Genesis 6:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 6:4, NIV: "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."

Genesis 6:4, ESV: "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown."

Genesis 6:4, KJV: "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown."

Genesis 6:4, NASB: "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of mankind, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown."

Genesis 6:4, NLT: "In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times."

Genesis 6:4, CSB: "The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men."

What does Genesis 6:4 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This is the final verse in a paragraph about a group called "the sons of God" marrying women and giving birth to a generation of famous "mighty men." As discussed in the notes on verse 2, these "sons of God" may have been human leaders who proclaimed themselves gods. This was a common tactic of emperors and kings: to claim divine birth or godly traits. In that case, this passage serves to refute their claims. God's upcoming flood will prove that there is no divine nature in these evil rulers. Their taking of "any [wives] they chose" suggests the all-too-common practice of kings having multiple wives and a harem of sexual servants.

This verse is also one of only two mentions of an extremely controversial group: the Nephilim. They do not appear themselves to be the "sons of God." Perhaps they were the children of the "sons of God" and the women they married. We're told the Nephilim were on the earth both in this era and "afterward," likely in the era following the flood.

The other mention of Nephilim in the Bible is in Numbers 13:33. The Israelite spies, collecting intelligence on the Promised Land, saw a race of men who made them look like grasshoppers in comparison. Nephilim are commonly thought to be a race of giants, in this case simply meaning very large humans. Their mention in the book of Numbers, long after the flood, suggests a supernatural influence. In the flood, all of humanity aside from Noah's family will be wiped out. This supports the suggestion that the Nephilim are the product of supernatural fathers—fallen angels or demons—and human women.

Other scholars look at this verse in contrast to Matthew 22:30, and suggest that these are men indwelt (possessed) by fallen angels, not biologically sired by them. In either case, the "sons of God" and human women did bear children who became famous as "mighty men" of old. It is possible these were merely human men famous for their power and influence on the earth. Or it is possible they were in some way supernaturally empowered and thus accomplished unusual things.

Despite the considerable controversy over the Nephilim, it's important to remember how little the Bible actually says about them. God's Word is written for a purpose, and clearly that purpose does not include relaying details about the Nephilim. Whoever or whatever they were, Scripture clearly considers other topics much more worthy of our concern.