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That's a Good Question

Mystery of the Nephilim: Decoding the Giants of Genesis

May 21, 2024

Jon Delger


Cheyenne Werner

So Hey everyone, welcome to That's a Good Question, a podcast of Peace Church and a part of Resound Media. You can find more great content for the Christian life and church leaders at That's a Good Question is a place where we answer questions about the Christian faith in plain language.

I'm Jon, I get to serve as a pastor as well as a part of this show. You can always submit questions to slash questions. And today I am here with Pastor Mitch.

And today I am here with Pastor Mitchell, as well as Cheyenne. Hello.

Cheyenne is our women's ministry director at Peace Church, does an awesome job of teaching and leading there and excited for the three of us to get to have a conversation about a hot topic. So at Peace Church, we've been doing a series called the church never preaches on, we're just wrapping that up. And we've done six sessions where our church picked six topics that they wanted to hear

about that the church rarely preaches on, at least from their perspective. And this one just about made it into the list, but didn't quite make it into the list. And so we're going to talk about it here today for this episode. It is the topic of the Nephilim. God bless you. Just kidding.

I know what we're talking about. That was good. That was good. It does kind of sound like that.

If you're not familiar with this topic, I'm going to read the text that it's from.

It's from Genesis chapter 6, but people have very varying perspectives on what the Nephilim are, what this passage is talking about. Is it angels? Is it demons? Is it humans? Is it something else?

So, I'll read the passage, and then we'll get into it. Here we go.

Genesis 6, starting at the beginning. 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 a hundred and twenty years. The Nephilim were on the face of the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown."

There it is. So I think Nephilim is an idea, but really the question isn't about Nephilim, it's about

who are the sons of God, right? That is true. Yeah, usually the question is, like the questions that came in to us were about who are the Nephilim, but you're right. You're right. The real textual question is who are the sons of God.

Yeah, because there are three major ways to view this, right? The first and maybe the most controversial, but also maybe the oldest, is that the sons of God were angels. The second would be that they're from the line of Seth, and the third is that they are kings or royalty around this time.

What about superheroes?

Is that one of the...

Superman, Batman, Spider-Man?

Yeah, that wasn't any of the ones I saw from any theologians I read.


Just checking.

Yeah. Mighty Men, Men of Renown, it does sound superhero-ish.


If you ask the History Channel, maybe they're the ancient aliens, who knows?

Oh, I saw that one! No, no, no, no!

That's a real... That's a real one. That's a real one. I mean, I don't know how serious it is, but it's a real one. All right, so lay one of these perspectives out for us. So one of the views is that they are the angels.

It comes from the Book of Enoch, which is a book outside of the canon. It's a book that we would not say is scripture. And the idea is that they—it spells it out in the Book of Enoch. Also then, the argument is built on that 2 Peter and Jude accept the story of the book of Enoch, and that 2 Peter mentions that God did not spare angels when they sinned. Jude, verses 6 and 7, refer to angels who did not keep their own domain but left their proper abode, similar to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. And then we also see the use of the term sons of God referring to angels, particularly in Job, and then also this idea of the mighty men being in Psalms, the same Hebrew word in Psalms 29, 1, and then in Psalm 89, verse 7. Okay, I have a question. In Job, when it refers to angels and sons of God, is it angels or fallen angels that it's referring to?

I'm just, do you know?

I'm just trying to stitch together some big questions.

It is a good question. Off the top of my head, I think we don't necessarily know because I think it's talking about the whole heavenly host. Because you got, I mean, your first glance would think that it's just angels, but then you got Satan is among them. Yeah. And he speaks up, and that's how we get into the story of Job. Job 1 verse 6 says, Now there was a day when the sons of man came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them."

And so it seems...

The sons of man?

The sons of God. Oh, okay. Did I say sons of man? Okay.

It's the sons of God. Okay, so we don't know...

Yeah, so that's a big one that I hear, is that that's why people say in Genesis 6 the sons of God is angelic beings, because of what Job says. Yeah. Challenges to this would be the idea that angels having sexual relations is not part of any sort of Hebrew thought and it is not part of any there there aren't any parallels in scripture that back that up. So why would people feel passionately that this is that this is about angels about fallen angels? That might be the greatest that's a good question that I've ever had on this podcast.

