By Samuel M. Frost, Th. D.
And so it was that the man began to increase on the surface of the ground. Daughters were brought forth to the men. And the sons of God saw that the daughters of the man were good, and took the daughters out from all of them whoever they chose. And YHWH said, “My Spirit will not abide in Adam for an indefinite length of time, because he is mortal flesh. And so his days will be 120 years.” The mighty men were on the land in those days (and also after those days) when the sons of God were going into the daughters of the man, and the daughters bore children to the men; these mighty men who spanned a long age; men of the name.
The next toledoth begins in 6.9, which means that from 5.1-6.8 we have a book of the toledoth of man in the day God created man…he called their name, Man (Adam)…and Adam brought forth sons and daughters (5.1-4). Thus, standing as a heading of the toledoth from 5.1-6.8, “sons of Adam” and “daughters of Adam” are mentioned. Also, the singular nomenclature, Adam, is for the plural, “and he called them (Eve and Adam), Adam.” This hearkens to 1.27, with the plural/singular play between “them” and “him”. Eve is Adam (a human being), and Adam is Adam (a human being), and together they are Adam (human beings). Thus, when “the adam began to increase on the surface of the ground” what is meant is that Adam, with Eve, began to procreate, or “be fruitful.” The term, “began” must be coupled with 5.2, “when” God made Adam and Eve. 6.1, then, does not follow the events of chapters 4-5, but starts with the procreation of sons and daughters of Adam. It only follows when we get to Noah.
Adam was a son of God. Seth (a son of many sons) is “in the image” of Adam (5.3; to be compared with 1.27). If Adam is a “son of God”, then his sons are also, “sons of God” since they are “in his image and likeness” (see Luke 3.38).
Staying, then, within the context, there is no suggestion whatsoever of an alien, or supernatural host of beings (demons, angels, whatever). There is every linguistic reason, and contextual reason, for noting that the “sons of God” are the sons of “the Man” (ha-adam). Being “sons of the man” simply means they were sons begotten from Adam’s sexual relations with his wife, Eve, “the mother of all the living” (3.20). There is, also, an interesting way the Hebrew text deals with the birth of Cain, the firstborn son, and all other sons respectively in 4.1. ‘And she brought forth Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man…the LORD (YHWH).” The direct object marker comes before YHWH, but there is no verb. ‘I have gotten a man with the LORD” – “I have gotten a man by, though, of, with the LORD”. A son of God, one made in the image of “them”, in the image of God. A son of God’s help, or power. God’s Spirit will not abide “in Adam” (Adam and all his offspring, collectively) forever. Thus, with the birth of Cain, God’s Spirit has given to Eve “a man” who breathes the breath of life, too. If this is correct, then we have the fall of Adam, of course, but now we see the image of God in Adam’s lineage, sons of God, who breath God’s breath, who have God’s Spirit abiding in their mortal flesh, who are called, “sons of God”, and yet in powerful contrast, they think “evil in their hearts” (6.7). The very knowledge of evil which stems from their father’s transgression, and thus infusion of evil knowledge, instead of good knowledge. By projecting the title “sons of God” to some quasi, supernatural brood of “fallen angels” and “daughters of Eve” continually places the “blame” on women. Whereas, the text forces us to see that these are but men, who “see the good” in their own minds to take these daughters (in the beginning, their sisters), and procreate. The daughters are “good” (tov), whereas the sons are “evil” and on “evil thoughts”, corrupting the daughters in sin. Remember, the “man shall rule over” the woman, and this is exactly what we see here. We cannot ever divorce this toledoth from the transgression of Adam and all that follows.
We are not at all prepared in the text to understand that “fallen angels” (who are not even mentioned at this point) are somehow “procreating” with women. This, also, would violate “after their kind” in terms of God’s order. Deer and humans cannot procreate. Dogs cannot procreate with cats. Apple seed do not make cucumbers. Angels, “who are neither married, nor given in marriage” (they don’t procreate), if they could procreate, would only procreate with other angels, and beget more angels!
From a structural analysis, our point can be seen as well:
And so it was that the man began to increase on the surface of the ground.
Daughters were brought forth to the men.
And the sons of God saw that the daughters of the man were good.
