The determinetruth’s Podcast

Understanding Genesis #10 The sons of God: Nephilim

June 16, 2022

In this episode, Rob leads a study of Gen 5-6 and a discussion of the sons of God (the divine council). We will wrestle with perhaps what is the most confusing/difficult passage in the Bible (Gen 6:1-4). 


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Genesis 5 and 6 are leading us to the flood narrative. In Genesis 5 we have 10 generations from Adam to Noah—the genealogy ends with Noah’s sons. Later we will learn of the 10 generations from Noah to Abraham. The focus of the genealogy in Gen 5 is on the firstborn son and the carrying forth of the divine image (5:1, 3)—until we reach Noah, and all 3 sons are listed.


Note the explicit references to the creation account: “In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created” (Gen 5:1-2).


The 10 generations of Seth’s genealogy in Gen 5 are in contrast to the 7 generations of Cain’s genealogy in Gen 4. In Seth’s genealogy there are records of deaths but not murders. And each of the descendants are blessed with very long lives: Adam 930; Methuselah 969.


Interestingly, when the genealogy of Gen 5 is compared to an ancient Sumerian king list (dated to 2000 BC), we see that the long lives of the biblical n arrative were actually short. The Sumerian king list has 8 kings who ruled 5 cities for a total 241,200 years (one king reigned for over 43,000 years). This Sumerian king list then describes a flood, after which another list of 39 kings ruled for 26,997 years.


Genesis 6 then sets the stage for the flood narrative. There is no question that the Creation account of Gen 1-3 is in the authors purview. Of course, Gen 6 has caused many a scholar to offer up all sorts of fanciful interpretations. We might do well to recall that the NT has an instance of a woman (Mary) being impregnated by God—the virgin birth.


Perhaps we are to read Genesis 3 and 6 in light of one another. In Gen 3, we see the story of Adam and Eve trying to become like God by taking the privilege to discern and evil into their own hands. In Gen 6, we learn of spiritual beings (members of the heavenly council) trying to become like people. In both accounts, there is an effort to grant humans eternal life. God responds to these failed efforts by noting that they have 120 years (Gen 6:3)—which quite likely refers to the number of years until the flood.


It is important to note that God is portrayed in these accounts as merciful and loving. His response to Cain’s murder to the banish and protect him. If Cain were not sent away would others have sought revenge? Now, in the flood narrative, God’s response to the increasing wickedness and violence is sorrow.[1]


Finally, whatever is happening in Gen 6:1-4, it appears that the audience to whom it was written knew. Thus, what is obscure for us, was perhaps clear to them.



Genesis 5

  1. These are the generations (toledoth) of Adam (1):
  1. Adam-Seth (3)
  2. Likeness and Image (1, 3)
  3. Adam lived 930 years (5)
  1. Noah “____________________” (32)
  1. Shem, Ham, Japheth (32)
  2. Departs from the concern of the firstborn son to include all 3


Genesis 6:1-8 Setting for the flood

  1. Mankind increases (1)
  2. Sons of God (2): options:
  1. Godly line of Seth and the ungodly line of Cain
  2. Sons of God are dynastic rulers; the daughters of men are the harems they took; the sin is that of polygamy
  3. ‘Sons of God’/ “elohim” ordinarily used of angels or the divine council
  1. “__________________________” that the daughters were ‘beautiful’ (good) and they “__________________________” wives for themselves
  1. “Saw”: same word used for Eve’s perception of the fruit (3:6); and for God’s repeated declaration throughout Gen 1-3 “it was good”
  2. Eve “saw” that the fruit was good for food and “took” (cf 3:6)
  3. Spiritual beings tempted by human women: inversion of Garden: humans were tempted by spiritual beings
  1. God expresses His displeasure: “My ___________________ shall not strive with flesh forever” (3; cf 1:2: where the Spirit hovers there is order and chaos is reversed; if the Spirit is removed, chaos ensues)
  1. Days shall be 120 yrs: until the flood?
  1. Nephilim were on the earth (4): Parenthetical? (Cf Num 13:33)
  2. Mighty men (4; cf 10:8: used of Nimrod (mighty one)—builder of Nineveh
  1. Same as the nephilim?
  2. Of old; reputation, famous (cf 11:4)


6:5-9:29 Flood

Toledoth in 6:9 marks the beginning of a new section

6:5-8 Reason for the Flood

  1. God ________________: Everyone is guilty (5)
  2. God felt: sorry/tormented (nacham) that He had made mankind (6-7): except for Noah (wordplay—same letters in Hebrew)
  1. NIV translates this word 10 different ways in the OT—sometimes exactly the opposite of others: suggesting how difficult a word it is
  2. Walton: suggests that nacham has nothing to do with regrets, grief, or being sorry: instead, it is an accounting term
  3. Walton’s rendering: “The LORD audited the accounts because he had made humankind in the earth and his heart was tormented over it. So, the LORD said, ‘I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth . . . because I have audited the accounts since I have made them” (310-11)
  4. Walton suggests the term deals with ledgers and keeping a balance
    1. Ledgers are not in balance when humanity sins
    2. God does not allow evil to remain on the books but balances with grace and mercy (Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2); or with punishment (Jer 18:10
  5. Walton suggests that God is not sorry, or grieved: He is seeking to redress the situation: balance the ledger: audit the account: enforcing a system of checks and balances

NB: If we are sorry for doing something then we refrain from doing it again!

  1. God’s actions are motivated by a sense of justice
  1. God decides to blot them out (7)
  2. But Noah found favor with God (8)
  1. Found favor or won favor?



Sons of God?

  • Ps 29:1; 82:6; 89:6; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7
  • Second Temple literature (516 BC – AD 70) as well as Jude 6 read this verse in light of the elohim view


[1] See: Hawk, L. Daniel. The Violence of the Biblical God (p. 31). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.

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