This is part 5 in a series of papers in which I exegete and commentate on the contents of what scholars call “The Primeval History Period” of The Bible (i.e Genesis 1-11). Because, at least some of these papers, are rather lengthy, I have included DropBox links to all of them so that visitors to this site can download them as PDFs and read them on their devices at their own leisure. To download the PDF for this paper, go here —-> https://www.dropbox.com/s/89t95phwv21zi0h/Genesis%206%20-%20The%20Nephillim_%20Descendents%20Of%20Cain%2C%20Neanderthals%2C%20Ancient%20Kings%2C%20Or%20Human-Angel%20Hybrids_.pdf?dl=0
Abstract: In this paper, I will argue that the most exegetically tenable interpretation of who The Nephilim were is that they were the giant hybrid offspring of fallen angelic beings known as The Watchers with human women. The Watchers descended onto Mount Hermon, took on corporeal form, and mated with human women in an attempt to mess up the bloodline of the “Seed Of Eve” who would crush the head of the nachash mentioned in Genesis 3. I will first lay out the biblical evidence for the view, and then examine the non-supernaturalistic approaches (The Sethite View, The Ancient Kings View, and The Neanderthal View) that Christians have adopted and show why they do not account for all of the evidence. Some of these proposals can account for some of the data, but not all of the data. Only The Quasi-Divine Being Theory can account for all of the facts.
“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 of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: 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 who were of old, the men of renown.” (ESV)
This text has fascinated Bible students for centuries. Who and what are the Nephillim? Who are these “Sons of God” who go into “The daughters of men” in order to produce them? And how is this in anyway related to the great deluge the rest of the passage and subsequent chapters narrate? There are 5 different interpretations of The Nephillim that scholars opt for: (1) The Sethite Interpretation, (2) The Neanderthal Interpretation, (3) The Ancient Kings Interpretation, and (4) The Angelic Hybrid interpretation. In this paper, I will show how that last alternative is the most likely to be true. It explains all of the data whereas the others fall short.
The Angelic Hybrid View
This is the view I think is true. This view says that the Nephilim are the result of illicit unions between angelic or divine beings who came to Earth, took on corporeal form, and mated with human women. Given that the physiology of these beings were similar, yet different from humans, their offsprings were giant freaks of nature, similar to how you get a mule if you breed a horse and a donkey. I will lay out the evidence supporting this view, and then when I’m done, I’ll examine alternative interpretations of the Nephillim to show how they fall short of explaining all of the evidence put forth in this subsection.
Evidence 1: The Phrase “Sons Of God” Are Most Often Applied To Divine Beings.
The phrase “sons of God” in the Hebrew text is bene ha elohim. This phrase is used 5 times in The Old Testament (6 if you include the correct translation of Deuteronomy 32:8).1 For example, in Job 1:6 we read, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” and in Job 2:1 “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.” In Job 38:4-7, we read “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (ESV)
Almost every interpreter agrees that the sons of God in these Job passages are angels or divine beings, members of Yahweh’s divine council. They are not mere humans. They are the heavenly hosts. This is especially obvious in the case of Job 38. Humans weren’t around when God laid the foundations of the earth (they didn’t come to be until day 6, when God’s act of creating was almost over),2 and plenty of Ancient Near Eastern evidence indicates that stars were considered gods by most of the ancient world.3 As Michael S. Heiser wrote “Astral religion and solar mythology were common in the ancient world. The notion that stars were animate divine beings was part of Israelite thinking. The stars had names (Psa 147:4), were created by God (Gen 1:16), were thought of as a divine army (Judg 5:20; Isa 40: 25– 26; Dan 8:10; Rev 12:1– 9). The idea persisted well into the New Testament era.”4 Therefore, that the morning stars and sons of God are used as interchangeable terms in Job 38 is very likely. The Sons of God who watched God laid the foundations of the earth were also the morning stars who sang in delight. These are angelic or divine beings.
Psalm 82:1–8 1 says “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.’ Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!”
Of this passage, Brian Godawa writes in his book When Giants Were Upon The Earth that “So from this text we see that God has a divine council that stands around him, and it consists of ‘gods’ who are judging rulers over the nations and are also called sons of the Most High (synonymous with ‘sons of God’). Because they have not ruled justly, God will bring them low in judgment and take the nations away from them. Sound familiar? It’s the same exact story as Deuteronomy 32:8-9 and Isaiah 24:21-22.
Isaiah 24:21–22 On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth. They will be gathered together as prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished.
One of the Dead Sea Scrolls written in the first century B.C. reinforces this ancient Jewish interpretation of Psalm 82 as punishment focused on the divine council of gods, with Satan as their chief, allotted judicial authority over the nations: ….The idea that the Bible should talk about existent gods other than Yahweh is certainly uncomfortable for absolute monotheists. But our received definitions of monotheism are more often than not determined by our cultural traditions, many of which originate in theological controversies of other eras that create the baggage of non-Biblical agendas.”5
Godawa goes on to say that “In light of this theological fear, some try to reinterpret this reference of gods or sons of God in Psalm 82 as a poetic expression of human judges or rulers on earth metaphorically taking the place of God, the ultimate judge, by determining justice in his likeness and image. But there are three big reasons why this cannot be so: First, the terminology in the passage contradicts the notion of human judges and fails to connect that term (“ sons of God”) to human beings anywhere else in the Bible; Second, the Bible elsewhere explicitly reveals a divine council or assembly of supernatural sons of God that are judges over geographical allotments of nations that is more consistent with this passage; Third, a heavenly divine council of supernatural sons of God is more consistent with the ancient Near Eastern (ANE) worldview of the Biblical times that Israel shared with her neighbors.”6
These “gods” are understood in The Bible to not be on the same level as Yahweh. As Michael Heiser says Michael Heiser writes “I know how difficult it was for me to understand that some cherished notions about the word G-O-D were actually misconceptions. One was an idea dealt with in the last chapter, that the false gods of the Bible were only idols. Another notion that didn’t conform to the reality of the text was that the word G-O-D is only a name, not just an “ordinary” noun. Because I thought G-O-D was exclusively the name of a personal being, and a unique being at that, I tended to assign the attributes of that being, Yahweh of Israel, to the three letters G-O-D. When I came to realize that there were other G-O-D-S in a heavenly council, it seemed (and that’s an important word) as though Yahweh was just one among equals. That bothered me. …. Yahweh is inherently distinct and superior to all other gods. Yahweh is an elohim (a god), but no other elohim (gods) are Yahweh. I’m not assuming that the last chapter answered all your questions about the divine council, though. I’m betting that many of you are like I was after first discovering what the inspired text really says—what the ancient worldview of Israel really assumed. You still may be stuck on the idea that there can only be one elohim since Yahweh is called elohim in so many places in the Bible. And if that’s not true, you might be asking, then what is an elohim?”7
Michael Heiser points out that the Hebrew word for God/god is elohim. And Heiser shows a variety of different usages of elohim which show that it did not always refer to Yahweh, the God of Israel. It was used to refer to
- Yahweh, the God of Israel (thousands of times— e.g., Gen 2:4– 5; Deut 4:35)
- The members of Yahweh’s council (Psa 82: 1, 6)
- Gods and goddesses of other nations (Judg 11:24; 1 Kgs 11: 33)
- Demons (Hebrew: shedim— Deut 32: 17) 3
- The deceased Samuel (1 Sam 28: 13)
- Angels or the Angel of Yahweh (Gen 35:7)8
The Hebrew term “elohim” seems to be synonymous with our English word “Spirit”. A Spirit is just an immaterial unembodied (or disembodied) mind. God is a spirit, but there are also evil spirits (demons), good spirits (angels), and many of us would say that diseased humans in the intermediate state are “spirits”. However, although there are many “spirits” there is only one omnipotent, omnscient, omnipresent, uncreated, morally perfect spirit (i.e God). The Hebrew word elohim seems to have been used in exactly the same way. Yahweh is an elohim and there are many other elohim, but there is only one omnipotent, omnscient, omnipresent, uncreated, morally perfect elohim (i.e Yahweh). Certainly, Yahweh, angels, demons, and even deceased humans would fall under the modern western definition of “Spirit”. They fall under the Ancient Hebrew definition “elohim”. There is only one Ultimate Supreme Elohim. There is only one Maximally Great Spirit. That is Yahweh (The Father, Son, and The Holy Spirit). All others are lesser elohim/gods/spirits.
