Genesis 6:1-4 (ESV) — 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.
Nothing is more click-bait than a title called “The Nephilim.” People love to debate Genesis 6 into infinity. And there is certainly reason for it. It is not the easiest passage to discern or understand. But I believe there are some indicators within the text that help us make sense of it.
First, notice the phrase “sons of God.” The sons of God in this passage see that the daughters of man were attractive. So they took them as their wives as they saw fit. This raises the question: who are the “sons of God” in this passage? A study of the Old Testament will show that this phrase is used a total of five times. The four times outside of this passage always refer to angels when referencing “sons of God.” There is no reason to stray from this understanding in Genesis 6.
The sons of God are angels that took human wives. Both 2 Peter and Jude refer to this as angels leaving their proper station. They did what was wrong. However, we are never told they had offspring. The debate over the Nephilim is whether these are the byproducts of the sons of God and daughters of men. I do not believe that is the case. Why? The text tells us that in those days, and afterwards, the Nephilim were on the earth. They were on the earth during the time in which the sons of God and daughters of man bore children, but it doesn’t indicate that they were those children. Rather it says they were the mighty men of old. Men of renown.
Does this definitely close the door shut on this debate? Not at all. Do we understand what the significance is of this passage and why we are given these details? Not really. It just shows us that before the Flood, there were lots of occasions of sexual disorder and sin. The destruction of the earth had good cause on many fronts. One of the important things from this passage that I want to highlight in this devotion is that we shouldn’t have a close-handed view on doctrines that are not of first importance or clear. The interpretation of Genesis 6 is not a salvation issue. People can disagree. It is not the clearest portion of Scripture we have, nor is it the most vital. We shouldn’t cause division or conflict over an interpretation like this. This is important for us to know because there are some doctrines and passages that are worth dividing over. Knowing the difference is huge.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why are people so intrigued by the Nephilim?
- What interpretations have you heard before on this passage?
- How should we approach passages that are not the clearest to understand?
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