All of the pastors that I’ve ever heard giving a sermon on Genesis chapter 6, started with Genesis 6:5. When I asked why they skipped the first four verses, I usually got one of three answers: (1) “they aren’t important to the story,” (2) “they are too complicated for the congregation to understand,” or (3) “I can’t talk about that subject in a mixed audience, especially with children present.” So, they were telling me that part of God’s word isn’t important, their congregation is not intelligent, or they are afraid to talk about sex. I think it is time to give Genesis 6, verses 1–4 some attention.
Genesis 6 begins by explaining God’s grief concerning humankind’s morally objectionable behavior, which leads to the judgement of the Great Flood and the account of Noah and his Ark. The explanation is a short introduction of the reason for destroying most of the animal and human life on earth and the need for starting over. It describes God’s creation, sort of, like the world (a computer program) becoming corrupted and needing some correction (reprogramming) before starting it over (rebooting). Noah and his family were the only godly people left at that time, so they would be utilized to restart the new world (version 2.0).
I’m not really suggesting that this whole human/God adventure is a computer program. I’m only employing an analogy to help in explaining what happened. I’m not implying that God made a mistake and needed to redo everything, either. I believe it was all part of his plan to show the need to live by God’s rules. Actually, I believe this education process is ongoing and will not end until the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Read all of Genesis 6 to get the full context of the story, but this treatise will study only these first four rather strange verses that most pastors and teachers pass over without much mention.
(verse 1)When humankind began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, (2)the sons of God saw that the daughters of humankind were beautiful. Thus they took wives for themselves from any they chose. (3)So the LORD said, “My spirit will not remain in humankind indefinitely, since they are mortal. They will remain for 120 more years.” (4)The Nephilim were on the earth in those days (and also after this) when the sons of God were having sexual relations with the daughters of humankind, who gave birth to their children. They were the mighty heroes of old, the famous men. (Genesis 6:1–4, NET)1
Who are the Sons of God? – Verses 1 & 2
The biblical commentators Adam Clarke2 and Matthew Henry3 considered that the “sons of God” were those human men following the true religion, but marrying unbelieving women. There are other analysts, too, that believe that it has to do with the Seth-Cain (good child-evil child) relationship, where good men from the Seth line marry evil women from the Cain line. Remember, in the Garden in Eden, Cain killed his brother Able, and Seth was the third son produced by Adam and Eve. Cain was banished for his sin, while Seth turned out to be a righteous man.
Another position, which we will cover in depth, is that these “sons of God” were fallen angels or supernatural beings. The “angel” view solves more interpretation problems than the “human marriage” view.4 Anyway, these “sons of God” were attracted to, and desired the women, so they just took what they wanted — not unlike some men’s attitudes today, which suggests those attitudes haven’t changed over the last six thousand years.
Why won’t God’s spirit remain? – Verse 3
So the Lord said, “My spirit will not remain in humankind indefinitely, since they are mortal. They will remain for 120 more years.” (Genesis 6:3)
This is a difficult verse, too. Was it the Holy Spirit or the spirit God breathed into Adam’s and Eve’s bodies at creation? After all, Adam and Eve may have still been alive when God spoke those words. And the reference to the 120 years has been interpreted by others to mean different ideas: man’s future longevity, the time remaining before the flood, or the time remaining before Adam’s and Eve’s death.5
Many scholars, in reference to the 120 years, feel that God was proclaiming a grace period between his announcement of a coming judgement and its actual arrival. This is reasonable because the placement of Genesis 6:1–4 is between the ancestry of Noah and the Great Flood; otherwise, these verses would seem to be positioned wrongly.6 Since it took Noah about seventy-five to 100 years to build the Ark, which fits in well if the proclamation arrived some years earlier. He would have had time to raise his three sons (see Genesis 5:32) to an age when they could help with its construction.7
Who were the Nephilim? – Verse 4
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days (and also after this) when the sons of God were having sexual relations with the daughters of humankind, who gave birth to their children. They were the mighty heroes of old, the famous men. (Genesis 6:4)
Generally, most researchers have the opinion that the Nephilim were just humans of greater than normal size and there are many books, both ancient and contemporary, devoted to this subject. Basically, giants are beings of human appearance, but of prodigious size and strength common in the mythology and legends (the heroes and famous men) of many different cultures.8 There are, in fact, fossil records of giant human-like footprints in rock, some even combined with ancient animal tracts, and there are extremely large human bones in some museums around the world. Besides these facts, conspiracy theories abound about caches of bones of giant humans concealed away at the Smithsonian Institution (administered by the United States government) and in other facilities around the world. Some Native American lore and European mythology contains reference to giant humans and there are 27 references to giants in the Holy Bible.9
Other than extra large humans, some academics believe the Nephilim to be the creatures created by sexual union between fallen angels and humans. “The word in the Hebrew is nephilim and comes from the verb naphal (‘fall’). Though some commentators suggest that the word means ‘those who fall upon’—that is, ‘attackers’—the more natural and probable meaning is ‘those who have fallen,’ probably a reference to the nature of their pseudoparents, the fallen angels.”10 My belief is that it was all of these ideas and more. They were giants in statue, power, and intelligence, created by angel-human sexual unions and producing aggressive hybrid creatures, in a sabotage effort by Satan—one he started in the Garden of Eden.
