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Were the sons of God in Genesis 6 fallen angels? Who were the Nephilim?

- Well, Genesis 6:1-4

is a difficult text.

And as we attempt to

interpret it, we should be humble

because there are different interpretations

that have been taken of this text

and I don't think that

whatever interpretation we take,

I don't think we should be divisive

with other Christians in the church

or among the people of God.

There are three,

Genesis 6 says that the sons of God

saw the daughters of men

and that they chose

the daughters of men for themselves as wives

and they married them.

So the question is,

who are the sons of God

that are marrying the daughters of men?

Well, there are three different interpretations.

One is that the sons of God is a reference

to the godly line of Seth.

Cain killed Abel so after Abel died,

Adam and Eve had relations

and Seth was born and Seth carried on

the godly faith of Abel.

So one idea is that the sons of God

are the descendants of Seth marrying the daughters of men,

the ungodly line of Cain.

Second interpretation is that the sons of God

refers to angels, angelic beings

intermarrying with humans.

The third idea is that the sons of God

are heroes from the mythical past, tyrant kings.

We have stories from the ancient Near East.

For example, we have stories of a person

by the name of Gilgamesh

and he was part god and part human

and accomplished many mighty feats.

So, how do we,

how do we find the right interpretation?

The exact expression, sons of God,

only occurs four or five times in the Hebrew Bible.

We have one occurrence here in Genesis 6.

We have two occurrences in the introduction

to the book of Job.

In the introduction to the book of Job,

we see God gathering in His heavenly court,

His heavenly assembly with the angels.

The angels are called sons of God there.

There's another occurrence in the book of Job,

Job chapter 38

where God is challenging Job and He says,

Where were you when I created the world?

When He created the world,

the sons of God sang for joy.

So it seems to,

there it also seems to be a very clear

reference to angelic beings.

The last occurrence is in Aramaic

in the book of Daniel.

When the king looked into the furnace,

he saw four,

four people there

and it says that one looked like a son of God,

which would mean a divine being, an angelic being.

There are only five occurrences in the entire Bible

where we have the exact expression,

son of God or sons of God

and it always refers to angelic beings.

We must distinguish this use

from other places.

There are other places in the Bible

where they indicate that the relationship of a human

to God is like a father-son relationship.

So Adam and God have a father-son relationship.

In the covenant that God makes with David,

God and David have a father-son relationship.

But it doesn't say that,

it doesn't actually say that Adam is a son of God.

It doesn't use that linguistic expression

and it doesn't say that David is the son of God.

So the only time that linguistic expression

occurs in the Bible,

it always and very clearly refers to angelic beings.

We also have the,

we also have the witness of the New Testament.

So there are two passages in the New Testament

that refer to this.

One is 2 Peter chapter 2

and the other is the book of Jude

and both of these texts

are very closely related to each other.

In 2 Peter chapter 2,

Peter is talking about

how difficult days are coming for the Christians

and there will be people who deny the faith,

who deny the truth about Jesus Christ,

the truth about His work,

who deny the gospel.

There will be false teachers

and they will bring corruption into the church

and destruction into the church.

What Peter does is he appeals to the Old Testament

and he says, well, if God could deliver,

if God could deliver His faithful people

in difficult times in the Old Testament,

then He will be able to do it in the New Testament as well.

Peter refers to two examples

in the Old Testament.

One is the story of the,

of Genesis 6 and Noah

and the other is the story of Lot

being rescued from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And if you look in the Greek text

of 2 Peter, it's very clear

that there are two examples

and not three examples

by the use of the word and.

So if God did not spare the angels who sinned

and He delivered Noah

and He did not spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah

and He rescued Lot.

So there are two examples

joined by the word and

and each example has two parts,

a negative part and a positive part.

A negative part and a positive part.

So, when Peter is talking about the angels

who sinned, he's very clearly talking about

Genesis chapter 6 because this is connected

with the story of Noah.

Some people say, well, no,

he's not talking about Genesis 6.

Well, then my question to them is,

if Peter is trying to encourage

his readers from well-known stories

in the Old Testament and if the angels who sinned

is not Genesis 6, then where else is the story?

There is no other story in the Old Testament

that it could be referring to.

Some people think that it's the fall of Satan

but as we, we're going to see when we talk about that,

there is no story,

there is no story in the Old Testament

that describes the fall of Satan.

Peter is very clearly alluding to Genesis 6.

Jude is doing the same thing and it's very obvious

in the book of Jude

because he's talking about people

who are false teachers,

people who are going to deny the faith

and he also appeals to the Old Testament

and shows how God delivered His people in the past

and He will do so in the future.

He also refers to two events.

He refers to angels who abandoned

their proper dwelling place,

their proper home.

He also talks about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah

and he says, since they,

in the same way as these

committed strange immorality.

Well, in the Greek text,

the they refers to the angels

and the same way as these,

the these refers to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

So what the story of Genesis 6

has in common with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah

is that there's an abnormal form of sexuality going on.

