Genesis 6:4
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
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(4) Giants.—Heb., Nephilim, mentioned again in Numbers 13:33, and apparently a race of great physical strength and stature. Nothing is more probable than that, at a time when men lived for centuries, human vigour should also show itself in producing not merely individuals, but a race of more than ordinary height. They were apparently of the Cainite stock, and the text carefully distinguishes them from the offspring of the mixed marriages. The usual derivation of the name is from a root signifying to fall; but Lenormant (Origines de l’Histoire, p. 344) prefers pâlâ, which means “to be wonderful,” and compares the Assyrian naptû, “unique in size,” often found in the cuneiform inscriptions as the denomination of an ogre.

The same became mighty men.—Heb., They were the mighty men that were of old, men of name. “Gibborim,” mighty men (see Genesis 10:8), has nothing to do with stature, but means heroes, warriors. It is also generally used in a good sense. The children of these mixed marriages were a race of brave fighting men, who by their martial deeds won for themselves reputation.

Genesis 6:4. There were giants — Men so called partly for their high stature, but principally for their great strength and force, whereby they oppressed and tyrannised over others. For this is mentioned as another sin and cause of the flood.6:1-7 The most remarkable thing concerning the old world, is the destroying of it by the deluge, or flood. We are told of the abounding iniquity of that wicked world: God's just wrath, and his holy resolution to punish it. In all ages there has been a peculiar curse of God upon marriages between professors of true religion and its avowed enemies. The evil example of the ungodly party corrupts or greatly hurts the other. Family religion is put an end to, and the children are trained up according to the worldly maxims of that parent who is without the fear of God. If we profess to be the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, we must not marry without his consent. He will never give his blessing, if we prefer beauty, wit, wealth, or worldly honours, to faith and holiness. The Spirit of God strove with men, by sending Enoch, Noah, and perhaps others, to preach to them; by waiting to be gracious, notwithstanding their rebellions; and by exciting alarm and convictions in their consciences. But the Lord declared that his Spirit should not thus strive with men always; he would leave them to be hardened in sin, and ripened for destruction. This he determined on, because man was flesh: not only frail and feeble, but carnal and depraved; having misused the noble powers of his soul to gratify his corrupt inclinations. God sees all the wickedness that is among the children of men; it cannot be hid from him now; and if it be not repented of, it shall be made known by him shortly. The wickedness of a people is great indeed, when noted sinners are men renowned among them. Very much sin was committed in all places, by all sorts of people. Any one might see that the wickedness of man was great: but God saw that every imagination, or purpose, of the thoughts of man's heart, was only evil continually. This was the bitter root, the corrupt spring. The heart was deceitful and desperately wicked; the principles were corrupt; the habits and dispositions evil. Their designs and devices were wicked. They did evil deliberately, contriving how to do mischief. There was no good among them. God saw man's wickedness as one injured and wronged by it. He saw it as a tender father sees the folly and stubbornness of a rebellious and disobedient child, which grieves him, and makes him wish he had been childless. The words here used are remarkable; they are used after the manner of men, and do not mean that God can change, or be unhappy. Does God thus hate our sin? And shall not we be grieved to the heart for it? Oh that we may look on Him whom we have grieved, and mourn! God repented that he had made man; but we never find him repent that he redeemed man. God resolves to destroy man: the original word is very striking, 'I will wipe off man from the earth,' as dirt or filth is wiped off from a place which should be clean, and is thrown to the dunghill, the proper place for it. God speaks of man as his own creature, when he resolves upon his punishment. Those forfeit their lives who do not answer the end of their living. God speaks of resolution concerning men, after his Spirit had been long striving with them in vain. None are punished by the justice of God, but those who hate to be reformed by the grace of God.Two classes of men, with strong hand and strong will, are here described. "The giants," the well-known men of great stature, physical force, and violent will, who were enabled by these qualities to claim and secure the supremacy over their fellow-men. "Had been in the land in those days." In the days when those intermarriages were beginning to take place, the warriors were asserting the claim of might. Violence and rapine were becoming rampant in the land. "And after that." The progeny of the mixed marriages were the second and subsequent class of leading men. "The sons of God" are here contradistinguished from the "nephilim, or giants," who appear therefore to have belonged to the Cainites. The offspring of these unhallowed unions were the heroes, the gallants, the mighty men, the men of renown. They were probably more refined in manners and exalted in thought than their predecessors of pure Cainite descent. "Men of name," whose names are often in men's mouths, because they either deserved or required to be named frequently on account of their influential or representative character. Being distinguished from the common herd by prominent qualities or memorable exploits, they were also frequently marked out by a special name or surname, derived from such trait of character or deed of notoriety. "Of old" (מעולם mē'ôlām). This has been sometimes explained "of the world," in the sense of αἰών aiōn; but the meaning is too late for the present passage. The phrase uniformly means "of old," covering a more or less extensive length of time. This note of time implies a writer probably after the deluge, who could speak of antediluvian affairs, as happening of old.

