By Mark W Swarbrick
Does the Bible really say that angels had sex with women? Genesis 6:1-8 is one of the most enigmatic passages of scripture. It reads:
“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…The Nephilim were 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. Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”(Genesis 6:1-8)
The Living Bible makes it even clearer:
“It was at this time that beings from the spirit world looked upon the beautiful earth women and took any they desired to be their wives… In those days, and even afterwards, when the evil beings from the spirit world were sexually involved with human women, their children became giants, of whom so many legends are told. When the Lord God saw the extent of human wickedness, and that the trend and direction of men’s lives were only towards evil, he was sorry he had made them…” (Genesis 6:1-6 TLB)
There are two terms here that we need to understand in order to properly interpret this scripture. Those are the terms, sons of God and Nephilim. What is meant by sons of God and what is a Nephilim? We will take a look at the two main theories regarding this passage of scripture, examining the context, and other scriptures that shed light on the matter. We shall also consider how 1st and 2nd century church leaders interpreted Genesis 6, as well as the opinion of Jewish scholars.
The Sethite Theory
There are some who claim that the idiom sons of God does not refer to angels but say that it refers instead to the sons of Seth, who were supposedly righteous, marrying the daughters of Cain, who were supposedly evil.
There are several problems with that interpretation. First of all, there is nothing in the context to indicate that. It is purely conjecture. The rule of thumb in biblical hermeneutics is that if the plain sense makes good sense, any other sense is liable to be nonsense.
Secondly, the passage makes no sense if read that way. Why would there be any comment at all about sons of Seth marrying the daughters of men? So what? Men had been marrying women all along. And why would these marriages result in the children being giants called Nephilim? And why would it use the phrase daughters of men? Why not just say women?
The sons of Seth theory also fails to explain why it was suddenly noticed by men that the daughters of men were beautiful. Men had been marrying women and having children for over a thousand years, and only now they suddenly realize they are beautiful? And what about the daughters of Seth – are we supposed to assume they were all ugly? The passage makes perfect sense if you understand it was the angels of God who noticed that the daughters of men were beautiful, but to force it to say that men suddenly noticed that women were pretty is a bridge to far.
It is clear from the context that the phrase daughters of men is used deliberately to delineate a contradistinction to the phrase sons of God, indicating that the sons of God were not sons of men, that is to say, not human. Ignoring this grammatical antithesis of the passage completely destroys its meaning. If you look closely at the sentence you see that there are three groups mentioned:
Group one: Men, group 2: Sons of God, and group 3: Daughters of Men. To wit, “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…” The plain sense of the passage is that the sons of God were something different from the men in this passage. To force it say that the sons of God were men begs the questions as to why it doesn’t just say “they,” to refer back to the men, since that is the word used at the beginning of the sentence.
Finally, we must ask, if the sons of Seth were so righteous, why were they destroyed in the flood? Genesis 6:12 says, “…all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.” This demolishes the line of reasoning that claims the sons of God were really the righteous sons of Seth. Only Noah and his family were considered righteous and saved from the flood.
In every instance where the phrase sons of God is used elsewhere in the Old Testament it refers to angels in heaven:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth… When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4,7)
A son of God denotes a being who has been directly created by God. In the New Testament Adam is called a son of God because he was directly created by God. Born-Again Christians are also called sons of God by virtue of the new birth they experience when they get saved. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…” (2 Co 5:17). God directly creates a new man within us (Col 3:10).
Angels are beings that are directly created by God. Thus the designation sons of God can be accurately applied to them. In the Old Testament, the phrase never refers to men. So we see that the phrase sons of God refers to angels elsewhere in the Old Testament, we also see the term is accurate when applied to angels, and finally we see that the passage in Genesis 6 is nonsensical if it is not interpreted as referring to angels.
