Introduction

Giants, lusty angels, half-human half-divine creatures, the flood, the limit of the soul’s mortal incarnation, all of that and more in one short chapter in Genesis, Chapter 6, verses 1-8. This post will take a deep look, and you’re invited.

I remember a vacation to Roatan before it was a modern resort, and a marine biologist who funded his work with some grass huts and hosting snorkelers and divers on this magnificent reef. Dr. Dana gave us slide shows and lectures in the evening to prepare us for the next day, the glories and the dangers such as fire coral, black sea urchins, schools of barracuda, and of course the stray shark. Any time we stray from the our most frequented paths, dangers await us, and we should be prepared so that we stay safe and unoffended. Even the friendly and desirable can cause shock; the honor system stainless steel upright fridge on the island was stocked with soft drinks, but the wet footed visitor who failed to stand on the prescribed rubber mat got quite a shock (of electric current!). Like my studies, I had to know that this was so, and it was (I stood aside from the mat and touched the fridge). That said, let’s try and have some thick skins and be cautious as we proceed.

Our Text

(1) When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, (2) the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose.

(3) Then the LORD said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.”

(4) The Nephilim were on the earth in those days– and also afterward– when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

(5) The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  (6) And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  (7) So the LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created– people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

(8) But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD. (Genesis 6:1-8 NRS)

The Challenges and the approach

A friend asked me to write on Genesis 6, a subject I’ve shied away from because I’m familiar with the challenges of the text and the wide swath of information those challenges open. Who are these “Sons of God”? I’d always been told that throughout the Bible this was a phrase meaning Angels, but that’s not true. Who are the Nephilim? Are they children of human women and Angels? If God is sorry that He made mankind are all of the statements about God knowing the future false? And that about the 120 year lifespan, I mean, if we limit the applicability of the statement to people born after the flood, Abraham makes 175 (Genesis 25:7) and Isaac makes 180 (Genesis 35:28). A human lifespan of 120 years seems pretty real in our world, but in the Biblical text it just isn’t, not until later in the text, after Genesis.

The topics opened by these challenges are entire fields of study: Theology (the nature of God), Theodicy (evil present in a world created by a good and powerful God), Angelology (the study of Angels), Source and Text criticism, Text dating, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Hermeneutics, Mythology, and more. It will therefore be important to the approach to somehow limit the discussion without putting on blinders to the broader studies.

How, then, shall we approach this? Frankly, I’ve written this little section when the post itself reached over 8,000 words and was still going, not having yet arrived that the most salacious of targets, the Nephilim. When I was struggling through my book, my writing coach urged me to make drastic cuts, and I did. He constantly reminded me that “less is more” and that my fascination with unimportant details was not helpful to the reader. Loosely quoting Anton Chekov, if you put a gun on the mantel and then don’t turn around and use the gun in relatively short order, you’ve wasted the time and attention of your audience.

So let’s first deal with the purposes for writing this other than responding to a friendly request: to pass on what I’ve learned, to get to the truth best as I can, to share that information, to educate others about ancient texts, and to build interest in ancient texts. I also have theological intentions in writing because I believe we’ve gotten it wrong in large measure, that we worship the text and not God, and that these combine to create great misery and prejudice in our world. That said, I love the text, just look at my Bibliography post! I love the stories, and, especially in the Prophets. I find the voice of my God there, in the Prophets, a hopeful, gentle, loving voice.

My approach will be tuned to my intentions. Firstly, in the remainder of this section we’ll delve into some basics of the text itself, the various traditions that use that text, transliteration, transcription, translation, my thoughts on text origins and mythology, and other general items surrounding this and all ancient literature that we review.

Secondly, we’ll divide our text into the issues such as “I’m sorry that I” (It repenteth me that I…) and “Sons of God” and look into each of those topics from basic text analysis and comparative studies within the Old and New Testaments.

Bible Basics

The Bible as we know it is a collection of literature from various times and genres. The basic contents originate with the Jewish tradition, mostly what Christians call the Old Testament and what some call the Hebrew Bible (which are not necessarily the same thing). The Jewish tradition calls the Hebrew Bible the Tanakh and it is in three parts, the Torah (instruction), the Nevi’im (Prophets), and the Ketuvim (Writings), Tanakh being an acronym of sorts. The Torah is also known as the Pentateuch because it is the first five books of the bible Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bamidbar, and Devarim also known as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in the Christian Tradition. The Torah is also sometimes called the book of Moses viewing them as the single scroll placed by the Ark as given in Deuteronomy:

Then the LORD commissioned Joshua son of Nun and said, “Be strong and bold, for you shall bring the Israelites into the land that I promised them; I will be with you.”

When Moses had finished writing down in a book the words of this law to the very end,  Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying,
“Take this book of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God; let it remain there as a witness against you.  For I know well how rebellious and stubborn you are. If you already have been so rebellious toward the LORD while I am still alive among you, how much more after my death! 

“Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officials, so that I may recite these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to witness against them.  For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly, turning aside from the way that I have commanded you. In time to come trouble will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy 31:23-29 NRS)

The Hebrew bible is so named because it is limited to contents with sources in the Hebrew language, with some short passages in Aramaic. The “Old Testament” in use by Christians often varies from the Hebrew bible by including some works for which we have only Greek sources or works that are beyond the period of the Jewish canon (such as the entire New Testament for instance). Christian bibles are most certainly not all the same in terms of content, with the Catholic canon “official list of inspired works” being the most extensive in a single volume and the Ethiopic Orthodox Tewahedo canon being the most diverse and inclusive, indeed by far the largest canon. Between Protestant and Catholic canons are the Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical books, some of which, like the Maccabean literature, are very important to understanding history close to the time of Christ. Between the Catholic and Ethiopic canon is an enormous collection of writings including those of Josephus who documents the fall of the second Temple in 70 CE and a lot of other things, as well as pseudepigraphal works (books attributed to names other than the true author who is not known) such as the first book of Enoch. The Syriac Christian tradition uses a bible, called the Peshitta, written in Syriac which is essentially modern Aramaic, after all, Aram is the biblical name of Syria, and the Greek Orthodox tradition uses the Septuagint, a ca 200 CE translation of the Hebrew texts (and some Greek works) as its Old Testament Canon. Also, there is a Samaritan Torah still in existence and use (there are still Samaritans as well).

Christian, like Jew, is not an appellation of singularity in terms of scripture, practice, or beliefs.

Complexities in the text

Whenceforth sprang the Nephilim and the study thereof we approach with sharpened eye and guarded senses, for Genesis chapter six in its brevity and simplicity, as if in anachronistic response to Browning’s minimalist “less is more” plea, spans these canons and beyond. Now, again learning to breathe through our snorkels and ignore the fierce ever open mouthed barracuda’s threatening teeth and numbers, we must tend to the text itself, as well as literalism and hermeneutics (interpretation) before we dare approach this mysterious and most troublesome of chapters.

By way of example, like Dr. Dana’s slides, let’s start with a couple of notes on Exodus 17:9. I’ve chosen this to show the names Moses and Joshua as well as the complexities of the Hebrew text in the Leningrad Codex. I am not a linguist, neither do I read or speak Hebrew or Greek, but I have plenty of tools that let me verify important information. Note: Hebrew is read from right to left and those little points/dots/dashes or Niqqud are aids in pronunciation added along the way (ca 500 CE) by the keepers of the text, the Masoretes. Hebrew from 200 CE has none of that, neither has it spaces between words, or much in the way of vowels as is evident in the example below. (Leningrad Codex Image Copyright Bruce E. Zuckerman, used for educational purposes.)

I hope that one can see that ancient Hebrew, especially denuded of Niqqud, leaves a lot open for interpretation, some of which depends on tradition in reading the text. Indeed, because Hebrew lacks vowels for the most part, the Babylonian Talmud (ca 400 CE) often remarks that the text can be read multiple ways by changing the vowels one adds to produce different directions from the text itself, and some ancient rulings depended on multiple simultaneous readings of the exactly the same characters and text.

By the way, in the Greek Texts, Joshua and Jesus are the same name (the Greek for Joshua, Ἰησοῦ, is exactly the same as the Greek for Jesus albeit the Latin Vulgate makes a difference Josue (or Iosue) vs Jesu (or Iesu). Some think the literal name is Yeshua which would have been common in an Aramaic speaking world, a form of Joshua. I personally believe that his proper name is Yahoshuah meaning YHWH is salvation in Hebrew, which as we see above, is the literal name of Joshua in the Old Testament. Neither Hebrew nor Greek (nor Latin) have an English “J” sound.