It is remarkable that we have no hint of any kind of government in the antediluvian world. It is open to us to suppose that the patriarchal polity would make its appearance, as it is an order based upon natural relations. But it is possible that God himself, being still present and manifest, was recognized as the governor. To him offerings were brought, and he deals with Cain on his first and second transgression. In that case the lawless violence of the strong and willful is to be regarded as rebellion, not only against the patriarchal rule, but the divine supremacy. A notice of civil law and government would not of course affect the authority of the book. But the absence of such notice is in favor of its divine origin. It is obvious that higher things than these have the attention of the sacred writer.

4. giants—The term in Hebrew implies not so much the idea of great stature as of reckless ferocity, impious and daring characters, who spread devastation and carnage far and wide. 2469

Giants; men so called, partly from their high stature, but principally for their great strength and force, whereby they oppressed and tyrannized over others: for this is mentioned as another sin, and cause of the flood; and therefore they seem to be here noted, not for the height of their stature, which is no crime, but for their violence, which also is expressed beneath, Genesis 6:11, Genesis 6:13.

After that time there arose a new generation or succession of that sort of men, when the sons of God came in, were united and incorporated with them. A modest expression of the conjugal state and act, as Genesis 16:2, Genesis 35:3, Jdg 15:2.

Which were of old, which were proper to the first ages of the world; for the succeeding generations were generally less in stature and strength of body, and therefore not so famous for personal exploits. Or these words may be thus joined with the following, which were of old, i.e. among the men of that first and wicked world,

men of renown, i.e. famous in their generations; when indeed they should have been infamous for the abuse of their stature and strength to tyranny and cruelty. There were giants in the earth in those days,.... That is, in the days before the sons of God took the daughters of men for wives, in such a general manner as before declared, or before the declension and apostasy became so universal; even in the times of Jared, as the Arabic writers (n) understand it, who say that these giants were begotten on the daughters of Cain by the children of Seth, who went down from the mountain to them in the days of Jared, see Genesis 5:20 the word "Nephilim" comes from a word which signifies to fall; and these might be so called, either because they made their fear to fall upon men, or men, through fear, to fall before them, because of their height and strength; or rather because they fell and rushed on men with great violence, and oppressed them in a cruel and tyrannical manner; or, as some think, because they fell off and were apostates from the true religion, which is much better than to understand them of apostate angels, whom the Targum of Jonathan mentions by name, and calls them Schanchazai and Uziel, who fell from heaven, and were in the earth in those days:

and also after that, which shows that the preceding clause respects giants in former times:

when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, came into their houses and chambers, and lay with them:

and they bare children unto them, or giants unto them, as may be supplied from the former clause; for the sense is, as there were giants before this general defection, so there were at this time, when there was a mixture of the Cainites and Sethites; which were the offspring of the sons of God, or posterity of Seth, mixing with the daughters of men, or the posterity of Cain; for this is not to be understood after the flood, as Aben Ezra, Ben Melech; and so they are described in the following words:

the same became mighty men; for tallness and strength, for power and dominion, for tyranny and oppression:

which were of old: like those that were of old before; or who in after times were spoken of, as in the days of old:

men of renown, or "of name" (o); whose names were often made mention of, both for their size and for their wickedness; they were much talked of, and extolled for their exploits, and even wicked ones: they were famous men, or rather infamous; for some men get a name in the world, not for their goodness, but for their greatness, and sometimes for their great wickedness; which sense is countenanced by what follows: that there were giants in these early times is confirmed by the testimony of many Heathen writers; such were the Titans that made war against Saturn, begotten by Ouranus, who were not only of bulky bodies, but of invincible strength, as Apollodorus (p) relates, and Berosus (q) speaks of a city about Lebanon, called Enos, which was a city of giants, who were men of vast bodies, and of great strength, inventors of arms and music, were cannibals, and exceedingly debauched.

