Genesis (Part 26)

Welcome back to my read-through and study of The Book of Genesis.

Genesis 6:1-4

6 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 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.

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Here we have some of the most controversial and mysterious verses in the entire Bible. I am not going to try to convince you of anything, and I certainly do not want to give “false teaching,” but I do want to give you things to think about.

Let’s start by looking at translation:

In verse 2, “the sons of God” are translated from “ben ‘elohiym.” We are immediately confronted with a mystery. The underlying words literally mean “sons of the gods,” with gods plural, but the translation gives us sons of God, singular.

As we have discussed, the word “God” is consistently translated in the singular, from the plural form ‘elohiym (i.e. the gods) throughout Genesis. Perhaps this is due to a later concern by translators, over whether these verses might be viewed as evidence of polytheistic pantheon. I do not know the reasons with any certainty. But it is a textual truth. The original language for god is plural. The translation we get in English is singular. Christians usually deal with this plurality issue by attributing the plurality to the Holy Trinity. However, if a plural of “the gods” includes Jesus, then who are “the sons of” the Trinity? The ben ‘elohiym *must* be some divine beings, right?

Further, the ben ‘elohiym are not only divine beings, they are divine beings capable of feeling attraction toward human women and impregnating those women. The offspring of these unions are something more than mere humans.

Let’s look at some translations:

“The nephilim” is translated from the word נְפִיל nᵉphîyl, nef-eel’; or נְפִל nᵉphil; from H5307; properly, a feller, i.e. a bully or tyrant:—giant.

“mighty” is a translation from the word גִּבּוֹר gibbôwr, ghib-bore’; or גִּבֹּר gibbôr; (shortened) intensive from the same as H1397; powerful; by implication, warrior, tyrant:—champion, chief, × excel, giant, man, mighty (man, one), strong (man), valiant man.

“of old” comes from עוֹלָם ʻôwlâm, o-lawm’; or עֹלָם ʻôlâm; from H5956; properly, concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; generally, time out of mind (past or future), i.e. (practically) eternity; frequentatively, adverbial (especially with prepositional prefix) always:—alway(-s), ancient (time), any more, continuance, eternal, (for, (n-)) ever(-lasting, -more, of old), lasting, long (time), (of) old (time), perpetual, at any time, (beginning of the) world (+ without end). Compare H5331H5703.

“renown” comes from שֵׁם shêm, shame; a primitive word [perhaps rather from H7760 through the idea of definite and conspicuous position; compare H8064]; an appellation, as a mark or memorial of individuality; by implication honor, authority, character:—+ base, (in-) fame(-ous), named(-d), renown, report.

  • Renown here comes from shem – which is another word for “name.” In Genesis 2, for example, this word is used in the original language when naming rivers. The idea here then is that in Genesis 6:4, the ancient men of renown are “men of name.”
  • You may have noticed that the underlying word here, shem, is also the name of one of Noah’s sons. שֵׁם Shêm, shame; the same as H8034; name; Shem, a son of Noah (often includ. his posterity):—Sem, Shem.
  • H8034 = שֵׁם shêm, shame; a primitive word [perhaps rather from H7760 through the idea of definite and conspicuous position; compare H8064]; an appellation, as a mark or memorial of individuality; by implication honor, authority, character:—+ base, (in-) fame(-ous), named(-d), renown, report.

The mighty men of renown are the men of shem. It is a strange coincidence, if it is one at all, that this word is chosen to describe the nephilim.

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So let’s take a step back and look at this. These verses say that when men began to multiply in large numbers on the earth, some divine beings (ben ‘elohiym) saw the women of the earth, took them, procreated with them, and their offspring were nephilim. That is what the verses say directly. Is that what everyone believes?

  • No. It is not universally accepted that the direct translation of these verses are the intended meaning of these verses.

Ellicott’s Bible Commentary makes the argument that the ben ‘elohiym are the Sethites and that Chapter 6 describes the moral degradation of this line.