In Psalm 82, we find that these elohim, these gods, are called “Sons of The Most High ” which is obviously interchangeable with “Sons of God”. After all, who is The Most High? God is! So those who are sons of God are sons of The Most High!
In conclusion then, in Deuteronomy 32:8, Job 1:6, Job 2:1, Job 38:7, and Psalm 82, the phrase “sons of God” refers to divine beings. This makes the interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 referring to divine beings plausible.
Evidence 2: 2 Peter 2 and Jude Interpret The Sin Of Genesis 6 as Being The Sin Of The Watchers In The Book Of Enoch.
2 Peter 2:4-10 says “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell (tartarus) and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;… then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.”
Jude 6-7 “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in gross immorality and pursued strange flesh, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
In verse 4 of Jude’s epistle, Jude depicts “wandering stars” as horny bad guys who deny God. This same description is in 1 Enoch 67:10 in the pseudepigraphical book of Enoch (1 Enoch to be precise). 1 Enoch speaks of angels who “debauch their bodies” and “deny the Lord.” The recurring motif of sexual immorality and rejection of authority (v. 8) are characteristic of the “angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode” (v. 6). But who are these angels? What is their “proper abode”? And what crime did they commit?. Richard Bauckham explains that “Jude’s reference is directly dependent on 1 Enoch 6– 19, which is the earliest extant account of the fall of the Watchers… and he shows himself closely familiar with those chapters.”9
Brian Godawa gives a helpful chart in his book “When Giants Were Upon The Earth” to show that not only does Jude 6 explicitly quote a 1 Enoch, but many themes found in 1 Enoch can be found in Jude. Below is the chart from Brian Godawa’s book.
Fig 1: Jude and 1 Enoch’s Literary Parallels.
2 Peter also shows an obvious dependence on the book of Enoch, as they use many of the same phrases. Both 2 Peter and Jude speak of sinning angels in the days of Noah who didn’t keep to their proper domain but sinned and were consequently bound in chains.
Now, why is showing the influence of 1 Enoch on Peter and Jude important in making the case for the quasi-divine view of the Nephilim? Because if Jude and Peter both understood the sin of the angels as the sin described in 1 Enoch, then we have overwhelming evidence that the sin these apostles were talking about were angels producing offspring with human women. This is because this is the interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 that 1 Enoch takes.
In 1 Enoch 7, we read “It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children. Then their leader Samyaza said to them; ‘I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise; And that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime.’ But they answered him and said; ‘We all swear; And bind ourselves by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intention, but execute our projected undertaking.’ Then they swore all together, and all bound themselves by mutual execrations. Their whole number was two hundred, who descended upon Ardis, which is the top of Mount Hermon. That mountain therefore was called Hermon, because they had sworn upon it, and bound themselves by mutual execrations. These are the names of their chiefs: Samyaza, who was their leader, Urakabarameel, Akibeel, Tamiel, Ramuel, Danel, Azkeel, Saraknyal, Asael Armers, Batraal, Anane, Zavebe, Samsaveel, Ertael, Turel, Yomyael, Arazyal. These were the prefects of the two hundred angels, and the remainder were all with them. Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees. And the women conceiving brought forth giants, whose stature was each three hundred cubits. These devoured all which the labour of men produced; until it became impossible to feed them; When they turned themselves against men, in order to devour them; And began to injure birds, beasts, reptiles, and fishes, to eat their flesh one after another, and to drink their blood. Then the earth reproved the unrighteous.”
Jude 14–15 says “It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying :’Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment on all and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” This is yet another citation of 1 Enoch, which says in 1 Enoch 1:9 “Behold, he comes with ten thousand saints to execute judgment upon all, and he will destroy all the ungodly and convict all flesh of all the deeds of their ungodliness that they have ungodly committed in an ungodly way, and of all the arrogant and hard words which sinners have spoken against him.”
Doctor Taylor Marshall says in his article “Angels having Relations with Humans within Jude and 2 Peter and 1 Enoch” that “It’s not only this direct quotation of 1 Enoch by Jude, but Jude (and 2 Peter) allude to the fantastical events of 1 Enoch, namely the sexual encounters of fallen angels with human women, which gives birth to the nephilim or ‘giants.’ The birth of the giants, according to 1 Enoch, is the reason for the Noah’s Flood.”10 Marshall goes on to say that his belief is also found in the book of Wisdom which says “And from the beginning also when the proud giants (γιγάντων) perished, the hope of the world fleeing to a vessel, which was governed by thy hand, left to the world seed of generation.” (Wisdom 14:6)
Marshall comments “The author of Wisdom clearly associates the flood to a divine genocide of the race of the giants (γιγάντων) to leave the world a “seed of generation.” (Saint Paul quotes from Wisdom about 7 times – so Saint Paul also likely hold this belief.)”11
On what basis should we deny that the event in Genesis 6:1-4 was, what I often like to jokingly call “Angelic hanky panky”? You may not believe 1 Enoch is inspired, but if you’re a Christian, you certainly believe (or at least should believe) that Peter’s and Jude’s epistles are divinely inspired. If Peter and Jude put their stamp of approval on the angelic-hybrid interpretation of the Nephlim, that means The Holy Spirit who inspired them put their stamp of approval on it as well, and that therefore means that the angelic-hybrid view is a correct reading of Genesis 6. That 1 Enoch takes the angelic-hybrid view of the pre-flood giants is indisputable. That The New Testament epistles of 2 Peter and Jude reference that angelic sin in 1 Enoch means the angelic-hybrid view carries the authority of holy writ.
Some try to deny that Peter and Jude got their info from Enoch, though their explanations are highly implausible. For example, some say that Peter and Jude were using a common source with Enoch. However, there is no evidence for such a common source. Moreover, if one is to be logically consistent, one would have to say that when Matthew 2:5-6 says “They told him,’In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”, Matthew isn’t necessarily quoting from the book of Michah, he could be quoting from a common source that both he and Michah drew upon. Such logic would render it impossible to say that the gospel authors are referring to the Old Testament to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. Or when Jesus cries out “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me!?” (Matthew 27:46), He isn’t necessarily quoting Psalm 22:1. Maybe he’s using a common source with the Psalmist.
Another tactic to try to deny 1 Enoch’s influence can be found in places such as Douglas Moo’s commentary on Jude. Moo wrote, “To be sure, Jude claims that Enoch ‘prophesied.’ But this word need not mean ‘wrote an inspired prophetic book’; it could well mean simply ‘uttered in this instance a prophecy.’”12
The problem though, is that once again you could apply the same logic whenever the New Testament authors quote the prophets. I’m pretty sure Moo would not want to say “To be sure, Matthew says ‘Isaiah prophesied’, but this word need not mean ‘wrote an inspired prophetic book’; it could well mean simply ‘uttered in this instance a prophecy’”
Also of note is the name of the realm that Peter says God sent the sinning angels to; Tartarus. Many English translations render 2 Peter 2:4’s word as “hell”, but that word is most often translated from Greek words like Gehenna or Hades, not Tartaroo. The Greek word Tartaroo does not appear anywhere else in the entire New Testament! Where did Peter get this word and why does he not use the familiar Hades or even the Hebrew Sheol? David Lyon Bartlett of Yale Divinity School Colombia Seminary explains that “This term was used in Greek mythology to describe ‘The lowest part of the underworld where the titans (giants) were kept in chains by the Greek gods for rebelling against them.”13 Briger A. Pearson’s study confirms that this is certainly the correct background for this passage because The reference to the angels being bound and chained in gloomy darkness occurs in conceptual and linguistic parallel in Hesiad’s description of the titans’ imprisonment.14
Fig 2. A Comparison of The New Testament, 1 Enoch, and Theogany 713-35, screenshot from Ben Stanhope’s YouTube video “The Nephillim Explained: Biblical Giants and The Book Of Enoch” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jrh0tHfKg4w&list=WL&index=40&t=0s
In Antiquities 3.1 the Jewish historian Josephus writes “For the tradition is, that these men did what the acts of those whom the Grecians call Giants.”