I don't know.

That is a good question.

Yeah. So what motivates people? So yeah, this is the major perspective. I think if you're going to...

Yeah, what's important to them?

Like, why is it important to them?

Yeah. I think if you look up this topic on YouTube or on the internet, the major view you're going to find is people saying that this is fallen angels that somehow or another came onto the earth and had relations with human women and produced offspring. Now, honestly, actually, that's one of the questions I have is about how exactly that works, because I think you actually have to make a couple of jumps in the text to make that work, because it says that the son of God came down. You know, so it describes, so if you say that that's angelic beings, you kind of have to make another jump and jump to, and that's what some people do, is they say those angelic beings, actually demons, fallen angels, came and possessed human bodies and then had relations with women. So they had to kind of add that step in there in order to make it make sense, I think, biologically or whatever phrase we would use to describe that.

But to your question, why do they want to talk about that? My guess is that they want to be able to talk about the spiritual forces at work in our world. And that's right because they're absolutely spiritual forces at work in our world. There are angels, there are demons, those things are totally real. Spiritual warfare is a real thing. Those things are absolutely at work in the world.

Where we're going to land at the end, I'm going to say, I don't think you need to interpret this passage that way in order to say that.

I think one of the things that you can focus on when you're reading this, and for me, it feels like you get kind of tripped up. It says the Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and so it seems like, oh, on the earth, as opposed to maybe they weren't on the earth before. And so maybe that phrase feels a little sticky, but I wonder if what it's actually the emphasis of that to be is the in those days and also afterward because numbers, numbers 33? I could be wrong. Yeah, I think it's 13.

13? I think there's a three in there. Talks about the Nephilim and that when the spies entered Canaan for the first time, they reported back and said that there were giants, there were Nephilim in the land. And so we're about to see that that mankind's gonna be wiped out by a flood, right? But here we see that the nephilim... Is this the same nephilim? I guess maybe that's my question is how did the Israelites interpret it?

We'll be right back after this break. Hi, I'm Elizabeth, one of the co-hosts of MomGuilt, a podcast with new episodes every Monday. Mom Guilt is a podcast about the daily struggles of motherhood. Stephanie and I share real experiences of Mom Guilt and how we have found freedom from that guilt through the gospel. Listen to us on or wherever you find podcasts.

Yeah, the most common understanding is that this was a metaphorical use of, in Leviticus, it was a, or in Numbers, sorry, it was a metaphorical use of that term Nephilim to refer to them as these giant people. Yeah.

And not a literal Nephilim.

Yeah, okay.


I think even going back towards, you know, talking about Genesis 6, reading this in context, I think is also really important. Like, what is the point of Genesis 6? Genesis 6, 1 through 4, and Genesis 6 right before the flood. The point is that mankind has fallen, right? And so it would be weird if this indictment against mankind also included these other It seems most consistent to think this is also part of mankind, that these Nephilim, whoever they are, are humans, and that's why they're included.

I think that fits too with Imago Dei, you know, that we humans are created in the image of God versus angels or fallen angels who are not, that we have been set apart in that way. But I like what, I mean, yeah, exactly what you're saying, the whole context of Genesis, we have God creates mankind in his own image. Mankind falls, they rebel against God, and God gives this promise to Eve, to the serpent, to Adam, and one of those promises is that the offspring of the woman would be the Messiah, would crush the snake, right? And so even like going from there, you see she has her sons Cain and Abel. Cain kills Abel. She had been thinking that one of her sons might be that offspring.

And so she even said...

I'd kill Cain if I were Abel.

Oh boy, were you waiting for that?

Were you getting excited for that as I'm talking about this?

As a pastor, that's one of my favorite Bible jokes.

I have not heard it before, so well done. I will remember that. But she even calls Cain, I have gotten a man. So she's thinking like, oh, shoo, now the curse can be reversed.


Jon, are you still chuckling to yourself?

I'll try not to. I don't get to use that very often.