Character Transformations

But our text in Genesis has also been on a bit of a trip. You see, the Hebrew characters we know today are not the characters that some of this text was, one posits, originally written in. I say posits because in terms of physicality, the earliest extant manuscripts for this text are found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, long after the text itself was composed.

It’s really amazing when you think of it and consider the history of the written word. Alphabets like ours, where letters are combined to create phonics and sounds as compared with symbols that mean entire words, concepts, or syllables, originated in the Levant, the region including Egypt north and east through Phoenicia and ancient Israel and spread to Greece and other places, being in wide but not exclusive use certainly by 800 BCE. Prior to that time, rather than having 30 or so characters, languages had a huge array of symbols and pictures some depicting words, some syllables, some sounds, the combination of which confounded translation of Egyptian Hieroglyphics until the Rosetta Stone, in Hieroglyphics, Demotic Script, and Greek, provided the requisite understanding. Cuneiform is likewise a mixed set of symbols rather than an alphabet as we know it, a writing style that endured until the time of Vespasian (about 70 CE).

Whether Paleo Hebrew or Phoenician was first alphabet as we know it is a source of argument, especially since the letters of Paleo Hebrew and Phoenician are close, but what is clear is that the square Hebrew characters of today adopted the square form of Aramaic characters sometime during the interactions of ancient Israel with the Assyrians and later Babylonians who destroyed the first temple in Jerusalem and of course the Persians who assisted in the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem. While Aramaic is not the Persian tongue, it was their lingua franca, the common language of of the empire. It remains today, mostly intact, as Syriac, except that the letters are in a beautiful script not unlike Arabic. We should note, however, that the preserved Persian writings regarding that helpful Persian, Cyrus the Great, are indeed in cuneiform, the most relevant of which is are known as the Cyrus Cylinder.

Below, I’ve shown the dramatic difference between Paleo and extant Biblical Hebrew as well as transliteration and transcription of the words (on that, more anon).

Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls contain large Paleo Hebrew sections, perhaps as a reminder of the old letters and the age of the text, not that the physical documents are that old (they date generally from 200 BCE to near 70 CE albeit consensus is foggy and the maximum range is from 408 BCE to 318 CE. To think that the Qumran community (or Yahad) was still operating after the Bar Kokhba revolt and the crushing genocidal reprisals from Rome in 136 CE seems silly to me.) The name of God, YHWH, is often written in Paleo Hebrew among other words in those scrolls, perhaps to add authenticity, or perhaps to remind us that this is how the name came down, not in Aramaic letters, but in Paleo Hebrew.

Mythology – The Barracuda of the Reef

Ignore them and they’ll ignore you, threaten them and they’ll attack, cower and they may find you inviting targets, so goes Dr. Dana’s advice for swimming near schools of Barracuda, and having done so, this small sample set indicates his advice worked at least a couple of times. This is how I approach the text, neither its master nor its servant, neither brash and reckless nor afraid. And during the swim and after, filled with questions.

When we approach Genesis, we also approach the portion of the bible with the least amount of historical and scientific support. Until we reach chapter 12, where God calls Abram (later: Abraham), many ascribe its contents completely to mythology and very old stories, and while I do find some of the stories told to be fictive (for the purposes of teaching) rather than utter fiction, I agree that these accounts do not accord with fact and must not be taken as literal truth.

I should also say from the outset that while I am a Christian, I do not take most of the Bible as in errant or literally true, and I think that the documentary hypothesis has long since been disproven, which is to say that I don’t believe that there was ever a single perfect copy of the Hebrew bible or the Torah in any form or language. This is a compilation of information, as is the New Testament, not a consistent, comprehensive, and complete treatise on God’s interaction with and directions to humanity. The notion that it is so is the barracuda which I shall unapologetically hereinafter ignore. If this is offensive, please do swim on as did the barracuda of Roatan.

Why I am thusly convinced is the tale of my studies far and wide, of all sorts of creation stories and mythology from the region, and a decent respect for science, none of which is fitting for this post. Suffice it to say that neither Moses nor Jesus ask you to be silly or stupid. Why I believe in God, and also in Jesus, is a matter of personal experience being in the divine presence and being thusly changed. This is far from unique, and while I can prove nothing, I will always witness to these facts. But the texts are not God, and we do not constrain His will or hold Him to account. His love knows no bounds, and that’s a fact.

Mystical Semitic Linguistics

With that segue, we must face up to another point, perhaps the black sea urchins on our beach, the difficulties in going from one language to another. There are three basic forms of attempting this amazing feat: Transliteration, Transcription, and Translation.

Transliteration is the simplest form where one uses letters of the new language to represent letters of the old language, it is not phonetic, it is simple substitution. The example above showed us paleo Hebrew, Hebrew, English transliteration, and English transcription. Transcription is the rendering of the sounds of one spoken language in the characters of another language, also shown in that table above. Translation is the process of transferring the meaning conveyed by one language into an equivalent form in another language.

Translation of necessity always involves interpretation because languages, especially idiomatic expressions like “break a leg” meaning good luck to an actor, simply do not translate word for word, and many languages have different forms or arrangements than English so a word for word translation would make no sense and would therefore be no translation at all. Semitic languages such as Hebrew and Arabic are notoriously difficult to render in English because the range of meanings for a single word is expansive and even mystic. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, in his The Qur’an: Text, Translation, and Commentary puts it far better than I can:

Classical Arabic has a vocabulary in which the meaning of each root-word is so comprehensive that it is difficult to interpret in a modern analytical language word for word, or by the use of the same word in all places where the original word occurs in the Text.  A striking example is furnished by the word Sabr, about which see my notes on ii. 45 and ii.153.  Even though one particular shade of meaning may be predominant in any particular passage, the others are latent.  So in a ray of light, when a prism analyses it, we may look at a portion of the field where a particular colour predominates, but other colours do not escape our glance.  An Arabic word is often a full ray of light; when a translator looks at it through the prism of a modern analytical language, he misses a great deal of its meaning by confining his attention to one particular colour.  …

What Ali writes of Arabic is broadly true of all classical Semitic languages, which are indeed closely related to one another. English is an analytical language, a language of many words to convey precise meanings and, even with that precision, it is commonly misunderstood. People approaching English as a second language often have difficulty with sarcasm, irony, and other subtle forms of humor. We, too, suffer from this problem with ancient texts, not understanding how they are meant to be taken without additional instructions.

Language and Hermeneutics are difficult. After all, George Bernard Shaw is often quoted as having said “England and America are two countries separated by a common language”. And right he is, not just about England and America but about you and me. Thought transfer through written conveyance is very difficult indeed.

What those thoughts (to be conveyed by an author or compiler of texts) were and what light they shed, in its full spectrum, when written and also today, is what Hermeneutics and Exegesis are all about. This is the shark in our Roatan reef, and we must take the utmost care to avoid projecting our worldview onto the text itself as we analyze it or we will simply be creating our own images in the mirror. That’s what I try to avoid; I try to see through the mirror, dark though it may be. With that, let us begin.

Genesis 6:1-8

Text in Translation

First, let’s look back at our text in the scholar’s preferred translation, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV or NRS):

(1) When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, (2) the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose.

(3) Then the LORD said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.”

(4) The Nephilim were on the earth in those days– and also afterward– when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

(5) The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  (6) And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  (7) So the LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created– people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

(8) But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD. (Genesis 6:1-8 NRS)

Verse 1 is easy to understand. But verse 2 hits a snag – who or what are the “sons of God“? Is verse 3 about our lifespan and is it playing Plato’s theme that the soul is entrapped in the flesh (albeit this was clearly written long before Plato)? Verse 4 has sprung forth so much lore and speculation that it could be an entire monograph (book). Is verse 5 just there, or is it directly connected to verse 4 – did the progeny of the “sons of God” turn the world evil?

Verses 6 and 7 show us an almost human God, albeit I don’t take any of this literally. Still, how many times have you and I said “I’m sorry I did that for you! You took advantage of me, now things will change and I’m going to punish you”? And, by the way, “creeping things” are likely not what you’d think them to be. Specific examples in the Mishnah include mice.

And of course, we have Noah on the scene in verse 8 which needs no explanation, whittling down our verses of interest to 2 through 7.

Let’s start with verses 6 and 7 which seem to be less of a quagmire and have to do with the nature of the divine.

