EDITORS COMMENT: This new series is being offered in memoriam of Dr. Michael Heiser who’s truly groundbreaking research on the Divine Council and Enochian Worldview (based on the book of Enoch and its connection to Hebrew theology before and at the time of Jesus) opened the door for a richer understanding of the Life of Christ than previous generations could have imagined. This series reflects content from the leading-edge books published by Defender Publishing for Dr. Heiser—Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ as well as his two volume book set titled, A Companion to the Book of Enoch: A Reader’s Commentary, Volume 1: The Book of the Watchers and Vol II: The Parables of Enoch. PLEASE NOTE: ALL PROFITS FROM THE SALE OF DR. MICHAEL HEISER’S BOOKS FROM SKYWATCHTVSTORE.COM WILL BE DONATED TO HIS FAMILY DURING THIS SERIES.
Genesis 6:1–4 is one of the most marginalized passages in the Bible. Many pastors and Bible students do all they can to avoid taking it at face value, opting for “safe” interpretations that allow it to be shelved. Second Temple Judaism gave it a prominent, almost central, role in understanding God’s activity in history. This series seeks to demonstrate that it deserves that status. Genesis 6:1–4 is actually one of the most important, serving an important role in biblical theology. Consequently, discussing how it should be—and shouldn’t be—interpreted is where we need to begin.
1When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4The 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.
Few Bible passages raise as many questions as this one. Who are the sons of God? Are they divine or human? Who were the Nephilim? Before we start tackling these questions and others, we need to learn how not to interpret this passage.
The Sethite Interpretation
The so-called Sethite interpretation refuses to take the passage at face value, with the sons of God as divine beings (“angels”) and their offspring as giants. This view has been the consensus Christian position since the late fourth century A.D. It is still the predominant approach to Genesis 6:1–4 in modern evangelical churches.[i]
In this approach, the sons of God are merely human beings, men from the line of Seth, Adam and Eve’s son who was born after Cain murdered Abel (Genesis 4:25–26; 5:3–4). Presumably, these four verses describe forbidden intermarriage between the godly men of Seth’s lineage (“sons of God”) and the ungodly women of Cain’s line (“daughters of humankind”). In this reading, everyone who lived on earth ultimately came from these two lines, both of them descended from Adam and Eve’s children.[ii] In this way, the Bible distinguished the godly from the ungodly. Part of the rationale for this view comes from Genesis 4:26, where, depending on the translation, we read that either Seth or humankind “began to call on the name of the Lord” (NIV). The line of Seth was to remain pure and separate from evil lineage. The marriages of Genesis 6:1–4 erased this separation and incurred the wrath of God in the Flood.
The Sethite view of Genesis 6:1–4 is deeply flawed. First, Genesis 4:26 never states that the only people who “called on the name of the Lord” were men from Seth’s lineage. That idea is imposed on the text. Second, as we’ll see in the next chapter, the view fails miserably in explaining the Nephilim. Third, the text never calls the women in the episode “daughters of Cain.” Rather, they are “daughters of humankind.” There is no actual link in the text to Cain. This means that the Sethite view of the text is supported by something not present in the text, which is the very antithesis of exegesis. Fourth, there is no command in the text regarding marriages or any prohibition against marrying certain persons. There are no “Jews and Gentiles” at this time.[iii] Fifth, nothing in Genesis 6:1–4 or anywhere else in the Bible identifies people who come from Seth’s lineage with the descriptive phrase “sons of God.” That connection is purely an assumption through which the story is filtered by those who hold the Sethite view.
A close reading of Genesis 6:1–4 makes it clear that a contrast is being created between two classes of individuals, one human and the other divine. When speaking of how humanity was multiplying on earth (v. 1), the text mentions only daughters (“daughters were born to them”). The point is not literally that every birth in the history of the earth after Cain and Abel resulted in a girl. Rather, the writer is setting up a contrast of two groups. The first group is human and female (the “daughters of humankind”). Verse 2 introduces the other group for the contrast: the sons of God. That group is not human, but divine.
There are more deficiencies in this viewpoint than I will take time here to expose, but the point is evident. The Sethite hypothesis collapses under the weight of its own incoherence.