Evidence 3: The Nephilim Were Not Physiologically Normal.
If “the sons of God” and “the daughters of men” were both ordinary homo sapiens, then their offspring ought to also be ordinary homo sapiens, no different looking than any other human you might meet on an average day. Yet whenever The Bible mentions the Nephilim, it mentions them having unusual physiological features. One of those features being very tall, another feature is having extra digits.
For example, when Moses sent spies into the promised land to scout, the spies came back with this report “And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (Numbers 13:33). This is obviously hyperbole of course. The comparison of the Israelite spies to the Nephilim were obviously not literally like the comparison between a man and a grasshopper. It isn’t as though the Israelites spies could crawl in one of the Nephilim’s shoes. But, clearly the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, were very, very tall. The word is hyperbolic, but hyperbole always points to a severe situation, such as when someone says “This suitcase weighs a ton!” they mean to communicate that the suitcase is very heavy.
Perhaps the most famous giant in the entire Bible is Goliath; a soldier from the Philistine army. The short lived battle between him and the shepherd boy David is recorded in 1 Samuel 17. 1 Samuel 17:4-7 tells us that Goliath was a whopping 9 feet 9 inches tall (or 6 cubits and a span). His coat of mail alone weighed about 125 pounds, the weight of his spearhead was 15 pounds. This was a very large man! He would have made modern basketball players look up to see his face! 1 Chronicles 20:5 tells us that Goliath had a brother named Lahmi.
Joshua 11:21-22 says “Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained.”
If you study The Bible closely, you’ll see there were more giants around than just the Anakim. It seems as though Canaan had giants all over the place! They were called by different names depending on the location in which they dwelled. Those names were the Emim, Rephaim, Zamzummim, Horim, Avvim and possibly Caphtorim:
In Deuteronomy 2:10-11, 20-23 we read “(The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim… (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there— but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the LORD destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place as he did for the people of Esau, who live in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites before them and they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. As for the Avvim,who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and settled in their place.)”
In the Logos.com blog post “Goliath Isn’t The Only Giant In The Bible. Here’s Where They Came From”, Dr. Michael Heiser gives a short list of all the giant clans.
“There are several people groups described as giants or among whom giants lived in the Old Testament:
1: There are the Anakim, who are descendants from the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis 6:1–4 (compare Num 13:33), and whom the people of Israel encountered under Moses, and later under Joshua (Num 13:22–33; Josh 15:13–14).
2: At one time, before the children of Israel traveled through the Transjordan, the land to the east of the Jordan River was heavily populated with tall people known as Emim (Deut 2:10–11) and the Zamzummim, also called the Zuzim (Deut 2:20).
3: The Amorites, another group that stood in the way of Israel claiming the Promised Land, are described as being exceptionally tall (Amos 2:9–10).
4: Lastly, there were the Rephaim, which are mentioned nearly 20 times, most often in association with the conquest of the promised land, when Moses encountered King Og of Bashan, whose bed measured to 13 feet in length (Deut 2:11, 20–22; 3:11–13; Josh 12:4; 13:13).”15
If the clear cut biblical passages above about the descendants of Nephilim being giants aren’t enough, Ben Stanhope also argues that the very etymology of the term “Nephilim” supports gigantism. He says “The vast majority of academic dictionaries routinely explain this word as the mascuiline plural form of the Hebrew verb naphal (on other words, the ‘fallen ones’), but the linguist Michael Heiser has pointed out a problem for this view. The word Nephilim occurs three times in The Bible. In two of these cases a stem of numphalam for ‘to fall’ makes intuitive sense. But in Numbers 13:33, there’s a complication with this etymology. There, the word is spelled with an extra yod in its center. Biblical Hebrew had no symbols for vowels, so sometimes consonants that double as vowels like the letter Y could be used to clarify the presence of a vowel pronunciation in a spelling. In this variant spelling in Numbers 13, we see a scribal gloss indicating the base word of Nephilim was originally pronounced with a long E. This means that the word Nephilim cannot be derived from the verb like ‘to fall’ because verbal forms in Hebrew are never spelled this way. The masculine plural participle of naphal is patterned with a long O instead of an E. There is, however, an alternative route that does conform with the variant spelling. The Aramiac noun naphil. ….The Aramiac word naphil means ‘giant’.” 16
Stanhope goes on to say that this etymology is powerfully supported by the fact that Jewish texts from the intertestamental period routinely translate this word with the Greek word Gigantas.17
Fig 3. From Ben Stanhope’s video on The Nephilim.
How Do We Interpret The Biblical Data?
I’ve already made my view clear right from the outset. I believe the Nephilim are hybrids of angels or gods (lowercase g) who took on physical flesh, mated with human women, and this produced the Nephilim who were giants. This would explain why God saw the Nephilim as an abomination such that he would send a flood to get rid of them, it would explain why the Nephilim were not ordinary looking humans, and it accounts for what 2 Peter 2 and Jude 6-7 say about the angelic sin that occurred in Noah’s day. Now, before I go on to look at other interpretations that biblical scholars have advocated and show why they’re not tenable, let me first address some common objections to my view.
Objection 1: Angels Are Immaterial Spirits. How Can A Spirit Have Sex With A Biological Creature?
Some object that the very nature of angels prevents this view from being true. After all, angels are spirit beings and humans are biological mammals? How can angels impregnate human women? You can’t have sex with spirits! The problem with this objection is that it utterly ignores the fact that angels in The Bible are repeatedly described as taking on physical form. In his book Reversing Hermon, Dr. Michael S Heiser writes “For example, Genesis 18–19 is quite clear that Yahweh Himself and two other divine beings met with Abraham in physical flesh. They ate a meal together (Genesis 18:1–8). Genesis 19:10 informs us that the two angels had to physically grab Lot and pull him back into his house to avoid harm in Sodom, something that would be hard to do if the two beings were not truly physical. Another example is Genesis 32:22–31, where we read that Jacob wrestled with a “man” (32:24), whom the text also describes as elohim twice (32:30–31). Hosea 12:3–4 refers to this incident and describes the being who wrestled with Jacob as elohim and mal’ak (“angel”). This was a physical struggle, and one that left Jacob injured (32:31–32).”.18 Given these biblical examples of angels taking on physical form, we must conclude that it’s possible that they could take on a physical form for the purpose of reproduction. Given that we have some clear biblical examples of angels taking on physical humanoid form, any objection to the angel-hybrid theory based on the fact that angels are spirit beings won’t hold.
And I don’t think it’s at all implausible to suppose that any of the angels in Heiser’s biblical list could have had sex that resulted in a conceived child if they so chose. The angels in Heiser’s list were obedient, good, God fearing angels, so they would not have chosen to do that, but if Abraham was able to feed angels, it seems to me that they could have chosen to do that. Let me ask you this; if their stomachs were capable of digesting food, on what grounds would we suggest that their private parts would not work?
In a private message with someone on Facebook, someone objected that although angels can take on corporeal form, we have no reason to believe fallen angels can do so. All of the angelic examples of the Reversing Hermon quotation worked for God and were on God’s side. Perhaps this is an ability that God bestows on his heavenly host when He needs them to carry out a certain task. As such, perhaps fallen divine beings can’t take on the flesh needed to copulate with human women.
This objection is just an expression of personal incredulity. There is no where in The Bible that says that angels are incapable of becoming physical under their own power. Of course, angels have all of their abilities because of God (as do we all) for they wouldn’t even exist unless God created them (John 1:3), but there is not one biblical verse that indicates that angels cannot become physical anytime they please. If they can become physical anytime they please, there’s no reason to think that they wouldn’t retain this ability should they rebel against God, unless The Bible specifically said that God stripped this ability from them.
Objection 2: Matthew 22 Implies That Angels Cannot Have Sex
Matthew 22:23-33 says “The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.’
But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.”