Oh man. So Cain's no good, Abel's dead, and then she has another son, Seth. And Seth, she said, God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him. And then you go into the, well you have two, you basically have two genealogies, right? Who loves to read genealogies? Does anybody love to read genealogies? I actually love... Do you? In Genesis I think it's beautiful, but I'm a nerd so that makes sense. Yeah, okay I kind of do too. Not all of them, but in Genesis I think that there's something here for us. I think that there's something here for us. So in Genesis 4 you see the genealogy of Cain and it's not looking great. It ends on Lamech, who takes two wives, not good, and is very violent and says, if Cain's revenge is sevenfold, Lamech's is 70-fold. You know, this is not...

Bragging about murder.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is not a good dude. And then right after that, you have the line of Seth. Yeah. And it says that in those days, people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

So Seth is contrasted to Cain and then in Seth's, it's even interesting in Seth's genealogy. Sorry guys, that I'm going on so long about genealogies, but hopefully there can be something here that I think this is interesting.

It talks about like, so and so fathered so and so he had sons and daughters and he died and so and so and it goes on this and he died and he died and he died. John, you're like waiting for the, like, where does this, where is she going with this? Right?

Here's where I'm going with this.

It's like that offspring still hasn't come. They still died. And in fact, it's gotten so bad now that we are in a dark and desperate place because 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 really like the Snephilim, right, is I think I see it as the genealogies are pointing to this desperate place of intermarriage of the sons of God and the daughters of men and forgetting who God is and forgetting how God created and the need for God to step in about it. Yeah, to chase that even further, you know, the idea of genealogies, I think that the entire book of Genesis, if you think about what kind of genre it is, it's obviously historical narrative, but the more specific would be it's a genealogy of the line of this woman. And then we see the rest of the Old Testament getting ready for the coming of Jesus, who was the person who would crush the head of the snake, which is beautiful. Yeah. So all that is really important context for Genesis 6.

So like you guys are saying, there's this big genealogy leading up to it, and then what happens immediately afterwards is the whole earth is destroyed by a flood. Yeah. So in a lot of ways we could say I think the point of the beginning of Genesis 6 is to say that this is this is like the last thing the predication before the flood. Yeah. This is what happens. So can I give one more smoking gun as to why I think that this is clearly not angels. Oh so you're gonna give away already we're out on this one. Are we past that? We're kind of giving away where we're at. Yeah, I think that. Okay. I'm coming down. I'm saying I don't think that these are angels. And my smoking gun for this is that Christ states that angels do not marry. Right. Matthew 22, Mark 12, Luke 20, all say that angels do not marry. And I think when Jesus says something as well as the rest of scripture.

It means a lot, so I'm gonna put my- You think only the red letters mean a lot? No, that's not what I'm saying.

That isn't what I was saying.

Oh, okay. But yeah, I think for me, seeing that, I think we can see the rest of scripture helping us to interpret scripture. We see that this is not angels, and I'm ready for the emails.

So, all right, so just to summarize.

So one of the probably hottest or most controversial positions, but also I don't know what the, if it's the majority position is, but when you hear about the most, I think because it's so supernatural and, and, and epic and dramatic. Yeah. The most fantastic reading.

Fantastic. That's a good word. Yeah. Yeah. So, so the most fantastic reading of the text is to say that these are fallen angels who who probably possess man's bodies and then have relations with women and produce offspring and those end up being these superhuman creatures. And eventually people say that like Goliath came from that line, stuff like that. So that is a major position. And I can see how people would get there, looking at Job and using that use of the word sons of God. You can look at other parts of scripture that talk about supernatural beings and even point back to supernatural beings existing around the time of the flood and that kind of thing. But there isn't any, you do have to add a lot to this text in order to say that. It doesn't say in the text itself that that's what's going on. And even these other passages that people refer to, 1 Peter 3, 2 Peter 2, Jude 6, Job, Daniel 3, just any of these passages people look at, you know, they don't, they still don't say this.

You have to add a lot in, I think, to get to this interpretation. Yeah, and we're not against the fantastic parts. Like, we're not saying this because we're against the supernatural aspects of Scripture, right? But we're saying we don't also need to impose supernatural aspects where they probably aren't either.