Divinized Human Rulers
Another approach that argues the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:1–4 are human suggests that they should be understood as divinized human rulers. A survey of the academic literature arguing this perspective reveals that it springs from the following: (1) taking the phrase “sons of the Most High” in Psalm 82:6 as referring to humans, then reading that back into Genesis 6:1–4; (2) noting language where God refers to humans as His sons (Exodus 4:23; Psalm 2:7), which, it is argued, is parallel to ancient Near Eastern beliefs that kings were thought to be divine offspring;[iv] and (3) arguing that the evil marriages condemned in the verses were human polygamy on the part of these divinized rulers.
As with the Sethite interpretation, this view makes assumptions that render it invalid when tested. First, the text of Genesis 6 never says the marriages were polygamous. That idea must be read into the passage. Second, ancient parallels restrict divine sonship language to kings. Consequently, the idea of a group of sons of God lacks a coherent ancient Near Eastern parallel. The precise plural phrase refers to divine beings elsewhere in the Old Testament, not kings (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Psalm 29:1; 82:6 [cf. 82:1b]; 89:6 [Hebrew: 89:7]).[v] Third, the broad idea of “human divine kingship” elsewhere in the Old Testament is not a coherent argument against a supernatural view of Genesis 6. It was God’s original design for His human children to be servant rulers over the earth under His authority as His representatives—in the presence of His glory. Restoring the loss of the Edenic vision eventually involves creating a people known as Israel and giving them a king (David), who is the template for Messiah. In the final eschatological outcome, the Messiah is the ultimate Davidic king, and all glorified believers share that rule in a new, global Eden. But it is flawed hermeneutics to read either ancient kingship or the glorification of believers back into Genesis 6. The reason is obvious: the marriages in Genesis 6:1–4 corrupt the earth in the prelude to the Flood story. A biblical theology of divinized human rulership in the restored Eden would not be corruptive and evil.
In summary, the plurality of the phrase “sons of God” and the heavenly contexts of its use elsewhere show us there is no exegetical reason to exclude the occurrences of the phrase in Genesis 6:2, 4 from the list of supernatural beings. What drives this choice is apprehension about the supernatural alternative.
Siding with Peter and Jude
Peter and Jude embraced a supernatural view of Genesis 6:1–4. Two passages are especially relevant.
2 Peter 2:1–10:
1But there were also false prophets among the people.… 3And in greediness they will exploit you with false words, whose condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but held them captive in Tartarus with chains of darkness and handed them over to be kept for judgment, 5and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a proclaimer of righteousness, and seven others when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly, 6and condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes, having appointed them as an example for those who are going to be ungodly, 7and rescued righteous Lot, worn down by the way of life of lawless persons in licentiousness 8(for that righteous man, as he lived among them day after day, was tormenting his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he was seeing and hearing), 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to reserve the unrighteous to be punished at the day of judgment, 10and especially those who go after the flesh in defiling lust and who despise authority.
5Now I want to remind you, although you know everything once and for all, that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, the second time destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling place, he has kept in eternal bonds under deep gloom for the judgment of the great day, 7as Sodom and Gomorrah and the towns around them indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in the same way as these, are exhibited as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
Scholars agree that the passages are about the same subject matter.[vi] They describe an episode from the time of Noah and the Flood when “angels” sinned.[vii] That sin, which precipitated the Flood, was sexual in nature; it is placed in the same category as the sin that prompted the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. The transgression was interpreted by Peter and Jude as evidence of despising authority and the boundaries of “proper dwelling” for the parties concerned. All of those elements are transparent in Genesis 6:1–4. There is simply no other sin in the Old Testament that meets these specific details—and no other “angelic” sin at all in the Old Testament that might be the referent.[viii]
The punishment for the transgression, however, is not mentioned in Genesis 6:1–4. Peter has the divine sons of God held captive in “Tartarus” in chains of darkness until a time of judgment.[ix] Jude echoes the thought and clarifies the judgment as the day of the Lord (“the great day”; cf. Zephaniah 1:1–7; Revelation 16:14). These elements come from Jewish literature written between our Old and New Testaments (the Second Temple Period) that retell the Genesis 6 episode. The most famous of these is 1 Enoch. That book informed the thinking of Peter and Jude; it was part of their intellectual worldview.[x] The inspired New Testament writers were perfectly comfortable referencing content found in 1 Enoch and other Jewish books to articulate their theology.
