A Flood of Stories

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In surveying the options to answer the question, “Who were the Nephilim?,” we last looked at the view that the Nephilim were the offspring of rebellious divine beings. In his book The Unseen Realm. Michael Heiser mentions how 1 Enoch informed the worldview of Peter and Jude. He tells us

“Jewish literature like 1 Enoch that retold the story shows a keen awareness of [the] Mesopotamian context” of Genesis 6, and “Jewish thinkers of the Second Temple period [the period between the testaments] understood… that the story involved divine beings and giant offspring. That understanding is essential to grasping what the biblical writers were trying to communicate” (102).

Genesis 6.1-4 is a polemic, a strong attack on someone or something. It is an effort to undermine the “credibility of the Mesopotamian gods and other aspects of that culture’s worldview” (102). This involves borrowing ideas from the Babylonian culture and changing them to illuminate a correct theology of Yahweh while at the same time discrediting other gods.

“Gilgameche” in History 151

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It was in university where I first heard the idea that there were other flood stories (e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh) besides the biblical story of Noah. While this didn’t shake my faith, it struck me as odd. It wasn’t so much hearing that there were other flood stories, but that I had never even heard of this before! But it is true. Mesopotamia is replete with other flood stories that deal with a large boat and the salvation of animals and people. Below are a few notable mentions. 

The Supporting Cast

The apkallus: In the time before the flood, a group of divine beings who possessed profound knowledge. Many were considered evil and were integral to Mesopotamian demonology.

Marduk: the chief god of Babylon

The Apsu: “subterranean waters deep inside the earth” (103).

Their Story

As some of the Mesopotamian stories go, the apkallus mated with women and “produced quasi-divine offspring” which were considered to be two-thirds apkallu (102). This matches the Epic of Gilgamesh, where the hero Gilgamesh “was considered a giant who retained knowledge from before the flood” (103).

In another text, the Erra Epic, Marduk punishes the evil apkallus with banishment to the Apsu (also a part of the underworld). In doing this Marduk commands that the apkallus never come up again (reminding us of 2 Pet. 2.4 and Jude 6-7). The fact that this link is found not in the OT but in the NT (2 Peter and Jude) shows that the intertestamental Jewish writers were keenly aware of the Mesopotamian background.

Conclusion

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No, I’m kidding!

Were the Nephilim really offspring of divine beings who rebelled against Yahweh and had sex with human women? Why do we need to know this? How is it relevant to the rest of Genesis? In my next post it only gets weirder. I’ll look at Genesis 6.1-4 in its original context, along with what we are to do with the Nephilim, some watchers, and why the Israelites cared.

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Don’t worry. This won’t become a soap opera with characters who have no business being in the show.

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!

Heiser on the Rebellious Divine Offspring View

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So of all three views on who the Nephilim were, the last one is pretty wild. And controversial. But then again, so is the birth of Jesus to everyone else in the world. 

The Incarnation

Here’s what Heiser says about this third view,

[T]his interpretation is less dramatic than the incarnation of Yahweh as Jesus Christ. How is the virgin birth of God as a man more acceptable? What isn’t mind-blowing about Jesus having both a divine and a human nature fused together? For that matter, what doesn’t offend the modern scientific mind about God going through a woman’s birth canal and enduring life as a human, having to learn how to talk, walk, eat with a spoon, be potty trained, and go through puberty? All these things are far more shocking than Genesis 6:1-4, and yet this is what Scripture explicitly affirms when it informs us that the second person of the Godhead became a man. God became a man from conception onwards (186, emphasis original).

Ephesians 6.12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Many Christians disagree with what science says about creation, but when they read this verse and ask, “What are ‘cosmic powers’?,” they expect nothing but a naturalistic answer. Our way of thinking is often, “We believe in demons, but don’t start gettin’ weird on us. This ain’t normal.”

Just like the incarnation ain’t normal.

