Last week we drew a line between the gods of the nations and the sons of God. The term ‘sons’ emphasizes that these divine beings are not gods in the same sense that the Lord is God. Rather, they are lesser gods whom God appointed as governors and judges over the nations of the earth. The design was that they would point people to worship the Most High, God. But, as we will see today, they decided to rule their own ways and to accept worship for themselves. And that decision came with a steep price.
In the Bible, these divine beings are often referred to using different names, especially in the Old Testament. In the NT, the sons of God and other classes of divine beings are conflated with angels, which are messengers of God. But, in the Old Testament, they are often referred to by their occupation or their position within the hierarchy of God’s heavenly Kingdom. As we talked about last week, gods—plural with a lowercase g—really just means spiritual or divine beings. So, that’s a general term, not an office or position.
The office that these spiritual beings who were called upon to govern the people of the earth is called a Watcher; sometimes it is referred to as an overseer in some transitions. And if you are like me, you have read through the passages about watchers in the scriptures and passed right over them without even noticing them; but they are absolutely there as we will see today. So, as we are talking about the supernatural rebellion, we need to talk about the Watchers.
Who are the Watchers?
According to the Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, a watcher is…
Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Watcher) — (עִיר, Waking), a class of angelic beings mentioned in the description of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 4:13–17). The Chaldæans [Pre-Babylonian/Assyrian astronomers] appear to have believed that God had delegated the moral government of making inquisition into human actions, and punishing the guilty.
The word Watcher literally means those who are awake. — In other words, they woke. — They knew all that was happening on the earth because it was their job to know.
Just as we read about the gods of the nations in Psalm 82 last week, and we learned that the gods were to be judges and governors, here we see that this is the role of the watchers as well. The watchers are common characters in Jewish literature, so we know a great deal about them, although they only appear by name in one passage of scripture. They show up in many other places if you know how to find them.
So, let’s go to Daniel chapter 4, which is the only place in the Bible that the Watchers are mentioned by name. In this passage, the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had a vision and he went to all of his wise men in Babylon to figure out what the dream meant, but they couldn’t interpret it. So, Nebuchadnezzar called for Daniel, a prophet of Israel who was in exile in Babylon. Here’s what he said about his vision.
Daniel 4:13–17 (CSB) — “As I was lying in my bed, I also saw in the visions of my mind a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He called out loudly…[The Watcher’s Decree]…This word is by decree of the watchers, and the decision is by command from the holy ones. This is so that the living will know that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms. He gives them to anyone he wants and sets the lowliest of people over them.
Notice a few observations from the passage.
• First, the Watchers are holy ones of God. They do His work. That’s what they were created for.
• Second, the watchers make judgments all on their own. An angel, properly speaking, delivers a message on behalf of God. But, notice this is not God’s message here. It is the decree or decision of the watchers. That is because watchers are not just God’s lackeys; they are His governors and judges. They’re trusted to make decisions.
• Next, the watchers are visible. In several passages, including this one, you will see it say, “I saw.” That’s interesting, because in every ancient culture—Egypt, Babylon, Greece, even Israel—the gods appear visibly to the people. Even in Israel, Yahweh, the Lord showed up visibly all over the Old Testament and certainly is present bodily in Jesus Christ. So, the watchers are visible.
• Finally, as mentioned last week regarding the sons of God, the Watchers exist to make it known to humans that the Most High rules all the earth. Their purpose is not to glorify themselves, but to glorify the Most High, creator of the universe.
In other words, the Watchers are pretty obviously the same characters as the gods of the nations in Psalm 82 from last week.
Let’s look quickly at two other passages about Watchers. This is a vision that the prophet Zechariah had.
Zechariah 1:8–10 (CSB) — I looked out in the night and saw a man riding on a chestnut horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in the valley. Behind him were chestnut, brown, and white horses. I asked, “What are these, my lord?” The angel who was talking to me replied, “I will show you what they are.” Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.”