(n) Elmacinus & Patricides apud Hottinger, p. 235, 236. (o) "viri nominis", Montanus. (p) De Origine Deorum, l. 1. p. 14. (q) Antiqu. l. 1. fol. 5. 2. vid. Horat. Carmin, l. 2. Ode. 19. Ovid Metamorph. l. 1. Fab. 1.

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 {f} renown.

(f) Who usurped authority over others, and degenerated from that simplicity, in which their father's lived.

4. The Nephilim] i.e. giants. It is natural to refer to Numbers 13:33, “And there we saw the Nephilim (Or, giants), the sons of Anak, which come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” The tradition that the Nephilim existed at the time of the Exodus was therefore quite strongly held. The precise meaning of the name has been lost. The passage in Numbers shews clearly that it denoted men of gigantic stature. The etymology very probably goes back to primitive times; and its origin is lost with the dialects that disappeared when the Israelites finally occupied Palestine. It was natural to connect the word with the Hebrew naphal, “to fall”; hence arose the renderings of Aquila, οἱ ἐπιπίπτοντες, “the assailants,” and of Symmachus, οἱ βιαῖοι, “the violent,” while among Patristic commentators the word was connected with “the fallen angels.” But these are merely guesses; and we must be content to leave the etymology of “the Nephilim,” like that of “the Rephaim” and “the Anakim,” unexplained.

and also after that] These words are introduced very awkwardly; and were very probably added as a gloss, in order to shew that the Nephilim existed not only in primitive ages, but also at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, as would be implied by Numbers 13:33. The continuance of the Nephilim in later times seems to contradict the account of the destruction of all the dwellers on the earth by the Flood. This contradiction is to be explained on the supposition, mentioned above, that the present passage is a fragment of a tradition in which the Flood was not recorded.

the mighty men, &c.] That is to say, “the well-known giants of old-world time,” familiar personages in Israelite folk-lore. To this class belong such names as “Nimrod,” Genesis 10:8, and “Og,” Deuteronomy 3:11.

the men of renown] Literally, “the men of name,” as in Numbers 16:2, “men of renown,” Lat. viri famosi, viz. famous for deeds of prowess and audacity.Verse 4. - There were. Not became, or arose, as if the giants were the fruit of the previously-mentioned misalliances; but already existed contemporaneously with the sons of God (cf. Keil, Havernick, and Lange). Giants. Nephilim, from naphal, to fall; hence supposed to describe the offspring of the daughters of men and the fallen angels (Hoffman, Delitzsch). The LXX, translate by γίγαντες; whence the "giants" of the A.V. and Vulgate, which Luther rejects as fabulous; but Kalisch, on the strength of Numbers 13:33, accepts as the certain import of the term. More probable is the interpretation which understands them as men of violence, roving, lawless gallants, "who fall on others;" robbers, or tyrants (Aquila, Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Luther, Calvin, Kurtz, Keil,. Murphy, 'Speaker's Commentary'). That they were "monsters, prodigies" (Tueh, Knobel), may be rejected, though it is not unlikely they were men of large physical stature, like the Anakim, Rephaim, and others (cf. Numbers 13:33). In the earth. Not merely on it, but largely occupying the populated region. In those days. Previously referred to, i.e. of the mixed marriages. And also - i.e. in addition to these nephilim - after that, - i.e. after their up-rising - when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men. Ha'gibborim, literally, the strong, impetuous, heroes (cf. Genesis 10:8). "They were probably more refined in manners and exalted in thought than their predecessors of pure Cainite descent" (Murphy). Which were of old. Not "of the world," as a note of character, taking olam as equivalent αἰὼν to but a note of time, the narrator reporting from his own standpoint. Men of renown. Literally, men of the name; "the first nobility of the world, honorable robbers, who boasted of their wickedness" (Calvin) or gallants, whose names were often in men's mouths (Murphy). For contrary phrase, "men of no name," see Job 30:8. "The Nephilim were on 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: these are the heroes (הגּבּרים) who from the olden time (מעולם, as in Psalm 25:6; 1 Samuel 27:8) are the men of name" (i.e., noted, renowned or notorious men). נפילים, from נפל to fall upon (Job 1:15; Joshua 11:7), signifies the invaders (ἐπιπίπτοντες Aq., βιαῖοι Sym.). Luther gives the correct meaning, "tyrants:" they were called Nephilim because they fell upon the people and oppressed them.