Verses 6-7: It repenteth me

TEXT

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. (Genesis 6:7 KJV)

ANALYSIS

We were talking about “it repenteth me that” or “I’m sorry that”. Before this study, I was aware of only two places in the Hebrew Bible where “being sorry” is attributed to YHWH, here and in 1 Samuel 15:10-11 where He regrets having anointed Saul king. However, focusing on the specific Hebrew used here, and using tools to search, the exact term used here and in 1 Samuel 15:10-11 also appears in many places as seen in the snapshot of my lexicon below. Qal, Niphal, and Piel refer to Hebrew verb linguistics with Qal being the root, Niphal passive and Piel emphatic. Not being a Hebrew scholar, that’s enough for me.

Four notable examples follow:

And Yahweh said, ‘I shall rid the surface of the earth of the human beings whom I created — human and animal, the creeping things and the birds of heaven — for I regret having made them.’ (Genesis 6:7 NJB) (Regret translates our Hebrew word in this verse.)


Yahweh then said to Moses, ‘I know these people; I know how obstinate they are!  So leave me now, so that my anger can blaze at them and I can put an end to them! I shall make a great nation out of you instead.’

Moses tried to pacify Yahweh his God. ‘Yahweh,’ he said, ‘why should your anger blaze at your people, whom you have brought out of Egypt by your great power and mighty hand?  Why should the Egyptians say, “He brought them out with evil intention, to slaughter them in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth?” Give up your burning wrath; relent over this disaster intended for your people.  Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom you swore by your very self and made this promise: “I shall make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and this whole country of which I have spoken, I shall give to your descendants, and it will be their heritage for ever.” ‘

Yahweh then relented over the disaster which he had intended to inflict on his people. (Exodus 32:9-14 NJB)  (Relented translates our Hebrew word in this verse)


The word of Yahweh came to Samuel, ‘I regret having made Saul king, since he has broken his allegiance to me and not carried out my orders.’ Samuel was appalled and cried to Yahweh all night long. (1 Samuel 15:10-11 NJB) (Regret translates our Hebrew word in this verse)


David pleaded with Yahweh for the child; he kept a strict fast and went home and spent the night lying on the ground, covered with sacking.

The officials of his household stood round him, intending to get him off the ground, but he refused, nor would he take food with them.  On the seventh day the child died. David’s retinue were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. ‘Even when the child was alive’, they thought, ‘we reasoned with him and he would not listen to us. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He will do something desperate.’

David, however, noticed that his retinue were whispering among themselves, and realised that the child was dead. ‘Is the child dead?’ he asked the officers. They replied, ‘He is dead.’

David got off the ground, bathed and anointed himself and put on fresh clothes. Then he went into Yahweh’s sanctuary and prostrated himself. On returning to his house, he asked to be served with food and ate it.

His retinue said, ‘Why are you acting like this? When the child was alive, you fasted and wept; now that the child is dead, you get up and take food!’

‘When the child was alive’, he replied, ‘I fasted and wept because I kept thinking, “Who knows? Perhaps Yahweh will take pity on me and the child will live.”  But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him but he cannot come back to me.’

David consoled his wife Bathsheba. He went to her and slept with her. She conceived and gave birth to a son, whom she called Solomon. Yahweh loved him  and made this known by means of the prophet Nathan, who named him Jedidiah, as Yahweh had instructed.
(2 Samuel 12:16-25 NJB)   
(Consoled translates our Hebrew word in this verse.)

DISCUSSION

I told you that Semitic languages were almost mystic, and that last section from Samuel shows how eloquent they truly are. In English, David consoled his wife Bathsheba. David of his own accord went to Bathsheba who was in no position to reject the king’s advances or consent to them, he and not she tries to hide the resulting pregnancy, he has her husband put in a position where he’d certainly be killed, he marries her, and her child, the son of his sin and not hers, dies as a punishment from the Almighty. And David consoles Bathsheba, in English. In Semitic literary reality, he expresses regret, admits fault, feels pain and deep sorrow, shares her grief, supports her, consoles her, and ultimately gets right with Bathsheba and the Lord God all in that one little word. Blessed are the translators for they help us see God.

But what about the divine? Angry humans often say things like “I’m sorry that I did that in the first place”, and then set a path forward, often not an entirely rational path. Our verses (Genesis 6-7) are part of a repeating pattern inside and outside of the biblical corpus attributing regret for past actions resulting in the current state to the divine, as well as the divine responding to intercession and prayer by changing course. The Christian Theological consensus is that the divine experiences regret due to free will and rebellion, due to sin. Fair enough; we experience the same regrets when friends or family do bad things with gifts or finances we’ve given them. But it’s not just regret; it’s actions due to regret that are problematic.

In the story of God’s regret regarding Saul, not even Saul himself is struck down by the Almighty. David struggles through Saul’s hatred and the disobedient king is eventually killed by the Philistines, a story that may have some historical accuracy but which lacks any archaeological support; it is at least in large measure plausible.

The flood story, and its parallels in Exodus/Deuteronomy (golden calf incident et al.), are strikingly different because in Genesis, this regret results in the extermination of all animal life on earth except for Noah and those humans and land creatures travelling with him, and in Exodus / Deuteronomy the threat is the genocide of the Jewish people (then Hebrews since the word Jewish comes from Judah aka Judea) except for Moses and his family. In the latter case, Moses intercedes, even daring to shame God for how badly this would look to the Egyptians and others. In the former case, the flood, there is no intercession and the threat is, according to this myth, carried out. There are of course several other instances where the Torah writings tell stories of God’s punishments and carnage conducted at His direction, and the book of Joshua tells such tales as well, albeit Judges chapter 1 walks back the genocide indicated in Joshua and archaeology generally agrees with Judges: the entry into the land was slow and from the mountains.

Christian theology takes this further back, answering one of the great questions in Genesis, “who is us” with the Trinity: The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. Us as in Genesis 1:26 to wit: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26 KJV) Jewish theology answers that question with God and Wisdom, His first creation, but Christian Theology by an overwhelming majority has Jesus there from the start, and the Nicene creed reinforces this notion, “begotten before all worlds” does not mean in view of all worlds, it means temporally preceding the rest of creation: Jesus was there at the beginning. The Greek Orthodox interpretation is that the Father does not speak with us but, rather the Logos, the Word, and later the Word made flesh, Jesus. If one truly believes this, then Jesus destroyed the land creatures of the entire world, was that angry voice in Exodus, commanded genocide, and so forth and so on; it cannot be both ways. Indeed, this is what happens when Jesus arrives in the Americas in the book of Mormon, which I don’t find a credible source mind you, but Joseph Smith apparently understood the implication of Christian theology.

Two little verses and a whole lot more to follow could lead a person to believe that our Triune God is angry, mean, unjust, genocidal, and generally speaking not a very nice god, and that’s typical of the gnostic perspective where the true YHWH is beyond human perception or knowledge and what we’ve seen is not really a god but a supernatural being created through the error of wisdom (Greek: sophia which name personifies wisdom, Sophia, in much of Nag Hammadi’s contents).

If, on the other hand, we can understand that the flood narrative is mythological, that the worldwide myths of the flood are explanations related to finding fossilized fish in mountains (including the Himalayas) due to convulsions of the earth and tectonic plate collisions causing strata millions, even billions, of years old to end up atop mountains, and that a great deal of the Torah narrative exists ex post facto to legitimize practices in place or thought to be necessary to restore the glory of Israel after the exile in Babylon, then we can begin to draw some conclusions from this text and biblical stories similar to it.

My personal belief is that a lot of calamities and bad decisions are foisted onto the plate of YHWH, not to mention the smiting and horrors expressed late in Deuteronomy and in the book of Joshua, which are generally retracted in Judges chapter 1 where it is clear that people were not eliminated from the land during the settlement of the people, and that the Hebrews came in through the mountains gradually which matches the archaeological evidence. We must extricate nationalistic pride, etiological excursions, and the like from the text to see our God, just as we must to see Him in current times. We must do as Jesus tells us, the one time He tells us to study “But go and learn what this means:`I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13 NKJ)

So, then does the Almighty experience regret at how things turn out? I think that He certainly does, but I don’t think the He wiped out the world in response. Neither do I believe that He knows exactly what the future holds because our choices change the future and we know that. Why, then, does He permit evil in the world? Theodicy features heavily in many discussions and philosophical writings, particularly those of Nietzsche but also in Darwin’s painful rejection of God largely due to the extended suffering and death of his daughter Annie, compounding the weight of the truth that evolution did and does occur.

A long way of saying I don’t think we can understand, I don’t think that God is responsible for most of the murderous calamities, horrific laws, and other horrible things in the text, nor do I believe that He punishes the world for some primordial original sin. No, I reject that sort of thinking. I think it’s quite simple, really. We’re not cooked yet, and Jesus shows us the recipe. Clearly David , in his sin as seen above, was not cooked and God had mercy on him.

