Title: Giant Problems
This chapter discussed the two possible supernaturalist interpretations of Genesis 6:1-4 and the problem of giants (nephilim) after the flood.
Bibliography from the Book
Brian Doak, The Last of the Rephaim: Conquest and Cataclysm in the Heroic Ages of
Ancient Israel, Ilex Series 7 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013)
Claus Westermann,Genesis 1–11: A Continental Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994)
David F. Siemens Jr., “Some Relatively Non-Technical Problems with Flood Geology,” Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith 44.3 (1992): 169–74
Davis Young and Ralph Searley, The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008)
There are a number of resources that deal with ancient Second Temple Jewish material about Noah and the Flood that readers may find of interest. Several of them touch on specific content items in this chapter.
Pieter W. Van der Horst, “Bitenosh’s Orgasm (1QapGen 2: 9-15),” Journal for the Study of Judaism 43, no. 4-5 (2012): 613-628
Ronald V. Huggins, “Noah and the Giants: A Response to John C. Reeves.” Journal of Biblical Literature (1995): 103-110
John C. Reeves, “Utnapishtim in the Book of Giants?” Journal of Biblical Literature (1993): 110-115
Matthew Goff, “Gilgamesh the Giant: The Qumran Book of Giants’ Appropriation of Gilgamesh Motifs.” Dead Sea Discoveries 16, no. 2 (2009): 221-253
Helge S. Kvanvig, “Gen 6, 1-4 as an antediluvian event,” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 16, no. 1 (2002): 79-112
Wayne Baxter, “Noachic Traditions and the Book of Noah,” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 15, no. 3 (2006): 179-194
Michael E. Stone, “The Book (s) Attributed to Noah,” Dead Sea Discoveries 13:1 (2006): 4-23
Loren T. Stuckenbruck, The Book of Giants from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary. Edited by Martin Hengel and Peter Schäfer. Vol. 63. Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997
Jeremy Daniel Lyon, “The Qumran Interpretation of the Genesis Flood,” Ph.D. dissertation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2014
In the discussion about how there would be nephilim after the flood (Gen 6:4; Num 13:33) I noted several possible trajectories that could yield an answer:
1) The flood was a localized, regional event.
2) The behavior of Gen 6:1-4 happened after the flood as well. This possibility derived from a grammatical consideration with respect to the ʾasher (אשׁר) clause of Gen 6:4.
There was also a third trajectory mentioned earlier in Chapter 13 (p. 109):
3) The “bad seed” was carried through the flood in Noah’s bloodline (either him or one of his sons). That view is reflected in ancient literature, but is something of an aberration (The Genesis Apocryphon from the Dead Sea Scrolls introduces the idea and has Noah’s mother denying it — in explicit terms: see van der Horst’s article above in the additional bibliography).
I’d like to add a bit more detail to some of these items. We’ll start with the last option from earlier in the book, Chapter 13.
Noah Carries the Bad Seed?
In many ways, the most logical explanation of how nephilim were found after the flood is that Noah carried the seed of the Watchers / sons of God, having been so conceived himself (thus passing it on to his sons). The Genesis Apocryphon (an Aramaic text – hence nefilin below) has Noah’s father fearing that his son came from the Watchers. Lamech says:
“I thought in my heart that the conception was (the work) of the Watchers, and the pregnancy of the Holy Ones, and it belonged to the Nephilin, and my heart within me was upset on account of this boy” (2:1-2); Translation by F. García Martínez and E. J. C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls StudyEdition, vol. 1 (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 29
Lamech’s wife, Bitenosh answers:
“(8) Then Bitenosh, my wife, spoke to me very harshly . . . (9) and said: ‘Oh my brother and lord, remember my sexual pleasure! . . . (10) in the heat of intercourse, and the gasping of my breath in my breast. . . . (14) Remember my sexual pleasure! . . . (15) that this seed comes from you, that this pregnancy comes from you’.” (Same translation source)
Van der Horst’s article (“Bitenosh’s orgasm”; see additional bibliography) discusses the belief in antiquity that female orgasm contributed to conception. Van der Horst explains:
That is to say, most probably Bitenosh here refers to her orgasm on that occasion. The fact that not only Lamech but also Bitenosh had an orgasm at that moment is taken as a proof that it is the two of them together who begot the child.43 That can only be the case if the female orgasm is here regarded as the event during which she emitted her own seed into her womb where it mingled with Lamech’s seed so as to form the beginning embryo. It is only a double-seed theory that can explain why Bitenosh here takes recourse to an appeal to her moment suprême (to whichLamech was witness!) as a cogent argument. (pp. 626-627)
The tradition of Lamech’s fear is also something that shows up in 1 Enoch 106:1-7, in which passage we learn that Lamech’s concern stems from (apparent) super-human attributes (really, superfluous beauty) of the infant Noah. See the discussion in the Reeves article in the additional bibliography.
It is interesting that in these texts Lamech isn’t alarmed by any giantism on the part of Noah, something we’d obviously expect. This idea does surface in later rabbinic material. See the articles above between Reeves, Huggins, and Goff as to whether or not Jewish pseudepigraphical texts and later traditions have Noah being a giant.
What you’ll find in all these debates and traditions (real or imagined) is that ancient Jewish texts sought to distance Noah from the sin of the Watchers. Hence my own denigration of this view in The Unseen Realm. That the discussion is even possible, though, shows us that the words of Genesis 6:9 was not a “default” for getting Noah off the hook (“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation”).
