Pastor Mike discusses the story of Cain and Abel and explains how this story is wrongly interpreted as a story about sibling rivalry. Instead, this is a story about worship. To read a text version of this lesson, see the lesson on Cain and Abel.
The story of the Nephilim is one of the more bizarre stories in the Bible. If you enjoy stories such as Greek mythology you’re probably a fan of this story as I am. The difference is that the story of the Nephilim is a true story unlike the stories of mythology. The issue is what the story actually means and how literally should we interpret it.
In Genesis 6 we’re given an account of how wicked the world had become by the time of Noah. In Genesis 6:1-3 we’re told that the earth is wicked and that God had numbered the days of humanity at 120 years. But why were they considered so wicked? We’re only given a few clues.
“When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.’”
The problem appears to be that the sons of God are intermarrying with the daughters of men. But who are these two parties? There are two commonly given answers. The first is that the sons of God are those who are following God while the daughters of men are the pagans who have rejected God. This is an intermarrying of faiths or what we might call being unequally yoked. It is an understandable problem and one can see how the sons of God would be led away from God through this intermarrying.
The other possibility is that the sons of God are not human but rather angels who are fallen. This is a problem on a whole other level than just an intermarrying of faith. If this is taking place, women would be giving birth to essentially demonic children. It is the kind of story that serves as the main plotline for a horror movie.
Some will immediately dismiss the notion of fallen angels marrying humans as absurd or impossible. Some point to Matthew 22:30 that angels don’t marry. Jesus said, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Some have mistakenly taken this verse to mean that angels are neuter in gender and/or that they can’t marry. Jesus never said that angels can’t marry, only that they don’t marry. There is apparently no need for marriage in heaven.
But if these are indeed fallen angels, they wouldn’t follow the rules of heaven. Likewise, while there is no need for marriage in heaven, these angels would be here on earth. So as they interact with humans they would take part in human activities, marriage being one.
It is at least theoretically possible that these are fallen angels that are called the sons of God. Or they are religious followers of God on earth. The next verse gives us reason why we should believe one or another.
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
The Nephilim are the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men. If these are simply human offspring, they are particularly wicked as a product of their parents. There have always been mixed marriages of the religious and non-religious, so this must be a special construct that is particularly wicked if the offspring are worthy of their own separate classification.
The biggest hang up with this theory of the Nephilim is why this offspring are the heroes of old, the men of renown. This would seem to imply that there is something physically special and impressive about these offspring and there is no reason to reach this conclusion if these are just the product of a godly parent and an ungodly one.
On the other hand, if they are the offspring of an angel and a human, it makes good sense why they would have impressive physical qualities as well as requiring their own classification. But is this just pure speculation? In Greek mythology there are similar tales of gods having children to earthly women and it is possible that this is the true source of such myths. Stories of demigods would have some slight basis in reality if that were the case.
There is more reason to believe this rather than just the fact that it is similar to some mythology. In 1 Peter 3 there is a very odd allusion to the story of Noah. Verses 19-20 state After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
Jesus is making a proclamation to imprisoned spirits from the days of Noah. It does not say that these spirits are angels here. It is possible that these are the spirits of the wicked specifically from Noah’s day, but why single out those from all of the wicked in history through Jesus’ day? 2 Peter gives us a better indication that these just might be angels to whom Jesus is making a proclamation.
2 Peter 2:4
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;
We know that Satan took a third of heaven’s angels with him when he fell. We also know that there are still fallen angels, we refer them commonly as demons, in the world today. So the angels who sinned and have already been punished can’t be just a reference to those who rebelled alongside of Satan. They must have done something so heinous that God sent them to hell before the rest of the demons.
Now we’re onto something. I can’t be sure, so this still amounts to little more than reasoned speculation, but I believe that the Nephilim are the half-demon offspring of fallen angels. It feels absurd and a bit scary as well, but no more than the reality that demons are real and influence our world today. There are a group of angels that did something so terrible that God locked them away before the rest of the demons. I believe that marrying humans and having children with them would certainly meet those criteria.
Although it feels more logical that the sons of God are just followers of God who are led astray by pagans, I don’t believe that this is the logical conclusion that we can reach based on what we’re told in Genesis 6. This story is one right out of the pages of mythology and it seems absolutely incredible. But on the other hand, so does the story of the world being so evil that God had to destroy it with a flood and we have no problem believing that. So just maybe the Nephilim are something that seems too crazy to exist but actually did.
The fall of man obviously isn’t good news for humanity. Man was given a perfect world to live in and we royally messed it up. Perfection was destroyed and the result was the world that we see now. Ever since the fall of man, God has been working to restore the perfection that was present in the Garden of Eden.
Even though the outcome was anything but good, there is a lot that we can learn from the story of the fall of man. Satan’s tactics haven’t changed any since the serpent tempted Eve so if we learn from this story we learn what to expect virtually any time that we are tempted.
