There is at least one Jewish text from the intertestamental (Second Temple) period which says that there were divine beings who were “coming to earth to ‘fix’ mankind” (103). This meant they were coming with their profound knowledge to direct and lead humankind in the way to live. Though they were trying to help, once they put on fresh flesh they couldn’t resist their sexual urges with the women they saw.
1 Enoch chapter 6 says,
“And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the watchers, the sons of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’”
The term ‘Watchers’ is even seen in our Bible. The ESV translates Dan. 4.17 as,
“The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
Here, both God and his divine council participate in decision making. “Daniel 4 is the only biblical passage to specifically use the term watcher to describe the divine ‘holy ones’ of Yahweh’s council. The geographical context of Daniel is of course Babylon (Dan 1:1-7), which is in Mesopotamia” (104).
The Watchers (sons of God) produced giant offspring from the women. Other texts associated with 1 Enoch retell the story. One such text is called The Book of Giants, and in it some of the giants are named. One name is Gilgamesh, the “Hollywood star” of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
In my previous post, A Flood of Stories, I said that Genesis 6.1-4 was written as an attack on Babylonian ideas to undermine the “credibility of the Mesopotamian gods and other aspects of that culture’s worldview” (102). Mesopotamia, where Babylon was located, was replete with various flood stories and stories of divine beings coming down to the earth and mating with human women.
Babylon’s priestly class (the intellectuals) believed that pre-flood Mesopotamian civilization was “handed down by their gods” (108). Because of this divine act, the priests “wanted to connect themselves and their intellectual achievements with knowledge from before the flood. It was their way of claiming that their knowledge and skills were divine and… superior to those of the nations they had conquered.” Thus, the Babylonian gods were superior to all other gods.
So the apkallus were the divine beings who possessed profound knowledge, and Babylonian kings claimed to be descendants of these pre-flood divine figures. “The collective claim was that glorious Babylonia was the sole possessor of divine knowledge, and that that empire’s rule had the approval of the gods” (108).
Of course, this isn’t going to sit well with Israel, the ones who follow Yahweh, the one who is like no other (Is. 45.5). To Israel, the apkallus had demonic origins (being bound up with Mesopotamian demonology, it was only natural to think of the apkallus in this way). Babylonian scholars taught that the apkallus’ divine knowledge survived the flood… in the form of giant offspring.
Here’s the kicker!
The biblical writers agreed that there were giants, “renowned men, both before and after the flood” (108)! But these giant offspring were not of the true God. Instead they “were the result of rebellion against Yahweh by lesser divine beings” (108). So Genesis 6.1-4 (alng with 2 Peter and Jude) portray Babylon’s boast of divine knowledge not as something wonderful, but as “a horrific transgression and, even worse, the catalyst that spread corruption throughout mankind” (108).
Genesis 6.5-7 is a summary of the effect of the sin:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Yet Noah… was blameless (Gen 6.8). In fact, he is in the line of Christ (Lk 3.36, 38). The Son of God was never infected with the seed of the serpent (Gen 3.15).
I will have four more posts to end the series off. The next post will cover a range of weird texts in the Bible just so all can be reminded (and perhaps see for the first time) that the Bible does say some really odd things. Things that many haven’t heard in a Sunday morning church service.
The next three posts will deal with Nimrod, the Tower of Babel, and Deuteronomy 4 and 32. All are found in chapter 14 of The Unseen Realm, The next few posts shouldn’t be too long, but hopefully you’ll see how these topics are intertwined.
- Who Were the Nephilim?
- Why This Topic?
- Three Interpretations on the Nephilim
- Why is Genesis 6.1-4 in the Bible?
- Weird Texts of the Bible
Dividing the Nations
The OT Trinity
- The Trinity in the Old Testament
- And He Struggled With the Angel
- He Rides the Clouds
- The Holy Spirit
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And also Heiser’s more condensed version,