Over a month ago many of you had the opportunity to be a part of our second night of equipping and training where we talked about “God Did What…?!” During that evening we discussed why some of the bizarre stories in the Old Testament matter and how they also point to the major covenants found throughout the Old Testament. If you did not get a chance to be a part of that evening we have the podcast, notes, and hand out online for you to check out. You can find the resources HERE. As I prepared for the evening I knew I would not be able to answer all of your questions; however, I wanted you still to have an opportunity to ask your questions and get some answers. So everyone that night received an index card where they could write their questions. I’ve selected six questions, some wacky and some serious, to answer for you.
This week we are going to answer a question I honestly did not want to answer. On the night of the event I joked often that I wouldn’t answer this question. Well, after several of you asked it, we are going to take a stab at answering the question. And the question is…who were the the sons of God, daughters of man, and the Nephilim,?” We read about these groups in Genesis 6:1-4. Here Moses writes “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” So who were they?
First, it is important to note that the Nephilim are mentioned in the Old Testament two times (Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33) and the sons of God marrying the daughters of man is only mentioned once in the Old Testament (Genesis 6:1-4). This means several things for us. First, it means that speculation will always surround the Nephilim and the sons of God having the daughters of man. Because these are only mentioned once or twice in the Bible we simply do not know much about them. Therefore we’ll probably never have a definitive answer to who they were. Secondly, because the Nephilim, sons of God, and daughters of man are mentioned rarely, they are less important than other elements in Scripture. What I am not saying is that we should pick and choose to make important what we want. What I am saying is that when something is important in the Bible it is reiterated over and over again. So the Bible talks much about God, humanity, redemption, and other themes because they are important to the overall story of the Bible. We need to major on the majors rather than major on the minors.
So who were the sons of God, daughters of man, and the Nephilim? First, let’s look at the sons of God and the daughters of man. Genesis 6:2 says “the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.” Then in Genesis 6:4 it says “…when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them.” Throughout time several theories on the identity of the sons of God and daughters of man have arisen. Some have considered the sons of God literally to be lesser gods below God who then married human women. Others have considered sons of God to be angels who married human woman. Two other options have emerged over time. Some have believed the sons of God to refer to rulers throughout the land. Finally others have considered the sons of God to refer to the lineage of Seth, a righteous and godly lineage, who married the daughters of man, referring to the sinful lineage of Cain.
The second question is who were the Nephilim and also were they the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of man? The actual word Nephilim is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “fallen ones.” We also read in Numbers 13:33 that the Nephilim were considered to be large men. Because of this some have thought the Nephilim to be giants. What we do know from Genesis 6:4 is that the Nephilim were “the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” So based on all of this information who were the Nephilim?
We can safely answer both who were the sons of God and daughters of man and who were the Nephilim with a simple statement: No one really knows! The reality of Genesis 6:1-4 is that there is simply not enough information to know conclusively who these individuals were. Based on Scripture we can certainly rule out that the sons of God were lesser gods because there are no such things as lesser gods. God alone rules supreme over all creation. We can also say that the sons of God were not angels because spiritual beings cannot have sexual relationships with human beings. So there is a reality that the sons of God could refer to rulers of the land or the line of Seth. While I like the sons of God referring to the line of Seth, there are many issues with this interpretation. The same, however, can be said of the sons of God referring to rulers. The Nephilim seem to be even more illusive. We honestly don’t even know if or how they are related to the sons of God and the daughters of man. The Nephilim could have been the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of man but that again would be reading into the biblical text too much. Perhaps the Nephilim were simply contemporaries with the sons of God and the daughters of man. We simply can’t tell with complete accuracy who the sons of God, daughters of man, and the Nephilim were.
Here’s what we do know. These groups were related to humanity’s headlong dive into sin eventually ending in the Flood which destroyed everything and everyone but Noah’s family and the animals they saved. What we see from Genesis 6:1-4 is that sin was prevalent and pervading all elements of humanity. Whoever the sons of God, daughters of man, and Nephilim were, they were some who were leading humanity down a path of sin. After Moses describes these groups of people, in Genesis 6:5 he says this about humanity “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” So while we do not know much about their identity, we do know that the sons of God, daughters of man, and the Nephilim played their part in the moral decline of humanity leading to the great Flood. As we study and think about the bizarre stories in the Bible, we might not have all of the answers. Nonetheless, let us learn from the stories when we can. Therefore may Vintage Church and ultimately all Christians not be like the sons of God, daughters of man, and Nephilim. May we be a people who leads humanity towards God and his holiness.
Next week we’ll conclude our series on “God Did What?!” by answering how God speaks to people today. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a burning bush. So how does God choose to communicate with his people today?