I started rereading the Bible yesterday; it seems quite different from the last time. Now I recognize favourite passages or structural elements that organize the stories. But the recognition of familiar bits also frees me up to appreciate new things. More on that later. Right now here is one of my absolute favourite verses from Genesis.
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after
that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men,
and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men
which were of old, men of renown.
Read it out loud for the sonorous rhythms. This passage describes the era after Adam and Eve and before Noah, God’s little temper tantrum starts in the very next verse. What’s interesting to me, besides the poetry, is the claim that before the Flood there were giants and also that the “sons of God” (whoever they were) had sex with human women who bore a race of heroic men. This is stirring stuff, but it somewhat clashes with conventional biblical readings. I never learned about the giants in Sunday school, though I would have enjoyed hearing about them. (Also mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:11.) And, of course, in the New Testament, Jesus is God’s only begotten son–apparently, the author forgot all the others; either that, or we have here a little Orwellian rewriting of history. But, really, I don’t mean to trivialize the passage by descending into simple-minded textual comparisons. The verse about giants and the sons of God is one of those bits that slipped into the Old Testament from some more ancient myth cycle–there are lots of these textual erratics: I still keep puzzling over the famous “incident of the bloody husband”–something about a demonic apparition and a hasty do-it-yourself circumcision (Exodus 4:24), for example. But I love the words and the feel of an ancient speaker speaking to me.
This is written much in haste, first thoughts. I almost forgot Og of Bashan (if I ever have another son, I will name him Og).
Deut. 3:11 For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants;
behold his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in
Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length
thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of
Interestingly, compare this translation from my wife’s baptismal Bible…the “Revised Standard Version.”
“When men began to mulitply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.”
No giants, still some sex, but less heroic offspring. Also, this text seems much less poetic. I’d pick the giants too. I do like the “took to wife” line though.
Mine is KJV. I wonder where the giants went.
Here’s a terrifically funny site on the biblical giants. Read to the bottom of the page for the most startling (and no doubt true) claims.
“Publisher’s Note: Photo is probably a fake but shows size of generally accepted giant.” –This is a great line.
Also there is the curious Book of Enoch (not in the Bible). The first section is called the Book of the Watchers and talks about fallen angels coming to earth and fathering a race of beings called Nephilim. I love that title “Book of the Watchers.”