Yeah. I think it's clear there is spiritual warfare happening here, right? Without having to interpret that in that way.

Yeah, absolutely.

All right, you guys want to lay out? What's another position? So the other one is that the sons of God are the line of Seth. I think that this is probably the most historically used one in terms of historic orthodoxy, that this is probably the most popular one. It's the idea that when it talks about sons of God, these people are, this is the line of Seth that comes from that chapter that genealogy.

Yeah, the strongest, I think, evidence for this is that it's talking about the warning against marrying unbelievers, which is a theme throughout the Pentateuch.

Does that make sense? I think that makes a lot of sense.


Yeah, so like Cheyenne outlined, Genesis 4 and 5, which are two passages, I think those are two chapters of the Bible that people were probably like, man, what in the world happens in Genesis 4 and 5? I remember before I kind of stumbled upon understanding what the role of those two chapters were in the story of Genesis, I couldn't have told you off the top of my head what those chapters were.

But they're the progression of the two lines, Cain and Seth. And so given that context, you outlined it perfectly. That's the context, is that we've got these two lines progressing, and I think Genesis 6, it just makes the most sense to say, yeah, and then we see the ruining of those two. You know, we had a godly line, and then we had an exceptionally sinful line, sort of like the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, that Genesis 3 sort of forecasts. And then now they get mixed, and Genesis 6 is saying, yep, and corruption is just pervasive in the world. All human beings, there's no longer, you can't even say that there's this great godly line and there's this line that's turned away from the Lord. It's just, sin is everywhere. All human beings are infected.

Sin has just pervaded the world. And now something dramatic is going to happen.

Yeah. And that's what you see the difference that happens in 5 is from, at that time, people began to call upon the Lord, to these generations and generations too. And then very rapidly, something happened through those generations, right, to the point of the desperation. It was only evil all the time.


So you'd be in good company having this belief. Guys like Clement of Alexandria, an early church father from 100 AD, Origen from 184 480 and St. Augustine from the early 400s all believed that this was the correct way to interpret this. So, those are guys that knew a ton, really godly early church fathers. And so, we can draw from their wisdom on this.

Good company to be in.

Nice. Totally. I stand on that side of the room. Yeah, right. To add, so the sons of God, you know, trying to understand that phrase, some people make the argument from Job about it being angelic beings.

Just to give counterpoints to that, here's a couple of passages that refer to the sons of God as being God's children, human beings like the people of Israel. Deuteronomy 14.1, Isaiah 1.2, and Hosea 1.10 all refer to sons of God, the children of God being human beings among God's people.

Yeah, I think this is one that if you want to land on this, this makes a ton of sense.

This is a great, a great way to understand this. Yeah, and I think for me, just the most basic reason is just that when you look at a text, I think look at the context. And if the if the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense. That's an adage I was taught early on in interpreting the Bible.

And I think that's just that when you read Genesis 4, 5, and 6 in order like that and you just

just look at them as a whole, as a connected story, I think this is the interpretation that makes the most sense. And if it makes sense, then let's not try to add in some of these other elements that maybe don't actually fit. But again, I'll just say this is one of those passages that I feel like I don't, I could be, I feel like we could get to heaven and I could be showing that I was wrong on this one. Now, I feel pretty strongly about where I'm at.

I feel like this is the best interpretation of the text, but I could be wrong.

Right. I feel pretty confident too, but I don't feel passionate to the place of feeling like people are unfaithful to the text to be real.

There's one other way to understand this. Oh, another one. Yes.

We keep going. I didn't even realize.

This is that the sons of God are rulers or kings. This comes from ancient Near East texts and evidence that we find. The idea that these kings really commonly referred to themselves as the son of a divine being. And so the idea that this is how, like Pharaoh, another guy who did this goes far back as a guy named Angel. He referred to him the king, the son of his God. That was his inscription on his tomb.

Sumo, Sumerian, really old civilization. You're just making up these words. No, I'm not.

This is all real. But, you know, the idea, yeah, that this is coming from these men who were taking too many wives, really that this text would be condemning polygamy and saying that this is a place

where these rulers were abusing women and not following God's order for creation and flourishing.