It is not that we lost perfection, Eden, it is that perfection is yet to come in the Kingdom of God, and it has come near in Christ Jesus. We’ll pick this topic up again because the Sons of God figures, in the old testament, only here and in Job, and Job is all about theodicy.

Verses 2 and 4: The Sons of God

TEXT

The “sons of God” are thematic and problematic in our text. Let’s recapitulate and refocus as we begin.

(1) When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, (2) the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose.

(3) Then the LORD said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.”

(4) The Nephilim were on the earth in those days– and also afterward– when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

Firstly, we should be careful of our translation which of necessity has some interpretation included. The “sons of god” here, in Hebrew, is b’né elohim or bene ha elohim which literally means sons of gods or the sons of gods. Elohim, plural of El meaning god, is very often used in the Bible to mean the God of Gods, Yahweh or YHWH in Hebrew, hence most translations reading sons of God. Others read “divine beings”. That said, the Septuagint (Greek ca 200 BCE), and the Latin Vulgate both read Sons of God (not gods), so we at least know that this interpretation is very old. Still, we must not forget that Elohim is used in the Hebrew bible no less than 200 times to mean gods (not YHWH), and El, the singular, is used to mean a god or God in some places. Elohim does not exclusively mean YHWH, or the LORD as our bibles most often put it. Our bibles usually say LORD because the Jewish tradition recites the divine name YHWH as Adonai (meaning lord) when scripture is read aloud, to avoid offense by taking the divine name in vain, I suppose.

Secondly, we should remember that if the author wanted to say sons of Yahweh, he could have, unless of course this text is very, very old. Verse 3 uses the divine name (underneath LORD) which first appears in Genesis 2:4. Some view this as anachronistic given the narrative that Moses was the first to be given the divine name, however, in Genesis 4:26, we are directly told the Seth or his progeny used this name “And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enosh; then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.” (Genesis 4:26 JPS) where “the LORD”, in Hebrew, is Yahweh.

Indeed, the Jewish Publication Society changed the translation of verse 6:2 from the 1917 Tanakh “that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives, whomsoever they chose. (Genesis 6:2 JPS, JPS= Jewish Publication Society 1917 Tanakh) to “the divine beings saw how beautiful the daughters of men were and took wives from among those that pleased them. — (Genesis 6:2 TNK, TNK=JPS 1985 Tanakh), and again now uses “divine beings” rather than sons of god(s) in Genesis 6:4, meaning that I’m not the only one to see this as problematic. You see, there is another word for Angel, and the sons of god is not used for angel in the Bible, no, what I was taught decades ago is wrong.

That Hebrew word for what we translate as Angel Malakh (malAWK). Malakh means messenger, a messenger of the Almighty. The first usage is in Genesis 16, and the “sons of God” phrase appears, best I can tell, only in these two Genesis 6 instances as well as three in Job (Job 1:6. 2:1, and 38:7) in the Hebrew Bible. The NRS lets us down here, translating b’né elohim as “heavenly beings” in Job rather than being consistent with the Genesis 6 translation.

And of course there is a Greek equivalent to Malakh, ἄγγελος, (transcription: aggelos or angelos) which is a translation of the Hebrew Malakh again meaning messenger. We see this term in the New Testament, for instance in Matthew 22:30 (NKJ) where Jesus tells us “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.”

ANALYSIS

Messengers of God

Part of our problem with interpreting this text and with understanding modern viewpoints centers around the function of the messenger-Angel in the Biblical corpus. An Angel, in the Bible, is generally sent for a specific purpose, to deliver a message, to take some specific action and they are not noted as having choices in the matter. Sometimes, they turn out to be the Almighty Himself, sometimes they are the adversary. Take Balaam for instance.

So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.

Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.

Note:  In the above, “God” is Elohim.  Angel is “Malakh”, LORD is (as usual)  YHWH, and the description “adversary”, שָׂטָ֣ן transcribed “satan”.  So an Angel of YHWH is a satan, an adversary.  Keep that in mind when translations select satan as a name rather than a noun or adjective.  

Now the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road.  Then the Angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side.   And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again.  Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.   And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff.

Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”  And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!”   So the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?” And he said, “No.”

Note carefully that it is YHWH that opens the mouth of the donkey, not the Malakh/Angel.

Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face.

Note carefully that it is YHWH that opens the eyes of Balaam, not the Malakh/Angel.

And the Angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me.   The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.”

Balaam is not perverse before the messenger, he is perverse before YHWH.  This is a typical transformation where the messenger in essence becomes YHWH.  Not this same context below.

And Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.”  Then the Angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
(Numbers 22:21-35 NKJ)

The point being that biblical angels have very little free will or initiative.  A tour de force on beliefs regarding angels can be found in the book of Tobit which I recommend reading.  Angels do not consume food, they have no wings, and they are often more of an apparition than something to be touched and held.  This underpins the message of the Risen Christ eating fish and so forth – He is different, He appears and disappears, He can be touched, but He is not an Angel.  He is the life, the resurrection.

JOB & ANALYSIS

The book of Job, or ee-yobay in Hebrew (אִיּ֣וֹב), is quite old, and has the only other Hebrew Bible references to the Sons of God as we find in our Genesis selection. We know that it is older than the book of Ezekiel because Ezekiel makes reference to Job as a person (Ezekiel 14:14, 14:20). This places the text, or the story of the text, at 700-600 BCE but there is a much older and very similar story told in Babylonian literature dating to about 1300 BCE known as the Babylonian Job or the prayer of the righteous suffer.

The basic story line of Job is both similar to the servant songs of Isaiah and also drastically different inasmuch as the servant of Isaiah suffers the evil of the world whereas Job suffers tragedies brought upon him with the explicit permission of God in order to test his character and allegiance to God. It is here that we confront theodicy full on, it is here that we develop our saying “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh away” (Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. (Job 1:20-22 KJV) )

Here again, the JPS has changed their 1917 translation in 1985 in two ways: (1) the sons of god (1917) is now rendered “divine beings”, and (2) “Satan” is now rendered “the Adversary”. We’ve discussed the sons of god. Satan her appears as “ha-satan” in the Hebrew, literally the adversary and not necessarily the evil one.

Qur’an and Iblis

So let me ask you a question. How much of the Satan narrative in our Biblical corpus do you interpret from the Bible and how much do you interpret from the Holy Qur’an? Assuming you know the story in Genesis, where the talking snake is not identified as the adversary or Satan, let’s take a peek at the Qur’an (ca 632 CE):


It is We Who created you and gave you shape; then We bade the angels prostrate to Adam, and they prostrate; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who prostrate.

 [Allah] said: “What prevented thee from prostrating when I commanded thee?” He said: “I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay.”   [Allah] said: “Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here: get out, for thou art of the meanest [of creatures].”

He said: “Give me respite till the day they are raised up.”

[Allah] said: “Be thou among those who have respite.”

He said: “Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way:  “Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude [for thy mercies].”

[Allah] said: “Get out from this, disgraced and expelled. If any of them follow thee,- Hell will I fill with you all.

“O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and enjoy [its good things] as ye wish: but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.”  

Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden from them [before]: he said: “Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest ye should become angels or such beings as live for ever.”  And he swore to them both, that he was their sincere adviser.  

So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies.

And their Lord called unto them: “Did I not forbid you that tree, and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?”  They said: “Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: If thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us Thy Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.”

[Allah] said: “Get ye down. With enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood,- for a time.”  He said: “Therein shall ye live, and therein shall ye die; but from it shall ye be taken out [at last].”

SURA 7. Araf, or The Heights, v 11-24.  The Holy Qur’an, English Translation of the Meanings by Abdullah Yusuf Ali From a version revised by the Presidency of Islamic Researches, IFTA, Call and Guidance. Published and Printed by the King Fahd Holy Quran Printing Complex in 1987.


Job and Quranic Concepts

I’ve made this digression to emphasize that our understanding of the text involves worldviews and cross-cultural exchanges that may not be directly found in the text itself. The teacher who led me to believe that sons of god was all over the bible as a phrase translated as angels probably didn’t know that this wasn’t true, it’s what he, too, was taught somewhere along the way. Jewish and European cross-cultural exchanges with Islam are enormous, as enormous as Jewish cross-cultural exchanges with ancient Egypt. Things creep in and become “a matter of fact” without period textual support, and that puts the scholar at a disadvantage because “everyone knows that”. Case in point: biblical angels have no wings. Nope, nary a feather to be found. The wings first appear in the 2nd century CE apparently as a means of locomotion between heaven and earth, perhaps an embellishment of Jacob’s ladder [And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. (Gen. 28:12 KJV)] which itself posed a difficulty to ancient interpreters – shouldn’t that be descending and ascending … what angels were trapped on earth needing to ascend first? But we know that biblical angels come and go with the Spirit of the Lord, and need neither a ladder nor wings.

