************ Sermon on Genesis 6:1-8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 22, 2018
"The Nephilim - Giants on Earth"
Difficult Passages #9
I Who are the Nephilim?
A Who are the Nephilim? They were a race of giants. How do we know that? Because of the report of ten of the twelve spies who explored the land of Canaan.
(Num 13:31-33) But the men who had gone up with [Caleb] said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." (32) And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. (33) We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."The spies saw descendants of the Nephilim. From this we learn that the Nephilim were big. Very big. The men of Israel felt small compared to them. And weak. And insignificant. Like bugs to be squashed.
Do you remember the response of the people of Israel when they heard the descendants of the Nephilim were in the Promised Land?
(Num 14:1) That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.Telling us what? Telling us the Nephilim were well-known. And, telling us the Nephilim were scary -- scary enough to keep Israel from entering the Promised Land. Scary enough to force Israel to wander the desert for forty years. But Caleb, bless his heart, asked to be given the land populated by these giants (Josh 15:13– 14).
B Did you know that during the time of Moses the land of Canaan was populated by several people groups described in the Bible as giants? All of them are different factions or clans or descendants of the Nephilim.
1. There are the Anakites, the giants seen by the spies and attacked by Caleb (Num 13:31–33; Josh 15).
2. There are the Emites (Deut 2:10–11) and the Zamzummites (Deut 2:20). This group of tall people lived in the Transjordan, the land to the east of the Jordan River.
3. The Amorites, another group that stood in the way of Israel claiming the Promised Land, are described by Amos as being exceptionally tall (Amos 2:9).
4. Lastly, there are the Rephaites, which are mentioned nearly 20 times, most often in association with the conquest of the promised land. King Og of Bashan was a Rephaite; his bed measured over 13 feet in length and over six feet wide and -- to support his weight -- it was made of iron (Deut 2:11, 20–22; 3:11–13; Josh 12:4; 13:13). Goliath was a Rephaite. Scripture lists four other giant Rephaite warriors alongside Goliath in Gath (2 Sam 21:22; 1 Chr 20:8).
The Bible stands on its own and needs no confirmation outside of itself. Nevertheless, archaeology has unearthed the remains of various giants:
-In 1692, a human skeleton was found near Angers, France measuring 17 feet, 4 inches.
-In 1950 in the Euphrates Valley of Southeast Turkey several tombs were found containing full skeletons of giants 14 to 16 feet tall.
-Digs in China have uncovered skeletal remains of giants over 15 feet tall.
More than one scholar asks if these are the remains of the Nephilim and/or their descendants.
C Our Bible reading tells us three things about the Nephilim. First, we are told they lived before and after the Flood. "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days -- and also afterward ..." (Gen 6:4). Somehow, in someway, they came back after the Flood through the descendants of Noah. More about why in our next point.
Second, our Bible reading describes them as "the heroes of old, men of renown" (Gen 6:4). "Hero" is a poor translation. There was nothing heroic about them apart from their size. What it means is that everyone -- including the Israelites -- knew about them. Maybe Israelite fathers scared their children with campfire stories of the Nephilim even as fathers today scare their children with stories of ghosts and goblins.
Third, they are called Nephilim. The Hebrew word Nephilim means "fallen ones." That says just about everything about them. They were fallen. That is, they were godless and heathen and evil. They opposed God and the people of God. Every time we come across them in Scripture, God orders all of them to be exterminated.
II Where did the Nephilim Come From?
A Where did the Nephilim come from? Our Scripture reading says they are the result "when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them" (Gen 6:4). Everyone agrees on who are the "daughters of men": they are the godless, worldly, female descendants of Cain. But who are the "sons of God"? At least five different theories have been suggested to explain who they are.
First -- don't laugh about this -- but I found a group of websites that claim the "sons of God" are aliens who fathered the Nephilim with the daughters of men. So, if you want to find out more about them, I suggest you go to Area 51 in the middle of the Nevada desert. Or, watch the History Channel. My cycling friend -- you know, the one who always asks, "How's the preaching business, what you preaching on tomorrow" -- told me the History Channel has a series "Ancient Aliens." He was watching an episode last week that explained the Nephilim as aliens.
B Second, almost as absurd as the first, says who cares, don't worry about it; none of this means a thing. But we should care about what is in Scripture.
C The third theory is called the "Sethite" view. It says the "sons of God" were godly men from the line of Seth who fathered the Nephilim with the godless daughters of men. There are a couple of problems with this view. How can a man be described as godly if he marries a godless woman? And, how can their children end up as giants?
D The fourth theory is the "Angel" view. This theory believes the "sons of God" are fallen angels since the same phrase refers to the angels and demons who appear before God in the book of Job (Job 1:6; 2:1; cf Ps 29:1). This is the approach taken by the apocryphal book of Enoch. These angels "did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home" (Jude 1:6). They transgressed the boundaries God set for them. They were not true to their heavenly nature. And they fathered children with the godless daughters of men. The problem with this view is that, according to Jesus, the angels neither marry nor are given in marriage and appear incapable of sexual relations (Lk 20:34-36; Mt 22:30).
