The Story Of Flood You Did Not Know (ii)

As I mentioned in the previous post, I hadn’t planned on writing on the Flood at this point. And definitely, I hadn’t planned on making a series on this subject. However, I received so many comments, questions and different opinions after my last article, that I’ve realized I have no choice but to go into more detail in this story. Thus – we have a new subseries THE STORY OF FLOOD YOU MAY NOT KNOW inside of the main series: THE BIBLE STORIES YOU DIDN’T KNOW.

These verses in Genesis 6 have been the subject of discussions for a long time. Many respected scholars have commented on this topic over the years, and the identity of the Nephilim and the sons of God is still being debated even today. So of course, I don’t expect you to accept my view as the only correct one. My goal here is to bring into this discussion some Hebrew insights and to make you familiar with some Jewish techniques and opinions. Judaism believes that every word of the Torah comes from God – but not that every word of it has a singular meaning. My articles attempt to reflect this open-ended quality of the Torah.

My last post was about the “sons of God”, and the following discussion opened a dissent of opinions. Therefore, perhaps I need to add a few words here. “The fallen angels” view – the one that I advocated – is one of the most prevalent interpretations of this story. In the previous article, we used the Derash technique and saw that this view stemmed from angels being called “sons of God”, or interpreted as such in Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7.

I already mentioned that this “angelic interpretation” (the idea that the “sons of God” were angels, or some kind of divine beings) is almost non-existent in modern Judaism. It’s important to note, though, that for a long time, “the angel view” had been predominant in many extra-biblical Jewish writings (the book of Enoch for example: 1 Enoch 6-11, usually dated c. 200 B.C, clearly identifies the “sons of God” as angels). However, later Jewish commentators choose to read the noun הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ (Elohim) as a plural form, and therefore b’nai ha Elohim here became “the sons of the rulers”, “the sons of the nobles”, “the sons of the princes” or “the sons of the Judges”.

We might note here that, if they were simply the sons of the rulers, or of the nobles, who took simple girls as their wives, their parents, the nobles and the rulers, might not have been happy with these unions – but why God? God doesn’t care about social differences and different statuses. As Dorothy Healy wrote in her comment here: “One thing does seem clear from the text: that ‘the sons of god’ are differentiated from ‘the daughters of men’ i.e. they came from a different sphere, and their procreation was certainly not according to the will of God”. Let us think logically: if “the sons of God” are opposed to “the daughters of men” – doesn’t that mean that they were not ‘sons of men’ and therefore not human: they were “angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode“.

In order to understand the nature of the Nephilim, let us turn again to our Derash technique and seek a comparative meaning – a deeper meaning obtained from a passage by comparing its words and content to similar passages elsewhere. We already know that the Torah also mentions Nephilim after the flood, in Numbers 13, when Moses sent twelve spies to scout out the land. All the spies, except Caleb and Joshua, brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched. They were absolutely frightened by what (or whom) they had seen. Who did they see, then?
We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.
The words in the brackets are very interesting: what does it mean that the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim? Once again, we will need some Hebrew here. The original text says: בני ענק מן-הנפלים -bnei Anak min-haNephilim. The Hebrew word “Anak” ( ענק ) – simply transliterated as “Anak” in the English text – means “giant”. So, our Hebrew text literally says: “We saw giants from the Nephilim”.

The response that Joshua and Caleb gave to the congregation of Israel is even more interesting: “… do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them”

First of all, it is quite remarkable that, even though several parts of the ”bad report” were challenged by Joshua and Caleb, they did not challenge the information about giants. They didn’t say: ‘what are you talking about? There were no giants there, we haven’t seen any giants!’ It seems that these “giants from the Nephilim” were indeed in the Land, if Joshua and Caleb didn’t dispute the fact.

But there is some additional, absolutely intriguing information, that we discover in their answer in Hebrew. In English, we have this convenient, “normal” text: Their protection is gone, – but you wouldn’t believe what the original Hebrew text is saying here. Joshua and Caleb are saying about the people of the land: ‎”Their shadow is gone!” סָ֣ר צִלָּ֧ם מֵעֲלֵיהֶ֛ם The Hebrew text doesn’t speak of any protection, it speaks of shadow only: Their shadow is gone, and the Lord is with us!

Are you surprised by this expression? Trust me, I was also infinitely surprised when I made this discovery. And I am not claiming anything – I am just letting you know that the literal meaning (Peshat) of these words refers to Nephilim’s shadow: ‘their shadow is gone!” Definitely, we can still understand it at Remez (allegorical) level, as an implied meaning of “protection” – and to read it as “protection”, of course, would be much more convenient and traditional; we have to remember, though, that one of the main rules of the Jewish hermeneutic states that all the higher levels (starting from Remez/Allegory) should not contradict Peshat: As a general rule, the extended meaning never contradicts the base meaning.

This expression: ‘their shadow is gone!” – occurs only once in the whole Torah, only here, and I think you will agree that it is very peculiar remark. I don’t know about you, but it gives me chills. As Michael Heiser wrote in his wonderful book, “seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader requires shedding the filters of our traditions and presumptions”. And our study of Nephilim is not even finished yet: next time, we will continue (and hopefully finish) this research. Only after that, with all this knowledge obtained, can we really delve into “the Story of Flood that you may not know”.