Now consider our text, knowing that it is at least a thousand years older than the text of the Qur’an (remember, throughout Satan = the adversary in Hebrew, “the” is actually in the text.)

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

Not our sons of god here – Satan mixes in with no fuss.

And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?  “Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  “But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:6-12 NKJ)


Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.  And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Note here our sons of god presenting themselves to YHWH.

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”

 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.   “But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” (Job 2:1-6 NKJ)


Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
“Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:1-7 NKJ)

Our final reference to the sons of god in job.  Joyful at God’s setting Job straight.


Theodicy

I wrote above that we’d discuss theodicy more as we dug into Job. Theodicy is the problem created by evil existing in a world created and governed by a powerful and good God. In Job, we find a story where Satan makes bad things happen to Job in order to test his allegiance to YHWH with the permission of YHWH. As we saw in Sura 7 of the Qur’an, the role of tempting humans is assigned to Iblis in Islam, and that is also part and parcel of a lot of Christian theology – that God is constantly testing us as he tested Abraham in the Akedah, the binding of Isaac. Indeed, the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 4:1-11) begins with the Spirit whisking Jesus off to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (diablos) and tempter (peiradzo). Mark mentions it in a single line (Mark 1:13) with Satan (Satanas) as the tempter.

There is no biblical resolution to this conundrum. Job simply tells us that God cannot be questioned, Christian Theology tells us the evil one will be defeated in the Day of the Lord, and lots of extrabiblical literature conveys the same narrative. But nothing directly tells us how evil crept into the world. I mean, even in the garden of Eden story, the snake is, well, Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. (Genesis 3:1 NRS). Was Eden a test that Adam and Chava (whom you know as Eve, more on that anon) failed the test.

Theodicy is the destroyer of faith. How could a good God fail to intervene in the holocaust or any of countless maniacal murderous events brought on by man or by nature? Yet, this is the cornerstone of Christianity, not that right thinking or right practice (orthodoxy / orthopraxis) bring about a world free from evil and suffering in the now, but that God will eventually act to bring His Kingdom and put things in His order. The suffering servant songs of Isaiah, the life of Jesus, these things tell us that the birth of the Kingdom requires suffering for the good, and that eternal life in the resurrection is the result, not that the world has ever been perfect or that God has been punishing people since the start due to a mistake made by one man and one woman. That’s a myth, it’s a story to explain why we suffer and toil. It is not true and what’s worse it puts the blame for endless suffering and death on God, and for those believing Jesus is and always has been the Logos, on Jesus as well, and the Holy Spirit. The answer to why there is evil in the world is, as I have said, that the time is not yet right for the kingdom. And we must accept that and move forward in love and genuine stewardship of planet Earth, and we must stop trying to control God or thinking that we do things that require God to respond in a certain way. God is, well, God. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.

Now, concluding my digression on Chava/Eve, well, sorry, it’s Chava, חַוָּ֑ה not Eve. Eve came from Septuagint translating the name Chava as life or giver of life to Eua/Eva Latinized as Eva/Eve. We should note that the Septuagint (Greek) Genesis 3:20 has Zoe “life” and uses Eva in Genesis 4:1 leading to lots of lore that Adam had two wives, Eva before the fall and Zoe after. The Hebrew is the same: Chava. Then of course there’s the attempted reconciliation of the two creation stories, and there are two distinct stories, where Adam’s original wife from So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 NRS) versus Chava being made with one of Adam’s bones, that seems to have begun another enormous set of lore regarding Isaiah 34:14 Wildcats shall meet with hyenas, goat-demons shall call to each other; there too Lilith shall repose, and find a place to rest. (Isaiah 34:14 NRS) – who or what is Lilith? Most likely, the Hebrew refers to a screech owl, but by AD 700 this had grown into lore that Lilith was the first woman and the mother of all demons, Chava having been created following Lilith’s evil turn in a typically misogynistic biblical interpretation. Anything that is conflicting or lacks clarity in scripture spawns enormous stories and lore, you see.

HEBREW BIBLE SONS OF GOD SUMMARY

Our Genesis and Job texts use identical Hebrew language to describe certain beings in the present of YHWH. In Genesis 6, these beings are not constrained to the divine purpose of Yahweh as messgenger-Angels are traditionally constrained throughout the Hebrew Bible, in other words they have free will which is not evident of the Hebrew Messenger/Malakh “Angel”. The possibility that these texts reflect polytheism cannot be ignored, and it is likely unwise to translate “sons of god” here as sons of Yahweh but, rather, in their period as “divine beings” in accordance with the 1985 JPS Tanakh and other careful translations. We must also be very cautious with translations, for instance, the scholars preferred Revised Standard Version translates Deuteronomy 32:8 as “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.” (Deuteronomy 32:8 RSV) and the New Revised Standard Version gives us “When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods;” (Deuteronomy 32:8 NRS) whereas other translations give us “sons of Israel” or “children of Israel”, and the Hebrew text that I have available including the Leningrad Codex clearly reads “sons of Israel”. The Septuagint (Greek) reads Angels of God, and certain (Hebrew) scrolls from Qumran (dead sea scrolls) read sons of god. The NRS/NRSV is an interpretation, not a translation in this case and finding this is very disappointing. One supposes that Israel or more correctly Yisra-el meaning perhaps struggles with god, god prevails, god strives, could cause someone to read the text sons of the prevailing god or numbers of gods, but that’s a big stretch given that we know long before this that Yisra-el is Jacob’s name given to him by God after a wrestling match, which is why I think it means struggles with God.

At any rate, all of that notwithstanding, the biblical text is clear, in both testaments, that there are indeed malevolent divine beings of some sort that have some kind of free will or limited free will. I think we’ve got to leave it at that. We don’t know that they are Angels, and most likely that is the wrong term altogether because they are not messengers of the almighty in Genesis. In Job, I just don’t think we have enough to go on except that the adversary is a divine being authorized to torment Job. He seems on rather a good rapport with God, so it would probably be inaccurate to call the adversary “fallen” at least in the context of Job, or even disobedient, unless we use Quranic interpretation. One thing we know for certain: bible study is hard.

NEW TESTAMENT SONS OF GOD

And there is another problem, the New Testament problem. The Greek Phrase sons of god, υἱοὶ θεοῦ (transcribed: huioi theou, with variations in situ), is used several times in the New Testament, specifically in Matthew 5:9, Luke 20:34-36, Romans 8:13-14 and 8:18-19, and Galatians 3:25-26. And we can be certain that when Paul of Tarsus wrote “For you are all sons of God [υἱοὶ θεοῦ] through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26 NKJ) he didn’t mean angels, and he most certainly did know Genesis quite well writing “for as in Adam all die…” (1 Corinthians 15:22), and he most likely new Job quite well also. Here are these example verses:

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9 NKJ)

And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.  “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;  nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
(Luke 20:34-36 NKJ)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:13-14 NKJ)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:18-19 NKJ)

But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.   For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 3:25-26 NKJ)

Clearly, then, the New Testament uses Sons of God to mean those filled with the spirit and bound for resurrection into the type of human, the perfected human image bearer of God that Jesus shows us in His resurrection. Let’s go deep into Luke 20 verse 36 briefly, nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:36 KJV). That’s not exactly what it says, “equal” being problematic and “like” being more accurate as in “Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:36 NRS), but if we go to a more literal reading we get “for neither are they able to die any more — for they are like messengers — and they are sons of God, being sons of the rising again.” (Luke 20:36 YLT) where “rising again” is indeed the greek word, ἀναστάσεως a form of the word anastasis (which we can transliterate anastaseos here) which means, in Christian Literature, the resurrection of the dead. With that clarity, being born again through the spirit, being born again through the resurrection, and being gender biased towards the male, the New Testament usage seems quite clear: those living or resurrected reborn through faith and the agency of the Holy Spirit of Yahweh. My analysis is that the phrase is therefore coincidental with the Old Testament and while the authors of the New Testament, at least Matthew and Paul were most certainly Jewish and most certainly knew of the other usage in Genesis and Job, the image here is spiritual and even physical rebirth, not the beings encountered in the Hebrew text.