Very interesting. So, what can we learn from this passage? I would say against polygamy. I think if you believe polygamy, you have to believe that Genesis 6 is talking about angels. You can't support polygamy and think that these are human beings.



I'm against polygamy. I'm just going to come out there and say that on the record right now. That's great. The Bible's against polygamy. Yeah.

I'm all for that.


I think that's one really easy one. But I think another way to look at it is to see that this is the line of a great people that ended up falling back into sin. And I think it's that narrative that we see all throughout the Old Testament that it is not within people to save themselves. There wasn't a way to find salvation, to find a way to crush the head of the serpent by themselves. That's the story of Genesis. I mean, it ends with us going, you know, none of these people are it. And really, that's the way the Old Testament ends is, we didn't find the guy. Right. One of the parallels, I wrote down the exact verse references. So Genesis 6-2 versus Genesis 3-6.

So just the commonality even in language in those two verses about how human beings fell into sin. So the Genesis 3 references to Eve being tempted and falling into sin. The Genesis 6 references to the sons of God falling, being tempted and falling into sin. Just that, yeah, so even though in early Genesis there was this line of this family and generations of people who were trying to follow the Lord, they still fell into sin. Human beings are broken, we're sinful, we desperately need a savior.

We can't save ourselves. Yeah, yeah. It shows us our, yeah, you know, was it verse 6 that says, and the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth and it grieved him to his heart. You know, the idea of our sinfulness is grievous to God.

And this is a story, this is just a snapshot of that evil. And if we think that we are any better than we are, are so wrong. Our sin grieves God.

Yeah. And let me add another practical application to that, just thinking about even just the generations and families. If you think about how can human beings fight against sin and be faithful, and how do we – sometimes I think about it this way as a pastor. I think about how do we have a church that just remains faithful?

How do I protect the church from future generations remaining faithful to the Lord? And there are things that I can do towards that and that all of us can do to contribute, whether it's in our family or in our church, towards remaining faithful in the next generation.

But every generation is also gonna face its own temptations and challenges, and every generation has to fight to be faithful. I feel like that's another lesson of this, is that you can't lean on your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents.

You can't lean on past generations in a church. Every generation has to be vigilant. Yeah. Has to remember that they have to stand up and fight temptation and fight sin and be faithful to the Lord.


I think, sorry.

I think one of those ways is it matters who you marry.


And we already alluded to that.

But like that is-

I think it's the second most important decision you make.

You know, yeah. But that is what we see, the downfall of Israel and judge I mean, gosh, the whole Old Testament is like rinse repeat. That's the problem. It's just constantly they cannot stay faithful to Marrying other believers other other Members of the covenant community of God, but they continually are marrying people who worship foreign gods.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Going back to that, you know, generational aspect, you know, I think it's true because we can inherit a cultural context or a lens on how we see the world through our parents. Our parents could have done a specific thing, practiced a specific way of discipline or conflict resolution or you know, you name it, right? And oftentimes that goes unchecked. Just we file that away as like, oh, that's normative and that goes unnoticed and then that manifests in how we raise our children, how we handle conflict, how we, you know, again, whatever. And breaking that, going back to scripture, finding the scriptural basis for how we are ought to live.

That's the job of every Christian. It's wonderful when we have Christian parents who can teach us the right things, but it is a great place for us to, as Christians, we need to always examine our lives against the text and change when we're in conflict.

Well, hey, great conversation.

Thanks so much, Mitch and Cheyenne. It's been awesome getting to talk about it. Thanks everybody for listening. Hopefully this has been helpful to you as you think about this crazy topic of the Nephilim, this thing in Scripture that is talked just a little bit about, but that does get some publicity from time to time as we think about what does it mean for our world.

Does it talk about demons or is it actually talking about human beings and whether we stay faithful to the Lord or disembark into sin. So hey, if you have more questions, slash questions. You can find us at Again we are taking the summer off, but we'll do a few episodes here and there throughout the summer.

Look forward to seeing you again in September. Have an awesome week. Have an awesome week.

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