Do the Nephilim come from Seth?

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Who were the Nephilim? Continuing with my series on Heiser’s new book The Unseen Realm, I’ll look at three views on who the Nephilim were with a post on each topic:

  1. The Sethite view
  2. Divinized Human Rulers
  3. Offspring of Rebellious Divine Beings

The Sethite View

This view has been the dominant Christian position since the 4th century AD where the “sons of God” (read below) are males born from the line of Seth, born after Cain killed Abel.

The main distinction is that the sons are contrasted with the daughters.

Genesis 6.1-4 says,

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Basis for the Sethite View

Here “these four verses describe forbidden intermarriage between the godly men of Seth’s lineage (‘sons of God’) and the ungodly women of Cain’s line (‘daughters of humankind’)” (94). Everyone alive on earth came either from Seth or from Cain.

Heiser mentions that part of the reasoning for this view comes from Gen 4.26, “To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.” The line of Seth was to remain clean as it would carry the seed of the woman (Gen 3.15), yet it became defiled when it mixed with the daughters of the line of Cain.

Deficiencies of this View

  1. Genesis 4.26 “never says the only people who ‘called on the name of the Lord’ were men from Seth’s lineage (95, bold emphasis mine).
  2. It fails to explain who the Nephilim are (especially when you get to Numbers 13).
  3. There is no link to Cain in the text. The women are called daughters “of humankind” not daughters “of Cain.”
  4. There is no command against marrying certain persons up to this point in Genesis.
  5. Nowhere else does the Bible (including Gen. 6.1-4) identify Seth’s lineage as being “sons of God.” The term “sons of God” is used in other passages, but it never refers to Seth’s lineage.

Conclusion

Heiser says that Genesis 6.1-4 “makes it clear that a contrast is being connected between two classes of individuals, one human and the other divine,” and not between male and female humans (95).

Verse 1 sets up the first contrast, “[mankind] began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them.” The first group is human and female.

Verse 2 introduces the second group. The “sons of God” are male and…not human. They are divine.

In our next post I’ll look at a second view on the Nephilim:
Divinized Human Rulers.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

Who Were the Nephilim?

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One of the questions that many Christians have is, “What is Genesis 6 talking about?”

Genesis 6.1-4 says,

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

It gets worse too. Numbers 13.32b-33 says,

“The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

renders-germans

Dr. Michael Heiser, an Academic Editor at Logos Bible Software, has written a new book called The Unseen Realm (see my previous post here, and his less academic work on the same topic, Supernatural). In this book Heiser takes a look at the cultural worldview of the Israelites and the nations who lived around them. Heiser’s catchphrase is “If it’s weird, it’s important.” The these short verses about the Nephilim surely are more important than Christians make them out to be.

I found Heiser’s discussion to be very interesting, and I hope you do too. Even if you don’t agree, discussion is welcomed. I want these posts to be light reading. Short and easy (a far cry from the norm around here). So I’ll write posts that will be bite-sized chunks of a few chapters in Heiser’s book.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

The Unseen Realm is Coming

Does Deuteronomy 32.8 say, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God” (ESV)? Or does it say, “When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel” (NKJV)?

Does it matter?

Yes, it does (my friend Lindsay wrote about it here). But why does it matter? What does the Bible tell us about the supernatural? What did the ancient Israelites believe about this unseen realm?

The text below comes from the Logos website. If you look there they also have the official video. Michael Heiser is the author of this blog, this podcast blog, and this blog. Over the last year and a half, when my friend Lindsay talked about him, Lindsay always referred to Heiser as the “Divine Counsel guy.” That’s what he’s most known for and how I could best remember him. Now, after fifteen years of work, his book The Unseen Realm is out (it came out yesterday, in fact). You can read about it below.

Here you can find The Unseen Realm and Supernatural for sale on Amazon.


Overview

The psalmist declared that God presides over an assembly of divine beings (Psa. 82:1). Who are they? What does it mean when those beings participate in God’s decisions (1 Kings 22:19–23)? Why wasn’t Eve surprised when the serpent spoke to her? Why are Yahweh and his Angel fused together in Jacob’s prayer (Gen. 48:15–16)? How did descendants of the Nephilim (Gen. 6:4) survive the flood (Num. 13:33)? What are we to make of Peter and Jude’s belief in imprisoned spirits (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6)? Why does Paul describe evil spirits in terms of geographical rulership (thrones, principalities, rulers, authorities)? Who are the “glorious ones” that even angels dare not rebuke (2 Pet. 2:10–11)?

