Questions Week 1; The Bible In 90 Days

Bible in 90As we have been reading though the Pentateuch, (Gen-Deut) we’ve had some very good questions come out of our reading, which we discussed last week. The two that received the most attention was the identity of the Nephilim in Genesis 6 and the issue of how do we reconcile God’s hardening Pharaoh’s heart with the free agency (free will) of man.

I will do my best to provide some insight to these questions. If you have any more as your reading progresses please feel free to e-mail them to me at jim@m4conline.org  

{The identity of the Nephilim}

This is probably one of the most common questions to come out of the text of the book of Genesis. The opening verses of Genesis 6 paint a dismal picture of human degradation. One manifestation of the corruption of the race was the laxness regarding marriage. The identification of the “Nephilim” in 6:4 is to, say the least, problematic. The truth of the matter is scripture is silent as to the true identity of the Nephilim. When we are left without a concise answer all we are able to do is examine the context and propose some possibilities.

Before we move on to look at some of the ideas about identity we’re going to dispense with the crazy notion that is propagated within the world of conspiracy theorists and U.F.O. researchers that the Nephilim are aliens. We have no scriptural evidence for the existence of little green men appearing in the bible.

Genesis 6 and Numbers 13 (pre-Flood and post-Flood) both mention the “Nephilim.”

“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.”

                                                                                                                                    (Genesis 6:4)

“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 13:33)

Looking at the text (in this case the Hebrew text) usually provides clarification of confusion that is often arises due to translation from one language to another. With our question at hand this is not the case. There is no clear cut definition for the word Nephilim (naphal).  What we do know is that it is related to the verb “to fall” (naphal) which leads to the generally accepted thought that whatever the true identity of the Nephilim they are ones who have “fallen away from God.”

There are four primary views as to the identity of the “Nephilim.”

Common View # 1 The “Nephilim” are fallen angels

In this view the “sons of God” (vs. 6:1) are fallen angels thus the Nephilim are the offspring of these angels and human women. This is one of the most popular views. It stems from angels being called “sons of God” (Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7) As pointed out earlier the word, “Nephilim”  is related to the verb “to fall” in Hebrew. This fact gives support to the idea that they were “fallen angels.

Defenders of this position also point to two passages in the New Testament to support their view (2nd Peter 2: 4 & Jude 6

Though these verses do not specifically mention the word “Nephilim,” nor do they say that these fallen angels had sexual relationships with women, they do link “the angels who sinned” with not keeping in their proper domain. Both of these passages seem to compare the sin of these angels with the sin of the people of Sodom who in a similar manner gave themselves over to sexual immorality and went after strange flesh.

Common View # 2 The “Nephilim” are fallen angels who overtook men

This view has some similarities to the previous view in that the sons of God have a relationship to fallen angels. In this case the “Nephilim,” would be men who were overtaken by fallen angels and/or demons. Unlike the previous view, this one holds that the offspring were not a mix of “angels,” and “man,” but completely human.   

This view also has scriptural a scriptural basis. It is possible for men to be overcome and influenced by Satan or demons; there are several accounts of this happening through the pages of scripture. Some examples of this include where Judas is influenced by Satan to be betray Jesus (Luke 22:3). We also read accounts of demons entering into people, such as the Gerasene Demoniac (Mark 5:15)

Though a probable explanation, this view begs the question… Would such people who are overtaken by demons and/or fallen angels be given the title “sons of God?” In gospel accounts, we see many people who were overtaken by demons, but we never have a single case where they are called “sons of God.”

Common View # 3 The “Nephilim” are fallen children (opposite of the Godly decedents of Seth)

This view often called the “Sethite proposal.” This view appeals to the context of Genesis 5, just before the mention of the sons of God and Nephilim. So, it has good support with regards to the literary context. In this view “the sons of God,” were kings or rulers. This idea has some biblical support, (Psalm 82:1–6). This view would explain why many ancient cultures refer to the existence of “demi-gods.”  

In this view it is assumed that there was a Godly lineage from Adam to Seth and followed down the line to Noah.

Adam–Seth–Enosh–Kenan–Mahalalel–Jared–Enoch–Methuselah–Lamech–Noah

In this godly lineage of Sethites, they were called sons of God, and it was these sons of God or their children who married or began marrying ungodly women (the daughters of men), and their children followed after false gods and rejected the one true God. In other words, they fell away from God. As was mentioned earlier the word “Nephilim” is related to the verb series “to fall” in Hebrew. In this view, offspring from these unions had fallen from God and were termed Nephilim.

