The Story Of Flood You May Not Know (i)

Does Nephilim mean “Giants”?

My dear readers, I didn’t plan to write about “Nephilim” – at least I didn’t plan it for this post – however, since I mentioned the word in my last article several people have asked me about it, so I decided to address the subject here. For many people, the beginning of the 6th chapter of Genesis, where the word Nephilim comes from, is one of the most baffling passages of the Bible:

 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.[1]

Remarkably, some translations have here the word ‘giants’, instead of ‘Nephilim’:

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.[2]

As if to make this story even more complicated, scripture also mentions Nephilim after the flood: in the well-known story in Numbers 13, where Moses sent twelve spies to scout out the land, and all the spies, except Caleb and Joshua, brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched, saying:

 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.[3]

 Once again, King James Version translates the word “Nephilim” here as            “giants”:

33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.[4]

For centuries,  people have debated whether the “sons of God” expression refers to angels or to men, and just who these Nephilim/giants were. As in the case of Melchizedek, this story also gains much more clarity when read in Hebrew.

 

PARDES

However, before we delve into our story and use some Hebrew, I would like to introduce here four different levels of Biblical interpretation in Judaism: PARDES. The term PaRDeS is an acronym formed from the initials of these four levels, which are:

Peshat (פְּשָׁט) “plain”, “straight” – the direct, literal meaning of Scripture;

Remez (רֶמֶז) “hint” – the deeper, symbolic meaning, beyond the literal sense;

Derash (דְּרַשׁ) “to inquire”, “to seek” – the comparative meaning: a deeper meaning obtained from a passage by comparing its words and content to similar passages;

Sod (סוֹד) “secret” ,  “mystery” – the deeper meaning, revealed only through inspiration or revelation.

Thus, Peshat means the literal interpretation; Remez is the non-literal, or allegorical meaning; Derash refers to the expanded comparative meaning; Sod represents the hidden, secret meaning of the text.

There is something I should add here: This word pardes ( פַּרְדֵּ֣ס) that was chosen by our sages to symbolize the different levels of  interpretation of  scripture, means “garden” or “orchard” in Hebrew, and comes from the Song of Solomon:

Your plants are an orchard (pardes) of pomegranates
With pleasant fruits,
Fragrant henna with spikenard [5]

An orchard might be filled with the most fragrant scents and the most delectable tastes, but one has to walk through it and sample the fruit of the trees in order to appreciate the tastes and smells. Yes, even from  outside you can peek in , even from outside, you can  try to recognize which trees grow there – however, it is only when you go inside, when you walk through the garden, when you really see and taste the fruits, that the garden also becomes for you an orchard, or pardes. (If you are interested to see the examples of PARDES interpretation, you can read my book, Abraham had two sons[6], which is written according to the four levels of PARDES).

 

SONS OF GOD

Now we have all the necessary tools to delve into our story. First of all, let us try to understand who “the sons of God” were. The Hebrew words translated “the sons of God” are b’nai ha Elohim, ‎בְנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙. Does the Torah mean angels, or just “the sons of rulers”, or “the sons of the nobles”, as some Jewish translations translate b’nai ha Elohim here? We have “the sons of the princes” in Targumim, and “the sons of the Judges” in Midrashim[7] in fact, the “angelic interpretation” (that they were angels, or some kind of divine beings) is almost non-existent in Judaism. Many of you probably know that the noun הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ (Elohim) is in a plural form, and it can be read not only as “God”, but also as ‘gods” or even “lords, rulers”, and this is exactly how the Jewish commentaries choose to read this word in this particular verse.

However, if we study the use of this expression   בְנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ in Tanach, we will see a completely different picture. There is no better commentary to the Bible than the Bible itself, and for that reason, we will use the “derash” technique to compare our passage with other similar passages.

The expression “sons of God” doesn’t occur many times in Tanach. The next time we encounter this expression is in Job 1:6:  Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. We have the same expression again in Job 2:1: 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.

