The Nephilim, a footnote: Genesis 6:1-8

The Nephilim, a footnote: Genesis 6:1-8
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday November 20, 20

Notes/Not a Transcript

When looking at this passage, it is essential to say a) there is a primary message inside a non-conclusive subtext and b) that while we may not come to a firm and complete conclusion interpreting scripture with scripture gives us a set of guardrails to bounce within. 
Those rails keep us on a scriptural path that is zig-zagging.  At the end of our study, we need to know that Genesis does not work to satisfy our every curiosity. However, our high view of scripture does make us safe to follow the present threads.

Genesis 6:1–8 (ESV)
1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them,
2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.


If Genesis 6 were Genesis 1, perhaps we’d jump in here and begin where many have by saying this seems to be about the sons of God, and we need to figure out who these people were!    However, Genesis 6 has a) five chapters behind it and its own story it is telling. 
It is because the ultimate author of all scripture is God. We can tend to say these scriptures give me insight and are inexhaustible at satisfying my every curiosity.    Looking to scripture to do our will functionally puts God at our service, making him more like J.K. Rowling than the sovereign creator of all that is.
In genesis so far, we have seen God’s purposes for the text be apparent.    God creates Adam and Eve to reflect his character in the world.

Genesis 1:26–27 (ESV)
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.    And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27    So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female, he created them.


They, humanity’s initial representatives, Adam and Eve, receive their knowledge of Good and Evil from God.    For a time, this is good.    Again, I suggest this was true for exactly less than nine months, it’s my theory, but I stand by it as reasonable. 
 In Genesis 1, He (God) takes a formless void and makes it everything.    Creating life and order from nothing.    Adam and Eve get their charter in

Genesis 1:28 (ESV)
28 And God blessed them.    And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 2 retells this creative work from a relational, covenantal perspective.    God is a personal creator at this point, and we get to understand more about the conditions of their presence in the garden. We learn that their understanding of good and evil from God is predicated on their choice in

Genesis 2:17 (ESV)
17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

They could stay in obedience to God and remain in His presence without sin trusting Him to hold good and evil or take on that knowledge themselves, declaring no need for God and live in the world reflecting their own “glory” rather than God’s.    Because we have Genesis 1 and 2, we know both the big all-powerful creator God and the covenant God who cares for them and gives them parameters for staying with Him in a relationship.    Next, we see the fall in Genesis 3.    The transition into this chapter
Genesis is like this. It’s purposefully ordered to demonstrate how God dealt with people over time and how his plan comes together through humanity.    Genesis 1-11 tells about God and the world, and 12-50 speaks about God and Abraham’s family.    The trajectory we’re following describes how God created everything. As Genesis says 7 times, God even calls the creation Genesis 1:31 Very Good. 

Revelation 4:11 (ESV)
11    “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
       for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

All that was created is designed to bring God glory and work according to His purposes – but humanity taking on the job of defining good and evil destroys the sinless utopia; the result is family strife, hatred, wars, and the chaos of society each defining for themselves good and evil. 
Genesis 3 describes to us satan’s entry into the scene, as opposed to God tricking Eve and by way of a lazy, non-leader complacent Adam fracturing the first people from direct relationships with their God as they trust themselves over God’s word.    Adam and Eve must leave God’s garden and present with him directly, they leave the garden, and we learn of their first children, Cain and Able.    Character traits of this new world of self-rule and definition of good and evil play out, and we’re following the trajectory of Godless humanity through chapter 4, where we then get Seth and the line that will be traced by scripture to the Christ who will be the once final reconciliation of humanity to their God.    We even meet this character Lamech, who is boastful in his violence. 

Genesis 4:23–24 (ESV)
23 Lamech said to his wives:
       “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
       I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24    If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

Remember, Genesis 1-11 gives a background on why we are where we are today and why all the scarring of sin exists. Humanity, now in Genesis 4, is groping to find our way, defining our own personal good concept (which works in our service, not a general and consistent service), and now are outside God’s provision.

Chapter 5 then provides the lineage of Adam’s descendants through Seth and reminds us of human origins in Adam, with god’s likeness passing from person to person.    So we have this humanity who have God’s image and likeness, but we’re violent, separated from him, and royally messing everything up. Within a single generation, families are shattered. 
Enter Genesis 6.
The Bible doesn’t start here but many acts and talk like it does.    We’re following the trajectory of Genesis through creation, fall, ramifications, and the line of Seth. Then we get here, and the question becomes not what part in the trajectory does 6 play, but who are the Nephilim?    This is a National Geographic, Omega Code level Bible treatment.    Just as we don’t know what came of the Cainites, but we do know what became of the Sethites, we’re following God’s purposes for the arc of Genesis.    Our question should be – what is Genesis 6’s place in the narrative arc that God is telling in Genesis 6, and is the answer important. 
Genesis 6 gives us a picture from early humanity of un-checked humanity chasing after their own Good and evil.    There is tension between the people of

Genesis 4:16 (ESV)
16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Genesis 4:25–26 (ESV)
25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”
26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh.    At that time, people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Genesis 6:3 (ESV)
3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

Genesis 6:5 (ESV)
5 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.

And this is the point of Genesis 6. Humanity is as flawed as it gets. It is unchecked. However, there is a tension between those who see God and worship him and those who are all in on themselves. 

Romans 1:28 (ESV)
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Humanity is born in Adam. That is why we read of Seth’s birth:

Genesis 5:3 (ESV)
3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.

Born in Adam’s own likeness AND after his image.    The image of God in every one of us is marred by the consequences of sin.    The image of sin follows each of us, so Jesus would say we must be born again.