We must remember that angels, even fallen angels, are inter-dimensional entities. We see in scripture that they can appear solid, eat food and appear completely human, or have some other solid physical effect, yet still be of a spiritual ethereal nature. Remember the scripture that says, “show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2) Also recall the two angels who visited Lot. The angels appear so human that the homosexual townspeople wanted to rape the angels. They had no clue they were angels. Angels, whether good ones or fallen ones, can take on physical form.
The Codex Alexandrinus Septuagint version of the Old Testament supports the angelic theory. It translates the passage as “angels of God” instead of “sons of God.” The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament. Septuagint means seventy, so called because seventy Jewish scholars made the translation from Hebrew to Greek. Those scholars confirm that the phrase in Genesis 6 means “angels of God” and so translated it. This tells us what the Jewish perspective on this passage was. The Septuagint, by the way, was the translation used by Jesus when he stood in the temple and read Isaiah 61:1-2. (Luke 4:18-19)
Early Church Fathers
This angelic view was widely held by early church leaders immediately following the time of the apostles in the first century. It was supported by Flavius Josephus, Philo, Eusebius and many of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, including Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Athenagoras and Commodianus up until the fourth century.
Justin Martyr wrote concerning Genesis 6 saying, “But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons.” The Jewish historian Josephus agrees, saying, “For many angels of God coupled with women…”
It was not until much later that the Sethite theory became popular. Julius Africanus (160-240 AD) was the first to misinterpret Genesis 6. Later Augustine would popularize the Sethite theory as well. John Calvin also perpetuated the myth. But if we harken back to what the early Church believed and the Jews of Jesus’ time, they adhered to the plain sense of the passage, that it was the angels of God who are meant by the phrase sons of God.
There are a number of writings that, although not considered to be scripture, nevertheless are valuable in showing what the Jewish mindset or interpretation was on a given subject as well as its history. The book of Jude even quotes from one of them, the Book of Enoch. This shows that, even though these writings are not part of the canon of scripture, even the apostles found some things in them noteworthy. These writings make it clear that the Jews, at least of Jesus’ time, accepted the angelic theory of Genesis 6.
“And it came to pass when the children of men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them, that the angels of God saw them…that they were beautiful to look upon; and they took themselves wives of all whom they chose, and they bare unto them sons and they were giants.” (Jubilees 4:1-2)
“And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’” (Book of Enoch 6:1-3)
Those who adhere to the Sethite theory argue that scripture says that angels are not capable of having sex and they quote the following verse in support:
“But Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.’” (Matthew 22:29-30)
This argument is easily refuted. First of all, this says nothing about sex capabilities, but speaks about no marriage. Secondly, this passage is speaking of the ordained state of “angels in heaven.” It is not speaking about fallen angels on earth that have left their ordained state of being. We know that it cannot possibly be saying that fallen angels are not capable of sex, for another New Testament passage of scripture clearly says that they not only are capable of sexual activity, but that they have engaged in it:
“Remember too the angels, how some of them were not content to keep the dominion given to them but abandoned their proper home; and God has reserved them for judgement on the great Day, bound beneath the darkness in everlasting chains. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns; like the angels, they committed fornication and followed unnatural lusts; and they paid the penalty in eternal fire, an example for all to see.” (Jude 1:6-7 NEB)
Unless someone can explain how a fallen angel can commit fornication without having sex, this objection is completely dismissed.
It is also protested that fallen angels would be called sons of God. It is said that demons are never called sons of God. First of all, fallen angels are not necessarily the same thing as demons, but that is another subject. The fact is, there is no evidence that these particular angels were fallen before they engaged in sexual sin with the earth women. It is their leaving their first estate that caused them to be fallen:
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation…Even as Sodom and Gomorrha…in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh…Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh…” (Jude 1:6-7 NASB)
As sons of God they saw that the daughters of men were beautiful That in itself was not sin. It was leaving their abode and fornicating with them that was sinful and that was when they became fallen angels.
What is a Nephilim?
