Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode Thirteen of the Bible 2021 podcast.  We are reading Genesis 6 today, and our focus is on the Nephilim – who were these mysterious beings in Genesis 6?  Thank you for joining us for Bible 2021! We are a daily podcast, where we will dig into ten minutes of truth from the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day 5 days in the NT/2 days in the OT. Welcome to new listeners from Styria, Austria, Maharashtra, India, South Africa, Ontario, Canada and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Thanks for listening! Our focus this year is on DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our new web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more – Click here for our reading plan! 

Today we read Genesis 6, which was one of my favorite chapters in the Bible as a kid because of Genesis 6:4 in the KJV, “There were giants on the earth in those days…” What a wonderful passage for a kid to hear in Sunday school! Unfortunately, ‘giants,’ probably isn’t the best translation for the Hebrew word in this passage, which is nephilim. That these beings are large, does seem to be upheld by the only other reference to ‘nephilim’ in the Old Testament, which is in Numbers 13:

We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim! To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.” Numbers 13:33

I should point out that the Anakim people were also remarkably tall: “21 a great and numerous people, tall as the Anakim.” (Deuteronomy 2:21) But the word Nephilim does not appear to mean giant. It’s etymology appears to be related to the Hebrew word ‘naphal,‘ which means to fall…but this is highly debated. Some people see the relation as referring to the fall of Satan and his angels, spoken of in Revelation 12 and other places in the Bible, but other people see ‘naphal’ as referring to falling upon somebody in an attacking sense, which would make the Nephilim aggressive and warlike. The big question though – and it has been debated for thousands of years – is whether or not these Nephilim were humans or fallen angels. Let’s read the passage and see if there are any clues in the context.

Most scholars today do not believe that the Nephilim were angels or heavenly beings at all, preferring to view them as a particularly tall and impressive race of humans. Wayne Grudem, my favorite theologian, holds to this view, writing:

Although some have thought that the “sons of God” in this passage are angels who sinned by marrying human women, this is not a likely interpretation. Angels are nonmaterial beings and according to Jesus do not marry (Matt. 22:30), facts that cast doubt on the idea that “the sons of God” are angels who married human wives. Moreover, nothing in the context of Genesis 6 indicates that the “sons of God” should be understood as angels (this makes this passage unlike Job 1–2, for example, where the context of a heavenly council makes it clear to the reader that angels are being referred to).

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020), 535.

I believe, on the other hand, that the best textual evidence we have seems to indicate that these ‘sons of God,’ represent some sort of Heavenly being. Not necessarily angels, because the Bible indicates that there are significantly more Heavenly beings than just angels, but I think the ‘sons of God’ here are non-human. This is one of the very few times that I disagree with Dr. Grudem, and he alludes to, and attempts to explain away the reason why. The only other time beings are called, ‘sons of God,’ in the Old Testament is in Job 1 and 2, and both times, as Dr. Grudem notes, these ‘sons of God,’ are quite clearly Heavenly beings. As well, I see nothing in Scripture that indicates that angels are non-material, and Hebrews says that people have entertained and shown hospitality to angels unaware that they were angels. I presume by this that angels can look and appear human…possibly even appear that way to the touch, though that is rampant speculation. Finally, I note that Jesus indicates the angels in Heaven ‘do not marry,’ but this doesn’t say anything about intimate relations. It is possible to have intimate relations outside of marriage, and it is possible that marriage is a strictly human institution that doesn’t apply to other beings. That said, the Bible text doesn’t give us enough info to know for sure, so we must be content with the mystery of it. Let us close then with some wonderful and wise words from Mr. Spurgeon about the best kind of giants on the earth:

We need saints… We need gracious minds trained to a high form of spiritual life by much converse with God in solitude. These are the standard-bearers of the army: each one is a king’s son. There is an air about them, humble as they are, as of men who breathe a purer atmosphere. Such was Abraham, who, by his communion with God, acquired a more than royal bearing. The king of Sodom shrinks into insignificance in the presence of this high-minded sheik who will not take of his lawful spoils… lest the heathen king should say, “I have made Abraham rich.” Saints acquire nobility from their constant resort to the place where the Lord meets with them. There, also, they acquire that power in prayer which we so greatly need. Oh, that we had more men like John Knox, whose prayers were more terrible to Queen Mary than ten thousand men! Oh, that we had more Elijahs, by whose faith the windows of Heaven should be shut or opened! This power comes not by a sudden effort; it is the outcome of a life devoted to the God of Israel. If our life is all in public, it will be a frothy, vapoury, ineffectual existence; but if we hold high converse with God in secret, we shall be mighty for good. The Puritans were abundant in meditation and prayer; and there were giants on the earth in those days. He that is a prince with God will take high rank with men, after the true measure of nobility.

C. H. Spurgeon, Only a Prayer Meeting: Forty Addresses at Metropolitan Tabernacle and Other Prayer-Meetings (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 19.

End of the Show: Bible memory verse for January: Mark 1:15 15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

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