Zechariah had a vision of an angel, a messenger of God, but then a group of other beings showed up on horses and the angel explained that their job is to patrol the earth. They are there for justice and to watch over the earth.
I also like the vision in chapter 4 of Zechariah which says,
Zechariah 4:10 (CSB) — These seven eyes of the Lord, which scan throughout the whole earth, will rejoice when they see the ceremonial stone in Zerubbabel’s hand.
Here the watchers are referred to by a colloquial term, ‘eyes of the Lord,’ meaning one who watches.
Now, I want to make a note here. The Watchers show up in different places in scripture and we don’t want to conflate them with each other. There are different groups of Watchers if we can look at it that way.
There are the Watchers of Psalm 82 from last week. If the Watchers of Psalm 82 were already punished—remember they fell like princes and died like men—then there are more Watchers. How so? Because the events of Daniel and Zechariah occurred centuries, possibly millennia, after the events of Psalm 82. So, even though some Watchers were appointed over the nations, there were still Watchers in heaven that God utilized—and in all likelihood still utilizes—to watch over the affairs of the earth.
We are going to look at a third group of Watchers today. We are doing this a bit backward, because these Watchers showed up on the scene LONG before the Watchers of Psalm 82. Hebrew tradition says that they left heaven 500 years before the events of Noah and the flood in Genesis 6. Or to use Jude’s words, ‘They left their proper dwelling.’
What did these Watchers actually do?
Traditions say that there were 200 Watchers who came down out of heaven at Mount Hermon. If you think back to the very beginning of time when God created Adam and Eve, it was going to take some time for the people to spread throughout the earth. So, Moses recorded this.
Genesis 6:1–2 (ESV) — When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.
Remember sons of God is an equivalent term for Watchers and is referred to in the New Testament simply as ‘angels.’ Some people try to make this passage about something other than divine beings, but we have to be honest about what the text says. Sons of God never refers to individual humans although some will argue that it does in some passages where the supernatural world is inexplicable like this one.
For instance, people argue that Psalm 82 is about humans judges and completely ignore the phrase, ‘You are gods, all of you,’ even though Deuteronomy 32 and 1 Corinthians 8 also clearly identify the sons of God or lesser gods as the so-called gods of the nations. I’ll be addressing that in more detail in a Q&A this week on our Facebook page if you’d like to know more about that issue.
The next issue is that of procreation between divine and human beings. There is a very clear juxtaposition here between divine sons and human daughters. Further, it states clearly that there was an attraction for the daughters of the humans. So, when we get to the euphemism, ‘took as wives,’ we just cannot explain away the reality that they actually had sex.
But, someone will argue, ‘Angels don’t have genitalia!’ How could they do that? People love that argument, so I want to show you where it comes from. Jesus said,
Matthew 22:30 (CSB) — For in the resurrection they [people] neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven.
The connection people make is, ‘angels don’t marry.’ If they don’t marry, then they don’t have kids. If they don’t have kids, then they don’t have genitalia. If you don’t have genitalia that you can’t have kids. That would certainly be true. But, the reverse is not true. Plenty of people with genitalia don’t have kids. And anyway, this argument would suggest that people also do not have genitalia, which is not obviously true.
This, to me, is an area where people try to make excuses for things they don’t have a category for in their thinking. We have a category for angels. They’re messengers of God and we are used to thinking about angels. We have a category for humans; we interact with humans every day. But we don’t have a category for demigods—half human, half god. If anyone does have a category, it’s the category we call Greek mythology; it’s Hercules. It’s a cartoon. It’s a story. It’s not real, right?
Well, what if I told you that EVERY ancient culture had a category for demigods and lesser gods?—Egyptians, Akkadians, Greeks, and even Hebrews, the Israelites. It’s just a reality of the scriptures. We believe so many supernatural things, but we tend to mythologize or rationalize the things we don’t have good categories for instead of just letting the Bible be what it is. So, this is what it says. The watchers, the sons of God, came down to earth and took human wives.