 Nobody questions the meaning of “the sons of God” here: We all know that these verses describe the Divine Council – a meeting in Heaven – therefore, the “sons of God” here are obviously not humans, but angels, who are meeting with God.  Notice that the words in Hebrew translated as “the sons of God” here, are exactly the same as in Genesis 6:2: בְּנֵ֣י הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים  – b’nai ha Elohim.

The next (and the last, at least in Hebrew[8]) reference to “the sons of God” in Tanach is again in the book of Job, in chapter 38. Speaking about the creation of the universe, God is saying: I laid the foundations of the earth… When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.[9]

From this verse[10],  we can see that the sons of God existed even before the earth itself was created.  This indicates that every use of the term: b’nai ha Elohim or b’nai Elohim in the Old Testament, is, in fact,  a reference to angelic beings. Thus, we can conclude that “the sons of God” in Genesis 6 also refers to angels.

Now, that we’ve established that “the sons of God” were angels, we can try to understand the story of Nephilim – and we will do it in our next post.[11]

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Gen. 6:4, NIV

[2] Gen. 6:4, KJV

[3] Num 13:33, NIV

[4] Num 13:33, KJV

[5] Song of Solomon 4:13

[6] You can get the book from my website:  readjuliablum.com

[7] Gen. Rabbah 26:5

[8] In Ps 29:1, we have B’nai Elim (בְּנֵי אֵלִים) – sons of elim.

[9] Job 38:4,7

[10] In Hebrew, it is b’nai Elohim here, without the definite article.

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.

You might also be interested in:

Abraham In Egypt (lech Lecha...

By Julia Blum

Lech Lecha – God’s...

By Julia Blum

Join the conversation (36 comments)

Leave a Reply

  1. Beth

    What about the Philistine giant that David fought and this Goliath’s brothers?

  2. Shoshi

    I appreciate as well, your sticking to the text.
    Regarding the angels of whom Yeshua refers, in Matt 22, I believe they chose not to marry.
    I, too see the sons of God, as referred to in Gen 6 and Job 38, as angelic beings.

  3. Brenda Hyde

    I like how you break this down but what throws me off is angels having children with humans. If that were true, angels would have had to be created to reproduce. It seems odd to me as I believe human creation was told to be fruitful and multiply….Maybe this will be explained in your next post.

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Brenda, I know that many Christians are not so comfortable with this idea, angels having children with humans. However, I do believe that it’s exactly what the Scripture is telling us about; moreover, I do believe that this was the main reason for the flood. Definitely, you don’t have to accept it – but maybe you would still be interested to read my following posts on the flood.

  4. ranto

    Hello,
    I must admit that your article is fascinating, however I would like to point out some of my thoughts on it.
    As already pointed out earlier :
    -The angels do not procreate nor marry (Matthew 22:30)
    -Sons of God (bnei Haelohim) could also refer to the posterity of Adam. If you look in Luke 3:38 says that Adam is son of God. Therefore, the Sons of Adam can be also considered the Sons of God.
    -Nephilim came from the hebrew word נָפַל naphal which means to fall/ fallen . If you compare Genesis 4 gives the posterity of Caïn (the fallen ones/the men) and Just right after Genesis 5 gives the posterity of Adam, the sons of God according to Luke 3:38. And continue the story in Genesis 6:4 stating that the Sons of God( posterity of Adam) took the daughters of men (posterity of Cain) as wives.

    The bible explained itself completely in that case.

    Of course the hosts of heavens can be called also Sons of God, but as stated earlier Luke 3:38 they do not marry nor procreate, so the verse is not talking about them.

    Best regards,

  5. Pip Corteen

    some interesting comments! So far Julia, I am in total agreement with your exegesis! I am glad I learnt about the pomegranate!
    I also take a bit of notice of the entertaining and intrepid LA Marzulli and his research on the sons of Anak. More strange things on this earth than we can know! It IS interesting though to consider myths and legends from other cultures.

    However I’m glad that you are sticking to the text, and what I would have called ‘hermeneutics’.