Sons of God Summation

By the third century CE, the interpretations of “sons of god” in extrabiblical literature had grown to include the progeny of Seth and the daughters of Cain. Our problem, and the problem of all interpreters of the Bible and related texts since well before 200 BCE is and has been the notion that the text, and every word of it, is inspired by God as we read in 2 Timothy Chapter 3 which does typify deep seated cultural beliefs in both Jewish and Christian traditions. St. Paul’s breathtaking explanation of how the law, the Torah, trapped us in Galatians chapter three is also important to our interpretation – the law does not bring life; faith brings life, God brings life, even eternal life. As we consider this matter, we must redouble our commitment to worship God and not the text itself.

Based on the evidence before us, and studied regional works of this time period, it seems clear that the intent in Genesis is some sort of diving beings as the 1985 Tanakh translates it.

Fallen Beings

Are they “fallen” beings- not the Nephilim, but these divine beings. The primary biblical notion of the fall of divine beings comes to us from Luke as follows.

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;  cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.

“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 

He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightningSee, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  

At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luke 10:8-22 NRS)

Yes, I am aware of the stretches made to interpret Ezekiel 28 (which is written against the King of Tyre) and Isaiah 14 (which is written against Babylon) as Hebrew Bible validations of Luke.  One thing is true:  Isaiah calls Babylon the light bearer, the morning star.  In Latin, light is Lux or Luc and a bearer adds a suffix of “fer” resulting in the Latin translation of the Hebrew day-star or light bearer (hay-lale’; הֵילֵ֣ל ) as Lucifer.  That’s where the name comes from, after all, but there is no indication from the text itself that these divine beings are somehow “fallen”, nor is there any indication in Job that the adversary (ha-satan) and YHWH are out of sorts, almost as if we were watching Oh God! You Devil which seems, in a comedic way, based on the kinds of God/Adversary conversations we see in Job.

When we read this text with the Qur’an and longstanding traditions imposed on it, we risk eisegesis, out of context interpretation. We’ll get much deeper in our discussion of the Nephilim yet to come.

Right now, we must deal with collateral information in the growing scriptural context which, with a nod to the sparseness of Hebrew, I shall put as M R Snakes! M R Not! C M B D I’s? L I B M R Snakes.

M R Snakes!

A puzzle on the bathroom wall in a restaurant called Mary’s in the Florida wall read M R Snakes! M R Not! O S A R C M B D I’s? L I B M R Snakes. It means ’em are snakes! ’em are not! Oh yes ‘ey are – See ’em beady eyes? ‘ell I’ll be, ’em ARE snakes. Armed with the Mary’s Rosetta stone, and owning a farm myself, I shall leave you with M R Farmers M R Not O S A R C M M T Pockets? L I B M R Farmers.

We now believe that the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts of the Apostles are written as a pair leading many, including me, to refer to both as a set called “Luke-Acts”.  Luke goes on to give us an example of his point on snakes in Acts (the shipwreck):

The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it.

Note verse 2 above is a first person narrative “us” – the text is telling us that the author was there.

Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire, when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.  When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man must be a murderer; though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.”

He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.  They were expecting him to swell up or drop dead, but after they had waited a long time and saw that nothing unusual had happened to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. (Acts 28:2-6 NRS) 

Note that in Luke 10, the word for Snake is Ophis, a generic word for a snake also translated in Latin as Serpentes.  In Acts, the word is Echidna (pronounced Ekhidna) which seems to be a poisonous snake, translated in Latin as Vipera.  To be clear, that which injects venom is venomous, that which exudes poison but does not inject it is poisonous, so our terminology and that of various lexicons is not quite correct.  Also Echidna is a Greek Goddess but clearly not intended in this context – Medusa was one of her children.   

One verse in Acts leads to the modern Christian snake handlers.  Amazing.   Clearly Luke-Acts leads us to believe that the faithful will not be harmed by venomous creatures which is not the case.  As for Paul’s story, most Vipers don’t grab hold.  The coral snake does, and it takes a bit of chewing to inject venom.  The story could be true if the snake was a coral snake or some similar venomous snake that grabs and chews (such as the Malta species Boiga).  After all Paul was gathering wood on Malta, the story never tells us that Paul was actually bitten, and the Boiga is not particularly lethal to begin with.  This is assumed by the reader.

But that damage is minor compared with the damage done by Acts chapter 19 to wit:  God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.  (Acts 19:11-12 NRS)  Compare this with  Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak,  for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.”  Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. (Matthew 9:20-22 NRS).  It is faith and the power of God that works miracles, not some relic that is independently imbued with magic powers.  Oddly, Luke-Acts goes on to say that the magicians burned their books in the face of this evidence when the evidence given is quite like ancient magic literature in amulets and other special items given special powers to protect or otherwise impact those who carry them.  The magic never worked in the first place.  

Stories like those in Luke-Acts have lead to restoration Christianity and other movements seeking to recreate the circumstances and behaviors of ancient times in an effort to recapture the power we read of in these stories.  The problem, like ancient magic itself, is that the stories are exaggerated and largely untrue to begin with; there is nothing to recapture because God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are with us now and work miracles every day of which I am living proof.  It’s just that they aren’t under our control and we want that control and power which we cannot have.  This is our downfall, and Milton’s Paradise Lost projects our desire for power “better to rule in hell than serve in heaven” on Lucifer and his lot quite well.  You see, this is the temptation of the Adversary, and I agree that the Adversary as an independent actor does indeed exist as well as his minions and demonic beings. 

But I don’t think we know where they came from at least in a scriptural sense, and of course let’s not forget the scape goat sent to Azazel (Leviticus 16:8-26) which is another boon for controversy regarding the fallen and so forth, Azazel ( עֲזָאזֵֽל) ending with that -El that makes us suspicious that it has to do with God or a God (see el/elohim above).   The same literature that we’re about to survey on the Nephilim front has Azazel as a fallen angel, you see.  We don’t really know what this name or word means, and it’s translation has been a controversy for at least two thousand years.  The 1907 Jewish Encyclopedia entry gives us “The name of a supernatural being mentioned in connection with the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi.). After Satan, for whom he was in some degree a preparation, Azazel enjoys the distinction of being the most mysterious extrahuman character in sacred literature. Unlike other Hebrew proper names, the name itself is obscure.”  We simply don’t know, but is seems clear that the sins of Israel are embodied in the scapegoat (the goat of Azazel) and are sent out into the wilderness in the form of the living goat.  The vulgate Latin text translates this as the emissary goat (emissary to whom?) and the literal translation gives us goat of departure.  It is tempting to uses the name Azaz (1 Chronicles 5:8) meaning “strong” plus “el” top mean strong god, but this is not well founded because Azaz in Chronicles is spelled Ayin Zayin Zayin ( עָזָ֔ז  ) whereas Azaz of Azazel is spelled Ayin Zayin Aleph Zayin ( עֲזָאזֵֽ ) so while they are homophones they are not exactly the same.  If Hebrew scholars can’t be certain, then neither can we.

 

The Nephilim Genesis 6:4-5

INTRODUCTION

We have arrived at the “fun” part – the fantastic speculations regarding a lost Hebrew word, Nephilim shown from the Leningrad Codex below in Red, and Genesis 6:4 in blue brackets. As a reminder, our text reads “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days– and also afterward– when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.” (Genesis 6:4, NRS)

Leningrad Codex Genesis 6:4 et al.

I call this a lost word because the context does not make it clear and it appears in the Bible only here and in Numbers 13:33 (the report of the spies sent to the promised land) There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (Num. 13:33 NRS), while the apparent root, n-p-l does indeed mean fall (naphal; used in that form over 50 times in the Hebrew Bible), it’s all about those pesky missing vowels, Nephilim vs Naphalim (as seen in Ezekiel 32:27 for instance) with the “im” making it plural. The difference is slight and driven by the Niqqud as shown below:

The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate translate Nephilim as “giants” most likely owing to the context given in Numbers 13:33 above. However, we should note that Numbers tells us that not all of the Nephilim died in the flood, doesn’t it? From every inconsistency, volumes of lore are created.

PERIOD LITERATURE OUTSIDE OF THE BIBLE

Above, we briefly discussed the Bible and different Canons, approved sets of inspired works for the faithful. The canon, even the enormous Tewahedo canon, is but a small subset of relevant period literature available for study. Judaism and Christianity have always been bookish cultures that insisted on people reading the laws and stories for themselves, or having it read to them by others, necessitating a good reading list. As we’ve seen, Hebrew can be problematic without vowels until of course the Niqqud were developed constraining the possible readings by adding sufficient phonic elements to pronounce the text directly as written meaning that tradition and teaching had to go with the list.