Deficiencies of This View

  • When the Sadducees pose Jesus with a problem about the resurrection in Matthew 22.23-28, Jesus responds by saying, “For in the resurrection [the resurrected] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

Deficiencies of That View

As Heiser points out,

The text does not say angels cannot have sexual intercourse; it says they don’t. The reason ought to be obvious. The context for the statement is the resurrection, which refers either broadly to the afterlife or, more precisely, to the final, renewed global Eden. The point is clear in either option. In the spiritual world, the realm of divine beings, there is no need for procreation… [which] is part of the embodied world and is necessary to maintain the physical population. [Similarly,] life in the perfected Eden world also does not require maintaining the human species by having children – everyone has an immortal resurrected body. Consequently, there is no need for sex in the resurrection, just as there is no need for it in the nonhuman spiritual realm. But Genesis 6 doesn’t have the spiritual realm or the final Eden world as its context. The analogy breaks down completely (186).

Conclusion

So this view is the one that Heiser finds the most biblical, and I have to say I agree with his conclusions. But we still have more questions. Why do we need to know this? How is it relevant to the rest of Genesis? Why did the biblical authors think it was necessary for their readers to know this information? In my next post I’ll look at Genesis 6.1-4 in its original context which will include more flood stories.

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!

Are Nephilim the Offspring of Rebellious Divine Beings?

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In surveying the options to answer our question, “Who are the Nephilim?,” in my last post we looked at the interpretation which believes that the “sons of God” were divinized human rulers. In The Unseen Realm Heiser gives us a third option: 

  1. The Sethite view
  2. Divinized Human Rulers
  3. The Nephilim are the offspring of rebellious divine beings.

Peter and Jude

“Peter and Jude did not fear the alternative” (97).

2 Peter 2.4, 9-10 says,

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment… then the Lord knows how… to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Likewise, Jude 6-7 says,

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— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Both Peter and Jude describe the time of Noah before the flood when “angels” sinned. This sin caused the flood and “is placed in the same category as the sin which prompted the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah.” These angels/sons of God “left their proper dwelling.” “There is… no other sin in the [OT] that might be the referent” (98).

Though 1 Enoch was not canonical (and any early church leaders who gave it that status later abandoned the idea), it informed the worldview of Peter and Jude (more on this in the next post).

Peter says that the angels were held in Tartarus (“hell,” 2 Pet. 2.4). “Tartarus” was used in “Greek literature for the destination of the divine Titans, a term that is also used of their semi-divine offspring” (fn. 13, pg 98). “All Jewish traditions before the [NT] era took a supernatural view of Genesis 6:1-4.” This interpretation was not a problem until the 4th century AD when it fell out of favor with certain church leaders (i.e., Augustine).

Rather than taking our biblical theology from the church fathers, we’re to take it from the Old and the New Testaments. To do that we must analyze Genesis 6.1-4 in light of its Mesopotamian background as well as 2 Peter and Jude.

Genesis 6, One More Time

Genesis 6.1-4 says,

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the [divine] sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they [left their proper dwelling and] 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.” [As a result] the Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the [divine] sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore [giant] children to them. These [giant children] were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Conclusion

Were the Nephilim offspring of divine beings who rebelled against Yahweh by having sex with human women? Heiser seems to think so. But isn’t this idea a bit farfetched? A bit “out there”? It sounds like something Giorgio Tsoukalos from the history channel would say:

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No, this guy is never right.

What does Heiser think about all this? What should Christians think? I’ll look at an argument for and against this view, and some final remarks. Then we’ll start to look at how Genesis 6.1-4 plays out in Scripture.

Why did the biblical authors think it necessary for their readers to have this information?

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!

Are the Nephilim Divine-Human Rulers?

