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[edit] Who Were the "Sons of God" and the "Giants" in Genesis 6:1-4?
by John Bockman Tokyo, Japan The ro!"em n the Book of !enesis, "e find "edged bet"een the generations of #dam and the story of $oah and the flood an odd passage telling ho" people multiplied on the earth and ho" the %sons of !od% "ent in to the daughters of men "ho bore either %mighty men% or %giants,% depending on the text in hand. The brevity and mythical character of this passage make it hardly "orth spending much time pondering. &et the passage is nevertheless there, "hich makes it as much holy "rit as the generations of #dam and the story of $oah and the flood. #nd for this reason one may be intrigued by the half'page'long footnote to this passage contained in The Complete Word Study Old Testament (#)! *ublishers, +,,-.. n this footnote, three theories of the identity of these characters are explained as follo"s: %The first theory is that the /sons of !od/ are fallen angels and the /daughters of men/ are mortals... The second theory as to their identity is the one most often held to "ithin conservative 0*rotestant1 scholarship. The /sons of !od/ are reckoned to be the godly line of Seth, "hile the /daughters of men/ are the line of 2ain... The last theory is one that is gaining popularity among conservatives. 3ecent archaeological evidence has suggested that the phrase /sons of !od "as sometimes used to describe kings...% (p. +4. St. 5phraim the Syrian/s %2ommentary on !enesis% (The Fathers of the Church: St. Ephrem the Syrian Selected Prose Works, 6athleen )c7ey, ed. 08ashington: 2atholic 9niversity of #merica *ress, +,,-1. endorses the second theory above. #ccording to him, the line of 2ain ceased to be productive, and rather than bearing male offspring, it produced only female offspring. The line of Seth, on the other hand, continued to produce robust males "ho, though they "ere %the righteous people of !od%, "ere at any rate %stirred to a fren:y% over the "omen in the line of 2ain. ;or this reason the %tribe of Seth% declined and the %house of 2ain% "axed strong "ith %mighty men.% Therefore, !od gave mankind +<= years in "hich to repent or bear the conse>uences, i.e., the flood (pp. +?-'+?4.. This explanation seemed so neat until found that the 2odex #lexandrinus of the @AA refers to %oi aggeloi tou Beou% (the angels of !od. and not to %oi uioi tou Beou% (the sons of !od..

for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall !e a hundred and t enty years. !ut his days shall !e one hundred and t enty years. Then ) and @AA mention the giants on the earth in those days. and dau"hters ere !orn to them. $o" the @AA (from the Bagster edition. This double mention of giants in @AA sho"s that the fact that there "ere giants on the earth is seen as someho" significant. and dau"hters ere !orn to them. men of reno n. but the * only mentions mighty men. and also after ard. that the sons of #od $!enei ha%elohim& sa the dau"hters of men that they ere fair. Only the @AA makes further mention of giants being borne by the daughters of men. the @AA.ud"es ent into the dau"hters of men. )y spirit shall not al ays stri'e ith man. they !ore children to them. the same !ecame mi"hty men $ha%"i!!orim& hich ere of old. Then the (ord said. they !ore the mi"hty men ho ere of old. the men of reno n. and the sons of #od sa that the dau"hters of men ere !eautiful and they took to ife such of them as they chose. . St. And the (ord #od said. !ut their days shall !e an hundred and t enty years. and the Syriac *eshitta 0*1. and see ho" they compare in terminology.: And it came to pass. that the sons of #od $oi uioi tou +eou& ha'in" seen the dau"hters of men that they ere !eautiful took to themsel'es i'es of all hom they chose. used by St. Then the surprising mention of Cudges in * seems to indicate an adherence to the third theory outlined in 8ord Study OT footnote. but the * refers instead to Cudges (D. )y spirit shall certainly not remain amon" these men fore'er. .irst the ) version: And it came to pass.Text#a" $na"%sis @et us go through each version (the )asoretic 0)1 in the 6J7. those ere the "iants $"i"antes& of old. hen men !e"an to !e numerous upon the earth. &in'#isti( $na"%sis . #nd no" the * from the text of St. and they took them i'es of all hich they chose. hen men !e"an to multiply on the face of the earth. f so. but ) sides "ith * in referring only to mighty men.o the "iants $"i"antes& ere upon the earth in those days* and after that hen the sons of #od $oi uioi tou +eou& ere ont to "o in to the dau"hters of men. There ere "iants $ha%nephilim& in the earth in those days* and also after that. the mi"hty men of reno n. !ecause they are flesh. -)y spirit shall not a!ide in man fore'er. for he is flesh. !ecause . 5phraim/s commentary: And it came to pass that hen men increased and dau"hters ere !orn to them. 5phraim. 5phraim seems not to subscribe to it. $otice first of all that all three texts refer to the sons of !od seeing the daughters of men and choosing "ives. There ere mi"hty men in those days.. and they !ore children to them. And the (ord said. The ) and @AA also refer again to the sons of !od going in to the daughters of men. hen the sons of #od $!enei ha%elohim& came unto the dau"hters of men.

