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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:
- The Sethite view
- Divinized Human Rulers
- 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
- 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).
- It fails to explain who the Nephilim are (especially when you get to Numbers 13).
- There is no link to Cain in the text. The women are called daughters “of humankind” not daughters “of Cain.”
- There is no command against marrying certain persons up to this point in Genesis.
- 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.
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.
- Who Were the Nephilim?
- Why This Topic?
- Three Interpretations on the Nephilim
- Why is Genesis 6.1-4 in the Bible?
- Weird Texts of the Bible
Dividing the Nations
The OT Trinity
- The Trinity in the Old Testament
- And He Struggled With the Angel
- He Rides the Clouds
- The Holy Spirit
Buy it on Amazon!
And also Heiser’s more condensed version,