If God can deliver His people

from even the strangest perversions,

then He will deliver the people

who are listening to Peter

and the people who are listening to Jude.

He will deliver us.

Now, someone might come to me and say,

well, Jesus in the gospels

says that the angels in heaven

neither marry nor are given in marriage.

So it's impossible for an angel

to have physical relations with human women.

Well, they're not reading the gospels accurately

and clearly because Jesus

is saying that when,

in the resurrection, when Jesus returns

at the end of history,

we, who are resurrected,

are not going to marry because we're going to be

like the angels in heaven.

Notice he says the angels in heaven

and Jude says they left

their proper dwelling place.

So there's no contradiction between Jesus and Jude.

In heaven, the angels don't marry.

In Jude, they abandoned their proper dwelling place

and they go to commit strange immorality.

So there's no confusion.

So it seems very clear,

Genesis 6 is telling us

that these are angels who are marrying humans

and Jude and Peter are telling us

that is the correct interpretation.

The next piece is who are the Nephilim.

In verse 4 of Genesis 6, it says,

the Nephilim were on the earth in those days

and also afterward

when the sons of God had relations with human women

and they bore children of them.

End of sentence.

New sentence.

They were the heroes who were from the ancient past,

men of renown.

There's two major sentences there.

First one says, the Nephilim were on the earth

in those days and also afterward.

There are two possible interpretations

of this expression,

they were on the earth in those days and afterward.

What does that mean,

they were there in those days and afterward?

Well, some people think this means that

the Nephilim were the children

that came from the angels who married the women

in Genesis 6:1-3

and that the Nephilim were the product

of these unnatural unions

and they appeal to texts from the 3rd century B.C.

and 2nd century B.C.,

the so-called Enochic traditions,

the traditions about Enoch

where the Nephilim are interpreted as giants.

There's another interpretation that's possible.

When it says the Nephilim were there in those days

and also afterward,

it could mean that

before the angels had sex with the human women,

the Nephilim were there

and they were also there after

the angels had sex with women.

So it could mean that the Nephilim had nothing to do

with the angels marrying the humans.

I think that is the correct interpretation

for two reasons.

First of all, I examined every occurrence

of this expression and also afterward.

I went to the Hebrew Bible,

I looked up every occurrence of this phrase

and I examined how it was used.

And the second interpretation

best fits and suits how this word is used.

So when it says,

they were there in those days and also afterward,

it means the Nephilim were there before angels

cohabited with humans

and they were there after angels cohabited with humans.

There's a second reason why

this is the correct interpretation.

The last sentence says,

they were the heroes who were from the ancient past,

the men of renown.

This sentence does not begin with and.

Now that's very very important.

Almost every sentence in the Hebrew Bible begins with and.

When a sentence does not begin with and,

it does so for two reasons.

It could be because it's beginning

a new section

or secondly, because it's making a comment

on the previous sentence,

what we would call a footnote.

It's very clear that this sentence is not beginning

a new section but it's acting like a footnote

on the previous sentence.

So the previous sentence is saying

that the Nephilim were before,

were there before the angels and the humans cohabited

and they were there after.

And it's making a brief comment

that they were the ancient heroes.

In this case, what Moses is doing

is he's demythologizing

the Nephilim.

You notice one of the things that we should notice is

the text doesn't tell us who the Nephilim were.

What does that mean?

Why doesn't the text tell us

who they were?

Because they were well-known to the first readers

of this text.

The first readers of this text

knew who the Nephilim were

and didn't need that explained to them.

And all Moses is saying is,

look, whoever you think these heroes are

like Gilgamesh, these ancient heroes,

these men of renown,

you've read about them in the ancient mythologies.

Whoever they were, they're not part of this story.

They don't come from the cohabitation

of angels and humans.

And I think that's the correct interpretation.

But the problem is,

this has been a difficult text to interpret

and it has not always been interpreted correctly

down through the centuries.

And in the 3rd century B.C.

and the 2nd century B.C.,

they came to an incorrect interpretation.

They thought that the Nephilim were giants

who were produced by angels cohabiting with humans

and this got into the book of Enoch.

And Paul warns his readers against this

because he says in his letters to Timothy,

Don't argue over endless genealogies

and foolish myths.

This is a direct reference to the book of Enoch

which has a long genealogy of all the angels

until you finally come down to Satan

and then they blame all the evil in the world on Satan.

What they're trying to do is they're trying to

blame chaos and death

and evil in the world on angelic sin

instead of blaming it on human sin

and the Bible clearly puts the blame on humans.

Genesis 3 shows how sin came into the world.

How did we live in a world

that is troubled by chaos, by death,

by evil, by sin, by selfishness,

by all kinds of corruption.

That came about because God made a covenant

with the first humans and they broke that covenant.

They were fickle, they were disloyal,

they were unfaithful, they cheated on God

in the relationship

and they rebelled against Him.

And so when Jude quotes and refers to this material,

he's showing that it's,

the sin is in the world because of human rebellion

not because of angelic sin.

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