In this passage, Jesus says that at the resurrection, humans will be like the angels in Heaven in that we neither marry nor be given into marriage. Angels don’t marry nor are given into marriage. Sex is clearly a part of the marital life, so if angels don’t get married, they can’t have sex (at least not without sinning). The problem with using this passage as a proof-text against the angelic-human hybrid view of the Nephilim is that Jesus didn’t say that angels could not have sex, simply that they do not. It’s not about what angels cannot do, it’s about what they do not do. Angels do not procreate for a very obvious reason; they cannot die. The entire purpose of the sex system is for animals to pass on their genes to future offspring so that the population doesn’t go extinct within a single generation. Resurrected humans will never die again.19 So since resurrected Christians nor angels can die, there’s no need for them to have sex and make more of themselves.20 Angels, being immortal, don’t need to eat in order to sustain themselves either. But Genesis 18 clearly has two angels and a theophanic Yahweh eating lunch with Abraham. That angels don’t normally engage in certain activities in their incorporeal state (because there is no need to), that cannot be used as an argument against what they’re capable of doing once switching to a corporeal state.
Objection 3: The Ancients Would Have Had No Concept Of Genetics. This Is Concordism And You’re Inconsistent.
Concordism is the hermeneutical framework that says that there’s hidden scientific content in The Bible. The human authors and original audience were not aware of this scientific concept, but The Holy Spirit knew of them, since He is God, God created the universe, and God is omniscient. So, for example, when The Bible speaks of God “stretching out the heavens”, condordists will point to that as a biblical description of the expansion of space. I have written elsewhere that I don’t think this is a valid approach to scripture, but I won’t rehearse those reasons here. See my paper “Genesis 1: Functional Origins, Temple Inaguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics” to see why I find this approach to scripture untenable.
The point here is that I’m being inconsistent. On the one hand, when it comes to passages like Genesis 1 and 2, I say “Interpret The Bible in light of its Ancient Near Eastern context. Don’t read our modern western concepts into this Ancient Near Eastern text.” but on the other hand, I’m arguing that the Nephilim are a genetic anomaly.
I don’t think I’m being inconsistent at all. It’s true that the author of Genesis would not have known about genetics, but you don’t need to understand DNA to figure out that if you cross different species, you get something unique. In the 19th century, which was before the discovery of DNA, Charles Darwin knew that if you bred two different kinds of dogs, you get a dog similar to but not like either.21 This is called “selective breeding”. He used selective breeding as an illustration for how natural selection worked in the wild, except in the case of selective breeding, human beings decided which traits were passed on whether than an animal’s natural circumstance. People knew that traits were passed down from parent to offspring long before the mechanics of how it all worked were discovered. So, it isn’t at all implausible to say that ancients knew that if you crossed a divine being and a human, you would get something freaky.
Besides, all of this ignores the fact that 1 Enoch explicitly says that the reason the Nephilim were giants is because they were the result of The Watchers mating with women. 1 Enoch was definitely written long before the discovery of DNA, and as I said above, the divinely inspired texts of 2 Peter 2 and Jude 7 put their stamp of approval on this Enochian interpretation of the Genesis 6 events. In a way, this objection is simply a red herring.
Objection 4: Sexual Desire Is A Biological Urge. How Did These Angels Get A Biological Urge?
As argued above, angelic beings are capable of becoming physical creatures. We have plenty of examples in The Old Testament. Perhaps at one point, God sent these angelic beings out on a mission to do something. Perhaps, having been embodied at the time of seeing human women, this was when they got hot and bothered and committed the transgression. If you believe 1 Enoch’s narrative of The Watchers descending on Mount Hermon -which is picked up in Brian Godawa’s novels The Chronicles Of The Nephilim – then this sin was premeditated. The Watchers descended from Mount Hermon having been sent out by God, but they wanted to be worshiped as gods themselves. Thus, they took on the personas of Ancient Near Eastern deities (e.g Anu and Inanna) and set up their own inspired myths and cults. They also had their way with any women they so chose. As we’ll see in my upcoming paper on Genesis 10 and 11, this whole idea of fallen Watchers inspiring pagan religions is not without a biblical basis, but whether or not they decided to do this even before the Tower of Babel event is fictitious speculation on Brian Godawa’s part.
In any case, 1 Enoch, whom the apostles Peter and Jude accept as authoritative, says that they did it because they found the women comely.
Initially, this cohabitation was done out of sheer lust as Genesis and 1 Enoch says. However, later on their motive changed. This is what Michael Heiser, Brian Godawa, and Ryan Pitterson call “The Cosmic War Of The Seed.” The Sons of God were trying to mess up the homo sapien lineage in an attempt to prevent the arrival of the Messiah. These three scholars, plus myself, argue that the fallen Sons of God, remembering the curse God puts upon the serpent that through Eve would come someone who would crush the Serpent’s head as well as everyone who followed him (see Genesis 3:16), they decided that they were going to poison the human bloodline to prevent that chosen seed from coming into the world. From the New Testament, we know that that chosen seed is Jesus the Messiah. Jesus conquered the serpent of Eden, also known as Satan, through his death on the cross and Resurrection. He conquered over the evil powers and he atone for all of our sins. We are no longer in the power of the evil gods thanks to Jesus’s atoning death and Resurrection. As Colossians 2:13-15 says “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (ESV)
Now, I’m not denying penal substitution here. I think Jesus’ death was certainly to suffer the punishment for our sins. After all, 1 Peter 3:18 says “For Christ also hath suffered once for sins — the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God — being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit.” (KJV) and Isaiah 53:5 says “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (NIV). Nevertheless, to say that the penal substitutionary element to Jesus’ crucifixion is the only spiritually significant aspect of it is, in my opinion, too shallow. There is certainly a Christus Victor element to it as well. Jesus’ death and resurrection is what was needed not only for God to not hold us accountable for our sins, but also to reclaim the nations from the gods (see Genesis 10-11 cf. Deuteronomy 32:8, and Psalm 82). There will be more on this gods-allotted-to-the-nations topic in a future paper in this series; namely the one about Genesis 10-11. However, I bring it up here because the events of Genesis 10-11, Deuteronomy 32:8, and Psalm 82 are closely related to the Nephilim incident.
Now that I have put forth the evidence for the angelic hybrid view of the Nephilim, let’s look at the alternatives and see if they can explain the biblical evidence as well (if not better) than the angelic hybrid view.
Alternative 1: The Sethite View
The Sethite Interpretation became the dominant view in the 4th century A.D. This view argues that the Sons of God in Genesis 6 are descendents from the godly line of Seth’s lineage; Eve’s son was born to her after Abel’s death in Genesis 4. The daughters of men, by contrast, are evil descendents from the ungodly line of Cain. God wanted to keep the pure line separate from the impure line, so when sons of God went into the daughters of men and bore children to them, the bloodlines were mixed.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia references the Sethite view as quote, “some commentators hold that by sons of God is to be understood as the pious race descended from Seth and by daughters of men, the daughters of worldly men. These commentators connect the passage with Genesis 4:25 where the race of Seth is characterized as the worshipers of Yahweh and is designated as a holy seed. “22
Genesis 4:25 says “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and called his name Seth: For God said she hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” (KJV)
This argument says that because Seth was the replacement child of Abel, as mentioned in Genesis 4:25, they were the worshipers of Yahweh. This is not accurate. The passage in question is Genesis 4:26 which states, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord,” (KJV) only says that around the time Seth was born, men began to call upon the name of The Lord. It doesn’t say anything about Seth or his sons and grandsons calling upon the name of The Lord (though they probably did). The idea that only people from Seth’s lineage began to call on the name of the Lord is read into the verse.
Moreover, in Genesis 6, Seth and Cain aren’t mentioned by name at all. The “sons of God” are not said to be of Seth’s lineage, and the passage calls the women “daughters of men (Adam in Hebrew)” rather than “Daughters of Cain”. That the men are from Seth’s lineage and the women are from Cain’s lineage must be read into the text, which is eisegesis, not exegesis. That’s something we don’t want to do.
