The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Who are the Nephilim - Aliens, Demons or Just Plain Folk? (Part 3)

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The most popular interpretation of Genesis 6:1–6 is that the “sons of God” are fallen angels who impregnate women and create a super race of beings called the “Nephilim.” Chuck Missler and Mark Eastman argue in Alien Encounters that “the ‘sons of God’ of Genesis 6 was understood as referring to (fallen) angels by the ancient rabbinical sources, the Septuagint translators, and by the early Church fathers.”[1] The sources used by these Christian authors, by their own admission, are “non-canonical,” that is, non-inspired: the “Book of Enoch, the Syriac Version of the Old Testament, as well as the Testimony of the 12 Patriarchs and the Little Genesis.”[2] While the sources they cite are interesting and informative, they are not authoritative. In order to determine the meaning of a biblical text, the Bible should be consulted first and last.

When Missler and Eastman do cite the Bible on this topic, they overstate their case when they conclude that “the Hebrew term translated ‘sons of God’ is . . . a term consistently used in the Old Testament for angels.”[3] For the moment, let’s assume they are right. Does this mean that in Genesis 6 they are fallen angels? Why would fallen angels be described as “sons of God”? The phrase bene elohim is used three times in the Old Testament, all in the book of Job (1:6; 2:1; 38:7). They are not fallen angels. A similar phrase (bar[4] elohim, “son of God”) is used in Daniel 3:25.[5] It is not a reference to a fallen angel. The term “sons of the mighty” (bene elim) is used in Psalm 29:1 and also Psalm 89:6. These verses are not describing fallen angels. Consider the NT: “The son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38). Adam is described as “the son of God.” He is neither a good nor a fallen angel. In the NT, “peacemakers” are designated as “sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). The “sons of the resurrection” are “like angels” and are called “sons of God” (Luke 20:36). Paul writes, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14), and, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Gal. 3:26). In fact, every time “sons of God” is appears in the NT, it is used of those in union with God in Christ.

            Let’s take a look at the use of the phrase “sons of God” in Job. Gary Bates argues, “In the passages outside of Genesis,” [the phrase ‘sons of God’] . . . is always clearly used of angels.”[6] Bates specifically references three verses in Job: 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7. But as we have already seen, this is not the case. While many commentators contend that the “sons of God” in Job are angels, some have taken the position that they are godly men who “came to present themselves before the Lord” (1:6). Satan, as “the accuser of our brethren . . . who accuses them before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10), interjects himself among the godly and accuses Job and his sons before God. George Rapkin’s comments in his Genesis in Harmony with Itself and Science are helpful:

The story of Job opens by telling of a devout father, who, when he knew his children were feasting, offered sacrifice for them, lest they should have blasphemed God. Then came the day of appearing before God, and of Satan being granted the permission to harass the father.

The “sons of God” were the godly men of the time who came for worship in the presence of the Lord. They came before the Lord just as David later urged the congregation to do, when urging thanksgiving. Coming before the Lord and entering into His presence is not so striking when we find the Bible speaking of men and congregations doing this. Nimrod is said to have been a “mightly hunter before the Lord,” but we do not stretch our fanciful imagination to the extent of saying he must have been an angel. Now Job and his sons, with other righteous men, were the sons of God who presented themselves before the Lord for the act of worship and sacrifice, the father then acting as the head, or priest, of the family worship and sacrifice.[7]

Even the phrase “presence of the LORD” is not a tip off that the scene in Job is describing angels in heaven. We read that “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). Cain is said to have gone “out from the presence of the LORD” to settle “in the land of Nod, east of Eden“ (4:16). Jonah flees to “Tarshish from the presence of the LORD” by a ship “going to Tarshish” (Jonah 1:3). The men on the ship knew Jonah “was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them” (1:10). “Presence of the LORD,” as these verses indicate, does not mean angels in the physical presence of God.

With what we’ve seen in other parts of Scripture, the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are like the sons of God found elsewhere in Scripture: they have at sometime identified themselves with God and His covenant. They are neither space aliens or fallen angels. They are regular folk like you and me who, as we will see tomorrow, let our guard down and compromise the faith.

Endnotes:

[1] Chuck Missler and Mark Eastman, Alien Encounters: The Secret Behind the UFO Phenomenon (Coeur d’Alene, ID: Koinonia House, 1997), 334.
[2] Missler and Eastman, Alien Encounters, 207.
[3] Missler and Eastman, Alien Encounters, 205
[4] The Hebrew word for “son” is ben; in Aramaic it’s “bar.” The passage in Daniel 3:24 is written in Aramaic.
[5] The phrase “like a son of the gods” or simply “like a son of God” is used in Daniel 3:25, but it’s King Nebucadnezzar who describes the fourth man in the furnace this way.
[6] Gary Bates, Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004), 352.
[7] George Rapkin, Genesis in Harmony with Itself and Science (1899). Quoted in J. Sidlow Baxter, Studies in Problem Texts: Being a Short Series of Elucidatory and Applicatory Expositions of Certain Scripture Passages Which Have Occassioned Perplexity (London: Marshal, Morgan & Scott, 1963), 188. Rapkin held to the pre-Adamite race theory, identifying the antediluvian (pre-flood) Nephilim (“giants”) of Genesis 6:4 with surviving aboriginal pre-Adamites. Except for the gap, he followed the strict literal interpretation: the Flood and James Ussher’s chronology for the re-creation.

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