Q. Are the "nephilim" mentioned in Genesis 6 the offspring of angels and men?
The most asked question I receive via email!
Genesis 6:1-4 (NAS95)
1* Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them,
2 that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.
3* Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."
4* The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
1) The Hebrew word for "sons of God" is "bane-elohim"; it is found in only 5 places in the Old Testament:
Genesis 6:2, 4
Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.
Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
According to Hebrew scholars 'bane-elohim"' means angels in each of these passages.
2) The traditional Jewish/rabbinical understanding of this passage is that it is a reference to angels.
3) The argument is that angels can't marry (from Matthew 22). But "in heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage." The OT clearly demonstrates that when on earth angels do earthly things (walk, eat, etc.)
Another passage we must consider is:
4) Jude 5 – 7
5* Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. 6* And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7* just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
Jude 6 refers to sinning angels.
Jude 7 speaks of the SEXUAL IMMORALITY of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The little clause "in like manner" (KJV), "in a similar way" (NIV), "which likewise" (RSV), "they, in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh…" (NAS95), must be understood in it's proper context.
Most credible scholars believe that Jude is referring to some event in which angels, in the same way as Sodom, went after strange flesh in a sexually immoral way. It seems likely that the context of Jude 6 considers the context of Genesis 6.
6) Genesis 6:4 indicates that the offspring of this union were "mighty men." Again the Jewish interpretation explains that the angels fathered the 'goliaths' of the ancient world.
I know this sounds almost mythological, but this is the position of the Hebrew scholars.
The conservative position is this:
The phrase: "sons of God" should be understood as referring to the posterity of Seth, who from the times of Enos, were called by the name of the Lord, (Gen. 4:25) and had the title of the sons of God, in distinction from the children of men.
Those in the line of Seth claimed the privilege of divine adoption, and professed to be born of God, and partakers of his grace, and claimed to worship him according to his will, so far as revealed to them, and to fear and serve and glorify him.
According to the Arabic writers, immediately after the death of Adam the family of Seth was separated from the family of Cain; Seth took his sons and their wives to a high mountain (Hermon), on the top of which Adam was buried, and Cain and all his sons lived in the valley beneath, where Abel was slain; and they on the mountain obtained a name for holiness and purity, and were so near the angels that they could hear their voices and join their hymns with them; and they, their wives and their children, went by the common name of the sons of God: