Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Who Were The Nephilim? Part 1 Or: The Post I Did Not Want To Write
I do not want to write this post. I have literally been putting it off for years. Don’t get me wrong, my excuses were top notch: I needed to do more research, I didn’t want to disseminate false or inaccurate information, it’s a peripheral issue within the Bible, and I certainly didn’t want to be lumped with all the crazies out there who are going nuts over this. Yet, even as I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t a deadline on this, that I could wait to write about it until I felt more comfortable, I kept being bombarded with questions about this issue. Online, in the grocery store, sitting around the campfire, random phone calls, and at a friend’s wedding – someone every single week, and sometimes daily, asks me the same question: Who were the Nephilim?
Grab your Bibles, kids, and follow along. We start our journey in Genesis 6: 1-4:
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters were attractive. And they took as wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh and his days shall be 120 years.” 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 of old, the men of renown.
Now if you pulled out your Bibles, which I hope you did, and you let your eyes wonder down to the sections heading you will know that these verse precede the Flood narrative. This is going to be a rather important bit of information, for now just file it away until we need it.
So let’s begin with the obvious questions first, and the one that must first be addressed before we can get into the Nephilim – who in the world are the “sons of God”?
The first rule of Biblical study is “Scripture interprets Scripture.” This means any time we run up against a word or phrase whose meaning is unclear, we find that word or phrase elsewhere in the Bible to see how it is used there. By doing this we keep our interpretations consistent, and it helps us approach the Bible with integrity while not allowing us to explain away uncomfortable truths.
Thus we begin by doing a search of the Scripture, where else do we find the term “Sons of God” and how is it used? We will begin by looking at how this phrase is used in the Hebrew Scripture. Later, we will consider it’s use in the New Testament.
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. (Job 2:1 says almost exactly the same thing.)
When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:7
Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of God, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Psalms 29:1
Who among the sons of God is like the LORD? Psalms 89:7
I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Psalms 82:6 (This verse does not contain the exact Hebrew phrase for “sons of God”, but I believe that intent conveyed is the same.)
But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods. Daniel 3:25
Now, I have only provided snippets, but I suggest that you go back and read the entire passages I have cited here. Ask yourself a few questions: Who presented themselves before God in Job? Who was present when God laid the foundations of the earth? What beings are also described as “morning stars” in Scripture? In your Bible, what differences do you see in the translations, does it say “sons of God” or “Heavenly beings”? Who was the fourth man in the fiery furnace? Was it just another man? Why would he be likened to a son of the gods?
I would be remiss not to note that there is some resistance to accepting this phrase as universal reference to supernatural beings. God refers to Israel as his son (we will address this point when we get to the section over the New Testament uses of sons of God), and some believe that this title can also refer to the judges of Israel, men not necessarily anything greater. However, I believe that in doing so the plain reading of the text is rejected in favor of explanations that are easier for us to accept. Furthermore, the entire Bible is a history of supernatural events, so why should we resist this one point as too far out there while accepting things like the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, Daniel’s deliverance from the lion, a fish who found Jonah nauseating, or above all, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? Aren’t they all just a little crazy if you really stop and think about it?
Proponents of the idea that the sons of God were simply men are adherents to what is known as the Sethite theory. In other words, they believe that the sons of God were descendants of Seth and the daughters of men were the descendants of Cain. This leads to some interesting questions that must be answered if anyone is to approach this passage with intellectual integrity. Why was it wrong for the sons of God to marry the daughters of men? There has been no Biblical prohibition against intermarriage at this point, and there will not be any for some time yet. Why did these union produce such noteworthy offspring? What is the biological and spiritual reasoning for such an event? Was there such a marked difference between the daughters of Seth and Cain? Was Cain inherently evil? Go back to Genesis 4:17-22, the names are interesting study in a person’s attitude towards God. (I discuss this in Leah's Romance.) I am not going to do an in-depth analysis of each name, but note how many end in “el” which is a direct reference to God.
As you can tell, this not a simply question to answer. Oh, sure, I could give you my thoughts, but I want you see more than just my opinion. I want you to be able to see the Biblical reasons I hold this view. We are going to be camping out here for a while, because as I have studied this, I have come to believe it is far more than a peripheral issue and has a significant bearing on how we read the Bible, how we view God, how we view the existence of good and evil, and even our own reality.
Be sure to post your questions in the comments. I will try to address each one in turn. Having them here, instead of scattered across the internet will help me not to miss any of them. I also welcome opposing views. I am more than willing to entertain the idea I might be wrong. Blessings, everyone.
For the next post in this series, click here: Who Were The Nephilim? Part 2
Labels: Beliefs, Bible, Bible Study, Crazy, Genesis 6, Good and Evil, Hebrew, Job, Nephilim, Psalms, Sons of God, Supernatural, Truth
Emily Dixon is an artist, writer, and teacher whose unique style is the direct result of her ability to combine the abstracts of faith with the demands of the real world. Born into a heritage of faith, Emily's childhood revolved around the church where she learned the disciplines of a Christian life. However when faced with a devastating marriage and divorce at the age of 23 she recognized the need to move deeper into her understanding of God's love and purpose for her life. Returning to school, she added a degree in Psychology to her previous degree in Fine Arts. Later she continued her education and earned a Master's Degree in Biblical Literature. She supported her two daughters through this time by working in sales, teaching art, bartending, and as an adjunct instructor in the Bacone's College Christian Ministry Department. Each of these experiences deepened her conviction that there is a desperate need for the truth of God's love, mercy, and redeeming power to be shared with the world in a bold new way. In June of 2010, Emily married Ty Dixon who encouraged her to quit her day job and pursue her passion of sharing her love of God and His word. Thanks to his support, Emily's dream of becoming a full time writer and speaker have become a reality.