Finally, as Michael Heiser wrote “A close reading of Genesis 6:1–4 makes it clear that a contrast is being created between two classes of individuals, one human and the other divine. When speaking of how humanity was multiplying on earth (v. 1), the text mentions only daughters (“daughters were born to them”). The point is not literally that every birth in the history of the earth after Cain and Abel resulted in a girl. Rather, the writer is setting up a contrast of two groups. The first group is human and female (the “daughters of humankind”). Verse 2 introduces the other group for the contrast: the sons of God. That group is not human, but divine.”23
Not only that, but it completely ignores 2 Peter 2 and Jude 7 which adopt 1 Enoch’s interpretation of the Genesis 6 event, and that event is clearly a mingling between divine beings and humans.
Alternative 2: Neanderthals
This interpretation is adopted by Gregg Davidson in his book Friend of Science, Friend of Faith. Davidson wrote “One might speculate further, given the genetic evidence we have today, if the Genesis story dates back to a period of overlap between humans and Neanderthals. This could have occurred if the date was several tens of thousands of years ago, or if a population of Neanderthals persisted beyond what we find, for even if a highly hybridized subpopulation existed at the same time as the first true humans. Neanderthals were not the brutish ape-men depicted in cartoons. Though of diminished cognitive potential relative to humans, neanderthals were nonetheless similar to humans in appearance and many behaviors. They lived in groups, fabricated tools, placed items related to daily life in the graves of their dead, and may have engaged in rudimentary art. Neanderthals were not taller than humans, but their bone structure was designed for a greater musculature and greater strength. Reproduction between humans and Neanderthals, now documented within the human genome, could have possibly produced individuals of admirable strength and prowess in hunting or in battle. It is also possible for hybrids to combine genes in a way that produces traits not found in either parent, a phenomenon known as heterosis. It is possible that some of these offspring could have had unusual stature as well as strength, giving people another reason to identify them by a special name.“24
The Neanderthal interpretation certainly has the advantage of explaining why their offspring with homosapiens were unusual. Their great strength could have been inherited from the Neanderthal side of the family, and their height could have been a result of heterosis. This view also recognizes that Genesis 6 presents a violation between a non-human lineage and a human lineage. However, there are too many issues with this interpretation to consider it tenable.
First of all, why in the world would God call these non-human hominids “sons of God”? That doesn’t make any sense. Also, this interpretation ignores the fact that 2 Peter and Jude say that the sin that occurred in the days of Noah was an angelic sin, sometimes explicitly quoting and at other times alluding to the book 1 Enoch. The New Testament tells us that the sin in Noah’s day was a sin committed by angels who abandoned their proper abode, not keeping to their own domain, and engaging in gross immorality. Thirdly, The Bible calls divine beings “Sons of God” several times in The Old Testament (Job 1:6, Job 2:1, Job 38:4-7, Psalm 82), making divine beings a more likely candidate. In the New Testament, Jesus is called The Son of God (e.g John 3:16), although The Bible is clear that He is the species-unique son of God, having the exact same essence as The Father (John 10:30). He is Yahweh, the Creator of absolutely everything that exists (John 1:1-3, Hebrews 1), an appropriate object of worship (Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38), and the God who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14 cf. John 8:58). The only non-divine beings ever called “sons of God” in The Bible are Christian human men (John 1:12) and Israel corporately (Exodus 4:22).
Alternative 3: The Ancient Kings View
This view is most plausible of the non-supernatural interpretations, but it too falls short of explanatory scope. Michael Jones of Inspiring Philosophy accepts this view and, in my opinion, he gives the strongest defense for it. Therefore, I will interact specifically with his arguments for it.
Jones explains that this view interprets “The Sons of God refer to earthly kings or tribal leaders who use their power and authority to begin practicing polygamy or the right of first night by taking as many as they chose.”25
Michael Jones bases his case on 4 lines of argument which he defines as follows
1: Immediate Context.
2: Surrounding Context.
3: Larger Context (themes in Genesis)
4: Cultural Parallels (Atrahasis and Eridu Genesis).
Regarding the first, Michael Jones says “First, nothing from the Hebrew Bible survived to the present, except for these four verses, it can hardly be argued that this passage refers to any sort of a union between women and divine beings. Just go with me for a minute and just look at what the text says by itself without thinking about it later authors might indicate. The text begins by telling us mankind began to multiply throughout the land, then it introduces another group called sons of God who had Daughters of men then and verse 3 God says ‘my spirit shall not abide in man forever for he is flesh’. Oddly enough God’s own statement tells us who causes anger it was men not men in Divine beings. Verse three indicates the two groups of verse 2 were two classes of humans. Verse one sets the context is a humankind producing Offspring and verse 3 indicates the problem arises from two classes of humans.”26
The problem with this argument is that it is clearly an argument from silence and it does not take into account the rest of the evidence. Obviously, if human beings were willingly having sex with Divine beings, they would be guilty of the sin of abandoning the natural created order and, as Jude says, engaging in sexual immorality and seeking after strange flesh. In this case, the human women would be seeking the strange flash of the angel. Moreover, it is clear that while the Nephilim incident was one reason that God sent the flood oh, it was not the only reason. General human depravity was also a motivating factor as Christians have traditionally believed. This is evident from verses 5 and 6 which say “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.'” (ESV) so, of course God would say that his Spirit would not strive with man forever. Human beings were just as guilty as the divine beings who left their proper abode as Jude 6 to 7 says. That God does not mention the Divine beings in his statement of who he will not strive with wherever is no indication that there is no one else that he is driving with it.
This is the same illogic that Young Earth Creationists employ in trying to argue that no one ever ate meat prior to the flood based on Genesis 1:29 which says “And God said to them, ‘ behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the Earth, and every tree with seed and its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the Earth, and to every bird of the heavens and do everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so.” (ESV) young Earth creationists argue from this passage that God does not mention 2 the humans and the animals that he has given them any sort of animals for food. He only mentions plant yielding seed and every tree with seed in its fruit. Young Earth creationist argue that there for everyone, human and animal alike, had a vegetarian diet. But, just like Jones’s argument from Genesis 6:3, the fact that God does not mention that he gave animals other animals to eat in Genesis 1 does not at all mean that he did not give animals other animals for food. You cannot make an argument on the basis of what you do not find in the text. To do so commits the logical fallacy known as the argument from Silence. Whether or not there was carnivorous activity before the fall, one would have to look at other evidence whether that be evidence in the Bible or scientific evidence. Likewise, whether or not those coming under God’s judgment in the great Deluge consist of more than human beings, one would have to look at more then just this passage.
Moreover, the term “sons of God” (“beney ha elohim” in Hebrew) almost always refers to Divine beings in the Old Testament. The usages of “Beney ha Elohim” which refer to Divine beings are to be found in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, Job 1:6, Job 38:7, and Psalm 82:6. This makes d likelihood that it also refers to Divine beings in Genesis 6 very likely. The only times in the Old Testament in which the term does not refer to a divine being is when it is referring to corporate Israel as in Exodus 4:22. In the New Testament, in the New Covenant, the phrase carries over to refer to human Christian men who become sons of God through adoption by the Holy Spirit as we see in John 1:12. However in the Old Testament 7 out of 10 times it refers to Divine or Angelic beings. Michael Jones acknowledges this fact in his video, but basically says “So what? It’s used to refer to human beings at times as well.” And cites 2 Samuel 7:14, Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 14:1; and Psalm 80:15. True enough, but I’m not going to hang the Quasi Divine or Angelic hybrid interpretation on a single title. I do use it as evidence, but only as one piece of evidence within a cumulative case.
Jones then writes “Outside of the Hebrew Scriptures it was common to refer to the King as a son of God. in the Ugaritic myth, King Keret is identified as son of El. In the ancient Gudea cylinder, the ruler of Judea is also referred to as a son of a god. So is possibly another Sumerian ruler. So calling ancient Kings ‘sons of God’ was an ancient cultural norm and given the immediate context of the passage there is nothing unusual here about the sons of God being ancient rulers who became corrupt by becoming polygamous. ‘As they took as their wives any they chose’ would indicate.”