in its Cump from %sons of !od% to %Cudges%. <?-+. defines %nephil% as %a feller.% is actually subCect to a "ide range of interpretation. * appears to lack any unity. a bully or tyrant: ''giant. i. t could easily be >uestioned "hether not one but t"o unnatural unions are being referred to. fall upon/. Eo"ever. 9ntil more evidence becomes available. . in Job +:F'+<. t means a bully. The @AA uses the term %gigantes% from "hich "e get our 5nglish %gigantic% and %giants. /to fall/. perhaps it is "ise to do as the 3S7 and $ 7 translations have done. a tyrant. the charge of this sin is %common to the "hole of . F:+'-. But then "hy doesn/t the * also mention giantsH This is extremely problematic.. "hile being translated by the 6J7 as %giants. good as "ell as bad. assuming that Jude +:F'4 is referring to such angels. . isn/t Job +:F'+< a solid enough precedentH The fact is that much of "hat is "ritten in the Old Testament is supported by much apocryphal material. Eo"ever. sense a certain un"illingness on the part of the Word Study OT to pursue this much further since it is the second theory that is aspoused by conservative *rotestant theologians. a giant. "ith those "ho are unholy.. 8e "ill see this in the next section of this article.% There is no mistaking the meaning of %giants% here. #s to the second theory. i. the term /sons of !od/ can only be angels.. F:. "hich is contained in the Word Study OT. and so translated /overthro".% The second theory states that the sin of intermarriage is %common to the "hole of Scripture. there is much speculation among reputable scholars concerning the nature of these individuals.0once1G $um. 3esponse: #s to the first theory.% . and this had nothing to do "ith any supernatural union bet"een angels and humans. %The "ord /giant/ comes from the Septuagint rendering of the Eebre" $ephilim. /the fallen ones/. &es. noncanonical to be sure but supported nonetheless. Strong/s A Concise /ictionary of the 0e!re 1i!le.e. t is often associated "ith violence.% The %lexical aids% section in the same book explains: %This masculine noun has its origin in naphal. Eo"ever. that conveys an understanding of the OT text that the OT text often does not convey on itself. the sin of intermarriage is anachronistic for the time period being described in !en.urthermore. "hich comes from naphal.e. +?:?? 0t"ice1. )istori(a" $na"%sis @et us return to the footnote in the Word Study OT and look at it in greater detail. render it /$ephilim/% (p. Since the etymology is uncertain.Both the ) and the @AA texts refer to the %benei ha'elohim% and %oi uioi tou Beou% "hich are in complete agreement to %the sons of !od% "hich are also mentioned in the *.% The third theory states that it "as corrupt human kings "ho monopoli:ed "omen at that time.or this reason. !oliath of !ath "as a giant but not due to a supernatural union.urthermore. the Word Study OT dismisses this theory because there is %no precedent from "hich this conclusion can be dra"n. t appears three times in the OT (!en. The first theory states that it "as angels "ho married "omen unla"fully. and especially to the *entateuch: the intermarriage of the chosen people of !od (the believers. the Eebre" %ha'nephilim%..