Here we have a chiasm: The Man – A
Began to increase – B
Daughters – C
Men – D
Sons of God – D’
Daughters – C’
“saw that they were good (to mate with)” – B’
“of the Man” – A’
This shows us the literary structure, and thereby the interpretative meaning of the terms involved. In this overall context, there is no alarm to the term “sons of God” introduced here, and there would not have been any alarm to the original readers in Moses’ day. Adam and Eve, children of God, “got” children of (by) God, made in his image. Children wherein his Spirit dwelled, his breath breathed, and his life “kept alive” many of them for quite long periods of time (age, olam). It is one thing to have to contend with sinning and live for 80 years, and quite another to live 700 years of sin! I have committed a great deal of sin in my 55 years of life. I could not imagine living for 600 years of sin. The grief of God is further highlighted in the fact that he “made Adam” (6.6), not that fallen angels were procreating with them. God made Adam a son of God, who was commissioned to make more sons of God, who saw and thought “good” thoughts, rooted in “good” knowledge. These were meant to “live forever” on the surface of the ground (3.22, olam). Here, by contrast, God has to withdraw his breath so that they perish in the dust of the earth because of what their father, Adam, did. God was not grieved that he made Adam, but grieved that Adam, and his children, were all slaves of the sin that “crouched at the door” of their hearts (4.7). Noah’s deluge is an indictment of sinful man, not an indictment of God’s purpose of creating man – which finds an outlet in saving Noah. The message is clear, however: no one is righteous, no, not one. All are deserving of catastrophic death, as Adam was deserving the very day he ate. Yet, “where sin abounded, grace superabounded” (Romans 5.20). Noah “found grace” in the eyes of YHWH (6.8). Salvation – God’s purpose for Man – is by YHWH’s grace. “By faith, Noah…” (Hebrews 11.7); “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah…with his family…who were saved through the water” (1 Peter 3.20). Peter is reading the overall story here.
Continuing with the structural analysis, the term, Nephilim has caused some to infer that “special” kind of human is meant here, an “offspring” of the copulation of fallen angels with women. Nothing could be further from the truth. First, these Nephilim were on the earth then, and “after” the events of the flood. The flood did not “wipe them out”. To account for this, then, would mean that as Noah and his family survived, and began to procreate themselves into what we see in Genesis 10, the “Table of Nations”, Nephilim would continue to be “begotten.” These Nephilim are also, “great men”, and we find one mentioned in 10.8-9: Nimrod. In fact, “great men” is a common term used for those who did “mighty things.” It is clear that Nephilim is in parallel with “mighty men”. Who were some of these “mighty men”? One needs only to look at the list of names of men “who had sons and daughters” in Genesis 5. Men of “long age”, men of “name”, like Seth, Enoch, and Methuselah. Enoch “walked with YHWH and was no more”! That’s a mighty man, with a mighty name, who lived 375 years! Enoch was a Nephilim, a “son of God” who walked with YHWH. Noah lived 950 years. He was a Nephilim. Shem (which means, “name”) lived 500 years. A mighty son of God, with a mighty name, who lived a long time. A Nephilim. Genesis 11.11-ff., continues to tell us of mighty men, lengths of age and such. This is the parenthetical phrase, “and afterwards” in Genesis 6.4. It is of note that the length of years of the line of Japheth and Ham are not recorded, but are recorded for the line of the Name, Shem. There is no coincidence here. The Nephilim are natural children born to sons of God and daughters of Adam, a son of God, who made Man “male and female” in his image, he made “them.” It is entirely appropriate, then, to title “daughters of the man” as “daughters of God.” However, because of two theological points, the masculine is highlighted: 1. Adam was made first. 2. From the transgression, Man stands over the woman in terms of importance. Thus, Moses recognized the fact that daughters are also “made in the image of God” and are “daughters of God” (by inference in the text), yet, because of sin, the dominance of man. However, in spite of sin and transgression, the “seed of the woman” must bring forth a deliverer (3.15). It must be noted that “seed” is usually something “belonging to” the man, but in 3.15, it is the woman’s seed. Both the man, and the woman, have “seed”.