Could angels and humans really mate?
Until fairly recently, preaching the idea of fallen angels mating with earthly women was a mind-bending thought that the great majority of religious leaders didn’t want to tell their congregations about, least they would be considered insane, but the more recent evangelical preachers are beginning to contemplate this topic for discussion. It is by no means a new idea for it was discussed and supported over the millennia by such people as Josephus, Philo, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, and others,11 but over time preachers and educators didn’t want to teach truths that were hard to understand or explain. So these “fringe” concepts were hidden away or forbidden by church organizations.
“How could this be,” say some, “are not the angels sexless?” Well, it is true that Jesus did say “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30), but this is not equal to saying that angels are sexless. Since people who share in the resurrection will surely retain their own personal identity, including gender; the gender specific angels in human form, should also be assumed to have gender specific reproductive parts. If “elsewhere in the Bible angels appear in human form, dressed as men, eat, drink, walk, and are subject to being molested (Genesis 18:1,2,8; 19:1,5),”12 why would the performance of sexual acts be any different?
A repercussion from an angel-human union, if really physically possible, would be that the hybrid creature produced may have no possibility of salvation. Fallen humans have been granted that possibility, but fallen angels have not. On which side does the half-angel half-human lie? This raises the question of would God even have allowed this to happen?13
Dr. Henry Morris, author and president of the Institute for Creation Research, said, “there is a grave difficulty in the idea of angel-human sexual unions, not only the question of whether such a thing is possible, but even more in the theologically paradoxical and grotesque nature of the progeny of such unions.” He does, however, offer a resolution to this problem, indicating that it may not have been direct intercourse between male angels and human women. He suggests that, “all were possessed and controlled by evil spirits. That is, these fallen angelic ‘sons of God’ accomplished their purposes by something equivalent to demon possession, indwelling the bodies of human men, and then also taking (or ‘possessing’) the bodies of the women as well . . . Thus, the ‘sons of God’ controlled not only the men whose bodies they had acquired for their own exploitation, but also the women they took to themselves in this way, and then all the children they bore.”14
Whether by direct mating or by spirit possession, there is solid support in defense of this fallen angel interpretation. The Septuagint from the Codex Alexandrinus text reads “angels of God” (instead of “sons of God”) and the offspring of the sexual union with human women produce the Nephilim, or giants, or mighty men of renown. It was this sinful sexual union that prompts God to judge the world and execute all life by flood.15 According to the Lexham Bible Dictionary, “sons of God” are angels or members of a heavenly host of beings and may be members of the divine council (Psalms 82:1; 89:5-7) and may be related to the Nephilim and the Rephaim.16
Other Supporting Evidence
The Book of Enoch is an ancient Jewish religious work, ascribed by tradition to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from Beta Israel, but is considered canonical by two Oriental Orthodox Christian Churches.17 A translation of this pseudepigraphical book, by R. H. Charles, describes the fall of the angels as follows.
And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: “Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.” And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them: “I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.” And they all answered him and said: “Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.” Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it (Enoch 6:1-6).18
The Book of Jubilees, sometimes called Lesser Genesis (Leptogenesis), is an ancient Jewish religious work of 50 chapters, considered canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as well as Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews), and is considered one of the pseudepigrapha by Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Churches.19 The Book of Jubilees, states the following.
And it came to pass when the children of men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them, that the angels of God saw them on a certain year of this jubilee, that they were beautiful to look upon; and they took themselves wives of all whom they chose, and they bare unto them sons and they were giants.
And lawlessness increased on the earth and all flesh corrupted its way, alike men and cattle and beasts and birds and everything that walks on the earth – all of them corrupted their ways and their orders, and they began to devour each other, and lawlessness increased on the earth and every imagination of the thoughts of all men (was) thus evil continually.
