In Genesis 6:4, we read:
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days – and also afterward – when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”
The Nephilim may have been the offspring of fallen angels and human women. The Bible says the Nephilim were legends; their abilities and accomplishments made them well-known heroes. Greek mythology is probably based on these historical events, recording stories of “gods” and “sons of gods.” I am not impressed when someone says Genesis 6:1-4 can’t be talking about angels because Jesus later said angels don’t marry. These people often cite Matthew 22:30 which says:
“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage;they will be like the angels in heaven.”
To use this verse to extrapolate too much information about angels is bad hermeneutics. It is using isogesis (reading your predetermined doctrine intoscripture) rather than exegesis (letting the scriptures speak for themselves and determine your doctrine). This verse explicitly says there will be no marriage and no families in heaven. Marriage and families are institutions God has given mankind on earth for the well being of the human race.The same debate is revisited in Luke 20:34-36 when Jesus says:
“The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.”
Is Jesus telling everyone here that when you go to heaven you cannot have children because you will be like angels who cannot reproduce? Not exactly— although we do know from scripture that angels don’t give birth to baby angels. But that isn’t the point here. The point is that men in the age to come are being compared to angels in that “they can no longer die.”
There are three basic ways to interpret Genesis 6:1-4:
- The Sons of God are the good boys from that time who attended Sunday school, wore nice clean clothes, and never got in trouble, while the daughters of men are bad girls—probably descendents of Cain—who liked to drink, cuss, and wear short skirts.
- The Sons of God are the sons of kings and pharaohs. They are royal princes. The daughters of men are the daughters of common folk gathered up by the royal princes to form their harems.
- The Sons of God are angelic creatures. The daughters of men are the daughters of men.
Genesis 1-11 covers 2,000 years of the history of man. The rest of Genesis (chapters 12-50) plus 38 additional Old Testament books cover only 1,600 years. So, whatever is happening in Genesis 6:1-4 is taking up some very valuable space. Are good boys marrying naughty girls worth recording? Maybe, but I doubt it. If the Hebrew phrase “sons of God” is translated here the way it is in other Old Testament verses, it means “angels.” And “daughters of men” just might mean“daughters of men.” So this strange mixing of angelic and human beings would cause some mighty bizarre offspring— offspring much like the Nephilim—superhuman in strength and stature. This would explain the references to incredible giants found in Genesis through Deuteronomy, and again in I Samuel. (Goliath wasn’t the only giant in his family, he had four giant brothers.) Why is the idea of the Nephilim often rejected today? Because we live in a secular, materialistic culture. Our society has a hard enough time believing in God, let alone the existence of demons and evil creatures we cannot see. We have been born into a spiritual war against a band of rebel angels whose destiny is the Lake of Fire. But with our vision limited to our physical universe, this concept often seems absurd. It’s probably safe to say the spiritual realm takes this whole thing a lot more seriously than we do.
Josephus (70-90 AD) wrote concerning the Nephilim: “For which reason they removed their camp to Hebron; and when they had taken it, they slew all the inhabitants. There were til then left the race of giants, who had bodies so large, and countenances so entirely different from other men, that they were surprising to the sight, and terrible to the hearing. The bones of these men are still swhewn to this very day, unlike to any credible relations of other men.” (Antiquities ch. II vs. 3)
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) wrote: “The angels transgressed this appointment and were captivated by love of women. And they begat children, who are those who are called demons.”
Iranaeus (130-202 AD) wrote: “In the days of Noah, He justly brought on the Deluge for the purpose of extinguishing that most infamous race of men then existent, who could not bring forth fruit to God. For the angels who sinned had commingled with them.”
Tertullian (155-230 AD) wrote: “They are the same angels who rushed from heaven on the daughters of men.”
New International Dictionary of the Old Testament (1997), page 678 says: “There have been skeletons excavated in Palestine that are 3.2 meters or 10 ½ feet.”
I Enoch (recorded around 160 BC) which is quoted by Jude in Jude 14 and 15 says: “And it came to pass when the sons of men had increased, that in those days there were born to them fair and beautiful daughters. And the angels, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the children of men, and let us beget for ourselves children.’ And they took wives for themselves, and everyone chose for himself one each. And they began to go into them and were promiscuous with them…And they became pregnant and bore large giants, and their height was three thousand cubits. These devoured all the toil of men, until men were unable to sustain them. And the giants turned against them in order to devour men. And they began to sin against birds, and against animals, and against reptiles and against fish, and they devoured one another’s flesh and drank the blood from it. Then the earth complained about the lawless ones.” -I Enoch 7:6-7
There was clearly much wickedness during the time of the Nephilim:
“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time…So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.’” Genesis 6:5, 6
It is at this time that God speaks to Noah and asks him to build an ark so he can preserve the human race and the promised seed, while destroying everything that had become corrupt on earth. All these events are detailed in Genesis 6-9. The dimensions of the ark are given, and journal entries are recorded with the precision of an eye witness like Noah himself. These records include the date of entry and a vivid description of the geological occurrences resulting from the flood. One entry dated the 17th day of the 2nd month of the 600th year says:
“On that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.”
The flood wasn’t just an enormous rainstorm. What happened during the flood could never be duplicated because the pressurized water under the continental plates and above the atmosphere was released once and for all. When the “great deep burst forth” the continental plates cracked and water erupted. At the same time, (maybe as a result of atmospheric changes created by the blasts of water), the canopy of water above the atmosphere broke, causing the “floodgates of the heavens to open.” The fallout of this cataclysmic event lasted forty days and forty nights. All life on earth perished while the ark maintained buoyancy—an enormous barge riding on top of the water.