This view isn’t without its issues. For if we look at the descendants of some of the other men in the line of Seth we are presented with a question; why didn’t these men pass on a godly heritage to their children? We must consider this because the other sons and daughters of Methuselah (Genesis 5:26) and Lamech (Genesis 5:30) did not make it to the Ark.  Unless these decedents died before the Flood, they would have been considered wicked (Genesis 6:5). It is a distinct possibility and many would say probability that many of Seth’s descendents weren’t  saved from the flood, indicating  that they were less than godly and thus shouldn’t all be lumped together as “sons of God.”

Another problem presents itself for the Sethite view comes post flood (Numbers 13). Post-Flood, everyone was a Sethite, because all survivors were decedents of Seth… so again we ask the question… where did those “Nephilim” come from?

Common View # 4 The “Nephilim” are fallen men

This view is similar in many respects to the previous view, so much so that many consider it to      consider it to be an upgrade of the previous. In this view, not all of Seth’s lineage or descendants were assumed to be godly, but that only some of them were godly. This view  also answers any perceived problems of the “Nephilim” we read about in Numbers 13, needing to be decedents of Seth, as there have been godly men both pre-Flood and post-Flood. It also holds consistency between the use of men (Genesis 6:1-2) identifying both of them both as “mankind.”

Like the previous view, godly men, “sons of God” were marrying women who were not godly “daughters of men”, such as Cain’s descendants, and or including ungodly people from Seth’s line, thus resulting in “Nephilim,” those who “fell away” from God’s favor. These “Nephilim” could easily have been people who had fallen or turned from God in a severe way. This would also make sense as to why some of Canaan’s descendants,(descendants of Anak were Canaanites) were called Nephilim in Numbers 13.

From this pastor’s mind this fourth view makes the most sense, that the “Nephilim” were 100% human descendants of Adam who were in a state of being “fallen,” far from God. This issue along with others we will see in the course of our reading falls into the area of opinion, and not of faith.  It is a question where the bible student will have to draw their own conclusion.

Primary source:  “Nephilim,” by Answers In Genesis 

{The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and the free agency (free will) of man}

Twenty times in Exodus 4–14 statements are made regarding the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. To get the full picture and to bring understanding of these events we must look back to the Hebrew text. Three different verbs are used to describe the “act” of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart:

1. Kabed – “to be heavy” this term appears six times. The word deals with the failure of an organ due to age or disease. Hence, when Pharaoh’s heart was “heavy” it was no longer receptive to outside positive influences.

2. Chazaq – “to be strong,” “hard,” or “bullheaded,” this term appears twelve times.

3. Qashah – “to be hard,” “difficult,” or “severe,” and this term appears only once.

This shows us the state of mind that Pharaoh is in during his confrontation with Moses

Ten times God is the subject of the verb, four times Pharaoh hardens his own heart, and six times Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.

Before the plagues commenced, God predicted twice that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 7:3). However; we see that no notice is given to the active role of God in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart until after the sixth plague (9:12). At least seven times before the sixth plague the text indicates either that Pharaoh hardened his heart or that his heart was hardened.

In light of how this “hardening” has taken place, it appears to be an example of the permissive will of God. God permitted Pharaoh to continue in his self-imposed hardness and withdrew from him whatever inducements there might have been to listen to the demands of Moses. So it would seem that Pharaoh had already hardened his own heart before God stepped in

Here’s the breakdown of the event

Pharaoh’s heart became hard (7:13, 23)

Pharaoh hardened his heart (8:15, 32)

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9:7, 10:20)

 It appears that God just gave him up to his hardened heart, and ratified his decision to reject Moses’ demands.

 We also read in Romans 1 about God “giving people over” to their own desires. If we reject God enough, He will let us go our own way.

 Primary source:  “The Pentateuch,” by James E. Smith

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About Jim

I'm currently the Communications Director for Missouri Operation for Vigorous Evangelism [MOVE] A Church planting ministry located in Jefferson City, MO. I believe that the church is the primary means through which God works in a community to love and redeem it. Here at MOVE we’re discovering new ways to be used for this purpose as God leads us and lights His path for us. As God forms this organization and shapes it for a new kind of world I want to be right in the middle of what He’s doing, traveling on this road of a disciple’s journey.

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