But again, the case for the Angelic hybrid interpretation does not rest solely on the phrase “sons of God”. But, moreover, it is indeed the case that Pagan ancient Kings considered themselves to be offspring of deities, but nowhere else in the Bible is the term “sons of God” used in reference to such rulers unless you presuppose that Genesis 6 is an instance of that. I think it would be quite odd that Moses would sort of legitimize their divinized kingship by calling them sons of God. You would think that Moses would want to delegitimize their divine authority, especially considering that Moses just got done battling with a king, Pharaoh, who considered himself to be a god, and a god who could go toe-to-toe with Yahweh no less. This would be quite unusual given that in Genesis 1, many Scholars find anti-pagan god polemics. For example, instead of calling the Sun and Moon by their Hebrew names which were also the names of deities who were worshipped by those names, he simply calls them the greater light and the lesser light. And, he doesn’t even bother to mention them until Day 4 of the Genesis creation narrative. Why would Moses not also use non divine terms to delegitimize the divine nature of these ancient pagan kings? Perhaps Jones could argue that he used the phrase to alert his readers that kings who believed themselves to be divine were the identity of who he was talking about. However, Moses could have identified them without directly calling them “sons of God”. He could have said “Kings who believed themselves to be sons of God” or “Rulers who thought themselves to be gods” or something like that. I realize that Hebrew is a small language, but it wasn’t so small that Moses couldn’t have used different vocabulary.
Jones goes on to cite from Scholars Kenneth Matthews and John Walton who argue that the Nephilim might not be direct descendants of the sons of God, but simply a group that existed before the transgression of the sons of God and also after this sin began. While I have nothing but the utmost respect for professor John Walton, I think that he is utterly wrong here as is Michael Jones. This interpretation of the Nephilim makes the Nephilim utterly unconnected to the flood narrative in any way. Basically, it amounts to Moses saying ” the sons of God went into the daughters of men. By the way, there were these Mighty Warriors around. Now, because of the sin of the sons of God and the daughters of men, God is going to destroy the world.” Clearly, the presence of the Nephilim is not a random historical fact that Moses decided to throw in there because he found it to be an interesting factoid. There is clearly a connection between the sin of the sons of God and Daughters of men and the presence of the Nephilim. These two are connected as the vast majority of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Scholars agree.
Jones then goes on to say that even if Angelic hybrid proponents are correct in saying that the Nephilim are the direct offspring of the sons of God and Daughters of men, the problem is that the immediate context of the text defines what the Nephilim are for us. Jones underlines the part of the passage in his YouTube video that says “these were the Mighty Men who were of old, the men of the name.” The Hebrew word here is gibborim. So Jones is basically like, “Look! It says these are just men! Mighty men! Men of the name! They’re men, not half god/half human creatures.”
This is a very poor argument. Obviously, if the Quasi-Angel was an adult male of great strength and stature, we would expect them to be called “Mighty Men”. What other term would the author use to describe them? After all, on my view, they would be at least half human, so calling them men with any kind of prefix or suffix seems appropriate in my opinion. Moreover, by this reasoning, the reasoning that because the term Mighty Men is used, that therefore these are just regular human beings, then Michael Jones would be forced to say that the men who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18 were also just ordinary men, pure humans. This is because Genesis 18:2 says “and he lifted up his eyes and looked and low, three men stood by him, and when he saw them he ran to meet them from the tent door and cast himself toward the ground.” (KJV). The Hebrew word here translated as “men” is anasim.27 Although it is not the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 6, (gibborim). Nevertheless, I think that a similar argument could be employed. Anasim most often is used of ordinary men like we read in Genesis 12:20 and Genesis 13:8. So, if Jones is going to argue that gibborim, mighty men, means that the Nephilim were just regular human beings, then he would have to say that the men who went to visit Lot and saw them we’re not really angels and that is obviously not a valid interpretation.
Around 11 minutes into his video, Jones argues for the Ancient Divinized Kings interpretation by arguing that there’s a running theme in Genesis 4, 5, and 6; namely there are violence, polygamy, and pride in all three of these texts. I won’t dispute that violence and polygamy are found in Genesis 4, 5, and 6. But does this really invalidate the view that the sons of God were divine beings, and the nephilim quasi-divine beings? One of the arguments that Jones makes is “But also note as well Noah is contrasted with the unrighteous humans have his day as being a righteous man. We are reminded constantly of one of the features of Noah that he had one wife and his sons each only had one wife. In fact, between Genesis 6 and 8 we are told five times Noah only had one wife. It seems like overkill for a high-context society. The author seems to want to remind us the distinguishing feature of Noah is it he was monogamous.”28
I’ll be honest. I don’t know what to make of the repeated statement that Noah has only one wife. However, I’ll explain near the end of this subsection why this inability to explain this feature doesn’t make me doubt the angelic hybrid interpretation. However, while polygamy is a sin in The Bible, there are various instances of it even regarding biblical heroes, as Jones himself points out. Yet God did not seem to consider it so awful a sin that death was the punishment. In fact, almost everyone agrees that Polygamy was the norm in the Ancient Near East well after the time of the flood, and yet God lets these marriages go on. It doesn’t seem plausible to think that the reason God sent the flood upon the ancient world was that people were polygamous. Something far more serious was going on.
Michael Jones goes on to say “Another word of being a righteous man is to be monogamous it would make sense that he was contrasted with the prideful and lustful sons of God who took any of the daughters of men for why they chose, thus indicating they were polygamous like Lamech.”29
Another argument. Jones brings up is that the term describing Nimrod in Genesis 11 is also the same word that is ascribed to the Nephilim and that this indicates that they were just humans. However, Jones is presupposing that Nimrod is not a semi-divine person. In Brian Godawa’s novel Gilgamesh Immortal, he speculates that the Gilgamesh from the Epic of Gilgamesh was actually the biblical Nimrod and that the biblical authors called Gilgamesh by the name of nimrod because it was a jab against him. This is not at all an implausible hypothesis because as Godawa points out in his appendix to Gilgamesh Immortal, the Hebrew writers of the Bible frequently engaged in the renaming of enemies for political purposes. Baalzebal, the God of Ekron, is renamed Baalzebub, by the author of 1 Kings 1:2-6, which means the derogatory “Lord of the flies”.30 the wicked queen of Tyre, whose name Izebul meant “where is the Prince of Baal”? Was renamed by the Jews as Jezebel, which is a slurring word play on dung (2 Kings 9:37).31 In fact Genesis 11:9 even explains its polemical renaming of the city of Babylon (“gateway of the gods”) to Babel (“confusion of tongues”).
In Noah Primeval, Godawa tells the story that the Watchers implanted in Cush’s mother’s genetic code that would unfold into giants as the generations went on. But regardless of whether Godawa’s speculation on Gilgamesh and Nimrod have any basis in actual history, the Bible is clear that giants appeared After the flood. In fact, the land of Canaan was crawling with them. The Watchers may have gone into the human women After the flood just like they did before the flood. Regardless of how it happened, I am inclined to believe Nimrod was an god/human hybrid precisely because the gibborim label is applied to him.32
Overall, Michael Jones’ interpretation of the Nephilim is implausible, and the arguments that he uses to support it in his YouTube video are unpersuasive. It ultimately fails to account for all the evidence.
1: The Phrase “Sons Of God” Most Often Always Refers To Divine Beings.
Deuteronomy 32:8-9, Job 1:6, Job 38:7, and Psalm 82:6 clearly refer to divine beings. In fact, Jones agrees that these verses refer to divine beings. He says he accepts that because the immediate context of these verses show that. But he says the immediate context of the phrase in Genesis 6 does not show this. And he asks “Why should we import the meaning of these verses back into Genesis 6?” I’m certain Jones is aware of the hermeneutic rule of letting scripture interpret itself. However, the very fact that the phrase “sons of God” refers to divine beings in most Old Testament passages cannot, by itself, determine that that it what it means in Genesis 6. After all, there are exceptions, and as Jones says in the video, terms can change meaning between authors. Most proponents of the angelic-hybrid view simply bring up this point as a part of the cumulative case, not as a single conclusive argument. That “sons of God” is used to refer to divine beings in various other passages makes that meaning in Genesis 6:1-4 very plausible.
