Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The ‘giants’ after Genesis 6



We have followed the commentary on the frustratingly brief record of Genesis 6.1-7, and we have seen in the last 2 Blogs more clearly what really happened…..and that Azazel was the real culprit.

However, that is not the end of the story.  There are unanswered questions.  For example:

Who were the ‘giants’ of Numbers 13 that the spies saw?
Why were any ‘giants’ still around after the Flood?
How big were the ‘giants’?
Was Goliath one of the ‘giants’?
Where did the ‘giants’ live?


1. Who were the ‘giants’ of Numbers 13.33 that the spies saw?
We saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight. 

These 'giants' were the descendants of 'when the sons of God came into the daughters of men and they bore children to them'.


2. Why were any ‘giants’ still around after the Flood?

The answer is found when we look closely at the text of Genesis 6.7:

Genesis 6.7  The LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air….’

The Hebrew text in the Bible is usually very precise and accurate.  The phrase ‘man whom I have created’ specifically refers to the ‘man’ , Adam, that He ‘created’ in Genesis 1.26 in which:

God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

The underlined phrase in Our image, according to Our likeness does NOT refer to the half human and half angelic children in Genesis 6 who were the giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Note particularly the phrase ‘and also afterward’ which refers to after the Flood. These half human and half angelic beings who became the giants, clearly survived the Flood. How they survived neither the Bible nor the Book of Enoch explains….but survive they did, and continued to cause problems.


3. How big were the ‘giants’?

There is a clear and precise answer in Deuteronomy 3.11:
Only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the giants. Indeed his bedstead was an iron bedstead. (Is it not in Rabbah of the people of Ammon?) Nine cubits is its length and four cubits its width, according to the standard cubit.

According to the standard cubit  which was measured from the elbow to the end of the middle finger. This was usually calculated as 20 inches or 50.8 centimetres.

Og’s bedstead was nine cubits in length which equates to 15 feet or 4.5 metres.  It was four cubits in width which equates to 6 feet 8 inches or 2 metres.

Since Og needed to have room to lie on his bed without his feet hanging over the end and getting cold in the night, perhaps he was probably about 13 feet 6 inches or just over 4 metres tall.  His width was determined by how much he was overweight!  In any case, he must have been at least 4 feet or 1.25 metres wide.

No wonder that the spies in Numbers 13 were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight….

4. Was Goliath one of the ‘giants’?

Yes. The passage in 2Samuel 21.15-22 explains that not only was Goliath one of the ‘giants’, but that he also had 4 brothers:

When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David .. fought against the Philistines; ….Then Ishbi–Benob,(1) who was one of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels, who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him.


Now it happened afterward that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Saph,(2) who was one of the sons of the giant.

Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan … killed the brother of Goliath(3) … the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature,(4) who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty–four in number; and he also was born to the giant. So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.

These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David’s servants.

The fact that Goliath had 4 brothers, all of whom were watching the potential contest, was the reason that David selected five smooth stones in 1Samual 17.40:
Then David took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.

David was preparing for the possibility that once he had killed Goliath, the 4 brothers would then challenge him one by one.  Happily, they were cowards as 1Samuel 17.51 records: When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Whilst Goliath was certainly one of the ‘giants’, he was not as big as Og, as 1Samuel 17.4 records:
Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.  A Biblical span was 9 inches or just under 23 centimetres, measured from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger in an open palm.  

Goliath was 10 feet 9 inches or 3.3 metres tall. He was still a formidable proposition!!


5. Where did the ‘giants’ live?   From the references in the Bible to the ‘giants’, it seems that they lived in a variety of places in Israel.

However, I suspect that, in reality, the ‘giants’ lived all over the world in ancient times because of the proliferation of stories about them in literature.

For example, Jack and the Beanstalk, Gulliver’s Travels, and the Cyclops of Greek mythology. In addition, there are frost giants, fire giants, and mountain giants in Norse mythology.  In Bulgarian mythology there were giants called ispolini who inhabited the Earth before humans…..and so on.

So there we are….at the conclusion of a commentary on Genesis 6.1-7.  Perhaps, as a result of the ‘great sin’, it is not surprising that God decided to limit man’s ‘days to be one hundred and twenty years’. 

Until next week….

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Who was the culprit in Genesis 6.1-7?





The Book of Enoch continues with the commentary on Genesis 6.1-7 in the following 4 steps:

1.  After the LORD had dealt with the problem of the wickedness of man in the earth’, He turned His attentions to the main culprit of the angels, the children of the heaven, who was Azazel.

Enoch 9.6-10:  Azazel taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were (preserved) in heaven, … and Semiazaz …and his associates...have gone to the daughters of men upon the earth, and have slept with the women, and have defiled themselves, and revealed to them all kinds of sins. And the women have borne giants, and the whole earth has thereby been filled with blood and unrighteousness.


2.  The LORD gives Azazel a specific punishment.

Enoch 10.4-7:  And again the LORD said to Raphael:
'Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him in there. And place on him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever, and cover his face that he may not see light. And on The Day of the Great (White Throne) Judgment he shall be cast into the fire.