Peter obviously understood it this way. He refers back to this event, saying that,
2 Peter 2:4–5 (ESV) — God did not spare angels [Watchers] when they sinned, but cast them into hell [Tartarus] and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; … 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.
This is Peter’s commentary about what angels or Watchers did in the days of Noah. It’s obviously not about men.
A side-note for fellow Bible Geeks or those who read mythology, the word translated as ‘hell’ in this passage is ‘Tartarus,’ which comes from the story of the Titans. The Titans rebelled against the creator gods of the Greek myths Gaia and Ouranos and were punished with imprisonment in Tartarus. It’d almost like it really happened thousands of years before and each culture had a myth to remember the event.
Peter also said that,
1 Peter 3:19–20 (ESV) — …the spirits in prison…did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared…
Whatever happened in the days of Noah, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t a big deal and that it didn’t involve spirits or divine beings. There’s just too much evidence to try to rationalize away.
Jude 6 (ESV) — And the angels [Watchers] 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.
These Watchers left heaven, their proper dwelling, and rebelled against God’s authority and as a result, were chained in gloomy darkness until the day ofjudgmentt. That is what Peter and Jude both believed happened in Genesis 6, before God flooded the earth.
So, that’s what the Watchers did. Next, we will answer the question…
What happened to humankind as a result?
We already know what happened to the Watchers. They were chained in gloomy darkness. But, it had three major repercussions for humankind. The first is…
Shortening of Life
Genesis 6:3 (ESV) — Then the Lord said, “My Spirit [breath] shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”
It’s unfortunate that the Hebrew word ruah is translated as Spirit here. It can either be translated spirit or breath. In Genesis 2 we see that God breathed life into all men and that is the breath that is lost. Specifically, this is a warning that in 120 years, all life will be cut off.
This should not be taken to mean that people won’t be able to live over 120 years as the context of Genesis itself refutes that. Plenty of people lived far over that even after the flood. Even today there is the occasional soul that lives over 120.
This actually means that the flood came in 120 years and all life will be cut off. At that time the breath of life ceased to abide in humankind, for humans are flesh and they most certainly die.
This language harkens back to Genesis 3 where the Serpent deceived Eve and she ate from the tree, receiving the promise, ‘Surely you will die.’ The events of the Watchers isn’t the source of death, but it hastened death for those who lived at that time. The reason for a worldwide flood was to ensure that the wickedness on the earth was dealt with.
So, let’s talk about the second consequence for humanity which is the…
Genesis 6 continues,
Genesis 6:4 (ESV) — The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
The word Nephilim probably means means something like, ‘Fallen One.’ There are two groups of people here. There are those who believe that the Nephilim are the offspring of the Watchers and human women. And there are those that say they are merely the offspring of men who have ‘fallen.’ It seems weird to me that we might look to Genesis 6 and call only some people fallen when classical Jewish and Christian theology has always pointed to the sins of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and considered that to be the fall of humankind.
Genesis 6 depicts a different fall, the fall of the supernatural world, where the supernatural and the natural worlds mixed in ways that were unnatural and inexcusable to God. Besides, the context seems obvious. In verse 2, you have the divine Watchers descending to earth with lust for human women. And in verse 4 you have children called Nephilim or fallen ones being born to those human women. The most natural reading of this passage is that this was a mixing of the supernatural and natural worlds by the creation of hybrid beings or demigods.
Definitely by the 3rd century BC, when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek for use by the Hellenistic or Greek-speaking Jews, the Jewish people understood these beings to be supernatural. They were considered, actually, to be giants. The Greek Old Testament uses the term gigantes, giants, in place of the Hebrew, Nephilim.