. And to )ichael the (ord said: #o.'+= and $eh. 3aphael.. choosin" from amon" all. Japheth and Eam. They !ecame pre"nant !y them and "a'e !irth to "iants. ithout the men !ein" a!le to supply them. it "as in the immediate post'exilic period "here the problem "as the most acute (cf.. A!solutely no re8uest in their fa'or ill !e "ranted to their fathers* for they hope to li'e an e'erlastin" life or that each one of them ill li'e fi'e hundred years. pretty and attracti'e dau"hters ere !orn to them.. +..can be found in -B5nochb and +B!enesis #pocryphon (. (The text then lists the t"elve other angels by name. and the cuttin" of roots and to e5plain her!s. #nd if it "as possible. and !abriel see this and report to !od. *riti(a" $na"%sis The Bumran scrolls fortunately unmuddy the "aters for us considerably. And to #a!riel the (ord said: #o to 6them7 and e5terminate the sons of the Watchers from amon" the sons of men* in'ol'in" them in a ar of attrition for there ill not !e lon" days for them. They and their chiefs all took for themsel'es omen.or ease of reading.. all the diacritical marks that indicate text restorations are dispensed "ith. ho ere !orn upon the earth in keepin" ith their infancy and "re at a rate of their "ro th and consumed the ork of all the sons of men. incantations. )ichael. and "e "ill see "hy very soon. Eo"ever. 2t happened that hen in those days the sons of men increased. Sariel. here again.. .. except $oah. Shemiha4ah. sons of the sky. #s to the third theory.. +?:<?'<4. there appears to be an un"illingness to pursue the matter much further by ignoring that it "as the %angels of !od% in the 2odex #lexandrinus of the @AA. They replied and all said to him: We all take an oath and all s ear under oath to each other not to "o !ack on this 'enture until e ha'e performed this deed. .. not the %sons of !od%. ho as their chief. The Watchers. said to them: 2 am afraid you do not ant to carry out this deed and 2 alone ill !e "uilty of "reat sin. mankind had not yet been divided into the lines of Shem. sa them and lusted for them and said to each other: (et3s "o and pick out omen from amon" the dau"hters of men and sire for oursel'es sons. )ichael.-1 pp. F:+'.that their sons ill e5pire and they ill see the e5termination of their lo'ed ones* chain them up for se'enty "enerations in the 'alleys of the earth until the "reat day of their . "ho took the daughters of men as "ives. # fuller account of !en. so it "as not possible to intermarry. "here "ere the distinctions being blurredH There "ere no distinctions because e'ery!ody "as bad. and they !e"an to penetrate them and !e defiled !y them and teach them sorcery. (*eople became increasingly depraved through the black arts taught them.ud"ment. #t the time of !en.Scripture%G ho"ever. 5:ra . <-I'J=.. <?='?+. it is true that to consider !oliath the product of a %supernatural union% "ould be totally absurd. 6oln: Billl. The /ead Sea Scrolls Translated 0@eiden. 0o e'er.lorentino !arcia )artine:. and tell Shemiha4ah and all his friends ho coupled ith omen. F:+'-. the Book of 5noch.. (. some three thousand cu!its tall 0a cubit is about + +K< feet1. @et us turn to these no".irst. $e" &ork.

