Study Guide: Twisted Scripture: Genesis 6:1-7

Sunday July 19, 2015 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Greg Boyd finishes our Twisted Scripture series by delving into the passage in Genesis 6:1-7 on the issue of the Nephilim. This controversial passage deals with the creation of hybrid beings, the Nephilim, that are the offspring of fallen angels and daughters of humans. This passage has led to many distracting theories and conspiracies that have served to move us away from the tasks of the Kingdom of God. Our job, as Kingdom people, is to stay vigilant to all the ways the principalities and powers of this fallen world are constantly trying to spiritual engineer the Kingdom and our identity in Christ out of this world. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus and be careful of this temptation to slowly lose our Kingdom calling.

Extended Summary:

The focus of this final week of our Twisted Scripture series is the account of the Nephilim in Genesis 6:1-7. The Nephilim have grown in popularity over the last number of years, but most of the discussion has been surrounding apocalyptic and fantastical novels and predictions. The majority of these books and theories have very little to support them and certainly do not take into account the broader application of the Nephilim within the canon of Scripture.

The story of the Nephilim within the book of Genesis is the precursor to the flood narrative and describes the reason for the flood. The first issue to be tackled in this sermon is to deal with the confusion on the identity of the Nephilim. Saint Augustine argued that since the sons of God (mentioned in Genesis 6:2) are spirit beings they could not have any sexual interaction with the daughters of humans. Much of this goes back to Augustine’s platonic thread of thinking through his work. Augustine argued that the sons of God are the righteous descendants of Seth and that the daughters of humans are the wicked descendants of Cain and that this relationship was deluding the righteous blood of Seth. Greg argued that Augustine’s interpretation of this passage was flawed by noting that the Bible does not specifically describe the descendants of Seth as particularly righteous or the descendants of Cain as particularly evil. There is also no reason to believe that the offspring of evil people and righteous people would produce an offspring like the Nephilim that have a greater size or power than other offspring. The interpretation of this passage by the early church up until the 5th century was that this passage is describing fallen spiritual powers (sons of God) who came and had sex with daughters of humans that produced these hybrid creatures called the Nephilim. We are forced, based on the evidence, to continue along this same line of thinking to interpret this bizarre passage. Greg also spends time arguing that the Nephilim were also giants. This is defended through ancient stories of giants along with the account of the Israelite spies in Numbers 13:33 where they note that the inhabitants of the promised land were descendants of the Nephilim and large in stature.

The main issue with this story in Genesis 6:1-7, and the reason for the coming flood narrative, is that the birth of these hybrid creatures was on the verge of derailing the whole creation process by overpowering humanity in its present state. This is the reason behind God removing his Spirit to allow the flood to envelop the earth. The flood then becomes a desperate rescue mission by God to keep his plans for humanity on track and to salvage all that can be salvaged.

These few verses have been twisted in two main ways. First, these seemingly bizarre, confusing and short verses have been used to create hysteria and strange conspiracy theories. Our encouragement and calling is to not waste any time with these conspiracy theories since as kingdom people we should be too busy with the work of the kingdom to bother with these bizarre ideas. These types of manufactured hysteria are just one big demonic distraction in the midst of a world with slavery, homelessness, terror, and hunger. Second, another well-meaning twist to this scripture comes from Numbers 13. The argument from some is that the reason behind God’s command of the Israelites to slaughter all the Canaanites is because the land was filled with this hybrid humanity of the Nephilim. While it is critical for us to get an explanation for the reasoning behind the picture of God commanding the genocide in the conquest narratives, this is not a plausible explanation. The primary reason for the implausibility of this explanation is that the narrative in Numbers 13 is the account of hysterical people coming back to convince the Israelites that the Canaanites are too strong to be conquered. We also see throughout the Old Testament that the slaughtering of the Canaanites was not God’s idea. Greg specifically noted the passage in Exodus 23:28-30 where we see that God’s plan was to use an insect infestation to slowly migrate the Canaanites from the land without using violence. God wanted a non-violent migration that means he didn’t want to slaughter the Canaanites and, therefore, it is not comparable to the Nephilim account in Genesis 6.

The application of this passage comes when we see that the story is all about boundaries being crossed in inappropriate ways. The order of creation is being violated and we need to have clear lines of demarcation to avoid coming under the influence of fallen principalities and powers. In the same as the sons of God in Genesis 6 were trying to genetically engineer humanity out of existence so the principalities and powers of today are trying to spiritual engineer the Kingdom of God out of existence. These principalities and powers are constantly trying to install fear in us to draw us away from the beauty of the self-sacrificial love in the Kingdom of God. We need to continually keep Christ on our mind to stay vigilant against this desire of the enemy to destroy of the works of the Kingdom.

Reflection Questions:

  1. The topic of Nephilim has been extremely controversial over time. What is your current understanding of this passage in Genesis 6? Is this a new topic to you?
  2. Have you given into the conspiracy theory conversations rather than focusing on the work of the Kingdom? In what ways?
  3. In what places of your life are you living as a hybrid and have given into the principalities and powers of this fallen world?
  4. What lies of the enemy have you been tempted to give into recently? How have you overcome these temptations in the past? Who are you accountable to on these temptations to compromise to the way of the world?
  5. What lines have you decided you will NOT cross that the enemy is trying to pull you closer to?