cannot be substantiated in Scripture. Both Job 1:6 and 2:1, as previously mentioned above, portray a realistic setting on the earth (1:7). The inclusion of Satan in the dialogue does not signify that the Sons of God were heavenly beings. That is in fact what confuses many. But the fact is that Satan is the Son of Perdition, not the Son of God.

    In Hebrews 1:5 Paul said, “Having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME”? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.” Angels are never called sons of God; that is an honor bestowed on Christ and humans only. What is the more excellent name that Christ inherited? simply stated, Son. It is indisputably clear that angels are not and were never sons of God; a distinction strictly reserved for Christ and the Redeemed.

    To call the angels sons is also to overlook their purpose. Angels are ministering spirits that do not possess the ability to procreate (Hebrews 1:7, 14). It is of humans that Paul states in Ephesians 1:5, “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace”.

    In conclusion, Adam and Eve were most likely parents before the Fall. By the time Cain killed Abel, there were already a large number of people on the earth. The women born after the Fall are referred to as Daughters of men. Those addressed as Sons of God were men, not supernatural beings. The title of Son is not given to angels. That distinction is reserved for Christ and humans. The Niphilims, from the word naphal (the fallen), were the offspring of Adams descendants after the Fall. Mankind was created so that Christ could effect the plan of Redemption, the eradication of evil (Dan 9:24).

    By: Carlos Ramirez Trevino
    14 Sept 2013

    • Carlos,
      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and responding. I’m not sure if you read the rest of the posts in this series, because there is information in them that refutes some of your claims. For example, the word nephilim does not mean “fallen ones” or “those who have fallen,” despite what the Pulpit Commentary states. Check out the respected lexicons and any scholarly commentary and you’ll see that the word really does mean “giants.” It is not from the Hebrew verb “naphal” (if it were, the word would be nephulim or nophelim). It is from the Aramaic word “naphil,” which means “giant.” See this article from an expert on the ancient near eastern languages and on this subject (http://www.michaelsheiser.com/nephilim.pdf).
      I don’t have time to counter all of your claims, but I’ll just address a couple more here. The notion that the bene elohim (“sons of God”) are men is simply false. I’m not sure how you can think Job was in on the discussions between God and Satan in Job 1 and 2, since throughout the book Job wonders why all of the tragedy has struck him. The wording of the passage makes it very clear that this was not a meeting of humans and God. We know for a fact that bene elohim refers to heavenly beings in Job 38:7, since man wasn’t even created at the point this verse refers to. But it is simply a matter of fact that the Hebrew phrase “bene elohim” and its abbreviated equivalent “bene elim” refer to heavenly beings. It doesn’t matter that a Greek phrase in the NT translated as “sons of God” refers to human believers–that’s mixing apples and oranges (Hebrew and Greek). And Jesus never said that fallen heavenly beings cannot reproduce–He said that the “angels in heaven” do not marry. Further, it may not be technically accurate to refer to the bene elohim as “angels,” but they are a class of heavenly beings. I used the term “fallen angel” because it is easy for people to understand, but the Bible doesn’t call the bene elohim that (I may go back and point this out in the articles). It calls them “mighty ones” and “gods.” They were apparently a very high ranking class of heavenly beings to whom God gave control of the nations (Deut. 32:8, ESV). There is so much more that can be said on this point. The other ancient languages and cultures around ancient Israel make it very clear what bene elohim refers to–and it is not human beings.
      Also, your claim that Adam and Eve had other children prior to the Fall is without merit. Nothing in Scripture hints at Adam and Eve having children in the garden. What we see is that after they are banished, she conceives and gives birth to Cain. Her response seems to indicate that this was the first child born (“I have gotten a man from the Lord.”) Also, we often think of Cain and Abel as being very young adults when Cain killed his brother, but they were probably close to 130 years old when this happened. Why? After Cain kills Abel and is sent away, we see that Seth is born when Adam is 130 and that Eve stated, “God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed” (Gen. 4:25). It seems as though Eve viewed Seth as Abel’s replacement, indicating that Abel may have died recently–if he had died decades earlier, then any son born in between his death and Seth’s birth could have been viewed as the replacement. So if this reasonable scenario is accurate, then Adam and Eve had nearly 130 years of childbearing before Cain was sent away. This is plenty of time for many sons and daughters to be born, including the daughter who would be Cain’s wife.
      Thanks again for taking the time to read my post. I would encourage you to read the whole series of articles if you haven’t already done so. I will be writing much more on the subject in the near future.

  3. I strongly disagree. No matter how popular a theory is, it must be proven scripturally with ALL the Word.

    Scripture tells us that at no time did GOD call any angel “son(s)”. This is found in Psalms and Hebrews. We are also told creation if formed after its “kind”.

    Angels are “ministering spirits”. Even assuming the form of Man, they would be sterile. No physical way for hybrid offspring to occur.

    Scriptural pattern for the terms “sons of GOD” and “daughter of men” differentiate between the righteous and wicked. Angelic offspring is a false doctrine w/no true support.

    • Hi Jerry,
      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and to leave a comment. It’s fine that you disagree with me. I agree with you that the popularity of a view doesn’t matter. When I mentioned that it was the most popular view, that wasn’t a primary argument in support of the view. It was just a statement of fact. The arguments for the view primarily come from Scripture.
      However, your claims are not in line with Scripture. Hebrews 1:5 (quoting Psalm 2:7) states, “For to which of the angels did He every say: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’?”
      This verse is speaking of Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, meaning that He is unique. He is the Messiah, the Son of David, and above the angels. It may be true that Scripture doesn’t call an individual angel a “son of God” but the verse doesn’t say what you are implying — that angels are not called sons of God. They clearly are called “sons of God” in Job 38:7 (also Job 1:6 and 2:1). But in Job 38:7 God is speaking about the morning stars (angels) who sang together and shouted for joy when God laid the foundation of the earth. People didn’t exist then, so what group is being called “sons of God” in this verse?
      It is interesting the Genesis 1 speaks of the various plants and animals being made after their kind, but it never says this about humans (even though I believe humans only bring forth humans), but the point is that your argument here is irrelevant since the Bible doesn’t say it about humans (or angels). How would you know that an angel would be sterile if he materialized? Also, you are assuming that they would be “hybrid offspring,” but if the heavenly being materialized as a man, why wouldn’t the offspring be fully human (which is what they are called — “mighty men of old, men of renown” in Genesis 6:4)? What passage of Scripture tells us the limits of the power possessed by heavenly beings?
      Finally, if you read the rest of the blog posts in this series, you’ll see that your claim about the pattern for “sons of God” and “daughters of men” is simply wrong. The “daughters of men” in Genesis 6:2 refers to the exact same group of daughters in Genesis 6:1, and they were daughters of all the men who began to multiply on earth–not just a select group of wicked people. Also, as shown above, the Hebrew term rendered “sons of God” clearly refers to heavenly beings the other places that it is used. So you are wrong on both points here.
      The fallen angel view may end up being wrong. I’m not dogmatic on it, but it far outdistances any other view I know of in terms of biblical support. Also, I will not place limitations on heavenly beings that the Bible does not set or reject a view because it is repulsive.
      Thanks for reading.

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