3.  Azazel is identified by the LORD as the main culprit.

Enoch 10.8-9:  ….because the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.'


4.  There is a clear connection between Azazel in the Book of Enoch and Azazel in Leviticus 16, the instructions for the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

Leviticus 16:8,10,26  Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat 5799…..But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat 5799 shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat 5799 into the wilderness…..

The Hebrew word given Strong’s number 5799 is Azazel.  The translators of the English Bible failed to note that this Hebrew word, Azazel, is a proper noun, a name, and it means ‘a hard and threatening stronghold’, and it describes the nature of Azazel.

Therefore, the verses above should be translated correctly as follows:

Leviticus 16:8,10,26  Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel  …..But the goat on which the lot fell to Azazel  shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go to Azazel  into the wilderness…..

This correct translation now makes sense with the commentary in Enoch 10 because Azazel had been cast into the desert,….on rough and jagged rocks, and covered with darkness … that he may not see light.


Now that we have followed the commentary on the frustratingly brief record of Genesis 6.1-7, we can see more clearly what really happened.

However, that is not the end of the story.  There are unanswered questions.  For example:

Who were the ‘giants’ of Numbers 13 that the spies saw?

Why were any ‘giants’ still around after the Flood?

How big were the ‘giants’?

Was Goliath one of the ‘giants’?

Where did the ‘giants’ live?

Until later this week….

Thursday, 25 October 2012

What was the 'great sin' in Genesis 6.1-7?



                 
The Bible is sometimes very frustrating because there are so many cryptic, brief comments that don’t give us all the information that we need….and want!

In most of these cases we can find extra information, and commentary, in other Books in the Bible.  However, in the case of Genesis 6.1-7 we have to look outside the Bible, at the Book of Enoch:

Genesis 6.1-7: It came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. 
….There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

There is a reference, and a comprehensive commentary, on this passage in Genesis in the Book of Enoch:

Enoch 6.1-2   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 angels, the children 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’… 

Why should we accept the commentary of the Book of Enoch when it is not in the Bible?
How do we know that the Book of Enoch is reliable?

Happily, the Letter of Jude in the New Testament specifically identifies the Book of Enoch as authoritative:

Jude 14,15   Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, ‘Behold, the LORD cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’
 
The passage that Jude is referring to is in Enoch 1.9:
Enoch 1.9  He comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon them, and destroy the wicked, and reprove all the carnal for everything which the sinful and ungodly have done and committed against him. ...
 
So….now that we have established that we can rely on the Book of Enoch, let’s find out what  Enoch has to say about the incident when the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
 
The commentary in Enoch is in 3 steps:
 
1.  Who were ‘the sons of God’?…Who was their leader?…and How many of them were there?
 
Enoch 6.1-6: 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 angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after the daughters of men, and said: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men’….
Semiazaz, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear …that I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.' And they all answered him and said: 'Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves …to do this thing.' … And they were in all two hundred who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon…


2.  What did the 200 angels do?….What were the results?….

Enoch 7.1-3: And they took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and the women …became pregnant, and bore great giants, ….and the giants turned against and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another's flesh, and drink the blood.

3.  How did the LORD react to this ‘great sin’, as Semiazaz described their actions?  He decided to bring The Flood.

Enoch 10.1-4:  Then the Most High, the Holy and Great One, sent Uriel to the son of Lamech, and said to him: 'Go to Noah and tell him in My Name ‘Hide yourself!’ and reveal to him the end that is approaching: that the whole earth will be destroyed, and a deluge is about to come upon the whole earth, and will destroy all that is on it. And now instruct him that he may escape and his seed may be preserved for all the generations of the world.'

Genesis 6.5-8 confirms Enoch 10:
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
..  So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

So that is what happened ‘when the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after the daughters of men, and the sons of God came in them and they bore children to them.’  

Until Sunday when we will discover who was the main culprit of this 'great sin'...


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Jonah - The LORD's reluctant messenger





The story of Jonah describes how the LORD persuaded an inflexible, religious Jew  to carry out His work of forgiveness and atonement in Him for an evil, rebellious, stubborn group of Gentiles.  

I have set out this sad and unresolved story in 15 steps, with a note of commentary on each step:  

1. The LORD makes a surprising choice: 
Now the Word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.'  

2. Jonah runs away from this, to him, unacceptable task:  
But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the Presence of the LORD. 

3. The LORD challenges Jonah to accept that his inflexible, selfish, refusal will result in the death of innocent Gentile bystanders, the ship's crew:
But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. Then the mariners were afraid; and … they said to …Jonah, "Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us?" So he said to them, "I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." Then …he said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me."

4. Jonah is rescued, saved by the LORD because:
a.    The LORD has an unfinished task for Jonah to go to Gentiles, and
b.    Jonah sacrificed himself to save the ship’s crew of Gentiles
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. so the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

5. The LORD revisits His original instruction to Jonah who reluctantly responds….in order to avoid another unpleasant experience:
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you."   So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the Word of the LORD. …and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"

6. The result of Jonah’s message is what the LORD had wanted, and hoped:
So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. God saw the Ninevites works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

7. Jonah should, at this point, have acknowledged his selfish, inflexible, and mistaken attitude, and agreed with God.  But instead, Jonah embarks on an exercise in self justification and self pity. These are not good attitudes that will encourage and facilitate the forgiveness, restoration, and atonement of the Gentiles:
It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore, O LORD, please  take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!"