John 3:7 (ESV)
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

We’re in a dire situation!    We’re in Adam’s likeness, and image, the fruit of our life in Adam’s likeness image, which is a time-bound life ending in death, and the wages of our life of sin is death and judgment.

Hebrews 9:27 (ESV)
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

The judgment comes because

Romans 6:23 (ESV)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews chapter 6 offers a helpful low (high) point of sin in the world but with the tension of redemption in recognition and worship of God with Seth.    Without the transition of Genesis 6, the high water mark, we’re without a way to understand the coming story of the flood and utter destruction of humanity, less one, single family.    The overarching theme is God demonstrating that when faced with the option to worship God and live in a perfect sinless union, not only CAN people not, and they WILL not.   We love darkness more than light John 3:16-19. 

John 6:44 (ESV)
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.    And I will raise him up on the last day.

It’s not a lack of effort being described. It’s a lack of ability – no man CAN come, man must be drawn of those who are drawn, and Jesus is 100% successful in raising on the last day.    Genesis 6 helps us understand God’s utter grace in salvation. Who the Nephilim are is more a demonstration of our ability to be captured by ANYTHING but what’s important. 

Genesis 6:3-4 (ESV)
3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”
4 The Nephilim were on 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.

So then, who are Nephilim:
There are at least two thoughts:
Sons of Seth:
Seth’s descendants preferred the women who came from Cain’s line and bread in wickedness.    God’s covenant people are referred to as His sons in Deuteronomy 14:1 and Jeremiah 3:19, generally.    This theory lends a helpful backdrop to the expressed inability to intermarry with Canaanite ladies in Deuteronomy 7 and Exodus 34. 

Deuteronomy 14:1 (ESV)
Clean and Unclean Food
14 “You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.

Jeremiah 3:19 (ESV)
19 “‘I said,    How I would set you among my sons,and give you a pleasant land,    a heritage most beautiful of all nations.And I thought you would call me, My Father,    and would not turn from following me.

Fallen Angels:
That the sons of God are fallen angels, agents referred to as sons of God in Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7.    The idea then is that these are giants because angel blood is intermingling with human blood making freak-people. 

Job 1:6 (ESV)
Satan Allowed to Test Job
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 (ESV)
Satan Attacks Job’s Health
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 (ESV)
7 when the morning stars sang together    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Each position has its strengths and weakness, and there are variations of them.    For example, Matthew 22:30 hint’s of angles that:
Matthew 22:30 (ESV)
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
Luke 20:35 (ESV)
35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage,
And so, why then would angels, who are of a fixed number, have functioning DNA and reproductive organs that would work with humans? That feels like an intentional design decision that God would make for this very circumstance.    I have a hard time settling on that one.    I float more to a variation on the angel theory, which is that, like John 13:27, Satan entered Judas to do his will. At this time, there were plenty of people on earth: Adam and Eve did a bang-up job of populating.    Moreover, we see the previously mentioned example of boastful Lamech Genesis 4:23–24. I think there is precedent and circumstance for the sons of God to be fallen angels entering into and possessing the most wicked of men on the land to grow their tribe, and while lines and families were being created, work to create one of their own, the Nephilim. 

John 13:27 (ESV)
27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.

What is these people’s end?

They die.    

How did they come to be, we get a glimpse and some possibility, but all we need to know is that all humanity was working with purpose against God. It exists as a pseudo-interesting blip on the human record. God, despite humanity’s best efforts to hate Him, will be redeemed by Him to His eternal glory! 
That is the point of Genesis 6 and the Nephilim.    God’s glory in their footnoted ambiguity. 
Like Gide rails or bumpers in a pinball machine, I handed to helpful passages:
1 Peter 3 (especially 18-22) talks about spirits in prison who were disobedient in Noah’s day.    If they’re connected to Genesis 6, and this is related to 2 Peter 2:4-10’s reference to the angels participating in working to create a race of powerful God haters 2 Peter 2:4, perhaps working to pollute the Godly line at the same time as 1 Peter 2:5 does seems to time-box this instance to Genesis 6’s angels are bound to not act in this way again.

1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV)
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,
20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

2 Peter 2:4-10 (ESV)
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell[a] and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
5 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;
6 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;
7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked
8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);
9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,
10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)
5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Moreover, if Jude (specifically Jude 5-7) is in parallel to Genesis 6, like 2 Peter 2:4 is, then we learn that the angels are:

Jude 5–7 (ESV)
5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

And so, all that for four verses and verses 5-8 underscores the point of chapter 6. It is pointing forward to the problem that requires a fix, sin ravaging in the hearts of men found in Adam’s kind and likeness. 

5 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.
6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
7 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.”
8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

And so, don’t let the footnote of the Nephilim become a problem or dogmatic obsession. They’re to point forward to the dyer problem of humanity and to the tremendous graceful redemption of God who gives even the ability, John 6:44, to come to His son, who he gives us to a new heaven and new earth for all who will call on His name!
What a great God should be our reaction to Genesis 6 and not. Tell me more about these distracting, footnoted Nephilim. 
Our God, who created everything very good and with direct communion with humans in his image, will restore it that way Revelation 21:4, a time with no hunger like the feeding of the 5k, a time with no bodily aliments (like so much of the healing on earth) what a wonderful awesome God!

Revelation 21:4 (ESV)
4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Pray, Observe, App

×Note: To download, click the button. If it doesn't work, right click, then click "Save Link As." Download only works if media is stored within this site. Download Video

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top