Genesis 3:1 begins “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?””
There is debate whether the serpent is actually Satan, if it is controlled by Satan, whether it is a metaphor for Satan, etc. I’m not really concerned about that debate right now. Regardless whether this is actually Satan or a devil like creature, it uses the same tactics as Satan. And I will interchangeably refer to the serpent as the devil just to clear up any confusion.
The serpent starts by questioning God. This is a very indirect approach here. And that is the power of the attack. Satan doesn’t come out and declare that God’s rules are stupid. But what he does is get Eve to start wondering about the rules that God has given. Why is this one tree forbidden? What is so special about one particular tree? What is she potentially missing out on? Why would God place something in the garden that was forbidden?
Eve tells the serpent that they are forbidden to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden and that they will die if they do. The serpent’s response is another classic tactic of Satan.
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Satan constantly twists God’s words. He tells half truths. In short, he deceives. Jesus called Satan the Father of Lies so this tactic shouldn’t be at all surprising to us. Eating from the tree would bring about spiritual death and it would bring about spiritual death. What the serpent declares is that eating the fruit would not bring about immediate death which was true. The death it did bring was far worse than immediate death but of course he’s not going to reveal that.
Satan loves to twist God’s words and confuse us with double talk and nonsense. Is it any wonder how Christians could all have the same Bible but have so many different interpretations of God’s teachings? There is only one right interpretation of what the Bible says but there are many different views on everything from birth control to homosexuality. Satan twists and confuses the issue and he does so from the beginning with Eve.
The second part of what the serpent tells Eve is completely true but still told with the intent to deceive. In church we constantly teach that we are striving to be like Jesus, to be holy like God. But while Adam and Eve still had their innocence, they did not want to be like God. To have the knowledge of good and evil was a curse, not a blessing. But of course it is sold as a blessing that God has been withholding from Eve.
The fall of man is recorded quite simply but there’s a lot that happens in Genesis 3:6. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Eve saw that the fruit was good for food. I can’t be certain of it, but I assume that Eve looked at the fruit and compared it to the other fruit that she had eaten. It looked like other fruit that she had eaten and had no consequences from eating. It’s not like this fruit was covered in spikes or had anything to indicate that this was bad aside from the fact that she had been told to avoid it. Sin often looks the same as non-sinful things. Or in other words, it seems like a perfectly good idea beforehand. Only after the fact does sin seem like a bad idea.
We also see that the fruit was pleasing to the eye. Satan sells us a lot of things because they are pleasing to the eye. Not only does sin not appear to be harmful, it looks good. There is something that is enticing about sin because we’re convinced that not only will it not be bad for us but that it is something that we should want for our lives.
So we have that the sin is not bad, but also pleasing. And finally it is sold as beneficial. There is something to be gained that isn’t just a self satisfying fulfillment of some desire but there is a tangible benefit. One can imagine Eve’s thought process as she fell for this deception.
The fruit is commonly pictured as an apple. We have no indication what it actually was but let’s just use an apple as our image. Eve sees the apple hanging on the tree. She realizes that this fruit looks similar to the other fruits that she’s eaten before and had no ill effects, so there’s a good chance that it’s not poisonous like she had been led to believe. And the apple looks good. It’s shiny. It looks like it is crispy but juicy when you bite into it. It looks like something that she’d enjoy eating. And then finally there’s the fact that this fruit will make her wiser. How can you pass up an unharmful, delicious looking fruit that will make you wiser?
And after Eve ate some, she gave Adam some to eat as well. I won’t go into it in any depth, but we always speak of Adam as being the source of sin and not Eve. The short answer is that Eve was deceived when she sinned while Adam should have known full well that what he was doing was wrong. This doesn’t mean that we are off the hook if we sinned and didn’t know better or were deceived into doing so. Eve is still punished for her sin. Adam takes the full blame here because his was a willful sin without deception or coercion of any kind. With Adam’s sin there is also a matter of seminal headship and federal headship which I won’t really get into. That’s a different theological discussion.
Eve got exactly what she wanted and what the serpent told her would happen. Her eyes were opened in verse 7 but the result was not what she wanted.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Adam and Eve’s new found knowledge tells them that they are naked. They are physically naked so they sew fig leaves together. But those fig leaves can’t cover up their spiritual nakedness so they attempt to hide from God in the garden. Of course they are not hidden from God and He knows of their sin. Judgment will come upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent. But rather than end on a negative note, I’ll close with a positive note. Despite all of the ugliness that occurs with the first sin, there is still some good news.
Genesis 3:15 is what is known as the protoevangelium, or first gospel. Adam and Eve need some good news now that they have sinned.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.
This is the announcement that Jesus, the offspring of the woman, was going to come and crush the head of the serpent. Fig leaves couldn’t do anything to deal with the spiritual nakedness that Adam and Eve had so God gave them the permanent solution in Jesus.