We shall now consider the word, Nephilim. This is not an English word. It is an obscure Hebrew word of uncertain meaning. It appears only two places in the Bible. Its exact meaning is a mystery. That’s why many modern translations don’t translate the word at all but simply bring the word straight over from the Hebrew.
The KJV and some other translations make a guess at the meaning of the word and render the word as giants. Although the context in the two places where it is used in scripture indicates the Nephilim were indeed giants, the Hebrew word Nephilim carries more meaning than just giant. Many linguists suggest the literal meaning of the word would best be translated, the fallen ones.
When the fallen angels interbred with women the offspring were a hybrid that the Bible calls Nephilim. The root word is taken from the Hebrew nephal, which means to fall. Their fathers, the fallen angels, fell into sin and their offspring, according to scripture and other historical writings, also behaved with extreme wickedness. The Nephilim themselves were fallen sinful creatures. Their murderous rampages caused many innocent people to fall in battle against them. Which of these scenarios was the etymology of their designation as Nephilim we can only guess, but the name, the fallen ones, is certainly descriptive of everything about them.
Scripture says that at the same time that the Nephilim came on the scene that wickedness on the earth increased exponentially. The Pseudepigrapha tells us that the Nephilim, besides being giants, were extremely intelligent and possessed paranormal powers. They were sex crazed, stealing wives from men and even from each other. They committed cannibalism and bestiality. Josephus says of them, “For many angels of God coupled with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good…”
By virtue of their great size and intelligence they became rulers. They taught mankind many things. The Pseudepigrapha lists charms, enchantments, magic, alchemy, astrology, medicine, and the creation of weapons of war as some of the things they taught. It is supposed by some that the great megalithic structures found around the world, which defy explanation of their construction, were built by the Nephilim. Interesting enough, we see that the Nephilim were the first to teach abortion:
And the fifth was named Kasdeja: this is he who showed the children of men…the smitings of the embryo in the womb, that it may pass away…” (Enoch 69:12a)
How interesting that the wickedness of Planned Parenthood’s practice of using our tax money to murder children in the womb was a practice invented by the evil hybrid offspring of fallen angels. Today they have even taken it a step further by selling the dismembered body parts. But I digress.
It was commonly thought by the Jews of Jesus’ time that the demonic spirits that roam the earth are the disembodied spirits of the dead Nephilim. Justin Martyr (100 to 165 AD) writes that the Nephilim demanded worship and explains that the gods of Greek mythology were in fact one and the same as the Nephilim:
“But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons; and besides, they afterwards subdued the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and the punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they were enslaved by lustful passions; and among men they sowed murders, wars, adulteries, intemperate deeds, and all wickedness. Whence also the poets and mythologists, not knowing that it was the angels and those demons who had been begotten by them that did these things to men, and women, and cities, and nations, which they related, ascribed them to god himself, and to those who were accounted to be his very offspring, and to the offspring of those who were called his brothers, Neptune and Pluto, and to the children again of these their offspring. For whatever name each of the angels had given to himself and his children, by that name they called them“. (Justin Martyr, Second Apology)
Nephilim in Caanan
All the Nephilim were destroyed in the flood. Yet, it is interesting to note, that scripture says that the Nephilim were on the earth after those days.
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also after that…” (Genesis 6:4)
What were “those days”? These were the days before the flood, so this would seem to indicate that the Nephilim were on the earth also after the flood. How could this be, for we know that God pronounced a severe judgement upon these angels who sinned by taking women as wives:
“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah…” (2 Peter 2:4-5)
So how did we get Nephilim after the flood? There are a couple possibilities. We must consider that the scripture doesn’t say when God cast these angels into hell. It may be that God didn’t execute punishment upon them until much later. Assuming the fallen angels still had the ability to return to the spirit realm and survive the flood, it may be that God delayed judgment. Then, if the fallen angels didn’t heed the warning of seeing their progeny downed in the flood, but continued fornication with earth women after the flood, this would explain Nephilim “also after that.”
