For the past few weeks we have been running through some hidden gems in the bible. These are stories that we often overlook but when we take a minute to give them attention, we find that they are actually quite valuable. Today is going to be our last installment of this series and I saved the best for last. Unfortunately, our story for today may leave us with more questions than it will answers but that is okay. Today we go back to Genesis to a time when giants potentially walked the earth.
Our story for today is Genesis 6:1-4. This is a brief section of scripture which serves as the prelude to the well known story of Noah and the arc. In this section we see that as humans began to multiply, the so-called “sons of God” found the women attracted. Because of this attraction, these sons of God married and had children with the women. These children are (in most bibles) called Nephilim. The reason many bibles leave this word untranslated is because there is great debate about what the word actually means. However, many scholars either translate this Nephilim to mean “giants” or “fallen ones”. This word only appears one other time in the Bible and that is in Numbers 13:33 when the Israelites are spying on the people of Canaan. The Israelites thought that they were so large that they were in fact the Nephilim and felt as if they themselves were like grasshoppers. Either translation leaves us scratching our heads. Mainly because the “sons of God” who mated with the women and thus produced the Nephilim, are found elsewhere in scripture to describe spiritual beings. By this logic, this is a story that describes spiritual beings who created children with human women thus creating what can be translated as giants.
But is that really what we see happening here? Let me start by saying that I don’t know. But because of the complexity and confusion surrounding these four short verses, many scholars have attempted to piece together the puzzle. So let’s take a look at what some are saying. The idea known as the “traditional” view is the view that the natural and the supernatural were somehow linked and created a unique race. Scholars who believe this viewpoint point to a fact that I already mentioned which is that the term “sons of God” can be found in other scripture passages in reference to supernatural beings. If you look at the book of Job, specifically 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7, you will see that whenever the author says “sons of God”, they are referencing spirits or even Satan himself. So maybe, Genesis is referencing the same group. Another supporting argument for the traditional view, is the fact that we see the scripture mention the “sons of God” and “man” thus contrasting the two. The scripture does not say that men were marrying women and having children with men, it specifically says that the “sons of God” were. This is an important distinction. Not to mention, how useless of a piece of scripture would this be if it was just talking about men marrying women and having children? That is not exactly noteworthy. Lastly, this story may actually be referenced elsewhere in scripture. In Jude chapter 6, it says how there were certain angels who did not keep their proper dwelling places and thus suffered the wrath of God. It goes on in chapter 7 to say compare what these angels did to the actions of those in Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sexual immorality. While Jude does not explicitly mention the story of Genesis or the Nephilim, Jude’s comments line up better with what we see here in Genesis better than any other story that we find in the bible.
I have to admit that when I started doing research into this story I thought that there would be no way that the theory of some sort of spiritual and natural race would hold up. However, as I went through many sources I actually found more arguments for than against. Now, this obviously does not mean that this is what took place. Ambiguity means that we do not know either way of what actually took place. But I wanted to present you with this story for a number of reasons. One is simply because I found it extremely interesting. The second and more important reason was to show how complex our cannon is. This is one of those texts that we may never be able to figure out. However, wrestling with these difficult passages opens up doors to deeper understanding and a better relationship with scripture itself. I hope that both this story specifically and our hidden gems series as a whole encourages you to work through difficult parts of the Bible. Though it is easier to flip right through them, I think we gain way more when we take the time to really wrestle with what they have to say.