Saturday, October 29, 2016

Genesis 6:1-4

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." There were tyrants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4)
Where did the fabulous (something of fables) interpretation of angels co-mingling with women and producing extraordinary offspring come from? Is it another of the grand imaginations of Dispensationalism? Probably not, but they do seem to give the most impetus to it.

The first two verses are pretty straightforward. We may accept them as they stand. לקח אשׁה (to take a wife) is a standing expression through the entire Old Testament for the marriage relationship established by God at creation, and it is never applied to πορνεια or the simple act of physical connection. Any idea of polygamy is also excluded. It merely indicates discriminating selection of beautiful wives, choice from among those who were eligible. The statement of these two verses is sufficient enough in itself to exclude any references to angels. Christ Jesus stated clearly that angels cannot marry (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25; cf. Luke 20:34).

The main thing to clarify and get out of the way is the content of verse 3. Some Christians believe and teach that this verse is saying that the age of man will be capped at 120 years, that he will not age beyond that. Given the context of the chapter, this notion is ridiculous. It is correctly understood as God giving a respite of 120 years to those presently living on the Earth. God's sentence was made known to Noah in his 480th year, to be preached by him as "preacher of righeousness" (2 Pet. 2:5). "Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth" (Gen. 7:6).

So, the first three verses are clear enough to us. There exist no problems with our understanding of these three verses. Where the confusion exists is regarding verse 4, quite frequently ripped from its immediate context and applied with fantastical (something of fantasies) interpretations. So this is where we will focus our examination.
There were tyrants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (v. 4)
In the Septuagint, נפלים is rendered as γιγαντες, which is likely where our idea of "giants" is derived. However, how do we know that ancient English translations used "giants" in the manner our modern minds like to conjure up first? (Our modern minds have the same failure when it comes to the words "unicorn" and "dragon," too.)  The term "mighty men . . . of renown" may explain the word "giants," or it may explain the children born to the sons of God. "Mighty," gibbowr, means "powerful, mighty, strong; by implication: warrior, champion, valiant man, hero." "Renown," shem, means "a mark or memorial of individuality; by implication: honor, authority, character, fame, reputation, renown." There are three ways in which we can approach this verse:
  1. Giants: Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines "giant" as: "n. 1. A man of extraordinary bulk and stature. 2. A person of extraordinary strength or powers, bodily or intellectual. The judge is a giant in his profession." If "mighty men . . . of renown" explains the word "giants," then the second definition seems appropriate, further describing the character and reputation of these men.
  2. Tyrants: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance defines the Hebrew word nephilim as "fellers: a bully or tyrant." It comes from the Hebrew word naphal, "to fall, to cast down, to fell, to slay, to smite." (See Joshua 11:7.) If "mighty men . . . of renown" explains the children born to the sons of God, it likely points to outstanding good men. They were possibly champions of impeccable character and reputation who stood against the tyrants that were in the Earth in those days. Keil & Delitzsch, in their Commentary on the Old Testament, write: "'The same were mighty men:' this might point back to the Nephilim; but it is a more natural supposition, that it refers to the children born to the sons of God. 'These,' i.e., the sons sprung from those marriages, 'are the heroes, those renowned heroes of old.'"
  3. Tyrants: The term "mighty men . . . of renown" may explain the word "tyrants," further describing the character and reputation of these men. Martin Luther called them "tyrants," commenting, "Nephilim non dictos a magnitudine corporum, sicut Rabbini putant, sed a tyrannide et oppressione quod vi grassati sint, nulla habita ratione legum aut honestatis, sed simpliciter indulgentes suis voluptatibus et cupiditatibus." That is, "The Nephilim are not named from the size of their bodies, as the Rabbis say, but from tyranny and oppression by violent force, without consideration for laws or honour, but simply indulging in their pleasures and desires." Matthew Poole, in his Commentary on the Whole Bible, writes: "Giants; men so called, partly from their high stature, but principally for their great strength and force, whereby they oppressed and tyrannized over others: for this is mentioned as another sin, and cause of the flood; and therefore they seem to be here noted, not for the height of their stature, which is no crime, but for their violence, which also is expressed beneath, ver 11, 13. ... men of renown, i.e. famous in their generations; when indeed they should have been infamous for the abuse of their stature and strength to tyranny and cruelty."
This verse states clearly that "The [nephilim] were on the Earth in those days, and also after that." So the imaginative notion that the nephilim were the miraculous result of these marriages is outrageous and far fetched. Matthew Poole comments, "After that time there arose a new generation or succession of that sort of men." The verse is likely saying, "In those days, there were tyrants on the Earth, and also after that when the Sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them." Quite possibly the children may have been influenced by the violent, oppressive, wicked men before them and thus rejected the virtue and religion of their ancestors.

There are two substantial problems with the two major views of this verse where "giants" is understood to mean individuals "of extraordinary bulk and stature."
  1. The Fallen Angels View: Jesus made it clear that angels cannot marry (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25; cf. Luke 20:34). Enough said. If that is not sufficient, then answer these: Do angels, by nature, possess a material corporeality adequate to the contraction of a human marriage? Or, by rebellion against their Creator, can they acquire it? Are there some creatures in heaven and on earth which, through sinful degeneracy, or by sinking into an unnatural state, can become possessed of the power, which they have not by nature, of generating and propagating their species? Another point of consideration; if angels are the villains, then why is God's anger directed against humans?
  2. The Sethite View: Scripture says, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14). A believer (the Sons of God) marrying an unbeliever (the daughters of men) will not result in offspring that is physiologically different from their parents. This is the kind of belief that gives rise to the heresy that children of inter-marriages or "unequally yoked" marriages are demonic, in contradiction to Scripture: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy" (1 Cor. 7:14).
Given the context, what seems to be the more likely interpretation of verse 4? Clearly not the two views above if "men of extraordinary bulk and stature" is understood. Every other place that "giants" appears in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word רפא (rapha) is used. Nephilim only appears in two verses in the Old Testament: Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33. Concerning the passage in Numbers, a footnote in Keil & Delitzsch's Commentary on the Old Testament reads, "the term Nephilim cannot signify giants, since the spies not only mention them especially along with the inhabitants of the land, who are described as people of great statue, but single out only a portion of the Nephilim as 'sons of Anak'."

The union of the Sons of God and the daughters of men is not what provoked God. God's annoyance is not with their nuptial arrangement. The Bible tells believers not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14), but God does not condemn such marriages (1 Cor. 7:12-14). Children are considered holy if even one parent is a believer. Some people point out that God's displeasure comes chronologically before the Nephilim, and therefore He is provoked with their illicit nuptial unions. This concept has its problems as the Law regarding unequally yoked marriages had not yet been instituted. What provoked God was the violence and oppression impressed upon their fellow man by these tyrants. This is verified by the contents of verses 11 and 13: "Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. ... Then God said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.'" God was not destroying the Earth because of their marriage partners. He would have said as much to Noah otherwise.

Based on the information we have just looked at, here are two verses that help put things in perspective:
"These four were born to the giant (rapha, רפא) in Gath, and they fell (naphal, נפל—from where Nephilim, נפלים comes from) by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants" (2 Sam. 21:22).
"These were descended from the giants (rapha, רפא) in Gath, and they fell (naphal, נפל—from where Nephilim, נפלים comes from) by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants" (1 Chron. 20:8).
When you eliminate the illogical and nonsensical, whatever remains is likely closer to the truth than the fantastical and fabulous imaginations you had prior. Examine the context, interpret Scripture with Scripture, and consult the whole counsel of the Word of God. Be responsible students of God's Word, having great reverence and respect for it.