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Giant Problems

This will begin with a review:
Genesis 3:15 ESV
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
So this struggle begins. Remember the serpent is actually a divine being, not a mere member of the animal kingdom. While the flexibility of the term nachash forces us to consider double (and even triple) entendre, one thing is quite clear: The divine being in the garden who rebelled against Yahweh’s desire to have humans rule an Edenic world is never cast in human form. Unlike the sons of God in Gen 6: 1-4
Genesis 6:1–4 ESV
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
Who are cast as assuming human flesh and capable of cohabitation, the divine rebel of Eden does not appear that way. Let’s go back to that.
Genesis 3:15 ESV
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Consequently, the idea of a “seed” or offspring extending from the nachash would not have been literal for the biblical writer. (note: this guts Arthur Murray of Shepherds chapel’s theology). Instead, the notion is metaphorical or spiritual. And this is precisely what we see when the phrase occurs elsewhere in the Bible. The metaphor is perhaps most clear in the New Testament, when Jesus himself referred to the Pharisees as serpents who were of their faith the devil.
Despite the metaphorical nature of the language in the Eden story, the idea of divine beings producing human spawn who would oppose God’s desires does appear in Gen 6: 1-4. That passage in turn become grist for the biblical writers and their descriptions of the conquest of Canaan. In this and the text few meetings, we’ll see what it takes to understand this as an early Israelite would have done.
The expulsion of Adam and Eve was followed by a series of episodes that pitted the descendants of Eve against the spiritual children of the original enemy. The opposition to God’s plan came in both human and divine form. Cain was referenced specifically in this light…
1 John 3:12 ESV
We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.
And Genesis 6: 1-4 and the rebellion at Babel.
More review: Israel was reborn as a nation in the exodus from Egypt. After receiving the law, building the tabernacle, and establishing the priesthood, they departed for the promised land. They soon arrived at the border of Canaan, where Moses send 12 spies to examine the territory. The spies returned with confirmation of the abundance and desirability of the land. Nevertheless, most of them were in despair. The land was occupied by people in walled cities — some of whom were giants descended from the Nephilim:
Numbers 13:32–33 ESV
So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
Understanding the trauma of Numbers 13 is essential to understanding the subsequent conquest accounts. Any Israelite or Jew living after the time of the completion of the Hebrew Bible would have processed the wars for the promised land in terms of this passage, since it connected Israel’s survival as the people of God with the defeat of the Nephilim descendent.

Nephilim Before the Flood

There are some things about Gen. 6: 1-4 that we did not discuss earlier and these things are helpful in learning how to discuss scripture with someone who is learning of it for the first time. So the first one: How do we understand the note in Gen 6:4
Genesis 6:4 ESV
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
They were there, and then later…
As our earlier discussion made clear, viewpoints that strip the account of its supernatural flavor must be discarded. The events in Gen 6: 1-4 were a part of Israel’s supernatural worldview. We cannot pretend they saw things as most modern readers would. Since the Nephilim were part of Israel’s supernatural worldview and their descendents turn out to be Israel’s primary obstacle for conquering the promised land, the conquest itself must also be understood in supernatural terms.
There are two possible approached to the origin of the Nephilim that are consistent with the supernatural understanding of the sons of God in the Israelite worldview. The first and most transparent is that divine beings came to earth, assumed human flesh, cohabited with human women, and spawned unusual offspring known as Nephilim. Naturally this view requires seeing the giant clans encountered in the conquest as physical decedents of the Nephilim.
The primary objection to this approach is the sexual component. The modern enlightened mind simply cannot tolerate it. Appeal is usually made to Matthew in this regard, under the assumption that verse 30 teaches angels cannot have sex..
Matthew 22:23–33 ESV
The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
The text never says angels cannot have sex, it says they don’t. The reason ought to be obvious. The context for the statement is the resurrection, which refers either to the afterlife (broadly) or the new final global Eden. The point is clear in either option. there is no need for procreation.
This text in Matthew is useless and damaging when connected to Gen 6: 1-4.
Christians still balk at this interpretive option for the text. The ancient reader would have had no problem with it. But for moderns, it seems impossible that a divine being could assume human flesh and do what this passage describes. But what about Jesus? fully man and God at conception forward.
The truth is that Christian affirm the incarnation because they have to - it defines our faith. But Gen 6: 1-4 is set aside as peripheral. But belief in a personal God as the Bible describes means embracing the supernatural. for the Christian, the high point of the supernatural story of scripture — its most dramatic and unthinkable expression is the incarnation of God in Christ. The notion that the sons of God came to earth in fleshly form ought to be more palatable than the incarnation, since it is less supernatural spectacular. There is no suggestion that any corporeal appearance of a divine being was accomplished through incarnation - becoming an actual human. All such instances are lesser than the incarnation of Christ. Gen 6: 1-4 … is divine beings in human form and there are other passages … Gen 18-19 where God and two angels rest, and eat with Abraham and then the two angels grab Lot and pull him back into the house. When Jacob wrestled with “a man” that is later identified as elohim and angel… this is a physical struggle that left Jacob injured.
While visual appearances in human form are more common, there are episode in the NT where angels are corporeal. When they ministered to Jesus after the 40 days, I don’t think they just floated around. Angels show up and speak in many cases… we can presume sound waves were made. Angels open doors…and hit disciples to wake them up, .. This last episode is interesting since Peter mistakenly thought the angel was a man — Acts 12:7.