Finally, we may note the two expressions in 6.1, and in 6.4. “And were born to them”, where “to them” is masculine. The daughters were “born to the men”, the sons of God. In 6.1 the verb is passive, whereas in 6.4 it is active. In both instances, “to men” is in reference to “the man” – Adam, collectively. Again, this highlights that there is absolutely no interjection of thought of angelic procreation. This may be due to the fact that Moses’ surrounding culture did have such wild and fantastic stories, detailed in great lengths of narration. We find, here, two verses! Hardly a detailed account of such tales. Because of such severe brevity, against such wide anti-Mosaic mythology, it can be argued that Moses unhinges any thought of such fantasy to his readers. Men are men, and men are flesh who think evil thoughts in terms of evil knowledge that came from their (and ours) father, Adam. Sin crouches at the door of each person, and “desires them” so that it may “rule them” (Genesis 4.6-7). Sin causes the face to “fall” (naphal, the verb associated with nephil – fallen) because of “anger” and “resentment” to one’s own brother and neighbor. It is evil knowledge through sin that seeks to master the thoughts of man, causing his “fall”. If Cain “did good” (tov), if he did according to good knowledge, and good instruction (torah), he will rise. Many “fallen ones” (Nephilim) were mighty sons of God, like Enoch, who “lived long in the land”, and God “took him.” It is possible to master sin through good knowledge in torah with the Spirit of God abiding in a person, having his breath. The problem is: no one, completely, does. All die. All sin. Even Abel, Seth, and Enoch, and finally, Noah himself. Noah was a “seed” of Eve. Perhaps he is the one “who will give us rest from works and labor of our hands on earth, which Adonai has cursed” (Genesis 5.29). Maybe he will “bruise the head” of the serpent. Perhaps Noah’s son, Shem. The Name! Maybe Abraham, or his son, Isaac, is the chosen “seed”. These are all “sons” and “daughters” (Sarah, Ruth, Hannah) of God, filled with his Spirit, breathing his air, and walking in his knowledge and instruction. This is “the way” of Life, to eternal life, the life forfeited in the Beginning, but promised to come in the End, when “all the nations” shall worship the One True God on earth and in heaven.
Thus, with the overall narrative of the Scriptures, we can safely reject such fanciful mythologies that attempt to associate themselves with Genesis 6. They are long winded discussions about “angels”, and “supernatural things” that are nothing more than distractions used to deflect the gravity of sin and death. Rather than maintaining the focus on redemption, and the redemptive history of God’s purpose for man, Israel, and the nations, these interpretive approaches rather elaborate on fanciful speculations, hierarchies of levels and beings, wasting precious time.
By the method of forward reading, that is, reading from the beginning forward (start at chapter 1), we can remain within the context-narrative. Although “Nephilim”, and “sons of God” occur in much later books, we should be informed first of the immediate context, and not to later usages, or designations. Phrases and words do change over time (as time progresses forward), but this should not be a rule when considering first usage of a term or phrase.
4 thoughts on “Genesis 6 and the Nephilim”
Hey Sam, love ya Bro but we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one! Hope that’s OK? Have you read chapter 12 of The Unseen Realm, by Michael Heiser? If so, then there’s nothing I could possibly say to convince you otherwise on this topic. If you haven’t, I just wanted to pass it along. It’s hands down one of the best books ever written.
I am surprised as the dogmatic insistence of many on a mere two verses in Genesis 6. Heiser, of course, is not the only “scholar” on this issue. As for contemporary representatives, John Walton comes to mind. He is not “convinced”, either. For me, “sons” (human beings) of God echoes Gn 4.1, follows the narrative of a coming redeemer “seed” (a child of the woman), which Noah is seen as possibly the “comforter” from the “curse of the land”. Gn 6, then, is simply following this narrative, noting that the sons of Adam, sons of the God-Image Man, are also Images of God (Gn 9.6). Thus, since the story is couched between the Adamic children to Noah, the “mighty men” (Gn 5), of “long age”, who were before (Gn 5) and afterward (after the Flood), the narrative of the flood ends with this: Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God. The Hebrew has “ha adam was made in the image of God” – the same “ha adam” we find in Gen 6. The same “ha adam” we find in Gn 4., and 2-3. The sons of the ha adam, then, are the same sons of Elohim. Hence, to shed the blood of the Image of God Man demands their blood be shed. So, what do we have here? God “sheds” the blood of the Image-God-Man through flood; wipes them out because of their sins. He saves Noah, and earth’s population of God-Image-Man begins again. However, rather than one single execution of God, God now gives to Ha-Adam a “law”: “thou shalt not murder. The one who does, shall be killed.” Why introduce mutant babies here? Half demonic, half human mutants? What’s the point? How is this relevant to anything at all?
Dear Dr. Frost,
I just heard your Youtube Interview “Why I Left Preterism” interview today. As you know Calvin was a Preterist (though that term had not yet been coined). So ironically, you have fled Preterism yet cling to Calvin. So I wanted to send you some quotes by John Calvin and was wondering if you knew about them and if so have shared them with your readers and church? So if you could email me I will send them to you. Also, you might be interested in viewing a documentary on Dispensationalism that you address in your interview, that just aired by Dr. Andy Woods:
And this one that here just aired yesterday:
I look forward to your response!
Sincerely in Christ,
You would have to define “preterism” for me. Calvin was certainly not a Hyper, or Full Preterist, and would have condemned such as heresy.