E Fifth, the view I now favor, is what I call the "Modified Angel" view. To understand this we need to know the relationship between angels and men. We see "good"angels throughout Scripture who take on human form. Abraham fed three strangers; he later found out two of them were angels; in human form these angels were attractive to the wicked men of Sodom (Gen 18). Jacob wrestled with an angel in human form (Gen 32). And remember what we read in Hebrews?
(Heb 13:2) Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
And we see "bad" angels -- we call them demons -- who possess unregenerate men. I say "unregenerate" because you can't have the Spirit of God and an evil spirit in you at the same time. I believe it is these unregenerate men possessed by demons who end up fathering the Nephilim. Don't think it is impossible for men to be possessed by fallen angels. It is known from Ezekiel 28:11–19 and Daniel 10:13 that the great kings of Tyre and Persia have "princes" ruling behind them -- that is, their power is demonic. These kings were viewed as gods and claimed to be gods and were worshiped as gods. The ancients looked up to them and revered them. And, in the New Testament we meet men, women, and children who are possessed by evil spirits. Unregenerate men possessed by fallen angels explains why the Nephilim did not disappear with the flood -- because Satan was still present and unregenerate men were still present.
III Man's Great Wickedness
A All of this is interesting, maybe even entertaining. But now we need to ask why is the story of the Nephilim in Scripture? Please don't say it doesn't mean anything or count for anything. Instead, we need to follow the leading of Paul in Romans 15 and 2 Timothy 3:
(Rom 15:4) For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.Meaning the story of the Nephilim is in Scripture to instruct us.
(2 Tim 3:16-17) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (17) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
B You might realize the book of Genesis is divided into different sections. Each section starts off with: "This is the account of ..." The Hebrew word is "toledot." There is the toledot of heaven and earth, the toledot of Adam, the toledot of Noah, the toledot of Shem, the toledot of Terah, and so on. The story of the Nephilim is part of the toledot of Adam.
Now, with this in mind, listen to the opening verses of the toledot of Adam in Genesis 5:
(Gen 5:1-2) This is the written account [toledot] of Adam's line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. (2) He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them "man."God created Adam good and in His own image. As created, man was furnished in his mind with a true and beneficial knowledge of his creator and things spiritual, in his will and heart with righteousness, and in all his emotions with purity; indeed, the whole man was holy. To use an overused word today: man was perfect.
By the way, have you noticed how everything today is "perfect"? A waitress takes your order; "perfect" she says. You tell the cashier you are doing well; "perfect" she says. I answer a question; "perfect" says the person I just helped. What would happen if I jumped on the table or counter and yelled out, "NO! NO! Only God is perfect. Nothing here is perfect. Not you, not me, not anyone but God." I'm tempted to do this. If you read about this in the newspaper, you will know I have gone over the edge.
Anyway, Adam, like God, was perfect. However, when tempted by the devil, in reckless disobedience, Adam and Eve robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts. I'm talking about the Fall into sin. The result was imperfection. The result was blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in his mind; perversity, defiance, and hardness in his heart and will; and impurity in all his emotions.
Man brought forth children of the same nature as himself after the fall. This is to say, being corrupt he brought forth corrupt children. The corruption spread, by God's just judgment, from Adam to all his descendants.
Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to reform.
How corrupt did people become? Look at the Nephilim. Wicked, godless, evil. Man started off so good, so holy, so righteous, so perfect. And now he allows himself to be possessed by evil spirits and fallen angels.
How corrupt did people become? God looked at the Nephilim and what did He see?
(Gen 6:5-7) The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. (6) The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. (7) So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them."God made two judgments. First, He set man's life span to be 120 years in order to limit the evil that can be done by any one person. In the case of the Nephilim, they were so big and so mighty and so evil that God limits the damage they can do by limiting the years of their life. Second, God announced the Flood to wipe out all of mankind -- including the Nephilim -- from the earth; He saved only believing Noah and his family.
Look at the Nephilim, see God's pain, hear God's judgment, grieve over man's fallenness, and rejoice in God's grace.
C We have just looked at the Nephilim in terms of man's fall from perfection to wickedness. But we can also look at the Nephilim in terms of Satan.
Satan hates God. Satan is jealous of God. Satan loves nothing more than to make God's image-bearers stumble and fall. How far is Satan willing to go? Look at the Nephilim. He is willing for his servants, his demons, to possess men. Why? To oppose God. To oppose the people of God. To oppose the church and the Gospel and the line of the Messiah.
So Israel marched to the Promised Land. Again and again what stood between them and possession of the land? The Nephilim and their descendants. I'm talking about demon-possessed men like Og and Goliath and all the others like them. Remember the approach taken by Goliath? Each day he came out and defied the armies of the living God (1 Sam 17). That was Satan at work. That was the godless, lawless Nephilim at work. They were throughout the land and desecrated the land and needed to be wiped out. It wasn't until King David that God put an end to their presence in the land.
Now, fast forward with me to the Gospels. What happens in the ministry of Jesus? Time after time He came across the New Testament version of Nephilim -- that is, men, women, and children who were possessed by evil spirits. Every time they met Jesus the spirits begged for mercy and were cast out. Why? Because in Jesus they met One Who is greater and mightier than Satan and all his demons.
That's how we have to end. Jesus has come. Though He was tested and tempted by Satan, He refused to succumb. Furthermore, at the cross and the grave He defeated the powers of darkness. At the cross and grave He showed Himself to be great and mighty.
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