The Nephilim were on the earth in those days – and also afterward – when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. Genesis 6:4
I always found this passage a bit puzzling. It’s location and total lack of context brings many questions to mind. The Nephilim were the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of men. (They would later be known as the giants who inhabited Canaan.) Does the phrase “sons of God” refer to the angels? Were the Nephilim inherently evil, thus becoming part of the reason for God’s drastic decision to flood the world?
Ancient Jews understood “sons of God” to mean angelic beings. This view would be corroborated in 1 Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 2:4-5. If the Jewish interpretation is to be trusted – that they are angelic beings – we run into another dilemma. Looking forward in the text…We learn that Jesus, in Matthew 22:30, said that angels did not marry. That would mean that we could infer that producing children wasn’t on the to-do list. Procreation, outside of a marital union, was extremely taboo.
We do, however, learn that angels did not always do as they were told. 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—Jude 6. It is important to note, though, that the author of Jude used pseudepigraphical literature as reference material. Pseudepigrapha are books claiming (falsely) to be written by some ancient hero of the faith, such as Moses or Abraham. Yet another conundrum is the fact that these demigods, as lawless and wicked as their behavior was, were known as heroes. But to whom? I can only assume they would be considered heroic to those who perished in the flood.
I, personally, believe this mention of the Nephilim was to teach that even heavenly beings sin. Not only that, they will face punishment. Considering the fact that we are still in the section of the Bible known as The Law, this is not terribly surprising. This is the period, in the faith, where works is focused on more than faith. It is also my opinion that those telling this story would need a truly wicked sin to recount, in order to explain and/or justify the near total extinction of the human race. What is more wicked than wayward angels cavorting with humans and creating progeny that brings nothing but sin and evil?
I would also like to add that genealogy, found in Genesis, should probably be taken with a grain of salt. The book has Shem outliving Abraham! And, let us not forget that female offspring barely receive an honorable mention. Again, I will reiterate that these accounts had been handed down generation after generation. Another thing worthy of remembering is that the lineage we are given only tells us how various groups/nations relate to Israel.
No novice to gossip, I am equally pretty sure a little bit of that 2nd grade gossip thing was happening, too. You know, little Sarah says “I gotta pee.” By the time we get to the sixth kid, it’s “Sarah peed on herself and wants you to tell the teacher!” And, well, let’s be perfectly honest. How many of us could regurgitate our entire history orally, and get it all right?? Not too many, I would assume. I am certainly no threat to ancestry.com.
Lastly, I would like to point out another detail that stuck out to me. The ages of the characters prior to death will begin to drop, dramatically, after the death of Shem. Shem, the middle son of Noah, lived to be 500 years old. I am convinced that ages were fudged, to begin with. However, I feel that this marked decrease in lifespans is due to change in climate and landscape post flooding. Naturally, after a major catastrophic event, you might see lack of food and other environmental changes that could lead to human beings living shorter lives.
Next up: Abram (Abraham), the first faithful