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These observations are important. Jewish tradition before the New Testament era overwhelmingly took a supernatural view of Genesis 6:1–4. In other words, they were in line with 2 Peter and Jude. The interpretation of the passage, at least with respect to its supernatural orientation, was not an issue until the late fourth century A.D., when it fell out of favor with some influential church fathers, especially Augustine.[xi]
But biblical theology does not derive from the church fathers. It derives from the biblical text, framed in its own context. Scholars agree that the Second Temple Jewish literature that influenced Peter and Jude shows intimate familiarity with the original Mesopotamian context of Genesis 6:1–4. For the person who considers the Old and New Testaments to be equally inspired, interpreting the Genesis passage “in context” means analyzing it in light of its Mesopotamian background as well as 2 Peter and Jude, whose content utilizes supernatural interpretations from Jewish theology of their own day.[xii] Filtering Genesis 6:1–4 through Christian tradition that arose centuries after the New Testament Period cannot honestly be considered interpreting it in context.
One of the great debates over Genesis 6:1–4 is the identity of the Nephilim, a question that is inextricably related to the meaning of the term. As we’ll discover in chapter 3, the role of the ancient Mesopotamian context for why Genesis 6:1–4 is even in the Bible is crucial to the correct understanding of the Nephilim. Jewish thinkers in the Second Temple Period understood that original Mesopotamian context, which is why they overwhelmingly viewed the Nephilim of divine sons of God as giants. This perspective includes the translation of the Hebrew term with gigas (“giant”) in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.[xiii]
It might seem obvious to some readers that Nephilim ought to be understood as “giants.” But many commentators resist the rendering, arguing that it should be read as “fallen ones” or “those who fall upon” (a battle expression). These options are based on the idea that the word derives from the Hebrew verb n-p-l (naphal, “to fall”). More importantly, those who argue that Nephilim should be translated with one of these expressions rather than “giants” do so to avoid the quasi-divine nature of the Nephilim. That in turn makes it easier for them to argue that the sons of God who produced the Nephilim were human.
In reality, it doesn’t matter whether “fallen ones” is the translation. The Nephilim and the Anakim/Rephaim who descend from them (Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 2:20–21; 3:1–11) are still described as unusually tall. Consequently, insisting that the name means “fallen” produces no escape from a supernaturalist interpretation.[xiv]
Despite the uselessness of the argument, I’m not inclined to concede the point. The term Nephilim does not mean “fallen ones.”[xv] Jewish writers and translators (e.g., the Septuagint) habitually think “giants” when they use or translate the term. There are good reasons for that.
Explaining my own view of what the term means involves Hebrew morphology, the way words are spelled or formed in Hebrew. That discussion gets technical very quickly, but we need to devote some attention to it here.
The spelling of the word “Nephilim” provides a clue to what root word the term is derived from. “Nephilim” is spelled two different ways in the Hebrew Bible: nephilim and nephiylim. The difference between them is the “y” in the second spelling. Hebrew originally had no vowels. All words were written with consonants only. As time went on, Hebrew scribes started to use some of the consonants to mark long vowel sounds. English does this with the “y” consonant—sometimes it’s a vowel. Hebrew does that with its “y” letter, too (the yod).
The takeaway is that the second spelling (nephiylim) tells us that the root behind the term had a long-i (y) in it before the plural ending (-im) was added. That in turn helps us determine that the word does not mean “those who fall.” If that were the case, the word would have been spelled nophelim. A translation of “fallen” from the verb naphal is also weakened by the “y” spelling form. If the word came from the verb naphal, we’d expect a spelling of nephulim for “fallen.”
However, there’s another possible defense for the meaning “fallen.” Instead of coming from the verb naphal, the word might come from a noun that has a long-i vowel in the second syllable. This kind of noun is called a qatiyl noun by Hebrew grammarians. Although there is no such noun as naphiyl in the Hebrew Bible, the hypothetical plural form would be nephiylim, which is the long spelling we see in Numbers 13:33.