    Glad I found your blog.
    Shalom
    Pip

  6. Lynn Craig

    Hi Julia Blum:
    I just read your installment and all the comments, can hardly wait for tomorrow to come and read the further study on this subject….
    I was thinking perhaps the angels cannot breed between themselves but discovered they can with humans….a so called forbidden fruit for angelic beings.
    I have found that the Bible traces the bloodline of one family and the flood not only rid the earth of “Nephilim offspring “but also of Cains’ bloodline…God being Omnipotent is then, now and not yet….If he did not interfere with the “breeding stock” and his plan for it then Cain’s tainted bloodline or the Nephilim offspring may of intersected and polluted Mary’s bloodline and Mary would not be born to bore our Saviour to be the ONLY Begotten “Son of God”.

  7. Ofenia Antonini de Souza

    Querida Julia, boa tarde. Não estudei Teologia e nem Hebraico. Fiz Faculdade de Letras, sem traço algum de Bíblia e sou competente apenas como professora. Amo a Palavra de Deus, desde minha tenra infância e um livro intitulado “O Outro Sinai”. Essa afirmação de Gn 6.4 tem muitas vezes tirado meu sono. Tenho uma Bíblia Hebraica Completa traduzida, mas nessa passagem a afirmação de que “eles também são carne” me incomoda. Eles, quem? Fico pensando em, quantos anos Adão e Eva viveram no Jardim? Eles foram ordenados a “crescer e se multiplicar” Pergunto, e preciso de um sim, ou não, ou talvez. Não seriam “eles” filhos de Adão e Eva antes do pecado? Eles parecem ser especiais, só por serem gigantes, pois havia outros. Minha ideia é pertinente? Aguardo seu feedback com entusiasmo. Abraços, sua, Ofenia Antonini de Souza.

  8. Ralston bishlaam Jansen

    Shalom Ma’am

    Thank you for the article, I am battling to reconcile a few issues thought.

    1. Reproduction is always according to its kind – why were only men reproduced and no angels (besides the fact the angels do not marry not take in marriage) The laws of DNA dictates that the stronger DNA during procreation dominates within the created.

    2. The designation Son of GOD was to CHRIST and the WORD clearly states to no angels has this designation been given.

    3. After CHRIST those who are lead by the SPIRIT are Sons of GOD (Rom 8v14, Gal 4v6, Phl 2v15, 1 John 1-2)

    4. If the the Nephilim were destroyed in the flood, did Noah’s daughters have sex again with Angels after the flood.

    5. We find no judgement on the angels or the result of their procreation. Noah preaches to man, but no mention of these hybrid beings. Further JESUS mentions the days of Noah, but is surprisingly silent on the Hybrid beings. Surely HE would warn us of this immorality since our day will be as those day. Notice JESUS here speaks only of men marrying and giving in marriage.

    I think Gen 4,5 and six have a chronological order. Gen 4 clearly describes a men choosing a wicked path. Gen 5 clearly describes the sons of GOD (faithful at that point) and the Gen six picks up from their.

  9. Susan Schinzig

    Are they coming again? Will it all happen again (soon)?

  10. Gari Spire

    Neanderthals?

  11. Dolores

    I find your study very interesting and plan to keep on continuing on following your research. Thank you for sharing.
    Some comments are very thoughtful also. Is there more clarification about whom the Nephilim are or were? I guess I cannot be rigid in my thinking.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Dolores, for your kind words. In this week’s post, we will discuss Nephilim, so – stay tuned and come back Thursday!

  12. Dellareese

    Very very interesting.

  13. Evan

    Some interesting food for thought that few people seem to consider is the fact that in virtually every primitive religion or belief system or ancient mythology, regardless of where on the globe we look, there’s always a story of a catastrophic flood associated with “gods” mating with human women, producing offspring with astonishing capabilities. We know that angels can take on human form from the story of Abraham literally feeding them a meal before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And of course, we know what the men of Sodom wanted to do with them when they got to Lot’s house, clearly indicating a physical, corporeal form. Perhaps the hybrid angelic/human offspring was a creature unintended by the Creator, which would be a plausible explanation for why God went to such extreme measures as a global flood to mitigate the problem. And perhaps that explains what Peter and Jude are referring to in the New Testament when they speak of angels sinning by leaving their assigned habitation, or transgressing some type of boundary, that are now imprisoned awaiting judgment (2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6).