Monotheistic religions have a problem not seen in the pantheons of Greece, Rome, and the rest of the region: theology needs to be consistent. Many different and conflicting stories about the numerous gods of Mesopotamia, the Levant, Greece, Rome, Egypt, and just about everywhere abounded with local views prevalent in the temples and festivals. Theology as we know it scarcely existed albeit transalpine religion (outside of Italy across the alps in Germany, France, Briton, and so forth) was somewhat rigidly controlled by a central group of priests whom we know as Druids. No literature from the Druids survives because they insisted on all information being memorized and consistent, but that’s a story for another day.

What is important to this post is that many writings not included canonical scripture are a form of bible commentary. There are many modes of bible commentary, this post being one form. Others take line by line and insert pages of comments. The ancients sometimes rewrote sections of the bible as we see in the works of Josephus and Philo of Alexandria. Others took names from Bibilical characters and wrote new works under those names, such works are called pseudepigrapha which has enough mongraphs to be its own literary collection as discussed in the two volume work known as Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. This collection includes books like the books of Enoch (on that more anon), 4 Maccabees, The Book of Jubilees, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and for forth and so on. Such writings flourished from about 300 BCE through 400 CE, using the Nag Hammadi Library finds as the end date. We find artifacts all over the place, and can confirm ancient origins by fragmentary (and sometimes complete) documents found at Qumran (the dead sea scrolls).

Whole literary genres were born. The Re-written bible being one, the testament which is marked by the future being visible to and recounted by those about to die (such as we see in the death of Israel/Jacob and others in the bible) being another, and the apocalypse which is marked by a seer being guided by a divine being leaving the reader with cryptic symbols and signs that are partially interpreted by the divine being. Ezekiel contains an apocalyptic example and the Apocalypse of John, i.e., Revelation, is perhaps the queen of the apocalyptic literary genre, but there are many, many more in all of these genres and more genres as well.

The Biblical text itself has of course been worked, reworked, compiled, added to, and otherwise amended through a long period of time. As best we can tell, the Torah itself has been edited by at least four sources: The Yahwist, the Priestly, the Deuteronomist, and the Elohist, perhaps four traditions is a better way to put it; there were not four specific persons doing the changing and adding. Those early sources do not appear to have made any holistic changes to blend the text or to remove inconsistencies meaning that the curious combination of related yet not seamless stories we now have was never one coherent narrative corrupted by these sources as the documentary hypothesis hoped to prove but, rather, that the text was always more of a hodge podge of related information not entirely unlike the polytheistic stories told elsewhere in the Levant.

Even when we compare the Septuagint (ca 200 BCE) and the likely nearly contemporaneous Samaritan Pentateuch side by side (in good translation) with the Masoretic Hebrew text, very few changes have been made to resolve disconnects, conflicts, and so forth and so on. What this probably tells us is that the Torah text itself was in frozen final form certainly by 300 BCE and most likely shortly after the return from exile to Babylon in 538 BCE. As one of my mentors says, we must deal with the text as it is.

That being said, we do not know know with certainty what our ancestors in faith viewed as canonical until very late, perhaps 200 CE, in Jewish or Christian traditions. We do know that there are enough differences between the Septuagint and the Hebrew text to detect that quotations in the New Testament, both Gospels and Letters, come from both Hebrew and Greek versions of scripture. We know that the book/letter of Jude references the book of Enoch by its contents. We also know that the Christian church worked quite vigorously, sometimes quite violently, to suppress content found to be heretical including especially any notion of the canonicity of Gnostic literature (Nag Hammadi again) and other works that were deemed outside of right-thinking (orthodox) theology. Rabbinical Judaism arose after the fall of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE and it, too, shunned these fantastic works centering on the well established core books of the Tanakh and only adding studious works such as the Mishnah and the Talumds.

For me, it has been important to understand these works as best I can within the context that Jesus and the early Christians would likely have understood them. That opens the door to an enormous collection of literature, the understanding of each gem requiring further digging into vein whence it came back to 2,500 BCE in some cases and across the Levant and the ancient Western world. This is what I call holistic bible study and it requires a lot of study and a lot of material outside of the canon, to the chagrin of my mentors. You see, it is a far different thing to understand what other people may have believed than to sort out what to believe yourself.

But one must take great care to understand that what one reads is neither historically accurate nor demonstrably true; to think otherwise is to fall into the trap of ancient magic, that the older something is the more potent it is and if it is not effective then you’ve said or done it wrong whereas the truth is that it was nonsense to begin with: Amethyst, named for it’s Greek Magical property Amethustos: not drunk, will not keep you from being drunk. Proper study, on the the other hand, can guide us to better understand the full meaning of what people wrote, said, and did by understanding their worldviews and all of those little things that “everyone knows” not included in the texts that are lost on, but often not to, us.

THE BOOKS OF ENOCH

Three books of Enoch are found in the corpus of pseudepigrapha that have come down to us. Dates range from 300 BCE to perhaps the first century CE with 1 and 2 Enoch likely being near 300 BCE. Book 3 is more within the Apocalyptic genre and has Enoch transformed into the divine being Metatron.

Our quest brings us into 1 Enoch, fragments of which have been found at Qumran among the dead sea scrolls in both Aramaic and Hebrew dates from roughly 250 BCE, because it directly addresses Genesis chapter 6. First, a bit about the biblical character for whom the writings are named.

WHO IS ENOCH?

We all know that the flood story ends with Noah and his family being the sole human survivors, but to be correct per the text, we should say “the sole human survivors on earth” because Enoch, too, survives the flood.

Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and begot Enoch.  After he begot Enoch, Jared lived eight hundred years, and had sons and daughters.  So all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years; and he died.

Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah.  After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters.

So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.  And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:18-24 NKJ)

Items concerning Genesis 6 and it’s interpretation abound with oddities. Before and after the mention of Enoch in Genesis 5, people like his father Jared are said to have died but Enoch is taken by God, and that’s what the Hebrew says. The ca 200 BCE Septuagint (aka LXX) uses the word metatithemi which can mean changed or transferred where the Hebrew uses laqach as we see below. This has consistently been interpreted to mean that Enoch was bodily translated to be with God.

WHICH ENOCH?

But that’s not all. No, in Genesis 4 Cain has a child named Enoch: And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son– Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech. (Genesis 4:17-18 NKJ)

Yet, Genesis chapter 5 which is Adam’s family tree: This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them “Humankind” when they were created.
When Adam had lived one hundred thirty years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years; and he had other sons and daughters.
(Genesis 5:1-4 NRS), and Genesis 5 makes no mention of Abel or Cain or Cain’s son Enoch. Enoch is born to Jared in Genesis 5:18.

The continuity between Genesis 4 and 5 is short if there is continuity at all: Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him.” [Seth in Hebrew means compensation] To Seth also a son was born, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to invoke the name of the LORD. (Genesis 4:25-26 NRS)

You see, Genesis Chapter 5 is essentially the continuation of the first creation story (Genesis Chapter 1 through Chapter 2 verse 3) whereas Genesis 4 is the continuation of the second creation story found in Genesis Chapter 2 verse 4 forward to Chapter 5. Read them carefully, the second account is not a more detailed account; the order is different, it is a different story altogether. In that first story, male and female are created; female is not created out of a male, hence the recapitulation of that notion in the first verses of Genesis chapter 5.

Our Enoch, the one for whom the pseudepigraphal book is named, is the Enoch of Genesis Chapter 5.

PSEUDEPIGRAPHA: THE FIRST BOOK OF ENOCH

Now we’ll take a look at the first book of Enoch as it relates to this post. You will be tempted to believe that the author had access to material lost to us and that this is “true”. Having read this type of literature far and wide, I again caution you that this is an interpretation of a disconnect in the canonical text that tries to make sense of something that is not understood and inconsistent in the form of a rewritten bible. That is to say that the author didn’t know what Nephilim meant any more than we do.

Text borrowed from Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha for educational purposes.

VI–XI. The Fall of the Angels: the Demoralization of Mankind: the Intercession of the Angels on behalf of Mankind. The Dooms pronounced by God on the Angels: the Messianic Kingdom– (a Noah fragment).

6:1 And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. 2 And the angels, the children of the 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.’ 3 And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ 4 And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ 5 Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 6 And. they were in all two hundred; who descended Óin the daysÔ of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 7 And these are the names of their leaders: Samîazâz, their leader, Arâkîba, Râmêêl, Kôkabîêl, Tâmîêl, Râmîêl, Dânêl, Êzêqêêl, Barâqîjal, Asâêl, Armârôs, Batârêl, Anânêl, Zaqîêl, Samsâpêêl, Satarêl, Tûrêl, Jômjâêl, Sariêl. 8 These are their chiefs of tens.

7:1 And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. 2 And they 3 became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. 4 And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. 5 And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood. 6 Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.