This option solves the spelling problem, but it fails to explain everything else: the original Mesopotamian context, the Second Temple Jewish recognition of that context, the connection of the term to Anakim giants (Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 2–3), and the fact that the Septuagint translators translated the word as “giants,” not “fallen ones”.
So where does the spelling nephiylim come from? Is there an answer that would simultaneously explain the spelling and why the translators were consistently thinking “giants”? There is indeed.
Recall that the Old Testament tells us that Jewish intellectuals were taken to Babylon. During those seventy years, the Jews learned to speak Aramaic. They later brought it back to Judah. This is how Aramaic became the primary language in Judea by the time of Jesus. My view is that the Jewish scribes adopted an Aramaic noun: naphiyla—which means “giant.” When that word is pluralized in Hebrew, you get nephiylim, precisely what we see in Numbers 13:33. This is the only explanation for the meaning of the word that accounts for all the contexts and all the details.
The Origin of the Nephilim
There are two possible approaches to the origin of the Nephilim in Genesis 6:1–4 that are consistent with the supernatural understanding of the sons of God in the Israelite worldview.[xvi] The first and most transparent is that divine beings came to earth, assumed human flesh, cohabited with human women, and spawned unusual offspring known as Nephilim. Naturally, this view requires seeing the giant clans encountered in the conquest as physical descendants of the Nephilim (Numbers 13:32–33).[xvii]
The primary objection to this approach is the sexual component. The modern enlightened mind simply can’t tolerate it. Appeal is usually made to Matthew 22:23–33 in this regard, under the assumption that verse 30 teaches that angels cannot engage in sexual intercourse:
23The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27After them all, the woman died. 28In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 29But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
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The text above does not say angels cannot have sexual intercourse; it says they don’t. The reason ought to be obvious. The context for the statement is the resurrection, which refers either broadly to the afterlife or, more precisely, to the final, renewed global Eden. The point is clear in either option. In the spiritual world, the realm of divine beings, there is no need for procreation. Procreation is a necessity for perpetuating the human population. Life in the perfected Edenic world also does not require maintaining the human species by having children—everyone has an immortal resurrection body. Consequently, there is no need for sex in the resurrection, just as there is no need for it in the nonhuman spiritual realm. Genesis 6 doesn’t have the spiritual realm or the final Edenic world as its context. The analogy breaks down completely. The passage in Matthew is therefore useless as a commentary on Genesis 6:1–4.
Despite the flawed use of this Gospel passage, Christians still balk at this interpretive option for Genesis 6:1–4. The ancient reader would have had no problem with it. But for moderns, it seems impossible that a divine being could assume human flesh and do what this passage describes.
The objection is odd, since this interpretation is less dramatic than the incarnation of Yahweh as Jesus Christ. How is the virgin birth of God as a man more acceptable? What isn’t mind-blowing about Jesus having both a divine and human nature fused together? For that matter, what doesn’t offend the modern scientific mind about God going through a woman’s birth canal and enduring life as a human, having to learn how to talk, walk, eat with a spoon, be potty-trained, and go through puberty? All these things are far more shocking than Genesis 6:1–4.
That angels—and even God—can have true corporeality is evident in the Bible. For example, Genesis 18–19 is quite clear that Yahweh Himself and two other divine beings met with Abraham in physical flesh. They ate a meal together (Genesis 18:1–8). Genesis 19:10 informs us that the two angels had to physically grab Lot and pull him back into his house to avoid harm in Sodom, something that would be hard to do if the two beings were not truly physical. Another example is Genesis 32:22–31, where we read that Jacob wrestled with a “man” (32:24), whom the text also describes as elohim twice (32:30–31). Hosea 12:3–4 refers to this incident and describes the being who wrestled with Jacob as elohim and mal’ak (“angel”). This was a physical struggle, and one that left Jacob injured (32:31–32).