2) The sons of God. . . . —The literal translation of this verse is, And the sons of the Elohim saw the daughters of the adam that they were good (beautiful); and they took to them wives whomsoever they chose. Of the sons of the Elohim there are three principal interpretations: the first, that of the Targums and the chief Jewish expositors, that they were the nobles, and men of high rank; the second, that they were angels. St. Jude, Jude 1:6, and St. Peter, 2 Ep., 2Peter 2:4, seem to favour this interpretation, possibly as being the translation of the LXX. according to several MSS. But even if this be their meaning, which is very uncertain, they use it only as an illustration; and a higher authority says that the angels neither marry nor are given in marriage. The third, and most generally accepted interpretation in modern times, is that the sons of the Elohim were the Sethites, and that when they married for mere lust of beauty, universal corruption soon ensued. But no modern commentator has shown how such marriages could produce “mighty men . . . men of renown;” or how strong warriors could be the result of the intermarriage of pious men with women of an inferior race, such as the Cainites are assumed to have been.

The Jewish interpreters, who well understood the uses of their own language, are right in the main point that the phrase “sons of the Elohim” conveys no idea of moral goodness or piety. Elohim constantly means mighty ones (Exodus 15:11, marg.). (Comp. Exodus 12:12, marg., Exodus 21:6Exodus 22:8-9, where it is translated judges; Exodus 22:281Samuel 2:25, where also it is translated judge.) In Job 1:6 the “sons of Elohim” are the nobles, the idea being that of a king who at his durbar gathers his princes round him; and, not unnecessarily to multiply examples, the “sons of the Elim,” the other form of the plural, is rightly translated mighty ones in Psalm 29:1.

Who, then, are these “mighty ones?” Before answering this question, let me call attention to the plain teaching of the narrative as to what is meant by the “daughters of men.” It says: “When the adam began to multiply, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of the Elohim saw the daughters of the adam . . . and took them wives,” &c. But according to every right rule of interpretation, the “daughters of the adam” in Genesis 6:1 must be the same as the “daughters of the adam” in Genesis 6:2, whom the sons of the Elohim married. Now, it seems undeniable that the adam here spoken of were the Sethites. The phrase occurs in the history of Noah, just after giving his descent from Adam; Cain is absolutely passed over, even in the account of the birth of Seth, who is described as Adam’s firstborn, such as legally he was. The corruption described is that of the Sethites; for the Cainites have already been depicted as violent and lustful, and their history has been brought to an end. Moreover, in Genesis 6:3, “the adam with whom God will not always strive” is certainly the family of Seth, who, though the chosen people and possessors of the birthright, are nevertheless described as falling into evil ways; and their utter corruption finally is the result of the depravation of their women by a race superior to themselves in muscular vigour and warlike prowess.

Where, then, shall we find these men? Certainly among the descendants of Cain. In Genesis 4:17-24, we find Cain described as the founder of civil institutions and social life: the name he gives to his son testifies to his determination that his race shall be trained men. They advance rapidly in the arts, become rich, refined, luxurious, but also martial and arrogant. The picture terminates in a boastful hero parading himself before his admiring wives, displaying to them his weapons, and vaunting himself in a poem of no mean merit as ten times superior to their forefather Cain. His namesake in the race of Seth also indites a poem; but it is a groan over their hard toil, and the difficulty with which, by incessant labour, they earned their daily bread. To the simple “daughters of the adam,” these men, enriched by the possession of implements of metal, playing sweet music on harp and pipe, and rendered invincible by the deadly weapons they had forged, must have seemed indeed as very “sons of the Elohim.” The Sethites could not have taken the Cainite women according to their fancy in the way described, protected as they were by armed men; but the whole phrase, “whomsoever they would,” reeks of that arrogancy and wantonness of which the polygamist Lamech had set so notable an example. And so, not by the women corrupting nobler natures, but by these strong men acting according to their lust, the race with the birthright sank to the Cainite level, and God had no longer a people on earth worthy of His choice.