    1. Julia Blum

      Absolutely! Thank you, Evan! This “angelic ” view helps us understand some additional places in the Bible (both Tanach and NT) that otherwise seem vague and “strange”. And you are right, of course, regarding the Flood: in many cultures we find stories about great flood, and there is agreement between biblical and other flood stories on many details – however, the biblical account presents God’s view of the event, and all these stories are the human reflections of the same event.

  14. Dorothy Healy

    This post has certainly sparked some interest and, like Shelley and others, I look forward to the unfolding story. 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.

  15. VILAIRE MATHEUS

    I do not have a reference to support my point; but I read before that : the sons of God in Job: 1 and 2 refer to the representatives of other planets which do not rebel against God. Satan showed up to represent the earth because he has overcame Adam. Adam should have been there to represent the earth. The question to be answered is: in a certain day… What day was it? Was it a day of 24 hours or was it a symbolic day?
    Is it not possible to think that Angels inhabited planet earth before mankind?

    1. Julia Blum

      Hi Vilaire, I prefer to stay with the Bible and within the Bible – and the Bible doesn’t say anything about “the representatives of other planets” – so we will try to find biblical answers to all these questions. I will continue with this topic in my next post in a few days. Stay tuned! 🙂

  16. Jesse

    Julia thanks for clarifying this for us. I’m reading Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s “The Unseen Realm” and ever sense I’ve started to really dive into the spiritual world of ancient Israelites scripture has enriched my understanding and ultimately my relationship with Jesus.

    Thus far it appears that you and Dr. Heiser interpret these passages similarly (he is also a Hebrew scholar). Are you familiar with his work? I look forward, as always, to reading your next post! Thanks & God bless

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Jesse, I started to read Dr. Heiser book ( I hadn’t read it before), and felt immediately “kindred spirit” and “kindred mind”. I love the book, and I am very thankful for your recommendation.

  17. Shelley

    I look forward so much to your study on this. Obviously, this will open much dissent of opinions, but I do love your beginning explanation of PRDS. My background, my studies, all is nothing when before the truth of Gods Word. May we all submit to Him! Thank you so much for this study from His Word!

  18. Osvald Santiago

    When the Job mention “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” The mourning stars refer to us? Mankind

  19. Joel A Haynes

    Questions if the sons of God are angels are you saying that when Jesus gives this definition of angels and marriage that angels are able to change they created bodies, in that they can created offspring with humans? (bad theology IMHO)

    Matt 22:29-32 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead — have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” NIV

    You stated from the passage in Job 38 that those are angels and existed before the creation of the world (I do believe they were around before the creation). Next question. When I look at the bible from a whole and know that it was before the creation of the worldm, God knew us the ones to be conformed in the likes of His Son.

    Rom 8:29-30 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. NIV

    So could not the Sons of God be there in the beginning be our unformed bodies and shout for joy? God did unravel eternal history and knows each every one of us before we are born. Verses below that I ponder on that.

    Ps 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
    15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place.
    When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
    16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
    All the days ordained for me
    were written in your book
    before one of them came to be. NIV

    Acts 17:24-28 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ NIV

    God knows who will be with Him before the world began. He took those who were with Him those who would call on the name of the Lord and be saved. The sons of God for me in Gen 6 are those who called on His Name.

    Gen 4:26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

    At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord. NIV

    Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever. So this from a biblical understanding are saved if they call on the Name of the Lord.

    Rom 10:13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” NIV

    I do look to words and there meaning but what you shared seems to be a childlike thought not understanding the eternal Gospel and the eternal Church (family of God) and the eternal history of this creation. God in the six days of creations from plants to animals to humans that there are seeds according to their kind. So angels in my studies have them as eternal beings with not the ability to procreate. However, I could be totally wrong, but I doubt it since even the angels long to look into the gospel message and devil and his angels the eternal flames (fire) was prepared for them. Humans will end up there if we do not put or faith in the eternal gospel.