While visual appearances in human form are more common, the New Testament also describes episodes in which angels are best understood as corporeal. In Matthew 4:11, angels came to Jesus after He was tempted by the devil and “ministered” to Him (cf. Mark 1:13). Surely this means more than floating around before Jesus’ face. Angels appear and speak (Matthew 28:5; Luke 1:11–21, 30–38), instances that presume actual sound waves being created. If a merely auditory experience was meant, one would expect the communication to be described as a dream-vision (Acts 10:3). Angels open doors (Acts 5:19) and hit disciples to wake them up (Acts 12:7). This particular episode is especially interesting, because the text has Peter mistakenly thinking the angel was only a vision.
There is a second supernaturalist approach to Genesis 6:1–4 that takes the sexual language as euphemistic, not literal. In this perspective, the language of cohabitation is used to convey the idea that divine beings who are rivals to Yahweh are responsible for producing the Nephilim, and therefore are responsible for the later giant clans.
This approach uses Yahweh’s relationship to Abraham and Sarah as an analogy.[xviii] While there is no suggestion of a sexual relationship between an embodied Yahweh and Sarah to produce Isaac and, therefore, the Israelites, it is nonetheless true that the Israelites came about through supernatural intervention. In that sense, Yahweh “fathered” Israel. The means God used to enable Abraham and Sarah to have a child are never described in the Bible, but Scripture is clear that divine intervention of some sort was necessary.[xix] The Bible’s silence on the nature of the supernatural intervention opens the door to the idea that other rival gods produced offspring to oppose Yahweh’s children.
Both approaches therefore presume that the Nephilim and the subsequent giant clans had a supernatural origin, but they disagree on the means.[xx]
UP NEXT: Nephilim after the Flood
[i] The history of how Gen. 6:1–4 has been interpreted is chronicled in detail in two major studies: Annette Yoshiko Reed, Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Archie J. Wright, The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6:1–4 in Early Jewish Literature, Revised Edition (Fortress Press, 2015).
[ii] The verb form (“began”) is third masculine singular. Since the word ʾadam, which is often rendered “mankind” or “humankind” in modern translations (e.g., Gen. 1:26), does not actually appear in the verse, the most natural rendering would be that Seth began to call on the name of the Lord. If this is the case, then the Sethite view needs to extrapolate Seth’s faith to only men from that point on, since it is the “sons” of God who must be spiritually distinct from the “daughters” of humankind. One way around this is to argue that Gen. 6:1–4 describes godly Sethite men marrying ungodly non-Sethite women. The passage of course never says that, and it presumes that, by definition, the only godly women on the planet were those related to Seth. Those who insert “humankind” into the verse (“humankind began to call on the name of the Lord”) undermine the Sethite view with that decision, as it would have humans from other lineages, not just that of Seth, calling on the name of the Lord.
[iii] It is also misguided to argue that the Sethite view is valid because the writers and editors of the Torah were living under the law. There are near-relation marriages in the Genesis story prior to the Sinai legislation. For example, Abraham and Sarah had the same father, but different mothers, a forbidden sexual relationship in the Torah (Gen. 20:12; cf. Lev. 18:9, 11; 20:17; Deut. 27:22). In other words, the later legal backdrop of Sinai isn’t being presumed elsewhere in Genesis, so it cannot be presumed as the backdrop for Gen. 6:1–4. There simply is no support for condemned human intermarriage in the text.
[iv] On the incoherence of interpreting Hebrew ʾelohim in Psalm 82 as humans, see Unseen Realm, 23–27, and the scholarly sources found therein in footnotes. Several relevant essays can also be found on the author’s website: http://www.thedivinecouncil.com.