2: If These “Sons Of God” Were Ordinary Humans, Why Were Their Offspring Giants?
Numbers 13:33 – “[Before] the sons of Anak who came from the Nephilim….we seemed….like grasshoppers.”
Deuteronomy 2:20 – “The Zamzummim [were] as tall as the Anakim.”
Deuteronomy 2:10-11 – “The Emim… [were as] tall as the Anakim. Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim.”
Joshua 12:4-5 – “Og king of Bashan…was a remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bed was…nine cubits in length, and four cubits in breadth.”
Amos 2:9-10 – “[T]he Armorite[‘s]…height was like the height of the cedars.”
It makes little sense that ordinary human rulers would produce giant bloodlines. However, the gigantism adheres well with the view that they were fathered by divine beings.
In his video on the Nephilim, Michael Jones of Inspiring Philosophy argues Goliath’s recorded height at 9 feet (6 cubits and a span) is only in the Masoretic Text, and the Septuagint records Goliath’s height as four cubits and one span, and that in the latter, he was most likely 6’5 and given that the average height of the Israelite was 5’5, he would have towered over anyone.
So Goliath wasn’t unusually tall, he was just tallER than most of the Israelites, and ergo was most likely not a naphil. This is one of the few arguments in his video I don’t know how to respond to.
However, The Bible says his spear was like a weaver’s beam with a head that weighed 8lbs. What 6 or 6.5′ foot man could throw a spear the size of a weaver’s beam? And before someone says the weaver’s beams of that time weren’t as big as we would think, then why would the Bible specifically mention it?
Regarding Numbers 13:32-33, Jones says “So this passage is used to argue the word Nephilim means Giants and it connects the word to people of great height, but wait let’s stop for a minute and ask who’s giving his report. It doesn’t come from Moses, let alone God, but the ten Spies of Israel who didn’t want to initiate the conquest despite Joshua and Caleb saying they could conquer the land. That should be the first clue to tell us we are relying on the report of unreliable witnesses.”
In response to this argument, Heiser wrote a footnote in The Unseen Realm (p. 192):
“Some try to argue that the report of the spies was a lie or deliberate exaggeration motivated by fear. This is a poorly conceived idea, since it requires either ignoring all the other biblical references to giants (Anakim or otherwise) or considering them to be lies as well. It also requires removing the term nephilim from its context and ignoring the morphology of the word (see chapters 12–13). There is no sound exegetical support for this idea.”33
Moreover, Michael Heiser wrote a blog post giving a very detailed response to this argument called “All I Want For Christmas Is Another Flawed Nephilim Rebuttal”. In that blog post, Dr. Heiser explains that the Hebrew word translated “bad report” is “dib.bat”, and that the word is not used often in the Hebrew Bible. But, doctor Heiser gives a complete list of the occurrences. I will not rehash all of those instances in this paper, but I will take a look at a few of those. Before Heiser goes over the examples, he says that we need to ask ourselves two questions; (1) Does The Passage make sense if we presume dibbah refers to a falsehood, and (2) if reinterpret dibbah as untrue, does that conclusion produce theological coherence?
The first example he cites is Genesis 37:2 “These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph, being 17 years old, was pastoring the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.”
Heiser writes “This is the instance where the young Joseph gives an unfavorable report / assessment of his brother’s job performance intending the flocks of their father, Jacob. Are we to assume the report was false – that Joseph lied to Jacob? On what basis? I think not, namely because of Joseph Sterling character through the entirety of the Genesis story (Che 37-50, often under tremendous duress. It seems Unthinkable he just lie to get his brothers in trouble. On the other hand, it seems quite evident that his brothers were men of low character. They threw Joseph into a pit and then lied to their father about Joseph being killed after they’d sold him into slavery. It’s utterly incoherent to think that Joseph bad report was a misrepresentation of such men.”34
Psalm 31:13 is the next instance that Heiser brings up in his blog post. “For I hear the whispering of many – Terror on every side! – as the scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.”
Dr. Michael Heiser says that verse 13 has David concerned about Whispering / rumors (dibbah) he has heard – specifically about plotting against him that puts him In Harm’s Way. Dr. Heiser asks if we should believe David was paranoid and that there really were no such rumors. Or should we believe that the rumors were false? Hardly, Heiser says, for David spent much of his adult life fleeing from enemies and plots to kill him.35
Heiser shows that no instances where dibbah occurs unambiguously refers to falsehood. He shows that the vast majority of the time it clearly does not refer to some contrivance. He says that at other times it might be there is an equally viable reading to the contrary. So, this argument against the Nephilim encounter in Numbers 13 at face value is already under mine. But Heiser says that it gets worse for those who cling to it
Numbers 14:36-37 says that “And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land— the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the Lord.”
These two instances refer back to Numbers 13:32-33, the report that Jones says is a made up thing from unreliable witnesses. I think Jones would say that God is dishing out punishment on these dudes Numbers 14 for not telling the truth and scaring the living daylights out of the rest of the Israelites. However, let me ask you this question:
If the spies were not being truthful regarding Nephilim/Anakim, were Joshua and Caleb also lying? Of all the spies that went into the land, only these two guys were not punished by God (Numbers 14:38). Their report was true. Not once do Caleb and Joshua ever reprimand the other spies for lying. What they do instead is rebuke the faithlessness of their brothers in arms. But they never once said “Giant Nephilim? Were you in the same city that we were?”
So now we need to ask this question: did Joshua and Caleb consider the Anakim unusually tall?
I’m going to give a big ole yes to that question. Why? Because both men had traveled with Moses up through the Transjordan where the conquest began. Moses had written this about the Anakim—chronologically after to the Numbers 13 incident, and this demonstrates pretty evidently, I think, that the report was not false:
Deuteronomy 1:28 says “Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.’ ’”
What is my point? My point is that 40 years after the spies’ report in Numbers 13, Moses stated that they still had to have a smackdown with the Anakim. And how did Moses describe them? Read on …
Deuteronomy 2:9-11 – “And the LORD said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the people of Lot for a possession.’ (The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim.”
“the LORD said to me, ‘Today you are to cross the border of Moab at Ar. 19 And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the LORD destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place,”
1 “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’
What’s the takeaway point from all these references—that the Anakim were like the Rephaim and vice versa. Both people groups (if there’s a difference that extends beyond the names) were very tall.
What about the size of King Og’s bed? Well Jones says that this doesn’t tell us anything and even Heiser admits that the size of one’s bed doesn’t tell you how tall they are. True, but what Jones omits (probably inadvertently) is that while Heiser makes that caveat, he says in The Unseen Realm that the measurements telegraph an even more important to which the biblical writers wanted to tie Og, and to which, if you are aware of the significance of the Amorites, Og would want to be tied to. At any rate, it’s quite oversized.
3: 2 Peter and Jude
I thought that this section of Inspiring Philosophy’s video was the weakest. It was almost dismissive. He says that just because they quote from the book of Enoch doesn’t mean that they believed it was historical. They just wanted to make a theological point. But what reason does he have for saying this? He doesn’t give any reason other than saying that sometimes modern day preachers (e.g Tim Keller) will draw on fictional works in order to give an illustration, and that Jesus taught through parables. But modern day preachers can hardly be used to judge first century epistles. Not only that, but comparing Jesus’ parables to Jude’s use of Enoch is an apples to oranges comparison. It’s pretty obvious that Jesus doesn’t mean for his parables to be considered actual events. The text explicitly calls the “parables”. That’s how we know. But we have no indication that Peter and Jude did not consider the sin of the Watchers in 1 Enoch to not be historical. They may possibly have considered it inspired for all we know. We don’t know this for certain, but some of the early church fathers certainly considered 1 Enoch inspired and thought it should be included in the Old Testament canon. 36 Who’s to say Peter and Jude didn’t share that belief? IP’s rebuttal to this piece of the evidence is ad-hoc and question-begging.
I spent a disproportionate amount of time on this alternative because it is the most respectable of the non-supernatural alternatives and it has the best arguments in its favor, but at the end of the day, it fails to be as persuasive as the angelic-hybrid view.
