Genesis 6:2, Sons of God. We find here an interesting construction in the Hebrew text. Literally, the Hebrew reads, “sons of the gods” or beney–ha-elohim. Usually, the word elohim, when referring to the Creator, doesn’t have the definite article, but simply Elohim. The word elohim not only can refer to the Godhead, but can also mean “angels, gods, rulers or judges.” The phrase, “the gods/ha-elohim” referring to pagan demon-deities is also found in Exod 18:11, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods/ha-elohim; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.” Is it possible then that the phrase, “sons of the gods” in this verse can refer to fallen angels? I believe so.
Genesis 6:3, My Spirit shall not strive [Heb. deen]. The LXX, Targums, Aramaic and Latin Vulgate all say abide instead of strive, which is an alternate translation from the MT. This is the translation that Philo presumes in his commentary on this passage (Allegorical Interpretation, “On the Giants,” chap. V.19). From this verse based on this alternate translation, it appears that the Spirit of Elohim was endeavoring to convict man of sinfulness and bring him back to the paths of righteousness, but that man was so evil and reprobate that Elohim gave up on this endeavor and had no choice but to pronounce divine judgment upon man as the final solution in dealing with the problem. Perhaps this gives us a clue as to what the “restrainer” of 2 Thess 2:7 is that Elohim will take away from the earth before the apotheosis of evil occurs in the last days just prior to Elohim pouring out his divine wrath on mankind as foretold in the Book of Revelation and elsewhere.
Genesis 6:4, Giants. Heb. Nephilim. This Hebrew word is found only one other place in the Bible. This is in Num 13:33 where it is used twice and where the nephilim are called to the descendants of Anak (see also Num 13:28; Deut 9:2; Josh 15:14; Judg 1:20). Scholars most often translate this word either as giants, mighty ones or fallen ones. Scholars disagree as to meaning of the root form of this verb and whether the stem means “those that cause others to fall down” or “fallen ones.” BDB confesses that the basic etymology of the word is questionable. At issue, according to The TWOT, is whether the root of nephilim is nepel meaning “untimely birth or miscarriage” (resulting in the production of superhuman monstrosities), or the more likely from the root napal, which relates to other Hebrew words meaning “be wonderful, strong or mighty.” The LXX (as apparently do the majority of the Targums) translates nephilim as giants, though The TWOT admits this may be misleading. This word is of unknown origins and may even mean “heros” or “fierce warriors.”
Adding to the confusion of this passage is the ambiguity as to whether the nephilim are the sons of Elohim or their offspring.
Whatever the meaning of nephilim and/or sons of Elohim may be, two schools of thought have prevailed in Jewish and Christian circles as to who these people were. One line of reasoning asserts that they were the children of Seth, while another presents the idea that the sons of Elohim were the offspring of sexual unions between fallen angels or demons and the daughters of men (called incubus) resulting in half-breed demon-humans (called cambion). This idea has its origins in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Enochic literature, the Old Testament pseudepigraphal writings including the Book of Jubilees (Jub 7:21–24). Some early church historians (e.g. Tertullian) shared this belief as do the Aramaic Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim). Some Bible commentators view Jude 1:6–7 as substantiating this viewpoint.
Some scholars have taken the term “sons of Elohim” to mean “angels,” and in this case fallen angels or demons, thus ostensibly substantiating the fallen angel-women union idea. Every other place beside Gen 6:2 where the actual term “sons of Elohim” is found in the Tanakh (OT), it refers to angels. This is the case in Job 1:6, 2:1; and 38:7. On the other hand, there are several passages in the Tanakh that have similar terms such as “sons of Elohim” that refer to men (e.g. “children/sons of the YHVH your Elohim,” Deut 14:1; “sons of the most high”; and Ps 82:6; “sons of the Living El,” Hos 1:10). Beyond that, there are numerous passages where Elohim refers to the nation of Israel or certain Israelites as his son (Exod 4:22–23; 2 Sam 7:14; 1 Chr 17:14; 22:10; 28:6; Jer 31:20, etc. ). In several biblical passages in the Testimony of Yeshua (NT), the term “sons of God/Elohim” refers to humans (John 1:12; Rom 8:14, 19; Phil 2:15; 1 John 3:1, 2). Based on this, some biblical researchers take the term “sons of Elohim” and declare it to be synonymous with other similar, but not exact biblical terms. Whether these terms are equivalent in the minds of the biblical writers or not is a debate that has been raging among biblical scholars for hundreds of years.
On the meaning of the term nephilim, since the biblical linguistic evidence seems unclear in the minds of many Bible students as to the exact meaning of the word nephilim, let us now consider the opinion of the ancients on this subject to see how they understood the meaning of the word. Perhaps this will bring some light onto this confusion.
The idea that nephilim is a result of the union between demons and women is largely promoted in the Ethiopian Book of 1 Enoch, which, though mentioned in the Scriptures (Jude 14), the version that is currently extant is barely 500 years old and is of questionable origins and, in some instances, contradicts the Bible. The biblical Enoch lived more than 5000 years before the oldest extant copy of the modern book that bears his name. Therefore, some modern scholars reason that it is highly unlikely that the current book of 1 Enoch is the same as the one that is mentioned in the Bible, and, therefore, discredit its content.
On the other hand, modern biblical scholars such as Dr. Michael Heiser in his recent well-researched books, The Unseen Realm—Recovering the Supernatural View of the Bible and Reversing Hermon—Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ, gives strong and eye-opening linguistic, historical and biblical evidence to the validity of the book of 1 Enoch.
Moreover, in further substantiation of the ancient origins of the book of 1 Enoch and the veracity of its account pertaining to the sons of Elohim being fallen angels, confirming Heiser’s assertions, the first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus assumes that the nephilim were evil giants and the offspring of the union of angels and women. He writes,
…for many angels of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength, for the tradition is that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants [i.e. the demigod Titans].” (Ant. 1.3.1)
Here Josephus indicates that the idea that the fallen angels were the fathers of the giants is the general opinion of antiquity and thus favors the idea that the word nephilim should carry the meaning of giants. Philo of Alexandria, the first century Jewish philosopher, expresses the same opinion (Allegorical Interpretation, “On the Giants,” chap. IV.16; XIII.32).
Moreover, the Jewish scholars who translated the Hebrew Tanakh into Greek during the intertestamental period translated the Hebrew word nephilim from Gen 6:4 as giants (Gr. gigantes) and not as “fallen ones.”
Points to consider regarding the giants/nephilim:
Humans mating with humans couldn’t have produced the nephilim giants unless all biblical references to the great height of the giants is a hyperbolic exaggeration. The fact is that many primeval cultures are rife with fabulous mythologies of hero giants with great statures and strength who possess superior physical abilities than normal humans and who were worshipped by humans as gods or demigods (e.g. the Titans in Greek mythology, the Anunnaki and the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh). These mythologies purport the idea that these super humans derived their supernatural abilities from the sexual union of aliens or gods and humans. While the Bible doesn’t overtly say this, Gen 6:2–4 implies that the angels who mated with human women to produce hybrid offspring it refers to as the nephilim (also anakim, zamzummim, emim and rephaim) were of superior stature and strength such as King Og of Bashan and Goliath the Philistine.
In intertestamental literature (e.g. the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Enoch), the angels that YHVH commissioned in the pre-flood to watch over the earth were called watchers (Dan 4:13, 17 cp. Dan 10:20; 1 Tim 5:21; Ps 103:20; Eph 6:10–12). The evil watchers are under Satan, the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2). The fallen angels who mated with women were also called by the same name.