[v] The divinized kingship view is also defended by contending that there are no examples in ancient Near Eastern materials of divine beings “marrying” human women, while there are examples of kings claiming mixed ancestry from gods and humans. This wording deflects attention from the many references to sexual activity between divine beings and humans in ancient literature by suggesting that Gen. 6:1–4 must refer to matrimonial unions. This is playing word games, since the “marriage” idea derives from English translations. The word translated “wife” is simply the normal plural for “women” (nashim). The biblical euphemisms of “taking” (Gen. 6:2) or “going in to” a woman (Gen. 6:4) are not exclusively used for marriage. They are also used to describe the sexual act outside a marriage bond. That is, “taking” a woman can describe an illicit sexual relationship (Gen. 38:2; Lev. 18:17; 20:17, 21; 21:7), as can “coming/going in to” (Gen. 38:2; 39:14; Lev. 21:11; Judg. 16:1; Amos 2:7). The point of the language of Gen. 6:1–4 is a sexual relationship, not matrimony. This objection is therefore a distinction without a difference. This view also fails logically. The objection about the lack of divine-human marriages is aimed at eliminating the divine element from Gen. 6:1–4, thus reducing the episode to purely human relationships (albeit with divine kings as focus). But on what logical basis would multiple marriages between kings and women bring the world into chaos, necessitating God’s judgment in a catastrophic flood?
[vi] See, for example, Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude (Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006) 3; Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries 18; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987) 68; Jerome H. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Anchor Yale Bible 37C; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008) 120–22.
[vii] The word choice (“angels”) comes from the Septuagint, which is the Old Testament used predominantly by New Testament writers.
[viii] Some interpreters imagine a pre-Fall rebellion of angels that might fit with 2 Peter. The Bible records no such event. The closest one comes to it is in Rev. 12:7–9. Not only was Revelation the last book of the New Testament to be written, which means it cannot be the referent of 2 Peter, but Rev. 12:7–9 associates the war in heaven with the first coming of the Messiah, not events before the Flood. There is no biblical evidence for a pre-Fall angelic rebellion. The idea comes from Milton’s Paradise Lost, not the Bible.
[ix] The phrase “held captive in Tartarus” in 2 Pet. 2:4 is the translation of a verb lemma (ταρταρόω) that points to the term from classical Greek literature for the destination of the divine Titans, a term that is also used of their semi-divine offspring. See William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000) 991. The terminology clearly informs us that, for Peter and Jude, an antisupernaturalist interpretation of Gen. 6:1–4 was not in view. See G. Mussies, “Titans,” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 2nd ed. (ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst; Leiden; Boston; Cologne; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999) 872–874; G. Mussies, “Giants,” in ibid., 343–345; David M. Johnson, “Hesiod’s Descriptions of Tartarus (Theogony 721–819),” The Phoenix 53:1–2 (1999): 8–28; J. Daryl Charles, “The Angels under Reserve in 2 Peter and Jude,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 15.1 (2005) 39–48.
[x] This sort of thing is common in human experience. For example, anyone who has read John Calvin’s thoughts on predestination or a dispensationalist’s take on prophecy will find it next to impossible to eliminate that material from his or her thinking while reading, respectively, the book of Romans or Revelation. First Enoch and other works are part of the thinking of Peter and Jude because they were well known and taken seriously by contemporaries. The content of 1 Enoch shows up elsewhere in these epistles. It is obvious to those who study all these texts, especially in Greek, that Peter and Jude knew 1 Enoch very well. Scholars have devoted considerable attention to parallels between that book and the epistles of Peter and Jude. See George W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch 1–36, 81–108 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001) 83–87.
[xi] See the earlier cited study by A. Yoshiko Reed for the history of how the early church embraced and rejected the supernatural view of Gen. 6:1-4.
[xii] See chapter 3 of the present book for the Mesopotamian context of Gen. 6:1-4.
[xiii] Plural forms of this lemma, depending on grammatical context, are gigantes and gigantas.
[xiv] For a detailed discussion of the Anakim and other giant clans in the Old Testament, see Unseen Realm, 183–214.
[xv] The translation “fallen ones” is based on a characterization of the behavior of the giants, not on any passage that informs us this is what Nephilim means. One Dead Sea Scroll text says that the Watchers “fell” from right standing with God and that their offspring followed in their footsteps (CD [Damascus Document] II:1–19). Note that while the verb naphal appears in this verse, the word Nephilim does not. That is, the “fallen state” is not derivative of the name itself. The word Nephilim occurs only twice in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Neither instance makes a connection to any behavior. In fact, no explanation of the term is ever offered. Certain English translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls will occasionally have this “fallen” language elsewhere, but such instances are bracketed—they have been supplied by translators but without any manuscript support (e.g., 4Q266 Frag. 2 ii:18). The most recent scholarly work on the Nephilim and the later giant clans is the recent Harvard dissertation by Brian Doak (published as The Last of the Rephaim: Conquest and Cataclysm in the Heroic Ages of Ancient Israel, Ilex Series 7 [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013]). Despite its many merits, Doak’s book on the giants fails with respect to the meaning of Nephilim. Annus’s groundbreaking article (see chapter 3 of the present book) does not appear in either Doak’s dissertation bibliography or that of his book.
