Biblical Studies

Are the Nephilim Divine-Human Rulers?

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In surveying the options to answer our question, “Who were the Nephilim?,” in my last post we looked at the Sethite view which believes that these “sons of God” were sons of Seth, Adam’s third son. In The Unseen Realm Heiser gives us a second option: 

  1. The Sethite view
  2. The Nephilim are divinized human rulers.
  3. Offspring of Rebellious Divine Beings

The Divine Human Rulers View

There are three points to be made to this view:

  1. Ps. 82.6-7 says, I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” Some say that the “sons of the Most High” refers to humans, and they read this into Gen. 6.1-4.
  2. There is language where God refers to humans as his sons. This is a “parallel to ancient Near Eastern beliefs that kings were thought to be divine offspring” (95-96).
    • Two examples:

      • Ps. 2.7, “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’”
      • Exod. 4.22, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son…’”
  3. They argue that “the evil marriages condemned in the verses were human polygamy on the part of these divinized rulers” (96).

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 [divine human rulers] saw that the [multiple] daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their [multiple] 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 [multiple] daughters of man and [the multiple wives] bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Flaws in this View

  1. The “human view” of Ps. 82.6 fails as a correct interpretation (This will be explained in another post).
  2. Genesis 6 never says the marriages were polygamous. Rather the reader is told of how one plural group of people acted toward another plural group of people.
  3. In the Ancient Near East (ANE) divine sonship was restricted to kings. Also, “the idea of a group of sons of God lacks a coherent [ANE] parallel ” (96). The plural phrase (“sons”) refers to divine beings, not human kings.
    • Job 1.6, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.”
    • Job 2.1, “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.”
    • Job 38.6-7, “On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
    • Ps 29.1, “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”
    • Ps 89.6, “For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?”


The “marriages in Genesis 6:1-4 corrupt the earth in the prelude to the flood story. A biblical theology of divinized human rulership in the restored Eden [what the whole Bible is aiming towards] would not be corruptive and evil” (97).

The fact that the phrase “sons of God” is used in heavenly contexts with heavenly beings gives us no reason to exclude Genesis 6.1-4 from intending the reader to think of divine beings.

So in our next post I’ll look at the third view on the Nephilim:
Offspring of Rebellious Elohim

Related Posts

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Book Review

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And also Heiser’s more condensed version,


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