8.  The LORD ignores Jonah’s ridiculous suggestion to take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!…..and He addresses Jonah’s basic, and bigoted, problem of self righteous anger:
Then the LORD said, "Is it right for you to be angry?" 

9.  Jonah refuses to answer the LORD’s question, and petulantly flounces out to watch what the LORD will do to the Ninevites:
Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.

10.  The LORD continues to love and accept Jonah, despite the fact that Jonah was behaving as an inflexible religious Jew….and He protects Jonah from his misery:
And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery.

11. Jonah’s reaction was as grateful as he had been when the fish vomited him onto dry land. But the LORD was planning to help Jonah face his anger:
So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered.

12.  Jonah’s reaction is a repeat of his reaction to the LORD’s forgiveness of the Ninevites:
When the sun arose God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live."

13.  So the LORD repeats His question to Jonah:
Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?"

14. Jonah refuses to move from his entrenched, stubborn position that death is better than agreement with the LORD. Jonah was certainly determined to maintain his indefensible position:
Jonah said, "It is right for me to be angry, even to death!"

15.  Finally, the LORD gives Jonah an explanation for Jonah’s experience with the plant…..and why He has had pity on the Ninevites, out of His boundless store of mercy and compassion for ALL people:
But the LORD said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not laboured, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than 120000 persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left; and much livestock?"

And so the story ends. How did Jonah respond to the LORD’s final explanation?   

Did the LORD achieve His aim in helping Jonah understand His boundless mercy and compassion for ALL people….or did Jonah refuse to listen, and thus be consumed by the bitterness of his anger, and the selfishness of his self destructive attitude?  

I wonder……

Are there any lessons for us in this sad story?  
Ah well...that depends on whether there is any anger, selfishness, bitterness, or resentment in us.....? 

The story of Jonah revolves around his reaction to, and understanding of, the mercy and compassion of the LORD towards ALL people:
To both Catholics AND Protestants
To both Jews AND Gentiles
To both Christians AND Muslims 
To both believers AND atheists............

I suppose that the issue is whether we are prepared to answer the LORD as Isaiah answered Him in Isaiah 6.8 when he heard the voice of the LORD, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." ....

Or whether we respond as Jonah did, and enjoy, or endure, a time of darkness in the belly of a fish  and a vehement east wind with the sun beating on our heads, so that we grow faint, and wish death for ourselves.

The choice is ours!!




Monday, 8 October 2012

The Succah - Trust in God

                                                                                     
‘You shall dwell in booths for seven days… So that your generations will know that I caused the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt…’  Leviticus 23:42-43

Why do we sit in the succah for seven days?

Does the succah remind us of the simple desert huts within which the Hebrews lived during their various desert encampments, primitive dwelling places that did not always protect from the torrid heat by day and the freezing cold by night?

Or rather, is the succah a symbol of the clouds of glory, the rays of splendour by which the Divine Presence encompassed the Hebrew nomads?     
                                                                                                                     
                                                                    
The answer is in Genesis 2.7, which describes the Creation of the first human being, which occurred on Rosh HaShanah:
‘And the LORD God formed the human being of dust from the earth and He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the human being became a living creature.’ Genesis 2.7

Therefore, that part of God within each of us is the Breath of God which He exhaled.

Genesis 2.7 concludes with the words ‘and the human being became a living creature’. Onkeles commentates that this means ‘a communicating spirit.’

Therefore, each human being has the potential:
1.      to be a carrier of the very Breath of the Divine, and
2.      he has the ability to transcend himself and his generation by means of the spoken and written word, and
3.      he can influence God by his prayers and his actions.

The succah appears to be a flimsy structure that hardly protects against oppressive heat, and is not at all impervious to rains and winds.

But…
1.      when we bring into the succah the Special Guests; ushpizin, our Patriarchs, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and King David, and
2.   when we sanctify the succah with blessings over the four species, kiddush wine, songs of praise, and words of Torah which accompany our Succot meals, and most of all   
3.   when we pour the water around the succah, we remember when Jesus cried out, ‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’…and we realise that Jesus was quoting and fulfilling Isaiah 12.6, that: The Holy One of Israel in your midst…then
4.      we can embark on a new year with confidence: 'I said the the man who stood at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. And he replied, Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'.....because
5.   Jesus said, 'I AM the Light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of Life.'

So, at the end if this season of the High Holy Days I pray that:
The LORD will bless you and keep you in this new year;
The LORD will make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The LORD will lift up the Light of His countenance upon you, and give you His peace, in the Name of our Saviour, Redeemer, and Deliverer, Jesus our Messiah. Amen                                      

Note: I  have quoted from some of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s comments on Succot, that he wrote in an article for the Jerusalem Post....but my comments are my responsibility!