Notably, the Pulpit Commentary agrees with this interpretation.

In contrast, other commentaries such as the Blue Letter Bible study guide, by David Guzik, believe the text refers to fallen angelic beings.

1. (Gen 6:1-2) Intermarriage between the sons of God and the daughters of men.

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

a. When men began to multiply on the face of the earth: During these days of rapid population expansion (especially because of long life spans in the pre-flood world), there was a problem with ungodly intermarriage between the sons of God and the daughters of men.

b. The sons of God saw the daughters of men: Many have believed the sons of God were those from the line of Seth, and the daughters of men were from the line of Cain, and this describes an intermarriage between the godly and the ungodly, something God specifically prohibits (Deuteronomy 7:1-42 Corinthians 6:14).

i. But this approach leaves many unanswered questions: Why did this make God angry enough to wipe out almost all the earth’s population? Why was there something “unnatural” about the offspring of these unions? The text in no way offers answers to these important questions.

c. The sons of God saw the daughters of men: It is more accurate to see the sons of God as either demons (angels in rebellion against God) or uniquely demon-possessed men, and the daughters of men as human women.

i. The phrase “sons of God” clearly refers to angelic creatures when it is used the three other times in the Old Testament (Job 1:62:1, and 38:7). The translators of the Septuagint translated sons of God as “angels.” They clearly thought it referred to angelic beings, not people descended from Seth.

ii. Jude 6 tells us of the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation. Jude goes on (Jude 7) to tell us they sinned in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh. Here in Genesis 6, as in Sodom and Gomorrah, there was an unnatural sexual union.

iii. It is useless to speculate on the nature of this union. Whether it was brought about by something like demon possession, or whether angels have power permanently to assume the form of men is not revealed. But we should understand the occult is filled with sexual associations with the demonic, and there are those today who actively pursue such associations.

iv. Jude 6 also makes it clear what God did with these wicked angels. They are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness from the judgment of the great day. By not keeping their proper place, they are now kept in chains. Their sinful pursuit of freedom has put them in bondage.

v. 1 Peter 3:19-20 tells us Jesus went to these disobedient spirits in their prison and proclaimed His victory on the cross over them.

vi. An objection offered to this understanding is found in Matthew 22:30, where Jesus said angels neither marry nor are given in marriage; but Jesus never said angels were sexless, and He was also speaking about faithful angels (angels of God in heaven), not rebellious ones.

vii. From the book of 1 Enoch, which is not inspired scripture, but may still contain some accurate accounts: “And it came to pass that the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children … [They] took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments … And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants … And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways.”

d. And they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose: We can deduce why Satan sent his angels to intermarry (either directly or indirectly) with human women. Satan tried to pollute the genetic “pool” of mankind with a satanic corruption, to put a genetic “virus” to make the human race unfit for bringing forth the Seed of the woman – the Messiah – promised in Genesis 3:15.

i. “The Savior could not be born of a demon-possessed mother. So if Satan could succeed in infecting the entire race, the deliverer could not come.” (Boice)

ii. And Satan almost succeeded. The race was so polluted that God found it necessary to start again with Noah and his sons, and to imprison the demons that did this so they could never do this again.

In case those two perspectives are not enough, there is an even more nuanced position on this topic. Dr. Michael Heiser teaches on the idea of a “divine counsel” and the modern mis-interpretation of the world “elohiym.” Heiser teaches that Biblical writers use the term elohiym to denote a member of the disembodied spiritual world. Yahweh is *an* elohiym by this teaching. However, by this teaching, no other ‘elohiym is Yahweh.

Using this interpretation of the word elohiym to under-gird the potential options for who the ben ‘elohiym of Genesis 6 might be, you therefore then get more possibilities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZKy1Xt2Ow0

Nephilim – according to Blue Letter Bible’s translation tools – means a bully or a tyrant, but is most commonly believed to mean “giant.” “Mighty” used later also means powerful, tyrant, or giant.

