Genesis 6:1 – The Nephilim

By Wayne Jackson

The context of Genesis 6:1ff speaks of the “sons of God” who took wives of the “daughters of men.” Subsequently, the record reveals that in those days “the Nephilim were in the earth.”

From these phrases, it has been assumed by some Bible students that certain fallen angels (“sons of God”) mated with women of the earth (“daughters of men”), and that to these unions were born a sort of hybrid race called the Nephilim.

For this theory there is no evidence, and it runs counter to numerous biblical facts. Note:

  1. Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14). As such, they do not consist of flesh (Luke 24:39), hence, they are incapable of a physical relationship.
  2. Christ Himself plainly said that angels do not marry (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:34-35).
  3. There is, in fact, nothing in Genesis 6:4 that indicates the Nephilim were offspring of the marriages suggested in this context.
  4. The word “Nephilim,” usually identified as “giants” (ASV fn), is a term of uncertain meaning. Likely it suggests the idea of strength and prowess. It is used in Numbers 13:33 of certain inhabitants of Canaan whom the Israelite spies encountered in their survey of the land. The context indicates that they were merely “men of great stature” (32); they were not the progeny of angels.

The most reasonable view of Genesis 6:1f is that the allusion refers to the fact that some men, from the godly lineage of Seth, called “sons of God” (an expression denoting those in covenant relationship with Jehovah — cf. Deuteronomy 14:1; 32:5), began to pursue fleshly interests, and so took wives of “the daughters of men,” i.e., those who were unbelievers. (Is there any principle that we can learn from this?)

The subsequent context seems to suggest that it was this carnal trend that ultimately brought the Flood, which prompts this interesting question. If the “sons of God” were angels, how did the Flood serve as a judgment upon them? Can angels drown?

So, underline “sons of God” in Genesis 6:1, and in your margin write: Not angels, who do not marry. See Matthew 22:30.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.