The Mighty Men Who Were of Old
Once upon a time, giants roamed the earth.
That sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale. Most Christians have never been taught that a similar story is told in the Book of Genesis, and in very similar language: “The Nephilim (or giants) 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. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”
Pastors, priests, and Sunday school teachers tend to skip the first four verses of Genesis 6 and go right to the story of Noah because—well, the verses are weird. They contradict the scientific consensus. They’re hard to understand.
Please remember this: God didn’t inspire the prophets and apostles to write filler. Moses was not assigned a minimum word count. If it’s in the Bible, it’s relevant—and if it’s weird, it’s important.
The reason we’re writing this book is that it’s become clear to us that the episode described in Genesis 6:1–4, and expanded upon in the non-canonical Book of 1 Enoch, is far more important to human history and biblical theology than we realized.
We are Bible-believing, blood-bought Christians, so let’s put to bed right now any concerns you might have that this book is going off the theological rails to add something to the salvation story. If you don’t accept the evidence we’ll present here, that’s fine; as long as we agree that salvation comes only through grace by faith in Jesus Christ, we’re good. The purpose of this study is to show you how viciously and for how long the Fallen have been waging war against our Creator. Their ultimate objectives are control of God’s mount of assembly, Zion, and authority over your eternal soul.
So, what role did the giants play in the biblical narrative?
First, we need to establish that the children of human women to the “sons of God” were literally angel-human hybrids. This is consistent with similar stories from the ancient world of gods commingling with humans to produce demigods such as Gilgamesh, who claimed to be two-thirds god and one-third human, and Hercules, the son of Zeus by the mortal woman Alcmene.
Obviously, researchers can’t produce DNA from pre-Flood human remains that will support this theory. However, it’s worth noting that for all of the faith placed by science in Darwinian evolution, only two hundred specimens of “pre-human” fossils have ever been found. If humanity has been around for ten thousand years, where are all the skeletons? But we digress.
It’s important to note that the phrase translated “sons of God” in the Old Testament, Hebrew bǝnê hāʾĕlōhîm, always means supernatural beings—angels, if you like. It does not refer to human men.
Yes, there are references in the New Testament to “sons of God” that do mean humans, but those passages are translated from Greek into English, and the context is different. The arc of history is all about restoring humanity to the garden, like the prodigal son returning home and being restored to the family as a co-heir. Someday, we will once again be “sons (and daughters)” of God in the Old Testament sense. That’s why Jesus went to the cross.
At the risk of beating a horse that’s already on life support, let me repeat: “Sons of God” in Genesis 6:4 refers to spirit beings, supernatural entities who rebelled against the Father—fallen angels who spawned an evil race of giants mingling the bloodlines of angels with humans. The “sons of God” were not evil human rulers or men from the line of Cain, or any other naturalistic explanation that’s been put forward since Augustine decided he couldn’t believe it in the early fifth century AD. Casting the “sons of God” as evil human men simply ignores the linguistic and cultural foundation of the Book of Genesis. To interpret the Nephilim as fully human means mistranslating the Hebrew and ignoring the way the very same phrase was used by the cultures around ancient Israel that spoke and wrote similar languages.
Besides, the apostles believed it. And we dare say their theology teacher was better than ours.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (2 Peter 2:4–10)
The only place in Scripture where we know of angels who sinned (Satan excluded) is Genesis 6. By connecting the rebellious angels to Sodom and Gomorrah, Peter made it clear that the sin of the angels was sexual—a point he reinforced in verse 10. Like the “angels who sinned,” the wicked would be kept under punishment until the Judgment—“especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority,” exactly the sin of the sons of God in Genesis 6.
The apostle Jude was even more explicit:
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 6–7, emphasis added)
It could not be clearer: By connecting Genesis 6 to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jude made it clear that the sin of the angels was sexual. (It also indicates that the sin of Sodom wasn’t just homosexuality; it was the desire to cross the boundary between species. Physical relations between angel and human was just as “unnatural” as between human and animal.)
Interestingly, just a few verses later, Jude quotes the Book of 1 Enoch, which suggests that we might learn something from Enoch even though it’s not in the Bible.
When the sons of men had multiplied, in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them. And they said to one another, “Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of men, and let us beget children for ourselves.”…
These and all the others with them took for themselves wives from among them such as they chose. And they began to go in to them, and to defile themselves through them, and to teach them sorcery and charms, and to reveal to them the cutting of roots and plants. And they conceived from them and bore to them great giants. And the giants begot Nephilim, and to the Nephilim were born Elioud [“gods of glory”]. And they were growing in accordance with their greatness. They were devouring the labor of all the sons of men, and men were not able to supply them. And the giants began to kill men and to devour them. And they began to sin against the birds and beasts and creeping things and the fish, and to devour one another’s flesh. And they drank the blood.
Dr. Michael Heiser makes a convincing case in his book Reversing Hermon that a key aspect of the mission of Jesus was to reverse the evil of the Watchers. It’s obvious in 1 Enoch that the impact of the Watchers went well beyond producing monstrous hybrid offspring. Besides sorcery and potions, the fallen angels of the Hermon rebellion taught humanity the arts of divination, cosmetic enhancement, metalworking, fashioning weapons, making “hate-inducing charms,” and “the eternal mysteries that are in heaven,” which clearly were things man was not meant to know. In short, because of the forbidden knowledge passed from the Watchers to humans, the earth became filled with sex and violence.
For this, as Peter noted, God imprisoned the rebels in the abyss. While most English Bibles translate 2 Peter 2:4 as “cast them into hell,” the Greek word, tartaroō, literally means “thrust down to Tartarus.” That’s different from Hades, the word most commonly used to designate the underworld home of the evil dead. In Greek cosmology, Tartarus was as far below Hades as the earth is below heaven. It was a special prison reserved for supernatural threats to the divine order—basically, Hell for supernatural beings.
This is the only place in the New Testament where tartaroō is used, which means it’s important. It referred to a unique event, but one with which Peter’s readers were obviously familiar—the famous story of the Watchers who attempted to corrupt humanity physically and spiritually.
Derek Gilbert Bio
Derek P. Gilbert hosts SkyWatchTV, a Christian television program that airs on several national networks, the long-running interview podcast A View from the Bunker, and co-hosts SciFriday, a weekly television program that analyzes science news with his wife, author Sharon K. Gilbert.
Before joining SkyWatchTV in 2015, his secular broadcasting career spanned more than 25 years with stops at radio stations in Philadelphia, Saint Louis, Little Rock, and suburban Chicago.
Derek is a Christian, a husband and a father. He’s been a regular speaker at Bible prophecy conferences in recent years. Derek’s most recent book is The Great Inception: Satan’s PSYOPs from Eden to Armageddon. He has also published the novels The God Conspiracy and Iron Dragons, and he’s a contributing author to the nonfiction anthologies God’s Ghostbusters, Blood on the Altar, I Predict: What 12 Global Experts Believe You Will See by 2025, and When Once We Were a Nation.