If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, I would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount) regarding eTeacher courses. I also encourage you to read my book, Abaraham had two sons: this is the first (and the only) Messianic book that is written according to PARDES layers of meaning, and it will give you a taste of this approach to Jewish biblical exegesis (click here to get the book: Read Julia Blum )

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. jo

    I was in a hurry and I made some mistakes typing my first comment. Don’t bother including it here. Please let me know if it’s possible for me to put a link for those who are interested in reading it. The article is a little long
    for this site.

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Jo, I would gladly do it, but it’s not up to me, I have to check it with eTeacher administration. I will let you know. For now, you can definitely put a link in your comment, most of the people read also the comments, so they will see the link. Blessings!

  2. jo

    We have an article we have written on the “Nephilim” It might be too long for this sight. but if people are interested I could put it a link to the article on this web sight.
    Is is possible to do that?

  3. Dorothy Healy

    It is indeed intriguing to stop at this peshat level and wrestle with the idea of their ‘shadow’ being gone. Robert, I like your final question: Could the shadow refer to the shadow of God that is gone? Mankind is made in the צֶלֶם tselem of Elohim – which comes from an unused root word meaning ‘to shade’ The very name “Bezalel” (Ex 35-6) means “In the Shadow of God” – God’s wise-hearted man, who made the Ark of the Covenant. To be sure, whatever else it might mean, it seems this image/shadow of Elohim was no longer in the Nephilim.

    1. Julia Blum

      Yes, Dorothy, I also like very much this idea: that “the image/shadow of Elohim was no longer in the Nephilim”. Maybe, there is an actual connection between this profound thought and a traditional belief that demonic creatures don’t cast shadow. What do you think?

  4. Danny Milan

    That was so good, Is there a dedicated course on Pardes?

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Danny. No, I don’t have a special course on Pardes. Maybe, it is something I have to think about 🙂

  5. Robert Mair

    SHALOM ROB 61755468588

    1. Peter Carr

      For God to pour out such cataclysmic judgement, it must surely have been something more than mere human interbreeding.

    2. Julia Blum

      Hi Rob, I will reply with the words of Peter Carr here: “For God to pour out such cataclysmic judgement, it must surely have been something more than mere human interbreeding”. Don’t you think so?

  6. Thomas Cordell

    . I lean toward the infection of the purely human dna with something different, like angelic. Late the Bible states the Angels that left their first estate. Could that be a comment on these beings? One scholar thought that some angels had the ability to leave their first estate, and did so. And now they are in the pit so that would not reoccur .
    Jud_1:6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Thomas, I agree. Maybe, you haven’t noticed, but I have the same quote from Jude in my article (for some reason, this time it was published without references, so I do have the quote, but not the reference).

  7. Robert Tobin

    Fascinating. This study is very interesting. I am putting a paper on Lamentations and using the twelve spies incident in my writing.
    In Hebrew isn’t Adam created in the shadow of God; instead of the English version( the image)? If so, could the shadow they are referring to be The Shadow Of God that is gone?

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Robert, in Hebrew Adam is still created in the image of God (tzelem); however, the words tzelem and tzel (shadow) are related, and therefore, your suggestion is very profound indeed: I think, it can be that they are saying about the people of the Land: The Shadow Of God in them is gone! Wonderful, I am very thankful for this thought!

  8. Joe DeAngelo

    Archaeologists have reportedly uncovered human bones that were huge. These would approximate a man taller than 10′. I have often wondered about the Nephilim, whether they were physical giants, or societal giants (governors, kings, the elite, etc.). The Roman emperor Maximinus Thrax was reportedly over 8′ tall. There have always been extremely tall people. It would also seem to me that the first ten generations from Adam may also have been very tall, given the length of their lives.

    What do you think?


    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Joe, I think the Nephilim were physical giants: I suppose, they did not look like a giant at the picture I had for my post (could not find anything else), but they were definitely very tall – and the very fact that they were giants, is also a proof that their parents were not humans. I’ve never thought about the first generations’ height, why do you think their height would be connected to the length of their lives? I’ve never read anything about it, however, I am open to your thoughts.

  9. Overt Lexvold

    Thanks for your article regarding the flood and looking forward to the next one. Very interesting looking at the Hebrew and that Joshua and Caleb saying that their shadow is gone.

  10. Fiona

    I love delving into the Hebrew, Julia, and you have a wonderful Jewish way of discussion and reflection about scripture and interpretation. I agree that looking at the extra Biblical texts and the other Books of the Bible shed a very strong light towards believing that these were angelic beings who cohabited with women of the earth. The world was corrupt then, as it is now, but there MUST have been some element, at that time, that tipped the scales towards Hashem’s destruction of the whole world apart from Noach and his sons… and that surely must have been the cohabitation of the angels with woman… in this way disrupting Hashem’s plan for the purity of mankind and our future Redemption in the form of YESHUA…?
    I, eagerly, look forward to understanding more from the Hebraic perspective…it is akin to discovering gold and precious jewels amidst all that I have erroneously been brought up to believe and understand. For that, I humbly thank Hashem and you.

    1. Julia Blum

      You are so right, Fiona: since then, the world has always been corrupt and it is so corrupt even now; so, there had to be something that “tipped the scales towards Hashem’s destruction of the whole world”. I agree with your thoughts, and we will try to understand “the story of Flood” and the reasons for Flood once we are done with Nephilim (in two weeks, I suppose).