    1. Edwin Okugbo

      I think you should read your response again. You made a lot of assumptions and insinuations and I mean no offense please. Jesus didn’t insinuate in that verse that angelic beings can’t procreate. He said men are not given in marriage like angels. That does not translate to angels not being able to procreate. Also, in genesis 1, seeds after their kind does not insinuate they can’t produce a different kind as we have seen today from cross breeding. It simply means God intends things to follow an order and they should not be distorted or twisted or manipulated to produce a different kind.

      1. Julia Blum

        Hi Edwin, I don’t see either your previous comment or my response on this page. Where did you see them?

  20. Jan

    Thank you. I am anxious to read your next post about the ‘sons of God’. Is there a relation between these occurrences and that of Yeshua’s quoting of Psalm 82:6 in John 10:34-36? He seems to be commenting on the ‘seat of judgment’, but the Pharisees seem to accuse Him of something else entirely.

    1. Julia Blum

      This is a great question, Jan. Psalm 82 and its use of the word “elohim” (God-gods) is a separate and a very complicated story. Maybe, at some point we will deal with it also on this blog.

  21. Barbara Downer

    I have been reading the Jewish texts and wondered what the names meant – I am grateful for your translation and look forward to your next

  22. Sue Laird

    I would love to take part in these studies. I have tried on several occasions to apply, but I am VERY hearing impaired. I have tried to see if arrangements can be made via text at 979-824-3663 or email at suelaird@me.com, but someone always tries to call me.
    If something can be worked out with text or email I am interested. DO NOT CALL!

  23. DAVID GONZALEZ

    Julia,
    I’ve studied this in depth and have published a book on the subject, “WHO WERE THE NEPHILIM, ANGELS, GIANTS OR MEN?”.
    In it, I give 40 convincing proofs that they were not angels. I took several years to study the Hebrew context, and found related passages that deny the angelic context.

    I like reading your research.
    Shalom
    DAVID J. GONZALEZ

    1. Joel A Haynes

      Ditto!!!! look at my comment. I agree.

    2. Julia Blum

      I would be very interested to read your book, David. Where can I get it?

    3. Ron

      David,
      Gnostic sources are not valid

  24. John Ashcraft

    Are you going to do a story on the axial poleshift which will be repeated on Sept. 30th, 2017 or Day of Trumpet, 2018?

    1656 2270, 2348/9 BCE 2435BC מבּוּל mabbûl; Flood Methuselah dies year of flood 969 years old; Noah 600 years old *

    Yom Kippur is when Nibiru in 2017 will affect the earth, with a global earthquake, fulfilled as in Revelation 6:12-17, as well as other OT scriptures. This global earthquake is actually an axial polar shift (the only explanation for why the stars will roll up as a scroll). This exact same event happened the day that the Great Deluge began, 3,600 years ago, when Nibiru passed through our solar system… which was also Yom Kippur, but it had not been decreed as such by YVWH yet, at the Exodus, when Moses was translated to Heaven to be with YVWH for the 40 days… remember, Moses’ face was so bright that the Israelites asked him to cover it, when he came back from Mount Sinai.

    In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. Bereshit, Genesis 7:11 (1649 years from the fall – Book of Jubilees, Paradise and the Fall iii: 17); Nibiru encounter “The Destroyer”. Isa 24:1, 19-20. Some accounts and teachers say this was at Passover and others say this was in October/November. Pole Shift. It caused a 23 degree tilt. The tetonic plates separated.
    Gen 8:4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. Aviv 17th 2347 (Wednesday–Day after First fruits.) http://www.tedmontgomery.com/bblovrvw/emails/Aviv17.html
    Flood to Abraham 352 Years
    2268 Sabbath Year (Shemitah)

    This comment is on the blog at: Jardalkalatgmail.blogspot.com

    We are already into the Days of Noah now.

    1. Julia Blum

      Very interesting. Thank you, John.