A Second Approach

This takes the language that indicates sexual activity as euphemistic not literal. In this the idea is that Watchers make the pregnancies possible as God did with Sarah. This thought uses the language of cohabitation to convey the idea that the divine beings that are trying to rival God are responsible for the Nephilim, and therefore responsible for the giant clans … but it doesn’t indicate whey they are giants.
As we will see next week, the belief on the part of the biblical writes (with either approach) that the sons of God are responsible for the Nephilim is the rationale for the extermination of the certain people groups in Canaan. The giant clans had to go. Both camps agree that the Nephilim and the giant clans had a supernatural origin, but they disagree on the means. And … there is another problem.

Nephilim after the flood

Gen 6:4 says that the Nephilim were on earth before the flood “and also afterward.” This phrase looks forward to Numbers 13:33 which says with equal clarity that the oversized descendents of Anak “came from the Nephilim.” The sons of Anak, the Anakim, were one of the giant clans of the conquest narratives. The text clearly links them to the Nephilim, but how is this possible given the account of the flood?
This is a problem and has been since antiquity. Some Jewish writers thought either Noah or Ham or one of the daughter-in-laws had giants bloodlines. But that really doesn’t work since it messes up descendants etc..
The other two alternatives for explaining the giants after the flood who descended from the giant Nephilim 1) the flood of Genesis 6-8 was a regional, not global, catastrophe; or 2) the same kind of behavior described in Gen 6: 1-4 happened again or continues to happen, after the flood, producing other Nephilim, from whom the giant clans descended.

First option

A localized flood naturally depends on the coherence of the arguments in defense of a localized flood, especially those arguments dealing with the wording in the biblical text that seems to suggest that the flood was worldwide. Many have taken this position. For our purposes this position would allow human survival somewhere in the regions known to the biblical authors, specifically the ancient near east, the med. and the Aegean sea.

Second option

The second option is a possibility deriving from Hebrew grammar. Gen 6:4
Genesis 6:4 ESV
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
This tells us there were Nephilim before and after the flood. notice the “when” it can be translated as “whenever” thereby suggesting a repetition of these preflood events after the flood. In other word, the text point forward from that time to other later giant clans. The phrasing suggests that other sons of God fathered more Nephilim after the flood. As a result there would be no survival of original Nephilim, and so the post flood issue is resolved. A later appearance of Nephilim occured by the same means as before the flood.
All of this sets the stage for Numbers 13. Fear of the giant clans results in spiritual failure that means wandering in the desert outside the land of promise for forty years. The generation who came out of Egypt is sentenced to die off outside of holy ground. The new generation under Joshua will wind up facing the same threat.
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