(Note: The notion that the Nephilim were giants, to which the Sept. rendering γίγαντες has given rise, was rejected even by Luther as fabulous. He bases his view upon Joshua 11:7 : "Nephilim non dictos a magnitudine corporum, sicut Rabbini putant, sed a tyrannide et oppressione quod vi grassati sint, nulla habita ratione legum aut honestatis, sed simpliciter indulgentes suis voluptatibus et cupiditatibus." The opinion that giants are intended derives no support from Numbers 13:32-33. When the spies describe the land of Canaan as "a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof," and then add (Numbers 13:33), "and there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak among (מן lit., from, out of, in a partitive sense) the Nephilim," by the side of whom they were as grasshoppers; the term Nephilim cannot signify giants, since the spies not only mention them especially along with the inhabitants of the land, who are described as people of great stature, but single out only a portion of the Nephilim as "sons of Anak" ענק בּני), i.e., long-necked people or giants. The explanation "fallen from heaven" needs no refutation; inasmuch as the main element, "from heaven," is a purely arbitrary addition.)

The meaning of the verse is a subject of dispute. To an unprejudiced mind, the words, as they stand, represent the Nephilim, who were on the earth in those days, as existing before the sons of God began to marry the daughters of men, and clearly distinguish them from the fruits of these marriages. היוּ can no more be rendered "they became, or arose," in this connection, than היה in Genesis 1:2. ויּהיוּ would have been the proper word. The expression "in those days" refers most naturally to the time when God pronounced the sentence upon the degenerate race; but it is so general and comprehensive a term, that it must not be confined exclusively to that time, not merely because the divine sentence was first pronounced after these marriages were contracted, and the marriages, if they did not produce the corruption, raised it to that fulness of iniquity which was ripe for the judgment, but still more because the words "after that" represent the marriages which drew down the judgment as an event that followed the appearance of the Nephilim. "The same were mighty men:" this might point back to the Nephilim; but it is a more natural supposition, that it refers to the children born to the sons of God. "These," i.e., the sons sprung from those marriages, "are the heroes, those renowned heroes of old."

Now if, according to the simple meaning of the passage, the Nephilim were in existence at the very time when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, the appearance of the Nephilim cannot afford the slightest evidence that the "sons of God" were angels, by whom a family of monsters were begotten, whether demigods, daemons, or angel-men.

(Note: How thoroughly irreconcilable the contents of this verse are with the angel-hypothesis is evident from the strenuous efforts of its supporters to bring them into harmony with it. Thus, in Reuter's Repert., p. 7, Del. observes that the verse cannot be rendered in any but the following manner: "The giants were on the earth in those days, and also afterwards, when the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, these they bare to them, or rather, and these bare to them;" but, for all that, he gives this as the meaning of the words, "At the time of the divine determination to inflict punishment the giants arose, and also afterwards, when this unnatural connection between super-terrestrial and human beings continued, there arose such giants;" not only substituting "arose" for "were," but changing "when they connected themselves with them" into "when this connection continued." Nevertheless he is obliged to confess that "it is strange that this unnatural connection, which I also suppose to be the intermediate cause of the origin of the giants, should not be mentioned in the first clause of Genesis 6:4." This is an admission that the text says nothing about the origin of the giants being traceable to the marriages of the sons of God, but that the commentators have been obliged to insert it in the text to save their angel marriages. Kurtz has tried three different explanations of this verse but they are all opposed to the rules of the language.) (1) In the History of the Old Covenant he gives this rendering: "Nephilim were on earth in these days, and that even after the sons of God had formed connections with the daughters of men;" in which he not only gives to גּם the unsupportable meaning, "even, just," but takes the imperfect יבאוּ in the sense of the perfect בּאוּ. (2) In his Ehen der Sצhne Gottes (p. 80) he gives the choice of this and the following rendering: "The Nephilim were on earth in those days, and also after this had happened, that the sons of God came to the daughters of men and begat children," were the ungrammatical rendering of the imperfect as the perfect is artfully concealed by the interpolation of "after this had happened." (3) In "die Sצhne Gottes," p. 85: "In these days and also afterwards, when the sons of God came (continued to come) to the daughters of men, they bare to them (sc., Nephilim)," where יבאוּ, they came, is arbitrarily altered into לבוא יוסיפוּ, they continued to come. But when he observes in defence of this quid pro quo, that "the imperfect denotes here, as Hengstenberg has correctly affirmed, and as so often is the case, an action frequently repeated in past times," this remark only shows that he has neither understood the nature of the usage to which H. refers, nor what Ewald has said (136) concerning the force and use of the imperfect.)

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