Heiser makes a case for the interpretation of the word to mean “giant” below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhV6LYEG8I0

Is the Bible saying here, then, that the earth was becoming populated with giant offspring of divine beings? Some kind of celestial/human hybrids that just come out huge and/or powerful? While there is not universal acceptance of this notion, that interpretation has a lot of defenders.

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This should be somewhat easy to resolve. If the world were at some point occupied by giants, would there not be fossil and archaeological evidence?

One of the most prominent personalities (I do not know the correct term to apply) on this topic is a man named Brien Foerster. Foerster is a researcher, author, YouTuber, and Instagram-er. One of Foerster’s areas of expertise is the ancient Inca culture. In his research and work, he became familiar with archaeological artifacts known widely as “The Paracas Skulls.” (If you are squeamish about seeing skulls, do not click that link.) The skulls were found off the coast of Peru, they are elongated, larger than the average human skull, and many of them still contained some red hair. According to Foerster, the skulls were analyzed by various universities including among others UCLA and were found to be 1) human, 2) 3,000 years old, and 3) originating genetically from between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

There is a separate account of red haired giant skeletons allegedly discovered in the Lovelock Caves of Utah.

These are not the only potential examples of giants in the Americas and around the world.

These examples notwithstanding, much of the “evidence” for the existence of giants, though, is simply either non-existent or gone. Perhaps a lot of that evidence was destroyed by the Great Flood. There are hundreds, if not thousands of old newspaper articles, concerning the discovery of giant skeletons. However, there are not museums openly housing these bones. Either there is a massive global cover-up of the existence of giant skeletons or much of even the newspaper accounts in the 19th and early 20th century were simply hoaxes that went to press. I am hard-pressed to be comfortable leaning too hard in either of those directions. So perhaps there is some truth in the middle ground.

Beyond skeletal remains, many others point to some evidence of advanced archaeological capability in the late neolithic / early Bronze Age as evidence of some lost period of high technology that seems to exceed natural human capability. Perhaps those were built by some hybridization of humans and sons of the gods? Some examples of structures that modern people do not believe to be, well, fully human, include The Great Pyramid of Giza, the enigmatic Puma Punku of Bolivia in South America, Cusco in Peru, and Ankor Wat in Cambodia. There are other places, also, but those are a starting place for the uninitiated.

Beyond just archaeology and the fossil record, perhaps the most significant evidence in favor of the idea that giants once roamed the earth is their mythological legacy. Giants tales are featured in Celtic, Greek, Norse, Roman, Hindu, Native American, and Shinto mythology and folklore. Why would human civilization independently – on all parts of the planet – tell the same types of stories regarding humongous people? Is this evidence of a shared early historical experience?

There is actually another very notable example of a universally shared ancient myth: The Great Flood. Almost every culture on earth had a Great Flood myth. We now know that a global flood(s) did occur. Those Flood myths were rooted in an actual event. (Pardon the language in the following interview if there is any bad language therein.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-OdrAjIlYo

I will write more about The Great Flood when we cover that in Genesis.

What else does the Bible say about giants? Quite a lot, actually.

Note that Genesis 6:4 states that there were nephilim were on the earth in those days… and also after. We meet giants again in the Book of Genesis and subsequent books after the Great Flood.

  • Genesis 14 introduces readers to the Anakim, a race of giants descended from Anak.
  • David slays Goliath, the giant, who is understood to be a giant descendant of the Anakim giants that settled in the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Joshua 11:22) after Joshua drove them out of the Promised Land.
  • Og, who is introduced in Number 21 and Deuteronomy Chapter 3. We hear of Og again in Psalms chapters 135 and 136, and in Amos chapter 2. Og is described as the last of the Rephaim, a race of giants.
  • The Rephaim are the source of some mystery- From Wikipedia:

There are two main groups of etymological hypotheses explaining the origins of the biblical rephaim. The first group proposes that this is a native Hebrew language term, which could be derived either from the root רפא or רפה. The first root, רפא, conveys the meaning of healing and is realized in words such as Hebrew rofe (a physician) or refuah (medicine). The second root, רפה, means being weak, powerless.