Another possibility is that another group of angels committed the same sin after the flood. We just don’t know. We do know that when the Israelites reached the promised land, they found that Satan had inspired the Nephilim to inhabit the land, no doubt as opposition to the plan of God for Israel.
Those who went into the promised land to spy it out came back with a bad report:
“We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. “There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:31-33)
The mention of it being a land that devours its inhabitants is probably a reference to the infamous cannibalism of the Nephilim. Some claim that this passage doesn’t prove there were Nephilim in the land because the spies gave a false report. But the scripture does not say that the spies gave a false report.
Scripture says they gave a “bad report”, that is to say, they left out the good things, concentrated on the bad, and claimed they could not possibly take the land. Caleb did not refute what they said. He did not call them liars. Instead he said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30). Caleb didn’t say the Nephilim were not there. He said they could overcome them.
Furthermore, in verse 21 it says, “they came to Hebron where…the descendants of Anak were…” and verse 33 says, “the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim…” This is not part of the spy’s report but is the testimony of scripture. This is conclusive proof that there were Nephilim in the land of Canaan.
Apparently all the inhabitants of the land were Nephilim for verse 32 says, “all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.” God told the Israelites to completely wipe out these Nephilim nations. When it is understood that these were the wicked cannibalistic hybrid offspring of fallen angels, the severity of God’s decree is better understood.
The Return of the Nephilim
Are the Nephilim going to return in the last days? Some say so and point to Matthew 24:36-39:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
It is said that since Nephilim existed in the days of Noah that there will be Nephilim in the days just prior to Christ’s return. However I think this carries the analogy too far. This passage only says that some things will be the same relative to Christ’s return and Noah’s day.
Obviously not all things will be the same. There will be no flood and no ark. What will be the same? Jesus tells us plainly, “of that day and hour no one knows…” That is the point of what he is saying. Jesus points out that in Noah’s day people were doing business as usual right up until the flood came. No warning. That’s what will be the same: There will be no warning. Nothing is implied here about Nephilim.
That said, it should be noted that in Revelation we find that the restraining force against the evil principalities and powers in heavenly places is reduced and that demonic forces are loosed upon the earth. Fallen angels and demons are limited today by what God allows. During the Tribulation, not so much.
God will allow a lot more evil during the tribulation. The cohabitation of fallen angels with women today is probably something that any angel would fear to do today. Whether or not this will still be the case during the tribulation is a matter of conjecture. There is nothing that precludes the possibility. We see in Revelation some terrifying things:
“I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” (Revelation 6:8)
One of the Pseudepigrapha writers says that the Nephilim…
“went to the daughters of men and took their wives by force from their husbands according to their choice and…taught the mixture of animals of one species with the other in order therewith to provoke the Lord; and God saw the whole earth and it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon earth, all men and all animals.” (Jasher 4:18)
We know that one species cannot interbreed with another, but the pseudepigraphal writings tell us that the Nephilim did sin with animals. What happens when a fallen angel or a Nephilim attempts to breed with an animal, we do not know. Perhaps in the last days there will be attempts by fallen angels to manipulate the DNA or gene pool of animals such that they will create monsters, wild beasts of the earth that will devour mankind.
Yes, terrible things happened in the past. Fallen angels interbred with women and created a hybrid race of monster-giants called Nephilim. Who knows but that similar things will happen during the Tribulation. But now for the good news: Just as God saved Noah and destroyed the Nephilim and the evil world in the flood, so also, He will save us, not with an ark, but with the Rapture of the Church. Christians are not going to be on earth during the terrible Great Tribulation. Jesus is returning and all those who are saved will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and return with Him to heaven. If you don’t know Jesus, you might want to get ready for giant monsters. Better yet, turn to Jesus! Those of us who have given our lives to Jesus will not be here for the fearful atrocities that are coming. Terrible times are ahead, but Christians need not fear, we are not going to be here! Praise the name of Jesus!