The Old Testament actually speaks of giants in a number of other places as well. I’ll show you a few. These don’t need to be taken as 20 foot tall giants like they are often depicted in Greek mythology. There’s actually good reason to believe that they were merely larger men with greater muscle mass. At any rate, look at the description given of the giants here,
2 Samuel 21:18–22 (CSB) — After this, there was another battle with the Philistines at Gob. At that time Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Saph, who was one of the descendants of the giant. Once again there was a battle with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath of Gath. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam. At Gath there was still another battle. A huge man was there with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He, too, was descended from the giant. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan, son of David’s brother Shimei, killed him. These four were descended from the giant in Gath and were killed by David and his soldiers.
To the common Israelite, these men were huge but notice not so huge that they could not be killed. Also, note that they were having children, so they could not have been that much larger than human women just for practical reasons.
Notice the tie between the Giants and the Nephilim. When God was bringing the Israelites into the promised land and they went in to spy out the land, here’s what they reported.
Numbers 13:33 (CSB) — We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim! To ourselves, we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.”
Notice there is an entire tribe of giants that came out of the line of one particular Nephilim named Anak. Elsewhere in the scriptures, they are referred to as the Anakites, an entire tribe of giants.
In the scriptures we see the giants show up as commanders of armies, like Goliath, the general of the Philistine army in the story of David and Goliath. But, that may be an understatement to what they actually did. According to Jewish lore, the Nephilim were extremely violent and ruled the people, even demanding their worship, much like their fathers the Watchers. Here’s one passage—not from the Bible, but from the book called 1 Enoch that was a part of Jewish tradition.
Enoch 7:1–5 (LES) — Then they took for themselves women, each of them choosing a woman for themselves. They began to go to them and defile them. And they taught them sorcery and enchantments and cutting of roots and explained herbs to them. But those who became pregnant brought forth great giants from three thousand cubits. These giants ate up the produce of the men. When the men were not able to provide for them, the giants had courage against them and ate up the men. And they began to sin against birds and wild animals and reptiles and fish, and each one of them ate up the flesh and drank the blood.
This is not direct evidence because it’s not in the Bible in our tradition, but it shows you the thinking of the ancient Jewish audience. They no doubt believed the Nephilim to be giants who were the offspring of Watchers and human woman who did great evil on the earth. And that is the third result of the sins of the Watchers…
Genesis 6:5 (ESV) — The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
In Genesis 3, the serpent nudged Eve to show her the pride of her own heart. But, here the sin of the Watchers was a present and active influence over all people and thus they became so depraved that the Lord saw that every intention of the thoughts of the heart of men was continually evil, all the time. They never thought of anything righteous or good.
The serpent in the Garden never expressly touched humankind, but the Watchers did and the spread of evil was great because of it.
And thus, God flooded the earth to rid the world of the Nephilim. He was purifying the land so that he could start again with Noah and his sons. The results of the Watchers sin was Increased wickedness at the hands of the Nephilim and immanent death for all life on the earth except for Noah and his family.
That’s the narrative and it’s an interesting story, but let’s answer the question we’ve been asking in every message.
Why do we care?
There are dozens of places to go to in the scriptures to understand how depraved humanity is, how sinful every person is at heart. Why do I need to believe in Watchers and Giants in order to understand that? I think there is good reason to believe these things even beyond the reality that the scriptures teach them.
One of the questions I got for this weeks Q&A was this:
How can we effectively protect ourselves from spiritual attack while studying this spiritually controversial truth?
I’d like to answer that question in response to the question, Why do we care?
There seems to be a stigma in conservative churches against studying anything supernatural. It all gets classified as fringe theology. And we are often taught that to pursue a knowledge of the supernatural opens you up to demonic powers and what not.
Notice what we are doing though. We are becoming aware of the supernatural world that speaks of sorcery, the mixing of potions, the calling of the dead through mediums, and other forms of supernatural evil. But, I am in no way suggesting that you get involved in those things. In fact, I would do the opposite. The Watchers taught these practices—arts of sorcery, seduction, and war. These are all things that have no place in God’s Kingdom. So, if anything this is an exhortation NOT to get involved in supernatural evils.