We have seen that the angelic-hybrid view is the most likely interpretation of the Nephilim to be true. In summary, (1) The phrase “Sons Of God” is almost always used of divine beings in The Old Testament, albeit there are exceptions, (2) The Nephilim are giants, something expected of cross breeding humans and non-humans, (3) 2 Peter and Jude clearly rely on 1 Enoch for their information about the angelic sin that occurred in the days of Noah, meaning the Enochian interpretation carries the authority of holy writ. No interpretation except the angelic-hybrid view can explain all 3 of these pieces of evidence.
By the way, I didn’t even mention all of the evidence In support of angelic being view, such as the fact that it would explain why every single ancient culture has myths of demigods and mythical hybrids, that it would explain why the Flood was even necessary to even get animals in an ark, and that it would explain current phenomenon of witches and devils being said to be sexual partners, and the Apostle Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 11 for women to cover their heads “because of the angels” (the medical knowledge of the day held that the hair was part of the sexual procreation system).
In light of all of this evidence, why do people still resist the angelic-Hybrid view? I agree with Pastor Brandon Holthous who said in his sermon “The Sin of The Watchers (Part 1)” that the reason people want to cling to views like the Sethite interpretation, the Neanderthal interpretation, and The Ancient Divinized Kings interpretation is that the supernatural view is unpalatable to skeptics of Christianity. It’s unpalatable to those with an anti-supernatural view. They’re embarrassed by the supernatural view. It offends the modern naturalistic mindset. But we must let the text speak for itself. And by the text, I don’t just mean Genesis 6, I mean the entire Bible. So, for example, if Jude and Peter comment on Genesis 6, regardless of whether Moses thought angelic hanky panky was going on, the holy writ of The New Testament provides us with an authoritative commentary. All scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), so one part of God’s word can shed light on another.
1: “Most English Bibles do not read ‘according to the number of the sons of God’ in Deuteronomy 32:8. Rather, they read ‘according to the number of the sons of Israel.’ The difference derives from disagreements between manuscripts of the Old Testament. ‘Sons of God’ is the correct reading, as is now known from the Dead Sea Scrolls.” — Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 113). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
For a discussion of the Hebrew text and manuscript support for “sons of God,” see Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” Bibliotheca Sacra 158 (January-March 2001): 52– 74. The ESV and NRSV have incorporated the reading of the scrolls into the running translation. Other English translations leave it in a footnote.
2: Genesis 1 says that humans were created on Day 6. Although as I explain in my paper “Genesis 1: Functional Creation, Temple Inauguration, and Anti-Pagan Polemics”, — https://www.dropbox.com/s/447sx9azjp1v8q3/Genesis%201%20-%20Functional%20Creation%2C%20Temple%20Inaguration%2C%20and%20Anti-Pagan%20Polemics.pdf?dl=0 I don’t believe that this passage is about the material origins all things, but their divinely decreed functions.
3: See William Derham, “Astro-theology: or, A demonstration of the being and attributes of God, from a survey of the heavens,” printed by W. and J. Innys, 1721, Jan Irvin, Jordan Maxwell, Andrew Rutajit, “Astrotheology and Shamanism”, Book Tree, 2006, ISBN 978-1-58509-107-2. H. Niehr, “Host of Heaven,” Toorn, K. van der, Bob Becking, and Pieter Willem van der Horst. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible DDD. 2nd extensively rev. ed. Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999., 428-29; I. Zatelli, “Astrology and the Worship of the Stars in the Bible,” ZAW 103 (1991): 86-99.
4: Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible . Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
5: Godawa, Brian. When Giants Were Upon the Earth: The Watchers, the Nephilim, and the Biblical Cosmic War of the Seed (pp. 50-51). Embedded Pictures Publishing. Kindle Edition.
7: Michael S Heiser, “So What Exactly is an Elohim?”
chapter excerpted from Mike’s first draft of his next book” — http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/What%20is%20an%20Elohim.pdf
8: List taken from Michael Heiser’s book The Unseen Realm: Recovering The Supernatural Worldview Of The Bible, page 35
9: Bauckham, 2 Peter, Jude, 51.
10: “Angels having Relations with Humans within Jude and 2 Peter and 1 Enoch”
12: Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: 2 Peter and Jude (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996], 272-74.
13: David Bartlett, “The Second Letter of Peter,” in The New Interpreter’s Commentary: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, ed. Leander E. Keck, (Abington: Nashville, 1998), 347.
14: Briger A. Pearson, “A Reminiscence of Classical Myth at II Peter 2.4,” in The Emergence of the Christian Religion: Essays on Early Christianity (Harrisburg: Trinity Press, 1997), 75. Also, Jan N. Bremmer, “Remember the Titians,” in The Fall of the Angels, (Netherlands: Brill, 2004), 58.
15: “Goliath Isn’t the Only Giant in the Bible. Here’s Where They Came From.” —
Michael S. Heiser | Tue, July 18, 2017 | — https://blog.logos.com/2017/07/goliath-isnt-giant-bible-heres-came/
16: Ben Stanhope, “The Nephilim Explained: Biblical Giants and the Book of Enoch” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jrh0tHfKg4w&list=WL&index=40&t=0s
18: Michael S. Heiser. Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ (Kindle Locations 328-333). Defender Publishing. Kindle Edition.
19: See the GotQuestion.org article “How Will Our Resurrection Body Be Different From Our Current Body”? — https://www.gotquestions.org/resurrection-body.html
20: I’m sure readers will immediately ask “Wait a minute! Genesis 3 and Romans 5 say that humans couldn’t experience death until they sinned, yet in Genesis 1:28, God tells humans to be fruitful and multiply. If the purpose of sex is to keep a species from going extinct, why would God tell humans to engage in it?” Well, if you take the YEC and OEC view that Adam and Eve were the sole human beings alive at the time of the events of Genesis 1, 2 and 3, the answer is obvious: God wanted more than just 2 people in the world. Although as I explain in my paper “Genesis 2 & 3: Adam and Eve as Archetypes, Priests In The Garden, and The Fall” , there are good reasons to believe that there were humans outside the garden of Eden. These come from clues within the biblical text itself, but I’d be lying if I argued that population genetics didn’t bolster this conclusion (population genetics says that there was never a time in human history when the population had a smaller bottleneck than 10,000 individuals). If this is case, then the answer is less obvious. There would be a minimum of 10,000 individuals already. But obviously, 10,000 or even 50,000 human individuals isn’t enough to cover the entire planet. It’s not enough to “FILL the Earth.” However many humans there were when Adam and Eve arrived thousands of years ago, it evidently was not enough to populate the entire globe.
21: Darwin, C. R. . Questions About the Breeding of Animals. [London: Stewart & Murray printed]. Text Image Text & image F262
22: “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia” — https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802881602/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0802881602&linkCode=as2&tag=magic097-20&linkId=cd0a91a16263e30f506a605112748274
23: Michael S. Heiser, “Reversing Hermon: Enoch, The Watchers, And The Forgotten Mission Of Jesus Christ”, page 23, March 24th 2017, Defender.
24: Gregg Davidson, “Friend Of Science, Friend Of Faith: Listening To God In His Works and His Word”, 2020, Kregel Academic, page 98.
25: Inspiring Philosophy, “Genesis 6: The Nephilim” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inRjZ6ldUS4
28: Inspiring Philosophy, “Genesis 6: The Nephilim” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inRjZ6ldUS4
30: “Baalzebub,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. (ISBE) Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988.
31: Godawa, Brian. When Giants Were Upon the Earth: The Watchers, the Nephilim, and the Biblical Cosmic War of the Seed.
32: Although this isn’t conclusive, as gibborim doesn’t have to refer to god/human hybrid. That’s why I said I’m inclined to believe that, not that I absolutely do believe that.
33: Dr. Michael S. Heiser, “All I Want For Christmas Is Another Flawed Nephilim Rebuttal” — https://drmsh.com/want-christmas-another-flawed-nephilim-rebuttal/
36: SkyWatch TV, “Early Church Fathers That Wanted ENOCH Included In The Bible” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhW02FlYV7o