be considered holy "hen the Bible states that only $oah "as holy (!en.urthermore. is.. since he $Enoch& is liked and ell liked.retation @et us turn to some very interesting >uestions raised in the footnote in the Word Study OT. (amech. and told him e'erythin".There is considerable theological difficulty in the existence of human beings "ho are. S ear to me !y the 9in" of all the :ni'erse that you are speakin" to me frankly and ithout lies.. that this pre"nancy comes from you. %. She ept and said: Oh my !rother and lord. ran to my father. #nd above all... at least in part.)ean"hile. that you ill in truth let me kno e'erythin". 5phraim the Syrian. if you ill in truth and ithout lies let me kno hether this. 2 s ear to you !y the #reat 0oly One. 5noch responds:. <emem!er my pleasure. )ethuselah.. but "e can assume that @amech "as reassured his son $oah "as legitimate. your son. Theo"o'i(a" +nter. !oliath could not have been the product of a supernatural union. %Eo" can these men (the line of Seth. "hy is man punished by the floodH% Second.. the fault of the angels..H #nd "hy is the term Lsons of !od/ not used "ith this meaning in any other placeH Other people >uestion "hy only sons and not daughters are associated "ith the line of Seth. and not to the second theory expounded on by St. @amech becomes suspicious of his "ife. spoke to me 'ery harshly. as fri"htened and turned to 1itenosh. my !ride. and ould kno e'erythin" for certain from him. this means the sons of $oah "ere not descended from any %sons of !od% or %8atchers.. Then 1itenosh.. in the !enesis #pocryphon. These are: . Therefore. since all mankind is descended from the sons of $oah..% . (This having been done. not descended from #dam (#cts +4:<F 0sic1. that his o"n son $oah is the product of such a supernatural union: Then 2. (amech. !y the #reat (ord. !y the 9in" of the :ni'erse.. and not from any forei"ner or atcher or son of hea'en. 2 shall tell you e'erythin" accurately. Then 2. the Bumran scrolls establish beyond the shado" of a doubt that the Second Temple era Je"s espoused the first theory in the above'mentioned footnote. so that he ould "o and ask Enoch.% Third.. #o tell (amech.the sons of hea'en. . that this seed comes from you. F:I. the time of lo'e. that the plantin" of this fruit comes from you. his father. my ife.irst.. . #t this point the extant text of the !enesis #pocryphon breaks off. for reasons no" lost. at least to a large extent. !y the 9in" of the hea'ens. and said: S ear to me !y the )ost 0i"h. % f this sin (intermarriage.% as they are called in the Bumran scrolls.

5phraim the Syrian/s interpretation remains a theory. i. !od "as not punishing man for the sin of intermarriage. but it "as subse>uent interpretation that linked it to the ban on intermarriage bet"een believers and unbelievers. #fter all. mankind is al"ays referred to generically and is never segregated into any %tribe of Seth% or %house of 2ain. One "ould have to conclude that. namely. 2opyright M <==F by John Bockman. #ll 3ights 3eserved. Therefore. "hy "eren/t the sons of Seth stirred to fren:y over the daughters of SethH''unless there "ere no daughters of Seth. he certainly did not have !en. in !enesis. the sin of intermarriage could not have been the determining factor in !od/s purpose. but %both man.% so the obCection that no daughters are associated "ith the line of Seth is a valid one. the editors of the Word Study OT have misapplied #cts +4:<. n addition.. 3etrieved from %http:KKorthodox"iki. F:+'-G and then used the Bumran scrolls to sho" that the %nephilim% "ere indeed giants and not Cust %mighty men.To ans"er the first. it has already been established (from the !enesis #pochryphon. and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart "as only evil continually%H Therefore. *on("#sion n this article. "hich "ould point to a very lopsided and unnatural circumstance in "hich Seth had no daughters and 2ain had no sons. "hy "ould !enesis F:J go on to explain. F:+'. This is the vie"point held by Second Temple era Je"s.orgK!en. To ans"er the third.. that no semi'humans "ere on the ark "ith $oah. it accords "ell "ith subse>uent Je"ish and 2hristian thought. and beast. "hile St.NF:+'-% 2ategories: #rticles for transfer O 2ontributed #rticles . @AA and * versions of !en.e. f Ee " mind in claiming "e are !od/s offspring. and the creeping thing. it "asn/t only man Ee "as destroying in the flood. 8hen St. *aul addressed the #thenians in the #reopagus. %#nd !od sa" that the "ickedness of man "as great in the earth. and the fo"ls of the airG for it repenteth )e that have made them. that believers should not be yoked "ith unbelievers. have considered the three theories expounded in the Word Study OTG compared the terminologies of ).% and not the %tribe of Seth% "hich is no"here mentioned in !enesis. a plausible explanation.% To ans"er the second.