[xvi] As chapter 3 will make clear, a supernaturalist approach is the only approach consistent with the original Mesopotamian backstory to Gen. 6:1–4.
[xvii] The result of the cohabitation (or some other form of divine intervention per the ensuing discussion) is also something that causes hesitation. The information obtainable from the text of Scripture and archaeology leads to the conclusion that neither the Nephilim nor their descendants were freakishly tall. The evidence points to the same range for unusually tall people today (the upper six-foot range to eight feet). The only measurement for a giant that exists in the biblical text is that of Goliath. The traditional (Masoretic) Hebrew text has him at “six cubits and a span” (1 Sam. 17:4), roughly nine feet, nine inches. The Dead Sea Scroll reading of 1 Sam. 17:4 disagrees and has Goliath at four cubits and a span, or six feet, six inches. Virtually all scholars consider the Dead Sea Scrolls reading superior and authentic. Archaeological work across the ancient Near East confirms that six and one-half feet tall was, by the standards of the day, a giant. To date, there is no human skeletal evidence from Syria-Palestine (Canaan) that shows extraordinary height. A number of amateur researchers and websites have asserted that two seven-foot female skeletons were found in a twelfth-century-B.C. cemetery at Tell es-Sa’idiyeh on the east bank of the Jordan. This assertion comes from a commentary on Deuteronomy written by Jeffrey Tigay of the University of Pennsylvania (J. Tigay, Deuteronomy, JPS Torah Commentary [Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996], 17). Tigay gave the following footnote information after mentioning this alleged discovery: “The discovery in Jordan was reported by Jonathan Tubb of the British Museum in a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1995; see the British Museum’s forthcoming Excavations at Tell es-Sa’idiyeh III/2.” As it turns out, this is not true. I wrote professor Tubb at the British Museum to ask if he had published a report on these two skeletons, and I mentioned Tigay’s footnote. He replied (April 29, 2014): “I’m sorry to disappoint, but I’m afraid the footnote resulted from a misunderstood comment I made at a lecture on Sa’idiyeh I gave at Penn some time ago. We don’t, in fact, have any unusually large skeletons from the Sa’idiyeh cemetery. We are in the last stages of preparing the final report on the graves, and all of the metrics will be contained in the volume.” Readers can visit www.moreunseenrealm.com (ch. 25) for a screenshot of the original email. To date, there are no human skeletons from Canaan that show bizarre height. For documentation of these statements and scholarly bibliography, see my discussion (and footnotes) in Unseen Realm, 210–214. The size of Og’s bed (Deut. 3:11) cannot be taken as a precise indication of Og’s own dimensions. First, the most immediate link back to the Babylonian polemic is Og’s bed (Hebrew: ʿeres). Its dimensions (9 × 4 cubits) are precisely those of the cultic bed in the ziggurat called Etemenanki—which is the ziggurat most archaeologists identify as the Tower of Babel referred to in the Bible.10 Ziggurats were part of temple complexes—divine houses. The unusually large bed at Etemenanki was housed in “the house of the bed” (bit erši). It was the place where the god Marduk and his divine wife, Zarpanitu, met annually for ritual lovemaking, the purpose of which was divine blessing upon the land. The ritual was also concerned with maintaining the cosmic order instituted by the gods. Consequently, a link between Og and Marduk via the matching bed dimensions telegraphed the idea that Og was the inheritor and perpetuator of the Babylonian knowledge and cosmic order from before the Flood. This ties Og directly back to Gen. 6:1–4 and its Apkallu polemic discussed in chapter 3 of the present book. What the dimensions don’t do is give us Og’s height—the numbers are very obviously given for a theological purpose, not a clinical one. On Marduk’s bed and sacred marriage, See See Martti Nissinen, “Akkadian Rituals and Poetry of Divine Love,” in Mythology and Mythologies: Methodological Approaches to Intercultural Influences; Proceedings of the Second Annual Symposium of the Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project Held in Paris, France, October 4–7, 1999, Melammu Symposia 2 (ed. R. M. Whiting; Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2001) 93–136; Beate Pongratz-Leisten, “Sacred Marriage and the Transfer of Divine Knowledge: Alliances between the Gods and the King in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in Sacred Marriages: The Divine-Human Sexual Metaphor from Sumer to Early Christianity (ed. Martti Nissinen and Risto Uro; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2008) 43–72.