The Unseen Realm presents the fruit of Dr. Heiser’s fifteen years of research into what the Bible really says about the unseen world of the supernatural. His goal is to help readers view the biblical text unfiltered by tradition or by theological presuppositions. “People shouldn’t be protected from the Bible,” Dr. Heiser says. But theological systems often do just that, by “explaining away” difficult or troublesome passages of Scripture because their literal meaning doesn’t fit into our tidy systems.

In The Unseen Realm, Michael Heiser shines a light on the supernatural world—not a new light, but rather the same light the original, ancient readers—and writers—of Scripture would have seen it in, given their historical and cultural milieu. This light allows today’s pastors and scholars to understand the biblical authors’ supernatural worldview.

Get an unfiltered look at what the Bible really says about the unseen world.

Praise for The Unseen Realm

This is a “big” book in the best sense of the term. It is big in its scope and in its depth of analysis. Michael Heiser is a scholar who knows Scripture intimately in its ancient cultural context. All—scholars, clergy, and laypeople—who read this profound and accessible book will grow in their understanding of both the Old and New Testaments, particularly as their eyes are opened to the Bible’s “unseen world.”

Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

“How was it possible that I had never seen that before?” Dr Heiser’s survey of the complex reality of the supernatural world as the Scriptures portray it covers a subject that is strangely sidestepped. No one is going to agree with everything in his book, but the subject deserves careful study, and so does this book.

—Jon Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

There is a world referred to in the Scripture that is quite unseen, but also quite present and active. Michael Heiser’s The Unseen Realm seeks to unmask this world. Heiser shows how prevalent and important it is to understand this world and appreciate how its contribution helps to make sense of Scripture. The book is clear and well done, treating many ideas and themes that often go unseen themselves. With this book, such themes will no longer be neglected, so read it and discover a new realm for reflection about what Scripture teaches.

Darrell L. Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement, Howard G. Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement. Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

Contents

  • Part 1: First Things
    • Reading Your Bible Again—for the First Time
    • Rules of Engagement
  • Part 2: The Households of God
    • God’s Entourage
    • God Alone
    • As in Heaven, So on Earth
    • Gardens and Mountains
    • Eden—Like No Place on Earth
    • Only God Is Perfect
    • Peril and Providence
  • Part 3: Divine Transgressions
    • Appearances Can Be Deceiving
    • Like the Most High?
    • Divine Transgression
    • The Bad Seed
    • Divine Allotment
    • Cosmic Geography
  • Part 4: Yahweh and His Portion
    • Abraham’s Word
    • Yahweh Visible and Invisible
    • What’s in a Name?
    • Who Is Like Yahweh?
    • Retooling the Template
    • God’s Law, God’s Council
    • Realm Distinction
  • Part 5: Conquest and Failure
    • Giant Problems
    • The Place of the Serpent
    • Holy War
  • Part 6: Thus Says The Lord
    • Mountains and Valleys
    • Standing in the Council
    • Divine Misdirection
    • The Rider of the Clouds
    • Prepare to Die
  • Part 7: The Kingdom Already
    • Who Will God for Us?
    • Preeminent Domain
    • A Beneficial Death
    • Infiltration
    • Son of God, Seed of Abraham
    • Lower Than the Elohim
    • This Means War
    • Choosing Sides
  • Part 8: The Kingdom Not Yet
    • Final Verdict
    • Foe from the North
    • The Mount of Assembly
    • Describing the Indescribable
  • Epilogue

Product Details

  • Title: The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible
  • Author: Michael S. Heiser
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Pages: 384

About Michael S. Heiser

Michael S. Heiser is the academic editor for Logos Bible Software, Bible Study Magazine, and Faithlife Study Bible. He is the coeditor of Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha with Morphology and Semitic Inscriptions: Analyzed Texts and English Translations; he is also the Hebrew instructor for Learn to Use Hebrew for Logos Bible Software. He earned his PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic languages and holds and MA in ancient history and Hebrew studies. In addition, he was named the 2007 Pacific Northwest Regional Scholar by the Society of Biblical Literature.


UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

Buy it on Amazon!