John Day on Giants, Sons of God, Daughters of Men

There’s a relatively new academic journal on the block called Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel, which may be of interest to readers. It is published by Mohr Siebeck and its editors are Gary N. Knoppers, Oded Lipschits, Carol A. Newsom, and Konrad Schmid.

The December 2012 issue features an article by John Day tackling that old problem: just what on earth (or beyond it) is Genesis 6:1-4 talking about?

John Day, “The Sons of God and Daughters of Men and the Giants: Disputed Points in the Interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4.” HeBAI 1 no. 4 (Dec 2012): 427–47.

Sons of God and Daughters of manThis essay offers a comprehensive analysis of the many problems of interpretation in Gen 6:1-4. Although the Nephilim were the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men in the underlying myth, contrary to a widely held view this is no longer the case in Gen 6:1-4, where they are already in existence at the time of the sexual liaisons. Even though 1 Enoch preserves the original notion of the origin of the Nephilim, the more elaborate story there is in general a later midrash on Gen 6:1-4, contrary to some recent suggestions. Genesis 6:1-4 is not based on Mesopotamian or Greek mythology but contains an Israelite myth utilizing and transforming Canaanite concepts. Not only do the heavenly sons of God derive ultimately from the Canaanite “sons of El,“ but the name of the Canaanite giant Nephilim (literally “fallen ones”) is a retrospective term comparable to that of the giant Rephaim, a word originally used of the dead (Ugaritic rp’um), implying the giants have passed away. Contrary to some, v. 3 is an original part of the text; it indicates that the humans’ descendants were in danger of becoming immortal as a result of the infusion of the divine spirit from the marriages. ידון in this verse derives from a Hebrew verb, דנן “to be strong.”

While not everybody will agree with his conclusions, he provides a good recent treatment of the critical issues in this controversial passage.

And as a special treat, here is Nick Cave performing at Coachella. The version of Stagger Lee at 28:00 is particularly inspired. Stagger Lee even has a show-down with the Devil.

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