Can we tell who the sons of God and Nephilim were?

I discussed this issue with someone in my discipleship group last Sunday night, and I thought it would be best to write some ideas to a general Christian audience. Who are the “sons of God”? Well, it depends on where you find it in the Bible and what commentary you trust. There are some instances, like Genesis 6:4, where there is much debate. Here are some links that I found very informative. At this point, I can’t recommend one more than the others. Each contains various perspectives. (Download and Listen/start at 39:05.)

Regarding Genesis 6:1–6, there are some fantastical ideas out there. Did fallen angels actually have intercourse with human females and give birth to giants on the earth before the Flood? Numbers 13:33 also makes reference to the Nephilim; of course, this is after the Flood. In this instance, it really appears that these are giants since the spies (average men) looked like grasshoppers in comparison. The Hebrew/English linear both in Gen. 6 and Numbers 13 uses the words “the ones distinguished” when literally translating the word Nephilim. It does seem that the distinguishing characteristic is that these are very large beings. The KJV calls them “giants” in Gen. 6:4. Unfortunately, most of the information and commentary out there pertaining to “sons of God” and the Nephilim seem to involve conjecture and speculation. The truth is that there is not a 100% proof-positive answer, in my opinion.

If you have read anything on this blog about spiritual matters, you know I tend to take the conservative path theologically. But this is a tough one. As you can see from the Answers in Genesis link above, there are at least four possible points of view on the identity of the sons of God in the early OT Scriptures. I suppose it is possible that sons of God could be, by extension, the lineage of Adam (original son of God) who were righteously following God (perhaps some of Seth’s line). Their situation as backsliders (involved intermarrying—forbidden at the time) is similar to Samson in Judges when he continued to have a covetous eye for Philistine women. That did not end well for him. Could the intermarrying have prompted God to allow extreme genetic mutations in the offspring from these forbidden unions? Again, there is a lot of speculation involved in this.

James Burton Coffman made an interesting point in his commentary that it would be highly unusual for the writer of Genesis to introduce angels (fallen or otherwise) to the readers by using the phrase “sons of God.” But isn’t it equally unorthodox to introduce Satan to us through a serpent? Coffman does his best to say that the phrase “sons of God” never refers to angels; however, he later seems to recant when he acknowledges the fact that Job 38:7 uses the phrase to refer to angels.

Speaking of Job, in chapters 1 and 2 the phrase “sons of God” is used. Both times, they are coming before God or presenting themselves before God. Both times, Satan is with them as he also presents himself before God. This is not great evidence, but it seems that we have circumstantial evidence that Satan is with his fallen angels here as they approach God to have a discussion about Job and fallen humanity.

Some maintain that angels are sexless; they cannot function as procreators. Jesus said, in Matthew 22:30, that the angels do not marry. What are we to do with the verse about entertaining angels without knowing they are angels? (See Hebrews 13:2.) Does this indicate that they can assume human form? Just because there is no need to procreate in heaven does not necessarily support an argument against fallen angels having relations with human females.

Did Jesus bind these fallen angels (or “spirits”) in 1 Peter 3:19–20 immediately following His death on the cross? 2 Peter 2:4–5 and the relative text in the Book of Enoch describe how the fallen angels are bound.

Enoch 18:11–16
And I saw a great abyss in the earth, with columns of heavenly fire; and I saw among them columns of heavenly fire, which fall and are without number, either towards the height or towards the depth. And over that abyss I saw a place which had no firmament of heaven above it, and no foundation of earth beneath it, and no water above it, and no birds upon it; it was a void place. And there I saw a terrible thing: seven stars, like great burning mountains and like spirits, that petitioned me. The angel said: “This is the place of the consummation of heaven and earth; it is a prison for the stars of heaven, and for the host of heaven. And the stars that roll over the fire are they who have transgressed the command of God before their rising, because they did not come forth in their time. And he was enraged at them, and bound them till the time of the consummation of their sins in the year of the mystery.”

Clearly the fallen angels have committed some heinous transgressions. We are still at a loss as to exactly what has offended God so greatly. Was it because they left their domain and fell to earth (some conclude from Jude verse 6)? Again, this sounds fantastical, but I honestly don’t have a clear opinion at this time. Sorry to be noncommittal, but this is an ongoing study for me. God is sovereign. He knows all the truth of earth’s history. We are but mere mortals, just trying to make some sense of it—as much as we can with information coming from a variety of human interpretations and biases.

It seems that what we need to apply to our lives today regarding “sons of God” is found in the New Testament. I will leave you with two verses:

“For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:26–27, ASV)

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:4, KJV)


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