We aren’t practicing demonic things; we are understanding them in order to avoid them. If we remain uneducated in spiritual matters we may be under the influence of them and be completely unaware. How many people grab a Ouija board from the game section at Target thinking its just fun and games? No, contacting the dead real. It’s in the Bible. And if you know that it’s real you are more likely to avoid it. If you think mediums and Ouija boards are mythology then you are more likely to open yourself up to them without even knowing what you are doing.
Similarly, if you aren’t aware of oppressive evil forces, you won’t know what you are being influenced by and you will be more likely to suffer from oppression. But, if you believe and understand demonic oppression, then you will take refuge under the cross; you will resist the Devil and he will flee from you.
We ought to understand the supernatural worldview of the ancient people and I think Peter gives us a perfect explanation for why. Let’s read this carefully. It’s a really long run-on sentence. Peter writes,
2 Peter 2:4-5,9-10 (ESV) — For if God did not spare angels [Watchers] 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…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.
God has chained the Watchers who rebelled in hell and if He is powerful enough to keep them there, then the Lord is powerful to overcome the trials you have in your life. If He can control these very powerful spiritual beings and keep their power at bay so that you don’t ever have to suffer from that kind of evil, then how small is the evil that persists in this world in comparison. Can it be said that God is powerless against the evil in this world? It cannot. If God can contain the Watchers then He is powerful to overcome anything that this world throws at us.
We are not fearful people, because we understand the vast power of God to conquer. We have no fear in life or death because the Lord goes before us. The Lord who has overcome the Watchers and who has even overcome the devil Himself, that Lord is for you and He is with you and He will never leave you or forsake you. He is your portion and your prize and there is nothing that any natural or supernatural being can do to change that.
Romans 8:38–39 (CSB) — For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The angels cannot separate you from the love of God. The rulers of the nations, the Watchers, cannot separate you from the love of God. The powers in the universe—demons, devils, spirits, ghosts—they cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing high in the heavens can separate you from the love of God. Nothing in the depths of gloomy darkness can separate you from the love of God. Nothing created in this world can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That’s hope. We’re bombarded with evil every day. We can’t get away from it. And it’s not just our personal sin; it’s the brokenness of the world we live in. Technology throws the depravity of this world in our faces every place we turn and it get’s old and we ask, Where is God in this? And the scriptures answer through Peter, ‘If the Lord stopped the sin of the Watchers, then He knows how to deal with this mess too.’ God is at work in this too.
As we close and we look to the Lord’s Supper, I want to focus on the love of God offered to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are born as enemies of God and we have to be joined to God through Jesus Christ.
That’s the reality. When you look at the broken world around you, you now will get a picture of a far greater evil, an evil where every thought and intention of the heart of man is only evil always, and you will be able to praise God that He has already rescued humanity from that level of depravity in the flood. But, you have to be honest about your own heart and confess that you have still contributed to the depravity of this word. You have helped break it because just like Adam and Eve and every human since them, you too are a broken soul.
But, Jesus came to save us from that. Jesus came to restore our brokenness. When we give up serving the lord’s of this world and we commit to serve Jesus as Lord, then we are bound to the love of God through Christ Jesus.
Jesus came and lived the life that we could never live, perfect in every way. And then he died the death we will never have to die when he hung on the cross and gave up His breath. God very God gave up the breath of life so that we can keep the life God has given us forever.
The body of Christ, represented by the bread, was broken that by His wounds your brokenness might be healed. And the blood of Christ, represented by the cup, was poured out for you. The author of Hebrews says, ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.’ By Christ’s blood, all our sins past present and future are forgiven so that we stand righteous before God.
That’s what we celebrate at the Lord’s table, that because Jesus died and overcame the grace, then you are free.