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In surveying the options to answer our question, “Who were the Nephilim?,” in my last post we looked at the Sethite view which believes that these “sons of God” were sons of Seth, Adam’s third son. In The Unseen Realm Heiser gives us a second option: 

  1. The Sethite view
  2. The Nephilim are divinized human rulers.
  3. Offspring of Rebellious Divine Beings

The Divine Human Rulers View

There are three points to be made to this view:

  1. Ps. 82.6-7 says, I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Some say that the “sons of the Most High” refers to humans, and they read this into Gen. 6.1-4.
  2. There is language where God refers to humans as his sons. This is a “parallel to ancient Near Eastern beliefs that kings were thought to be divine offspring” (95-96).
    • Two examples:

      • Ps. 2.7, “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’”
      • Exod. 4.22, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son…’”
  3. They argue that “the evil marriages condemned in the verses were human polygamy on the part of these divinized rulers” (96).

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 [divine human rulers] saw that the [multiple] daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their [multiple] 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 [multiple] daughters of man and [the multiple wives] bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Flaws in this View

  1. The “human view” of Ps. 82.6 fails as a correct interpretation (This will be explained in another post).
  2. Genesis 6 never says the marriages were polygamous. Rather the reader is told of how one plural group of people acted toward another plural group of people.
  3. In the Ancient Near East (ANE) divine sonship was restricted to kings. Also, “the idea of a group of sons of God lacks a coherent [ANE] parallel ” (96). The plural phrase (“sons”) refers to divine beings, not human kings.
    • Job 1.6, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.”
    • Job 2.1, “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.”
    • Job 38.6-7, “On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
    • Ps 29.1, “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”
    • Ps 89.6, “For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?”

Conclusion

The “marriages in Genesis 6:1-4 corrupt the earth in the prelude to the flood story. A biblical theology of divinized human rulership in the restored Eden [what the whole Bible is aiming towards] would not be corruptive and evil” (97).

The fact that the phrase “sons of God” is used in heavenly contexts with heavenly beings gives us no reason to exclude Genesis 6.1-4 from intending the reader to think of divine beings.

So in our next post I’ll look at the third view on the Nephilim:
Offspring of Rebellious Elohim

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!

Why This Topic?

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As you’ve probably already noticed, I’ve written a few posts about a topic that many Christians have questions about, are clueless of, or just don’t care about. There are these four verses in Genesis 6 that come out of nowhere, stay for a moment, and then leave. There are two verses on the Nephilim at the end of Numbers 13. 2 Peter and Jude have some strange things to say about angels that sinned. Is this related or are they speaking of something we will never know about in this lifetime? 

Why blog about something as silly as this? There are bigger issues going around… like Starbucks red coffee cups. 

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I’m blogging about it because it interests me, it’s helped answer some questions (or at least stir the cauldron in my head), and I want to provide you with some thoughts on Heiser’s book The Unseen Realm. I’ll let you know this about myself: I’m not into ‘weird’ books that deal with spiritual beings, UFOs, aliens, and conspiracy theories. There are too many books out there and I don’t have the time. Mari and I plan to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and I would like to become a teach one day. In the meantime, I devour books. Theological books. Commentaries even. 

“Oh, the horror,” you must be thinking.

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Just a few weeks ago Heiser posted about his thoughts on the possible source of demons. It’s more compelling with other theories I’ve heard. However, when you look down at the comments (as one does when they want to have fun), it’s a pretty sad state of affairs. There are some who actually try to assist in the conversation, and then everyone else who either misses the point of the post or flames the author and anyone else who stands in their way. 

My Point: Regardless of whether you agree with these posts or not, please keep thoughts and your comments warm and cordial. This isn’t simply a monologue. I’d love to talk about this with you if you have any thoughts, but using terms like “idiot” and assuming that you and “your people” are always correct only frustrates the conversation. It’s like smashing a banana out of its peel. The conversation will still come out, but it’s gonna be a mess. So you can be as weird and as much of a conspiracy theorist as your heart desires you to be, but be relaxed. 

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!

[Special thanks to Lexham Press for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book].

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.”

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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!