The second group of etymological hypotheses treat the word rephaim as a loanword from some other ancient Semitic language. Among the proposals is the Akkadian rabu, a prince, but this explanation enjoys rather limited popularity. Far more support has been gained by the hypothesis which derives the Hebrew refaim from the Ugaritic rpum which denotes the semi-deified deceased ancestors who are mentioned in such sources as the so called Rephaim Text (KTU 1:20–22).

Despite the clash between these hypotheses and although the modern translations clearly distinguish between Rephaites as one of the tribes (e.g. Book of Genesis 14:5; 15:18–21; Book of Deuteronomy 2:11–20) and rephaim as the inhabitants of the underworld (e.g. Book of Isaiah 14:9–11; 26:13–15), the same word is used in the original text. The use of rephaim in the Hebrew Bible suggests that behind the biblical narrative were the legends of some ancient indigenous peoples, who inhabited the valleys of the land of Canaan which was subject to the gradual Hebrew conquest

Here is another good article discussing giants and the conquest of the Promised Land during the writing of the Torah and the Book of Joshuah.

There is more!

During the Second Temple period of Judaism, there were several now apocryphal books which were well read at the time, believed, and actively studied. We know of many due to their inclusion in and with the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran. Among the now apocryphal books discovered in the caves are The Book of Enoch, The Book of the Watchers, and The Book of Giants. These books all deal explicitly with the events leading up through the Great Flood and provide greater detail than we receive here in Genesis.

From wiki:

Scholars, beyond their many questions of the Enochic tradition’s oral or written transmission, still don’t know why the Qumran community considered the Enochic texts so important that they possessed and retained so many copies in comparison to other textual traditions found there.

Why is this of particular import? For Jews, the Dead Sea Scrolls represent insight into the long lost intellectual and religious teachings of their people before the destruction of the Second Temple and the subsequent Diaspora. For Christians, Second Temple Judaism supplied the intellectual foundation for the earliest part of the Church. If Jesus and the Apostles believed a thing… well, you can see why knowing that answer is important.

There is even some debate that Jesus quoted from The Book of Enoch.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Mat 5:5) The elect shall possess light, joy and peace, and they shall inherit the earth. (Enoch 5:7 {6:9})

the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the son (John 5:22). the principal part of the judgment was assigned to him, the Son of man. (Enoch 69:27 {68:39})

shall inherit everlasting life (Mat. 19:29) those who will inherit eternal life (Enoch 40:9 {40:9})

“Wo unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. (Luke 6:24) Woe to you who are rich, for in your riches have you trusted; but from your riches you shall be removed. (Enoch 94:8 {93:7}).

Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Mat. 19:28) I will place each of them on a throne of glory (Enoch 108:12 {105:26})

Woe unto that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born. (Mat. 26:24) Where will the habitation of sinners be . . . who have rejected the Lord of spirits. It would have been better for them, had they never been born. (Enoch 38:2 {38:2})

between us and you there is a great gulf fixed. (Luke 16:26) by a chasm . . . [are] their souls are separated (Enoch 22: 9,11{22:10,12})

In my Father’s house are many mansions (John 14:2) In that day shall the Elect One sit upon a throne of glory, and shall choose their conditions and countless habitations. (Enoch 45:3 {45:3})

Jude 1:14-15, quoting Enoch 1:9 {2:1} [1]

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
“To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Many of the early Church fathers considered these books to be Scripture. These book remain canon in The Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Ethiopia.

I hope I have left you all a lot of big things to think about. I will likely revisit this topic again to some extent in the next few chapters and again later in Genesis.

3 thoughts on “Genesis (Part 26)

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