8:1 And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals <of the earth> and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. 2 And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. 3 Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, ‘Armârôs the resolving of enchantments, Barâqîjâl (taught) astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Êzêqêêl the knowledge of the clouds, <Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun>, and Sariêl the course of the moon. 4 And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven . . .

9:1 And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down from heaven and saw much blood being shed upon the earth, and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth. 2 And they said one to another: ‘The earth made without inhabitant cries the voice of their cryings up to the gates of heaven. ÕAnd 3 now to you, the holy ones of heavenÖ, the souls of men make their suit, saying, “Bring our cause before the Most High.”‘ 4 And they said to the Lord of the ages: ‘Lord of lords, God of gods, King of kings, <and God of the ages>, the throne of Thy glory (standeth) unto all the generations of the ages, and Thy name holy and glorious and blessed unto all the ages! 5 Thou hast made all things, and power over all things hast Thou: and all things are naked and open in Thy sight, and Thou seest all things, and nothing can hide itself from Thee. 6 Thou seest what Azâzêl hath done, who hath taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were (preserved) in heaven, which 7 men were striving to learn: And Semjâzâ, to whom Thou hast given authority to bear rule over his associates. 8 And they have gone to the daughters of men upon the earth, and have slept with the women, and have defiled themselves, and revealed to them all kinds of sins. 9 And the women have borne giants, and the whole earth has thereby been filled with blood and unrighteousness. 10 And now, behold, the souls of those who have died are crying and making their suit to the gates of heaven, and their lamentations have ascended: and cannot cease because of the lawless deeds which are wrought on the earth. 11 And Thou knowest all things before they come to pass, and Thou seest these things and Thou dost suffer them, and Thou dost not say to us what we are to do to them in regard to these.’

10:1 Then said the Most High, the Holy and Great One spake, and sent Uriel to the son of Lamech, 2 and said to him: <‘Go to Noah and> tell him in my name “Hide thyself!” and reveal to him the end that is approaching: that the whole earth will be destroyed, and a deluge is about to come upon the whole earth, and will destroy all that is on it. 3 And now instruct him that he may escape and his seed may be preserved for all the generations of the world.’ 4 And again the Lord said to Raphael: ‘Bind Azâzêl hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dûdâêl, and cast him therein. 5 And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there for ever, and cover his face that he may not see light. 6, 7 And on the day of the great judgement he shall be cast into the fire. And heal the earth which the angels have corrupted, and proclaim the healing of the earth, that they may heal the plague, and that all the children of men may not perish through all the secret things that the Watchers have disclosed and have taught their sons. 8 And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azâzêl: to him ascribe all sin.’ 9 And to Gabriel said the Lord: ‘Proceed against the bastards and the reprobates, and against the children of fornication: and destroy [the children of fornication and] the children of the Watchers from amongst men: [and cause them to go forth]: send them one against the other that they may destroy each other in battle: for length of days shall they not have. 10 And no request that they (i.e. their fathers) make of thee shall be granted unto their fathers on their behalf; for they hope to live an eternal life, and that each one of them will live five hundred years.’ 11 And the Lord said unto Michael: ‘Go, bind Semjâzâ and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness. 12 And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgement and of their consummation, till the judgement that is for ever and ever is consummated. 13 In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: <and> to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever. 14 And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations. 15 And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate and the children of the Watchers, because they have wronged mankind. 16 Destroy all wrong from the face of the earth and let every evil work come to an end: and let the plant of righteousness and truth appear: Óand it shall prove a blessing; the works of righteousness and truthÔ shall be planted in truth and joy for evermore.

17 And then shall all the righteous escape, And shall live till they beget thousands of children, And all the days of their youth and their old age Shall they complete in peace.

Now if we piece that together with other works such as the Book of Jubilees, numerous Legends from Louis Ginzberg’s marvelous Legends of the Jews, and material elsewhere we get the picture, perhaps the same picture that Milton got in Paradise Lost, that a band of angels variously lead by Lucifer or perhaps Azazel, rebelled against the Almighty and were cast out, falling like lightning. They were, however, not killed and were divine beings. Those fallen “sons of god” led mankind astray and also fathered giants with human females who further wrought destruction on the face of the earth with all sorts of abominations being committed. The flood was necessary because they had corrupted all of mankind, yet the Nephilim were not all killed (yet were mortal) and those who were killed saw only the spirit exit the flesh as in Genesis 6 Verse 3: Then the LORD said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.” Thus, the spirit of the Nephilim combined with the fallen angels who hated mankind to begin with were trapped on earth and tempt and torment us to this very day.

The parallels to Qur’an Sura 7 (et al.) are almost uncanny, but the Qur’an itself includes a great deal of Old Testament literature – indeed one needs a good understanding of the Torah to comprehend the Qur’an albeit the Qur’an states that the Torah is corrupted.

NEPHILIM SUMMATION

We’ve look at a lot thus far in this quest. The truth is that we’re discussing mythological accounts that don’t have to make sense because they are not true in the first place yet our human minds seek resolution because that’s our nature. We don’t what this story is meant to convey, if it’s meant to convey anything. We do know that we do not know, for certain, what Nephilim means, nor shall we.

The impact of the narrative of the fallen in terms of explaining, in some measure, theodicy cannot be overstated, however, our one passage in the New Testament that directly addresses the fall of Satan (Luke 18-19) may tell us more about that Luke’s reading list than what Jesus actually said especially given the narrative of snakes and scorpions in verse 19 and Luke’s attempt to prove it in Acts chapter 28.

After all, we must remember that we don’t actually know who wrote the Gospel accounts or when they were written except that they were almost certainly all completed by 110 CE and Mark likely by 70 CE. It’s tradition; we know more about Paul than any other New Testament writer, and we know that he’s early, probably 50 CE and the Epistle to the Hebrews may be roughly contemporaneous but we don’t know who wrote it. A temporal barometer is the Crucifixion and resurrection very near 33 CE.

The Gospels fall into the ancient Biography genre which is generally not known for precise historical accuracy but, rather, for getting the meaning of a life’s events across in situ and with worldviews on full display, likewise with speeches being not what was actually said but either a composite of various sayings or something quite like what was said. So when we take things literally, we’re always headed for trouble not only because of this but also because direct translation that conveys full meanings is not available because the authors assumed an audience and if it were, to relate those things to people of our time would require, well, you’ve seen this post on 6 verses of Genesis.

Genesis 6:3 – 120 years

Our final verse, but still not one without controversy. Let’s look back at the context:

(1) When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, (2) the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose.

(3) Then the LORD said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.”

(4) The Nephilim were on the earth in those days– and also afterward– when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

(5) The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  (6) And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  (7) So the LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created– people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

At first glance, it seems simple enough: humans won’t last more than 120 years. However, we could also read this as applicable to those then living meaning that the flood will come in 120 years, a warning before judgement is executed.

We should also note that the various translations interpret the Hebrew differently. While the Septuagint and Latin versions are as above, some others lean forward and find the reason for this decree as an error or sin in the flesh:

Why 120 years? People did live over 100 years, rarely, but they did even in these times. Perhaps it was an observation. Perhaps it’s because of 12 months in a year, perhaps it forebodes the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps it’s a nod to the Pythagoreans who also found the number 12 to be holy because 3+4+5=12 and 3*3 + 4*4 = 5*5 (the first and only integer right triangle which the Pythagoreans held to be holy and which Philo of Alexandria goes on and on and on about. We just don’t know.

Conclusion

Now is the time to review my intentions for this post and see where we got through in this maze of thought. Above, I wrote “So let’s first deal with the purposes for writing this other than responding to a friendly request: to pass on what I’ve learned, to get to the truth best as I can, to share that information, to educate others about ancient texts, and to build interest in ancient texts. I also have theological intentions …” Whether or not such a dreadfully long post can build interest is subjective at best, but the other intentions have been, I daresay, accomplished.

I hope that the reader can understand how complicated in-depth bible study truly is, and I’ve not really touched on the important proliferation of other commentaries although I have consulted several in writing this. Degrees in these topics in and of themselves do not create expertise. Degreed or not, expertise in these matters comes from long, hard work and I continue to be humbled by those who do so much more than I do, and touch so many with good work. Unhappily, people tend to want short snappy answers and are often led astray by those quick, dirty, and foundationless responses.

I’ve learned much in this study, and I hope you’ve learned a little as well. Many thanks to the requestor, Στέφανος, actually the female version of that name meaning a wreath or a crown and by extension reward, fame, and honor.

With that, this post is at an end and I bid you Ankh! Wedja! Seneb!

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