And God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt, and all flesh had corrupted its orders, and all that were upon the earth had wrought all manner of evil before His eyes (Jubilees 5:1-3).20
This suggestion that even animals were corrupt would explain why animal life was destroyed along with the humans during the Great Flood. Could it be that it was one of Noah’s jobs to find two of each uncorrupted animal types to bring aboard the Ark? Were the mythological man-animal creatures (e.g., centaurs, etc.) of ancient times real? Were the fallen angels corrupting the DNA of all life on earth?
Theologian Ethelbert William Bullinger (1837-1913), had this to say: “It is only by the Divine specific act of creation that any created being can be called ‘a son of God’ . . . This is why angels are called ‘sons of God’ in every other place where the expression is used in the Old Testament (Job 1.6; 2.1; 38.7; Ps. 29.1; 89.6; Dan. 3.25) . . . We have no authority or right to take the expression in Gen. 6.4 in any other sense. Moreover in Gen. 6.2 the Sept[uagint] renders it ‘angels’.”21
“The evidence that ‘the sons of God’ mentioned in Genesis 6 are fallen angels is substantial. By their sexual immorality, these angels produced offspring which were strong and violent. The concept of a race of giants which resulted from the union of gods and humans is virtually universal in the world’s early civilizations.”22
The lesson learned from this Bible study treatise is extremely important to you and me and all the people of earth, because Jesus said: “For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37–39).
Let me leave you with an interesting thought. Could what Jesus said be a reference, not just to the increased wickedness in the world, but also to such things as cloning, genetic engineering, gene splicing, artificial creation of superhuman hybrids, and much more? This meddling into God’s creations is going on in scientific and secret laboratories around the world, today. Are today’s scientists learning and applying the knowledge and technology of angels, and using it for evil just as the fallen angels did in the ancient days of Noah?
Copyright © 2018 Dr. Ray Hermann
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References & Notes
- Unless otherwise noted, scripture is from the NET Bible, copyright ©2005 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. (New English Translation Bible). Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- “Adam Clarke Commentary: Genesis 6,” (Studylight.org, retrieved 30 November 2018), https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/genesis-6.html
- Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), vol. 1, pp. 41-42.
- Van Gemeren, Willem A., “The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4,” (Westminster Theological Journal, p. 346, [American Theological Library Association Site, ATLAS], retrieved 5 December 2018), http://www.godawa.com/chronicles_of_the_nephilim/Articles_By_Others/Van%20Gemeren%20-%20The%20Sons%20of%20God%20in%20Gen%206.1-4-Evangelical%20Demythologization.pdf
- Morris, Henry M., The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1976), p. 170.
- Kelley, Jack, “Man’s Lifespan – Gen. 6:3 vs. Psalm 90:10,” (Grace thru Faith, 25 March 2014), https://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/mans-lifespan-gen-63-vs-psalm-9010/
- “How Long Did It Take Noah To Build the Ark?” (Noah’s Ark: Beyond Flannelgraph, retrieved 5 December 2018), https://beyondflannelgraph.wordpress.com/before-the-flood/how-long-did-it-take-noah-to-build-the-ark/
- “Giant,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 28 November 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant
- “Giants,” (OpenBible.info, retrieved 3 December 2018), https://www.openbible.info/topics/giants
- Morris, Henry M., The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1976), p. 172.
- Huie, Bryan T., “The Sons of God,” (Scribd, 26 December 1996), p. 1. https://www.scribd.com/document/183280155/Sons-of-God
- Van Gemeren, Willem A., “The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4,” (Westminster Theological Journal, p. 346, [American Theological Library Association Site], retrieved 5 December 2018), http://www.godawa.com/chronicles_of_the_nephilim/Articles_By_Others/Van%20Gemeren%20-%20The%20Sons%20of%20God%20in%20Gen%206.1-4-Evangelical%20Demythologization.pdf
- Morris, Henry M., The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1976), pp. 168-169.
- Brand, Chad, et al., (eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2003), p. 1520.
- Barry, John D., (ed.) “Sons of God,” Lexham Bible Dictionary, (Bellingham WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
Note: It is difficult to identify whether the Rephaim were humans (living or dead), quasi-divine figures, or disembodied spirits. Old Testament usage associates the term with all these possibilities (Michael Heiser). [Some believe they are descendants of the Nephilim.]
- “Book of Enoch,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 29 November 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Enoch
- Charles, R. H. and Oesterley, W. O. E., The Book of Enoch, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1917), 1 Enoch 6:1–6.
- Book of Jubilees,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 16 November 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Jubilees
- Charles, R. H., The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), Book of Jubilees.
- Huie, Bryan T., “The Sons of God,” (Scribd, 26 December 1996), p. 4-5. https://www.scribd.com/document/183280155/Sons-of-God
- Ibid., p. 8.