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. David Hereford

    For me the first thing I look at is how His words to me are transforming me into the image of His Son Yeshua? I am to love Adonai with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength. One day in Southeastern Bible College, I asked one of the teachers, “I just don’t understand Joy. (At the time, my future wife) He said, “David, God is not commanding you to understand Joy, He is desiring you to love her”. For most of my life, i have tried to understand Adonai and make Him fit into my conception of just who He is. I really enjoy your post and these comments here, I just have to catch myself chasing knowledge as opposed to pursuing His will.

  2. Esmarelda Adams

    Dear Julia, I beg to differ with you, since angels can’t sin, why can’t the interpretation be: the righteous sons of God (Seth for instance) married the unrighteous daughters of Cain’s descendants, and brought the righteous sons to a fall?
    Consider also this verse: Ezek 32 v27: And they do not lie with the heroes, the giants of old, who went down to Sheol with the weapons of war, whose swords were laid under their heads…
    In the Ugarit texts, there are the bene elohim, members of the divine counsil, the gods of Canaan taken as a group, and they mated with beautiful creatures on earth, like their counterparts in Greek mythology.
    According to Josephus: the actions attributed to them by our tradition resemble the bold exploits which the Greeks recount about the giants…(antiquitates Judaica 1, 3, 1.)
    From: The old enemy Satan And The Combat Myth by Neil Forsyth.
    Consider this also:
    Are all giants father’s then angels?
    It is nowhere stated that angels came to earth.
    There were giants…and also after that… the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men
    The word GIANT has 2 meanings- sons of God or assailants,hackers, tyrants.
    In 2 Kings 3 v19, 25 the root of giant describes a vicious attack on the Moabites by Israel
    Ezek 32 v27 in LXX gigantes is used to describe pagan warriors who died.
    In Canaanite mythology these giants came from intermarriage between human beings and the gods.
    All the other giants were humans.
    From ‘The Real Devil’ by Duncan Heaster.

  3. Fred aguelo

    Hi Julia,

    I enjoy your blogs, however, I have some reservations about your interpretation of Nephilim as sons of God. Firstly, ‘b’na Haelohim’ should be translated as sons of the gods, elohim being plural. It also means judges or magistrates or rulers of men. Angels are spirits and do not have gender nor do they procreate as Yeshua said in Matt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:34-36. Secondly, when Joshua & Caleb said of the Nephilim, ‘their shadow is gone’ that statement seem strange in the western mindset but if we recall Gen 1:26 when Elohim (plural) said, “Let us make man in our image (root : tselem- meaning shadow, resemblance etc) we see the same word. (root i.e.) used by Joshua and Caleb. In the rule of 1st mention, it seems that they were saying that these Nephilim were completely ungodly and had no semblance at all of Elohim in them, hence completely evil and therefore no match to the chosen people of Elohim.

    Thank you for giving us a venue to expand our horizon in biblical studies. You are Elohim’s gift to us.


    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your generous words, Fred. Regarding the word Elohim – it is always in plural and can refer either to “gods” of the nations (or “rulers” and “princes”) or to the God of Israel, depending on context. Since the context is not clear here, it can be read either way, as plural noun or singular noun. As I mentioned in the article, later Jewish commentators choose to read the noun הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ (Elohim) as a plural form: b’nai ha Elohim here became “the sons of the rulers” or “the sons of the princes”. It doesn’t prove anything, though: as I wrote, it can be read as a singular noun as well, and thus we have “sons of God”. Regarding Jesus’ words about the angels : He spoke about the angels in Heaven, not the angels, who, according to the words of Jude, “left their own habitation”. And I also think that this sentence ” their shadow is gone!” has to do with them having no “shadow/resemblance/image of God” in them. I think it is a very profound thought.

  4. Pip Corteen

    I really enjoy your articles Julia. I have started started studying Hebrew with eTeacherBiblical and am enjoying it. But would love to read more of your articles..can I access them on that site!

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Pip, thank you for your kind words. Definitely, you can find a lot of my articles on this site, I’ve been writing here since July and publishing a new article every week. You can also get my books, from my website or from Amazon).

  5. Peter Mojassamian

    The purpose of the flood was to wipe out the Nephilim.
    Did God fail in doing so?
    If He failed, then perhaps the Nephilim of Joshua’s time is the answer.
    But how can God fail?
    I don’t think He can.
    So, did God arrange for some of them to survive the flood and continue to exist all those years till the Exodus? How?

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Peter, – of course, God didn’t fail, and the goal of the Flood was achieved. Please bear with me, we will delve into the story of the Flood once we are done with Nephilim. I will definitely address your question then.

  6. Maria Ruth Gomez Lozano

    Shalom from Spain, dear Julia;
    Few days ago I was talking with a friend of mine about these translations into Spanish and this amazing theme and I was really shocked as she trusted me an experience she had while she was a student in Biology and Phisical Science (she now is a teacher in a High School) and she nearly lost her faith because of this ítem, because…”how could it be that? The sons of God liked the daughters of men? who were those sons? Did they come from another galaxy? What happened in Creation? and so many other questions like that!
    At the end she left it in the hands of the Lord and decided that some day she would have the answer to her questions. As I went on explaining what you say in your writtings, she is seeing it better and so much clear. Sometimes Science can’t explain all the mysteries one find in our Bibles because of a poor or wrong translation.
    Though I studied Theology, I myself am learning much of your teaching. Thanks so much!!
    Blessings in Hashem’s name!

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Ruth, I am so touched and so blessed by your kind words and also, by this story. And thank you so much for your wonderful work, I so appreciate you doing it and I am very grateful! Blessings!

  7. Jesse


    FYI … the “Buy Now” link via your website for “Abraham had Two Sons” is broken. I wanted to purchase the book myself! God bless

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Jesse, for bringing it to my attention, I fixed the link already, it’s working now.

  8. Arend Warmels

    I read your book on abraham and sons, and am impressed by your methodology. Looking forward to your future writings, they are helpfull.and educational. Thank you!

  9. Peter Carr

    Thanks Julia. Sounds spot on!

  10. Susan Schinzig

    This is all so very interesting! Thank you for tackling this subject. I’m loving all the questions raised by other readers and I’m really looking forward to your next installment. Thanks Julia.