[xviii] Sarah would have been well past the age of producing an egg for fertilization and the physical demands of bringing a child to term.
[xix] One scholar has recently put forth the idea that Yahweh is perceived as a “sexual deity” in the Old Testament: David E. Bokovoy, “Did Eve Acquire, Create, or Procreate with Yahweh? A Grammatical and Contextual Reassessment of קנה in Genesis 4:1,” Vetus Testamentum 63 (2013) 19–35. I do not believe a phrase like “sexual deity” captures the semantic point of Gen. 4:1. Bokovoy argues that the verb in question in Gen. 4:1 (qanah) means to create or procreate. I would agree that the verb can certainly have this meaning. Bokovoy’s argument is that the biblical writer believed God participated in the mystery of procreation. Although he doesn’t state it, his assumption appears to be that the biblical writers attributed conception to the deity because, unlike us, they didn’t know scientifically how human fertilization and what happens in the womb worked. I would also agree with that point. However, Bokovoy’s conclusion, that Yahweh “actively participated” in Cain’s procreation, needs qualifications that he does not include in his work. One can say that, in the perception of the biblical writer, and even Eve herself, God caused Eve’s pregnancy. But what does that mean? The biblical writer wasn’t ignorant of the man’s (Adam’s) involvement. The text of the first half of Gen. 4:1 says explicitly that Adam “knew Eve his wife, and she [subsequently] conceived.” In other words, the biblical writer understood that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman led to pregnancy. There is no prerequisite for modern scientific understanding for grasping that point. In the second half of the verse Eve says (ESV), “I have gotten [lemma: qanah; form: qanîtî] a man with the Lord.” But note that Eve is the grammatical subject of this “sexual” verb, not the object. Bokovoy’s writing sounds as though Yahweh is the subject here, and that Yahweh is participating sexually with Eve. That isn’t what the grammar of the text says. The author’s wording lacks precision and is therefore misleading. Nevertheless, following Bokovoy for the sake of discussion, one could translate Eve’s statement this way: “I have procreated a man with YHWH.” What would this mean since the writer clearly has Adam as the one having sexual relations with Eve? The answer is simple. This passage is akin to others in the Old Testament where the author narrates the fact that couples have sexual intercourse and then attributes the pregnancy (e.g., “opening of the womb”) to Yahweh—i.e., God gets credit for the mystery of procreation (Gen. 18:9–14; 21:1–2; 25:21; 29:32–35; 30:16–24; 1 Sam. 1:19–20; Pss. 17:14; 127:3; Isa. 44:2, 24). This is neither complicated nor shocking, and it isn’t proof that Yahweh was thought to participate sexually with anyone. The mystery of procreation and the act of intercourse are distinguished in Gen. 4:1 and other passages.
[xx] Reconciling the first view with what 2 Pet. 2:4–10 and Jude 6–7 say about “the angels who sinned” is straightforward, especially given the sexual nature of the events of Sodom and Gomorrah, which both writers use as analogous situations. The second approach doesn’t question the sexual language; it considers it euphemistic. Peter and Jude’s inclusion of sexual language is no surprise—it is present in the Old Testament. This approach would argue that there is no reason to insist that Peter and Jude did not also consider it euphemistic. In any respect, what cannot be coherently denied is that Peter and Jude have divine beings as the offenders, not mere humans.
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