The word for “generation” in this verse is dôr (דּוֹר), which is not the normative biblical Hebrew term for “family generations” or one’s immediate / extended genealogical line. That word is toledoth, which is found in many genealogical contexts in the OT (“these are the generations (toledoth) of”). Rather, the term here refers to one’s “generation” in the sense of one’s era (e.g., “my parents’ generation was the sixties”) or is a collective reference. HALOT translated Gen 6:9 as “among his contemporaries”). Here is the gist of the HALOT entry:
1. sing. cycle, lifetime, descent, generation, (all the people who have grown up in the period from the birth of a man until the birth of his first son; Noth Überl. St. 21; a period with particular events and people, Ped. Isr. 1-2:490): הַדּוֹר הַזֶּה Gn 71 דּ׳ רְבִעִי 1516, לְאֶלֶף דּ׳ as long as a thousand generations Dt 79, הַדּ׳ הָאַחֲרוֹן 2921, הָרִאשׁוֹן Jb 88; with עִקֵּשׁ Dt 325, with צַדִּיק Ps 145; with אֲבֹתָיו 4920, with בָּנֶיךָ 7315, with עֶבְרָתוֹ Jr 729 etc.; דֹּר דֹּר Ex 315 and דֹּר וָדֹר Dt 327 (29 ×; Ug. drdr, ana dūrim, ana dāri dūri and simil., for ever, (PRU 3:218) Akk. dūr dāri, simil. in Mnd.) and דּוֹר לְד׳ Ps 1454 generation after generation, דּוֹר דּוֹרִים Ps 10225, cj. לְכָל־דּ׳ יָבוֹא Ps 7118; group דּ׳ דֹּרְשָׁיו Ps 246; Is 538 ? fate (Arb. dāʾirat), alt. his contemporaries. . .
2. pl. generations (in Greek originally counted as forty years, from the time of Herodotus as thirty-three and a third years, Meyer Gesch. 3/2:207): אַרְבָּעָה דֹּרֹת Jb 4216, דֹּרֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂ׳ Ju 32, דֹּרוֹתֵינוּ אַחֲרֵינוּ future generations descended from us Jos 2227f; דּ׳ עוֹלָמִים generations in times past Is 519; לְדֹרֹתָיו/תָמ/תֵיכָם according to his (their, your) generations = generation after generation descended from him (them, you) Lv 2530 Gn 177.12; בְּדֹּרֹתָיו among his contemporaries Gn 69, Sir 441 (alt.: in his turn); —Ju 32 dl. (dittogr., Seeligmann VT 11:2142); Jr 221 ?, prp. וְלֹא יְרֵאתֶם Sept., Latina; Is 414 rd. הַקֹּרוֹת (→ v. 22).
Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 217–218.
That would mean this term is of no value at all to defending Noah’s purity with respect to the sons of God incident. However, dôr might perhaps be used at least once in the Hebrew Bible for immediate family members (Num 9:10), but a translation of “contemporaries” is still possible there. To conclude, while the language itself of Gen 6:9 cannot said to preclude the possibility that Noah was untouched by the Watchers’ scandal, the argument is still one from silence.
The matter of the ʾasher (אשׁר) clause
Kvanvig (see additional bibliography above) articulates what seems to me as a somewhat idiosyncratic understanding of the timing of the events of Gen 6:1-4. Those who have Hebrew will be able to follow his discussion of the wayyiqtol sequencing and intervening clauses. He writes on page 82:
Linguistic perspective deals with the temporal set of the sentence. The change to x-qatal means that the time line indicated by wayyiqtol is broken. According to Goldfaijn this kind of shift signifies that we are moving back to the initial anchor point in the narrative. The reference to the time of the něfilīm is not a consequence of the speech of YHWH, but describes the initial situation, given in v 1. At the time when the humans started to multiply there were the něfilīm on earth. Thus the narrative gives two indications of what time we are dealing with: The time of multiplication (v 1) and the time of the něfilīm (v 4). Therefore the narrator adds: וגם אחרי־כן “and also afterwards”. The time marked in v 4 goes through the whole story, it all happened in the time of the něfilīm.
This understanding has everything happening at once, suggesting (though he doesn’t say it here) that the nephilim were not the product of the sons of God incident. But Kvanvig of course knows the traditions that say precisely that (Mesopotamian and otherwise).
The problem of course with any “contemporaneity” view is that it does not rule out cause and effect. That is, the point of the syntax (understanding contemporaneity as Kvanvig has here) could just as well be “all this stuff was happening at the same time.” Of course the nephilim were contemporary — they were there because of the unions. They wouldn’t show up in the next era! This is actually more likely what Kvanvig means as he takes the ʾasher + yiqtol-x + weqatal verb sequence in v. 4 as continuative (“When the sons of God used to go in to the daughters of men”). That is, it describes ongoing action. Kvanvig, however, situates the “ongoing-ness” in the past, choosing “when” instead of “whenever” in his translation of ʾasher. The latter creates continuity in the sense that the behavior recurred (see the discussion in The Unseen Realm).
I bring up the Kvanvig item here only to illustrate (with the examples in the footnotes of Unseen Realm) that nearly every element of the grammar of Gen 6:1-4 is disputed by scholars. One cannot simply quote a Hebrew commentator or grammarian and think something is settled. Far from it.
Two items aren’t in dispute, however: (a) the original Mesopotamian context of the polemic purpose of Gen 6:1-4; and (b) the comprehension of the original context by Second Temple Jewish writers. As Annus and, subsequently, Drawnel, have conclusively shown, the writer is clearly taking aim at the Mesopotamian apkallu traditions and putting them in a very dark (demonic) light. The polemic context, then, must be allowed to inform our choice of grammatical options for sake of consistency. Marrying context (!) and grammar allows us to comprehend what Gen 6:1-4 sought to communicate. This has been my approach in the book. Second temple traditions about the interpretation of Gen 6:1-4 and the origin of evil spirits are completely in line with the original context and that approach. So are Peter and Jude.